Monday, November 25, 2013


I love making lists. In fact, that probably why I was offered the role of Oskar Schindler, in Schindler’s List. I said, “Steven [Spielberg], I make lists all the time.” And he said, “That’s exactly what I’m looking for.” (My next list will be HBO shows that I quote from too often, starting with this quip from Liam Neeson in Life’s Too Short.)

Before I let the rabbit out of the hat or the cat out of the bag or whatever other animal cliche fits here with my TOP 50 EXTREME ALBUMS OF THE YEAR, I wanted to start with a list of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing most at Maryland Deathfest. It’s my first year attending, so I’ll be targeting international bands who don’t tour often, and a few North American bands who have evaded me thus far:

10) Noothgrush. Recently missed them playing in Brooklyn, and you never know how long it will be before these West Coast sludge-slingers visit the borough again. If there was a split album you enjoyed over the last 17 years they were probably involved.

9) Bongripper. I love the Chicago doom scene, and there’s nobody in the Midwest who can touch the bleakness of Hate Ashbury and Satan Worshipping Doom.

8) Crowbar. I traded Monster Magnet’s Powertrip album for Crowbar’s Obedience Thru Suffering back in junior high school, and it went down as one of the best trades of all time.

7) Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. With so much screaming and growling, this UK band’s brand of macabre doom rock will be a reprieve from extremity. Great songs that avoid that lazy “retro” tag people love and just provide great hooks and a sense of mystery.

6) The Secret. I still think Solve et Coagula is one of the more underrated albums out there, and I’ve missed my chance at seeing this Italian band several times in Brooklyn. NOT THIS TIME.

5) Coffins. Blurring that line between death metal and sludge, their music seems like the perfect soundtrack for swimming through a pond of entrails. With the government holding up work/travel VISAs to the point where Church of Misery cancelled their NYC show earlier this year, any time a band I dig from Japan heads this way I make sure to attend.

4) My Dying Bride. I always loved the sense of sophistication and drama they brought to doom, and Turn Loose the Swans was one of the first albums that persuaded me to embrace slower-tempo genres back when I was a grindcore maniac in high school.

3) Gorguts. Unfortunately I’ll be missing their show at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn in December, so MDF offers me a chance to see a band whose comeback has given us Colored Sands, an album I feel even surpasses the legendary Obscura in terms of vision, focus, and grandiosity.

2) At the Gates. Since the first time I heard an old Earache records sampler, I was infatuated with Tomas Lindberg’s bark and the melodic savagery of Slaughter of the Soul.

1) The Church of Pungent Stench. Not only does the Been Caught Buttering album art adorn my battle vest, but Martin Schirenc is the culprit for igniting my adoration for death metal. I love his Hollenthon project as well, but it obviously starts with the gruesome excess of Pungent Stench.

Check out the full list of bands over at the Maryland Deathfest website, and tell me how wrong I am about this list:

Friday, November 22, 2013


Sometimes I forget I’m considered a music critic, because I’m really just a fan boy lucky enough to occasionally be paid for my opinions. But critics LOVE when an album/movie/book title can be used as a simple headline; let’s say, for example, the Seymour Hoffman/DeNiro film Flawless (Not quite Flawless, LOLOLOLOL!). Here we have an album named Abysmal, from Hollow Leg, a band from northern Florida that has an “affinity for the roots of American blues music and English metal,” so says their promo material. ‘Abysmal’ just happens to be one of those beautiful words that can be used to both praise and reprimand a piece of art; abysmal most often refers to something of poor quality, but can also describe something that is limitless and deeply profound. Boasting powerful performances from each musician, and offering eight tracks of zero-horseshit, Sabbath-informed sludge (is there any other kind?), Abysmal is built on a solid blues rock foundation with hardcore intensity and addresses themes that may not reach profundity, but are absolutely universal.

I first need to mention that in the second song, “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home),” I heard Scott Angelacos’ howl and immediately thought, “Oh shit, how did it take me a full song to realize this is the Junior Bruce vocalist?” He has one of those instantly recognizable voices that can’t be unheard. I say this more as a warning for non-metalheads: You will be haunted by the voice of Angelacos, which is strong enough to tattoo pentagrams in your ear canal. For metal fans: Rejoice, because his delivery is singularly awesome.

Most of the album feels like Iron Monkey accidentally stumbled into slightly gentler melodies. “Ride to Ruin” introduces a fuzzy higher-register lead to join Tom Crowther’s burly bass tones, and will be my motorcycle soundtrack when I’m eventually an outlaw biker with an eight-foot long beard. Brent Lynch provides some memorable riffs here, with “Blissful Nothing” syphoning Eyehategod’s groove and capturing the slow-motion sense of a day passing sluggishly on hashish, and “Cry Havoc” trapping the listener in an alligator death-roll as drummer Tim Creter goes in for the kill after some Big Black-era Orange Goblin goodness.

While the mixing on both “The Dog” and “Lord Annihilation” feels a little flat, lacking contrast and punch despite some great hooks and well-built tension, Abysmal is an album that’s the middle sprinter in a relay race, taking the baton from the UK’s best doom bands and handing it off to the crusty, lice-scalped troublemakers of the sludge scene. Though the song structures are closely related to 90s hardcore, this album will lead riff-worshipping fanatics of the slow and heavy into the exceptionally loud, wolf-infested abyss. And that, right there, is as close to a title-related catchphrase as I get.

Check out Abysmal over on bandcamp and get yourself the album on vinyl, or by instant download:

And check out Hollow Leg over on Facebook, and maybe some day they will answer what they would hide in a prosthetic limb:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Every once in a while I come across an album/movie/book that I feel was made specifically with me in mind, like the artist(s) crawled into my psyche, observed my absolute favorite things, and crafted something to transform my day from totally mediocre to fist-pumpingly awesome. Hyena, the newest album from Cologne, Germany’s Serpent Eater, is one of those albums that I consider a personal gift.

With an inspired mixture of wasteland sludge and icy, dizzying black metal, Hyena feels like Howl’s excellent Full of Hell LP if it spent its childhood scavenging rancid meat from sewer tunnels in an abandoned factory town. Released from Alerta Antifascista Records, this album is a mean, muscular, metallic beast that somehow sidesteps predictability while still featuring conservatively structured, contagious songs that would watch you for hours from the shadows, just to bite your throat out the moment you start dreaming.

Album opener “Ebola” introduces a mixture of bluesy groove and swirling, psychedelic black metal with demonic dual-vocals. “Last Cold Word” features more snarling, scorched riffs that bathe in the muck dividing Immortal and Dragged Into Sunlight, like black swamp water frozen during the first frost. The guitars capture a sense of gothic dread and still achieve nearly impossible catchiness. “In the Wall” invokes Slayer’s thrashing anger over a rumbling beat that builds to vicious grind, maintaining punk intensity even when injecting some dopesmoking harmonized guitars into the mix. Hyena closes with the dynamic track “Trepanation Nation,” featuring a blizzard of blastbeats and At the Gates riffage with a grimy underbelly of sludgy groove and lumbering explosions of hardcore.

Largely due to their cackling sounds and comedic-relief roles in The Lion King, most people don’t realize hyenas are surprisingly savage animals, and unexpectedly fierce foes that lions battle on a constant basis. It’s not unusual for a pack of hyenas to lure a mother lion away from her young, only to have another sneak in and feast on the babies. Not that Serpent Eater encourage the fervent murder of lion cubs, but it’s a reminder of the necessary cruelty of nature’s order, and right now Serpent Eater can quit relying on snakes for nourishment, because this album proves they’re a formidable predator quickly eating their way up the food chain. Despite some similarities to recent work by I Exist and Vaporizer, Hyena absolutely feels fresh and unique, and shows us what’s possible in extreme music when contrast, tone, mood, texture, and the art of a killer riff are all fully explored.

Check out Hyena, streaming on Bandcamp now, and available for a modest 4 EUR:

And follow them on Facebook to stay current with all their news:

Monday, November 11, 2013


Hello, growlers. It’s Decibel Magazine deadline week, so my attention has been (happily) kidnapped to focus on a few fun pieces for issue #112, but I was alerted that a band previously featured on Mister Growl is coming out with a new split 7” record.

If you recall, I reviewed No Fealty’s debut In the Shadow of the Monolith back in August, and said “there’s enough fury here to inspire god to eat his cherubs.” The Copenhagen band’s newest song, Side A’s “Ravished,” combines rabid noise and a crusty D-beat to create a chaotic take on hardcore punk that’s meaner than a retired executioner and heavier than his crippling guilt. They’re a socially conscious band that actually sounds dangerous.

Kollapse are from Aalborg, Denmark, and offer a bleak track called “Father,” which feels like sludgy post-hardcore covered in scabs, scars, and thorns. With tortured, throaty vocals and deliberate momentum, it feels like a march towards the edge of a cliff.

It’s about a 5 hour drive between these two Danish cities, and there’s also distance between their approaches to heavy music: Kollapse offer mood and atmosphere and structure, while No Fealty endeavors to tear every structure down into a pile of rubble. It’s worth your time, and acts as a solid introduction to both bands.

Check out Kollapse’s track for the split over here on Bandcamp:

And while you’re at it, check out No Fealty’s In the Shadow of the Monolith over here. I expect it to be on my list of “Top 50 Albums of the 2013” and it’s still offered as a “Name Your Price” download:

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Although Anodine translates to “harmless” in French, this four-piece from Dusseldorf, Germany play 16 tracks in roughly 80 minutes on Passages that span the entire spectrum of sound, from gentle electric ballads to industrial metal that is anything but “harmless.” In their promo information they describe their own sound as “trip rock,” a term that absolutely captures the spirit of the catchy, driven rhythms and occasional aggression on this debut album. The band’s songwriter, Patrick Heyer, also provides versatile vocals and backing guitar for the album. I’ll discuss his vocals in more depth below, but he does supply a seductive sense of calm even while the bass and drums rumble and the guitars stab at the rhythm with punctuated distortion. Since the band took the time to polish 16 tracks, I’ll do a song-by-song exploration of Passages with some of my thoughts:

1) Antilight - Electro-instrumental track like Goblin mixed with Zombi. This song should have been in Pacific Rim, it feels like the soundtrack for the suspense before a giant robot attack. Heavy synths expertly build tension that is released in the opening moments of the next song.

2) Color Of This Place - A serpentine Deftones riff mixed with an industrial approach. Heyer’s voice reminds me of Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth, when he’s clean-singing and between roars. Moments of light permeate the song, like softer moments from Type O Negative’s October Rust.

3) Dark Side of Venus - A little like post-Follow the Leader Korn, nice thick bass tone with rays of sunlight peering from behind the clouds. Produced really well, nice fuzzy guitar tones and buzzing bass.

4) Into the White Light - Invokes Depeche Mode, if they used harsher tones. Slapping bass provides a nice clang, and the vocals soar with emotion as Heyer hits the higher register notes. Sophisticated, subtle touches with synth strings.

5) Break Away - Nu-metal hardcore that feels like a song-length breakdown. Deep guttural growls, Heyer reminds me of Jonathan Davis again in this song, if Davis took voice lessons. The aggressive approach also reminds me of American Head Charge, without the drug abuse.

6) The Virus - Bass and drum with chiming ethereal guitars to some churning, droning guitars with a catchy percussive beat. Could sneak this into a Massive Attack set list and the audience would think it’s one of the best songs of the night.

7) Hidden Places - Slower industrial ballad that sounds like something I could play while seducing a lady wearing fake fangs in a foggy basement club. Guitars have a little bite around three minutes in.

8) No Summer - Churning, tidal waves of bass from Fabian Siepen. Heyer sings, “You can never feel the summer in your heart.” Appropriate for this song, since it feels like a rainy autumn day.

9) Storm - Slow, radio-friendly song that could be a New Order song if they recruited a more rock-minded drummer like Jörg Skaramaga, who chisels a rhythm out of granite for this track. Feels like an 80s pop song with extra muscle. Although it’s mostly a tease, there’s a rocking riff closing out the song.

10) Dark Field - Heyer’s vocals on this track remind me of Mike Patton’s raspy delivery in his Lovage project, delivering a sort of sleazy, predatory sex appeal that installs a sense of danger.

11) Somewhere Sometime Somehow - A patient, deceptively heavy song with soaring vocals and tasteful supporting synth. If there’s any justice in the world, this would be a theme song for a future James Bond film. It has grace and a refreshing edge.

12) City - Nine Inch Nails introduction, with warped sensuality and mechanical groove. This song features Passages’ most traditional blues-based rock riffs from Rumen Iliev, but they feel fresh here and provide solid hooks. Some of the best drumming of the album from Skaramaga as well, as the song steers into jagged noise rock territory.

13) This Moment - Heavy opening riff feels like Fear Factory, and quickly switches gears into a gentler mode. This song is filled with jarring mood shifts, and while I usually embrace unpredictability, this felt awkward to me overall. If the band slims this album down to an hour or so, I think this is one song I wouldn’t miss.

14) Room 23 - Dramatic, plodding song that lurches with a doomed sensibility. Take one of the softer songs from Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase + a vocalist that can seemingly hit any note + a keyboard player = “Room 23.”

15) Resistance - Another softer song, doesn’t stand out from the rest but does have a head-bobbing rhythm matched with some guitar riffs with attitude. Unfortunately the verse starting 3 minutes in doesn’t fully capitalize on the potential heaviness waiting to explode, but it does layer the guitars and bass well. Another song that I might cut if decreasing the album’s run time to a more manageable 60 minutes.

16) She Calls - A fantastic, impressive song. Godflesh bass and percussive heaviness again matched with haunting guitar tones that seem to sparkle like starlight on a pond at midnight. Great use of stereo as the guitars hack at the song to cut their way in, like Jack Nicholson chopping through the door in The Shining. Tempo shifts into a more upbeat rhythm while the guitars sound even more foreboding and even incorporate elements of shoegaze. A track that truly stands out and wraps the album in a black cloak to prepare for the coming winter.

In summary, while Passages leans more towards the trip-side, it certainly displays enough aggression and distortion to earn the full title of “trip rock.” These songs are approachable and radio-friendly while still achieving a sonic edge, and should appeal to fans of Nine Inch Nails, Spineshank, and the Deftones. I particularly enjoyed the noisier elements of the album, with an unhinged bass tone that provides a layer of grime, and the relentless pummel of the drums that contrast with Heyer’s chameleonic voice. This is a great debut, and fans of industrial rock and goth music should check out Anodine and support this completely DIY release.

Check out the band’s website for ordering information, and get Passages on iTunes or from Amazon:

And go follow Anodine on Facebook for live videos and updates:

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I see a decent number of shows, and I prefer to just go and enjoy the experience, as opposed to taking notes, unless it’s for an assignment. I usually drink a few beers and take shitty pictures on my camera phone. Here’s my round-up of October concert experiences.

Sky Picnic, playing the transcendental "Fjord."

October 5th - Rocktober at The Paper Box

Blue & Gold at the Paper Box.
This was part of the Rocktober one-day festival, featuring music ranging from psych rock and hip hop to metalcore. It was a strange but fascinating event, with unfortunately low attendance for the first several hours, which I guess should be expected for a show that lasts 12 hours or so. 

It's a shame though, because to me the highlights of the event came within the first hour I was there, when Sky Picnic transported the room into an alternate dimension filled with purple fog, majestic waterfalls, and shimmering psychedelic rock.

Blue & Gold also delivered an awesome set of soulful, loud electric blues rock, including a groovy cover of The Clash’s “Do I Stay Or Do I Go.” I took a brief detour to Pumps for some happy hour beers (and  to watch pretty gals pole dancing) and returned to finish the event by watching the heavier bands play outside in the patio area. It was a cool venue, with colorful graffiti covering the walls, and the crowd was certainly passionate. I was severely bruised and sore after the moshing outbreaks at this show.

Watain: Appropriately blood red.

 October 8th - Watain/In Solitude/Tribulation at Irving Plaza

The albums by all 3 of these bands are on my top 50 of the year, so I was definitely looking forward to this, and each band delivered. Tribulation’s set was disappointingly short, but hopefully their awesome performance will inspire more people to give The Formulas of Death a listen. Watain played with intensity in front of an impressive set, and spat animal blood on my metal vest within 20 seconds of starting. Thanks to Century Media for giving me a VIP pass for this so I could lounge by myself in the fancy balcony.

Jayke Orvis & the Broken Band

October 17th - Nashville Pussy/Jayke Orvis & the Broken Band at The Bell House

My first time at this venue, and it was unfortunately a small crowd for a middle of the week show. That didn’t stop Jayke Orvis & the Broken Band from charming the crowd with dark bluegrass and country-fried murder ballads . I purchased a CD for my folks, and burned a copy for myself, with Orvis’ blessing, of course. Also, check out James Hunnicut's Angel Witch shirt in that photo. Unfortunately I didn't get to shake his hand after the show, but awesome taste, sir.

They got the Pussy, we got the time, baby.
As for Nashville Pussy: They are flat-out the best live band I’ve ever seen. Seen them four times now, including shows with reverend Horton Heat and Motorhead, and it's plain unfair to expect other bands to match their ferocity, balls-and-racks-out punk attitude, and effortless sense of junkyard cool. I will pay to see them play any time they come to New York. 

Mount Salem bewitching Brooklyn.
Ruyter Suys just celebrated her 45th birthday, and there’s no better place in the world than standing in front of her as she swigs whiskey and shreds. She's up there in my upper-echelon of rock superheroes, and any stiff-backed guitarist going through the motions should turn to her for inspiration.

October 21st - Mount Salem at Saint Vitus

Noisem, teaching an AP class in headbanging.
Thanks to my friends at Metal Blade, I was able to go congratulate Mount Salem in person on their recent signing to the label. Endless is supremely heavy and catchy, and despite getting over a cold, Emily’s vocals were even better in person.I bought a shirt (of their album's beautiful cover, on an awesomely comfortable gray jersey T-shirt) If you haven’t checked out their debut album, do so right now, this band has a really bright future.

October 24th - Skeletonwitch/Noisem/Black Dahlia Murder at the Knitting Factory

Chance Garnette, unleashing vocal serpents.
My first time seeing Noisem, one of metal’s rising stars from A389 Recordings, and you can see what the fuss is all about. While they can still work on stage presence and showmanship, the music was tight and nasty. I was able to watch them with a couple of the dudes from Howl (love that band, too), and we all discussed the gaping chasm between where the members of Noisem are musically at their age, and the garbage we were all recording at 15-18.  

Skeletonwitch is one of the most humble, dedicated touring bands out there, in any genre. The last several bands I’ve seen from Prosthetic Records have all displayed positive energy, charisma, and a sincere appreciation for the audience. Awesome to see the ‘Witch having so much success with Serpents Unleashed.

Oh yeah, and Mister Growl is now on Facebook, so come check out the page over here: