Muscle and Marrow - Love


I'm not sure what to do. I don't know if I absolutely love this record, or if I really just can't stand it. I'd not heard Muscle and Marrow before hearing Love, so I went into it totally blind, having no idea what to expect. After listening and trying to digest the music, I realized I was wrecked, and quite lost.

I mean, from a purely sonic standpoint, I'm floored by it. The music itself seems to come from a place of strength and confidence, those mid-tempo rhythms pushing forward from the first track through the whole record, giving it a very heavy and direct sensibility. Even when the pace slows down, I still feel like the music is moving forward, taking me somewhere.

But the overwhelming feeling on the record is one of intense vulnerability, defined by the lyrics and the gorgeous (often operatic) vocals of Kira Clark. Don't misunderstand me - that's not a bad thing. In fact, it's quite wonderful. But those two distinct undertones that I can't seem to reconcile make the experience of listening to the record difficult to categorize. I'm turned around, twisted up in a ball, tied in knots, and no matter what I do, I can't get my bearings at all.

One thing is certain, however: I'm not going to stop listening to Love for quite some time. It's so beautiful and complex that once it gets in you, it's impossible to get rid of. It makes me explore, and even if it takes me to darker places that I'm not ready to see, I can only be thankful for the experience.

The record is available now from The Flenser. Buy it on CD or vinyl here, or buy the digital edition  on Bandcamp.

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...