New releases from Graveyard, Bell Witch, Diagonal, and more

New releases from Graveyard, Bell Witch, Diagonal, and more

Metal, hardcore, punk, noise: Music shouldn’t always be easy on the ears. Each month, Loud unearths some of the heaviest, most challenging sounds writhing beneath the surface. The world’s not getting any quieter. Neither should we. 

Album debut: JK Flesh/Prurient, Worship Is The Cleansing Of The Imagination
We here at Loud are big fans of both Justin Broadrick and Prurient. So when news came that Broadrick—under his bionic JK Flesh guise—and Prurient’s Dominick Fernow were splitting an album, much excitement ensued. And for good reason: The record, Worship Is The Cleansing Of The Imagination, features three songs from each artist, and it’s a stunning six-pack of dark, twisted, industrialized dystopianism. The split gets an official vinyl release on December 11; Hydra Head Records has graciously let The A.V. Club debut the entire album here. Prepare for assimilation.

Video debut: Early Graves, “Red Horse”
In last month’s Loud, we sang the praises of Early Graves’ new album, Red Horse; the San Francisco outfit has survived the death of a singer—not to mention a tragically prophetic name—to produce one of 2012’s most potent amalgams of gnarled metal and snarling hardcore. Courtesy of the band’s label, No Sleep, here’s the official debut of the video for Red Horse’s ferocious title track. As for the video itself, it’s bleak, shadowy, sinewy, and stripped to the bone—just like the song.

Jason Heller’s top five of November

1. Code Orange Kids, Love Is Love//Return To Dust
I wrote a piece for The A.V. Club a couple of weeks ago about the phenomenon of aging within the hardcore scene. In addition to my crotchety, decrepit rambling about old bands, I felt the need to single out a new, young group as a particularly vivid example of how powerful and relevant hardcore still is. That group is Code Orange Kids. The gang of Pennsylvanian whippersnappers has unleashed its highly anticipated full-length, Love Is Love//Return To Dust, and it’s as epic and ambitious as the title indicates. While operating under the clearing influence of Converge (including production by Kurt Ballou), COK’s grinding, spastic catharsis and unexpected detours, breakdowns, dynamics, and ambient interludes hint at an eerily unhinged yet focused aggression. Poetry, noise, and the pummeling delirium of youth: What more can you ask from hardcore?

2. Graveyard, Lights Out
On the other end of the spectrum from Code Orange Kids is Graveyard—a band that looks old and sounds even older. The Swedish outfit’s 2011 album, Hisingen Blues, solidified its place at the forefront of bluesy, post-psychedelic proto-metal, a narrow sliver of the retro spectrum that Lights Out mines just as effectively. Howling and horrifically melodic, frontman Joakim Nilsson and crew crack open a deep well of paranoia and lurid passion that results from a heavy peace-and-love comedown. Sweet licks, classic hooks, and bad vibes: More, please.

3. Bell Witch, Longing
Proving that John Semley and I do occasionally agree on something, behold the album that stole each of our No. 3 slots this month: Bell Witch’s Longing. Formed by Samothrace’s Dylan Desmond (on bass and vocals) and drummer Adrian Guerra (also on vocals), Bell Witch is the kind of doom that gives me hope for the genre’s future. Rather than slavishly retro or kitschy, it’s spacious, intermittently pretty, and just as crushing emotionally as it is sonically. Like toppled monuments being dragged across the tundra (in my mind), Longing carries the staggering weight of conquered civilizations—and/or one hell of a shitty trip—on its hunched shoulders.

4. D.I.S., Becoming Wrath
Much like doom, D-beat has been grossly overdone in recent years—sometimes well, far too often generically. The Los Angeles marauders of D.I.S., though, know how to take coarse, galloping crust and turn it into something almost symphonic. The group’s new full-length, Becoming Wrath, is proof: With buzzing intensity, foaming-at-the-mouth vocals, and even a bit of groove to its D-beat, the album injects thoughtfulness, tunefulness, and even a little majesty into the mosh-happy, spikes-and-leather subgenre.

5. Temple, On The Steps Of The Temple 
Tons of bands have tinkered with the post-metal formula since Neurosis and Isis helped cement the admittedly amorphous form of music. But Arizona instrumental outfit Temple takes things to uncharted—and astounding—territory with its debut album, On The Steps Of The Temple. This is not your typical ethereal, chin-stroking post-metal; rather, On The Steps creeps with otherworldly menace as it twists blackened shimmer and doom-steeped riffs into a whirling vortex of dread. The production could be beefier, and a shorter song or two would have given the disc a better overall flow, but as debuts go, this is promising and then some.

Jason Heller’s runners-up
6. Anaal Nathrakh, Vanitas  
7. Bastard Sapling, Dragged From Our Restless Trance
8. Unconscious Collective, Unconscious Collective
9. Dragged Into Sunlight, Widowmaker 
10. Ex-Cult, Ex-Cult

Jason Heller’s Retro Loud
Death, Spiritual Healing
As someone who grew up near Tampa in the ’80s, I have a soft spot for classic Floridian death metal. I was too young to know about it while it was taking off, but I can almost feel the frustration, the desperate ambition, and the morbid outlook on life that suffuses the best albums of the genre—and in particular, Death’s Spiritual Healing. The 1990 album (which was just remastered, expanded, and reissued by Relapse) is one of the late Chuck Schuldiner’s masterpieces, the point at which he honed and refined the admittedly kickass attack of 1987’s groundbreaking Scream Bloody Gore. But while the intervening album, 1988’s Leprosy, was a tentative first step, Spiritual Healing was a leap into the unknown. Intricately technical and blazingly innovative—and Christ, those fucking leads—Healing has not only influenced a generation of tech-death and grind groups, it’s also the proud sound of a kid from the insidiously soul-melting state of Florida coming into his own as a metal legend.

John Semley’s top five of November

1. Diagonal, The Second Mechanism
If there’s a theme running through my picks this month—and why shouldn’t there be?—it might as well be bands that seem to sneak onto metal labels. Exhibit A: the U.K.’s Diagonal. (Exhibit B, Fontanelle, is below.) With its second full-length release on Rise Above Records, a label best known for cultivating doom-metal acts like Electric Wizard and Cathedral, Diagonal proves unabashedly prog. The Second Mechanism booms and thunders like any proper Loud pick, but it’s also alive with horns, flutes, and lyrics about Neptune’s army that sound copied out of King Crimson liner notes. 

2. Troubled Horse, Step Inside
Troubled Horse’s lineup is composed largely of former members of Swedish psych-doomsters Witchcraft, a band originally formed to record a tribute to Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling. The influence of early, pre-Day Of Reckoning Pentagram and other fuzzy American proto-metal bands is even more obvious on Step Inside. But beyond checking cool influences, Troubled Horse has put together a loud, fun, suitably galloping hard-rock record. Step Inside hits the ground running with jangly foot-stomper “Tainted Water” and never lets up over its run of 10 tracks.

3. Bell Witch, Longing
Enough vintage-sounding stuff. While Bell Witch is ostensibly a doom band, and has all the slow-burning songs, pounding riffs, and Roger Corman movie samples to prove it, the band arrives at a time when even the most hardened doom lovers may thirst for a bit of palate cleanser. Longing, and especially the 20-minute opener “Bails (Of Flesh),” is remarkable stuff. The band chugs along like the most dedicated doom acts, but works shrieking, downright spooky vocals and decidedly dirty-sounding production into the mix, making for one of the better doom releases of 2012.

4. Fontanelle, Vitamin F
Releases by bands like Burning Love and Wolfbrigade seemed to signal that heavyweight metal label Southern Lord was moving away from the slow-moving stoner/doom bands that built its name. Vitamin F, the first record in over a decade from Portland’s Fontanelle, sees Southern Lord’s pendulum swinging back the other way. This record makes the ambient experimentalism of Sunn O))) seem tame. Over seven tracks, Fontanelle somehow manages to be intricate and sparse at the same time, experimental enough to almost make jazz seem appealing. It’s not the loudest record of the year, but just think of all the heaviness they’re not playing, man.

5. Doro, Raise Your Fist
Yes, Doro: The former Warlock vocalist and so-called Metal Queen is back with another record of Teutonic bangers. (Technically this one dropped in late October, but I was a bit busy with other stuff to attend to a new Doro record at the time.) Raise Your Fist isn’t earth shattering, but it proves an unsurprisingly confident power-metal effort. More surprising, and welcome, are Raise Your Fist’s quieter moments, like the sparse power ballad debut “It Still Hurts” (featuring Lemmy) and “Hero,” Doro’s sincere, and even moving, tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio. Doro’s still got it, guys. I swear.

John Semley’s runners-up
6. Dragged Into Sunlight, Widowmaker
7. Code Orange Kids, Love Is Love//Return To Dust
8. Grails/Pharaoh Overlord, Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5
9. D.I.S., Becoming Wrath
10. Horseback/Locrian, New Dominions

John Semley’s Retro Loud
Melvins, Houdini
For fans of Loud, it probably goes without saying that the Melvins’ 1993 record Houdini, co-produced by Kurt Cobain, stands as one of the greatest records ever. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop listening to it all month. Maybe it was a mutated outgrowth of my renewed Neil Young fixation or something. Whatever the case, Houdini is still awesome: better than Stoner Witch, better than Stag, better than whatever other Melvins albums that hold a candle to it. While the band is still pretty good, it’s amazing to look back on how unvarnished and totally heavy it was in the early ’90s. As I asked Heller a week or so ago on Twitter, how can contemporary Melvins somehow sound so much lighter, given they’ve added an entire second rhythm section?