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.
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.
It’s been two years short of a decade since the metal underground last heard from Thou Art Lord, and in the era of social media, where new music is snapped up with lightning quickness by the heavy metal hive mind only to be discarded and forgotten just as fast, that much time away can seem like an eon. However, 2013 has proven to be a banner year for veteran bands returning from the abyss of time with excellent new releases (e.g. Gorguts, Carcass, Sorcery, Summoning, etc), and with The Regal Pulse of Lucifer, the Hellenic quintet has come raging back with a fury that proves their time spent in the netherworld was not in vain.
Riddle me this, men and women of the metal community: why is promotion non-existent for From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain, the debut album from UK black/death metal madmen Voices? It isn’t like they don’t have the pedigree; the band boasts two ex-members of the acclaimed Akercocke (drummer David Gray and guitarist/vocalist Peter Benjamin), a band that was arguably among the most progressive and innovative of its generation. It certainly isn’t as if Voices have dropped a dud, because From the Human Forest… flat-out smokes. We could sit here all day and ponder why some albums get the proverbial nod while other, often more deserving ones get buried, but this stellar debut isn’t getting lost in the deluge of 2013 releases if I have anything to say about it.
Over the course of their fifteen year existence, Sweden’s Watain have gone from being underground black metal darlings to being the band tr00 kvlt internet warriors love to hate. I’ll be the first admit that I don’t think the band has managed to top their 2003 masterpiece Casus Luciferi, but they’ve definitely released some great music since (see 2007′s excellent Sworn to the Dark) and are one of the most formidable and mesmerizing live bands I’ve ever encountered (if you haven’t seen them yet, you really, really need to). It’s no surprise that Watain has gained considerable popularity over the years with their burly yet melodic and catchy (relatively speaking, of course) brand of black metal, but I’ve never understood why this inevitable outcome resulted in the band getting showered with haterade.
I first started covering the resurgence of the cassette tape early last year with a review of Blut Der Nacht’s demo and a mammoth piece on the various wares of the infamous Crepusculo Negro and Rhinocervs labels. I instantly fell back in love with the format that had enchanted me in my younger years; I was once the proud owner of a big brown Fisher Price tape recorder which I would use to listen to music, interview family members and record skits with friends, eventually graduating to a boom box when I got older. Some of the first metal music I ever owned was on cassette (specifically a single of Metallica’s “One,” aka the song that kick-started this over two decade long love affair with all things heavy). Granted, the ultra-corrosive black metal of a band like Blut Der Nacht was pretty far removed from jamming Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the Fisher Price in my youth, but I was still reminded of how my initial interest in music was sparked by cassettes.
Inflicting wound upon wound on the bloated, festering corpse of print.
BACKLIT / 2
Now available at backlitzine.com
Cover Art by Brian Smith
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Raping Angels in America #3 / Joshua Haun
Fear and Loathing…In Hollywood / Dave Schalek
That’s When I Became A Metalhead – Gene Hoglan / Kyle Harcott
The Rise and Call of the Mastodon / Dean Brown
The Rains of Resurrection / Ian Chainey
Live (Before) Death / Craig Hayes
Red, The Bleeding. The Blood Streams…Von / Dave Schalek
(R)aging Gracefully: Sunbathing in Filth / Jordan Campbell
Doomsday Device #3 / Joshua Haun
Directeur / D. Harlan Wilson
Unearthed: A Conversation With Brian Smith / Brandon Duncan
If my glowing reviews of the likes of Vader, Azarath, Iperyt, Mgla and Stillborn haven’t already blatantly spelled it out for you, I love me some Polish metal. It seems that the country simply isn’t capable of producing a bad band, or if they are then I have yet to encounter one.
Whether you like it or not, you might as well just accept the fact that in 2013, the most interesting black metal is being released on cassette. Case in point; Lord Time’s Drink My Tears, a lengthy, mesmerizing odyssey of USBM at it’s most psychedelically fucked up that’s almost impossible to stop listening to once you’ve let its bloodstained anti-hymns corrode your brain.