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.
A nice thing happened this week. The Blue Wave, or Blue Trickle, or whatever, saw a bunch of Democrats with reasonably progressive ideas replaced a bunch of terrible Republican jags in the still extraordinarily flawed, pseudo-democratic, hyper-capitalist, settler colonial white supremacist kakocracy we’re currently forced to endure.
Some people are very excited about the whole scenario, and at the very least, it’s not a bad thing (and there are so many bad things happening all the time now). Is it enough to make all the terrible things better? Not by a long shot. Is is a reason for hope? Maybe, just a little—but for those who still believe in the power of electoral politics, it was what they needed, and I am all for there being a little more hope in this world.
The midterms didn’t do much for me personally, though I did delight in seeing Dan Donovan, the numbskull Republican behind the entirely deranged proposed "Unmasking Antifa Act"who also let Eric Garner's murderer walk free, completely eat shit in his House race in deep-red Staten Island (so regardless of what went down in the rest of the country, it was a good-ass night in Shaolin). Rather, then as ever, I looked for hope in the heavy metal scene. As always, I found it.
This will be a short column this week for various reasons and the format is a little wonky, but I wanted to share with you the bands who have served as my latest guiding lights in the month’s ongoing darkness: Völur, Eye of Nix, Sarparast, Snot Goblin, Arête, and Bog Body.
I got to see those first two artists play last weekend at the inaugural U.S. edition of Prophecy Fest, which until now has called a Stone Age cave in a rural German village its home (I was lucky enough to cover the 2016 edition). The label’s expansion into the American market was a bold move that Noisey contributor Kevin Stewart-Panko broke down in an in-depth feature last week, and judging from the energy at its maiden foray into the cutthroat waters of the New York City live music scene, they’re at the very least off to a good start.
There were a number of excellent bands on offer that weekend, but I was zeroed in on two—Canadian shamanistic doom trio Völur, and Portland, OR-based gothic black/doom ensemble Eye of Nix. They both come from traditional genres—doom and black metal, respectively—but on both counts, have wholly ignored said genres’ conventions, shaken up their sound, and created something new; there was magic in seeing Völur’s Laura Bates shred on violin, or hearing the way Eye of Nix’s Masaaki Masao and Joy Von Spain weave together swelling synth and operatic vocals.
Both bands gave me chills, which is hard to do when you’re as jaded of a showgoer as I am. On top of that, they’re all wonderful people, which is always an added bonus in a scene studded with individuals who pride themselves on being assholes.
I haven’t seen Sarparast play yet (though I ran into vocalist Juliet M. at Prophecy Fest), but to say that I’m excited about the New York City black metal trio’s upcoming debut is a massive understatement. Not only are the self-described anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-woman outfit’s politics extremely up my alley, their music hits as hard as their message. Style without substance is ultimately a dulled weapon; bands like Sarparast, who back up their incisive lyrics with sharpened riffs, Juliet’s vocals, and impeccably malevolent atmosphere, are how social rebellions start.
As she says in the track we’re premiering right here, “A woman’s place is in the revolution. Your place is by her side.”
I first encountered Snot Goblin earlier this year, when the two brothers behind the project inadvertently made national news when they were kicked off a college tour at Colorado State University thanks to one dumb racist and a wider cultural fear of who they are, and what they look like. Months later, the Gray brothers have recorded a slew of new songs following their 2017 The Path Of The Shrunken Heads demo, and despite the band’s goofy aesthetic, their approach to thrashy, ugly old school death metal is entirely serious. Their new material continues to show a lot of promise, and I love how hard they lean into the whole goblin vibe. This is exactly the kind of band I wish I could have joined in high school.
I love seeing good metal people collaborate on interesting metal projects, and Arête scratches that itch perfectly. Featuring members of bands like Evergreen Refuge, Deafest, and Twilight Fauna (with the addition of Josh Thieler from Slaves BC on drums), this American project focuses on primal, lo-fi atmospheric black metal (which sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but listen to the below stream of its debut, Hymnal, and you’ll see what I mean). More, please.
Finally, Bog Body is a new New York City death metal concern who have been lurking under the radar since their recent inception. We haven’t heard anything like their noxious strain of corroded, noisy ritualistic death around these parts in quite awhile, and I am extremely here for any stirrings of a nasty new wave of NYDM.
New York’s alright if you like filthy death doom horror, and bands like this remind me why I love this gross, terrible city so fucking much. With all their grit and decay and aggression, Bog Body sounds like home.
Against her better judgement, Kim Kelly is on Twitter.