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 pretty wild that it took some dumb Joe Rogan business to clue Neil Young into the shitty side of people listening to his music. Legacy artists are pretty removed from the business side of their back catalog, and rightfully so. Who wants to focus on a stellar back catalog when you could be writing new classics like Fork In The Road or The Monsanto Years (both absolutely unpolishable turds, if you couldn’t infer)? Joe Rogan is the Big Johnson t-shirt line distilled into the form of that one dude in college who smelled like a gym shoe and tried to convince you drinking bong water would get you there, and it’s a miserable existence we’ve created that he has more influence than science as a whole. So it’s cool that artists with actual pull are taking some sort of stand.
But, I mean, c’mon Neil. If you were worried about taking an ethical stand, how about Spotify being the absolute worst at compensating artists AT ALL. I feel pretty miserable using Spotify as much as I do. It seamlessly fills the eight to ten hour day at work. It allows me to check out a huge amount of new music (some of which I tell you all about). It lets me scream along to Natalie Imbruglia in the car. It also doesn’t pay the smaller artists I tend to gravitate towards anything. I Bandcamp most of what I write about here, as well as all the weird ambient shit I’ve been using to soothe my troubled sleeping schedule, but there’s only so far that chunk of my paycheck can take me. It was way easier to be voracious about blowing through ten to fifteen new things a week back when I owned a record store, playing it for whatever ears happened to be there helped sell a few copies.
Now? Even if I got five of my friends to check out a record for a week, the artist in question might, might, pull in a buck or two. That, my friends, fucking sucks. Owning a record store opened my eyes long ago to the fact that eighty percent (maybe more) of people that consume music don’t give one shit about artist compensation. Most of them don’t give one shit about the album itself, happily content to loop the two or three monster Drake jams into infinity without worrying how he’ll afford his next eighteen cars.
There’s no way to walk this back from the ledge. Lazy assholes will melt down if all of recorded history isn’t in their pocket for fifteen bucks a month. Art is at a crossroads, and in a world where dipshits are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at digital “rights” to pixilated memes while bitching at paying ten bucks at the door for a handful of bands, I have no easy answers. If you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you to pick up a tape, or LP, or t-shirt, or just PayPal a few bucks to the band if you get enjoyment out of their art. Music has been there for me when no one else was, and goddamn I love it. We’ve got to figure out a better way.
And you can commit this to memory, as it will be the only time this combination of words comes out of my mouth. Thank you, Joe Rogan. It’s not the exact reason we should all be giving Spotify shit, but thank you for being such a ridiculous caricature of deep thought that you pissed off Neil Young’s out-of-touch millionaire ass. At least when crotchety old rich dudes get mad, the conversation bubbles into the mainstream. Support bands. Support live music (safely). Support art at a local level, before we all become homogenized algorithmic husks.
How the fuck did I miss Eight Bells? Melynda Jackson’s old band Subarachnoid Space is responsible for one of my all-timers in The Red Veil (so so so good), so it baffles me that I missed out on their two previous albums. In fact, I was still unaware of her involvement until five or six listens into Legacy Of Ruin (Prophesy Productions), although the spacious guitar tingled part of my fried-out brain in a way I couldn’t quite place but should’ve. There are heavy doom riffs, blast beats and grind-y bits, and mathy post-rock glory, but it’s the atmospheric chorale feel to the harmonized vocals of Jackson and bass player Matt Solis that really nail this one for me. I always have way too many playlists going, and as a result tend to boil things down to the two or three standouts, but I couldn’t even tell you individual songs on this, a truly absorbing, cohesive album from start to finish. The band know when to give the songs plenty of room to breathe, and it really makes Legacy Of Ruin stand out. Absolutely my go-to for the last week, very very good stuff.
I was pretty bummed when Earthless went the boogie vocals route on their last album. It was okay, but that’s not why I listen to them. Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast) is why I listen to them. Both parts of the title track creep in, taking seven and eleven minutes to launch respectively, but launch they do, proving Isaiah Mitchell is one of the leading rippers going. There are only so many notes/combinations, so how he continues to be so lyrically tasty is a mystery. “Death To The Red Sun” stomps the whole time. I don’t begrudge Earthless their desire to expand the sonic palette, but the space psych is my shit, and they deliver an hour of blissful zoned out goodness here.
Cult Of Luna is one of those bands that fall somewhere between ‘huh, kinda forgot about them’ and ‘yep, took it for granted that this album would hit’. Maybe they’re just too consistently dependable for their own good? For whatever reason, I didn’t think The Long Road North (Cult Of Luna/Metal Blade) would last in the rotation as long as it has. Much like the Eight Bells album, I’ve been zoning out to this as a whole. There are a couple reprieves from the crush in “Beyond I” and “Into The Night”, and atmospheric textures abound, but this is definitely a Cult Of Luna album full of the crush. If you are somehow into heavy music and, in the year 2022, unfamiliar with what Cult Of Luna sounds like, you should dig in anywhere in the discography, there somehow aren’t really any duds. This one is mature and spacious, and a nice reminder to listen to more Cult Of Luna.
Blood Incantation dropped one of the best weirdo Death Metal records in recent memory, so I can’t say that I’m entirely shocked they went full ambient on Timewave Zero (Century Media). Like, deep space synthed-out dark bliss, no beats, just the endless solitude of your own cold loneliness ambient. Also no shocker that it’s pretty good. Probably not something I’ll remember to reach for all the time, but it’s a refreshingly zoned out, reflective wave of chill.
The attention to textural details and the depth of the songwriting all but assure that I will be absolutely crushing Key To A Vanishing Future (Gilead Media) for the rest of the year. Falls Of Rauros elevate Black Metal stylings to mind-boggling levels, and I’ll probably remind you this is coming out again next month. Unbelievably good stuff.
I’m in on the whole discography, but I’ll go on record for Emma Ruth Rundle’s Marked For Death (Sargent House) being a desert island all-timer. What an absolutely crushing classic. Immolation throw down a massive fifty two minute bruiser of Death Metal statesmanship on Acts Of God (Nuclear Blast). Napalm Death also prove that the olds can still hang with their new EP (Century Media). I will always be an Amorphis fan, and while Halo (Atomic Fire) isn’t the most immediate of their recent output, I will listen to it more than I probably should. On the metal-adjacent front, the new Cloakroom is a gauzy, shimmery good time (Relapse), and I’m not sure what I expected from Sundown‘s Keep Moving (Wiseblood), but the Hot Water Music via classic New York post-hardcore vibes were not it, which is fine because this record is great. Remember a couple years ago when I told you to check out the Raspberry Bulbs (Relapse) album? Friendly reminder.