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.
As you eagle-eyed readers may recall, the Sleeping Village featured, some months back, a grisly music video for “Feeling Dead,” the lead single from Doors & Fours’ second LP. At the time, I described--in tantalizing detail, I’m sure--the process of rubbing together gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation of said album’s release. Well, well. Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has been here for a week, so it’s certainly high time we talk about it. The mosh beckons.
From an instrumental standpoint, Black Majik is, as "Feeling Dead" indicated, decidedly solid. The formula of hefty bass, angular riffage, and forward-facing drums remains, as my grandmother might say, built like a brick shithouse--no flair, but going above and beyond in the utilitarian department. If this comes off as a coy way to state that this Ontarian trio meet the bare minimum, that certainly isn’t the intent. While there are few flashes of technicality, this genre, and the Doors & Fours brand in general, necessitates a reliably bludgeoning and high-energy display of technique. To this end, this trio delivers in spades.
As alluded in the original track review, Paige McAleney’s drums maintain a delicious momentum and a vivacious energy. While accolades usually go to the dirty riffs n’ vocals, punk is so dependent on a percussionist who is able to maintain a consistent and ferocious output. In this respect, McAleney feels incredibly central to the success of Doors & Four’s stability. The guitars, which remain crunchy and jagged throughout, lend the entire affair a head-bopping groove, particularly in the overtly punk-influenced riffage of “Full Moon Tonight” or “The Weather is Nice in Purgatory.” These particularly aggressive tracks serve as focal points for the album, and would remain my recommendation for anyone looking to test the waters.
An interesting strength of the production is the tendency for the guitar (and, in particular, the bass) to move, from track to track, further behind or further forward in the mix. This allows for a certain sense of dynamism that often loses hold on your average punk album. A minor misstep in this regard is outro track “Bad Philosophy,” which significantly slows down the pace. Despite being enjoyable in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it exists within the same universe. Looking at the big picture, however, the ability of the riffage to provide space where needed allows Adam Peach’s boisterous vox the ample room it requires.--and indeed deserves. In a similar vein, the subtle melodicism that weaves and wends through the vocals is provided the occasional moment to shine without being buried beneath crushing riffz.
Speaking of the album’s overall construction, the length is worth note, but not worth criticism. At under half an hour, Black Majik is a very brief ride. Brevity fits the bill, and a longer runtime may have reduced the punchiness of the package as a whole. Given the multiple surprises Doors & Fours offers, the consideration given to depth in the course of composition is most impressive.
Beyond all this, however, there’s an overarching reason that Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has graced the halls of the Sleeping Village fairly incessantly these past few weeks. As someone who conquers a slog of heavy music on the daily, most of which is attempting to be as ANGRY and ANGST-ridden as possible, fun is an absolutely essential component. Doors & Fours is refreshingly jubilant, and sound like they are having as much fun playing as I am listening. Here’s an example: Doors & Fours is so infused with this spirit of gleeful irreverence that, upon mistakenly hearing the chorus for “Dead Bodies” as “make love to dead bunnies,” I left the engagement utterly nonplussed. This fun-loving ambiance is a decidedly lovable quality, and in a world filled with bands vying for attention, taking yourself too seriously is sometimes a bit of a turnoff. A little humor in the lyrical arena goes a helluva long way at drawing the listener back in, and little gems like “we're here for eternity/cause we're fuckin' zombies/we're already deeeeeeeaddddd” only serve to reinforce a tangible sense of glee. But yet, these tracks carry themselves with a serious horror aesthetic weight. That’s a hard combination to nail.
Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs is simultaneously fun and menacing, jubilant and aggressive. Not to mention utterly addictive. Albums like these make for very welcome encounters, and Doors & Fours will undoubtedly remain in heavy rotation for the sheer enjoyment they deliver. The grisly bottom line? This satanic orgy comes highly recommended.
Doors & Fours - Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs was released on Feb. 1st from Aborted Productions
As you may have noticed, we here at the Sleeping Village enjoy a good EP. This is especially in the case of a band such as the appropriately moniker'd rotting in dirt--a band, in other words, that possesses a hardcore-inspired sound so violent that it operates best in a short, visceral format.
While the EP as a whole is excellent, there is one track in particular that sticks out, especially on repeat listens. I'm speaking of "thirst," the original single. How to describe the sound? In a word: chaotic. (For the morbidly curious, “exothermic” and “bituminous” also apply. In that order). For the sake of comparison, take Nothing-era Cult Leader and turn the chaos meter all the way up past 11. Remove the bounce from the riffage in Botch’s To Our Friends In the Great White North, and replace, jarringly, with a putrid primal fury. Subject the vocalist--take your pick, really--to a decade or two of ghastly torture, until only a ravaged, animalistic husk remains. Bury it all, and leave it to rot.
While the general ambiance is, of course, the primary draw here, "thirst" is truly made by a surprising ability to step back and examine the carnage from afar. Early on in the track, the screams pause, allowing the percussion to take a slow, deliberate moment out of the impending claustrophobia. The attention to dynamics in a genre that typically eschews breathing room is notable, and if rotting in dirt continues to implement this kind of composition, they are undoubtedly on track to rise above the clay and loam. Stream "thirst" below:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!