Extended Play: Chanukah Edition
Chag urim sameach!
Eight days of menorahs, vegan matzo ball soup, turmeric jalapeño latkes, holiday-themed stamps, and maybe just a few thoughtful gifts for loved ones. What could improve this formerly minor holiday that has morphed inexplicably into Jewish Christmas? EPs, that’s what. I’m taking a break from running Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning on a perpetual loop to offer up a tastefully curated platter of Extended Plays for your Extended Pleasure. Hopefully I remember how to write a few sentences and hock some wares. Welcome to the Festival of Light Run-Times.
Gravelly voiced pop-punk/emo from the Rust Belt with a youthful yen for cigarettes and Clerks. What starts as a decidedly playful punk take on emo à la Free Throw turns into—by album’s end—something much less soothing. Fraying at the edges and straining to stay in key, Wasted Space excels at the kind of emotional cacophony you don’t often hear from this genre before tilting into -violence or -core territory. Though there is a wellspring of soft sweetness and melodic charm in “gutterface” and “jeff, yr friend who cares. [It do be true ~Roldy],” exsanguination will leave you in a noisy thrall. And, on a final note: is the clip from Clerks that opens the album about knocking over a coffin the basis for I Think You Should Leave’s “Coffin Flop” sketch? What a wonderful possible connection.
An EP plus a cover album? More like Poseur Heaven! Somehow, it’s been three years since this Pennsylvania quintet released Realms of Eternal Decay, an album so righteous even my friends who never listen to death metal loved it. After a live album last year, we get the 5-track In Tribute, an EP offering to the extreme metal gods. Much to Outer Heaven’s credit, they avoid obscurity entirely, covering some immediately familiar songs from some of the most popular and foundational bands in metal. You could probably quibble over Repulsion’s “Maggots in Your Face” or Mortician’s “Drowned in Your Blood” as slightly off the beaten path, but that’s nit-picking for the sake of picking nits. Morbid Angel’s “World of Shit,” Pig Destroyer’s “Junkyard God,” and Death’s “Secret Face” are formational fan-favourites—a risky endeavour for anyone! In some ways, “Drowned in Your Blood” fits Outer Heaven’s sound most snugly, but it’s their approach to “World of Shit” and “Junkyard God” that really won me over. A fun homage!
Unabashed lovers of the riff, Melancholia churns out three tracks of doomy sludge that is akin to a mean-spirited Torche picking a fight with Ufomammut and Amenra. Mostly content to bludgeon the listener with the same burly riff for minutes at a time, Melancholia also creates a kind of spacious quiet that makes for a fitting contrast. Noah Burns’ drums nearly steal the show, as they provide the right kind of punch and rhythm that allows Gage Lindsay’s sludgy guitar play to land with appropriate heft. This is a hypnotic, entrancing album that, not unlike melancholia, cannot let go of the absence. Static Church repeats and repeats, returns and returns, swirling around a faceless emptiness that is its very core.
Gel – Violent Closure
Release: February 23, 2021
Gnarliest Track: “BITCHMADE”
Ever since I stumbled across Gel’s 2019 HC for the Freaks promo tape, I’ve been itchin’ for closure. Gel visits us from the decade when hardcore was still teetering on punk’s sneering brink. Think MDC or SSD or Negative Approach. If the American Hardcore documentary is your Bible and you think hardcore died in 1986, then Violent Closure might creepy crawl onto your End of the Year lists. That’s all I’ve got to say!
Frankly, I blame the disappearance of Toilet ov Hell’s Riff ov the Week for the lack of appropriate hype and praise that Perilaxe Occlusion’s second EP would have generated and garnered in the Bowl. Following close on the heels of 2020’s Exponential Decay, Raytraces of Death is every bit as monstrous and unhinged, taking its sweet time at just over 20 minutes. Drums echo out from underneath warped and winding riffs that will certainly call to mind fellow Canucks Tomb Mold. But—and maybe it’s the EP talking—I also get a little bit of death metal darlings Malignant Altar and maybe even a slimy bit of Worm in the mix. This is a serious gem. Just try to observe objects without their apparent displacement after this album knocks your noodle to the ground and shifts your perspective! Now that’s what I call parallax.
Once, in a class on George Eliot, my professor explained why he omitted Middlemarch from the syllabus, contending that Eliot’s imperfect novels were more interesting to discuss. The roughness of her debut Adam Bede, the critically maligned melodrama of The Mill on the Floss’s conclusion, the mismatched storylines of Daniel Deronda that, for some, never adequately converge were all vastly more suited for class discussion than the towering perfection of Eliot’s most famous novel. That’s an oblique way to say that Slow Burning Daydream’s wild blend of ’80s metal and ’00s pop punk is far from perfect and also gleefully fascinating. Does it always work? Debatable. Sometimes the timing feels off and the disparate elements don’t quite coalesce, but when things do come together, it’s a delight. Imagine if Sum 41 was just a one-man project from Atlanta that let the thrashiness outshine the poppiness without sacrificing the latter. Flaws and all, I love The Stone-Throwing Land in the Giant’s Valley.
Don’t look now, but Melbourne, Australia’s life. lair. regret. Records is steadily stacking up stellar releases that barely cost more than a few pieces of gelt. World of Joy’s debut gets the nod for a write-up this week because their particularly off-the-wall approach to the type of Terror– or Candy-influenced mosh has me stompin’ around in the first snows of winter. If you’re a pit boss both at the BBQ and at the matinee, then World of Joy will surely find its way into your rotation with the quickness. Change the world for the better. Mush a fascist’s face into the pavement and two-step away.
I hesitate to blurb this record because (1) there are Toileteers who could do it better and (2) this “EP” is nearly 30 minutes long. That exceeds the 25-minute limit! It’s against the rules! Alas, Benothing has decreed Temporal Bliss Surrealms an EP, so forge ahead I must. Admittedly, the album’s lead single and album opener “State of Surreal Bliss” did not land with any sort of immediate impact when it premiered in October, but this “EP” absolutely grabbed me this week. Featuring dudes who have been making noise in the Finnish scene since the ’90s, Benothing sits grotesquely between the worlds of progressive and dissonant death metal. The guitar tone is more dirty than heavy, and the band takes a more measured approach to chaotic madness than you might expect. Fans of last year’s Bedsore will surely find a lot to like here. Chalk up another victory for Everlasting Spew, and don’t let the late-in-the-year release date dissuade you from getting blissed out in Benothing’s surreality. As Bifo Berardi writes in his recent The Third Unconscious, “Consciousness is the only thing in the universe that may conceive of nothingness and may evolve into nothingness.” Embrace it. Become nothing.