FREELOADER: ESL EDITION
Welcome to the latest edition of “Freeloader,” in which we review albums that you don’t have to feel like a douche for downloading for free. Today Satan Rosenbloom checks out a bunch of stuff by bands what don’t speak ‘Merican proper.
One of the very few shitty things about English being the world’s lingua franca is that native English speakers have little incentive to learn another language. What I wouldn’t give to travel freely in France or Mexico, weaseling my way into strange underground absinthe bars and illegal cockfighting rings because I understood all the absinthe and cockfighting-related idioms flung about… but no, the best I can do after six years of high school Spanish is order mulitas with the proper accent at the taco truck down the street (the lady that takes my order usually smiles obligingly but answers me in English).
On the other hand, plenty of foreign metal bands have every incentive to write and sing in English, even if they suck at it. Here are four free releases by bands whose mother tongue is probably not the same as yours.
Vulturum – “Vivi Di Luce Riflessa” b/w “Voraussage” (Sangue Dischi/Trips und Traume)
Thanks to Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns, the psychology of the desert isn’t as foreign to Italy as its mostly desert-free geography would suggest. On the 12” “single” that they released in 2011, Italy’s Vulturum play a dusty, mystic music that sounds psychically attuned to endless sand and scorching heat. A ragged baritone guitar riff rambles over an empty landscape on “Vivi Di Luce Riflessa,” repeating endlessly for eight minutes, picking up momentum and layers of sonic dust as Vulturum’s two drummers thud and groove around it. The band’s vocalist sounds totally parched, and the lack of a bassist makes it sound even more arid. With its sitars, tom drums, synths and droning acoustic guitars, “Voraussage” is less plugged in but just as heavy mood-wise. Call it “mirage rock” – this is music for desert nomads, both physical and spiritual. Vulturum added a bassist named Lorenzo to their ranks since releasing the single. Based on this release, they don’t really need him. But if his addition helps Vulturum make more music, I’m all for it.
(4 out of 5 horns up)
Download “Vivi Di Luce Riflessa” b/w “Voraussage” here.
Hellcrawler – Wastelands (Hollow Earth Records)
Speaking of spaghetti westerns, Slovenia’s fearsome fivesome Hellcrawler cites the movies’ bleak cinematography as one of the primary influences on its music. The influence is more attitudinal than aesthetic – while it’s plenty bleak, there’s nothing expansive or atmospheric about Hellcrawler’s roiling stew of d-beat hardcore, old-school Swedish death metal and bits of black metal. But this is some potent, pulsating shit, and Hellcrawler’s post-apocalyptic rallying cries perfectly balance existential despair and punk bravado. Scream it with me now: “Fuck it I know the answer’s there / I’ll just keep riding ‘til I’m dead / With no one human near / I’m free from chains, free from fear!”
(4 horns up out of 5)
Download Wastelands here.
Rite – Lie in Wait for Blood demo (self-released)
Swedish black metal duo Rite is so close to being awesome that it almost hurts to hear the imperfections on this four-track demo. If Mayhem and Darkthrone wrote songs as liquid and harmonically interesting as Rite’s “Funerals” and “Reaper Manifest,” I’d break out their records way more often than I do. The mix on Lie in Wait for Blood is raw and pretty muddled, which helps cover up Rite’s occasionally underdeveloped arrangements. But it’s leagues more vivid than the production on their tinny Hight of the Day demo, released just two months before this one, so at least the band’s progressing quickly. If you’re feeling generous, pick up the CD compilation of both demos from EEE Recordings here.
(3 horns up out of 5)
Name your price for Lie in Wait for Blood here.
Random – Todo.s los colores del (self-released)
Between its ridiculous cover, glossy production, falsetto vocal breaks and ungodly heavy riffing, Random’s second album Todo.s los colores has so much going on with that I almost feel bad downloading it for free. On one hand, the Argentinean trio has nearly cracked the code. Songs like “Elchi, John” and “Meeting at Jabol” deploy great musicianship and superior riffing amidst a multitude of progressive curveballs, without lapsing into awkward jump-cuts (a la Between the Buried and Me) or devolving into infantile musical jokes (a la Mr. Bungle). They’re one of the few bands I’ve heard that are clearly influenced by Meshuggah but don’t care to rehash all the familiar djent tropes; they also do a fluid Deftones/Tool mashup on the 11-minute “Qualm.” On the other hand, Random’s melodies tend to be utterly forgettable, and that’s a big problem for an album that allows so much space for guitarist/vocalist Raul Garcia Posse to croon. The one exception is the breathtaking acoustic number “Cuando el blanco no es color,” which shows as much promise as the rest of the album combined.
(3.5 horns up out of 5)
Download Todo.s los colores del and its equally stupidly-named predecessor, primmo, The. for free right here.
Coins as Portraits – Form and structure. Storm and fracture. (Fading Halo Records)
Yeah, that clever album title spoonerism just about sums it up. Romanian avant-grinders Coins as Portraits do their damnedest to destroy conventional songwriting from the foundation up on this debut mini-album. Every chord played is unaccompanied by some strident dissonance; each “song” strings together those fucked-up chords into chopped and screwed progressions of mid-range ear torture. Coins as Portrait’s drummer Marius has a totally different job than most grind drummers: he is a force for anti-momentum, his clattery blasts and kick rolls sliding in and out of synch with the rest of the band’s rhythmically simple slashings. As a result, these songs feel like they go nowhere. Form and structure. Storm and fracture. is the grindcore equivalent of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, a triumph of bizarre approach over songcraft. The lyrics are killer though, adorably pretentious in the way that only a non-native speaker’s lyrics can be. Por ejemplo: “You’re curiously starting to deny a solipsistic self apocalypse / Caused by both minds / With a lethal brew of formidable power / I shall virulently purge myself from you” is an amazing way to end any album, especially here, where it’s grunted/screamed as a loving duet between the band’s two vocalists Chim and Mircea. Just…I’m not exactly clamoring to hit the play button again once they’re done, dig?
(3 horns up out of 5)
Download Form and structure. Storm and fracture. here.