Welcome to Crack’s monthly round-up of extreme music
Make no mistake, the fringes of music are closing in on you. A world preoccupied by weighty, formless experiments, corpse painted theatrics and palm-muted misery is now but a click away. Those record sleeves decked with unreadable logos – the ones formerly only available in specialist shops in grimy small town malls – are now yours for the taking.
In the last few years the heaviest, most difficult artists committing their work to tape have been able to find an audience with relative ease. Sure, the audiences might not be huge but they’re always fiercely devoted. It’s a beautiful mystery. What seems totally absurd to one listener completely absorbs another. Those who are absorbed? They’re in it for life.
Grindcore, black metal, death metal, power electronics – call it what you like – each month we’re rounding up the best extreme music we can find on the internet and feeding it back to you.
Behexen - The Poisonous PathDebemur Morti Productions
Another solid release from Michigan’s Debemur Morti Productions, this time from Finnish semi-supergroup Behexen. Church bell chiming, satan summoning, diabolic dissonance is the basic blueprint for The Poisonous Path, the five piece’s fifth studio album and first in four years. Originally named Lords of the Left Hand, Behexen have very rarely fended off the demonic devil worship or abstained from explicitly traditional black metal. While 2008’s My Soul For His Glory was relatively decelerated in pace and 2012’s Nightside Emanations accelerated everything to a totally delirious speed, this ten track LP is a comprehensive amalgam of both. Intelligent drum patterns, memorable riffs, and customarily offensive lyrics from self-identified satanist Hoath Torog. Akin to others in their field, their sacred albeit intangible allegiance to the underworld may be fantastical, sometimes farcical, but it supplements Behexen with an air of authenticity misstepped by many contemporary black metal groups. And while The Poisonous Path is far from perfect, it’s a captivating turn from a faction of metal artists who truly believe in their art.
Above Aurora - Onwards Desolation
What is so instantly striking about Poland’s Above Aurora is their utilisation of vocals. There’s a real sense of space or sobering nothingness between voice and instrument.Their drifting guitar tremolos interbred with occasional ritualistic stabs of blast beat forge a vast eerie openness for vocal experimentation. In essence, Onwards Desolation sweeps around atmospheric doom and Funeral Mist-esque black metal, while guttural screams reverberate with a sense of ghostly clarity. The group themselves regard this combination of emptiness and void found in the lyrics with curt instrumentation as a comment on the ‘hopeless condition of mankind and the world as a whole’. What they have achieved is a dismal narration of mankind’s imminent demise, shielded under the umbrella of discordant metal.
Zounds - Bearing Fangs Towards God…Self-Released
This is as far-removed from 1977’s Reading formed, cassette cultivating, free festival doting anarcho-punk band Zounds as you could fathom. Instead, Romania’s Zounds are a Nosferatu doting, cheap thrash cultivating black metal multi-instrumentalists consisting of the duo Grimjaw and Son of Orlok. And while the typical nightmarish aesthetic confusedly accompanied by the pair’s norse inspired aliases overrides any degree of sincerity with Zounds, their primal boisterousness is hilariously endearing. “Beware of the stench of the spectral vampyre…” reads their Bandcamp header. And Bearing Fangs Towards God… truly stinks something obscene.
Cough - Still They PrayRelapse Records
Sans a split LP with fellow label mates and Richmond Virginia cohorts, Windhand, in 2013, Still They Pray is Cough’s first full length in six years. Ironically, one fundamental cause of this chasmic interim between 2010’s time honoured Ritual Abuse and now is almost solely down to the success of Windhand. Having to dedicate his time to both acts, bassist and singer Parker Chandler was left with a rather dubious ultimatum; put Cough on pause in order to pursue Windhand or sever yourself entirely from either outfit.
Thankfully, Chandler’s iron work ethic has enabled Cough to ascend from the annals of smoke sullied doom once again. Still They Pray is a low flying gush of electrified blues and apathetic soloing. Comparatively, Cough have taken the simmering cadaver of Ritual Abuse, prised open its boney construct and writhed around with its inner organs. A far-reaching restoration of one of the most important bands in their respective field.
Nails - You Will Never Be One Of UsNuclear Blast
‘Crossover’ is a particularly scandalous accusation in metal. Theoretically, the term should assist in characterising acts where both their lineage and direction literally cross affiliated genres. Unfortunately, crossover groups are habitually confused and lack cohesion. Nails have not only remained an exception to this sonic pitfall but have championed what it truly means to merge musical styles with a sense of nihilistic vigour. You Will Never Be One Of Us, their debut release with Nuclear Blast having departed from Southern Lord in 2013, is a fearless convergence of rancorous grindcore, bratty hardcore and tenacious death metal. It simply fissures riffs. The closing moments of They Came Crawling Back alone is enough to make you reopen the healing flesh around your reddened finger tips. This is the harshest, most blunt, most insensitive record Nails have released thus far and it’s proving they only intend on getting more horrible in the future. But it’s ok as you will never be one of them.
Hissing - Hissing EPSouthern Lord/ Disorder Recordings
Having only formed last year, Seattle’s three-piece Hissing, which includes Stephen O’ Malley of Sunn O)))’s brother Joe O’Malley, are a relatively young act. But what is experience worth when your infancy includes performing with the likes of Predatory Light, Brain Scraper and Canadian crust dignitaries, Iskra? In terms of making headway in the oversaturated black metal market, newborn Hissing are approaching their output in the most intelligible way. and despite supporting more acclaimed acts, the group seem to be owning almost every live performance they are billed for. And with the release of their self—titled EP, Hissing have reapplied their onstage aggression to the technical limitations of the studio. Yet over four tracks, the trio merge malformed, almost awkward black metal with traces of bleak death metal. They haven’t reinvented the wheel yet, but their burgeoning energy captured on this EP is arresting.
Body Void - RuinsTransylvanian Tapes
This is a debut from San Fransisco sludge minimalists Body Void (formerly Devoid). In this debut, the band expound upon your prosaic monolithic themes of gender identity, suicide and intergalactic abstractions but implement them around some of the most searing song constructions heard in aeons. Their instrumental orchestration is a bottomless cavity of tone all thanks to the capable engineering nous of Brainoil’s Greg Wilkinson. For a record so pulverising in its attack on the senses, the mix of low-end guitar riffing, impenetrable drum lines and echoey vocal shrills is alarmingly pristine. The begrudging trudging of Monolith stomps like a mangled Thou record slowly melting away from the a turntable’s stylus. Again, considering this is a debut, Body Void’s sludge imbued brawn comes with some hefty brains full of vision and ambition.