Featuring members of Mastodon, Brutal Truth, and The Despised, Atlanta’s Primate is a new hardcore super-group — a furious bastard child birthed by hardcore, punk, grind, and metal. Heavy-music geeks quickly will recognize the names of vocalist Kevin Sharp and guitarist Bill Kelliher, but the rest of the lineup is no less impressive or important in crafting the band’s maiden opus.
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This, the seventh full-length from Maryland’s Dying Fetus, has the distinction of being the death-metal outfit’s first album to have the same lineup as its predecessor since its debut, Purification Through Violence, was released in 1996. Despite the many member shifts, however, Dying Fetus’ style hasn’t changed much. The band’s signature mixture of technicality, speed, and groove has spawned countless imitators and definitely helped — for better or worse — the invention of metalcore.
Brooklyn metal trio Tombs has released three full-length albums via Relapse Records, all to critical acclaim. Currently at the tail end of a European / North American tour promoting the most recent Path of Totality, the band is known for its dynamic, disparate influences that range from heartrendingly melodic to dense and chaotic.
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Chris Connelly, formerly a member of industrial bands Ministry and Revolting Cocks, is set to release his 15th solo album in November. Entitled Artificial Madness, the record is guitar-driven rock that wears its contrasting pop and post-punk influences proudly. A month before its scheduled release, Connelly took some time to run through each song, explaining lyrical content and narrative themes.
Track-by-Track Breakdown of Artificial Madness by Chris Connelly
Here is a breakdown to the lyrics on Artificial Madness. I’ve never really done this before. It’s always been my intention to leave a lot of things ambivalent, giving the listener a few red herrings here and there. Perhaps I’ll leave some stuff buried in there…
1. “Artificial Madness” The protagonist is not really a person — more of a collective consciousness built from panic and paranoia. The city and landscape are fabricated, and all the aggressors or distractions are metaphors. Here we have the crux of the album: the “artificial madness” brought on by the deity that is technology. It can be used to enslave parts of our minds, conscious or subconscious, and it can also serve as a control tactic and a mind-numbing drug. Why do we feel the need to talk and keep in touch with each other so much? Because we are panicking and fearing some sort of apocalypse? I recently read that the Taliban turned off all cell-phone communication at 8 PM in an urban area that they had control over. Control and fascism — always at work.
2. “Wait for Amateur” The emperor’s new clothes. A satirical song about modern pop culture using modern theater (namely Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot). Can you tell if the play is being superbly or horribly acted? Are the actors playing us? Taking us for a ride? Is the director making fools of the actors? (Make a mark in the ground with a primitive tool.)
3. “Classically Wounded” A high-speed chase on a wet night, and a violinist is ultimately impaled on his/her own violin bow. A cautionary tale.
4. “Cold Blood in Present Company” War being waged via technology, misinformation, independent contractors (mercenaries), and the torture of innocents to glean information that will result in the deaths of thousands. Like I said earlier, fascism is very good at adapting to the times.
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Portland, Oregon-based sludge-rock trio Rabbits isn’t big on accessibility. Its music — heavily distorted, brutally noisy — is polarizing, as the extensive catalog of reviews on the band’s website reveals. Its name — generally stylized in all caps — is topped off with an inverted R on the cover of its newest record, Lower Forms. There’s not much of a back story or many illuminating interviews, so a lot of people don’t seem to “get” Rabbits. If you’re in the camp that believes you don’t really need to know the drummer’s dog’s name to enjoy its music, read on, and see what Rabbits and rats have in common.
Why Rat? by Rabbits
Rabbits sings songs about science. Science, like philosophy (the two are difficult to disentangle and once were one in the same), is about explaining what goes on in the world. How do we explain Rabbits? Tricky. We can tell you this: you would not even be reading about Rabbits right now were it not for cooperation that goes on in the Portland punk and metal scene. All for one and one for all. Why do you think Portland has such a long tradition of sick, heavy, scuzzy, musical weirdos? Cooperation. And science has a lot to say about cooperation.
Once upon a time, a man named Axelrod hosted a contest in a computer. You could send in a strategy to play a game called The Prisoners’ Dilemma. The game is this: Two prisoners arrested for the same crime must each decide whether or not to rat the other out…without knowing what the other will do. The smartest thing to do is rat if you don’t want to get totally fucked, so both should rat. But it certainly would be a whole lot cooler if both kept their stupid mouths shut instead of both being good-for-nothing rats.
In structure and sound, Chicago post-metal septet Bloodiest is a vast and diverse experience. All members keep a busy schedule with their other projects (past and current bands include Yakuza, Atombombpocketknife, 90 Day Men, and Follows), but they also bring something quite particular to the massive sound that is Bloodiest. Their newest album, Descent, is a barrage of grinding bass textures, heavy percussion, sonorous piano chords, and hazy yet potent vocals. It’s a bleak atmosphere, but with further inspection, it also offers a deep sense of vulnerability.
Not unlike the sprawling landscapes of their favorite films and the thunderous sounds of the oft-compared Swans, these arrangements are meant to be dramatic and wide in scope. When listening to the six movements on Descent, one may be reminded of a scene in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Valhalla Rising. These are dire, heavy orchestrations for those who expect nothing less from their music.
During this discussion, guitarist Tony Lazzara shares some of the band’s non-musical influences and what it’s like to work in a larger lineup.
How would you describe the sound and direction of Bloodiest?
At the core, we are a rock band, plain and simple. We are interested in creating an environment that is dynamic and dark, but beautiful and repulsive at times.
Discuss the dynamic of writing or performing in a larger ensemble. Is this new for most of you?
A few of us have worked in larger groups, but for the most part, Bloodiest operates as a small cast and crew making a film during the writing process. For example, when you work on a collaborative project, often times everyone shares tasks. At one point, you could be the director and the next minute you could be the camera man. By this I mean we all contribute to every aspect of the writing process in some way.
The key for us is that the people in the band have diverse skill sets. Once the overall theme is established, you have to decide who will best develop the details to reinforce the concepts. One of our strengths is that we have all been close friends for many years. This allows us insight into each other’s strong suits and weaknesses. The important element is getting everyone to maintain the aesthetic decided upon. If you are working on a horror film, you can’t have someone writing in a slapstick comedy routine.
Horseback: The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet (Relapse, 5/10/11)
Horseback: “The Golden Horn”
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Jenks Miller is the sole constant in avant-metal outfit Horseback. Miller’s output — occasionally under his own name, often as Horseback, and recently with the Americana group Mount Moriah — has been a steady trickle over the past three years, with each release offering a new glimpse of the artist’s capabilities. To consider Miller’s art only in terms of his 2010 breakout, The Invisible Mountain, is like considering an iceberg only in terms of its tip.
Such an assumption is also likely to leave you confused upon hearing The Gorgon Tongue, which compiles Impale Golden Horn (Miller’s 2007 debut as Horseback) and last year’s ultra-limited Forbidden Planet cassette. Each is radically different from the other and also from the lumbering kraut-metal/Americana hybrid upon which Horseback built its reputation.
But that reputation came after more than two years of output, slowly revealing the character of the project and the Chapel Hill musician behind it all. Horseback began as a method for Miller to focus his concentration, to help manage his obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Impale Golden Horn — which Miller spent three years recording and reworking before its 2008 release — introduces Horseback as a patient, meticulous sculptor of sound. “Laughing Celestial Architect,” at 17 seconds past the 15-minute mark, is Impale’s second-longest track (behind the 17-minute opener, “Finale”). It’s a slow, smoldering rise, not unlike waking up as sunlight slowly fills the room. This mixture of ascendant dynamics, meditative repetition, and calming timbres is indicative of the collection. It’s a bluff belying all of Miller’s work to follow. It makes the improvisatory follow-up seem almost ironically relaxed.
The members of Brooklyn-based metal trio Tombs take pride in their work ethic and don’t bother worrying about what others might think. As for the band’s sound, front-man Mike Hill says, “The music itself is just intensity.”