Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words with Tones) (Century Media Records, 19 March 2013)
Hello there! “TFIF” and all that stuff. I wanted to get one more thing written and shared with you before the weekend, and in deciding what to talk to you about, I was feeling kind of reflective: looking both forward and back. Forward, because (as I mentioned yesterday) this year seems to be slipping by at an alarming rate. Before we know it, it’ll be time for year-end summaries and lists already! There are a few new records that’ve either just come out (or will be soon) that I’m sure will rank pretty high, as well as some from earlier this year I’ve listened to a whole bunch but maybe just haven’t had the chance to review yet. I’m going to want to get moving on posting something about all of those, lest I find myself in a situation like I did at the end of 2013 (where I put together a list of my favorite 26 releases of the year, 25 of which I hadn’t yet written about!) … which, of course, is what also has me thinking backwards. Almost nine months later, I’m still not quite halfway through reviewing last year’s list yet!
So I decided, there’s no time like the present; let’s discuss another of last year’s best albums. This is one of the more high-profile items on that list, or at least one that was put out via the biggest label. So a lot of you are probably already familiar with this band. But there may be some out there who haven’t heard Intronaut before, or may have missed out on this album — which would be a shame, because it’s really good stuff!
Lifetime Shitlist – Lifetime Shitlist (Grimoire Records, 10 June 2014)
Well holy crap. When did this happen — I can’t believe it’s more than halfway through August already! (Well, to be honest, just the fact that we’re more than halfway through 2014 seems kind of insane…) The past month or two has completely been a blur to me, mostly in regards to craziness at work. My company bought another company, adding tons of extra paperwork for us pencil-pushers, exactly at the same time that someone in my department who’d had lots of responsibilities had to suddenly go out on medical leave. Add in all the usual week-long summer vacations that people tend to take, plus new temps who’ve needed training as they’ve come and gone randomly over the past several weeks, and I’ve barely been finding time to breathe or eat (let alone sit still long enough to even LISTEN to much music, nevermind trying to actually WRITE anything!)
But I have had the chance to listen to some stuff recently — some really good stuff — and gradually things will be settling down a bit. And anyway, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you, readers! So I’ll be trying to take advantage of what little freetime I can find (for example right now I’m writing this intro on the bus at 4:30 am, instead of sleeping, since I found myself inexplicably unable to sleep most of last night anyway), to share with you some new releases that you really ought to hear. Besides, this particular EP I’d like to tell you about today is only sixteen minutes long, give or take, so I’ll try to keep this relatively short.
Slaves BC / Grace & Thieves – Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood (Veritas Vinyl, 04 August 2014)
The split record is an interesting concept in the music industry. The vinyl EP or LP or cassette with (usually) one band on each side, or the more modern CD or digital release with tracks contributed by two (or occasionally more) bands — these frequently fall into a couple different categories. Sometimes bands will be such kindred spirits, sharing all the same influences and each representing a similar approach to their particular genre, that it seems completely natural for them to work together; in these cases the bands probably already have a huge overlap in their fan bases, but the split will surely be a treat for those people who already like both bands. On the other hand, many joint releases are the result of bands who are close friends — perhaps they live in the same city and play shows together all the time — but who actually have little else in common; the result here is that die-hard “completist” fans of either band will end up buying the record, but probably few of them will listen to the flip side more than once (if at all).
In most other cases, two bands are brought together by songs third party: perhaps they share management or PR representation, or belong to the same record label’s roster. These could be marketed to fans of each band or just people who may have been familiar with some of the other output from that label (or whatever); it becomes an efficient way for listeners to “test drive” bands, without having to take a chance investing in a full length from someone unfamiliar. Ideally, the person putting together the release will have done some homework (or just have good instincts) and pair up artists who are different enough to attract a wide range of listeners, yet share enough of a common bond for both sides to appeal (at least to some degree) to that whole audience.
And if you ask me (and technically, by clicking on this review and reading these words I wrote, you did ask me — at least implicitly), the Veritas Vinyl label has accomplished this successfully with their Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood 12″ which officially comes out today. This split brings together bands that employ two rather disparate styles of metal (one leaning in a blackened direction, the other sticking with a more old-school doom and traditional heavy metal sound), but they each combine their respective patois with a foundation heavily influenced by hardcore/noise and/or hardcore punk.
Hey! For those of you who live anywhere near western Pennsylvania, western New York, or eastern Ohio (you know who you are) — if you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, you won’t find anything better than this: the Gem City Fest which will feature a ton of hardcore/metal bands. It’s happening all day Saturday in Erie, PA — just a couple hours’ drive from anywhere in this region, and once you see the line-up they’ve put together, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth the trip.
Wisconsin. America’s dairyland. The Badger State. Home of the Packers. And next weekend, the site of one of the summer’s biggest showcases of filthy, ugly, underground metal.
Gilead Media has made quite a name for itself, mostly by issuing highly sought after vinyl versions of some of the best names in bleak, black noise. And for three days (18-20 July), a huge collection of those will be converging on the city of Oshkosh. I know several people who are making the trip out there, and every year I wish I could too because they always have an incredible “no filler” line-up. This year is no exception, and I’ve got all the details for you below.
But many of the bands playing at the fest have also arranged a series of shows in various other cities on the dates before and after next weekend. Several of these will be hitting Pittsburgh over the next week or so, and chances are some of them may be coming near where you live too. I’ve got details of those tours too (at least, I’ve tried to make this as comprehensive as possible). So check it out.
Monuments Collapse / Bréag Naofa – Split LP (Halo of Flies / Shove Records, 17 December 2013)
Good afternoon. On one hand, I’m pleased to note that this week is about halfway over. And on the other hand, it feels as though three or four weeks should have passed since Monday. I am so ready to be done working. I feel like if I don’t find something else to focus my attention and energy on for a little while, I’m seriously going to lose my shit here. And honestly, I don’t know if there’s anything that would fit the bill better than blasting some music through my headphones to drown out everything else (both externally and internally). I think it’s about time to take another dip into the pool of my favorite releases from last year.
You’ll want to pay attention to this — because what I’ve got for you today is the sort of release that too-often gets lost in the shuffle: a split record put out by a not-exactly-huge label (Wisconsin’s Halo of Flies for worldwide distribution, and Italian Shove Records in Europe), involving two not-that-widely-known bands (Monuments Collapse from San Francisco and Bréag Naofa from Seattle) who each had previously put out a self-titled album (each of which had a limited release of a few hundred copies, through smaller independent labels); and to make matters worse it was released in late December when most music publications and websites have already wrapped up their coverage for the year, compiled their year-end lists, and have already started looking ahead to the upcoming spring releases.
But I always try to be on the lookout for gems like this that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks, and then we pass the savings on to you. Or however that saying goes. Anyway, stay tuned for some great post-apocalyptic post-sludge-doom from a pair of west-coast bands you’ll likely want to get better acquainted with.
Mortals – Cursed to See the Future (Relapse Records, 08 July 2014)
I don’t know who wrote the official band bio for Brooklynite trio Mortals (the one that accompanies their press kit and also appears on their record label’s website), but I don’t think I really understand what it’s trying to say. It starts off by contrasting this band with the way most other bands come together:
Many heavy bands follow a straight line — they start a band with some people they know, they pick a well-worn genre, they write riffs and drum beats that sound pretty similar to all the other riffs and drum beats that have been written. That isn’t Mortals.
…but then it goes on to explain how the three members met when they were involved with various other bands (for example, two of them were in a Slayer cover band together, two of them were in a math-rock band together) and eventually the three of them found they had enough common interests that they decided to form a new band; chemistry developed and gradually they found themselves evolving into their own style. Which, in essence, sounds like a variant of the history behind almost every band I know. So that’s got me feeling slightly confused.
But anyway, none of that really matters. What the band sounds like is far more important than any written description, when it comes to me picking what I want to write about and share with you, and the music should be able to speak for itself. And here it certainly does. It also helps that I’ve been watching for news from this band over the past couple of years — on the advice of Meat Mead Metal (whom you should absolutely familiarize yourself with immediately if you aren’t already a regular reader, because not only is this without a doubt the best music journalism you’ll find here in Pittsburgh, but this guy churns out high-quality writing with a consistency that could rival just about anyone else out there!), who has had plenty of good things to say about Mortals on several occasions (like here, for example). About a year after that particular article was written, the band had signed a deal with Relapse Records, and today marks their first release with that label, the full-length Cursed to See the Future.