Album review

Wolvhammer, Clawing Into Black Sun

For the lazy: Clawing Into Black Sun is a “covers-type” album by a doom/black metal band. Think Graveyard Classics-type records done by Nachtmystium, except… Wolvhammer are good enough songwriters to make this seemingly-“covers” album an original work. This is a covers album done by a band from an extreme metal genre who are actually great songwriters.

Opener, “The Silver Key,” nice intro, and nice dynamics– gives the blast beats time to work and time for the listener to heal.

“Lethe,” track two, ambient sounds effects, not unlike Salome’s only record, brief, then “Death Division,” the most straightforward, “rock”-ish track here, a bit like something off Wolverine Blues. Borderline catchy, like Sisters of Mercy on Quaaludes. Sounds like a less-indulgent Nachtmystium. Played acoustically, you’d probably never notice this was metal. It might come off as more morbid alt-country, something like Sturgill Simpson.

Arvo Pärt‘s doomy black metal. Doom rock? Death and roll?

“Slaves to the grime,” “The Desanctification,” are, to put it mildly, quite rocking tunes….

“In Reverence” rageful, ends hauntingly

This is not black metal, it’s too crude and slow: black stone, not black rock– black monolith?

All the songs are fairly long; “Death rock” works as a descriptor; almost like an emo, 120 minutes-type of band that’s too angry and despairing to write music that won’t scare off their intended audience. They’re too intense to pull off emo. Heehee. Nachtmystium-like. Jeff Wilson, guitarist, is ex-Nachtmystium. So, figures.

“A light that doesn’t yield.” Thin, abstract, flatted-third type chords that sound like Jack Johnson warped through a Absinthe-stained glass. Builds and builds and seems to progress, but inevitable doesn’t. A good thing: highlights the despair of the underlying emotions. Trapped. Claustrophobic. Gregorian blackened death rock. Listen with earphones, and your skull will resound with these hymns like a mausoleum echoing with the hymns of mourners long departed the overgrown sepulcher. Jesus Christ that was poetic.

The building chants at the end of the song should be awesome live.

“When the edge of the razor is what you need.” The adaptable, ever-evolving dirge.

“Clawing into black sun.” Simple, stone chords (not metal) over a r-tard-played primal beat. For when you wake up in a new place and realize it’s hell. And there’s been no mistake; you’re supposed to be there. Sounds like something off Assassins.

“Black! Black! Black! Black!” nice. Like the 1954 Richard Matheson short story, “Dance of the dead,” e.g., “To flesh insensate!” etc. Like that generation’s plaints of despair, of agony, of redemption. Prayers.

Black, ashen prayers. And Clawing Into Black Sun knows how to end. It just stops. No ambiance, no echoes, just… done.

It’s a consistent sound: the baleful cries of your very tissues when they’re infected, or burning, or cancerous; when, if you’re being honest with yourself, you realize that you were poorly designed for life.

Music that teaches you how to die.

Jesus Christ. I’m gonna go watch Good Luck Charlie on Netflix now for some ear bleach.

Stream Clawing Into Black Sun

 

Long lost cassettes: Zoetrope’s A Life of Crime, Holocross’ Holocross and CJSS’ Praise The Loud

So– let me tell you a story….

A story of a teenage metalhead, and this– of some many, many years ago.

My family lived in, we’ll say, Location X. My dad’s family, however, was from Location Y. Periodically, about once a year, we’d go to visit his parents in Y.

It was a long drive. To pass the time (especially as I hit 12 and/or 13 and got really into metal), I brought a Walkman (look it up, kids) and a pseudo-leather case that held 10 cassettes for said Sony device.

During the trip, there was an obvious halfway point– said point contained a Jerry’s restaurant, and a video game arcade that had both Space Harrier and Dragon’s Lair.

One one trip, probably around 1987, I brought my pseudo-leather cassette holder with my Walkman into said arcade (after having slaughtered a Jerry’s hamburger, two orders of french fries and two desert orders– I was a fat kid); I played Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, and finally Dragon’s Lair (which was insanely hard, ending faster than fast), coupled with Space Harrier.

I ended up tired. We were nearly 100 miles away (in the family Taurus station wagon, you see), when I actually noticed that I’d left behind my cassettes.

By the time we got back to said spot, the cassettes were long long LONG gone.

Over the next few years, I managed to get 7 of the 10 cassettes back (often in CD or MP3)– but three eluded me. Three held my interest as nearly mythical albums that I’d failed to find.

Three that were, in retrospect, the personification of the metal god, whatever his name, in cassette/ CD form (you know how you exaggerate your memories).

Three that were missing– up ’til recently [Over 20 Goddamned years!]

God bless the internet.

God bless piracy.

The long-missing trio were, obvies by now, Cincinnati’s CJSS and their Praise the Loud, Chicago’s Zoetrope and A Life of Crime, and Ohio’s Holocross and their self-titled work.

CJSS’ Praise the Loud is actually now available on iTunes, but both Holocross and Zoetrope’s master works are only available when pirated, e.g., via Mediafire.com.

I’m not suggesting you do anything; I’m not advocating a course of action for you– I’m  just saying.

Highlights here: “Out of Control,” “Land of the Free,” and “Praise the Loud,” though pretty much any track on here works– CJSS was the combination of musician’s last names Chastain, Jenkins, Skimmerhorn, and Sharpe– the “Chastain” being one David T. Chastain, a lesser-known guitar hero of some repute. Proof that you can actually write good songs that are based on very-difficult-to-play main riffs.

Regarding Zoetrope (pronounced zoey-trope or, if you’re wicked into phonetics: ˈzəʊɪˌtrəʊp )

I saw their drummer/ vocalist, Barry Stern, live in 1991– when he was playing drums for Trouble (who were opening for Savatage) and their Rick Rubin-produced self-titled masterpiece. He was truly great.

Zoetrope, meanwhile, was his neglected baby. A Life of Crime came out on Combat records and cassettes (remember Combat?)– and it was Punk speed and attitude + metal fury and detuned power. It equalled pure awesome.

Opener “Detention” sports a main riff that was, weirdly, the same first riff-ever that I “wrote” back in the ’80s– and there’s not a bad track on here (although the lyrics from “Promiscuity” are pretty laughable)– highlights are “Unbridled Energy,” and “Hard to Survive.”

amazon.com link for Life of Crime

Holocross, on Holocross, sound like Repulsion playing Raven or Anvil. I’m actually a little surprised that this one has held up as well as it did– I remember thinking, as a teenager, that this one seemed a little over the top. And yet it seems absolutely understated, listening to it now (minus the super-high Halford yelps that periodically pop up). Also, the guitar tone is sick (very, very ’80s: “scooped” with all the mids gone, and just the highs and the lows present). Highlights: “Warpath,” and “Ptomaine.”

Meshuggah, I

I like bands I don’t get. I like authors whose work I have to struggle to understand. I feel it makes me smarter in the long run to have to run, intellectually, to keep up.

Meshuggah, I feel 100%, make music specifically designed to make you have to fucking sprint to keep up.

God bless you, Swedes: bless you for not pandering to the lowest common denominator. Bless you for going straight up your own asses for the sake of the exploration of art.

Yanno, I go out of my way to find “weird,” i.e., statistically anomalous music, art and literature– I’ve studied Asian and African music and their use of micro-tones (i.e., notes outside the typical Western 12, i.e., the notes between The Notes), and though these can sound quite odd to my Western-trained ears, Meshuggah is much weirder.

And, even for Meshuggah, I is weird: constantly changing, many rhythms at one time (I want to be the first reviewer of Meshuggah to not use the word “polyrhythms” in the write-up*), asymmetrical time signatures (e.g., 3/4 or 6/8), and so on.

It’s an EP, it’s 21 minutes, it’s one song. It’s weird as shit, but it’s fascinating.

Listen here:

*Well, shit.

Tidbits: the various, the sundries, the miscellaneous, the whatevers.

dev_randomEvery decade or so, at least for me, I hit a “dry spell” as a music listener and/or reviewer. No one album sounds that great, rocks my world, whatever– hence the four-month absence of Sawtoothwave from the “new article” section of Awesome Websites Monthly.

I finally figured that, since there were no full albums worth reviewing, on this, my birthday in the early/mid/late 40s, I should hip you to what I have actually been listening to whilst I get up, or work out, or wash dishes, or fall asleep, or whatever. Sound good?

And maybe, just maybe, these tracks are extra good because they pierced my shell of indifference, my equivocal soul, my hemming-and-hawing eardrums….

So, in no order:

Carcass’ “Thrasher’s Abbatoir,” and “316L Grade Surgical Steel,” from Surgical Steel: blistering thrash-cum-archetypal death metal, ferocious as fuck, played by experts.

Hail of Bullets’ “Pour La Mérite,” and “Dak” from III The Rommel Chronicles: a lumbering granite Godzilla, destroying the earth and teaching you about World War II German commanders all the while.

Finnish thrash-ish band Stone’s “Get Stoned,” from Stone: catchy power metal/ thrash that went on to influence bands like Children of Bodom. Great stuff.

Skeletonwitch’s “Burned From Bone,” from Serpents Unleashed: typical Skeletonwitch, in that it’s thrash/black/power metal’s heavy yet disco-ish fury in less than three minutes.

Pelican’s “The Tundra,” from Forever Becoming: if the whole album were like this, it would be as awesome as their greatest album….

Sting’s (I love Sting and every ounce of his pretentiousness, you shut your damn face) “What have we got?” from The Last Ship: add some distorted guitars to this and it would be Týr’s greatest song EVAR….

Speaking of which, Týr’s “Hold the heathen hammer high,” and “Trondur I gotu,” from By the Light of the Northern Star: pagan metal that is an inspiring as a pre-battle pep-talk from a renegade Norse warlord. Fair warning: play either one and you’ll hum it for weeks; it will be more of an earworm that anything Kahn could have devised.

Shining’s “Healter Skelter,” from Blackjazz, and “I Won’t Forget,” from One One One: tenor sax as jazz that really loves metal, much like….

Peter Brötzmann Octet’s “Responsible/ for Jan Van de Ven” from The Complete Machine Gun Sessions: jazz, as metal as it gets.

Fontanelle’s “Traumaturge,” from Vitamin F: if Miles Davis, specifically the Miles Davis from Bitches’ Brew, wanted to make some metal– and rub some funk on it.

Tribulation: anything from The Formulas of Death, but you’ll only need one tune.

Eric Church’s “Smoke a little smoke,” from Caught in the act: Live— this country outlaw ends his tune about wine and weed with the main riff from Sab’s “Sweet Leaf” (love the audience’s collective What the fuck?)– what more do you need to know?

Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan”: a 32-minute opus of revolving licks and paeons to marijuana and altered states in general.

Finally, we have Sloath’s newest work (though it was recorded at the same time as their first album, one of my favorites of all time): “The Deep Rift IV.” Just listen.

I’ve been me and this is my time. Thank you very much, I’ve been great.

Ramming Speed, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die

Ramming Speed, cover, hi-resWitness that cover, in terms of metal archetypes:

2 snakes,

2 eagles,

1 wolf, 1 skull, 1 diamond, 1 eye-of-Sauron-ish eyeball (at bottom).

This perhaps-symbol/ possible logo of the band perfectly encapsulates (or really bursts apart that capsule) their sound: metal, via any and every sub-genre. There’s definitely thrash, definitely hardcore, some grindcore that may or may not be death/grind, a bit of NWOBHM, wafts of power metal, even a sense of humor not unlike Scatterbrain (e.g., I’m sure they know the Army of Darkness/ Ben Hur reference that is their name)– and it works together like a good chili: tons of ingredients, but one overall taste.

Remarkable that these Bostonians have managed to have an easily-ID-able sound so soon in their career. Well done, men. Well done.

Needn’t bother with song titles, here’s the album, sonically-speaking:

Open with Dio-ish, end of the world chord which bleed into perfect thrash with raspy appropriate vocals… man that drummer is fucking good… vocal powerful like Chuck Billy… oh, now there’s blastbeats… now we’ve Scatterbrain as thrash band, gang vocals on the title track… these guys don’t give a fuck with this solo… “Anticipating Failure,” starts with the perfect, furious thrash, via MOD or Gothic Slam….

Primarily? Thrash. More specific? Thrash with blackened, deathly, hardcore-ishly-doomed power metal.  Overall? Just heavy metal, man. Or:

A heavier, meaner-yet-more-humorous Revocation?

Shit, I don’t know. Just listen and/or buy it already, eh?

Stream it at Terrorizer.com
Buy it at Amazon.com

Primitive Man, Scorn

Primitive Man, Scorn, coverHere’s the first line regarding Denver “blackened doom nihilists,” Primitive Man and their debut, Scorned. My internet homeboy brother-from-another-mother, The Ripple Effect’s Racer, kept on me to review these guys, saying I’d like them.

Yannow what, Racer? Screw you. Being right all the time doesn’t make you smart.

Don’t think too closely about this statement.

Anyway, Primitive Man, amirite?!?! What’s up with those guys…?! Wildly, boldly misanthropic blackened sludge doom.

The last type of music the average human would want to listen to.

If that’s not an endorsement….

Nutshelled: black metal in slo-mo, on bath salts– detuned.

order/listen from their label

Listen to the whole thing:

Age of Taurus, Desperate Souls of Tortured Times

Age of Taurus, album coverOkay, so… here’s what happened:

In some alternate universe, one very similar to our own, Candlemass lost their one and only singer, Messiah Marcolin. He died in a fire or a train wreck or something. And they were totally sad– so sad they couldn’t record a new album under the Candlemass name. So they went to the States to hang out with their buddies Corrosion of Conformity (Blind-era lineup). But they were still depressed. So Reed Mullin or Karl Agell or whoever said, “Hey, what band gets you going? You should listen to them, like, a ton.” And Leif Edling was all, “Yanno what? He’s right. We should listen to fucking Trouble. Except, like, we should totally just jam out their songs to make us feel better.” And Karl or Woody or whoever was all, “Dude! You can totally use our gear to rock out with that Trouble tunage!” But then Candlemass was all, “But dude… we have no singer….” And someone in COC was like, “Hey! We know the singer from Pallbearer, and he’d be perfect for you! I’ll call him!” And that dude came over and ROCKED OUT with with Candlemass doing Trouble covers with COC’s gear.

But Leif was still all like, “We should still have the same type of album cover.”

And on Desperate Souls of Tortured Timesthat is what Age of Taurus sound like*.

*Top 3 of the year, easy.