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Editor’s Choice: July 2017

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Hello. My name is Ian Cory. I am the new Head Editor of Invisible Oranges. I originally planned on introducing myself in a more official capacity here, but life had other plans.

Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was found dead on July 20th. He was 41.

Both of those facts are astounding. Bennington had the appearance of perpetual youth and a voice to match. Whether screaming or crooning, Bennington sung like a teenager with superpowers; his nasal tenor guided between pitches with laser accuracy and surprising force. Bennington’s voice was an essential part of Linkin Park’s massive success: a bright light floating over the digitized drop-d churn of Hybrid Theory and Meteora. More importantly, Bennington was an avatar for his young fans, singing their internal lives in a language they understood. He was nü-metal’s friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

This youthful earnestness made Bennington and Linkin Park easy to mock. Linkin Park were destined to be seen as dorks by rap fans and softies by rock fans. I’m not here to argue that they shouldn’t have been. Whether or not they suited your tastes, Linkin Park’s omnipresence, combined with their youth appeal in the early 2000s, meant that they were a lot of people’s first favorite band. They were a generation’s “choose-your-adventure” gateway band, a way in for as many backpack rap nerds and math rock experts as metalheads. (I’ve written previously about how the generation after mine might have a drastically looser view on genre, and any band that could introduce fans to both Pharoahe Monch and Botch seems like a natural fit).

Bennington’s death casts a sobering shadow on Linkin Park’s catalogue. It suddenly feels much harder to clown a band for being “angsty” when the source of that angst is often quite real and leads to such a tragic end. It’s easy to be cynical about artists who sing about their inner lives in such naked and accessible terms, as if taking them at their word means that you’re being duped. Empathy doesn’t make you a “mark.” It makes you human. Bennington gave his fans the emotional ammunition to reckon with their own depression, their own sense of alienation, and did it with an intensity that primed them for the extremity of heavy music, if they chose to search it out.

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If you’re reading Invisible Oranges, you’re probably far beyond your gateway bands. You’re here because you love the thrill of finding new music, of diving deeper from one record to the next until something captivates you. That thrill starts somewhere. For me it started with Hybrid Theory. A year later, I was listening to Metallica and Slayer. Another six months, and I was devouring a steady diet of metalcore, then death metal, then black metal, then prog, and then ever deeper until I wound up here. I’m not telling you this because my story is particularly unique. On the contrary, it’s what I have in common with everyone else viewing this page. The specifics may be different, but that desire to hear something new is the same across the board.

And so it falls to us, the staff at Invisible Oranges, to satisfy that desire. No matter which band gave you your first taste of blood, we’re here to open the elevator doors of the Overlook Hotel. Below is where my lust for discovery has taken me lately.

Integrity pull off something exceptionally difficult on Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume by delivering the grim-faced metallic hardcore you’d expect, while still finding ways to tweak the formula. Records like this are what set innovators apart from imitators. Instead of adhering to the limitations of style, Integrity write based on their unique sensibilities. It’s a devilishly fun listen, full of spiraling guitar leads, frown-inducing breakdowns, and a delightful injection of disco diva backing vocals.

Every morning I wake up and thank my lucky stars that I’ve never had to deal with sleep paralysis. From everything I’ve read, it seems like one of the most unpleasant things the human brain can do to itself. However, as a fan of all things surreal and dreamlike, I find art about night terrors fascinating. Sleep, or lack thereof, has inspired artists from Dredg to Azar Swan, and for good reason. It’s only natural that one of the most universal features of human life would serve as the muse for countless records. Night Divorce, the latest release from Portland’s Somber, is a fine addition to that canon. The record feels more like a tone poem than a collection of discrete songs, but the sensation of drifting from one melody to another, as if through a daze, is a perfect fit for their subject matter.

One of the greatest features of heavy metal is how it is truly a global genre. If you keep your eyes peeled, the next biggest thing could come from literally anywhere. Heterochrome aren’t quite ready to take over the world, but this Iranian progressive metal group toy around with some solid riffs on Melancholia. They’re on the moodier end of prog: instead of indulging in instrumental flights of fancy or pivoting from key to key, they mostly stick to a clinical, icy tone. Records like this make me feel naively hopeful about the Internet. Someone halfway across the world also thinks that harmonized vocals sound great over rolling double bass. How cool is that?

One phrase which gets tossed around behind the scenes at Invisible Oranges is “metal adjacent.” Metal has always had acts that orbit around the genre but never make the plunge into its core. Lisa Cuthbert is a great example in that she makes music which reflects metal’s soul, but not its form. Her last full length, Hextapes is a dark meditation made more chilling by the roughness of its recording quality. Cuthbert puts her voice on the frontline, in high fidelity, but clips her guitars into jagged edges, painting a landscape as beautiful as it is inhospitable. “Over,” a reworking of “Party’s Over” from 2013’s Paramour, uses a synthesizers to a similar end. The song makes smart use of panning to suck the listener into Cuthbert’s world.

Not from this month, (Jon premiered a track last May so I really have no excuse to be this late to the party), but holy shit this Show Of Bedlam album is something else. As contributor Todd Manning alluded to when he interviewed Couch Slut, it can be hard to find new music that challenges your comfort level if you’re an extreme music fan. Transfiguration had no trouble piercing through my thick skin and thoroughly wrecking my insides. Show Of Bedlam lurch through their lengthy songs with the deliberate pace and unnatural gait of the living dead. However, Show Of Bedlam are very much alive, propelled forward by an intensely bitter rage. Each note drips venom.

Converge season is officially here. It’s been five years since All We Love We Leave Behind, which means I’d be excited if they’d only released a recording of Ben Koller line-checking his drum set. Whether “I Can Tell You About Pain” and “Eve” are a worthy continuation of Converge’s decade-plus of world class hardcore isn’t even at the forefront of my mind. The songs are both good, mind you, but they feel like the first drops of an oncoming storm. Once that downpour starts, I’ll be out here like a hardcore Gene Kelly, moshing in the rain.

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