Pyrrhon – Growth Without End EP

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I’ve got a confession to make – I’ve never really understood EPs in Metal. On paper I can see the value of a short, sample-length exploration of a band’s sound, but Metal is such a grandiose, overblown and thoroughly unsubtle discipline that it seems to demand nothing less than albums to sprawl across.  Double albums. Surely forcing any band who aren’t Slayer to record less than thirty minutes of material is restricting their creativity and turning them into a boy-band?

Apparently not.

Following up their 2014’s staggering Mother Of Virtues (Relapse) – which, in a just world, would have topped a lot more Album Of The Year lists than it did – Growth Without End (Handshake Inc.) develops their distinctive blend of abstract Death Metal, Starkweather-style Hardcore and early Dillinger Escape Plan by sharpening it down to a razor-sharp point.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Growth Without End is how it seems to squeeze all the depth and scope of Mother Of Virtues into a fraction of the running time. It lasts for under twenty minutes, but leaves you feeling like you’ve endured an album’s worth of beating.  It’s as if – crude journalistic analogy alert – they’ve trimmed all of the fat from their compositions, leaving behind exactly what they need to make their point and not a second of indulgence. The economy and directness of the best Grind married to Pyrrhon’s range of influences and moods to make one of the most simultaneously focused and diverse Metal records you’ll hear this year.

Last year, vocalist Doug Moore went to lengths to discuss why the band should not be described as “freeform”, and though it was intended as a compliment to the band’s unpredictable and unconventional song-structures, Growth Without End can help you to understand why – there is not a moment on here that is not utterly deliberate and precise, rehearsed to the point of almost inhuman tightness.

Pyrrhon are – with absolutely no hyperbole – one of the most exciting Extreme Metal bands in the world right now, and Growth Without End is both the perfect next step for their existing fans and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

Genuinely recommended without reservation.

 

9.0/10

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RICHIE HR

Blurring – Blurring

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Hailing from the New York grind scene can be a challenge for any band. With such a prestigious history of bands the bar is set high for any new acts pushing out of the local scene. Blurring are a band with a difference however as, behind the awkward, uncomfortable mass of noise are the brains behind one of the most influential grind bands of the last 25 years.

Brutal Truth may no longer be sullying stages around the world, but that certainly hasn’t stopped bassist Dan Lilker. Joined by ex-Kalibas guitarists Scott D’Agostino and Matt Colbert and drummer Eric Burke who not only boasts appearances in both of those bands, but also appears as a guitarist in Nuclear Assault and Lethargy, Blurring are already name dropping their way as a serious player.

The only member of this super group that cannot boast a lengthy resume is vocalist Mark Weldin, however what he lacks on the CV, he more than makes up for in performance. Harsh and unrelenting, Weldin’s vocals sound like a man stabbed repeatedly in the throat. No relief can be found in the music either, as ‘Like Wolves’ backs it ups with a dizzying, churning sound only broken by aggressive blasting. ‘Terminus and the Flame’ has menacing undertones at awkward backing chords clash against lead while sole instrumental track ‘Rape Van’, sees a slow uncomfortable drag through 2 minutes of unsettling sounds that, unlike the real van provides a deliciously slow and addictive contradiction to the rest of the album.

Blurring perform the difficult task of taking every element they could think of to repel the listener on this self-titled (Handshake Inc.) début, but rather than adding it in small bite sized chunks, the whole album is a mass of chaotic sound that seems to barely hold itself together. The result is a depraved, uncomfortable half hour of black grind that somehow keeps you clawing back for another listen time and time again.

 

8.0/10

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CAITLIN SMITH

Music Video: Today Is The Day – Heathen and Masada

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Today Is The Day is streaming their animated music video for “Heathen,” off of their new album Animal Mother, out now via Southern Lord below. They are about to begin their North American tour with Lazur/Wulf.

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They are also streaming the David Hall of Handshake Inc directed “Masada” video below.

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Handshake Inc Presenting Two Short Films At Examining Darkness On May 7th

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London, ON based Handshake Inc co-owner and independent film and video director David Hall is completing two short films which will be debuting in New York City at The Made in the New York Media Gallery as part of Examining Darkness on May 7, 2015, and the works specifically constructed to be projected on the gallery’s 360 degree projector and screen setup. Go here for more information.

Curated by Thomas D. Rotenberg, a writer, video artist, and curator based in Brooklyn. His films have played at festivals across the country and he previously curated Standard Model Catastrophes, Josh Graham‘s career retrospective that was on display at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP throughout December of 2014.

Participating Artists & Work:

David Hall: Mother Satan, Don’t Turn Out The Light (2015), The Puberty Of Big John Christ (2015)

Alex Schaefer: Damages (2014-2015)

Polynoid: 458nm (2006), Mem (2009), Loom (2010)

Susi Sie: Black (2011), Float (2011), Emergence (2012), Silk (2013), Soundscapes (2013), Cymatics (2013), Echoes (2015)

There will be a special, one-time-only performance by composer Mick Barr, playing his scores to David Hall’s two films, during the opening reception on May 7th at 7:30pm.

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Today Is The Day and Lazer/Wulf Announce North American Tour

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Today Is The Day have announced an upcoming North American tour for April and May with Lazer/Wulf. This is their first shows since their nearly fatal van accident last November. They have also completed two new music videos for “Heathen” and “Animal Mother” from their tenth full length album Animal Mother, which was released in October via Southern Lord. The video for “Heathen” has been commissioned to Marcos Morales and Neil Barrett of Novel Concept TV (Primitive Man, etc.), and the visual depiction of the title track, “Animal Mother,” to David Hall of Handshake Inc. (Brutal Truth, Lae, Maryland Deathfest: The Movie), who also directed the band’s intense “Masada” video. View them below.

The current Today Is The Day lineup is completed by bassist Trevor Thomas, drummer Douglas Andrae, and founding guitarist/vocalist, Steve Austin.

Apr 24: Space – Portland, ME
Apr 25: Cambridge Elks Lodge – Boston, MA
Apr 26: Coco 66 – Brooklyn, NY (= no Lazer/Wulf)
Apr 27: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
Apr 28: Cafe 611 – Frederick, MD
Apr 29: Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
May 01: Hideaway – Johnson City, TN
May 02: New Mountain – Asheville, NC
May 03: Siberia – New Orleans, LA (= no Lazer/Wulf)
May 05: Fitzgeralds – Houston, TX (= no Lazer/Wulf)
May 06: Lost Well – Austin, TX (= no Lazer/Wulf)
May 07: Doublewide – Dallas, TX
May 08: Sister – Albuquerque, NM
May 09: Pub Rock – Tempe, AZ
May 10: Complex – Los Angeles, CA
May 11: Opera House – Oakland, CA
May 12: Dantes – Portland, OR
May 13: El Corazon – Seattle, WA
May 14: Rickshaw – Vancouver, BC
May 15: The Pin – Spokane, WA
May 18: Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO
May 19: Record Bar – Kansas City, MO
May 20: Nether Bar – Minneapolis, MN
May 21: Double Door – Chicago, IL
May 22: Outpost – Kent, OH
May 23: The Shop – Pittsburgh, PA
May 24: Bug Jar – Rochester, NY

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Haapoja / Dephosphorus – Collaboration LP

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Split albums are an excellent tool for bands to come together and unleash an onslaught of material which you may not necessarily have been familiar with beforehand – and with Collaboration LP (Handshake Inc., 7 Degrees Records, and Nerve Altarboth) Haapoja and Dephosphorus have not missed the trick at all. Whether intentional or not, these collaborative records encourage a certain level of competition as well – who goes harder than the other? The competitive edge has allowed both bands to absolutely raise their game – in this case it is Finland vs. Greece.

A really interesting element to this split LP is the fact that on both of the respective opening tracks the bands traded front men – and oddly enough both the opening tracks of each section are the better tracks.

The first portion of the album then comes from the Finnish maniacs in Haapoja, who shoot out of the blocks with a phenomenal level of aggression and calculated speed. Opening track ‘We See With Teeth’ builds and builds with this brilliantly executed Thrash style. In fact the pace never really lets up in their half of the album as they race through four tracks in just over ten minutes. The band mesh different influences together, sounding a bit like early Kvelertak – and as you reach the conclusion of their half you’ll find yourself thinking that Dephosphorus will seriously need to deliver something special after a breathless ten minutes, and to be fair to them they absolutely do.

Dephosphorus explode in to the track ‘Aika’ boasting the same level of aggression but with an added element of groove. Away from the first track, the vocals on their side of the LP sound like desperate cries, similar to the power and aggression delivered by the likes of Frank Carter in the early days of Gallows. The two bands on this record do sound similar, but where Haapoja deliver solely a smash mouth flurry of aggression, Dephosphorus smash that same style together with some slower, heavier moments which accentuates the groove.

One thing is for sure, with both bands you’re left salivating for more. This will almost certainly be an album which will sit under the radar, but give it a go – you will not be disappointed. Both bands deliver their music with such passion you cannot help but be taken in by its infectious nature as the quality of the output encourages repeat listens. Yeah the production is a bit shaky at times, but it gives the whole Collaboration LP that added bit of character, it is a raw and snarling beast.

 

7.5/10

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TOM DONNO

Dave Hofer – Perpetual Conversion – 30 Years & Counting in the Life of Metal Veteran Dan Lilker

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My first encounter with Danny Lilker was 27 years ago. Relatively new to thrash metal, I bought Nuclear Assault’s The Plague and that clanking bommm, buh-buh bommmmm of the bass and striking image of a gangling mass of black curly hair stirred me to investigate more. Though he blazed a different trail than mine over the next 25 years, it amazes me upon reading Dave Hofer’s in-depth biography from Handshake Inc. how many times those trails crossed. Death, blackened doom, electronic metal…all twisted and perfected by the constantly low-fi, yet always curious and inventive Lilker.

Hofer paints his subject with warmth, familiarity, and honesty. Having ‘roadied’ for Brutal Truth in 2007 he swiftly became friends with Lilker, and has spent the last six years interviewing and researching for these 160 pages. That warmth is translated into the style of the book, loosely peppered with scrapbook-style photo insertions and dialogue consisting almost entirely of interview transcripts from Danny and many of the people he has encountered down the years.

Lilker’s words veer from self-deprecating – ‘I’m a slavic mutt’, he asserts almost from the off when discussing his Polish / Ukrainian ancestry – to remarkably laid back: even when discussing the tragic downfall of his beloved elder sister Barbara, an influence on his musical direction and lost to drugs when Lilker was just eleven. It was Barbara who introduced him to his lifelong love of ‘pot’, a recurring theme throughout the book and a road seemingly travelling parallel to his love of and devotion to creating music. Brutal Truth vocalist Kevin Sharp sums up his first meeting with Lilker thus: ‘The first time I met him, he said it was “Nice to meet me”, then said, “I have some pot. Want to smoke it?”. That was about the extent of it.’ His memory, though, is undimmed, recalling all manner of musical detail such as how the drum sound on the first Brutal Truth album was achieved, and how his arm was a bloody mess through chafing against his bass during those sessions. Every band he’s had an involvement with, even for one live gig or a day in the production booth, gets a name-check: it’s a phenomenal quality that displays his love of what he does.

The near-unswerving reliance on pure interview material becomes a little dry as the book progresses, and the intermittent flood of ‘picture pages’, containing often unnecessary images such as every Brutal Truth record cover under the sun, do break up the occasional monotony. It does, however, allow Dan and the people who know him to paint a picture we’d kind of expect. His likeability despite a laconic bluntness; his breakneck levels of creativity; his need to play music; all fondly recalled by all contributors just as myriad anecdotes affirm his legendary status. The ‘metal comedian’ Steve Hughes calls Lilker ‘…the Yoda of the metal underground’, whilst Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway refers to him as ‘Just a music sponge’. Cadaver’s Anders Oddington recalls how he was assisted in a crowd surge at Roskilde by Lilker; and Immolation’s Ross Dolan talks with reverence about Dan’s navigational skills, referring to him as a ‘Road map’.

Whilst not the easiest read there’s an undeniable attraction in such a wealth of information, opinion, humour and love for one of metal’s most prolific, influential and hard-working characters. The history of extreme metal oozes from every page and, for that reason alone, it’s something that all underground rats will devour.

6.5/10

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PAUL QUINN

Jason Netherton – Extremity Retained

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Death Metal is often derided as being monolithic or identical-sounding, but in fact its twenty-five year-plus history has frequently been one of fluidity, experimentation and diversity. Setting a definitive account of this history into fewer than five hundred pages is no minor task, and involves some serious choices about how best to represent the genre as a whole. For Extremity Retained: Notes From The Death Metal Underground (Handshake Inc.), Jason Netherton – his own interest in the genre being more than just academic, having played in Misery Index since 2001 – has decided to forego a single author-directed narrative by letting the scene speak for itself.

The core body of the text consists of an enormous collection of interviews with band members, recording engineers, promoters, label bosses and artists involved with Death Metal music from the late 80’s to the current day. They are presented as unbroken first-person narratives, rather than interspersed with questions and observations from the interviewer, and Netherton’s voice only appears explicitly in short introductory sections at the beginning of each chapter. Which is not to say that the account in unstructured – Netherton has sorted the interviews into five sections (origins, local scenes, recording, touring and the future of Death Metal) and compiled them together in such a way that the story develops organically.

The main strength of this approach, of course, is that the people involved with Death Metal tell what they consider to be the important parts of their own story, and what is revealed is a wealth of personal reflections and reactions that are far richer than you may be expecting. A lot of the information will already be known to fans (though non-US interviews, especially the South American and Eastern European bands, certainly have some new things to offer) but the emotional responses of the people involved raise it to an entirely new level. This is a very human story, with some genuinely moving, shocking and funny accounts, and what comes through the loudest of all is just how organic and driven by genuine passion this genre was and still is. Even when the narrative reaches the lows of the 90’s label grabs and cookie-cutter repetition, the frustration and disappointment of the musicians and engineers comes from a very real and very human place.

Netherton is, of course, operating under some pretty hefty limitations – some self-imposed and others simply the nature of the project – and it would be remiss to not consider those weaknesses. He acknowledges in the introduction that some key voices are missing, and presumably worked hard to fill those gaps, but some omissions are genuinely glaring – for me, the lack of interviews with any British musicians is noticeable, especially given the sheer number of times that Carcass, Napalm Death and Earache Records crop up in others’ accounts. Repetition is another issue, though probably an unavoidable one – be prepared to read “we didn’t call it Death Metal then, it was just Thrash”, “everything changed when I heard Scream Bloody Gore” and “I miss tape-trading, the internet killed Metal” so often that you’ll develop a sort of personal mental short-hand for skipping through them.

Another slight disappointment for me was the total absence of the bands who’ve been pushing Death Metal in stranger and more abstract directions in the last few years – Portal, Ulcerate and Pyrrhon etc. aren’t mentioned, and though the oddness of GorgutsObscura is discussed, its belated effect on the genre isn’t. The last chapter is given over to “the future of Death Metal”, but this is largely spent discussing the relative merits of the internet versus tape-trading rather than the development of the music itself.

If this review seems to have focussed more on the negative than the positive, it’s only because it’s easier to highlight the few flies in the ointment than to detail what works about Extremity Retained, which is basically everything else. It is a rich, detailed and frequently compelling story with some genuine insights about not just Death Metal but “underground” music as a whole, absolutely essential to anyone interested in the people and decisions behind the music.

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9/10

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RICHIE H-R