December 7, 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.

Might as well get this out of the way first. Here it is, folks, the one you’ve all been waiting for: Leviathan’s True Traitor, True Whore. The infamous sexual-assault charges currently looming over the project’s mastermind, Jef Whitehead, make it hard to judge the album on its own merits—especially since the titular “whore” is intended to be Whitehead’s ex-girlfriend, the victim of his alleged crime. As a Leviathan record—one in which the lyrics are thankfully smeared and garbled—it’s an above-average slab of raw, tormented, almost psychedelic black metal. As a document of hate, it’s utterly repellant. One thing’s for sure: Once Whitehead goes to trial, there’s going to be a jury in Chicago writing its own review.

Now for something a little lighter: Through The Cervix Of Hawwah by Antediluvian. Steeped in a hideous, elaborate mysticism, the Canadian outfit’s latest full-length is a throbbing blur of dense low-end and impenetrable mid-fi atmosphere. Stick your head in the vortex, though, and you’ll start to pick up some of the intricacies; like a pool of materia prima, the disc’s self-liquefying violence and velocity force it into a perpetual orgy of new and increasingly unholy shapes.

Bastard Priest, to its credit, doesn’t have any depth to plumb. On its brain-gnawing new full-length, Ghouls Of The Endless Night, the Swedish outfit continues the chugging, charred-black onslaught of last year’s Under The Hammer Of Destruction. Ghouls, though, is a huge improvement over Hammer; the production is thicker, the riffs are blacker, the vocals are less human, and the pungent stench of putrefaction has really started to settle in. 

Keeping with the flesh-eating theme: Ghoul’s Transmission Zero has been unleashed, and it’s, well, it’s all right. Featuring members of Engorged and Impaled doing the masked-rocker thing, the group plays a muddy, shout-along mix of punk, thrash, and blackened rock ’n’ roll. On paper, that all adds up to awesome—but in practice, it sounds a little one-note, and novelty wears thin pretty quickly. Ghoul gets extra points, though, for daring to have some simple, stupid fun with metal in an era where everyone’s trying to out-progress each other.

Granted, progression can be great, especially when used in thoughtful moderation. Case in point: Cormorant’s Dwellings. The San Francisco band’s follow-up to 2008’s fantastic Metazoa is utterly worthy; probing the depths of myths and dreams without having to make its music meander, Cormorant wield power and nuance with a fluid grace. And it isn’t afraid to dip into traditional, epic melody—or to make that melody far too heavy and filthy to ever come across as cheesy.

Cheese, on the other hand, is the main course on Dark Forest’s plate. But on the British group’s new full-length, Dawn Of Infinity, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the album is a faithful, anthemic revisiting of NWOBHM, from the cloud-piercing vocals to galloping rhythms to the soaring, harmonized guitar runs. But there’s a Celtic tinge to some of the tracks that adds resonance to all the Stonehenge-friendly imagery. There’s a fine line between being retroactive and being ridiculous, and Dark Forest is firmly, gloriously on the side of the former.

From its title, you might assume A Throne Without A King—a collaboration between Pyramids and Horseback—might be a dose of Dark Forest-esque myth-metal. It so isn’t. The two drone-slinging projects offer one pulsing track each, and sandwiched between them is a four-part movement of minimalist, static-ventilated ambience mixed by Aaron Turner of Isis/Mamiffer/House Of Low Culture. Horseback’s solo track is the most accessible, but the noise offers more rewards; there’s a haunting residuum of psychic backwash that accumulates as the sprawling centerpiece inches toward its inevitable implosion.

Pyramids and Horseback - "A Throne Without A King" by TheAVClub

Chaos can be great, but Chord has always been much more methodical—and conceptual—with its experimentation. The instrumental side-project, which features Pelican’s Trevor De Brauw, is a mini-orchestra of guitarists each playing modulations of a single note of a preassigned chord. Gdim13 is the chord and title of the group’s new EP, and it’s a hypnotic, skull-opening expanse of churning six-string ambience. The project itself, from the name down, may be a little too literal—but Chord manages to make the result sound intuitive, organic, and bliss-inducing.

Where some bands are deliberate and cerebral, others shoot erratically from the heart. Pianos Become The Teeth is arguably the best practitioner of its style of post-hardcore in the world right now; unfortunately, the style can be loosely categorized as screamo, a term that no right-thinking person would ever find appealing. Pianos’ new full-length, The Lack Long After, dispenses with any genre hair-splitting and cuts right to the gut of matter: spastic, emotive, dynamic hardcore that hews to the integrity of ’90s screamo while keeping a bleary yet panicked eye on tomorrow.

Planes Mistaken For Stars frontman Gared O’Donnell has never had a problem putting his heart on his sleeve. But he nails that wrecked lump of muscle into the wall on Year One, the debut album by his post-Planes band Hawks And Doves. It’s a divorce record, and it shows; but even at his cathartic, bile-spewing darkest, O’Donnell twists his phrases with a bitter, loathing cleverness that’s aimed more at himself than anyone else. Musically, Year One bears a slim resemblance to Planes’ grimy post-hardcore, but it has more in common with Greg Dulli’s bourbon-and-smoke-scorched confessionals.

Cutman couldn’t give a shit about catharsis, emotions, or self-analysis. The weird and wiry outfit—which resembles NoMeansNo crossing swords with a young, lean Jawbox—recently unleashed Universal Laws, and it’s like a shark that won’t stop moving. Plowing riffs and rhythms into each like Matchbox cars, the group stirs a subliminal artiness into its mangled post-punk. Topped off with feverish howls and no shortage of occasionally wiseass yet penetrating lyrics, Universal Laws is the kind of thinking-folks’ punk that the world needs much more of.

Cutman - "Forever" by TheAVClub

RETRO LOUD: Ministry, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste

With Korn currently acting like it’s invented the wheel by gluing dubstep to a guitar, it’s a good time to look back at one of the greatest albums to ever mix riffs and electronics: Ministry’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Released in 1989, it helped pave the way for the acceptance of everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Nirvana—but it holds up as an uncompromising and relentlessly ass-kicking masterpiece of metallic mechanization, not to mention a genre-shattering assault that brought punks, goths, skaters, heshers, and the random jock together into a unified, headbanging whole. Somehow even meaner and bleaker than its predecessor, 1988’s superb (but far more robotic) The Land Of Rape And Honey, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste strikes a perfect balance between rock and industrial. Al Jourgensen went on to make more good music, but this is his peak of lean, sequenced miserablism.

Loud’s Top 15 of 2011
(Note: Fucked Up’s David Comes To Life and Iceage’s New Brigade would have made this list, but I omitted them due to the fact that they both charted on The A.V. Club’s Best Music Of 2011.)
1. Wolves In The Throne Room, Celestial Lineage
2. Prurient, Bermuda Drain
3. The Men, Leave Home
4. Jesu, Ascension
5. Disma, Towards The Megalith
6. Mamiffer, Mare Decendrii
7. Russian Circles, Empros
8. Touché Amoré, Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
9. Krallice, Diotima
10. Tombs, Path Of Totality
11. Altar Of Plagues, Mammal
12. Deafheaven, Roads To Judah
13. Trap Them, Darker Handcraft
14. Arctic Flowers, Reveries
15. Opeth, Heritage