To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
Last week, I wrote about the idea of examining and sometimes abandoning one’s musical idols in service of the greater good, and taking accountability for one’s own failings. It was a difficult and complex problem to discuss, and I was gratified to see that it generated some discussion amongst people I respect (and I only got a little bit of hate mail!). This week, I’ll be honest: I am way too fucking tired to wax philosophical about much of anything. I’ve barely even listened to music at all since I wrote up the band entries for last week’s column, because I don’t listen to music on my phone and as one of the collective organizers of#OccupyICENYC, have spent the majority of my time since then at the blockade outside the I.C.E. processing center at 201 Varick Street in Lower Manhattan. There were a few moments during the occupation—like when a guy in Morbid Angel gym shorts stopped by, or when various folks brought out a guitar, or a ukulele, or an accordion (?)—that reminded me that, oh yeah, music exists, but by and large, my ears have been on hiatus.
The revolution will have a soundtrack, but I don’t know exactly what it’ll sound like yet. I’m hoping Iskra.
It’s a funny thing, going from listening to music for eight hours at a time (or more, if I go to a show after work or have the energy to throw on one of my dad’s old country records when I get home) down to nil. After so many years of writing about metal, I very seldom listen to music at home anymore; it’s kind of a shame, but living such a loud existence does amplify one’s appreciation of silence. Also, outside of work/metal, my particular political activities mean that I’ve been exposed to enough LRADs, screams, and sirens for a lifetime, so I do appreciate the moments of calm within the ongoing storm.
Getting back into the swing of things this week has been slightly jarring, but was eased by the beautiful inevitability that I’d eventually get lost in an album and start absentmindedly headbanging at my desk—a sight that my coworkers are now used to, but that still seems to perplex the randoms who trundle in and out of Vice’s editorial floor each day. Yesterday, Adzalaan’s Into Vermillion Mirrors is what did the trick; today, Forest of Grey’s Crypsis is the first thing that’s grabbed me (and it has really grabbed me—it’s a perfect synthesis of atmospheric black metal and epic crust, which has me written all over it).
Here are a few other things that I’ve been enjoying this week from some old friends, new discoveries, and dependable faves (they're not all metal, either—sorry not sorry, you're lucky I didn't just cue up fifteen Merle Haggard songs and leave it at that).
After spending years touring with these Savannah sludge punk lifers, I’m unspeakably biased towards this band, and could never pretend otherwise; they’re my family, and I still miss Athon—who I still can’t believe has been gone for almost four years now—terribly. Now joined by two accomplished old pals on bass (Corey Barhorst) and guitar (Chris “Scary” Adams), the core duo of Andrew Fidler and James May are preparing to release T.C.B.T., their first new album without Athon’s towering presence, and even with all of my bias, I’ve got to say: it’s really fucking good. “Burn the Stars” is their first single, and it’s rife with the manic punk energy and swampy, heavy-as-a-church-tower riffage we’ve come to expect.
I love Dakhma so much. As far as I'm concerned, the Michigan quartet is a perfect band: good people, good politics, and an atmospheric, crusty black metal sound that just doesn't quit. This latest offering is brief—their side of a split with French hardcore bruisers Pilori—but brutal, and leaves me wanting so much more. It's been two years since their last LP, Suna Kulto, surfaced, and I'm dying for a bigger bite.
Escuela just keeps on killing it out here, and the Ithaca powerviolence crew is taking no fucking prisoners on their new split with Oakland grind freaks Violent Opposition. I can't remember if I've written about them and their uncompromising sonic warfare operations here before, but if not, shame on me, because they fucking rule.
Dead Wretch is a fairly new project from relentlessly prolific multi-instrumentalist Daniel Jackson (whop is also behind Void Ritual, Ancestral Oath, and various others). It's a rollicking slab of tongue-in-cheek grind 'n' roll that gleefully pokes fun at extreme metal tropes (the lyrics to "Red Logo Atop A Buff Goat Demon" had me in stitches) but takes its own songwriting deadly serious; even if you don't dig the message, it's hard to deny that this is good shit. All proceeds from its debut release will be donated to the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, too, so go buy it (and gift a few copies to your friends).
I've been seeing a lot of chatter about these Austin punks, and after spending some time with their bite-sized debut EP, I'm happy to chime in. They proudly wave the metalpunk banner with a little bit of gothy swagger and young Rollins snot, serving up an end result that's punchy, crude, and extremely listenable. I have a feeling these guys (who are comprised of members of Nosferatu, Residual Kid, Plax, and Enemy One) are going to be A Thing.
Timelost surprised the hell out of me when I heard the contents of their 2018 demo; it's not at all what I was expecting given the personnel involved (Shane Handal of instrumental heavies Set and Setting, and Grzesiek Czapla of black metal bands Woe, Absu, and Infernal Stronghold, amongst others). This isn't a metal band at all; rather, it's a melancholy, almost pop-inflected post-rock band, with dreamy vocals and a emphasis on the -rock. It's got more in common with current Alcest or Katatonia than anything with blastbeats, and I'm weirdly into it. It makes for an excellent palate cleanser between Sadistic Execution albums, or a soundtrack to your daydreams.
This is essential British crust with a cast of grimy death. Agnosy's most recent album, Traits of the Past, came out back in 2014; I haven't heard many peeps from them since then, but they've bene playing regularly, and mentioned on Facebook that they were working on a new album, so now is the perfect time to acquaint yourselves with one of the greats. In crust we trust.
I cherry-picked this track off of Give Praise Records' new sampler, The Two Faces of Reality, but there's a ton of great stuff on there, particularly for those who like it fast and ugly. Grave Plague seem to be a new prospect with a delightfully caveman-esque outlook; their approach to death metal comes straight outta the early 90s, brewed from a rotten mash of Swedish and Floridian influences (as well as the obvious hat-tip to Incantation). I haven't heard enough to pass any real judgements, but judging from this track, I'm going to need to keep an eye on this Cleveland death squad.
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey; follow her on Twitter.