MetalMatters March 2021

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of March 2021

This month in metal, Grindcore explorers Genghis Tron return, Krallice and Mare Cognitum push black metal to the extremes and sludge pioneers Eyehategod strike again.

Pupil Slicer – Mirrors (Prosthetic)

While grindcore and mathcore are in many ways close relatives, there is a fine balance to be walked between the two. On one side there is the direct and no bullshit attitude of grindcore, brutalizing the punk ethos, while on the other end the complexity and off-kilter progressions of mathcore rely much more on precision and technique. Despite being new on the scene, and just now releasing their debut record, Pupil Slicer has an impeccable grasp on this duality, and in Mirrors they present their twisted view of this union.

Mirrors rely strongly on emotion and stemming from a punk lineage the trio from London is able to unleash true havoc. “Vilified” sees this extravagant energy, drawn from decades of grindcore material, sprinkled on top with a touch of death metal brutality. Much of the breakdowns and groove found in Mirrors is drawn from the technical death metal side, be it through the heavy kick off in “Worthless” or the grainy, sludgy beatdown of “Wounds Upon My Skin”. Still, in the intersections it is the dissonance and careful placement of math rock leads, verging at times towards noise rock ideas, that really elevate this work.

The frantic rhythms of “Panic Defence” and the mind-melting cacophony of “Stabbing Spiders” speak volumes to this affinity, while the unexpected clean interludes completely flip the script. Taking it a step further, Pupil Slicer even move towards a hopeful melodic domain, with closer “Collective Unconscious” arriving with some brilliant hooks to finish off this exquisite work. What is stunning is that despite the raw essence of Mirrors, Pupil Slicer are able to project their vision with pristine clarity. Very impressive for a band that has just released their debut record. – Spyros Stasis

Thirdface – Do It With a Smile (Exploding in Sound)

Sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, libertarianism, crypto-fascism… They crawl and emerge all around us, posing as part of the status quo. Sometimes the message is whistled behind our backs, sometimes yelled to our faces. We’re asked to absorb all that crap day in, day out, and to take it with a smile. Relax. It’s a joke. Just an opinion. A well-meaning piece of advice. Now imagine getting fed up with it. Imagine releasing all of that pent-up anger and frustration by screaming about it at the top of your lungs, by making guitars and bass and drums go up in swirling, crackling flames. That’s the unrelenting and restless hardcore punk mass of Nashville’s Thirdface. Do It With a Smile is their battle roar, equally a message of empathy and solidarity and a call to action.  – Antonio Poscic

Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility (Ipecac)

Well, this could not have been more timely. Listening to Duane Denison’s hypnotic guitar lines and John Stanier’s underplayed progression in “Doomsday Fatigue” from the new Tomahawk record, acts as a reminder of the meditative essence of this supergroup. On top of that of course, there is the absolute catharsis that only Mike Patton’s ire can bring. It has been eight years since Tomahawk made their triumphant return, with Trevor Dunn replacing original bassist Kevin Rutmanis, and now they are back with Tonic Immobility.

Tomahawk has always been more than the sum of its parts, as impressive as that might seem, and in Tonic Immobility they explore more facades of the alternative rock scene. Apart from their strangely romantic moments, be it the masterful “Doomsday Fatigue” or the subtler moments of “Tattoo Zero”, the quartet explores heavier ideas. The explosive riffs of “Fatback” unleash an unearthly groove, while the dissonance of “Predators and Scavengers” depicts a not so far-off dystopia, lurking just around the corner.

Hazy vocals and staccato rhythmic patterns fill the space, while thrashy elements make an appearance in “Valentine Shine”, only to be overcome by a punkish heritage in “Dog Eat Dog”. Traveling even further, Tomahawk journey to the far edge of ambient music, enacting a neo-western inspired atmosphere with “Eureka”, before plunging into the strange balladism of “Sidewinder”. And throughout this endeavor Tomahawk manage to keep the balance between the adventurous and the direct, creating eccentric hooks while gently introducing abstract ideas. Would not expect anything less. – Spyros Stasis

Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.