Records of the Week With Jon and Ted Week #14
Each Friday, Editors Ted Nubel and Jon Rosenthal will share their picks for Records of the Week — not necessarily what's out this week, just whatever's on our mind or on our record players.
Friends of Hell
I haven't listened to too much music this week, I'm afraid—at least, not that I haven't already written about. Whenever I get busy, I generally tend to retreat to stuff that I can count on to boost my spirits, and Witchfinder General's Friends of Hell is at the top of that pile. Though they sounded a lot Black Sabbath (to a degree that I notice more and more with repeated listens), the short-lived band (with a similarly short reformation) put a huge mark on heavy metal with their preceding record Death Penalty as well as this one—there's a reason that they're cited by an enormous amount of bands as an influence. Rather than just wholesale copying Black Sabbath, they extracted and developed a specific slice of the titanic band's appeal, shaping it into their own sound. Instead of focusing on the slow and evil side of Sabbath, they generally picked up on the hard-rock-driven proto-metal edge, dialing it in with equally colossal tone and groove to deliver Iommi-tier riffs that set a damn high bar for the future. This wickedly creative, raucous heavy-metal-meets-doom sound is one of the trademark sounds of the NWOBHM, and for good reason.
Capable of both moving, if bizarre, ballads in "Love on Smack" and "I Lost You," as well as bimodal doom sagas like the title track, Friends of Hell seemed a little disconnected to me when I first listened, expecting through-and-through doom and not really appreciating the rock elements of their sound. I'm still probably not going to vote "Music" as my favorite song on this record, but I do recognize that the shifting tone on Friends of Hell is one of the things that lodges it in the brain so effectively.
The Burning Circle & Then Dust
It was only a matter of time before I wrote about a not-metal album, but let's be fair, the world outside metal is so fucking vast that to simply put "not metal" into its own (truly massive) bucket is super solipsistic and silly. I've made this point before. Did you listen?
Lycia is a darkwave/goth band from Arizona who has been active since the late '80s. Mike Vanportfleet and Tara Vanflower (and occasionally David Galas) craft dark, gauzy atmospheres using heavily effected guitars, keyboards, and very powerful drum machine beats, resulting in music which is both very active and truly passive. When I first discovered Lycia through double album The Burning Circle And Then Dust single "Pray," I was immediately blown away, but not in the way one would think. "Wow, is this what U2 would sound like if they were good?" I thought… it must have been 2006. I quickly learned that "Pray" is not indicative of Lycia's normally very moody, lace-enveloped, slight songs which take the idea of "goth rock" to an ambient extreme. The two hours which comprise The Burning Circle & Then Dust seem like a daunting listening task, but there is something so entrancing and enchanting about it that I could honestly listen to it back to back… twice in a row (If I'm in the right mood)!