Slicers, Hookers, Cutters is a monthly rundown of the best and worst albums released during the previous month. Let’s be real…there’s only so much time we can dedicate to albums every month, so feel free to tweet @BethpageBM and let us know what we missed. Understand, of course, that we may have actually hated the garbage you recommend…so if you don’t see a social shout-out for that release, you’ll just have to sit there and wonder whether we missed your comment…or whether your taste is terrible. This crushing paranoia is all part of the doom metal experience.
EAGLE: ‘Sulphur English’ by Inter Arma
We’ve gotten to a place where we can’t highlight this month’s best band without referencing another group that will show up later…and it’s all the more relevant because Inter Arma and SunnO))) both show up in this list thanks to the same word, implemented differently enough that you wouldn’t guess Inter Arma even endorsed it. But let’s step back a pace from Arma and look at a middle ground between the two bands. My son, maybe five months old, loved Sleep’s “Dopesmoker” in the same way that he loved Neil Young’s “Walk Like A Giant.” Pike / Young, respectively, repeat one, slow chord for minutes at a time, too slow to be a riff, but entrancing enough to hypnotize a newborn metalhead. Inter Arma does not play that slow—it plays quite quickly, in fact—but its approach to riffs is not all too different from these droners. Guitar phrases repeat for as long as Trey Dalton and Steven Russell care to carry them. Although young Black Metal Baby has adopted to speed quite well, he still gets wrapped up in the borderline psychedelic nature of this repetition and indeed, is lulled to a wonderful, metal sleep during the doomier, four-minute bridges of tracks such as “The Atavist’s Meridian.” These moments make the album an easy comparison to 2016’s Paradise Gallows but, unlike that album’s rainbow-infused art, the burning tree here is a constant reminder of violence to come.
BIRDIE: ‘Life Metal by SunnO)))’
Explaining the drone within Inter Arma’s music might take some fancy wordplay, but not so much for SunnO))). SunnO))) simply is the drone. That sort of bare template invites all sorts of experimentation, whether its an avant-pop collaboration with Scott Walker, or combining waves of dark ambient with waves of dark guitar with Ulver. It’s been dang near a decade since we heard Monoliths and Dimensions, and it’s the rare case where it feels even longer than that. For those who understand what we’re talking about, there are 19-minute monoliths of the band’s resolved footfalls, such as “Aurora.” It’s the kind of metal—nay, music—that pushes the patience of the art house listener to the brink, waiting for the bubble to pop. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are patient enough to play these chords, and patient enough to accept that the majority of their listeners hear nothing but a noteworthy stoning soundtrack. Take the time to consider each set of notes here to fully appreciate the composition…as indeed, SunnO))) gives you the time to do so. If you need warming up, opener “Sleipnir” includes vocals, albeit in an Aztec language, to wake you up.
BIRDIE: ‘Heaven That Dwells Within’ by Wormwitch
The connection between metal and folk is tenuous at best, which is not to say that it doesn’t exist. Indeed, the existence of black holes wasn’t formally proven until photographs emerged within the past few months. I mean, we knew they were there…or did we only “know” because conventional wisdom said so? (this isn’t going to devolve into a Flat Earth convention, promise)). We’ve always been a bit wary of the science behind the folk metal connection. Sure, every hardcore black metaller seems to ultimately devolve into pagan folk. And Korpiklaani has had a catchy song every now and again. But outside of that, we’re not exactly convinced. A bit of critical sacrilege here, but does Panopticon really hybridize bluegrass and black metal, or just piece segments together? Likewise, are Wormwitch’s folk lead-ins, a la “Dancing In The Ashes” really an example of folk metal? If you thought we were going to answer any of these rhetorical questions, the joke’s on you. We’re going to take the cowardly, safe route and suggest Wormwitch makes some very melodic death metal, which more convincingly evokes the blackened pagan rites of its Nordic forebears than other claimants.
BIRDIE: ‘Circle of Veins’ by Sadness
Children’s choirs are almost cheating; they can be formed, even more easily than a guitar lick, to prompt whatever emotion you wish from the audience. Want to make my mom cry happy tears? The Transiberian Orchestra’s “Pachel Bell Canon” should do it. Want to paint a dystopian society? Dead-eyed kids and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” Want to crush any and all hope? Sadness. By which we mean the Illinois one-woman black metal project of Elisa (her only name), as seen on the recent Circle of Veins. We have become painfully aware that metal, especially within blackgaze, has become increasingly pretty. The choir heard within “Lana” and elsewhere are as pretty a moment as can be found. Pretty like Leonardo DiCaprio sinking in the Atlantic Ocean. Doomed, awash with the Charybdian emotions that inspire an act titled “Sadness” to exist. Granted, we realize it takes more than a choir to stand out (just ask Kanye after his bogus Coachella Easter Service). And that’s where Elisa adds other tasteful oddities, such as the pan flutes of “Lana.”
BIRDIE: ‘Lust of Consciousness’ by Nekrasov
There was a quote cited by just about every publication while Rebel Wizard’s Voluptuous Worship of Rapture and Response made its rounds last year: “[I would] rather shove a watermelon into the eye of my penis” than do anything even approaching high fidelity recording. That quote from Bob Nekrasov, the Rebel Wizard himself, would probably be better applied to his namesake black metal act. There is a place beyond raw—the best way to describe Nekrasov’s vocals—and yet not so beyond as to delve into noise, where the performers go out of their ways to create aural discomfort. That place is Nekrasov’s amplifiers, where feedback whistles off of his riffs, discomforting you and potentially deafening your dog. Nekrasov’s quote represents less of an intention than the acknowledgment his art, and his actions, will have potentially disastrous impact upon the world. Or, you know, just your stereo system. This album (and it’s excellent art) will appear on fewer “best of” lists this year. If you want to impress all your Rebel Wizard-toting friends, here’s the way to go.
PAR: ‘Lost Eternally’ by Chalice of Suffering
We’re not the biggest Type O Negative fans around this column, but we will 100% throw ourselves behind the epic goth of something such as “Black No. 1” or “Love You to Death.” And that’s because Peter Steele sold the schtick with such joy (the ultimate irony). It works on that epic scale but maintaining that act across an entire album? Never really worked for us. Even then, you can recognize the comedy behind Steele’s emotive masterclass. John McGovern of Chalice of Suffering isn’t selling any schtick, and it’s really tough to take him seriously when he drops into a mournful spoken word moment. And because of that, we question everything. On one hand, the relative instrumental vacuum surrounding the death vocals of “Lost Eternally” is actually pretty nifty. Unless that’s just a really weak attempt at “atmosphere”(?!?) We’ll give his synths the benefit of the doubt here, but we’re going to continue getting our lost-in-the-woods-themed death/doom from Until Death Overtakes Me.
BOGEY: ‘Sables’ by Vaura
Remember Pretty Hate Machine? It was pretty much just Trent Reznor taking his fandom for Depeche Mode, a borderline edgy alternative band, and creating something much more dangerous out of it. That was Nine Inch Nails. Now imagine that another band has channeled its fandom of Depeche Mode into something much less edgy than even Depeche’s relatively easy-going fare. That’s what you have with Vaura and Sables. If it sounds like we’re just bullying the clean vocals band, accept that we’ve beyond accepted Vaura’s 2013 album “The Missing.” The formula wasn’t all that shaken up. But tracks like “The Things That We All Hide”? Those sounded dangerous. Dangerous enough to justify a spot on Profound Lore’s roster, alongside the snuff-shot album covers of bands like Pissgrave. Or like how the aforementioned SunnO))) has basically been Southern Lord’s poster act for years. Sables does not feel like that. It’s Patrick Wolf walking down a dark street. Except Patrick Wolf doesn’t try to get his electro-baroque released on Profound Lore, so we’re cool with him.