It's an exciting time to be in a band right now. As the influence wielded by labels wanes, physical album sales erode and distribution is increasingly easy to handle from behind a computer, the layers separating band and consumer are gradually peeling away. This is a good thing for both bands and fans. Of course, one of the byproducts of a band being able to market its music with unprecedented reach is that they have less control over it. If a single digital copy of an album can be downloaded and shared for free by thousands, how is a band to make money from the music they record once they push it out of the nest? The conclusion that more and more bands are coming to: they don't. The four bands in this post are banking on the hope that you'll like their stuff enough to help spread the word, see them live, take home a a shirt, buy something else in their catalog, continue supporting them in some way. These bands have given you their music. What will you give them back?
Bastards - untitled demo (self-released, 2009)
Holy shit! There's less than two minutes of music on this demo from Columbus, Ohio's Bastards, and it still qualifies as one of the angriest recordings I've heard all year. The quicksilver alternation between gravelly grindcore slipstreams and downtuned piledrive riffs reminds me of Iron Lung at their most unhinged. And hear how all the instruments just sort of drop off at the end of "Guilty as Charred" mid-riff, as if these wild gila monsters finished feeding on your carcass and couldn't even be bothered to wipe the viscera from their mouths before they slithered off to play patticakes elsewhere? Someone has to teach these Bastards some table manners. My only criticism is their use of the famous Network speech on "Economic Slime" -- the sample is twice as long as the actual music in the song, and it comes too soon after a whole bunch of bands used the exact same sample in 2008 (see my post on this phenomenon here).
"Guilty as Charred"
Download Bastards' demo for free right here.
I've openly documented my distaste for post-rock/metal on Cerebral Metalhead before, and it deepens into a crusty hatred towards the world when I listen to this third album from instrumental post-rockers Caspian. Tertia starts off sounding like Dire Straits, apes Mogwai, Mono and Sigur Ros (especially Mogwai) through its middle, and ends up drowning in its own ponderousness. Ain't a single filtered guitar sound or chord progression you haven't heard a million times before, or avoided hearing a million times before, if you're luckier than I. A dissonant chord to poison the tranquil waters? Nay, that would complicate the crescendo in practically EVERY SINGLE SONG. Give Caspian props for creating a perfectly produced album -- seriously, those digital twinkles and liquid guitars on "Epochs in Dmaj" melt into one another like they were two tablespoons of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! But no amount of spitshining will prevent Tertia from being the empty genre exercise that it is. Isn't there anything other than triumphalism that these types of bands believe in? Is there a drug I can take that will make Tertia more interesting? Man, this shit makes me angry. ETAN SMASH!!!
"Ghosts of the Garden City"
Download Caspian's Tertia for free at GimmeSound.com (requires free login).
Coffinworm - Great Bringer of Night demo (self-released, 2009)
You don't find metal this sludgy outside of New Orleans. Except in Indiana, where the fearsome fivesome Coffinworm shit out tar-thick doom even viler than Eyehategod's. Gates of Slumber drummer Bob Fouts was behind the boards on this three-track demo, and the tones he captured sound like mics were placed directly into the Indianapolis sewage system -- every sputum rivulet and feedback-drenched chug rubs the ears the wrong way, which is to say the exact right way. On "High on the Reek of Your Burning Remains," Coffinworm set queasy treble guitar skree, drawn from the haunting arpeggios of Norwegian black metal, against swinging doom riffs. It's a truly ominous, hateful effect. Coffinworm are set to record their first full-length with Sanford Parker (Minsk/Nachtmystium/Indian). It'll come out next year via Profound Lore, which sets the label's awesome band percentage at a healthy 100%.
Download Coffinworm's Great Bringer of Night right here.
Crown of Wolves - The West Sings A Tragedy (self-released, 2009)
At press time, there was almost nothing to be found about this band or album anywhere on the web. Their MySpace page, created just twelve days ago, has been visited twice, and it doesn't show up in web searches. It's as if Grant Drake, the single force behind the curious black metal project Crown of Wolves, asked Google to render him invisible. It's all in fitting with Drake's anti-technological philosophy. A lyric like "Somewhere there are gears turning/And thick mucous flowing down/Towards a terrible restlessness/Trying to clog our arteries/Industry I can feel you prying at my skin" speaks clearly to industry's slow advance against humanity; elsewhere, Drake's songs (or "Chapters of Lost Wisdom," as he refers to them in the album title's Norwegian subheader) turn into paeans for pre-industrial paganism. To Drake's credit, there is as much sincere longing as there is bleak distrust spread throughout The West Sings A Tragedy. His music is a muddled confrontation between Emperor and Lurker of Chalice -- choirs and keyboards, programmed blasts and layered melodic guitar roar, semi-whispered croaks and random outbursts of ambience, all smooshed together into one of the strangest, flattest mixes I've ever encountered. I wonder if the album would have been more powerful if Drake gave it a more traditional mixing job. But whether you hear it as beautiful or irritating, The West Sings a Tragedy certainly has character. We'll just overlook those two dialogue samples from Conan the Barbarian, howzabout?
"Capitel II - Fog Ov Ancestors"
Download The West Sings A Tragedy (including lyrics/artwork!) for free right here.