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.
There really isn’t much that surprises me anymore. The constant wave between ‘the Earth is fucked and weather is trying to kill us now’ and ‘rich people are detached from reality and don’t understand why their racism is racist’ in the news has power-sanded every nerve in my body to a pile of fine, uncaring dust I’m absolutely powerless to resist blasting lines of off the indifferent rays of each and every day’s sunrise.
Okay, okay, I still care, but it’s very difficult for me to feel that I can do anything other than get out of the younger generation’s way. Watching the accelerated pace of this country’s wrinkled white power structures flail as they cling to rapidly diminishing dominance while furiously dishing out violence is pretty scary. Scarier still is the simultaneous monetization and weaponization of this old money racist structure by a younger crowd. Do I really think that Tucker Carlson is a racist that believes all the drivel that comes out of his mouth? I mean, yeah, totally, but he has also perfected the art of schilling to his crowd and raking it in.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to avoid getting worked up by DeSantis rolling Florida back two hundred Puritanical years or watching Florida’s beach water hit triple digits (man, Florida is fucked, tell you what) or really engaging in much beyond working enough to pay my bills and enjoying being just proficient enough at drums that people don’t mind being in bands with me. Mental balance is a struggle, and realizing that I, a middle-aged dude with little to no interest in politics other than voting, understand politics better than 80% of sitting Senators is not a comforting feeling.
I do, however, find it extremely difficult to ignore when some bloated chud like Jason Aldean takes aim at small towns.
You have the internet, you know he isn’t from a small town, just like you know he went to a private school, or that he’s a gazillionaire by most small town standards. And I’m sure that you’re aware of the (not always so hidden) underlying racism in Country (and really, all) music. Aldean isn’t the first to pander to small town xenophobic rage or stoking the fear that anyone darker than ‘I think I will try the Couscous burger’ will steal all your shit and rape their way across county lines. There are far better writers than I that will walk you through these morally reprehensible aspects of this shitty song.
Pandering is a currency that isn’t going away, regardless of which side it’s coming from. Corporations only believe in your Civil Rights as far as they can monetize them. Following the donor money would most assuredly give you a more accurate view on how they embrace Pride Month. As distasteful as it is to back either, I will go with the side pandering towards acceptance and inclusivity 1000% over the side trying to bring back lynching.
I grew up in a small Appalachian town of roughly 250 people, tucked in the hills just outside of a small college town of roughly 22,000, with a few thousand extra transient students give or take. I know what the casual daily racism of small town life looks like, an abhorrent aura that hovers everywhere, from unassuming micro-aggressions to straight up bigotry. Again, better writers have weighed in on this, and I urge you to read up if you have any doubts as to how fucked up this country is before flying into a rage because the only real consequences so far have been his song shooting up to number one.
Speaking of shooting, what has me gobsmacked is the outright embrace of misplaced rage and wanton violence. Not only has this puffy chucklefuck created an idealized fictional small town where the ‘bads’ aren’t welcome, he’s delusionally convinced himself that he and his boys will swoop down in the F-350s that have never seen a day’s work, rip a 12 gauge off the gun rack, and well, Aldean recommends you don’t find out, in a small town.
It’s bewildering that a man that was onstage for the deadliest mass shooting, by one very white dude, in U.S. history is pandering to the gun violence crowd, but holy shit is this the exact brave new world this country has been blindly stumbling into for years now. If Aldean was, in fact, from a small town, he would be painfully aware it doesn’t take much to incite the macho violence bubbling just below the surface of every small town I’ve ever partied in. Hell, a few Busch Lites and a bonfire us usually all it takes for the shirts to come off and the fists to fly.
There has always been an audience for horribly racist bullshit that calls for abhorrent action, the punk and metal communities can most assuredly attest. As much as we’d all like to see it eradicated, there will always be dumbfuck edgelords that will keep it alive. But to see this shit hit the top of the charts is truly something. The quiet parts out loud, indeed.
Aldean had a choice. It took four fuckin’ people to write that garbage song, none of which was Aldean. There are plenty of ways to grow up in a small town. Joe Burrow’s from a small town, not even ten minutes from where I’m currently sitting to write this, where there isn’t shit to do, that has been ravaged by opioids, and that certainly isn’t big enough to have a liquor store to rob. He raised five million dollars for regional food banks instead of inciting hatred and fear.
Of course there are bad people in the world that do bad things. If we’re pointing fingers, and Aldean most certainly is, I’d surely like to add the dipshits cutting educational funding and creating a for-profit health care system that denies access to a huge percentage of the population to the list. They’re far more dangerous than a carjacker. At least carjacking is a felony with consequences. Aldean makes music for people that without fail buy into the lies that have them voting against their own best interests. Fleecing people of their rights is the American Way, fueled by the ‘I got mine, now I also need yours’ mindset.
The sad thing is, it works. People still listen to the words that fall out of Ted Nugent’s dumb face. Kid Rock is still a thing. And Aldean is riding this wave of all-publicity-is-good-publicity hate-pandering horseshit straight to the bank while washing his hands of the all-to-real consequences he’s inciting. I’ve always found solace in the escapism of metal, the bleak warnings of sun-baked dystopias and the downfall of arrogant empires (and dragons and shit, too), but I really never thought I’d get to see it all play out in realtime during my life.
The problem isn’t that Aldean is a pasty vessel for this classless, bottom-feeding hate baiting. Country airwaves are littered with this garbage. The problem is how boldly open this rhetoric has become, emblematic of a growing fissure in the American psyche that I’m afraid is too far cracked to repair.
And goddamn, that song sucks.
Holy shit, what a perfect time for the Government to own up to aliens. It certainly wasn’t to distract us from the hell that is every day life, since absolutely nobody batted an eye. Nope, it was a free promo tie in to help spread the word about the new Outer Heaven, I’m sure of it. Before we dive in, I must disclose that Realms Of Eternal Decay is in my top five go-to albums when I’m in the mood for modern Death Metal. That record lands just right every single time. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve been absolutely crushing the shit out of Infinite Psychic Depths (Relapse). Judicious use of reverb, slamming riffs, piercing solos, and a wonderful Sci-Fi bent to the lyrics. Recommending albums like this is difficult. Top tier modern Death Metal about covers it, but man, you gotta listen to this one. Technical but not proggy, guttural but not like early Obituary disgusting guttural. It really is just five dudes (and a few special guests) banging out some perfect classic-leaning Death Metal. I fuckin’ love these dudes and you should too. Throw on “Liquified Mind” and if the groove that hits doesn’t rattle your goddamn head, I don’t know what will. Absolutely the shit.
Fen dropped Carrion Skies (Aural Music) at a weird time in my life. I was thoroughly burnt on most metal, but still felt compelled by the cover art to check it out. They were just weird enough to stick out, and it’s probably one of the albums responsible for dragging me back into Black Metal. Not that they’re CVLT enough for TROO crowd, but their brand of atmospheric Post-Black hit squarely, so I’m inclined to check out whatever they have going on. Luckily, they don’t disappoint on Monuments To Absence (Prophecy Productions). “Scouring Ignorance” is a burner of an opener, “To Silence And Abyss We Reach” perfectly melds the ripping and the Post atmospherics, “Truth Is Futility” is ten minutes extremely well spent. The album could stand to shave a bit off the sixty five minute run time, but they have yet to lose me.
I’m not sure what I thought Australia’s Geld was about, but I stupidly ignored them until Castration//Currency (Relapse) started popping up in threads recently. Too many mentions of ‘psychedelic’ perhaps. Anyway, this is a twenty two minute cooker of noise rock filtered through Japanese Hardcore with some flangers on the guitars. Fuck all that psychedelic talk, Geld absolutely blister paint on Castration//Currency, and it just gets better with every listen. A very pleasant, albeit acerbically bleak, discovery, and well worth your time.
Haha, goddamn. You want a perfect encapsulation with what is wrong with the internet? Blackbraid just dropped II (self-released), which is a pretty great Black Metal album, full of Scandinavian riffage adorned with Native American heritage. The songs are well written, perfectly executed, and laden with enough vision that Blackbraid really feel like they’ve come into their own, so much so that people are paying attention, most notably a NYT piece. What do all the basement dwelling numbnuts do? Casually dismiss one of the better records this year by a passionate artist as an ‘industry plant’. What the fuck does that even mean? Oh no, the industry stands to make tens of dollars busting into the Black Metal world! The internet sure has emboldened the uneducated, tell you what. Motherfuckers need to get out into the world and talk to people. Anyway, solid album worth checking out.
I’m not usually one for re-recordings, especially of songs that are indelibly seared into my teenage lizard brain. That said, Voivod are on my Mt. Rushmore of metal bands so they can do whatever the hell they want. Morgöth Tales (Century Media) finds the band revisiting tracks from across their discography, with a new jam thrown in, and holy shit, it has no right to sound as vital and entertaining as it does. This current lineup has been completely crushing it over these last few releases, and Morgöth Tales is no exception. Absolute legends out here delivering the goods.
Cavalera Conspiracy join in the revisionism by reassessing Bestial Devastations and Morbid Visions (both Nuclear Blast) and well… they’re pretty dang good. Part of the charm of those albums is the almost comical crudeness of the originals, so enjoyment expectations were admittedly low, but these two stand on their own and are pretty entertaining. They won’t replace the extremely lo-fi originals completely, but it’s fun to see these songs infused with the power of modern Cavalera ferocity. Worth checking if you’re a fan, even if you scoff at such reimaginings.
Normally I’d run through a bunch of other stuff that tickled my geriatric fancy about now, but I had a pretty busy July with my own music, not to mention the stranglehold Outer Heaven had on my ears, so it’s a little scarce in end-of-article roundup land.
Still, here’s a couple things that, while landing a little too late to be obsessed about, I’m still becoming obsessed about. Dead Heat dropped an absolute crossover banger with Endless Torment (Tank Crimes / Triple B). Sooo fuckin’ shred riffy. Sooo fuckin’ good. I got a real late jump on this Astralborne album, and I’ll tell you from the start, it’s a little dense so didn’t hit me right away. Still, Across The Aeons (Prosthetic Records) caught me enough to keep trying. Glad I did, as this Power/Thrash/Death ripper is awesome and worth the extra effort. The acoustic bits really make this thing pop, and it is an absolute shred-fest. This one is going to stick around. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you how awesome the first three (or six) Opeth albums are, because classics, but Candlelight just dropped vinyl remasters and they sound fantastic. Like, crushing these three albums as hard as if I’d just discovered them fantastic. Sorry, new music, Orchid and Morningrise are getting near daily spins for the foreseeable future.