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.
2013 has already been a hell of a year for metal. Unlike last year, which saw an overwhelming avalanche of stellar releases, 2013 so far has been more akin to 2011, which was all about quality over quantity. Granted, we’re only halfway through, but at this point I’m still finding it very easy to separate the wheat from the chaff, which certainly wasn’t the case at this time last year. I’m not particularly interested in make lists at this point, but I am interested in taking a look back at what’s transpired so far; it’s always good to recap in order to keep things fresh in your mind and fight the urge to fall back on listening to old shit.
I’ve been meaning to check out New Zealand’s Beastwars for quite some time, but I’m ashamed to admit that the band somehow got lost in the disheveled and disorganized avalanche that is my “bands to check out” list when their self-titled debut was released back in 2011. In spite of this grievous error, it would appear the metal gods chose to smile upon me anyway, as my colleague Craig Hayes recently hooked me up with a promo of the band’s second album Blood Becomes Fire on the band’s behalf. Just one spin of the quartet’s sophomore opus had me cursing myself for a goddamn fool for not getting ’round to them sooner, because not only is this bad mama-jama right up my alley, it’s one of the all-around best metal albums I’ve heard so far in 2013.
2012 has been more stressful than a motherfucker; probably one of the most all-around stressful years of my life. Buying a house + assorted family and work-related issues that I wouldn’t even dream of getting into here managed to turn the year into a goddamn pressure-cooker. I’m pretty sure the only things that kept me alive were my wife’s unwavering love (and limitless patience) and an avalanche of incredible music. In 2011 I was feeling pretty jaded and dissatisfied with the state of heavy metal, this year I found myself feeling better about things than I have in years. That isn’t to say there weren’t great albums released in 2011, there were, but in 2012 I felt like there was so much greatness that I couldn’t possibly keep up with it all.
Roughly 5 months ago, Brandon Duncan (whom you may know from The Sequence of Prime) contacted me with an idea; let’s start a new online metal zine. Typically I prefer to work alone, but Brandon’s enthusiasm is contagious and I’m proud to call him my friend, so there was absolutely no way I could refuse. Brandon gathered an ace design team while I hand-picked some of my favorite writers from internet metal land with the express purpose of creating something new and unique, to drag the old school metal zine into the future, come Hell or high water with an emphasis on good old-fashioned writing and design.
After 5 months of hard work, I’m proud to present to all of you the fruits of our labors in the form of Backlit #0; fifteen pages of mind-melting music, art and literature.
Backlit / 0
Now available at backlitzine.com
Cover Art by Dan Harding
Raping Angels in America #1 / Joshua Haun
Angry Old Men / Jordan Campbell
Helpless Child / Dan Obstkrieg
Fucking The Future / Joshua Haun
Libations in the Labyrinth Vol. 1 / Dan Obstkrieg
Words That Wound / Dan Obstkrieg
Doomsday Device / Joshua Haun
Interview With Jester King Brewery / The Dragon of M87
Interview With Ashencult / Jordan Campbell
Art & Fiction:
Succubus in the Attic / Nikki Guerlain
Dan Harding: The Fine Art of Horror / Brandon Duncan
The Dragon of M87
I hope that you will all enjoy reading the first issue of Backlit as much as we enjoyed crafting it. This is only the beginning!
I always imagine splits as the musical equivalent of a pro wrestling cage match. Two bands locked in combat, duking it out for supremacy in an all-out slugfest; there is no escape, there must be a winner. No matter how great both bands may be, it is inevitable that the listener will find one more appealing than the other, essentially making him or her the “special guest referee.”
I’ve always been a sucker for Six Feet Under’s lumbering, primitive death-sludge. There’s just something about the catchy simplicity of the arrangements, along with Chris Barnes’ patented zombie-vomit vocals that hits the spot, a spot that the hordes of overly technical fret-wankers currently comprising much of the death metal scene could never hope to so much as tickle. You see, when everyone and their grandmother is writing mind-numbing five million note non-riffs, piling them haphazardly on top of each other and calling it a “song,” Six Feet Under’s deep, memorable grooves and concise songwriting approach are a breath of fetid air.
I first discovered Corrosion of Conformity during the mid-’90s Pepper Keenan (guitar/vocals) era; by then, they had fully traded in the crossover thrash of 1985′s Animosity album in favor of the swaggering, metallic southern rock of Deliverance and Wiseblood. That’s the COC I had come to know and love over the years, so I was admittedly apprehensive upon hearing that the band had reconvened without Keenan at the helm to record their first new material since 2005′s underrated In the Arms of God. Would they abandon the smoked-out stoner-isms that had made COC so near and dear to my heart in favor of revisiting the crossover days of yore? Would Keenan’s absense leave an unfillable hole in their sound?