Sucker For Punishment: Staggering Into 2014

(photo by Alex Hardie) Year-end lists are done with, folders of digital promos are archived (or in some particularly terrible albums, deleted), and now it’s time to focus on a fresh year of new music. Here’s hoping the expected big albums deliver, and that even more great new releases await discovery. I try to be optimistic, but this project is a marathon, not a sprint, and the great is always far, far outnumbered by the mediocre. Still, onwards. Let the digging commence.

Granted, this week’s dig is the equivalent of a shovel clanging on an annoying rock stuck in the soil, so it’s not exactly an embarrassment of riches this week, with no release standing out as exemplary. However, if you want something good to listen to as the metal scene staggers blurry-eyed into the new year, the new Exhumed/Iron Reagan split and the quirky Run After To re-release are worth investigating.

Altar of Betelgeuze, Darkness Sustains The Silence (Memento Mori): Oh, what an unfortunate band name. Musically, it’s a passable attempt at sludge and doom, but it feels weirdly disjointed, conflicted between harsh brute force and blues-derived melody. It’s always one or the other, and the Finnish band’s failure or reluctance to find a middle ground prevents this album from creating a true identity. Neurosis? Orange Goblin? If you can’t blend the two seamlessly, then pick a side.

Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul, Splatterhash (Tankcrimes): I’ve never understood the point of forming a joke metal band when your listeners can’t even understand your growled vocals. But if you like weed jokes, then Cannabis Corpse have a couple of otherwise forgettable new death metal tunes on this split EP. Oakland’s Ghoul, on the other hand, deliver a pair of goofy but very likeable pair of thrash tunes, so at least it’s not a total waste.

Exhumed/Iron Reagan, Split (Tankcrimes): Now here’s a split that delivers. The perpetually great Exhumed serve up a pair of excellent new songs and a couple spirited covers (Minor Threat, Negative Approach), while Tony Foresta’s Iron Reagan hammer out four more contagious crossover thrash tunes that never stray longer than a minute and a half. Sample it on Bandcamp.

Legion Of The Damned, Ravenous Plague (Napalm): I’m a longtime admirer of this underrated Dutch band, and while their sixth album struggles to make a lasting impression, songs like “Doom Priest” and “Bury Me in a Nameless Grave” nevertheless make this a suitably pummeling collection of Kreator-derived thrash.

Nausea, Condemned To The System (Willowtip): The grindcore/crust punk innovators have returned with their first proper album in more than 20 years, and while the music might not feel as unique as it did back in the day and the lyrical themes are hilariously predictable and blunt (“Freedom of Religion”, “Fuck the System”, “Condemn Big Business”) it’s always great to have any genre’s progenitors back making new music once again.

Nigromante, Black Magic Night (Shadow Kingdom): For those who remember that brief period in the early 1980s when bands like Anvil and Exciter occupied that strange, transitional era between the NWOBHM and thrash metal, this album by the Spanish band will put a smile on your face. A typically quirky discovery by Shadow Kingdom.

Run After To, Run After To/Gjinn and Djinn (Shadow Kingdom): Here’s a strange little gem, a compilation of 1985 demo recordings and a 1988 EP by Italian obscurity Run After To that, more than anything, predate the doom of Cathedral. Lumbering, Sabbath-esque, and not afraid to toss in the odd psychedelic influences, it’s oddly charming stuff (especially the three-track EP), right down to the perpetually flat singing of Maurizio Cucchiarini. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Suffering In Solitude, A Place Apart (Domestic Genocide): Floridly described as “true audio melancholy through their emotionally driven ballads of hopelessness and dejection where expansive waves of distorted dreamscapes swell into manic, blast-laden bursts of torment,” this debut album doesn’t bring any imagination to the “post-black metal” sound, but the songs are still mildly engaging enough to not be a total waste of time, and there’s plenty of potential shown in “Entrance” and “Exit (Time Lost)”.

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