A Brief Look at the Floridian Underground

I live in Tampa, Florida. Many people who visit this site are probably familiar with some of Tampa's incredible history in death metal. Not many people are familiar with the fact that in a lot of ways, Florida's music community feels like it's dried up. Obviously the heyday of creative young death metal artists hanging out at Morrisound has passed (although they still do great work there), and many newer groups seem content to simply pay homage to the region's history. A lot of these newer death metal acts are talented yet completely unoriginal, which is fine but does little for me. That said, to pretend that things are completely stagnant here in the land of humid misery would be quite unfair. Indeed, it's usually dreadful areas that generate some of the most compelling music, and these five Florida-based groups give me great hope for this swampy land of retirees and bath salt zombies.

Junior Bruce has been a central Florida institution since before I made my pilgrimage to this state. Their newest two song EP, “The Burden,” is a perfect example of the dripping swampy misery of the Floridian wastelands.  While sludge metal is by no means a genre specific to Floria, there's something decidedly unique and separate about the music here. Perhaps it's Florida's long tradition of urgent and aggressive hardcore fusing with the dreadful heat and the smothering humidity, but this is one of the most balls-out aggressive sludge releases I've heard in a while. While the faster pace of opener “The Burden” may seem intent on wounding the listener, “The Ocean's Daughter” truly feels like the swelling of the entire sea rising to consume this measly peninsula once and for all. Many albums feel like they've come from a place of pain, but few embody it this well. Get pissed or get sad, it's your choice, but be sure to get this album since its up for download at the price you see fit.

Craow is one of the only artists here that I can't really describe in words that convey my actual meaning. Electronic madness that knows few boundaries, Craow hops between industrial rhythms, blasts of feedback, and danceable synth-heavy tunes that could fit well as a soundtrack to the original Terminator film. The only unifying factor between Craow's releases seems to be the inherent darkness of atmosphere, yet it has the capacity to be full of melody and recently he seems to be crafting things with more conventional song structures. With roots in the frighteningly prolific experimental and noise communities, it makes sense that Craow has three separate LPs and one cassette planned in the near future. Two LPs are reissues (“Preferable Execution by Firing Squad” and “Difference Between Days,” originally released on Corpse Without Soul) to be released by Deathshadow Records, while Nostilevo is putting out a currently untitled LP of new material as well as rereleasing the classic “C-Bank” cassette. Keep an eye on this prolific artist via soundcloud, facebook (linked above), and tumblr.

Volcanic Slut is one of those bands that can be frustratingly hard to find on the internet, like many of the finer bands in Tampa's extreme music community. I had the pleasure of catching these guys opening for Void Meditation Cult and local legends Black Witchery in the summer of 2012. Their ferocious raw black metal is infused with elements of hardcore punk yet doesn't exactly cater to the popularity of “black punk” groups that ape Bone Awl's sound. Instead, riffs pour out at lightning speed, vocals are raw and howled with abandon, and everything is tight and destructive.  They tear things up in the live venue and their recordings are as raw as you'd expect from a group that shares members with Horrid Cross and Nazi Dust. Copies of the band's debut EP can easily be found on discogs, and a couple youtube videos make it pretty easy to see where these guys are coming from. I have little knowledge of any future plans, but these guys keep playing concerts, so I can only imagine they're still writing and working on more aggressive new tunes.

Hollow Leg are possibly the band with the most rock in their metal here, but they do it in a raw and gritty way that captures the intensity of bands like High on Fire, Crowbar, or even Unsane. While the band shares a vocalist with the aforementioned Junior Bruce, they demonstrate how diverse even the sludgier side of metal can be. Whereas Junior Bruce's demo drips with misery and destruction, Hollow Leg's music feels like the precise aggression of a god, handpicking worshipers to die one at a time. This music is power embodied, and Hollow Leg is clearly quite content to exercise this power. Their new LP, "Abysmal," demonstrates this with merciless aggression as displayed on songs like “Lord Annihilation,” which has some of the catchiest riffs I've heard all year. The album's a total headbanger from start to finish but is a bit more balanced than many similarly meaty bands could manage.

Tampa grind trio Sacridose is one of the few bands embraced by the punk community that has also managed to hook me in. Featuring members of countless other Tampa legends (Cellgraft, Bastard Deceiver, Radiation, Crow's Foot), these kids have put together one of the fastest, most compelling albums I've heard all year. Grindcore used to be my main thing, but after hearing countless bands with no subtlety or tact, I lost interest for the most part. Albums like Sacridose's “Anxiety Tremors” remind me why I fell in love with the genre in the first place. Only two songs stretch past a minute in length and one of them is a Rudimentary Peni cover. Their album is available as a 7” for only $3.50 from Financial Ruin Records and features art from both the singer and guitarist, adding to the complete DIY package. At such a low price for such a vicious album, you really can't go wrong. Hop on this quick, looks like it's already selling out fast.  If you don't snag a 7” online, catch Sacridose on their east coast tour in November and get a tape, shirt, or high five directly from the band.

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