As those of you that have the misfortune of following me on social media may know, Mrs. THKD and I have packed up the fortified bunker and are moving halfway across the country from the bowels of the Midwest to Sacramento, California. The truck is loaded, the house is sold and we’ll be leaving in less than a week. I’m still waiting for it to feel real. Right now it feels like a dream. I tried so hard to get the hell out of this state after college, and all I got in return were some nice rejection letters to show for it.
Among the heavy metal subgenres most likely to turn the average underground ‘head into a piping hot cup of haterade, groove metal (sometimes referred to as post-thrash, closely related to alternative metal and industrial metal) surely sits at or near the top of the list. Blamed for contributing to the death of thrash, the spawning of nu metal and for bringing scores of jock-strap-polishing meatheads into the scene (among other things), groove metal is quite possibly the most battered and beaten of the genre’s red-headed stepchildren. However, its most heinous crime in the eyes of most NWN! message board-dweller types is that it is a product of the nineties, that decade where everything went to shit for a legion of ’80s-worshipping metal miscreants, many of whom continue to dab at bitter tears with the unwashed corners of their patch vests while clutching at their Nihilist demo cassettes to this very day.
Maryland Deathfest 2013 begins tomorrow. I haven’t been to a music festival of any kind since Lollapalooza… 1996. Ok, that’s not entirely true, I did go to local hair band fest a few years back, but I got in for free and was only there for an hour to see Ace Frehley play and grab a tenderloin, so I don’t think that one really counts. Anyway, every year when MDF rolls around, there’s a part of me that wishes like hell that I was going. Take this year’s installment for instance; I’d kill to see the likes of Integrity, Manilla Road, Revenge, Aosoth and Bolt Thrower, what metalhead in their right mind wouldn’t?
2012 has been more stressful than a motherfucker; probably one of the most all-around stressful years of my life. Buying a house + assorted family and work-related issues that I wouldn’t even dream of getting into here managed to turn the year into a goddamn pressure-cooker. I’m pretty sure the only things that kept me alive were my wife’s unwavering love (and limitless patience) and an avalanche of incredible music. In 2011 I was feeling pretty jaded and dissatisfied with the state of heavy metal, this year I found myself feeling better about things than I have in years. That isn’t to say there weren’t great albums released in 2011, there were, but in 2012 I felt like there was so much greatness that I couldn’t possibly keep up with it all.
I haven’t exactly been keeping up with Anaal Nathrakh. Sure, I’ve heard a track here and there over the years, but the last time I actually listened to a full album was 2004’s Domine Non Es Dignus. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the band, in fact quite the contrary, I absolutely loved the balls-to-the-fucking-wall slab of filth-grinding extremity that was The Codex Necro, and the aforementioned Domine… received a glowing review from yours truly when I was writing for my college paper. But the way Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt continuously crank out albums, especially when the music is so patently assaultive, is extremely overwhelming; I have a hard enough time keeping up with metal as it is. So, here I am revisiting Anaal Nathrakh with Vanitas after missing four full lengths, and damn it feels good to be back.
I think I was the only person in the world that wasn’t excited about the prospect of a new Pig Destroyer album. After the grinding greatness that was Prowler in the Yard and the warped masterpiece that was Terrifyer, the band’s fourth album, 2007’s Phantom Limb, was a total letdown. It wasn’t that Phantom Limb was bad by any means, but with its emphasis on longer compositions, breakdowns and grooves, it simply wasn’t what I wanted from a Pig Destroyer album, and as a result it failed to resonate with me. So, when the news broke that the Virginia-based grinders would be unleashing their first batch of new material in half a decade in the form of Book Burner, and the wheels of the hype machine subsequently started to turn, it only served to further lessen my enthusiasm for a long-overdue album from a band that had seemingly “lost it.”
If you were to listen to Early Graves’ Red Horse without knowing anything about the band’s history, you’d probably never guess that this is a band that has risen from the ashes of tragedy. This is not a band that sounds broken down or beaten; this is a band that sounds lean, mean and hungry, ready to raise Hell and rip some fucking heads off. It is a testament to Early Graves’ intestinal fortitude that they were not only able to recover from losing their original vocalist in a horrible accident, but to write, record and release their definitive album (so far) in the process.