Hails, and welcome to the inaugural post of my metal column for the plenipotentiary Bay Bridged. Tune in the second Sunday of every month for commentary, reviews, and news — a scattershot attempt to update my loyal (and as-yet nonexistent) readers on the world of heavy metal, hardcore, and punk rock.
Peter Tägtgren has been more active as a producer in the last decade or so, helming albums by Immortal, Dimmu Borgir and Children of Bodom. After the rise and undignified fall of the classic late-90’s Swedish Melodic Death Metal sound (I’m looking at you, In Flames), his original project Hypocrisy was pushed to the periphery of the metal world. 2005’s Virus (Nuclear Blast) was an under-appreciated effort, but the quality of A Taste of Extreme Divinity (Nuclear Blast), which hits stores November 3rd, will hopefully bring Tägtgren’s significant songwriting talents back into the bloodstained metal limelight. The Swede is one of the last practitioners of the classic, overdriven Sun Studios guitar sound, and A Taste… is laden with anthemic riffs and razor-wire harmonies, underscored by the unimpeachable drumming of Immortal skinsman Reidar “Horgh” Horghagen. Hypocrisy’s lyrical focus has historically been centered on alien abduction and little-green men — a sci-fi oddity in a genre laden with medieval fantasy — but the new disc features a more all-encompassing approach. Starting with the relentless thrash of opener “Valley of the Damned,” the new offering from an old warhorse gallops from start to finish.
Shrinebuilder isn’t totally new, in the sense that its component parts have been on the scene for practically ever, but the first album from this stoner metal group hasn’t been released yet, so that makes them new enough for the purposes of my cheesy, bridal-themed title joke. Featuring doom legend Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed, St. Vitus, and The Hidden Hand, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Al Cisneros of Sleep/OM, and Dale Crover of The Melvins, it’s a lineup epic enough to get any of your friendly neighborhood stoner/doom fans foaming at the mouth. No release date has been set for the group’s self-titled opus (on Neurot Records), but there is a track available at that link above, so feel free to listen to it over and over again while you chew your nails in anticipation, like I am doing at the time of this writing. I actually talked to someone who had the chance to listen to the record, and he made much of how cool it is that Wino, Scott, and Al share vocal duties, before I killed him in a fit of jealous rage. A handful of shows have been planned for this fall — unfortunately, none West of the Rockies — but the fact that they’re finally gigging, coupled with the fact that they’ve finally released a song, means we might see the album sooner rather than later.
Egyptology-obsessed death metallers Nile have carved a prosperous niche for themselves in the world of blast-beat worship, and Those Whom the Gods Detest is a worthy follow-up to 2007’s Ithyphallic (Both Nuclear Blast), while simultaneously demonstrating a profound respect for the correct use of English pronouns. Again showcasing the Middle Eastern-inflected carnage of guitarists Karl Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade, the disc gets its mind-bending fury from the drumming of George Kollias, who must have made some unholy deal with Anubis to make his legs the double-bass equivalent of an industrial sewing machine. The lyrics are still plucked right off the obelisks, with song-titles like “Hittite Dung Incantation” and “4th Arra of Dagon,” and the creepy interludes on guitar, djembe, and a traditional instrument called a baÄŸlama still make you feel like you’re standing on the flood-plains, dodging hungry crocodiles and the servants of some tyrannical, inbred pharaoh. The band even took a page from Sting’s “Desert Rose”-era playbook, enlisting the help of a strong-throated Egyptian folk singer to provide unpredictable tonal singing on opener “Kafir!” Given the intensely unsettling effect of the combination, it was a brilliant move. The album comes out November 3rd.
Georgia is well represented in metal circles these days, with Kylesa, Mastodon, and finally Baroness all hailing from the Peach State. The Savannah band made a huge impression with their untitled “Red Album” in 2007, and now they’re back with their second LP for Relapse, “The Blue Record.” Singer/guitarist John Baizley is becoming more of a household name due to his captivating, inventive art (see above), plying his paintbrush for a number of up-and-coming metal acts, but he’s no slouch with his pick either. The new album, due out October 13th, proves that the critical darlings have much more to offer, combining squalling stoner licks with off-kilter, clean-toned melodies, Southern rock twang, and folky tinges. Standout tracks like “Ogeechee Hymnal” and “The Sweetest Curse” feature the band at their atmospheric, textural best. As one of the most original and inimitable groups currently active in the genre, Baroness should finds fans exhausting their new offering, with dreams of the Yellow, Purple, and Chartruese records dancing in their heads.
Shredification is a monthly expedition into the world of heavy music led by San Francisco Bay Guardian and Bay Bridged writer Ben Richardson. Combining album reviews, news, and general commentary, it uses the power of forgotten heathen rituals to surreptitiously devour your soul. Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.