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.
What a time to be alive.
Having recently found myself deep in the self-reflection weeds, I truly feel for the generations being raised on the internet. I know, I know, we’re posting this on the internet, you’re reading it on the internet, totally did all the listening because of the internet, but I’m old enough to remember having to sink into the void with a cassette Walkman and my own fears and shortcomings. I can’t imagine growing up with the malignant wasteland of everyone with a router’s fears and shortcoming piling on. Feeling miserable as shit and being a click away from apologizing to your own toenails because YOU’VE BEEN CUTTING THEM WRONG YOUR WHOLE LIFE is not how I want to live.
I’ve got a couple friends that just… I don’t know… ignore the internet? Disregard the digital existence? Not sure what you’d call their particular luddite extremism, but I have the utmost respect for their will-power. Imagine, the audacity to actually enjoy your awake hours.
That’s not to imply there aren’t some very helpful resources out there, it’s just the sheer amount of bodily fluid memes you have to filter through to get there. Fucking unbelievable how gross anonymity makes the brain work. Life has become so distorted and the division between ‘facts are real’ and ‘facts are bullshit, fuck you snowflake, ouch, MY RIGHTS!’ has never been so grimly unspannable. People are the fucking worst.
All of this to say, it’s okay to take a break from time to time. You’ll miss a billion meme cycles and won’t understand what anyone is talking about after unplugging for a day or two, but sometimes regaining a mental health equilibrium is worth sitting out a few rounds of TikTok dipshits doing dipshit things. These last few years have been tough to manage, and yep, life can suck shit. I wish I’d have clued in to the idea that it’s perfectly normal to not be alright from time to time. Brains are weird and nobody understands them, despite what all those butterfly-riddled Instagram quotes tell you. No reason you should, but trust me, things will even out. Exploring your own feelings, good or bad, has been unfairly stigmatized. We all hit some rough patches, and it’s alright to need help getting your shit together as you stare down your inner workings. Remember to take some time for yourself every once in a while.
I’ll be honest, I’m neck deep in Jazz these days. The Blue Note Tone Poet series and the Impulse Acoustic Sounds reissues are so masterfully done, so outstandingly spacious, that I’ve been repeatedly listening to Stanley fuckin’ Turrentine records. It’s been difficult buying into the massive hype behind some newer metal releases when you’ve recently discovered Sonny Clark’s My Conception (godDAMN what a record) was missing from your life.
But jeez oh man, Devil Master really lives up to it. I know it strips away the mysterious ‘evil’ edge they’re trying to cultivate, but this record is fun as hell. Crusty post-punky blackened throwback occult metal with enough flange on the guitars to add a dash of goth. Simultaneously rudimentary and riffingly tight, I’m all about the energy on Ecstasies Of Never Ending Night (Relapse). There’s a fine line these days, playing to nostalgia while keeping it fresh and listenable, and for every band that lands there are a dozen that sound stale as fuck. Devil Master nail it down on the side of ‘fuck yeah’ on this one. Fun fun fun.
I got pretty into the last Misery Index album, 2019’s Rituals Of Power (Season of Mist). Their brand of technical, cleanly produced Death Metal – brutal tech and not sweep picking bullshit tech – is not my usual cup of gutturally garbage-sounding tea, but it scratched an itch. Well, I didn’t even know I still had that itch, but Complete Control (Century Media) is currently scratching the fuck out of it. Razor sharp riffs, intelligent commentary on the state of the world, and Adam Jarvis being a complete motherfucker on drums, you’ll know in the first minute whether this is for you or not. I know it’s contradictory, but this style of Death Metal, and this album in particular, really make me wish I still smoked weed. I’m doing a perfectly fine job at zoning out to the unrelenting bludgeoning going on here, but man, I’d bet it would be that much cooler ripped out of my face. Like I said, this style isn’t usually my go to, but Misery Index land pretty hard. Very solid stuff from these veterans.
Undeath is another band riding the hype wave right now, and a fantastic counterpoint to Misery Index. It takes a spin or two to orient yourself in the festeringly moldy production here, and that’s a big bonus for me. It’s Time…To Rise From The Grave (Prosthetic) is another album I’ll slap with the ‘goddamn this is fun’ tag. Sure, it’s gross, murky Death Metal, but man, when those grooves land I smile every time. These guys know how goofy singing about gore is, but they also understand the cathartic art of ripping. Again, a delicate balance to be serious and also be in on the joke, if you will, a balance this record nails admirably. Give “Rise To The Grave” a listen, if you don’t alternate grinning with vigorously nodding your head (I’m old, my neck fuckin’ hurts, man), you probably shouldn’t be reading this column, cause that song is bad ass.
Corpsessed aren’t going to blow your mind, but Succumb To Rot (Dark Descent) does the constant-wall-of-riffs-and-kick-drums Finnish style of Death Metal justice. Didn’t think this one would pop up in the rotation as much as it has, but there are plenty of undeniably cool parts that keep me interested amidst the double kick beating, and it’s always cool to hear a ride bell pop out so cleanly in the production. You know, nerd shit. Very enjoyable.
I know I listened to that last Huntsmen, but obviously didn’t stick. I’m still not real sure about this Americana Metal thing, to be honest. The bar, then, wasn’t set too high for a stop-gap EP with a CS&N cover. “Let The Buried Lie Forgotten” is a total progressive banger, however, so I’ll just show my opinions out, thanks. The Dying Pines (Prosthetic) is perfectly fine. The aforementioned is the highlight, the title track is a mood-setting acoustic number, and the cover is pretty good. Totally did its job, though, as I’ve definitely brought 2020’s Mandala Of Fear back into the fold with fresh ears. Seriously, “Let The Buried Lie Forgotten” rips, check it out.
The year is 2006. My dude Evan Sopko and I absolutely crushed the shit out of Wolf’s The Black Flame, particularly “At The Graveyard”. We were usually a twelve pack deep, at least, so there was A LOT of air guitar. For those memories alone, Wolf albums will always and forever get a few spins from me, Shadowland (Century Media) no exception. Sometimes you need melodically power cheese, and this works. Vimur get the ‘holy shit that’s dumb as hell’ cover award this month, but Transcendental Violence (Boris) is an aggressive blast of Black Metal worth spinning. Who the fuck thought that cover was a good idea? Ha ha, jesus! Sadistic Ritual The Enigma, Boundless (Prosthetic) is a blackened thrasher that is definitely worth spinning, as I enjoy this more with each spin.