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.
Yesterday was June 6, 2018, and as such, was the 12th annual International Day of Slayer, which, like any good metal tradition, is both utterly delightful and jaw-droppingly corny (and the fact that it was initially launched by this guy makes it even funnier). Essentially, the idea of assigning the thoroughly inauspicious date of 6/6/6 to one of thrash metal’s most enduring symbols seems perfectly reasonable—elementary, even—but doesn’t do much to account for the difference that 12 years has made in Slayer’s reputation (and very core).
Given vocalist Tom Araya’s avowed Catholic faith, any reference to Satanism or apostasy inadvertently falls a bit flat, and one wonders whether we sort of… wasted… that day on a band who are thoroughly iconic and objectively sick, but don’t actually give much of a toss about the Dark Lord.
As a press release from the band’s PR organ stated, “The ‘International Day of Slayer’ is the annual heavy-metal holiday that celebrates the uncompromising, loud and defiant music of the iconic thrash/punk/metal band Slayer.” That’s all well and good, but what about all the other bands who have embraced the iconic 666 as well—and, in some cases, done it better? Iron Maiden are the clear frontrunners here (“6-6-6! The number of the beast!”) but Toxic Holocaust’s “666” (“Destroy your church, evil will reign, on this fucking earth, 666!”) and Savage Master’s “Ready to Sin” (“Under the banner of 666, beneath inverted crucifix!”) have both put forth more than respectable entries, and all three have the distinct benefit of having never had any of its members publicly support Donald Trump.
I’ve had several very pleasant and illuminating conversations with Tom Araya and the other current members of Slayer over the years, and of course politics came up—but I’m still stung by Araya’s ill-considered “snowflakes” comment (especially after seeing how little regard his bandmates happen to have for the orange fascist).
On top of all that lies the matter of whether Slayer really even is Slayer anymore. As Noisey contributor Christopher Krovatin laid out in a recent op-ed, following legendary guitarist Jeff Hanneman’s death, the band has continued to tour (after recruiting Exodus’ Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt to fill some damn big shoes) but ultimately seem to have lost their juice. They’re currently on their farewell tour now, which is probably for the best, since, honestly, is anyone really checking for a new Slayer joint in 2018?
I’m writing this as a Slayer fan, albeit one that continues to wrestle with the more problematic aspects of the band’s career. My dad gifted me a CD copy of Reign in Blood when I was 12 years old, and I loved it so much that I’d often fall asleep to it playing on repeat. I got to see Slayer in the flesh for the first time in 2004, when my friend Connor’s biker dad consented to bringing a passel of us along with him to Ozzfest and set us loose in Camden, New Jersey. It was electric—the same way it’s been the multiple other times I’ve seen them since then. Sure, a significant chunk of their recorded output has ultimately failed to register with me, but, we’ll always have Reign in Blood, and South of Heaven, and Hell Awaits. Real recognize real—and in spite of their flaws, there’s no one more real than Slayer.
Despite that early thrash exposure, my first big metal love was death metal, and it’s nostalgia for those simpler, gorier times that’s really been getting me through this week. Cannibal Corpse, Death, and Obituary were my first faves, and judging from an impromptu Twitter poll I conducted on that hell platform, for most people, they still reign supreme (alongside Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, Carcass, Incantation, Necrophagia, and Intestine Baalism—a name I haven’t heard in years, but wholly appreciate).
While many of those OGs continue to hoist that bloody torch for good old-fashioned metal of death, a particularly potent crop of young guns have sprouted as of late, and I wanted to take a minute to make note of them—from Tomb Mold to Blood Incantation to Horrendous to Witch Vomit, the kids are alright (and immaculately turned-out in the finest of longsleeves). I’ve unearthed some sweet punk bands this week, too (have you heard this Junta demo??), as well as some class war-centric blackened hardcore, and a new composition from Bleed the Pigs vocalist Kayla’s gnarly noise project, so I’m throwing them on the pile as well. Variety is the spice of life, or whatever.
Ontario-based quartet Tomb Mold are the kind of death metal band that really had no business existing in 2018, which is why they're so terribly important. Even outside of the riffs (which are extremely dope) and the melodies (which are choked with just the right amount of mouldering fuzz) or their overarching aesthetic (goopy space insects chilling in a cavern? Mad into it), the band's recently released full-length foray for 20 Buck Spin, Manor of Infinite Forms, pinpoints exactly what's needed in modern death: a willingness to push past the confines that the old guard set down back in the 90s, but a deep and abiding respect for their methodology. Were it not for a certain meticulous spit-shine in the production, this album could've been released in 1998—and I'm all in.
These Portland, OR killers are in here purely because A) they whip ass, and B) I just bought the sickest long-sleeve from 20 Buck Spin and have Witch Vomit on the brain right now. Their 2017 EP, Poisoned Blood, is absolutely fucking essential death metal filth, its potency only heightened by the members' loose affiliation with the unsurpassed Vrasubatlat collective by way of vocalist and guitarist Tony Thomas' involvement in Dagger Lust, Pissblood (who just dropped a new album), Triumvir Foul, and the absurdly dope Uškumgallu (various other members pull double or triple duty in Adzalaan, Aldebaran, Torture Rack, and others, too—Portland is fucking wild).
Connecticut duo Communal Misery sent me their latest demo, Ghoulmusic, about a week ago, and immediately caught my ear with their irresistible combination of impressively developed sound and intent. It's already a safe bet that anything tagged "blackened hardcore" is going to pique my interest, but paired with lyrics that cover, as they said, "consuming the bourgeoisie, working class traitors (cops), and sacrifice to the dark lord" means that I'm going to damn near snap my fingers off pressing play. You should, too, because this three-song demo rips—it's a perfect soundtrack to smashing bottles, chucking Molotovs, and eating the rich.
Pulsatile Tinnitus is the experimental noise side project of one Kayla Phillips, a Nashville-based artist and entrepreneur who's best known for her vocal work in noise/grind/hardcore outfit Bleed the Pigs. In her scant free time, though, she devotes herself to crafting elaborate, pulsating soundscapes like the one on this latest release, Approaching Chalk Outlines. I'm not the most well-versed in noise (you'd want to check out my very noise-literate colleague Colin Joyce's column for that) but to me, this sounds like Skullflower left to decay in a pool of softly flowing seawater.
Boston hardcore has its own extremely complex history, and I'm definitely not the guy to even pretend to start untangling it, so instead, let's just focus on one specific raw-as-hell, fuck-you hardcore punk band: Firewalker. Think Gang Green meets Repulsion, and you're halfway there. Just go listen to it, you won't regret it.
Once I finally got around to listening to NYC feminist hardcore punx Krimewatch, my main response was wanting to kick my own ass for waiting so long to check them out. I've seen their name splashed across every decent punk show in New York City for the past few years, and they've been gaining a considerable amount of traction thanks to their bouncy, lo-fi tunes and cutting lyrics howled in both Japanese and English. They released their self-titled full-length in April, and duh, it slays. The phrase "all killer, no filler" was coined for records like this.
Necros Christos has been one of my favorite bands for about ten years now, and it feels as though we've been waiting about that long for the release of the German death cult's third and purported final album. Way back in 2012, I did a joint interview with metal journalist Ankit Sinha for the metal blog Invisible Oranges, and even then, band leader Mors Dalos Ra was teasing the end of Necros Christos as we know it. Since then, they've released a handful of bits 'n' bobs—EPs, compilations, and the like—but not until now were we gifted with Domedon Doxomedon, the follow up to 2011's pristine Doom of the Occult. As one might assume, it's a powerful document of occult death, and a fitting epitaph for one of the genre's mightiest titans. Doom of Nekros —Death of Christos.
Bonus: Vulgar Display of Purring, a new compilation from Brooklyn-based non-profit And Justice For Paws… featuring local heavyweights like Tombs, Imperial Triumphant, Car Bomb, Unearthly Trance, Anicon, Artificial Brain, and Pyrolatrous is is now available as a pay-what-you-want download; proceeds will benefit City Critters, a NYC based organization that places stray and abandoned cats with homes and works with members of the community to find humane solutions to problems involving homeless animals. A record release show is slated for June 26 at Saint Vitus, and will feature Dead Empires, Belus, Godmaker, and Wreath of Tongues. My queen Greta approves.
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey; follow her on Twitter.