Well, it’s another dying star of a release week—a massive, unblinking chasm of space devouring each and every atom along the the arc of its lumbering orbit. Needless to say, we probably won’t get to every last piece of new music this week—and for that I apologize—but bear in mind, life on this planet occasionally beckons as well.
WHAT TO BUY: With those extra terrestrial metaphors thus in play, it makes sense start this week with one of the most “far out” bands in modern metal, Oranssi Pazuzu. We last heard from the hyper-eclectic Finnish black metal outfit on their standout 2013 LP, Valonielu, and today welcomes that record’s evolutionary spawn, Värähtelijä (20 Buck Spin), into the world with a Big Bang (sorry, couldn’t resist). Altogether more experimental, existential, and challenging than its predecessor, Värähtelijä is a watercolor brush stroke of psychedelia, jazz, and Scandinavian black metal that sounds proudly and unabashedly unlike anything else in extreme music. So come for the experience—because you’re not going to find it anywhere else—but stay for the songcraft and hooks, which keep everything tethered (albeit barely) to the satellite Oranssi Pazuzu call home.
Of course, if you’re more of a “salt of this earth” type, then perhaps Bilbao blackened death outfit, Altarage, and they’re ripping new LP, Nihl (Iron Bonehead), provides a better entry point for the insanity ahead. The requisite basement mire is here—a fitting counterpoint to the beautiful Basque hills beyond it—but there’s also a clarity of vision, both in approach and actual sonic experience, rarely heard in the sub-genre. If you like the hybridized aggression of the whole blackened death metal movement, but have always struggled to tell nose from tail, then Altarage might very well be the re-introduction you’re looking for
From there, please follow me down this spiraling stone staircase, where you’ll find Ritual Chamber lighting the ceremonial candles around its latest sacrifice, Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim) (Profound Lore). If subterranean, riff-based death metal is your thing, then this one, now streaming on Noisey, probably will be too. If not, perhaps Folteraar‘s breed of heinous Dutch black metal—as heard on their genre-pushing new full length, Vertellingnen van een donkere eeuw (Iron Bonehead)—is. As always, I urge you to check them both out—I can’t tell you the number of times I loved a record I didn’t think I would and hated another I was looking forward to for months—so go do that and let me know what you think.
After all of that, you would be excused for needing a bit of a sonic mind wipe, and sludge pop vets (and certified Masters of Fuzz™) Black Cobra have just what you need in the form of their new LP, Imperium Simulacra (Season of Mist). Though the first full length from the band in almost 5 years, Decibel’s riff-flattened free stream proves Black Cobra have lost none of their venom in the interim. Get over there and give it a listen if you know what’s good for you.
Now let’s take a rare trip out to the borderlands—where metal and punk wage war eternal—for Death Index‘s self-titled, Suicide-influenced slab of caustic post-hardcore (Deathwish). Admittedly, this debut offering from Merchandise crooner, Carson Cox, and La Piovra/Sgurd’s Marco Rapisarda, is about as far from metal as we get around here, but the classic hardcore influence is impossible to escape in each of Death Index’s brooding anthems of decay, making it more than worth a look for the tattooed knuckle set. Dismiss it or don’t, but whatever you do, don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Now let’s jump right back into the metal deep end with a pair of killer black metal releases, beginning with Frozen Ocean‘s atmospheric masterclass, The Prowess of Dormition (Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings). After you’re done beaming that one straight from the heart of Russia, turn your attention stateside, where Death Fetishist—led by Matron Thorn, multi-instrumentalist for Benighted in Sodom and Aevangelist, two of the most nightmarish black metal bands on earth—are set to unleash their new EP, Whorifice (Sol Y Nieve), on the huddled masses. Good luck trying to sleep after that one, kids.
Those of you looking to rage this week, should find plenty of inspiration in Deströyer 666‘s latest black thrash attack, Wildfire (Season of Mist), not to mention Wake‘s spasmodic grindcore beatdown, Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow (Sentient Ruin). The former is for the party, while the latter—streaming over at Invisible Oranges—is better suited for explosive catharsis, but really, let’s be honest, there’s no need to choose. Bolt that skull on tight and check them out while they’re still hot from the hellfire.
Finally let’s gift wrap this unmitigated insanity with some snackable releases, starting with prog-thrash maestros, Voivod, and their new EP, Post Society (Century Media), and concluding with another fistful of punishing sludge from Japanese legends, Coffins, and their less proven, but equally crushing, stateside counterparts, Ilsa. If you’re into either/or, make sure to check out the duo’s new split, which drops today via Relapse.
WHAT TO SEE: The great thaw is on, people, so cut your hibernation short and see something this weekend, starting tonight with a gore bucket full of options including Fin’amor at Lucky 13 Saloon, Dysrhythmia/Artificial Brain at The Acheron, UXO (mems of Unsane/Today is the Day) at Saint Vitus Bar, and Sponge at Blackthorn 51. Saturday turns the crazy up yet another notch with a daunting show roster spearheaded by Malignancy at Blackthorn 51, Cannabis Corpse at Hartley’s, Fucking Invincible at The Acheron, Murphy’s Law at Lucky 13, Born of Osiris at Gramercy Theatre, Black Tusk at Saint Vitus, and the almighty Black Sabbath at Madison Square Garden. Good luck deciding where you’re headed, fellow heathens.
Sunday offers up a bit of respite—unless you’re catching Cannabis Corpse at Vitus or Poison Tongues at Lucky 13—before Tuesday welcomes a pair of classics in Helloween and former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime roadshow to the Playstation and Gramercy Theatres, respectively. On Wednesday, Slayer, Testament, and Carcass unleash a three-headed death-thrash hydra at Portchester’s Capitol Theatre, before Wolfmother wrap up the show week on Thursday with a headlining slot at Webster’s Immortal Hall.
WHAT THE FUCK: Bummer news out of the Psalm Zero camp today, with frontman Charlie Looker announcing the end of his musical relationship with the other half of PZ, Andrew Hock, after allegations of sexual harassment by Hock surfaced over the weekend. I’ll let Looker’s lengthy, articulate, and disarming explanation do the majority of the talking, but I fully applaud the zero tolerance policy on display here. More of this (and less of that) in metal, please.
VERY SAD ANNOUNCEMENT
A few hours ago, my good friend Megan published her account of sexual misconduct against her by my Psalm Zero bandmate Andrew Hock. The Twitter link of her account is attached below. She told me about it this past Sunday, the morning after it happened, and I’ve been waiting for her to speak publicly about it before doing so myself. This kind of thing is extremely sensitive and messy, so my statement will necessarily be long-winded. However, despite the inherent complexity of the issues, three main things have been extremely easy for me to decide immediately:
1. I believe Megan 100%.
2. I won’t be working with Andrew in any capacity in the future, or speaking to him at all, effective immediately.
3. Psalm Zero will continue without Andrew.
As for my trust in the accuracy of Megan’s account, this isn’t simply because statistically women tend not to lie about these things. There’s that. But it’s also because I’ve known Megan personally for years, and lying or exaggerating something like this in order to hurt Andrew is just not something I could possibly imagine her doing. She has shown Andrew nothing but total support in the past, both as a musician and as a friend. Megan is tough as nails and she doesn’t call me in tears on a Sunday morning over nothing. “Oversensitivity” is not one of her problems. Furthermore, Andrew’s initial “side of the story” (as he related to me in a barrage of texts to which I didn’t reply) barely even contradicted Megan’s account. He essentially said what she said, minus the gross details, plus apologizing, as well as some rationalizing which I seriously found just as creepy as his actions themselves. I’ve been told that since then he has shifted his story around, but I’ve stopped listening.
As for my severing all ties with Andrew, I want to be as clear and fair as possible here. I don’t view the world in strict moral black-and-white, so my mind isn’t wrestling with the dissonance of having previously thought of Andrew as a Good Guy but now suddenly feeling like I have to view him as a Monster. He wasn’t a Good Guy before, and he’s not a Monster now. He’s been a fucked up, unstable, human being the whole time. I’ve consistently found him to be deeply self-centered and competitive (yes, more than me) and seriously lacking in a certain basic awareness of how his actions affect other people. But none of it struck me as having a sexually inappropriate quality, until this recent incident. It was always the kind of stuff I felt I could just deal with personally with him, in order to keep our musical collaboration going. I’ve also shared with Andrew a truly deep feeling of kinship based in our profound engagement with music, our shared sense of dark humor, depression, and frankly, our shared drug problems. There has always been a layer of real love and camaraderie in our relationship, a certain shared worldview. At the same time, there has also always been another layer which is that, when he’s talking about something other than music, I disregard about 90% of what comes out of his mouth. I’ve forgiven Andrew for endless personal affronts to me over the years, and to be fair, he’s forgiven me for some serious bullshit between us as well. But just because he’s a human being doesn’t mean I have to have anything to do with him. This isn’t about demonizing or stigmatizing Andrew so I can feel morally superior. It’s simply that certain behavior is fucked up enough for me to cut a person out of my life, and to tell everyone why.
I’m not about to run around the whole scene cutting off anyone who’s still friends with him or still works with him, on the grounds that they’re “enabling an Abuser”. I’m not telling anyone what to do, I’m just saying what I’m doing. I’m not really even telling anyone what to think about it, except for this one basic thing: you should believe Megan’s account. That’s the only thing I’m literally telling people to think. Believe her story, and then make up your own mind about what that means to you.
As for ejecting Andrew from Psalm Zero, the timing is pretty inconvenient, considering that we just finished recording our new album. Currently booked live shows for April and May will be canceled. Touring plans surrounding the record are obviously up in the air, although definitely not out of the question. Since Andrew handled so much of the business side of Psalm Zero, it seems possible that some of the band’s professional network may be compromised by his dismissal. But since on a purely musical level, Psalm Zero has been primarily my vision from day one, the idea of continuing the project without Andrew isn’t seriously troubling to me, despite all of his fantastic musical input.
Right now there’s a ton of discussion online about sexual assault and harassment, especially in music scenes, and all the surrounding politics and power issues. I absolutely fully support that discussion in general, but that’s just not even where I’m trying to take this post. I want to be clear that this isn’t about me personally covering my ass out of fear of the court of public opinion. If for some reason I doubted Megan’s story, or if deep down I accepted Andrew’s behavior, then I would absolutely stand by him, whatever the cost. But I don’t, so fuck him.
Thanks for reading.