Well, we survived week one. Not without a head full of Pallbearer thinkpieces, a split eyebrow or two, and some good ol’ fashioned tinnitus, of course, but here we are again–icepack to the temple, coffee in hand–plotting a course for the blackened heart of autumn’s metal release season. And although our news channels are running a little slower today than they have in Tuesday’s past, take some solace in the fact that a quiet week in metal is still apocalypse everywhere else.
What to Buy: Humans beings, especially those who write for a living, are particularly beholden to narrative. It compartmentalizes overwhelming masses of information. It rationalizes the random. It provides a sense of belonging or, more importantly, a list of things that don’t belong. It is so important to our fragile collective psyche, in fact, that we—individuals and institutions—go to great lengths to fabricate it in places where it simply doesn’t exist, even in our niche subset, where the metal journalism powers-that-be have attempted to designate 2014 “The Year of Hideous Sludge” (Indian, Lord Mantis) and/or “The Return of Epic Doom” (YOB, Pallbearer…again) at every slight bend in the plotted path. It should be said that such efforts, though motivated by the same human need for order, can and probably should be viewed less as attempts to invent a narrative as they are efforts to alter the current one—the dominance of the second wave of Second Wave black metal and its growing legion of crossover apostles, on which there is very little left to say. Unfortunately for metal writers’ sake, the new year brought only minor deviation from that label A&R-approved script (see: Woods of Desolation, Black Anvil, Panopticon, Myrkur, not Wolves in the Throne Room), making the need for some new tail to chase an omnipresent one. Fortunately, for the rest of us, the duration of neo black metal’s reign has given the genre’s constituents the opportunity to hone their technique (i.e. tremolo picking), probe deeper into their spheres of influence, and shed said influences in lieu of something that is finally beginning look, feel, and sound like actual, original songcraft. See: Bastard Sapling.
If this seems like a long way to go just to get to Richmond black metal outfit’s new LP, Instinct is Forever (Gilead), that’s because it is. But what (I hope) it will help you to understand is why—particularly glowing Stereogum full-stream notwithstanding—an album this good simply isn’t going to get what Pallbearer got last week. What Deafheaven got this time last year: Buzz with a capital B. Bastard Sapling share some members with last week’s alums Inter Arma, which maybe fosters a side-project perception, but the context here really shouldn’t matter. This thing is one of the best USBM releases in a long time and we should treat it as such, which means, at the very least, picking up a physical copy when the band makes their upcoming pilgrimage to The Acheron (9/28, tickets TBA).
Pulling a highspeed, e-brake, put-her-up-on-too-wheels-yee-haw hairpin back toward the metal mainstream now, tenured Swedish dark metallers Opeth drop their 11th (that just doesn’t happen anymore) full-length, Pale Communion (Roadrunner), today. Before diving headfirst into the drained death metal pool, however, fans of classic Opeth should know this album consummates Heritage’s sepia-tinged love affair with prog rock and, most controversially, clean vocals, seeing the band turn fully from the haunted-manor séances of Blackwater Park/Ghost Reveries, which scared the teenage version of myself damn near stupid(er) when I first heard them in high school. The Pitchfork Advance stream and singles, such as “Cusp of Eternity”, make abundantly clear that Opeth have lost none of their creativity, musical talent, or artistic integrity, of course, but the band has nonetheless turned their focus to entirely different and non-metal endeavors, which, in our sheltered world of purism and opinion, does demand a big, shiny disclaimer.
Odds and ends this week include the vinyl edition of Southern black metal outfit Alarune’s Kim Kelly-approved The Process of Self-Immolation (Gilead), which saw digital and CD release via Profound Lore earlier this summer, as well as a new track, “Loathe”, from you-won’t-sleep-for-days doom merchants, Primitive Man, who are readying a new Relapse EP sometime this winter. Lastly, because no piece of metal journalism is complete in the year 2014 without saying the word “Deafheaven” at least three times, Deafheaven dropped their first post-Sunbather track, “From the Kettle Onto the Coil”, for Adult Swim’s annually awesome singles series late last week. It’s more of the same from the Bay Area black-gaze breakouts—most definitely a good thing if you can choke your way through all the mass-media smoke-blowing—who you’ll definitely want to catch next month at Basilica Soundscape with Swans, White Lung, and Liturgy satellite, Guardian Alien, or, if a Metro North trip up the Hudson simply isn’t in the Tarot Cards, the following night at Music Hall of Williamsburg with No Joy and Indian Handcrafts.
What to See: NYC’s live metal week gets rolling on Wednesday when Pennsylvania riff masters Crobot, some band called Vagina Panther (they have to be worth a raised a eyebrow or two), and Only Living Boy hit Saint Vitus for what is sure to be a rowdy, hump day steam-valve-release rager. The best midweek show honors, however, go to Union Pool, where a northeast black metal bill of the highest order is set to descend upon the hook-up-bar-cum-venue with torches held a loft in the dark of gentrified Williamsburg. Headlined by Falls of Rauros and bolstered by supporting sets from the mind-numbingly talented duo, Obsidian Tongue, and experimental composer, Oneirogen, this Invisible Oranges/Signature Riff-presented epic is going to be absolutely killer, and probably also a pain in the ass seeing as tickets, for reasons yet unclear, are only available at the door. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
The long Labor Day weekend comes in raging as you’d expect, with killer Friday and Saturday night back-to-backs from both The Acheron and Vitus. The former hosts a crusty speed thrash spectacle on Friday with Bat, Chainbreaker, and local dudes Iron Force that is sure to put you in neckbrace for the following night’s (slightly) mellower festivities, headlined by Ohio post-metal outfit Mouth of the Architect and Florida instrumetalists (not a typo), Set and Setting, whose upcoming Prosthetic debut is now streaming over at AV Club. Their Greenpoint counterparts, meanwhile, dig deep into the nostalgia crates, dusting off classic thrashers Fantom Warrior and old-school death metal Danes, Pentacle, for some appropriately cobwebby (in a good way) sets. Know your roots, respect your elders, and drink some fucking whiskey.
Finally, because sometimes you just have to buckle those black combat boot straps, swallow your hard-won pride, and pay Bowery Presents for a good time, melodic hardcore legends Modern Life is War are at the booking megalomaniacs’ namesake Ballroom on Saturday with Relapse-signed shoe-gazers Nothing, Give, and The Land of Blood & Sunshine. It’s going to be insane, so go ahead and grab tickets before it sells out. I promise, I won’t tell if you don’t…
What the Fuck: Last week indie icon turned adulterous lech turned black metal en vogueist turned ego-huffing classic rock star, Thurston Moore, took to the internet to sound off on his experience as a member of USBM vets Twilight (who also count Nachmystium’s Blake Judd as a member, raising serious questions about the band’s ability to judge fellow human beings) during the recording of last year’s III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb. Now I’m guessing you’ve already checked out the from-left-field outburst—including gems like “Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order,” and “We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy,”—and brushed them off as the ramblings of yet another 90s musician enduring a midlife crisis-inducing wane of relevancy. Complicating the plot, however, is the fact this art-house shit-talk, disseminated for public consumption in the press release to his second Caught On Tape collab with John Moloney, dropped more or less at the same time The Thurston Moore Band appeared on Saint Vitus’ website, headlining a yet incomplete bill on Tuesday, 10/21. Who knows if you can take all (or any) of this at face value—the comments are as bizarre as they seem—but as it stands now, Moore should be preparing himself for chilly welcome to North Brooklyn’s de facto Super Pussy stronghold come October.