I wrote yesterday that there would be a Part 2 of this mid-week roundup. I wrote that to keep pressure on myself to follow through. Self-pressure doesn’t always work, but it did this time.
Just like the music in yesterday’s installment was geared to keep you on your toes as you move through it, or set you back on your heels, I think this collection will do the same. It consists of three EPs and then a couple of songs from a forthcoming album.
This makes the third time I’ve raved about this solo project of Oklahoma City musician Manuel Garcia, having done so in considering both the 2019 album Life Is A Disease and the self-titled 2017 debut. What makes it even easier to continue raving in the case of Blattaria’s new EP They Seek Power is the realization that Blattaria just keeps moving from strength to greater strength.
“Blattaria” is the Latin term for the order of insects more commonly known as cockroaches, and the new EP continues to use those un-killable symbiotes of our existence for its themes. There are only two tracks here, but they’re both long, adding up to more than 22 minutes of music, and there’s no drag in them. To the contrary, both are extraordinary.
Is that a banjo in the opening of “Mindless Roaches“? It might be, and afterward you can sense the critters swarming in the freakishly dissonant riffing and tumultuous drumwork. Garcia‘s voice maniacally roars and howls, enhancing the song’s unnerving impact. And yet there’s something weirdly enticing about the peculiar, shining melodies that quiver and swirl in layers through the moving mass of riffage, and something equally compelling about the rapidly morphing and vividly executed drum patterns. The song even channels a chilling alien grandeur, soaring in brilliance even as it spasms uncontrollably.
“Mindless Roaches” is an ingeniously inventive and kaleidoscopically multi-faceted experience, a bizarre extravaganza that’s weird and wondrous — and so is the title track. “They Seek Power” incorporates everything that makes “Mindless Roaches” so mind-blowing, though the wild, wailing, and screaming vocals seem even more unhinged, and the instrumental contortions may be an even more spectacular adventure — intricate, unpredictable, and technically jaw-dropping. It brings to mind the likes of Dysrhythmia, Krallice, Gorguts at their most experimental, and other similarly inclined avant-garde metallic mad scientists.
To date, my sense is that Blattaria has flown way below most people’s radars, but hopefully this head-spinning newest release will elevate its profile.
INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH (U.S.)
Time for a sharp turn after that Blattaria EP, though I’ll be damned if I can figure out the angle of the turn. Directions like left, right, and backward don’t make much sense when entering Into the Valley of Death.
You’ll see references to the music of this L.A. band as being a kind of proggy and trippy stoner metal. Even they sum it up that way. But I don’t think those labels do it complete justice, particularly speaking as someone who usually has to stifle a yawn when I see the “stoner metal” label.
Yes, the riffs on their new EP Space Age are so fuzz-bombed that you can imagine swaths of jungle crackling under napalm heat, or Geiger counters going crazy at Chernobyl. But as the EP title suggests, the music often sounds more orbital and less cannabis-soaked, less like dirty bong water and more like the pull of massive gravity wells within a freezing vacuum or a walk through barren Martian landscapes.
Moreover, the songs sound downright dangerous. The titanic riffing moans and groans, gouges and grates, staggers and stalks, but the persistence of menace is unmistakable. Make no mistake, it’s easy to move your head to these massive maneuvers, but it’s just as easy to lose it, falling prey to the half-narcotic, half-hallucinatory fumes they give off in conjunction with trippy, wailing leads (an effect further enhanced in “100 Feet Tall” by quivering keyboards and the ring of sun-bleached desert arpeggios) and yielding to their hostile visions.
The vocals are a potent part of the music’s otherworldly and insidiously seductive impact. They range from dusty, gloomy singing with a bit of a depressive post-punk vibe (and also reminding me of a lower-pitched Nick Cave) to predatory snarls and savage screams.
Needless to say, I’m hooked by Space Age, and hope you’ll succumb to it too.
Now for another sharp twist in the path, which would be difficult to chart on any two-dimensional map. It’s a debut demo by Apparition from Zaragoza, Spain (hopefully not to be confused with any of the other bands around the world using the same name), which caught my eye in part because it was partially recorded and fully mastered by Javi Félez at Moontower Studios, and he knows a thing or two about what makes death metal connect, and in part because two of the members are also part of Ataraxy, who have done a lot of fine work themselves.
What Apparition deliver is savage and supernatural death metal. The rhythm section hit with skull-smashing impact, whether in a lumbering cadence or surging in a piston-driven race. The high, howling vocals sound inhumanly crazed and vicious. The guitar work cuts across a wide range, creating sensations of feverish bone-sawing cruelty, jittery and jolting brutality, morbid degradation, and wailing misery.
Produced in a way that gives the music a powerhouse sound, the songs are heavy-grooved, relentlessly dynamic in their pacing and moods, and packed with changing but continually contagious riffs. As mentioned above, everything also sounds like a trip to horror worlds beyond the grave. In short, this is an outstanding debut release.
And now we move to some tracks from a forthcoming release — less of a sharp turn than some of the other segues in this collection, because we’re still in death metal realms.
By way of background, this Philadelphia band were originally founded under the name Fisthammer by frontman Max Svalgard and drummer Danny Piselli. They recorded their first demo with brothers Mike and Doug Sabolick of the late lamented A Life Once Lost, and then went on to release a pair of fine albums in 2012’s Devour All You See and 2014’s Infallible (which we praised to the heavens here). Now the band are back under a new name — a name which interestingly refers to a complex facet of the Hegelian dialectical process (identified in the original German as Aufhebung) — and have so far released two songs from a forthcoming full-length entitled The Path To Bedlam.
The most recent of the two tracks out in the world so far is “Black Monday“, which features additional vocals by Dominik Winter (Frigoris), in addition to the performances of the two founding members of the former Fisthammer. Lyrically, it’s an all-out assault on capitalism. Musically, it’s an electrifying assault as well — a hard-charging juggernaut of gut-punching and neck-cracking drumwork, spine-shaking bass, slashing and freakishly boiling guitars, and truly monstrous guttural vocals. The leads soar and shiver in glorious but frighteningly demented fashion, making the song stand out even more.
The other track, “The Alchemist“, is also lyrically an all-out assault, but against theism this time. In mounting this assault, the band pack the song with fleet-fingered fretwork and bursts of jolting groove, add in a magical guitar solo that itself sounds like musical alchemy, and of course another gnarly dose of foul and ferocious vocals.
We wish the band good luck in finishing the album. Based on these two tracks, it should be well worth waiting for.