It’s only February, which means most labels are just starting to trickle out what will eventually become an unstoppable avalanche of new releases. Not so for Nuclear War Now! Productions; the California-based label is in the process of unleashing a fifty megaton payload of heavy hitters that are poised to set the bar for underground black and death metal for the remainder of 2018. Read on for THKD’s breakdown of this quartet of poser-slaughtering platters…
Normally, this is the part where I get all reflective regarding the year in metal. I had a scathing year-end rant all ready to go, an ice cold glass of haterade to throw in the faces of the all the people and things that annoyed, dismayed and pissed me off in 2013… and then I read what I’d written and realized that I sounded like a complete dick. What’s the point in dwelling on the negative when there was so much good this year? I had one hell of a hard time whittling down my list to just fifteen albums, and there’s still a lot out there that I’ve either yet to hear or yet to fully digest. It’s pretty darn easy to ignore the mountain of crap when there’s an equally tall mountain of greatness staring you in the face, and yet sometimes I forget that… I guess that’s what my anti-depressants are for.
It’s been two years short of a decade since the metal underground last heard from Thou Art Lord, and in the era of social media, where new music is snapped up with lightning quickness by the heavy metal hive mind only to be discarded and forgotten just as fast, that much time away can seem like an eon. However, 2013 has proven to be a banner year for veteran bands returning from the abyss of time with excellent new releases (e.g. Gorguts, Carcass, Sorcery, Summoning, etc), and with The Regal Pulse of Lucifer, the Hellenic quintet has come raging back with a fury that proves their time spent in the netherworld was not in vain.
Sleeping on fucking awesome bands seems to be the story of my life lately. My Last.fm scrobbler claims that I’d listened to Faustcoven thirty times prior to getting down with Hellfire & Funeral Bells on my computer for the first time, but I sure as heck don’t remember ever experiencing this doomed excellence prior to taking advantage of Nuclear War Now! Productions’ recent mega-sale and picking up the band’s third album on CD. Granted, I used to listen to a lot of random things while completely shit-hammered at ungodly hours in college, so it is entirely possible that the brain cells that remember Faustcoven have been lost forever to the whiskey gods. Whatever the case may be, after spending a great deal of time with this ghastly recording, all I can say is goddamn, have I been missing out.
Pictured above is one Harold Camping. Creepy looking old fucker, eh? Mr. Camping is the California-based Christian radio broadcaster who started all this Rapture nonsense that we’ve been hearing so much about lately. May 21st, 2011, Camping’s predicted date for when the proverbial shit would hit the fan, has come and gone without any signs of God’s wrath. Turns out the crazy old coot also predicted the end of the world for September 7th, 1994 and has now revised his most recent epic fail for October 21st, 2011 (probably so he could swindle more suckers out of their life savings over the next five months). Give me a fucking break. Nonetheless, it got me thinking, if any of this poppycock were true, what metal albums would I put in heavy rotation in order to ring in the Beginning of The End? After some deliberation and debate standing in front of my CD rack, I chose the following four albums as the soundtrack to the impending Twilight of the Idols.
VON – Satanic Blood Angel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
San Francisco’s VON only recorded a handful of material during their brief original incarnation, but that material, collected on Satanic Blood Angel, is encoded in the malformed DNA of black metal as we know it. The hypnotic repetition, lo-fi recording quality and themes of Satanism create a blueprint for the genre that is continually being copied, re-shaped and built upon to this day. Black metal is an inherently apocalyptic form of music, so including one of the fountainheads from which the genre sprang is a must for any Armageddon festivities. Unlike a lot of other black metal, VON’s recordings sound genuinely frightening and ritualistic without being comically over-the-top. This is raw, grim ‘n’ gritty stuff that just might be a field recording from the depths of hell, the invocation that begins our march towards oblivion. Pray Satan. Pray Satan. Pray Satan.
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (Century Media/Prowling Death)
Tom G. Warrior has been working on crafting the perfect soundtrack to the End of Days for almost three decades. He came close on multiple occasions with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, but his vision seems to have reached a climax with Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones. A lurching, heaving leviathan of an album, the Earth shudders under the sheer suffocating heaviness of tracks such as “Abyss Within My Soul” and “Myopic Empire”. Warrior refers to his lyrics as “epistles” (a term typically referring to parts of the Christian Bible’s New Testament which were written as letters to groups of people, i.e. First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, etc), but if anything they are sermons for black masses to be celebrated during the Tribulation. Eparistera Daimones is an utterly draining listen, physically and especially mentally. Prolonged exposure to its haunting blackness could ultimately lead to complete and total erosion of the soul, which might be the only respite from Hell on Earth.
1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame (Candlelight)
For Revelations of the Black Flame, Norway’s 1349 largely abandoned their monotonous, blasting brand of black metal in favor of noise and ambience, creating an utterly polarizing album in the process. Once the initial shock wears off though, the soundscapes 1349 conjure here slowly begin to seep out of the speakers and infest your ears, worming their way into your soul. It’s none too surprising that Tom G. Warrior also had a hand in the recording, as the claustrophobic blackness here is very similar to that of Triptykon and latter-day Celtic Frost, although the material on Revelations… is much more adventurous in its execution. It’s no mere coincidence that Revelation is the hallucinatory book of the New Testament in which the Apostle John describes the Apocalypse, because while some call this album 1349’s nadir, I call it their first (and so far only) foray into a sound that is utterly deranged, horrific and esoteric, a perfectly sublime sonic accompaniment to Ragnarok if ever there was one.
Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Earache)
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The quotation is from George Orwell’s 1984, but it perfectly sums up Godflesh’s 1989 debut album, the monolithically heavy Streetcleaner. The recording is the equivalent of having your skull marched over by a thousand dirt and blood-caked mechanical boots, while visions of a world irrevocably scarred by over-population, urban blight, unchecked greed and absolute power corrupting absolutely run through it. The crushing, metronomic pulse of the drum machine gives the album a soulless, mechanical vibe, while the grimy distortion of the guitar and bass, as well as Justin Broadrick’s beastly vocals, are undeniably human; the sounds of mankind struggling against the onset of subjugation via technology, only to be crushed under its aforementioned heel. Regular readers will remember that I recently used almost identical imagery to describe a trio of forward thinking Norwegian black metal albums. Streetcleaner is a direct precursor to those recordings and its apocalyptic visions are far more terrifying than any hellfire ‘n’ brimstone sermon, precisely because it is rooted in the all too tangible realities of our everyday world.
Of course the sad thing is that twenty or thirty years ago, before the of the internet, social networking and all the other platforms we now have in place for wackadoos to advertise their messages of moronitude (yes, I made that word up) across the globe, Harold Camping would only be known as California radio’s local nutcase for Christ. Articles such as this one wouldn’t be necessary because Camping would be a regional footnote at best. But regardless of what you think of faux-doomsday prophecies and whether or not the universe implodes, I think you’ll find these four albums well worth your time (though hopefully you’ve already explored at least some of them). If nothing else, they prove that Satan has the best tunes, even on Judgement Day.
For the most part, I try to keep things positive here at the THKD bunker. I only review albums that I would recommend to someone else, or at the very least albums that open themselves up to interesting thoughts and discussions (see the recently reviewed Raunchy album). I don’t single out bands or individuals I don’t like, tempting though it may be. I only let my grouchiness come through on rare occasions, such as my responses to Brandon Duncan’s questions in our dual interview, or in my piece on the sorry state of metal journalism.
But more often than not, I can’t help but get the feeling the majority of metal is turning into something I don’t want to be a part of. Thanks to social networking and the internet in general, metal has become infested with the kind of name-dropping, backslapping industry scumbags that the culture set out to destroy in the first place. I’m not naming names, but when I see so-called “journalists” and “publicists” bragging about what bands they’re partying with or what sweet promos they’re listening to while partying with said bands, I feel like I want to start vomiting and never stop. No one in the world cares about who you know and who you blow.
No, I’m not jealous. I’ve met my share of bands, interviewed “big names” and gotten my share of sweet promos in the mail. I don’t feel the need to go on and on (and on) about it on myspace/facebook/twitter/etc though. Yes, vanity has crept into metal like a particularly nasty case of syphilis. The ego stroking even happens in print, thanks to a slew of writers who think that just because they have a widely read opinion, this somehow makes them “cool” or “elite”. Reviews don’t matter when anyone can go on the internet, google an album and download it instantly for free (In fact, it is probably thanks to these “writers” that albums leak before their release dates).
What does matter in the internet age is conversation, dialogue and interaction. The lines of communication between bands, journalists and fans can and should be wide open thanks to the internet. No one is going to want to interact with you if you come off like an elitist asshole and a braggart, except for other elitist assholes and braggarts. Maybe I’m just getting old and bitter, but as someone who writes about metal because they love it, I find reading these self-serving reviews/articles/blogs/tweets/whatthefuckever extremely hard to take. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I’m still humbled by and grateful for the fact that bands are willing to talk to me about their art, labels are willing to send me albums to review and other fans and writers are interested enough in what I have to say to interact with me.
Journalists with superiority complexes aren’t the only ones getting under my skin. I love the many publicists I work with (Earsplit, Clawhammer, Fresno, Nathan Birk, etc) to keep the new content flowing for THKD. Without them, this site wouldn’t be half of what it is. But, there are some I refuse to work with, and it’s for a good reason. I understand it is the publicist’s job to entice me to write about whatever band/label/etc they happen to be pimping at the time. But a good publicist, like the ones mentioned above, understands the tastes and demeanors of the folks they’re working with, and bases their interactions on that knowledge. When someone sends me e-mail after e-mail acting like I owe them a favor, asking me to cover a band that anyone who reads one post on THKD could tell I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, that’s a good way to forget about getting any coverage on my site. I will decide what bands are covered on THKD and I’m not going to compromise my own integrity or stroke your ego by writng about some shit band as a “favor” to someone I don’t even know. Get a fucking clue.
Unfortunately, many metal review sites don’t know the meaning of the word “integrity” and are more than happy to partake in the giant circle jerk that is the metal industry. Did some of these sites ever stop to think that if they stopped reviewing all the terrible and mediocre shit labels pumped out, maybe it would help re-instill some level of quality control? Some sites, like Invisible Oranges have wisely embraced the philosophy of only writing about releases that are “good” or will open up a dialogue. I wish more sites would follow this template, as ignoring an album altogether says a lot more about its quality than wasting valuable time and energy to write an unfavorable review. Maybe the labels would take notice if this happened, but I fear that most of them are so out of touch that it probably wouldn’t make a dent.
There are some extremely high quality labels, like Profound Lore, Hell’s Headbangers and Nuclear War Now! that are obvious labors of love and show genuine care for the music, the releases and the fans. Some of the larger labels on the other hand, pump out records like widgets coming out of a factory. The fact that 4th and 5th tier metalcore/deathcore bands have record deals is undeniable proof that bigger labels are more interested in flooding the market with crap in an effort to turn a quick buck than they are in investing in quality artists who make music that will stand the test of time. I’ve been told that labels have to release a certain amount of albums every year in order to get a distribution deal. Apparently, this is how distribution companies decide if it is a “good” label, encouraging quantity over quality.
The fact that there are approximately 51 billion shitty metal bands out there hoping one of these labels will snap them up certainly doesn’t help. If most of these terrible bands would do the world a favor and break up, we wouldn’t have some of this problem. 99.9% of metal bands need to just get it through their thick heads that they’re never going to be the next Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death or whatever the fuck it is they aspire to and call it a day. Trust me, the world would be a better place for it. The more low quality bands there are, the better the chances of low quality bands getting signed to big labels and winding up in your local shops, iTunes and the radio. It’s hard enough to find anything good to listen to without having to wade through an ocean of toxic feces.
Oh and by the way metal fans/listeners, you’re not off the hook either. Not by a damn sight. Some might say illegal downloading is killing metal, but I think it is the passive attitude of metal fans towards what they’re being spoon-fed that is quickly becoming the genre’s death knell. By willingly putting up with this stuff, you’re giving labels, mags, zines, websites and musicians a free pass to fill your eyes and ears with steaming loads of crap. All of us need to band together and say “Hell no, we aren’t going to take it anymore!”. Don’t listen to it, don’t write about it, don’t download it, don’t buy it and don’t talk about it, even to say that it completely sucks. It is time we took metal back from these fat cats, pig-fuckers and assorted blowhards and broke this vicious circle of bullshit. It doesn’t belong to them, it never has and it never will. It belongs to us.
(Proclamation performing at the Nuclear War Now! Festival in Germany)
Spain’s Proclamation are a true power trio from hell. I discovered the band through their association with the mighty Teitanblood and promptly purchased all three of their full length releases, Advent of the Black Omen, Messiah of Darkness and Impurity, and Execration of Cruel Bestiality. Who knew Spain was such a hotbed for sick, evil fucked up straight to hell metal?