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.
This week, I’ve been dealing with a bunch of bullshit from basically every possible angle, so instead of digging through my looming pile of promos and demo links, I’ve instead found myself reaching for old faves when it comes time to lose myself in my headphones. It’s literally my job to keep up on new music (and as the list of releases below will attest, I do spend many hours doing just that!), but sometimes, to quote our manic pixie rock ‘n’ roll savior Penny Lane, you’ve just got to “go to the record store and visit your friends.”
By now, for all their darkness and grime and pathos, artists like Eyehategod, Rage Against the Machine, Merle Haggard, and Mischief Brew that I’ve loved since I was a teen (or younger) feel as comforting as an old sweater. Those familiar songs about suffering, hard work, dissolution, and insurrection help to remind me that, just like all of the other terrible things I’ve weathered, these particular terrible things will also pass—and when they do, I’ll still be standing.
This isn’t a unique approach by any stretch of the imagination; I’d wager that basically any music fan with any level of emotional sentience does the same. Humans are hard-wired to seek comfort in times of stress or trauma, and it makes absolute sense (to me, at least, and probably to a good number of y’all reading) that some of us would intentionally seek out abrasive, demanding music in order to find that comfort. After all, what better way is there to mend a broken heart or vent frustration with your landlord than drinking too much whiskey with your best friends and screaming along to “Kill Your Boss” or “World Eater”?
When I was in high school and my mom got real sick, all I listened to was lo-fi, antisocial American black metal like Xasthur, Leviathan, and Cult of Daath; I found their CDs in bargain bins and on the shelves at the old Relapse Records store on South Street in Philly, and clung to them as the hospital bills racked up. Their harrowing howls, subterranean menace, and murky buzzsaws were the only things that came close to mirroring what it felt like inside of my head at the time, and helped me feel a little bit stronger when I thought I was anything but. The healing power of heavy music isn’t something that we see discussed very frequently outside of our own community— most mainstream music sources seize on the more bombastic cathartic or angry elements, if that—but I’d wager that it’s a big part of why so many of us got into this shit in the first place, and why most of us still here.
All that being said, I hope you’re having a good week. If you’re not, maybe these albums will help.
Where Birds Sing My Name is the latest outing from Appalachian folk/black metal entity Twilight Fauna, and it's incredible. The project's Paul Ravenwood (joined as of 2016 by drummer Josh Thieler of Slaves BC) has always poured his heart, soul, and stories into this music, which straddles the half-obscured likes between Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and atmospheric black metal (a niche formula which would've been unheard of pre-Panopticon's
Kentucky album, but makes quite a lot of sense when forged by Ravenwood's capable hands), but this latest album is perhaps his strongest, most cohesive effort to date. The charmingly raw bluegrass and folk parts are given space to breathe, bleeding into the black metal sections in a way that feels organic and necessary (and guest vocalist Kendal Fox steals the show on the delicate, cloudy dirge "November's Cold"). Twilight Fauna has been slowly coming into its own over the course of the past few years via a dizzyingly prolific release schedule, and I'm quite impressed by where they've ended up.
I’m already obsessed with this Boston outfit, and they’ve barely released their first demo. The immediate comparison that floated to mind when I heard Who Will Be The Victims? was of early Sacrilege meets vintage Amebix, in their gnarled, thrashy, bowel-churning glory. There’s a certain gutter gothic vibe flitting through the stench, too—and what a stench(core) it is! Lifeless Dark’s apocalyptic take on crust punk is heavily metallic, grounded in low-slung riffs that owe as much to Bolt Thrower as they do Axegrinder. This may be just a demo, but it’s a shit-hot one (and it doesn’t hurt that the band also features members of No Tolerance and Green Beret).
Nashville punks goes hard, and Long Con are my latest faves from down that way. Their searing anticapitalist grindcore is a top-notch new entry into the genre's proudly state-hating canon, complete with wildly unhinged vocals, murderous grooves, and seriously headbangable riffs. Their latest effort, a two-song tour demo, features a new joint and a rollicking Rudimentary Peni cover—they're on tour through July, catch 'em if you can.
Jersey hardcore punks Sick Shit always deliver, and their latest EP is no exception (and the Negative Approach and Gorilla Biscuits covers sure don't hurt). One of the most interesting facets of Sick Shit's sound is their dual vocal approach; at times it reminds me of old Nausea, or a burlier Appalachian Terror Unit, filtered through the band's own ultra-heavy powerviolent filter. If you're a punk or hardcore fan who lives on the East Coast and aren't following Sick Shit by now, you're fucking up.
Regional Justice Center
Regional Justice Center's furious Seattle hardcore rages against the horrors of the carceral state and the rampant injustice that infects the American criminal "justice" system like maggots on a rotting corpse (while leaving plenty of room for punishing pit-ready breakdowns). Founder Ian Shelton's vitriol is fueled by bearing witness to the state-sanctioned savagery that was inflicted upon his his brother Max after he'd been sucked into the prison system, and his rage and sorrow is absolutely palpable on World of Inconvenience, the project's latest release.
Whew, this is some grimy shit. Lindow Moss takes its name from an Ice Age-era peat bog in Northern England known best for housing not one but two excellently preserved bog bodies, and the name fits the UK outfit's primitive, noxious blackened punk to a T. Think Bone Awl with a spooky post-punk influence (and catchier riffs), the young band's promise shining especially brightly on howling gut-slitters like "Psychic Violence" or the more ambitious instrumental synth tracks like "Xanax'd Fen."
Oubliette serves up really solidly executed, forward-thinking melodic black/death metal from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Armed with a satisfyingly sinister name, an appropriately frosty vibe, and a penchant for folk-inflected, almost jazzy melodies, the band utilizes their three (!) guitarists to great effect, and have crafted an album that gradually reveals more and more of its intricacies the longer you listen. I'd be more inclined to believe this came from Sweden or a similarly northern locale, but Oubliette are true children of Southern darkness.
Kim Kelly is Noisey's heavy metal editor; she's also unfortunately on Twitter.