Sucker For Punishment: Tumbleweeds

It’s another light week for new releases, and mercifully so for yours truly, who is currently recovering from a hot and loud weekend at Heavy Montreal, where the likes of Metallica, Slayer, Twisted Sister (who totally ruled), Voivod, Municipal Waste, Exodus, and dozens more bands played to around 40,000 people over two days. Fellow Decibel contributor Kevin Stewart-Panko could not have disagreed more in regards to Babymetal’s performance – you can probably guess which one of us dug it – but we both agreed that the kids in Unlocking the Truth just might be the real deal after all. Anyway, be sure to catch his recap in Decibel the magazine soon.
In the meantime, although there are a few decent albums this week, they’re all eclipsed by my non-metal choice this week, which is a major Album of the Year contender. And besides, one of the best metal albums of 2014 comes out next week, so you might want to save your hard-earned cash for that one.

Abysmal Lord, Storms Of Unholy Black Mass (Hells Headbangers): The problem with this most primitive form of death metal is not the atmosphere, these Louisiana guys have that suffocating, dank atmosphere nailed. No, the real crux is the fact that the guitars sound so dense in this deliberately lo-fi production that the second the music kicks into blastbeat-driven sections, all sense of melody disappears. Contrast that with the band’s brilliant, Asphyx-style doom passages, and it becomes frustrating. Your mind subconsciously follows that melodic pattern, than the whole thing speeds up, all sense of melody vanishes, and you’re lost. I love you, Hells Headbangers, but I can’t fully recommend this one.

Atara / Miserable Failure, Hang Them (Kaotoxin): Personally I find Atara to be the more interesting of these two French bands on this split release, their form of grindcore is more controlled, disciplined and metal than the manic, punk-derived Miserable Failure, leaning more towards the crusty, old-timey Brutal Truth side of the genre. Still, though, these two bands complement each other very well on this release.

Evil United, Honored By Fire (MVD): Led by vocalist Jason McMaster, who us old-timers remember best as the leader of sleaze rockers Dangerous Toys, Evil United focuses more on classic speed metal, combining double-time tempos, thrashy rhythm riffs and flashy harmonies, and vocal histrionics like classic Exciter and Helstar. Aside from the odd regression into metalcore breakdowns, which are frankly beneath these guys, this is a surprisingly good, not to mention energetic release.

Funerary, Starless Aeon (Midnite Collective): This relatively new band from Phoenix focuses on the more outwardly horrific side of doom metal, with plenty of ultra-low notes and riffs plodding along like the most morbid of funeral processions. Interestingly, though, is a stateliness to the music that’s very reminiscent of Neurosis, bringing mournful gravitas to all the gimmickry, giving the music substance and depth. They’re not quite fully there yet, but a track like “Beneath the Black Veil” shows they’re well on their way. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Grifter, Return Of The Bearded Brethren (Ripple): Swaggering, swinging, groovy heavy metal, much like Orange Goblin but featuring singing, which will endear these Brits to the Clutch crowd. It’s very good stuff, although if you ask me I will always prefer The Grifters to Grifter.

John 5, Careful With That Axe (60 Cycle Hum): Typical of most solo albums by metal shredders, this is all noodling all the time, but what separates John 5 from the rest is just how playful he makes it all sound. There plenty here to make Guitar World readers and Guitar Center loiterers salivate, but to folks who couldn’t care less about technique, this album manages to keep the mood light and fun, veering from style to style with a manic energy that often resembles that of Devin Townsend.

Rabbits, Untoward (Lamb Unlimited): The Portland noise band is at it again, churning about abrasive, often obnoxious compositions that bear an uncanny resemblance to Melvins and Harvey Milk. Sludgy, sloppy yet deceptively clever, and always, always ugly. So ugly, in fact, that you kind of want to come up for air afterwards, just go outside and enjoy some sun. The mood on this record is that sour, and in this band’s case, mission accomplished. They’ve come to ruin your day.

Slaughterday, Ravenous (FDA Rekotz): The likeable German band follow up last year’s fun Nightmare Vortex with an EP’s worth of, once again, no-frills death metal in the early-‘90s Swedish tradition, pulled off in very convincing fashion.

Upon a Burning Body, The World Is My Enemy Now (Sumerian): Kiddiecore as instantly forgettable as this band’s name.

Not metal, but totally worth hearing:

FKA Twigs, LP1 (XL): Sometimes it’s easy to cynically gauge hype as simply the product of a collective hive mind, but once in a rare while the buzz surrounding a new artist is simply because the level of talent on display is undeniable. Singer-songwriter Tahlia Barnett, whose work under the moniker FKA Twigs has been generating more and more interest over the last 12 months, has delivered on the promise of her early work with an astonishing debut album that combines the glitchy, poppy charm of Grimes with the murky sexuality of Tricky’s classic Maxinquaye, yet is so unconventional, “Pendulum”, “Lights Off”, “Closer”, and “Two Weeks” coming across as a wholly original product of a wicked, vivid imagination.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy