Pittsburgh’s tough, son. We kind of have to be. We watched our primary industry–the one that’ll forever be associated with this region–fade away, unemployment skyrocket, people leave the area in droves, and old mill sites sit abandoned like industrial ghosts.
We have big hills and cold winters, and those two things do not really get along all that well, we have rivers that long ago were choked with pollution, and we have a wide variety of people boasting a slew of different nationalities, with sections devoted to those roots. We work fucking hard. We survived a lot of shit. We rebuilt ourselves, were called one of the best places in the nation in which to live, and have had a major resurgence due to the medical industry. Plus the rivers are healthier. You cannot kill us.
Beneath all the current success and rebirth remains a hardened core. You don’t go through hardship without getting tough, and there’s a damn good reason why pop music and glitz and glam don’t work in this town. Our punk scene is mean, not like the shit you see on Warped Tour. Our hardcore bands are a little crazier and out there. We have a lot of dudes walking around here you know have seen some shit, but they’re as real as anyone else. And we have metal that’ll split your skull in two. It doesn’t get a ton of play around here, sadly, as many of the local writers and critics are too busy blowing smoke up the collective asses of Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello (and no offense intended to either of those guys), but it’s there. Underneath the surface. Smoldering underground and objecting to the mainstream. Where it belongs. It’s not pretty at all, and we’d likely have that no other way. We also don’t have any bands that would be media darlings, popping up on hipster web sites, but we do possess music that’ll require pain reliever the next day.
Innervenus Music Collection have done their part to keep metal alive and kicking in Pittsburgh, both by putting out music by bands from town and nearby areas, and also shedding light on groups such as Invader, Killer of Sheep, Storm King, and Fist Fight In the Parking Lot. Last year, Innervenus put out a compilation of Pittsburgh metal with its “Iron Atrocity v.1” collection, and now they’re back with “v.2,” another gathering of the city’s biggest, loudest metal-related acts, most of which you can witness live just about any weekend of the year. Last year’s edition included a few bands that made their way out of Pittsburgh and into the national scene, such as Hero Destroyed and Complete Failure, who both had albums released by Relapse, and Abysme, but this year it’s all fresh and new stuff to most folks who don’t inhabit our region.
Like last year’s edition, Vol. 2 has a wide range of takes on metallic music, so there really is something for just about any extreme music fan. Chances are not every song or band will appeal to every listener, but there’s a good shot you’ll hear a few bands that’ll turn your head and make you want to see them obliterate a local venue. For me, who gets out to shows but not nearly as much as I used to, it’s a chance to hear some bands I’ve heard plenty about but just never got a chance truly experience.
Good news for death metal fans as you’re served the healthiest portions. We have a great deal of death bands around here, and sorting through them all to find ones worthy of this compilation cannot be easy. That said, Innervenus collected these bands and found some good ones in Grisly Amputation, whose “Birthed By Defecation” is my favorite song title on the whole thing, which fits as these fellows also have the best name of anyone here. It’s ugly, disgusting, brutal. Their name fits them to a bloody, puss-filled T. Derketa have a more technical, yet doom-encrusted, take on the subgenre, and their “Witchburned” is both edgy and guttural, making you feel a little unsteady. Great fucking band. The final three bands represented on the album–Lythem, United By Hate, Tyrant–have more modern takes on death and would make for good candidates for consideration by Metal Blade or a label of that ilk.
If you’re into something that’s still loud but a bit more creative, you’ll find that, too. Girlfight have something of a Helmet/Unsane thing going on, and while you can call them metal, their cut “Holy Fuck” goes in so many other directions. Lycosa also veer toward death metal, but their “U Mad Bro” also gets soupy, buzzy, and a little bit hardcore. Horrible song title, but whatever. Moths are pretty adventurous but also quite bludgeoning, and their cut “Scabeater” sounds like it was influenced by early Cave In/Botch while also resembling a darker, tougher Cynic. Perhaps my favorite song on the record is “Woman” by October, who have a bit of that icy ISIS feel but also incorporate some Midwestern rock flavor like Across Tundras. That one was right up my alley. Solarburn do the instrumental thing quite capably on “C-section,” a song I really dug but found a little bit too long. I have no problem with longer tracks at all, but this seemed to overmake its point. But the band has a ton of promise.
Other songs kind of stood on their own from a genre standpoint. Local scene vets Liquified Guts do the belchy grindcore thing really well, and the vocals on “Heroshima Cricket” are so ridiculously monstrous and acidic, they sounds like a pig fighting a machine. Vermithrax are a steady modern thrash band, with a little Dream Theater and Judas Priest tossed in, and the guitar work is rock solid on “The Final Feast.” Lady Beast are one of three bands on here fronted by a lady (Derketa we already mentioned), in this case the commanding Deb Levine, and the music sounds like traditional metal done right. The other is Motorpsychos, a long-standing punk/metal institution that deserves your respect, or else, and their track “Victim” is as nasty as they’ve ever sounded. Ascend the Fallen did nothing for me with their metalcore sound “Nightmares,” but that’s due to my tastes. They’re perfectly fine doing this style, even if I think this sound is overdone. Finally, Blackmarket Bodyparts seem to have played every inch of town, and they’re sticking by their Pantera/Lamb of God-style metal that’s gotten them so far. If you’re into those two bands, you’ll probably like “Slow Bastard.”
This is another nice sampling of what Pittsburgh does well, and you can go download this son of a bitch for free (along with the first volume). If you find something you like, do something cool like going to see a band live or buying a shirt or a CD from them. And make sure you give Innervenus some love as well. They’re helping metal and other forms of extreme music thrive and find an audience here in Pittsburgh, and that’s obviously a labor of love for them. If you’re an out of towner, get a taste of our toughness and vitriol and see that we’re not Bar Rock City, USA. And if you happen to find your way to our lovely town, try to go see one of these bands. Chances are you won’t have to look very hard.
PS — Any of you who are in town can head to 31st Street Pub tonight (Aug. 3) at 9 for the record release party. You’ll get to see Liquified Guts, Motorpsychos, Lycosa, and Ascend the Fallen. That’s one hell of a diverse bill, and admission is $1. You don’t have $1? You can scrounge up that much on the streets of the South Side alone.
To get the album, go here: http://innervenus.org/iron-atrocity/
For more on the label, go here: http://innervenus.org/