Friday, 28 January 2011
There's something of a lack of local content here, something I will remedy right this instant! I caught these two bands at San Fran the other night, an great show to be sure (the bar ran outta beer, if that says anything!). Numbskull specialise in awesome thrash/grindcore, with some of the shortest songs this side of Napalm Death. They manage to pack more into a 10 minute set than most bands pack into their whole career! Originally a trio featuring members of local heroes Entrails and Razorwyre, they have added a bass player to the line-up and if anything, made their sound even heavier. They also opened with a bit of a nod to Sabbath, always a good sign in my book. Hopefully they will get a release out soon (also a t-shirt too, as they have some great graphics, see above!). If anything, this show was a fantastic clash of opposites, as Meth Drinker followed and proceeded to get very, very heavy and very, very slow, with some sludgy doom that rattled one's skull in the best possible way! There ain't enough bands playing doom or sludge in Wellington, and these guys are doing it very well indeed. They also have a 12" record out, head over to Always Never Fun Records and pick up a copy.
UPDATE: check out Numbskull's demo tape here!
Videos by Marms.
Welcome to 2011! I have been quite slack in updating the blog for a while now, clearly I haven't been listening to enough metal! Here are some recommendations that I've been thrashing over the last little while, featuring a couple from the great US label Profound Lore, and fantastic new Swedish emissaries of Satan, Ghost.
Agalloch - Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore)
This Portland, Oregon avant-black metal band has been around for awhile now. I first heard them with their 2006 release Ashes Against the Grain, which is a pretty solid album, taking strong melodic cues from the post-rock/post-metal sound (think Isis, Pelican et al.) that abounded at the time. Vocalist/guitarist John Haughm, however, kept things firmly black metal with his incredibly harsh voice, sitting on top of the music almost slightly uncomfortably. Listening to their latest album Marrow of the Spirit , the polished production of Ashes... has largely been discarded in favour of a more integrated and organic sound. Haughm's vocals in particular are blended more effectively into the surrounding music, which is amongst the finest and furious black metal I've heard. Like fellow Americans Wolves In The Throne Room, Agalloch's themes largely concern nature, death, and rebirth, and this is wrought into a toweringly dark and epic album that flows as a singular piece of music. For instance, over the course of album centrepiece "Black Lake Nidstång" they veer from a folk-tinged industrial soundscape into a slow post-rock build that crescendos with Haughm's anguished vocals and fades into a keyboard and arpeggiated guitar passage that finally explodes into a full ensemble thrash-out. Elsewhere, on tracks like "Into the Painted Grey" and "The Watcher's Monolith", orchestral and post-rock influences abound throughout the inspired arrangements, yet what anchors these songs is the frantic blastbeats, shredding guitars and Haughm's guttural vocals - in other words, the metal!
The Howling Wind - Into The Cryosphere (Profound Lore)
The Howling Wind are taking cues from Darkthrone, aesthetically at least: two dudes, no shows, raw as fuck. Guitarist/vocalist/etc. Ryan Lipynsky (Unearthly Trance/Thralldom) and drummer Tim Call utlise a incredibly heavy and stripped down approach that simply annihilates everything in its path. This is a concept album about Antarctica, the song names conjuring up images of malevolent cold, chilling frosts and the malicious wrath of the elements: "Teeth Of Frost", "Ice Cracking in The Abyss", "A Dead Galaxy Mirrored In An Icy Mirage". A great amalgam of black/thrash/sludge metal, Lipynsky and Call know when to change it up and keep it interesting: from varied, polyrhythmic passages to straight-up d-beat thrash, with an almost industrial tone emerging in places. Amidst all the blastbeats and tremolo picking, "Impossible Eternity" takes things down a notch and manages to sound like Neurosis. Into the Cryosphere is definitely worth a listen, no doubt heard best at midnight on an icy tundra under the indifferent and freezing moon!
Ghost - Opus Eponymous (Rise Above)
I wouldn't hesitate to describe this band as Satanic metal at it's finest. Recalling the work of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate (particularly the 1984 album Don't Break the Oath), Sweden's Ghost have discovered that the best way to convert the unknowing to their evil cause is to veil it in the trappings of 70's metal, and throw in a good dose of catchy pop sensibility. It sounds a bit bizarre on paper, but trust me, a couple of listens and you'll be singing along. These "nameless ghouls" also look the part, the vocalist dressed like a satanic pontiff and the rest of the band going for classic hooded black robes. Their debut release, Opus Eponymous, begins dramatically with a spooky organ intro, and from there it doesn't let up, from the awesome riff (and Latin chants!) of "Con Clavi Con Dio", through to the chorus of "Ritual" ("this chapel of ritual/smells of dead human sacrifices/from the altar bed"), and songs about notorious metal muse Elizabeth Bathory. Shades of Sabbath emerge on "Death Knell", and "Prime Mover" showcases the singer's amazing talents. "Genesis" closes the album with a upbeat instrumental, that closes on a pastoral acoustic note. All told, this album is something out of leftfield - the "retro" feel doesn't fit in alongside the wealth of Satanic fare that dominates subgenres like black and death metal, yet Ghost manage to be waaaay more evil than any corpsepainted internet troll trying to be kvlt. Initiates, bow down and worship!
Here's a live clip from the Hammer of Doom festival in Germany: