I have lost count of how many record labels I deal with on a daily basis, but the ones I tend to think about most fondly are the ones who don’t adhere to a specific path and allow themselves to branch out whenever they see fit. It’s obvious the music matters to them, and not staying true to some style or sound, and because of that, their releases tend to be more interesting and worth my time.
You know the names by now: Profound Lore, Gilead Media, the Mylene Sheath, Flenser Records, soon-to-be-deceased Hydra Head. Anytime anything from those labels arrives, it’s time to drop what I’m doing and immerse myself in new music, because I know that it’ll be worth my time. Even if a particular record from one of those sources doesn’t light my world on fire, it at least keeps me invested and curious when I’m listening. Another label we can add to that mix is Seventh Rule, as eclectic a metal-based label as you’re going to find, and one that always seems to unearth something peculiar and exciting to unleash on an unsuspecting public. In fact, this year we’ve gotten the bizarre and spastic rock from Wizard Rifle as well as man-and-machine-made industrial blackness of Author & Punisher. That’s not to mention past releases from bands as varied as Batillus, Atriarch, Indian, and Lord Mantis.
The label, that trades a prolific release schedule for careful craftsmanship, has two other monsters to enter into the fray, one a brand new release, and one we’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t made it there. And trust me, it’s not because of the music. Sometimes running a one-man site and keeping everything on schedule is a horribly inexact science, thus why we’re only now going to be discussing this album. While we’ll be dissecting two Seventh Rule releases, neither album or band sound anything alike, yet each could find favor among folks who like edgy metal and abrasive noise.
Up first is “Failure Tactics,” the long-awaited new record from Millions. The Chicago noise rockers first left a damaging impression on us with 2009’s propulsive “Gather Scatter,” a record that feels like it came out a million years ago instead of a mere three. That’s what happens when you anticipate. Waiting for a pot of water to boil. It was a killer display that not only established the band as one to follow into the future, but also made me wonder where they were going to do next. We got an EP “Panic Program” in 2010 to tide us over, but now that “Failure Tactics” finally is in our grasp, it’s time to sink in the teeth.
If you like noise merchants or those who dabble in post-punk quaking, bands such as Killing Joke, Jesus Lizard, Harvey Milk, and aforementioned Atriarch, then you need to spend time with this record. The songs are not for the faint of heart, and there is such abrasion and agitation to these compositions, you have to wonder what pissed off and jaded these guys to such an extent. The band — guitarists Scott Flaster (he runs Seventh Rule) and Corey Lyons, bassist Mark Konwinski, and drummer Patrick O’Shea — never lets up in their intensity and mangling focus, and vocally, it sometimes sound like these guys are being strangled as they spew forth their diatribes.
After a jerky, welcome-to-the-massacre opening on “Shadow Copy,” it’s right into the heart of “Shipwreck,” where the noises lather you like lava, the vocals sound sickened and diseased, and pokes of, “We’ve heard it all before!” seem to go out as a sarcastic insult. “Pervert” is just an awesome cut, with jangly guitars and a sinister attitude; “Siberian Angel” is delivered a bit more deliberately, with talky vocals and gut punches; “Tunnel Rat” has a touch of deathrock before its main riff takes over, and the guys declare, “We lost our way!”; “Suicide Artist” is heavy and unforgiving, the most metal thing on here; and epic closer “Darmok V” is full of panic and awareness of one’s imminent demise (not sure if the title is a “Star Trek” reference), with our narrator coming to bloody terms with, “I’ll never see the moon again!” amongst other celestial bodies he mourns. It’s fucking sick and warped.
So we’ve got Millions back, and they’re as creepy and provoking as ever. “Failure Tactics” is an awesome step into their future, one where no one — themselves included — leaves unscathed or without a hefty burden they deserve. Put on this record next time you think you had a bad day at the office. Turns out it wasn’t so bad after all.
For more on the band, go here: http://millionsdistorts.blogspot.com/
I mentioned we’d lost track of a band, and that would be Portland, Oregon, doom crew Stoneburner. Their debut record “Sickness Will Pass” was released in May, and to much acclaim, and luckily we realized we missed it so we could correct said error. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the band’s brand of sludgy, ferocious doom, but not every band needs to be an innovator. Instead, they deliver honest, hammering metal that’s well played, blisteringly executed, and that should find favor among those who dine on Sleep (with whom they toured), Electric Wizard, YOB, St. Vitus and that ilk of heathens.
One really cool detail about Stoneburner that grabbed me is their allegiance to the riff and their penchant for cranking out pure, 1980s-style heavy metal thunder unabashedly. They clearly have done their homework, as their classic chops are for real, but they’re not living in the era. Stoneburner, instead, spice up their modern take on doom with those parts, yet inject strains of what’s going right now to avoid sounding generational or a disciple of any specific era, including the one they’re helping build. In addition, the members of this band — guitarists Jason Depew and Elijah Boland, bassist Damon Kelly, and drummer/vocalist Jesse McKinnon — have plied their trade with other notable crushers such as Buried at Sea, Heathen Shrine, and, here comes that name again, Atriarch.
“Sickness Will Pass” opens with “Christian’s Charity,” a muddy, Southern rock-fed track that’s chunky and mean, though it cleans itself up just a bit at the end to mislead you into “Marriage,” where they go mostly instrumental and sometimes psychedelic. McKinnon doesn’t crack in with vocals until there are about two minutes left in this cannon shot, and his growls are draped over power and prog melodies. It’s weird and dirty at the same time. “Run Boy…” opens on an exploratory note and even takes a venture into outer space, but then it’s back to the grindstone as they hulk and pound their way to the finish. “Elesares” is the longest track at 8:37, and it makes the most of its running time with noise, savage growls, and violent and drubbing doom artillery. Closer “We Have Failed” is like a summary of everything that preceded it, with mucky doom, eerie ambiance, and a final act of maiming demolition. It certainly left me wanting more.
The world’s got a lot of doom bands right now, and sifting through to find the good ones is growing increasingly more difficult. Thankfully, Seventh Rule did the grunt work to pick out this gem in Stoneburner, a band whose next album will go into my head the moment it arrives. Lesson learned.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/Stoneburner.PDX?ref=ts
To buy the album, go here: http://store.seventhrule.com/
For more on the label go here: http://www.seventhrule.com/