The best of intentions often fall like wheat before the scythe of life. No plan survives contact with the enemy. The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley. And other hoary maxims.
I thought I would get one of these round-ups done before now this week, but events conspired against it. I barely have time to squeeze this one in. It’s shorter than I would like — this week was filled with good new releases, of which these are only a precious few — but it will give you a lot of stylistic twists and turns. I’ll have to try to pick up the list this weekend.
In hunting for new music I’m often the beneficiary of recommendations from other people, and I’m beginning with Laere‘s stunning new EP because it was the subject of lots of those from internet pen-pals whose opinions I respect. And, well, I also got a Bandcamp alert about it because I bought the band’s debut EP Solve in 2020 (and wrote about it too).
Rennie from starkweather was one of the people who clued me in to this new EP, Coagula, which was fitting since he was also the person who turned me on to Solve. He’s probably going to write about it on starkweather’s Facebook page, which is a good place to discover new music that’s out of the ordinary, so I won’t quote him here, and instead will make my own quote.
Laere‘s dark conceptual philosophies take shape this time through two tracks. If notes in the mind were toxins in the blood, you’d need an immediate transfusion to survive the sonic poisons in “Larvae“. The guitars vividly ring like warped bells above earth-moving bass excavations and clobbering drums, and the effects are agonizing. In hindsight, the vocalist’s berserk screams foreshadow what comes, when the music itself suddenly becomes berserk, thundering and blasting and convulsing in riotous guitar seizures — another fashioning of agony, but an order of magnitude more destructive.
There’s no denying the visceral punch of the rhythm section, even as the music sweeps across them in grand but grievous blazes of sound. But it’s a relentlessly dynamic song, as proven when the blast-front spends itself and the guitars ring again, but more ethereal and mesmerizing than before. As the sound swells once more, the feelings of loss and despair in the harmonies reach towering heights.
Really breathtaking stuff in that first track, and Laere do it again in “Aurorae“. There, the glittering and roiling guitars, steeped in dissonance, and tumultuous percussion immediately create calamity on an increasingly vast scale, with momentous horn-like blasts enhancing the music’s daunting impact. A riveting solo leaps from the devastation, and the voices again tear their throats out with mad intensity. The melodies quiver and scream, grim spoken words emerge in this song’s subsidence, and then the band torque the tension through bowel-loosening bass lines, dire crashing chords, and guitar-peals of pain.
Laere are adept architects of terrible obsidian monuments, and they make another one in the closing movements of “Aurorae“, while simultaneously creating sweeping sonic visions, like the drifting polar lights brought to mind by the song’s title. In rising to this grand and gleaming summit, they seem to portray not merely downfall but intense yearning, and maybe even the achievement of a brilliant transformation on the other side.
So now we have Solve et Coagula, rendering the alchemical maxim and method for the necessity of dissolving things before conjoining the elements into something new. What will come next from Laera? Many of us will be eager for that discovery.
I THE INTRUDER (Tunisia)
Here’s another band that made a startling first impression on me in the same year that brought forth Laere‘s debut EP, and it was again Rennie who first steered my way toward the music of this solo project of Tunisian musician Mahdi Riahi. Back then, the subject was I the Intruder‘s debut album Hunger. I scribbled a few words about it, including this poetic line: “One of the most electrifying experiences you can have, short of dropping the plugged-in hair-dryer into the bath with you because being shut in has bored you shitless.” DGR gave it a much more extensive and evocative review for us. He ended it this way:
“What you can embrace, though, is that Hunger is crushingly heavy, stupid fast, and a steamroller of an album. It’s a dense thirty minutes that flies by because it is its nature to do-so, not a miracle of songwriting. This disc moves fast, and you will either be left in the dust or left as dust. It’s an impressive first full-length from a project in its early phase, with only an EP to its name before this. Keep an eye on them.”
Very good news, then, that I the Intruder released a new single two days ago. “Parasites” is its name and it wastes no time popping the listener’s eyes wide open with bursts of hideous growling and bone-smashing explosiveness before cutting loose with gatling-gun drumming, torrid screams and yells, and truly crazed fretwork. The rapid-fire bomb-bursts return, to knock you backward in the midst of the ruinous high-speed chaos, and for good measure a frenetic solo gives your head an extra spin around the centrifuge.
And here’s where I tell you to take some deep breaths — you’ll need the extra oxygen before this furious death/grind cyclone spins your adrenaline into overdrive.
WITCH RIPPER (U.S.)
When covered over in new music, like an earthquake victim who still gasps beneath the ruins of an apartment building above him, the easy way out is to claw toward the old favorites. You can tell from the first two entries in this round-up that I’ve followed that method, and I’ll do it again here with something new from Seattle’s Witch Ripper.
The song, “Enter the Loop“, arrived a couple days ago with a video. In that short film, something disconcerting is happening to the prone protagonist. Is he having a bad dream on the verdant lawn of an open park? It seems that way, but he awakens, and then we notice that he’s wearing what seems to be an astronaut’s uniform. He finds a fellow, and they briefly frolic, before encountering more members of their crew, all of them engaged in their own forms of play.
Oh, but look! These are the members of the band, having returned from the outer cosmos where they have been performing, and continue to perform, a song that, in three words, is just… fucking… glorious.
There’s Mastodonian levels of heaviness in the music, and hints of spaciness as well, but it’s an unabashed arena-ready anthem too. Building from skittering strings, darting fretwork, mountinging low-end upheavals, and relatively subdued singing, the song takes flight through changing manifestations of guitar glory, battering drumwork, and a spine-tingling vocal chorus that’s very hard to forget.
The song repeatedly crests in displays of magnificence, driven to crescendos by spectacular soloing, but never forgets to keep the punch hard and the drive fully fueled. The song is packed with infectious joy and breathtaking splendor, and I think only the coldest of dead hearts could be left un-moved. Trust me, it’s a tonic for whatever ails you. And trust me further, “Enter the Loop” will be on my list of 2022’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.
“Enter the Loop” is the first advance track from Witch Ripper‘s new album The Flight After The Fall, which is set for release by Magnetic Eye Records on March 3rd of next year. Displaying an affinity for old pulp sci-fi, the new album includes tales of “a mad professor, his dying wife, cryogenic chambers, a black hole, as well as themes of love, failure, loss, and acceptance”, to quote from the Bandcamp page for the album.
THE SECOND FOVEA (India -> U.S.)
Here’s a band with only three singles to their name, but I’ve now written about them four times. I’ve done so not only because the music has grabbed me but also because of the songs’ conceptual themes. “Headshot” was a condemnation of global hate crimes and racism, and the next single “Manta“, as is obvious from the name, was “dedicated to appreciating the majestic manta rays and spreading awareness about their conservation”.
The new third single, “The Echoing Habitat“, also has an important theme (calling attention to humankind’s relentless pollution of the oceans with plastic), which becomes evident through the lyric video for the song.
Apart from the distressing message, the music is itself distressing and despondent at first, but then it begins to lay on the groove, repeatedly jolting the spine. The riffing still channels dark and distressing moods, but there’s fury in the screamed and roared vocals, and brute-force bludgeoning in the attack as well. The song also manages to channel the watery vastness of the magical environment we are so heedlessly degrading.