Obscure Metal Roundup 9

Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir (Released 2019)

If we consider Black Sabbath’s mission statement as a foundational text for the genre as a whole, metal is supposed to be scary in the same way horror movies are. Obviously, that thread has been lost in this post-Dokken world, and if you ask me, it’s also obvious that, while Black Sabbath is good and made good records that are worth listening to today, there’s no real reason to regard their output as any kind of template. The people who make metal can do whatever they want, for any reason. Kill your masters, and all that.

This is my history-and-0context-obsessed way of saying that I can’t remember any extended period of time where I actually thought of metal as scary, at least, once I started listening to it regularly. It was always too awesome, colorful, and cathartic. There are isolated incidents of the stuff giving me the creeps; there’s the snake slithering across the kid’s neck in the Enter Sandman video and there’s the first time I listened to Dopethrone from start to finish and there’s, uh…yeah, there aren’t too many other examples, even as I’ve branched away from my NWOBHM and early thrash comfort zones and out towards metal’s numerous and varied lunatic fringes.

So I was delighted when I first came across Teitanblood by way of The Baneful Choir; this album scared the actual fuck out of me, and the shock was a delight. Drony, atmospheric interstitial pieces set a tone that is immediately paid off with impenetrable noise, but careful listens reveal that the drony, spooky stuff is often working to establish musical themes that are revisited and paid off amidst cacophonous riffs and death growls that can barely keep up. The total effect is that of a baroque fugue; the many ideas presented assault and overwhelm the senses, but if you pay attention, every so often you’ll hear something you recognize, and can latch onto amid the chaos.

In conclusion, this album is the perfect soundtrack to your next Wikipedia binge on natural disasters. Might I recommend this list of historically devastating earthquakes?

Standout Tracks: Black Vertebrae, Ungodly Others, Verdict of the Dead

Devil Master – Satan Spits on Children of Light (Released 2019)

Satan Spits on Children of Light is much more in line with the modern but retro-minded black thrash that soundtracks most of my waking hours. The songs are short and headlined with noodling melodic leads, although here I find my biggest bone to pick. While such discussions operate at the very edge of my ability to talk about anything, the lead guitar tone rubs me the wrong way. They sound, how to put this..warbly? It’s like they were recorded in an aqaurium, splitting the difference between the clean lead tone of the traditional titans and something sludgier. It serves the rhythm guitar work tremendously, but the leads…not so much. They sound like half measures.

And that’s sort of shame, because both the lead emphasis and the production put Devil Master at odds with their greatest strength, which is providing quick, out-of-nowhere hits of catchy riffs that disappear into the ether just as soon as you’re picking up on how much ass they’re kicking. The final demolition at the end Devil Is Your Master had my brain bashing up against the walls of my skull, and it lasted, like, maybe 20 seconds. If you’re going to go short in metal, that’s how you do it.

The collapse of that track hardly the only time the band shifts gears quickly and expertly, but again, as awesome as it is to experience in real time, it’s also frustrating. I get the sense even Devil Master doesn’t know what Devil Master is best at, which is reinforced when the album improves down the stretch. Why bury the lede like that? On Desperate Shadow, the riff takes center stage, and then builds to the lead section, and it works a lot better; immediate follower Her Thirsty Whip does the inverse, and it works just as well. I want find a spot for this album in the regular rotation, but the slow start means I can only regard this album as fun enough, so that might not happen.

Standout Tracks: Devil Is Your Master, Desperate Shadow, Dance of Fullmoon Specter

Spaceslug – Reign of the Orion (Released 2019)

The Obscure Metal Roundup now comes to a crossroads. The path diverges in two, and I must choose which path to continue along.

The first path is the column as I originally conceived of it. Down this path, a band can only be examined once, and I will select whatever album/EP/other testament I find most interesting as the prism for conducting this examination. The call of this path is that there are gobs and gobs of metal bands out there, and many of them do at least some good work. To feature a band more than once in this space would do a disservice to the many other bands worthy of attention and praise. Even worse, it could lead to the column devolving over time into a lotus-eating romp through my comfort zone (i.e. lots of Hellripper and bands that sound a lot like Hellripper), which would be a betrayal of all conceptions of what this column should be.

The second path is the pragmatist’s course; down this path, a band can be examined more than once. The call of this path is the inverse of the same consideration that gives voice to the call of the first path. There is a stupid amount of metal bands out there – too many, really, for me to keep track of without dedicating my life to it. I don’t have that kind of time, energy, or mental wellness, nor do I have the conviction necessary to rigidly adhere to a set of rules for a column I’m writing for fun, simply out of principle. Also, bands release new albums from time to time, and this way I can talk about those.

In featuring Spaceslug again, after their initial appearance in OMR6 (still the worst OMR, by miles; I know I just linked it, but do me a solid and ignore that invitation), I have taken my first step down the second path. OMR6 highlighted 2016’s pleasingly somnambulant Lemanis, and while Reign of the Orion doesn’t document a fundamentally different band, it documents the band coming at the same spacey sludge with greater focus and aggression.

That may sound like praise, but really, the results here are mixed. The greatest strength of Lemanis is that it sounds too baked to get off of the couch; it’s rare, even in stoner/sludge circles, to stumble across an album that is definitively metal, but can also be accurately described as “chill”. As such, it fills a niche. Reign of the Orion, with its tighter arrangements, more aggressive riffs, and occasionally screaming vocals, doesn’t stand out from the pack nearly as much. It’s fine, and occasionally does an admirable job of focusing the atmospheric bits in a way that builds to the riffs, but it’s not as memorable or as worthy of revisiting as Lemanis.

Additional demerits are awarded for sampling Rutger Hauer’s big speech from the end of Blade Runner. It seems to me that, even though I’m not familiar of a specific instance of another metal band sampling this speech, they’re all obviously thinking it, so it’s still played.

Standout Tracks: SpaceRunner, Beneath the Haze

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