Yes, I realize that it’s beyond pretentious of me to be writing this, but I see so many metal blogs popping up out of the woodwork and so many of them getting it wrong in one way or another that I decided it was time to dust off the old soapbox. Who am I to say what’s right and what’s wrong? Well, I’ve been doing THKD for almost five years now (and before that Sonic Frontiers(dot)net for two years); I get a pretty fair amount of page views per month for a blog that doesn’t recycle press releases, and people I consider fairly prominent in our little community have both publicly praised my work and trashed the living shit out of it. I’ve also been asked to write for a few other blogs (Invisible Oranges, Metal Bandcamp, Cryogenic Husk and a few I’ve respectfully turned down) and recently embarked on a series of collaborative posts with Last Rites. Surely I must be doing something right?
It’s a testament to the amount of great metal released last year that I’m still playing catch-up three months deep into the new year. One of the “ones that got away” in 2013 is Hercyn, a quartet hailing from Jersey City, New Jersey who are off to a most impressive start with Magda, their self-released debut demo. Consisting of a single track that clocks in just shy of twenty-four minutes, Magda is proof positive that even at this early stage in the game, Hercyn are already aspiring to be much more than your run-of-the-mill black metal outfit.
Try as I might to seek out and cover as much worthy US black metal as humanly possible at THKD (and Backlit), it’s inevitable that some bands slip though the cracks. I’m just one man and as such it’s physically impossible for me to listen to everything that gets released over the course of a year. Fortunately, a few bands have the stones to be proactive and put their music in front of my face rather than wait around for me to stumble upon them. One such band is Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus, who put out two stellar releases last year in the form of Synkkä Tuuli and Väinämöinen.
In 1996, Metallica unleashed Load, an album which saw the band drifting even further away from the complex thrash metal they’d made their name on in favor of stripped-down, southern-tinged hard rock. They also toyed with their image, chopping off their once flowing locks and ditching black jeans and t-shirts for eyeliner and designer duds. Before it was even released, the band made seismic waves with the Samuel Bayer-directed, Hieronymus Bosch-inspired music video for first single “Until it Sleeps,” which seemed to exist in another universe both musically and visually from anything they’d done previously.
I distinctly remember me and my buddy Jon going out to our local Best Buy to buy the album the day it came it out; we excitedly popped the CD into his car stereo and… we thought it was awesome. You see, growing up smack dab in the Midwest with no access to a metal underground of any kind gave us a unique perspective; in spite of being familiar with Metallica’s back catalog we didn’t feel betrayed, rather we welcomed the band doing something different and not putting out The Black Album Part II. Maybe we were naive, but I’d like to think we were open-minded. At sixteen years old I wasn’t listening to albums with the critical ear I have now, and we had no concept of elitism or preconceived notions of what metal had to sound like in order to be “true.” The fact that we were raised on classic rock and loved alternative rock almost as much as we loved metal made it pretty easy to appreciate what Metallica were attempting, even if in retrospect their attempt was heavily flawed.
As recently as last year, I was still proclaiming my love for Load, stating that if any other band had released it, it would be hailed as a great hard rock album. As it turns out, a more thorough critical analysis reveals that only about half the album is as strong as I’ve previously proclaimed it to be, the other half is a combination of filler and failed experiments that make a strong case for Load and its sister album ReLoad being whittled down to a single combined disk (that could be a whole other piece unto itself… hmm…).
In the second part of our Metallica Letters series of collaborative posts, Last Rites‘ Jordan Campbell and myself tackle the bloated, quintuple platinum-selling beast that somehow propelled Lars and Co. even further into the stadium rock stratosphere in spite of its inherent weirdness. Check out our thoughts on Side A below and then head over to Last Rites for Side B.
There are brutal death metal bands, and then there’s Benighted. The French five-piece do everything they possibly can to shit all over the subgenre’s rule book by crafting catchy songs that you can actually tell apart, utilizing highly eclectic vocals and injecting their music with a classiness that other bands just flat-out lack, and yet somehow they come out the other end sounding even more devastating because of it. What’s more brutal, a beating that you can recall nearly every bone-snapping minute of, or one that goes by in an unmemorable blur?
Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Ritual Decay are a power trio plying a particularly nasty-ass brand of blackened death metal. On The Conquering Darkness, their debut demo from the seemingly unstoppable Caligari Records, the band aren’t likely to be accused of being innovators anytime soon, but their patently ugly, primitive assault more than makes up for their staunch traditionalism. It’s a ripping opening salvo from a trio of musicians who are obviously dedicated to their craft.
Narcotic Wasteland is the brainchild of Dallas Toler-Wade, whom will be familiar to most of you as one of the driving forces behind death metal legends Nile. Far from being a mere side project, Narcotic Wasteland is a technical death metal juggernaut in its own right; their self-titled debut, which was released independently by the band on January 15th, is one of the best albums of the young year, balancing insane levels of musicianship with frightening brutality and gritty lyrics depicting the horrors of addiction. I contacted the band via e-mail requesting an interview, and all four members of the band graciously took time out of their no-doubt busy-as-hell schedules to answer my questions regarding their formation, the unique subject matter of their lyrics, how the debut album came together and beyond…
Hellébore’s Anouof thwo is the second of two cassettes recently unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses by the great Sol y Nieve. Whereas the other release, Nemorensis’ The Lady in the Lake is an exploration of black metal’s earthy, elemental qualities, Hellébore’s take on the genre reaches for the deepest, darkest corners of the universe. Indeed, the giant telescope gracing Anouof thwo‘s cover art is telling, as this solitary project delivers just over forty minutes of raw yet infinitely astral black metal.
Leave it to Caligari Records to make waves with their first foray into full-on death metal by unearthing not one but two of the gnarliest demos out there and cramming them both onto one cassette. The label has already proven with just a few releases under its belt that it has a knack for digging up killer black metal, but this nasty little bastard of a tape proves they’re no one trick pony. In one corner, we have French horde Skelethal and in the other Swedish psychos Inisans; it’s an old school DM battle royal that sees them serving up four tracks each of blood, guts and buzzsaw riffs.
When I offhandedly remarked via social media that I wanted to see more people writing about Metallica’s “crappy albums,” I had no idea that it would lead to the biggest crossover since Marvel vs. DC. But when Jordan Campbell of the mighty Last Rites called me out, challenging me to an inter-site throwdown on Lars and Co.’s dark ages, I had no choice but to put my money where my mouth is for a track-by-track death match. Head on over to Last Rites to read Jordan’s intro and us wreaking havoc on Side A of Metallica (aka The Black Album), and then come on back over to THKD for the Side B carnage below.