Soundgarden – King Animal (Seven Four / Republic, 2012)

Soundgarden-King-Animal-608x608After Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in 1994, alternative rock, the supposed savior of the mainstream, took a shit and died. The loss of Nirvana seemingly created a domino effect; the remaining “big bands” of the genre either broke up, imploded or simply petered out, with the exception of Pearl Jam, who became alt rock’s answer to The Grateful Dead (as if we needed another one), while the lesser known bands went back underground. For me, those bands belong to a certain time and place; Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were a big part of the soundtrack to my teenage years. I didn’t discriminate between heavy metal and so-called grunge; it was all just a bunch of ugly, hairy dudes with guitars playing big, loud riffs.

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Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse, 2012)

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.”

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Bell Witch – Longing (Profound Lore, 2012)

Desolation. That’s the first word that comes to mind when listening to Longing, the debut album from Seattle doom duo Bell Witch. Perhaps it’s the sparse yet oppressive instrumentation; I imagine myself attempting to traverse a scarred, barren wasteland littered with dead bodies in various states of decay, like a hastily made mass grave in the middle of a desert. Try as I might to cross these decrepit badlands, something holds me down, a psychic/spiritual weight that forces me to crawl on my hands and knees. It is the ten ton weight of depression.
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Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord, 2011)

Last year, much was made of so-called “Cascadian black metal.”  To me, this was nothing more than an attempt to label a regional sound that didn’t exist and in the process lump a bunch of bands together that had very little in common.  Invisible Oranges declared it “bullshit,” while an article in the Guardian stated that “cascadian metal” was a good descriptor for Krallice, apparently not aware that the term refers to Washington’s Cascade Range; Krallice hails from Brooklyn, NY which is on the other side of the country (a rock “journalist not doing their homework?! Hard to believe, I know. Insert eye-roll).  No one seemed to have a good grasp of what exactly Cascadian black metal was, but that didn’t stop them from invoking the term ad nauseam to serve their own needs.  A harmless geographical descriptor got twisted into utter nonsense by the metal media, and even the non metal media got in on the act.
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