Words by Andrew Lampela
Andrew Lampela was an employee and eventual co-owner of the 40-year old institution, Haffa’s Records in Athens, Ohio, just outside of the dark woods from which Skeletonwitch emerged. Over his years there he has played in a number of bands ranging from rock to noise to metal and has taken his lifelong knowledge of music into contributing to a number of publications.
Ever wonder how music writers keep abreast of the enormous amount of new music out there? Yeah, so do I. It’s never been easy, even for the more-than-casual fan. Ever gone scouring through the little corners of paper or shredded receipts, most of which made it through the washer at least once, that made a small mountain on the corner of the dresser? How about the waves of anxiety first thing in the morning when the angry little red badge hovering above the Gmail icon managed to jump up by triple digits over night? Even with genre-specific focus, it is wild how much music is getting pushed out into the world these days. Streaming has made it easier than ever to connect, but even considering the personally curated worlds we can all create now, it’s incredibly easy for smaller bands to get lost in the enormous landslide of Friday release day.
Which is really just a weak-ass excuse for how I managed to sleep on Chapel Of Disease’s …and As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye (Ván Records). Sure, being five months late is better than never, but this ripper of an album deserves better. A thrilling blend of death metal, 70s guitar harmonies, and actual songwriting, Chapel Of Disease are a fantastic example of how much growth has occurred in the world of metal.
If growth is not your thing, I get it. Sometimes comfort food is where it’s at, no shame in that, but why not allow a little wiggle room instead of just aping influences? Sure, Departed Souls (20 Buck Spin) smacks of super-deep pounds-of-cocaine-a-day era Sabbath, but it is a damn fine homage, filtered through Def Jam era Trouble crunch and delivered with a thousand percent sincerity. In a world of mere mimicry, Magic Circle have yet to put out a bad album. Yes, they mine the same 70s territory everyone is shooting for these days, but the vibe here is dirty, crunchy, and shades the darker side of ‘retro’ vibes with a knack for strong melodies.
What about those times you wished there were not only more albums by a band, but those albums were better, you ask? No worries, Devil Master has you covered. Satan Spits On Children Of Light (Relapse) scratches every itch I’ve ever had for one of the first Venom albums to sound like the band could actually play their instruments (and I love Venom!). This album is getting quite a bit of hype, and after a cursory listen almost slipped through the cracks. Big mistake. I know that the words ‘Bathory influenced’ and ‘party record’ don’t necessarily go together, but Devil Master make it work big time.
Helms Alee doesn’t easily fit into metal descriptors, but are another great example of how the idea of heavy has evolved over the years. There is an abundance of Melvins-y heft all over this record, to be sure, but there are just as many wonderful vocal harmonies combined with needling angst on Noctiluca (Sargent House) to show how uniquely Helms Alee approach noise rock. “Be Rad Tomorrow” has vaulted to the top of my favorite songs by the band, an already stacked list, and perfectly illustrates how well this band incorporates dynamics into the world of heavy music.
Probably no chance of anyone missing out on the new Full Of Hell album, however. It seems as if Weeping Choir is everywhere right now, and for good reason, it’s blazingly good. Grindcore isn’t what I’d call an easy sell, as aggressive a sub-genre as there is. Still, a cathartic blast of shit that is too fast to fully grasp on the first spin is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. I always assume, in regards to my personal tastes, that extreme albums with this much hype/ad coverage are probably not for me, but Full Of Hell deliver. It’s pretty difficult to find the right blend of noise-scapes and crushing riffage, often overstaying their welcome on both accounts, but at twenty five minutes Weeping Choir is the perfect dose.
Profound Lore has made a name for themselves by fearlessly putting out some of the weirdest metal albums in recent memory. Anything the label releases is at the very least worth checking out. Might not be your bag, but you’ve got to give the label credit for their backing of albums that would probably never find a home anywhere else. That said, somehow I’ve managed to not clue in to Dead To A Dying World until recently. The Seer’s Embrace is as much about post-rock as it is smothering death metal, allowing space for both extended viola passages and blast beats. And space is the focus here, with songs unfolding over extended lengths at their own pace. As strange as it may seem, what with ostensibly being an extreme metal album, The Seer’s Embrace is the perfect come-down album in a genre of extremes.