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 weekend, I went to Migration Fest, and it was beautiful and ridiculous and perfect, and we’ll be publishing our coverage of it soon. On Monday, I walked back into the apartment I’ve lived in for four years, still basking in that post-festival glow, and started packing up my life. Change can be good, but this, my friends, was a fucking mess. The general horror of moving in a gigantic urban hell world like New York City was significantly exacerbated by the fact that I simply have too many fucking records (and CDs, and tapes, and black band T-shirts, and books—literal hundreds of books).
Moving house with a record collection is perhaps one of the cruelest rites of passage for metalheads old enough (or financially solvent enough) to have amassed a respectable quantity of vinyl records, and I was miserable even thinking about it. I spent years touring and sleeping on gross floors, I have a bad back! I’m fragile! How was I supposed to lift those fucking things? (The answer, as it turns out: start dating someone with hella muscles, and hire some movers).
Thanks to the unique quirks slash perks of my particular profession, I’ve managed to acquire an unholy amount of vinyl despite being perpetually broke, and it was those shelves upon shelves of records that stared back at me maliciously as I started reluctantly packing up the rest of my possessions. I was so dreading the back-breaking ritual of packing, lugging, unpacking, and swearing to die in whatever cramped apartment I moved to next that I tried to pawn them off on a neighbor; unfortunately, my scads of black metal, crust punk, doom, and country albums remained my own goddamn problem.
As I finally buckled down and started dealing with said problem, I realized that there was a slight silver lining: the packing process gave me an opportunity to sort through my collection and weed out anything that I no longer wanted (or wanted to sell, because capitalism is an ever-tightening noose around our necks and I have a new parasitic landlord to keep happy).
I’ve been collecting records since I was 19, and as a college kid and in my early 20s, I was far less politically educated than I am now; I was mostly concerned with nasty riffs, chugging 40s, and conning my professors into counting my constant attendance at local metal shows as an “independent study.” As a result, I had a lingering handful of sketchy-ass black metal records lurking amongst my Iskra, Dolly Parton, and Neurosis albums. I hadn’t listened to them in years, but never quite got around to dealing with them (which is a bad excuse, but I’m a flawed human with a lot going on!).
A sentiment that I often see bandied about on social media by a certain strain of “keep metal dangerous!”-type metal folk that is “nobody has an entirely clean record collection!” with the implication that all art is objectionable on some level, and that those pesky social justice types who want less racism or sexism or other forms of bigotry in their blast beats are missing the point of rock ’n’ roll. I understand the impulse behind that thought; case in point, even my no-fun anarchist feminist anti-fascist ass had multiple records by shitty artists or shitty labels that I felt I needed to trash to stay true to my principles. I’ve got to tell you, though, it felt really good to pluck them out from my shelves like rotten blackberries at the bottom of a bodega punnet and wing them across the room, slowly forming a small nope pile destined for an inglorious end; I’m not selling that shit, because the only place they belong is at the bottom of a landfill.
So to that point, if we’re taking the word “clean” to mean “stocked with artists who create art in keeping with my own personal political and ideological values,” then, yeah, I’m batting a thousand now. It’s straight up Windex over here, and I feel a lot better for it. Moving still sucked a thousand kinds of unwashed ass, but, you’ve got to find the light where you can in all this darkness.
And, as it turns out, purging your record collection of artists with trash politics ain’t that hard to do. Maybe try it sometime?
In the meantime, here are a few releases from extremely good people who make extremely good music that you can feel good about supporting!
I will have a lot more to say about this band soon, but for now, wanted to be sure you hadn’t missed it (even though it went viral as all hell last week for fairly obvious reasons). Anarchist trolls trolling Nazi trolls via anti-fascist war metal is the most 2018 thing ever, and I could not be more here for it.
I absolutely love Habak’s artful blend of post-metal and crust; it’s much lighter and more open than your standard neocrust, but still has plenty of chops (and bite). Its melodic fury is powered by the DIY Tijuana quartet’s hatred of “this putrid border that has forced us to create from the general hostility,” with a vocalist who sounds like she’s spitting blood.
False remains one of the greatest gifts that has ever been given to American black metal, and their set at Migration Fest this past weekend was superb; vocalist Rachel has cultivated an stage presence that is somehow even more intimidating and bewitching than that to which I’d become half-accustomed over the years, especially that evil little cackle she let fly halfway through. Without getting too sappy, watching them call down the heavens made me believe in black metal again. Who needs Emperor when you’ve got False?
Phoolan Devi pays fitting tribute to the notorious Indian bandit queen with this rough-around-the-edges demo full of psych-tinged, manic, heavy rockin’ Detroit grind violence (bonus: Cloud Rat vocalist Madison is on drums!). More, please.
This UK one-woman project whips together atmospheric black metal with darkwave, shoegaze, stormy ambient, and witch house (I do not know what the latter term means exactly, but am guessing it’s like spooky chill electronic music, which this most certainly is). There’s a real depth to the recordings that you don’t often get with this sort of faraway ambient-based music, with a maudlin 90s feel. It’s a really interesting balance that calls to mind a blacker Common Eider, King Eider, and is as soothing as it is intense. I’m really digging it, and am hoping that this album ends up on vinyl someday (which should mean something now that you’ve seen what an idiot I am about vinyl!).
The latest album from these d-beaten feminist Malmö punks has a weirdly lo-fi guitar and drum sound that reminds me eerily of Deathcrush (especially on album opener “Nix”), but even outside that, their tortured, reverb-drenched vocals and overall kängpunk racket is addictive as all hell.
The inaugural 2017 demo from these sleazy, breezy New York City rock ‘n’ rollers remains one of my local favorites; it’s rough and raw and makes me want to throw back about a dozen whiskeys, and what more could you ask of a bunch of tattooed punks with a stash of Inepsy records?
Everything Thou does—whether they’re shifting tectonic plates with their inhumanely heavy doom, reaching for delicacy, or going straight-up grunge—is perfect. This latest EP completes a trilogy started in advance of their upcoming new album, Magus, and while I know I write about Thou in here a lot, it’s really not my fault that they decided to release a bajillion new records this year! Like the unignited fire awaits its fuel, so does death wait for you.
Kim Kelly is perpetually rabble-rousing on Twitter.