Metal

UgLi blur the line between DTF and WTF on heavy AF debut album

The South Jersey/Philadelphia-based band UgLi unabashedly bash out ‘90s style alt rock with panache—but still their music feels uniquely relevant to right now and it rocks hard enough to be relevant to any era.

Taking a genre (grunge) originally associated with flannel-wearing, chainsaw-wielding, primal-screaming lone-wolf types, the Philly foursome uses it to address topics like mental health afflictions, gender fluidity, body dysmorphia, medication overutilization, and the pure unadulterated joy of a new love. Surprised you with last one, huh? And while in reality grunge was always pretty multifaceted (oddly enough it only became less so in the later ‘90s morphing into rap-rock, nü-metal, and post-grunge all culminating in the nightmare of Woodstock ‘99) and it’s always included great female musicians (L7 easily rocks just as hard as Soundgarden) but in 1992 it was still necessary for a certain “sad little sensitive Pisces man” to put a not-unsubstantial contingent of his own band’s fans on blast in the liner notes to the Incesticide comp:

“If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records.”

UgLi could in this way be considered the culmination of Kurt’s wishes, and one can only hope that in between floating around and hanging out on clouds that somewhere up there he’s looking down pretty happy about it. Because as a band that’s otherwise made up of three pretty average looking rock dudes (no offense guys!) UgLi is fronted by co-guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter Dylyn Durante who also happens to identify as a queer trans woman. So when she sings lines like “How would you find love / you don’t fit in the box / you’re mixing colors and shapes / I think you need to get off” (“Why Be Pretty…when you could be free”) it speaks not only to the youthful alienation of grunge-loving kids across a couple generations but also to a very specific situation—a situation driven home by the tight instrumental work of co-guitarist Andrew Iannarelli, bassist Lucas Gisonti, and drummer Teddy Paullin who pushes the album forward with Jimmy Chamberlin levels of energy.

Wait, what album? The track above plus seven others make up the band’s first full-length on the self-released FUCK, which at first glance may come off as a blunt, simple-minded attention grabber of a title. But when you break it down “fuck” is actually one of the more nuanced and versatile words in the English language given its dozens of potential meanings, ranging from a modifier used to add emphasis (“no fucking way!”) to a single-word exclamation indicating anger or disgust; ranging from the sensual physical union of two or more human beings to the state of being badly damaged or even ruined. And on FUCK, Dylyn covers all these meanings and more in songs where she “gets fucked” in every possible sense, and in songs where the band modifies the grunge formula to fit their own means—adding musical flavors ranging from the proggy side of the alt-rock spectrum (e.g., the Pumpkins/Radiohead-esque “Bad Egg” which deals with the difficulties of transitioning) to the dreamy chamber pop turned shoegazy slowcore rock ballad of the eight-plus-minute closer “Naegleriasis” with it’s vibey vibraphone and hazy horn section played in waltz time.

And finally, when it comes to the exclamatory qualities of FUCK, the record benefits greatly from the aforementioned intricate arrangements and the impressively warm/crisp/clear yet crunchy/dirty/overdriven production work on the album—produced in collaboration with Dave Downham at Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, New Jersey (Dave is credited with recording, mixing, and mastering the album alongside a full production credit on “Naegleriasis”) and I’m guessing that Butch Vig may be feeling just a little bit jealous now reading this. So whether you consider yourself a “House Pet” (“Nobody taught me how to care / I think I should’ve picked it up somewhere”) or a “Bad Egg” (“I’m searching for that high note / grasping for survival / well, what the fuck do I know”) you may want to follow the former song’s advice to “shimmer while you can” because the album itself follows this advice and it seems to work out pretty well. (Jason Lee)

   

VIDEO: “Holy Roller” Finds DEATHCHANT Doing Very Bad Things

image courtesy artist's bandcamp page

L.A.-based heavy metal / stoner rock quartet DEATHCHANT have released their sophomore album, Waste, on label Riding Easy Records, and you can watch the music video for track “Holy Roller” below.

The first thing to remark on is how the album was recorded: in a rented cabin up in secluded Big Bear, CA. According to T.J. Lemieux, singer and guitarist, “we packed a big-ass van and set up in the living room and kitchen, tracked it live, with overdubs after.” Despite the humble setup, the album has both a professional clarity and a hard-hitting brutality, especially on the vinyl version, which the author of this review was able to enjoy at maximum volume at a recent evening at Permanent Records Roadhouse in Cypress Park.

Track “Holy Roller” opens with cutting, rusty distorted slices of rhythm guitar at battle with dissonant feedback howls to arrive at your ears first, before both are shoved out of the way by a pummeling bass/drum combo. Soon, the vocals enter, sounding like a platoon of demented monks yelling unholy, apocalyptic incantations from inside a cave. Meanwhile, start-stop doubled guitar lines bring the chaos to a temporary halt, before cranking back up to break-neck speed, until the half-time bridge that offers somewhat of a breather before the song transforms into an ultra-sludgy, Hawkwind-style chug. It’s part sludge metal, part grunge, part Thin Lizzy in its dual lead guitar lines, but at all points it’s compelling. Which is all the more impressive when you discover that most of the band’s music is improvised (!).

Finally, extra points to the band for connecting all the tracks on Waste together with droning, abstract interludes, giving the whole thing a sense of oneness and cohesion. DEATHCHANT work hard to create a complete atmosphere and populate it with heavy riffs, hypnotic grooves, and dark sludge. Where they’ll take us next is anyone’s guess, but one can be sure it’ll be somewhere worth heading. Gabe Hernandez

   

Seven Spires Finds Clarity in Chaos

 Seven Spires’ This God Is Dead feat. Roy Khan properly puts “symphonic” in “symphonic metal.” In places the 10 minute track is almost theatrical, showing as much DNA from Andrew Lloyd Webber and neoclassical experiments like Trans-Siberian Orchestra as Nightwish and Maiden, particularly in the harmonies early in the song. Any number of metal bands have tried to bring that heavy Handel energy, but the clean vocals on “This God Is Dead” genuinely recall a classical choir, not just 6 people with a combined 20 feet of hair trying to sound like one.

The heavy stuff isn’t quite as accomplished, less for lack of quality than a glass-smooth mix that takes some edge off the harsh vocals and thudding rhythm. Riffs and beats come fast and heavy, but the production is so clean and the melody so prominent that we lose any At the Gates-style snarl. The result recalls anime and videogame soundtracks, for good and ill: screams are screamed, heavy guitars happen, but the melody is so prominent and the mix so smooth it’s not quite music to mosh to.

That said, a few missteps in songwriting and production aren’t nearly enough to write off this beautiful beast. The track finds its footing in the second half, delivering demonic snarls, elliptic spoken word and soaring harmonies with equal aplomb. There’s nothing tongue in cheek here, thank God – we’re a little over metal bands that think metal is hilarious – just musicians who love the genre giving everything they’ve got. Respect. The lyrics deserve a special shoutout: the delivery may not be perfect, but the text achieves the rare goal in high-concept metal of interesting the listener as much in its righteously Gothic plot of remorseful ghost, raging daughter and rising demon as the music backing it.

In short, “This God is Dead” by Seven Spires is big, smart, fun and heavy, a righteous blast of epic scope in spite of a mistake or three. This is music to swordfight your possessed brother atop a burning cathedral to. Light some candles, crank headphones to 11 and bang your head. We certainly did.


-- Matt Salter

 

   

Annihilus "Draw The Beast"

Annihilus has released the first single, "Draw The Beast", from his forthcoming album, Follow a Song From The Sky, which is due out on August 13th via Federal Prisoner.

This is the Black Metal of Luca Cimarusti, and this is the follow up to his 2020 debut LP Ghanima.

You can catch Cimarusti performing a free DJ set at Sleeping Village on Friday, June 18th.

   

God Shell Delivers a Harrowing Adventure Into Sonic Extremity

“I Will Not Be Your Prison, I Will Not Be Your Guide” is a challenging and -- if you have the taste for it -- rewarding three track release from Austin experimental metal band God Shell. The EP immediately throws the listener for a loop with “Skinwalker.” The discordant guitar riffs surprisingly remind me of chaotic no-wave/noise rock outfits like Sissy Spacek and Sleetmute Nightmute. The rhythms are jagged, with thundering drums and angular guitars. The song comes in phases, changing tempo but keeping a constant claustrophobic mood. The guitars squeal and screech, eventually overcoming the actual notes themselves, and as the drums gradually lose momentum, the song returns to the noisescape it began as.

The second track -- the semi-titular “A Prison” -- is more experimental. The introduction reminds me of Daughters’ “You Won’t Get What You Want,” before the beat suddenly collapses amidst a maelstrom of glitches, and shifts into a droning noise cut. A phantom-like drumbeat hides under one thick, sustained chord for most of the runtime, creating the sort of dark, oppressive mood that is so dense it almost becomes cozy. I say “almost” because the song is interspersed with unpredictable -- and at times startling -- stutters and skips.

Ender “Hagibalba” is the most straightforward on the EP, starting off with a catchy, toe-tapping riff that I was stunned to hear after the first two songs. Like “Skinwalker,” “Hagibalba” turns on a dime again and again, changing speeds and flipping from cacophony to measured playing. The drums stay consistently tight considering the whiplash-inducing song structure, providing the listener with a sort of light for navigating the strange progression.

All in all, “I Will Not Be Your Prison” is a release for fans of sonic extremity. The music is entirely un-formulaic and to-the-point. Where another experimental release might gish gallop the listener with semi-listenable,  tedious and indulgent pulp, Shell God explores new concepts with precision and purpose, keeping the listener engaged. The music is leaden, but when performed with such rawness and intensity it becomes irresistible.

 

- Tín Rodriguez