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.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve waited on a street date. My tenure at School Kids in mid to late 90s Athens was spent breaking as many street dates as we could, and with the internet, the idea of a street date is hilariously antiquated. The fun lately is buying some shit months early and completely forgetting about it. I was going to try to include the new Wode this month, but I’ve put off listening to the singles simply because I pre-ordered it and I’m actually pretty excited to revisit the thrill of pulling the cassette out of the mailbox and being tied to my stereo instead of staring at a phone. 20 Buck Spin have been nailing me on the nostalgia of tapes lately, and it’s been an exercise in restraint not throwing those singles on a daily mix, but man, I’m really excited to pop that sucker in the deck. It’s going to rip.
I’ve got to throw up the horns for L-G Petrov. The first handful of Entombed albums are stone classics (I know he’s not on Clandestine, still a goddamn classic), and Wolverine Blues is one of my all time favorite albums, and one of the most influential death metal records out there. I spent a very large chunk of March binging Left Hand Path, Wolverine, To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak The Truth, and hell, I’ve even got a soft spot for Same Difference! There’s some jams on that one worth a revisit. The record store I worked at used to be in the basement of the building, and I had three different people tell me that Entombed made them think of downstairs Haffa’s, so I at least did that right. Goddamn, I love Entombed. R.I.P. to a straight up legend.
Stargazer play a style of death metal that doesn’t always land with me, somewhere in the technical realm of Athiest and Di Giorgio era Death (both of which solidly land with me). You have to be pretty compelling when the bass is this far in front of the mix and doing this much crazy shit to keep things from going too far into the prog realm. Psychic Secretions (Nuclear War Now!) has a thrashy, classic European-with-a-dash-of-Florida death feel to the bulk of the material here that keeps the technical edge from getting too out of hand. To be honest, the intro and first track didn’t sell me, but stick it out because “Evil Olde Sol” into “Star Vassal” into “Hooves” (ugh, that riff thirty seconds in…) is the fantastic fifteen minute chunk of music I keep coming back to. I really enjoy when a band puts just as much effort into segueing their parts as they do the main riffs. Tying this many stylistic shifts together is difficult shit, and Stargazer are pretty good at it. The whole album is solid, but the aforementioned chunk is killer.
I don’t think I remember Genghis Tron right. It’s been thirteen years since their last album, and to be fair, I don’t remember much of that particular decade let alone 2008 itself. I seem to recall a glitchy, electronic mathy hipster grind band. Dream Weapon (Relapse) is not that. It actually feels pretty wrong to include this in a metal column, but Nick Yacyshyn from Baptists/Sumac is involved and he’s a bad-ass so here we go. Dream Weapon is, primarily, a synth record. Layers upon layers of synth, in fact. I kept waiting for things to cut loose, but the build and release is masterful throughout so while the middle of “Ritual Circle” is beating you up, it creeps up so smoothly you’re engulfed before you even notice. If it wasn’t for Yacyshyn, this would in fact have more in common with a krautrock record, but listening to him play all the beats under this many layers is super satisfying, like the insane rolls on “Single Black Point”. I’ll be honest, I only checked this out because their PR person is awesome, and from zero expectations arises one of my favorite albums this year. It’s pretty easy to say synth-driven math-rock, but it’s infinitely more difficult to describe how well these guys do it. Perfectly paced, great songs, just a start to finish winner here.
Rise To The Sky is a one man self-proclaimed atmospheric death doom band from Santiago, Chile. It’s been more and more difficult to find doom I like these days, ever since the genre latched on to the stoner rock ‘pound one riff into the ground’ aesthetic, and maybe it’s the change in tempo from the constant diet of old death metal I’ve been listening to, but Let Me Drown With You (GS Productions) really stuck out. I don’t get much of the death out of these songs, but there’s atmospheric doom aplenty, of the mournful, melancholy dirge variety. It’s almost like someone taped over a Vangelis album, but forgot to erase the Vangelis on opener “See Me Fall Down”, which is cool. “Dream The Pain Is Gone” has a few acoustic interludes before gobs of sad guitar harmonies pile on. There’s nothing surprising here, and it does start to homogenize by the end, but there are enough moments like the chord change 2:58 into “Leaving This World” to snap me back in. Solid stuff.
Forhist is a new project from Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval, a nod to the 90s wave of Norwegian black metal. This 90s homage style has been done to death over the last two decades, and I was a little scared when the nature sounds kicking things off kept going, but less so thirty seconds in when the tremolo picking and blast beats drop in. Vindsval keeps things pretty true to form here, but the production really sets things apart. Abstaining from the rawness of the 90s, but not polishing things up too much, the mix really helps the repetitive riffs sink into the ‘zoned-out’ side of things, rather than stagnating. The weather in Southeastern Ohio has finally turned, and this album has been the soundtrack to most of my outside walking for the last couple of weeks. I’m certain Vindsval didn’t intend Forhist (Debemur Morti) to accompany sunlit walks after work, but the album has really been doing it for this particular need. Nothing new here, and I’m sure there are a million other throwback black metal albums I should be hip to that people will scream are better, but Forhist has been hitting the spot.
Aside from living in squalor and always being broke, I occasionally long for the old college days, where my responsibilities were mostly to not get kicked out of college again and see how many new albums I could get baked and listen to in a day. Nowadays, albums slip by unnoticed all the time. Ritual Necromancy dropped Disinterred Horror (Dark Descent) three years ago, but I somehow missed it until a few weeks back. Smothering production and wall of noise death metal go hand in hand to my ears, and this shit delivers. “Cymbellum Eosphorous” takes up a third of the album and slows things down to maximum effect. This is the gross, gurgled vocals kind of death metal, and better late than never, right?
Another artist that slipped through is Hellripper. They blaze through the classic black and thrash style much the same way Midnight do – reverentially but fully in on the cheesiness of it all. While I enjoy last years The Affair Of The Poisons (Peaceville), it’s 2019’s Black Arts & Alchemy that has been lodged in rotation for the last month. Just under thirteen minutes of blasphemous classic rock and black metal infused thrash, this is wickedly fun stuff. “All Hail The Goat” indeed.
Since I mentioned thrash, can we talk about how refreshing it is to throw on the new Enforced and get an earful of old Bay Area-esque beatdown thrash? The thrash revival was fun for a minute, until everyone’s tongue got a bit too firmly in cheek. Kill Grid (Century Media) is good old fashioned jugular punching thrash, with some crossover and death upgrades. “UXO” puts a smile on my face the whole time, and the title track is a seven minute tour de force. Good shit, fellas.
With songs like “Raw Fucking Vomit” and “Warfuck Demon Lust” (that’s some Goodbye Goats shit right there…), I didn’t set my bar very high for this Demiser album. Didn’t need to, as sometimes a low bar is exactly what you need. This is surprisingly dark and dirty riffwise, considering the simultaneous evil and goofy lyrical bent. Think Venom without the pretensions. Through The Gate Eternal (Boris Records) knows exactly what it is. “Demiser The Demiser” has the dumbest chorus ever, but I sing it every fucking time. Total crusty evil fun.