Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed, and every other metal type under the sun.
Cloud Rat: Pollinator (Artoffact)
Michigan’s Cloud Rat are simply one of the best grind bands going right now. In them, you hear the hope-laden desperation of melodic crust bands like His Hero is Gone and Tragedy, heading into oblivion at double speed. There’s an aching beauty, a sense to find good in an utterly fucked situation, this situation being life. Pollinator is their third full-length and their first for Artoffact Records, a label not usually known for metal. Cloud Rat is an example of how a metal group has an audience outside of diehards not because they try and compress their sound, but just because they’re so killer at what they do. Pollinator rocks with the crust set bound by patches on pants and contemptible stench, with the Earache old heads who view the Grindcrusher comp as the Old Testament, with Deafheaven kids who want prettiness with their metal, noise head and weirdos who grew up on grind and want something a little different. They cross so many different paths in such a short span, often without even realizing it. Credit Rorik Brooks for being an efficient but versatile guitarist: Cloud Rat blasts when the energy requires it, and goes into doomy stretches when they’re guided toward them, going beyond a simple need for contrast. Madison Marshall embodies a great grind vocalist of externalizing a broader pain, her shrieks and growls a key component to the record’s dueling mentalities between “Earth is beyond wrecked” and “there is still much to life.” Pollinator isn’t just speed, it’s goddamn movement.
Apprentice Destroyer: Permanent Climbing Monolith (Apprentice Destroyer Records)
More metalheads should listen to Glenn Branca. You’re into extreme guitar and you don’t know of him? Shame on you, false. Steve Peacock, he of Mastery, Ulthar and Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, explores metalized Branca with Apprentice Destroyer’s second album Permanent Climbing Monolith. Peacock rebirths black metal’s trademark repetition through Branca’s language of mass, enlisting his Ulthar bandmate Shelby Lermo, Nick Stanley, and Bob Renz for a quad-guitar meditative attack. The endless walls they build are worthy of reverence, even stepped in irreverence for convention. When black metal blasting comes in, it’s a stupendous contrast, two similar mindsets battling it out over who triumphs in repetition. Apprentice Destroyer nails a contradictory harmony, destroying the lines between academic, learned, primitive, primal. In essence, it’s worthy of the title Peacock bestowed on the record; even a free-thinker must bow to this sheer majesty. Black metal’s current avant-master has once again opened a new dimension of ecstatic madness.
Haunter: Sacramental Death Qualia (I, Voidhanger)
Weeping Sores: False Confession (I, Voidhanger)
I, Voidhanger has increasingly become a label to watch. Like 20 Buck Spin and Profound Lore, they appeal to both pig’s-blood-dyed-in-the-wool bangers while also offering new paths. First of their two phenomenal releases this month is Sacramental Death Qualia from San Antonio trio Haunter. One of the more exceptional black metal releases this year, Haunter differentiates themselves with a ghostly progginess, recalling early Opeth as much as shrouded American black metal of this decade. They may also be the most Black Twilight non-Black Twilight band ever, emphasizing the mysteriousness and intricacy of Volahn. While one could argue I say something to this effect every other column, y’all are gonna get shredded by what Texas has known for a minute.
I, Voidhanger also dropped False Confession, the debut full-length from New York trio Weeping Sores, led by Pyrrhon vocalist Doug Moore. Basically, if you’re one of the five metalheads who’ve wondered what Obscura-era Gorguts would sound like doing My Dying Bride, this is it. Specifically, Gorguts’ “Clouded” and its jagged doominess is the model for these songs. Speed does not negate tumult, in fact, the journey is only rockier. Gina Hendrika Eygenhuysen’s violin is the My Dying Bride element here, adding weightlessness to such bottom-heavy torture. Like Haunter, it is steeped in underground tradition while finding low-key but bold ways to reinvent well-treaded sounds.
No One Knows What the Dead Think: No One Knows What The Dead Think (Willowtip)
Takafumi Matsubara: Strange, Beautiful and Fast (Self-released)
These two releases are grouped together because they stem from one of the greatest grindcore bands of all time: Discordance Axis. (If you haven’t listened to The Inalienable Dreamless, it’s grind’s Master of Puppets.) No One Knows What The Dead Think is a new group from Discordance Axis vocalist Jon Chang and guitarist Rob Marton, and this is as close to new Discordance Axis as we’re gonna get. This is also Marton’s first public release in a long, long time, which is why this record is crucial for grind heads. Marton can pack more into one song than most bands do with whole albums, and he plays like this only came out a year after Dreamless. His melodic flourishes from his Discordance Axis days also come into greater focus here, and as in his prime, he doesn’t just change it up seamlessly, he can also make melody flow into the barrage. Chang also still sounds like the camo pants-wearing whirlwind he was in his 20s; age has slowed them maybe a second at most.
After Discordance Axis broke up for good in 2012, Chang sang for Gridlink with guitarist Takafumi Matsubara until 2014, releasing three spectacular albums that ran at a grand total of 45 minutes. Matsubara dropped his first solo record, Strange, Beautiful and Fast, the same week as No One Knows What The Dead Think’s record, a wonderful coincidence. Like Gridlink, this is hyper-dense, hyperspeed grind with a huge trash bent. There’s a melancholic joy, the thrill of hurtling toward obliteration. And for grind, this is a star-studded DJ Khaled record, if Khaled could rip on guitar: among the drummers on this record include Brutal Truth’s Richard Hoak, Matsbara’s ex-Gridlink bandmate and Texas slammer Bryan Fajardo, and Wormrot’s Vijesh Ghariwala; his legion of vocalists on here ranks Kill the Client’s Champ Morgan, ex-Khanate vocalist Alan Dubin, and Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker, to name a few. Most breathtaking of all is how consistent it is: no one dominates the record except for Matsubara, and he’s in top form. Well, “Abstract Maelstroms” does deviate with hip-hop, like a grind Cold World, but still: This record is magnificent, a stellar boost for the genre.
Creeping Death: Wretched Illusions (EOne)
High Command: Beyond the Wall of Desolation (Southern Lord)
Creeping Death are from Texas and they sound like Bolt Thrower. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
High Command are from Massachusetts and sound like Iron Age, one of the greatest Texas bands. That’s it. That’s also the tweet.
You should listen to both of them. Texas is the world.