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.”
In spite of kicking around the death metal scene since 1988, Chicago’s Broken Hope rarely get their due in underground circles. These wholesome, well-mannered Midwestern boys made good have often been unfairly labelled a lower-level band; granted, metal acts from this neck of the woods are often denied the props they deserve, but whether you like it or not, there’s no doubt that legions of brutal death metal, slam and goregrind practitioners owe something to Broken Hope’s lethal combination of ultra-guttural vocals, beyond gross-out lyrics and thick, bone-crunching grooves. Now, after almost a decade-and-a-half of silence, the influential quintet have returned with a rejuvenated lineup and a flesh-ripping album in the form of Omen of Disease.
Melodic death metal isn’t exactly the most fashionable subgenre within the metal underground in 2013. Fortunately, no one appears to have mentioned this to Columbus, Ohio’s Kingsblood, who’ve committed two stout-hearted tracks of pure melodeath to wax for Trudging Through the Field of Crows, their second EP and first release for up-and-coming vinyl porn purveyors Gogmagogical Records. It might not be “hip,” but when done well the style can both kick your ass and lodge itself deep within your skull, and judging by this pair of crushing tracks, Kingsblood have the formula down pat.
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.
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.
Among the heavy metal subgenres most likely to turn the average underground ‘head into a piping hot cup of haterade, groove metal (sometimes referred to as post-thrash, closely related to alternative metal and industrial metal) surely sits at or near the top of the list. Blamed for contributing to the death of thrash, the spawning of nu metal and for bringing scores of jock-strap-polishing meatheads into the scene (among other things), groove metal is quite possibly the most battered and beaten of the genre’s red-headed stepchildren. However, its most heinous crime in the eyes of most NWN! message board-dweller types is that it is a product of the nineties, that decade where everything went to shit for a legion of ’80s-worshipping metal miscreants, many of whom continue to dab at bitter tears with the unwashed corners of their patch vests while clutching at their Nihilist demo cassettes to this very day.
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.
In the world of heavy metal circa 2013, making a comeback is harder than ever before. There are so many bands popping up out of the woodwork and so many albums being released on a weekly basis, that fans are faced with a constant avalanche of new product, which in turn means it’s difficult for any band to stand out from the pack, whether new kids on the block or crafty veterans. Furthermore, with the internet now being such an important part of spreading metal to the masses, things move so fast that even going a year without releasing new material feels like an eternity. But it is still possible for a band to rise up from the ashes of inactivity and recapture their rightful place amidst the metal pantheon, as the following trio of bands has proven.
Somehow, VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show has been running for twelve(!) seasons. If you haven’t seen this show, let me give you a brief rundown: two horrifically unfunny comedians (Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine) wearing band t-shirts a stylist picked out for them attempt to talk metal and hard rock with a portly radio personality (Eddie Trunk) who prides himself in knowing everything there is to know about said genres, but instantly transforms into a butt-hurt five-year-old when it turns out he doesn’t know something, or when one of the comedians makes fun of him, or when one of the guests makes fun of him… basically he spends around 80% of the show being butt-hurt. Guests, which are occasionally people you’d actually want to see interviewed (e.g. Lemmy, Paul Di’Anno, Ace Frehley, Rob Halford, etc), but typically consist of a who’s who of hair metal has-beens, come on and have their asses kissed like they’ve never been kissed before, which is probably wonderful for their egos but pretty annoying to just about everyone else.