Soundtrack To Your Annihilation II
“A series that promises to get progressively darker and starts with None So Vile? Ballsy”.
dr.derelict – sometimes Toilet Ov Hell commenter and Riff of the Week contender
What’s up Toilet fans. Your eighth favorite semi-regular contributor to the Toilet Ov Hell is back with part two of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation. I promised we would get weirder. I promised we would get darker and more brutal. I promised we would not cover things that matter much in 2014. I’m a man of my word, except on that last part; trust me I am as surprised as you are. Last time we took a look at (and hopefully you guys gave a listen to, had you missed it previously) None So Vile, Cryptopsy’s second album, which is widely considered a death metal masterpiece. We are going to take one step down toward the unending black in this second installment. Taking a strong suggestion from my co-conspirator, this edition of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation will cover *two* albums further down the extreme scale than None So Vile.
Earlier this year, 2014 was hailed as the year for “hideous sludge” by some well known voices within the metal community. Fans and pursuers of heavy metal know it’s also been a stellar year for death metal releases. What’s “hideous sludge?”, you might be thinking. Is it just some catchy phrase? Something the kids are listening to? It’s today’s brand of sludge metal; turn up the intensity, offensiveness, and lay it thicker than a concrete bomb shelter. 2014 has seen releases from Coffinworm (Coffinworm were recently covered in an edition of Don’t Miss This! at our beloved Toilet), Lord Mantis, and Eyehategod, who many credit as one of the earliest bands in the sludge style. Their 2014 album is solid, it had been in the running for my Best Albums of 2014, but it is not as hideous or sludgy as some of their previous efforts, and surprisingly (for Eyehategod) featured several pieces of Clean Singing. The Body released a collaborative effort with The Haxan Cloak, another favorite of mine this year; fans are also eagerly anticipating their split with Thou in 2014. Indian released another hideous sludge album in 2014, titled From All Purity. The first focus of this installment of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation, however, is From All Purity’s predecessor, Indian’s horrifying Guiltless.
Indian’s Guiltless was released in 2011, and I got wind of the album at the end of that year from an end of the year records list. I had not heard of Indian before that, but Guiltless was advertised as being “one of the heaviest records of the year“. Intriguing, right? I thought so too. Indian are billed on their own Bandcamp as “blackened noise nihilists”, which is a fair description of their sound. Guiltless wastes no time in drawing you into its sonic horror, stomping your face with golf shoes in its opening moments. The album’s tempo ranges from slow to mid paced. Indian has benefited from a consistent line up, three of the band members playing on Guiltless have been with the band since it’s inception in 2003; it shows on this record. Will Lindsay and Sean Patton turned the band from a three piece to a five piece for the first time here, credited with vocals / guitars and “noise” respectively. Nothing sounds out of place here. The band’s low tuned, blasted out sludge is persistent through almost the entire album’s forty minute runtime. There are few moments of relief, few soft passages; but there is a series of riffs that could pass as uplifting at 4:50 during the album’s first track “No Grace”. “The Fate Before Fate”, the album’s second track, opens at a mid tempo, and lead singer Dylan O’Toole sounds like a man possessed here. The vocals never stray too far from “tortured”. Guiltless is relentless in its hopelessness. The album’s title track lurches at the same deliberate pace over its eight minute runtime. O’Toole screams throughout “Guilty” the entire next track; it makes me wonder just how aptly titled this particular song is. The album’s sixth track, “Supplicants” is a quiet interlude before Guiltless ends with its final track.
If you are anything like me, you’ve had serious conversations about Christs, Redeemers and where it fits into The Body’s body (ahem) of work. I wasn’t initially as blown away by it as their previous efforts. To be fair, perhaps I hadn’t given it the same chance I have many of The Body’s other albums, like the aforementioned I Shall Die Here and their brutal, unstoppable albums All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood and Master, We Perish. A recent conversation about this, and reading an article with the opposite viewpoint of mine, revealed to me that Christs, Redeemers could be more layered and nuanced than their previous efforts, disregarding I Shall Die Here (cause that came later, homey). Edward, I thought we were talking about Indian? Don’t worry, full circle, we are arriving to the point. The thing is, there is certainly a time for nuances, layers, and subtlety. There is also a time for one note brutality, or bleakness as the case may be. Indian succeed on Guiltless by finding something that works and sticking to it. I preferred Guiltless to their newest, From All Purity. I haven’t had the opportunity to play From All Purity as much as Guiltless, but the same discussion applies to the last two Indian records. Is From All Purity less horrifying, but more nuanced? Does that make it the better of the two records?
Check out Indian’s Guiltless if you aren’t familiar with it. We are moving on to stranger landscapes.
Australia’s Portal have often been the subject of conversations like “well, that’s not even music”. Your mom may have caught you watching a Portal music video which led to some very awkward family holidays. They’ve been the subject of bizarre interviews (caution, seriously). Portal are often referred to as “Lovecraftian”, “otherworldly”, and “nightmarish”. An internet comment about their music said “I’ve been listening to metal for 20 years now…and this music is garbage. It takes more talent to run a trash compactor”. They have alternately delighted, bewildered, baffled, and disgusted metal fans and outsiders alike since the release of their first full length album in 2003. Portal is difficult to categorize. They play “death metal”, but along the lines of “death metal that I’m not so sure is death metal”; you may or may not be wondering if it is death metal buried under layers of mud, soot, and sulfur. The second focus of this edition of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation is on Portal’s third studio album, the impenetrable Swarth, which was released on Profound Lore Records in 2009.
Swarth has no introduction, and it wastes no time in befuddling the listener. It sounds like death metal, sure, even bordering on technical death metal in a perverse way. The furious riffing is persistent, but the riffs are hard to make out. Songs start and stop with seemingly no rhyme or reason to be replaced by blasts of noise. At some points the drums are placed high in the mix, at other times it’s the guitars. The vocals differ from your standard death metal fare as well, ranging from ghastly bellows to vaguely discernible demonic instructions. Midway through “Writhen”, the album’s fifth track, Portal play something that strangely resembles a breakdown for the duration of the song. Einstein’s famous phrase about time being relative is given new meaning when listening to Swarth. Four minute songs seem to exist for much greater periods. Taking in this particular album as a whole can be a feat unto itself, as the thick atmosphere can be overwhelming, like trying to decipher encrypted codes underwater. Swarth is relentless in doling out punishment, nothing occurs over its forty one minute run time like a respite or break. “Werships”, the album’s penultimate track, sounds somewhat like its namesake being called into a maritime battle until The Curator makes his presence known a couple of minutes into the track. The riffwork in “Marityme”, Swarth’s final song, suggests a circling downward spiral toward oblivion. Like most complex and difficult music, Swarth demands repeated listens, but is that really a process you are willing to engage in? If you aren’t familiar with Swarth, now is the time for you to find out.
On the spectrum of aural violence, place Guiltless in a category with other oppressive hideous sludge acts. Portal’s Swarth borders more difficult metal and acts as an introduction to noise. In this writer’s humble opinion, Guiltless and Swarth are more of a “difficult” listen than Cryptopsy’s None So Vile. Guiltless operates with a relentless bleakness, and Portal is a confounding nightmare all unto itself. The vocals on Guiltless are harrowing, pushing past even Lord Worm’s maniacal performance. They both have about eight minutes lengthwise on None So Vile.
Did I miss your favorite hideous sludge record from 2014? Do you also prefer Guiltless to From All Purity? Is Portal your favorite Australian mask wearing extreme metal act? Which seven Toilet Ov Hell writers was I referring to in the intro to this? Did you grimace at least once during this article and think “Edward, you Pitchfork lovin’ fvcker”? Is I Shall Die Here one of the great names for a record over the last few years, or do you prefer The Sun Through A Telescope’s I Die Smiling?
Thanks to Christian Molenaar for the assist in the conception, planning, and execution of this series.