“History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time.”Mort (Discworld #4)
Terry Pratchett’s an endless resource of semi-satirical quips on everything from life and death to well…luggage. Now this one’s from one of Terry’s better Discworld novels called Mort. And that last bit in the quote always hits home when you want to think about history and its rather dynamic partner in crime …memory. Ah! If you can keep aside the rather large stash of unsavory ones, personal memories that is, reading actual history does get me yearning for more. Especially the thought of delving deep into the history of music, the people, the labels, the venues, and all that goes between them to jointly make the scene.
There’s not simply a desire to consume but also the possibility of learning something new about the bands you dearly love. I’d add to Terry’s quote, that reading histories change not only the very authors who pen them but also the ones who take them in, as in the readers too. The last book that really moved me was Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death (which there are two versions of and I own ’em both). Primarily because it showed the mundaneness of the metal scene.
I’m talking about all that scene camaraderie and internal band skirmishes alike that makes you realize that metal and its practitioners aren’t some special jelly in the sky that cannot be touched, but are very much like their fans. It sorts of grounds you, you see? Rather than simply placing them on a pedestal or some version of religion-bashing-yet-elevating-bands-to-gods kind of starry eyed reverence. It makes you love the genre all the more. Or……. Or maybe it’s just the trained anthropologist in me or some weird yet stupid inferiority complex! Ha!
The point of all this history talk was just a long-winded way to bring to your notice a bunch of awesome metal biography and history books that are out there! It was just last week that I got a copy of this tome on the history of NWOBHM. Band biographies are another favorite, and there’s a new one on Electric Wizard coming out and an expanded edition on Paradise Lost. So, keep a tab on them and grab em when you’ve got some spare change!
P.S. Some of us who grew up in the internet age and found cheesy pop punk and emo to be a gateway drug to heavier music, would also want to check this article on how the now defunct Absolutepunk.net helped shape the emo(and no it’s not a dreaded word) scene. That’s some internet history right there, and might as well be the future of history for our terminally online metal scenes.
Now to less of the past and to the more contemporaneous, shall we? Here are some maladies that’ll make you feel miserable. But they are indeed infectious!
Host – IX
Label: Nuclear Blast
Talking about history, Paradise Lost had put out remastered versions of their electro rock/post-punk outings in One Second and Host in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Often touted as a Depeche Mode version of Paradise Lost, it was fascinating to see how they’d grown in popularity over the years. Host then is a brand new project of that very same style that sort of coalesced around the late 80s within the post-punk scene. The band did admit that they were deeply influenced by bands like The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult and Soft Cell. Definitely explains how Host IX is a slow relaxing listen that you’d have a tough time ignoring.
Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
Label: Peaceville Records
Mix those tasty shrills of Show No Mercy’s speed metal, the raw cuts of Venom/Motörhead and you’d land with bands like the brilliant Japanese Sabbat, the Italian Bulldozer, or the blackened thrash of a Nifelheim. Several years, permutations and combinations later, you’d have bands like Midnight and Toxic Holocaust riding and running that very same wave. You might as well add in Hellripper to that gang now. While being quite taken in with their earlier releases, there is something about Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags that draws you in further. There’s a lot more exploratory drive here than a keen adherence to riff craft. Atmosphere might be a damned word in such a genre but Hellripper somehow conjure a lot more than a bunch of tasty blackened speed metal riffs.
7H. Target – Yantra Creating
Label: Willowtip Records
I usually find myself veering clear of the usual slam/brutal death metal drabness. Other than say the usual classics (Disgorge, Devourment, Deeds of Flesh and everything that starts with a fuckin’ D!!). But then there’s a certain niche of styles within that I do have a soft spot for. There are for instance these bands who tend to veer toward a general melodic weirdness. Most usually seen in the Czechian bands like Appalling Spawn, Lykathea Aflame, and !T.O.O.H.!. And then there are those techier outliers in Malignancy, Wormed, Defeated Sanity, and Katalepsy.
7H.Target falls squarely in the latter group. Their last release, 0.00 Apocalypse, was the familiar kind of techy yet groovy brutal DM that their fellow countrymen in Katalepsy play. With this release though…they sort of feel like they’ve had a certain religious calling. The third track is called “Shiva Yajur Mantra” and is basically a mantra for the entirety of its running time. And perhaps because of this there is a newfound focus on melodic arrangements which weren’t so prominent on their earlier albums. Strong release.
Рожь (Rye) – Всё
Label: Reflection Nebula
I waxed poetic about their 2021 debut, and I cannot stop myself from doing the same for their second album as well. Rye yet again channels nature’s wonders (of the landscape of Russian Karelia) into an elegiac mode that seductively lulls the listener into a pervading sense of loss and reflection. You can’t listen to this and not pine for some yearning of a better past/tomorrow. It’s like the theme from Gladiator by Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer tuned to the despondent. Its haunting, poignant, and beautiful all the same.
Deviser – Evil summons Evil
Label: Hammerheart Records
If you are a tad too pensive and cold after hearing that Rye record, you prolly need something to warm up your soul. Perhaps a drink? Perhaps human connection? Perhaps turning the heat up in your room, at the least, is warranted? Deviser from Greece then is the heating knob turned to hellfire.
Melodic black metal, while not necessarily exuding the speed and fury of the Swedish contingent of bands within the sub-genre, rather settling for the Hellenic melody heard in bands like Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia. The sound might also emanate a kind of bombast reminiscent of some of the recent Behemoth releases.
Ahab – The Coral Tombs
Label: Napalm Records
You can’t blame Ahab for pulling a Cathedral on us. Call of the Wretched Sea will stand the test of time as one of the finest releases in funeral doom, period. Part of the charm was its thematic focus on Moby Dick which lend to an atmosphere that was like old thunder. Their second album, The Divinity of Oceans, saw them change their sound to a more accessible form of doom with a much cleaner melodic presence. That said, this was a never bad thing and probably hit its highest point on their last album, The Boats of Glen Carrig. While The Coral Tombs is more or less cut from the same cloth, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor. Still a solid release, though.
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