Sweet Release: Sunless – Urraca (2/24)

Technical death metal rarely grabs me the way other genres do. Maybe I just feel like bands are only capable of following two trajectories: One, where every song devolves into an incomprehensibly obnoxious shred-fest, and… okay, one trajectory.

But apparently tech death has a lesser known route, at least among the roads I travel. It’s one that leads me into a bright and glorious future where tech death and I ride off into the sunset together… except this is where the metaphor turns to shit because I’m talking about a band named Sunless.

Album art for Urraca by Sunless.

I think this Twin Cities tech death trio appeals to me because they have little of the typical razzle-dazzle charm I’m used to hearing. The two tracks I’ve heard off the upcoming Urraca sound dirty, like they’ve just been pulled up from the vegetable garden, and goddamn they’re good enough to eat, as is. They have this organic, jammy nature to them, but they’re pulled off with what seems to be a skyscraping amount of premeditated skill. Winging it, Sunless ain’t.

Where most tech death bands seem to want to blow me away with notes or bend my mind with odd-time signatures, Sunless has an opportunity to make a real impression here. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel like they’re in this weird middle ground in tech death between “you can’t even dream of playing these notes, you little shit” and “try to wrap your mind around this one, you neanderthal.” But Sunless only seems hard to follow until they all start playing, and then they make a special sort of sense? I don’t like that either, but that’s the only way I can explain how much I’m eagerly anticipating the 24th of February release of Urraca.

Who knows — maybe the whole thing’ll be techy gobbledygook after all, and I’ll feel justified in my ignorance. But I want to believe, Scully. And I’ve heard too much discordant grooving in these songs to convince myself otherwise.

Album Review: The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability

At the risk of sounding like a complete ignoramus, I’d like to go on record as saying I know next to nothing about grind. Its permutations, its lyrical themes, its musical tropes — even the other genres it tends to play nice with — so let’s put all that aside, shall we?

Now let’s also put aside whether or not Washington’s The Drip even classifies as grind, or deathgrind, or d-beat, or whatever the fuck else I see people calling them. Because none of that matters when you hear what’s on offer with The Haunting Fear of Inevitability.

The whole album, front to back, is a whirlwind whiplash of energy and aggression, and it takes whatever form will accomplish that the quickest. Passages with hauling blast beats shift gears into herky-jerk d-beats. Phlegmy hardcore shouts deftly morph into brazen death metal barks. A melting pot of influences is cooking on full blast here, with no time for solos, or even choruses for that matter.

This is metal, and it’s the ass-kicking kind.

Album art for The Drip's The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, featuring a hooded decaying skull.
(Image source: Toiletovhell)

But why stop there? The Haunting Fear of Inevitability easily bludgeons every other part of the body too, from face to fanny. You’ve got balls-out bangers like “Terror War Industry” that clock in at under a minute and a half, while longer jams like “Anathema” slow down for groovin’ (okay, you could hardly call 2:45 “long,” but I’m trying to be respectful of these boys’ time). A good number of tracks fall into the latter category, which makes for a more dynamic listening experience.

Some music just makes you want to go nuts, and Haunting will let you do that. The album lacks the elitist sophistication I usually look for in metal these days, but I can’t deny the unbridled electricity charging every song. This isn’t thinking man’s metal, no sir — you’ve got five dudes terrorizing their instruments, delivering a slammin’ set of tunes. But that’s not to say the songs themselves aren’t thoughtful.

Thankfully, The Drip doesn’t sacrifice smart songwriting for pure auditory manhandling. Want neat and tidy song structures? The end of “Blackest Evocation” revisits the machine gun percussion from the song’s intro, which ties a neat little bow onto an explosive package. If you want something more organic, look no further than “Dead Inside.” A breakneck beginning slows to a shambling gait a mere minute in, a pace that continues for the remainder of the song and makes for one of the album’s more memorable tracks.

Ultimately, your being a fan of grind matters less than you being a fan of metal in general. There’s plenty of grinding (??) going on during the punishing half hour that is The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, but they’re pulling from genres in a way that makes sense. It all makes an intimidating/unfamiliar genre a bit more digestible. And you don’t have to subscribe to any of these things! If you even remotely like your metal bearing down on you like a chrome-plated rabid warthog, you’ll find something to like here. Then again, if you’re turned off by one track, the other twelve aren’t likely to convince you. But if you, me, and everybody else ends up getting into grind this year, I reckon we’ll have The Drip to thank for it.

Sweet Release: Mors Principium Est – Embers of a Dying World (2/10)

Yeah, yeah, I know Embers of a Dying World came out last Friday. But I’m not going to listen to it until after I talk about how excited I am for it, dammit!

At some point, I don’t know when, Mors Principium Est became one of those bands for me. You know the ones — class acts like Amon Amarth, who consistently put out quality tunes without ever messing with their formula. For MPE specifically, not even a major roster change in 2011 did much to steer them off course the familiar Finnish waters of melodic death metal. In fact, with their new multi-national lineup, they’re at their Mors Principium Best. For reference, I’ve been spinning …And Death Said Live on my Zune (what the fuck year is this again?) since it came out.

But since this Sweet Release column invariably becomes about what I want most from new releases, I’ll throw my lot in for this: I want MPE’s heaviness back.

Album art for Mors Principium Est's 2017 release, Embers of a Dying World.

Don’t get me wrong — MPE, in all their forms, always handle their sense of melody with the skill of veteran songmanship. Like, that’s never a thing I have to worry about with them. I know they’ll treat their skeedle-dees and their chugga-wuggs with equal importance. But!! I can’t help but listen to songs off The Unborn and wish the band’s new blood would throw my subwoofer a frickin’ bone. Gimme some of that bottom end, knowwhatimsayin?

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor nitpick. After all, what other nits can I pick? For years now, MPE only ever does what they do best, and that usually lines right up with what I want to hear from them: catchy, kick-ass melodic death metal. Regardless of whether they don’t give me what I want or not, I’m sure Embers of a Dying World will have some of the year’s most memorable tunes.