Words by Andrew Lampela
I always get this column mapped out in my mind with the best of intentions. I tell myself every month that this, this will be the one I get in early and it won’t be me shaving a few days off of Dave’s editorial shelf-life. I mean, it never happens, but I seriously have good intentions going into it. I felt pretty good about this column, though. I had a pretty solid stack of things to listen to, a handful of free days lined up, and the ol’ depression hasn’t been coming on too thick as of late. And then, like everyone else, I went to bed to news of El Paso and woke up to news about Dayton.
It has suddenly become a sobering reality to mentally keep tabs on which friends live where and how to most accurately and quickly figure out if they have been killed, and that is truly fucked up. Horrific tragedy after horrific tragedy. How does this shit keep happening? Why does this shit keep happening? When did this country go so far off the rails that there needs to be a conversation about how to keep kids alive in school? It’s never, never a good idea, and I knew better, but I spent the day pretty much glued to the internet for details and in the case of Dayton, to try to stay connected to my friends there. I still somehow had enough people on my various feeds to have a brief window into some truly vile rhetoric before I mashed the unfriend button, because if your takeaway from these horrific events is concern for your right to carry a gun into Wal-Mart so you feel safe instead of fixing things so people shopping for groceries don’t get mowed down by some deranged piece of shit, you have serious fucking problems and are probably an asshole.
I guess we all have our limits, and this shit kind of broke me. I could almost always see my computer from where I ended up after work, and the need to get started on a handful of writing assignments sat at the front of my brain, but it was way easier to just fade into Basinski’s Cascade imploding on the headphones and just… not be. It was just as fucking hard to muster up anything resembling motivation as it was to wrap my mind around how a bunch of rich, out-of-touch garbage human beings can deflect the confusion and rage of a country with, “well, it was probably video games” and have that shit work! Poof! Somehow, after all this pointless, devastating loss of life, it is still way harder for me to get a fishing license that a gun that can shoot a billion times a second. That is fucked.
I’ve always turned to music in my life. Good times, fucked up times, throes of depression times, ecstatic times, you name it. To have some bloated sack of shit single out any form of entertainment instead of taking a long, hard look at the failings of both government and understanding history is a slap in the face. Could it be the complete gutting of education? Nah, video games. How about the insane wealth disparity and crushing despair of poverty? Fuck that, it’s probably death metal. Maybe the fact that people’s tap water catches on fire and prairie dogs have the plague? Oh hell no, it’s horror movies.
It’s difficult enough to get out of bed and go to work every day, but coupled with the fact that our country is currently a live action issue of Mad Magazine and it’s even harder to believe that snarking about metal albums online is a worthwhile cause right now. There is so much terrible shit happening right this second, and that thought finally caught up to me. I tuned out, man. I lost the plot there for a couple weeks. A very terrible and violent history is currently repeating itself and we’re seriously considering that Bernie fucking Sanders is the man to put the hate spewing genie back in the bottle. Oof.
Anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered how many things I had on my list for this month. pretty much everything got absolutely pulverized by two of the best records this year. It’s not that I didn’t listen to other things, but it all wrapped back around to Tomb Mold’s Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin) by the end of the day. Death metal really stopped doing it for me there for about a decade, either stagnating in boring repetition or getting so technical it just wasn’t fun to listen to. Tomb Mold put out one of my favorite records last year as well (Manor Of Infinite Forms) and I anticipated this being just as good, if not better. I am, however, completely shocked at how much better. The production is crisper, the pace is ratcheted up, and these dudes absolutely nail the balance between technicality and still retaining soul. It’s been a pretty great couple of years for death metal coming back. There are some great bands doing justice to the tradition while breathing new life into the form, and Tomb Mold is absolutely at the top of the pile for me. Heavy, brutal, and a blast to listen to, this is personally already a modern classic.
Russian Circles have never put out a bad album. There, I said it. Sure, I go for some more than others (Memorial is one of the best albums of the last decade, hands down), but they all do it for me. Much like the Tomb Mold, though, I was not prepared for what Blood Year (Sargent House) was going to do to me. Maybe it was my completely burnt out mental state, maybe it was just me needing to shut out all the words in the world for a little bit, but Blood Year absolutely consumed me from the get go and I haven’t put it down since. Recorded by Kurt Ballou at Electrical Audio, the album is big, spacious and deep sounding. “Ghost On High” adds depth as a brief reprieve in the middle, and is a beautiful two and a half minutes, and “Quartered” fucking crushes. It’s pretty great that these guys never cease to find new ways to convey instrumental voices, and this is one of their finest moments.
This is where I own up to missing a bunch of shit. It’s impossible to catch everything. Sometimes, it takes opening for Inter Arma for me to clue in. I mean, I didn’t actually go to the show (it didn’t come anywhere near me), but if it’s good enough for Inter Arma. Definitely kicking myself for not checking Creeping Death out earlier, because Specter Of War (eOne/bandcamp) is a perfect eighteen and a half minutes, and it’s better to catch it a year and a half late that to never have crushed it five times a day. Death metal with a liberal dash of Entombed and just enough hardcore in it to make me air drum like a motherfucker. I’ve had this thing on repeat for the last month, and I’m super excited to hear the upcoming full length. If you ever wished Entombed had more crossover up in their jams, this is, like I said, a perfect eighteen and a half minutes.
Luckily, I’m well off enough to have the luxury of snapping out of it. I have a job that I actually enjoy going to, friends that care enough about me to include me in their lives, and an amazing, beautiful girlfriend to share my life with. Most importantly, though, is that I’m alive. In these absurdly tragic times, that isn’t something to take lightly. All we can do is to keep chiseling away at the hateful rhetoric in hopes that someday, shooting drills for eight year olds will be nothing more than a cruel footnote in history.