Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post brought staff members Scott Murphy and Kit Brown together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Baroness – Red Album – “Isak”
Red Album at this point is perhaps the perfect merger of the band’s sludgier beginnings and their more expansive, cleaner new style. “Isak” certainly punishes most of the time with it’s chuggy, triplet-driven main riff, but it’s also incredibly intricate and densely orchestrated despite its burly exterior. I hope you’ve heard this already, but if you haven’t, treat yourself right today.
Bathory – Bathory – “Raise the Dead”
This is a slab of classic, textbook first wave black metal done right while also paying homage to Black Sabbath’s eponymous opener with the bells. While the production’s obviously shoddy, it’s also completely devoid of any warmth, which really helps give the first album atmosphere even when they were still delivering much more songs. Rest in peace, Quorthon.
Big L – Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous – “All Black”
Few things can conjure up the same gut level of excitement metal has quite like 90s New York hip hop, particularly artists who heavily leaned towards incredibly grimy boom-bap beats. Big L, in case you may have overlooked him, is one of the most furious guys to ever come out of the scene, and his first album Lifestylez of the Poor and Dangerous is a bonafide underground classic. “All Black” is intense as fuck, absolutely tripped out, and awash with amazing sample work.
Botanist – IV: Mandragora – “To Amass an Army”
Self-described as “green metal,” San Fran’s Botanist are basically melding atmospheric black metal with shoegaze, dream pop, and new age music. Whether they’re getting slightly darker or soaring with lush and multi-layered instrumental work, everything about “To Amass an Army” absolutely shimmers. It’s an interesting experiment within the confines of black metal, and should probably piss off a lot of the genre’s more snobbish audience.
Desolate Shrine – Heart of the Netherworld – “Black Fires of God”
In a year seemingly lacking in this particular sound, Helsinki’s Desolate Shrine are here to punch you right in the taint and bring forth some of 2015’s most hellish, claustrophobic, nauseating, and pummeling death metal. “Black Fires of God” gets things on the album started off right, falling somewhere between the churning thunder of Immolation and the fist-pumping riffs of Dismember and Entombed. Regardless, it’s motherfucking excellent. For fans of all things extreme.
Jesu – Jesu – “Friends Are Evil”
Godflesh may be one of heavy music’s most enduring and truly upsetting voices within the underground, but Justin Broadrick’s Jesu has always been his most emotionally captivating. “Friends Are Evil” is an excellent merger of simplistic yet very effective production choices, walls of fuzz and Broadrick’s ethereal and utterly captivating vocals. Cry your eyes out and snap your neck headbanging. Highly recommended if you like the idea of Tool, My Bloody Valentine and Isis jamming together.
The Jesus Lizard – Liar – “Whirl”
It may never completely make sense how The Jesus Lizard were able to combine so many jarring, unpleasant ideas but somehow make them totally appealing and fun to listen to. “Whirl” is like circus music that’s been warped beyond recognition, filtered through a punk lens and shows no regards for fans of anything truly conventional. It’s a pretty challenging piece of work, but it’s a pretty intriguing concept.
Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire – “Over the River and Through the Woods”
Now this is some pretty adventurous and psychotic noise rock. Featuring just a bassist and drummer, “Over the River and Through the Woods” is filled with adrenaline, Melvins-esque riffs and an absolutely amazing drum performance. Seriously, Brian Chippendale is incredible.
Rorschach – Protestant –“In Ruins”
Does anyone even think metalcore is a fusion of hardcore and metal anymore? Anyways, Jersey’s Rorschach are one of the progentiors of the entire style and basically paved the way for Converge and the like with their dissonant, savage, and unorthodox approach for the time. “In Ruins” is straight to the point and a great song to stage dive off your bed to.
Weedeater – Goliathan – “Battered & Fried”
This track sounds like it was wicked fun for Weedeater to record. My friends and I have tossed back a healthy number of brews and laughed as we sung over someone plucking away at an acoustic guitar, and if it were to be recorded, I am sure that we would all love to listen to it again for pure amusement. I have always loved banjo and harmonica and enjoy the overall performance here, though I find the vocalist to be a little too comically husky. Still, this is an enjoyable track that seems like a quality interlude.
Scale the Summit – V – “The Isle of Mull”
Other than moderate memories of the few times that I spun The Migration, I have no experience with Scale the Summit nor any strong feelings about their take on instrumental prog-metal. While this track did not dazzle me, it is undeniably well-written and performed, and I love the dialogue between the two guitarists and how it shifts effortlessly between an array of emotions. Honestly, if more Periphery-esque bands dropped the showy, nasally vocalists, dialed back the djent riffs and took StS’ more subtle approach, I feel like the genre would have much more appeal for me.
Dr. Dre – Compton – “Genocide”
I have been meaning to spin Compton for a while now, so I appreciate Kit providing me the perfect excuse to finally do so. However, without digressing too much into my full thoughts on the exclusivity of streaming, the amount of time it took me to find the song (eventually through unofficial means, unfortunately) was obnoxious and shows how AppleMusic & Tidal’s attempts to “respect music and the artist” are 1.) ultimately ineffective for numerous reasons & 2.) harmful to the democratization of art that digital music has provided. Anyway…the actual song is excellent and prompted me to text my friend to ask if I could borrow his CD copy of the album. The beat is top notch, though Dem Jointz‘s production does not truly capture that classic Dre production style; it sounds more like a cleaner remix of “Summertime” from clipping.‘s last album. Additionally, I was curious as to why Dr. Dre did not appear on the track until I checked the song on Rap Genius and was shocked to find that he was the emcee rapping on the second verse. I am not sure why he dropped his typically immaculate vocal delivery on this track, but I would have never guessed that it was him rapping if not for Rap Genius. In all honesty, I am still having a hard time believing that it is Dre rapping; he truly sounds nothing like his typical self. All of this considered, I still find this to be a great track, but I am somewhat disappointed by how little this captures the elements of The Chronic and 2001 that I have loved for years now. While it seems like Compton will be a great hip-hop album when I finally listen to it in its entirety, I also feel as though it will not be a great Dre album.
Eyehategod – Dopesick – “My Name Is God (I Hate You)”
Eyehategod has always been one of those bands that I feel like I would enjoy but have never bothered to check out; this track is going to change that. Best described as a cross between Electric Wizard (more on them later) and a Pig Destroyer record played on 33 1/3 RPM, the track’s hardcore tinged take on sludge metal is intense, heavy and exactly how I like this style to be played. I have heard that Dopesick is their strongest record, so I plan on perusing through the remaining tracks now that I know that music I should expect will likely be of this level of quality.
Dragged Into Sunlight – Hatred For Mankind – “Boiled Angel/Buried With Leeches”
Hatred For Mankind is one of my all time favorite records; I pulled my heavily played CD copy off of the shelf to re-listen to the phenomenal opening pair of tracks for this post. Dragged Into Sunlight mold together my favorite styles of metal to craft a hideous beast of blackened sludgy death doom that is nearly perfect in every way. While I thought that Widowmaker paled in comparison to their debut, I still enjoyed/purchased it, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to hear their upcoming collaboration with Gnaw Their Tongues. Until then, I will just spin HFM and marvel at the grotesque sounds and equally disturbing album art.
Meshuggah – The Ophidian Trek – “Dancers to a Discordant System (Live)”
Live performances are generally of no interest to me, but this track seems to capture the energy of a Meshuggah show perfectly. Admittedly, this is not one of my favorite song of theirs, but I can easily envision the crowd bouncing and moshing along to the band’s impressive live rendition of their studio material.
TesseracT – Polaris – “Seven Names”
As I stated above in my comments on Scale the Summit, this style of djenty progressive metal does nothing for me, with TesseracT being a prime example of why this is the case. I remember one of my close friends swooning over One back in the day and insisting that I sit through it with him. While he kept pointing out “great” moments as the album drew on, I just could not see what there was to celebrate. Four years later, Polaris seems to carry the same problems, at least based on this track. Throughout the six minute run time, I fail to see what exactly I am supposed to be paying attention to or feeling. I know that there was discussion about a changing in vocalists, but what I hear does not sound much different from several other vocalists in this style: soft, pretty whimpers and loud wailing whines, all of which is buried under a wash of overproduced melodies. Even the heavier climaxes seem somewhat muted and lacking in impact. I guess if I step back and give an objective opinion, there is nothing truly bad about the track, and I imagine that people who like this style will find this enjoyable. But personally, I found myself mostly bored save for a few pleasant vocal melodies.
Electric Wizard – Black Mass – “Venus in Furs”
While I am more of a Come My Fanatics… and Dopethrone type of Electric Wizard fan and think that Witchcult Today is their best “current” album, every single EW song that I have ever heard is based around an absolutely killer riff drenched liberally in thick, hazy distortion. Witchcult Today was actually the first EW record that I purchased; when I brought that album, Earth‘s Bee’s Made Honey In the Lion’s Skull and Pallbearer‘s Sorrow & Extinction up to the register, the guy behind the counter was impressed at how well I covered the main bases of doom metal in one CD haul. While I only think that two of those three albums are their respective bands’ best (cough Earth & Pallbearer cough), I still enjoy the more straightforward sound of EW and think that this track showcases just how exceptional Jus Oboron still is at penning amazing riffs.
Slayer – Repentless – “Delusions of Saviour/Repentless”
Even though I barely made it through the intro and first track on Slayer‘s “comeback record,” they provided plenty of reasons to abandon the remaining songs on Repentless. If not for Tom Araya’s distinct shout, this could easily pass as any no-name thrash band littering metal bargain bins. For anyone wondering why everyone mourned the loss of Jess Hanneman, listen to these tracks; Slayer is not nearly as good without him.