Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Wait, what?

I'm OLD. OLD OLD OLD. As I might have mentioned, the domain we refer to as "modern metal" is a place that frightens and confuses me, a place that's full of loud noises and bright, disorienting images that fail to appeal to an old codger like myself--which in fact drive me away, repulsed, quicker than a Port-O-Potty full of Tenderloin crackheads. I can't relate to most things happening around me in the music world. But there are some pretty rad things going on too. Today, we'll talk about both.
I posted several of my observations on the state of modern metal back in early May, in a piece that I randomly titled 'Observations on The State of Modern Metal'. I broke it down pretty thoroughly for y'all, from my tendency to shy away from "new releases" to my unending appreciation for "the classics" (Obituary, Deicide, Carcass, etc.) to my complete and utter disgust with those who consider themselves "critics" (I respect all opinions, dudes, but so many years of having your head so firmly placed within your own ass has left a thick doodoo residue in your eardrums. You can't truly appreciate METAL in such a state). If you'd like, head back and refresh your memory on that last post. Use it as a 'Part 1' to what I'm about to drop on you today. Or don't. I won't be offended, I'm super chill.

I meant for the last post to be more about trends and curiosities in the metal scene these days but, as usual, my elderly mind began to wander and I just started talking about new bands that I like and new bands that I hate. Today, I will hold no such pretense. We're here to talk shit (be it good or bad) about BANDS right now. MODERN BANDS. And yes, MOST modern bands suck ass. This much cannot be denied. But as I said, I've heard some really good new stuff that I want to share with you. So shut the fuck up for a minute and let an old man talk.

Let's begin (approximately) where we left off:

Their music pumps my nads, but as performers they make me feel incredibly awkward. This is, of course, a good thing.

Last time around, I was eagerly anticipating the new Brain Drill release Quantum Catastrophe, an album that proved itself to be a solid entry into their smallish catalog despite an almost-complete lineup change and radical shift in personal dynamics. It's a good album. Not mind-blowing, but good.
Brain Drill is a band that divides metalheads quicker than a Megadeth/Metallica debate, with approximately half of those surveyed claiming that the Drill is nothing but self-indulgent wankery devoid of songwriting skills or coherent hooks and the other half claiming that it is absolutely crippling shred performed by some of the most talented kids in the game. I group myself with the latter camp, but I understand both viewpoints. Brain Drill is a musician's metal band, most interesting to the type of people who get their jollies trying to pick apart subharmonic, augmented minor 7th chords in between 7/13 to 14/17 time changes. Again, I group myself with this camp. That's the fun of Brain Drill (to me at least): trying to figure out just what the FUCK these guys are doing--how they wrote it, what it means, how it actually translates to "songwriting". To the less musically-obsessive metalhead, of course it's garbage.

(Side note: Fellow Santa Cruz natives Decrepit Birth's new album Polarity just came out as well, and, as expected, it SHREDS FUCKING BALLS. These guys are definitely going in more of an uber-complex, Brain Drill-y direction, just with waaaay more jazzy, harmonic stuff going on. Epic.)

It pleases me that this whole ridiculous-tech-death-shred-riff-salad thing is turning into more of an actual, feasible genre, but I have one concern: Most of these Brain Drill-esque young bands seem to only have one EP in them. For example: VIRAEMIA, a band who embraces the whole "mindbending shreddery" angle but attempts to construct REAL SONGS out of it. We watched Viraemia's bass player noodling on his homemade, 10-string monstrosity HERE but never really discussed these guys at length. Which is a shame, because I really like them. But my concern is this: have these youngsters already used up all their good riffs on ONE EP? It's completely possible (see also: Boston's self-titled 1976 debut album)--after all, that's alot of fucking SHRED--but the more optimistic point of view is that they're just new and haven't had time to put together a full-length yet.
But wait, let's look at a couple other ridiculous-tech-death-shred-riff-salad bands, SLAUGHTERBOX (bottom left) from fucking RED BLUFF, California(???) and GENOCIDE OF PRESCRIPTION (bottom right) from Russia (???). Both of these bands fucking kill it, although they come from opposite ends of the spectrum--Slaughterbox has sort of an anarchist/vegan/crust aesthetic whereas GoP has that whole yucky sideways-visored-beanie-and-neon-flannel thing going on. I would gladly fork out the bucks for new albums from either band. But alas, like true shredders, they seem to have both run out of steam after just one EP (The Ubiquity of Subjugation and Corporal Violence, respectively). What gives?

Enough about the techy stuff though, after all, only me and The Thing That Should Not Be even like that shit in the first place. Let's talk about something we can ALL agree on, namely Norway's KVELERTAK (above) and how much THEY FUCKING SUCK.

If you've never heard this band, by all means feel free to skip ahead. I was introduced to them only recently, and to be honest, at first contact I was somewhat intrigued. Much like TORCHE pioneered the previously-incomprehensible genre of doom-pop, so too have Kvelertak thrown their proverbial hats into the pop-black metal ring. But this isn't pop-black metal via Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth, this is something different altogether. Kvelertak somehow meld the worlds of Blink-182, Turbonegro, and Immortal, and while initial reactions may be confusing, repeat listens on my part have revealed the truth. Verdict: DOUCHE.
Kvelertak confuse me: The sing-along choruses, the Dad Rock guitar solos, the Travis Barker drumbeats all cascading back into discordant corpsepaint-blast metal. But what at first seemed innovative has proved to be something quite different. This is a very real and focused attempt at cashing in on black metal, at homogenizing a wild and vicious form of music into something that wouldn't be out of place on the shelf at Wal-Mart. My Kvelertak experience went from disorientation to brief enjoyment to mild annoyance to outright hatred REAL quick, but I'd like to hear some reader input on the issue, too. Watch a live video. What's your take on these guys?

I guess I should have known as soon as I saw the owl-themed John Baizley cover art that adorned their 2010 full-length debut (above right). After all, John Baizley is the Derek Riggs of shitty beard metal (you can go ahead and quote me on that).

Also, what the fuck:

Speaking of commercial metal, apparently Iron Maiden has a new record called Final Fantasy that's about Star Trek or something. The metal community is abuzz concerning this momentous, um, occasion... and... um... I... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I'm sorry, I must have dozed off for a minute.

Let's talk about something awesome. Last "modern metal" post, I rambled at length about how I am very much into new death metal bands that sound like old death metal bands (VASAELETH, COFFINS, etc.), the simpler and more pummeling the better. Well, I've got to thank Brother Aesop, who in his seemingly infinite wisdom led me to a new(ish) band that goes by the name DEAD CONGREGATION (left). These guys do that whole Incantation-worship thing that Vasaeleth do so well, but with far more interesting dynamics and a creepy aura of chanting monks and dead angels. This is a band I can't seem to stop listening to.

Although their catalog so far consists of only one EP, one split, and 2008's full-length Graves of The Archangels (MUST. HAVE.), I eagerly await their next release. These guys are so fucking good I can forgive them their wretched Greek ancestry (JK Helm).
While we're on the topic of rad Incantation worship, now is also a good time to mention the UK's CRUCIAMENTUM, another downtuned DM juggernaut recently signed to Nuclear Winter records. So far they have only produced two demos (2008's Rotten Flesh Crucifix and 2009's Convocation of Crawling Chaos, shown below), but again, their next proper release is hotly anticipated at Casa Cobras.

A couple other bands blowing my mind lately:

How 'bout fucking KERASPHORUS? I downloaded their 2010 EP Cloven Hooves At The Holocaust Dawn (left) from Hell Crust recently, knowing very little about the band itself. The four-song release proved exceedingly shredworthy, and I immediately pursued further information about this mysterious, blasting black/death power trio.
Well, it turns out that the band was a creation of bassist/songwriter/vocalist Pete Helmkamp from the mighty Angelcorpse and they dwell RIGHT HERE IN SAN FRANCISCO!

But here's the bad news: they broke up after releasing this one short recording. Oops. So on the downside, Kerasphorus is gone. But on the upside, Pete Helmkamp is floating around SF somewhere in need of new bandmates.

Pete: Call me, bro!

(Related concept: people should be visiting Hell Crust, Blog The Jerk!, Thulsa Mood ((Thanks for the GOAT SEMEN!)), and From this Swamp more often. I have unearthed many a treasured relic at each of these four locations.)

Another bend melting my earholes lately is Gothenburg, Sweden's AGRIMONIA, who passed through the Bay Area recently and I managed to somehow miss out on. Brother Peter clued me in on these guys a couple weeks ago, and I procured their two albums (2008's self-titled affair and 2010's Host of The Winged, right), again, on Hell Crust.
Agrimonia is one of those rare metal bands that can write songs up in the 10 minute range without the jams getting stale, mixing things up between death, black metal, quiet melodic passages, head-down crust, and everything in between in the course of a single track. The male-female vocals are a nice touch as well. Good lookin' out, Peter. It will be interesting to see where this band goes in the future...

Side note: For my metal dollar, it starts and ends with INQUISITION lately (above--previously discussed HERE). My iPod is constantly bumping their shit. What began as something of a novelty (dude's freaky monotone voice) has turned mandatory, and the more I listen the more hooked I become. Unfortunately, I am a poser (with a kid) and I also missed their most recent gig in SF. But they apparently have a new album coming out in '010 and I hope to catch them next time through. Fuck, Inquisition is rad.

(Speaking of SF and new albums, word on the street is that SLOUGH FEG has something on the way soon as well. Pardon my boner.)

Click for full size, please.

Let's see, anything else interesting going on in the world of metal? Hmmm...
SHINING's Blackjazz was kind of cool in a weird way... Besides that...

Nope. Nothing else. Except this:

Oh yeah, BASTARD NOISE (left) put out a fucking killer new album a month or two ago, although I'm not sure how "fair" it is to categorize said band as "metal". MAN IS THE BASTARD have a new record out too, although I haven't gotten around to purchasing it yet. The Bastard Noise album in question is entitled A Culture of Monsters, and it's, well, uh...



I mentioned DARK CASTLE awhile back, saying that they are one of the few bands in the overpopulated "doom" genre that will actually hold your attention for a full, hour-long album. Manslaughter disagrees and Helm refuses to listen to any band with a name like "Dark Castle", but trust me on this one. The album is called Spirited Migration (right) and you can buy it here.
One dude, one chick. Sweet riffs. The drum sound is HUGE.

The Melvins also have a new album.

It sounds like The Melvins.

One last thing before the big payoff:

What the fuck is up with Tempe, Arizona's VEKTOR? I mean, here is a band that has blatantly ripped every visual cue possible from Voivod, from the clothes to the album cover right down to the logo. I mean, retro-thrash was a stretch already, but these guys are copyright infringement INCARNATE. What's the deal?
I was ready to pounce as soon as Brother Asa suggested I check them out, but then I heard Black Future, their second release, which came out in '09. Fuck. These guys rule. And here I was ready to talk all this shit. Remember Helm's epic TECHNOTHRASH post? Well, these guys sum up everything great about sci-fi technothrash and make it all "2010", falsetto vocals, tapping solos, and all. I suggest checking out their 2006 release Demolition as well.
Damn you, Vektor. Damn you for ruining all my fun.

Just goes to show why I love metal in the first place. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, some dirtbag Bro in Arizona with an elaborately-ripped T-shirt goes and turns it all inside out.

HEY LOOK! I made you guys a digital compilation featuring many of the bands and albums discussed here today! There are even a couple goodies from the last post as well (Defeated Sanity, Rhapsody of Fire, Professor)! Gee, what a guy!

Track list:



Helm said...

Actually I appreciate the compilation a lot. It gives me a way to listen to Dark Castle without actually going looking for a record by a band named Dark Castle. So, thanks.

Vector rip off Voivod's aesthetic but since only two-three bands ever ripped off Voivod it's still 'cute'. You know how it is. Also they can play like motherfuckers so who can tell them to do it differently.

Impressions after I spend some time with your compilation. I'm glad you like Dead Congregation, they're the best of the 'new old death metal' revival in my opinion and I don't say that because they're Greek.

One thing about Brain Drill, I agree that bands of this type tend to be love/hate, related to how much attention one pays to diminished seventh harmonized solos etc etc. But my question is, since you've put in the work, do Brain Drill actually have anything interesting going on besides 'lots of notes'? From the videoclip I got the impression it's a looooot of scale runs but that's it. I'm open to the possibility that I'm wrong since it's just a video that I listened to once.

Aylmer said...

Great post and thanks for the seizure at the end. Totally agreed about kvelertak - radio-friendly crap. I also take umbRAGE at the inclusion of Wolfmother on that diagram of band names. They aren't metal, they're so tepid and unoriginal that they're barely even music. They fucking suck, ask any Australian with actual blood running through their veins.

The new Bastard Noise is indeed great, but I have Manslaughter to thank for my newest obsession: VASTUM. I've been listening to their Corpus EP nonstop. I hope they have a full-length on the way.

Anonymous said...

Hey dude, I just came to your blog after searching the back posts of Metal Inquisition, a great blog cept for the Stockholm syndrome-ish crunk wigger core myspace hair whatever posts. I was about to say, HEY you should hear Cruciamentum and Dead Congregation but you WENT THERE. So I'm reading your damn blog. Check out Decrepitaph from Texas, their last album on Razorback was really damn good, hell check out any band on Razorback.

I really do not want to hear any new bigger label stoner rock stuff and use the same Baroness looking artwork as a warning sign to not go near the shit.

Shelby Cobras said...

@ Helm:

I concede that a vast majority of Brain Drill's music consists of frenzied, sweep-picked arpeggios, but for me it works. They throw in the junt-junt breakdowns when necessary, and as a whole package, it's something that I enjoy listening to repeatedly. Maybe it's a copout, but it really just depends on your taste when it comes to this band. They're fun, but they do verge on complete chaos. Long story short: Lots of notes = GUILTY. But I still like it.

I highly recommend checking out their first two albums, they're both available on IllCon, and I think they're both a little better than the new one. One complaint, though: All that shredding makes for kind of a thin guitar tone, somehow. Hm.

SEANFORD said...

First off, I told you the new Decrepit Birth was going to rule. You doubted. You thought KVELERTAK might be good, I assured you they were Turbonegro 2010 only more gender bending. Fuck that band. And thirdly, I was the one who told to get your hands covered in Goat Semen.

More things I say all the time will turn out to be true: The new Death Breath will rule and the Christian Mistress debut full length will be something to fall in love with.

Manslaughter said...

The only good recent metal I've come across lately (besides a few NW bands) are all local. BADR VOGUL, Pins of Light, Oak, Owl, etc oh shit I feel another B.A./B.M. coming on. PRAIRIE DOGGIN!!!

Manslaughter said...

P.S. I think Sean has the crystal balls of metal. You know he rubs them and sees what's gonna be good.

Shelby Cobras said...

No credit to Seanford whatsoever. That guy blew all his credibilty when he told me the new Sword record was the album of the decade.

Shelby Cobras said...


Manslaughter said...

OH SNAP!!! The sword Sean? REALLY???

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

The thing with Brain Drill is that they aren't tech ENOUGH for me. Rings of Saturn. That does it for me. All those bleepy bloopy sounds that remind me of being in an arcade in the eighties, but without the whole '8-bit Nintendocore' schtick. Meh to that. FIE ON IT. I love Dark Castle too, and I was also a bit wary of 'em, given the cheese-factor of their name. Definitely a good call on Cruciamentum and Dead Congregation, but you NEED to check out GRAVE MIASMA - kind've a Cruciamentum side thang. More KILLER DM.

I was unlucky enough to see Kvelertak open for Converge recently, and I just don't get it. What ARE they? Rock'n'Roll, BM, HC? They don't seem to know themselves! Do I really wanna hear a bad Turbonegro tribute act playing quasi-ironic black metal? NO I BLOODY DON'T. Also, three guitars, but virtually NO harmonies?!?! WHAT THE FUCK?!?! If I had 3 guitars in my band, it'd be like TOTAL Lizzy all over the shop. Fucking kids.

The Thing That Should Not Be said...


Shelby Cobras said...

What, this one?

Anonymous said...

I like the new Maiden album. Give it a listen.

Helm said...

Brain Drill aren't tech enough for me either it seems. Sounds so monophonic, really. Even when there's different melodies going on at the same time they do not seem to are very related to each other besides being perhaps same key or some parallel harmonization. Then again I only listened to some of their stuff for very little time so who am I to say.

I DO say Shelby, listen to Spiral Architect, though. Because that music is dense as fuck (denser than Brain Drill, vertically) and still very catchy and melodic and interesting and good lyrics and... you know, the works.

SEANFORD said...

hahahaha. ahhhhhh, fine lols abound.

Shelby Cobras said...

No. And great recommendations, Thing. Rings of Saturn and Grave Miasma are both right up my alley. Rings are especially great--total Ataricore rather than Nintendocore, shit, arcadecore really. Plus they're from fucking DUBLIN, CA! Right in my backyard, and a total shithole to boot!

Shelby Cobras said...

"No" was in response to the Maiden comment, PS. Yes to Spiral Architect, yes to lulz indeed abounding.

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

Yes, THAT Holocaust......on whom i shall be posting in the not too distant future. Trust me, when you hear their later stuff you will shit a brick. Prog-NWOBHM-thrash weirdness. Glad you dig Rings Of Saturn, they're bananas.

Mister Booze said...

One of my favorite finds of the year was that Jex Thoth I found on this blog a while back.

El Charlie said...

Vasaeleth are pretty damn good, but I'd have to say Decrepitaph does what they do a billion times better, listen to Beyond The Cursed Tombs.

SEANFORD said...

jex thoth is the best. you should try and find sabbath assembly. its brand new, way cult, and super good. not as heavy, but still creepier.

Palantir said...

the new Iron Maiden album was a surprisingly good throwback to their older sound. It had a lot of that doomy/drony maiden stuff (maybe cause they are getting lazy, and just can't crank out prowler's and ghengis khan's anymore). It's a good collection of 10 minute songs about king arthur and space and shit... It seems more authentic than brave new world or whatever their last album was...