Glassjaw - Material Control
Fifteen years have passed since Glassjaw graced the music scene and our ears with their critically acclaimed second LP, Worship and Tribute. Though the Long Island-based post-hardcore unit has released two crushing EPs in Our Color Green and Coloring Book since then, fans were hungry for more from the iconic duo of vocalist Daryl Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck. After years of touring, recording, and cautious optimism, Material Control has been released to the masses, a reward for devoted fans who have waited patiently all these years. A band known for their massive influence, integrity, and artistic creativity, Glassjaw is one act that never lost their instinct to be and do more than the average band, and have returned once again to provide us with one of the best records of the year.
Material Control starts off with the explosive “New White Extremity,” a track previously released in 2015 as a single. The palpable energy in Beck’s riffs immediately push your face into the dirt, closely accompanied by the relentless drumming of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s own Billy Rymer, who meshes well with the intricate guitarwork and dirty, distorted bass lines and consequently shines. Coming in second is “Shira,” which blends chugging riffs with Palumbo’s wide variety of vocals influences, ranging from Fugazi to The Cure, and the bone-cutting guitar play and scathing vocals remain the trend throughout “Citizen” and “Golgotha,” which bring the metallic noise rock a la The Jesus Lizard and, to an extent, Converge like few Glassjaw songs have in the past. “Strange Hours,” the quietest track on the album, almost sounds like something you’d hear on a Sade record but it works beautifully as Glassjaw, never a band to shy away from experimentation, are frankly really good at stepping outside of their comfort zone. Here, Palumbo’s delicate, emotional vocals lends the song’s swirling soundscapes an even more dreamlike quality.
The world music influences of “Bastille Day” create an alluring halfway mark and instrumental intermission, even approaching film score territory. It’s followed by possibly one of the heaviest Glassjaw songs to date: ”Pompeii.” The seventh track promotes vigorous headbanging, and Palumbo’s earsplitting screams invites us to share in his anger over unjustifiable war. The next three songs don’t let up for a moment, burning down everything in their path: there’s the doomy “Bibleland 6,” the fast-paced punk of “Closer,” and the grooving “My Conscience Weighs a Ton” before the album comes to a halt with an eponymous instrumental track, which itself segues into the final track, “Cut and Run.” Though it feels a bit anti-climactic for a finale, it’s two minutes of glory and a suitable final blow for a band that’s hardly let up on pummeling the listener.
Running a little over 30 minutes, Material Control is a well-crafted example of songwriting economy. Virtually no time is wasted on the album as songs bleed into each other, and yet nothing feels forced or unexplored. The instrumentation is as adrenaline-pumping and professional as it was fifteen years ago despite all the various adjustments to the Glassjaw sound, and once more, Glassjaw prove why they’re regarded as a bastion of heavy alternative music. Was this record worth the wait and hype? I personally believe so, but the die-hard fans of the Worship and Tribute era may be left feeling a little disappointed. I can see this record coming off bland if you aren’t fully paying attention (or if you’re more of a casual fan), but it’s important to keep in mind that this is not, and was never intended to be, Worship and Tribute. Fans should have seen this coming as far back as Coloring Book and its rampant experimentation, so don’t let the taste of nostalgia ruin what Material Control is: a classic, mature Glassjaw album to the core. At the end of the day, no matter what you or I think, Glassjaw will do whatever the fuck they want, whenever they want, and rightfully take their place in history as some of the best noise on the planet.
Stand Out Tracks: New White Extremity, Pompeii, My Conscience Weighs a Ton
FFO: At the Drive In, Deftones, Quicksand, good music
Editorial: MICHAEL TERRY WENT TO MANHATTAN TO ̶G̶ET̶ ̶T̶A̶T̶T̶O̶O̶E̶D̶ SOLELY TO MEET GLASSJAW ON THE DATE OF MATERIAL CONTROL’S RELEASE ( I CAN’T THINK OF A BETTER TITLE)
LMAO WHAT’S GOOD YOU FUCKING THURSDAY FANBOYS. THE REIGN OF FALSE POST-HARDCORE ENDS TODAY BECAUSE THE NEW GLASSJAW RECORD IS OUT AND IT'S ALMOST SURPASSED CHINESE DEMOCRACY IN THE SHEER AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT MAKING/TALKING ABOUT MAKING IT VS THE AMOUNT OF TIME IT'S EXISTED. BUT UNLIKE CHINESE DEMOCRACY, MATERIAL CONTROL HAS MORE THAN TWO GOOD SONGS AND DOESN'T HAVE THAT FUCKING WHACK DORK BUMBLEFOOT ANYWHERE ON IT SO ALREADY THEY'RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.
LMAO NOW THAT POST-HARDCORE’S BEEN RECLAIMED I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THE GUYS FROM WE CAME AS ROMANS GO BACK TO WORKING AT ZUMIEZ.
“HEY DIDN’T YOU SING IN THAT BAND THAT DID THAT SONG WHERE THE KID IS GROWING A TREE OUT OF HIS HANDS BECAUSE HE CUT HIMSELF OR SOME SHIT?”
“YEAH BUT THEN MATERIAL CONTROL CAME OUT AND I WAS BANISHED DO YOU WANT THESE WEED SOCKS OR NOT?”
CHECK IT I'M GOING UP TO NEW YORK TO THIS GLASSJAW MEET AND GREET TATTOO THING AND I'M KINDA CONCERNED ABOUT THIS BECAUSE
1.) I ALREADY HAVE A GLASSJAW TATTOO THAT TAKES UP THE MAJOUR-ITY (HEHE) OF MY LEFT BICEP
2.) IM TAKING THE LSAT TEST TOMORROW MORNING
3.) I CAN’T ASSURE ANYONE THAT I WON'T JUST START CRYING IF I MET DARYL PALUMBO, OR LIKE BLURT OUT THAT I NAMED MY CAT AFTER HIM OR SOMETHING ELSE THAT WOULD SEEM KIND OF CRINGEY COMING OUT OF THE MOUTH OF A 23-YEAR-OLD MAN
IDK IM GOING TO BE GOING THROUGH A CRUEL EXODUS TO REACH THE CITY (READ: I'M USING THE METRO NORTH) THE SHOPS AT LAFAYETTE SO MAYBE I'LL GO TO SUPREME AND BEAT UP A SOUNDCLOUD RAPPER OR SOMETHING IDK
(UPDATE: I WALKED PAST SUPREME BUT IT WAS CLOSED AND THERE WAS A 15-YEAR-OLD JAPANESE KID KNOCKING AT THE DOOR ASKING WHY)
THE SAGA BEGINS:
I DID THE UNTHINKABLE AND ACTUALLY PAID HUMAN MONEY TO PRE-ORDER IT ON ITUNES AND THE DOWNLOAD WAS OUT OF ORDER AND APPLE WON'T LET ME REDOWNLOAD IT TO FIX IT SO IT'S STARTING OFF SWIMMINGLY.
I'VE GIVEN UP WITH ITUNES AND HAVE DOWNLOADED THE ALBUM ON SPOTIFY. IF I EVER MEET STEVE JOBS’S GHOST I'M GONNA PULL HIS TURTLENECK OVER HIS HEAD AND PUNCH HIM IN THE RIBS
THOSE LIL FACEBOOK REMINDER THINGS SERVED TO LET ME KNOW THAT IT'S BEEN EXACTLY TWO YEARS SINCE GLASSJAW FIRST RELEASED “NEW WHITE EXTREMITY” SO GOOD ON YOU GLASSJAW FOR SAYING NEW RECORD WILL BE OUT BUT NOT SPECIFYING THAT YOU MEANT THE FOLLOWING YEAR YOU SHIFTY BASTARDS.
I WANT TO TAKE THIS TIME TO SPECIFY THAT THE MOST VITAL ASPECT OF BEING A GLASSJAW FAN IS CONSISTENTLY BEING LET DOWN. I GREW UP EATING A LOT OF HAMBURGER HELPER SO THIS IS NOTHING TO ME
I LISTENED TO “NEW WHITE EXTREMITY” FOR LIKE THE FOUR THOUSANDTH TIME ON MY WAY TO WORK AND THOUGHT ABOUT HOW HARD IT WOULD BE TO EXPLAIN TO MY NIECES THAT I USED TO LISTEN TO THIS BAND BY TRANSFERRING MP3 FILES FROM MY COMPUTER TO A PSP WHEN MY NOT-PHONE IPOD WITH A LITTLE WHEEL THING BROKE.
LMAO HAVE YOU GUYS EVER SEEN DARYL PALUMBOS NUDES BECAUSE THEY’RE DEFINITELY ON THE INTERNET I'VE SEEN THEM LOL DARYL IS SO COOL I'M TOTALLY GONNA HAVE TO RESIST BRINGING THIS UP
LMAO I SAW SOME DUDE JUST ARGUE AND BREAK UP WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND AT THE TRAIN STATION ON SOME CASABLANCA SHIT LOL IMMA START SINGING “LA MARSEILLAISE” AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS
IM WAITING UNTIL I'M SITUATED ON THE HATE TRAIN BEFORE I START THE ALBUM SINCE I DON'T WANT IT TO BE INTERRUPTED SO RN I'M LISTENING TO A MONOMATE ALBUM FROM 2010
RT IF U CARE ENOUGH ABOUT EARLY AVGN EPISODES TO READ A RETROSPECTIVE ABOUT NINTENDOCORE I PROMISE I'LL ONLY TALK ABOUT HOW IGNORANTLY I PITTED FOR HORSE THE BAND FOR LIKE 3 PARAGRAPHS (I CROWD KILLED THE DRUMMER FROM RENA SURRENDERS DURING “MURDER” LMAO)
THERE'S A KID HERE WITH A MANBUN LMAO NO WAY
(UPDATE: THIS KID IS WITH A GROUP OF OTHER CHILDREN WITH MANBUNS THIS IS WHAT I'M MOST FEARFUL ABOUT REGARDING THE PROSPECT OF PARENTHOOD. LIKE CAN YOU IMAGINE SPENDING SO MUCH TIME AND EFFORT AND MAKING SO MANY SACRIFICES AND YOUR CHILD COMES OUT AS A TOPKNOT WEARING FUCCBOI?? THAT’S WORSE THAN ANYTHING ELSE BECAUSE IT’S COMPLETELY IN THEIR CONTROL TO STOP BUT THEY WON’T. THESE KIDS LOOK LIKE WALKING VERSIONS OF THAT MONKEY EMOJI WITH ITS HANDS COVERING ITS EYES.)
(UPDATE UPDATE: THESE KIDS STARTED TALKING AND THEY'RE MUCH YOUNGER THAN ORIGINALLY ANTICIPATED AND THEIR VOICES ARE SO SQUEAKY THEY'RE NOT EVEN FUCCBOIS THEY’RE FUCCLINGS)
NOTE: OKAY SO AT THIS POINT I JUST STARTED A STEADY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS NOTE ON MY IPHONE I PROBABLY LOOKED MAD THOUGHTFUL OR LIKE I WAS GETTING INTO A FIGHT OR SOMETHING BUT I WAS MOSTLY JUST MAKING SURE I DIDN’T ACCIDENTALLY USE A LOWERCASE)
OKAY ALBUM START TIME
LIKE I'VE MENTIONED BEFORE I'VE LISTENED TO “NEW WHITE EXTREMITY” A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF TIMES IN THE PAST TWO YEARS BUT GO DAMN IT’S A FUCKING BANGER I WILL NEVER NOT CAR MOSH TO IT
IDK IF THIS IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE OR NOT BUT I THINK THIS ALBUM WAS MADE WITH JUST JUSTIN AND DARYL AS OFFICIAL MEMBERS WITH JUSTIN PLAYING BASS AND GUITAR AND THAT 12-YEAR-OLD KID THAT PLAYS FOR DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN ON DRUMS
JUSTIN BECK ALSO PLAYED BASS ON WORSHIP AND TRIBUTE AND (I THINK) THE DON FURY SESSIONS AND I'LL BE COMPLETELY HONEST I THINK HE'S A MILLION TIMES BETTER AT BASS THAN GUITAR
WE JUST DROVE BY BLUEFISH STADIUM AND SEEING A D LIST MINOR LEAGUE TEAM YOU USED TO BE EXCITED ABOUT AS A KID AS AN ADULT IS A LITTLE LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU REALIZED A PARENT WAS DRUNK AND BEING AN IDIOT
THE LEAD IN FROM “NEW WHITE” TO “SHIRA” WAS A LOT BETTER THAN I WAS EXPECTING DESPITE IT BEING KIND OF A LACKLUSTER TRACK AFTER HOW NUTS “NEW WHITE” IS. THEN AGAIN ANYTHING WOULD SOUND WEAK AFTER “NEW WHITE”
ALL THE “WOOOOOHOOOOOS” IN IT REMINDS ME OF ALL THOSE BIZARRE NEW WAVE BANDS DARYL HAS MADE
IT KINDA REMINDS ME OF DEFTONES BUT I LIKE IT MORE THAN ANY DEFTONES SONG SINCE I DON'T PLAY DJENT AND I'M NOT TRYING TO IMPRESS ANYONE
OKAY SO FIRST NEW SONG I HAVEN'T ALREADY HEARD
ITS CALLED “CITIZEN” AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LAMPS OR FLORAL PATTERNS LMAO
THIS SONG GETS SOME MOSH RIFFS OFF THOUGH. I REALLY WANNA HEAR DARYL SCREAM. I FEEL LIKE HE HASN'T DONE ONE SINCE “LENNON” COME ON DARYL DO THAT” DAABAB;GAGBWWBAGPAGHEAUHWSHGAWGUW HYIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” THING YOU DID IN “SIBERIAN KISS” AGAIN IT'S BEEN LIKE 18 YEARS
I ACTUALLY HEARD THIS SONG LIVE WHEN I SAW GJ WITH VEIN A COUPLE WEEKS AGO
THEY WERE PLAYING THIS SONG WHEN MY FRIEND DANNY WENT TO THE BATHROOM CUZ HE DIDN’T KNOW THE SONG AND WA-
HOLY SHIT THAT CHUGGING PART IS TIGHT WOW DANNY YOU MISSED OUT LMAO (CHECK HIS BAND KIDNAPPED OUT THEY’RE THE BEST BAND IN CT)
(I WAS ALSO WITH MY FRIEND ERIC AT THAT SHOW TOO HIS BAND IS PRETTY LUSH, THEY USED TO BE CALLED BETTER HALF WHICH I LIKED MORE BECAUSE NO ONE IN PRETTY LUSH IS NAILED TO THE X. I PLAYED GUITAR ON THE FIRST TWO TRACKS ON THEIR FIRST ALBUM LOL IM NOT ON THE LAST ONE CUZ I NEVER LEARNED IT LMAO BLONDE ME WAS SOMETHING ELSE)
I HAD A MESSENGER CONVO ABOUT HOW CODE ORANGE USED TO BE HEAVY IN THE NEW ENGLAND EMO SCENE FOR A COUPLE YEARS DURING THE TIME IT TOOK FOR” STRANGE HOURS” TO GET PAST ITS INTRO
HMU IF YOU WANNA SEE THE PICTURE OF JAMI MORGAN RECORDING A GUEST SPOT FOR A THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE SONG IN SOME GUY IN NEW BRITAIN’S BEDROOM THAT THEY DELETED FROM THEIR TUMBLR WHEN THEY WENT FROM BEING :^/ IN ALL THEIR PROMO PICS TO BEING LIKE >:^( IN ALL THEIR PROMO PICS
THIS SONG IS CLOSER TO SOMETHING OFF OF COLORING BOOK WHICH IS A COOL CHANGE OF PACE FROM HOW THE ALBUM HAS BEEN
STILL WAITING FOR THE PALUMBO SCREAM THOUGH
I'M ON “BASTILLE DAY”
WHO PLAYS THE SPOONS ON THIS TRACK IS IT THE HOMELESS GUY FROM SOUNDGARDEN?
*ONE MINUTE INTO ”BASTILLE DAY”*
NEVER MIND NOW IT'S A CRASH BANDICOOT SONG
FIRST DARYL SCREAM
I'M GONNA MOSH INTO THE PERSON SITTING NEXT TO ME ON THIS TRAIN. SHE'S WEARING SUNGLASSES EVEN THOUGH IT’S A CLOUDY DAY IN DECEMBER AND SHE'S INSIDE
SONS OF ABRAHAM ARE BACK YOU FUCKING PUTZES. I BACK METALCORE GLASSJAW
I’M PICKING CHANGE OUT OF THE AIR RN. THEY'RE REALLY GETTING THEIR MONEY'S WORTH WITH THE DILLINGER KID FOR THIS ENDING
“BIBLELAND 6” SOUNDS LIKE IT'D BE AN ART PROJECT ABOUT HOLY LAND (THERE'S MY ESOTERIC CONNECTICUT JOKE FOR THE DAY)
I LIKE HOW SYNCOPATED THE RHYTHM SECTION IS AND THE MINI BASS SOLO/VOCAL BREAK
JUSTIN’S DOING SOME REAL DEAL “I GOT A HARMONIST PEDAL AT GUITAR CENTER” SOLO RIGHT NOW
THIS SONG “CLOSER” REALLY IS GOING FOR THE “WE LIKE MIND OVER MATTER” VIBE
(EDIT: APPARENTLY THEY ACTUALLY GOT THE GUY FROM MIND OVER MATTER TO DO A GUEST SPOT ON THIS ALBUM, JUST NOT THIS SONG LOL)
DARYLS VOCAL HARMONIES IN THIS KILLS THOUGH
LIKE GOD DAMN THAT LIL DUDE CAN REALLY BELT
I HEARD THIS SONG (“MY CONSCIOUS WEIGHS A TON”) AT THE VEIN SHOW TOO I ALSO GOT IT AS A POSTCARD FLEXI BUT I DON’T OWN A RECORD PLAYER BECAUSE THEY'VE NEVER PRESSED IOWA ON VINYL
THIS SONGS KINDA IN THE SAME LANE AS “SHIRA,” THAT SECOND HALF OF WORSHIP AND TRIBUTE / OUR COLOR GREEN STYLE WHERE THE-
SORRY HOLD ON THESE FUCKING RIFFINGTONS JUST CAME OUT OF NOWHERE
THERE’S A LOT OF SOLOS IN THIS ALBUM
HEY IT'S THE SONG I'VE HEARD A TRILLION TIMES ON INSTAGRAM LOL
THE MAIN RIFF TO “ALL GOOD JUNKIES GO TO HEAVEN” IS IN THE TOP 3 GJ GUITAR PARTS OF ALL TIME I DON'T BLAME THEM FOR REUSING IT
OKAY LAST SONG LET'S GET IT
WHAT THE FUCK IS UP THIS IS SOME BRING THE RUCKUS INTRO RIFF
"TAKE WHAT YOU PAY FOR" IS A SICK LINE
MOSH PARTS HAVE RETURN
NO WAY THIS IS MAD PRETTY NOW
AND IT’S OVER
JUST LIKE THAT
AFTER 15 YEARS GLASSJAW ENDS THEIR RETURN ALBUM WITH A DEAD CUT
WHAT A GLASSJAW THING TO DO
I LOVE THEM SO MUCH
FINNA RE-LISTEN TO THE ALBUM NOW TAKE IT EASY
I RE-LISTENED TO THE ALBUM AND I STILL THINK IT KICKS ASS LMAO SHUT UP NERDS
I'VE BEEN IN NYC FOR 34 SECONDS AND I'VE ALREADY SEEN A PERSON SLEEPING IN THEIR OWN PUKE
LITERALLY EVERY TIME I'M IN NEW YORK I GET ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS BY A TOURIST
LIKE LISTEN, I KNOW I'M FROWNING AND NOT LOOKING UP AND HAVE A BOX CUTTER IN MY POCKET BUT I'M FROM THE NUTMEG STATE.
I NEVER WILL UNDERSTAND NONNATIVE NEW YORKERS BECAUSE LIKE BOTH OF MY GRANDMOTHERS WOUND UP IN NYC AFTER FLEEING FROM NATIONS WITH GROWING POLITICAL STRIFE AND I WAS BORN IN CONNECTICUT SO I'M NOT ABOUT TO FUCK THIS UP FOR THEM
IVE REALIZED THE FUTILITY OF WALKING AND GOT A CAB
THAT TV THEY HAVE IN IT IS SO GRATING I SEE WHY PEOPLE TAKE TRAINS OR RIDE RATS OR WHATEVER. IF I HAVE TO SEE THE HOSTS OF THE CHEW GIVE ME A RECIPE USING LEFTOVER YAMS AGAIN I'M GOING TO RIP MARIO BATALI’S FEET FROM HIS CROCS WITH A CLAW HAMMER.
THE SHOP (FIVE POINTS TATTOO, NAMED AFTER THE GRAFFITI SPOT THAT WAS TORN DOWN TO MAKE GRAFFITI THEMED HOTELS FOR PEOPLE WHO’VE NEVER SMOKED ANGEL DUST I ASSUME) IS ABSOLUTELY STUFFED WITH PEOPLE LOL.
MY FRIEND IAN FROM THIS BAND FROM JERSEY CALLED BOOTH IS HERE (LISTEN TO BOOTH) WE PLAYED A SHOW TOGETHER WHERE NO ONE CAME CUZ TICKETS WERE FUCKING 15 DOLLARS WHICH FOR COMPARISON IS ONLY $4.33 LESS THAN THIS EVENT WAS AND NO ONE THAT NIGHT WROTE” SIBERIAN KISS”
YO SO I MET DARYL PALUMBO AND I'M STILL TRYING TO FATHOM HOW THAT HAPPENED 16-YEAR-OLD ME IS CRYING SO HARD
DARYL IS WEARING SILENT BY DAHIR DARMA PANTS, A LOOSE T-SHIRT THAT SEEMS LIKE IT’S 3 SIZES TOO BIG AND A PAIR OF DOC MARTENS. HE HAS SPECKLES OF GRAY PEPPERING HIS HAIR AND SMELLS REALLY NICE. HE KIND OF LOOKS LIKE THE COOL, UNMARRIED OLDER COUSIN ALL MY FRIENDS HAVE EXCEPT GOTH.
HE'S A DIMINUTIVE PERSON, 5’5, 120 POUNDS AT MOST, BUT HE HAS AN INCREDIBLE PRESENCE, SPEAKING WITH A GREAT DEAL OF HUMILITY WHILE MAINTAINING AN INVITING GREGARIOUSNESS; LAUGHING BOISTEROUSLY AND TALKING WITH GENUINE PASSION IN HIS VOICE. I'M LOW KEY KIND OF IN LOVE WITH THIS GUY
ALSO HOLY SHIT DADDY DARYL IS INFURIATINGLY HANDSOME LIKE GOD DAMN IF HE WAS JUST A LITTLE TALLER GLASSJAW WOULD PROBABLY HAVE BEEN A MORE POPULAR BAND LOL
ALSO DARYL AND I TOOK A HARDSTYLE AND THE CHANT WE DID WAS “FUCK SAVES THE DAY” LMAO. I MADE A JOKE ABOUT HIM BREAKING EDGE TOO I FLEXED MY “ I KNOW A LOT ABOUT GLASSJAW” MUSCLES
(IDK WHAT TIME THIS WAS BUT THERE WAS A GUY WHO FLEW IN FROM SCOTLAND AND THERE'S A KID WITH THE GLASSJAW X NIKE BLAZER AND I SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED ROBBING THIS KID FOR HIS SNEAKERS LIKE I WAS A VILLIAN IN A SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COMIC)
ME AND IAN GOT PIZZA. IT WAS OKAY.
NEW YORK PIZZA IS REALLY OVERRATED UNLESS YOU'RE FROM LIKE THE MIDWEST OR TRYING TO JUSTIFY WHY NEW YORK IS THE BEST TO PEOPLE THAT DON’T CARE.
@ NEW YORKERS IF YOU EVER USE THAT WHOLE “THA WAATAH FREM NEW YOHRK IS WHYS THE PIZZA IS SAH GRAAYT” EXCUSE IN MY PRESENCE I'M GONNA PUT THE ASBESTOS BACK IN YOUR SCHOOLS
OKAY SO AT THIS POINT THE TATTOO GUYS WERE ALL LIKE “LOL OOPS WE DIDN’T THINK ABOUT HOW WE WOULD MANAGE TO TATTOO 93 SOMETHING PEOPLE IN 3 HOURS OUR BAD HERE'S A VOUCHER YOU CAN STAY LONGER TO TRY TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS BUT IT’S NOT LIKELY. “
ABOUT HALF AN HOUR AGO I DECIDED TO TAKE UP THE RAIN CHECK. AS I’VE MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY I’M TAKING THE LSAT TOMORROW.
SO YEAH, MAYBE I SPENT ALMOST A HUNDRED DOLLARS BETWEEN TRAVELING AND TICKETS AND SHIT BUT HERE’S SOMETHING FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
1.) MY FAVORITE BAND RELEASED THEIR FIRST ALBUM IN 15 YEARS AND IT’S FANTASTIC
2.) GO FUCK YOURSELF
I’M ON THE TRAIN BACK TO CT AND I’M GOING TO LEAVE YOU DORKS WITH SOMETHING THAT I’LL CARRY WITH ME UNTIL THE DAY I DIE:
WHEN I WAS LEAVING THE SHOP I SAID GOODBYE TO JUSTIN AND DARYL AND THANKED THEM FOR YOU KNOW, BEING GLASSJAW. HERE’S A REALLY AWKWARDLY FORMATTED DIALOGUE EXCHANGE THAT I HAD:
ME: “HEY THANK YOU GUYS FOR EVERYTHING, SORRY I’M GONNA MISS YOU GUYS TONIGHT BUT I NEED TO GO BACK TO CONNECTICUT, I’M TAKING THE LSAT TOMORROW”
JUSTIN BECK: “OH NO SHIT, GOOD LUCK! WHAT DO YOU WANNA DO?”
ME: “IT’S FOR LAW SCHOOL, YA KNOW? I WANNA BE AN ATTORNEY”
JUSTIN: THAT’S FUCKING AWESOME. DONT FUCK IT UP AND GET A NECK TATTOO OR SOME SHIT”
JUSTIN, SIGNALING TO DARYL: “THIS KID’S TAKING A BIG TEST TOMORROW”
DARYL: “THAT’S GREAT, GOOD LUCK!”
JUSTIN: “WHAT KIND OF LAW DO YOU WANT TO PRACTICE?”
ME: “I WANT TO BE A TRASHY VALLEY LAWYER SO I CAN GET MY FRIENDS OUT OF TROUBLE AND UNDERMINE THE AUTHORITY OF COPS”
AT THAT POINT JUSTIN AND DARYL SMILED AT ME WITH A COMBINATION OF LAUGHTER AND PRIDE, AND SAID RESPECTIVELY:
“THAT’S THE BEST ANSWER TO ANYTHING I’VE EVER HEARD”
EVERYONE CAN SUCK MY DICK FOREVER.
Vitriol - Pain Will Define Their Death
Buy/listen on Bandcamp
It wasn’t hard for Those Who Lie Beneath to claim the throne of the heaviest deathcore band. An Awakening, their one and only record, is about as frightening a record as the subgenre ever produced, from its unnerving cover art to a visceral, tooth-and-nail sound that drew from the wells of death and black metal in large enough quantities to shame their competitors and chop the -core influences down to negligible levels. Somewhere along the way, depending on how you look at it, the band either lost members or consolidated; whatever the case, they became a three-piece and recorded what would go on to be one of the most jaw-dropping (and jaw-droppingly underappreciated) records of 2012 in Antichrist, three tracks of unadulterated, blistering death metal. With breakdowns and pig-squeals tossed out with the extraneous members, the core of the band was free to pursue its muses to their most brutal ends. The wait for a follow-up ever since has been all but excruciating.
It ended November 10, totalling five years since Those Who Lie Beneath became Vitriol. More than the name of the band has changed in the intervening period, but two quotes have come to define what’s presented on Pain Will Define Their Death more than any painstaking description of the maelstrom contained within it might. The first is a quote from Behemoth frontman Nergal, from around the time of the release of their career-defining record The Satanist, which I will have to paraphrase as I’m unable to find its origin: rather than approaching it with the meticulous, micromanagerial songwriting with which the band attacked Evangelion, The Apostasy, and so on, Behemoth largely wrote The Satanist by feeling and intuition, prizing emotion over technicality. This parallels comments Vitriol frontman Kyle Rasmussen made to Nine Circles for an artist profile, in which he states:
It all starts with the riff. I am first and foremost a guitar player. I don’t have a process in the conventional sense. It’s all a matter of picking up the guitar and fucking around until I trip onto something that moves me.
The other comes from Rasmussen himself. Prompted by a question regarding trends in the metal scene--“What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?”--Rasmussen’s reply, which I will repeat here in full to avoid neutering the point, resonated with me like few other interviews. It functions as both an incisive critique on the current state of the genre and a mission statement, offering us a rare window on the mindset of Vitriol’s chief songwriter and insights into Pain Will Define Their Death that might not normally have occurred to a listener:
Fuck the scene. To me “the scene” is synonymous with community. Metal, and its personal and subjective definition to me, has never been about community. It’s a solitary experience that has nothing to do with humanity. It is at odds with humanity. Metal is about a level of strength and commitment that transcends human nature. It’s about abandoning the standard of the human experience and being better, maintaining uncompromising integrity and an authentic identity and sense of self. It’s a superhuman philosophy. The metal scene is an oxymoron. For something that should be about pure self expression outside the clutches of cultural politics and trends to devolve into something so exclusive and totalitarian as the scene is a fucking tragedy. And this applies to any “scene.” You have to like the right bands, wear the right clothes, dislike the right bands, play the right gear, have the right aesthetic. Fuck you. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to sit at your table. I want to use your head as a stone while I climb over you to make something real. That’s the shit that speaks truth when the fickle trends ebb and flow. And I feel like that’s all there is now; a bunch of glorified renaissance fair kids playing dress up, romanticizing about generations and movements they had nothing to do with, writing records and riffs that were done better 20, 30, 40 years ago. It’s a joke. It’s a big party where metal, where music, is just background noise. It’s all socially driven and it’s repulsive.
As far as positive things occurring in metal music today, I’d say there’s nothing exclusive to this moment in time. We’re stuck in a very regressive moment in extreme metal. It seems that every popular genre is steeped in some form of retro fetishism. I think there’s a time and place for that, but I prefer to look forward and covet bands that share my sentiment. Positivity and progression is and has always been reflected in the bands and artists that reject trends and create honestly. Whenever I find a band that glimmers in the rough like that and has something fresh and authentic about their sound it reinforces my passion and inspires me. Achieving that has only become harder with technology and how oversaturated the offerings of the genre have become. More room for weekend warrior copy cat bands to pump out records on the cheap. Before now the level of commitment, money, and time required to make a record really helped weed out those who weren’t really driven. Overall I feel the accessibility to creating and sharing music is a positive thing, it has just simply made it more difficult and rare to find shit worth listening to, much less financially supporting.
There’s a barb for everyone here. The harshest sting is Ramussen’s comment on extreme metal’s ongoing “regressive moment” and “retro fetishism,” to which even Metal Lifestyle has made a small contribution in the American Metalcore Project, glorifying those “records and riffs that were done better 20, 30” years ago; it speaks also to death metal’s present fascination with “old school” death metal, a period so distinct that it’s been acronymized (OSDM) and aestheticized seemingly down to the last particle; and it speaks to thrash metal, which has all but eaten itself alive. Even the much buzzed-about Icelandic scene is, to paraphrase members of Svartidaudi, so indebted to Deathspell Omega (specifically their record Fas - Ite Maledicti in Ignem Aeternum) as to render it no less fetishistic--although we can be more flexible with that branch of extreme music, given its relative infancy.
But to get caught up in that is to ignore his most valuable insight: there are bands that share his sentiment, who don’t want to sit at that table either, and who can be “fresh and authentic.” Certainly, Deathspell Omega must be one of those bands, as a few strands of their demented black metal are woven into Pain Will Define Their Death, but as Rasmussen notes, it’s more an influence than an instance of copycatting. This is what listening to Vitriol is like, which is quite unlike most new acts of 2017: while it’s clear that the band have influences, they remain only that. They’re bound to semi-conventional song structures not as a result of laziness, but because some conventions exist for a reason: they work, and they give the artist room to prove the soundness of their craft within a certain set of parameters before they begin dismantling them. Sometimes the band become those parameters, but that’s not the case here. These are Vitriol songs through and through, and while it would be easy enough to go through the litany of adjectives to describe what they accomplish--punishing this, crushing that, and a lot of different ways to say “it’s fast and heavy and a little weird”--Pain Will Define Their Death deserves better.
Suffice to say that it is all those things. This is death metal without the “retro-fetishism,” a visceral and affecting piece of music that jars and shocks as often as it strikes awe and milks the adrenal gland. It’s not an easy record to put down; at three songs, it demands to be played multiple times in a row and inspires a craving for more by offering us just enough of the familiar to highlight the excitingly unfamiliar. Whether it’s truly ground-breaking is something its legacy will decide; for my money, it’s one of the best records of the year, and in tandem with the band’s obvious passion for the music and the thoughtful, no-bullshit conviction that powered these songs into existence, I think it’s ripe for discovery.
SECT - No Cure for Death
Stream on Bandcamp
SECT are a pretty interesting supergroup. Consisting of former members of Cursed, Undying, Earth Crisis, and Fall Out Boy, one would expect their sound to be diverse and eclectic. If that’s what you’re looking for in this band, then expect to be disappointed. SECT’s independently-released, self-titled 2016 album touted an aggressive mix of powerviolence, hardcore, and a bit of Swedish death metal for good measure. At only 16 minutes long, it provided a taste of what the outfit’s more-than-experienced members could do. With the band now signed to Southern Lord, one would hope the band could evolve their sound, and while this isn’t the case, the record most definitely has its moments.
SECT are at their best when they slow things down. The record’s two most memorable tracks, “Reality’s Wake” and “Avoidance Ritual,” bring its breakneck pace to a sludgy trod, injecting flavors of Entombed and a dose of crust to craft two straight-up bangers. The band shows flashes of this ingenuity in other songs as well: “Crocodile Prayers” and “Open Grave” contain stankface-worthy breakdowns that are sure to bring older fans of the band’s ex-projects right out of mosh retirement. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these moments throughout. While the record is well-written and enjoyable, the brevity of the majority of the tracks (as well as that patented HM-2 buzzsaw tone, the prevalence of which is rapidly losing its novelty) make the record a little hard to follow if you aren’t paying attention.
That’s not to say that the band are lacking in passion or energy. Chris Colohan sounds as angry as he did on those early Left for Dead releases, and his lyrics are thoughtful, socially relevant, and varied throughout the entire record. “Born Razed” rages against the growing wave of gentrification in cities across the nation, and “Crocodile Prayers,” again, attacks the disingenuous nature of organized religion.
If you enjoy angry, pissed off, crusty hardcore, this is definitely for you. If you’re searching for something a little more patient, look elsewhere, although I’m sure SECT will continue to do their thing regardless of what you or I think.
Saarkoth - Demo 2017
Buy/listen on Bandcamp
The point of a demo isn’t to create much of an atmosphere or to plumb every nook and cranny of a band’s sound. Its job is simply to present what a band can do and imply more and better things--in other words, a demonstration. That’s why these first twelve minutes of Saarkoth’s recorded output are so exciting. Hailing from Sheffield, UK, they cite Emperor, Winterfylleth, and Agalloch as influences, all prominent black metal bands with minor-to-major folk influences, all known for their attention to detail and vaunted ability to conjure moods and atmospheres. This isn’t name-dropping for the sake of association. Saarkoth mean it.
At only two tracks, there’s no point in talking about track ordering or anything of the like, but “Awake in Eternal Sleep” is inarguably a great place to begin. The production is expectedly lo-fi, both for the atmospheric black metal Saarkoth play and for a demo, and so isn’t much of an issue. The song immediately envelops the listener in forlorn riffage and a classic, galloping rhythm, leading us across familiar terrain: forlorn melodies grapple with Bathory-esque riffing before the song transitions into a midsection of haunted clean guitar, where the band’s Emperor makes a prominent showing. It’s pretty, and drums aside, it’s the sort of thing you could imagine echoing down the corridors of a forgotten castle in the wilderness sometime in the night; and the traces of violin (or, at least, another mournful stringed instrument) reinforce this impression. The electric guitar returns with an interpretation of that same funereal melody, guiding us toward the song’s emotional conclusion.
“Beyond the Horizon” begins more immediately, and sees the band in more garrulous form all around: the riffs come denser and more frequently, delivering a tasty, recurring groove at 0:27. It’s not quite a chorus, but it provides structure to a series of interesting riff variations, and an irresistible moment of headbanging. As with “Awake in Eternal Sleep,” you can expect a gentle melodic interlude, this time adorned with distant vocalizations rather than violin (?); similarly, it finds its way back to the abrasive electric guitar and the vocalist’s spectral rasps, which, at certain points, are layered with muffled groans to elicit a mood of helpless suffering. This isn’t quite the case lyrically, however. Saarkoth take after Agalloch and Winterfylleth in more than one way, foregrounding a pagan adoration for nature and mostly sublimating traditional black metal nihilism. Sure, there’s a bit of it there on the cautionary zombie tale of “Awake In Eternal Sleep” (“My mind is awake / yet my body dead / I cannot rest / Doomed to walk the Earth”), but it’s countered by “Beyond the Horizon,” which personifies the sun as a benevolent entity and ends in a repeated, cathartic chant of, “A vision of light / A vision of love / The feeling of warmth / Upon your fair skin,” the last couple of lines subbed out with “fading away / beyond the horizon” for a wistful touch.
What problems Saarkoth’s demo may exhibit are more easily chalked up to it being a demo than to any fault of the band’s. At only two songs, it’s a brief listen with some recording issues--”Awake In Eternal Sleep” sounds a little abbreviated, as if there may have once been more to follow (although that may simply be the song at work on my imagination; after all, it is a song about things gone wrong)--and however emotionally impactful, I wonder if “Beyond the Horizon” could have had a more memorable ending. But these are minor gripes at best, and as I noted from the start, there’s a lot of promise and room to grow. Like fellow UK-ers Winterfylleth, Saarkoth have a knack for this style of atmospheric black metal that will lead to some excellent work in the future if they can continue to build on this confident, well-rounded beginning.
Axis - Shift
Buy/listen on Bandcamp
Metalcore is in transition. An exciting underground force in the 90s, its breakthrough in the ’00s permanently segregated the genre into two or three distinct groups: one, spearheaded by Killswitch Engage, charged straight into commercial viability to mixed results, spawning as many excellent melodeath-inspired acts as it did “scenecore,” which unfortunately became the face of the genre. Another group hung onto the angularity of the ’90s and rallied behind Converge, Botch, Coalesce, and The Dillinger Escape Plan, leading to metallic hardcore and mathcore; while the third group, also indifferent to the European influence, toughed it out alongside Shai Hulud into a future of melodic hardcore. It’s a far more diverse genre than the scenecore groups make it out to be, and it can seem like a major semantic reach to suggest that KEN Mode, At All Cost, and Counterparts occupy the same genre niche. It’s easier to think that metalcore was an embarrassing phase, over and done.
It isn’t that, and never was. More and more bands are returning to the genre’s roots to recapture the creative spark of Integrity, Deadguy, and Undying--bands like Sanction, Dwell, Drawing Last Breath, Renounced, and, of course, Axis are writing as if the last seventeen years of “synthcore” and In Flames ripoffs never happened, and little by little, are restoring the genre’s credibility. This may seem like an unnecessary preamble to the album at hand, but it’s important to recognize the context in which Axis find themselves with Shift: following a period in which the genre lost its way, they have arrived at precisely the right time. But to do what?
Start the record. “Shift I” is an eerie bit of guitar noise meant to carry us in and drop us at the feet of “Fear and Impulse,” an all-business metalcore ripper consisting of propulsive riffs, crunchy breakdowns, and vocalist Dylan Downey’s manic vocals. The destructive jaggedness of Norma Jean’s Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child is on full display here and all the way through “Sovereign,” “Solipsism,” “Parasitic Eye,” and “Faith.” The ghost of Kiss It Goodbye is at work in the album’s thick, sludgy tone and relentless assault. There’s not a lick of melody in earshot, which goes for the rest of Shift, too: every track is an exercise in rhythmic intensity and unease, the sort of music best described with comparisons to knives, blunt objects, and bodily harm--piercing dissonance, sledgehammer riffs, and throat-gouging screams are the order of the day. It’s no stretch to say that it’s neck-and-neck with All Out War’s Give Us Extinction and Darkest Hour’s Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora for the nomination of most vicious metalcore album of the year.
But for all its strengths, the most glaring issue with Shift is the one that keeps it from greatness: homogeneity. Axis seem to write in two distinct modes with two distinct sets of characteristics that are rarely, if ever, allowed to mingle--it would be too easy to sort the tracks into two columns and come out to an even split. There are the riff-a-thon tracks like “Fear and Impulse” and “Faith,” which brim with panic chords and eruptive breakdowns; and then there are the ominous, midtempo stompers that borrow from sludge and doom. These are songs like “Ravine” and “Soma,” which, not incidentally, occupy the back half of the album. In isolation, every track is an excellent example of what modern metalcore can be when it decides to get serious. Axis know their way around a nasty metalcore groove, and on first listen, it’s thrilling. Subsequent listens see Shift gradually losing steam.
Don’t get the wrong idea. Especially for its time, which is right now, Shift is an impressive record that knows where it is and what it’s doing, and Axis are one of the most assured-sounding bands I can think of in the current hardcore/metalcore landscape; the confidence with which they attack back-to-back behemoths “Solipsism” and “Parasitic Eye” is simply awesome, constituting an early highlight of the record, and a highlight of the year in metalcore. These songs are Axis operating at maximum potential, invoking the spirit of Bremen’s legendary Acme--no small compliment; they’re a personal favorite--as they fire off riff after riff. It’s cold-blooded, violent, and relentless; the kind of stuff that makes me genuinely excited for the future of the band. Although it suffers from some pacing issues, the second half of Shift can be suffocatingly heavy as it launches one slow, sludge-flecked dirge after the other in succession. The short runtimes don’t matter; the album just seems to gain mass and density, gathering energy like a thundercloud. The return of the eerie riff from “Shift I” on “Shift II” lends the album an appreciable sense of continuity, and we brace ourselves in expectancy of some killing blow, but “The Tightrope” is a curveball: a return to the speedier riffage of the first half and a more overtly hardcore sound, it brings Shift to such a sudden end that I had to double-take and start the album over.
Axis’s first album, Show Your Greed, took me by surprise with its blend of moshy hardcore and nods to powerviolence. Shift isn’t a major leap forward from that record by any means, and so isn’t really a surprise; but at the end of the day, it can’t be denied that, despite their similarities and a couple of new issues, Shift is an improvement. It’s a more inventive and interesting record than its predecessor, and works well as an example of what metalcore can be now that the genre’s growing pains are behind us. I’m ready for whatever Axis do next.
Cryptodira - The Devil’s Despair
Stream/buy the record here.
I first discovered Cryptodira in 2014. They were the local openers for my all-time favorite band, Between the Buried and Me, during the Long Island date of the Parallax II: Future Sequence tour. They had just put out An Unmarked Grave, and right off the bat, I was feeling it. Many progressive metal bands have a very similar formula now, either taking the djent thing too far, or indulging a midlife ’70s prog-rock crisis, but Cryptodira are a breath of fresh air: while clearly influenced by bands like Between the Buried and Me and Opeth, they also have a prominent hardcore influence from bands such as Converge and Botch, visible in their passionate and chaotic live presence. Especially around this time, I was a huge progressive metal nerd and starting to get into hardcore, so these guys were perfect for my needs. Last month, the group announced that they have signed to Good Fight Records and were putting out their debut record, The Devil’s Despair. I preordered immediately and listened to the single, “Medusa Misgendered,” which I loved. There hasn’t been an LP in progressive metal that I’ve been as excited about this year as this one.
After a superfluous intro, we are brought into the two-part “Constituted.” The first part, “Constitutum,” is Opeth-infused progressive metal goodness. In a world where much of progressive metal has decided to go shamelessly retro or take a turn toward ambience, it’s nice to see a band keeping it balls-to-the-wall heavy. The song is instrumentally crushing, and Scott Acquavella’s brutal growls are a perfect complement. As the song calms down towards the end, we are led into “Constituens,” which feels more like an interlude than anything. It gets progressively heavier as it goes on, but not much really happens until the last fifty seconds, where Mike Monaco lets out some very hardcore-esque screams before the song picks up and dives headlong into “Medusa Misgendered.” This is a perfect single: in six minutes, it showcases everything the group has to offer, from acidic death metal sections to fast, aggressive hardcore, and even mellow, melodic progressive rock. Drummer Matt Taibi manages to keep everything in pace, shifting from blistering to steady at the drop of a hat. Bassist Jeremy Lewis gets really funky on this track as well, and it’s very noticeable during the song’s quieter moments.
“The Gods of Epicurus” reminds me of Between the Buried and Me in the most exciting ways. It’s pure, triumphant metal that really show off Acquavella’s range, exploring both his gnarliest growls and prettiest singing. From their inception, he has improved as much as Mike Monaco, whose voice has only gotten grittier and angrier. My only qualms with the song stem from its jam sections, some of which sound great, some that sound a little forced and awkward. Nevertheless, I dig this track, and it sets the table very nicely for the ballad of the LP, “Long Belonging.” This is where Acquavella’s clean singing shows its greatest improvement. Clean vocals were never a strong point for the band, but they are absolutely killer here. I cannot stress how well this song works with the context of the LP. Many progressive bands abuse the “soft break,” but this and following track, “In Hell as on Earth,” prove the band’s instincts are better than most. Its introduction is very proggy, but it becomes clear soon enough what the song is all about: Cryptodira are fucking angry. Following a progressive interlude is possibly the heaviest, most pissed-off section of the LP. Scott and Mike’s interplay is visceral and hellish during the outro as Scott growls a few words and Mike finishes with his screams, and the tracks ends in math and noise, passing almost unnoticeably into “The Fascist’s Phantasy.” This song maintains the heaviness of its predecessor while upping the aggression.
“Negation Consumes Affirmation” serves as a more of an introduction to “Negation Consumes Itself,” being a relatively soft track with some female vocals--pleasant, but out-of-character--but “Negation Consumes Itself” is the grand finale of top-notch vocals and stunning instrumentals towards which the album has been building. It transitions seamlessly between smooth progressive rock and dissonant mathcore riffs, and better incorporates the female vocals than “Negation Consumes Affirmation” against a backdrop of softer, more atmospheric metal and in duet with Scott. It concludes with Mike screaming his heart out and a climbing, dramatic outro. As the instrumental builds tension, Mike and Scott duel it out with alternating screams and growls. The track ends with a slow, eerie riff, a fitting end to Cryptodira’s first full-length.
The Devil’s Despair is not only one of the best debuts I’ve heard in quite a while, but easily one of the best projects progressive metal in the 2010s has to offer. In a genre filled with bands that are doing anything but progressing, Cryptodira are a step ahead of their peers with their unique musical experiments. There are some moments where I wish they took it further, and I wish the band’s attempts at atmosphere were more substantive (re: “Constituens”), but if you are a fan of underground metal and hardcore, you should not sleep on these guys. This is only their debut record, and they are already ahead leading the pack.
- Alex Brown
Ne Obliviscaris - Urn
Buy/listen on Bandcamp
In the years since they took the world of progressive metal by storm with Portal of I, and with each subsequent record, Ne Obliviscaris have been hard at work refining their craft. Comparisons to Opeth and Agalloch were bound to happen, as NeO share an uncanny ability to balance maximalism with carefully-wrought detail, as well as a gimmick that isn’t a gimmick at all, but a vital component of their musical personality. For Opeth, it was their at-the-time revolutionary appropriation of acoustic playing and proggy singing in the context of death metal. For Agalloch, it was the fusion of black metal and folk, as well as a pagan lyrical angle that was all the more surprising for the fact that Agalloch didn’t hail from Norway or Sweden, but Oregon. And for Ne Obliviscaris, a progressive death metal band from Australia, it’s the fully-integrated electric violin that’s turned heads in their direction.
Like their closest stylistic companions, Ne Obliviscaris are restless songwriters, continually refining their craft and finding new avenues to explore their muses. They’re a little more heart-on-sleeve than your usual progressive metal band and are in love with ostentatious song titles (“Tapestry of the Starless Abstract,” “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope,” “Painters of the Tempest,” and “Devour Me, Colossus” are just some of the inscrutable phrases you’ll encounter in their back catalogue), but you can handily track Ne Obliviscaris’s evolution by glancing at their album covers. Portal of I was over an hour’s exploration of the concept of identity, fittingly enough for a debut record, and covered so much ground that the band are still working well within its sandbox. Citadel pared the runtime and tracklist down a bit, and saw the band cementing themselves, creatively and critically, as the ranking progressive metal institution. Relatively speaking, it shows restraint where the band was given to excess, but it’s still an enormous record by any ruler, replete with messy lyrical parallels between art and divinity.
In this company, Urn is effectively their “smallest” and most accessible record to date. It’s six songs, just like Citadel, but the runtimes are a hair less indulgent, and the band’s sonic hallmarks are trimmed, tucked, and cinched in for an altogether sleeker listening experience than what its predecessors offer. Portal of I may contain some of their most breathtaking songs, but it’s a bumpy, peaks-and-valleys ride, often given to indulgent spotlighting; Citadel is more consistent, but it’s dense and overwhelming, with few moments of respite and a case of slight overproduction, too. Urn goes a long way in mitigating these weaknesses, working best as a continuous piece--something no other Ne Obliviscaris record can boast with such confidence--but sacrifices some dramatic momentum on a song-to-song basis. It would be flat-out wrong to say every track sounds the same when “Eyrie” and the two-part title track sit shoulder-to-shoulder, but no song sinks its hooks as quickly or as deeply as “Forget Not” or “Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux,” requiring a couple of attentive playthroughs for something to catch on.
But once it does, Urn reveals itself to be just as worthwhile as anything the band have released yet. The lack of inter-song (and, sometimes, intra-song) contrast isn’t as much of a problem as it seems initially, because what they lose in moments, they gain in wholes. Ne Obliviscaris have never been afraid of playing up to and past the ten-minute mark, and Urn sees their songwriting finally matching their ambitions. See “Libera (Part I): Saturnine Spheres.” Had it appeared on an earlier record, its huge climax would probably have been the song’s de facto state, overshadowed by three or four other attempts, within the same song, to match its power. On previous efforts like “Of the Leper Butterflies” and “Pyrrhic,” the band seemed hellbent on cramming an album’s worth of material into a song, which provides its own thrill and plenty of jaw-dropping moments, but an album of such songs can quickly become exhausting, as Portal of I amply demonstrates; more a collection of awesome moments than a cohesive unit. Urn sees NeO shifting their focus to the long game, and benefitting. Rather than partitioning the album into suites a la Citadel, Urn works in successive chapters, buttressed by a clear thematic preoccupation with fire: “Saturnine Spheres” sparks and explodes, while “Ascent of Burning Moths” functions as a sort of smoldering afterglow and transition into the solemn coals of “Intra Venus.” “Eyrie,” the album’s ostensible centerpiece, recalls Portal of I’s “Forget Not” with its aching violin introduction and stately progression, filtering that song’s emotional catharsis through the enlarged technical palette of “Devour Me, Colossus.” It’s testament to Ne Obliviscaris, then, that the two-part “Urn” instantly overshadows it with their most remorseless plunge into the band’s death metal influences yet, ending on a note of ominous uncertainty. You can smell Rome burning by the end of “Urn (Part II): As Embers Dance in Our Eyes.”
It hardly matters that the band, as individual musicians, have haven’t really changed since they hit the scene. Strictly speaking, there are no curveballs on Urn: the vocals maintain an even split between slightly nasal, vaguely operatic singing and reasonably deep, somewhat monotone death growls; the guitarwork remains melodically complex and shreddy; the rhythm section steady and powerful, if somewhat unremarkable, tasked with keeping the music in check and little more. Ne Obliviscaris arrived fully-formed, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and with the goal to simply refine as much as possible. The only element that’s seen substantial change is the violin, which, on previous records, could be described as operating on top of the music, but which now works within it, weaving in and out. On Urn, it loses its novelty, but it’s for the better, allowing us to finally see how Ne Obliviscaris function as a band, rather than a band with a violinist--and it turns out, they’re just as great as we thought.
name - ...You Are Mostly Nowhere
Buy/listen on Bandcamp
One day, name was to appear on the American Metalcore Project, our examination/celebration/reevaluation of the history of metalcore and all the fantastic, underappreciated bands in the genre. They and their 2010 record Internet Killed the Audio Star were a major impetus for the AMP, as it was one of the first obscure records I stumbled upon when I began taking my metalcore more seriously, as well as one of the most eye-opening records I’ve encountered in heavy music, period. At the risk of undercutting that future entry for Internet Killed the Audio Star, it’s a melting pot of every phase of -core that precedes it, recklessly blending the sounds of early deathcore, melodic metalcore, and metallic hardcore and just about everything in between; it’s a record eager to break as many rules as possible in its pursuit of original expression, and it fundamentally altered my notions of what metalcore could accomplish.
In the abstract, it doesn’t even feel right to call it metalcore, but rest assured that it is: for all its enthusiastic genre-smashing, the bad bits don’t always filter out, leading to misplaced death growls, awkward transitions, and a general glut of material that leaves the album a little bloated and difficult to digest. Only after multiple listens do its missteps begin to make sense as the price of conceptual ambition, but that doesn’t change the fact that the parts of the album intended to be timely and subversive are too on-trend to age well. Conversely, these mistakes cannot detract from the album’s flawless centerpiece “Empathic Communicator,” a four-part suite that edges dangerously close to revolutionary. Each part is longer than the last, growing sequentially more daring and complex as the piece mutates and restructures to accommodate new idiosyncrasies, but always with an eye toward its goal.
In the seven intervening years between it and ...You Are Mostly Nowhere, this is the songwriting name have honed to a fine edge, lopping off the excess and uniting their vast stable of inspirations and talents to achieve a singular goal: overwhelming the listener. Their prior approach was to bombard with virtuosic technicality and the sheer breadth of musical ground they could cover in a single go, like an unsmiling Between the Buried and Me on a lot of PCP. This could be effective, too: outside of “Empathic Communicator,” “Mare” and “Dave Mustaine” are towering examples of name’s abilities as songwriters and musicians, both songs home to the sorts of genius passages that would make another band’s career. But excess is excess, and the band have learned to recognize what’s necessary and what’s not, leading to a couple of significant differences between Audio Star and Mostly Nowhere. The most obvious is the runtime, nearly halved from eighty minutes to a more manageable forty-two; less visible is a refinement of ethos, which bassist Jeremy Fareas explained to Metal Injection as a desire to “sound as if the band were a huge ensemble and not just a 3 piece group, trying to push the sonic landscapes until they were bursting at the seams.”
From the first cymbal strokes on “Adsum - Symptoms of a Leveling Design,” name deliver on that implicit promise. With the shortest runtime on the record, it still feels just as densely woven as any of the album’s later epics, re-introducing us to the band in after the seven-year wait in style. Plenty has changed. The influence of jazz and funk is more prominent in the band’s sense of rhythm and the intuitive dynamic between drummer and bassist, and the guitar work has moved on from showboat technicality to expressionistic wizardry. Although there are plenty of pummeling riffs and metallic shrieks in the first half of “Adsum” and “When Ocean Meets Sky - Cutting Corners In A Circle,” the band wasn’t kidding about pushing sonic landscapes: as the runtimes grow, so does the album’s sense of drama and mystery. “By Jaw & Fang” drops plenty of hints of what’s to come, but for all its virtues (including vocalist Jeremy Fareas’s Matt Holt-ish singing), it’s a view from the precipice, as far as I’m concerned, before the album’s half-hour plunge into the well of inspiration.
I wouldn’t call “Ode to the Colossus - The Giant of Circumstance” a single, although it was released ahead of the album as an exclusive Metal Injection stream, but it does provide a comprehensive ten-minute insight into the record, and comes out as one of the album’s greatest achievements. It’s a certified banger in terms of songwriting and technicality, but there are dozens of bands we can approach in this manner. Name are a little different. I don’t mean to be pretentious; I genuinely believe that name write and play metal like a jazz band without having to splice in explicit jazz passages (or rarely doing so) to prove it. There’s a clear-eyed, irresistibly free spirit to the band’s playing that transcends instrumental proficiency and the clinical process of musical “arrangement,” lending ...You Are Mostly Nowhere both cinematic scope and small-time intimacy even as it’s pulping your face. Although it’s possible to make stylistic comparisons to Botch, Tool, and Prehistoricisms-era Intronaut, these are jumping-off points, only circumstantially worthwhile--at worst, misleading. I’m hard-pressed to imagine another band that could pull off a song like the multipart “Bailey Cedric” with the same gymnastic grace and unflappable cool, or “When Ocean Meets Sky” with such operatic drama, and not also come across as tiresomely indulgent.
I’ve long believed that trios are the key to great metal. Baring Teeth, Coroner, Vitriol, Dying Fetus, Primitive Man, and many more I’m not listing (or simply forgetting) are stylistically distant relatives of name, but the company in which I would comfortably place them after more than a dozen listens to ...You Are Mostly Nowhere, and climbing. While not nearly as brutal as any of those bands, their songwriting is complex and arresting, and their music far larger than only three people should be able to produce. At times, I’m reminded of Hypo5e’s Shores of the Abstract Line in its epic sweep, at other times Amia Venera Landscape’s The Long Procession in its unity of vision. These, incidentally, are two of my favorite records, and it’s no stretch to imagine that ...You Are Mostly Nowhere could someday join them. For now, it sits comfortably among my favorite records of 2017.
2 years ago I heard this groovy, heavy deathcore group named Bodysnatcher. Loving both the super hard breakdowns and the disgustingly slow riffs of their first EP, Abandonment, I purchased the record from their Bandcamp and followed them closely on social media. A few months ago, Stay Sick Recordings announced they were picking up the band for a debut full-length titled Death of Me. I knew what this band was capable of from the start, and it should go without saying that this record is remarkable in all aspects. Bodysnatcher is here to lead the downtempo deathcore scene, taking their place at the top with Traitors and Black Tongue.
“Stab” is a wonderful choice to open Death of Me, as it really showcases what makes Bodysnatcher the band they are: heavy vocals over a crushing instrumental, and a breakdown that will make you want to slam your grandmother into a coffee table. “Death of Me,” the title track and second single the band technically released on announcement of the full-length, is also a slugger in terms of full-band groove. It takes a much faster approach than the usual Bodysnatcher, showing the band’s versatility. Darius, of Spite, also features towards the end of the track, which makes sense considering the bands are now labelmates and have both been making waves in the heavy music scene. Here’s to a future split EP. “Rancid” lives up to its name: it’s grotesque and gnarly, and it sounds as if vocalist Kyle Medina went into the booth with the intent to make the nastiest noises possible over an absolutely destructive and gripping riff. There’s a good old-fashioned mosh call in the middle, too. “Death's Power” is a minute and a half of pure mosh fuel, so if you ever needed a signal to throw down, here it is.
“Heavy Gloom” was the official first single, and although it’s slow and heavy in the vein of “Rancid,” it’s ultimately one of the weaker tracks on the album, but “Open Wounds” and “Bone Casket” make up for it. Both are insanely groovy beatdown tracks. “Suffering” absolutely crushes everything in its path, and is easily one of my favorites on the record. “Closer to Hell” is the first of the unofficial singles that we got last year ,and unfortunately, it’s missing the mosh call from the original version. I’m also not sure if Jesse Kirkbride is still featured on the final version of the track, but it doesn’t sound it to me. This track is pure deathcore: it eats almost any other track on this album, proudly wearing its heavier-metal influences alongside plenty of two-step-worthy riffs and insane gargles.
Support newer bands and pick up Death of Me so you can see this crazy band go off in your area sooner than later. Bodysnatcher is here to stay and this album is proof of that. Catch them on tour with Spite for the Nothing is Beautiful tour right now in your city!
- Dakota G.