Visions: Municipal Waste – The Fatal Feast (NSFW)

I’m by and large a big fan of Municipal Waste, having been a big part of satiating my wish for thrash to be the in thing in my lifetime – I missed the original wave as I was blissfully unaware, due to young age, of the effect this style of music was to have on my neck one day. I’ve been quick to obtain their albums upon release and have enjoyed them all right up to ‘Massive Aggressive‘, which was still a great album even if not quite on a par with the two albums that preceded it.

The ‘Waste are back with ‘The Fatal Feast‘ and the title track is the inspiration for a brilliantly and typically over the top video from the Richmond crew, as they engorge their way through a space vessel’s crew and its rescue team. The track itself surprised me at first with its more melodic vocals – but its no less thrashy and old school and it certainly picks up a gear at the right time. Their bloodlust is seemingly insatiable and hence, its every bit the reason you should probably not let your boss catch you watching this. As comical as it is, there’s always plenty of blood to be spilled in Municipal Waste’s world, and they’re not holding back here. After the jump.

Peter Clegg 

Municipal Waste – The Fatal Feast (official video)

Feist/Mastodon – Black Tongue/A Commotion 7"

Feist/Mastodon
‘Feistodon’: Black Tongue/A Commotion

Warner Bros.
I just thought I’d add my two pennies on this given that despite not attending Record Store Day (due to personal responsibilities, not lack of support for the cause), I have managed to listen to this limited release 7″ that caused quite a commotion (pun very much intended) building up to its release, not least because of the unlikely connection between Canadian songstress Feist and Atlanta, Georgia metal titans Mastodon, which developed following their respective appearances at the same recording of the Jools Holland Show last year.
Having pledged to work on a release together, the respective parties managed to squeeze in a split 7″ release into their extremely busy schedules, each artist cover one track from one another’s back catalogue – Feist choosing to cover ‘Black Tongue’ from Mastodon’s ‘The Hunter‘, and Mastodon selecting ‘A Commotion’ from Feist’s ‘Metals‘.
I wasn’t a great fan of Feist before ‘Feistodon’ came along and that won’t change with this release. That ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ song irked the hell out of me, no thanks to Apple, but she is undoubtedly a talented singer/songwriter who is worthy of the acclaim that comes her way. Some positive comments have come her way regarding her cover of ‘Black Tongue’, which I unfortunately must disagree with. Vocally she does a good job, creating something of a dark, haunting effect in the process. I fully expected her version of the song to not come crashing over the hills in the fashion that Mastodon do, but the arrangement of the song in this instance does nothing for me. It seems too disjointed if anything, a valiant attempt to turn the song into an electro-rock lurker, only to judder too much over its course.
By contrast, Mastodon, no stranger to covers and indeed to Record Store Day, do an incredible job of making ‘A Commotion’ their own. I can see why they chose it – out of the Feist material I’ve heard to date this one fits them the best – and the result is something that honestly wouldn’t sound amiss on one of their later records. It quietly builds up with just the chug of the guitar and quietly spoken vocals. When Brann Dailor pounds a thunderous roll, it begins to feel like a proper Mastodon song, bearing Mastodon’s signature power chords. The only grumble is that the chorus suddenly concludes the song – that works for Feist’s version but on this particular cover, it feels like there’s something missing, like it ends too soon.
Nonetheless, this was an interesting experiment and a welcome one at that from these two unlikely collaborators. My personal take is that it’s not the wholly amazing 7″ I perhaps expected. At the end of the day, it’s not something to judge the artist’s by’ more a show of fan appreciation, support for the record industry, and a display of risk taking. In a day and age where risk is rarely rewarded and uniformity is depressingly the norm, it’s a refreshing signal to see artists from two different walks step a little out of their comfort zone.

Peter Clegg

Melvins – The Bulls and the Bees

Melvins

The Bulls & The Bees
Scion A/V
The Melvins feel to have been around an eternity, yet show no signs of letting up their prolificacy. Indeed, 2012 is setting up to be an even busier year for them, with the forthcoming release of the ‘Melvins Lite’ album ‘Freak Puke‘ almost upon us, following hot off the heels of the Scion A/V-backed EP ‘The Bulls and The Bees‘, once again comprising the quartet of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and the Big Business rhythm section of Jared Warren and Coady Willis. Now in the 29th year as a band in one shape or another, the Melvins are still bang on form and firing on all cylinders, even if ‘The Bulls and The Bees‘ isn’t quite classic material, although still far better than anything you can do.
Kicking things off with ‘The War on Wisdom’, this EP doesn’t bear any surprises but maintains quality throughout – the aforementioned track bolstered by the galloping drums from Crover and Willis, and Osborne and Warren’s signature vocals. ‘We Are Doomed’, the EP’s lengthiest track, possessing a cracking riff. That said, the remainder of the EP isn’t exactly memorable, with ‘Friends Before Larry’ and ‘A Really Long Wait’ never really getting going, robbing the momentum gained from the previous two tracks – though it does redeem itself with closer ‘National Hamster’.

Melvins – The War on Wisdom (official video)

All eyes will now be on the aforementioned ‘Freak Puke‘, a diversion from the Melvins’ recent history but no less of an intriguing prospect. That said, let’s hope the four-piece version of the band get back together before to further forge on from this work. For now, this free release from Scion A/V is enjoyable enough to tide us over for now, though I suspect fans may track back into the band’s long discography for their kicks during the quartet’s probably brief hibernation.
Peter Clegg

Black Breath – Sentenced to Life

Black Breath

Sentenced to Life
Southern Lord
Seattle’s hardcore thrashers Black Breath have whipped up such a frenzy in the last two or three years after unleashing ‘Razor to Oblivion‘ and debut album ‘Heavy Breathing‘, while touring the blue hell out of both of them. Such is the fervour generated in this short space of time has inevitably led to ‘Sentenced to Life‘ becoming one of 2012’s most anticipated albums, but at the same time it’s anticipation that should be tempered with caution. No doubt there are still a few people sniping with the ‘Entombed-lite’ tag, not just at Black Breath, but at the entire hardcore/d-beat movement that has recently been forged with huge backing, particularly from Southern Lord. And the surprise that Black Breath caught people with on ‘Heavy Breathing‘ is no longer that. I hate to refer to that ‘difficult second album’ cliché, but it’s true.
Thankfully, Black Breath avoid any major pitfalls on album number two, and ‘Sentenced to Life‘, while largely more of the same as their back catalogue, is still is good thirty-odd minutes to let loose and bang your head to. The opener ‘Feast of the Damned’ has a nice drum and vocal chant of ‘my flesh, my blood, you’re dead, Feast of the Damned!‘ That is just one of many of the album’s highlights, which reveal themselves more upon repeated listens. ‘Home of the Grave’ has all the potential as a lead single from the album to propel the band into bigger leagues, while tracks like ‘Of Flesh’ see the band absolutely on fire with a full on death-metal blastbeat interjecting the track part way through. Conversely, ‘Obey’ is the band’s longest track to date, beginning with a creepy spoken word intro and leading to a slow burner mixing Black Breath’s dark riffage and intensity with a tremendous rock n’ roll solo towards the end.


Black Breath – Home of the Grave (official video)
There are more signature moments on the album but they’re too numerous to get into. I would advise people to give this album at least a couple of listens though – it didn’t hit me straight away like their initial releases, but it’s not a difficult album to get into at all, essentially just press play and headbang. Eventually you will observe the progress made by the band since ‘Heavy Breathing’, however subtle or however hastily-written this album apparently was. The result is still unmistakably Black Breath, reaffirming their status as one of the best new bands of the last few years. Obey.
Peter Clegg

High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

High on Fire
De Vermis Mysteriis
E1 Music

Despite seemingly continuous revelry, it feels as though in some quarters, High on Fire have yet to please all the purists, despite increasing acclaim for their work. Some would argue ‘Snakes for the Divine‘ was lacking High on Fire’s true raw power, beckoning for another ‘Blessed Black Wings‘. Others, myself included, would argue High on Fire don’t need another one of those albums, or indeed another ‘Surrounded by Thieves‘. They seem to gamely go about their task with the requisite menace and intensity without any need to shift their approach for an audience which widens a little more with each release. Nevertheless, there will always be a few who can never be fully satisfied.

Moving swiftly onward, the sixth High on Fire album, ‘De Vermis Mysteriis‘ will likely possess a minority splinter cell of people who will stroke their (bearded) chins with a slight collective shrug, just as before. It doesn’t matter that it still sounds like an army of hellish demoniacs riding forth on horseback, hooves pounding the earth, slaying and pillaging for all its worth, or that its the most varied and arguably most complete High on Fire record yet.

Taking its name from Robert Bloch’s fictional grimoire of the same name and mixing Lovecraftian themes, time travel, Jesus Christ and the Immaculate Conception – and heck knows what else – ‘De Vermis Mysteriis‘ begins in atypical fashion for the band, reeling off three tracks at the beginning that wouldn’t sound out of place on any High on Fire record. The track ‘Bloody Knuckles’ is entirely apt, as it is a particularly bruising encounter. And later in the album, ‘Spiritual Rites’ picks up the whip and cracks it with fury, driven by a cracking double bass-driven beat from Des Kensel.

High on Fire – King of Days

The clearest sign of Pike’s recent role in the Sleep reunion holding sway over High on Fire’s matters is evident in ‘Madness of the Architect’, a perfect marriage between Sleep’s groove and High on Fire’s metallic intensity, a relatively slow lurker compared to the pace of the initial onslaught. As if that wasn’t enough, ‘Samsara’, track five, is a solid stoner jam, complete free of vocals, and, thanks to the skills of bassist Jeff Matz, just a hint of the spirit of Cliff Burton being alive and well here.

Though the remainder of the record bears the band’s individuality, the slower jams keep coming, punctuated by the incredible ‘King of Days’, surely one of Pike’s most accomplished vocal performances and a truly monumental song in all respects. The decision by High on Fire to not necessarily drop the pace, but certainly to diversify, pays huge dividends and the album has a whole roars quality in its entirety.

De Vermis Mysteriis‘ will stand out as one of High on Fire’s finest works for its diversity, but the interplay between Kensel, Pike and Matz should not be overlooked’. If any three men should come to define ‘power trio’ in 2012 its these, though it is power blended with precision and a touch of finesse. For me, High on Fire have never lost their edge, but this is as accomplished a record as ‘Blessed Black Wings‘ or ‘Surrounded by Thieves‘, and one that should be only be sneered upon at your own peril.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ here

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Overkill – The Electric Age

Overkill

The Electric Age
Nuclear Blast
Within many walks of life, age is seen as a potential barrier to any further progress or indeed success. Within music and indeed heavy metal, it couldn’t be any more the opposite. Showing absolutely no signs of letting up even as they get well into their fifties, New Jersey thrashers Overkill have unleashed sixteenth album ‘The Electric Age‘ to the masses, off the back of the incredibly well-received and thoroughly awesome ‘Ironbound‘, which no question was a huge shot in the arm for the band which arrived just as the thrash revival began to run out of steam. 
 
The Electric Age‘ continues off the excellent work on ‘Ironbound‘, with opening pair ‘Come and Get It’ and ‘Electric Rattlesnake’ full of sneering attitude, trademark Overkill shred and cracking vocals, led respectively by bassist D.D. Verni and vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth. The latter of those songs is one I’m still listening to over and over again for weeks; it’s so infectious as it bounds into the chorus, Blitz singing: ‘More,  than you can take/make no mistake/I’m an electric rattlesnake‘. Elsewhere, the New Jersey guys demonstrate impressive variation to straight ahead thrashing, with the blues-thrash of ‘Black Daze’ and the melodicism of ‘Drop the Hammer Down’, a thrash/heavy metal anthem like the days of old, yet at no point does the proverbial electricity in their sound let up.
Overkill – Electric Rattlesnake (official video)

The Electric Age‘ is certainly a must-have album for any thrash fan and any self-respecting metal fan in particular, although I’m personally of the disposition that this doesn’t quite match the lofty standard set by ‘Ironbound‘, which was arguably up there with the glories of ‘Feel the Fire‘ and ‘Horrorscope‘. Where its predecessor was lifted by the energisation of the recent thrash metal revival, ‘The Electric Age’ is more a continuation of their recent fine fettle, with one or two tracks that don’t quite do it for me in quite the same way.

Crucially though, it still kicks a hell of a lot of ass, and you won’t find a thrash metal band who wears that badge on their sleeve more than Overkill. They’re not pandering to trends, or retro worshipping, instead just ploughing ever forward with the searing heads down, play hard, thrash harder mentality that has embodied them their whole career. Bands half their age or younger would struggle to keep up with Overkill on this form, and it feels as though there’s nothing that could possibly stop them at the moment. Can the young whippersnappers keep up with Overkill? Can you, the listener, keep up? This is Overkill’s invitation to bang your head – better late than never. As the opening track says, ‘come and get it!
Peter Clegg