Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Recordings, 02 September 2014)
Yob – Our Raw Heart (Relapse Records, 08 June 2018)
Oregonian doom trio Yob vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt has always had a distinctive voice. Whether it’s as a member of Lumbar or making a guest appearance with Red Fang or a whole plethora of others, there’s just no mistaking who is singing. Piercing and powerful, like Conan‘s Jon Davis, expressive and emotional like Argus/Molasses Barge‘s Butch Balich, and always just a bit grizzled and weathered like Wino or Lemmy.
But since the last time we heard from these guys (Clearing the Path to Ascend, which in a year filled with tough competition, still came out as our clear #1 album of 2014), some serious health complications cast some doubt as to whether we might ever hear that voice again. You can read all about that journey in this Rolling Stone interview, where the band’s sole remaining founding member (over twenty years ago!) describes his harrowing experiences while also discussing the creation of Our Raw Heart.
The album was “largely penned from what he worried would be his deathbed,” said the magazine, quoting Scheidt as saying, “there was no guarantee that I was going to live long enough to record the album.” Fortunately for himself, his family and friends, and also for everyone on planet earth who has ears, he did survive and he did record the album, which undoubtably will be contending for the same spot in this year’s list. In this post we’ll touch upon that record from four years ago, as well as the follow-up which hits stores TODAY. Furthermore, keep on scrolling to see a list of opportunities North American readers will have to experience Yob live: for one month (starting next Thursday, 14th June) with Bell Witch or again during September with Acid King and CHRCH.
Wrekmeister Harmonies – The 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 (mentally 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.
Bi-coastal DOOM duo Insect Ark is made up of film music composer and animator Dana Schechter (Angels of Light, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw) on bass and lap steel, and electronics expert Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Negative Queen) on drums as well as various synths and analog noise pedals she created herself. With this unique arrangement (featuring zero electric guitars, in the traditional sense), the instrumental assembly has brought forth their latest sonic creation (through a combination of long-distance collaboration and in-studio cooperation).
Although nearly two months have passed since the record’s Profound Lore release, last night (Sunday, 15 April) was the celebratory release show in Brooklyn. Next up, the pair will be hitting the Roadburn stage later this week followed by a month-long tour through Europe. You can find a listing of all those dates at the bottom of the page, but first, check out Marrow Hymns!
A Stick and a Stone – The Long Lost Art of Getting Lost (cassette Sentient Ruin / Breathe Plastic, CD Spirit House; 21 July 2017)
Hey… remember several months back when Bandcamp donated all of their profits one day to the ACLU to aid in the fight for equal rights for all? Well apparently that was a big success, and they’ve decided to do something similar again, TODAY.
Their announcement earlier this week said, in part (read the whole thing here):
We support our LGBT+ users and staff, and we stand against any person or group that would see them further marginalized. This includes the current U.S. administration, and its recent capricious declaration that transgender troops will no longer be able to serve in the military.
In response, we will be donating 100% of our share of every sale on Friday, August 4th (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time) to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable.
That announcement also included a list of featured artists of various gender identities, and they’ve also posted a follow-up detailing hundreds of bands and labels who’ve pledged to join in by donating all or part of THEIR profits from today as well.
Of course, our archives here at Valley of Steel are filled with releases that are available on Bandcamp as well, if you’re looking for something to buy today. And if you keep reading, here’s one more recent release you may wish to consider.
Disemballerina – Undertaker (Graceless Recordings, 28 June 2014)
Disemballerina – Poison Gown (Minotauro Records, 10 July 2016)
Moving right along with our theme of not-exactly-metal music, today we’re going to cover a pair of albums by Portlandian trio Disemballerina. This ensemble first came to my attention about two years ago when harp/viola player Myles Donovan had contacted me about their album Undertaker, which had been mixed and mastered by Tad Doyle and released via the Loss-owned Graceless Records. It was described as “something like doomed chamber music,” and had cover art that was taken from a series of images where the harpist had placed found bird carcasses (in this case, a blue heron) into the photocopier at Kinko’s. With a pedigree like that, of course I was instantly intrigued.
Disemballerina, it turns out, had been formed back in 2009 by Donovan and guitarist Ayla Holland. The two have worked with a number of other musicians over the years, but their line-up is currently set with the inclusion of cellist Jennifer Christensen. Last month, the “doomed chamber” group had another album emerge — Poison Gown — through Italian label Minotauro Records, and so today we’ll tackle both of those records.
High Fighter – The Goat Ritual (self-released, 28 October 2014)
High Fighter – Scars & Crosses (Svart Records, 10 June 2016)
Zirakzigil – World Builder (Prosthetic Records, 10 June 2016)
Hey folks, how are you? Thanks for stopping by. Are you ready for another dose of good stuff to listen to? I hope so, because once again I’ve got some here to share with you today.
Both of the bands we’ll be discussing today will have an album released on Friday: High Fighter from Hamburg, Germany, will see their first full-length put out by Svart Records, which we’ll talk about in addition to that band’s debut EP that was self-released a while back; Zirakzigil from Portland, Oregon, also have their first LP forthcoming, one which was originally released by the band last year but is now being repackaged (and etched onto vinyl for the first time) by Prosthetic Records.
Graves at Sea / Sourvein – Split EP (Seventh Rule Recordings, 13 May 2014)
Sourvein – Aquatic Occult (Metal Blade, 08 April 2016)
Hello and good afternoon, longtime friends and first-time visitors. I hope your Monday has been, at minimum, tolerable. From this side, “Today I didn’t even have to strangle anyone with their own phone cord or throw my computer through the cubicle wall out of frustration / I got to say it was a good day.”
Anyway, whatever kind of day you’re having, get ready for some positive, uplifting vibes to be coming your way from the music I have here to share with you. Now, that music is going to start with Graves at Sea, and for those who’ve heard the full-length they put out earlier this month (reviewed here), you’ll be able to tell right away that last statement was at least partly sarcastic. (For those who haven’t heard it, what the hell are you waiting for? Go read that review, or even better, check them out in person during their tour that starts tonight in Atlanta!)
The remainder of this article will be about material — some of it a couple years old, some from just a few days ago — by the southern sludgery cesspit Sourvein; although it may not seem that way, this is (supposedly) where the positivity comes into the equation. Or at least truthfulness and realism. Off we go …
Graves at Sea – The Curse That Is (Relapse Records, 01 April 2016)
After forming nearly fifteen years ago, taking some time off and then reforming with a number of line-up changes over the years, and recording a spattering of demos and EPs and singles and splits during all that time, TOMORROW (Friday, April 1st) the crushing doom entity that is Graves at Sea will finally drop its debut full-length record on an unsuspecting world. A preview copy of The Curse That Is showed up in my email inbox earlier this month, while I was away on vacation. I was pretty excited to check it out, so as soon as I found myself with a spare 75+ minutes to sit and listen to it, I made sure to seize the opportunity. Which happened to be on the plane ride back home. Honestly, the irony inherent in that situation — listening to a band called that while watching the flight attendants demonstrate the use of flotation devices and various other safety features — didn’t dawn on me at all until sometime later.
Anyway, like I said, the album comes out tomorrow, so I’d like to tell you a little more about it. And then, about a week and a half from now, the band will be heading across the country to take a trip up the east coast — their first time doing so in quite a few years — with Atlanta’s Order of the Owl (who, you may recall, put on a hell of a show themselves, as I had discussed here a couple of years ago). So once you reach the end of this article, keep on scrolling to the comments section, where I’ll include a list of dates and cities these two groups will be visiting.
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.
Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere (Profound Lore Records, 13 May 2014)
So tomorrow is the day when we’ll be making the trek west to Ohio, because Agalloch‘s tour will be hitting Cleveland. (Read all the details of that tour right here. I’ve been pretty excited about this for a while — I may only have discovered the band within the past few years, but quickly I found their style of vast, atmosphere-infused black/folk metal to be right up my alley. I enjoyed all the songs I’d heard (on Pandora or wherever) from their earlier albums like The Mantle and Ashes Against the Grain, so I thought I had a general idea of what this band was about, and I thought I knew basically what to expect from the upcoming show.
But no, honestly I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what happened when — partly out of curiosity, partly to get familiar with some of their newer stuff — I headed over to the Agalloch Bandcamp page and hit PLAY on their recently-released album The Serpent & the Sphere. I found myself instantly blown away by what I was hearing, a reaction that continued throughout the next fifty-nine minutes or so, through the conclusion of all nine tracks. I decided right then, even though this year isn’t even halfway over yet, that I find it unlikely I’ll hear anything better than this in 2014.
I hadn’t even really planned on writing this, but this was just one of those rare occasions where something caught my attention and spoke to me so much, I felt like I had to make sure other people knew about this record too.