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August 2009

Every month, The A.V. Club puts its love of well-crafted, folksy guitar pop on temporary hold and lets all the long-haired creeps in black T-shirts gather in one place. Metal Box is your one-stop shop for all that is loud, vile, and crude in the world of hard rock and heavy metal, and by gathering this site’s surprisingly large number of metal fans in one place, we’re keeping you off the streets so you won’t be a danger to yourself or others. So call up your good buddy Satan, tell your parents you’ll be home “whenever,” and get ready for the Wall Of Death, as we present this month’s pick of the metal litter!

MORE PRECIOUS THAN WORDS. Here’s something I found on Wikipedia while I was checking that Wall Of Death reference: “While moshing is seen as a form of positive feedback or reflection of enjoyment from live audiences, it has also drawn controversy over its dangerous nature. A perfect example of this is a lost shoe or torn shirt, or the more serious possible death.”

That last sentence is why Wikipedia is the most amazing thing on the Internet. Writing for Decibel would only be a letdown after crafting such a sentence, but that’s the only way your writing could end up in Decibel’s new anthology, Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces (Da Capo). This ended up in my hands thanks to alert non-metal-fan Tasha Robinson, and while the writing is inconsistent and the definition is shaky (I don’t know many people who would categorize Black Sabbath, Kyuss, or Opeth as extreme metal), when it scores, it scores big. The sections on Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Meshuggah’s Destroy Erase Improve, and Napalm Death’s Scum are just like being there, and since there’s never going to be a VH1 Behind The Music special about these degenerates, this book is as close as you’re going to come. 

Completely unrelated to the book, but twice as much fun to get drunk at, are the Precious Metal nights curated by Wetnurse drummer/label maven/metal gadabout Curran Reynolds. Every week, Reynolds hosts a combination DJ jam and mini-concert featuring the best in contemporary extreme metal. If you happen to be in New York, check it out—it’s the best non-touring metal show in America.

Nergal, the corpsetastic frontman of Polish black-metal death-dealer Behemoth, is apparently “romantically involved” with a blonde pop queen named Doda Elektroda. I am not one to judge the affairs of others, especially when they are people I have never heard of, but whatever Nergal is getting out of his relationship with this young lady, he should keep it up, because Behemoth has just dropped its best album in years—maybe even its best ever. The terribly named Evangelion (Metal Blade) features the band fully integrating its black and death elements into a terrific synthesis, with tons of room for Inferno’s slashing drums and clean, roomy production by Colin Richardson that really lets the group open up. Tracks like “Ov Fire And The Void” and “Shemhamforash” are what Behemoth has been building toward for years, and it’s a treat to finally see it get there.

. Last month in this space, one of our devoted readers expressed some surprise that Brutal Truth still exists. Not only does it still exist, devoted reader whose name I can’t be arsed to look up, but it put out a new album earlier this year! Evolution Through Revolution (Relapse) is the latest from the New York grindcore legend, and while it doesn’t exactly break new ground, it’s gratifying just to see Kevin Sharp and company honing their edge this late in the game. Terrifyingly adept drummer Richard Hoak, in particular, is a wonder to listen to, especially considering that he’s in his 40s and he’s already tearing shit up something fierce with his own band, Total Fucking Destruction. If you’re looking for a grindcore outfit that wasn’t around during the first Gulf War, the ever-reliable Willowtip label brings you Magrudergrind. The D.C.-based trio’s new, self-titled album is one of the best grindcore albums I’ve heard in ages, an ultra-tight blender in which the band threw dozens of influences, from powerviolence to hip-hop, and set it to “pulverize.” 

. Two of the year’s most hotly anticipated metal albums are Deflorate (Metal Blade) by The Black Dahlia Murder and Blue Record (Relapse) by Baroness, both released on the same day. I haven’t heard either one yet; I’m hoping to be pleased by the former in spite of its terrible name and the band’s recent lineup changes, because I’m a big fan of Trevor Strnad’s voice, and I’m also hoping to be sold on the second, since I haven’t yet jumped on the Baroness bandwagon. However, one thing’s for sure: In the battle of the album covers, Baroness wins big. The Baroness cover, by bandleader John Dyer Baizley, is a swoony piece of retro-fantasy art; the BDM cover, on the other hand, is stinky dogshit. Neither, of course, will win Metal Album Cover of the Year, which has already been won by Skeletonwitch’s Breathing The Fire (Prosthetic).

. Speaking of covers, the new Children Of Bodom album is an all-covers affair, and as is typical of the Espoo eclecticist outfit, it’s a weird lineup. Aside from the expected (Sepultura, Slayer, Iron Maiden, King Diamond), Skeletons In The Closet (Century Media) features some oddball choices (“Somebody Put Something In My Drink” by the Ramones, “Hell Is For Children” by Pat Benatar) and a few so far into left field that even played for jokes, they make for bizarre listening: Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again,” CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” the hokey psychedelic classic by Kenny Rogers And The First Edition. Likewise not a joke is I’m Better Than Everyone, the aptly named microlabel dedicated to releasing recent metal classics on vinyl; its latest is Eyehategod’s last studio album, Confederacy Of Ruined Lives. It’s an underrated record, and worth a listen if you can cut through the label’s inch-thick attitude. And in other reissue news, even if Evisceration Plague (Metal Blade), the latest from Cannibal Corpse, didn’t blow you away, you might want to know that the legendary death metal band’s entire catalogue has just been made available on iTunes. And best of all, it’s at a bargain price: $100 gets you everything the group has ever done, and a bunch of bonus tracks to boot.

. With hellishly brutal temperatures all over the country, no one has the energy to mosh, and it’s a perfect time to relax with some nice downtempo doom. YOB is happy to oblige; its latest offering, The Great Cessation (Profound Lore) is easily its best yet, crammed with megaton riffs but allowing Mike Schiedt’s psychedelic tendencies to rock. Venerable Chicago vet Novembers Doom surprise with its latest, Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (The End); the lyrics are pretty silly, and after 20 years, the band isn’t making any massive stylistic leaps, but guitarists Vito Marchese and Lawrence Roberts have never sounded more in sync, and listening to them deliver the despair is the album’s big treat. Lastly, Britain’s Moss is starting to sound like Esoteric on its new one, Tombs Of The Blind Drugged (Metal Blade)—and that’s a good thing: Its low, burbling mystical doom sounds even better with the tempos reduced to comatose BPM. Or maybe it’s just the heat.

. The rest of my month in metal, briefly: A lot of bands are doing a lot of different things with the thrash revival, but none of them seem to be having as much fun as Municipal Waste, whose latest, Massive Aggressive (Earache), is a total blast to listen to—and to look at, thanks to some gorgeous packaging and art… MW’s labelmate and fellow traveler, the UK thrashmaster outfit Evile, has a new one out, Infected Nations, that isn’t as much fun, but is a frontrunner in August’s yucky-album-cover sweepstakes… after toiling away in the minors for several years, Providence-based Howl is getting picked up by Relapse, who’ll be re-releasing its self-titled EP, a delightful mix of old-school metal riffs and Nathan Explosion vocals… L.A. throwback black-metal band Lightning Swords Of Death is launching its most extensive tour yet, in wake of rumors that Metal Blade will be picking it up… and for those of you who like to complain that I don’t mention incredibly obscure underground groups just because no one will ever hear them and it’s almost impossible to find their records, Angel Eyes (Moribund), the new album from Texas’ finest black-metal hermit, Brown Jenkins, should be right up your alley.