Stuck in the Filter – August’s Angry Misses

Leaf-looker season rapidly approaches. It’s time to batten down the hatches, get your grandparents’ affairs in order, take all of the money out of your bank accounts and stuff the cash in your mattresses, and buy six different kinds of shotgun with enough ammo to fill your entire Volvo station wagon. And, of course, we can’t forget to give the filter an extra deep clean as the constant tourist traffic whips dirt and grime into the air and into our precious filtration system. Fucking leaf-lookers.

The plus side? We as a collective have uncovered a number of cool new shiny nuggets to foist upon the unsuspecting masses. I hope you appreciate it, you festering flesh wounds. They were not easy to carve out of here.

TheKenWord’s Crusty Confections

Cyborg Octopus – Between the Light and Air

Cyborg Octopus is a very cool band—a bonkers hybrid of Diablo Swing Orchestra, Sleep Terror and Vampire Squid. Debut record Learning to Breathe managed to bridge the gaps between metalcore, tech death, thrash, jazz, funk, neoclassical, and a touch of disco. The only thing holding Cyborg Octopus back was the difficulty they seemed to have with transitioning smoothly between those disparate sounds. That hang-up is no more, as follow-up Between the Light and Air successfully marries all of their kaleidoscopic influences into one cohesive whole, and even adds a few new twists, like the Wild West/mariachi touches in “Spectres,” epic space odysseys in “The Projector,” and the surf swing of “Trash Island.” The playful use of horns, woodwinds and a myriad of other novel instruments and synths only adds to the whimsical approach that makes Cyborg Octopus such a fun band with a youthful fire driving all of their output. If you want maximum fun in your metal, look no further than Between the Light and Air.

Sun Eater – Vermin

One of the things I lamented about Scarab’s last record, Martyrs of the Storm, was the generous helping of audible clipping that plagued the low end. Considering how absolutely inundated in riffs that record was, it was distracting to hear routine pops and clicks where there shouldn’t be any. Sun Eater’s new album, Vermin, allows me to enjoy all of their tasty, brutal tech-death assaults without having to suffer such clipping woes (though they do toe the line with such compression artifacts). This record is relentlessly vicious (“Throne of Lies”), bringing every ounce of violence to be had in the band’s and their innumerable guests’ collective fists (“Chalice of Inverted Verses”), and making every attempt to penetrate my jawbone clean through (“Desecrate”). An eerie, mystical undercurrent (“Cosmic Hegemony” and “Vermin”) provides an occult character to the record in a similar way that Eximperitus famously implements, which allows Sun Eater to stand out a bit better than most. If Vermin is any indication, this group has a bright future ahead.

Cherd’s Caustic Curds

Hive – Spiritual Poverty

If all of metaldom is a grand estate; a house with rooms and inhabitants that represent each genre, each band operating within the confines of metal, then Hive is the extremely pissed-off badger discovered living under the porch that sends exploratory broom handles back in splinters. Proving that not all metal-minded hardcore falls into the much-maligned tropes of the late 90s and early aughts, Hive play a vicious amalgam of crust, d-beat, sludge and beatdown over nine indignant missives running 33 minutes on their third full-length Spiritual Poverty. At its best, Spiritual Poverty displays a range of sounds that draw from several hardcore adjacent styles. Second track and lead single “So It Is Done” is a feral scorcher that somehow also manages the most melodic flourishes of the album before kicking into an absolutely ridiculous gear over the last 30 seconds of pure powerviolence. Late cut “Protection” puts the punk back into hardcore punk, but manages to remain aggressively heavy, partly thanks to the tough-but-not-douchey harsh vocal attack of Jim Adolphson and Morgan Carpenter. Meanwhile, album centerpiece “Metamorphosis” is proof positive that Hive could be a nasty sludge band if they really wanted to be, even slowing down their gut-grinding riffs to doom tempos. Besides these standouts, most songs do come off a bit uniform – d-beat will do that to ya – but at least each carries the same cantankerous energy, making Spiritual Poverty a fun spin if you feel like being angry.

Thus Spoke’s Insipid Intrigues

Raat – Celestial Woods

Atmo-black gets a lot of hate, and unjustly so, I would argue. The genre is no more boring or bloated with identikit acts than, say, OSDM.1 Unlike that stripe, too, atmospheric black metal holds a charm and a power to convey abstract emotionality. Indian one-man project Raat (also of Lesath) operated below my radar until now, but Celestial Woods is actually their thirteenth release, and third full-length, in less than four years. It well-exemplifies that affective power with an array of reflective, urgent, and somber moods. “Silver Sphere,” “Carpe Noctem,” and “Celeste” showcase some of this breadth and beauty at its best. Its long songs and these ethereally-shifting tones make it an ideal companion for introspective walks as the seasons change. Music like this has length as an advantage; designed to be absorbed until it’s simply a part of the background. Though, at nearly an hour, some will lose patience. Raat doesn’t overdo the gazey tendency for fading its shrieks into the layered instrumentation. For the most part, the vocals are in the right place, muffled to the extent they gain a strange warm feel. So whether it’s with the melancholy urgency of “Serrated Edge,” or the calm of “Moonflower,” make this one your blackgaze/atmo-black of choice for the coming Autumn (at least for now).

Dolphin Whisperer’s Wet Wretches

Phase IV – Phase IV

Phase IV, an old cult horror flick, told the tale of an army of ants who grow a vengeful sentience and wage war on the human region surrounding them. I didn’t know this prior to learning of Phase IV, a progressive death metal band of sorts from Texas, but that’s the kind of nerdom one should expect of the collective metal brain. Now, this cosmic death metal doesn’t fall into the same camp as acts like Astral Tomb or Blood Incantation. Rather, between organic, jazz-fueled guitar tones, warm clacking bass rattles, and mantra-paced rhythms, frontman (and bassist) Bryan Camphire (Bloody Panda) guides us with his ghastly growls through free orbit hoping for gravity somewhere to pull us in. More krautrock than simply progressive, tracks like “Horla” and “Devoid” host studiously repeated jazz-jangle riffs that continue to slowly twist and tangle over synth layers morphing from sinister to enlightened. Phase IV manages to remain death metal too, with early tracks “Lure” and “Henchmen” cementing that the entrapping refrains can explode into unsettling percussive breakdowns just as fluidly as they give way to wild fusion solos. Though drummer David Beck’s attack lands heavy with cymbal dance and tom tussle, he interjects with meaningful snare pulses on “Psyche” and “Borderlands” to build to the extended closer, “Willow,” which contrasts growing chaotic shrieks against a swirling, sure-to-fail re-entry. Phase IV comes close to burning up, but, this carefully calculated trip turns what could have been a catastrophic freefall into a bright-burning splash.

Turian – No Longer Human

One part Dead Kennedys, one part Antigama, and one part… RushConverge? Whatever the actual ingredients, these young Washington-based upstarts have made a small flurry with their noise rock encrusted take on hardcore (bordering grind), and in a year already so engorged with like-minded frantic releases (this year’s Eunoia comes to mind), No Longer Human forces us to cut another hole in our straining belts. Previously, Turian functioned as an aggressive three-piece, pumping out serviceably violent tunes with ample slowdown-to-breakdown proficiency. For this newest outing, Vern Metztli has joined the fray providing a charismatic higher range yelps, sassy alt-girl deadpan diatribes, and brooding frog-throated incantations; while Turian never felt faceless before, Metztli has offered a powerful vocal identity. In turn, guitarist Ryan Moon, who had handled the mic in the past, allows his crisp prog-leaning six-string aspirations to lock in place like jigsaw through grinding assaults (“Snakehead,” “Judas Tree”), paranoia-loaded reverb cannons (“Malfunction,” “Ten Misfortunes”), and twisted electro-harmonix shimmers (“Buster Room,” “Narcissus”). In playful lockstep with a dancing hi-hat, prancing d-beats, and furiously shifting kickwork, drummer Andrew Nyte keeps the floor shuffling on this rapidly dissolving beast. Most importantly, bassist Cris Sanchez ties the fuzzed-out room together with a majorly thick, bottom-shaking presence that inspires hip-swinging (“Judas Tree,” “Narcissus”) and wind-milling (“Willoughby,” “Saila Maaso”) alike. No Longer Human cranks from end to end without a moment wasted, and though Metztli’s performance may be a bit divisive—I for one am charmed by her frequent “FUCK” grunts—I won’t be forgetting Turianߵs melted face cover art nor face-melting performances any time soon.

Dear Hollow’s Unholy Upheavals

Spite – Dedication to Flesh

Even in the early days of deathcore, I think we all got embarrassed with the “low ‘n slow” breakdowns of Chelsea Grin and Oceano, but when the djunzz is weaponized for maximum vitriol, a new level is achieved. Enter Spite, who hit a bit of a stale rut with The Root of All Evil and Nothing is Beautiful, only to return with the two-ton sledgehammer to the skull Dedication to Flesh. Borrowing hints of the nu-metal-inclined Cane Hill or Slipknot and the devastating down-tempo weight of Filth or Black Tongue, Spite is majorly pissed off. Threatening to fly off the rails with “Proper One” and “Hangman” while breakdowns saturate any breathing room of “Caved In” and “Made to Please,” as grooves settle heavy into “Some Things You Should Know…” and the title track, it’s a concussive bag whose tracks never overstay their raucous welcome. While generally focusing on beating your skull in with the subtlety of a crowbar, “The Most Ugly” and “Fear” weaponize dissonance in addictively crawling riffs. All in all, Dedication to Flesh is simple, fast, and unoriginal, but if it’s pissed-off music you want, Spite will cut the mustard – mightily.

Locrian – New Catastrophism

In spite of being attached to styles like drone, electronic, black metal, death metal, and krautrock, and noise rock, I think we can just call Locrian dark ambient with a side of metal. New Catastrophism, as well as its companion EP Ghost Frontiers, portrays a future leveled by progress, its minimalist tones metaphorical for the wasteland. Not unlike The Lord’s evocative soundtrack inspiration, Locrian’s tones reach a boiling point following the long crescendo in the ritualistic percussion in “Incomplete Map of Voids” and the somber melodic sprawl of “Cenotaph to the Final Glacier.” Fully embracing the electronic elements, New Catastrophism manages an equilibrium between ominous and bright, bass-heavy rumbles and drones giving way to a futuristic sleek – a reminder of the cause of planetary blight. While many will find New Catastrophism and Ghost Frontiers slow and uneventful, open your mind’s eye to the world of the future and explore the bleak consequences.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Report to HR. – Steel
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