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.
Summer to Fall around these parts is always accompanied by a couple weeks of fog in the morning. It sounds so simple as I write it, but if you’ve ever white-knuckled it at six in the morning down the two lane Möbius strips we call roads, vision blown out by impenetrable sheets of even-low-beams-are-blinding white, you come to understand that things can, in fact, be two things at once. Simply fog, but also an earthly blanket that requires all complex thought to avoid ditches, trees, deer, and suddenly becoming religious.
There is a liminal point, however, where the thickness begins to dissipate, where shapes begin to make hazy but discernible sense, when time starts to behave again. The knuckles ease up. The Popol Vuh returns to its natural state of aural Dopamine. The threat of deer remains the same, but at least you’ll probably see it coming.
Yep, you guessed it. A metaphor.
I used to scoff at the idea that people would enjoy their 50s, or that somehow their 60s have never been better, but as I surrender to the gradual, uneventful slide into middle age, it’s becoming apparent that, much like everything else in life, I was wrong.
It’s a shame that youth is wasted chasing silly things like careers and college and glamour and fame. Sure, those things are absolutely awesome if you can get there, but the law of averages was probably taught in that one math class none of us paid attention to. Most of us don’t know what we want to do at 18, much less how we’ll react to the ups and downs of living. 45 is so far away from 35 is so far away from 25…
I am now at the liminal exit of a dense, depressive three years. To see the urge to talk myself out of experiences from this side is to see how crippling your own thoughts can be. The idea that my experiences, that anyone’s experiences, are somehow inferior is just a construct in a self-destructive brain. The idea that I’m not enough is just ego blinding me to the reality of change’s indifference.
It’s a shame that it has taken me this many decades to stop hearing myself and to actually listen, for me to accept where I am with gratitude, to be fully immersed in allowing myself to grow beyond comfortable, and to actually believe that maybe, just maybe, I’m not that bad of a person.
Life is not linear. Life does not give a fuck about plans. Life is about finding a balance of aspirations and acceptance, of allowing for bad days and accepting that you do, in fact, deserve good days, of doing cool shit, because as one of the best dudes ever recently told me, what is life if you’re not doing cool shit?
I can afford to ruminate on mid-life spiritual awakenings, of course, because I don’t spend every second of my life in fear of getting bombed out of existence for some rich people bullshit.
Because that’s what history is. A story littered with those in authority deciding who gets to live and who gets to die based on the whims of money and power and the never-ending chase for more both. I understand the urge to ban History books, but not for the same reason as the Religious zealots I share a country with. It is the intense feeling of shame that comes with knowing that as a species, we have learned absolutely nothing from our barbaric past. Absolutely nothing.
Look. If you can cut off food, water, internet, global aid, and International news crews while simultaneously telling people to leave the area and shutting off every single exit, you’re not in a war. You’re genocidal. You can infer all you want, but really, which current genocide am I talking about? It’s like pouring a jar of marbles into a funnel all at once, the genocides just jumble together and clog your ability to discern where and why and which one.
Part of said middle-age awakening is realizing that I don’t want to talk about this stuff anymore. Not in the sense of ignoring it, because these motherfuckers need to be accountable for the atrocities being committed hourly. More like, trying to justify bombing kids? Fuck off. Explaining the Geopolitical ramifications of… yeah, fuck you too.
We’ve been able to blow a single motherfucker in downtown traffic up from space for a decade now. If you dick-swinging geriatric assholes wanna beef, how about we do that and stop exploding people that have nothing to do with your sick, twisted politics.
America can, itself, be two things at once. A country full of opportunity and a nation of genocidal colonialism, radicalizing generations of populations against us by interfering in elections, or instigating coups, or bombing people to the stone age for oil, or exterminating an entire population for the very land we occupy. Life is not linear, but if we keep putting the blinders on to the incredibly fucked up history of the world thus far, we are on a doomed path that is running out of exits.
I, for one, would like my elected officials to stop voting on killing women and children, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, in my name. If this mindless bloodshed is so goddamned important, go fight these wars yourselves, you spineless fucks. Stop all forty seven simultaneous genocides now.
Anyway, I almost feel bad for doing something as trivial as this column as the world burns. However, I would miss out on extolling the virtues of buying/listening to every single thing 20 Buck Spin puts out. After a brief pause to deal with what I imagine was a completely bonkers Tomb Mold release cycle they could’ve released the absolutely filthy duo of Gravesend and Ruin Lust and called it one hell of a year. Instead, they also drop two records that best encapsulate this freakishly bipolar year. Vastum’s Inward To Gethsemane is a caustic, percussive, unabashedly bleak affair, and one of the year’s best Death Metal rippers. Starpath not only presents some new Worm songs (which in typical Worm fashion, are great), but the other half of the split contains two of the best-est Dream Unending to date. “So Many Chances” and “If Not Now, When” are the perfect summation of what Dream Unending have been aiming for, an absolutely beautiful blend of celestial Doom Death and 70s ECM guitar shred that just melts. 20 Buck Spin is going to be hard-pressed to top this year’s run, but I have the utmost trust that they will. Best label going.
Green Lung are on quite a run. This Heathen Land (Nuclear Blast) continues the band’s streak of not putting out shitty music. The only mis-step for me is “Maxine (Witch Queen)”, the campy poppiness not gelling for me with the other thirty nine minutes of stoned druid Yes prog-metal. That’s what playlists are for. Otherwise, this is retro theatrical rock done perfectly.
Wayfarer‘s Western-themed Black Metal has always been just a hair better in theory than in prolonged enjoyment, nothing ever really sticking with me. However, if you were curious about the band, whooboy, American Gothic (Profound Lore) is a fantastic place to jump in. This album rips, which probably means I should work my way backwards.
Capra‘s first album caught me off guard, not a style I expected from the Metal Blade umbrella. They sidestep the sophomore slump here, their take on post-metaly-Hardcore punky and riffy and propulsive and good. Restless Spirit‘s pack approximately one million awesome riffs into Afterimage (Magnetic Eye), which lands squarely in my sweet spot for unrelentingly slamming Trad-Metal Doom that totally rips. I am not shocked to find out Filth is Eternal is from Seattle. Find Out (MNRK Records) has a dirty fourteen songs in twenty eight minutes 90s vibe that I’m very much in to. It takes a few minutes for Objects Without Pain (Neurot Recordings) to kick in, but when Great Falls ramp it up, you suddenly find yourself smothered in Midwest noise rock Hardcore. It’s crushingly claustrophobic. This month’s entry into the I’m-sorry-for-the-Entombed-comparison is Carnation, a band I was shamefully unaware of, as Cursed Mortality (Season of Mist) is the sweet spot of all sweet spots as far as Death Metal goes. This shit absolutely rules. I also don’t know anything about Witching, but they have a good mix of Black and Sludge and…stuff going on here with Incendium (Translation Loss).
A couple metal-adjacents to mention. Famine (Revelation) is the welcome return of Paint it Black. This record is weird as fuck, and I’m here for it. Evan’s got a new project between Skeletonwitch records called Dreamwheel and Redeemer’s (Nefarious Industries) shoegazey dream power pop proves that lil sum’bitch can sure play that guitar real good. I know some of you are into the ol’ synth stuff. If so, the new Setting is an incredible slice of celestial Kosmische. Shone A Rainbow Light On (Paradise of Bachelors) is album of the year material. Get weird.