Jun 212023

I started working on this roundup of new music on Juneteenth, the U.S. holiday that was observed two days ago. Couldn’t finish it in time, due to a little celebration of the day that I was involved in. (Even my white-as-chalk family in central Texas celebrated it when I was growing up there eons ago, mainly for the excuse to feast on soul food, not so much to commemorate the final surrender of the Confederate army, and it has stayed with me even here in Washington State where it became an official holiday only last year). I couldn’t finish the roundup yesterday either, but finally, success.

Still buried in new music and with my brain knotted trying to figure out what to do, I decided to cut this Gordian knot by focusing on just a few recent releases from bands in the Pacific Northwest near where I live now. Although they’re all from the same region, however, you’re in for a real musical roller-coaster ride.


First up is An Unhealthy Interest in Suffering, a head-spinning debut EP released by the Seattle band Undulation about 10 days ago. Here’s how the band themselves describe their music:

“Behind an oozing velvet curtain stand Undulation, Le Gran Guignol of Cascadia. Through the dappled sunlight of broken rose windows, their ritual begins like a writhing, pulsating wyrm thirsty for innocent blood. Painting a horrid beauty like gallows in a field of flowers, their cacophony blooms into a blurred, surreal vision of melodic blackened death metal. Undulation cometh.”

After reading that maybe you can understand why I felt compelled to give this five-song offering a listen. I doubt I will be able to match the intriguing evocativeness of Undulation‘s own description, but of course I have to try, even though you can easily just listen for yourselves.

In a nutshell (though this is not an easy nut to crack), An Unhealthy Interest in Suffering is asylum-quality stuff, borderline bizarre in its conception, borderline deranged in its intricacy, and yet impressive in its execution. Constantly surprising, It’s one of those records where you wonder how the hell they imagined throwing so many stylistic ingredients into their creative blender, and how they somehow kept it from spinning off across the room and splattering against the walls.

There’s a woozy and wailing quality to the music of the EP opener “Amethyst Necropolis (Une Chargone)” as weirdly glistening guitars spin it out over poetic yet disturbing spoken words and the rumble and rattle of the rhythm section. The speaking voice continues and so does the miserable mewling of a guitar, but the surrounding sounds become uglier and more vicious, sort of like an excavation machine chewing through pavement.

After that the songs continue to mutate and morph in different and unexpected ways. Mysterious and sort of seductive at first, the chiming guitar harmony of “Judith Beheading Holofernes” yields to a convulsion of thunder in the low end, frantic fret-work swarming, cauterizing screams, and monstrous roars. The layered guitars blurt, blare, screech, and burst open in livid fevers while the rhythms undergo constant change.

Madness reigns in head-spinning fashion, and there’s no getting it off the throne in the succeeding tracks, though the band bring in quivering strains of misery and onslaughts of circle-saw belligerence in “Undulator“, and at least briefly pull back from the mayhem in the slower and more inviting onset of “Failures of the Demiurge” — though it progressively gets more sinister, frightening, and spectacularly unhinged, as if we’ve been indeed been lured into a house of lunatic demons, and the song also includes exotic guitar arpeggios that sound like sorcery.

The vocals throughout the record are spine-tingling in their macabre and maddened explosiveness, and the remaining tracks include a plethora of fleet-fingered yet twisted fretwork and an equal quotient of crazed drum-and-bass permutations, plus sudden changes in tempo and mood. “Acid, Vinegar” is mainly a breathtaking spectacle, which makes it natural for Undulation to drift off again into about a minute of strange seduction in the the closer “Dressed For Her Execution” before throwing the listener into another freaked-out but elaborate riot of sound that sucks the wind from the lungs, a penultimate phase that’s glorious, and a finale that softly entrances.

I did tell you it was head-spinning. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I loved it and have happily bought it.





Now let’s cross over the northern border and focus on A Pale Omen, a debut demo released in April 2023 by this unorthodox black metal project based in the Pacific Northwest of Canada, emblazoned with the kind of cover art (by Gabriel Hunt) that seizes attention and kindles intrigue.

Across the EP’s four tracks Gathering Stones leads listeners on a grim but constantly captivating trip, beginning with the slow stalking beats and heavy abysmal ring of “The Fertile Vessel“. It feels like strong cold hands slowly constricting your throat — and then becoming more intensely focused on the task. The pace ramps up into a thundering race and the guitars begin to sizzle and swarm, accompanied by vocals more in line with death metal bellows than black metal rasps and screams.

That opening song also reveals some twists as the guitar exuberantly swirls and savagely slashes, and jumping punkish beats provide variety to the gallop. The song is still a sinister and even predatory experience, but it does become a romp.

The guitar tone remains piercing but not too pretty as the next three tracks come at you, a dominant rusty but ringing presence notwithstanding the prominence of the thumping and clobbering drum beats and the lividity of the bass tones. The guitars crackle and sear and the riffs have hooks; so do the rhythms.

Language of the Dead” even more intensely embraces the feeling of exuberance that surfaces in the EP’s opener, and turns up the heat until it begins to sound like the gleeful spinning of a dervish brandishing knives in both hands (even though the vocals sound haughty and bear-like throughout). You’ll think the song has ended before it does when it suddenly segues into sounds of distant wind or water, muffled hammering, strange clicking, and ghostly whistling tones. Suddenly, the title makes sense.

The beats jump and pummel again in “Secret Face” and the riffing vehemently clangs, carrying hints of incipient dementia that then bloom into a kind of crazed hybrid of ecstasy and torment, another dervish spin; even the vocals break into cracked screams and cries. But this isn’t typical black metal riffing, more like some kind of infernal alt-rock or feral punk, and while you’ll get hammered-skull syndrome from the varying drum patterns, there’s nary a blast-beat to be found.

The EP closes with “A Black Aura“, which is another pulse-pounding romp, but one in which the riffing generates a more desperate and depressive mood, eventually becoming a buzzing spasm of confusion or pain. Anchored by primitive grooves but accented with startling percussive bursts and some head-long pummeling, the song switches between raking and whirring chords, and they all burrow into the listener’s head like some deleterious infection that perversely makes you feel good.

All in all, a very promising debut of rough-and-ready blackened punk with deathly vocals, and one I didn’t need to hear twice before buying (it’s “name your price” at Bandcamp).





Now we go south across the border again to investigate “Torn,” the nightmarish opening track from the second album by Nott, which is entitled Hiraeth. Metal-Archives lists more than one Nott, but this one is a duo consisting of Tyler Campbell (guitars, bass, and vocals) and Julia Geaman (drums and percussion). From what I’ve read, these two migrated to their current homes in the Seattle area by way of Alaska and Romania, respectively.

At nearly eight minutes, “Torn” takes its time leading you where it intends to go. Bereft of beats, the slow opening notes ring with gloom against a misty backdrop — which makes the sudden convulsion of cataclysmic clobbering even more startling. It’s a ruthless beating, like a giant pounding a girder against concrete pylons, and the whine of the guitar feels like ants swarming under the skin.

The effect is all the more disturbing (yet riveting) because of the tortured and enraged extremity of the vocals. Those horrid roars, ravenous snarls, and wild screams put the hairs up on the neck while start-stop bursts of brutalizing punishment constantly shove us off-balance, and those ants frantically feed on veins. Just barely, you can make out ethereal shimmering sensations swirling around the tumult, or maybe that’s just my imagination.

There comes a point (and you may give thanks for this) when the physical and mental demolition work pauses and Nott return to where they began, spreading a soft but desolating gloom. And then you’ll realize they’ve done again what they did the first time — just setting you up for another detonating surprise. The music somehow becomes even more tortured and dismal while the bombs drop and the voices bellow and scream.

Maybe you’ll be more wary when the music again suddenly pales and drifts… as you should be….

Hiraeth is set for release by Silent Pendulum Records on August 18th.





Last, but certainly not least, we return to the Seattle area and some music from Boss Blades, the forthcoming debut album by Nuclear Dudes. This one caught my eye because it’s the solo work of Jon Weisnewski, front-person of Sandrider and Akimbo, and because it includes guest vocals from Botch’s Dave Verellen and Dust Moth’s Irene Barber. Seeing all those names made me wonder what the music would sound like.

Well, in addition to seeing the personnel I also read in a press release that it sounds like “a manic mix of extreme metal, synth-prog, powerviolence, and industrial noise”, or, as Weisnewski puts it, a wild-eyed response to the question, “What if Carcass and Gary Numan were locked in a studio and had to figure out how to make a record together?” Yeah, then I really couldn’t resist.

There’s a lot of other interesting stuff about the tracks in that press release, but let’s jump straight to the album’s first preview song, the immaculately named “Manifest Piss Tape“.

The urgency of the weird pulse that opens the song seizes attention quickly, and so do the ensuing swirl of melody and the big piston-like grooves. The music seems to moan and bray even as it pounds and fractures the pavement, but the vocals scream, and the music seems to scream as well. Indeed, the song builds to a maelstrom of thunderous bass, full-riot drumming, and an equally riotous collage of blurting, screeching, swirling, and searing guitars (or keyboards, and who knows what else).

The song cuts off suddenly, suggesting that this track is going to leap head-long into the next one… and I’m sure as hell ready to see what that’s like. I have a feeling the album is going to be more like a whirligig than the path of a straight arrow. (I do have the promo for this, but I’m not going to dive all the way in until I’ve got plenty of time for it.)

Boss Blades is set for release on July 7th by Modern Grievance Records. The cover art is credited to Cooper Weisnewski, who has also done the cover art for Nuclear Dudes‘ previous two releases; I’m going to make a wild guess that he’s Jon‘s son.



  1. Islander, all due respect June 19, 1865, two months AFTER traitorous white supremacists surrendered the the POS southerners haddock got around to inform EMANCIPATION WAS TWO YEARS EARLIER when Union Gen. Gordon Granger walked onto the balcony at Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, and announced to the people of the state that “all slaves are free.” It’s Second Independence Day SON!

    • I know this history well. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, but the western Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd. Union forces did not land in Galveston until shortly before Granger’s proclamation on June 19th. Before that the war had not really ended in Texas, and the federal government had no military ability to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation before then. And the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery wasn’t ratified until December 6, 1865. I’m no expert, but I’ll also provide this quote from Wikipedia:

      “Longstanding urban legend places a historic reading of General Order No. 3 at Ashton Villa; however, no historical evidence supports such claims. There is no evidence that Granger or any of his troops proclaimed the Ordinance by reading it aloud. All indications are that copies of the Ordinance were posted in public places, including the Negro Church on Broadway, since renamed Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church.”

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