The Ancient Greek word “φάρμακον” (or “pharmakón”) is ingrained with a dichotomous etymology and, by extension, philosophical implications. At its root, the word has a conflicted translation of representing any drug, appropriate to use for discussing either a remedy or a poison. Yet, when extended to its use in the culture of…
One of the principal challenges bands with stellar debut records face is simply having to make another record. The magical element of surprise and general exemptions given by listeners for unmet potential due to relative youth have long been discarded, replaced instead by impossibly high expectations and the audience’s/label’s manic need for new material. Some bands, like Finland’s death metal legends Demilich, make one excellent full length record and call it a career. Good for them. Many others have opted for a more content-rich approach. While not necessarily the most consistently amazing record in a band’s discography, the sophomore album may be the most important because it gives the audience their first real taste of a band’s long term potential. For a band to thrive, it needs to do it right.
It’s finally not as cold here in New York. I’ve been here for almost a month now and the weather hasn’t been to kind. Last time I left a Brooklyn based show, it was Clipping., the wind was blowing cold off the Atlantic and snow was in the air. This Saturday, it was thankfully less punishing and there was a sense of elation in the air post show. Or maybe it was just me, my heart so full of the sets I had just seen. Pallbearer, Marissa Nadler and Kayo Dot all reminded me, in their own way, why I love seeing music played live and why I love, even with the amount of genres I listen to, the darker sides of music. All three sets were more than just proficient; they had a musician’s touch, an earnest and powerful conviction in self expression and its strength.
In a mere five years, Nashville’s All Them Witches have the discography of a band well beyond their years – not in terms of output, but by means of musical growth over only four full-length records. “Maturity” is a term that gets thrown around too often when talking about a band’s development, but the four-piece’s latest effort, Sleeping Through the War, seems to warrant such description – especially when reflecting on the relative purity of the group’s first album. The band has come a long way in a short time and have crafted an enigmatic and unpredictable nature, with each release since defying expectations and satisfying with wonderment. That being said, Sleeping Through the War follows suit standing as yet another hallmark for the band, and arguably their most eclectic record to date.
One of the things that stands out immediately on Jared Grabb’s new album, Masters, is that it feels like someone playing in their living room (or yours). There’s an intimacy that a lot of singer-songwriters of this type don’t manage to pull off but here is Grabb repping Peoria, IL and the whole of the Midwestern heart and soul on his latest effort.
Starting about a year ago signs of life began to stir once again on the Facebook page of Philadelphia black metal band Woe. At first, they only promised shows. Another chance at seeing a band who’s delicate blend of crust and black metal formed a uniquely progressive style all their own. This was exciting news to the wider Philadelphia area extreme music scene as the band was a long time favorite of many, sort of a source of pride. However, soon the murmurings of shows for the summer went silent, and fans were left wondering if it had all just been the hopeful ramblings of one member.
Some legendary bands are unpredictable and that plays into their mythos. Others are legendary precisely because the thunder they bring is such their own that the consistency with which they produce it is a marvel unto itself. The Obsessed are one of those latter bands. Oft-cited and highly influential, Wino and company have been bringing their brand of sludgy doom metal to eardrums for nearly 40 years. If there is an “American Motorhead” they would be it albeit less prodigious in terms of actual output.
In 2012 Converge released their most recent full length, All We Love We Leave Behind. The album was a tremendous banger (for lack of a better word) from start to finish, highlighting all the greatest aspect of Converge’s sound in one gargantuan assault. It was a peak for the band, both emotionally and musically, and showed a more diverse and channelled Converge than ever previously heard before. Fans and critics alike praised the album, clamoring for more Converge, but were instead presented with about a billion re-releases. A growing curiosity over the future of new music began to arise in the face of a lack of news, and some (me) began to worry slightly about the future of the band.
Once incapable of fault as a household name in the world of metal, Mastodon have seen a lot of scrutiny following their 2009 prog opus Crack The Skye. It was an immediate critical hit and the general consensus was that it was an instant classic. Indeed, Crack the Skye still holds up and hasn’t aged much at all, but it did prove to be a turning point in the band’s career. The sludge metal pioneers slowed down, reigned in the technical showmanship, and started writing more straightforward rock songs in their own style and aesthetic. Crack The Skye’s followups The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun were by no means terrible, critically panned slogs, but the fanbase became divided over the clear stylistic evolution happening.
Sweden has quite the reputation for crusty, gruff death metal. Familiar legends like Entombed and Dismember are eternally inscribed in the brains of metalheads but they might not be as well acquainted with Vomitory, a band with a string of brutal, gory minor classics in the 1990s. Before breaking up 2011, Vomitory was signed to Metal Blade Records, so they aren’t exactly unsung heroes. Nonetheless, they are certainly still overshadowed by their more famous fellow countrymen. Two long time members of Vomitory, drummer Tobias Gustafsson and bassist/vocalist Erik Rundqvist, returned in 2015 with a new project, Cut Up, who are now releasing their sophomore album.