The Erkonauts – I Did Something Bad
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Label: Kaotoxin Records
Formed from the ashes of Sybreed by former bass player Ales Campanelli, The Erkonauts play an experimental form of groove metal that mixes funk, punk, and a little progressive rock. The band’s debut, I Did Something Bad, is easily one of the most original records I’ve heard in quite some time.
Goofy humor meets serious musicianship on I Did Something Bad; think Primus, or Devin Townshend Project. Ales is a gifted bass player, which is made immediately apparent on opening track “The Great Ass Poopery” (yes, it’s not the most sophisticated humor). A Les Claypool-styled slap-bass starts things off, but when the rest of the band kicks in the music is somewhere between punk and prog. The rest of the band are no slouches on their instruments, with some precision drumming and jaw-dropping guitar pyrotechnics. Imagine if Primus started incorporating thrash into their sound, and you’d get an idea of what to expect.
The tones, mood, and textures change pretty often throughout the album, but everything is held together by a solid production, and superb musicianship. “Dominium Mundi” is a particular favorite track, having a slightly more serious feel, with some groovy, heavy riffs, and shouted vocals that still manage to keep some melody. The Erkonauts are a truly unique band, and any metalhead with a taste for bands that think outside the box should definitely pay attention. If you like Voivod, Primus, or anything Devin Townsend has done post-Strapping Young Lad, give I Did Something Bad a spin.
Shell Beach – Changes x Restless x Faithless
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Label: Redfield Digital
It’s no longer popular to refer to a band as screamo (unless you’re middle-aged and call EVERY band that screams “screamo”); now the preferred categorization is “post-hardcore”. As I’ve mentioned before, this is really confusing since, at least for me, post-hardcore refers to bands like Fugazi, Jawbox, and Drive Like Jehu.
Shell Beach from Budapest, Hungary, are proudly carrying the torch for the kind of “post-hardcore” bands like Glassjaw, Dance Gavin Dance, and Underoath were making in the 00’s. Changes x Restless x Faithless plows through with a slightly more mature sound than your average screamo post-hardcore band. The melodies and overall catchiness provide a counter-balance for the savage, atonal guitar attacks that mark the heavier moments. Vocally, they stick to the pop-punk (think Yellowcard or Simple Plan) mixed with the hardcore screams style of vocals prevalent in this genre.
Although, if you’ve heard the bands I mentioned earlier, you won’t find anything new here, Shell Beach are certainly good at what they do, and they’ve made a decent effort. Most metalheads will probably look past this release, since Shell Beach are decidedly NOT a metal band, but if you’re a fan of melodic hardcore/post-hardcore in the vein of Dance Gavin Dance or Silverstein, you’ll find plenty like on this EP.
Sacrocurse – Destroying Chapels
Label: Hells Headbangers Records/Iron Bonehead Productions
In an ever-changing environment where supposedly “evil” and “anti-Christian” extreme metal bands are trading in their spiked bracers and blood-soaked bullet belts for manbuns and skinny designer jeans, Sacrocurse have been perfecting an intensely visceral, filthy, and at times primitive form of black/death metal. The kind that can only exist deep within the underground. Having only been around for three years, this group of barbarians have made their calls to war greatly known with an impressive debut in Unholier Master, and they are once again at the helm, willing and ready to exterminate the religious scourge that torments our existence with a new auditory attack in Destroying Chapels.
Comprised of only four tracks, Destroying Chapels makes sure to give your ears a pounding with tons of razor-sharp riffs, pounding drums, barked-and-shrieked vocals with tons of reverb, and enough feedback to give Sacrocurse a powerful atmosphere. The infusion of old-school death metal with black metal aesthetic works incredibly well in all of the tracks, particularly right out of the gate with “Total Devastation”. However, they aren’t afraid of using a slightly groovier, yet still uncompromising ferocity in “Sacrocurse Temple”, which is the perfect lead-up to the real winner of this EP, title track “Destroying Chapels”. This song is exactly what I want out of my extreme metal bands: a relentless, punishing exercise in brutality. There’s absolutely no mistaking the voracious contempt that is being conjured, and it takes an incredible physical toll since all you want to do is form a one-man moshpit and destroy everything in your apartment. Sacrocurse even managed to put their own pretty cool spin on the Bathory classic “Total Destruction,” recorded in as minimalist a fashion as possible, with the exception of some portions of layered vocals.
All in all, if you have fifteen minutes to spare in order to get a quick fix of crushing black/death metal, there’s no possible way that you can go wrong with Destroying Chapels. Sacrocurse was already on my radar from previous recordings, but this EP has really made me eager to see where they go from here. If you are already familiar with bands like Black Witchery, Diocletian, Impiety, or Cult of Fire, then I implore… no, I beg you, go purchase this EP and experience Sacrocurse in their most distilled and blasphemous form
Camel of Doom – Terrestrial
Label: Solitude Productions
With its cover art of celestial patterns, track titles hinting at proggy expansiveness (like “A Circle Has No End” and “Extending Life, Expanding Consciousness”), and half of the tracks running past the ten-minute mark, the new album from Camel of Doom (they couldn’t have gone with, I dunno, Doomedary?) gives impressions of size and grandeur from the moment it’s picked up and examined.
Kicking off with “Cycles (The Anguish of Anger)”, the band thunders quickly into heavy storminess, thick waves of bass melding with thumping drumming and trenchant growls while rhythms and tempos rise and fall. In terms of style, there’s a doom base with some sludgy aggression and tonal edge, the aforementioned proggy wanderlust, and a touch of post-metal in the experimental nature and drum arrangements (plus the frequently cosmic/existential nature of the lyrics).
To the band’s credit, they achieve an ‘epic’ feel without the negative baggage that the term has accrued over the years. The songs are big, sprawling, and highly ambitious, but there’s rarely a sense that they’re just filler. Instead, it feels as if the songs naturally grew to their final sizes as a result of the work put into practicing and playing them, with the band being reluctant to cut them down too far and lose some of the towering power they achieve. On another impressive note, the songs flow quite well from one into the next in terms of tone, harmony, and energy, so once you get started on the album, it’s hard to jump out partway through the experience.
Though things mostly splash around in the low-end of the sonic range, the production does a nice job of keeping the various elements distinct in the execution without making things too sterile or disengaged from one another. Grumbling rolls from the bass play against strained feedback from the guitar, mixed so that you can focus on either or both, depending on your preference.
Overall, it’s a very strong album which does a great job of realizing its goals. While I wouldn’t plaster it as a full recommendation across the metal spectrum (those who prefer things at regular high speeds would be liable to get antsy) I would give it an emphatic push to those metal fans on the heavier end.
MuckRaker – Karmageddon
Location: Atlanta, USA
Label: Eternal Sound Records
With a band name like MuckRaker and an album called Karmageddon, I expected some backwater, hillbilly, redneck bullshit. Although a quick search found that “muckraker” is slang for investigative journalism, the way the band placed their capitals suggests this may be a coincidence. Regardless, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that their name may have a greater meaning beyond dirt scooping (Hahaaa!).
Karmageddon made me think of the race car apocalypse, or basically an album inspired by Mad Max. The band proved me wrong right from the get-go as the title track actually deals with the concept of karma. With all my expectations shattered, I was lost and confused with no idea as to what the future may hold. As I delved further into the depths of the album, I came to a stunning conclusion: MuckRaker are a solid stoner act.
As you might expect, MuckRaker shoot for a rough and dirty sound. They give a proverbial finger to production values and rely on sheer bombast to carry the performance; and it totally works! They play with such force and conviction that it makes headbanging simply irresistible. Also, the structure and feel of Karmageddon are a lot like early Clutch, especially in the vocals. I had to remind myself numerous times that I wasn’t listening to some Neil Fallon side project.
MuckRaker know what they want and they accomplish it tenfold. The overwhelming amount of energy and revelling makes the rough edges of the work not as painful, and for a performance that at the very least will hold attention and entertain. For those who enjoy the stoner genre and for the fans of Clutch, these guys are worth a listen.