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.
Song debut: Golden Void, “Virtue”
Earthless has long been one of the overlooked bands lurking in the heavy-psychedelic undergrowth. But Earthless member Isaiah Mitchell might have a bigger breakout with his new project Golden Void. Or at least he should. On the band’s self-titled debut, the singer-guitarist leads the quartet through a miasma of dope fumes and brain-liquefying riffs, all of which serve a higher cosmic purpose: the preservation of classic, melodic, intergalactic psychedelia complete with ample amounts of pelvic thrust. Golden Void is due November 13 via Thrill Jockey; courtesy of the label, here’s an exclusive stream of one of the disc’s most soulfully massive tracks, “Virtue.”
Jason Heller’s top five of October
1. Pig Destroyer, Book Burner
“Grindcore for people who don’t like grindcore” is, admittedly, about the worst thing you could say about a grindcore album. Personally, I love grind—and Pig Destroyer has long been one of the genre’s standard-bearers, keeping the irreverent, relentless, short-sharp-shock tradition alive while cramming it into uncharted territory. Book Burner, the band’s first album since 2007’s masterful Phantom Limb, is entirely worth the wait. Intricate without being showy, relentless while remaining dynamic, progressive without losing its disease-ridden sense of gallows humor, Book Burner fires on all cylinders. And yes, its disjointed grooves, thrashing breakdowns, and hidden squibs of melody make it accessible to anyone who appreciates a solid, immaculately crafted episode of convulsive misanthropy.
2. Menace Ruine, Alight In Ashes
Montreal duo Menace Ruine has hit a new peak with its fourth full-length, Alight In Ashes. Granted, the group has always excelled at weaving a spectral brocade of mystery around its moody, organ-driven deathscapes. But on Alight, that sound seeps into the bones. Singer Geneviève Beaulieu allows her eerie, almost folk-like chants to eat into S. De La Moth’s seesawing keyboards and shuddering rhythms, leaving a yawing wormhole for the spirit to fall through. Maybe it’s the season that helps make it resonate so deeply: Alight evokes pagan rite and apocalyptic trance with equal atmosphere.
3. Early Graves, Red Horse
There’s nothing ethereal about Red Horse, the second album from Early Graves. Instead, it’s all bleary, howling catharsis. After losing its original frontman, Makh Daniels, in a van accident in 2010, the San Francisco outfit regrouped with John Strachan of The Funeral Pyre on vocals—resulting in an album that serves as both eulogy and rebirth. And you can hear it in every shred of noise on Red Horse. From the mournful enormity of “Skinwalker” to the lunging, heartrending “Quietus,” Early Graves has outlasted tragedy, outlived its name, and produced one of the most epic clusterfucks of raw-throated metal and corrosive hardcore laid to tape in many a moon.
4. De Magia Veterum, The Deification
Dutch multi-instrumentalist Mories has been inflicting his twisted, chaotic vision of black metal on the world for almost a decade in his solo project, De Magia Veterum. And with The Deification, he’s burned an even unholier path forward. It isn’t an album as much as it’s a force of nature. Layered with nauseatingly jarring guitar and irrigated with cesspools of dissonance, there’s still a disorienting beauty that Mories manages to thread through every one of the disc’s contorted paeans to chaos. Like a symphony played on the entrails of the damned, The Deification is a snarling, orchestral nightmare that shocks, awes, and drops jaws.
5. Behold… The Arctopus, Horrorscension
Colin Marston’s preoccupation with his many other projects—including the towering Krallice—has left the fans of one of his most beloved bands, Behold… The Arctopus, patiently awaiting a new album since 2007’s Skullgrid. It is here, and it is awesome. Horrorscension is another instrumental showcase for Marston’s head-spinning, fret-tapping virtuosity on the 12-string Warr guitar, which meshes inhumanly with fellow guitarist Mike Lerner’s six-string pointillism. Playfully progressive, dizzyingly dense, and almost alien in the complexity of execution, Horrorscension unlocks hitherto unknown backdoors to the brain—then kicks them in anyway, just for the fuck of it.
Jason Heller’s runners-up
6. Weapon, Embers And Revelations
7. Between The Buried And Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence
8. Yakuza, Beyul
9. Lecherous Gaze, On The Skids
10. Car Bomb, w^w^^w^w
Jason Heller’s Retro Loud
U.S. Maple, Long Hair In Three Stages
Behold… The Arctopus’ drummer, Weasel Walter, has a long and illustrious career, most of which was spent in the incestuous Chicago no-wave and noise scene. One of the many bands from that scene that Walter collaborated with was U.S. Maple. The group’s 1995 debut, Long Hair In Three Stages, remains a staggeringly innovative and bizarre record; while possessing many of the abrasive tendencies of contemporaries like The Jesus Lizard and Don Caballero, there’s a self-deconstructing slant to the disc that draws from a deeper well—namely the one where Captain Beefheart, The Shaggs, and Pere Ubu are kept. Odd tunings, anticlimactic lurches, string molestation, spasms of linguistic illogic, demented grunts and whoops: With U.S. Maple you never know where the hell you’re standing, let alone what you’re listening to. The band recorded a slew of great (and increasingly subtler) albums before disbanding in 2007, but there’s a bracing shrillness and mischievous glee to Long Hair that makes it eternally, perversely fresh.
John Semley’s top five of October
1. Indian Handcrafts, Civil Disobedience For Losers
Like those early Big Business records, Civil Disobedience For Losers proves a welcome reminder of just how much you can squeeze out of a two-piece. The Toronto duo—guitarist Daniel Brandon Allen and drummer Brandyn James Aikins—have put together a noisy, riff-heavy party record. The referential pop-culture titles (“Bruce Lee,” “Starcraft,” “Centauri Teenage Riot,” etc.) may err toward the too-cool, but it’s balanced (and then some) by the band’s lean, mean grunge-rock assault. That Indian Handcrafts have totally distinguished themselves in the post-Melvins stoner-sludge tradition seems to be certified by guest appearances by drummers Dale Crover and Coady Willis, whose cameos speak as much to Civil Disobedience’s pounding onslaught as its loose, almost jammy vibe. Great stuff.
2. Obelyskkh, White Lightnin’
The so-called “Phantom of German Doom” returns with his second proper record, the appropriately thundering White Lightnin’. Packed with over an hour of avant-minded doom, this record stands as one of the banner heavy releases of 2012 (and just in time for year-end list-making season, conveniently). The title track alone is worth the price of admission. It’s a soaring, thumping, swirling, gloomily psychedelic piece of music that manages to accomplish what so many doom-metal releases rarely even try to do: be scary. And ditto the record’s extended closer, “Invocation To The Old Ones.”
3. Bison B.C., Lovelessness
Maybe it’s national pride/bias that’s leading me to stack my list with Canadian bands. Or maybe Canada has just been kicking ass, loud-music-wise, lately. (See also: that Metz band that everyone’s so hot under the collar about.) With its third release on Metal Blade, Vancouver’s Bison B.C. has packed together 45 minutes of grub-metal bangers, recalling labelmates (and countrymen) Barn Burner. Now that Baroness sounds like a Temple Of The Dog cover band, Bison B.C. are gunning for the top spot on the progressive-sludge pantheon. While not overly techy, Lovelessness has the band sculpting eight-minute-plus mini-epics (most notably, “Blood Music,” which moves persuasively from fuzzy minimalism to wailing overkill). And even at such lengths, Bison B.C.’s driving riffs never bore, further proof that B.C. really does have the best weed.
4. Stallone, American Baby
Let’s take a break from stoner and sludge and sludge-related bands for two seconds. Well, almost. Stallone’s the new project from Juan Montoya, former guitarist of Miami stoner-sludge heavies Torche. The instrumental four-piece retains something of Torche’s throbbing sludginess, but takes the sound in some novel directions. “Tight Like Tigers” puts spooky surf fuzz underneath its propulsive riff, sounding like an evil cover of the Kids In The Hall theme song, while “Beyond” contains bits of twangy skiffle-rock. It’s a bit odd for an instrumental band to work in such small doses, apparently disinterested in the epic experimentalism of “post-metal.” But American Baby’s less about experimenting and more about showcasing what works: drums, bass, and dueling guitars.
5. Stinking Lizaveta, 7th Direction
Like a lot of sensible people, I have a basic aversion to “jazz.” Or maybe more precisely, “jazz guys,” i.e. the kind of person who can up and ruin an entire evening by being so bold as to put on/talk about jazz. Yuck. But there’s something likeable in bands that take that free-form, experimental, everybody-solos-in-turn approach and apply it to heavy music—like the weird Philadelphia trio Stinking Lizaveta. Where Stallone keeps the instrumentals short, sweet, and swiftly to the point, Lizaveta’s latest pleasantly ambles all over the place in its latest full-length, 7th Direction. “Moral Hazard” showcases Yanni Papadopoulos’ banshee solos, while tracks like “Dark Matter” and “Burning Sea Turtles” hem in the more free-flowing jazziness, revealing a band as tight as a clenched fist.
John Semley’s runners-up
6. Yakuza, Beyul
7. Ichabod, Dreamscapes From Dead Space
8. Zodiac, A Bit Of Devil
9. Pig Destroyer, Book Burner
10. Lecherous Gaze, On The Skids
John’s Retro Loud
Helloween, Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part I
Maybe it’s because my go-to Halloween playlist that I listened to all October is anchored around this record’s 13-minute centerpiece “Halloween,” but Keeper Of The Seven Keys has been on my mind lately. Or the first part of it, anyway. The 1987 album from Hamburg power-metallers Helloween, Keeper has a lot to love. For one thing, it’s the first Helloween record to feature vocalist Michael Kiske, who was just 18 when he joined the group. And the band’s idea of introducing its new lineup with a double LP called Keeper Of The Seven Keys is one of those audacious, half-crazy, half-stupid schemes that make power-metal dudes so endearing. Stacked with hits (“A Little Time,” “Future World,” and of course “Halloween”), Keeper still holds up as one of power metal’s best records, striking the perfect alchemy of audaciousness, craziness, and stupidity.