Earth, Primitive and Deadly

Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon. Opens in medias res-ishly with unusually-straightforward (for Earth) metal riff (an awesome one) occasionally punctuated by sitar-like guitars draped over it, then some thirds and/or minor thirds wafting across the sound field, barely noticed, not unlike irony in the south, or the sweet smell of the little sugar in a proper Earl Grey. Heavier than their last two records (three, really; it’s the Kill Bill dilemma: is it one movie in two parts, or two movies? One, I think, so by that rationale, I’m talking about Earth’s last two records, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light. Got that? Sure you do; you’re a smart kid), and a bit more rhythmic, in that there’s a bit less rubato and the whole liquid, gooey sonic mess is more coagulated, hangs together more tightly, and in that, comes off as even heavier, even more ominous. It’s nine minutes, nearly, but you don’t notice: the mark of good writing/composing. Last twenty seconds it lumbers downward, knees failing the sonic behemoth, the aural leviathan, and the clangor and clamor of the percussive pandemonium roiling downward into dust from which it shall be indistinguishable, like a detonated building, the roof suddenly so much nearer sea level….

No idea about that title, though.

There is a Serpent Coming. Sounds more like the previous records, though vocals enter after about a minute; reinforces Earth’s similarity to a sick, Crimean cholera hospital blues preacher (just imagine it: Jesus, do I have to conjure all the imagery here?)– his choir’s behind him, lapsteel to feedback singers, all fading into this, their slow inexorable death from the dysentery-spewing disease….

Or maybe radiation poisoning. Yeah, that simile works better. Radiation poisoning. Their gray-blue skin mottled with dehydration and cellular Armageddon, smiling from the morphine. Fading…. Out.

From the Zodiacal Light. Also with the singing; the female singer works a bit better here; overall, not as good as the instrumental tracks. Grows on you, especially the “swelling” vocal styles, which seem like the sonic equivalent of molten gold in a lava lamp, swimming up into pitch so slowly you doubt it’s gonna happen, but every four bars, always does. Something like waiting for every sunrise with the tiny, tiny chance that the great burning ball in the sky won’t make it up in time. Title? As is the norm with Earth, they almost all sound like they’re intentionally oblique/cryptic, like nearly everything Pandoran psychos say out in the Borderlands. This one’s twelve minutes, but around the eight-minute mark, you do notice the length. By twelve minutes you wish it was as succinct as Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. The song.

Even Hell has its Heroes. Now that’s a title. That’s a title. That’s what I’m talking about. That title is fresh, funky, fly, the bomb, bootylicious and dope. No diggity. Seriously, no diggity. Sounds almost like acoustic Sunn 0))) –no surprise considering their bassist– one chord; don’t even need to call it a “tonic” since there aren’t other tones, okay there are, but they’re pretty frickin’ rare. I’m going for colorful exaggeration here, people. If I said, “Mostly in E, but drops to D for a second, then goes back to E,” your eyes would prolly glaze over. Amirite? Also, occasionally hits a F. Also nearly ten minutes, but it’s a fun ten. It’s a fun ten.

Rooks across the gates. Opens with alien wind chimes. You half expect a green, radioactive Mr. Burns to show up and wish you love. Then, without warning, an absolute Goddamn flurry of third chords flitting about each other, sometimes seemingly not in tune, yet somehow working, the dramatic tension making the final resolve more satisfying, like the click into place of a seatbelt, or the slide on an automatic. Like a kaleidoscope that ever so rarely becomes one color, then back, to all the varieties in light, competing for space/ dancing.  Also with the singing of devils, deals, loss, regret, nostalgia, twilight sojourns. Of just kingdoms long dead from treachery.

Of barbarians in the distance, and barbarians… at the gate.

The entire song is the last note of lesser songs– just ringing out, fading, across nine minutes instead of the thirty seconds you might expect.

I’m writing this at work; the setting is encouraging me to be more prolix. More loquacious. Verbose, even. I’m also trying to look annoyed –so I look busy– as I enjoy the afterlife damnation out of this record.

Badgers Bane. No apostrophe. A morose, down-tuned pop band’s requiem. That they play, not one written for them. Aaron Copeland’s requiem mass written on laudanum.

Link to Earth’s Bandcamp

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

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.” 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.”

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.

TOAD, Endless Night

TOAD, Endless Night, CoverTOAD are Slayer, drunk, with one member on PCP (you decide which one*), covering Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction.


An alternate-universe Slayer that, being from LA, loved the music of the sunset strip (e.g., Ratt, LA Guns), but were so metal that they in fact ending up sounding like TOAD.

Stream it now on Brooklyn Vegan

*It’s Tom Araya.

Orchid, The Mouths of Madness

Orchid, The Mouths Of Madness, coverAllow me to address the nagging, unspoken eternal question:

How does one begin to review Orchid?

Reference this article? Or this one?

Review with irony, or without?

No. I will take my cue from this scene from some movie whose title I don’t want to write out, and riff on this question, one very very similar to the one on which they did riff….

You know how I know Orchid are metal?

They’re Electric Wizard if they worshiped a slightly lighter dark God….

Because they are so close to being a Black Sabbath cover band without actually being one, yet a band wildly-ecstatically inspired by one, that their performances and recorded material verge on performance art… on shamanistic pagan ritual*….

Because Ozzy Osbourne’s hair is not greasy enough for them: they go on Ebay and buy locks of his hair from the early 70s, wring out the oil and brush their teeth with it, because that’s soap to them, man… they’re that funky, in both the George Clinton and the CDC sense….

“Mouths of Madness,” a generic if rousing rockish opener, “Marching Dogs of War,” boring filler (even great albums like Vol. 4 had filler, now though, come on…), but “Silent One,” is another Orchid gem here… “Mountains of Steel,” very COC-circa-Pepper-Keenan… “Leaving It All Behind,” just no, you fucking hippies… “Loving Hand of God,” (great title) sounds like the Doors, of all stoner metal bands. At first? Annoying. After a few listens, though, it’s pretty DamnedGod awesome.

“See You on the Other Side,” sounds like, really really Sabotage, dude: you totally know that they know that, man… it’s like Megadeth’s “502” flavored by Trouble’s 1989 masterpiece….

*You know how I know I’m gay? Because I used the phrase “Shamanistic Pagan Ritual.”