I think I mentioned in one of the previous iterations of this that summers kind of lost their meaning after a while, as I think they tend to for most adults. Someone who has a much better grasp on their cynicism than I do stated that it was because summer had meaning because it’s when we were freed from the confines of standardized education for two months and some change. That sits pretty well from my point of view, especially once I had dropped out of college for the second to last time in 2001 and my summer home at Wildwood NJ’s Castle Dracula burned to the ground the season ceased having much relevance for me until 2011, mostly because I didn’t have anything to structure it within the year. They were just miserable, hot, shitty days that existed in between the cold ones.

But before my life (temporarily) ceased having meaning there were moments in time that were captured for me in the records I was obsessing over. And that’s where we’re going this time around, a few smaller snapshots. But just because they weren’t the soundtrack to major life events for me, doesn’t decrease their impact, nor have I stopped listening to them decades later. Since we’re in the waning days of summer which has some of you going back to school or sending your kids back or that special group of you who’re already shoveling pumpkin spice everything into whichever your preferred orifice is, consider this a summer clearance sale/digital mixtape.

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1998:

Tankard - Disco Destroyer

As I’ve mentioned before, a large portion of 1998 was spent diving headfirst into thrash and whatever the fuck “proto-black metal” is. Outside of the German titans of Sodom, Destruction and Kreator my favorite had become Tankard. I came home from Milwaukee Metalfest that summer with most of their discography (“Stone Cold Sober” being my favorite pick because I’m sure you care) and they became a staple on my radio show (which was called “The Pagan Winter”, throwback to my last column.) A bit later in the season “Disco Destroyer” arrived in my mailbox and quickly became their album of choice for me. Sure, it’s juvenile and about as a serious as a pillow fight but musically this record is a fucking rager and one I never see discussed. Several summers later, in 2014, I finally got the chance to see them when they played Maryland Deathfest but, unsurprisingly, nothing from this album made the cut.

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Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine: Biomech

I had really dug the Strapping Young Lad records so when I saw an interview about Ocean Machine (back when that was the name of the band before it was put into the Devin Townsend umbrella) I was naturally intrigued. Ocean Machine is probably one of the most aptly named recordings I’ve come across as it really gives you the feeling of endless ocean expanses from horizon to horizon. Simultaneously light and dark in nature, this is a record I can describe as comforting, something to calm a chaotic inner voice for a spell. I never really got into anything he did after this but I did have the chance to meet him at a SYL show and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever spoken to. Shame the vinyl is completely out of reach price wise these days.

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Plasma Pool - I

In 1998 Attila Csizhar still had this air of mystery, at least in my mind, and I had become obsessed with his vocal style (as you can tell from what I recorded that summer.) Combine that with how much I was dipping my toes into shit like Wumpscut and other assorted industrial (it was a weird summer) the discovery of Plasma Pool’s I was a revelation. Stark and stripped down industrial ala Skinny Puppy this record would spark a lot of what I would work on for the next year, regardless of the outcome not reflecting the influence.

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1997: Fuck chronology, we’re playing “Choose Your Own Adventure”

Xysma-Deluxe

Summer of ‘97 was an odd one. I was just getting ready to enter college, I was nearing the end of an exceptionally dysfunctional relationship (that I unfortunately picked back up a year later) and it was the start of my being serious about my own music. There were two records that came into my life late in the season that are always markers for that particular time in my life, Tiamat’s A Deeper Kind of Slumber and Xysma’s Deluxe. You could say nearly every Xysma record is a transitional one since they were constantly plowing ahead with evolving their sound but out of all of them Deluxe stands out as a band truly working their way through their sound to get to the other side (which would lead us to Lotto, one of the most underrated surprises in extreme music) and would fit snugly in the Man’s Ruin catalog. A dirty, oil soaked record for the sweatiest of seasons.

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2012:

Tragedy-Vengeance

By 2012 I’d pulled myself up out of years of severe self-destructive behavior and was starting to build a life for myself, at least for a few years. This was when I was managing a record store that, in the summer months, didn’t have a lot of traffic since everyone gravitated to our boardwalk location (which I also worked). Because of this I had plenty of time to go through records and check out new shit. Tragedy was one of those bands that we’d always sell the fuck out of and customers would reccomend to me that I eventually broke down and checked out, which would then spur years of obsessing over crust punk. This was the summer their excellent Darker Days Ahead was released, which is a terrific slab of Killing Joke meets Amebix dismal crust, but the record I picked for this is the anthemic Vengeance because it takes me back to sitting in an empty store, listing records online, and feeling like I might have gotten shit back on track.

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2008:

Public Image Ltd - The Greatest Hits So Far

Last entry for this is a bit of a downer. Not the song, or the record, but as a moment in my life as a whole. The summer of 2008 was when I was entering full blown mental illness, the crescendo of a nervous breakdown that had begun in 2004 and would last several more years after. Years earlier I had picked up Public Image Ltd’s second record on recommendation from Jef Whitehead but never really got another to checking it out until I was fucked up and alone diving through stacks of music I’d previously ignored and gave it a listen, which was a profound moment that’ll eventually get a full feature. This of course caused me to take to Youtube and bounce around their discography well until after the sun came up. I shortly went out to our local used CD place and found their greatest hits disc for like $2, which is a pretty decent place to start if you’re going to dig into them. I chose Seattle because it, to me, is the last moment of real brilliance the band created before it morphed from John Lydon’s post punk project into Johnny Rotten’s funny 80s pop group. It’s the sound of a door closing, a great song that represents a lot of complicated and unfortunate memories for me.

Thanks to those of you who stuck around and indulged me with this months-long summer nostalgia trip. We’re about ready to enter the autumn season, though I’m sure it’ll remain hot and shitty until January, so I’m looking at some darker records to dig through over the next few months to compliment the change in season. See you in two.

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