In early December, I decided I wasn’t going to do a year end list. It isn’t that I’m all of the sudden anti-list; I still love lists, but this year I just wasn’t feeling it. I gotta be honest, after five years of doing THKD I’m fucking weary, and laboring over a list just felt like yet another metal writing chore. Besides, if you read the blog regularly and follow me on social media, you already know what I liked this year.
Many moons ago Relapse Records introduced me to noise. That’s probably a bit hard to imagine for younger folks that only know the label as the beard metal stronghold it is today, but trust me, way back when Relapse was releasing some seriously bonkers shit. You see, Relapse used to have a sub-label called Release Entertainment and it was to noise, dark ambient and experimental music what Relapse once was to death metal, grindcore and the like.
Confession time: I had no idea who Scott Walker was prior to the announcement of Soused. As those of you who read this here blog on the regular might have guessed, I’m not particularly hip to the avant-garde scene. Furthermore, I was a tad apprehensive about another Sunn O))) collab being released this year after experiencing Terrestrials, their underwhelming team-up with Norway’s terminally overrated Ulver. If you’re in the same boat as I, fear not; one doesn’t have to be familiar with Herr Walker’s work to enjoy Soused, and it blows Terrestrials out of the goddamn water.
When I think of noise, I tend to think of it as the apex of extremity; pure sound so harsh it’s going to melt my brain and cause it to come oozing out of my ears. Granted, my introduction to the genre was the ultra-abrasive works of Relapse-era Merzbow (Venereology, Pulse Demon, etc) and Masonna (Inner Mind Mystique); ungodly endurance tests which I later came to appreciate for their ability to make even the most abrasive extreme metal seem like child’s play. Noise certainly has the power to obliterate, but I’ve come to learn that it also has the power to soothe, as evidenced by Crowhurst’s Everyone is Guilty.
Longtime readers of THKD know that I’m typically not big on live recordings. But, I am big on Sol y Nieve; the upstart Idaho-based label has already released two of this year’s finest slabs of black metal in the form of Nemorensis’ The Lady in the Lake and Hellebore’s Anouof Thwo, so if they deem a live release to be worthy of the same treatment, then I’ll sure as hell give it a listen. I’m glad I did, because Sun Splitter’s Live on WFMU is a sonic nightmare of ultra-corrosive industrial metal that’s more than managed to win me over in spite of my admitted prejudice towards live material.
I first made mention of the one-man experimental metal madness that is The Sun Through a Telescope as a band to look out for back in 2011, when Bandcamp was just beginning to worm its way into the hearts and minds of metalheads. While those early TSTAT releases skewed toward corrosive, feedback-drenched drone, the project took a drastic step forward later on that year with the release of the Summer Darkyard EP, which saw mainman Lee Neutron beginning to incorporate elements of black metal and electronic/industrial music into its apocalyptic framework. But even that massive evolutionary leap couldn’t prepare me for the all-out insanity of I Die Smiling, which is not only TSTAT’s first full length release but also Herr Neutron’s most compelling and cohesive work to date.
I’ll be the first to admit, I know Jack and shit (and Jack left town) about death industrial, power electronics and noise (aside from the most obvious/popular noise artists such as Merzbow, Prurient and Wolf Eyes), so Sewer Goddess’ Mutilation Process was something of a revelation for me when I received it in the mail from the fine folks at Graceless Recordings. This twenty-three minute live recording is seriously filthy and fucked up, uglier and more unsettling than approximately 99.9% of the metal albums I’ve heard in the past year or so. Evidently there’s a whole wealth of nastiness and depravity out there waiting for me to explore, but for now let’s focus on this, my first foray into a world of shit.