Mini Reviews From Around the Bowl (5/23/24)

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Little reviews, get ’em while they’re hot


Funeral OrationAntropomorte
Avantgarde Music | March 22, 2024

For a band originally formed in 1989 and described as playing “old-style, essential black metal of the 90s,” Funeral Oration don’t sound quite as staunchly old school as you might expect. Piano and organ do deliver a decidedly classic flavor, but the often nimble, slightly thrashy, and very melodic sound with modern production brings to mind Armada and Kolossus-era Keep of Kalessin even more than it does blue castles and black wizards. Good songwriting and just the right amount of dramatic schlock make this pretty satisfying instrumentally, but I still haven’t quite gotten over the singer’s delivery. He deploys his vocals pretty freely and detached from rhythm, more akin to a hammy performance of a theatrical monologue than a song. I suppose this makes sense given that most lyrics are poems translated into Italian, but it throws a bit of a spanner in the works for me. I’d still recommend at least checking the opener and “Il Serpente Della Genesi” to see if you vibe with it. –Hans


SkulldThe Portal is Open
World Eater Records | March 20th, 2024

Another Italian band, this time combining the face-stomping grooves of later Entombed with the straightforward aggression of crust punk. Any fan of either, nay, anyone who generally values a killer riff more than a sophisticated song structure owes it to themselves to check this out. Hefty without feeling rooted to the ground, vicious without resorting to over-the-top brutality – Skulld know how to wield their primitive weaponry well, whether emphasizing the death’n’roll influence (“Daphne”) or their punk sensibilities (“Les Petroleuses”). Again, the vocalist may be a point of contention, as the snotty yell is markedly on the punk side of things and only occasionally gets accompanied by backing growls. It might not be what you’re looking for in your death metal, but check out “Rise of the Dead” and “The Three Faced Goddess” in addition to the aforementioned tracks and see if you’re not swayed. –Hans


KMFDM – Let Go
Metropolis Records |  February 2

A lot of people have a cut off point for KMFDM, typically either in the departure of either En Esch in 1999 – or to a lesser extent Tim Skold in 2002 – or the more transparent shift to 2000s alt metal sensibilities that became apparent from WWIII and Hau Ruck onwards. The past decade has been pretty barren but with splashes of quality, namely the pretty decent Hell Yeah and Paradise from 2017 and 2019, respectively, which saw a fairly tasteful interpolation of subtle dub elements into the established KMFDM sound.

Let Go is kind of admirable in its brazen industrial cock-rock attitude – completely stripped bare of pretense, it’s an album that feels closer in spirit to late-era Lords Of Acid than it does Front 242, just completely open and transparent in its own stupidity. Even the relative lyrical realness of Turn The Light On – featuring The Real Ocelot, an MC who’s been one of the bright spots of KMFDM’s discography since Paradise – is overshadowed by a track with the same compositional sensibilities as PS2 wrestling game menu music, and I don’t say that as slander. There are low points though, including the pretty anaemic Erlkönig alongside WW 2023, a song that has a lot of ambition but just sort of sits without much movement in an open mix.

When it hits, though? It’s way better than it should be – the one-two punch of the title track opener and the wonderfully angular Push! is probably the peak of the record. Its second half seems comparatively underwritten, but you look at the late-career trajectory of a band like Atari Teenage Riot, you realise it could always be far, far worse, and while it doesn’t feel essential as it used to, Let Go is still a lot of fun. –Aaron


Protosequence Bestiary
Lacerated Enemy Records | April 5th, 2024

his one should hit the spot for just about every toilet reader. It rides that vague line between progressive and technical death metal while carving out its own niche. The slightly more DIY raw tone is refreshing in the typical sterile world of modern tech, but every instrument is still perfectly weighted, and nothing gets buried. A few moments stutter, trying to find their purpose, but the sharp, angular grooves and juxtaposed slow melodies always pull me back in. The visceral vocals are front-and-center, touching on deathcore/slammy at times, but manage to be diverse and interesting instead. This band deserves far more attention than it has. –Joaquin


Four Stroke Baron Data Diamond
Lacerated Enemy Records | May 31st, 2024

I was gobsmacked by Four Stroke Baron’s Planet Silver Screen in 2018. It was one of those things so lacking in comparison that it was hard to talk about or review in any meaningful way. I thought I liked it, but also, maybe it was annoying. I couldn’t tell. A few releases down the line with Data Dimond, I have become one with the weirdness. This short album is dense, goofy, painful, and when it’s not shaking you off balance, grooves so damn hard. The vocal delivery on the chorus of “Cyborg Pt. 3” had me singing along the second time it came around, it’s incredible. The weird barking and shrieking on “Monday” was slightly offputting until I decided it was hilarious. If you’re craving something new, something glitchy, disjointed, and beautiful, check this out now. –Joaquin


Huntsmen The Dry Land
Prosthetic Records | June 7th, 2024

There seems to be a new scene popping up that needs a name, something like Chicago Prog Doom, but avoiding those initials somehow. After Flesh of the Stars has been blowing me away for a few years, in comes Huntsman with this gem of an album. Like FotS, there’s an Americana twist to this epic, soaring doom, but with an occasional injection of blackened riffs that somehow work with it. The guitar tone is incredible, with plenty of crunch without the melody getting drowned out. I’m also a sucker for all five members pitching in to do vocals, providing endless variety over the quick 43 minutes. There are a few moments when I’d like to see them speed things up a bit, but I love this new approach for the band. It’s not even out yet and I’m already craving more. –Joaquin

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