When it comes to metal shows in Des Moines, it’s either feast or famine. The month of April is proving to be quite the feast, boasting tour stops from genre luminaries such as Broken Hope, The Lurking Corpses and Embryonic Devourment. But the show I’ve probably been looking forward to the most was a three-headed beast; a headlining set from legendary German thrashers Destruction, supported by Brazilian brutal death metal trio Krisiun and SoCal up-and-comers Exmortus.
What’s in a name? I’ll tell you what’s in a name, or rather, what’s not in a name in the case of California doom mongers Weightlessness. After listening extensively to the band’s Of Lachrymose Grief, I’ve decided that their chosen moniker couldn’t possibly be any more of a misnomer. You see, “weightlessness” indicates an absence of weight, but this debut EP wields enough down-tuned heft to sink their entire home state into the sea and then some.
In recent months, I have come to know Los Angeles, California’s Lord Time as one of the most challenging and idiosyncratic artists in American black metal. Sole member Andorkappen has crafted a distinctive, enthralling vision that’s thoroughly black, yet at times is only tethered to black metal by the thinnest of threads, incorporating elements of drone, ambient and noise to create dense musical tapestries that are nightmarish, surreal and at times abstract to the point where music transforms into pure, free-form sound exploration. Lord Time’s second album, Black Hole at the End of the Tunnel (henceforth referred to as BHATEOTT) was originally issued on cassette back in 2011, but now sees a vinyl re-release via Andorkappen’s own Universal Consciousness label.
A man cannot live by metal alone. The problem is, I don’t keep up with other styles of music as obsessively and consistently as I do metal, so when I want something new to listen to that falls outside the genre, I’m often at a bit of a loss. Not sure where to turn, I recently started trawling Bandcamp to see if I could find anything of note that didn’t involve screaming, Satan, loud guitars and the like. Most of the bands I found were total duds, but after much intense searching I stumbled across the Los Angeles trio Ghost Noise, and suddenly all was right with the world.
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.
The first time I heard/saw Slayer was on Headbanger’s Ball. It was either the video for the atmospheric yet pummeling “Seasons in the Abyss” or the flat-out face-fucking bulldozer that is “War Ensemble.” I was just starting to get into heavy metal in those days, and Slayer blew me away with their intensity and darkness; they seemed way more evil than Megadeth or Metallica, which I was already quite familiar with, and in those days, especially being confined to Catholic school for seven hours a day, the more evil, the better. It was love at first sight. From there, I slowly started buying up Slayer’s back catalog with my meager allowance money, reveling in the Satanic-sounding, speed-demonomania that was their early career.
Given the players involved and the label putting it out, it’s quite surprising that there hasn’t been more hype surrounding the release of Vhöl’s self-titled debut album. I mean, we’re talking about a band that includes current/former members of the likes of Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra, YOB and Agalloch on the goddamn mighty Profound Lore for chrissakes; if ever there was a modern band that should be having the term supergroup lobbed at its feet, it’s surely Vhöl. And while I (fortunately) haven’t seen too many folks chucking the dreaded “s word” about in reference to this quartet of West Coast killas, their opening salvo is nonetheless pretty gosh darn super.
Hot on the heels of last year’s excellent Cold of Ages (review HERE), California black metallers Ash Borer are back with Bloodlands, an EP set to be released by everyone’s favorite vinyl porn purveyors, Gilead Media. The quintet have already proven themselves to be among the finest of the current crop of young upstart USBM bands, and Bloodlands not only cements their position but continues to build upon the impressive foundation they’ve assembled for themselves across a handful of splits, demos and full lengths.
Technical death metal, brutal death metal, slam death metal… it’s all sort of one big subgenre mish-mash to me; bands classified as one of these often have elements of one or both of the other two in their sound. It’s not a type of death metal I listen to often; I nearly tech deathed and brutal deathed myself to uh, death during college (did they even have slam death metal back then?), when I was knee-deep in bands like Atheist, Anata, Gorguts, Suffocation, Psycroptic, Necrophagist, Aborted, Devourment, etc, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate simplicity and primitivism over flashy guitar-work and five-million-mile-per-hour blast beats (which is probably why I listen to way more black metal than death metal these days). But every so often I can’t help but get a hankering for this crazy shit, so I have little choice but to dive in headfirst and see what the fuck the kidz are listening to these days…
Flenser Records continues to be a haven for the latest and greatest in Bay Area black metal with this rad split cassette between Palace of Worms and Mastery, also available for free download from the label’s Bandcamp page. Both bands are one man affairs; California seems to be quite the fertile breeding ground for solitary black metal entities (see also: Xasthur, Leviathan, Crebain, Draugar, et al.) and Palace of Worms and Mastery uphold the level excellence that’s come to be expected from the Golden State’s corpse painted isolationist contingent.