Song debut: Myopic – “Iron Towers”

Handling logistics is one of the most trying aspects of being in an active band. (There are a lot of trying aspects to choose from, so that’s saying something.) It is not enough to work hard on your music and sign to a record label. Most bands in the metal world also have to line up the studio technicians, cover artist, and layout designer for their releases as well. If you’re lucky, your label will front you the money for this stuff; if you’re really lucky, they’ll hook you up with someone in-house. But in most cases, metal musicians have to wrangle these details themselves in between day jobs and jam sessions.

It surprises me that there aren’t more labels structured like Baltimore’s Grimoire Records, which shepherded this Myopic tune to completion. Grimoire describe themselves as a “full-service label,” which in practice means that they record and design art for their bands’ output, as well as pressing and distributing it. Such arrangements are vanishingly rare for small labels; the nearest analog I can think of is Zeitgeister Music, though most Zeitgeister bands include label operators Florian Toyka and/or Christian Kolf in their ranks. Perhaps there are reasons that this practice is so uncommon β€” few label folks have the technical know-how to engineer competently, for instance. Regardless, it takes a huge load off of their bands’ shoulders.

Myopic have used the extra time and energy to their advantage. Like their label, they are a well-rounded package. Beyond the Mirror’s Edge is just their second EP, but they have more tricks up their sleeve than many veteran bands do. The core of their sound is stern but thoroughly un-kvlt American black metal. The slow blasts and clattery strumming that populate the verse and chorus to “Iron Towers” remind me a lot of Tombs, partially because of guitarist Sean Simmons’s excellent (and vaguely Schuldiner-esque) bellow. But Myopic take the song further into prog-space than Tombs would; its central third consists of a long, mostly instrumental bridge that builds to a nauseating peak before plunging back into the verse.

Other songs on the EP take different tacks entirely β€” “Backstitch” is a lengthy, rock-rhythmed instrumental; “Lord of Damnation” is a cover of the goofy Swedish prog-metal band Carbonized. All is rendered in hard, sparse tones, with minimal gain on the guitars (for a metal album) and loads of space around each instrument. If Steve Albini could tolerate double bass, his metal work might sound a little like this. This sere aural landscape is fitting: lean sounds for a lean operation.

Beyond the Mirror’s Edge comes out digitally on November 12. A physical release (CD and cassette) will follow on January 7, 2014.

β€” Doug Moore