Music Features
By James Jackson Toth
Nov 21, 2007, 05:07


Welcome to another installment of Sewers of Mars, the monthly column New York Times calls “dazzlingly irreverent” and “infinitely better than The Clash's entire recorded works and ‘When the Levee Breaks' put together.” Let's get to it.

Xasthur - Defective Epitaph

Xasthur's Defective Epitaph (Hydra Head ) picks up where 2006's brilliant Subliminal Genocide leaves off, adding even more twisted murk to the one-man-juggernaut's depressive stew. Tracks like “Purgatory Spiral” and “Dehumanizing Procession” showcase a dronier, more sophisticated Xasthur, but “Oration of Ruin” is the masterpiece here—a symphonic dirge reminiscent of Burzum, complete with Malefic's trademark pained vocals. Another sonic maelstrom from one of the American underground's finest.

Speaking of heaviness, the self titled debut EP by Tombs (Black Box / Level Plane) is a sulking, beautiful downer that hearkens back to the days when dudes would argue about which AmRep band had the best bass tone. The band's gigantic wall of sludge reminds me instantly of such visceral forbearers as Big Black, The Jesus Lizard and Fudge Tunnel, and while those bands are certainly influences, Tombs keeps one foot in the cannabis cosmos by tempering their persistent riffing with a doomy, psychedelic undercurrent. High spots are the melodic “Course of Empire” and the too-brief instrumental drone of “Marina.” Makes Pelican sound like Soul Asylum.  Â

Home Blitz

If you think Pavement peaked with the Demolition Plot J-7 single, you'll love the fucked up bedroom pop of this Home Blitz character (aka Daniel DiMaggio from New Jersey). This self-titled CD collects scattered vinyl releases, from the same label (Gulcher) that brought you that paint-peeling Joshua Jugband 5 reissue. Home Blitz's tunes are full of hooks that wink (check out the cover of Slade's “My Town”) but with more of a naïve, early Television Personalities bent. Good stuff.

A.R.E. Weapons - Modern Mayhem

Perhaps it's telling that the only two big A.R.E Weapons fans I know aside from myself are both highly discriminating and well known indie mainstays. To be fair, it can be a tad challenging to cut through the band's “party hard “affectations, NYC scenester status, and general dunderheadedness, but for those who can, what remains is some of the most creative, jubilant, and just plain likeable punk rock in recent memory. Modern Mayhem is the band's third proper full length, and their best. Still heavily influenced by the early New York punk scene, Modern Mayhem is more Ramones than Suicide.

“Do You Wanna Hang Around?” which even boasts a Ramones-y title, is a loser's anthem that'd be a teary-eyed punk classic, if not for the synthesizer which strongly recalls Whitesnake's “Here I Go Again.” Elsewhere, the band channels the naïve idealism of Modern Lovers on “Dreamers,” and get weird, wild and free with saxophones on, er, ‘Weird, Wild and Free.” “Nobody likes us / and we don't care,” the band admits on the appropriately titled “We Don't Care (Part 2).” And unlike countless other bands who attempt to convince us—however unconvincingly—of their indifference to success, A.R.E Weapons fucking mean it. How punk is that?

Basalt Fingers, a new band featuring members of Mouthus, Magik Markers and Six Organs of Admittance, have just released their debut LP, and it's not at all what you might expect from such esteemed company. Basalt Fingers is not the all out teeth-rattling assault one might have predicted, but one swirling, amorphous drone reminiscent of Michael Morley's more guitar-centric experiments with Gate, or a long lost soundtrack to an unrealized Tobe Hooper film. The three guitars don't so much collide as congeal, giving the feel that the record is playing backwards. This could have easily been another album of post-PSF guitar bludgeoning, and from these characters, such an earthquake would have been most welcome, but Basalt Fingers instead defies our expectations, opting for dark introspection over sheer power. A beauty!Â

Wolves In The Throne Room - Two Hunters

After last year's impressive Diadem of 12 Stars, Wolves in the Throne Room are back with Two Hunters (Southern Lord), a cinematic and haunting nightmare of a record that sets the bar a little higher for third wave black metal. This is a band not afraid to experiment, and to fully commit to these experiments. Though the hallmarks of classic black metal are here in spades—drums that sound like popcorn kernels thrown into a bonfire, oppressive, shrieking vocals, and guitars heavy on the treble—the band resists sounding generic. Opening track “Dia Artio” begins with a wall of drizzling guitars and adds a slow motion twang reminiscent of Labradford. Are those major chords for chrissakes? “Cleansing” is another winner—a dirge-y number that begins with tribal drums, a wash of keyboard sludge, and the second of two appearances by female vocalist Jessica Kinney, sounding like Sandy Denny in the throes of detox. Album of the month!

Next month, I'll likely still be drunk on a winter-y concoction of my own devising I like to call “Black Nog,” but my ears are always open, so please keep sending music my way c/o Your Flesh, the Walker: Texas Ranger of online indie publications. The rest are on some Smallville shit.

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