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.
I’d be willing to bet that almost immediately after becoming sentiently aware, the first two primordial slime lumps that bumped into each other, with zero existence to draw inspiration from, having yet to invent a common language, still managed to figure out a way to start roasting each other.
The first written Yo Mama joke is on a 3,500 year old Babylonian stone tablet. Even with a plethora of shifting meanings behind it, the middle finger has been a ubiquitous sign of displeasure since the Fourth Century B.C. Biblical slings? Medieval arrows? A random half hour from any Adam Sandler movie? Insults have become so ingrained, so second nature, it’s difficult to imagine a world without them. The scathing wit of the world’s brightest minds have produced the most eloquent slights imaginable.
Of course, perennial favorite “bloodfart” has also entered the lexicon, and damned if I don’t laugh every single time I scream it while stuck in traffic.
Insults exist as a means to assert dominance while undercutting a target in some demeaning way, ranging from the cute and cuddly friendly ribbing to empowering words with a vitriolic hatred so steeped in evil, wars have been (and unfortunately will continue to be) fought over them. One visit to the comment section on any random metal site (or video game site, or news site, or… site) will introduce you to new combinations of words so cruelly racist, delivered in an abhorrently flippant deadpan, that I’m shocked this whole society thing has managed to hold it together this long. Even if most of it is an eight year old basement dwelling edgelord jacked up on Code Red dishing bile they have no understanding of, a mind-numbing percentage of that is real. You don’t use words like that without believing the caustic power behind them. Life is gross, and I often don’t understand it.
Anyways, every once in a while an insult comes through that blows my mind, that hits on such an innocently blistering level, that is so articulately succinct, I marvel at its acerbically wholesome perfection.
I mean, holy shit. Countering a paragraph of the lowest, most cutting criticism from an asshole that can’t spell criticism with ‘touch grass’ is some cold shit, man. On every level.
I bring this up because Tomb Mold dropped a new one, and rightfully earned a Decibel Magazine cover. I’ve made no secret of my Tomb Mold love around these pages, so it’s awesome to see one of the forerunners of the current Death Metal scene get the exposure that they’ve more than earned, right?
The collective Twitter instantly shit their pants arguing about guitarist Derrick Vella wearing shorts. Nary a mention of the music, mind you, just dudes yelling about how a Death Metal band dressed for a photo shoot. These are the same dudes that will call you fucked up words for not being into some obscure lo-fi Black Metal band that “doesn’t live by your insignificant mortal rules” or some dumb shit, getting absolutely livid over some guy not following their imagined dress code by wearing a video game t-shirt. Look, not everyone has the “fuck you” money to have a face paint budget or the time to really learn how to blow fireballs in the woods, so I understand your hurt feelings that most people don’t think your regal clown shit is awesome, but goddamn. Lighten up, Francis.
One of the reasons I was drawn to Metal in the first place was that Testament looked just like me. Faded jeans, high tops, and a band shirt, Nuclear Assault were the slobs I aspired to hang with. While I appreciate the spectacle of a good stage show, watching clips of young dirtbag jeans and t-shirt Slayer completely blister paint drives home where the focus should be. I’ll be gone from this world someday, and I certainly don’t want my deathbed regret to be “I should’ve listened to more Tomb Mold, but goddamnit he wore shorts. Shorts!” because that is fucking stupid.
The allure of instant dopamine bombs from posting the worst takes for engagement is strong, I’m well aware. The internet floods us with content, as detestable a word as any, depriving us spaces in the day to reflect, absorb, and actually relate to the world around us, a bombardment of boobs and gym shaming and cats and boobs and bum fights and nut shots and boobs and unrealistic images and unreasonable expectations and happiness staged by the most miserable people. I can’t imagine growing up in an age that obstinately refuses to allow even a second of solitude. That we’ve not only weaponized ‘go outside’ as peak insult but that we needed to is as American as it gets, tell you what.
So yeah, there’s a new Tomb Mold and while some of you jokers were pissed at shorts, I was listening to it. Like, a lot. While typing, driving around, touching grass with headphones screaming. The Enduring Spirit could have been the only thing 20 Buck Spin dropped this year and they’d have crushed 2023. Luckily, 20 Buck Spin is having an even more bonkers year than last.
You probably already have opinions on this record. “Overhyped bullshit” or “greatest thing ever!” or “What is it?” or the sort, and likely won’t be swayed by some rando internet guy’s opinion, but for the rest of you, I’m just shy of the second group. I was wondering when the Dream Unending vibes would start to creep into the Tomb Mold world. “Will Of Whispers” answers that, with some beautiful textures. The band is still serving up some of the best Death Metal going, but it’s different this time out. The songwriting is more progressive, the solos more melodic, and “The Enduring Spirit Of Calamity” is an absolute clinic in dynamics, as bold a journey as the band has ever released.
As much difference as I hear, it’s irrelevant next to the sheer amount of ass this kicks. These dudes could dress up in rubber chicken suits for all I give a shit, they’re simply one of the top tier bands going right now. Dizzyingly technical, slammingly brutal, exquisitely composed, Tomb Mold are still reigning kings in my world.
Another favorite are the “this album has been released for approximately seven minutes, it’s meh, this band sucks now” dudes. I can usually tell if something is gonna be my thing after the first spin too, but goddamn, wrapping your entire online identity around shitting on popular records is so… so… so tired. I’ve been there and I’m not proud. It takes a massive amount of courage to put yourself out in the universe, particularly as you continue to get popular. It’s one thing to be aiming for mainstream success, but riding the Baroness discography into the collective consciousness has to be nerve-wracking. John Baizley seems to have left giving a shit what we think of his albums behind long ago, but damn, having some nine year old poopoo all over two years of your creative life about an album they probably didn’t listen to just to show how fuckin’ awesome they are has got to sting a little.
Let’s go ahead and define what type of Baroness fan you’re reading. First, Second, “Teiresias” and Red are as good a run as you’d want from any band. Blue is a muddy mess, and I’ve never really cozied up to the over-abundance of ideas going on. Yellow & Green has a few good songs, but is a bloated shot at something Baizley didn’t quite have the tools just yet to communicate. Purple was a the beginning of a shift in vision, and is a solid listen. Gold & Grey is a collection of sometimes great songs absolutely flattened by real suspect Dave Fridmann production. I haven’t always enjoyed the end product, but I’ll always go for the ride as Baizley chases his vision.
I’ve seen enough threads involving friends not finding what they expected nor what they wanted, and like, what the fuck, man? Damned if you change, damned if you stay the same. Have you not been listening to the records you buy ten variants of? This is the most exciting Baroness record since Red in that it doesn’t follow the template. The band self-produced this album and after a short acoustic intro, the first thing to smack you is the glorious return of up-front guitars. “Last Word” is as Baroness a song as you get. Then shit gets wild. Does it all work? Eh… But is it pretty fun watching a super popular band go wildly off-script when left to their own devices? Abso-fucking-lutely.
“Beneath The Rose” is a borderline industrial slammer with some spoken word craziness, leading into the Krautrock of “Choir” and this chunk is the first truly bonkers chance this band has taken in forever. Nick Jost and Sebastian Thomson are one of the most swingingly muscular rhythm sections in heavy music, just water-tight on a dime. However, the element that really drives this album home is how truly integrated Gina Gleason’s vocals have become. Sure, she rips on guitar, but her harmonies add so much depth and finally break the vocal patterns free of what has become a predictable Baizley delivery. Stone is cohesively powerful and the first time in forever, to my ears, that Baizley has fully realized his vision.
Haha, yeah. He ditched the color theme. Goddamn people, let the man cut that albatross from his neck. Stop reading so deeply into shit, you’re not Tool fans.
I’m partial to the back half of the album. “Shine” and “Magnolia” are great. “Under The Wheel” gets almost Isis heavy for a minute. The acoustic theme running throughout comes to an enjoyable conclusion with “Bloom”. I’m actually stoked on this new Baroness direction, something I never thought I’d say again. If you gave up somewhere along the way, maybe give Stone a listen. Not saying it’ll win you back over, but it’s certainly one of the heavier, more realized albums in their career, and is all the more entertaining for its eccentricities. Welcome back, guitars!
Whew, alright. Before I dive in to more goodness, I feel like I owe Celestial Sanctuary a bit of a clarifying apology. It’s too easy to slip in comparisons sometimes, and the Entombed shot, while well intentioned, certainly diminishes how goddamn good Insatiable Thirst For Torment (Church Road) is on its own merits. I have been playing the absolute fuck out of this one. Start to finish winner, and one of my favorite Death Metal albums this year. Still one of my favorite album covers too! So sorry.
Crazy that it’s been two years since Wolves In The Throne Room hit us with Primordial Arcana, a record that reignited my interest in the band. Time means nothing and isn’t real. So yeah, they’re back with Crypt Of Ancestral Knowledge (Relapse), an EP that encapsulates pretty much all facets of the band’s sound. Primordial re-contextualized my expectations regarding the band’s catalog, so I’m just as in to the drone-noise last half of this EP. Only bitch? Too short, gimme more.
Wouldn’t be a column without some love for Sean and Wise Blood Records. Wise Blood has earned the faith that I will for sure be having a good time throwing on anything they drop (unless, of course, I’m blissfully miserable). First up, let’s talk about Faster Than The Fucking Devil 2 because new Blasted Heath! It’s weird how some bands just latch on to your brain, and Blasted Heath absolutely owns part of mine. Again, comparisons are an easy, lazy way out, but they give me early RROOOAAAR and War And Pain Voivod vibes and I cannot stress enough how much praise that is coming from me. Anyhoo, they certainly don’t disappoint here, three tracks of absolutely perfect dirt ball space thrash, worth the price alone. Luckily, you also get dirtbag thrash from Vicious Blade, dirtbag First Wave worship from The Gauntlet and dirtbag Blackened Thrash from Bastard Cröss. Great split, great bands, and tons of evil fun. But seriously, new Blasted Heath. Goddamn I love them. For the double dose of Wise Blood, Black Knife caps off the Summer Of Thrash in filthy fashion. Baby Eater Witch is a blown-out blasphemous speed horror fest. A little more on the crusty, punk-ish side than expected but still a total thrash ripper, this album doesn’t let up. Quite a way to wrap Wise Blood’s summer. I’m stoked to see what they’re up to next.
There must be some crazy fluoride in these Mid-West waters, because Indiana’s Flesher also dropped a monster. The trick isn’t reinventing the wheel. The trick is making bashing your skull in with the same wheel sound this good. This is unadulterated gory, glorious Death Metal. Tales of Grotesque Demise (Redefining Darkness) has it all, double bass barrages to disgusting sludgy grooves. Also great to hear ol’ Dustin back on the kit! Classic sounding while still pulverizingly modern, this is good shit.
As big an Amorphis fan as I am, their live albums are usually a ‘had to be there’ affair for me. Well, during the pandemic, they rented Tavastia so they could play an album they didn’t get to tour, so nobody was there, and Queen Of Time Live (Atomic Fire) sounds fucking great, says the guy that will listen to anything any period Amorphis. Ash Prison peddle in a dark, claustrophobic Goth-Wave Industrial world, and while Future Torn (Sentient Ruin) isn’t my usual wheelhouse, it is a compelling listen you should give a shot. I call bullshit on anyone that says they expected Cirith Ungol to make a comeback, but here we are, two killer return-to-form albums later. I’m not even sure what you’d call Dark Parade (Metal Blade). Power Doom? Dunno, but it’s great. Ruiner (Profound Lore), the new one from Black Metal stalwarts Krieg, is unsurprisingly great. I’m late to the game on this Ruin Lust but Dissimulant (20 Buck Spin) will be getting some much deserved attention soon enough, already sounds like a ripper! Same with the Moonlight Sorcery, another ripper I need to spend some time with.
No shit though, stop reading this and go touch some grass and stare at stars and throw your phone in the river, it’ll do you some good, I promise.