What a month. What a fucking month. I don’t know what to say that you probably already haven’t heard before. Wash your hands. Keep your distance from others. Stay the fuck inside as much as you can. Look after those less fortunate than yourself. These are such trying times, and they are bringing out the best and worst in us all. I just hope we all get through this, and that what improvements may come, from those in power realising how vulnerable so many citizens in genuinely important jobs are, don’t turn out to be short-term ones.
In the meantime, here are some reviews to help distract you from, well, everything else. There’s lovely guitar-based glitch/drone from Animal Hospital; The Ditch and The Delta delivering colossal riffs from deep within our shared DNA; Feminazgul with an album of the year contender; Hyperion delivering high-energy heavy metal straight from the 80’s; Live Burial bringing death metal that could have come from the Peaceville vaults; and Mystic Priestess‘ punk-infused deathrock. Enjoy!
Animal Hospital – Fatigue
Label: Whited Sepulchre Records
Sometimes, losing yourself in music doesn’t mean diving into the loudest, most extreme sounds. Instead, the use of space, texture, and restraint can be just as captivating and provide a different means of escapism. That’s just what Fatigue from Animal Hospital provides. Don’t let the album name fool you; this music doesn’t feel tired or draining. Instead its glitches, loops, and guitar manipulation is somehow healing and refreshing, somewhere between the playfulness of Nobukazu Takemura (and especially his work as Child’s View) and the summer haze of Fennesz, with a dash of krautrock-inspired hypnosis, most notably on closer ‘Absolute’. It’s good to have Kevin Micka releasing music as Animal Hospital again, as in these trying times, music with such soul and restorative potential is needed.
The Ditch and The Delta – The Ditch and The Delta (Self-titled)
Label: Sludgelord Records
Somewhere, buried within the depths of six strings, there exists a combination of notes that is the Ur-riff – the one from which all else flows, that is instantly memorable and with a power both primitive and transcendant. The Ditch and The Delta don’t quite find that riff on their self-titled album, but god-damn do they ever come close. Their blend of sludge riffs and Neurosis-esque heft is as heavy musically as it is emotionally, and has the feel about it of something timeless; as if somewhere, back where all the world’s continents were still one, these songs existed deep within the genetic markers of the earliest beings. There’s a great use of texture and tension throughout, with the songs having peaks and troughs that flow with the inevitability and power of a landmass slowly unfurling. The Ditch and The Delta is a remarkable album, standing tall and strong in a genre that often feels in thrall to its originators.
Feminazgul – No Dawn for Men
The follow-up to the impressive EP The Age of Men is Over and here, and good grief is it worth the weight. The first full-length from Feminazgul, No Dawn for Men, cuts right to the heart of what black metal can, and should, be. There is a spirit here that goes beyond cartoon conceptions of rebellion into something much deeper, where each day lived is an act of resistance. Musically, comparisons with the likes of Panopticon or the more metal moments of Twilight Fauna are perhaps the best guide to what to expect with the mix of black metal and traditional folk, but No Dawn for Men is very much its own beast. And what a beast it is! Vast, majestic, full of inner strength and defiant spirit, this is as emotional as it is possessed of raw power. The central riff and vocal performance on ‘I Pity the Immortal’ make it arguably the black metal song of the year thus far, and the rest of the album is of comparable quality. I could write a thousand words and fail to capture just how powerful, inspiring, and moving a listen this is, so instead I will keep it short. If you ever trusted one of my reviews, trust this one. No Dawn for Men is utterly vital, and you should listen to it now.
Hyperion – Into the Maelstrom
Label: Fighter Records
Look at that artwork! So delightfully over-the-top, so vibrant, so fucking METAL. The cover for Into the Maelstrom looks how the latest from Italians Hyperion sounds – this is metal as fuck. This is heavy metal right from the glory days of the 80’s, drinking deep from the well of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and your favourite true metal band that never achieved the profile of those greats even though they should have, dammit. It’s cheesy, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s all done with an urgency, energy, and passion that overcomes any complaints about such issues. Nine minute epic ‘The Ride of Heroes’ is the most eye-catching track, but Hyperion are at their best when crafting four minute bursts of energy and guitar heroics, and what’s what Into the Maelstrom delivers.
Live Burial – Undending Futility
Cavernous and crude, Unending Futility is death metal from the crypts. The second album from Live Burial is dark, primitive, and bludgeoning. In mood it’s not far removed from the first few Death records, with its tales of horror and gore, whilst the riffs have a momentum and energy to them that’s hard to deny. This is old-school through-and-through, and if it weren’t for the fact that the band are active today, Unending Futility could easily be mistaken for some obscure treasure from the early Peaceville archives that has been newly discovered and brought back to the light. Also, big fan of the atmospheric, acoustic ‘Winds of Solace’ prior to monstrous closer ‘Cemetery Fog’, a one-two that is a masterclass is building and releasing atmosphere.
Mystic Priestess – Part Time Punks Sessions
Mystic Priestess have always put the punk in post-punk, and that’s never been more true than on the aptly-named Part Time Punk Sessions EP. A live EP of tracks new and old, it showcases their gothic darkness as it should be. There’s an urgency to the music of Mystic Priestess that this recording really does justice to; they may pull heavily from the classic days of goth and early deathrock, like a rougher take on prime-era Siouxsie and the Banshees, but Mystic Priestess are very much of the now. Explicit about their intentions to reclaim deathrock as a queer artform, Mystic Priestess do a fine, spirited job of doing just that – the urgency and danger here is all too real, mixing personal and political lyrical themes in a way that underlines how linked they are. Mystic Priestess are one of the best deathrock bands around right now, and the Part Time Punk Sessions is further evidence of just why that is.