Author Archive

King Woman

"Burn"

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It was really only a matter of time before The Flenser, the Bay Area purveyors of all that is dark, worked with Kristina Esfandiari. Having previously logged hours slinging noise for both Whirr and Miserable, her solo doomy folk project, Kristina very obviously knows a thing or two about bringing the hurt. Now under the Flenser’s bleak umbrella she has revived her King Woman project for a proper debut EP called Doubt with a full band in tow.

“Burn,” is the first single from Doubt, and man, does it burn. The spiraling riffs scorch and unfurl and the entire track has a searing energy that never really lets up. Kristina’s melodic moans give voice to the silent scream on the cover, and the whole thing issues power. There is no queen here. This is King Woman.

Doubt will be out on February 17th via The Flenser.

Pile

"#2 Hit Single"

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Pile is a band that always seems to be on everyone’s lips. Not ones for big headlines, these guys have instead gained traction mostly on the strength of word-of-mouth and killer live shows. Their idiosyncratric labelmates Krill even started then later abandoned a concept album about the Boston noisemakers that only helped to elevate this mythological scene status.

Hot off their upcoming album You’re Better Than This is the humorously-titled “#2 Hit Single” that hits like a brightly-colored sock full of billiard balls. This is furious punk energy that doesn’t smile as much as smirk and if it’s any indication, You’re Better Than This is going to be one to watch out for.

You’re Better Than This is out on March 3rd via Exploding In Sound.

The Body & Thou

You, Whom I Have Always Hated

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My dad had been telling me to replace the tires on my car for weeks. The rubber had become bald to the point where I was basically driving on four inner tubes, but being the lazy halfwit that I am, I just didn’t feel like driving down and getting them switched out. Not to mention the couple hundred dollars it was going to cost me to do so. So I kept driving on them. Delivering pizzas all over town, I paid no mind to the accident waiting to happen spinning underneath me.

Then on Sunday night the weather took a turn for the disgusting. On Monday morning with a half-inch of sleet on the roads, I set off for work like I do every other normal day. I drove slowly to be cautious, but even so, as I crested the big, several-mile-long hill that would take me down into town, the inevitable happened. I began to slide. What simply alarmed me at first quickly then began to scare me. I spun, and sloshed, and before I knew it I was sliding sideways down a hill into oncoming traffic, and there was almost nothing I could do.

Another element that elevated this slippery situation into the arena of the “OH MY GOD” was the fact that I was blaring You, Whom I Have Always Hated, the recent collaborative album by The Body and Thou, at the time. I always listen to music in the car since I spend so much of my time in there, but the fact that I was listening to this particular album at this particular moment was almost hysterical in its irony. Here I was, spinning downhill, brakes locked, thinking that I was going to die while listening to this album that is almost comically fixated on death and destruction at an almost inexcusable volume. Let me put it this way, if this occurrence were a scene in a movie it would certainly have been slow-motion for maximum effect. Speed ramp that shit.

Then, at the pinnacle of my panic and right before smashing into an oncoming truck, my little blue car whipped back around and instead smashed into the guardrail on the right side of the road. (If you’ve ever wondered just how strong those tin-foil-looking rails are, it turns out, pretty damn strong.)

Eventually I reached the bottom of the hill, shaken, shaking, and probably a little crazy-eyed. I remember pulling over, putting my head back, and closing my eyes with The Body and Thou still raising hell, buzzing through my feeble car speakers. And as the metal blasted on the heels of this near-death experience, I also remember thinking about just how heavy these songs felt in my already weighted chest—and also maybe about the fact that Chip King does kind of sound like a woman screaming sometimes.

These are two metal bands at the peak of their careers, so listening to this album is already an intense experience on its own, and yet I had just had the fortune (I guess you could call it fortune) to forge an even more intense personal experience with it. It heightened my senses and pulled me in and turned what was already an unforgettable instance into an absurdly unforgettable one.

Last year The Body and Thou respectively put out I Shall Die Here and Heathen to critical acclaim with both albums arguably being the bands’ best material to date. Then, somewhere along the line and on the back of a successful tour, they also found time to come together on Released from Love, a cheeky little EP that managed to level the landscape while also whetting the appetites of voracious metal fans everywhere. Stressing that the release was a collaboration and not a split, the bands fused their sounds together into some grotesque monster supersound, melding metal with metal and sending it home on a hailstorm of riffs and punishing feedback. These two bands had thoroughly explored their own territories to a T and with Released from Love they instead turned their sites towards weathering the badlands in between their camps and staking it out for future damage.

That damage, as it turns out, arrives later this month in the form of You, Whom I Have Always Hated, the very album that carried me down that icy hill in a fit of squealing tires and human screams—both theirs and mine. To say that this album is heavy is the understatement of the year. Imagine hundreds of cords snaked across the floor plugged into stacks on stacks on stacks of massive amps. Now imagine the sheer weight of sound that would come barreling out of those speakers. The Body and Thou have found a way to harness that gargantuan energy and smelt it down into a brick of blistering brutality for no other reason than the fact that they could.

There is an air of “Yeah, let’s do it!” that permeates this whole album, and for as dark and depressing it can seem on the surface, it’s also an album that feels spontaneous, fun, and energetic. These guys aren’t pushing any boundaries, but honestly they aren’t trying to. We didn’t need this album, but it’s one that we got. And though I might be a tad bit hesitant to press play on it on my way to work tomorrow, I imagine that I’ll do it just the same. Plus I’m taking my dad’s car to work tomorrow while he’s out of town because, hey, had to get those tires replaced eventually.

You, Whom I Have Always Hated will be out on January 27th via Thrill Jockey.

Myrkur

"Skaði"

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Shrugging off the controversy that the revealing of her identity caused, Danish musician Amalie Bruun has opted to put her nose back to the grindstone and work on her proper debut album as Myrkur. Though her self-titled EP was released just a few short months ago, Amalie has already begun teasing out the direction of her upcoming album. Earlier this month she released a demo called “Skaði” that, while continuing her career on its current trajectory, also opens her songwriting up a bit and lets it breathe. It’s not clear yet whether “Skaði” will end up on this new album or if it’s just a way of her clearing her throat before really getting to work; but one thing’s for sure, this Myrkur thing is for real, and she’s not going anywhere.

Full of Hell & Merzbow

Full of Hell & Merzbow

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On paper, a Full of Hell and Merzbow collaboration is one that you might not necessarily consider. While the respective artists both tend towards all that is loud and noisy, you’d be forgiven for doing a double take when reading that this group of 20-something hardcore kids from the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania were collaborating with an almost sixty-year-old noise musician from Tokyo, Japan. But, alas, here we are and God knows stranger collaborations have happened. But now that it has happened, we get to sit back and reap the benefits of these possibly disparate artists working together. Well, maybe “sit back and enjoy” isn’t quite what you’ll be doing when you dig into this album. As the very first few seconds will show you, you’d probably do better to strap yourselves in and get ready. Fire and brimstone are about to rain down around you, and you’d better be prepared.

What’s funny is that a lot of websites that have been covering this release have been putting Merzbow’s name out in front. I suppose it helps with clicks to have a more recognizable artist in the forefront, but when listening to Full of Hell & Merzbow, it’s quite clear that this is mostly Full of Hell’s show. It’s not until halfway through the album on “Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloody and Terrible” that the band puts their foot on the brake pedal a bit and reigns the punishing powerviolence back a bit for a hellish interlude of grating noise courtesy of Merzbow. So think of this collaboration more in the terms of I Shall Die Here, the album that The Body did with The Haxan Cloak earlier this year. Yes, there are two names on the bill, but one is very obviously bolstering the other. Merzbow, with his bag of tricks, is only sharpening the ragged edges that Full of Hell carve with their riffs and brutal screaming. They’ve rearranged the pieces and found a way to make them fit in a way that’s not only wholly successful, but oh so goddamn loud as well.

I don’t mean to downplay Merzbow’s contributions to this album either, though. He has very obviously added something to the water that has Full of Hell cranking the knobs up to eleven. The band has proven their salt on their previous material, with their last album Rudiments of Mutilation being an obvious standout, but on Full of Hell & Merzbow there is something stronger and more magical going on. You could chock it up to the band maturing as songwriters, but throwing Merzbow into the mix has also made things infinitely more interesting. The riffs pack more of a punch, the lows are deeper, and the band’s overall energy is even more ferocious than it’s ever been before. They are wild animals here and, much like the serum that Dr. Jekyll imbibed that turned him into the violent and hideous creature Mr. Hyde, Merzbow injected something visceral into the veins of Full of Hell, and the result is nothing short of apocalyptic.

Listening back through Full of Hell’s discography, which comes complete with their experimental noise series FOH Noise, and reading through interviews with the band, maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched that the paths of these two purveyors of noise became crossed after all. Full of Hell are documented fans of Merzbow and even have Merzbow-themed merchandise (or “Merzrip” as they call it). And in relation to this particular collaboration it’s crazy to think of all that the internet has afforded us in just a few short decades. In Full of Hell’s case, their idol-worship led to a cross-continental collaboration with one of their heroes, and every step of the way it was all born deep within the wires. And just think, if this unlikely pairing works so well now, the possibilities are endless in the future. All we’ve got to do is just sit back and watch them line up.

Full of Hell & Merzbow is out now via Profound Lore Records.

Mitski

Bury Me At Makeout Creek

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I just came home from a weekly tradition that a group of my friends and I have held for the past two months or so. We call it “art night,” and it’s probably exactly what you are imagining. We sit around, drink, listen to music, laugh, and make things with our hands. Whether it’s painting, or drawing, or weaving friendship bracelets, we’ve come to value that time together where we’re not hustling away the hours at our day jobs. I’m sure, when compared to the exciting lives that a lot of people lead, sitting on a hardwood floor with your friends is probably not that riveting, but they are little moments that mean a lot to me. And really, when you think about it, even the most exciting lifestyles are simply made up of moments. Some are just bigger than others.

Listening to Bury Met At Makeout Creek, the latest album by Brooklyn songwriter Mitski, I felt the unmistakeable touches of a kindred spirit. Though she sings about a lot of universal themes (love, heartbreak, etc.) the lens through which Mitski looks at them is a small one. She takes the big things in her life and boils them down into little moments that, while personal, she feels comfortable enough sharing with us. And though her experiences aren’t mine, I still find the smallness of Mitski’s world relatable to my own. Just as I relish the seemingly mundane, this same sort of sentiment is what fuels so much of Bury Me At Makeout Creek.

My first introduction to Mitski was through her single “Townie,” which she released early last month. Though it’s buried under metaphor and some of the most clever lyricism I’ve heard this year (“I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony”), “Townie” is essentially an everyday story about everyday kids that feel stuck in their small town, and though there’s a darkness to it, it’s also humorous in its bluntness. Listening to Bury Me At Makeout Creek as a whole, it is this intersection of honesty, humor, and straightforwardness that makes the album connect emotionally the way it does. Mitski finds the beauty in the simplicity of life, whether it’s a quiet moment sitting on the roof, a sad and drunken walk home, a tearful heartbreak, or even the endless possibilities that unemployment brings.

And yet for an album that focuses so intently on little things, and also does so with deftness and subtlety, Bury Me At Makeout Creek also manages to level listeners at almost every turn. Little turns of phrase that Mitski sprinkles into the tracks turn what could otherwise very easily be simple tunes into something much more. And on no track is this as clear as on the album’s closer, “Last Words of a Shooting Star.” Stripped of its opening and closing lines, the song plays out as yet another song detailing the pain of love lost. But framed by recurring lines about turbulence not being forecasted you realize that these are the words of a woman about to die in a plane crash, and the song takes on a devastating turn. And that’s largely where the genius of Mitski’s songwriting lies. Big things, little moments, make them beauitful, make them hurt.

So tomorrow I will return to the mundane everdayness of my job as a delivery driver for the Italian restaurant on Main Street. I imagine that I’ll continue to listen to Mitski as I peddle food all over town, but instead of seeing the hours in the car as a drag as I am frequently doing, I’ll try and do myself a favor by taking a page out of Mitski’s book. I could, I don’t know, deeply breathe in the cold fall air, or get a last look at the leaves before they’re completely gone for the year. Life is what you make it, and though the moments that my own life consists of at this current time might seem smaller rather than bigger, I’m willing to take them for what they are.

Bury Me at Makeout Creek is available now via Double Double Whammy.

Guerrilla Toss

"Be the Breeder"

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Guerilla Toss can’t seem to sit still—much like their manic, what-the-fuck-did-I-just-listen-to art punk. The band is prepping yet another EP and “Be the Breeder” is the first single to come kicking and screaming into the world. With a few new members in tow, the band is showing that their energy level hasn’t even begun to deplete, and “Be the Breeder” is more of the sort of barely bridled insanity that the band has become known and loved for, proving yet again that Guerilla Toss are our greatest hope in a post-Ponytail world.

“Be the Breeder” can be found on Smack the Brick—out November 18th via NNA Tapes.

Whatever Brains

"UVOD"

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Whatever Brains have always given the term “weird” a run for its money. After three self-titled albums in a row, the band is branching out a bit by following them up with a double-12″ release on Sorry State Records. Of course the band’s aversion to proper titles remains the same with the two EP’s being named SSR-63 and SSR-64but the lovable weirdness inherent in their music is still there and, if anything, it’s amplified on this unique release.

Take for example the track “UVOD” off of SSR-64. The band says that the track is their first attempt at writing a “pure pop song,” but of course this is Whatever Brains we are talking about, so you can go ahead and take that with a grain of salt. With plinking synths and a Casio beat not often heard in their typical writing, the song is indeed melodic in what I suppose is a pop music sort of way. But it’s also totally bonkers in what I can only call a “Whatever Brains sort of way.” They lay out a formula, repeat it a few times—and then, in time for its finale—crank the knobs and send this blistering “pop” number out in a blaze of glory.

SSR-63/64 is available now via Sorry State Records.

New Terrors

"The Video Dead"

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The Video Dead is a 1987 horror film about a television set that acts as a portal for zombies to cross over from the other side. The film is a special kind of terrible and looks like it was shot over the span of several weekends using a camera on loan from someone’s parents. Of course, since the film is so incredibly bad, it’s become something of a cult classic, and if you’re a purveyor of trash cinema, then by all means, find a copy of it and get to watching. “The Video Dead,” a highlight from New Terrors‘ recently released sophomore album Leah, may share a name with a so-bad-it’s-good zombie flick, but it’s sitting somewhere more of the opposite side of the good/bad spectrum.

Leading with some lines that recall the mundanity of everyday life that would sooner recall Friday Night Lights than a horror movie, Burke Sullivan details the events of a regular weekend of what seems like the typical teenager. But as the track moves forward the lyrics take on a more metaphysical quality with talk of ghosts and graveyards until he finally ends his thoughts with the narrator talking about getting affairs in order before dying. “I’m gonna head back home, I’m burned out from living.” It’s quite the span of time considering that it all lives within a four-minute pop song, but that’s how New Terrors operates. What at first seems like a simple scratch on the surface reveals a whole lot more to uncover underneath.

Leah is available now via New Terrors’ Bandcamp.