August 3, 2011

Punk, hardcore, metal, noise: Music shouldn’t always be easy on the ears. Each month, Loud unearths some of the loudest, crudest, weirdest, and/or heaviest sounds writhing beneath the surface. The world’s not getting any quieter. Neither should we.

Stream of the month: Sainthood Reps, Monoculture

Christian punk has always bugged me. I know that being signed to Tooth & Nail doesn’t automatically make your band a roving gang of musical Bible-thumpers, sneaking Trojan Horse-like into shows and subliminally disseminating the word of God. But I’ll admit to actively avoiding bands on Tooth & Nail over the years, even if they wind up being pretty damn decent (like, say, Frodus or Underoath). I’ve just added Sainthood Reps to my plus column. Co-led by Brand New’s Derrick Sherman, the Long Island outfit brings some predictably moody melody to its new full-length, Monoculture. But the prettiness is periodically scraped away and chucked in the incinerator by Sherman and crew’s angular, post-hardcore noise-mongering. In fact, Sainthood Reps remind me at times of Frodus, and that’s a great thing. Are the band members Christian? Is “Telemarketeer”—one of Monoculture’s standout tracks—secretly about Jesus? Who cares? When the music is this good, maybe it’s time I did the Christian thing and just mustered a little unquestioning faith. (Tooth & Nail)

Now for something on the other side of the spiritual spectrum: The Devil’s Fractal by Avichi. The brainchild of Andrew Markuszewski, also of the mighty Nachtmystium, Avichi opts instead for a cleaner, tighter, more technically oriented black metal on its new full-length. But it still sears like a white-hot poker in a scarification ritual; densely layered and conceptually arcane, The Devil’s Fractal lives up to its infernal name. (Profound Lore)

On the heels of its excellent self-titled album from last year comes Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s new EP, Agonie. The German group’s intricate, melodic black metal feels downright symphonic without having to resort to ornate arrangement or soaring vocals; rather, Agonie’s bombast is visceral. The riffs feel a little too manicured in spots—and the overall sound is a bit on the tinny side—but the songs themselves are things of blackened beauty. (Viva Hate)

Isolation is another of group moody Germans with an axe to grind against existence. But as the band’s handle implies, it’s a bit more introverted—and its new album, Closing A Circle, feels oppressively so. But that’s good. The group has evolved far beyond its black-metal roots and branched out into a sprawling, melancholic rock that creeps along at roughly the pace of decay. There’s also a whittled-down melody to the disc that doesn’t always work; at times, Closing feels a little too insular and navel-gazing, to the point where you wonder why the band even bothered recording it. But when the execution lines up with the atmosphere, it’s haunting. (Eisenwald)

Sometime you want adventurousness, progression, and innovation. Other times, you just want a new Lock Up record. The sturdy British supergroup has unleashed its latest full-length, Necropolis Transparent, and it’s as solid as fossilized bone. Joining the core (Napalm Death mainstay Shane Embry and former Cradle Of Filth/Dimmu Borgir drummer Nicolas Barker) this time around is longtime At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg and relative newcomer Anton Reisenegger, guitarist of Chile’s Criminal. Together, they lock their jaws on 16 blasts of grim, gore-clotted grindcore ferocity. Consider if comfort food for the cannibalistic. (Nuclear Blast)

It’s strange to think of Toxic Holocaust as being metal veterans, but Joel Grind and his revolving rhythm section have released so much material over the past dozen years, it feels like they’ve been around forever. That doesn’t make the group’s new full-length, Conjure And Command, any less excellent or welcome. Sweetly redolent of thrash, D-beat, and raw sewage, the album simmers with tar-thick riffage, staggering breakdowns, and a corroded dose of self-loathing. If this is what Toxic Holocaust’s next decade is going to look like, bring it on. (Relapse)

Symphony X just released its latest prog-metal opus, Iconoclast, but I’m having more fun with bassist Mike LePond’s other band, Seven Witches. The stalwart Jersey group’s latest album is Call Upon The Wicked, and it’s bursting with founder Jack Frost’s NWOBHM traditionalism. But Frost’s guitar isn’t the only thing that shines; singer James Rivera is back on the mic for the first time in years, and his Bruce Dickinson-meets-King Diamond gymnastics are a feast of old-school awesomeness. (FrostByte)

In last month’s edition of Loud, some readers wondered if I might start doing an “album of the month” type of thing. I’m still not sure about that—but if I had a gun to my head, this month’s shining moment, metal-wise, would be Atrophy. The debut by Dallas’ Baring Teeth is stunning on just about every level: Simultaneously agile and sludgy; impulsive and calculated; and raw and refined, it’s hard to believe this is a freshman outing. These guys are hoeing their own row, and I can’t wait to see where they progress from here. Until then, Atrophy will likely keep me discovering new angles to its acrobatic discordance and extra-dimensional oddity. (Willowtip)

Since we’re keeping track all of a sudden: Coming in at a close second for metal album of the month is Disma’s monstrous Towards The Megalith. Steeped in thunderous doom and guttural death metal, the record is sick and filthy as fuck—and with a pedigree that includes Incantation frontman Craig Pillard and Funebrarum guitarist Daryl Kahan, it’d better be. There’s a go-for-throat passion to Megalith, though, that transcends mere supergroup-ism. This isn’t another bunch of vets riding each other’s coattails; it’s a reaffirmation of what makes metal both morbid and majestic. (Profound Lore)

Post-metal may be falling out of favor—after all, there are only so many half-assed Isis knockoffs any sane person can take—but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying 40 Watt Sun. The Inside Room is the British trio’s debut, and it’s gorgeously crushing. Picking up where leader Patrick Walker’s previous outfit, Warning, left off, The Inside Room pushes both the melody and heaviness up a notch. The easiest comparison would point toward Jesu, but there’s nothing remotely shoegaze-y about 40 Watt Sun’s immersive gloom—nor do Walker’s trembling, folk-like vocals sound anything like Justin Broadrick’s. Or anyone’s, for that matter. (Metal Blade/Cyclone Empire)

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Ringworm never gained quite as much of a cult following as fellow Cleveland hardcore legend Integrity. But the group’s latest album, Scars, is a fleshy slab of dark, dripping hardcore that shows Ringworm still has plenty of life left in it. Riddled with eerie samples, thuggish breakdowns, and random stabs of metal, there’s nothing new here for longtime fans of the band (or the genre). But it satisfies—and for a 20-year-old band, that’s nothing to sneeze at. (Victory)

One of my favorite hardcore albums of the year so far is Paper Skin by Germany’s Ritual—and that part of Europe must be hopping right now, because Oathbreaker’s Maelstrom is even better. The new full-length by the Belgian quartet is thick, bludgeoning, and metallic, but the co-ed outfit dodges expectation and cliché by adding an underlayer of twisted eeriness and high-tension rhythm. (Deathwish Inc.)

Back here in the States, Rational Animals is keeping hardcore blistering and weird with Bock Rock Parade. The Rochester outfit traffics in brittle, at times almost jazzy chaos and the kind of wiseass, off-kilter misanthropy that typifies early SST bands—or even deconstructionists like Flipper and No Trend. Even better: These guys aren’t afraid to throw lots of rock ’n’ roll into the mix, even as they make it abundantly clear that they kind of hate themselves—in a healthy way—for doing so. There’s a line that runs back to Pissed Jeans, but Rational Animals mostly bypass any recent influences and plug straight into the source. (Katorga Works)

Although the band doesn’t really sounds like any of its neighbors, there’s something still very Richmond-y about Landmines, whose killer new album, Commerce And Marx, just dropped. Strident and shouty, it’s impassioned without being preachy and melodic without being poppy; instead, it’s a wiry tangle of controlled aggression that continues the righteous spirit of early Strike Anywhere without flat-out aping it. (Paper + Plastick)

Long Beach’s The Greenery taps into a similar well of outrage as Landmines, but the group isn’t quite as convincing. There’s a lot to like on its new album, Spit And Argue, from the crawling intros to the relentless spew of grumbling riffs and thin-skinned spite. But singer Matt Lanners sometimes sounds like a parody of a tough guy trying to yell his way out of a paper bag. But there’s still enough hoarse catharsis and sheer force to make it a gripping listen—if not that memorable. (Prosthetic)

John Geek of long-running East Bay punk band The Fleshies has a side project called Street Eaters with his wife Meghan March. The duo has a new album called Rusty Eyes And Hydrocarbons—and it’s as sugary and intoxicating as a hard-cider Slurpee. Stripped to the bone and built back up with blearily distorted bass and playful drums—not to mention lots of new-wave-y, boy-girl vocals—the disc shimmers and sizzles like summer itself. (Bakery Outlet/Plan-It-X)

Speaking of summer: There’s something sloppy, heartfelt, and wistfully laid-back about Perdition’s “I’ll Be Careful, You’ll Be Dead,” the standout track on No Backup Plan, the band’s split EP with Samuel Caldwell’s Revenge. That’s not to say SCR doesn’t hold up its end of the disc with some old-school, metal-spiked, melodic hardcore—but Perdition’s shaggy pop-punk is simply infectious. (Dang!)

There’s usually not enough space to cover singles in Loud, but I have to make an exception with the new 7-inch from Hot Water Music. It’s the band’s first release of new material in seven years, and it’s fantastic: The first side, “Up To Nothing,” is a ragged, weather-beaten fragment introspective punk rock, while “The Fire, The Steel, The Tread” reflects a vaguely folky direction for the band that’s likely to be more fully realized on its upcoming full-length. Until then, this is a nourishing tidbit. (Self-released)

When it comes to rock of any kind, poetry is usually a bad word. But Enablers has embraced the form for almost a decade, lending helix-like guitar and fractal drumming to frontman Pete Simonelli’s spoken-word verse. The group’s latest full-length, Blown Realms And Stalled Explosions, is also its first with drummer Doug Scharin—formerly of godlike post-rock pioneers Codeine and June Of 44—who adds another dimension of intricacy and texture to Simonelli’s blunt cadences and stark imagery. (Exile On Mainstream)

Why is it so hard for bands with even the slightest hint of progressiveness to keep things concise? City Of Ships, at least, knows how to pack huge songs and sprawling chord patterns into small areas. Only once straying past the five-minute mark, the tracks on the band’s new album Minor World venture into vast, anthemic post-hardcore and swirling prog—and they do so in a way that doesn’t sound remotely rehashed. Like some warped (yet oddly logical) hybrid of Thursday and Isis, City Of Ships anchors Minor World in heaviness while casting itself into space. (Translation Loss/Sound Study)

Retro Loud: King Crimson, Red
King Crimson has never felt the need to curtail its tendency toward excess. And thank fucking God for that. I got into the band in a backward kind of way, via 1984’s Three Of A Perfect Pair, which my mom’s old boyfriend had in his neglected record collection when I was 17. It’s a great album—but eventually I wound up at King Crimson’s 1974 masterpiece, Red. It’s not an album you easily forget. Chiseled, contorted, and uncompromising, it’s the culmination of everything guitar virtuoso Robert Fripp and company had built toward since 1969’s groundbreaking In The Court Of The Crimson King. By the time Red rolled around, though, all traces of hippie-ish extravagance and sentiment had been peeled away—and in their place were riffs so heavy and inventive, they still sound inhumanly beautiful. Even when the album gets acoustic, delicate, chamber-worthy, or even perversely funky, it does so in a way that adds perspective and shade to Fripp’s singular, angular vision. It’s a cliché, but it’s totally true: Every time I listen to Red, it’s a new record bearing new riches.

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