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.
Nothing like some major life upheaval to put things into perspective. There are a few things, like housing and transportation, that seem like we as a country would’ve figured out by now. Believe me, I am fully aware of the privileged position I’m speaking of. I can’t imagine what I’d be going through if I didn’t have a job, or a solid support net, or relatively level mental health (debatable at present moment). The system has truly failed in regards to homelessness, poverty, and caring for those in such fragile mental states.
If you may permit me, however…
Why is it so fucking hard to buy a car? Or find a non-shithole place to rent in February? Where is the disconnect on a national level where a job paying seven bucks an hour is supposed to provide the absolute bare minimum of a life? I don’t know if you’ve priced used cars recently, but holy shit is it bonkers. Unionize the whole fucking planet while we burn this shit down, because it’s becoming untenable.
Thankfully, January is typically a pretty slow month, because my mind has been consumed with life stuff. Change is inevitable. Don’t take your time with people for granted. Be honest and open. Most importantly, no matter how low or worthless you feel, we all need to realize that that shit just isn’t true. Lives change, whether we want them to or not. New chapters are terrifying and the future is wildly unpredictable, but all you can do is your best.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is my absolute love for Voivod. Arguments can go either way in regards to their first two albums (personally, they are reckless, sloppy awesomeness), but if you find anyone that disputes the absolute brilliance of the Killing Technology/Dimension Hatröss/Nothingface run, they are a trash person that should be laughed out of the room. In fact, while even I admit there are some… ahem… lean years in there, anyone that talks shit on Voivod is probably sketchy. They are very endearing dudes that I root for no matter how much I enjoy the current album. It’s very fortunate, then, that Synchro Anarchy (Century Media) is pretty damn great. The addition of Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain and Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche has revitalized Snake and Away, to the point that this and 2018’s The Wake have become vital pieces of the band’s discography to me. Pretty crazy for a band almost forty years into it. I’ve personally been enjoying the second half of the album, with songs like “Sleeves Off”, “Quest For Nothing” and “Memory Failure” really standing out. Synchro Anarchy has all of the trademarks of classic Voivod – the inventive, almost made-up chords, manic drumming, fantastic baselines, and Snake being Snake – but sounds one hundred percent fresh. Progressive technical metal has come a long way in those forty years, to beyond dizzying heights, so Voivod might sound a little quaint to the younger metal dudes, but if you want to hear some true originators throw down one of the better albums in their catalog, this album rips.
I’ve always enjoyed Venom Prison. They do Death Metal via the Napalm Death route – political, relentless, technical but not mathy – and that is, as they say, my shit. It’s very nice to hear them start to really come into their own on Erebos (Century Media) with some new textures. The opening solo on “Comfort Of Complicity” is super slick, and “Pain Of Oizys” is a wildly new and mellow direction. The album is a ferocious attack on the modern prison system and our eroding rights, and Larissa Stupar is one of the best vocalists going these days. If I have one gripe, it’s the ultra slick production. It’s taken me a few listens to get into it, and I do miss some of the rougher edges, but this is a great record by a great band. Hard to deny the passion.
20 Buck Spin wastes no time, dropping a three song Voidceremony ripper a week into the new year. At The Periphery Of Human Realms proves that you can absolutely balance being rough as fuck and perfectly produced tech-ed out craziness. Just under ten minutes isn’t quite enough, but this is a quality primer for what is to come. Also, pretty damn cool to get a three song promo tape in the mail, takes me way back.
On the metal adjacent front, Anna Von Hausswolff is the truth, and you should check out all of her albums. Live At Montreux Jazz Festival (Southern Lord) is a fantastic full-band experience. While the title track to Mizmor’s (Gilead Media) new EP certainly falls under the oppressive doom umbrella, it’s “Pareidolia” that really haunts me. Angelic waves of drone smothering some fucked up, backwards sounding vocals? Sign me up. Wit’s End blends perfectly with grey skies and an imploding life.
Wiegedood are unrelenting on There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media), ripping through forty five minutes of Black Metal fury. I know it’s a bit early, and I’ll talk more about it next month, but holy shit am I excited for this Falls Of Rauros album. Two listens in on Key To A Vanishing Future (Gilead Media) and I am fucking all in. Man Made (self-released) is fifteen minutes of crossover thrash fun – thanks Cruel Bomb. Lest it get lost amid the end-of-year business, Ylem (Willowtip) is fast becoming one of my favorite recent Death Metal albums. Sunless really nail the old school Florida weird, gross, technical Death Metal vibes, and I have been enjoying the fuck out of this record so much it deserves a second push.
That’s all I got. Life comes at you fast, take care of yourself out there.