SEEN AND HEARD FOR A CHRISTMAS DAY (PART 2): CASAVIEJA, KNIVES, I AM A PREACHER, SKY PIG, HUMAN SERPENT
Time has become ill-defined for me as for everyone else this year, but I do realize that it’s not still Christmas Day. I just couldn’t get Part 2 of this round-up finished in time to post it yesterday before having a virtual get-together with close family members. Probably just as well, because stacking this much new music on top of what was in Part 1 might have drowned you, especially on top of another installment of DGR’s mountainous year-end list, which (by the way) ended today without caving in the site’s foundations, though that was a risk that left me in a cold sweat all week.
For Part 2 I’m starting with an album and then moving onto a couple of EPs and a couple of singles.
When Rennie (starkweather) first urged me to listen to this band a week ago, their new second album had just come out. He said they were from “South of the Border, South of Heaven”, but I didn’t realize until later that they hail from Guatemala. Without intending to be condescending, that’s not a nation that spawns typhoon waves of extreme metal bands, a fact that just made me more eager to hear them.
Casavieja sum themselves up as “a brutal punk/blackened screamo band”, and they describe the album — El Último Día del Sol — as one that “details the inevitable final moments of humanity in the universe”.
The band made a terrorizing video for the album’s first single, “Caminando en Círculos“, which I’ve included below. It doesn’t last long, but long enough to inflict jolting, jackhammering rhythmic punishment and to couple that with riffing that’s a vivid semblance of screaming madness and vocals that are themselves a shrieking mayhem.
The track happens to be the one that opens the album, and it also provides a vivid introduction to thunderous bass tones and the drummer’s fast-switching pugilism and cymbal work. From there the band stay in the fast lane with “Escombros” and continue to combine neck-ruining percussive assaults, freaked-out guitar paroxysms, and throat-scarring vocals. The shrill dissonance of the guitars is capable of putting your teeth on edge at the same time as the rhythm section bludgeon the bejesus out of you — but the band also provide a surprise ending with a dancing old-time piano rag.
Other surprises also lie in wait in the midst of lots of brawling and bleakness, including a great instrumental break in the middle of the longest track, “El Diluvio”, the moody but mesmerizing acoustic pieces, “Flor de Lis” and “Arden los Cielos”, and the singing in the long, half-somber, half-anguished closing song “Hoguera a Mis Pies” — perhaps signifying a recognition by the band that their particular brand of mauling insanity might leave a listener a gibbering lunatic without at least a few breaks in the gauntlet they ask you to run with them.
But truth be told, the multi-faceted and sharply executed drumwork provides plenty of anchor points to hold onto, and the album’s general derangement and hammering physicality (displayed most prominently in “Último Día”) are hard to run from. And then there are the tracks like the same “Último Día” that bring into play a kind of dreamy romanticism that leavens the brutality in another way.
And so this proves to be an album that’s much more varied than one might expect at first, and its twists and turns, which give each track a distinctive personality (and introduce moments of entrancing beauty as well as berserker mania and crushing oppressiveness), make it one that’s easy to stay with from start to finish.
El Último Día del Sol is available on Bandcamp, with attention-seizing cover art by Lars Kristoffer Hormander.
Next up is a lyric video for “The Unknown“, a song off a forthcoming new EP by the band Knives from Bilbao, Spain, whom I’ve written about more than once in previous years. With lyrics that vent politically charged fury in blisteringly furious tones, the song melds punk cadences and bone-grinding riffs delivered with massive, chainsawing distortion, and couples that with bursts of blaring melodic defiance and feverish bass outbursts, as well as a hellish breakdown.
That opening single from the EP is a truly electrifying discharge. It’s also the only one from the EP (which is entitled Collapse) that’s currently available to stream on Bandcamp. But I’ve heard the balance of the EP — six more songs — and they’re all equally thrilling, albeit in somewhat different ways.
The opener “Martyr” begins in soul-stricken and haunting fashion but then becomes a rain of megaton warheads, and then a fierce, galloping charge, and then a spasm of violence. It will give your spine a vigorous jolting, but is also home to spit-fire soloing and the kind of rocketing, sky-high melodic riffing that gets hearts pounding. From there the band amplify on their riveting brand of death/punk, bringing to bear one crusher after another, deploying humongously heavy chugs, incendiary leads, blood-spraying vocals, and gripping melodic accents (both grim and glorious) that keep the emotional intensity in the red zone.
Yes, the EP is so brutalizing that it’s capable of grinding you up and spitting you out, and then stomping what’s left into a mass of splinters and jelly. And yes it’s so packed with furious, fire-storming emotional energy that it’s just as adrenaline-triggering as it is punishing.
Collapse will be released on February 12, 2021, it’s well worth waiting for, because it’s fantastic.
I AM A PREACHER (Belarus)
“Posobnik” is a single released 10 days ago by I Am A Preacher from Minsk, Belarus. The blade on the cover is fitting because this track will gut you like a gasping fish, and what they preach is a sermon of rage.
Somewhat like Knives before them in this collection, I Am A Preacher charge ahead like war steeds, romp like punks, pound like pile-drivers, riff like heavyweight gravel-chewers, and spit out leads like an acetylene torch. It’s a visceral, explosive experience, and packed to the brim with varying sonic sensations, but what really puts it over the top is the unhinged wildness of the high, howling vocals.
SKY PIG (U.S.)
I’ve been meaning to write something about this next EP since the middle of the month when I first got turned onto it, but it’s been out in the world for longer than that, having been released in August by Transylvanian Tapes. Fittingly named Hell is Inside You, this is the second release by Sky Pig from Sacramento, CA. It is indeed full of hell.
The opener “Gimp” is a perfect fuse for the slow, full-body lurch, and man, it’s so heavy and punishing that you may be crawling by the end of it, head still bobbing. It stomps and brays like a wounded leviathan, but it’s a narcotic experience too, with woozy, psychedelic guitar emanations squirming their way through the megaton stompfest, and a blizzard of derangement lying in weight before the end. As icing on the cake, the vocals aren’t quite what you might expect from this kind of sludgy stoner/doom — they’re absolutely crazed and demonically vicious.
The physical punishment and mind-warping mutilations continue in “The Scag”, though the vocals take a different turn, toward deep, ominous gothic intonations which trade places with the expulsions of that prince of hell behind the mic. If you haven’t already succumbed to sore-neck syndrome or become transfixed by the bone-smashing power of the drums by the end of “Gimp”, “The Scag” will finish the job. And it includes another strong dose of hallucinogens in the soloing to boot.
With two such intense songs as the opening salvo, it was probably wise that Sky Pig chose to begin “Save Yourself” with a muttering little bass solo and weird, vaporous string contortions. But it doesn’t take long before the band begin their more intensely gut-punching and brain-scrambling work, creating a dismal and demented atmosphere, and again using the two-toned vocal attack to send extra shivers down your spine.
Saving the longest for last, the band close with “The Strain”, a nine-minute journey through hell. It’s a slow build, powered by a full tank of misery and pistons that hammer without mercy. Yet along with the depth-charge oppressiveness of the music there’s also a feeling of yearning in some of the melodic accents that gets under your skin. In time, the song also becomes more intensely despairing in its mood, driven by wailing and moaning riffs, increasingly animated and brutalizing drumwork, and the cauterizing effect of those infuriated, skin-flaying vocals. It’s the kind of jam that methodically tears you down, and yet also manages to hypnotize.
HUMAN SERPENT (Greece)
At last we reach the end of this mountainous pile of Christmas gifts. I’ve chosen this next song as a closer not because it’s the least wonderful of the presents but because it provides the kind of fire-starter you may need to burn Christmas to the ground when you’ve had enough of it. (The timing is also interesting because I picked this song before realizing that the final installment of DGR’s year-end list, which I posted here today, includes a shout-out to this band’s last EP Shrouds, which came out a decade ago in January 2020).
In large part due to DGR’s persistent efforts, if you’ve been hanging around our putrid domain for very long you’ll recognize the name Human Serpent, a vicious black metal trio who share a member with Moeror, who themselves released new music in late November (an album named The Ghosts of Amour Propre that’s well worth your time). This closing track in today’s collection, “Heirlooms Eternal“, is the title song from Human Serpent‘s next album (their fourth), set for release by The Scars of Millions Proselytism (CD/MC/Digital) and Humanity’s Plague Productions (LP) on January 30th.
The music here is like an immediate seizure, a torrent of blasting drums, frenzied, darting riffage, and possessed screams. The disturbing, darting feeling of the riffing transforms into one of dangerous ecstasy when the guitar ignites in gales of gleaming brilliance and the drums somehow find a higher gear (a jaw-dropping one). The song soars and sears, even when the drumming drops into a canter, and then manages to interweave manifestations of slithering and seductive sorcery in between the outbursts of blazing violence. And don’t be surprised if that little darting riff from the opening has infected your mind when it reappears.
(Thanks to Miloš for being the first to alert me to this new track.)