A word on brutality.

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Brutal death metal bands often get accused of promoting misogyny and violence.  I was thinking about this the other day while listening to Abusing Dismembered Beauties, the third and most recent album from Italian slammers Vulvectomy.  Here I am, enjoying an album adorned with cover art that features a variety of gruesomely murdered/mutilated women and song titles such as “Deformed Tits Collection” and “Orgasmic Sensation Through Fecal Ingestion.”  I guess at this point my fondness for slam and brutal death metal is no secret, but surely many fellow metalheads would call it in extremely poor taste, ignorant, hateful, misogynistic or some combination thereof.

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Swine Overlord – Parables of Umbral Transcendence (Gore House Productions, 2014)

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“Mature” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of brutal death metal, hell it probably isn’t the five-hundredth word one thinks of.  But I’ll be damned if Parables of Umbral Transcendence, the debut full-length from NY/FL-based project Swine Overlord isn’t a shockingly mature slab of BDM.  The band has largely shed the slam leanings and cartoonish visual imagery of their earlier recordings in favor of a more pure brutal death metal sound accompanied by science fiction-influenced artwork, and as a result have released one of the genre’s best albums of 2014.

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Dispirit and the art of total immersion.

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As a heavy metal fan, I’ve seen dozens of amazing shows.  But I can probably count on one hand the number of shows that fully immersed me, the ones that made real life and all the horrific mundanity that goes with it melt away completely, the ones that made me feel like I was alone in the universe with nothing but the band and the music.  Dispirit’s headlining set at the Starlite Lounge last Sunday night was one of them.

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Dropdead / Full of Hell / Noisem / Plague Widow / RAD @ Midtown Barfly, Sacramento, CA 08/24/14

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My second show in Sacramento was in some ways a throwback to my younger years in Des Moines; I used to walk down to Hairy Mary’s by myself to see shows because my sorry ass didn’t have a car and to make matters worse I didn’t know anyone else who gave a shit about the underground.  Not being much of a grindcore fan, my wife decided to sit out Sunday’s matinee at the Midtown Barfly, and as a result I found myself flying solo once again, which is always a delightfully awkward experience given that I’m not exactly the most outgoing person out there.  Also, many of those shows I hoofed it to back in the day were heavy on grindcore bands such as Black Market Fetus, Strong Intention, Catheter, Entrails Massacre and Phobia, to name but a few, so I was excited to experience a show in a similar vein in my new city.  A complete and utter lack of social skills doesn’t matter much when you’re being pummeled at a million miles an hour by some of the most vicious and unrelenting music out there.

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Fiends at Feast / Tragic Death – Purgatory Rites (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, 2014)

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I’ve been following Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast ever since they self-released the excellent Shadows of Extinction EP back in 2011.  In that time, they’ve signed to up-and-coming metal label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and released an impressive debut full-length in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, an album that saw the band building upon their already considerable strengths, sharpening their songwriting and upping the musicianship factor.  Continuing to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built for themselves over the past three years, the Fiends are back with what might be their most compelling set of songs yet on Purgatory Rites, a split with Madison, Wisconsin’s previously unknown (to me) Tragic Death.

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Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast, 2014)

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If there is one thing metal critics hate, it’s consistency.  Satan forbid a band should find a sound that works for them (not to mention their fans) and stick with it, dooming their albums to forever be referred to in print as “more of the same” “a rehash” “nothing you haven’t heard before” etc, etc.  Luckily, I’m not a critic, and I love it when bands I enjoy give me exactly what I want. Such is the case with Austrian black/death heavyweights Belphegor, who’ve returned from an uncharacteristic three year silence with Conjuring the Dead.  To say that it’s everything you’d expect from a Belphegor record would probably be the understatement of the decade, but predictability isn’t much of a factor when what you’re predicted to do is kick ass.

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Harassor – Into Unknown Depths (Dais Records, 2014)

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One of my favorite things about digging into the metal underground is when one great band leads me to another great band.  That’s exactly what happened when Lord Time mastermind Andorkappen (aka Sandor GF) turned me on to Harassor, the LA black metal trio he plays drums for.  They’ve just released their fourth full length, Into Unknown Depths, via Dais Records and it’s a damn fine slab of bulldozing USBM if ever there was one.

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