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Loud and ugly: The latest offerings from the metal underground reviewed

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Loud and ugly: The latest offerings from the metal underground reviewed

King Woman

Created in the Image of Suffering

Kristina Esfandiari channels her breathy, woe-filled, world-weary voice through a landscape of buzzing and broken guitars on Created in the Image of Suffering in what appears to be an attempt to exorcise the demons of her youth. Esfandiari spent her childhood in a cult; instead of becoming fodder for her lyrics, the experience seems to incense her. She rips into belief structures like a paper shredder stuck on overdrive. Her bandmates layer fuzz and minor chords over ominous, thudding drumming. It is raw, honest and menacing. But it is Esfandiari’s haunting voice that elevates the disc above typical doom fare. On “Hierophant” Esfandiari ups her breathy delivery over plucked guitars and a string section. “ If you’re a sacred script/I am the hierophant/If you’re a holy church I wanna worship” she croons. It’s lonely and raw.

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Unearthly Trance

Stalking the Ghost

Unearthly Trance are all about the long, hard slog. The Long Island trio formed in 2000, have released six albums, and are technically on their second run, given that they broke up In 2012 and reunited in 2015. They deal in a dirty, ugly doom metal that at times feels as influenced by The Melvins and Metallica as it does by Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard. Despite their devotion to the genre’s general aesthetic–slow, grinding, bleak, building anthems–the band offers more diversity in their song structures than many of their contemporaries. Deviation can be both a blessing and a curse in Doom circles–exact approximation of Sabbath can win absurd praise or condemnation, depending on the day. On Stalking the Ghost, Unearthly Trance seem to be betting that while Doom brought them to the dance it is the basic principles of metal songwriting that will keep them in rotation. Tracks like “Dream State Arsenal” use the vocabulary of mainstream metal acts like Deftones and Machine Head, while tracks like “Lion Strength” and “Famine” display a devotion to producing some of the form’s most crushing and complex compositions.

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Space Slug

Time Travel Dilemma

Bandcamp and the blogosphere have done wonders for this three-piece from Wroclaw, Poland. Their interpretation of Sabbathian grooves can easily come across as amateurish, a little like you’ve just stumbled on a demo tape of an aspiring grunge band recorded in 1993. Guitarist Bartosz Janik tended to open up tracks on their debut Lemanis with a trancey guitar lick bathed in a chorus pedals as his comrades joined in; the spacey vibe expanded until Bartosz jammed the distortion pedal and–lift-off. Time Travel Dilemma finds the band expanding on their formula; there are still NASA samples and JFK’s proclamations about space travel tucked behind ethereal riffage, but these compositions are bolder, bigger, and embrace the rockier posturings of the grunge era. Lemanis remains the band’s best work as its singular focus on capturing the mystery of space travel is amazingly effective and entrancing. But Time Travel Dilemma finds the group figuring out how to be a rock band, and it’s worth listening to.

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Drude

Drude

Denver is going through a doom-metal renaissance. Doom-metal band of the moment Khemmis came out of nowhere with a carefully produced combination of classic doom and slow-grooving prog. Their second release hit last year, and it abandoned their prog leanings for more classic rock trappings and basic song structure. Drude must have found Khemmis’ prog kit, because the group uses the same slow-building Doom grooves as Khemmis but slams them into a hyper-progressive structure that is both challenging and engaging. Disc opener “Drude” mutates its chord progressions into various metal styles in what feels like a seminar in metal riffage and and evolving time structure. Lost in the meticulous song structures is the band’s personality. They are effective at everything they do, but cramming their entire repertoire into eight-minute tracks makes it hard to love any one thing. At the same time their adventurousness is refreshing as scene darlings Khemmis and Pallbearer move toward more classical structures.

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Power Trip

Nightmare Logic

If you’ve been missing the balls-out metal of Pantera, the wild fury of early Children of Bodom and the hell-to-care attitude of the best hardcore bands, then Nightmare Logic is the album for you. Album opener “Soul Sacrifice” creeps to life with distorted electronics that give way to a dominating thrash riff. Lead singer Riley Gale rants and yelps his lyrics. “Owwwwwww!” he screams over guitarist Blake Ibanez’s squealing leads. There isn’t a safe space to find on the album. It’s just pure noise, dissent and anger. This Texas quintet are likely to join the ranks of NAILS as scene darling due to their absolute commitment to angry and blunt riffage.

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