During my misspent youth, I obsessed over so-called “alternative rock” almost as much as I did heavy metal. Among my favorites was The Smashing Pumpkins; the band’s swirling and spacey yet surprisingly metallic hard rock was like nothing I’d heard before at that point, and I found it much easier to identify with main man Billy Corgan’s nerd/asshole/hopeless romantic shtick than Kurt Cobain’s junkie poet. I might have had more Nirvana posters on my wall, but I listened to Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness way more than I did Nevermind.
At the end of 2014, I began to reacquaint myself with music outside of the metal spectrum. I’d been pretty much completely immersed in the genre since starting THKD back in 2009, and it was time to change things up; variety being the spice of life ‘n’ shit. At the forefront of this change in listening habits has been an unhealthy obsession with Brighter Death Now, the pioneering death industrial project of former Cold Meat Industry head honcho Roger Karmanik. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Karmanik released With Promises of Death, the first BDN full length in a number of years back in October of 2014 via his new label Familjegraven, and it is every bit the sickening listen fans have come to expect from him.
There’s no shortage of great shows happening in Sacramento every month, but the dregs of being a responsible adult often keep me from going to them. When you’re a corporate lackey that gets up for work bright and early at 6:45 AM, going to a show on a weeknight that doesn’t even start until 8:00 PM isn’t really in the cards. But there was no way I was going miss out on Incantation; the death metal legends are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a string of West Coast dates, and with Funerus, Mortuous and Plague Widow in tow, this one was guaranteed to be a rager.
It’s been a while since I’ve discovered anything particularly worthy of coverage via Bandcamp, but just when I was about to give up hope, I stumbled upon Psalm 88, a sub-label of Berkeley’s Acephale Winter Productions that’s dedicated to producing limited edition C20 cassettes featuring black metal’s rawest of the raw. The fledgling venture has already cranked out four releases in just a year of existence, all available on tape or for pay-what-you-want download. All four releases are well worth your time, and you guys know I’m not a fan of lengthy intros, so let’s dive right in.
As a reviewer, tons of releases come across my desk every year, but few of them actually make me stop and say “Wow, this album is really something.” Burial Hex’s The Hierophant is just such an album; its seamless mixture of disparate tones and textures is simply unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Please believe it when I say this is not another case of music journalist hyperbole, this is simply one of the most stunningly unique, beautiful and unsettling recordings ever to ravage my unworthy ears.
Earlier in 2014, Caligari Records brought us the debut demo from Denmark’s Demon Head, now the label brings us another round of Danish doom from The Hyle; has Caligari unearthed the beginnings of a retro doom boom in the country that blessed us with King Diamond, only to turn around and damn us with Lars Ulrich? Ok, two bands do not an entire scene make, but given the excellence both Demon Head and The Hyle exhibit on their first recordings, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something in the water over there.
With a name like Torture Corpse, one might expect this project to be brutal death metal, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, this mysterious entity creates blackened noise of the most filthy and disgusting variety; imagine a band playing rudimentary black metal inside a collapsing factory full of malfunctioning, broken down machinery and you’re getting close, or instead of imagining it you could just hit the “play” button on the embed I’ve posted above. If you do, prepare to have your ears blown out by some truly vile shit that’ll appeal to fans of everything from Merzbow to Xasthur.