Teaxs Is On Fire
Shine Set Repeat
So I Had To Shoot Him
Alpha Males and Popular Girls
(This Dark Reign)
Power stations explode in a ball of electric flame! Nuclear meltdowns laying waste to the holy and profane! machine gun fury! Sulphurous clouds of doom for the bowels of a dying earth! The thing I find most diff cult about being a born-again metalhead music critic is there are only so many ways to metaphor up the power dynamics in this most grisly of music. It all starts to run together, descriptively speaking so here are three very different sides of the dark coinage of the blackest art in the tape case.
I was talking to my main metal man Dave about what if there was a breed of thick abomination from here in the South, where everything has at least a touch of infernal creepiness, emerging from the swamp like a half-alligator/half-demon covered in algae and weeds and hell bent on old school destruction, and lo, from his excellent roster comes this prime example of my theoretical Swamp Doom Metal (its all about the sub-genre in metal nowadays) in the smoldering incarnation of New Orleans' Sourvein. The "heavy" is usually dropped from the "metal" since I guess it is assumed, but this shit is HEAVY. It is 666 tons of doom dropped on your unsuspecting head from the get go on "Blessed" with a doom riff that covers you like the wake from a haunted tugboat. I wish I'd had a chance to see these monsters before Katrina drove them to the nether regions so I could feel there wrath blow me over, like it does throughout Emerald Vulture, the first of trilogy of EP's. The title track gets even heavier, stomping through the main street of your head like a cranked out Godzilla, flipping cars and breaking every window in site. What I love about this stuff is that it trades on the sheer power that is attempted in a lot of your more modern metal acts, but bypasses the more banal populist teeny-bopper aspects. Epics like "Heart of Ebon" have more destructive force than an entire army of Static-X's, even during the extended feedback array in the end, emitting from the radioactive waste left in their wake, bending and twisting into the last transmissions of your soul before it was layed waste in their wake. In sum, majestic brutal stuff.
Then for those that looking for something with a woman's touch, that bypasses the goofy Enya-in-leather Renaissance Faire shit that I have a hard time imagining that real metal people like. I mean, metal is an overtly masculine arena, and its nice to hear from the ladies once in a while. Enter Jersey's deadliest daughter, Contessa Von Bismarck of art-metal-core-something (they call it "sex metal") of So I Had To Shoot Him on their latest album Alpha Males and Popular Girls. She switches like a switchblade cut from operatic soars to a sneer while the band keeps pace with a complicated barrage of drums and shrieking guitar. What saves it is that this is not the Look-at-me-I'm-using-odd-time-signatures wankery of technical metal, but some truly difficult but completely engaging thrash. Tracks like "Sadvertising" and "Another Roman A Clef by Hart Blocker" show the band's dexterity at navigating hairpin turns at such a high velocity. "John Cleese and the Fountain of Youth" hits you from so many direction at once you emerge tenderized from the experience, while "King Diamond in the Rough" give you a taste of what kind of damage they can cause when they slow down for a moment and focus their attention on you. Lethal stuff without a trace of Gothic melodrama, which is a refreshing step in the development of female fronted metal. They get a little techno on odd tracks like "Chausson Chansson" but in a good way, and straight up electronic weirdness ensues in bits of the angular assault weapon "Contusion Schematics" and a track exquisitely titled "Sherman Tank Flavored Anvil Forcefeedings" speaks volumes in name alone. So I had to Shoot Him is a wild ass ride, so I'm thankful for the genuinely inspiring and soaring workout "Persuasion" at the end to re-energize my pummelled form.
And then, sometimes you want your ultra-violence fed straight your nervous system, so it can stir up your spinal fluid into a full boil, and that's where excellent grindcore acts like Texas Is On Fire come in. They were booked to play here last month, but some vehicular issues waylaid the band, so I can only go by their latest album Shine Set Repeat to estimate their gale force. The intricate little stabs of horror on this album are like Rubick's cubes made of rapid fire solo's, tsunami riffs and vocals that could only be produced with a power sander applied directly to the Voice box. They boast great titles (grindcore always does) like The Man's Gotta Get a New Suit" and "This is not a Boating Accident" but for me its hard to discern one from the next, its all laser blasts of beautiful unmitigated rage. tracks like "Face it Girl, Prince Charming Isn't Coming" are prime examples of what makes this stuff transcend mere mortal awesomeness into a supernova of superlatives. The vocals go from rasps to devil grunts, there are too many melody changes to count and you feel like you were run through all the wringers on the assembly best of a goddamn wringer factory - all in under 2:14. If nothing else, Texas Is On Fire is remarkably efficient. On "Greetings From the Sunshine State" they come on like a runaway train, and "No Guys, This is Epic" is the sonic equivalent of your 12th consecutive hour of playing a first-person shooter so intently that it becomes hard wired with your nervous system. Ultimately this stuff all about compression and release, pure Tesla coil energy. You can run a mile uphill in a windstorm screaming exhortation at every passing jogger with this in your iPod.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com