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.
Endeavoring to remain topical on a monthly basis has, quite frankly, become exhausting.
Writing a column like this certainly doesn’t require an intro of any sort. In fact, it’s probably detrimental in the scan-and-move-on landscape of the modern internet. I know I skip quality shit all the time because of words and stuff, but I’m also drawn to writers that place their opinions into topographically personal spaces, so if you’re going to stick it out reading Ears, you’re in for some rambling.
Still, I’m not so sure the internet was a good idea, guys.
Watching history repeat itself every three weeks or so is punishing business. I’m not trying to come across as Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds here, despite it coming across as exactly that, I’m just saying that thirty years in, society went from playing Oregon Trail on something the size of your great grandparents old TV to obsessively curating every second of waking time into a constant stream of cat videos, nut-shot compilations, and racist, misogynistic conspiracy theories on a phone the size of a, well, cell phone. And porn, oh god the avalanche of porn…
Societal collapse? Constant stream of mass shootings? The religious right getting busted for the behavior they overzealously project onto millions of others? The imminent collapse of the educational system in America? How fucked we are in regards to climate change? The incessant buzz of self-appointed ‘alpha males’ radicalizing a generation by monetizing misogyny and xenophobia? No no, for once I’m not talking about any of that.
It’s the polarization of rational people melting down about the new Frozen Soul on Twitter that has me spooning my brain out of my earholes this month.
Yeah, I know, even saying Twitter feels dirty, much less logging on. What else am I supposed to do at work? Work? Haha… nah.
I’ve been dialing my online consumption back, but of course I still check all that shit. As someone who plays out musically and has a *cough cough* monthly column to promote, Facebook is a necessary evil despite it being a spam-riddled wasteland. Instagram is teetering on the edge, alternating suggestions between near-porn, waves of pimple-popping, and bizarre near-snuff-film fail clips, as Reels might be the single worst thing the internet has done to the collective American psyche besides fetishizing serial murder to an entire generation of now anxiety-prone podcast listeners.
So I’ve been lurking on Twitter, and despite the new owner’s best efforts to destroy the place, I’ve finally curated a genuinely interesting space of sensible music lovers, both fans and writers alike, that I don’t feel gross about using chunks of my day engaging with. Sure, it’s a cesspool full of the dumbest, shittiest assholes America has to offer, but if you mash the block button enough, you can avoid all that while Twitter itself circles the drain towards insolvency.
Metal fans have their preferences, to be sure, but there’s always overlap between the Death dudes, the Proggers, the Thrash heads, Sludge Doom lovers and the like. If it’s heavy, Metal fans will generally give it a shot.
So it’s wild reading take after take shit-talking Glacial Domination (Century Media). The critiques are pretty equally split, on the one side are all the people frothing with anger that a Death Metal band is getting popular beyond the restrictive walls of the genre, and man, what the fuck? You can’t just be happy for a solid group of enthusiastic people making music they enjoy and being able to quit their day jobs? The same arguments were leveled at Gatecreeper, like calling a band ‘arena Death Metal’ is a bad thing. You need your genre to be so uncompromisingly underground that any level of financial security instantly negates talent? Go back to listening to your basement Goat Cum Devil Fuck demos and being miserable.
The other half is a ringing chorus of “this new one sounds too much like Bolt Thrower” and, like… no shit. Did you guys not hear the first one? That’s what made it awesome. I’d have honestly been pretty pissed if Glacial Domination didn’t hone in deeper.
It’s a shame that the flow of information is so ever-present these days. My listening experience was colored long before I played a single note of this album. It’s as if the thing itself is secondary, a means to reach hot-take clicks. I’d hyped it up just to spite all the KVLT doofus anti-popularity naysayers before even seeing a track list, and I’ll admit, the first few listens were a bit of a let down.
Hype is a double edged sword. For everyone trying to knock it down a peg, there are equal voices heralding Glacial Domination as a ten out of ten instant modern classic that is the absolute crushing shit. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of middle ground, and that’s pretty unfair to Frozen Soul. They seem like a genuinely good group of people, laying down music they believe in. The hype machine has certainly laid the expectations on pretty thick.
Which sucks, because if you step back a little, Glacial Domination is a really fun, killer album. Breaking new ground? Nah, nobody can argue that. Doing what they do with brutal finesse and aplomb? Absolutely. The Bolt Thrower thing will probably haunt them forever, but it certainly isn’t a bad comparison to follow you around. There are so many chunky mid-tempo grooves throughout it’s impossible to zero in on favorites. “Arsenal Of War” and “Frozen Soul” and the title track and “Best Served Cold” all sound both current and like they have been on mixtapes since the 90s. Chunky grooves, tremolo flurries, and slamming riffs abound, cohering into a very enjoyable Death Metal romp.
Pretty rich coming from a guy hoping you get your friends to visit a website to read his opinions, I know, but maybe we all just need to take a deep breath and throw our routers off a cliff for a couple weeks. You wanna get wild and prematurely slag a Tool record the weekend it comes out? Okay, they’re a pretty big target, and the shame of knowing that lives forever on the interwebs doesn’t last very long. Frozen Soul seem like some real solid people just trying to do what they do, and I must be getting soft in my old age, but we should just let ‘em. Glacial Domination ain’t breaking any new ground, but my summer jamzzzz playlist doesn’t need them to. Sometimes a record is just a record, guys, and Frozen Soul dropped a good’un.
Enforced are another band that aren’t what I’d call ground-breaking, but holy shit are they doing the Thrash/Crossover thing with razor-sharp clarity. War Remains (Century Media) runs a crisp thirty four minutes, and the Richmond, Virginia group doesn’t squander a second of it. Raspy vocals? Check. Dive bombs at the end of squiggly solos? Double check. Bell-riding riff-tastic breakdowns in every song? Oh my, yes yes yes. I was/am a big fan of their previous album Kill Grid, and War Remains does not disappoint. Thankfully, everyone online seems pretty stoked on this one, so I can stop worrying about having a double stroke rage coronary for at least one more month. This rips.
Oh hey, Danava‘s back, and they totally get it since they seemingly barely exist online. Way to go, guys! Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar, you shouldn’t worry, there’s an unmanageable amount of music in the world and it’s impossible to hear it all. Still, you’re fucking up if you don’t correct that immediately. Nothing For Nothing (Tee Pee Records) surely fits the retro aesthetic of Tee Pee, but Danava are frenetically head and shoulders above the label’s usual stoned-as-fuck vibe. Comparisons are dumb, but imagine Di’Anno-era Maiden as played by The Fucking Champs and you’re in the ballpark. The guitar harmonies and ripping leads are the focus here, for sure, but goddamn, drummer Matthew Oliver delivers an absolutely heroic performance throughout. This is a non-stop rip fest, until the title track drops into New Wave Hair Metal territory, and the closer “Čas” rides into the ballad sunset. Quickly becoming one of my favorites this year.
The internet isn’t all bad. Way back in the fall of 2021, I was probably baked when I stumbled across an ad and on a whim, ordered the tape it told me to . I don’t get baked anymore, but I sure do still listen to Krigsgrav, and thus began my love for (Wise Blood Records). Wise Blood is on track to have what we in the biz call ‘a great fucking year’ with a stacked release schedule, and I’m really excited that a new Krigsgrav is part of that. Fires In The Fall expands on the icy progressive Black Metal of The Sundering, leaving my expectations in a smoldering ashen pile. It really clicks around the three minute thirty second mark of early stand-out “The Black Oak” when my head involuntarily starts banging every single listen. The outro solo on “In Seas Of Perdition” is only twenty seconds or so, but it so perfectly caps another stand-out that it’s one of the best twenty seconds on the album. These songs adhere to the melodic yet clinical European Black Metal tradition, but Krigsgrav imbue their songs with enough breathing room to let real soul shine through. When these songs palm mute, they hit fucking hard, man. I couldn’t mash that pre-order button fast enough. Definitely one of the highlights of the year for me, it just keeps getting better with every listen.
Speaking of Wise Blood’s ‘great fucking year’, they just dropped Quest For The Mighty Riff, and VHS get this month’s award for sickest good-time Death Metal jams. Sub three minute horror themed rippers? Yes please. Death Metal often gets a little full of itself, trying to out-morbid the next band. It’s what really turned me off of the genre there in the early 2000s. It’s awesome watching a new generation take the riffs seriously while taking it back where it is supposed to be – a goddamn good time. I mean, c’mon, “The Fighting Eagle” is as crushing as anything you’re likely to hear this year, but with a smile plastered on the whole ride. There’s a couple covers I won’t spoil for you, one of which wondrously encapsulates the spirit here. This one pairs up real well with the Ardent Nova, if you’re looking for car jams recommendations.
Going a little metal adjacent, if you’ve been paying attention to Dave Lombardo past the shrieks of “SLAYER!!!”, you know the legend has been more than active. He’s a regular with Mike Patton and has been in the John Zorn world for some time now (Xu Feng is a personal fave), so I’m actually shocked it’s taken this long to get a solo album out of the man. Rites Of Percussion (Ipecac) is an eclectic mix of drums and synth/midi (I think?) drones, and it is wonderful. The Thrash-or-GTFO crowd might not be into it, but go into it with open ears and you’ll be rewarded with some forward thinking musical landscapes that reward multiple listens. The dude is a legend, could easily cobble a Slayer Revisited tour together every summer to pay his mortgage. Instead, he’s tearing up brains in Mr. Bungle and making percussion weirdness. Legend, I say.
Spinebreaker‘s Cavern Of Inoculated Cognition (Creator Destructor) is twenty five musty minutes of dank Death Metal, and wouldn’t you know it? I am here for all twenty five. Speaking of Ipecac, I’m not super sure what I make of Spotlights doomy-goth Indie whatever, but Alchemy for the Dead is compelling enough I keep coming back. Harboured tread in the post-metal/hardcore realm, and just when I’m not sure about it, this self-titled album (Lost Future) drags me back in by being pretty sweet. I was drawn to Lesotho‘s Through The Dying Light (self-released) by the cover art, and pleasantly surprised by the reverb-drenched, instrumental Post-Rock journey on the inside. This Hyperdontia EP is indeed Deranged (Dark Descent). This Impetuous Ritual is fuckin’ bonkers, even for Profound Lore.
Finally, on another metal adjacent tip, you should be listening to all the Midwife stuff because it’s great, and Orbweaving (Flenser), a collaborative effort between Madeline Johnston and Angel Diaz’s Viva Melinkolya is no exception. Hazy, shoegazey bliss.