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


The Shrine, Primitive Blast

Primitive Blast, coverGoddamn, this album haunts me. This is some ridiculously catchy yet heavy punked out shit.

It’s surf metal via the Ramones… it’s Black Sabbath if they were from southern California….

It’s surf/stoner rock played by overstimulated teenagers who just discovered how much they like weed, and how much they like punk rock… MRSA-catchy songs on this bad boy, these Beach Boys of punked-out hardcore and blues rock….

There’s barely any gain on that guitar tone, à la Left Lane Cruiser, and they’re still tuned down (to D).

There is absolutely no pretension on Primitive Blast— they’re here to rock out, and nothing else.

They were even the subject of a Converse ad… Decibel put Primitive Blast at number 35 of 2012, i think….

Highlights: title track, “Louise,” and “Whistlings of Death” are fun fun fun tunes.

Acephalix, Deathless Master

Acephalix’ last full-length was my no. 7 album of last year, so I was excited to hear this one.

It’s very similar to Black Breath’s newest, in that there’s a marriage of Entombed to New York City Hardcore– the difference here is that Acephalix are much closer to Entombed than the NYHC– they’re boldly detuned, and overall slower than BB.

“Tomb of Our Fathers” is the first standout, with its groovy, Asphyx-like riffing and completely unintelligible lyrics… “Raw Life” is a lurching, undead-Golem of a riff/song, and highlights one of the qualities of this record– it’s just as rawly-produced as its predecessor– you can hear absolutely every ambient sound during the recording, and (during the silences at least), it’s pretty fucking cool; it underscores the heavier riffs once they start back up, and “Raw Life” clearly shows this effect.

“Blood of Desire” roars out of the gate, blastbeats at first then D-beats, then, with a Zeus/ Odin-like bellow, hits what is arguably the most “memorable” of the tunes here….

Short version: they’re Entombed, got very fat and very pissed off– can’t move quickly at all, but weights 300 pounds (136 kilograms to my European brothers and sisters, 21 1/2 stone to my Irish homies) and would squash you without even thinking twice about it, though probably wheezing through the whole endeavor.

“In Arms of Nothing” intros with the same badass bass than Interminable Night started with….

Overall, there’s a very slight change (I hesitate to say “evolution”) from their previous record, and this consists in inching further down the death metal spectrum, ever-so-slightly away from the D-beat that characterized their previous record, Interminable Night. I can’t say it’s better or worse; just very slightly different.

To reuse a metaphor, it’s death metal Coca-Cola. It’s not new Coke, it’s not diet Coke, and it’s definitely not Cherry or Vanilla coke, what with their increased sweetness….

But how many Cokes have you drunk in your life so far? Hundreds to thousands, right? And they were all pretty good, yeah?

Deathless Master is your latest two-liter of D-beat-ish Death Metal.

If you love this very particular beverage, this is for you.



[Deathless Master is released officially worldwide on Southern Lord on April 10, 2012.]

Bad Religion, No Control

I bought this, way back in 1989, because Kreator’s Mille Petroza wore their shirt, which was simply a cross struck-through with a “no” symbol.

Didn’t know a thing about them, otherwise–  and it took many listens for this thrash-metal zealot to truly get No Control.

But get it I did. Every song, every lyric– which to this day I know backwards. As I like to say, it gets in, it gets out, and rocks out in the interim.

It’s 15 tracks of punk rock –average length of about a minute and a half– played as fast as possible, and as literarily as possible, by a PhD candidate in southern California, who isn’t afraid to include lyrics the average metalhead/punk rocker will have to look up– and which I still often do.

It’s fucking awesome, even 23 years and 5 degrees later.

This album is perfect.

Highlights: “No Control”  (An utterly Zen Buddhist testimonial– “There’s no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end… when we all disintegrate, it’ll all happen again–yeah!”), “Progress,” “Automatic Man,” “The World Won’t Stop,” and pretty much every other  track on this masterpiece from Epitaph records.

“His life is meaningful, because he gets things done… chalk up another triumph for our hero, the Automatic Man…”

It’s also catchy as shit– I’m amazed that none of this tunes has shown up in a Target ad campaign.

It’s reassuring, to me, an unapologetic intellectual and snob– these lyrics are unapologetically literate and philosophical: Greg Graffin, I fucking love you.

This is something I grew up with– thrash metal, which came from punk rock, with its political fury– and something that to this day makes me proud of what I listened to as teenager and what it made me, as an intellectual– how many Debbie Gibson fans from the late 80s can say the same thing?

Some track specificness:

“I want to conquer the world:”– dig these lyrics:

     I wanna conquer the world, give all the idiots a brand-new religion,
     put an end to poverty, uncleanliness and toil…
     Expose the culprits and feed them to the children,
I’ll do away with air pollution and then I’ll save the whales,
We’ll have peace on earth and global communion…
     I wanna conquer the world… promote equality with all of my decisions, with a quick wink of the eye, and a ‘God, you must be joking…!”

When was the last time you read literally anything that uplifting and forward-thinking…? In the whole of my navel-gazing life, only Krishnamurti, Jesus Christ (depending on the translation), the Buddha himself, and a select few others decreed something so forward-thinking…! Who says extreme music is stupid? Idiots!

Get in on this, you groundling bitches!!

[I’m kidding: I love you for your deliberate uncouthness.]

Trap Them, Seizures in Barren Praise

Not really sure what the eff the title means. But man… I dig that cover: a monochrome yet intricate and detailed suggestion of suffering… Bosch meets Edward Gorey… an almost perfectly appropriate description, too, of the music of Trap Them– a detuned, doom-metalled, punk-ish, grindcore’d, D-beat sound of pure sonic fury… the kind of stuff that Monkey Defies Gravity lives for….

Opener “Fucking Viva,” somehow sounds like the cool version of Godsmack’s “Voodoo”….

Next, “Targets” roars out the gate at 1000 mph, like they’re pissed that Entombed isn’t more angry, man….

“Flesh and Below” sounds like Agnostic Front on Quaaludes and Crossfit workouts (imagine), and seven minute closer “Mission Convincers,” though it goes through several tempo changes, ends up sounding like a detuned Jimi Hendrix as played by the Infected from 28 Days Later.

The whole thing’s only 25 minutes, but it blazes by like a spliff laced with the Joker’s Smilex toxin.

Furious, fun psychedelic rage….

Black Tusk, Set The Dial

This one gave me some difficulties.

I hated it at first.

And I like Black Tusk a lot, don’t get me wrong.

I liked the previous LP, Taste the Sin, I saw them live and thoroughly enjoyed their show, particularly their energy– I don’t even care how much they sound like Kylesa.

I went so far as to write most of a review of my hating it, which I discarded. Here are the high (low) points:

“Brewing the Storm” starts with a cool, low-gain sludgy-disco riff, and then proceeds to play it too long…. “Bring Me Darkness” starts with a “six-six-six” chant over a riff that starts great but by 1:32 has overstayed its welcome.
vaguely malevolent, apocalyptic sorcery lyrics comically contrast with lightweight, almost whimsical southern metal.
no great power here; sound like kids

Then I think I had that click experience. I was listening to Set the Dial wrong.

Black Tusk–

are a comic book band!

Now, this is said not with disdain but with love– as someone who loves and still reads comics.

Like most characters in comic books and graphic novels– they’re larger than life and not really meant, generally, to take seriously, but, in an odd way, are just as serious about their art as anyone. E.g., “Yeah, I’m writing about things we both know don’t exist, but I’m using them as serious props.”

Maybe this will sum up my paradigm shift: Set the Dial is like the experience of going into a Haunted House commercial attraction for Halloween– and not an actually haunted house (like, say, listening to Reign in Blood might be).

It’s not gonna found any religions, but it will scare [rock] the shit out of you while you’re listening.

“Carved in Stone” great, as is “Set the Dial to Your Doom” and “Crossroads and Thunder” [in retrospect, the song titles should really have tipped me off as to the tongue-in-cheek-ness on display here]; the sound overall of Set the Dial is much more stripped-down, production-wise, than previous LPs– it’s almost live-sounding, and it really suites their music:  the energy and enthusiasm I saw them display live actually comes through the speakers.