The Listening Chaos – June 2016
I realize that I got a little long-winded in the intro to last month’s column, so I’ll try to be a bit more succinct this time around. June was another very solid month in the metal world, and in a couple of instances it actually bucked the trend I was talking about in last month’s column; there were a couple of highly anticipated records that actually lived up to their hype. Alas, the new Gojira record wasn’t among them; I just find that band to be incredibly boring (though The Baron would surely disagree with me—he’s really digging Magma).
Anyway…on to this month’s releases:
June’s Albums of the Month
Comet Control – Center of the Maze
Even as I’m writing this, I’m on the fence as to whether or not Toronto’s Comet Control really belongs on this month’s list. That’s not any reflection on the quality of the album—Center of the Maze is fucking incredible and a strong contender for Album of the Year. I’m just not sure how ‘metal’ it actually is. I mean, they are on Tee Pee, which might be the best label going right now for stoner/doom metal (their roster includes Earthless, Ruby the Hatchet, The Skull, Harsh Toke, and The Atomic Bitchwax, to name just a few). Comet Control doesn’t really sound like any of those bands, though; Center of the Maze has much more in common with an album like The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven than it does Master of Reality. It’s mellow and pleasantly psychedelic. If I’m being honest, it’s a really pretty record, and the two songs that close the album—“Sick in Space” and “Artificial Light”—make for just about the most perfect eighteen minutes of music I’ve heard on any record this year.
Cough – Still They Pray
Six years: that’s how long it’s been since Cough’s last full-length, Ritual Abuse. It was worth the wait. I was really anticipating this record, and it completely delivers. Unlike their older stuff, the Electric Wizard influence is strong on Still They Pray, which isn’t a total surprise since the record is produced by EW’s Jus Oborn, but don’t write this band off as mere Wizard-worship. Start to finish, this is the strongest collection of songs that Cough has ever committed to tape: the riffs are huge, the leads are memorable, and vocalist Parker Chandler is in strong voice throughout, particularly on the acoustic title track. Other highlights include album opener “Haunter of the Dark” and the epic “Dead Among the Roses.” And just a friendly reminder: Cough is headlining the first night of the Doomed and Stoned Fest in November. I cannot fucking wait to see how these new songs translate live.
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
So is it just me, or is this the most hyped extreme metal album on 2016? I mean, even the A.V. Club not only reviewed this record when it came out, but they gave this album a rave review. Music this angry and this abrasive generally doesn’t get that kind of mainstream attention—that’s usually reserved for the Deafheavens of the metal world, not a powerviolence band. But You Will Never Be One of Us is completely deserving of every ounce of (somewhat ironic) hype it’s gotten. This album is a fucking beast. If you’re looking for subtlety or nuance, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere; Nails basically has one mode—rage. And as they blast through ten songs in a tick under 22 minutes (most of which is courtesy of 8+ minute closer “They Come Crawling Back”), there’s nary a moment to catch your breath. If you get a chance to see these guys live, I highly recommend doing so; I caught them in Chicago on the day the record came out, and they are even heavier and angrier in person than on record.
RLYR – Delayer
RLYR is a Chicago post-metal supergroup of sorts, featuring Pelican’s Trevor Shelley de Brauw on guitars, Steve Hess of Locrian on drums, and Colin DeKuiper (Bloodiest, ex-Russian Circles) on bass. In some respects, they sound exactly like you’d expect them to sound, and that’s perfectly fine; de Brauw’s guitar playing has become so synonymous with instru/post-metal that I’d be kind of disappointed if he sounded like anyone other than himself. But much like he did with Teith on their criminally underrated 2013 record Humboldt Park, those Pelican-isms (for lack of a better term) sound both comfortably familiar and totally unlike his main gig. Opener “Slipstream Summer” has one of the catchiest riffs he’s ever written, but the true standout here is the 23-minute closing track “Descent of the Night Bison.”
Void King – There is Nothing
Here’s a first for The Listening Chaos: an Indianapolis band on the Albums of the Month list. This isn’t some sort of hometown discount, though; this record fucking rips. I love damn near everything about it: the guitar tone, the riffs, the burly vocals, the attitude–the song “Canyon Hammer” in particular makes me want to go out and punch people. Since Chris already did a full review of this record, and since I agree with pretty much everything he said, I’ll point you towards that instead of repeating all of it here. Somehow, I’ve yet to see this band live (I just missed their set when they played with Stonecutters back in March), but I intend to correct that as soon as possible.
Bat – Wings of Chains
At this point, I have officially lost track of how many Municipal Waste side projects there are. This one features Ryan Waste and Nick Poulos alongside Felix Griffin, who played drums for D.R.I. during their mid-to-late 80s heyday. Wings of Chains is a really enjoyable slab of old-school speed metal—imagine Metallica if they’d never progressed past “Hit the Lights.” Fun stuff.
Dawn of Disease – Worship the Grave
Really solid meat-and-potatoes death metal from Germany. Dawn of Disease isn’t doing anything I haven’t already heard before, but they do it really well. Solid riffs, tight arrangements—good stuff all around.
If These Trees Could Talk – The Bones of a Dying World
More really solid instru/post-metal that occasionally reminds me of local favorites Drude. Part of what sets If These Trees Could Talk apart from the rest of the Pelican/Russian Circles-inspired crowd is their triple guitar attack, which makes for some interesting textures within the compositions.
Integrity/Power Trip – Split
This is an odd little split. On one side you’ve got old-school hardcore icons Integrity, and on the other is one of the best of the new school crossover thrash bands, Power Trip. The Integrity side is good, but it’s the Power Trip tracks that make this one a must-hear.
Kvlthammer – Oath
You know, I almost didn’t give this album a listen since I’m still pretty bummed about Coffinworm calling it quits. It’s really fucking good, though—totally gnarly black-and-roll that’s all kinds of jagged and filthy. After listening to it, I felt like I needed a tetanus shot. I’ve not managed to see them live yet either, but I intend to correct that very soon.
Sol Sistere – Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum
From the not-exactly grim or frostbitten kingdoms of Chile comes one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard so far this year. Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum would probably fall under the ‘atmospheric’ sub-heading, so the melodicism of some of the tracks may turn off the tr00 kvlt crowd. Their loss, though—this is some seriously good shit.
Terra Tenebrosa – The Reverses
Call me jaded, but it isn’t often that I find a metal record to be truly unsettling. With The Reverses, Swedish avant-garde black metallers Terra Tenebrosa have made a truly unsettling record. Musically they’re comparable to Blut Aus Nord or Thantifaxath, but much creepier. Even their visual aesthetic weirds me the fuck out…
Vale of Pnath – II
After a 5-year absence, Lovecraftian tech-deathers Vale of Pnath are finally back with the follow-up to their excellent debut album, The Prodigal Empire. What I’ve always appreciated the most about this band is their compositional skills. There are a lot of musicians out there who can play crazy riff after crazy riff at 240 bpm, but they lack the songwriting skills to go along with the chops. Vale of Pnath understand nuance, and their songs never seem over-crowded with riffs or unnecessary frills. There are some really nice neoclassical moments on the record as well.