Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a twice-monthly column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors... Though perhaps currently better known as one of the most innovative and imaginative artists currently plying his trade in the world of heavy metal design, Joshua Andrew Belanger also happens to be an insanely original, savvy fine artist as his exquisitely rendered Art Book 2012 ably demonstrates. The collection covers a lot of ground -- from disturbing surrealist nightmares and elegant ethereal visions to gonzo humor and clever social commentary. As part of this column's ongoing examination of the nexus between extreme music and extreme tomes, we asked Belanger if he'd be up for giving Tales a glimpse of his accompanying soundtrack, and, being the exemplary human being he is, the artist graciously did just exactly that...
So here's what I've been getting lost in while I draw for thirteen hours a day...
Let's start with an easy one, Between the Buried and Me The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues and The Parallax II: Future Sequence. Both have been on full rotation since they came out. I love the exploration that the band pursues, and while wandering down that path they come back to what I've always loved them for: apocalyptic crescendos of perfectly timed guitar work. Alaska is probably my favorite album from the band, so I'm not sure if I'm actually growing alongside them, or if I'm just attaching myself to the parts of the albums that I wish were off of Alaska. Either way, I still pump these records every few days.
In that same vein, I discovered the record The Great Destroyer by Virulent. Head to toe I enjoyed its chugged out guitars and non-intrusive vocals, which provide coherence during some intense riff changes. I think my favorite part of the entire album is 3:29 on the closing track -- it brings back so many fond memories of getting lost inside a thick swarm of guitars while driving down I-495 listening to Blood Has Been Shed.
I guess we'll do something different here with a record I really wanted to like. Sitting up late at night, crosshatching drooling monsters, I'd turn up Caspian's latest Waking Season. Try as I may -- out of respect of loving their past records, and, more importantly, Four Trees -- I just couldn't get into it. The weak tissue-paper-thin guitar overlaid on top of some decent music to me -- probably unfairly! -- translated to a certain lack of confidence in their sound. I ended up wholeheartedly disappointed and put the record to bed sometime around Christmas. Sorry dudes, I tried...hard.
A huge surprise to me this year was FINALLY getting the hear something from Circle Takes The Square. As the Roots Undo was on repeat in my studio for years and when Decompositions: Volume Number One was released online I snatched it up as fast as I could. By all accounts this was a Circle Takes The Square record and I loved it. Vocals, Guitars, eerie transitions, CHECK. I didn't feel anything new from it, so it eventually fell a little by the wayside for me, but it's all there -- a brutal record on every level.
There are only two words I can use to describe this last album, Fucking dire. Mare's single EP is probably responsible for more late nights sitting with headphones, drawing and taking the terror journey which it inspires. Every song on this record makes me sick to my stomach with anxiety and anticipation -- it caused me to write and pencil out a 12 page horror comic involving spiritual transition and suicide! Simon from WFAHM introduced me to this record years ago, and I sit and listen to it religiously as soon as the sun drops. I know I'm late to the Mare party. And I know The End offers a small taste of what Mare had to offer, but I don't think I ever want to hear what a follow-up to what I think is the absolute most perfect album of all time would be. I experienced a little of that with Circle Takes The Square. From 4:14 of "They Sent You" till the end is the single most intense piece of music I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.