Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Now Slaying in the Bay presents: Contemporary Topics in Bay Area Metalpunk/Death Metal

Vastum, imposing Carnal Law through brvtal stares

Brutality and the Solar Anus: An Introduction to the Slay Area's New Wave of Crusty Death Metal

Today's NSITB is more of an essay...an essay about a dark conspiracy currently making, and shaking, the foundations of DiY metal in the Bay Area. Over the last couple years there has been a profusion of foul, disgusting, brutal death metal being made here. The sinister kabal behind these goings-on is a collection of bands...bands linked by overt and covert interlocking directorates of brutality-bound weirdos.

So, I couldn't figure out what to put here and decided to look on fuckyeahmetalpunks.tumblr.com. I came up with this.

As someone who grew up in the 'burbs of the Midwest before finding my way to the Slay Area, I had come to associate the term “death metal” with kids pathetically attempting to imitate At The Gates and then going into a moshXcore breakdown part when they got too tired [in the interest of full disclosure: I was in just such a band at one point]. Or that fucking Black Dhalia Murder worshipping suburbo-tech garbage.

This batch of bands, however, has put their collective, boot-clad foot down, infusing their music with the sonic grit, extremism and fury pioneered by bands like Grave, Axegrinder, Bolt Thrower, and Autopsy. Though largely made in recent months, this music is fundamentally a product of the 1980s/ early '90s. These bands have geography and, in many cases, members in common, but the style they can be loosely said to share is what has made this scene particularly exciting. The bands they draw from as key influences can, roughly, be said to have been active in particular scenes at particular times when the lines between metal and punk were being radically challenged. Through the 80's and 90's punks in the UK, Scandinavia, Brazil, Japan, the US, etc. were increasingly turning towards death and doom metal for a new source of sonic brutality. Simultaneously, more adventurous metalheads sought to bring punk's speed, raw energy, and gnarly production to metal's...well...heaviness. By reaching back to this "common ancestor" in musical evolution, these bands have loudly hailed a new infusion of energy into ominous, crusty death metal.

Probably the best-known of these bands is Acephalix. These dudes have been releasing shit since 2007 and are one of those bands who it's a true pleasure to see evolve. The Acephalix of 2010 and before was an absolutely ruthless crust-machine, taking from the best of the European and Japanese traditions to create a musical corpus that sent spike-vested kids around the pit so fast it looked like a human disco ball. But, by the 2010 release of Aporia, the band's first, and thus far only, LP, changes were already brewing.

As Aporia joined the band's 7'' and demo recordings in drawing out the saliva of brutal crust fans the world over, Acephalix was undergoing a radical transformation. The band's self-reinvention was announced through the 2010 release of the Interminable Night tape on Deific Mourning, the label run by Dan, vocalist of Acephalix and Vastum. This tape, and the followup Flesh Torn in Twilight, solidified Acephalix as, perhaps above all else, being a brutal fucking death metal band. Indicatively, while venerable Bay Area crustitution Prank Records released their LP alongside the likes of Martyrdod and Sl(A)ng, Acephalix's two most recent tapes were recently pressed to vinyl by Greg Anderson's Southern Lord under the moniker Interminable Night.

It's a real testament to the skill behind Acephalix that the band was able to make such a dramatic transition so seamlessly. They're playing metal, but they came to it through being an amazing crust band, a fact that makes itself plain at first listen to the band's newer material. Impossibly heavy, so sonically filthy it leaves a residue in your ears, these are dramatic documents of the metal demon gaining the upper hand in its brawl with the punk/crust demon within Acephalix. But still, they remain locked in an unending battle whose product is the band itself. Combined with their thematic obsession with Bataille and the Id-embracing “dark side” of the psychoanalytic legacy, this band has proved itself unstoppable. If anyone opened up a Christ Hole big enough to stuff a bunch MORE awesome bands through, it was probably these guys.

Acephalix gettin' rowdy at Oakland's venerable Hazmat warehouse (RIP).

A more recent outgrowth of Acephalix has been Vastum. Basically this band is ¾ of Acephalix plus a new guitarist whose pedigree includes time served in Hammers of Misfortune and Saros. The result is predictably awesome: a death metal band so total and deliberate in its destruction that their sole release has put them on the radar as one of the country's most exciting underground metal bands. While decidedly within the death metal camp, Vastum includes more slow, thematic elements that give them a strong doomish overtone. The result is utter sonic punishment, music that's so heavy you feel the hits in your ribs but, not unlike Acephalix, catchy enough to drive you to the edges of sanity. The combination of doom's anticipation-unto-brutalization procedure with some of the most memorable metal riffs I've heard in the past year is not to be trifled with...their tape Carnal Law is one of the most evocative heavy metal releases I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. It unabashedly delivers on promises of brutality too easily made and broken by lesser bands. Seriously, this will wreck you.

I couldn't find any good live videos of Vastum, but this song has got to be one of the finest DM tracks I've had the pleasure of listening to...again, and again, and again, and...

The last few months has seen an outgrowth of new death metal bands in the Bay that share Acephalix and Vastum's dedication to bringing the most base and disgusting possibilities of the genre forward. San Jose's Bruxers are certainly amongst this number, quickly becoming a known and respected quantity in the Bay Area's metal underground, laying waste to crowd after crowd with crusty, Bolt Thrower-lovin' death metal. The brutal attack only lets up to open the way for crushing, mournful doom that makes the band's expansive sound complete. Youtube videos of this band are alot easier to come by than recordings right now, but that's about to change. The band is slated to release a cassette of new material on Deific Mourning as well as a cassette recording of their live set on Foothill College's KJFC that is coming out on Gay Scientist Recordings. Slay tuned.

Bruxers blasting their way through Muerte at Oakland's First Church of the Buzzard. This was part of their set of the first-ever Deadfest, an extravaganza of local yokels and other trve bvds spearheaded by Gregg Deadface.

Even more mysterious than Bruxers is the band Caffa. At this point, their public presence has been theoretical aside from one (awesome) show and the practice space video below. Here's what we do know: they have a vast arsenal of Medieval weaponry, some of which they deign to display live to the masses. The band is a supergroup of sorts, composed of the members of such local outfits as Your Enemy, DHC, Connoisseur, Swamp Witch and Bruxers who currently reside in castles. This is important to the mission of the band, which is dedicated to the promotion and perfection of Castle Warfare as both a strategic/tactical practice and a lifestyle. Due to the low castle-density in the Bay right now, this makes it hard for them to play very much. The video below, from the rehearsal dungeon at one of their imposing fortresses, is the most up-to-date document of goings-on with the band...

Fingers Crvst that 2012 will bring even more apocalyptic awesomeness with it!


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