[5 June 2006]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
“Oh, it’s got cachet, baby! It’s got cachet up the ying yang!”
The more cynical of the hardcore followers of modern metal music might be screaming bloody murder, but for whatever the reason, be it savvy hype by labels, a wide array of young bands coming into their own at the same time, the internet tastemakers aware that it’s time to give the movement some long-overdue attention, or a combination of the three, the heavier side of rock ‘n’ roll is enjoying a bit of a renaissance recently. When bands toil away underground for extended periods, their intensely loyal fans are often stricken with the same narrow-minded affliction that besets indie rock fans; in simple terms, they become as petulant as children who don’t want to share their toys, unable to cope with the fact that the music they cling to has the potential to attract a wider audience. And when young bands cash in on that sound and manage to click with audiences and critics, the inevitable refrains start raining down like Statler and Waldorf’s curmudgeonly epithets on The Muppet Show: “They totally rip off Sleep!” “They had short hair a year ago!” “They’re just a bunch of fucking poseurs!”
Unfazed by the cries of foul from the peanut gallery, Kemado Records, one of the labels responsible for bringing several posers, I mean, talented young bands, to the attention of an audience larger than insular metal circles, has taken it upon themselves to further enlighten the curious newbies out there. Obviously inspired by last year’s illuminating Run the Road compilations, which offered thrilling samples of London’s burgeoning grime scene, Invaders culls a whopping 18 selections, featuring some of the more notable acts in doom metal, stoner rock, and psychedelic rock (with plenty of obscurities tossed in), making for an exhausting, deafening, 78-minute slog, one that certainly not without its thrilling moments.
The first band featured on the CD is a prime example of the kind of band that pisses metal fans off. Comprised of former members of Bay Area screamo band Yaphet Kotto, Saviours have shamelessly hopped onto the doom bandwagon, but while the message board kids can question the band’s metal cred all they want, they’re missing out on one king hell beast of a song in “Circle of Servants Bodies” which, after starting with a lurching (don’t say Sabbath, don’t say Sabbath) intro, explodes into an all-out swagger. Rarely does doom metal swing like this. Hipster metal poster boys the Sword pop in with non-album track “Under the Boughs”, a massive, Sleep-inspired morass of distorted riffs that would be a lousy fit on the otherwise taut Age of Winters, but works very well here, while Mr. Sleep himself, Matt Pike, makes an appearance with his band High on Fire on the rip-roaring, Albini produced “Devilution”, from 2005’s standout Blessed Black Wings. Miami’s Torche contributes the monolithic, yet deceptively catchy “Mentor” from their excellent 2005 debut, and Witch, one of 2006’s most interesting revelations (you know, the band with Dinosaur Jr.‘s J Mascis on drums), achieve a fascinating balance between melody and brute force on “Rip Van Winkle”.
While those sludgy chords and ponderous tempos dominate the compilation, Invaders wisely brings in a few, slightly more off-the-wall inclusions that add a welcome touch of (slight) musical diversity to the proceedings. Vancouver indie hippies Black Mountain incorporate some Farfisa organ into their ‘60s garage rock homage “Behind the Fall”, Dungen’s “Christopher” (previously available on the Ta Det Lugnt bonus disc) is bolstered by the inclusion of some patently uncool jazz flute, and Brooklyn cock rockers Diamond Nights bring their unironic sense of fun, not to mention some killer Thin Lizzy riffs and some bizarre, King Diamond-like falsetto vocals on “12 Walls”. Only does Wolfmother’s “Love Train” falter, an oddly grooveless little tune that doesn’t come close to matching the rest of their enjoyable debut album.
In the end, Invaders is all about the pure brute force of the sound, be it the retro-doom of Sweden’s highly underrated Witchcraft, or the more cutting edge material like Comets on Fire’s astonishing “Wolf Eyes (Middle Version)” and Pelican’s shoegazer-inspired “Ran Amber”. It’s far from a definitive collection of the finest new heavy music out there (metal has become far too diverse a genre for such an idea), but Kemado has done an admirable job giving folks a glimpse of what the sound offers, even if it does raise the ire of the elitist grumps on the internet. And you know what? Screw ‘em. And crank that Saviours track as loud as it’ll go.