June 2019 Release Roundup (and a Soapbox Moment)
Greg Kennelty, the news editor at Metal Injection, was the pen on this Release Roundup column all year -- unfortunately, other duties called upon his mighty knowledge and delicate craft, so he's taking a break from Invisible Oranges for the time being. Much love to Greg, of course, and we wish him the strongest of metal spirits in his future endeavors. To keep this column alive, though, we've decided to team up and pool together individual "one best pick" selections from each passing month. We'll vary the audience occasionally for extra flavor, and we may bend the format slightly here and there for some extra fun... like here, with a moment for some soapboxing before moving on to the radical tunes which have helped maintain the vigorous pulsing of blood through our bodies for another unforgiving month.
Here we are, halfway through 2019, the year of holy goddamn shitballs, this fucked-up ride ain't anywhere near over yet, so hold on tight with all your might because here comes some more fright.
Is it just my observation, or is the world around us actually crumbling? We're quite literally cooking ourselves to annihilation in a carbon dioxide hotbox of strife and war and political dick-measuring contests and the inhumanity of purposefully misleading misinformation spread upon the masses to purposefully sway the strongest arm of true democracy, the masses themselves. The relatively very rapid advent and adoption of the Internet has transformed human communication so profoundly, to such a shockingly extreme degree, that we haven't even caught up with understanding fully what in the literal goddamn fuck is going on with modern society at the moment. But some -- and let us not doubt the sinister intelligence of those fueled by nothing but the purest of human evil and hatred -- have recently figured out how to twist just the right knobs on the ol' Internet machine just so... and then, oh shit, someone suddenly has a social mega-bazooka which actually has the power to destabilize entire democracies, if deployed correctly.
Which it was.
This digital monster weapon involves playing on an innate human weakness which social media platforms/circles (especially the nature of their feed algorithms) purposefully (but for another only partially-related terrible reason altogether) make so spankingly bare: that of ephemerality, or the "feed" phenomenon versus information presented much more statically like in a newspaper article. It's not that human attention spans have shrunk, per se; oh no, it's that the structures which once arranged and displayed current information, especially news, have been streamlined so significantly for such a narrow purpose, to the point of weaponization in many instances. In other words, in the attempt to jam-fucking-pack as much information as humanly digestible into one constant, infinite stream, we've bypassed and collectively forgotten about the necessity -- the personal duty, even -- of deeper analysis (i.e. fact-checking, source-checking, author-checking, everything-checking, etc.) and logical scrutiny (i.e. thorough and long-form reading, balanced criticality, non-reliance on fallices, etc.). We're instead gluttonizing social media because, almost as if by dark magic, it's on these platforms where people form and solidify (sometimes to diamond-level hardness) their opinions about the world and how it should work, and who should be included/excluded, and who is evil and who is good, and who is a liar and who is a criminal and who is a sinner, and on and on until your skeleton jumps out of your flesh-vessel and toward the nearest window.
This seemingly chaotic online brouhaha is all an important individual and social meaning-making process playing out not totally unfettered, as an idealist view of the Internet as such would suggest, but completely aligned and honed by the medium itself, just as Marshall McLuhan once so quotably taught us, a medium which just so happens to be under the absolute control of corporate entities whose interests necessarily and by-definition diverge from those which would actually benefit human welfare across the world. The true interests of Facebook and Twitter, just to pick on two behemoths for instance, do not reflect our our interests, but these entities still control, shape, and ultimately alter the way much of our most important communication happens, even communication about the very issue I'm writing about right here right now. I'm saying that whoever learns the social media game well enough could very theoretically game the system in return, and this is exactly what has happened. It is seriously some applied techno-sociology shit gone super-evil, where sociological knowledge vis-a-vis technology is not applied for human benefit, but of course for corporate and/or political benefit, i.e. the generation of more capital and/or the acquisition of more power for the select few versus the great many. What's more, these entities purposefully and so blatantly tread the absolute finest line they possibly can between a) quelling an extremely pissed-off segment of the population who demand more stringent rules about acceptable content/users which would, as they contend, help diminish some of the hate flare-ups we see in the world and b) maintaining an algorithmic stronghold over the inflation and inflammation of people's emotions to the degree that they're, well, just easier to influence. Read: influence, not necessarily a change of opinion (which rarely happens), but rather a further or even total solidification -- or in some cases, the extremization -- of an already-held one.
Facebook and Twitter are corporations which are purpose-built machines designed for one thing and one thing only: becoming the most efficient mechanism for capital to replicate itself at the greatest degree possible. What you put into them will only benefit that system, as they've worked out; unfortunately, these corporations are in the business of information -- your information -- and holy fucking fuck is it lucrative to peddle in it, people's privacy be damned.
And it was only too soon that someone realized all this shuffle actually presented a golden opportunity, of course, to really sell people something -- either a product or a viewpoint or both -- while we're in one of the most vulnerable states for modern humans living in today's whirlwind society: hyper-emotionally charged about important social issues/disagreements, i.e. politics. For some, this heightened state persists stronger now than it ever has, or ever would otherwise… but let me say this clearly now: many have undefeatable and 100% justifiable reasons for this vigor, this feeling of resistance to a world destined for dystopia; in any case, though, a collective of individuals in this state are more vulnerable than they might realize, me definitely included, and this goes even beyond things like the well-discussed "echo chamber" effect and whatnot. Anyway, Marx definitely had something to say about this in theory.
An important, non-parenthetical note: as I write this, I do not mean to speak negatively about anyone who has honest passion for their political beliefs, including anyone who decides to voice them extensively online or elsewhere, as that is not the point here… also, I do not mean to assert my own political viewpoints at this time (which, for transparency's sake, can roll up somewhat neatly under "democratic socialism"), though I accept that the political lens is simply unremovable from the camera of my mind and mouth, so I am never truly un-opinionated, and that's okay. I'm trying to analyze this topic like I'd analyze a complicated system of pushes and pulls, of gives and takes between various structures in society, a perspective which offers valuable "mechanical" insight but (and this is a fair criticism) sometimes ignores the meaning-making experiences on the individual level.
The baseline point which I began earlier but then interrupted is this: passion itself, the very burning in our hearts and souls we feel about freedom and equality and fairness and opportunity -- things currently being crushed to absolute death -- and also the degree to which this fire either needs or wants to be fanned outward in a public manner, has been forcibly co-opted by an inhuman, machine-like entity. Our hearts fuel its capital generation by almost direct input. Bonus: this godawful entity is one of humanity's own fucking creations.
Greed has destroyed so much and provided so little, if anything, for the collective. Greed is in our individual nature, of course, and everyone probably feels minor pangs of it at some point; most of the time, though, we do not let pinpricks of greed overwhelm us to a degree which causes harm to others. We feel it, we reject or ignore it, and we move on with our lives, trying to make a fair living among fair people by whom we generally mean well. Those that succumb to or are ensnared by greed's sick web of sucker-laden tentacles, though, are absolutely championed by an increasingly powerful realm of society, the corporate realm. It's a rigorous place where unbridled money-making is rewarded so exuberantly that 99.9% of all people alive on this planet could only dream of what it's like to reap that much money i.e. power in such little time; the corporate realm by definition ignores (or even outright rejects) the social pitfalls of empowering the super-greedy, instead reaping the immense private wealth that such fervently blind desire in humans can be extracted via their raw labor. Only the few can succeed there, not because it's grueling work-wise (which for some elites it is not), but because it's grueling morally.
How can you come to terms with buying a second yacht (to use the now-cliched example, but it still holds) when, somewhere else on this world, there are real human beings using a beach as a public toilet? Do you think you can just buy and sell yourself to personal economic success and somehow the world's welfare will just follow suit?
Here's the big kicker, the real big one: when the corporate realm more or less usurps the political realm -- like when it recently took over the federal government of the United States -- then capital (driven through corporations as replication machines powered by the catalyzed greed of just a few) begins to dictate instead of merely influence. The oftentimes wonky and complicated government machine whose sole interest otherwise was actually The Public Good now has a new primary directive: allow and even assist capital in its already super-rapid replication. And the propaganda-sullied philosophy that ongoing and ever-increasing capital reproduction truly benefits the livelihoods of people as a whole makes complete perfect sense, in the sense that such a philosophy would be championed so obviously, so aggressively, so extremely by leaders who, as we've already found out, rely massively on corporate money to become elected as representatives of a supposedly free society of individuals governing themselves. It's far easier to persuade and influence those who suffer tirelessly under the rigors of a heavily one-sided economic system -- e.g. poverty, homelessness, insane college debt, gang activity, even "food deserts" in major cities (all understood as symptoms of economics in this analysis) -- that their situation will improve if they only cede way to those atop for even more high-worth wealth generation. What I'm describing, I believe, is very "trickle-down," but my point is that such an economic flow has been not only masked but even enhanced under the layers of sometimes purposeful but sometimes unrelated manipulation woven into the tapestry of our public communication on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and more.
How does any of this have anything to do with the best heavy music released in June 2019? Well, it doesn't really, but if you squint your eyes, maybe we can achieve some focus on that intersection. There is such severe economic disparity and oppression, especially in this country, that people are literally dying from poverty, and we have the gall to call ourselves "first world." I don't need to go into gory details about how bewildering student debt, absurdly inhumane and heartless drug/doctor/hospital costs, rents that inflate beyond affordability faster than anyone could ever keep up with, and so much more all amount to a furious oppression against a vast swath of the public. These are not great times for this country, or most of the world at large, and our artwork is most definitely tinged with the anxiety and torment and terror that colors a post-capitalist dystopia on the horizon. Art has the knack of illuminating a silhouette of a future state while simultaneously criticizing the present in context of the past. Art is the language with which we communicate our pain, our feelings of hopelessness and decay and entropy, etc. Art is how we make the future real for ourselves right now, so maybe we can change directions in case we're heading for the cliff's edge.
Heavy metal, as extreme art, has never been more relevant, or important. It doesn't even need to be "blatantly political art" -- most metal isn't -- but it needs to be especially powerful and moving in a deeply human way. It doesn't even matter if the creators of this art are under extreme duress, slight duress, or no duress at all in this economic system… what matters is that the end-user of the music can relate in the throes of whatever their own personal context has been subjected to. This is communication which works -- the bridging of many personal realms entirely different and sometimes even politically incompatible, but bridged nevertheless by the absolute furious clarity that metal can lend to a human anguish that an increasing number of us are feeling.
The picks below all moved us in important but different ways as we try to navigate our way through the thick fog of the present-day toward a future better for all.
-- Andrew Rothmund
Dream Void -- Divinization
June 14, 2019
Everything about Dream Void suggests total general tech-death: album art, band name, etc. Obviously, there's no avoiding the mind's automatic pre-judgment based on the non-musical packaging that always adjoins the music itself. For me, though, the cover is no barrier to what might be found inside; while most of the time I end up disappointed, which I am used to, my time with Dream Void was much different. Divinization is hyperbolic in the right ways, and totally tame in the right ways too: you get all the hyperspeed finger calisthenics that tech-death promises, but with an emotionally blackened twist and excellent dynamics/pacing to boot. The only real qualm I have with this release is that it's just not long enough. I want more. My tech-death brain wants more. I just don't want it to end.
Rainer Landfermann -- Mein Wort in Deiner Dunkelheit
June 19, 2019
If you were to ask me what the finest vocal performance in black metal was, I would instantly respond, without hesitation: "Rainer Landfermann on Bethlehem's Dictius te Necare." The man is unhinged, shrieking without regard for his own throat and bellowing from deep within some unknown tract. After a final 2004 outing as the bassist/backing vocalist in technical death metal troupe Pavor, Landfermann went away. As it turns out, he never really left. Mein Wort in Deiner Dunkelheit is all the crazy and creativity we Landfermann-lifers really wanted... it just took time, and it was time well spent. Tread lightly, for the jazz/classical/avant-garde black metal found within will swallow you whole.
[Editor's note: yes, Jon is back. Welcome back, Jon… now get to work!]
Yellow Eyes -- Rare Field Ceiling
June 28, 2019
With their fifth studio album, NYC's Yellow Eyes released a particularly atmospheric interpretation of the unrelenting heartbeat that binds extreme metal. Rare Field Ceiling offers the themes we love, but for the refined palate; through a stylish and dizzying approach, the exploration of Medieval peasantry has never felt cooler. Minimalism and mystery transcend the flowery language that is typically used to tell castle-laden tales. As soft clangs and deliberate footsteps crescendo into all-out chaos, it is easy to get lost in the pre-industrial universe Yellow Eyes has been cultivating throughout their career.
Bonus: our additional thoughts on Rare Field Ceiling.
Fuming Mouth -- The Grand Descent
June 7, 2019
If you prefer your death metal when the genre's ties to hardcore and punk come through loud and clear, you need Fuming Mouth's killer debut album The Grand Descent in your life. This is the kind of album that you put on and it just whoops your ass over and over until it finally ends 34 minutes later, leaving you instantly wanting more. They're touring with Harms Way, Jesus Piece, and Portrayal of Guilt later this year, and like all three of those bands, they make heavy, physical music that offers up the tried-and-true thrills of hardcore without relying on overused tricks or sounding too stereotypical or generic. Music like this deserves to be experienced live and that whopper of a tour is an incredible way to do so, but Fuming Mouth are already more than just a see-it-live band. The Grand Descent just has that special something that sets it apart from the dozens of promising hardcore records that drop every year, and killer production by Converge's Kurt Ballou (also with striking artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski, who you might be able to tell also did the covers of the new Bell Witch and False records, so this is one you might wanna own on vinyl).
Fetid -- Steeping Corporeal Mess
June 7, 2019
Death metal exists within perfect fractals of itself; its evolution as an artistic style shifts almost as quickly as the rhythms and tempos within an individual composition, and its growth across time is as unpredictable as its sinister and uncanny tonalities. The modern renaissance of grimy, unfiltered and unadulterated OSDM that succeeded the hyper-cerebral tech-death of the mid 2010s as the new torchbearer of this tightly knit family of sub-subgenres has already begun to thin out, with more and more groups steering the movement into explorations of sludge, hardcore, and even crust punk. Thus only the heftiest and most holistically dungeon-crawling projects have endured into mid-2019 in their relevance. In this regard, few are more topically cutting-edge than Portland’s Fetid and their utterly hideous debut full length Steeping Corporeal Mess. After making their mark at the forefront of the new-OSDM wave with Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot, one of 2017’s most promising demos, the group honed their sound even further, culminating in last month’s gargantuan release. With their no-holds-barred approach to the slithering gore and Lovecraftian realms hidden away at the core of death metal, Fetid have created one of the most thoroughly rotten and surprisingly timeless death metal records of the genre as a whole, a work equally reminiscent of Morbid Angel and Tomb Mold in its temporal capriciousness. Despite the extremity of its guttural timbres (both instrumental and vocal), Steeping Corporeal Mess demonstrates a remarkable sense of focus and panache, creating atmospheres that terrify and disturb but never cross the line into tastelessness or gratuitous excess. Rounded out with circle-pit worthy breakdowns, truly otherworldly ambiance, and disgustingly squelchy guitar tone throughout, Fetid have exploded from the underground with one of death metal’s most impressive and stylistically essential releases to date.