Heyo! This is the first installment of MANDREW’s KVLTURE VULTURE FILE, a place on the Blissenblog where books, music, television, movies, and a bunch of other KVLT-urally relevant information will be cleaved, gutted, eviscerated, and (place violent, highly-active verb here), all for your reading pleasure! Now I’m not a professional reviewer, so this will have a more informal tone and angle than what you might see elsewhere on the interweb. Enjoy!
Today we’ll look at underappreciated modern metal, focusing particularly on the “extreme” genres (grind, death, black, sludge, thrash, post, doom, etc.). Now it would be a pretty easy argument to propose that almost any “extreme” (last time I’ll quote-mark this) metal band is underappreciated, as it is a…challenging form of music for the casual listener. You won’t hear it on the radio, in advertising, or on movie soundtracks, and you certainly won’t see it reviewed in any mainstream press. So if you haven’t said, “Fuck this guy! I’m gonna go listen to the Avett Brothers!” yet and have stuck with me, let’s get bloody!
I’m not going to cover the more popular of the extreme bands, as they’ve gotten their due (and rightfully so) in all sorts of forums: the Lamb of Gods and Machine Heads, the Amon Amarths and Arch Enemys, the Behemoths and Watains, the Pig Destroyers and Napalm Deaths, the Mastodons and Kylesas (enough name dropping, you get the idea). We’re gonna claw through some peripheral and blackened substrata for this installment. And for a fun Blissenblog twist, we’ll take a culinary route and examine just how these bands are composed by listing their delicious ingredients. As a gustatory bonus, I’ll provide a literary pairing that will complement your musical feast, analogous to how a certain vintage of red wine compliments a New York strip (or some shit like that; I’m a vegetarian and drinking wine just reminds me of how much it sucks in comparison to beer). So lick your chops, throw all napkins and silverware out the window at unsuspecting passerbys, and prep your eardrums. A final note: always remember to be responsible and to LISTEN AT MAXIMUM VOLUME!
BAND #1: TRAP THEM
DESCRIPTION: A martial hybrid of grindcore, hardcore, and metallic punk. Ryan McKenney (vocals) gurgles lightbulb splinters and espouses. Brian Izzi (guitars) disintegrates guitar strings and snorts the dust. Galen Baudhuin (bass) has tectonic plates rumbling through his palms. Chris Maggio (drums) is probably already in prison for beating his drums so severely. Trap Them are that hungover punk you haven’t seen for a few years, the one that was all sinew and snarl. The one you never wanted to fight. So after a few years in the gym, the punk has returned, bigger and meaner. Is he still hungover? Who knows? But now he wants you to step outside.
INGREDIENTS: Start with a pound of Converge, add tablespoons of Black Flag and Evoken, D-beat and then grind in a few handfuls of Disfear and Nasum for good measure. Mix together with a loaf of stale bread, using only the crust. Jam a quarter-pound of blacktop chunks removed from flesh into the mix. Throw contents off the back of a motorcycle (going at least 90 mph) for additional rashing. Grab a bottle of whiskey (any will do), slam the whole fucking bottle, stuff all ingredients into the empty bottle, mix contents with gasoline, set the whole damn thing on fire, and throw into the nearest street (a street roiling with unrest is preferable, but not necessary). Riotous noises will emerge, including a guitar sound that snarls, a larynx transforming into blood clots, and a drum kit being pulverized. Don’t worry, the drum kit only feels the first few blasts before expiring.
LITERARY PAIRING: Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (any of the short stories will do)
SONG: Darker Handcraft (from Darker Handcraft, produced by Prosthetic, 2011)
BAND #2: CATTLE DECAPITATION
DESCRIPTION: Technically brilliant and darkly humorous deathgrind metal with an emphasis on gore. Birthed from California’s infected womb in 1996 by vegetarians Travis Ryan (vocals) and Josh Elmore (guitar), Cattle Decapitation was later fused with some gestational output known as Derek Engemann (bass) and Dave McGraw (drums) to form a brootal combination of animal intensity and abattoir efficiency. Cattle Decapitation asks this, with a meathook at the end instead of a question mark: does our moniker disgust you? Offend you? Well, fuck you. Animal experimentation, environmental degradation, agri-business tortures: we’re all culpable. Cattle Decapitation lets us know. Karma, bloody karma, is coming.
INGREDIENTS: Start with the heart of a body dead from Suffocation, the limbs from a Carcass, and the head of a burnt corpse following a gruesome Napalm Death. Blend until bloody. Toss in a Dying Fetus (it ABSOLUTELY must be dying, not dead; the spasms and twitches will let you know) and turn the blender to the “liquefy” setting. Take old VHS footage of animals being tortured in a slaughterhouse, cut into chunks with a bone saw, and stuff into blender. Throw contents into the most non-biodegradable garbage bag you can find (these are easily obtainable) and toss into a landfill. Let the contents coagulate for a day or so and then jab the ever-loving shit out it with a cattle prod. Slice open the bag and mix with the rotten tripe of a factory-farm manager (substitute the tripe of an unscrupulous hedge-fund manager or oil baron if you’re in a pinch). A precise and highly unsettling misanthropic din will begin to spew forth, followed by insanely fast double-bass kicks and a voice that alternates between guttural roar/agonized shriek. Once unconventional riffs and song structures arise, prepare for mass consumption, you living, breathing piece of defecating meat (FUCKING ASSHOLE)!!!! VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure none of the contents contain ANY animal parts or byproducts.
LITERARY PAIRING: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle
VIDEO: Your Disposal (from Monolith of Inhumanity, produced by Metal Blade, 2012)
BAND #3: MELECHESH
DESCRIPTION: Blistering, Assyrian black metal incorporating a multitude of traditional Middle Eastern instruments. Vocalist/guitarist Ashmedi (the band’s founder, who is originally from Jerusalem) rasps with a parched madness about Mesopotamian and occult themes while bandmates Moloch (6 and 12-string guitars), Rahm (bass), and Xul (drums) proceed with a flensing sandstorm of second/third-wave black metal. Here is a smattering of the traditional instruments used on their latest album, Epigenesis: Indian sitar, baglama saz, bindir, yayli tanbur, santur, and vocal “Mawal” ornamentation. I haven’t a clue what most of these instruments are, but they are seamlessly woven into the traditional metal assault (and really set the mood in the instrumental pieces) on a production that is distinctively cleaner than orthodox black metal yet still possesses enough sulfurous grit to interest the Bathory-worshipping old school (or at least I fucking hope they’d be interested).
INGREDIENTS: Start with quarter-pound of Behemoth, a quarter-pound of Mayhem, and a quarter-pound of Exodus, then blacken and blast vigorously. Add two pounds of Iranian sand, a pound of brimstone, a dash of corpsepaint, a gallon of molten gold, a poisonous desert snake (any will do, but saw-scaled vipers are recommended), and toss in a handful of ziggurat fragments. Strike unrelentingly with a scimitar until riffs and leads are both catchy and brutal. Let bake under the desert sun and the magicks of Grand Gathas until a sphinx says otherwise. WARNING: Both ghouls and giants love this fucking recipe! They WILL eat your flesh or crush your bones for a taste.
LITERARY PAIRING: The Epic of Gilgamesh (or, if you’re feeling stuffed, some poetry from Kahlil Gibran finishes the musical dish nicely)
VIDEO: Grand Gathas of Baal Sin (from Epigenesis, produced by Nuclear Blast, 2010)
BAND #4: WITHERED
DESCRIPTION: Black metal with a nightmarish sludge element. Hailing from Georgia (pretty much the Mecca of sludge metal), Withered is comprised of founding member Mike Thompson (vocals/guitar), Dylan Kilgore (guitar/vocals), Mike Longoria (bass), and Beau Brandon (drums). Their take on black metal, with its unique synthesis of crawling doom and southern ooze, puts them on the same level as other American black metal luminaries (Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, Cobalt, Krallice, Deafheaven, etc.). Withered is a no-frills assault, bereft of boilerplate black metal tropes such as synths, samples, folk passages, corpsepaint, or other theatrical embellishments; they simply grab you by the hair and drag you into their darkness.
INGREDIENTS: Start with tablespoons of both Eyehategod and Emperor, smash together with Crowbar, and emulsify with a gallon of Morbid Angel. Sprinkle in some methamphetamines cut with grave dirt. Blacken contents to an unholy crisp. Pour in a quart of fetid swamp water and mix with a quart of Atlanta sewer water (both liquids must NOT have ever been spoiled by sunlight). Bury under moldering French literature (Italian or Latin can be substituted if French can’t be found). Onyx crystals will begin to emerge, along with paint-peeling screeches and buzzing riffs akin to a swarm of biblical locusts.
LITERARY PAIRING: Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, or at least the last few chapters.
SONG: From Shadows (from Dualitas, produced by Prosthetic, 2010)
BAND #5: RWAKE
DESCRIPTION: Labyrinthine doom metal infused with southern-fried post metal and sludge. Band members C.T. (vocals), Gravy (guitar), Kiffin (guitar), John Judkins (bass), Jeff Morgan (drums), and B. (vocals, samples, and moog [I gather it’s some type of synthesizer]) collectively simmer and boil over, entrancing listeners with not so much a meditative ascent but with the essence of a madman unsheathing his straitjacket, layer by constrictive layer, until he bursts forth, enraptured about the inevitable finality.
INGREDIENTS: Start with two pounds of Neurosis and a half-pound of Acid Bath. Add a dash of Sleep and a pinch of Evoken. Mix in the entire rotting carcass of a wild razorback hog, a shovelfull of black dirt from a secluded part of the Ozark Mountains, and deer antlers that have killed a man. Pulverize and add the mixture to an overflowing spittoon filled with equal parts chew spit, LSD, and ditch weed soaked in strychnine. Leave in the dark under an abandoned Arkansas barn, where it will accumulate the collective nightmares of rural children. Once an unceasing and oppressive tower of sound emerges, quickly fry in batter and serve with Gravy.
LITERARY PAIRING: William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (if you’d like something a bit more recent, go with Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone)
VIDEO: It Was Beautiful But Now It’s Sour (from Rest, produced by Relapse, 2011) WARNING: This video is VERY graphic and involves the destruction of pig fetuses. To be honest, this video dredges all sorts of contradictory impulses. One second I hate it, the next I applaud its audacity. Such is art, eh?