Sunday, December 29, 2013

As you may have figured out by now, I've been taking an end-of-the-year break. I'll be back in the new year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Top 13 Albums of 2013

My Dad Always Used To Say, "Because I Said So"

It's the end of another year, blah blah blah. I don't need to introduce this concept.

What marks 2013 to my mind is that it's the year death metal returned. Not a single death metal album made my list last year, not even the honorable mentions. That's changed. We're past all the fads, we're over technical death metal, "modern" death metal is now a misnomer, and even the "new wave of old school death metal" has run its course, leaving behind a few stragglers who are, for the most part, the cream of that crop. Now, fad free, death metal is thriving again.

The other themes you might pick up on with this list are dark Americana, and anything female-fronted, heavy, and smooth. I'm really digging those right now.

As a warning, not everything on this list is metal. In fact, a lot of it isn't. Also, these albums don't necessarily place consistently with the scores I initially gave them. That was then, this is now, even if then was just a few weeks ago.

One last warning before I get to it: This list is going to be slanted towards the PR folks, label reps, and band members who give me access to promos. Not because it's a bribe, but because I simply didn't listen to much else. And, to those people--notably Nathan T. Birk, Chris Bruni of Profound Lore, EarsplitPR, Relapse, Joel Costa, and plenty of others--I give a big thanks.

13. Kylesa: Ultraviolet

Female-fronted, heavy, and smooth. Kylesa are one of the most interesting metal bands out there right now. I do believe their primary source material these days is outside my knowledge, but that doesn't matter. Ultraviolet speaks to me.

12. Shitfucker: Suck Cocks in Hell

A few of you suggested that I rated Nekrofilth's record too low. After listening a few more times, I agree. "Junkie Cunt" is too damn good to ignore. But I also rated another one too low. Out of all the ugly, idiotic records from Hells Headbangers (and similar) in 2013, Shitfucker's Suck Cocks in Hell just stands out. They are having way too much fun.

11. Vorum: Poisoned Void

Vorum's Poisoned Void came out at the beginning of the year, to little fanfare. It's not generating much conversation at the end of the year, and that's unjust. Fantastic production and great hooks make this pure death metal gold that even my toddler can get into.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dollhouse: Complete

I completed work on my daughter's dollhouse. You can see it here. Now work begins on the end-of-year list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hexer: Hexer (2013)

Top Shelf

Earlier this year, Gilead Media introduced me to Fell Voices. The band's Regnum Saturni doesn't seem like anything special--not intellectually, anyway. You can't point to anything and say, "Here, this is why it's so compelling." But for some reason I kept coming back to it again and again. Its tendrils had wormed their way deep into my brain stem.

Well, the label managed to do something very similar with Hexer. Hexer is a remastered compilation of both of the band's 2011 cassette EPs, which were distributed locally in Philadelphia. And once again, I have trouble pointing to anything specific, but I keep coming back.

Death Metal Briefs: More of 2013

How Dead Can You Get?

Armagedon: Thanatology (2013)
3 out of 5 stars

It seems like every Polish death metal band is good. Armagedon [sic] is no exception. It also seems like the preponderance of death metal bands sound like Behemoth. Again, Armagedon is no exception. Especially the song "Black Seed." There is also a hint of Dethklok ("Self Destruction," many of the solos), which I can't say is a bad thing. Armagedon is really good, but they only rise a hair's width above the rest of their scene.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Gift Idea

I'm hard at work on my daughter's dollhouse, and ironing out the details of my year-end list. For now, here's a Christmas gift idea. 

You know how you can buy a mixed six-pack of beer at a lot of liquor stores? That's for chumps. A better idea: Get six different packs of beer, make a mixed six-pack for a gift, and drink the rest.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Master Charger: Unity in Black (2011)

Taking on the Gods

joanismylover alleges that this record (reissued from 2011) puts Sabbath to shame.

What if the best Black Sabbath release in 2013 wasn't released by Black Sabbath? Judging by an eyeball of the cover art, Master Charger are a bunch of Hawkwind loving space rock gods who pay homage to Deep Purple for good measure. Fireball, anyone? Listening to an earful of these 10 tight, hefty tracks on Unity in Black, and we can confirm their rock influences are, in fact, certainly strongly ensconced in the early 70s. But not as much from the influence of those bands as from the ever present hand of doom that lords over this world from the children of its grave to forever in black. Black Sabbath.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thrall: Aokigahara Jukai (2013)

Rock With It Out

I once had an elementary school teacher who said that Australians are even more American than Americans. By that, I think he meant they were the loudest and most adventurous nationality out there. Foreigners will have to let me know whether that's right.

Thrall is a four-piece of Australian black metal antagonists. Judging by the band's third album, Aokigahara Jukai, they may be more American than Americans. Ignoring a few stalwarts like Lightning Swords of Death, the USBM scene is flooded with intellectualism and faux intellectualism. That's hardly in line with the American, Old West spirit. Perhaps Australia is one of the last places where that spirit still thrives.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Folk Briefs, Part 6

Folkin' Shit Up Again

Fejd: Nagelfar (2013)
3.5 out of 5 stars

The album art on Fejd's Nagelfar is befitting a mighty Viking banner. It should be seen only as the cover of this album, or billowing on the t-shirt of a 400-pound man riding victoriously through Wal-Mart on a power chair, drenched in the sweat of his heroic exertions. The music on the album is Swedish folk with metal drumming added in to make it much easier for us metalheads to get into. To people like me, who can't necessarily tell the difference between Scandinavian and Finnish folk music, it will sound like Amorphis without the metal guitars. Which is pretty cool, by the way. Not pillaging your local Supercenter cool, but cool.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Vaura: The Missing (2013)

The Only Thing Missing Is My Knowledge of Dysrhythmia

Now, this is an unexpected surprise. Vaura is a project made up of people you may be familiar with, but I think their identities are far less interesting than what they’re doing on The Missing.

This record is progressive metal that draws significantly from hook-oriented goth rock and from a certain Brooklyn prog-black style you may know. The Cure meets Krallice, if you will. (To be perfectly honest, I’ve never heard Dysrhythmia before, and that could be a better touchstone given the shared presence of Kevin Hufnagel.) Since I’ve had such an interest in certain kinds of the goth rock / deathrock style lately, Vaura came to me at just the right time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Satanic Pride v. Obłęd



It’s not every day I get physical CDs in the mail. All I do is rip them (at high bitrates) to my computer anyway, and perhaps they’ll land in the minivan for the rare occasions I’m driving it without my wife present. But a physical CD does grab my attention, and that’s why these releases caught my attention.

Both of them are 2012 Polish black metal albums. As a rule, Polish black metal doesn’t make it all the way to my ears, because I already have a pretty good idea what it’s going to sound like, and I’ve heard it before. I don’t know whether this is endemic to all Polish culture, but their metal scene, at least, lacks in subtlety. Just off the top of my head, I can think of 10 things that are about as subtle as Polish metal (I’ll put the list at the end of the review).

This is my not so subtle way of setting up the unexpected twist to the story.

There are probably only two or three of you who are at all interested in my current project--a dollhouse for my daughter--but it is taking up a lot of my time. Moreso now that we're coming down to the wire before Christmas. After it's complete, I plan to compile my end-of-year list. If you can't wait, go to my dollhouse blog and you might see hints of the records I'm considering for the list.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Metal Briefs: Is It Ambient?

To Yawn, or Not to Yawn?

When I first started reading the metal press a few years back, I was surprised to discover just how much the "ambient" music audience seems to overlap the metal audience. But, it turns out, the two genres can have a lot in common, and the lines aren't always clear.

Mamiffer & Circle: Enharmonic Intervals (for Paschen Organ)
4 out of 5 stars

Circle is (apparently) fairly well-known in avant-garde circles, and Mamiffer used pretty much just a piano to put me off listening to music while eating. Put them together, and you'll get the best kind of ambient (more or less), with weird and offensive string noises, choral singing, hypnotic organ melodies, and madman screams.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Germ: Grief (2013)


I’ve been following Germ for a while now, and the only thing I can say with certainty is that you need to check them out. They may not be the best band out there, but they are certainly one of the most interesting.

The band’s style has been essentially consistent, but completely unparalleled. You might call it blackpop (I’ll take credit for that term, thank you very much). Its primary DNA strains come from black metal and pop music, creating what’s either some of the most challenging pop music or some of the most accessible black metal ever recorded.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Summary Judgments, Volume 7

Are These Even Reviews?

Here's another round of summary judgments, where I make a snap judgment about something before I feel like I really understand it. As always, under the title I list how much of the record I listened to.

Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)
the whole album, once

I caught about half of Katatonia's show when they played with Opeth, but beyond that, I've never listened to them. Having never heard their most recent album, I thought I would have a unique perspective on the acoustic version of it. But mostly, I just thought it was OK, and not that interesting.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Death Metal Briefs: 2013

Dead Again

I've already reviewed a lot of death metal this year, but really you can never have too many short and punchy death metal releases. To help satisfy your thanatos, I offer two demos and an EP.

Temple of Void: Demo MMXIII
4 out of 5 stars

Detroit's Temple of Void stray much further into melodic death metal territory than I usually prefer, but they do it in a good way. And they take some cues from doom, so they sound not unlike Swallow the Sun on steroids. Did I mention they actually have songwriting skills? After three memorable tunes, they take it out on a string of bluesy solos. Very nice.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Promiscuity: Basic Instinct (2013 EP)

Where Is Hells Headbangers?

Within the broader milieu of all things metal, there are those who have an ethos which rejects the dominant paradigms of our age. They think rape, misogyny, and decapitation are hilarious things. Also, they would sooner kick you in the balls and spit on you than use pompous words like “milieu,” “ethos,” or “paradigm.” In other words, they’re even more metal than Brian Posehn.

These people are embodied in the Hells Headbangers roster, and in the Israeli band Promiscuity. Promiscuity made a notable splash after a review on Invisible Oranges not too long ago, and their newest EP (which can be had for nothing) continues in the tradition of Venom and Hellhammer. Ugly, brutal, and with a whole lot of echo on the primal grunting vocals. Plus, Celtic Frost cover. Very nice.

In ten years, HHR will release a double-LP compilation of the band’s entire catalog. Bet on it.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Toxic Holocaust: Chemistry of Consciousness (2013)

So, I Guess I Like Thrash Again

Chemistry of Consciousness, the latest of black/thrash icon Toxic Holocaust, is the perfect soundtrack to mindless excitement. I played the whole thing while rough-housing with my kids. Does that make me the world’s lamest metalhead, or the world’s coolest dad? Or both? You can debate the point with my toddler son’s plush Cthulhu.

Toxic Holocaust is a long-time favorite of regular guest contributor Metallattorney. Ordinarily I would just pass this promo on to him, but since he’s been swamped with a house move and business concerns, I decided to review the band’s new record myself. Once again, I find myself blown away by my first real exposure to one of Metallattorney’s recommendations.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Black Metal Briefs: Clearing the Docket

Only Procrastination Is Real

I've had some black metal releases sitting on my iPod for too long without a review. Let's knock some of those out.

Lychgate: Lychgate (2013)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Some difficult to describe black metal is coming out of Lychgate. Although they're from the UK, they sound like something that would come out of the San Francisco underground--Flenser stuff like Palace of Worms, not Deafheaven. The tempos run the gamut, and they use plenty of dissonance, but they also use synths extensively without sounding even remotely like symphonic black metal. It's very cool.

Corrections House: Last City Zero (2013)

Flawed Premise

Corrections House is another one of those bands that you could label a supergroup. As far as the underground, anyway, it doesn’t get much more super than a band featuring Scott Kelly, Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont, and Mike IX Williams.

But I’ll cut to the chase. The way they set out to be different is by taking on an industrial side. It’s very much a counter-intuitive combination. Sludge works best when completely organic and analog, while industrial (as the name suggests) is mechanical. The rhythms and percussion are mechanical (they are programmed), while the guitars are organic, and it makes for a weird juxtaposition. Godflesh was going the same thing over 20 years ago, but it’s still weird.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Solitude: Sister (2013)

The Promise. The Hype. The Reality.

Out of all albums released in 2011, I’ve probably listened to In Solitude’s The World. The Flesh. The Devil. most. I happened to have a physical copy of it, which is unusual for me, and said copy happened to end up in the minivan I occasionally drive. That’s right, when I’m with the kids in the minivan, we’re either rockin’ Rainbow’s Rising or In Solitude. The World . . . has its flaws, but in that kind of context it’s hard to beat.

So when I read Decibel’s enthusiastic, effusive praise of Sister, I got a little excited. Here is the band, it seems, to create the next evolution of Mercyful Fate. I can hear the hype machine grinding, but I was inclined to believe that it was just possible they were as good as Decibel says.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 10

Double Digits

Vic Chesnutt: North Star Deserter (2007)
5 out of 5 stars

Vic Chesnutt became a paraplegic at a young age and eventually died of an overdose on muscle relaxants. If you think he might make some fucked-up and dark music, you'd be right. This is the closest thing to Wovenhand I've yet found (see "Splendid," "Debriefing"), with the psychedelic and post-rock touches added to folk/rock. North Star Deserter tends toward sparser arrangements, with a hint of the great Cash. Stop what you're doing right now and listen to "Everything I Say." Thank me later.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pestilence: Obsideo (2013)

Your Body It Has Torn Through

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

I understand that Pestilence is a storied death metal franchise with Decibel Hall of Fame-worthy albums, which morphed thrash into death at a time when most were not doing it. Cue the promo material:

"Formed in 1986, PESTILENCE took influence from early American and German thrash metal to cultivate its now signature death metal sound."

I understand that but have not heard any of said albums. So it was merely fortuitous that a day after downloading this, while perusing the used bins at my local record store, I happened upon Roadrunner's "Two From the Vault"* series for Pestilence, which included the HoF Consuming Impulse and another reported classic, Pillars of the Ancient. Wishlist albums #487 and 488, you just got bought. I thought about studying up on those two before doing this review but quickly dismissed that idea. What better way to judge a release on its merits than without the baggage of predecessor comparisons?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Metal Briefs: What I Missed in 2012

Let's Back Up a Minute

A few things from last year slipped my attention before, and I'd like to rectify the situation.

Vulgaari: Vulgaari
4.5 out of 5 stars

Do you remember how awesome Zakk Wylde used to be? Vulgaari do. They're a Minnesota band who use a love of the greatest American guitarists of the 90's (Wylde and Dimebag) in service of creating some crushing death/doom. Death/doom can get dull by jamming on the same riff for too long, and too much soloing (even when it's raunchy) can get old just as quickly. But when you marry the two, as Vulgaari have done, you create something special. "Match" is something like a Pantera ballad played by Evoken. "Lie" is just fucking awesome. You have to hear this.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Metal Briefs: More Short Briefs of 2013

Two by Two

Two-song releases comprise a lot of my listening lately. It only seems fitting they get two-sentence reviews.

Aktor: I Am the Psychic Wars
4 out of 5 stars

This sounds almost exactly like Dawnbringer's last two albums, but with prominent synths added to the mix. Pretty fucking rad.

Vastum: Patricidal Lust (2013)


Leigh Ledare is a New York-based photographer who has recently taken on an . . . unusual subject matter. Noting the public’s desensitization to everything shocking, he decided to take a bunch of pictures of men having sex. With Ledare’s own mom.

If he had then brutally murdered his mother, then he would have been able to top the title to Vastum’s proper full-length debut, Patricidal Lust. I wasn’t especially impressed by the band’s demo—well, for a demo, it served its purpose, but it was, after all, a demo. I am extremely impressed with the album. The band have fully lived up to the promise that anyone saw in them.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Cara Neir: Portals to a Better, Dead World (2013)


Cara Neir tend to give people a lot of trouble in describing their genre. A lot of comparisons get thrown around. Crust punk. Neurosis. Post-metal. Hardcore. Death metal. Deafheaven. Screamo. I don’t know what the fuck screamo is. I literally have no idea, and I can’t be bothered to find out at the moment.

I think the best you can do is to just call them San Francisco black metal (even though they’re from Dallas). They would best share a stage with the likes of Palace of Worms or any number of bands on Flenser. In other words, I’m putting them in the company of some of the most vital and dynamic artists of today’s black metal. Yes, that means Pitchfork may notice them (maybe they already have), but if you’re still hung up on that, you can always fall back on Norway.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Metal Briefs: Off-the-Wall 2012

Unexpected Delay

I wrote these brief reviews about a year ago. Except for the fact that the last review disappeared into the aether. Like most people, I hate to re-do my work, but I finally got around to it. I think you'll agree it was worth it to see these releases that are a little out of the ordinary.

Germ: Loss
3.5 out of 5 stars

You might recall my review of Germ's Wish. The follow-up, Loss, came quickly on its heels. It's 80's movie soundtrack with tortured screams, but that's a bit too reductivist. Loss also touches on 90's radio rock and some very catchy dance music (see the album's two-part centerpiece). This is unlike anything else. The record is not quite as strong as its predecessor (only 2 out of 6 songs are single-worthy) but I love this weird band even more.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tombstoned: Tombstoned (2013)

Daze of Disintegration

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Sibling rivalry is both a positive and a negative force in the life of a child, with effects that last a lifetime. Tombstoned have nothing to do with such rivalries but I'm reminded of my own as I write this review. When I was a junior in high school my aunt inspected the lyrics and artwork of Appetite for Destruction and the next thing I know I was throwing it away and self-checking my library for anything similarly amoral and unfit for the joanismylover's parents' household. Stupidly, I actually threw out Megadeth's Peace Sells because of the lyrics to "The Conjuring." Yet my sister didn't have to throw out anything, and she listened to some pretty depressive, self-loathing stuff. The Cure.

Tombstoned play stoner rock/metal and stand out in the crowded genre because of two things: the singer is a dead ringer for Robert Smith and the songs have psychedelic stomp. Unlike many a release in the stoner category, whose vocalists tend to be either non-existent or merely mumbling, the vocals on this self-titled full length stick in your brain. That's probably going to be true even if you are not pushing 40 and had a little sister that moped around to "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me"*. The mopy and almost whining croon of the lead singer floats over and in between the music, giving a different dimension to most of this kind of (killer) music.

So, You Want to Do Metal PR

I received a lovely e-mail not too long ago from a lady doing PR. It's simply, just, lovely. This is the whole spiel:
Hello, I came across your website and was very impressed with everything you are doing. It would be an honor if you would consider [this band] (formerly known as [whatever]) for an album review.

[Their] debut, self-titled CD was recorded, produced and mixed by the legendary [somebody] ([he worked with three household names in rock/metal, a famous rapper, and a famous R&B singer). [The band] combines classic hard-rock roots with the creativity and energy of today’s contemporary metal. Their music is heavy and exciting with an abundance of groove and a touch of melody.

[The band] Southern California based metal band that was established in 2012. [The band] consists of [a dude] (Lead Vocals), [another dude] (Guitar), [a dude who shares his name with a guy I went to college with] (Bass) and [another dude] (Drums/Percussion).

I would appreciate if you would give them a listen and let me know what you think.

[Drop Box Link]

Album release date is Jun 25, 2013 and is now available on iTunes, CD Baby, Sound Cloud

I thank you in advance. And if you should need anything else, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Looking forward to your reply.

Best regards,
I remember checking them out because the bass player has the same name as a guy I went to college with, who was into Slipknot at least, so I just wanted to see if it was remotely possible it was him. It wasn't. Anyway, the music was about as weak as you'd expect.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Castevet: Obsian (2013)

Left Turns

It was three years ago that Castevet briefly captured some attention as a part of a then-novel movement, to combine hardcore tendencies with black metal. Now it seems the only time anyone talks about that is never, or maybe whenever Decibel waxes poetic about Tombs.

So the old novelty/controversy is irrelevant. So is Mounds of Ash, it turns out. While the only lineup change is at bass, the band doesn’t really sound that much like the old band. They imported Nicholas McMaster* from Krallice, and now their riffs sound distinctly like Krallice. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing largely depends on your opinion of Krallice. They’re a band I enjoy, but I don’t understand why some people shit their pants over them.

Skeletonwitch: Serpents Unleashed (2013)


Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

I was asked, on the basis of being "uniquely qualified," to do this guest review of the newest Skeletonwitch offering. I lived in the band's hometown for several years, saw them live frequently, and socialized with members of the band outside of music-related settings. Presumably this should give me some unique insight, but I don't know if that's actually true.

Every other year since 2007, when October rolls around, Skeletonwitch gives us another slab of blackened thrash to enjoy. In terms of both quality and release-timing, the band has established a very consistent track record since hitting the big time with their second full-length, Beyond the Permafrost. Well this time around the offering on the table is Skeletonwitch's fifth album, Serpents Unleashed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Hyperion Cantos

Far-Future Science Fiction Landmark

For the past few years, I haven't been reading all that much. Recently, I began again. I collected quite a few notable science fiction titles several years back, among them the first three books of The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. When I read about the Shrike in a post on Invisible Oranges, I made a mental note to put those books on the front burner.

In several hundred years, Earth is gone, but humanity has moved on to, I believe, several dozen worlds. Artificial intelligences have ceased to be tools and are seen as having their own rights and independence. Portals built by the AIs allow instantaneous travel to developed worlds. A splinter group of humans known as the Ousters is a looming threat.

Hyperion has a structure similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. A diverse group of characters take turns telling their stories. Each story is different, taking such forms as anthropological journal, action story, detective story, or (most compelling of all) a touching story of a family dealing with a uniquely horrible disease. This is set against the backdrop of their journey to the unknown, to face the Shrike, a creature which seems unbound by the laws of physics and reportedly communicates only through pain.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beastmilk: Climax (2013)

The Kvohst with the Most

I’ve never even listened to his black metal releases with Code, but over the past few years I’ve become a fan of Kvohst. First his psych-folk band Hexvessel intrigued me. Then his deathrock band Beastmilk intrigued me. Then Hexvessel blew me away. And now it’s Beastmilk’s turn to see what it can do.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know a lot about deathrock. My main touchstone for this style is a song or two off the soundtrack to The Crow--not the Stone Temple Pilots and Pantera that sold the record, but the moodier, gothy stuff that set the mood for the film. However, that’s only a superficially useful comparison.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nekrofilth: Devil's Breath (2013)

Crossing Over

There was a time when I’d see an ad for a band with some ridiculously over-the-top, disgusting, and violent name and I’d ignore it. If that’s their angle, how good can they be, really? Somehow, Hells Headbangers finds the time to comb through what must be thousands of these bands, and they manage to find the best of the lot. Now Nekrofilth is a worm in my skull dragging me into the deep inside disease. I’m a degenerate, and all I want to do is smear the sleaze. I crave the grave. Thank you, HH.

Nekrofilth is just one of a handful of Hells Headbangers acts to really grab my attention this year. They play some filthy-ass crossover thrash of the type that praises abuse of the world’s most dangerous drug (“Crocodile”) and giant, disgusting pimples (“Volcanic Zit”). Part of me says, “What the hell is wrong with you?” while the rest of me says, “Fuck yes!”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weird Finnish Briefs

Finland Is Weird

I picked out three promos based entirely on their weird Finnish names, and it reinforced something I already knew: Finland is weird. And also awesome.

Paavoharju: Joko sinä tulet tänne alas tai minä nousen sinne (2013)
2 out of 5 stars

This is the greatest rap music I've ever listened to. It's got weird backing music that sounds a little like a collaboration between Trent Reznor and Glenn Danzig, and all the lyrics are Finnish. I can tell it's great, but it's still rap, and I can't stand listening to people rap. It was a struggle just making it through this once, but the backing music is just that interesting.

I'm going to come back to this one in a year or so to see if I change my mind.

Svart Records

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two Laments

I have two laments. One, for the state of the Republican party as it exists today. Two, for the evil that is the Hastert Rule, and how it can bring our country to this kind of stupid, completely preventable crisis.

We don't have a party that represents the middle class. I wish we did, or that we could abolish all parties. But that's not the state of affairs we're in.

The conventional wisdom is that when a third political party enters the scene, it acts only as a spoiler. You have party A and party B, but now suddenly there is party A1 and A2, they split their votes, and only part B wins. A2 is not really a viable party, and it ruins A1's chances of winning.

But something insidious has happened here. Instead of creating a third party, a small, highly vocal, and incredibly extreme faction has remained within the larger party. The party has been hijacked from within, while nobody was watching. This was made possible by the establishment underestimating them, leading to unexpected wins. These wins were followed by unusual redistricting, which, instead of making them more competitive in districts they usually lose, completely locked down a few districts so that the other party is irrelevant in those places. They may never win a majority in the Senate again, or win the Presidency again, but they can never lose those districts.

That, coupled with party loyalty (the Hastert Rule), has created a tyranny of the super-minority. You should know about the Hastert Rule.

The Hastert Rule (an informal practice since the 90's) means that no Republican Speaker of the House will bring anything to a vote unless a majority of the Republican party says they'll vote in favor. Everyone says they want bipartisanship, but that's the most blatantly partisan practice in our government today. Something needs to be done about House rules, permanently, to make this impossible.

As long as Republicans hold 51% of the house, then 51% of Republicans (or a minimum of 26% of the House) can wreak havoc. That's what happened this month, in case you weren't paying attention. The Hastert Rule makes compromise impossible, especially when you have people whose seats are impervious to challenge coming to the bargaining table with nothing to offer except agreement to things that everyone wants, even them.

The worst part of this, to me, is seeing people's blindness. Their failure to see what's going on. Out of blind loyalty to the name Republican, many people just automatically pick that side. They don't realize their own party is no longer recognizable, because it has a cancer. They can't see how irresponsibly it's acting.

A news article I just read calls the Republican party "splintered." Let's hope it breaks completely. Then we can see compromise again. We can see progress again. We can see real, good-faith negotiation again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sorcery: Unholy Creations (2011)

Case Study

I don’t normally review reissues. I don’t normally review compilations. I’ve never before reviewed a reissue of a compilation, but here we are.

From what I gather, Sorcery is one of those obscure bands that it’s cool and kvlt to name-drop, sort of like Pentagram used to be. Nobody’s ever actually heard them, but everyone in the know regards them as legends. Or so I surmise. They arose in Sweden in the late 80’s and split in the late 90’s, having released a handful of demos, an EP, and one full-length in that time. (They’ve since gotten back together and released more material, but that’s not relevant here.) Unholy Creations gathers their demos and unreleased material in one place, and was released on vinyl in 2011. Now, it’s been reissued on double CD by Hells Headbangers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monster Magnet: Last Patrol (2013)

Let’s Hope It’s Not the Last

If you’re not familiar with Monster Magnet, you don’t know what you’re missing. That’s true of all things, of course, but it’s even more true with Monster Magnet.*

In preparation for writing this review of the band’s latest album, I went back to read my review of Mastermind, and I have to say I smiled at my own prescience. After noting the band seems to alternate between good and so-so records in three-year cycles, I concluded, “If they continue this pattern, they'll release another great album in 2016, but you might skip the one that comes out in 2013.” So far, I nailed it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 9

Three More

Big John Bates: Battered Bones (2012)
3 out of 5 stars

Frontman Records contacted me after noticing my interest in dark Americana, and I thank them for it because this Big John Bates record was an interesting listen. In the end, though, Battered Bones isn't really what I'm looking for. It's described as "rustic punk," but I'm pretty sure it's some permutation of rockabilly. It's upbeat, punky rock with sounds pulled from dark Americana, but it's not really Americana, and definitely not dark. It's fun.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Grave Miasma: Odori Sepulcrorum (2013)

Magma Varies

It seems compulsory to note that Grave Miasma’s Odori Sepulcrorum is the long-awaited full-length debut of a band whose history stretches back over a decade under original moniker Goat Molestör. And by long-awaited, I don’t mean just that the band took a long time to get their shit together. I mean that people were actually anticipating it. The fact it is seeing a dual release by Sepulchral Voice and none other than Profound Lore is testament to said anticipation.

A reviewer would be tempted to proclaim brilliance based on those facts alone. But such herd mentality must be resisted if reviewers are to serve as anything more than an extension of the PR machine.