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.
Look, I’m aware that I should like Gojira.
I know, I know, what’s wrong with this dumbass, right? They are insanely talented musicians. Mario Duplantier is mind-boggling on his own, never mind the bat-shit compositional skill and inventive precision of the guitars. The mix is unbelievably spacious and warm, making all those palm mutes extra smooth and heavy. The message has always felt hopeful and progressive, something that is certainly lacking in the genre, and I’ve always respected how intelligently they’ve used their platform. Fortitude (Roadrunner) is another shining example of why Gojira is one of the biggest modern metal bands.
As far as column space in the bottomless internet metal hole goes, they’re also a pretty solid example of why I don’t tend to review many of the bigger releases, besides having the utmost faith in you, dear reader, already knowing full well whether you need new Gojira in your life. I’m very aware that the whole point is to actually know your songs and have them sound as precise as possible. I’ve gone deep Steely Dan and enjoyed every minute of it, thank you very much. The production on Fortitude is undeniably bonkers, and I will never comprehend anything in my life as well as these guys know every nuance of these songs. It really is a great album. It’s also just so… sterile. These guys can probably count on their fingers how many times they’ve fucked up live, and that’s fine! Like what you like! People like things that other people don’t all the time, like beets and Greta Van Fleet, and the world turns. I just need a little more grit than what Gojira are offering up. Music is an escape, and I know we all could use some of that right now. Whoo boy, things sure are fucked, and I’ll be the first to tell you whatever some dick from Ohio thinks of your favorite metal bands is a raindrop in the ocean, man. Just let it go.
It is the utmost fun to rip through a juicy review that really digs in and shits on every note, but it also rules to be in a bunch of bands that write shitty songs and play shows that nobody comes to, really driven home this past week with the first full-band practice Unmonumental has had in fifteen months. Awkward and loud and rough and fucking magical, even if we are the smoke-break band on the bill. With so much good music out there just waiting to rip your ears off (which I am in no way suggesting is Unmonumental), whose got the minutes in the day to spend dragging things down just because I don’t get it? I mean, unless it’s something new by Machine Head or something, I’ll talk some shit on that all day.
Anyway, I’d have to somehow tear myself away from this new Big | Brave album. Dunno if it’s where I’m at in life right now or what, as I’ve enjoyed the band’s past offerings, but Vital (Southern Lord) is on another level altogether. ‘Oceanic’ as a descriptor is grossly over-used, but here I go anyway. The spacious washes between pounding riffs are as integral, if not more-so, than the volume. Half Breed has stopped me dead in my tracks several times now, in public, staring blankly at my phone as the entire eight minutes devours my brain. These songs ebb and flow, creak and swell, with the visceral raw nerve of Robin Hattie’s vocals at their center. I could easily tell you that this is a fantastic sludgy post-rock album, but that would be selling it far too short. Successfully pulling off this slow doomy thing is getting harder and harder, but Vital lands with an emotional heft that sets it well above the bar. This is an outstanding album, easily one of my favorites this year, and I cannot recommend it enough for fans of deep, meditative post-metal.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve enjoyed a Black Metal album as much as I’ve enjoyed Karst Relict (Northern Silence) by one-man Soviet band, Malist. Sure, there was the Forhist album, but that was more a way to zone out while I exercised (it is pretty great for that). Malist have all the real fast double bass tremolo picking I crave, but don’t shy away from more melodic parts. Dig that mid-tempo riff on Timeless Torch, if you will. Nothing groundbreaking here, and as I’ve covered in the past, I’m far from an expert at what is KVLT or whatever, but this is enjoyable, well done black metal to these ears.
I’ve always been pretty heavily focused on rhythm sections, and as a longtime bassist/more recently drummer, I am keenly aware of just how hard it is to make metal truly interesting. Listening to Tyler Coburn’s jaw-droppingly monstrous performance all over his drums on The Lurch (Relapse) is truly, truly interesting. Dude is bananas, absolutely fucking bananas. Yautja do noise-rocky metal really well. Sure they do the heavy grind lurch, but just listen to them slink into the groove opening Wired Depths. That’s cool. Catastrophic slips into an awesome groove around the two thirty five mark that is one of my favorite spots on the album. Coburn is inventive throughout, making even the most mundane parts smoke. I’m kidding, there are no mundane parts. This whole album smokes. Very impressive.
In the world of mathy metallic hardcore where All We Love We Leave Behind exists (seriously, it gets no better), I don’t find myself hunting this stuff out much anymore, much less on Metal Blade, but Capra has made the rotation by writing catchy songs. I definitely expected some sort of maybe okay metal-core based on Metal Blade being involved, but this slides right into my late 90s/early 00s hardcore love. It occasionally borders on being a little processed, tone-wise, but I also would take Gorilla Biscuits on Classic Rock rotations over Zeppelin all day long, so this is a fun record.
Red Fang will forever get a pass for just how out-of-nowhere the Prehistoric Dog video entered the world. I’ll freely admit that it’s been a minute since I’ve dipped into their catalog. but Arrows (Relapse) seems to have taken the band even farther from the stoner goofball image everyone stuck them with. Mature is not a word I would associate, but Red Fang pull off some pretty intricate songwriting without it sounding busy or forced. This album is full of Karp-esque riffage, although the grungy melancholy of Day’s Collide or the 70s acoustic prog intro to Why are nice textural standouts. It’s been nice to have one big-ass rock record to lean on these last few weeks, and Arrows is most definitely that record. Good shit, dudes.
I’ve only heard the singles from the new Ghastly (20 Buck Spin), but they are the shit and I can’t wait to hear the entire thing. The first two Satyricon LPs are getting reissued, which is whatever, but I just checked and The Shadowthrone still rules, FYI. Earthless (Heavy Psych Sounds) just dropped a new live album, and it’s as good as you know it is. Sonic Prayer, man, Sonic fucking Prayer. If you’ve got the time to spare, I highly recommend checking out the incredible stamina on display over at Analog Violence as Mr. Foster runs his way through the Maiden catalog. Plenty of heavy hitting guests on past episodes, but this Maiden journey is wild, I tell you what.