Black Matter Device – Autonomous Weapons
Wow. This album does everything that I want it to, and then does it again. This shit makes me want to smash a bottle on my head. It makes me want to climb onto the roof of my apartment building and jump off. It makes me want to play the knife game by myself. Turn the stove on just to burn my hand. Try to eat a big rock.
If you keep up with Mathcore Index, or if you regularly browse Bandcamp for new mathcore-adjacent releases, you may eventually feel as if you’ve “heard it all.” Chaotic hardcore and mathcore are genres with high listener expectations. If you use the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity as a reference point for musical intensity, those high expectations make complete sense. After nearly 25 years, we’ve heard the panic chords, we’ve heard the shrieking vocals, the stop-start song structures—we’ve heard the good examples and the derivations that have come from those good examples. So how do newer bands make names for themselves in these circles? How do bands stick out to audiences that might feel as if they’ve heard everything these genres have to offer?
They say “Fuck it,” and write music that they know is heavy, rather than writing music that panders to the aesthetics of the past. They remove themselves from the minds of their audience. The audience may as well not exist when it comes to creative, personal material. This album doesn’t need to straighten its hair. It doesn’t need to be attractive or skinny. This album doesn’t need to dress a certain way; it doesn’t need to fit in or check certain boxes. As I listen to it, I’ve found myself wondering “What other bands sound like this?” Then it really clicked. That question is irrelevant because it sounds exactly like Black Matter Device—powerful, passionate, and smart. Just look at the album art: a collage of organs, wires, tentacles, and psychedelic, abstract painting. It illustrates the control of chaos. The sporadic turned concise. The invisible connections between concepts and subjects are made visible. The celebration of the absurd. That is what I hear when I listen to Autonomous Weapons. From their Bandcamp: “…we’ve put our blood, sweat, tears and piss into this record, and we hope that you’ll get as much out of it as we’ve put into it.” That sentiment is absolutely felt in every single track. This album is a party, and you are invited.
Mission fucking complete. The bar for 2022 is set high. Buy it.
Epitaphe – II
France just does metal the right way. Epitaphe’s II is five songs, clocking in at just over an hour long. These songs traverse from A to B to C to D with impressive continuity and coherence. Each song is a somber portrait, and each portrait combines to create a mosaic that encompasses all of the emotions. It riffs and it tiptoes, it weeps and it explodes. At times, beating on its chest. At times, hanging its head. It sets out to combine the beautiful with the ugly, the tragic with the triumphant. If it were likened to a food, imagine a rich red velvet cake of dense, death-doom atmospheric magic.
Crossed – Morir
An absolute scorcher. It’s like this album was written just for me. Absolutely disgusting bass tone. High pitched, black metalesque vocals kissed with tasteful reverb. Natural sounding production value. Ugly chromatic riffs that cause instant stank face. The snare flam right before the breakdown at the end of “Trauma” drives me absolutely insane. An album to do backflips to. No need to embellish.
Reverorum ib Malacht – Vacuum. The Mystery of Faith. We Proclaim Your Death Oh Lord, and Profess Your Resurrection, until You Come Again. Förlåtelse och Levitation
The story of Reverorum ib Malacht has always been endearing to me. Some guys studied the Bible to make their black metal the most blasphemous it could possibly be, but in their process they ended up becoming sincerely Catholic. Their music expresses ideas about black metal that I find pretty heartwarming. Music isn’t evil. It’s fun. Dressing up in corpse paint isn’t scary or “heavy.” It’s fun. It’s just a game. I think more people should admit that dressing in spikes makes them feel pretty, and feeling pretty is a lovely experience. Come on, dude. We all have to sit in traffic. We all get bellyaches and we all enjoy a good sandwich. You can’t stay up all night worshiping the moon, you have work tomorrow! Some of the most popular aesthetics of black metal are silly at best and entirely contrived at their worst. I think that Reverorum ib Malacht is aware of this, and by choosing to reject those aesthetics, they’ve given themselves a sandbox of inspiration to work with.
Without adhering to the aesthetic and ideological guidelines that are generally associated with black metal, the result is something bizarre. Think if Negativland were a psychedelic metal band. Audio of church sermons and field recordings fade in and out of wonky riffs seemingly at random. Sections begin and end without warning. Sometimes the music feels far away as if it were being played in another room. Sometimes the music surrounds you. It’s as if the music itself speaks in glossolalia—the music being conjured by the divine. I really have no idea how one writes material like this. How do you decide when the song is finished? How do you even quantify the quality of the music? How do you say, “OK, I like this song but X and Y don’t belong here?” The project files for these songs must look insane. It’s beautiful. It’s bizarre. You should listen to it with open ears and an open heart.
Undeath – It’s Time… to Rise from the Grave
Bands like Undeath, Sanguisugabogg, Frozen Soul, and 200 Stab Wounds are at the forefront of the new-school-old-school / caveman death metal scene, and for good reason. It’s Time… is simply bad fuckin’ ass. What more really needs to be said? Do you like death metal? You will like this album. Look at the album art. It’s a guy standing at a podium in front of two portals to hell getting his head blown up by lightning. Undeath understands this genre so well. It’s supposed be fun. It’s supposed to be ridiculous. Undeath asks a single question: “Is it cool as shit?” If the answer is no, then they don’t do it. Knuckle dragging, headbanging, no frills, skull crushing death metal with a perfectly constructed image. A wrapped present of an album.