This month’s Under the Surface has us travelling from our friends in the great north, Canada to the comfortable confines of Boston all the way down to North Carolina and finally making our last stop across the world in New Zealand. This of course is all in the pursuit of the latest and greatest in unsigned or undiscovered metal music.
We begin with one man wrecking crew Justin Chorley and his latest musical endeavor, Hirsute. Still Waiting is melodic doom metal of the highest order. It’s a bit baffling that there can be an act of this caliber that hasn’t already been nabbed by Relapse or Southern Lord. And this isn’t just fanboy hyperbole. Chorley singlehandedly may have brewed up the depressing lovechild of Opeth and Paradise Lost. Not unlike Deafheaven’s Sunbather, the key to Still Waiting is how it casts light and shade. In order to really appreciate the storm and soul-crushing riffs you need the quiet, introspective moments of songs like ‘Sang the Bird from its Cage’ and the title-track. But don’t take my word for it. Find Hirsute on bandcamp and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
From one man’s metallic vision we move to another’s in Pyramids on Mars. The instrumental brainchild of Hamilton Ontario’s Kevin Estrella, Pyramids on Mars focuses more on melodies and very clean/technical guitar passages. With no singing and drums only there to keep time, Estrella’s shredding is truly the marquee event here. When he shreds, he shreds. It’s the stuff that the John Petrucci hideous t-shirt crowd loves as evidenced on ‘Descending Saturn.’ But when we don’t have an abundance of fancy fret work and are only left with the thin sounding programmed drums and synths that’s when Pyramids on Mars starts to lose momentum. Come for Estrella’s axe skills, but he’s yet to find a reason for you to stay.
Following the more progressive metal route are Boston’s own, Chronologist. In the wake of Periphery and djent fever sweeping across all local markets it’s beyond gratifying and exciting to hear a new collective that isn’t just aping Meshuggah palm-muting and calling themselves “progressive” like every other band at the Palladium these days. It’s unclear if Chronologist will continue to move forward without a vocalist, but it’s working for them. Songs like ‘Bazooka’ and ‘San Juan’ have enough dynamics and intricate guitar work that it eliminates the need for singing. Going instrumental is something even more established prog-metal acts should consider (looking at you Dream Theater). To be around for barely over a year and have an instrumental Demo be better than most of your peer’s LPs is a strong start. Keep up the fine work, gentlemen.
All Hell’s The Devil’s Work is the kind of LP that sounds like it was released 30 years ago, conceived after many brews and bong rips. Down to the production and riffs, it’s an album that reeks of Venom and Hellhammer, yet it’s a power trio from Asheville, North Carolina. If you have a fine appreciation for early 80s metal particularly the darker side of the British Wave of Heavy Metal you can have some fun with The Devil’s Work. When it finds its pace it alternates between Show No Mercy and Orgasmatron. Which is awesome but when it teeters off it has a hard time figuring out if it’s an homage or if it’s just dated. Especially since today there are many young bands like Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust who balance an old-school sound without sounding rehashed. Here for every rager like ‘The Reaper’s Touch’ you have to deal with a dud like ‘Firewalker.’ Dang shame that it’s inconsistent, but there’s enough thrash on The Devil’s Work to warrant still wearing your bullet belt.
Lastly we have the new 7” Burn the Witch EP from Southern California’s enigmatic Son of Man. Since they refuse to play shows the only thing we can really determine based on their limited output is that they are angry and also have appear to have an affinity for metallic hardcore. Unlike All Hell, Son of Man is balancing some tried and tested genres (thrash, hardcore, doom) without sounding like you’ve heard it before. It hammers its point home quickly in similar fashion to Black Breath and leaves you wanting more. Actually it would have been nice if this was a proper LP with even more pummeling and properly timed breakdowns.