Cheap Thrills #3: A Tank Tread Rolling Over Human Skulls—Forever
Welcome to another installment of Cheap Thrills: your guide to some of the best “name your price” (or otherwise inexpensive) tunes that the internet has to offer. This month’s edition is the most diverse one yet, featuring blackgaze about alien plants, apocalyptic cyborg death metal, and more.
Remember to support the artists if you like anything that you hear! Buy their music/merch and spread the love.
Palace of the Widow – Botanic Ritual
June 14, 2022
One of my favorite comic book characters of all time is Swamp Thing, particularly the original Len Wein series and Alan Moore’s later run on Saga of the Swamp Thing. Initially conceived as a man turned moss monster as a result of a tragic accident, the character gradually evolved into a creature who would no longer pretend that it was human and thus became something much greater, sworn to protect the primordial elemental forces of the universe.
I’d like to think that the individual behind Palace of the Widow is also a fan of Swamp Thing due to how well Botanic Ritual captures the themes of desolation, self-discovery, and transcendence, all in a concept album about alien plant life. The album opens with spacey atmospheric black metal replete with grim, raspy vocals and nebulous clouds of guitars and synths. As Botanic Ritual’s narrative advances, the tracks begin to branch outward into more experimental territory, incorporating elements of prog and post rock. The highly controversial “blackgaze” label might be applicable here, but Palace of the Widow’s music still feels passionate and adventurous regardless of how one might categorize it.
Eternal Sun Temple – Vol I.
July 17, 2022
The three members of Eternal Sun Temple want to make one thing very clear, and that is that they are acolytes of the almighty riff. Blending elements of heavy psych and stoner/doom metal, their debut release, fittingly titled Vol. I, is a concept album about getting lost in the woods and ultimately ending up a human sacrifice. The thick, fuzzed-out guitars and ominously intoned vocals form the smoky sermon that beckons listeners forth, while the pounding percussion mimics the slow rise and fall of their heart rates as the spell takes hold. You know what they say–occult rituals love company–so come on down and join the circle for some devilishly groovy jams that you won’t soon forget.
Axxmaxxius Devastruktor – Blood Seeps Into the Black Earth
July 20, 2022
Imagine a million monkeys clad in corpse paint and spiked bracers, hammering away at a million typewriters. Would they be able to come up with a band name as brutal as Axxmaxxius Devastruktor? The answer is anyone’s guess, but what I do know for certain is that the band is full of surprises. Blood Seeps Into the Black Earth begins as most black/death metal albums should, with grotesque sound effects segueing into an avalanche of jackhammer drums, murky riffs dripping with grime, and savage orcish barks. But first impressions can be deceiving, as the chaos is occasionally tempered with soaring synthesizers that would feel right-at-home on a symphonic black metal album. It’s a unique combination that introduces a dash of melody (not to mention a sense of epic fantasy) to an otherwise vicious and relentless wall of sound, like beams of sunlight shining through the haze of a ravaged battlefield, or valkyries swooping down to bear away those who died with glory.
Brain Famine – Die in the Vortex
July 31, 2022
Brain Famine is the sort of band that should come with warning labels, and I don’t mean parental advisory stickers (though those might be appropriate too). I’m talking about the ones that warn users to keep fingers away from the blade assembly or to wear eye and ear protection. This is because the band’s second full-length Die in the Vortex is a whirlwind of lightning-fast grind/thrash that crushes, chops, and purees with alarming ease. Whether engaging in blistering blast-happy madness or glorious guitar shred, Brain Famine is a danger to craniums and neck vertebrae everywhere. Listen at your own risk.
(This album moves at incredibly high speeds and can cause severe injuries. Do not play this album near flammable liquids, children, or pets.)
Fange – Pantocrator
May 7, 2021
Remember that iconic and oft-reused shot in the Terminator films where a giant tank tread rolls over a pile of human skulls? That’s the sort of mental picture painted by Fange, a nasty French trio that specializes in “INDUSTRIAL DEATH / HARSH SLUDGE” (emphasis theirs). Their latest EP is 30 minutes of seething cybernetic blasphemy, separated into two 15 minute tracks that in turn split into individual movements like cluster munitions. Drum machines march in lockstep amidst whirring servos and the thin buzz of targeting lasers; downtuned guitar and bass rev up like industrial shredders, churning through metal and organic matter alike; and while the vocalist’s roars may sound human, it is his limitless wrath that powers this horrible machine, burning hot enough to fuse nuclei in its titanium heart.