Hail of Bullets and more...
At this point in time, legendary death metal vocalist Martin Van Drunen could probably read out his shopping list and we’d all tune in. His work with death metal pioneers such as Asphyx and Pestilence has been hugely influential, but thankfully, Van Drunen’s never been remotely keen on resting on his laurels.
Since 2006, he’s been a crucial cog in the war machine Hail of Bullets. Like the band’s musical inspirations (most obviously, Bolt Thrower), Hail of Bullets’ bombardments are highly evocative of their chosen subject matter. The band’s latest release, III: The Rommel Chronicles, is much like the band’s two previous full-lengths, being a pounding broadside of battle-themed death metal, with plenty of vintage groove and grunt. Overt technicality is often eschewed for artillery barrages, and from “Swoop of the Falcon” through to closer “Death of a Field Marshall”, the album rains down the often sombre and bloodthirsty melodies. Drummer Ed Warby produces all with the appropriate buzzsaw rawness, and with Dan Swanö handling the mix, it’s all hammering and blitzkrieg bursts of riffs—making for yet another thunderous and crushing release.
Deciding exactly where New York-based Castevet fits in the taxonomy of extreme metal isn’t the easiest of tasks—if you care about such things. The trio obviously holds black metal in high regard, but then math-rock, post-hardcore, progressive-metal, avant-jazz and, well, seemingly everything else plays its role too. In fact, aside from the band’s impressive dexterity, its best element is an ability to combine mind-boggling and multifaceted musical density with demented darkness.
The band’s latest album, Obsian, packs meticulously constructed songs into 37 minutes, somehow expanding the laws of time and space as it goes. Ice-cold, asymmetrical tremolo bursts, oddball dissonant swerves, dazzling drumming from Ian Jacyszyn, and all manner of volatile sonic insanity reigns. Bassist and vocalist Nicholas McMaster from New York black metal innovator Krallice joins Castevet on Obsian, adding to the hyper-manic technical artistry on offer, and songs such as “Cavernous”, “The Curve” and “As Fathomed by Beggars and Victims” are skewed and demanding jigsaw puzzles. However, while amplified technicality frequently leads to utter emotive sterility, Castevet keeps things wholly engaging—a feat that few bands as brutal and complex are able to do.
The line-up for Corrections House is intimidating. The band features Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Sanford Parker (Minsk), and lyricist Seward Fairbury, and while that may look like a dream team of darkly poetic soothsayers, understandably, such a collection also brings the ‘supergroup’ nerves too.
Sludge and post-metal might look likely, and they do feature, but noise rock, sinister synth, distorted guitars, twisted electronics, drone, folk, and industrial clatter fill the band’s debut, Last City Zero. At a stretch, you could say the album is a sum of each artist involved simultaneously pouring their thoughts into the 50 post-apocalyptic-themed minutes of morose experimentalism.
Certainly, with voices like Kelly and Williams involved it’s not surprising that the songs are filled with messages of societal and psychological ruin. However, musically, Last City Zero is a grind through decaying factories of noise, and the last breath of modernity’s mechanics. Fears of a ‘supergroup’ fumble can be put aside here, because Corrections House operates well outside the expected sonic borders, and in doing so, is well worth tracking down—before it all ends.
It’s downright criminal that Shooting Guns’ name isn’t being shouted from the rooftops. The Canadian instrumental band’s Polaris Prize-nominated debut, Born to Deal in Magic 1952‒1976 was a fantastic mash-up of Hawkwindian freakishness, droning doom worship, and Krautrock vibes—all delivered with an Electric Wizard-worthy weight in parts.
Shooting Guns’ new album, Brotherhood of the Ram, takes the band’s down-tuned psychedelia even further out into the cosmos, riding on the back of elephantine rocket ship riffs and acid-soaked synth. Stonkers and stompers like “Real Horse Footage” and “Motherfuckers Never Learn” blend proto-metal drawls with hallucinogenic dirges, “Predator II” piles on the distorted doom, and “Go Blind” drags barbed blues into infinity. The key to Shooting Guns’ success is that, for all the band’s minimalism, it fills its tunes with heavy hypnotic grooves (like Sleep, Earth, Circle, and Neu! jamming together in orbit), so there’s nothing but all-encompassing songs and the accompanying heady nod. Obviously, volume, volume, and more volume is required for full effect. Tune in. Now.
On the other side of the instrumental coin, you’re going to find the technical whirlwind that is Indricothere. The guitar and programmed percussion project from maestro Colin Marston (of Krallice, Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus, and Dysrhythmia) offers Byzantine levels of virtuosity on II, with maze-like progressive metal being the musical mainstay on the album’s interlinking tracks.
One kosmische synth sojourn stands out as a counterpoint on the album, but in the main, II is exactly the kind of release that will appeal to hard and fast guitar nerds—and that’s no slight on what’s contained within. Fact is, with experimentations that call to mind the musical insanity of Dysrhythmia, II‘s technical extremeness is bound to a serious appreciation of structural eccentricity. If you’re a fan of mind-melting layers of multi-limbed metal played with savant skill on Warr guitar, then the endless soloing and riffscapes of II do provide for some of the best blends of complexity and brutality on offer. Painstakingly arranged, II proves that Marston is a master of intricate instrumentation and composition—but also available, for a wholly contrasting treat, is Marston’s recent XI album—which provides 90 wholly wonderful minutes of dark ambient synth journeying.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based black metal trio Hexer goes in for abundant animosity and anonymity. The band doesn’t play live, and has released a demo and two cassette recordings in the past that lean hard on unrefined black metal from deep, deep underground. Husband and wife Phlegethon (guitars) and Ansgar (vocals) are joined by Lazarus (AKA Mutilation Rites’ George Paul) on guitar and drum programming, and Hexer’s self-titled release for label Gilead Media sees those cassette recordings remastered by Adam Tucker for issuing on LP.
Hexer provides a little over half an hour of old-school Nordic black metal, with the stench of thrash and the scene’s crustier influences creeping in. The early years of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Behexen or Marduk are reference points, at the very least in Hexer’s obvious enmity of the human race. Ansgar screeches hellishly throughout tracks like “I:II” and “II:I” and “II:III”, while Phlegethon and Lazarus add on the torrents of ice-cold, coarse riffing. If the notion of traditional, lo-fi, second-wave black metal appeals—and it does to me—then the antediluvian temper of Hexer is all set to stoke the fires of malevolence. Like the early work of those aforementioned black metal miscreants, vexation is set before virtuosity on Hexer, with waves of hostility defining the band and album’s aesthetic.