COREY MITCHELL’S MARCH 2012 BLEEDERS’ DIGEST (THE “IT’S ABOUT F*CKING TIME” EDITION) – PART 1
I always fall behind on these damn reviews after SXSW each year. Of course, my tardiness is compounded by the fact that the month of March 2012 was FUCKING STELLAR!!! Even better than last year’s March, which bestowed upon the metal world the likes of KEN mode, SubRosa, and American Heritage, all of whom made my Best of 2011 list.
There are so many good releases that I’m going to have to break it up, otherwise all of you literacy-challenged folk will be all “tl;dr” and whatnot.
TO THE LIST!!! Or, at least, Part 1 of the list.
Here are the March 2012 releases (Part 1) that got under my skin, burrowed their way into my brain, made my ears bleed, or simply tickled my unmentionables:
MARCH ’12 BLEEDERS
These are the keepers. I expect to spin these throughout the year and longer.
Abysse – EN(D)GRAVE (Blue Wave Production)
I prefer my instru-metal with groove, punch, and swagger, minus any pretentious wankery. I prefer my instru-metal to make me not even think about how much better a record could be with a vocalist. I prefer my instru-metal to place me in an entirely different headspace than I was before I turned it on. Subsequently, I prefer this indie release from
Canada’s France’s Abysse. Heady head-bangin’ for those of you simply sick of Cookie Monster vomitous or tiny dick six-string grandiloquency. One of the few times I’ve listened to an instru-metal album this year and instantly wanted to hear it again. Easily the best of its kind in 2012 so far.
Acyl – Algebra (M & O Music)
Much like my January 2012 pick Vita Humana, Algerian French Muslims Acyl (which stands for “genuine” or “authentic” in Arabic) combine a plethora of non-traditional metal instruments indigenous to their homeland along with some powerful rock and metal to continue changing the face of heavy metal. I don’t have the slightest idea what instruments such as the oud, bendir, darbuka, and karkabou sound like on their own, but mixed with with some solid and clean progressive thrash and jazzy blues, I do know that I really, really dig it. For more modern metal references think Slipknot, Alice in Chains, Sepultura, and Meshuggah. Mix in some early ’90s tribal electronica ala Intermix (a Frontline Assembly side project that I loved!) and some killer self-described “ethnic metal” choral passages and the future of heavy metal rests in some damn good hands.
Black Breath – Sentenced To Life (Southern Lord)
Stop listening to whatever piece of shit mastubawankfest you are currently suffering through and put this bastard on. NOW!!! This is real fucking metal by way of Entombed, Slayer, and Cro-Mags. It’s d-beat crusty blackened thrash with so much groove it makes the sweat on your balls sweat. Masterful production by Kurt Ballou makes this one of the few successful records that makes you honestly feel like the band is on-stage, directly in front of you, thrashing about and making you scream so loudly you lose your voice for the next three days. This is sludge-filled hardcore for longhairs replete with enough bitterness to make you want to beat up that fat fuck who cut you off in traffic and then gave you a sarcastic wave. Bonus points for the Dario Argento-inspired album cover.
CB Murdoc – The Green (Spinefarm)
Meshuggah clones are a dime a dozen these days, but this sextet of fellow Swedes bring much more to the bord. Sure the first track sounds very Meshuggah-like, but then they start to veer into their own hinterlands. A seeming clusterfuck of sounds pour out including black metal (four of the members used to be in BM band Mörk Gryning), prog, death and, yes, tech death, sludge, and even jazz. On paper it sounds like a fucking disaster. In your ears, however, it somehow comes together like a post-djent souffle that’s delicious and rocks the fuck out. I even detected a hint of cowbell at one point! Fans of Meshuggah, BTBAM, Decapitated, and Gojira will dig on this, for sure.
Cannibal Corpse – Torture (Metal Blade)
Some legendary metal acts find it necessary to change their musical style in order to reach a larger audience or, more pretentiously, to “grow” as artists. Other metal legends try out different styles just to get it out of their systems. The ones who are able to stay within the seemingly limiting confines of their particular subgenre, yet are able to make successful changes within said subgenre, are few and far between. Veteran death metal blueprint creators Cannibal Corpse fall into the latter category. Sure, many whine that they haven’t changed their style in the past two decades, but a close listen unearths that while the changes are subtle, they are visceral enough to aid the continuing growth of death metal. Assisted, once again, by the deft ears and knob-twiddling skills of Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan, Cannibal Corpse mix things up, just slightly, and sound all the stronger for it.
Cult Cinema – Iscariot EP (Siege Of Amida)
This is a perfect example of why I don’t read press releases or look at artwork for the Bleeders. After I had originally wrote my review of this London qunitet I was curious what others thought of it. Some of what I consider to be reputable metal blogs got suckered into what the band’s label wanted them to say and described Cult Cinema as black metal or depressive black metal. I guess the reviewers then looked at the album cover and assumed the label was telling the truth. This is NOT black metal, at all. It’s more of a post-metal hardcore band. Imagine if Poison The Well hooked up with Godpeed You! Black Emperor and you get a much more realistic picture of what this 19-minute stunner has in store. Strong hardcore influences meshed with atmospheric pulses of despair. If I had looked at their band photo I would have thought they were silly Crabcorians. Again, that’s why I don’t pay attention to the image set forth by the label and/or the artist. Let me just hear you play and I’ll make my decision based on that. Thankfully, Cult Cinema delivers where it counts.
Duality And The Republic – Uno EP (self-released)
As we all know around here, the ’90s were a difficult time for metalheads. Not so much for the invasions of grunge and nü-metal, but rather for the lackluster product released by the big name metal bands of the time such as Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, etc. Thankfully, if you were into Pantera, death metal, and/or black metal, you survived. But what of the genres that were (wrongly) blamed for the downfall of metal during the ’90s, namely grunge, alternative rock, and nü-metal? Well, fuck the last one. As for the first two, they have been deftly resurrected by this Australian rock outfit on a strong 22-minute release that evokes the best of the best from that era: Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Quicksand, and Deftones. Mix in some Robert Plantisms, some simplistic superfuzzmuff big ass rock guitars and a penchant for arena-rock bombast and you get your ’90s fix in one, easy-to-digest package.
Ea – S/T (Solitude)
Reviews for instru-metal albums can be some of the worst writing on the Intertubes. Of course, they can be damn funny as well. Some of the most frequently over-used key words include “cinematic,” “atmospheric,” “mind-expanding,” “ethereal,” “other-worldly,” “apocalyptic,” “opus,” and, of course, every writer’s ultimate deus ex machina, “the soundtrack to….” Hell, I know I’ve fallen prey to such pedantry in my own reviews of such albums. As for Ea’s fourth release, a nearly 48-minute single track of incredible funeral doom, it’s all of the above and then some.
Every Time I Die – Ex Lives (Epitaph)
Holy Crap! I just realized I’ve been a fan of ETID since 2003’s Hot Damn! It hasn’t always been a passionate love affair throughout the years, more like a few pleasant holding hands periods mixed in with infrequent grudge fucks. But, again, Holy Crap!, Ex Lives is easily the best ETID ever! Mixing the darkest and most dismal lyrics from frontman Keith Buckley with some of the most ass-kicking upbeat rock ‘n rolling heavy fucking metal and you get one of the most sensuous, full-bodied orgasmic Tantric aural sex trips you’ve experienced. This one will leave you exhausted, thrilled, appalled, excited, ashamed, and reinvigorated for yet another go-round, but only after you’ve thoroughly scrubbed yourself with a rusty Brillo pad in a scalding hot shower.
Exalt – Breach False Minds (Feast or Famine Recordings)
Easily the best “hardcore” record I’ve heard this year (truth be told, I haven’t listened to that many). But this debut from Ontario, Canada’s Exalt offers so much more than just straight-up “1, 2, 3, 4!!!” blasticuffs. Coming in at under 30 minutes and a mere 10 songs, Exalt pummels you with its excellent pre-2000s metalcore stomp. Think of the following bands and prepare to sport wood: Trap Them, Converge, Poison The Well, Botch, Cancer Bats. Does that do it for you? It definitely works for me. I like the groove on display here, the variety of tempos spewed forth, and the high-pitched screams of singer Tyler Brand. If you like your hardcore scathing, yet moody, you will dig this.
Faal – The Clouds Are Burning (Ván Records)
No “fail” jokes here. This Dutch quintet have released what I’m sure will be the quintessential funeral doom record of 2012. Of course it’s slow and pounding and methodical and dirgey…but it also knows when to speed up the tempo or downshift into dark ambient passages of…what else?…doom and despair. There are only four songs on display here, however, they range in length from nine to 14 minutes. Not ideal if you’re looking for a headbang-a-thon, but definitely spot-on if you want to throw on your headphones, dim the lights, and transport yourself into a hellish landscape that rests somewhere between a Hieronymous Bosch hellscape and the aftermath of Mad Max: The Road Warrior. Bring on the nightmares!
Fomento – To Persevere Is Diabolical (Coroner Records)
Aaaaahhhh, it’s my monthly diet of meat ‘n potatoes metal all the way from Rome, Italy!! This four-piece cranks up balls-out thrashing death metal that is hummable and *shocker* has growled vocals that you can actually understand. Sweetass guitar tones, ripping solos, monster drumming minus any ounce of wankery and/or pretension so prevalent in metal these days. Fans of Kreator and Slayer will eat this shit up. Oh, and they’re not afraid to take the piss out of the legends of the metal genre, as well as some more recent trendy “metal” bands in the song “Necropotency.” Enjoy their lyric video for the song and try not to laugh.
If These Trees Could Talk – Red Forest (self-released)
When I write my books, I love listening to instrumental music. Check the back of all my books and you will see a long list of musical influences and accompaniments in the acknowledgements sections. These were the sounds that helped me work my way through 432 pages of murder, mayhem, sadness, joy, intrigue, mystery, absurdity, obscenity, quietude, and bombast. I am privileged to listen to great musicians who help whisk me off to different places and alter me in different headspaces. Add If These Trees Could Talk to that list. By now, you guys should know I love post-rock, post-metal, instru-metal, etc., if it’s done well. Red Forest is done well. Think the best passages from Explosions In The Sky, Agalloch, Red Sparowes, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Russian Circles, only slightly mellower, and you have a damn good idea what I’m going on about. Rock out to it, space out to it, keenly hone your focus to it, or fall asleep to it late, late at night. All things I do when writing yet another book.
Lunar Aurora – Hoagascht (Cold Dimensions)
It’s not often I call any black metal beautiful, but that is exactly what this duo’s ninth release is — morbidly beautiful. It’s atmospheric BM with a key focus on strong elegiac guitars. It’s almost like listening to Echo & The Bunnymen with gravelly vocals and angrier guitars. Also, I appreciate the lack of blast beats and the usage of sampled electronics to convey an other-worldy sense of pain and confusion lacking in lots of BM these days. Lunar Aurora are able to evoke the feelings I get when watching a ’70s giallo or when contemplating the lives of my former loved ones who are no longer with us. Tearful, yet somewhat paranoid about what exactly is following down this dark and narrow passageway. Evocative, creepy, and a solid mellow headbanging affair.
Mania – Unchained Wrath (Firefield Records)
Sometimes yet get an album in your hands that you just know is going to suck. Like this one. I’m mean, c’mon, look at that terrible fucking album cover. Easily the worst of the year. And then, you throw on the first song, the title song no less, and it simply is terrible. Uninspired playing, shitty snare drum sound, and the most bizarre end-of-song fade out I’ve heard in ages. But then, all of the sudden, something happens. A groove is latched onto. Some thrashing goodness begins to rear its ugly head. A Tom Araya-inspired vocal performance makes you sit up a bit straighter. Some of you will check my Meh’ers list in the second part of this series and see some of your favorite, much more technically proficient bands on there like Hour Of Penance or Gorod and think, “Why the fuck does he have these Mania dudes on his Bleeders’ list and not those bands?” It’s simple. For me, a good solid groove infected song wins out over a masturbatory wankfest any day. I don’t care how well those other bands shred, or how brutal they are, or how quirky and clever they may be, I’d much rather just bang my head, shake my fist, and scream along to catchy choruses than stand around watching some guy’s fingers spidermeth some frets. In a nutshell, these German thrashers evoke the best of their homeland, AKA Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, and add a solid heap of Haunting The Chapel-era Slayer for a fun mix of deathly thrash. Just ignore that ridiculous album cover and skip that first song and you’ll be good to go.
**SUBSCRIBE TO COREY MITCHELL’S MARCH ’12 BLEEDERS PLAYLIST – PT. 1 ON SPOTIFY. IT’S FREE!**
Sadly, Cannibal Corpse (Metal Blade), Exalt (Feast Or Famine Recordings), and If These Trees Could Talk (self-released) are not available on Spotify.
I’m keeping a label tally throughout the year for Bleeders that don’t appear on the #1 streaming service:
BLEEDERS, BY LABEL, NOT ON SPOTIFY
Century Media – 3
Metal Blade – 2
Feast Or Famine Recordings – 1
NoiseArt Records – 1
Napalm Records – 1
If These Trees Could Talk – 1
My March Meh’ers, Blowers, Record Of The Month, and Top 15 Inclusions will come at the end of the March articles.
**Some of these releases are possibly late 2011 sets, first-time U.S. releases, re-issues, or sneak peeks of upcoming albums.**
Corey Mitchell is a best-selling author of several true crime books and is currently helping Philip H. Anselmo write his autobiography.