Sucker For Punishment: Is That All There Is?

There were around 60 new metal releases last week, but this week we’re scraping the barrel. This silly industry is weird that way. In my digging I realized that the new Divider album is terrific, well worth investigating, but aside from that, it’s as bleak as it gets. Next week though; hoo, boy.
Aside from Divider, personally I recommend you look outside the metal genre for this week’s best new albums, including ones by Leonard Cohen, Aphex Twin, and especially Goat. But if Stryper live albums are your thing, then please, be my guest. Read on:

Beak, Let Time Begin (Someoddpilot): An album concept doesn’t get much more epic in scope than an “interpretation of the origins of the universe,” and according to Beak, the origins of the universe included a lot of yelling. Facetiousness aside, though, the Chicago post-metal outfit actually does a very admirable job creating moments of seismic heaviness that are offset by quieter, meditative passages. It’s an album smart enough to know when to hold back, and that restraint makes the powerful moments leave an immediate impression. Fans of the proggier side of metal will definitely gravitate towards this one.

Death Valley Driver, Carnivore’s Oath (Diminished Fifth): The Eastern Canadian band has followed up their 2013 album with a quick, four-song EP, but rather than feeling like leftovers these new tunes show remarkable growth. The swing and swagger is still there, but there are more hooks to be heard, which only makes their hybrid of sludge and classic heavy metal all the more appealing. They’re approaching Orange Goblin levels of excellence here. Preview and purchase it via Bandcamp. 

Deep Purple, Graz 1975 (Earmusic / Eagle Rock): Deep Purple’s exploration of the vaults continues with this complete live recording from Graz, Austria in 1975, which has been released in its entirety for the first time. Recorded shortly after the release of the Stormbringer album, this is not only a valuable snapshot of Deep Purple’s Mark III lineup with co-lead singers David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, but one of Ritchie Blackmore’s last shows with the band, right before he bolted and formed Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio. So yes, that means another ferocious, 20-minute “Space Truckin’” jam, and some tremendous performances of Stormbringer tracks, including “The Gypsy” and “Lady Double Dealer”.

Disasterhate, Mirroring The Abyss (Club Inferno): When it comes to new band names these days, you either get arbitrary get the usual “metal” words bunched together (is there a band called Witchwolf yet?) or even better, broken English attempts to sound badass but ultimately make no sense. Italy’s Disasterhate definitely falls into the latter category. Musically, this debut album is a mildly intriguing blend of thrash and ‘90s groove metal, pushing the right buttons, serving up chugging riffs and well-timed vocal melodies. A song like the goth-imbued “Toxic Sleep” shows the kind of potential this band has, but not enough of the rest of the album holds up as well.

Divider, All Barren (Glory Kid Ltd.): Although the Long Island band has been around for a good eight years, this is their debut album, which at least proves that it’s not always a good idea to rush into things. Consequently Divider arrives sounding fully-formed, briding the sheer heaviness of Neurosis and the ferocity of Converge. When tossing out comparisons, referencing Neurosis and Converge should never be done lightly, either, but this record absolutely measures up to those lofty standards. Anchored in dense, crusty guitar tones, the songs veer from lurching doom, to nervous hardcore energy, to martial, Godflesh-derived paces, never lingering too long, often saying what needs to be said in less than three minutes. The best is saved for last, though, in the form of the nearly seven-minute “Silently Marching”, which takes the music into sprawling, psychedelic territory, capping off a striking, unforgettable album. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp. 

Onkel Tom, H.E.L.D. (SPV): The side project of Sodom great Tom Angelripper is back with its first helping of booze-fueled thrash tunes in some 14 years. Sung entirely in German, it seems a fun little outlet for Tom, but aside from the ballad “Ich bin noch am Leben” (“I’m Still Alive”) its paeans to alcohol and flatulence wear very thin, very fast.

Stryper, Live At the Whisky (Frontiers): As last year’s very impressive No More Hell to Pay proved, these old Christian rockers can still play. No matter what you think of Stryper’s proselytizing, it’s no different than any Satanic metal band’s equally overbearing lyrics; if the music gets you, enjoy it on that basis alone. And this live album recorded in Hollywood a year ago is plenty potent, the band sounding tight, singer Michael Sweet sounding as powerful as he did 30 years ago. And “To Hell With the Devil” and “Soldiers Under Command” still absolutely scorch, enough to coax even the grumpiest anti-Christian kvltist’s fist in the air.

Not metal, but better than pretty much all metal that comes out this week:

Goat, Commune (Sub Pop): What Swedish band Goat had going for itself when the debut album World Music snuck up on people including yours truly in July 2012 was that sense of novelty that always goes over well with the indie crowd.  Its strange blend of vintage heavy rock, krautrock, psychedelic, and afrobeat was not only irresistible, but completely unlike anything else out there, and its very uniqueness was why it was able to become quite a little crossover success. Two years later, the challenge now is to a) prove to audiences that the first album was no fluke, and b) sound fresh enough to keep fickle listeners interested. Although the band is drawing from the same influences that permeated World Music, the sound on Commune has been expanded more, power chords and fuzzed-out bass giving way to more sprawling, spacey arrangements. The whole thing might be slightly less consistent and revelatory than the previous album, but “Talk to God”, “Words”, and “Gathering of Ancient Tribes” show this band has not lost its potency at all.

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