I hung out with my girlfriend’s parents all weekend, so chances are I need this more than you right now. Misery does love company, however, so join me as I turn this shit to the ozone, pour something stiff, and pound my forehead off the wall. With a little luck and a lot of faith (get behind me Satan), I’ll be myself again in no time.
WHAT TO BUY: Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Lightning Bolt might not be a “metal” band in the traditional sense of the word and sound. They might not be a metal band at all. But they are metallic—the musical embodiment of red-hot smelt in a rusted-out factory waiting to be poured out, hardened, and bolted to a LSD-blasting tank. In other words, these dudes are heavy and if you’re skipping their new LP, Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey), on labels alone, then you’re missing out on one the gnarliest, nastiest, and downright best examples of extreme music on offer this year. Brian Gibson’s blissfully fuzzed-out bass (often unrecognizable as such) froths and snaps with more ferocity than ever. Brian Chippendale’s primitive drumming and close-mic’d howls are the stuff of a post-pocalyptic caveman’s nightmares. Add all of that to the band’s most diverse catalog of abuse ever set to tape—from manic proggy spasms to blood-curdling amplifier worship—and you have the week’s most essential piece of listening. Check it out if you dare.
After a brief commercial break, “Metal or Not!” is back with The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey), “transcendental black metal” pioneers Liturgy’s long-awaited, oft-uncertain follow up to 2011’s revered/reviled Aesthetica. Less of a bookend and more of a full-on departure, The Ark Work veers sharply from the USBM path, burying Hendrix’s tremolo picked soundscapes and drummer Greg Fox’s propulsive percussion work in a hail of chiming bells and clean-singing brood, becoming the work of what sounds like an entirely different band in the process. Landing somewhere between post-metal and art rock, this double-length mammoth should certainly raise more “is it or isn’t it?” eyebrows than Aesthetica, which is saying a lot, but something tells me Triple H (no not that Triple H, you nerds) wouldn’t have it any other way. If you like a little controversy with your crust, then this one (still streaming over at NPR) is definitely worth a look-in.
There are, however, no questions about Beantown-based funeral doom mourners Fórn and their crushing debut LP, The Departure of Consciousness (Gilead Media), which after a vinyl-only release earlier this year, finally finds its way to both CD and digital formats today. Like Boston greats Morne and Elder before them, Fórn understand patience and its unrivaled value in the doom tool shed, simmering for a full five or so minutes before the finally throwing back the cloaks and devouring all comers with their unhinged, fang-lined jaws of death. The quintet will be opening for Inter Arma at Vitus in a few week’s time, so make sure to give this one a listen over at Noisey and then get out there and prepare for decimation.
Thrash heathens, meanwhile, can get their get their beer-filled blood running with Bio-Cancer and their latest and totally atomic warhead, Tormenting the Innocent (Candlelight). Essentially Europe’s answer to Toxic Holocaust, these Athens-based shredders mix both old-school and new school fury into an absolutely relentless elixir perfect for Friday nights and early Saturday mornings alike. The whole thing is streaming over at their bandcamp, so drink up, pawns.
Other notable releases this week include Amorphis’s irradiated prog-death appendage Barren Earth and their latest blast of epic On Lonely Towers (Century Media). As long as you’re cool with a little clean singing in your death metal (definitely not for everyone), then make sure to check it out. If you that’s not your speed, then check out Seattle grinders Theories and their new LP, Regression (Metal Blade), which will keep your brain pinballing around inside your skull, especially when paired with Unrest’s literally titled full-length, Grindcore (Unspeakable Axe), which is sure to be bloodying lips up and down the eastern seaboard this spring.
Finally, because trad metal sounds are hotter than Hansel right now, clear some time for Sorcerer’s In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross (Metal Blade). These epic Swedish doomers released two demos in the 90s before promptly disbanding, making this the longest-awaited debut to ever grace our not-so-hallowed pages.
WHAT TO SEE: If you’re looking to get out and catch some shows this week, start as always at Saint Vitus, where SLC-post sludgers Huldra are set for a good one alongside Autocatalytica, Pharaoh, and more on Wednesday night. South Beach bubblegum metal kings Torche follow on Thursday with an eclectic affair featuring Relpase-backed shoegazers Nothing and Wrong, while the owners of our one of our favorite LPs of the year, Sannhet, take over on Friday night for a record release bash with Kayo Dot and one-man black metal instrumentalist Oneirogen. Saturday welcomes Nuck’ metallic hardcore vets Cancer Bats, who headline a good one featuring Exalt and White Widows Pact, before Legacy of the Witch: A Slutist Feminist Festival arrives on Sunday with a stacked line-up of Femme-fronted outfits, including Gospel of the Witches, Azar Swans, Minx Arcana, and Pam Grossman.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, local psychers Thera Roya hit The Grand Victory on Tuesday while aforementioned doom kings Morne arrive at The Acheron on Thursday for a skull crusher with Trenchgrinder and Sangharsha. Grab tickets and then go check out that new Trenchgrinder demo if you haven’t already. The Acheron continues its run later in the week with Dropdead and Fucking Invincible on Friday and an absolute speed thrash rager on Saturday courtesy of Noisem, Demon Eye, Death Dealer, and more. Finally, Sunday brings an absolute pit party to the Brooklyn Asylum with Harm’s Way, Homewrecker, Discourse, White Widows Pact, and Icarus. Words cannot express how sick that one is going to be (good luck explaining that black eye to your boss, however).
In other borough news, dual-neck shredder Michael Angelo Batio will be hosting a shred nerd gathering at Blackthorn 51 in Queens on Saturday (anyone been there yet? The booking has been getting bigger every week) while space-death outfit Artificial Brain take the Jersey crown the following night with a Die Choking/Huldra-backed ripper at The Meatlocker in Montclair. If you’re the Manhattan or die type, then check out UK rippers God Damn at Niagara tonight and Dropdead and Fucking Invincible‘s pre-Acheron throwdown at ABC No Rio on Friday. Prefer bigger, cleaner, more expensive venues? Then Irving Plaza’s Pennywise/A Wilhem Scream early-oughts rewind on Friday should suffice. If not, Coal Chamber and Filter will be there to pick up the pieces at Webster Hall on Sunday.
WHAT THE FUCK: Listen, I’m going to be totally honest here: Metal, especially in Brooklyn 2K15, is about 30% fashion statement, 70% music. Hell, that’s probably been the case everywhere, all the time, since 1971. It’s a scene, whether you like it or not, and scenes, whether you like them or not, have aesthetics they adhere to. Thus when word came down that vaguely European affordable fashion leviathans H&M were carving inroads to the hesh set, it came sans surprise. Major department stores have been schilling big four and NWOBHM merch for the better part of this century anyway. The angst ship has sailed to more important shores. Let’s move on.
The manner and method by which H&M have torpedoed into the metal-verse, however, is definitely worth further discussion: Not only have they invented fake bands (Mortus, Eternal Dusk, Mystic Triangle) to plaster all over their slim-cut, boat-neck black tees, they also launched a black-metal-hoax-worthy marketing campaign to validate them. Production company with website and social media satellites? Check. Almost believable and actually hilarious album art? Check. A sample tape full of ripping parody tunes that sound ripe for a Northern Silence reissue or something? Yeah, you get the picture (Metal Sucks actually has all of this if you’re interested).
And while I think I could help them in the fake band name department (Krueger Cesarean, Deadbolt, etc.), I can’t help but applaud their commitment to the cause. As long as this is a meta commentary on the slimy backwaters of the metal underground (am I giving them too much credit?) and not actually an attempt to delude midtown shoppers into buying a $12.99 piece of the Saint Vitus pie, then I’m down with it. If you’re not, I get that too. This is a lot to take in and imitation is always as insulting as it is flattering, but a sigh and a chuckle feels like the best available response for now.
UPDATE: Turns out Moonsorrow/Fintroll member Henri Sorvali, and not H&M, is behind the parody efforts here, who brought H&M’s fake bands to life in order to educate/just plain fuck with them re: the sub-cultural complexities that get overlooked when companies attempt to monetize a scene they otherwise know nothing about. In other words, consider any in-half-hearted-defense-of-H&M sentiments expressed above summarily redacted. Meanwhile, if you want to dig deeper into this shit storm (I’m already over word count and way past deadline), then check out Noisey’s interview with Sorvali.