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: Wolves Like Us, Late Love
Song debut: Brutal Truth, “Celebratory Gunfire”
End Time, the new album by progressive grind legend Brutal Truth, comes out September 27—and in anticipation, Relapse has kindly offered us an exclusive debut of “Celebratory Gunfire,” one of the album’s most head-twisting tracks. Enjoy the abuse, and look for a review of End Times in next month’s Loud.
Time for my unofficial pick of the month: Reveries, the debut full-length by Arctic Flowers. The co-ed Portland outfit sports former members of The Observers and Signal Lost, but that pedigree is inconsequential; starting with a buzz-stoking 7-inch EP last year, Arctic Flowers have been mining the wide chasm between The Avengers and early Killing Joke. Reveries is looser, dirtier, and a little less post-punk-oriented than the EP, and that cranked-up level of directness and passion make for a near-masterpiece. (Inimical)
On the other hand, ignoring the "members-of" checklist of All Pigs Must Die isn’t as easy. Fronted by Kevin Baker of The Hope Conspiracy, one of the best hardcore bands of the ’00s, the band also includes Converge drummer Ben Koller and half of Bloodhorse. The supergroup’s debut, God Is War, breaks zero new ground; it’s more or less a solid, stylistically unremarkable mix of coarse, blackened metalcore along the lines of Nails and Trap Them. But seeing as how some of the musicians involved had a huge influence on this sound in the first place, All Pigs Must Die bleeds appropriately and copiously when stuck. (Southern Lord)
Southern Lord has been issuing a lot of hardcore lately, and the label’s latest find is Balaclava’s Crimes Of Faith. The Virginia band’s debut is actually far fresher and more brutally fun than the new All Pigs Must Die; while both draw from a similar well of influences, Crimes is more jagged and haphazard, laden with churning breakdowns, hellishly eroded vocals, and random clots of sludge—not to mention shadowy hints of mystery and the arcane. Not only does Balaclava make perfect sense on Southern Lord, Crimes is the type of album that might actually turn doubters onto this entire subgenre. (Forcefield/Southern Lord)
Powerviolence has undergone all kinds of permutations over the years, starting when The Locust hijacked it in the mid-’90s (see Retox below). The Afternoon Gentlemen, though, has accomplished the mildly difficult: infusing powerviolence with a scathingly irreverent yet bizarrely progressive bent. Laced with goofy samples and bowel-pounding change-ups, the band’s new anthology, Pissedography, even sounds downright thoughtful at times. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch. (Give Praise)
A far more seriously progressive group, in a good way, is Vale Of Pnath. The Prodigal Empire is the band’s inaugural full-length, and it’s a winner. A complex and tightly wound mechanism full of high-velocity death metal and laser-guided technicality, the album breathes and flows with organic agility, and the dual vocals manage to be deeply melodic and inhumanly vicious without falling into the good singer/bad singer rut. The old-school vibe doesn’t hurt; as calculated and forward-thinking as the playing and composition are, Empire blisters with a mid-fi warmth and rawness that befits its mix of brains and belligerence. (Willowtip)
Revocation, on the other hand, is able to dissolve its virtuosity into much meatier—and more potent—doses. Shoving slivers of anthemic power-metal into a dizzying onslaught of technical riffage and fluidly lyrical leads, the band’s new album, Chaos Of Forms, huffs history while hyperventilating over the future. And yet, Chaos doesn’t sound like some hastily sutured hybrid; all the elements are sewn together so seamlessly, the scalpel isn’t noticeable until it’s already caught in your throat. (Relapse)
Essentially a one-man band, Caïna sounds like anything but. Soaring, celestially epic, and layered with atmosphere and corrosive despair, the project has defied definition over the years. Caïna’s new album, Hands That Pluck, is no different; if anything, mastermind Andrew Brignell has found new dimensions for his warped, bipolar soundscapes to inhabit. Everything from industrial textures to shoegaze shimmer are folded into Hands’ black-metal mutation, but it never lapses into cookie-cutter metalgaze. As a bonus, Brignell recorded an EP to accompany Hands—and among its remixing and reimagining of older Caïna tracks is a bloodcurdling yet gorgeous cover of Nico’s “Roses In The Snow” that rivals the weird power of the original. (Profound Lore)
Doom stalwart Yob has returned with its first album since 2009’s The Great Cessation, Atma. In those two years, the band has aged a couple of centuries; scraped out of the dented pot on the back burner, Atma is a thickened, sewage-encrusted summation of all that’s come before: mantra-like drones, feral ritualism, and hymnal obliteration. It’s as if, having established itself as a vastly influential force over a decade ago, Yob has erected Atma as a monument to its own undying, universal enmity. Having Neurosis’ Scott Kelly guest on a couple tracks doesn’t hurt, either. (Profound Lore)
Yob isn’t the only band Scott Kelly has been hanging with lately. The Neurosis singer-guitarist also makes an appearance on Avenger, the latest from long-running avant-rock group Totimoshi. But Kelly’s not the only heavyweight on the roll call; Melvins’ Dale Crover and Mastodon’s Brent Hinds also stop by to add their two cents to Avenger—not that their contributions in any way overshadow the group’s off-kilter, riff-deconstructing pandemonium. Totimoshi doesn’t shoot quite as much fire out of its ass as it used to, but Avenger is a respectable settling into a less-than-respectable groove. (At A Loss)
Although he’s been around forever—just read his frustrating yet entertaining memoir, From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry to see exactly how far back his roots in the hardcore scene go—Justin Pearson is best known as one of the architects of The Locust. Until that band releaes a new album, which is long overdue, Pearson and his fellow Locust Gabe Serbian give us Ugly Animals, the debut full-length by their new project Retox. Fans of Pearson’s many bands over the years won’t be surprised; Retox’s frenzied, angular, foaming-at-the-mouth hardcore sounds basically like Some Girls meets The Crimson Curse. But will it hold the line until a new Locust album hits the shelves (if it ever does)? Totally. (Three One G/Ipecac)
Hammerhead was one of the meat-and-potatoes bands on the Amphetamine Reptile roster in the ’90s. But the group’s spinoff, Vaz, has carved out a twisted little niche in its own right. Chartreuse Bull, its new album, is walloping dollop of Midwest noise-rock that shoots straight for the eardrums and spinal column. Like The Jesus Lizard with broken knuckles and a knack for lasciviously melody, Bull lets the slop and dissonance overflow and fall where they may. (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
A far younger band that worships at the sticky alter of The Jesus Lizard is Reno’s Elephant Rifle. Listening to the outfit’s new four-song EP, Teenage Lover, feels like jacking off with a jackhammer; amid strangled guitars and amputated rhythms, the group unleashes all manner of demons, psychic and sonic. But it’s done with an underdog abandon and sordid sense of humor—not to mention a proudly acknowledged debt to the eerie, GSL Records sound of the late ’90s and early ’00s—that distances Elephant Rifle from mere AmRep revivalism. They grow ’em sick and strange in Reno. (Humaniterrorist)
Some of you may remember my write-up a few months back of Night Birds’ singles anthology. The East Coast band is back with a debut album full of retro-West Coast punk: The Other Side Of Darkness. Every inch as good as the singles, the full-length burns though a high-metabolism handful of sugary surf and snotty beach-punk. But it doesn’t rush by so fast that the group’s precocious gift for airtight songwriting can’t shine through. It’s been a long time since the sounds of Orange County circa 1979—specifically The Crowd, Agent Orange, and The Adolescents—have been so perfectly distilled. And in the case of Darkness, even improved upon. (Grave Mistake)
Another shamelessly retro band—if not quite as successful at it—is The New Rochelles. Normally I’m a sucker for just about any Ramones-aping band that comes along, from The Riverdales to Teenage Bottlerocket. And It’s New, the latest from The New Rochelles, gets its counterfeiting right; every element of the Ramones’ iconic style is flawlessly copied, from the matching surnames to the interchangeable three-chord songs. But there’s also too much of a ’90s pop-punk sound to the record, as if The New Rochelles got the majority of its shtick from The Riverdales via trickledown, rather than going directly to the source. That said, it’s an utterly fun album—and it’s almost a shame it didn’t come out at the start of the summer rather then the end. (Bright & Barrow)
Owing as much to The Cure’s early output as it does Crass, Zounds has been a refreshing oddity in the anarcho-punk scene for 30 years now. Leader Steve Lake is back with a new full-length, The Redemption Of Zounds, and it’s exactly what you might expect: a slightly slower, slightly less vitriolic, slightly tired-sounding version of Zounds’ jangly, moody, sarcastic punk rock. Still, Lake has grown into middle age with a stoic kind of dignity intact—and Redemption, like all of Zounds’ output over the years, succeeds equally as a work of explosive outrage and implosive angst. (Plastic Head)
The dudes in Brainoil aren’t exactly old-timers, but they’ve been around the block a few times—most notably in the legendary crust bands Destroy! and Grimple. Eight years after its debut, the similarly grizzled Brainoil has delivered a lean, seven-song follow-up, Death Of This Dry Season. Since then, the world of sludge has gotten a lot wider—but that doesn’t mean Dry Season doesn’t keep pace with all the genre’s relative upstarts. Speedier and more spastic in its unrestrained slinging of untreated waste, Brainoil knows how to bring the low-grade, high-fiber filth. (20 Buck Spin)
Switching gears to the abrasively arty and semi-synthesized, Bestial Mouths is out with its new full-length, Hissing Veil. The title says it all; cocooned in gauzelike layers of liquid-nitrogen dissonance, the trio crafts spasm after spasm of tribal animosity and technophobic paranoia that rivals Prurient’s recent opus, Bermuda Drain. Stir in an icy dose of Siouxsie’s gothic wail—only strained through some kind of cerebral scrambling device—and the result is chafing, chilling, and horrifically entrancing. (Dais)
Basing a piece of music on a work of literature can be the most futile (not to mention unlistenable) exercise in pretension imaginable. Somehow, though, Dashiell Farewell—otherwise known as Canyon Hands—has succeeded. Canyon Hands’ new release, Their Copy Hearts Beat At Their Chests, is a miniature symphony of oscillating distortion and ambient blowback based on There Is No Year, the recent and stunning experimental novel by Blake Butler (which you should really read). Says Farewell, “Basically I tried to capture the terror and disorientation I felt while reading There Is No Year. The book somehow felt simultaneously utterly hushed and immensely cacophonous, all garbled and hellish.” Rather than merely reflecting that aura, he’s digested and processed it—and it makes Copy Hearts one of the most intriguing experimental works of the year so far. (Self-released)
Isis may no longer be around, but its memory hasn’t even begun to fade in 2011. A grip of excellent live albums was just released, and singer-guitarist Aaron Turner joined Mamiffer—the project formed by his wife, Faith Coloccia—for its masterful new album, Mare Decendrii. And now former Isis bassist Jeff Caxide has unleashed Endless Midnight. The debut by his current solo affair Crone, Endless Midnight is an instrumental, five-song cycle of power-ambience and ghostly drones that scans like the brainwaves of a chronic insomniac. Accordingly, it’s as somnambulant as it is nerve-jangling. It may be too abstract and washed-out for some Isis fans, but in a weird way, it also captures in a fundamental way what that band was all about. (Translation Loss)
RETRO LOUD: Unbroken, Life. Love. Regret.
Metal and hardcore have hooked up and broken up so many times since the early ’80s, it seems almost remiss to isolate any single crossover and call it more significant than another. For me, though, few such copulations have produced albums as pure, powerful, and passionate as Unbroken’s Life. Love. Regret. The San Diego band’s 1994 swansong, it’s a metal/hardcore amalgam that hadn’t been heard before; even other straightedge bands, like the older and far more established Youth Of Today on the East Coast, couldn’t match the brooding heaviness and bulldozing enormity of Life. Love. Regret. And yet, one of the greatest things about the album is its imperfection. The recording is shitty. The playing (especially the drumming) is sloppy. But the fact that these songs persevere and connect despite their shortcomings only make those flaws part of their strength. Dissolved in 1995, three years before the suicide of guitarist Eric Allen, Unbroken almost couldn’t help but become legendary. And even though the group has been playing sporadic reunions in recent years, its legacy remains unblemished—and as long as each new generation of kids discovers Life. Love. Regret., it probably always will.