Sunday, June 30, 2024

Mono - Holy Winter

Just a few days after writing about Steve Albini and his seminal punk band Big Black in April, he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. His music had a huge impact on me and my evolving musical tastes, showing me what sort of terrifying and aggressive sounds could be wrenched from the customary instrumentation of rock and roll. Beyond Albini’s influence on me personally, he had an immeasurable impact on independent music with his career as a recording engineer, recording the work of hundreds of notable musicians, including the Pixies, Nirvana, and PJ Harvey. He specialized in capturing the live sound of the band, with the recordings capturing the harmonics of the room they were recorded in, making it sound as if you were present with the band while listening to the recordings. And while Albini himself played loud and unpleasant music, he recorded music of all styles and sound, striving to make raw and genuine sounding recordings of whomever he worked with. And that brings me to the topic of today’s post, the song “Holy Winter” by the longstanding Japanese instrumental post-rock band, Mono. 

Friday, May 31, 2024

Cadabra Records - Story of the Eye

Only a few years into writing on this blog (May 2014), I had the idea of writing a post about the Eyehategod song "Story of the Eye". Eyehategod are a legendary band from New Orleans, Louisiana, who are noted as one of the early practitioners of sludge metal. The song "Story of the Eye"  is propelled by an awesome guitar riff and the vocal tirades of Mike IX Williams, all of which is completely indecipherable. Knowing that the song was named after a novel, I thought that I could read the novel and write something about it and the song. While I knew the novel had some level of notoriety, I was not fully prepared for it. Story of the Eye was written by the French philosopher Georges Bataille in 1928, and it follows the sexual exploits of two teenagers that become increasingly more debaucherous and depraved. After reading Story of the Eye, I was not sure what I even had to say about it, and being that the lyrics of the Eyehategod song were uninterpretable, I never wrote the blog post. Fast forward ten years, and I heard that Cadabra Records Cadabra Records was hosting a live reading/performance of Story of the Eye at the end of May in Philadelphia. I knew that I had to go, and maybe finally write something about Story of the Eye.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Big Black - Cables

One of my first meaningful introductions to heavy music was from Steve Albini’s seminal and short-lived punk rock band, Big Black. Big Black was able to obtain a level of musical extremity without the shrieked vocals or shredding guitar solos of heavy metal music. Instead, Albini achieved a level of ferocity with the monolithic pounding of a Roland TR-606 drum machine and clanging guitar which sounded less like traditional guitar and more like a buzzing sheen. To get this unique guitar sound, Albini would play with metal guitar picks adorned with small snips of sheet metal. Big Black used guitar as a way to create texture as opposed to using it as the melodic core of most rock bands. The vocal work is also not at the center of the songs, instead becoming another texture to mesh with the chaos of guitar noise and synthesized drumming. When I first heard Big Black, I had never heard anything quite like it, and I was completely enthralled.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Northeast Dungeon Siege 2024

On the last weekend of March, fans of dungeon synth music descended on Worcester, Massachusetts for Northeast Dungeon Siege. Dungeon synth is a genre of ambient music that takes its inspiration from fantasy novels and roleplaying games. While it has been around since the early 1990s, it has recently become more well known, perhaps due to the increasing popularity of fantasy films and roleplaying games. Northeast Dungeon Siege is a small music festival dedicated to dungeon synth that has been running since 2018. My friends Steve (@sovthofheaven) and Gage (@noclearcoat) were running some miniature gaming sessions at the festival, and I was fortunate enough to come along and help out. Steve has a gaming fanzine called Under the Dice which he was promoting, along with a miniature-based gaming podcast called Hive Scum that he runs with Gage and some other friends. As readers of the blog will know, I have become more and more enamored by ambient music in recent years and have spent a sizable amount of time listening to dungeon synth in 2023. As such, I was very excited to attend Northeast Dungeon Siege.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Song Highlight: Black Tusk - Brushfire

I did not grow up listening to heavy music, but started to garner an appreciation for it in my later years of college and into my time in graduate school. Perhaps it was the air of frustration and stress that helped make dejected and angry music seem more appealing? The specific subgenre of metal that drew me in the most was sludge metal, with its combination of punk rock aggression and down-tuned distortion of doom metal. It is a style that wallows in a despondent groove, one that is largely devoid of the self-indulgent guitar theatrics that are a mainstay of a lot of heavy metal. One of the bands of the sludge metal style that first pulled me in was Savannah, Georgia's Black Tusk. They started out as a three piece with Andrew Fidler (guitar), Jonathan Athon (bass) and James May (drums). One thing that really drew me in was each member of the band would provide vocals to the songs, their varying vocal styles helping to add an interesting texture and variety to the songs. The band released four awesome full length albums before the untimely passing of Athon in a motorcycle accident in 2014. The band decided to continue on after the tragedy, honoring their fallen brother-in-arms with more gnarly riffs and pummeling drums.

April 2024 will see Black Tusk releasing their second full length album since Athon’s passing, aptly titled The Way Forward. The first single from the album is called “Brushfire,” and it feels right at home with their rollicking legacy. “Brushfire” is able to take the murky oppressiveness of sludge and make it surprisingly catchy. This new album adds both Derek Lynch (bass) and Chris Adams (guitar) to the line-up. “Brushfire” is apparently Lynch’s first time performing abrasive vocalwork and you would not be able to tell it was his first foray into the territory. The song is over in a brisk 2 minutes and 22 seconds, but that means you can just start it over and listen to it again! I am excited to hear what else The Way Forward has to offer. April 26th cannot come soon enough!

Buy Black Tusk’s music here!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Under the Dice Fest 2024


On the last weekend of January, I was fortunate to be able to attend Under the Dice Fest 2024, a small festival in Massachusetts celebrating miniature-based tabletop wargaming. The festival was designed to appeal to those who shy away from the mainstream iterations of the miniature wargaming hobby, focusing on those who want play the games on their own terms, sometimes outside of the scope of the game rules as written, or those who want to play old games which are no longer supported by their publishers. It is highlighting those who are more concerned with telling a story with the miniatures they build than with creating something that would be optimal in terms of a game’s rule system. A punk rock approach to the miniature wargaming hobby, if you will. Beyond the opportunity to play games like Mordheim (a fantasy skirmish game released in 1999 by Games Workshop, set in the remnants of a city destroyed by a comet), a host of musical performances were planned for Saturday evening. The musical guests were from around the New England area and thoroughly rooted in the underground music scene.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Hole Dweller and Dungeon Synth

Despite my love of angry and abrasive music, I have started to become more and more interested in somber and reflective music as a respite from the harshness of my normal listening regime. This interest arose from my discovery of experimental drone metal bands like Locrian, who were mixing echoing drones with melodic post-rock guitar lines, all supplemented with crackling noise, guitar feedback, and sparse percussion. Locrian, along with other minimalistic drone bands like Earth, helped show me that there was a whole world of compelling music outside of more conventional, vocally-orientated music. This discovery had me scouring music blogs and websites for similar work and the forerunners of the style, and somewhere in those searches I learned about the genre of ambient music.