Written by: Izzy
Despite often on first glance appearing as a metalhead, probably because I’m oft wearing my Slayer or Gojira tshirts, I actually consider myself much more of a hardcore kid at heart. I never cared for classic punk, and my dad raised me on Dio and Black Sabbath so it was natural I grew up mostly in the metal scene, but as I got older and learned about more genres adjacent and outside of metal, when I finally dove into hardcore something about the music and community just grabbed me and I’ve felt so at home there ever since.
Don’t get me wrong, metalheads are great people (usually), but the hardcore community was so accepting, progressive minded, filled with activists looking for a change, it felt like where I belonged, much more than any metal community I had been a part of. So, in the span of a couple years I went from a diehard metalhead to a straight-edge core kid, I guess you could call me…Transgenre.
Okay okay I just really wanted to make that joke. I’ll actually start the review now.
In the interest of transparency: Creeping Death have three things going for them right now. The first is that gorgeous cover artwork. The second is the fact that I downloaded Wretched Illusions before clambering into this airplane, and, lo and behold, theirs is one of the few albums currently available for the duration of this flight. Thirdly, and most importantly, is that Creeping Death peddles a thoroughly solid brand of death metal, and that is all and everything this weary scribe is craving at the moment. When I'm feeling this malnourished, nothing sticks to my bones quite like meat 'n' potatoes death. No bells and whistles for me, please. Just the inevitability of crushing riffage, throat-wrenching growls, and enough thrash-derived adrenaline to keep me awake, thankyouverymuch. But enough talk. Let's hit that runway, shall we?
Lest ye readers read the forthcoming praise and subsequently turn upon us scribes in our lofty ivory tower, brandishing pitchforks and torches whilst profusely bleeding through wretched earholes, let me make something clear. Treading Water, the debut LP from Milwaukees’ two-man grind unit LIFES, is not a pleasant listening experience. Both in conventional and unconventional sense.
Treading Water is a brief but pugilistic cacophony, a squealing and burping punk-ridden grindy mess. LIFES carry themselves with the boisterous aggression, powerviolent attitude, and hardcore gravitas of Iron Lung or Dropdead, combined with the wild grinding invention of (my personal scene faves) The Locust. But sonically, the closest comparison I can draw is the vocal delivery of Liberteer's Matthew Widener. That said, both Zak Rudnik and Dave Holochwost handle vocal duties; I'm not sure which is which. Both are pretty damn excellent, it should be worth noting, and no matter who is roaring, the message comes across clear.
Occasionally, something breaches our slumbering village's humble walls and whips a little life back into the plague-ridden peasantry. Such is the case with the (forthcoming) too-short-but-oh-so-sweet 2-track demo from Warsaw's Sanity Control--the briefest of endeavors, imbued with the best of the respective punk and thrash realms. This bruiser was self-released this past February, but will be receiving a full cassette treatment from the certifiably esteemed Seeing Red Records.
Take the punky slur and aggressive drive of Cryptic Slaughter, Attitude Adjustment's hardcore ‘tude, and a healthy injection of ripping thrashy riffage. And there you have it. Sanity Control's formula isn't new or novel, but yet this is crossover at its most effective, seamlessly integrating the highlights of both respective genres. Notably, the two tracks herein feel quite distinct in character, giving a little hope for Sanity Control's ability to write songs varied enough to prevent the dread crossover fatigue. “Hunt” relies comfortably on a bombastic chanted chorus, while “Swarm” implicates some fierce vitriol and an unexpectedly acidic solo. The result? An invigorating and endlessly repeatable lil’ bundle of grimy joy. What more could you ask for?
Our populace rejoices in the face of a rising force in crossover excellence. If you've got (quite exactly) five minutes of free time, Sanity Control comes highly recommended.
Sanity Control - Demo 2019 will be released June 21st, 2019 from Seeing Red Records.
Sanity Control can be found on ye olde Bandcamp.
Cloistered high in the Sleeping Village’s Ivory Tower, amidst the industry of scratching quills and churning parchment, this particular scribe enjoys a moment of reflection, now and again. Without getting preachy, today’s topic is an unfortunate trap that I find myself falling into: I pigeonhole certain genres (and, by extension, bands) as intellectual, operating in contrast to those who are driven by emotion. As a thought process that unconsciously promotes a high-over-low-brow mentality, it’s particularly dangerous when this becomes a system for ranking the quality of music. The takeaway? There are multiple factors that define a band’s sound and approach, and if you approach new music assuming otherwise, you miss out. Case in point: Bather. With a bio that refers to Thomas Hobbes’ civility-be-damned exposé of humanity’s ugly underbelly, William Etty’s Musidora: The Bather 'At the Doubtful Breeze Alarmed, and the poet James Thompson’s Summer, it’s apparent that this Columbus, Ohio quintet approaches art from a decidedly well-read standpoint.
But does that mean their sound itself is stuffy and esoteric? Not in the slightest. Sonically, Bather recalls the good ol’ early days of ‘core, before everything was brought down by uninspired breakdowns and drenched in sappy lyricism. Y’know, neutered. They eschew the jubilantly punk oriented sound of the earliest acts--i.e. Agnostic Front--but 90’s frontrunners such as like Indecision’s Unorthodox, Integrity’s System Overload, or perhaps Hatebreed’s Under the Knife get you in a similar arena of hardcore spite and sasquatchian riffage. Promo material rightly compares Bather’s furious sound to Destroy the Machines, the debut album from metalcore tough guys Earth Crisis. Aggressive, dense, misanthropic. Throw in a healthy dose of death-tinged sludge for good measure.
Influences aside, Bather are undeniable bruisers. Drums are clobbered into submission, and the guitar is...weaponized, for lack of a better word. Whether chugging or thrumming, this tone is walloped around like a bat wrapped in barbed wire. The riffs themselves, while mighty, exist largely as a staging ground for muscular vocals, which act as the debut’s hooven glue. Like a wasp-stung muskox, this guy grunts and yelps with vivacious intensity. He alternates between styles of delivery with a certain abandon that, while seeming wild, is undoubtedly calculated. This expressive range lends Bather a dynamism that is frankly stunning for such a belligerent brand of ‘core. Look the the chorus on “All Dark Rooms,” or to the moments between chugs on “Birds,” where the vocals are particularly repugnant (and this, of course, in the best sense of the word). Thick, brooding, swathed in sweat. Even the more straightforward delivery on “The Path” utilizes a burly knuckle-dragging swagger, which is, in time, counteracted by a higher pitched tone. It’s both brutal and nuanced. A hard balance to hit.
As a result, nothing here feels stale. Take, for example, the aformentioned “All Dark Rooms,” which adjusts the tempo and general atmosphere, bringing the aggression from a boil to a menacing simmer. Similarly, closing track “Leaves Like Bones” changes the pace to a near-dirge at points, which is a well-played distraction from the fury of prior tracks. The latter may have succeeded more so as a mid-album interlude of sorts, as a punchier conclusion may have left the audience with a fresher welt. An exceedingly minor complaint, however, because in reality, reaching the end is essentially an open invitation to smash the repeat.
It's grimy, but beyond that, the whole affair is tinged with the miasma of sin. By tapping into the aggression, tension, and brutality of a short life sans society, Bather have done the near-impossible: they’ve crafted a metalcore album that holds appeal for academic riff-addicts. Honestly, when’s the last time you’ve been able to say that about ‘core? This debut is an impressive feat. Highly recommended.
Bather’s self-titled debut will be released April 12th, 2019 from Appalachian Noise Records.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.