Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Stabs - Dead Wood

The Stabs
Dead Wood

I’m sure there are complex and interesting reasons why Australian musicians are so goddamn good at blending rootsy rock & roll with dissonant noise, but I don’t know what they are and I’m not feeling up to writing a book about the subject. (Yet.) I’m always up for that particular band of clang, though, so I’m already pre-disposed to like the Stabs. Dead Wood, the Melbourne trio’s second album, hews closer to the more accessible side of the style, like contemporaries the Drones or Kill Devil Hills instead of old dogs like Feedtime or the Birthday Party, but it’s definitely still in the tradition. On No Hoper, Blues in F# and Ain’t That the News, mutant blues grooves hold hands with honky-tonk skronk, while frostbitten decadence flirts unselfconsciously with seething rage. The Stabs are a well-named outfit; as their best, they approximate the strangely sensual discomfort of a keen dagger inserting into your flesh - acutely painful at first but strangely satisfying once the blade slides home. Dead Wood is a model of ugly beauty.

- Michael Toland

Black Breath - Razor to Oblivion

Black Breath
Razor to Oblivion
Southern Lord

Moving forward in their attempt to corner the market on bands with “black” in the name, Southern Lord releases its latest slab o’ sludge, the Razor to Oblivion EP by Black Breath. Hailing from bucolic Bellingham, Washington, the quintet reaches beyond the grunge for which its region is most famous to the legacy of bands like the Accused, combining whiplash-inducing thrash, spittle-gushing hardcore and Baphomet-baiting extreme metal. Kinda like Celtic Frost and D.R.I. grudge-fucking each other, in other words. Like a self-referential slasher flick, the four-song set is ugly, violent and messy, yet somehow compelling; Neil McAdams’ caffeinated shriek is simultaneously forbidding and inviting. I don’t know if I’d really want to hear more than 15 minutes; music like this can be numbing and tedious unless the riffs flow like blood from a severed artery, and the heart quits pumping over time. But this particular quarter of an hour is the perfect length, and more bracing than a cup of espresso chased with No-Doz.

- Michael Toland

Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy

Church of Misery
Houses of the Unholy
Rise Above/Metal Blade

Oozing out of the tar pits of Japan, Church of Misery tramples the world once again, leaving bloody kaiju prints on the flattened ground in its wake. The Tokyo quartet’s third studio album is as obsessed with homicidal mania as ever, rounding up another batch of nefarious evildoers. This time the notorious Richard Speck (Born to Raise Hell), Charles Starkweather and his partner Carl Fugate (Badlands), Albert Fish (Gray Man) and Richard Trenton Chase (Blood Sucking Freak), among others, get tributes/criticisms/whatever the fuck it is. (There’s also another classic metal cover, this time of Sir Lord Baltimore’s Master Heartache.) CoM’s thematic intentions may be unclear, but what isn’t in doubt is the band’s mastery of Godzilla-heavy doom metal; if Ozzy had been replaced by a demented grizzly bear, Black Sabbath couldn’t have sounded any better.

- Michael Toland
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