As those of you that have the misfortune of following me on social media may know, Mrs. THKD and I have packed up the fortified bunker and are moving halfway across the country from the bowels of the Midwest to Sacramento, California. The truck is loaded, the house is sold and we’ll be leaving in less than a week. I’m still waiting for it to feel real. Right now it feels like a dream. I tried so hard to get the hell out of this state after college, and all I got in return were some nice rejection letters to show for it.
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.
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.
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.
Ride the Lightning is hands down my favorite Metallica album. I also believe that it’s front-to-back Metallica’s best album. While many metalheads point to Master of Puppets as the Bay Area quartet’s finest hour, Ride the Lightning was the first album to showcase all of Metallica’s strengths, the sonic trademarks that would ultimately propel them not only to the top of the thrash metal heap, but all of heavy metal.
I first discovered Bay Area black metal band Crebain via a split CD he did w/ Leviathan back in 2004, instantly becoming enamored with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/mastermind Ancalagon the Black’s abrasive yet catchy take on traditional black metal. Whereas so many USBM bands are all about atmosphere, Crebain is all about THE RIFF; just listen to “Cold Black Heart” from the aforementioned Leviathan split or “Darkness Be My Bride” from the equally awesome Night of Stormcrow demo for proof of Ancalagon’s mastery of scathing six-string malignance. Moribund Cult’s website stated that they were set to release a Crebain full length, and I patiently waited…
Mysterious Bay Area quartet Bosse-de-Nage have quickly risen to become one of the most compelling bands in the US black metal scene. After releasing two stellar albums with the up-and-coming Flenser Records, the band has moved over to the equally mighty Profound Lore for III, a recording that sees them continuing to push their unique take on the genre ever further towards the fringes, creating something that’s as surreal as it is scathing.
California’s Flenser Records has become one of the go-to labels for infinitely interesting black metal and doom releases over the past few years, and Lament, the debut EP from the mysterious black metal entity known as Obolus is no exception. Information on the band is virtually non-existent; their Metal Archives page yields no answers and the Flenser is keeping things decidedly on the down-low when it comes to details. I prefer my black metal with a dose of mystique and it’s fun to speculate about Obolus’ origins; is this the the work of one twisted individual or a like-minded group of musicians? Who are they and where do they come from? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as long as the music’s good, and lament is certainly one of the better black metal releases I’ve come across so far in 2012.