Since 1995, Shai Hulud has been one of the leading lights of metalcore. I’m not talking about metalcore as in: “Hey! Let’s rip off Slaughter of the Soul and throw in some breakdowns!” I’m talking metalcore as in the metallic hardcore that evolved out of crossover; a true fusion of the heartfelt aggression of hardcore and the compositional complexity of heavy metal (ok, I know that description sounds like it came straight from a PR e-mail blast, but it’s the fucking truth).
As an unfortunate byproduct of growing up in the asshole of the Midwest, I live in a city, but I’ve never truly experienced The City. I’ve spent pretty extensive amounts of time in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis, but I’ve never fully immersed myself in the everyday chaos that is living in the clutches of of a wasteland dominated by skyscrapers and surrounded on all sides by unforgiving concrete and steel. I’ve never lived in that grotesque, hyper-active human funk that I imagine city life to be; I’ve only been a long-term guest at best, a lame-ass tourist at worst. Fortunately I can live vicariously through Diapsiquir’s A.N.T.I., an album that epitomizes what I imagine existence in the bowels of urban Hell to be.
As the old school death metal revival reaches critical mass, the men are beginning to separate themselves from the mice; the bands that mean it, maaan are putting out seriously shit-kicking records in order to show they’ve got what it takes to hang with the old guard and then some. One such group of hungry young upstarts is Sao Paulo’s The Black Coffins. Possessing the South American penchant for filth ‘n’ fury and combining it with the gut-busting rumble of Stockholm Swe-death, these metal miscreants are putting other would-be OSDM practitioners on notice with their debut full length, Dead Sky Sepulchre.
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.
I think I was the only person in the world that wasn’t excited about the prospect of a new Pig Destroyer album. After the grinding greatness that was Prowler in the Yard and the warped masterpiece that was Terrifyer, the band’s fourth album, 2007′s Phantom Limb, was a total letdown. It wasn’t that Phantom Limb was bad by any means, but with its emphasis on longer compositions, breakdowns and grooves, it simply wasn’t what I wanted from a Pig Destroyer album, and as a result it failed to resonate with me. So, when the news broke that the Virginia-based grinders would be unleashing their first batch of new material in half a decade in the form of Book Burner, and the wheels of the hype machine subsequently started to turn, it only served to further lessen my enthusiasm for a long-overdue album from a band that had seemingly “lost it.”
If you were to listen to Early Graves’ Red Horse without knowing anything about the band’s history, you’d probably never guess that this is a band that has risen from the ashes of tragedy. This is not a band that sounds broken down or beaten; this is a band that sounds lean, mean and hungry, ready to raise Hell and rip some fucking heads off. It is a testament to Early Graves’ intestinal fortitude that they were not only able to recover from losing their original vocalist in a horrible accident, but to write, record and release their definitive album (so far) in the process.
The last time I wrote about Early Graves, it was with a heavy heart. A planned review of their 2010 album Goner became a lamentation of vocalist Makh Daniels, whose life had been taken in a van accident while the band was out on tour. I assumed it was to be the first and last time I would write about the devastating young quintet who had shown so much promise. However, the remaining members of Early Graves regrouped, making the undoubtedly difficult decision to soldier on with new screamer John Strachan (also of The Funeral Pyre) at the helm, proving the old cliche that you just can’t keep a good band down. The result is Red Horse, a snorting, stomping, snarling beast of a recording that’s beyond a shadow of a doubt the San Franciscans’ most potent statement to date. The album isn’t out until October 30th, but Early Graves are already hitting the road hard, bringing their patented brand of pure Hell to the stage.
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.
Napalm Death are an institution. In three decades of existence, they have remained at the forefront of extreme music, constantly evolving and refining their sound while at the same time staying true to the band’s roots in early grindcore and punk. Despite the fact that there are no original members left in the lineup, they have never faltered in quality or watered down their singular vision in order to get ahead; their integrity and dedication has become something of a gold standard by which all other grindcore bands are judged. Utilitarian is Napalm Death’s fourteenth album, and it finds the band sounding as potent and relevant as ever.
I don’t listen to a lot of hardcore, but I fucking love Blood For Blood. While other hardcore bands are preaching unity, positivity, straight edge, blah blah blah, Blood For Blood are getting shit-faced, hating everything that breathes and generally fucking up your world. Their music is a bludgeoning, nihilistic fist in the face and their lyrical tough guy-isms aren’t mere posturing; Blood For Blood are tough because life as they know it is complete and utter shit.