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.
Song debut: Racebannon, “Thee Brother”
Some bands innovate and strive toward the future. Others just rock. Austin’s Dixie Witch has spent the last decade digging its boots into the swampiest, most Southern-fried hard rock imaginable. As someone who grew up in Florida in a household saturated with Southern rock, I just can’t resist Let It Roll, Dixie Witch’s latest batch of swaggering, sincerely badass jams. The riffs are gritty. The low-end is greasy. The attitude is Molly Hatchet meets Mastodon. The only thing missing are the greens and cornbread.
Not all witches are from Dixie. Some hail from much farther south—you know, like Hell and stuff. Okay, so Nine Covens is technically from England. But the group’s debut, On The Coming Of Darkness, imagines all manner of Satanic devastation. Steeped in monolithic black metal and a thick undergrowth of doom, Darkness is an unrelentingly horrific end-times soundtrack that pares things down to a primeval simplicity. The mysterious outfit claims to be a supergroup of sorts, but it has yet to disclose its official membership. So, yeah, Ghost, whatever. But don’t let the gimmickry fool you; this disc is a deep, bleak beauty.
After a six-year break in recording, San Francisco veteran death-metal outfit Vile is back with Metamorphosis. It’s a solid disc, but not necessarily worth the long wait; while definitely ambitious, the production is a bit mushy, and the flashes of melody and subtlety feel confused at times—especially when the ceaseless blastbeats grind at a complete disconnect from what the rest of the band is doing. But if Metamorphosis ultimately lives up to its title and marks the transition to a more progressive Vile, it’ll have been worth it.
Archaios, on the other hand, has no problem making its death-metal point—with force, focus, and passion. The Dominican Republican band’s new full-length, The Distant, is an uncompromising assault that marries the genre’s intricate technicality to a fluid, epic, and aggressively melodic songwriting style. It’s easy (and perhaps patronizing) to chalk it up to the hardships of living in a place like the Dominican Republic, but it really feels like The Distant packs far more dedication and desperation per square inch than most of Archaios’ relatively pampered peers.
Time for Loud’s unofficial album of the month: O’ Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres by Encoffination. As thunderous, sumptuous, and hypnotically hopeless as last year’s Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh was, the group’s new album is even better. A concept album documenting—in doom form—mastermind Ghoat’s stint as a funeral-home worker, the disc hones right in on the frequency of despair, then down-tunes it a few dozen orders of magnitude. At times, the guitars completely devolve into skull-pounding, full-volume, Sunn 0)))-worthy drones—but they’re always yanked from the brink of inchoate abstraction by Ghoat’s sadomasochistic riffage and pharyngeal hemorrhaging.
Three songs, 33 minutes, lots of atmosphere, and not much substance: such are the ingredients of Chasma’s Declarations Of The Grand Artificer. The Portland group’s debut EP (it calls the album a full-length, but come on) falls squarely in the post-Weakling wheelhouse. Too bad the disc is far heavier on promise than power. When the group’s three members lock together and actually listen to each other, the songs are capable of brief moments of menacing, post-black-metal sublimity. But the dynamics are so leaden, and the production so muffled, that it feels as though this is a halfway decent demo plastered in pounds of wet newspaper. That said, there’s enough here to hold out hope for future Chasma releases.
It’s not a crime to be a young, hungry band fighting to find its feet. Still, there’s a lot to be said for bands that have been around the block a few times—and know who they are, what they do, and how to do it. Nearing a decade of existence, Minneapolis’ Zebulon Pike has unleashed its latest album, Space Is The Corpse Of Time—and its title, as well as its music, reflects some hard-won wisdom and weirdness that only the years can impart. Like a roving gang of stoned, post-apocalyptic physics professors, the band scours the remains of doom, prog, post-rock, and the more experimental end of the Ipecac roster; the result is a restless, perpetually self-reinventing onslaught of twisted grooves and instrumental algebra.
Czar’s pedigree is a bit more interesting than a lot of this month’s featured bands. Formed by veterans of the Chicago industrial scene, most notably the Acumen Nation/DJ? Acucrack axis, Czar is far more organic and traditionally constructed rock group. That said, Czar’s debut, Vertical Mass Grave, is clearly influenced by more industrial-friendly groups like Helmet and Godflesh—not that the disc comes off as derivative. But its aggressive, mechanistic choppiness and pinpoint applications of dissonance make for a perversely compelling listen.
Don’t let the generic name—of either the band or the album—put you off: Heartless’ Hell Is Other People is a fucking monster. The debut by the Pittsburgh outfit channels and condenses all that’s mangled, discordant, desolate, and suicidally triumphant about Rust Belt hardcore, from Negative Approach to Integrity. But there’s a measured, almost surgical savagery to Heartless that makes it seem as though its members are packing as much matter in their brains as they are in their spleens. Not that nuance and dynamics mean much, of course, when it all comes spewing out in a thick, acidic torrent of distortion and hatred.
There weren’t a lot of new punk releases last month—apparently, punkers aren’t as devout as metalheads when it comes to the sonic worship of the winter solstice—but the self-titled debut by High Dive is out. And it’s great. The group is another side-project of Defiance, Ohio’s Ryan Woods—only this one has a pronounced and unabashed queercore slant. Lyrically, that is; no one sound has ever summed up queercore, and Woods uses High Dive to sing candidly and openheartedly against a backdrop of jangly, Thermals-esque pop-punk. It’s not the loudest album featured this month, but it is the most tuneful and gutsy.
Retro Loud: Stiff Little Fingers, Inflammable Material
Unlike a lot of people I know, I don’t have any Irish blood in me. But I’ve always loved Stiff Little Fingers. My first awareness of the Troubles in Northern Ireland came from SLF’s Inflammable Material, the Belfast punk band’s 1979 debut. That’s not what immediately hit me about the album, though—it’s the inhumanly raw recording, not to mention frontman Jake Burns’ hoarse, tonsil-rupturing bark. On a strictly sonic level, Inflammable Material is as crude and corrosive as, say, Venom’s Black Metal. But behind the salvo of distortion is a tunefulness born of two of SLF’s biggest influences: The Clash and Thin Lizzy. (The Clash angle is easy to hear; it would take another year, and the release of SLF’s Nobody’s Heroes, before the Thin Lizzy worship would become a little more apparent.) Along with that tunefulness come tales of everyday poverty, oppression, and barbed-wire love in Belfast in the late ’70s. Granted, London was no paradise at the time—but the bloody-knuckled urgency of Inflammable Material makes British punk contemporaries like The Clash, as much as I love them, seem like a bunch of whiners. Romanticizing the hardship of others is lame, I know. But when that hardship fuels an album as powerful as Inflammable Material, I can’t help but be weirdly thankful that Burns and crew had to persevere through it.