Deaf Club – Bad Songs Forever
Justin Pearson can do no wrong. I’ve reached a few different conclusions after listening to this four-song EP a few times: There is a cool table, and then there is an even cooler table; the table where those who sit at the cool table wish they sat. This cooler table is where Deaf Club sits. Everything about this release is balanced. Nothing in the mix is louder than it needs to be. It sounds almost understated. I can’t think of another example of carefully understated grindcore off the top of my head. Deaf Club would blow you away as an opening act, leaving you thinking, “Well, I already saw the best band of the night. I think I’ll go smoke.” Just as easily, they could close a show, and you would save yourself for their set, because once it’s on, it’s on until the show is over. With nothing to prove and not a single shit given, Deaf Club are at the top of their game.
Imelda Marcos – Albularyo
Let me be transparent: I listen to metal and its subgenres more than anything else. But that isn’t because I think metal is the best kind of music. What I look for in music, more than anything else, is having an emotional experience while listening to it. I’m not entirely sure what Albularyo makes me feel, but it is overwhelming at times.
There are countless, bleeding heart albums that document the mental status of the vocalist, if not the mental stati of the entire band. Albums that, over the span of several songs, aim to show a candid look into the shifting psychae of the artists who made them. This EP is a bit different: Donna’s delivery rapidly changes from subdued to infuriated, from reserved to explosive, on a line to line basis. Jagged, repetitive rhythms build and build in tandem with the intensity of Donna’s vocals. One line will feel as if she’s the one who is hurting, and the next will feel like she is going to hurt you. Specifically, in the track “Year of Contortion,” Donna’s tone and delivery feel as if they’re being decided in real time. Is this cathartic? Is this revelatory? Does this song take place while emotions are being processed, or have the emotions already been processed? These songs seem to evaluate themselves, asking themselves personal questions and immediately answering those questions, only to be led to more questions as a result, and in that confusion there is an emotional transparency. A strength. An empowerment through the willingness to be brutally honest and sincere.
If you’re like me, there might be an empty space in your heart where Zs used to live. I’m unsure if Imelda Marcos takes any influence from Zs, but I would argue that they share a similar experimental spirit. An internal need to illustrate complex emotions through music that is equally complex. In my mind, there is somehow a difference between being in the mood to listen to metal, or city pop, or video game soundtracks or what have you, and wanting to listen to something that you know is outside of your usual wheelhouse. Something that leaves you feeling curious. Imelda Marcos leaves me feeling curious, not exactly the same as I was before I listened to them, and I love that. That feeling inspires me.
Morgue Supplier – Inevitability
At least once a month, some metal band puts out an album that perplexes me. This month, it’s Morgue Supplier with their third LP, Inevitability. Whether one is actively aware of it or not, a lot goes into deciding how you feel about an album. In the same way that writing a record is a process, analyzing a record is also a process. One part of that process is trying to put yourself in the minds of the people who made the music. You ask yourself questions, you make comparisons, you draw conclusions. Last month, I found myself going through this process with Reverorum ib Malacht. Here I am again, wondering how Inevitability was written; wondering how human beings make these decisions that result in albums like this.
The first song, “Absurd Identity,” instantly starts with a bassline that sounds humanly impossible to play. It’s so fast that when I first listened to it, I thought that my computer was glitching. I restarted the song. I played it again. No, it’s really that fast. OK. This will be fun. Here are my thoughts:
Inevitability is an unending game of Why Is This Happening?, How Did We Get Here?, Is This One Long Part or a Bunch of Small Parts?, and Where Is the 1?, smashed into each other. Strange, dissonant riffs play as if they don’t care if other instrumentation is present at all. I can only assume that the drums were programmed during an especially manic episode, because the percussion is changing constantly. The vocals sit right on top of the mix, giving the impression that the music is the soundtrack to the vocalist’s internal monologue. Sometimes I’ll listen to a song or album and think, “Wow, that’s incredibly ugly. I love it.” Inevitability is a solid example of that.
Have you ever read a review for a death metal album where the author used all these words like “cavernous,” “pummeling,” “cascading,” and shit like that? Sure, whatever, Inevitability is all of those words, but do those words truly do justice to the way that the music makes one feel? This album makes me feel like someone is going to actually break into my apartment and stab me in the chest with a dirty, homemade knife. “There’s no way that’s true,” you might be thinking to yourself. Give it a spin if you don’t believe me.
Primitive Man – Insurmountable
I would like to ask you a question. Who is the heaviest band of all time? There are a million different answers to this question. Some people say Mortician—to these people, the big booty bass, absolutely ignorant riffs, and deep, monstrous growls; these are the elements of the heaviest band of all time. Some people think it’s Infant Annihilator—these people consume more caffeine than any living being should consume. The only thing that makes them feel sane is 300 BPM 32nd-note gravity blasts (the same speed as their heart rates), complemented by every possible metal vocal technique imaginable. When I was in high school, I was certain that Devourment’s Unleash the Carnivore was the absolute heaviest that music could get, and with their most recent album, Obscene Majesty, I still think they are leagues heavier than most other bands. Of course, this is all subjective, and it’s all in good fun. It’s not enough to just name the heaviest band. Why are they the heaviest band of all time?
Respectfully, I would like to make the argument that Primitive Man is the heaviest fucking band of all time. I know, I said it. “But, Bishop! You just said that this is all subjective and that it’s all in good fun! Why would you take an objective stance immediately after asserting that there is no objective stance to take in the first place?” Because… because. I love this topic. Take my gross, little hand.
Clearly, there are different types of “heavy.” There are different strategies for expressing extreme emotions. Some see heaviness as having to do with overall tone. Meshuggah is a good example of this. Very bass-heavy, very punchy. Their music feels as if it has mass. If it were to fall on you from above, it would crush you. Some quantify a band’s heaviness based on how infuriating it sounds, or how angry it makes the listener feel. For me, chaotic hardcore makes me feel especially furious. Sectioned’s album Annihilated makes me want to rip my shirt off of my body. It makes me want to be kicked in the head. Bands like Frontierer, Cult Leader, Black Matter Device—these bands make me feel angry. These bands have an area of effect radius that covers the entire venue. Their music makes everyone in the crowd want to rip their shirts off. Whereas bands like Defeated Sanity, Wormed, and Thætas, though extremely heavy, do not make me want to rip my shirt off. Therein lies the difference between music that feels infuriating, and music that is “brutal.” Brutal bands compel me to buy a spiky guitar; to grow my hair out long and unmanageably, but they do not make me wish for someone to strangle me in the pit. And then there are bands whose heaviness is felt through their perspectives. Swans, for example, is not a metal band, but I would argue that they are among the heaviest bands of all time. Their music entrances you, it hypnotizes you, it provides very little optimism to the listener. They have no need to downtune. Their music poisons you, slowly draining life. I would argue that depressive black metal bands also inflict you with poison, but in a different way.
Primitive Man makes music that is not fun to listen to. It doesn’t make me want to fight. It doesn’t make me want to buy a spiky guitar. It doesn’t make me want to work out. It makes me want to give up. It hurts me. It casts death. Since their 2013 debut LP, Scorn, Primitive Man has expressed the same ideology, the same perspective, and the same outlook. In this way, Insurmountable is no different. I wouldn’t want it to be different. Primitive Man’s music has no foreplay, and no aftercare. It doesn’t give you breaks. The band members don’t play characters, and they don’t wear costumes. They have no singular release that is more easily digestible than another. There are no gimmicks. It doesn’t “wink” at you to let you know that things are actually okay outside of the music. There are no solos. No breakdowns. No dumbass pitch-shifted vocal effects. It makes no attempt to be not-human. From the very first chord of the EP’s opening track, “This Life,” that wonderful, familiar feeling instantly blankets you, and it feels good to be back.
Insurmountable, like all of Primitive Man’s music, is immersive. From their merch, to their album art, their tone, their lyrics, even their live shows. Ethan just stands there, eyes locked to the sky as if he is glaring at god through the ceiling. He might be the only person whose vocals sound like an actual grizzly bear. Their music possesses only what it needs, and nothing is out of place. That is what blows me away about this band, every single time. It isn’t a joke. It doesn’t make me laugh. Sure, they are human beings, they smoke weed and (hopefully) feel some amount of happiness with their lives, but when it comes to their art as a whole, everything is totally compelling. This is what other bands have failed to provide to me, and why I believe that Primitive Man is the heaviest band of all time. Their music is wholeheartedly negative, painfully bleak, frighteningly convincing, and I really believe them. Buy this album. Buy their merch. Go to their shows. Give them money.
Boy Band – Unilateroloid
I had reached the 30th of May, and I was a bit torn on which album I would talk about last for this article. There are plenty of releases every month that I enjoy very much, but they don’t necessarily spark the flint of writing. I asked Dave, the sentient Bot who breathes life into this website, to send me something sad. “Make me cry, D,” I said. He responded, “Go and read that Bandcamp blurb,” and sent me this album.
A bit of background:
When I was 18 or 19, I played bass in a goofy grindcore band with my best friend, we’ll call him G, and his younger brother. It was just for fun, and we only played three or four shows, but it was meaningful for me to be involved at all. I had always wanted to make more music with G because he was (and still is) a much more skilled musician than I am. He has such a caring and attentive ear for music in general. When I was 21, on a particularly inspired morning, he sent me rough demo ideas for an EP of music that he wanted to make with me. Of course, I loved the demos. We both wanted out of our living situations, and we moved in together. By this point, we even worked at the same restaurant.
When you have a best friend, especially a friend who is also a bandmate, you look at a lot of the same objects. You feel inspired by similar experiences. You might see each other’s butts sometimes, and you’re like, “Get your weird looking ass out of here,” but it isn’t weird. It’s loving. You share bottles of whiskey. You share food and do each other favors. You hold their hand when they’re sad. You can intuitively determine each other’s moods by tiny facial expressions. At times, you are synced with that person. At least, this was my experience. Over the course of a year, we recorded and released that EP. We had thought about it all the time. While we were at work, while we were shopping; taking out the trash or smashing beer bottles in the basement for no reason.
G lives in another state now, but we still talk. We share links and works in progress. Jokes, memes, and insults. We laugh and we love.
This kind of friendship is exactly what I hear in Unilateroloid. These tracks aren’t just songs. They’re journalistic. They’re a documentary. These songs are good days and bad days. Days of motivation and days without it. Haircuts and head colds. Birthdays. Funny pictures and talking about strange dreams. New plugins and date nights. Toenails and ashtrays; drawings and poetry. Crying and laughter.
I wish that I could simply tell you that you will enjoy this album if you enjoy the old Zach Hill solo albums, or the Marnie Stern records. I wish that I could simply tell you that if you love the sort of off-kilter, home-recording-math-rock sound, then this album may as well have been written for you, or if you’re a fan of music that just feels fun, then you should listen to this record. I wish I could keep it simple and say something like, “Unilateroloid will please any fans of the old Deerhoof albums,” or, “If you don’t give a fuck if bands have snobby ‘Hi-Fi’ production value, then this album will be a soft kiss on the cheek,” but I can’t, because that isn’t the whole picture.
Here is the blurb from their Bandcamp:
This album was written by me (Dot) and my best friend, Tygercat from March 2020 to January 2022. Tygercat started this album, and as a result we started Boy Band out of boredom in the early stages of Corona Virus.
Tygercat Arliskas was murdered in April 2022 walking home from my house. Ive never shared such a deep platonic love with someone, or had such an easy connection with a bestie. Everyday I wake up, and realize that I’ll never spend time chain smoking cigarettes and talking about life on the porch with my best friend again. I wake up, and I think about how much I would give up anything to do that one last time. You deserved better, it never needed to be like this. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for showing me what unconditional love is. Your memory is and will forever remain a blessing. I will love you forever dude.
To quote Desmond from our favorite show, Lost, I’ll see you in another life, brother.
Unilateroloid is a love letter. It is a bouquet of flowers. After listening to it several times through, it feels as if I almost know these people in my mind. It breaks my heart that Tygercat and Dot will not be able to write us a 2nd album, especially considering this one kicks so much ass. I think that “Own Devices” might be my favorite song of the year so far. My heart mourns with these total strangers. Also, Lost is my favorite show, too.
Rest in power to an absolute shredder, Tygercat Arliskas