There are few things that please me more right now than this resurgence we’re currently seeing in the gothic sounds of the 1980s within the realm of heavy music. It appears that metal musicians have taken a shining to the the stuff of late, or maybe they’re getting bored with metal, or perhaps they always had it and are only now allowing themselves to cut loose and release the bats. Whatever the case, Helsinki’s Beastmilk are absolutely killing it with their debut album, Climax.
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.
Rumors of deathrock’s uh, death, are greatly exaggerated. Pinkish Black proved it was still alive and well with their excellent self-titled debut earlier this year, and now Portland, Oregon’s Atriarch have knocked it out of the goddamn park with Ritual of Passing. This isn’t your granddaddy Rozz Williams’ deathrock though. While it might be built on a tortured foundation similar to what bands like Christian Death were putting down back in the day, Atriarch breaths new life into the genre by incorporating the musical vocabularies of doom and black metal into their approach, making their brand of diseased heaviness that much more, well, deathly.
I must admit, I was late to the party on Brown Jenkins; I didn’t hear them until the inimitable Nathan T. Birk sent me a copy of Death Obsession while he was doing PR work for the once prominent black metal label Moribund Cult. I fell instantly in love with the band’s spellbinding attack, which blended elements of black metal, doom and gothic rock with an appropriately Lovecraftian sense of dread and crumbling sanity. I gave the album a glowing review for the now-defunct Sonic Frontiers(dot)net and subsequently came into contact with band mastermind Umesh Amtey. That correspondence blossomed into a friendship that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying for several years now; although Amtey and I have never met in person, I consider him a close comrade and look forward to the day when we can raise our glasses together in the same room.
As a result of our friendship, I’ve had the distinct privilege of watching the next phase of Amtey’s musical journey come into being. The Ash Eaters shares some traits with Brown Jenkins, but is an all together different beast. The guitar-work is more complex, the arrangements are more frantic, attacking the listener from every direction, while at the same time remaining catchy and memorable; Amtey has drawn from a wide range of influences and pushed them forward in every way imaginable.
I’ve been waiting for my chance to interview Mr. Amtey, so when he finally gave Ruining You, the debut Ash Eaters full length, to the world after a string of shorter releases, I knew the time had finally come. While I’ve had many private conversations with him regarding his musical history, motivations, influences, etc, I wanted to afford my readers the same opportunity to learn more about this truly unique individual and the excellent music he’s been releasing over the past several years. I contacted Mr. Amtey via e-mail for the following interrogation.
Every year as Halloween approaches, I begin doing things to put myself in the mood to enjoy that most horrific of holidays; decorate the house with all manner of skulls, queue up a slew of horror DVDs, revisit the literary genius of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and most importantly, scare up some appropriately creepy tunes to celebrate the Season of the Witch. Though I typically pick out entire albums rather than individual songs, I thought it might be fun this year to compile a morbid mixtape to share with you, my loyal THKD readers. So, grab a handful of candy corn and gather ’round the jack-o-lantern, not for ghost stories, but for a night of unspeakable audio terror. Although there were many tracks from a variety of genres that could’ve been worthy of inclusion, I decided to keep things as much on the metal side as possible, in the true spirit of THKD. The player is embedded directly below this paragraph, followed by an explanation of each track. Enjoy or die.
Of all the great heavy music that’s happened in 2012, I find myself being the most interested in the handful of bands that have openly defied the trappings of heavy music both musically and conceptually, while at the same time being embraced by the metal community. I’m thinking of bands such as Wreck and Reference, Menace Ruine and Author & Punisher; bands that have forged unique and innovative identities for themselves without adhering to the guitar/bass/drums format. You can add Fort Worth, TX duo Pinkish Black to that short list; their self-titled debut album is a drums/synth/loops/voice fuelled exercise in gothic/death rock exellence that nods to the past as it creeps towards the future.
For the past several years, I’ve felt very close to death. No matter what direction life has taken me in, it seems that death is there to meet me at every turn, taking away family, friends and acquaintances with a disturbing frequency. In the past month alone both my cousin and an old college professor have passed from this mortal coil, both well before their time. This increasing familiarity with death has indeed bred contempt; contempt for the callousness and randomness with which it has wrenched my loved ones from this already painful existence. Of course, no one in their right mind is fond of death, but the inordinate number of deaths I’ve had to weather recently has served to make me despise life’s final chapter that much more, if such a thing is possible.
Since 2011, The Ash Eaters have been releasing a steady stream of demo tracks, EPs and cover songs. The band continuously evolves with each new endeavor; guitarist/vocalist/evil genius Umesh Amtey is seemingly always refining and tweaking his approach, while at the same time expanding upon it in order to explore even darker, more twisted musical vistas. At this point my friendship with Mr. Amtey is well documented; it has been a joy to share in his excitement as the project has grown from the embryo that was last year’s Cold Hearts demo to the full-grown beasts of The Cruel Side EP and now the mesmerizing Ibn Ghazi EP.
I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about checking out Wreck and Reference when I first heard about them. As deep an appreciation as I have for forward-thinking heavy music, I still have at least one foot (or maybe just a toe?) stuck in the old school, which means a metal band that doesn’t wield a single guitar of any kind throws up a huge red flag. I know, I know, it seems silly and more than a tad close minded, but hey, we all have our hang-ups; at the end of the day, I’m a guitar guy, a fucking RIFF guy, so I’m bound to approach a band like Wreck and Reference, who lack the one instrument that is in my opinion the foundation of heavy metal as the Gods (Iommi, Mustaine, Warrior, Quorthon, etc) intended it, with extreme caution.
Utterly embarrassed as I am to admit it, I’m no stranger to bouts of misogyny. Prior to meeting my phenomenal wife, my romantic dealings with the opposite sex were, to put it mildly, less than stellar (I’m sure this surprises no one). From my first “real” girlfriend breaking my heart over a decade ago, to the woman I let repeatedly grind my soul to dust my senior year of college, to countless instances of rejection and other assorted shittiness that would take ages to properly recount, I had been left with a bad taste in my mouth and a fuckload of bitterness before a raven-haired goddess rescued me from the rut I was in. As a result, I treated the few women that dared to try to get close to me like complete shit (this was totally undeserved and my petty way of getting back at the fairer sex as a whole, I reckon) and was generally distrustful and disrespectful towards any woman who wasn’t a blood relative or counted among my inner circle.