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.
I’ve alway resisted the idea of running a regular metal column on Noisey, even though my coworkers have been urging me to give it a spin for pretty much the entirety of my nearly four years working here. The thought of that kind of compartmentalization seemed to invite an othering—a cheapening, even—of the genre and its cultural importance. I worried about that especially in terms of how metal fits into a site like Noisey, which is so utterly genre agnostic (I mean, you’ve seen our year-end lists) that splitting the spotlight between wildly different artists at wildly different levels is a daily challenge.
I didn’t want our metal coverage concentrated into one small corner of the site; I wanted to take over (and, barring that, to see my work and those of other metal writers nestle comfortably next to our features on artists like Pusha-T and Menzingers). That idea made me bristle, because I am fiercely protective of this music, and of its culture (despite its many warts that need excising). I’ve spent the past 15 years writing about it, and thinking about it, and interrogating it, and supporting it. It’s been my life since I was 12 years old. I’m invested.
For a few years in the mid-to-late 2000s, metal (particularly black metal) was deemed interesting by mainstream media publications, and we saw the rise of The Metal Column: a semi-regular clearinghouse for the staff’s resident metalhead (or a lucky freelancer) to wax romantic about their favorite current releases, or delve into the metal drama du jour. A few of them, like Stereogum’s Black Market, are still trucking along; others were shorter-lived, like the one I wrote for Pitchfork in tandem with Austin-based writer (and occasional Noisey contributor) Andy O’Connor. It was called Hell Awaits, and racked up a nice little following before it was dealt a premature, ignoble death in 2014. Years later, the places that didn’t truly care about metal have stopped pretending—and the ones that did have nothing left to prove.
At Noisey, metal isn’t a token, or a trend; it’s woven into the fabric of the site, in strands of bloody claret and pitch black. It is established, and valued. I’ve got a ton of freedom, and extend that to the freelance writers I’m privileged to work with; metal is so complex, and wonderful, and terrible, that trying to pin it down or shove it into a corner is a truly impossible task, and everyone here understands that.
My goal here is to do what makes me happiest: sharing killer underground metal (and maybe some crust, and hardcore, and noisy stuff—we’ll see) with people who will appreciate it. Each week, To Hell and Back will shine a big megawatt light onto the bands that have caught my ear over the past few days. I’ll premiere some things, share some Bandcamp links to new releases, talk about older albums I like or that I’ve just discovered, and generally bring my Twitter feed to life (with less of an outright focus on politics—though, of course, if you give a loudmouthed anarchist feminist a column anywhere, things are bound to get a little political).
If you trust my taste, I think you’re going to love this. If you don’t, or think I’m an evil feminazi snowflake antifa supersoldier here to ruin everything you hold dear (that thing being racism), then I’m certainly not going to waste my time trying to change your mind. The Metalsucks comment section is that-a-way.
Me? I’ve got too many sweet riffs to devour to worry my pretty little head about what a few reactionary jagoffs think—and, hopefully, so do you. Let’s dig into this week’s treasures.
Today, Baton Rouge-turned-all-over-the-damn-place doom crew Thou released a new song off of their upcoming new album, Magus, which marks the band’s first proper full-length since 2014’s Heathen. Thou being Thou, they’ve also put out 9 other releases since then (including the magisterial 6-song The House Primordial EP, which dropped on May Day via Robotic Empire and is the first in a planned trilogy of EPs leading up to the new album). “The Changeling Prince” is a solid representation of what listeners can expect from this next Thou foray—a bit less brute force, a lot more misery, and a greater emphasis on melody (with some vocal choices that will surprise the hell out of anyone who hasn’t seen them playing these tunes live yet). It seems like spending all that time with their pals The Body has rubbed off on them, in the best possible way. The full album is out August 31 on Sacred Bones, and is going to cause some major waves. (They also just dropped the muted acoustic Inconsolable EP this afternoon—try and keep up!)
It’s been quiet in the Resistant Culture camp since 2008’s landmark All One Struggle LP, but the LA-based Native American grindcore stalwarts have recently roared back to life with a new surprise single, “Shadowed Man,” that heralds the imminent release of a brand-new album, Shamanic Healing. It’s a tad more polished than their other work (undoubtedly as a result of Dan Swano’s knob-twiddling skills) and the drums are clickier than I personally prefer, but Katina Culture’s apocalyptic death riffs and Anthony Rezhawk’s guttural roars are as potent as ever, and there’s an interesting black metal element at play that I hope they explore more fully on the rest of the album. No set release date or label have been announced, but the bare fact that a new Resistant Culture album is on its way has got me grinning ear to ear, and very much looking forward to what they come up with. For liberation and peace, let's get off our knees!
We premiered the excellent new album from Montreal black metal project Spectral Wound earlier this week, and now I would like to draw your attention to one of their affiliates, Blood Sacrifice (who share members with Taggarik as well as Spectral Wound). Blood Sacrifice’s debut demo, The Horned Goddess, is an absolute maelstrom of bestial black metal fury, serrated Finnish-style melody, and bloodthirsty Satanic might; it’s a relentless, punishing piece of music, and the fact that it’s only the quintet’s very first demo is a little scary. To call this “promising” is like saying Countess Bathory had a teensy bit of a temper.
Since 2008, “pain rock” noise gluttons Backslider have been the Philadelphia heavy music scene’s diseased heart and soul, croaking up short, fast, loud homages to 70’s prog, dirty needle hardcore, off-kilter powerviolence, ugly punk, and AmRep noise muck. Their latest EP, Death Residue, is far less conventional that their breakneck last album, Motherfucker, so don’t think you can get comfortable; this shit is still weird, and wild, and mean as hell, with a pronounced wallop of wall-eyed rock ‘n’ roll. With the addition of new drummer Jake Creggar (Multicult, Triac, Reeking Cross), Backslider are poised to cause even more damage than usual with this jawn (out June 1 via the illustrious Nerve Altar). Philly shreds!
Sutratma’s take on funeral doom took a listen or two to really connect with me, but once it did, it hit me in that same spot where I keep my appreciation of Skepticism and Ahab tucked away for safe-keeping. If you like your doom excruciatingly slow and utterly bereft of any light or hope, this Santa Barbara quintet (which, fun fact, includes two former members of Uphill Battle) should be right up your alley. Their debut, Until The End, is due out June 1 via Baneful Genesis Records and Black Voodoo Records (cop that DLP preorder here or here). I appreciate their dedication to the classic velvety, slightly histrionic European aesthetic, too (think Skepticism’s MDF 2015 vibe). Essentially, Until The End would be a delightful accompaniment to a cemetery picnic with someone you love who’s leaving soon.
Kim Kelly is digging up more black gold on Twitter.