Canadian grinders Wake push struggles, torment into focus with destructive ‘Misery Rites’

It takes a ton of effort to change one’s life, especially if demons and personal hardships are standing in the way of transformation. It infuriates me when people write off those struggling with addiction because it’s a self-made issue. It is, and it isn’t, and what is wrong with showing compassion for someone whose life and struggles you really don’t understand?

Much of that is at the heart of “Misery Rites,” the new record from Canadian grind destroyers Wake, who created this conceptual piece about a person working through issues such as depression and addiction and bringing about a metaphorical death by trying to stamp out these matters. But in the end, the cycle just repeats itself, and even after all of the toil, the person is back at square one. It’s easy to understand how that could be frustrating as fuck, and that anger spews forth from the nine songs that band created for this album, their first since 2016’s “Sowing the Seeds Toward a Worthless Tomorrow,” itself not exactly a pick-me-up of a name. Here, the band finds a new home at Translation Loss, a fitting place for them, and the members—vocalist Kyle Ball, guitarists Rob LaChance and Arjun Gill, and drummer Josh Bueckert—deliver fury and punishment befitting the record’s theme and messages.

“Exhumation” begins the record as noise spills, guitars cut through the pain, and we get into slow sludging and menacing growls. “The cycle starts again!” Ball wails, as the track hits the mud pits, and then we’re into the title cut that tears off the bandage in one swift motion. The track demolishes with savage punishment, while the vocals lurch, the song smothers, and Ball howls about “endless suffering.” Duly noted. “Embers” packs a huge punch, as the pace is fiery and fast, and the bulk of this thing is outright blistering. Later on, even the vocals soak in the mud, and the track ends in a disorienting wave of noise. “Rot” splatters everywhere, while the vocals gurgle and strike, and then deep growls blacken the blood that has already pooled. Things continue to be volatile, as the track ends on a punchy note. “Paradigm Lost” is violent as hell and absolutely destructive. The track grinds you severely, while noise hangs in the air, roars tear things apart, and we end in death metal-style hell.

“Exile” also tears open, as the track pounds bones, and the vocals lacerate your veins. A metallic stomp causes a dust up, but then things are pulled back as the tempo burns away. That doesn’t last long as we’re back to a dizzying pace that gives way to a monstrous end. “Rumination” simmers in gory death, as the vocals are shrieky as hell, but then Ball segues into a deathy, gory delivery. The band continues to smear you into the cinders before things end abruptly. “Bitter Winter” grinds away, while the vocals get ugly and mean, and the playing slowly batters. The band keeps driving away, bleeding out and heading right into 7:38-long album closer “Burial Ground” that opens spaciously before the death sprawl begins firing. The growls gurgle acid, and even when calms arrives and spreads blue skies, it’s not long until we’re back into sludging heaviness and swelling noise. The band finds new ways to mash your senses before a noise glaze arrives, and the record ends in a pit of fire.

Wake’s music remains volatile and sharp, and “Misery Rites” is a bludgeoning fist to the face, bringing you back to reality to face your own matters. These songs are massive and heavy as all hell, the perfect gateway into self-examination and, in some cases, self-loathing. It’s not a pretty picture they paint, but that’s just as we expect from them, and Wake never disappoint.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Ataraxy infuse morbidity into blistering death metal on ‘Where All Hopes Fades’

Death metal’s always good for an ample dose of brutality and horror, but not every band packs their music with misery. That misery can be depressive or morbid, and if woven properly into the mix, it can make for death metal that’s weightier and more devastating, laying waste to your body and psyche.

Spanish death unit Ataraxy have both bone-crushing violence and mournful tones in their music, making what they do even darker than some of the bands that have their minds situated in horror and bloodshed. On their tremendous second record “Where All Hopes Fades,” the band—vocalist/guitarist Javi, guitarist Santi, bassist Edu, and drummer Viejo—unveils six tracks spread over 45 minutes that drop a dark curtain over you and bring down your mood while you’re being bludgeoned. Following up their 2012 debut record “Revelations of the Ethereal,” Ataraxy should be able to extend their reach with Dark Descent behind them, and this record is one that will allow you to drink in the darkness and have you taking this psychologically horrifying trip along with them.

“The Absurdity of a Whole Cosmos” is a slow, eerie instrumental opening track that bleeds deliberately and keeps welling up liquid before flowing into “Matter Lost in Time.” This 10:49-long track drubs slowly at the start, with Javi’s growls sounding otherworldly, as the amalgamation of doom and death picks up speed. The band begins crushing with a callousness, with the music feeling like it originated in a fever dream and made its way into reality. The music plods, as the melody lines entangle everything before things speed up and resume smothering. The growls rip at the skin, while the guitars are dizzying and mournful, pouring the final blackness as things rumble to a close. “One Last Certainty” unloads from the start, with harsh wails and lurching growls joining forces and stunning, and smeary death metal leaving black streaks. A dose of slowness is dealt before the pace erupts, punishing bones and grinding closed.

“As Uembras d’o Hibierno” is murky and stormy, taking its time to unfurl and march into the throes of harshness. Mauling growls meet up with doom horns, pushing deeper into the destructive madness. Dark riffs well up and collect ash, while the raspy growls and funereal ambiance give the back end of it a pounding precision and remains rampaging until the track slows into a mournful tempo. The guitars chug, while Javi delivers a chilling monologue drowning in echoes, as the track ends at the frozen gates of death. Closer “The Blackness of Eternal Night” is the longest song, stretching over 12:50 and starting with icy guitars dripping. The fog rises as the growls strangle, and then we trudge mercilessly into scarred emotions and gruff growls that blister your flesh. A black metal touch is splashed on the guitars, as they cut through the sinew and lead to a gut-wrenching battery. From there, a slow, weary pace takes over, with weird guitars streaking blood, and the track fading out into a mysterious noise pocket.

Ataraxy’s mix of gloomy doom and sepulchral death is cloudy and misery-inducing, making “Where All Hope Fades” a place where desolation and madness are the primary tenants. The music is captivating and swirling, punishing and dizzying, making it one of the first landmark death metal records of young 2018. These guys haven’t lost sight that death metal should bring coldness and pain, and they deliver both in ample supply on their devastating second record.

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Fucked and Bound’s destructive hardcore pushes against forces of societal pains with ‘Suffrage’

It’s a pretty unsettling experience to put on a record and immediately get the sense that things are not good. I don’t mean with the band, although certainly that situation exists from time to time as well. No, I mean with the subject matter the band is approaching and the way the songs are carrying out a message that what surrounds you might just be toxic.

Seattle-based hardcore unit Fucked and Bound give that sense of dread and misery on their debut full-length “Suffrage.” Featuring members of notable bands such as He Whose Ox Is Gored (their keyboard player/vocalist Lisa Mungo is out front here, and is she ever a goddamn force), Witch Ripper, and Cascabel, the band launches 13 songs that are over in about 23 minutes, and along the way, the group addresses, according to their own description, nihilism, feminism, and the woes that make one wonder what it takes to make a good living. That’s a lot of heady stuff there, much of it could bring you down if you’re facing the same matters, yet the way the band sets fire to everything is galvanizing. This music fights back, spits blood and piss in oppressors’ faces, and promises a beating to anyone who dares stand in their way and bring about more frustration. This is one seething warning.

“Wild Thing” rips the lid off this record, a 33-second barnburner that smothers with animalistic cries from Mungo and speedy hardcore, and then it’s onto “Get Inside” that keeps the boulder rolling out of control down the hill. The riffs crush, the vocals are raspy and forceful, and then it’s right into “Dead Bop” that is rapid, with the words spat out. The track has a deep punk melody, but it’s also violent as hell, and Mungo bites off some lines from Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” to bring the song to a scathing end. “Terror” is fast and grimy, as one might expect from the title alone, and the muscular melodies and filthy carnage barrel into “0FUXX” and its shouted, volatile vocals. The chorus is simple but blistering, and a molten solo washes over the back end, leaving it in ash. “My Love” has a punk blast and a maniacal pace, with the band demolishing everything, and Mungo bringing equal amounts of danger, wailing, “You’re stuck with me!”

“Party Void” is meaty and menacing, with the vocals churning and torturing, and the song melting into a sludgy pit. “Locked” starts with boot steps crunching before the drums kick in and deliver a groove, the riffs dive, and the playing goes off, bringing this instrumental cut to a fiery finish. “Creeps on the Street” is annoyed and sneering, but considering the irritating subject matter, it’ll make total sense. “I see you looking around!” Mungo pokes, as the band backs her with vitriol and sharpened claws. “#GTFO” has a burly metallic riff, with the vocals making things even more explosive, with Mungo howling, “Get the fuck out of here!” “Punishers on Deck” brings back the punk taste of some of the stuff that preceded it, while the riffing brings with it damaging intent, and the vocals blast you in the chest, rendering you a heaving disaster. “Parasite Lost” has Mungo wailing, “You’re losing it, I’m losing you!” while the band wraps her words in fist-filled fury that hammers to the end. Closer “Abuse of Registry” is the longest cut by far at 4:19, and it starts with mud-thick bass and slow-driving playing that drops doom into the scene. The track is even darker than what came before it, as the playing takes on more metal aspects, Mungo’s voice slices to the bone, and the song bleeds out in a cloud of sound.

Be careful Googling Fucked and Bound, by the way, as you might stumble onto sites you didn’t intend to visit. Or maybe you did plan to go there. I’m not judging. As for the band, finding your way to them results in a vicious, fire-breathing assault that unloads on oppressive and damaging ideas and seeks to dissolve them with acid. This record is a great rallying cry, especially with what’s going on in American society, and is the perfect “fuck off” to those who wish to stand in the way of change.

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Windhand, Satan’s Satyrs bring more Virginia-based doom, fuzz on psyche-mauling split album

There’s some crazy shit going on in Virginia, or so I have ascertained from the impossible number of promos I get from bands who hail from that region. And they have all kinds! Bands that play arenas, bands that headline huge clubs, bands that can play to 5 people and still slay. It’s a little unfair, and I wish they would spread around some of the wealth. Wow. I think I might be a socialist.

Anyway, more of that embarrassment of riches in on display with a new split effort coming your way via the always reliable Relapse Records. This piece features two bands that should light the hearts of anyone who likes things doomy and/or dirty. We have site favorite Windhand back with two bruising tracks and fuzz maulers Satan’s Satyrs chiming in with three of their own that might not be metal through and through but should still excite the fuck out of anyone who just wants their hearing permanently damaged. What’s nice about this five-track beast is both bands could not be more foreign from each other style-wise, yet the music each makes mixes together pretty nicely. It’s a strong piece that gives Windhand fans more of what they desire and a chance for Satan’s Satyrs to branch out to a different audience.

Windhand (photo by Jordan Vance)

Windhand hail from Richmond, and over the past decade, they’ve delivered occult-splashed, sultry doom that always pushes you to the limit and leaves your skin scorched. Led by steel-piped singer Dorthia Cottrell, the band unleashes thick blankets of darkness and melody that can infect you and leave you for dead. Live, they’re even burlier, as the band—it also includes guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler, and drummer Ryan Wolfe—lays waste to any stage they’re on. But let’s not forget they also make great music in the studio, as their three full-lengths prove, and again they’re on the money with these two killers.

“Old Evil” gets us started as the doom buzzes and Cottrell’s vocals get things moving. Her voice is way higher in the mix, which is a good thing, and then we get into psyche-splashed soloing and powerful riffs. Noises hiss as Cottrell’s singing enraptures, and then we’re into a wall of feedback that takes us to the end.  “Three Sisters” follows, and we begin with bass echoing, and organs rising and taking over. Haunting doom leads to higher singing from Cottrell, and we get into a slow bleeding, calculated pace. Fuzzy riffs clobber while we circle back to the strong chorus, but from there, the guitars lumber, the organs bleed, and we end things in a clobbering array of feedback.

Satan’s Satyrs

Satan’s Satyrs hail from Herndon, and they’ve been at it only a year fewer than Windhand. Over that time, they’ve built up a nice resume that boasts three full-lengths (that last one was 2015’s “Don’t Deliver Us”) and an attitude that reminds of some of MST3K’s forays beyond sci-fi into the biker and rebel world, where strange but awesome C-level movies get their due. Sort of. These three songs are a total blast, and the band—bassist/vocalist Claythanas (also of Electric Wizard’s current lineup), guitarists Jarrett Nettnin and Nate Towle, and drummer Stephen Fairfield—creates a smoke-filled (possibly with illicit substances) clouded forcefield with which to confuse your mind. It’s pretty great stuff.

“Alvcard AD 2018” kicks this off, as the punchy open takes us into vintage rock, and the riffs pile up to keep powering the machine. The higher vocals mix with the burning soloing, and then the psyched-out fire burns. From there, molten loudness and bashing heaviness end it. “Succubus” has trudging riffs and Sabbath-style vocals, as fuzzy rock leads the way, and we’re into molten soloing. A burly assault goes from there, and a burning tempo takes us to the end. The record ends with “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby” a song Elvis made famous and a track to which the band adds a snotty swagger. The song swaggers in blues and attitude, while the track takes on a glam metal feel (I sense some Faster Pussycat) before the cut ends in a lava-filled solo.

These two bands can claim home state and volume worship as common traits, but in the end, they’re very different beasts. But that’s what makes this Windhand union with Satan’s Satyrs such a rewarding collection. You get a dose of two styles of heaviness that kind of clash, but for some reason, they work stunningly well together.

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The Atlas Moth continue with altering metallic colors, push cosmic tentacles on ‘Coma Noir’

When choosing a living thing after which to name your band, you’re likely going to pick something tough, rugged, and/or resilient, right? Especially if you’re a metal band. Imagine choosing something that doesn’t even have a mouth and, thus, is only able to live for a few days because it can’t nourish itself. That’s not as tough as a tiger or a lion or snake.

Yet, the Atlas Moth grabbed onto that giant saturniid creature that primarily lives in Southeast Asia and named their band after it, its suspect post-larval survival skills notwithstanding. And it’s worked for the Chicago band, whose style and approach match the multi-colored wings this creature sports. So what if it lives for a precious short time? While it’s here, it’s fucking magnificent, and that same thing can be said about this band that keeps coming back with a different approach on every record. Now comes their fourth effort “Coma Noir,” their first for indie powerhouse Prosthetic (their last two were issued by Profound Lore), and it’s yet another building block for the band—guitarists/vocalists Stavros Giannopoulos and David Kush, guitarist/synth player Andrew Ragin, bassist Alex Klein, and drummer Mike Miczek. The band maintains their metallic edge, but they mix in even more colors, some of which are psychedelic, while others are cosmic and atmospheric. The band won’t be foreign at all to those who have been along the ride the entire way, but you should expect new twists and turns.

The title track starts the record, as the track crushes and rumbles, and the cries emitted are practically strangling. The words are spat over the chorus, while melody mixes in like a streak of blood, and the track comes to a sludging, crazed finish. “Last Transmission From the Late, Great Planet Earth” is muddy and harsh as you’d expect, as the pace drives hard, the synth envelops, and the cosmic fog settles. Textured guitars feel trippy, and the song comes to a strong end, barreling into “Galactic Brain.” There, keys zap, as the band hits a groove that might remind some of Metallica’s “Load” era, but not in a gross way. “Are you listening to the rhythm of the sea?” is belted out, while shrieks stretch over top the melodic energy. All the elements build up and threaten to topple, as punishing screams take us out. “Streets of Bombay” is the longest cut at 7:08, as the drums make their push, the synth thickens, and the song tears open. The track is an endurance test, as growls and clean singing vie for position, while the band delivers deadly force and sweeping melodies that quiver and hammer. Toward the end, the guitars bleed color while the tempo stomps, and the track falls away.

“Actual Human Blood” is bludgeoning and intense, with animalistic shrieks and melodies spilling beneath the carnage. The song clubs away, but there’s a sense of cleansing as well, as the band warns of a force coming for us all, insisting it will take us all away. “Smiling Knife” has guitar stabs, yelled vocals, and a grimy underbelly. The screams feel like ones learned by studying the Faith No More playbook, while cool soloing soothes, and the track comes to a violent end. “Furious Gold” has static and grim cries, while the guitars destroy, and melody and mud mix. The track is spacious and infectious, while the gaze sprawls, clean singing emerges, and the track has an icy finish. “The Frozen Crown” has electronic pulses, as the question, “Do you ever wonder if your brain’s been disconnected?” is posed. This is the one song where my mind begins to wander elsewhere, which I don’t expect from an Atlas Moth cut. It finishes up a little stronger, but I could live without this one. We finish with “Chloroform,” as militaristic drums spatter, screamed verses and painfully sung choruses unite, and we’re off into a thrilling pocket of strangeness. The track gets eerie and dark from there, as doom seems imminent, horns swell, and the track ends in squealed shrieks and blistering fire.

The Atlas Moth’s metamorphosis is a never-ending process, and with each new chapter, the band figures out new ways to enrapture and enlighten us. “Coma Noir” is dark and punishing but also something that could have them grabbing the attention of those who may have been on the fringe before. This is their biggest, boldest record yet, and it could pay off with a nice bump in their number of devotees.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Visigoth pour power, fantasy into galloping new record ‘Conqueror’s Oath’

Fantasy-based metal will never die, and we should be thankful for that. For as many bands as we have that espouse Satanism, political anger, depression, or guttural violence, we always will maintain a slew of bands that want to keep their head in stories past, great glories, and swords clashing with shields in the most primitive of environments.

Salt Lake City’s Visigoth are fully committed to the same path carved by bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol, Helloween, and many others before them, and they do so in such a natural, non-forced way that it’s not unheard of to find unbridled joy in their music. You’re not going to get songs about the state of the Union or social and political struggles, which is great, because we have other artists handling those topics. On their strong second effort “Conqueror’s Oath,” the band returns with eight pounders that will have you traveling into the past as wars are won on bloody battlefields adorned with chainmail-wearing warriors and horses raging and kicking up dust. It’s such a nice diversion from the hell that can be everyday life, and if you’re someone who indulges on NWOBHM, some of the bands from the U.S. power metal scene (Fates Warning is a natural callout) or even a modern act such as Grand Magus, you’ll find plenty to like with this record and band—vocalist Jake Rogers, guitarists Leeland Campana and Jamison Palmer, bassist Matt Brotherton, drummer Mikey T.

“Steel and Silver” kicks off the record as strongly as possible, rolling out an anthem that should be a live staple and a fan participation highlight. “Haunted by the shadows of the past,” Rogers wails as the music rambles and rules, as the massive chorus swells and causes the blood to boil in your veins. It’s a great opener, met by the next punch of “Warrior Queen,” a tale of a dominating figure coming in to claim her kingdom. Strong guitars and driving vocals pace this thing, and after a brief moment of solemnity in the middle as the bodies are counted, we mash our way toward the bloody final gates. “Outlive Them All” has an awesome early 1980s Maiden gallop, yet the delivery of the vocals reminds of Mike Kiske just a bit. “There can be only one!” is the hammering declaration on the chorus, surrounded by fast, raucous playing that tempers this nicely. “Hammerforged” has a channeled start, taking its time to get moving, but once it does, it’s a blast. Rogers sings of the refusal to swear fealty and the destruction of slavery, as he wails, “You are the anvil, you are the blade!” Later, the soloing catches fire, while the track comes to a satisfying, smoldering end.

“Traitor’s Gate” has a slow, quiet start, with solemn singing from Rogers before the track and the rage ignite. “I vomit a curse upon your name!” he bellows, as the band backs up with a hammering tempo and a righteous assault. A quick tempo change leads to a thrashy attack, with Rogers vowing, “Die, coward, die, as I take your life!” “Salt City” is a weird one, a track that perhaps would have been better off as a B side because it’s so out of place. The track is an homage to the band’s hometown, and it’s rife with cock rock swagger and Rogers singing of their stomping grounds is “right beneath the mountain throne.” It’s not that the song is bad. It’s fun in an Audrey Horne kind of manner. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the aesthetic. Maybe that was the point. “Blades in the Night” reignites the battle torches, as the song shows its muscles, with the warning of, “In the cover of night, beware.” The track is faster than a lot of what’s on here, and the back end even contains a damn cool soloing section that is infused with folk melody. The closing title cut is an ideal end, the final stamp on this record that swells with chaos handed down over the ages. The band chugs hard, with the leads stoking the fires, and later the guitars twisting classic metal ferocity. That fires up the final moments, as the swelling vocals and trudging pace bring this to a bloody end.

Visigoth’s gift for huge melodies and fantastical imagery is the continuation of some of metal’s finest, longest-lasting tenets, and that’s what makes “Conqueror’s Oath” such a fun listen. You don’t have to worry about being weighed down with heavy shit (well, other than the music), and you can get lost in the middle of their world. We need bands such as Visigoth to remain vital and relevant, and there’s no doubting these guys will remain a force for years.

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Chaos Echoes’ transformation into strange, cosmic beast puts unexpected spin on ‘Mouvement’

Photo by Leito de Courson

Setting expectations can be a dangerous thing. If you situate yourself in them too deeply, you’re bound to be disappointed by the result because you have so much invested in your vision. At the same time, it’s OK to have standards and a hope that whatever you’re anticipating ends up being satisfying.

Anyone with an idea about what they might unpack on Chaos Echoes’ second record “Mouvement” is bound to be completely floored by what they hear on this six-track, nearly 33-minute collection. That could be a good or bad thing. If you are expecting the malicious, smothering amalgamation of doom and death metal that you received on their hour-long 2015 debut “Transient,” you’re not going to get anything even close to that. This feels like an entirely different animal, a completely modified version of this French beast. The music on “Mouvement” is not entirely unrecognizable (especially if you checked in with last year’s “The Unfathomable” EP), but it has completely transformed into something else. The band—Kalevi Uibo (guitars/vocals/effects), Steffan Thanneur (bass/effects/vocals) (Ilmar Uiobo (drums/vocals)—imagined the impact of the outside world on an individual, and they worked toward simplifying their process as they created these songs. Oh, above you see vocals attributed to each member. There aren’t any on this album, save for some bizarre chants toward the end of the record. This is a mainly instrumental affair, and it’s amazingly compelling.

The first four tracks are woven together, basically acting as individual movements for a larger whole. “Embodied by Perfidious Curls in the Innervated Flux” makes you think it’s going to be like their past, as wild howls and a black metal-style assault get going, but then a drizzling haze takes over, and we get into dramatic start-stop thrashing. Dramatic, grinding fury erupts, and then things turn fluid and violent and spill into “As an Embraceable Magma Leading the Subliminal” that feels weird at the start before the bass begins to drive. Slurry guitars and a jolting atmosphere emerge, and then air-infused strangeness seeps in, before proggy madness erupts, and the music boils and simmers. The noise hangs in the air, and we spin in the cosmos before encountering “Surrounded and Amazed by These Unplumbed Abysses of the Inverted Sea” and its sludgy pounding. Calm arrives, but then strings are struck, and a doomy haze falls. The playing smothers, and then it’s right on to “Through Kaleidoscopic Haze of Unexpected Extents” and its guitar smog. Power smolders, and then the steam rises, bringing with it another prog onslaught that rises, burns, and finally fades away.

The final two tracks take up half the run time and are both separate entities. “Shine On, Obsidian! Ego! Ego! Echo Back to the Yearning of the Self!” begins with ominous, dirty riffs, and things just get thicker and meaner from there. Drone and scraping power come out of the cracks, as weirdness floats, a sickening pace wears away at your senses, and the rhythm section chews your flesh. The track drones and scrapes, as weirdness floats in the air, and then shit goes off. The tempo brings sludge, as the band increases the heat, your mind is disoriented, and you’re driven into a dizzying submission. “Alas! Here Is the Feebles’ Assent, Exalted By Your Mouth Full of Flies” finishes off the record as we are situated into cleanliness and serenity, as noise hangs in the air, and the drums patter. The pace is calculated, as it’s easy to have your head swell, but then then the drumming lulls you into a trance. Chants, which we mentioned earlier, feel earthly and spiritual, and that oddness continues and captures your mind, as we head off into utter strangeness.

I doubt the metamorphosis Chaos Echoes have undergone is over, as we’re probably just experiencing this version momentarily on “Mouvement.” As the band works their way through their visions, it’s safe for all of us to keep our expectations tempered as we experience each chapter. As long as they keep making music this fascinating, we’re willing to follow them wherever they go.

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