Written by: Continuous Thunder
I’m pulling something from the deep recesses of left field for you today. But when you’ve listened to as much music as I have, left field can provide welcome, refreshing, if sometimes puzzling breaks from the norm. (There’s a reason music critics praise experimental music so highly.) The harsh sounds of heavy metal’s more extreme sub-genres make them excellent sonic palettes for experimental artists. The best artists will recognize the similarities in different styles of music and bring them together, or they will contrast two very different genres that otherwise would never mix. The latter can be found in Fire-Toolz, who juxtaposes the clean, hazy, and nostalgic sounds of vaporwave with the harsh and oppressive sounds of black metal, noise, and other extreme genres.
Written by: Continuous Thunder
If you told me at the beginning of the year that one of the best sludge metal albums I’d hear in 2020 would come from two Japanese girls… I’d lean in closer and ask you to tell me more. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, when women are involved in making hard rock and metal on the doomy side of things, it tends to be pretty damn good more often than not. Some of my favorite albums from the past couple of years have been from bands like Windhand, Castle, and Electric Citizen. And this year we’ve already had great albums from Konvent and Lucifer. Well, get ready to add BlackLab to the pile.
As mentioned, BlackLab is a doom and sludge duo from Japan, made up of guitarist and vocalist Yuko Morino and drummer Chia Shiraishi. Abyss is their second album. Being a duo in the doom metal world requires some sonic creativity to get your sound sufficiently heavy and thick. I’m not sure what witchcraft Morino has employed, but her guitar tone is freakin’ huge! And these riffs aren’t just fuzzy, they’re downright filthy. We’re talking trve slvdge, Houdini-era Melvins levels of nasty. Along with down-tuning, a sub-octave can be heard filling out the bottom end. I don’t know if Morino dubbed in a bass guitar or if she split her signal into an octave pedal, but there is certainly no lack of low end here. She’s also the kind of guitarist who uses feedback to her advantage.
Demonstrating adherence to a vague moral code, this particular villager will only review a split release if there's a fair balance between the parties involved. If a split is inherently weighted in an obvious fashion, it's simply not worth touting around a recommendation of the package as a whole. This is all to say that this (fairly mysterious) 2-track from Alberta's Tekarra and Mexico's Malamadre fits the bill quite well, thankyouverymuch. Both tracks here hold up, with graceful ease, its respective end of the bargain, and thus, a successful split is born. At risk of showing all my card, this fine little effort is a slow and exceedingly worthwhile burn.
Tekarra starts things off with the massive Barbaric Tools, a simultaneously deathy and droning slab of feedback-ridden amp worship. As one might expect, this living mountain of a track clocks in at over ten minutes--a slow burn, but ruthlessly effective in it's delivery. Over the course, Tekarra unleashes anticipatory waves of distortion-heavy (and indeed centric) riffage. Supplication before the the amplifier is the name of the game, and if you're new to drone, Tekarra invites you in with a warm tone and welcome arms.
Some quirky soloing and extended bouts of hypnotically intense feedback round out the guitar's delivery, lending the track a sense of character that all-too-oft goes amidst in the genre's more lackluster efforts. It's unique identity is only strengthened by the addition of crushingly heavy vocals, absolutely massive in stature. While everything remains audible, the production does lean towards the reedy side of the spectrum. In some sense, this gets the track a uniquely antiqued feel that, frankly, I've come to greatly enjoy over repeat rotations. For that gut-wrenching punch we've come to anticipate from modern doom, however, a little extra heft and girth will throw these guys in with the heavyweights. It's a great track regardless, and I'm interested to see what these potential heavyweights hit us with next.
But Tekarra aren't the only headliners here, and Malamadre, to their credit, follow up with great aplomb. Without the benefit of vocals, the appropriately entitled Cataclismo makes subtle, sparse, and incredibly effective use of drums to fill the Less a mere necessity, each cymbal hit is a statement. By design, there is limited space for any real crescendo until the very end, and Malamadre actually get by quite well by simply offering minor changes to the riff structure and percussive patterns. That's not to say the back half doesn't make exceptionally great use of noisy elements to draw things towards a natural conclusion. The entire track feels wondrously organic--somehow alien and monstrous, when compared to Tekarra's more deliberate riffage. Appropriately enough, Malamadre state that their "slow and colossal riffs" are inspired by "legends of the great kaiju." Evident enough, and well executed. Cataclismo is supremely effective in building up an inevitable catharsis.
Both of these tracks strike me with their ability to take the unexpected and use it productively against the listener. Given Tekarra's runtime, I was expecting a drawn out affair, and yet, not so much. These 10 minutes hardly feel like 5, and that is truly an accomplishment. Malamadre, to their credit, succeed enormously without vocals, utilizing well-conceived and exceedingly deliberate instrumentation to great effect. They work off each other quite well, each illustrating and inhabiting a distinct persona of doom metal's drone-ier side. As a split should.
Tekarra / Malamadre's split was released April 5th, and can be found at their respective bandcamps.
Says guitarist and vocalist Chris Roo: “This world is fucked and I really just need to get shit out with my friends by my side." And in one fell swoop, Roo thusly describes the sound and the impact of the debut EP from Chicago’s own These Beast far more succinctly than I ever will. Forthcoming glowing recommendation aside, you just gotta appreciate a band that nails it in the artistic statement department. And there's no question: everyone can benefit from a good vent. The trouble, more often than not, is finding an audience willing to subject themselves to your grievances. In the case of These Beasts, it’s looking like this particular Villager shall henceforth lend an ear.
These Beasts don’t defy classification per se--but, as with most artists, describing them in terms of who they sound like versus what they sound like feels reductive. In any case, bear with me here. By kicking in the door with a certain mustardy ferocity, These Beasts take the forthright no-fucks-given experimentality of Botch or “Red Medicine”-era Fugazi, and batter, fairly mercilessly, against the distortion-ridden and axe-bashing aggression of Unsane or Whores. While the sonic differences are obvious, a general Torche-esque weirdness broods beneath, lending the entire affair a comfortable air of genre-melding nostalgia.
It’s clearly noisey, but “noise rock” doesn’t quite do These Beasts any sort of justice, as punk-driven vivacity and doomy undercurrents pervade. For the former, look to the celebratory shouts of “Shirilla In a Tub.” In terms of the latter, melancholic standout “Shovel and Pick,” and the back half of “Impugn” come highly recommended. Churning and angular riffs billow and slice with serrated finesse, leaving ragged wounds with paradoxical precision. All the while the twin vocals are expulsive yet melodic, communing effectively with the guitar to maintain a consistently pugilistic front. Needless to say, the sheer intensity feels genuine throughout. Bludgeoning drums--with particularly excellence cymbal work, I might add--keep the affair appropriately grounded. The entire 6 track packages bristles with an untamed energy, but yet, it never feels overlong or undercooked. In other words, it’s clear to this attentive listener that these boys have a knack for revision.
And throughout, most importantly, this EP demonstrates a cathartic raw anger, a general recognizable fury. For those of you looking to sample, intro track “End of the Whip” (listen below) remains the prime example of this actualized intent. Do These Beasts incite anger, shouldering the burden of rabble-rousers? Not so much. Do they reflect our collective need and appreciation for catharsis? Absolutely. This ferocious EP comes highly recommended.
These Beasts - These Beasts will be released 3/29 from Magnetic Eye Records
As a wordslinger here at the Sleeping Village, my vocabulary is my pride n’ joy. While the reviews and features published here are (admittedly) a little verbose, it is this academic rigor that defines us. Thus, as a thesaurus hound, a word with which I am unfamiliar is if nothing else, a challenge. A month back, Sword Horse (Albuquerque’s soon-to-be-favorite doom duo) threw down the gauntlet with a single bearing a wildly pedantic title, born of the Latin but otherwise lost on me. Needless to say: hook, line, sinker.
Today’s vocab means, loosely, that he/she will bind, tie, or otherwise fetter. What a fitting title for such a constricting track. Sword Horse don’t deal in doom of a relaxed nature. This music falls off the extreme end of the spectrum. Dark, violent, crushing--all are apt. Rather than riffs, Sword Horse writes motifs in distortion. Rather than intelligible vocals, a harsh cry emanates from the blackened void. While prior singles and their Affliction EP recall Primitive Man in a dedication to the purest form of sonic annihilation, Obstrinxerit taps into something even more visceral. On Affliction, the percussion in particular was a defining quality, allowing the sludgy atmosphere a structure. Here, that structure is pulverized, replaced by a free-flowing ambiance, an irresistible pull into a cave that is too small. In this case, Death doesn’t beckon, so much as leave you with no other option.
Obstrinxerit’s strongest suit is the vocals, which echo and billow, filling the space with remarkable aptitude. For a six minute track, it seems half its length, which is quite telling given the rejection of a typical template. With that said, should Sword Horse put out an album of this material, some additional features will likely be necessary to maintain the high standard of pummeling and constricting music they have created until this point. If you like your metal raw and visceral, this loquacious Villager highly recommends you give Obstrinxerit some of your hard-earned time.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!