Wrekmeister Harmonies – The Alone Rush (2018)

Wrekmeister HarmoniesThe Alone Rush (Thrill Jockey Records, 13 April 2018)

As you may recall, Wrekmeister Harmonies hit our Top 15 of 2015 List with their enormously epic outing Night of Your Ascension, with its dozens of contributors and guest stars. Since that time, the eclectic collective has been distilled down to just the duo of founder JR Robinson and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Esther Shaw (the same pair who toured under the Wrekmeister name following that album, performing half of a set alone and the other half with Bell Witch as their backing band).

Also since that time, these two people have dealt with a variety of hardships and sorrows, culminating in a relocation from Chicago to Astoria, Oregon — and a lengthy period spent healing (metally and emotionally) as well as composing, which Robinson referred to as a “cult like affair, just the two of us, thinking the similar thoughts and working them out with hours and hours of conversation, totally alone.”

The result was The Alone Rush, released last month, in which only Robinson and Shaw perform, along with drums by Thor Harris.

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Huntsmen – American Scrap (2018)

HuntsmenAmerican Scrap (Prosthetic Records, 23 February 2018)

 

“Storytelling is the great, albeit fading, American pastime. It predated writing and in many instances, was told in song. In modern times, many musicians have approached their music from a storytelling point of view: Dylan, Springsteen and Waits to name a few. Chicago’s Americana metal outfit, Huntsmen, are carrying the torch for heavy bands to be added to that list.”

So begins the press release for this band’s debut LP, which came out about a week ago. Bold words? Sure. A little presumptuous? Maybe. But the self-described Heavy Americana band caught my attention, and the fact that they were kicking off the Prosthetic Records release of American Scrap with a short excursion across the mid-west and mid-Atlantic with label-mates Livid (with whom our readers ought to already be familiar) especially got me to check out this album.

That tour actually wraps up tonight (Sunday, 4th March) — see the details listed way down below — but first let’s talk a little about the band and their songs …

 

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Cantharone – Sons of the Crow (2015); Mine Collapse – S/T (2016); Livid – Beneath this Shroud… (2017)

CantharoneSons of the Crow (self-released, 06 June 2015)

 

Mine CollapseMine Collapse (Nefarious Industries, 22 July 2016)

 

LividBeneath this Shroud, the Earth Erodes (Prosthetic Records, 14 July 2017)

 

Today we’ve got not one, not two, not five… but three different bands to talk about, each of which has come across my radar screen within about the past year or so. Cantharone is a four-piece from Minneapolis who have been around since about 2009, and their most recent release was their second EP which came out in the summer of 2015 (and which I’ll be sharing with you today). But despite that relatively low rate of recorded output, the band has kept pretty busy, between putting together their yearly Canthrammer Music Festival featuring a blend of metal and outlaw country bands, as well as frequent touring around the region. Down below in the comments section I’ll include some info about this year’s festival (coming in late August) as well as a list of shows they’ll be playing over the next week or so.

The other two bands that will be included in this article will be sharing a stage with Cantharone at some point in their upcoming travels, and each is equally worth checking out. Mine Collapse (Chicago) dropped their debut EP almost exactly a year ago, while Livid (Minneapolis) saw their debut LP released just days ago — both of those will also be discussed here.

 

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Barren Heir – Tired Turns, Stone Machine Electric – Sollicitus es Veritatem (2016)

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Barren HeirTired Turns (self-released, 03 May 2016)

 

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Stone Machine ElectricSollicitus es Veritatem (self-released, 17 May 2016)

 

Hey people! Happy Cuatro de Mayo! I’ve got another pair of albums to share with you today, and I won’t waste any of your time getting to the part where we talk about them. Both are brand new (the first one came out yesterday, the second can be pre-ordered now and will be released in two weeks), both are self-released and self-promoted, and both are absolutely deserving of your attention. Oh, and each of them happens to be just five tracks long, but by serving up songs that average between nine and twelve minutes, both of these bands have quite considerately ensured that you get your money’s worth!

 

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Lord Mantis – Death Mask (2014), NTW (2016)

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Lord MantisDeath Mask (Profound Lore Records, 29 April 2014)

 

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Lord MantisNTW (New Density Records, 29 April 2016)

 

In early 2015, the whole world was shocked and saddened to learn that Chicagoan misanthropic miscreants Indian were calling it quits. Maybe “the whole world” is a sight exaggeration, but for myself and everyone I know, it was difficult news — especially since it came just a year after the band had released what was unquestionably their best album to date.

But then that blow was softened a bit almost immediately after, when another huge announcement shook the metal world: that closely-related Chicago band Lord Mantis had parted ways with some of its members, leaving only founding drummer Bill Bumgardner and Andrew Markuszewski who had been the lead guitarist for nearly all of that band’s releases. Augmenting this newly depleted line-up would be most of the folks who had just left Indian — in addition to Bumgardner who had also been playing drums in that band for years, ex-Indian guitarist Will Lindsay (also a member of Anatomy of Habit) would be joining on bass, and former Indian guitarist/vocalist Dylan O’Toole (who has also appeared as part of the Wrekmeister Harmonies ensemble) would now be handling Lord Mantis vocal duties. And finally, rounding out the line-up by joining Markuszewski on guitar, Scott Shellhamer of yet another great Chicago band, American Heritage.

This shakeup didn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who’d been paying attention to the goings-on surrounding Mantis; even in the press release for their last album, 2014’s Death Mask, it mentioned rumblings of turbulence among the band’s members at that time. And the new additions seemed like a perfectly logical choice, as not only had these guys all known each other and been friends for years, but Lindsay and O’Toole had each made contributions to the band previously, including guest appearances on Death Mask.

But now, finally, the result of all of these moving pieces has come to fruition, as the first recording by the new Lord Mantis is being released tomorrow — exactly two years (to the day) after Death Mask, the band’s own New Density will unleash the EP NTW. In this article we’ll take a look at the new EP as well as the album that preceded it. And for those who would like to learn more about how all these changes have affected the band from the perspective of its members, don’t miss this interview where they’ve answered some questions provided by members of Slaves BC!

 

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Lord Mantis Interviewed By Slaves BC!!

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Lord Mantis interviewed by Slaves BC

 

So tomorrow — Friday the 29th — the new Lord Mantis EP NTW will be released, the band’s first recorded material since their big line-up shakeup (and merger with Indian) last year. You can read all about those changes, and take a look at that new EP as well as their previous album, 2014’s Death Mask, all right here. But beyond just reading about my thoughts and reactions to this new and old material, perhaps you might be interested in learning more about what’s been going on with the band — in their own words?

 

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The Mound Builders / Pale Horseman – Split (RSD 2016) +3 Pale Horseman Albums (2013, 2014, 2015)

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The Mound Builders / Pale Horseman – Split (Failure Records & Tapes, 16 April 2016)

 

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Pale HorsemanPale Horseman (self-released, 17 April 2013)

 

Pale Horseman - MournTheBlackLotus_cover

Pale HorsemanMourn the Black Lotus (self-released, 07 July 2014)

 

Pale Horseman - Bless The Destroyer (2015) cover

Pale HorsemanBless the Destroyer (Bullet City Records, 30 November 2015)

 

Here at Valley of Steel headquarters, we’ve been trying very hard to bring you quality reviews almost every day (sometimes two at a time!) as a public service, so that you, the reader, get the opportunity to check out as much new music as possible. Hopefully some of you folks out there appreciate that, and you’ve managed to discover at least one thing you’ve really enjoyed after reading about it here.

Well yesterday there was no new review (but as a side note, for those who live near Pittsburgh, have you entered yesterday’s contest for Chelsea Wolfe tickets yet? — And as a side side note, have you also entered our other current giveaways, for Baroness or Thy Art Is Murder yet??), so to make up for that, today we’re presenting an unprecedented quadruple review!!

…Ok, ok, that’s not exactly how this came about — the truth is, just a couple of days ago, we received word that Failure Records had a special release lined up for this year’s Record Store Day (which is this Saturday, the 16th!), a split record featuring a pair of songs each from Lafayette, Indiana’s The Mound Builders and Pale Horseman from Chicago. And the second of those names really rang a bell, because over the past few years Valley of Steel has received a total of three albums from that band — all good ones, too — but somehow we just never have gotten around to writing about any of them.

Until today. Sit down and buckle up, because we’re about to cover all of it.

 

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