Being a reviewer is a pain. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now, and it has completely changed the way I listen to music. You’d always find me scouring a variety of music websites for info-crumbs of new album release dates, snippets of music that I hoped would get me pumped up, or alternatively, clouded in disappointment. *sigh*
It’s this constant drive to find the new, the entrancing, the next reinvention of the wheel or whatever……gah!…. It has been tiring. An uncontrolled appetite for where the next dopamine hit of music comes from and the agitated prick you become if you get none. This nagging urge to write about new music before anyone does. To be that herald of the next new fad in metaldom. To become that trusted source on the interwebs, where everybody’s got a blog and an opinion. *sigh* x 2.
It’s safe to say that I cannot listen to music these days without a creeping voice in my head suggesting “is this great content for a write-up?”. Like a sodden YouTuber perking his ears up for the next whisper of “Content”! It’s that bad. Fuck!…. I’m so jaded… So jaded that it has really hampered me from putting pen to paper. The very will to write your boring thoughts one after the other vanishes. Nobody reads or listens to it anyway. Why should I care? Why should anybody care for that matter? I’ve mulled and mooted over this. Hoping to find some answer to the question, “why I should keep at this often thankless excuse of a hobby?” Not far from that existential dread ledge indeed!!
At the risk of sounding like one giant circle jerk here… All said and done, we write perhaps for a sense of community. We write for our little circle of friends. Furtively turning our heads around the corner for a possible` acknowledging nod. We write for mutual validation of our existence. Expressed as they are through our shared and shaping musical tastes in the written word.
Sounds trite? Perhaps it is. I came across this wonderful little piece of writing by James Jackson Toth titled Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening over at NPR. James is an established musician and he talks here about how he is sort of scared at the way our listening habits have changed over the last few decades. It’s a great commentary on how we should stop crying wolf over the sheer volume of music, the inability to listen to the massive volume of metal available, our growing disenchantment with listening to physical albums, and all those trickle-down effects of changes in audio technology that have made listening more accessible. He pushes for a disposition that embraces these changes in listening and lets them lay claim over one’s stubbornness. TL;DR: Stop being a stickler for puritanical listening practices. But what hit me more was how he acclimatized to this, this changed way of listening to music. He listens to it because it helps him to stay connected to so many of his friends who in turn suggest him music and have collaborations with them. It is a joint exercise and not one done in isolation. It’s not existence, it’s “existing.” The verb, present and continuous. It is, perhaps, a giant circle jerk of validation, indeed. Hey, but that’s okay.
Why I write then, I believe, is for similar reasons. For connecting with my fellow writers over at TMW. The minuscule number of friends and family that I can send this to, who’d in turn take the effort to read my silly thoughts. On extremely rare occasions, even the artists themselves, if they are even remotely inclined to take the time out to check out what I write in the first place. And I think I’ve started to let that be and not succumb to the possibility of virality or such similar delusions of grandeur. It’s always the little things, isn’t it? Definitely worth staying at I’d say! While the internet lets you believe it’s a world of possibility.
Do it for yourself and your small circle of friends. That’s it. Sure, it’s the replacement of one kind of dopamine hit (new music) with another (of friendship, bonds, and camaraderie). Structuring and stretching and, I daresay, even delaying (damned marketspeak!!), the road to gratification is not a bad thing at all.
Now onto the less boring part of this write-up. I have a bunch of releases that I believe you should check out. The focus this time around are on EPs. Yep! Those releases which are often relegated to the dustbin of history or cast out with a much more pejorative slant – B-Sides. Never forget that some of the best works in music have come from EPs. Sure, there’s all that legendary stuff from Hellhammer, Slayer, and Sodom, with my personal favorite in Destruction’s Sentence of Death. But there are also those others who’ve been comparatively less talked about. For instance, in doom metal, there’s Cathedral’s Soul Sacrifice, which Mike Scheidt of YOB fame recently waxed poetic about. The despondent and equally fabulous Reverend Bizarre’s Harbingers of Metal (which ironically discards any notion of EPs being short by taking more than an hour of runtime).
So, with all that said, let’s begin!
Thrice Majestic – The Cimmerian
Metal Archives call them stoner sludge. Well, that’d be a tad too shy from the real deal. This power trio is more like High on Fire, who bring in elements of thrash and straight-up heavy metal as much as they pay homage to doom and its sister genres. Song titles like “Neckbreaker of the Mountain,” and a band name that not only echoes an actual ancient continent formation but also the homeland of a certain – ahem – barbarian. Warring tribes and clangs of steel abound!
P.S. There’s also a semi-decent game out there, I hear.
Oheň hoří tam, kde padl – Kostnatění (Mystískaos)
While there is no dearth of bedroom black metal projects, they’ve also come to be looked at with a lot of derision. Artistic independence can also be read as a convenience. Producing nothing but a sterile re-rendering of a Drudkh, Alcest, or Deathspell Omega released in varying combinations and finally labeling themselves as “atmospheric” black metal. Kostnatění bucks the trend and bucks it hard. Their 2019 debut, for me, had an air of weirdness. But it also felt a tad bit contrived, like weirdness for the sake of it you know? This brand-new EP is a different beast altogether. Kostnatění (‘’Ossification’’ in English) switches from being DsO’s latest dissonance franchisee to a much more eastern, Melechesh-like grounding. But this is also so unlike Melechesh. Fantastic stuff.
Vol. 7 – Seer (Hidden Tribe)
Seer is quite the interesting band. While tabbed on the sludge/stoner flag, it’s not so unlike the top crop of post-metal bands these days. Sure, the genres have always had a huge association. Constantly interpellating each other, for one. Seer embodies that murkiness of genre boundaries. Each of their releases follows a conceptual arc, doused as they are in a certain pensive mood that follows the middle path between the cheekier doom of, say, Khemmis, and the much more sorrow-hinged Pallbearer. I highly recommend hearing Vol.1 and Vol.2, which I still feel are their best releases.
Unpleasant Living – End It (Flatspot Records)
Okay, a little detour from the metal straitjacket perhaps? Sure.
I cannot stress the importance of YouTube channels such as Sunny Singh’s hate5six and Frank Huang’s Max Volume Silence (previously the inimitable Pit Full of Shit). The high quality of live shows is sometimes better than fully fledged albums by the very same bands. It’s a lovely repository of punk/metal culture and spirit, alive as they are in the different gig videos. I cannot recommend these guys enough.
Do check out this absolute bag of raging fists. Stream below.
You cannot unsee Akil Godsey’s charismatic presence in there.
Do check out this absolute bag of raging fists. Stream below.
Bleed the Dream – Foreign Hands (Daze)
I must admit. This does sound like Misery Signals. Especially in their previous incarnation as 7 Angels and 7 Plagues, or their debut in Of Malice and the Magnum Heart. They’ve got that signature Jesse Zaraska’s spoken word and screams, and those characteristic breakdowns that soon snap into blissfully saccharine melodies. You’ve seen this captured in other bands like Counterparts and It Prevails. But Foreign Hands, from Delaware, do mix it up. They can sound like MS and in that very same breath channel the tough guy hardcore of Knocked Loose in a jiffy. This is an extremely promising debut.
Somebody’s Closer – Bleed
Okay, moving further away from heavier music here. While some of us unashamedly declare our love for the locust swarm popularity of nu metal in the early aughts, we sometimes forget the importance of a coterie of bands that were deep within the underground and as influential to the genre. No, I’m not talking about the usual suspects like Faith No More, Helmet, Tool, and perhaps the whole of grunge. I’m talking about the unholy trio of Failure, Hum, and Quicksand. And the Dallasites in the band Bleed band here are incredibly reminiscent of that sound. So much so that you can hear the emerging sounds of ‘nu-metal band sandbox‘ in there.