A bit late with this one, so forgive us. Here are a couple of indies for you!
Horse Head – Missionary
Location: Arizona, US
Missionary makes for Horse Head‘s first release since their self-titled demo (which came out about two years ago). With four tracks to match their four years of Arizonan existence, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to expect that what they have here is a set of appetizers prepared just the way the band wants them. Their professed blending of sludge and doom is expressed in an interesting way, cutting thick swathes of bass with the sharper and rawer guitar as the drummer goes for hard blisters of knotty beats. They also have enough going on with the songwriting that they can confidently have the vocals (mainly growls and hissing yells) take a breather while the music goes nasty with break-downs and stormy bursts.
Horse Head have the piercing feedback pulls of sludge, death metal’s vigorous shredding, and the bass undertow of doom stitched together with few gaps or awkward fusings. As it is usual with sludge, unless you’re damn well-versed with the specific vocalist’s delivery style (or happen to have a lyric sheet), it’s going to be primarily guess-work as to what the actual words he’s spewing happen to be, but assuming that they are about something violent seems like a safe-hedged bet. Then again, they could be pulling some goofiness from the jokier grindcore bands and howling about cupcakes for all I know.
Whatever the vocals are meant to communicate, they’re fitted in an effective way to the rest of the music, and there are times where Horse Head get almost Acid Bath-y in their sink-and-punch handling of mean and heavy rhythms. About the only thing I’d have as an negative is that they also have points where they seem somewhat unfocused, but the ambiguity there provides some cool contrast to the clearer stomps.
All Hell – The Red Sect
Location: North Carolina, USA
Label: Horror, Pain, Gore, Death Productions
All Hell’s blackened thrash sound is reminiscent of a lot of those potent, quick-picked forces of the last few years. In fact, since the gradual winding down of the retro-thrash movement of the last decade, it seems as if most of the newer thrash bands that rear their ugly, speed freak heads follow this well-trodden path pioneered by the likes of Sodom and Slayer, and continued by Hypnosia and Toxic Holocaust.
Speaking of Toxic Holocaust, they are the most obvious point of comparison when absorbing All Hell’s sonic assault on The Red Sect. The similarities are so prevalent that it came as little surprise that Joel Grind, TH’s main driving force, served at the production desk for this project. One wonders if he also had a hand in steering the band in certain aesthetic directions, because even going beyond the production, the vocals of Jacob Curwen sound almost exactly like Grind’s larynx-shredding, bombastic approach. To me, the only true aesthetic differences between All Hell and TH are a slightly smoother guitar tone and song structures that dial back just slightly on the punk influences.
The whole album is generally a little less choppy than most works by Toxic Holocaust, almost betraying a penchant for Iron Maiden-style galloping melodies running just below the surface of the band’s caustic, nihilistic approach. It’s a welcome dividing line between All Hell and many of their blackened thrash compatriots, although it’s not quite enough to bring them out of the realm of being largely copyists. Nevertheless, The Red Sect is an enjoyable listen front-to back and while I hesitate to say that it will be some kind of future classic, it is definitely worthy of your time and money if you prefer your thrash metal to be wild, raw, primitive, and dark.