For years there have been arguments about who is the loudest band in the world and what that accomplishment actually means. Don’t you just need a shit ton of stacks and a tight room without a gigantic ceiling to be the loudest band in the world? I never saw that as such a big accomplishment. Then again, I’m a writer, not a musician.
To me, being the loudest doesn’t have as much to do with how the sound affects your precious eardrums but instead has to do with physical impact. For example, High on Fire were so loud and impactful, it made my wife’s sore tooth hurt so badly, we had to leave. I didn’t think they were appreciably louder than a lot of other bands I saw before — though they did bring it — but the way their sound hit your body and shook it obviously made its mark. My wife still shivers when she thinks of that night, and that tooth is long since repaired. Seeing Sunn 0))) a couple years ago made me think I was going to unload the contents of my stomach on the floor, the noise was so powerful. It just reaches inside and shakes you. My ears didn’t hurt afterward, but my body sure did.
I haven’t had a chance to catch Milwaukee maulers Northless yet in a live setting, but from friends I know who have seen them, they’re another band that’ll turn your body inside out. Their studio output is heavy as it is, and their debut full-length, 2011’s “Clandestine Abuse,” was brutal and burly enough pouring through my headphones that I could only imagine how that would be replicated live. While we don’t yet have a follow-up to that aforementioned long player, the band hasn’t exactly been milling about doing nothing, evidence of which popped up in our inbox a month or so ago.
One of the band’s new pieces of work has been available for a few months, actually, but we’re just now getting to hear the thing. Better late than never, right? The other won’t be available until the end of November, but it’s definitely worth the wait getting this platter in your hands, especially when you hear how the band sounds on this thing.
For those of you new to Northless, the band makes a sludgy, doomy, hardcore-laced cloud of noise that can be absolutely devastating at its heaviest moments. They sound like mega hate grizzly bears stomping through the woods, seeking prey and not caring what plant life or trees they demolish in the process. I know that sounds like a silly description, but it’s also fitting. The band is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Erik Stenglein, guitarist Nick Elert, bassist Jerry Hauppa, and drummer John Gleisner, and in their time together, they’ve plied their trade for a number of labels including Inkblot, Gilead Media, and Halo of Flies, who are responsible for these two new releases.
We’ll start with “Valley of Lead,” their new, three-track 10-inch that will be unleashed officially Nov. 27 (though you can start to preorder today). It does contain some of the elements you’ve come to expect from Northless, that being relentless mashing, and Apocalyptic assaults delivered in cold, calculating fashion. But on the title track opener, we also hear a Northless that’s evolving musically. The track contains clean crooning, a rarity from this band, and its gazey doom is actually… gulp … pretty. “The wind goes through my fingers,” Stenglein observes, as the atmospheric storyteller builds block upon block, demonstrating an emotional vulnerability not obvious on the surface of most of their songs. It’s stop-in-your-tracks surprising, and it’s a great track to boot.
“Causality” takes things back to a beating in a mud pit, with drubbing tempos, monstrous growling, and heavy riffing that has nothing but ill intentions. “Elegy” moves slower and does manage to find dreamy threads, but it also hammers and wails on you, striking a nice balance between cerebral and barbaric. These three tracks combined show a grasping of the band’s roots but also a willingness to grow and expand into other terrain without compromise. I’m really excited to hear how their next full length is going to sound.
The other release is a split effort with Light Bearer, a London-based post-metal-style band that could not be more opposite sonically. Yet they hold up their end on this thing displaying jaw-dropping dramatics, with Northless handling the grit and nail chewing. This collection has been out since late July, but if you haven’t heard it yet, definitely give it a go. Both sides are more than worth it.
Northless’ contributions are ugly and could leave a deep bruising in your chest cavity. They ground and pound you on their two songs, opening with “For As Long as You Walk the Earth, Your Blood Will Reek of Failure,” a song that really doesn’t need to be heavily examined from a lyrical standpoint. The cards are on the table. It’s a cement truck blasting through the gates of a heavily guarded compound, and it reminds me a lot of what was on “Clandestine Abuse.” “Tears From Crime” also is a powerhouse, though it contains some moments where you’re allowed to breathe and recover before you’re dragged back to the corner for another stomping.
Light Bearer haven’t been around for a terribly long time, having formed in 2010 and released their debut album “Lapsis” in 2011 on Halo of Flies. They also popped out an EP “Beyond the Infinite: The Assembly of God” and now have this thematically accompanying, sprawling, 21:51 epic “Celestium Apocrypha: Book of Watchers” to this split. It’s a song that’ll definitely encourage you to float away with it, as the composition is spacey and foggy. The vocals are harsh, desperate shrieks, noise layers the background, eventually liturgical-sounding chanting fills the halls, and the song dives into valleys and surges to great, emotional peaks as their take on religion and the woes that have resulted from it are told in anguishing detail. It’s heady material that’ll take time for you to absorb, but the challenging, charging music makes it worthwhile.
Both of these efforts have gotten a lot of my attention lately, and I’m excited to have more Northless music (not to mention finally learning more about Light Bearer). Both releases are examples of truly heartfelt heavy music that both mangles and informs. Light Bearer certainly seem capable of being an enlightening band going forward if their work to date is evidence. And for my money, I don’t care if Northless are, decibel-wise, the loudest band on Earth as long as they keep delivering material this earth-crushing and soul quaking. That’s all that ever matters to me.
For more on Northless, go here: http://northless.com/
For more on Light Bearer, go here: http://lightbearerband.wordpress.com/
To buy “Valley of Lead,” go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo49-northless-valley-of-lea-10/
To buy the split, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo46-lightbearer-northless-split-lp/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/