People may think of Portland as the place where all hipsters either live or aspire to live, but the fact of the matter is that there is a pretty lively metal scene in the Pacific Northwest and Portland’s own Sons of Huns comes pummeling through your speakers with a bone crushing album that’s packed with crunchy riffs and chaos.
This one just needs to be turned up. All the way. Every track introduces riff after shape shifting riff, slithering through multiple time signatures and tempi all while putting their virtuosic fretwork on full display. A song like “Heliolith” just keeps churning out memorable riffs and then casting them aside, moving to the next one.
Though, to be honest, calling this an all-out “metal” album isn’t completely fair. It’s not that far off, but really the songs show a lot of the influence of classic rock and garage rock. Think something like Ty Segall’s latest band “Fuzz.” That band chugs along thanks to the shredding of Charlie Moothart, and Sons of Huns shreds in a very similar way, but are just a touch heavier. The bass-work is more detailed and finely tuned, sometimes taking the opportunity to double the guitar lines, like on “Horror In Clay.”
“Banishment Ritual” offers the best elements from the worlds of thrash metal, and garage/psych rock with even a little classic metal thrown in for good measure (think Motorhead). And, hey, “Rollin’ the Dice” even shows that they can throw a little bit of swing into the mix. There’s also the classical guitar “Leyenda” style opening to “Super Kanpai Rainbow” and the dual guitar riffage of Iron Maiden lurking in the buildup after the guitar solo of the same song. Nothing’s off limits, and they can pull it all off exceedingly well all while plastering things with extended blues based guitar solos.
The album came out this past November and was released on limited edition Coke Bottle colored vinyl, with only a few still available. You can still, of course, download the album. This is their first full-length, so expect much more to come from these guys in the future. They are currently out on tour, check the dates below and listen to the full album above, and also check out some earlier tracks, also available to listen to on their bandcamp page.
I’ll admit that I tend to get a little bit bogged down in the details from time to time. It’s part of my job, and part of who I am, so sometimes I can’t help it. As a music theorist I’m always trying to dig deeper into the function of every single note and looking for patterns and so on and so forth.
Sometimes, though, it’s just good to listen to some instrumental sludge/doom/stoner metal to really take my mind off of all the other music that I should be thinking about. I think that part of what allows me to do this is the kraut-rock-ish plodding of the low, droning, open strings, that sort of lulls me into a calmer state of being. One wouldn’t normally think of doom metal as being particularly relaxing, but then again I’m not exactly the gold standard of normativity either.
That timbre, the thick crunch of a guitar’s wound strings processed through about 10 Marshall stacks with the bass doubling everything an octave below, that’s what it’s all about with this music. That and the riffs. Something about it, and even after years of trying I’m still not able to figure out exactly what it is that does this, but it feels as though not just the music is going in slow motion, but all life around the music is going in slow motion. That definitely makes the genre worthy of the label.
The way I see it, all stoner metal/riff rock starts with Black Sabbath. It’s basically proto-metal, but it started out nearly fully formed. Take a riff, smother it in thick distortion and play it until your fingers bleed. Over and over and over again. Poland’s stoner/doom metal Belzebong has that thick crunch down. I think the guitars are tuned down to what sounds like a C, though to be honest it is kind of difficult to discern pitch when things get so low, and then put on top of that the distortion and the fact that the chords are all root-fifth-octave. Things get muddy. The track, “Dungeon Vultures,” doesn’t cover too much territory across its 14 minutes, but I’m definitely not complaining. Some artists make 5 minutes seem like an eternity, but this 14 minutes goes by, I wouldn’t say quickly, but it certainly doesn’t feel like nearly an entire album side. “Dungeon Vultures” was recorded last year, and is limited to only 500 copies, there are still some available Check out the track below.
After enjoying your 14 minutes of dirge and distortion, you can pick yourself up again with the closer-to-standard-tuning, comparatively swinging and bluesy riff-rocker “Blind Seer” by Green & Wood. This one’s a little more in the realm of a standard tune: under 5 minutes and with sneering vocals. I still can’t shake the feeling that, though not as sludgy, or doom-y, that an air of kraut-rock sensibility still exists. We’re reminded of the Black Sabbath connection at about the 2:40 mark, as the song chugs into a very Tony Iommi-esque breakdown. You can check that one out below.
“Blind Seer” appears on Green & Wood’s 2011 release “Devil’s Plan.” It seems like it’s a bit hard to find, but there are a couple copies floating around if you want them.
Belzebong is on tour throughout Europe right now. Dates can be found at their bandcamp.
It is no secret that I am a fan of noise music. I’ve written on the topic morethanafewtimes and I often find myself listening to varying levels of “noise” at home. For some reason I never think of it as anything other than something that is pretty experimental, and therefore in a genre of its own. I never have thought about the implications that noise music may have as a way of reinterpreting a genre, or as using those implications to align itself to a genre. It’s understandable that this could be a next step, having noise stand in where other older forms and music/semiotic indicators have grown tired and been wrung dry of any meaning.
Sure, it is experimental, and it is always going to be fairly experimental to present noise as music in and of itself. But if we are to re-imagine noise as yet another degree of abstraction (something I have also already talked about on here) then why can’t noise fit into the genre of, say, metal, instead of just being something that only comments on itself, or is merely interpreted as a challenge to everything else?
Late last year, on November 11th, two bands, Brutal Truth and Bastard Noise, compiled a split album entitled “The Axiom of Post Inhumanity” and it works to do exactly what I described in the last paragraph. Noise, on this album, stands in for brutal de-tuned guitar crunch and growled, grind-core vocals. I think that presenting music this way brings a whole new depth to both noise music as well as metal. The noise, for lack of a better term, means something before it’s even heard. And, presented in this context, the album is free to explore all of the many possibilities that noise has to offer, much in the same way that a metal album might be shaped. From all consuming intensity to sound that echoes across barren wastelands, the abstraction of sound is starting to bring itself back around to the point that it’s not heard merely as that abstraction. This is an interesting, and exciting, step in the evolution of metal.
There is definitely a lot of stuff to grab onto with this album. Many of the tracks are over 7 or 8 minutes long, but each of them is a gripping and intricate display of experimental noise as metal, or maybe it’s metal as experimental noise. Either way, this split is worth a listen. Check it out above.
Well, it might be too late for this now, but I sincerely hope that you heeded the warning at the beginning of the video, because they are not messing around. Oozing Wound wants to make sure that you are headbanging, even if that means it is the result of a seizure.
I’m placing this one right in between Slayer and Liturgy. More toward the Slayer side of things than anything else. For a few minutes at the beginning of the song I was wondering if it was going to be an instrumental or not. The band pummels that opening riff into the ground in a fit of metal hypnosis. It isn’t until about a minute-twenty in that the actual lead line/opening riff comes in, followed by the raspy, vocals that are clenched tight not very far behind.
Three full minutes of thrash metal insanity, going 900 mph straight toward a brick wall. Pretty intense. Pretty awesome. The ending motto is pretty classic too. Check it out above. If you aren’t awake now, you will be.
Chicago’s own Oozing Wound released their debut album, “Retrash,” last week on Thrill Jockey. Pick up a copy of the LP, pressed on virgin vinyl and packaged with a fully artworked inner sleeve and free download coupon; or the CD version in 4 panel mini-LP style gatefold package here. You can also hear a preview of each of the tracks at that link.
Portland’s Red Fang will release its 3rd full length, “Whales and Leeches,” next week (October 15 to be exact).
Right off the bat you should know that if you like Mastodon then you would be very interested in giving this album a try. Though there are some pretty key differences in their sound (even if they do seem to both like whales), the overall bone-crushing guitar assault as foundation is pretty much the same, but Red Fang tends more for the straight ahead riff based tunes than Mastodon’s comparatively prog-heavy tendencies.
“Whales and Leeches” finds a lot of room to move from one side of the metal genre to the other. A song like “Blood Like Cream” finds strength in a major key with an anthemic chorus, and an uplifting bridge, resembling at times the qualities of hard-core punk. But then take into consideration a track like “No Hope” that follows. It starts off with jarring dissonance before launching directly into another wall of pummeling guitar distortion. Nothing but metal on this track. Full on, take no prisoners thrash metal.
The 7+ minutes of “Dawn Rising” slows things down a bit, multiplying the heaviness exponentially. I think that it has been proven (though I don’t have the formula handy at present moment) that the slower a song and the lower the tuning (sounds like they are all the way down to C or something on this one) the heavier the song. I’m trying to place the guest vocal on this one, but I can’t quite do it. It may very well be someone else in Red Fang and I’m just not in the know, but whoever it is they have a perfectly gnarly metal sneer and an awesome, powerful high register. Think Bon Scott crossed with Dio.
Really though, I think that the breakout riff-rocker on this one is the album opener, “DOEN.” Great way to start off an album. It’s a punch right in the face. Heavy. Fast. Unrelenting.
The entire album is like that. Heavy and unrelenting with riffs to spare. It’s the way that metal is supposed to be, in my opinion. It’s not formulaic and not every song needs a guitar solo, but in the tracks that do have one they are done particularly well.
“Whales and Leeches” is out on Relapse Records on October 15 (October 18 Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. October 21 in the UK and rest of the world), available as a CD/Deluxe CD/LP/Deluxe 2xLP/Digital or Deluxe Digital. Check the links below to order the album. Limited Edition deluxe CD and LP contains a lenticular/moving cover, expanded packaging and TWO bonus songs.
***All dates from Oct 09- Oct 18 with Helms Alee***
Oct 09 Sacramento CA Harlow’s w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 10 Los Angeles CA The Troubadour w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 11 San Diego CA Brick by Brick w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 12 Tucson AZ The Rock w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 13 Albuquerque NM Launchpad w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 14 Denver CO Bluebird w/ Dog Shredder
Oct 15 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge w/Gaytheis
Oct 16 Boise ID Neurolux w/Gaytheist
Oct 17 Spokane WA The Center w/Gaytheist
Oct 18 Bellingham WA The Shakedown w/Gaytheist
Nov 09 Seattle WA Showbox at The Market
Nov 10 Vancouver BC Rickshaw theater
***All Dates w/ The Shrine. Nov 30 to Dec 14 with Indian Handcrafts***
Nov 30 San Francisco Slim’s
Dec 01 Santa Ana CA The Observatory
Dec 02 Tempe AZ Club Red
Dec 04 Austin TX Red 7
Dec 05 Houston TX Fitgerald’s Downtairs
Dec 06 New Orleans LA Siberia
Dec 07 Atlanta GA Drunken Unicorn
Dec 08 Raleigh NC Kings Barcade
Dec 09 Philadelphia PA Underground Arts w/ Cancer Bats
Dec 10 Cambridge MA The Middle East w/ Cancer Bats
Dec 11 New York NY Bowery Ballroom w/Cancer Bats
Dec 13 Montreal QC Cabaret Mile End w/ Cancer Bats
Dec 14 Toronto ON Lee’s Palace w/ Cancer Bats (Announce Cancer Bats 10/21)
Dec 15 Detroit MI The Shelter w/ Cancer Bats, Radkey Dec 16 Chicago IL Logan Square Auditorium w/ Cancer Bats, Radkey
Dec 17 Minneapolis MN Triple Rock w/ Radkey
Dec 19 Colorado Springs CO The Black Sheep w/ Radkey
This album was brought to my attention through the Permanent Records email list, my favorite record store in Chicago (they have recently opened shop in Los Angeles as well). “Come” is Philadelphia’s Psychic Teens’ second full length record. Part psych rock, part garage rock, part abrasive noise. From the sneering vocals and angular guitar bending of “NO” to the buzzsaw dissonant counterpoint of “RIP” and the feedback assault of “BUG” the entire album creates beauty through hazy, gritty guitar noise and a punchy bass with punk-rock drumming.
The hooks are there, just below the surface. The mix and overall aesthetic of Psychic Teens reminds me a little bit of The Telescopes, or even My Bloody Valentine mixed with White Hills in parts. An element of shoegaze is present, but not as a rule. Take, for example, album closer “VEIL.” That song’s slow dirge, with gently chorused guitar, holds back the flood of a Russian Circles’ circa “Enter”-like thick wall of bass heavy distortion. During moments like this it’s difficult to determine whether this should be categorized as straight up metal.
The standout for me, however, is the hypnotic half-step foundation of “LUST” that is periodically broken up with a slightly out of tune 2nd guitar. The entire thing shifts considerably upon the entrance o a heavy dose of feedback squeal and a metal power-chord crunch that leads into a four-on-the-floor stomp.
I guess you could call it whatever you want as long as you listen. The band can readily move between and beyond categorization with very little effort. They seem to be placing themselves right at the edge of several intersecting styles. Another great example of the diverse Philly music scene.
Take a listen to the album above or on the SRA Records bandcamp. Albums are available in a variety of formats including CD, oxblood colored vinyl, and cassette with a few bundles that include a variety of other things thrown in for good measure.
Showing up to the Tiny Tavern just before 8pm, because I know the place is small and I always get nervous that shows are going to be too full or something, seems now like it was a bit excessive. I sat at the end of the bar for about an hour listening to the members of So So Glos and Diarrhea Planet talking and making fun of the horrible musical selections coming in through the speakers of the bar (Counting Crows, Bush, The Wallflowers, Sheryl Crow. I think it must have been from the compilation “NOW That’s what I Call Overplayed Watered Down Corporate Shit Rock from the Late 90s that Attempts to Fill in the Enormous Void Left by Kurt Cobain’s Death Vol. 3”) and eating, though I don’t think that any of them really enjoyed the food as when they all got up and wandered outside there were about 8 bowls of weird looking beef stroganoff lining the bar.
I was sitting there just awkwardly observing and catching bits of conversations between the bartender and the bands. “Hey guys, and don’t forget,” the bartender leaned in to whisper to one of Diarrhea Planet’s guitarists, “that there’s a radical discount on the food for the bands and roadies and anyone that is traveling with the band.” I remember trying to figure out after he said “radical” whether he was using it as a synonym for “significant” or if he was one “hang-loose” hand gesture away from trying to be “cool like the kids.” I came to the decision that, based upon his inflection that it was the latter. Another uncomfortable interaction came a few minutes later when the drummer sat next to me at the bar in order to get some food. After ordering, the super-hip bartender with the black pageboy hat (though strangely lacking in the soul-patch department) said “how ’bout we call that….4 bucks?” and right as the drummer was saying “Ok” the bartender gave him a sideways glance and with a half winking eye said “you can talk me down to $3,” to which the drummer replied through an uncomfortable laugh “…whatever man.” I knew he and I were on the same page in regard to our thoughts on the bartender.
At about this time I was watching a dude that came in with some mic stands set up the monitor. The monitor was pretty much next to the stage in front some overturned tables and surge protectors that were dangling delicately from the ceiling, a perfect compliment to the partially working blinking icicle lights (check the date). As he set up the monitor the mics blared feedback for a good 10 minutes at 5 second intervals. A delightful array of ear piercing ultra-high frequencies assaulted our ears, yet nobody seemed fazed. As the monitor guy walked back toward the bar to excitedly talk about the app that he uses to single out the frequencies that are feeding back he said “Ok, I’ve gotta run.” It was at that point I realized that there was going to be no sound guy, he came in, set up the mics, made them squeal a bit, turned a few dials counter-clockwise a bit, drank a beer and left. All in a days work.
It was quarter to 9 and I was still the only person there not in the band. Well, that’s not completely true, there were some unsuspecting regulars that had no idea there was going to be a show and the possibly domestically challenged man in one of the booths that had drank a pitcher of PBR and fallen asleep. One of the guys in So So Glos wondered aloud “So where is everyone?” This was followed moments later by “…so it’s just gonna be that guy at the end of the bar?” Despite that being said in a bit of a hushed tone as he headed for the door it was audible from my position at the end of the bar.
Thankfully, about 20 minutes later the audience showed up. I think that they must have coordinated it earlier, like a punk rock flash mob. It seemed as if the entire audience literally walked in at once. The first opener (didn’t catch their name because the sound was terrible for some reason) tore through twenty or so minutes of noisy originals and a few covers (was that the theme to Full House?) to an appreciative crowd.
So So Glos took the stage next (and by stage I mean area of the floor in front of the fireplace, next to the aforementioned tables and surge protectors and underneath the Coors Light neon dry erase board with “Don’t forget to try the special!” scrawled onto it in that generic font that must be taught to all owners of bars everywhere) and immediately invited the audience to get up, move closer, no… closer, no… closer. They then proceeded to bring out their intense energy song after song. Lead singer/bassist Alex Levine could not be contained, and didn’t resist the urge to jump into the audience and climb atop the bar. Despite mistakenly stating, “it’s so great to be back here in California,” to sarcastic boos (someone yelled back “Yeah! Eugene, California!” we’re nice here, we don’t care and we forgive quickly) he apologized profusely and carried on. The crowd was amped up after their set, and not wanting them to leave after their “last song” began chanting “USA! USA! USA!” together with “ROCK AND ROLL! ROCK AND ROLL!” until they gave us one more tune. Off to a great start.
I think that part of the reason that we were all so ready to forgive the “California” faux pas is because of their tour schedule. So So Glos and Diarrhea Planet are doing things Japandroids style and touring non-stop up and down the coast and across the country, adding dates as they go. Speaking with lead singer and 1/4 of the shredding department of Diarrhea Planet, Hodan, he said they had been on tour since about the beginning of July and would be going almost straight through until the end of December. So, given that, fine. Call us California, call us Idaho, it doesn’t matter.
Diarrhea Planet swiftly began setting up (tooling with the monitor, as if there was a point by now. I think that every member of each band had been tweaking it all night), did a quick check and were off and running. The crowd moshed wildly, resulting in a cascade of beer flying through the air and pooling around our feet. Shirtless dudes gesticulated wildly at the closest guitarist mimicking the hand motions of Jimi Hendrix as he incited flames from his guitar. The band tore through song after song with little effort; these guys could really play well, truly well. And despite there barely being enough room for the 6 of them on the “stage” there was enough room for some true rock showmanship in the form of hair-whipping headbanging, and thrashing about on the floor while flying through a guitar solo sometimes with Hodan on his knees arching such that the back of his head rested on the floor as he continued to wail. There were a few covers as well, one as (I think) a comment to the garbage that was on the radio while they were (not) eating at the bar. That song was another from the wasteland of late 90’s corporate shit rock: Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” which was started on a whim by one of the guitarists and the rest of the band just picked up on it. They managed to get through an entire verse and chorus, with the crowd dutifully singing along and thrashing about before the band said “Ok, we can’t do that shit anymore.”
It was a great show. All the way through from the opener to So So Glos to Diarrhea Planet. It was such a great show that as everyone began to realize that it would soon come to a close we all kept yelling “ONE MORE!” until Levine came back to the stage sans bass to lead in an amazing 4 guitar version of Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).” The crowd went insane, yelling along, hoisting people in the air while watching the leader of So So Glos climb onto the bar again. Things got a little crazy as the crowd sort of invaded Diarrhea Planet’s space, but they all had giant smiles on their face. Everyone in there was having a great time.
Speaking with guitarist Emmett after the show, while buying some merch, he kept saying how great the tour was going. I mentioned that it must be awesome to have been getting attention from NPR and the New York Times (the review was published only two days prior) and a tour that will not stop. He was genuinely excited and said the entire band was still amazed and incredibly grateful for all the press. He swore that they would be back, as they loved the crowd and our city. When they do, I’ll be right there at the front again screaming along with everyone else.