Thursday, January 21, 2016

REVIEW: SEALCLUBBER - STOICAL


Starting with a song titled “Tales of a Romanian Horse Whisperer,” UK mood-ruiners Sealclubber immediately bludgeon the listener with noisy sludge. Based on the prevailing sense of dread and hostility in the scabrous songs on Stoical, I’m guessing this horse whisperer has more in common with the deranged theatrics and animal mutilation of Equus than that Robert Redford snooze-fest.

Speaking of animal mutilation, you might have frowned at that band name already. If it’s any solace, the violent intentions of these songs don’t stop at aquatic mammals, and humans are very much in danger once pressing play. With their barbed riffs and the pitch-black ugliness of Drunk Dad and Trap Them, Sealclubber feel like Deadguy if they lasted long enough to have an experimental sludge phase. Like the bands mentioned, Sealclubber’s songs aren’t just sutured opiate-abusing crusty gutterpunk riffs tuned to the brown note. Even in a furious barnburner like “Haima,” the song scavenges elements of hardcore and stoner metal to create a richly textured soundtrack for giving and receiving shit news.

Despite a three-plus minute atmospheric interlude frustratingly murdering momentum, the album quickly regains its footing with “Vows of Silence.” Between suckerpunches of distortion, the reverb of callused fingers scraping over guitar strings leads to a foreboding bass tone that floats above the song like a storm cloud ready to empty apocalyptic rainfall.

It’s a fitting prelude to the disarmingly pensive epic “I Only Desire the Things That Will Destroy Me in the End.” That title likely applies to most fans of heavy music, whether it be regarding their bad habits, currently undiscovered crimes, or the headbanging riffs that will eventually snap their necks. The song proceeds patiently, feeling its way along desolate corridors. Two-thirds of the way through its almost twelve-minute runtime, the song confronts the bloody aftermath it was seeimngly trying to avoid. While the climax isn’t as destructive as hinted by the album’s first half, it still feels like the inevitable victory of baser instincts, where volume rules and subtlety burns away like bong resin. It’s a nuanced track that lingers in the listener’s mind long after it gently fades out.

While their two-song EP Sticky River was impressive, this is a definite leap forward for Sealclubber. While retaining their nihilistic bite, they also build soundscapes that reflect a rotting metropolis in a puddle of mud, blood, and petrol. Looking out my window right now, the view sure as hell sounds familiar.

Follow Sealclubber over on Facebook and check for news on a Stoical pre-order, available from Medusa Crush Recordings on February 5th.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

TOP 50 HEAVY ALBUMS OF 2015

 
Google search result for "metal 2015"
With 2016 quickly approaching, it’s time to celebrate the end of the year the way journalists and critics know best: LISTS.

It’s impossible to account for all of the solid music I listened to this year. Even as this list bloated to 50 albums, I had to wrestle with my final choices. I have no doubt that if I look at this list in another year, decade, hell, even another week, the rankings could shift and shuffle depending on my mood, how crowded the subway is that morning, etc. Feel free to inform me of my lousy my taste, how overrated band A is, how album B is obviously the top selection of the year, and how I’ve terribly underrepresented genre C.

2015 Top 50 Heavy Albums of the Year

1.    Desolate Shrine – The Heart of the Netherworld
2.    Horrendous – Anareta
3.    Tribulation – The Children of the Night
4.    SUMAC – The Deal
5.    Behold! The Monolith – Architects of the Void
6.    VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky
7.    Khemmis – Absolution
8.    Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages
9.    Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess
10.  Dragged Into Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V.
11.  Elder – Lore
12.  Gruesome – Savage Lands
13.  False – Untitled
14.  Deafheaven – New Bermuda
15.  Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
16.  Ramming Speed – No Epitaphs
17.  Baroness – Purple
18.  Wailin Storms – One Foot in the Flesh Grave
19.  High on Fire – Luminiferous
20.  Adversarial – Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism
21.  Napalm Death – Apex Predator/Easy Meat
22.  Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
23.  Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
24.  Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
25.  Bosse-de-Nage – All Fours
26.  Abyss – Heretical Anatomy
27.  Meatwound – Addio
28.  Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death
29.  Satan – Atom by Atom
30.  Ur Draugr – With Hunger Undying
31.  Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium
32.  Burrows – Mar
33.  Vastum – Hole Below
34.  Chapel of Disease – Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art
35.  Tsjuder – Antiliv
36.  Scythian – Hubris in Excelsis
37.  Vattnet Viskar – Settler
38.  Sathanas – Worship the Devil
39.  Clutch – Psychic Warfare
40.  Ahab – The Boats of the Glen Carrig
41.  Noisem – Blossoming Decay
42.  Metz – II
43.  Lord Dying – Poisoned Altars
44.  With the Dead – With the Dead
45.  The Kill – Kill Them...All
46.  We Dream Alone – Weightless, But Still Sinking
47.  Spacebeast – Spacebeast
48.  Plaguewielder – Succumb to the Ash
49.  Iced Out – Man’s Ruin
50.  Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

If you haven’t checked it out yet, go buy issue #135 of Decibel Magazine, where the whole staff selects the Top 40 Extreme Albums of the Year.

Check out all the other lists popping up around this time, and feel free to send Tweets about my shitty taste over to @MisterGrowl

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2015: YEAR IN REVIEW

A little over a third of November has dripped away now, and even though there are 50 days left in 2015, I prefer to mark the calendar by the Decibel Magazine publication schedule. That means that the end of the year is here, and the mag’s list of this year’s 40 top extreme releases will be mailed out soon to divide families and communities with arguments like: Can Deafheaven really rank higher than black metal stalwarts Leviathan or Tsjuder? Is Horrendous going to make a top 3 album EVERY YEAR? Before our worlds are torn apart with list-bickering, here’s my reflection on 2015:


Back before "Post-Ironic" was removed.
HIPSTER MASSACRE

By far the project that’s my most consistent source of hope and anxiety, Hipster Massacre is scheduled to begin production sometime soon, I think? The film picked up an Executive Producer (Christopher Reynolds - also producing a project called King of the Cannibals that sounds awesome), and re-writes seemed to progress after an encouraging table reading. I deeply believe in the talent that has been assembled (Anthony Melton and Ben Franklin of Bloody Cuts, Don’t Move scribe David Scullion, and the Cloud Burst Productions team), and I’m beyond excited to see how this whole absurd, gory project unfolds.


Top 30, motherlickers!
APPRAISING THE DEAD

Some great fortune this year, as the horror script written by my brother and I made it all the way to the finalist round at Scriptapalooza. That means we were voted into the top 30 of the entire competition, which was a totally unexpected achievement. We’re starting to send this out to producers and I personally think it blows even favorably-reviewed supernatural films like The Conjuring out of the water with tension and terror.


Cornelius Darski and his therapeutic serpents.
THE HEALING MONSTERS

This anthology features an enormous list of talent from the horror and heavy metal communities, and all proceeds go to a good cause: Assisting with the medical bills for author Dustin LaValley and the funeral costs of the sadly departed Katherine Ludwig. I illustrated the cover for the anthology, and also contributed my ode to doom metal - and, um, skinless dogs? - in the form of a short story called “Forest of Anguish.” Hoping this will be out by the end of the year!


Satan is hella ripped.
DESPUMATION

One of my favorite short stories will be included in the newest volume of this heavy metal horror anthology. “Dead Language” features a demon accidentally summoned through someone’s anus. I wrote a song about this back when I was 19, and realized a movie called Bad Milo! came out since, which is sort of about the same thing. Hopefully my version will be far more endearing, macabre, and literary.


Skullet achievement unlocked.
OTHER SHIT

Unfortunately, my thirteen-month run of handling the Unsigned Underground column at About Heavy Metal will be concluding. I appreciate the opportunity Chad Bowar game me to cover independent bands on my own terms - well, apart from using all the delicious profanity I had to save for Decibel. I discovered a ton of great music while researching for this column each month.

I finished a feature-length dark character drama called Persephone. It was the most difficult and emotionally demanding writing project I’ve ever tackled, and I’m proud of the result. Reviews have been mixed so far, but comments like this from agency readers suggest I’m on the right track: “Each of these characters can lead their own film given how interesting they are.”

I also completed a massive re-write of The Birthday Party with Scott Langer that resulted in an entirely new script called Rebirthday. It’s a sex comedy, raw friendship drama, and gory occult horror script all wrapped up in the hope that we could one day attach Ilana Glazer to star as our protagonist, a deeply flawed harbinger of chaos.

My heavy metal coloring book 130 Dead Kids is still being stitched together. I have also started compiling my short stories with the potential for a fiction collection. Meanwhile, I’m working on a few more feature screenplays, as well as a collaborative project with Kung Fu Breakfast/Jay Kantor where his striking photography will accompany one of my bleakest pieces. Always busy, never enough time, the same old bitch-fest.


No school like the old school, noobs.
DECIBEL MAGAZINE

My dream gig has continued to reward me with coverage of great records and dynamic personalities. Not a bad way to earn a little “bad habit” cash each month.

Decibel Issue # 125
I started the year interviewing Lord Dying after they returned from rockin’ Europe with Red Fang. I also got the inside scoop on the Hall of Fame series from Decibel mastermind Albert Mudrian. Reviews and blurbs include Judas Priest, Infamous Sinphony, Violation Wound, First Class Elite, and Dirty Mike & the Boys.

Decibel Issue #126
One of my favorite interviews was with Nick Reyes of Inferion, who is a totally honest and captivating speaker. I was also able to cover some releases from DEVOUT RCRDS, and reviewed nasty releases from Abyss and the indestructible Terrorizer.

Decibel Issue #127
Holy shit, it doesn’t get much better than this: Interviewed both Tom G. Warrior (ranked the top extreme vocalist of all-time) and legendary artist Dan Seagrave - who I would later meet at Maryland Deathfest. I also describe the impossible deepness of Antti Boman’s vocals, and cover personal-favorites Fórn (who I saw for the first time this year) and Iron Lamb.

Decibel Issue #128
I was lucky to handle the first-ever interview with False, Gilead Media’s top-notch black metal band. Relying on numerous e-mails exchanged over two weeks, it was a challenge but provided a lot of context when seeing them perform live at Saint Vitus. I also covered Bosse-de-Nage (named “Best New Noise” that month) and vintage death metal crew Devoid.

Decibel Issue #129
Another highlight was discussing the new Paradise Lost record with both Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes. Really wry, funny, and poignant guys. I also took a look at Canadian label PRC Music, covering an enormously underrated doom record by Show of Bedlam. I also chip in reviews of Torture Pulse, Cult Leader, and Weedeater.

Decibel Issue #130
The hits keep on comin’ with an interview with the unparalleled Matt Pike of High on Fire. While the enormous quote pasted next to his face focused on his out-there conspiracy theories, he had a lot to say about music and life in general, and was a totally humble and generous subject. I also wrote about some of my favorite sets at MDF (Ufomammut, Conan, and Napalm Death) and reviewed the new Powermad record, along with a puke-inducing double-review of Anal Vomit and Morbid Vomit.

Decibel Issue #131
I discussed real-life horror with gore enthusiasts Pissgrave (which also became my nickname for a few months), and reviewed formidable albums by The Kill and Undergang.

Decibel Issue #132
I spoke with Nag of black metal purists Tsjuder and made him laugh once! I also had an excellent conversation with Erik Wunder about Cobalt’s highly anticipated upcoming album. Reviews included Broken Flesh and the awesome Bathory-worship of Scythian.

Decibel Issue #133
A little light for this issue, but anytime you get a lead review illustrated by Mark fuckin’ Rudolph it’s a good month. I covered the debut from With the Dead, and the trad-doom stylings of Witchsorrow.

Decibel Issue #134
The mag’s celebration of Finnish heavy metal allowed me to interview the hysterical Kosonen brothers of Necropsy, who discussed their relationships to extreme music as teens and grown men. I throw in some thoughts on some of my favorite Finnish albums ever (Demilich, Skepticism, and Hooded Menace), and review Corrections House and an album I have been eager to share with many, Behold! The Monolith’s Architects of the Void.

Decibel Issue #135
This is on it’s way to the presses now, so I’m not totally sure what will make the cut. I interviewed Graveyard a few months ago, talked to the unfairly awesome Matt Harvey about the upcoming Gruesome record, and the always-controversial list of the year’s Top 40 extreme releases will be featured.

Decibel Magazine’s Top 100 Old-School Metal Albums Issue
Still waiting for it in the mail so I don’t even know the final rankings, but I covered timeless records from Angel Witch, Exciter, Satan, and Deep Purple.


Have a cigar.
IN CONCLUSION

I’m not too proud to engage in New Year resolutions. Several unfinished projects were noted above, and in 2016 I’d love to complete them all. Sometimes goals hinge on others for progress, but I’ll keep focusing on telling stories I care about, covering bands that inspire me to bang my head, and hopefully collaborating with some of my favorite artists and writers. Pretty solid 2015. But 2016 is the Year of the Monkey - a good omen for an Iron Monkey fan like me. Goodbye, Year of the Sheep.