July 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: Soul Control, Get Out Now

Soul Control is in a tough spot. The Rhode Island hardcore outfit left itself little room for improvement after the release of its 2009 album Cycles, a heavy and frenetic riff-orgy that nonetheless made space for slow, droning breakdowns and passages of atmospheric brutality. But the band’s five-song follow-up, Get Out Now, rises above. Rawer and riskier, the EP intensifies everything that makes Soul Control great: gut-curdling gravity, subliminal melody, and churning rage, not mention a newfound appreciation for the bone-deep hooks and grooves of Floor. With Get Out Now, Soul Control is once again leaving a trail of broken pigeonholes in its wake—not to mention a few beautiful bruises. (Bridge Nine)

It’s hard to do anything remarkably new, vocal-wise, when it comes to most styles of music—doom included. But Despond, the long-awaited full-length debut by Loss, plunges whispery howls under a black waterfall of neurotic runoff. Rather than getting in your face, the disc’s doom-drenched voices retreat and fade, beckoning rather than bludgeoning. The music itself is slower and more sprawling than continental drift. And just as massive. (Profound Lore)

L’Ordure à l'État Pur is the latest from French black-metal group Peste Noire, and leader Famine brings a rich, rotten feast to the table. Awash in delicate instrumentation, straining-at-the-leash guitar, and a heightened air of theatricality, the album’s mix of European folk and guttural eeriness—not to mention a little waltzing, accordion-and-trombone-fueled Grand Guignol insanity—solidifies Peste Noire’s position as one of the most uniquely horrific acts around. (Transcendental Creations)

Further down the folk path travels Kroda. The Ukraine band’s fourth full-length, Schwarzpfad, harnesses a stiffer dose of soaring, melodic black metal than previous releases. At the same time, traditional folk instruments and mythic awe permeate the disc, making for a saga-length work of almost elemental potency. Yes, Kroda’s politics and affiliations have always been a little questionable; there’s often a fine line (or less) between Germanic paganism and National Socialism. But with music this gorgeous and entrancing, it’s a little easier to take the long view. (Purity Through Fire)

Running with the European folk-metal theme: Finland vets Amorphis have unleashed another solid album, The Beginning Of Times. As if the title wasn’t a tip-off, the disc is steeped in Nordic arcana, even as the slick and clinical production is alternately livened and deadened by the usual preponderance of florid prog-rock keyboards and borderline-cheesy licks. But with choruses this sweeping and almost hymnal, it’s hard not to take Amorphis’ earnestness at face value. (Nuclear Blast)

Austria’s Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand may have lengthened its name recently from the modest Der Blutharsch—but maestro Albin Julius also recently reached out to French drone-metal trio Aluk Todolo to create the aptly named A Collaboration. It’s a match made in Hades: Sinuous and apocalyptic, the 40-minute, four-song album could serve as work songs for the devil’s own chain gang. (WKN)

Gallhammer just plain fucking rules. Lo-fi, off-kilter, and unconcerned with taking the easy way out, the Japanese, all-woman duo primes its third full-length, The End, with a static-infused sludge that seethes and disintegrates on contact with oxygen. There’s no flash or technicality to The End; rather, it’s a big-chunked puke-fest full of queasy, squealing menace and catharsis. It’s also fun as hell, in an unsettling kind of way. (Peaceville)

Far more traditional, in a good way, is Skeletal Spectre. Topped by the unearthly wail of Wooden Stake’s Vanessa Nocera, Skeletal Spectre’s latest Occult Spawned Premonitions is an open wound of uptempo doom and horror worship. The group’s love for Morbid Tales-era Celtic Frost oozes from every pore, but there’s a thread of ’70s doom that stitches the whole thing together into a blood-and-incense-soaked package. And Nocera’s vocals sink hooks into places where they do the most damage. (Razorback)

For all of its shivering, foreboding ambience, there’s something achingly direct about Dark Castle’s Surrender To All Life Beyond Form. The coed twosome’s latest full-length keeps the songs (relatively) short and unadorned, but that doesn’t stop the album from layering on the monolithic riffs and negative space. And with a roll call of guest vocals that includes Yob’s Mike Scheidt, USX’s Nate Hall, and Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd—not to mention frontwoman Stevie Floyd’s own acidic, unholy screech—Surrender bears a range of emotion and texture that evolves it far beyond the sludge from whence it crawls. (Profound Lore)

The word “extreme” can mean many things. In the case of Servile Sect, it isn’t all about aural abuse and attitude. With previous releases on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace under its belt, the duo just released its third album, Trvth—and it’s a two-track, instrumental meditation on oblivion and the occult (I’m guessing) that roams the same psychic landscape populated by kindred acts like Locrian. Blackened ambience at its most hidden and hypnotic. (Handmade Birds)

Loud - July 6, 2011 by TheAVClub

Agalloch bassist Jason Walton also spends time in Indelible, but don’t expect the latter group’s debut album, Remnants In Red, to sound anything like its better-known counterpart. Flush with sumptuous piano and the eerie vocals of Mona Sjøli, the disc undulates with tricky prog signatures, sub-goth electronics, and the occasional operatic flourish, making for a singular listen that falls somewhere between soundtrack and symphony. The full album is available as a free download from the label. (Strix)

As the mastermind of the iconoclastic avant-metal outfit Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend cemented a position for himself in the ’90s that exists above and beyond the mainstream and the underground. His solo work has ventured even deeper into his idiosyncratic inclinations, and that hasn’t changed on his two new albums as The Devin Townsend Project, Deconstruction and Ghost. Released simultaneously, the duology entertains two sides of Townsend’s multifaceted talent: Deconstruction is knotty, meaty, and at times profane, while Ghost is minimalist and ethereal. In other words, each album is aptly named—and each more fully develops Townsend’s two-pronged evolution post-SYL. (HevyDevy)

Exhumed hasn’t released an album of original material since 2003’s fantastic Anatomy Is Destiny, owing mostly to an ever-revolving roster. But the goregrind group is back in splat—with only frontman Matt Harvey remaining from the Anatomy lineup—with All Guts, No Glory. It’s about as middle-of-the-road as you could imagine Exhumed being; more of a carrion-and-potatoes, blast-happy death-metal album than any sick permutation of such, it’s solid, competent, and a little boring. (Relapse)

Between his recent solo disc, Shrinebuilder’s imminent sophomore release, and the upcoming Saint Vitus reunion album, Wino has been a busy guy. In the midst of all that, he somehow found time to put together Premonition 13. The group’s debut, 13, feels accordingly thin; sounding more like a slightly fleshed-out jam session, it’s a little less doom and a little more ’70s hard rock—which isn’t a bad thing at all, especially seeing as how Wino knows the terrain firsthand. But it’s hard not to hear it as a placeholder until some of his bigger, more inspired projects bear fruit. (Volcom)

There’s just something about Southern-fried sludge that never gets old—and Sourvein’s comeback album Black Fangs is one more bucketful of proof. It’s been eight years since the North Carolina band’s last full-length, but a steady stream of splits and EPs has kept the wheels greased—and Black Fangs delivers a pipe-clogging portion of thick, belligerent doom thunderous enough to rupture blood vessels. (Candlelight)

Soul Control isn’t the only new band picking up on what Floor laid down years ago. Helms Alee—a trio headed by Harkonen’s Ben Verellen—has injected its new full-length, Weatherhead, with the same impossibly catchy heaviness. Helms Alee, though, definitely belongs to its own species. With twisted rhythms, bursts of complexity, and the entwined, boy-girl vocal hooks of Verellen and bassist Dana James, Weatherhead is an ambitious and intermittently breathtaking album. (Hydra Head)

Naming your band after a song by No Knife—one of the most unfairly underappreciated post-hardcore groups in history—is a sure way to get my attention. Luckily for Virginia’s Flechette, the music’s worthy of the reference. Drawing from angular, rhythmically intricate angst-mongers like Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu (and No Knife, of course), Flechette’s self-titled debut EP is a searing, start-stop throwback to a time when a mutant strain of punk strived to be sharp, arty, and nerdy. And that’s a great thing. (Sound Era)

Texas has a long tradition of unhinged, gleefully mean-spirited punk, and Wiccans proudly carry on the tradition. Granted, the band’s new album, Skullduggery, only peripherally resembles bygone Lone Star State legends like The Dicks, Big Boys, and Scratch Acid. But fold those influences into a staggering, simmering conniption of midtempo hardcore, and we’ve got ourselves a winner. The full album is available as a free download from the label. (Katorga Works)

Canada’s Junior Battles roped in two high-profile guests for its debut full-length, Idle Ages: Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham and former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay. Despite those implicit endorsements, the album is a little too sugary; amid the speedy jangle and acoustic passages, it just sounds too much like an inconsistent pastiche of everything from Face To Face to Newfound Glory to The Thermals. To its credit, though, there’s a looseness and earnestness about Junior Battles that hints at better things to come. (Paper + Plastick)

A far better pop-punk release is the self-titled debut by The Holy Mess. The disc collects all of the Philly band’s EP and 7-inch material so far, plus a pair of new tracks—and every song is a gruff, face-in-the-mud confessional that combines snotty hooks and sleeve-worn hearts. Off With Their Heads and The Flatliners have brought this stripe of punk back recently, but The Holy Mess is still down in the trenches, bloodying their knuckles and holding the line. (Red Scare)

At its best, Oi! transcends politics and haircuts in favor of rousing, rowdy punk tunes. Seattle’s Noi!se gets it. The group’s new 10-inch, This Is Who We Are, is stocked with pub-ready shout-alongs and fist-pumping stompers (and, yes, a pseudo-ska breakdown or two). The sound sticks closer to ’90s American street-punk than classic British Oi!, but that doesn’t make This Is Who We Are any less gritty or anthemic. (Durty Mick)

“We’re not gonna reinvent the wheel,” Cerebral Ballzy’s Jason Banny told Vice in a 2009 interview. “We just spin it really fucking fast.” That was mere months after five kids barely out of their teens formed the band in Brooklyn. Two years later, the band’s self-titled full-length has arrived, and it totally lives up to Banny’s claim. There’s been a bit of hype surrounding their release, but don’t bother with it—just buy the album. Hijacking the spit and snarl from Descendents, Circle Jerks, and Suicidal Tendencies, the throwback skate-punk group does it right. (Williams Street)

There’s a circle of bands revolving around the on-again-off-again garage-punk institution The Marked Men—and one of those bands is Wax Museums. Featuring members of the Marked Men side-project The Mind Spiders, the band hasn’t released an album for three years. But the new Eye Times has been well worth the wait. A little cleaner, slower, and less brain-damaged than the band’s previous output, it’s a tuneful outburst of Dickies-like dementia that drips silly, sweaty summer mischief. (Trouble In Mind)

Oneida has long been one of the weirdest, most challenging bands dwelling in the fringes of the indie-rock scene. But it’s never departed so radically from the rock-music paradigm as it does on Absolute II. While the band has always loved the fine art of the bass-and-synth drone, it’s usually been tethered to a Krautrock-like pulse (if not an almost conventional psychedelic foundation). The new album, though, almost entirely ditches the percussion and vocals; in their place, violent hypnosis and ambient abrasion oscillate away. But like a drill bit swathed in gauze, Absolute II soothingly staunches the hemorrhages it causes. (Jagjaguwar)

Another band with phlebotomist tendencies is Controlled Bleeding. The stalwart experimental outfit has been tinkering with rock and noise for more than 20 years, and its latest release, Odes To Bubbler, is a glorious tangle of mismatched limbs. Long gone are the group’s industrial and metal flirtations; here, jazz-rock is filleted and deboned, and the approach is organic and semi-improvised. That’s not to say there aren’t stabs of synths and eardrum-piercing freakouts. Overall, though, the album is as concise and focused as an orchestra of scalpel-wielding surgeons, one that lays bare the diseased logic lurking just below the surface of consciousness. (Soleilmoon)

Red Sparowes scored a coup in 2008 when the epic post-metal outfit snagged The Nocturnes’ guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle, following the departure of founding member Josh Graham. While on tour through Europe with the group, Rundle began recording a series of hushed yet richly textured six-string dreamscapes. The result is Electric Guitar: One, an echo-soaked cycle of improvisational atmospherics—and sporadic, disembodied vocals—that showcases Rundle’s range as a player and portraitist of mood. Until the next Sparowes masterpiece comes out, this will do. (Errant Child)

Retro Loud: Jesuit, Discography
On the heels of a well-received reunion show in April comes the long overdue discography of Jesuit—best known as “that band Nate Newton and Brian Benoit played in before they went off to join Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan.” Jesuit was around for just a few brief years in the second half of the ’90s, but the Virginia outfit twisted heads back then with its guttural assault of blinding, wiseass metallic hardcore. It’s nowhere near as technically accomplished as Newton’s and Benoit’s subsequent bands—but that raw, rushed rage definitely helped set the stage for what was to follow. And 15 years later, this stuff still raises welts. (Magic Bullet)

Next month: A full-album stream of Monoculture, the debut by the lulling, pummeling Sainthood Reps. Also, coverage of new releases by Dir En Grey, Avichi, Crone, Toxic Holocaust, Disma, Big Business, Sol Invictus, Night Birds, Heartsounds, and lots more. And don’t forget to follow Loud on Twitter for regular doses of news, views, and random ramblings.

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