Even a cursory glance of our biweekly playlist updates 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, where two of our contributors 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 Jordan Jerabek and Josh Bulleid head to head in a battle of the eclectic, the heavy, and the just plain great. Here we go:

Josh’s Grid and Jordan’s Comments

In Malice’s Wake – “The Blindness of Faith” (The Blindness of Faith, 2020)

Jordan: This is exactly what I would’ve expected from Josh. I’m completely unfamiliar with In Malice’s Wake, but I can definitely get down with this. I’m not a huge thrash listener, but this is a really nice welcome back track. I’m picking up on some Sylosis and Lazarus A.D. vibes with the modern and mildly progressive edge; these dudes don’t mess around or even stick around with a musical idea for too long, everything moves hella fast. All this being said, the closing minute-and-a-half with the solo and onward is fucking pristine. This is a band I need to do some catching up on.

Killer Be Killed – “Inner Calm from Outer Storms” (Reluctant Hero, 2020)

Jordan: I feel like we’ve been waiting for some new Killer Be Killed FOR-EV-ER. This single totally hits the spot. It cues in exactly what I love about this band: the triple vocal approach. I don’t know many other bands that utilize three mouthpieces, but nobody manages ‘em as well as these fellas do. I was convinced this track would go in a totally different direction as Troy picks up where Greg leaves off with a bit of that Crack the Skye epicness, but, as if on schedule, Max comes in and is, well, undeniably Max. I don’t think it can be overstated how impressive of a vocalist Mr. Puciato is. He’s got a super distinct voice unto himself, but with the way he’s able to bridge Troy’s bellows and Max’s barks as well as vibe with their distinct energies, I can’t help but feel like I’m hearing the audio equivalent an NBA All-Star game or something – and isn’t that what everyone wants from a supergroup? I’m not sure if I’d put this up there with my favorite KBK tracks, but I love the interplay and dynamics in this track.

Kylie Minogue – “Dance Floor Darling” (DISCO, 2020)

Jordan: Kylie Minogue is a real gem. Who else has the ability to reinvent themselves so frequently and maintain relevance by releasing hits in each of the last five decades? Anybody? (Honestly, anybody?) First of all, I absolutely love the retro sound here. Some major Giorgio Moroder vibes goin on here (which makes sense considering their collab, “Right Here, Right Now” back in 2015), and I wholly expected to find him somewhere in the credits on this thing. Alas, he’s probably too busy combing his mustache. Anyway, this track is a fucking banger. I’d get turnt at a wedding and boogie to this in a heartbeat. When the pace picks up toward the end? Puh-leeeeze. I want more. Now, I’m not the type that advocates for pop songs longer than three minutes, but this sucker could go on and on and on and on a la Madonna’s “Borderline” (which clocks in just shy of seven!) and I’d relish every moment. 

Lady Gaga – “Venus” (ARTPOP, 2013)

Jordan: Full disclosure: I’m probably more familiar with Lady Gaga’s work as an actor than her musical career, though my wife told me I know more Gaga songs than I think I know… which I guess is a good thing? I’ve always felt like she was an interesting character/persona, but this never really translated into me giving a shit about her music. She’s got some pipes, no doubt. She’s got the dance vibes down pat. This track has that pulsing, surging sort of dance beat that I feel like is in every Gaga song I can think of, same goes for the hook. It’s very obviously Gaga, and that’s fine and dandy. I can deal, but musically, it doesn’t really excite me in any way. The one thing that’s piquing my interest, however, is the lyrics. I have no clue if ARTPOP is a concept album or not, but it’d be pretty sweet if it was, she seems to be doing some character building in this track. I’ll make some time to take this one in, eventually.

Jorn Lande & Trond Holter – “Walking On Water” (Dracula: Swing of Death, 2015)

Jordan: I assumed this was going to be some weird Hamilton-style take on the story of Dracula (the album art says Jorne Lande & Trond Holter Present Dracula Swing of Death?). Never heard of Jorn Lande before, but I’d bet the farm that this dude is in some notable European power/heavy metal band. He kinda sounds like lower-register Rob Halford or Dio. Same goes for that Trond Holter guy, this dude has way too serious of chops not to be involved with some big band. My initial suspicions were kind of right, there is a weird “theatre” sort of air to this right from the intro, but I can chalk it up to over-the-top metal theatrics just as much as this being an actual theatre production. So yeah… it’s got some cheese. But, the arrangement is really good and – I assume by design – the track is carried entirely by the vocals and guitars, as well as a really tight production. The chorus is superb and the leads are slick, I’m not quite wailing along here, but I can dig it.

Alpha Wolf – “Acid Romance” (A Quiet Place to Die, 2020)

Jordan: This is djenty and super duper heavy. These guys are definitely set on making people go fucking ape in the pit. This track reminds me of all the heaviest parts of Periphery’s first record, it goes hard as fuck, but it is kinda caveman in that this is just bulldozing riff after bulldozing riff. I haven’t really kept up with this scene as I feel like a lot of these bands get caught up in the bouncy grooves and exaggerated bends and it never really amounts to much. This track isn’t really an exception, it’s pretty one-dimensional. Wait, hold up, there’s scratching? Okay, maybe this is more of a nu metal thing… nu djent? Is that a thing? Like, I think I could handle this in the context of an album, but I worry that these dudes may be too in love with the big fat bends and cartoonishly crushing riffage. I’d totally appreciate more from the DJ (I thought that was really fun and unexpected), and if these guys can dish out some faster shit, I might fuck with this. This track though? It’s like Gojira in slow-mo with -core vocals.

Between the Buried and Me – “Spectral Reflection” (The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues)

Jordan: I kinda forgot this album existed. That fucking intro, though, that’s making it all come back to me. I remember being kinda disappointed with The Great Misdirect, and this release remedied that for me. Weird, spacey, fleeting, Mr. Bungle-y Between the Buried and Me is where it’s at (hell yeah, I still toss on Coma Ecliptic every once in a while). It’s interesting revisiting this, as some things that I thought were so cool at the time have become BTBAM tropes, specifically the whole progression from 4:30-6:45 and the staccato rhythms at the 9:00 mark. Still, I live for the little misdirections (some may call them awkward transitions) like at 3:25 and then into the pre-chorus and chorus (which is also kinda wonky). But GOT DAMN, the latter third of this track slays with brake check after brake check, whiplashing turns and detours, it’s all the progressive metalcore wizardy that captured my heart a decade and a half ago.

Coexistence – “Detach from the Abyss” (Collateral Dimension, 2020)

Jordan: Before pressing play, I’m going to make a safe bet and say this is some The Faceless kinda prog-death based on album art alone. Well, I’m close… It’s not quite as punishing, but instead we got some beeeeeeeautfiul bass nice and high in the mix, and much to my surprise and delight, this track gets downright chill at moments. There’s certainly some Cynic and Obscura influences in play here. The vocals are solid, the solos are beaming, the composition is varied (that little pick me up at the 5:30 mark is niiiice), and most importantly, it’s a real treat for the ears. Honestly though, if this whole record has frequent little proggy rest stops as this track does, I’ll be taking this one for a ride again and again.

Eternal Champion – “Coward’s Keep” (Ravening Iron, 2020)

Jordan: I didn’t know what to expect since Eternal Champion dropped that dungeon synth tape late last year, but holy shit I’m relieved that this is back to the heavy fucking metal roots of The Armor of Ire. “Coward’s Keep” is among my favorites from this release. The intro is so fucking metal they may as well just have stopped there, but they just so happened to toss a classic fucking metal adventure behind it. It’s true journey metal strewn with killer solos, varied mid-tempo trudges, and a top-notch vocal performance to boot. And what good would an impeccably metal intro be without a complementary acoustic outro before the next track (oh shit, “Worms of the Earth”!) blows the goddamn castle walls down? AHHH. These dudes get it. Worthy of the Tolkien-scale majesty and might.

Josh’s Grid and Jordan’s Comments

Arkheron Thodal – “A Glimpse of Woven Light” (Rituals of the Sovereign Heart, 2020)

So this is how it’s gonna be huh? And I thought I was being offside by picking an eleven-minute song… I jest. In fact, I rather like this song, it sits somewhere nicely in between the ethereal brightness of Sunbather-era Deafheaven and the earthiness of the more recent Wolves in the Throne Room albums. The melodies also remind me a lot of the last Harakiri for the Sky record, which I loved, although the thinner production kind of hampers a lot of the textures for me. I wish the vocals and the drums were out in front a bit more, but other than that I’m really impressed by how well this song flows and holds together as a whole given its intimidating length. I do think a lot of the same ideas could have been gotten across in about half the time, although I only really found myself beginning to get tired of it around the fifteen-minute mark, so these guys definitely know when to reign it in. I can see myself checking out the rest of this album when I’m in the mood.

Dope Body – “Clean and Clear” (Crack A Light, 2020)

Can someone please tell me which Queens of the Stone Age song this sounds like so I can stop thinking about it please? (“Smooth Sailing” and “You Got A Killer Scene There, Man…” sound similar but I don’t think they’re what I’m thinking of.) I don’t know if I really have more to say about this one than that it sounds like Queens of the Stone Age. It has a cool, ‘90s alt-rock vibe to it, but nothing about it beyond that really stands out to me.

Fear Factory – “Body Hammer” (Demanufacture, 1995)

I have an odd relationship with Fear Factory; many of their more revered albums, like Obsolete (1999) and Mechanize (2010), I can take or leave, while more maligned records, like Transgression (2005) and The Industrialist (2012), are among my favourites of theirs.

Still, there’s no denying the power of Demanufacture (1995). I was so happy when I saw Jordan had picked “Body Hammer”. Demanufacture is packed with classics but “Body Hammer” has always been the one for me. I remember hearing this album for the first time. it was the morning before the first Taste of Chaos tour (featuring a rather stacked line-up of The Used, Killswitch Engage, Story of the Year, Funeral for a Friend and Rise Against, which would probably be billed in reverse order these days…). My friend and I had taken the day off school and we were getting pumped up on End of Heartache (2004) and then I threw on Demanufacture, which I had acquired the night before, and when “Body Hammer” hit our jaws hit the floor soon after. That was ten years after it had first been released; it’s now fifteen years after that and the album and this song’s impact haven’t dulled one bit.

Fuzz – “Blind to Vines” (III, 2020)

More ‘90s alt-rock nostalgia, although this time with a bit more of a slacker/indie vibe. This song weirdly reminds me of both The Black Crowes and The Black Keys at once, but as though they were playing through treacle or something: slowed down and fuzzed out. Maybe with a bit of Stone Roses in there as well. I don’t know, I’m not really an expert on this kind of stuff, so (as with the Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room comparisons above) my references are probably pretty entry level/way off base. The instrumentation is interesting but I suspect I’d like it more played at 1.5 or 2x the speed (update: I do!) and the vocals seem deliberately annoying/off-putting, which is fine, but also has its intended effect.

Maggot Heart – “Roses” (Mercy Machine, 2020)

This is cool. Blends that twangy, indie/garage-rock sound with a gothic, doom metal sound, which I don’t think I’ve really heard before. Kind of reminds me of Castle, who are a band I really liked but whose last few albums have kind of let me down. Maybe they could take some cues from this. Probably not something I’m going to listen to day-today but, as with Arkheron Thodal, I dig the overall vibe and can see myself coming back to this at some point.

Mountain Caller – “A Clamor of Limbs” (The Truthseeker, 2020)

I’ve heard a lot of hype about this band/album but this song’s leaving me pretty cold. The opening riff reminds me of Nirvana’s “School” but then it doesn’t really go anywhere from there, until the very end. A lot of the transitions also feel really awkward, like they don’t flow at all, which is a pretty big deal-breaker when it comes to instrumental music. What’s really frustrating is the way it completely resets in the middle and then kicks back in with the vocals. I kind just wish it started there and had the vocals the whole time and they’d made a whole song out of it from there. The second part of the track is just so much stronger than the first, so makes the first part seem even more superfluous and undercooked. 

Poney – “Cube” (Pagan Nouveau, 2019)

Garage rock Mastodon anybody? Poney seem to primarily identify as a kind of post-hardcore band, but the “sludge pop” tag seems a lot more appropriate. I’d probably still prefer a harsher vocal, but the riffs and drumming are so good that the droney, shoegaze vocals don’t really bother me. Kind of feels like a transitional sound between early and later Baroness. Not sure I could take a full album of this without a bit more grit being added to the mix, but it’s a cool take on some familiar elements.

Spirit Adrift – “Stronger Than Your Pain” (Enlightened in Eternity, 2020)

Oh hell yeah! Here we go. I love this album! I probably would have picked “Screaming from Beyond” myself, but you really can’t go wrong with anything off Enlightened in Eternity. From the slow Sylosis-meets-Mastodon groove of the opening to the Hetfield-esque chug of the verse to the Lee Dorrian-by-way-of-Matt Pike vocal hooks: everything about this song is on point. Spirit Adrift have really stepped it up with this release and left everyone else well and truly in their wake.

Without – “Ego” (Elaborations: II, 2016) 

This is nice. I guess… Unlike “A Glimpse of Woven Light”, which managed to stay dynamic and keep my interest the whole way through, I find myself bouncing off of this one pretty quickly. There’s some more interesting stuff going on in the back end, but it still feels a bit one-note/”crescendo corey” to me, and I really wish it would get there sooner. Sorry to end things on such a down note, but this is easily my least-favourite song on Jordan’s list. Spirit Adrift are still cool though!

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