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Editor’s Choice January 2015

Snakefeast

The biggest downfall of running a website like Invisible Oranges is the surplus of good music that crosses my desk. Don’t get me wrong, the good stuff is vastly outnumbered by the bad, but frequently there’s tons of great music that I don’t get the time to explore in depth, or that simply doesn’t merit much mention past its excellence. Frequently in my own browsing I’ll stumble upon something excellent that’s simply too old to be relevant or review, but I would have if I’d discovered it sooner. Invisible Oranges isn’t often in the habit of linking to other site’s streams, reviewing semi-recent albums we’ve missed, or covering things like music videos either. The editor’s choice roundup seeks to rectify that.

Admittedly, it’s not the most original idea. Stereogum’s monthly Black Market feature, as well as No Clean Singing’s Seen and Heard column perform similar and equally critical services. One could read nothing metal-related on the internet except those two recurring pieces and have an uncanny grasp of the metal underground. Full disclosure: I also write at No Clean Singing, and The Black Market is run by IO veterans. Still, the concept has legs, especially considering the sheer amount of reader-submitted bands that get sent to me every day. My aim is to give those orphan songs a home here.

This is a selection of everything I enjoyed discovering in January 2015, but did not find a proper home for on Invisible Oranges. Without further ado:

“Quetzalcoatl,” the new track by controversial New York progressive (I refuse to say transcendental) black metal group Liturgy, is sure to be a divisive choice—not only is Hunter Hunt-Hendrix delivering his vocals in a preening deadpan voice, but there are almost no metal elements in the piece all. Shortly after the release of 2011’s Aesthetica album, Liturgy’s membership quickly collapsed, leaving Hunt-Hendrix with a drum machine and sequences in place of band members. What I like about “Quetzalcoatl” is that it embraces that fact for the most part, and in so doing delivers a sound I did not expect out of Liturgy. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the group, but neither have I joined its legion of spiteful haters. Liturgy legitimately tries to push black metal into a genre space that completely abandons its roots in rock music–everything from Hunt-Hendrix’s manifesto to the group’s semi-improvised songs and chirping Steinberger guitar tone serves this purpose, and for the first time ever I think he’s actually accomplishing that goal. Now if only he’d stop singing like that.
-Discovered via NPR.

Unremittance, the debut album by Teeth, came out to no fanfare in November, but it took until this month for me to check it out. I listened first because the group shares members with other bands I like, including Graf Orlock and especially Dangers, who remain one of my favorite hardcore bands. Teeth, however, traffic in frightening sludge instead of grind or hardcore, but retain the misanthropic sneer of those other bands. This is way more in line with Fistula than anything Mastodon have ever done.
-Discovered via email from the band itself.

When it comes to sludge, however, my MVP for the month has to be Batlimore, Maryland’s Snakefeast. With a clear, crisp drum sound and a super bass-heavy production, their sound is unique among so much over-distorted sludge. By bass-heavy I mean literally that the bass is the most audible instrument. A complete lack of guitar adds clarity, and gives bassist Carson Korman plenty of audio room to delve into bluesy Kyuss-like grooves, as well as one-note chug fests. Cello and saxophone round out the sound and add a mounting sense of drama and dread. The Pythoness begins as an eccentric sludge record and ends resembling something like a folksier Gojira. Don’t sleep on this record.
-Discovered via No Clean Singing.

A complete change of pace, “The Last of Us,” the new single from longstanding Portuguese goth-metal troupe Moonspell offers no surprises at all to longstanding fans of the band. That’s the charm though. Guitars vamp on lowest-string grooves while keyboards channel ’80s pop and vocalist Fernando Ribeiro croons about “black magic unconditional love,” whatever that is. It’s nothing most of us haven’t heard before and decided if we’re for or against this style of metallic rock. Me, I can’t get enough of the stuff if it’s done well, and while Moonspell haven’t honed their art as finely as Paradise Lost have, that band is producing heavier and heavier music, leaving Moonspell as probably the reigning kings of morose Eurotrash make-out riffs.
-Discovered via Facebook.

Doom outfit Wooden Stake is also make-out music, sort of. There’s at least a hint of sexuality to the clean-sung Sabbathian passages, but things descend into bloodlust (literally, as the song is about “the vampire women of hell”) when vocalist and bassist Vanessa Norcera pulls out her death growl. Think of it as a bridge between Hooded Menace and the femme-fronted occult doom scene that spawned Witch Mountain and Windhand. Norcera is the sort of restless musician that Chris Black’s—metal archives lists her in multiple active bands, including Howling and Scaremaker.
-Discovered via No Clean Singing.

I couldn’t think of anything too enlightening to say about the new Napalm Death album, Apex Predator – Easy Meat; it’s another excellent late-period album from a band that’s produced five excellent, nearly-identical albums in the past decade. Still, I got jazzed on the video for single “Smash a Single Digit,” not because the content of the video is that unique or thought-provoking (It’s not), but because I support traditional animation as a rule. Here, Napalm Death did their best A-Ha!
-Discovered via The Deciblog.

Move past the lackluster cover art and discover the lush one-man neofolk of France’s Erang, who sent his newest album, We Are the Past, to IO via email. I receive a plethora of one-man artists (it would appear that many metalheads have trouble finding enough like-minded artists to make complete performing outfits, judging by my inbox) but they seldom stand out. Erang, on the other hand, has a real handle on tasteful acoustic guitar playing. Like many other solo artists, he is also prolific–he’s recorded nine albums (and made one ebook) in two years. I chalk up the delicate compositions here to lots of practice. I’ve found myself particularly entranced by the third track, “I Dreamt of an Emerald Forest.”
-Discovered via email from the band itself.

Respectfully, however, this is the piece de resistance. Solstafir recorded this intimate performance live in the studio of Seattle’s own KEXP shortly before blasting my head off at their show with Mortals and Pallbearer at Barboza. In my review for that show at No Clean Singing I called Solstafir “a band whose time has come,” and I mean it. While Ótta didn’t creak my year end list, Solstafir came out as maybe my favorite live metal act of the year, and this pro-shot footage, with spectacular sound, is the closest thing I’m going to get to reliving that night. for those who don’t know, KEXP is a historic and spectacular radio station (when’s the next time I’m going to be able to type that? Probably never.), which frequently invites excellent alt-rock and experimental pop acts for full live sets, which I watch religiously. Some of my favorites include The Afghan Whigs, Grimes and especially Autre Ne Veut (his 2013 offering Anxiety is one of the finest pop albums of the past decade), and I highly recommend that readers check all of those performances out, but be aware that as far as I know Solstafir is the first metal band to ever record at KEXP–that may be a sign of things to come, or just a fluke, but either way, that makes this recording unique. Here’s hoping for more like it from KEXP and other forward-thinking outlets in the future.
-Discovered via KEXP.

—Joseph Schafer

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