THREE ENTRIES OF 2011 EXCELLENCE: GLORIOR BELLI, WHITEHORSE, AND MITOCHONDRION
The thing driving traditionalists crazy is the fact that there’s never been a better time to be a forward-thinking metal fan. I mean, Aborym, Rolo Tomassi, Iwrestledabearonce, OvO, Sigh — what is that shit?
It’s the outlier ethos finally hitting metal. It’s what follows after bands have already pulled at the fabric of metal genres and, no surprise, find them to be made of frayed old material that rips real easily.
To keep this metaphor going way past its due date, what’s happening now is part inexplicable, and part a groovy generation stitching swatches of all kinds of shit to all kinds of other shit while the metal-god version of Tim Gunn yells, “Make it work!”
Incredibly, with incredible regularity, it does.
Do you feel it, ladies, gentlemen, gentlemen who wish they were ladies, and so on? The incredible holy-shit-we’re-in-a-golden-age-ness of it all?
Because we totally are.
And we need to feel proud. Proud that, despite all the hard work and best efforts of the musty traditionalist ‘tards and constant efforts to suffocate metal in neo-thrash dead ends, Big Four circle jerks, only-troo-allowed ideological purity tests, and the first gurgles of the coming neo-nu metal kraze, The Armies of Awesomeness have beat out the Fuddies of Duddy.
So the three discs I’ve chosen are almost random in the sense that almost every week something blisteringly terrific shows up which leaves us with only one real problem — what the fuck do we call the issue of this new era of sui generis excellence?
Maybe instead of endless subgenre atomizing, instead of claiming a band to be, say, a neo-blackened-half-trad-blunted-death-nu-folk-doom enterprise, maybe it would be more helpful to characterize it by the moment it occupies.
I’m thinking of a term that works the way “British Invasion” gave you an idea of an over-all vibe that could include such radically dissimilar acts as The Walker Brothers, The Move, Small Faces, and Procol Harum.
Of course, that would require us to grow the fuck up a little bit. To be a wee bit less genre-partisan about Dark Castle or Tombs or Volbeat. But honestly — I think we’re already heading that way organically.
Because the overall awesomeness of the moment is overcoming our individual d-baggery.
And now, with no further clearing of the throat, three entries of 2011 excellence: I trust next week will bring us at least three more.
The Great Southern Darkness
Now streaming here
It’s only at first that the idea of a bluesy, devil-obsessed doom-sludge by a French band seems like too much cognitive dissonance.
But then you remember that Louisiana was a French conquest, that New Orleans and its music, especially its gnarly and twisted brand of extreme gutbucket blues. Then you throw in some spiritual swamp water, some literal crank and junk, which leads us to Crowbar, D.O.W.N., Eyehategod and so on, and Glorior Belli don’t seem so out of left field. Add some old black metal records that are scratched and pissed on and the band feels inevitable.
With Belli, you can start up any song and it’s like nothing you’ve heard anywhere ever. While Baby Boomers talk about the old highway to hell, “Negative Incarnate” is Generation Fuck-It’s anthem of Satanically diminished expectations, its cymbal bell and one-note guitar line both pitiful and hellishly hooky before the band crashes in like a Strapping Young Lad from Dixie.
“They Call Me Black Devil” is typical in its filthy psychotic atypicality. A broken radio guitar explodes into an overdriven tube-amp blues riff played with a metal mind while scream-growl vocals sound like they were recorded on a depressed Radio Shack microphone.
All things being relative, (especially in the real South, har har), The Great Southern Darkness is pretty laid back in the verses, and all the more spooky for it.
That is, until the conceptual dirty meth dealers throw in their dirtier guitar figures—bizarrely, the song rather evokes the vibe and sound of The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”—and I imagine the long dead N’awlins ghosts of James Lee Burke’s In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. They are sad/angry and pounding my head against the desk. This is a great record, sludgy, filthy, owning a grotesque beauty and sui generis to the max.
At A Loss
Melbourne, Australia quintet offers five long compositions after being around for some time and getting very little love.
I’m thinking the reason has to do with their astringent minimalism and tidiness — the CD cover looks more like the first slide for a PowerPoint presentation for a high class design firm than a metal anything. Point is, the graphics, even the band name misleads: the actual music is like what they said of Alexander McQueen, it’s possessed of a certain savage beauty.
With a title that sounds like a new tagline for the Daleks, “Control, Annihilate” just drops an industrial doom bomb in your residence and, uh, annihilates. We’re talking room-rattle bass, with molasses and Percocet lap dance groove, with guitars so distorted they might not even be guitars for all we know.
“Mechanical Disintegration” does just what it promises — charts with an almost slo-core jam a sticky sense of things falling apart. A dude sings in a super reverberated deadpan, dead-guy vocal style somehow suggestive of Killing Joke if they, like, really died.
“Time Worn Regression,” meanwhile, adds doomy noise-rock and multi-tap reverb vocal howls to create a weird sort of trance-out for people looking for gold standard bummers. You want uncompromising? Whitehorse is your evil pony.
Of the three CDs here, Mitochondrion is the type of thing that makes you rifle through thesauruses for adequate adjectives only to find that enterprise useless and metaphors not much better.
Listening to it reminds me of the experience of listening to Rammstein’s Mutter, Low’s Trust, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals the first time: so many parts of the brain’s pleasure centers are being attacked all at once you end up as a quivering couch-bound smiley-face wet noodle (your artist preference may vary.)
“Trials” starts with a warning of rumbles, demonic muttering, a non-metal clangor of clean guitar like you heard in Howard Shore’s score for Cronenberg’s Crash, and then it all topples into a waltz-time distortion-thing of multiple riffs and spazz-beats crashing into each other. The breakdowns are absolute falls into sonic tar, the vocals buried, layered, echoed, fucked up.
There’s a true (not troo, grow up) vastness here, a wall of grievous sound that leaves no frequency un-scathed/represented.
Label mates Portal do something similar but they’ve only mastered the midrange of suffering. Similar thing with Vasaeleth and the low end. But Mitochondrion are the first, to my knowledge, to completely own every micro-bit of the EQ world.
Then there’s the matter of how songs are composed. And ‘composed’ is the right word, and not in some pretentious asshole way.
Bottom line, this is serious conceptual shit by people who know their way around creation. “Kathenotheism” understands classical modality, and I don’t mean in some lame-ass power metal way — with all due respect, Dragonforce dudes.
No, I mean ‘composition’ in the sense that the piece starts with mid-range noise—what might have been, say, some high-note cellos and low-note saxophones–and spreads that theme to more rich-timbre tones while also doing the more usual work of advancing and modifying chords and melodic issues.
But it isn’t all egg-headedness. “Plague Evockation (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Ab),” achieves a variety of blackened death-y groove thing, if you’re, like, into that sort of shit. “Parasignosis” will fill pits, though people might not be sure why.
Thing is, there’s nothing super-ultra-obvious strange here. It’s the intensity and depth with which the band attacks its tweaked vision. And after years of music appreciation I know this tingle: it says that this is the real deal. The type that I’ll return to year in, year out, and keep finding new gems and colors I’d never noticed before. Is this on my short list of top five CDs for 2011? Yes sir and madam it is.