Dead to a Dying World - Litany CD/2xLP

Dead To A Dying World's Litany was probably my second favorite record that came out in 2015 (behind only Marilyn Manson's The Pale Emperor), and I regret that it has taken me so long to finally write something about it.

Dead to a Dying World, if you're not familiar, is a band/collective from Texas that play a style of metal that incorporates elements of crust punk, black metal, folk, and sludge into a coherent and very organic whole that couldn't be accurately labelled by any of those on their own. The crust punk ethos and origins of the band are apparent in their music, but they should appeal to a much wider audience because there is so much more going on here.

I hate to make this comparison, but if you are as big a Skagos fan as I am, and you miss them as much as I do, you're gonna fall for this record. That's not even fully fair though, because the band has as much in common with Skagos as it does with, say, Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky. If you heard DTADW's self-titled debut and though these folks were good songwriters then, then you should be just marveling now, because my my how they have grown. Litany is composed of six tracks that total nearly an hour and fifteen minutes, driven by rhythms that do as much to hypnotize as they do to destroy. There is a nearly overwhelming aura of sadness to the record (that viola/cello, and those otherworldly vocals, particularly the female ones, really do a number on me), as the band seems to be standing on the edge, looking out over a failing world ruled by failing masters. The dejection and desolation is real. But whenever you feel like maybe they've given up hope, they drag you back into reaching out for some sort of feeling that maybe we can turn things around, with ascending tempos, melodies and a clear, passionate longing for something better. The world may be sick and, in fact, dying - but it's not dead yet.  If we do go down, let's at least never let go of the beauty that nature let us have a glimpse of every once in a while.

I can't say enough about how good this album is. You can download and/or stream it from Bandcamp,  here or here, but I'm sure you're not surprised that I will go out of my way to champion the vinyl edition of the record.  The 2xLP is packaged in a glorious gatefold jacket with incredible artwork and a lyric sheet that I would encourage you to use to follow the record. It's an amazing experience every time. Buy the 2xLP (or the CD) here, from our friends at Gilead Media/Eroding Winds.

Checking in with Halo of Flies Records

I have to admit that I have been somewhat out of touch with what Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Halo of Flies Records has been up to. That's no one's fault but my own - it's been a very strong label for years, releasing dozens of records that I love, own, and listen to frequently. But for whatever reason, I stopped paying close attention. We could chock that up to the fact that there is so much great music out there to keep up with, but let's just make it easy and say that I'm a dick.

Looking back at and listening to some of the label's more recent releases, I feel awfully ashamed, because FUCK there's some really good shit in there. I distinctly remember that Svalbard LP, One Day All This Will End getting quite a bit of talk, and for good reason. Awesome fucking record, melding a variety of different styles. That's something that most Halo of Flies releases do, and do really, really well. There are few records on the label that present one style or sound. There's a lot of hardcore going on, but there's also doom, sludge, black metal, post-rock, screamo, crust and lots of other sounds happening on these records.

In the last couple of days, I've spent a good deal of time getting acquainted with these little gems above. Actually, that Anopheli record (the one in the middle) is something I've been listening to for a while. Unbelievably good, that one. The gorgeous cellos and the harshness of the guitars and vocals come together to create an otherworldly sound of melancholic rage. The Ache of Want is perhaps best characterized as a majestic disturbance, and I could not love it more. Sounds perfect just about all the damn time.  I honestly didn't expect to get into either of the two other records pictured above.  Despite the killer artwork on the Totem Skin Weltschmerz LP, I expected the sound to be... just not in my wheelhouse. I couldn't have been more wrong. The carefully crafted atmosphere on that record is incredible. Raw and punishing and beautifully cathartic. The Gattaca LP is a diamond in the rough as well. I haven't heard much said about it, and that's a crime, because it shreds. Political hardcore with a epic edge, this record paints a picture of a world gone terribly wrong. Absolutely amazing.

And last but not least are two records that are very close now to being released. Rorcal's Creon (left) is a concept album centered around the deaths of 4 figures from Greek history/mythology, all of which are linked to the central and title character Creon. 4 tracks in 50 minutes of amazing music, this one is presented as a double LP and for me is already on the shortlist for record of the year (yeah, I know I didn't do one for 2015 - fuckin sue me already) and may end up being the greatest record that Halo of Flies has released to date. It hits me on so many levels that I can't get enough of it. The split between Oakland's Abstracter and Canada's Dark Circles is a surprise hit as well. I admit that I didn't get into Abstracter's previous material, but listening to them now I can't quite understand why. Terrific band that writes great songs and has the heavy-meter turned up all the way. This is my first exposure to Dark Circles but I really like what I hear from them on this split.  Killer hardcore that sounds really good next to the slower Abstracter stuff.

So don't be a dick, like me. Get caught up. Check these and all the other bands out on the Halo of Flies Bandcamp page (most of the bands also have their own bandcamp pages). Then go to Halo of Flies and buy these records - because you know you want to, because they rule, and because Cory is a pretty swell guy, too.  To this day, one of the most memorable performances from the first Gilead Fest was that of Cory's band Protestant, who were tight as fuck that day. Holy shit...

Vile Creature - A Steady Descent Into The Soil, and Antibody - Space Qveen

Sadly, I don't write here nearly as much as I want to. It's just a matter of time, or a lack of it. I'm still as passionate as ever about music, and there are so many things I want to share and get readers excited about. And as little time as I have to work on this, sometimes things just push me to say "fuck everything else, people HAVE TO hear this." These two bands I'm writing about now are an example of that.

Both of these bands identify as anti-oppressive and queer, so if you've got a problem with that, I will not so-kindly instruct you to fuck off, and don't come back. Ever.

Trying to think back to how I was exposed to these bands... I think I saw that the folks at Broken Limbs Recordings were doing some distro on the Vile Creature tape, A Steady Descent Into The Soil.  I was intrigued, so I found the band's Bandcamp page... one listen and I was absolutely hooked. This two-piece from Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada makes sludge metal of the absolute highest quality. Slow... in-your-face... unavoidable heavy... with an oppressive yet cathartic atmosphere that is still quite melodic and catchy at times. It grabs you, pulls you in, and won't let go. But once you've listened, even though you're probably emotionally exhausted, you want to go back for more because you feel somehow more free. The cathartic quality of this band is without incredible. I am absolutely dying to see them live, because I simply can't imagine how powerful the live show must be. For vinyl lovers, what I understand is that A Steady Descent will be issued on vinyl in the coming months by those same folks at Broken Limbs. Definitely a record to watch for.

And then I saw on Vile Creature's Facebook page that that they were sharing the stage, either for a show or a series of shows, with another Canadian band called Antibody. So naturally, I figured Antibody must be pretty good as well.

... little did I know just how god damned good they were. Again, I was (and continue to be) simply blown away. I'm just not sure the words exist that will do any justice to how good Antibody truly is. Definitely a different sound from Vile Creature, but that same heaviness is ever-present. The vocals, in the case of Antibody, give the music an urgency that cannot be understated. In listening to Space Qveen, I seriously feel like I'm either about to die or that I'm about to kill. And I don't know which is more terrifying. This tape is bleak as fuck. No hope, no bodies, no masters. And once again, once you've listened through the tape in its entirety, as the closing vocals absolutely rip you to shreds, you feel a release that is absolutely incredible. It looks as if the tape is no longer available from the band (though you can get a tour poster and/or some pins from the band's Storenvy), but I certainly hope there will be a repress for those of you who were not fortunate enough to get one. For now, the download of both the demo and the Space Qveen tape will have to suffice, both available from Antibody's Bandcamp. Follow them on Facebook, and catch a show if they play in your area. Seriously, don't miss them.

Download both of these now, and by all means SUPPORT these bands in any way that you can.  Give in and let them crush you. It's worth it in the end.