2013 is a pretty strange time to be a metal blogger. Big-time labels won’t send me CDs that probably cost all of a dollar to manufacture, but small labels that probably struggle just to break even don’t hesitate to send me the cassette and vinyl releases they’ve obviously put a great deal of time and effort into, effort that goes far beyond the pressing plant cranking out “product” like so many widgets out of a factory. With these releases comes a far more intimate relationship; personalized e-mails rather than e-mail blasts from publicists, and a genuine sense that these labels and artists actually care about what I have to say and genuinely appreciate my support. It’s been an absolute joy to work with the likes of Gilead Media, Sygil Records and Caligari Records, but to be honest when people are so gracious, kind and above all patient, I’m pretty darn hesitant to call my interactions with them “work.”
According to my calendar, Winter doesn’t start until December 21st. I call bullshit. It’s dark when I get up to go to work in the morning, it’s dark when I get home from work and it’s freezing out. It’s fucking Winter. When this time of year rolls around, all I want to do is eat, sleep and listen to depressing music. I’m not allowed to hibernate, so I cope with the darkness of the season by listening to music that’s equally dark. Not wanting to keep the displeasure all to myself, I’ve selected ten of the most depressing albums in my Winter rotation to harsh your mellow and keep you appropriately bummed out until Spring rolls around… if you make it that long.
I was completely unfamiliar with Fister when Gogmagogical Records sent me their Violence EP for review; the band name might lead you to believe we’re dealing with some kind of sex dungeon worthy gore/porno-grind, but instead it turns out I’ve been missing the boat on some seriously sinister-sounding sludge. The St. Louis-based trio bring the pain in a way that will be familiar to fans of genre heavyweights such as Eyehategod and Iron Monkey, but also incorporates a knack for oppressive textures and atmospheres of a more esoteric variety that’s decidedly their own.
Most human beings mellow with age. I’m only thirty-four and it’s already happening to me. I’m no longer the guy who wants to close down the bars three or four out of seven nights a week, stay up all night writing with a pack of smokes and a sixer resting next to my keyboard, or go rage at every single metal show that comes to town no matter how big or small. I’m turning into the guy that changes into his pajamas and becomes one with the couch the minute he gets home from his soul-sucking corporate job. The guy who skips shows because it means having to leave the house and deal with people. The guy who gets sleepy after a few beers.
I don’t need to tell you to listen to My Bloody Valentine. I don’t need to tell you what an important band they are. And yeah, I realize that MBV is the cliche token shoegaze band that metalheads like, and the band that metal writers automatically point to whenever a band exhibits a shoegaze influence (with Slowdive coming in a distant second on both counts). I know I’m guilty of it. But sometimes, when you discover one band that’s so fucking amazing and addictive, it’s hard to pull yourself away and explore the rest of what’s out there.
In spite of kicking around the death metal scene since 1988, Chicago’s Broken Hope rarely get their due in underground circles. These wholesome, well-mannered Midwestern boys made good have often been unfairly labelled a lower-level band; granted, metal acts from this neck of the woods are often denied the props they deserve, but whether you like it or not, there’s no doubt that legions of brutal death metal, slam and goregrind practitioners owe something to Broken Hope’s lethal combination of ultra-guttural vocals, beyond gross-out lyrics and thick, bone-crunching grooves. Now, after almost a decade-and-a-half of silence, the influential quintet have returned with a rejuvenated lineup and a flesh-ripping album in the form of Omen of Disease.