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: ‘The Ruins of Fading Light‘ by Crypt Sermon
Seen way too many write-ups comparing this band to Candlemass, and other doom metal standard-bearers, and we’re not here for it. There’s an obvious necessity for heavy metal in the creation of that band, but I’m not sure there’s a need for Candlemass in the creation of Crypt Sermon. Rather, the Philadelphia Heavy Metal band can pick up the “Heavy Metal” mantle and wear it unobstructed. That’s a claim rare among today’s “Heavy” set…with so much crossover from Sludge and even “hard rock.” We understand the doom comparisons here, but that’s 100% about Brooks Wilson’s epic vocals, which are triumphant in his—and humanity’s—own defeat. The narrative essay “Christ Is Dead” takes on the storytelling front of Pagan Altar’s Terry Jones (never really thought about them as “doom” either), but peaking with a far more consequential crescendo. Had been waiting on news from this band since 2015’s Out of The Garden, and it has emerged gloriously. Mid-review Editor’s Note: We immediately went to the band’s Facebook page to see its touring schedule, and were greeted by self-description as “epic doom metal.” Lol, what do you guys know anyway?
BIRDIE: ‘Love Exchange Failure‘ by White Ward
Bizarre to think about what we expect music should be. Ukraine’s White Ward released its debut in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of the Crimean peninsula, a similar drive from its native Odessa as from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Shouldn’t that provide any and all content for Ukraine’s metal and punk scene? Turns out that White Ward has more to give a hoot about. Love Exchange Failure is bigger than current events. The concept of “love exchange failure,” if we’re interpreting it correctly, is bigger than war. It’s Darwinian…even as society crumbles, as literal bombs drop, heartbreak decimates more directly (Jesus, somebody get me a job writing copy for Sumerian). This is Black Metal for the Elliott Smith fan, as Andrii Pechatkin feigns “I wish you all the best” through gritted teeth as the title reaches its solo, and conclusion. If “emo Black Metal” sounds like schlocky Alternative Press-penned crap, look at how White Ward defies the disaster that “saxophone Black Metal” could be. The instrument appears, in the coolest of Kenny G forms, across Ward’s discography, and it’s the most natural of fits. We thought Colin Stetson had cornered the heavy sax market, but it turns out we had been overthinking it this whole time. The opening title track may be the best metal song we’ve heard so far in 2019.
BIRDIE: ‘Approximation_of_a_human_being’ by .Gif from God
This band first rose to notoriety following the release of a split with Vein circa 2017. Vein would go on to critical acclaim with Errorzone, revealing in the process that it hated working with .Gif from God. The Richmond Grindcore band may indeed take its work slightly less seriously than a more uptight Hardcore group (hey, we Black Metal folk tend to be tightly-wound as well), as evidenced by the epically excellent song title “40,000 Jobs for A Cowboy and Counting.” Two years later, .Gif explodes violently from its first full-length, shifting gears violently within tracks and blowing out the transmission in the process (all for effect, of course). Many a Grindcore band can keep this up for a series of minute-long blasts, but relative subgenre epics such as “Possible Futures in The Minds of Children” reach the 3-minute mark, the equivalent of a marathon. Time-shifts aside, it occasionally sounds like every member of this six-piece is giving their own take on metal vocals, as to smother any pocket of dead air on the mix. The “mathcore” term gets thrown around a lot this past decade, but this is the band we wanted to see opening for Dillinger back in the day. It’s not the time signatures, it’s not the proper application of “core”…it’s the destruction of Bernie’s personified.
BIRDIE: ‘Devour‘ by Pharmakon
Continuing our long-running series on “what Noise counts as metal and what Noise does not,” we look at Pharmakon, who we would argue has been the relative Deafheaven of this scene…certainly not as pvre and abrasive as ideologues, but yet to drop the ball, or at least drop our attention. We don’t know what the reasoning behind the title Devour, and it may be that we just read The Golfer’s Journal’s exploration of how the Royal Montorse Links will be underwater sooner or later, but all we could think about during this album was the inevitable demise the coast faces as sea levels rise. The ocean is everywhere on this album, symbolic or not (but mostly symbolic). Waves of tremolo roll along the length of the album, altering the main channel’s delivery like a common tide. Margaret Chardiet’s own voice often falls victim, intentionally, to the swells. As “Spit It Out” flows forward (the tracks are longer here than on previous releases), her pulse quickens with her delivery, when suddenly the delivery of the lyrics begins to sputter and choke, like the performer being enveloped by the surge. A siren wobbles in the background, providing both drone and the sense of emergency that comes with the listen. Eventually what little sensible infrastructure that Pharmakon has (few successful noise performers have much) collapses into a heavier reckoning. It’s odd to say, but Devour is a step back toward darkness after the relatively pleasant Contact.
BIRDIE: ‘Cairn‘ by
Mariusz Lewandowski is having a moment. He’s not at all involved musically with Mizmor, but he is involved with the black metal project artistically, as he is with Bell Witch, False, Fuming Mouth and more. The Polish artist’s giant, reaper-focused art manages to capture every emotion that someone dabbling in metal could potentially experience. For Bell Witch’s massive Mirror Reaper, death himself considers looks deep within for the ultimate nihilism head trip. For Shrine of The Serpent’s Entropic Disillusion, Death and pals revel in the YOLO majesty of the dangerous unknown (we stretched a bit on that one). For fellow Portland project Mizmor, Death takes a more literal seat within his historic interpretation…as the ticket-taker for worlds beyond death. This is just our interpretation of Cairn’s glorious art, but the title boat is indeed a more cosmic octahedron, and you gotta jump over Hell to get to it. If this sounds murky and fantastic, you’re starting to get the idea of what Mizmor itself sounds like. You might expect something more hopeful from a track titled “Cairn To God,” but A.L.N. trudges at Doom’s pace with blackened vocals, leaving uncomfortable, noteless gaps, waiting more than 10 seconds before continuing his gigantic walk.
BIRDIE: ‘In Cauda Venenum’ by Opeth
Opeth is the Free Willy of metal. We love it, and we never want it to leave. But at some point we realize that it’s a huge killing machine and we stop thinking about what we want, but what Mikael Åkerfelt wants. And what he wants is to be a prog rock musician. We’ve tried to deny it for so long. It began in the ‘90s with multiple death metal products, none more celebrated than Opeth. The run of albums from Morningrise through Ghost Reveries represent arguably the most critically acclaimed decade for any metal band ever, even more sustained than Metallica’s ‘80s and Mastodon’s ’00s…untainted by mainstream radio play and, frankly, untainted by input from other members of the band, Åkerfelt rose above. And then Heritage happened, and we shrugged and hoped it would just be what The Hunter was to Mastodon (which is weird, because The Hunter hadn’t come out yet). And then Pale Communion was One More Time Around The Sun, total pap. And then Sorceress was the full-on pitch for hard rock radio. In Cauda Venenum, however, confirms what Åkerfelt has known for some time, and we’re finally at peace to accept: That Opeth’s future is forevermore prog. Not absurdist prog like Dream Theater…no no. The kind of prog we would share with our Deep Purple-loving uncle. It’s not just our attitude changing; it’s Opeth finally getting a firm grasp on the progressive rock fish that had eluded them for three albums. This isn’t metal, for sure, but it’s pretty good prog rock. Now all we need is for Åkerfelt to launch himself out of the water, over the pier where our eight-year-old arms wave, before swimming out to the deep.