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.
After an early evening stroll through the quiet, idyllic streets of my neighborhood, I sat in my living room, wondering if I should close most of the windows overnight for fear of waking up to a chilly start to the work day.
Hah! What a dumbass. Everyone knows we only get two days of Spring in Ohio, and they usually happen four months apart.
Of course I woke up to the billion percent humidity hell-winds that precede the billion percent humidity months of no breeze at all that is now the norm here in Southeastern Ohio. I could go on and on about how temperatures have shifted dramatically in the last decade or so due to our complete inability to collectively pull our heads out of our asses on climate change, and how we’ve somehow been duped into believing the President of the United States of America, ostensibly one of the most baller dudes on the planet, is powerless to pass any sort of law curtailing corporations from absolutely fucking us all into lifeless corpses because money.
But who wants to talk about that, since we’ve been electing bloated, out-of-touch sacks of shit like Mitch McConnell for so long now that it’s pretty much irreversible and we really should be focusing on the positives like being able to get a natural tan indoors with the curtains drawn and that, having a curious mind, I absolutely don’t have to wonder what it would feel like a million years from now to witness the sun exploding. It feels like leaving the house in June!
Nah, the existential Gemini dread comes personally by virtue of a June birth date. This hasn’t been one of the easiest years for me, as far as mental calmness or inner peace or, y’know, life is concerned, and I found myself spiraling down the list of faults and fuck ups a bit harder than normal. The broad, universal news downer is one thing, but as per the last column, heavy shit hits at all levels.
So I wasn’t really looking forward to a birthday at all. However, I’m finally old (as fuck) enough to realize age is just an arbitrary number, I’ve got great friends (and ten pounds of ice cream cake in the freezer to prove it!), and goddamn if they didn’t reissue one of my all-time favorite albums at the precise moment I needed a little reminder of how irrelevant feeling old and washed up really is.
Do I need a pink and blue swirl reissue of Voivod‘s seminal 1989 masterpiece Nothingface (Real Gone)? Well, yes, absolutely, despite what the OG pressing and original CD I bought on release date I possess tell me. To say this is one of the most important albums in my life, right up there with Ride The Lightning and Reign In Blood, still sells it a bit short. Hands down one of the greatest bass albums in metal. The band are still putting out totally relevant music, but it is absolutely insane how fresh and modern and just bonkers good Nothingface still sounds.
Voivod are a fantastic example that aging doesn’t equal stagnation. As I took a break from writing to walk under the cotton candy pink and blue swirl of sunset on what turned out to be a pretty nice evening, I’m reminded that every day is a gift. Sure, it takes hard work to make that gift into something worthwhile, but that’s time well spent, whether I fail miserably trying to learn Blacky’s bass parts for the millionth time or create my own droned out little cassette four track worlds. If I’m going to burn to a crisp in this man-made hellscape, I’m immensely grateful to become ash in the solar flare winds with Nothingface on the ear buds. Until Bluetooth stops working. Or my skull melts. Or whatever. We’re all fucked.
I know musical appreciation is subjective, and everybody gets something different, but THE KINGS ARE BACK! Well, sort of. Tomb Mold are the cream of my Death Metal crop, and Aperture Of Body (self-released) is fourteen glorious minutes that can only mean there is a new album on the way. Consisting of a short intro and two brutishly technical Tomb Mold stompers, I am nothing short of really, really fucking excited. I know that fourteen minutes is hardly lead-review length, but this is the best-est shit and the amount of listens rivals the live Tangerine Dream bender I’ve been on. Top shelf Death Metal, and if this is a teaser of what is coming, I cannot fucking wait. All hail the masters.
I’ve come to expect the slightly unexpected with Ripple. Everything is in the same wheelhouse, just shaded slightly differently and usually worth a listen. I’m not sure if it’s all the Trouble and Magic Circle I’ve been blasting in the car, but I definitely didn’t expect Las Cruces to dominate the playlist so hard. Cosmic Tears is capital D Doom, in the traditional guitar rock, mystical lyrics, and wailing vocals sense. Admittedly, my sweet spot. There’s no reinvention here, nothing elaborate or genre-pushing, but goddamn, as goofy as “Wizard From The North” is, it fuckin’ rocks. The album is a tad long, and until you’ve given it a dozen or so spins, it’s one mid-paced song after another. But hey, it totally got me, and this is one hundred percent my summer jam. Dude has some pipes and the bass player gets room to shine along side a metric shit-ton of riffs. I’m a simple man, and this album more than fulfills my simple Doom needs. Great shit, my dudes.
Gilead Media is another label that I chuck expectations for, and they have an absolute ripper for us this month, with the propulsive, progressive Black Metal of Inexorum. Equinox Vigil is unrelenting and a bit more interesting than much of the genre. The production is clear but not shiny, the solos are melodic, and the riffs are complex but not overtly snobby, if all of that makes sense. These are great songs, and there isn’t a dead spot amongst these forty minutes. Excellent stuff.
More unexpected goodness from The Flenser. You know you’re in for some shit when one of the members performed with Glenn Branca, but even so, Scarcity’s Aveilut surprises. Much like similarly-minded Krallice, Scarcity use Black Metal as a base for their microtonal sheets of guitar. Unlike Krallice, Aveilut is an immersive affair I find myself returning to often. Look, I love Krallice, but that’s some intense all-the-time shit. Scarcity have an oddly symphonic, dark but inviting vibe, and there is no way me telling you anything about this album will truly convey how interestingly great it is. A unique take, but definitely one worth checking out. I’m loving it more with each listen.
Way late to the game, but Iskandr Vergezicht (Eisenwald) is Black Metal very, very goodness. I don’t know what I expected from a band named Candy on Relapse, but Heaven Is Here is part grinding hardcore, part disgusting industrial, and all pretty good. Seriously, though, there are a fuck ton of official vintage Tangerine Dream live albums out there now. Listen to them all.