In what is sure to be alternately the most loved and/or hated release by any band this year, we have the new album by genre benders IWABO. In the outright PR and marketing coup d’état of 2011, the band shocked the world with the declaration that they were “turning black metal” on May 17th. This what we call in advertising the perfect confluence of a savvy band and their handlers knowing exactly how to push buttons and manipulate the public. The metal media and public outcry from both fans and detractors was an amazing spectacle to behold for a few days. The band, with some help from MetalSucks.com essentially punked the world. Since there is in fact no such thing as bad press, they indeed had the last laugh. The fact that so many people didn’t get the joke and the level at which IWABO operates just tickled my funnybone silly. Hype is all fine and good, but the real punchline is that the new IWABO album delivers musically beyond all expectations.
Although there is an occasional flirtation with black metal, the sound of the new album is the same IWABO you always loved or hated. Spasmodic shifts of tempo blended perfectly with their aggressive mash-ups and wry sarcasm. Opening track “Next Visible Deliscious” straddles the line between tech deth, proggy deathcore and a PRIMUS like jam section in the middle. The sleeves of the band are all rolled up, revealing their entire bag of tricks to all comers. The first thing you notice about the song of the band is how much more defined and prominent the rhythm section is than ever before. “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voices” has a sick heavy verse and an amazing chorus. The second verse finds the enchanting and limitless Krysta Cameron wailing on her brutal vocals. There is other assorted good weirdness in the track like surf guitar and grindcore. I have literally listened to this one song alone dozens of times since getting the album. “Deoderant Can’t Fix Ugly” is discordant, avant-garde and most of all wonderful. And yes, it does end with a gospel style chorus like a 1990’s RnB song. Although the entire band has improved individually and collectivley, I’d have to single out drummer Mike Montgomery for being excellent and particularly crushing. The actual song on the album with a black metal influence is “It is “bro” isn’t it?” which sounds like it could be an outtake from the current BLACK DAHLIA MURDER album. That is until the gorgeous chorus and angular guitar riffs come in. More surprises like well developed keyboard parts come to the forefront like never before. John Ganey and Steven Bradely are not just fine guitarists, they are sick songwriters and programmers to boot. “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” flirts with techno and other oddities in and around a deathcore song structure.“Break it Down Camacho” is another song I can’t say enough good things about with it’s cool bass parts courtesy of Ricky Martin. Songs like “Stay to the Right” and “I’m Gonna Shoot” just rock and again show there is no boundary the band cannot shatter. The single “Karate Nipples” is great on repeated listens as well. Rounding out the proceedings with possibly the best track of them all in “Button It Up” with its subject matter as dark as its tone. Sorry to break it you haters, the joke is still on you!
If you ever had any doubts that city dwellers have no place in the black metal community, you’re wrong and you haven’t heard TOMBS. Path of Totality is the second full-length album from this Brooklyn based blackened sludge metal band. That’s right, I said Brooklyn, as in totally not from Europe. If you want to imagine how evil this album sounds, I’d say picture yourself in a nightmare with Dorian Gray and Alistair Crowley, both just casually having late night conversations about the end of humanity set to a scene from Dante’s Inferno. It’s a pretty sinister album. The thundering drumming on this record is authentic, taking off with the savage percussive assaults inspired by black metal titans DARKTHRONE. Wailing guitar tones and well-paced elements of despair were captured masterfully. Both the guitar and the ominous vocals were the responsibility of Mike Hill, who chants his mournfully oppressive lyrical themes all throughout the thoroughly morbid album; any expressions of nice things weren’t invited into the recording studio when John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Baroness) produced it. The entire album and architecture of the songwriting is elaborately composed. Everything is paced together to convey a sense of yearning and ascension through build ups followed by climatic suspense and inevitably the pulling percussions slam you right back down into seething dissonance. Like a cascading series of volcanic eruptions, you can merely anticipate where the next measure will take you, only knowing that it is going to be hot. Path of Totality has it all.
DAMSELS comes to us out of the Providence Rhode Island scene and lays on their thick style of experimental jams on their new album Something Fancy. These are interesting times in metal for bands that aren’t scared to take chances with style and writing scope. Although fans and labels alike sometimes suffer from up-turned nose elitism, this is also a time when some of the most vibrant and exciting artists like THE DILINGER ESCAPE PLAN, EVERY TIME I DIE (whom DAMSELS borrow from heavily) and IWRESTLEDABEARONCE are carving out their own path to glory. Why some bands catch and some don’t we may never know, but it is important to know the difference between talent and calculated randomness. DAMSELS seems to fall into the former category.
Best described as a maelstrom of styles piled on each other that somehow still works, one thing that hits you right away is how heavy they are. After the intro track “Teddy Bear Bombs” just explodes in your ear piece. Jagged riffs, killer beats and insane slow breakdowns flavor the track. Vocalist Jonny annoys frequently with his nasally scream, but his guttural vocals are terrific. I wonder if he loves MR. BUNGLE too much to change it up a little more, but I suspect this guy is holding back a little too in terms of range. His comedic timing is also golden. Their drummer Eric is also terrific, as is bassist Scotty. These guys really stand out track after track. Careening through several stylistic changes in just a few minutes time this cut sets that standard the rest of the album lives up to. “We Put a Light In the Bathroom (Ladies Night)” is next and is right out of the ETID playbook of angular math rock. Still, the track is high in energy and full of chunk. Guitarist Tejay (TJ?) has a great style that is heavy, harsh and wild. “Give Me Back My Hat Roger Williams” is a funny tongue in cheek ripper that suffers from the verses with the double layered vocals. I’m not sure how they account for this live or if one of the other guys also sings, but the effect should be done away with. Other than that the track is strong and would be a great show opener or closer with its made for moshing beats and chords. Two other likely hits in the making are “Leper Lapdance” and “Danny Glover Banged Your Mother”. These guys have the requisite goods to go really far, but I fear they will be seen as a mere novelty band if they don’t reign themselves in a little more and pay attention to what the songs need. If they get teamed up with a great producer on their next album, watch out!