Featured Releases - January 20 2022

Various: Metallic Assault 12” (Urbain Grandier Records) A while back I wrote about Eve of Darkness, a treasure trove of a book documenting the history of metal in southern Ontario, Canada, in the 1980s. I loved the book and can’t say enough good things about it. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, as of right now we still have copies in stock.) Now Urbain Grandier Records brings us the companion album, a compilation featuring 10 of the bands covered in the book. While Urbain Grandier’s single-band releases (Malhavoc, Slaughter, Necromancy, and S.F.H.) all come from the grittier, more underground end of the metal scene, those bands taking influence from more extreme bands like Bathory, Venom, and Celtic Frost, Metallic Assault focuses on the more traditional heavy metal bands who leaned more toward the Judas Priest / Iron Maiden end of the spectrum. This isn’t mainstream metal, though; like your favorite compilations of under the radar N.W.O.B.H.M., the tracks on Metallic Assault all have a slapdash, DIY charm. With these tracks culled from rare singles, demos, and unreleased sessions, each band puts their best foot forward with one energetic, anthemic track, and while I imagine there are some duds spread across the sessions which yielded these tracks, they don’t appear here. Brief liner notes fill in the story for each track, but if you want an immersive, full picture of the scene that yielded these would-be hits, you gotta pick up Eve of Darkness.

Necromancy: In the Eyes of Death 12” (Urbain Grandier Records) Urbain Grandier Records brings us another slice of raw and nasty underground metal from 80s Canada, this time the five-song 1986 demo from Hamilton’s Necromancy. Necromancy is raw, kind of sloppy, and evil as fuck… everything you want from an underground metal obscurity like this. Necromancy pulls from a lot of different corners of the underground metal scene. One part might remind you of early Celtic Frost’s primitive grandiosity, but a split-second later they’re into some falling-apart blasting like early Sodom or Kreator at their most feral and unhinged. While songwriting this varied might come off as awkward in different hands, Necromancy seems so committed to their aim of manifesting pure evil that it comes off, making for a unique and powerful (albeit beautifully primitive) demo. As with Urbain Grandier’s other reissues, the packaging offers some cool artwork, archival material, and liner notes, but for the full story you’ll need to refer to the excellent Eve of Darkness tome.

Tempter: S/T 12” (Quality Control HQ) Tempter is a new band from Richmond, Virginia featuring members of Nosebleed, Candy, Division of Mind, and many others. While all of those bands sound pretty different from one another, Tempter’s style is rooted in the metal / hardcore crossover of mid-80s Europe. When I think of crossover, I imagine fast, precise riffing and nimble rhythms, but that isn’t Tempter’s sound at all. They’re much more atmospheric, a quality accentuated by the mix, which puts the drums pretty far back and lays a lot of distortion on the guitars and vocals, making the whole thing sound like a fuzzy wash. There’s also not a lot of fast thrashing parts, with Tempter spending most of these five tracks laying into catchy, mid-paced riffs that would be just as at home on Best Wishes as Within the Prophecy. The unexpected production gives Tempter a sinister sound, more like a tense and creepy thriller than a full on splatter movie. This atmospheric quality comes across most uniquely in “La Lluvia,” which features samples, synths, and spoken-word vocals drawn from a poem by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. While that track pushes at the boundaries of Tempter’s sound, they follow it up with “Pestilence,” a riffy crowd-pleaser in the making. If you dug Game’s killer recent EP, Legerdemain, you should check this out, but Tempter’s unique take on this crossover sound stands on its own merits.

Factory City Children: S/T cassette (Burning Paradise Records) Factory City Children is a new solo project from Mateo of Warthog (and countless other New York bands over the past decade-plus), credited here as “Tormented Imp.” As you might expect from such a seasoned musician, Factory City Children comes out of the gate with a distinctive and exciting sound. While the tougher-sounding “Hell Man 88” might remind you of Warthog, most of the songs here are poppier, with “Perfect Utopia” borrowing the riff from the Misfits’ “Some Kind of Hate” and “F.U.M.E.S.” having a Ramones-ish propulsion. The riffs are generally straightforward, but occasional bursts of lead guitar and earworm basslines make these songs anything but simple. The most identifiable aspects of FCC’s sound are the drum machine (a robotic and synthetic sound, rather than trying to imitate acoustic drums) and Mateo’s wild vocals, which sound totally demented, yet with intelligible lyrics and enough subtle tunefulness to make them memorable. The lyrics are also excellent, with the aforementioned “Hell Man 88” being a highlight, the title’s pun part of the song’s extended conceit of comparing “white Amerikkka” to a “malevolent mayonnaise.” In case you weren’t already convinced this is several notches above your typical home-recorded, drum machine-powered demo, Toxic State have signed up to put out a vinyl version of this tape later this year. In the meantime, catch this cassette version while you can.

Cherry Cheeks: S/T 12” (Total Punk) Total Punk Records brings us the debut vinyl from this solo quarantine project. I wish my quarantine had been this productive! The drum machine that powers Cherry Cheeks is liable to make many listeners throw them in the egg punk basket, but this record is way too good to be relegated to also-ran status. A lot of the egg punk-type stuff I hear has a fuzzy, noisy sound, which can hide weaker elements in a project’s sound (often the vocals). Cherry Cheeks, on the other hand, sound razor sharp, which makes sense because you want to show off songs this great. Cherry Cheeks remind me of some of my favorite ’77 punk bands in that they deliver high energy pop songs one after another, achieving those goals of electric energy and great songwriting without repeating the same formula over and over. Songs like “Living Room” might lean toward the tougher and faster (though still dripping with hooks), while poppier moments like “Two Bugs” and “D.A.C.” have a sunnier and less manic vibe but are just as effective, if not more so. Cherry Cheeks is great at doling out hooks to the vocals, guitars, and synths without leaning too heavily on any of the three, but after listening to this record a bunch, I think the secret sauce is in the bass playing. It’s propulsive and melodic, and contributes a lot to that razor sharpness I mentioned above. A killer record.

Blinding Glow: Unconditional Surrender cassette (Open Palm Tapes) You might be tempted to pass over this demo cassette from San Diego’s Blinding Glow because their brand of d-beat doesn’t reinvent the wheel stylistically, but it’s gotten its hooks into me over the past few weeks and stood up to repeat listens. One thing I like about Blinding Glow is that the players—the drummer and the guitarist in particular—are obviously strong, but not flashy. The drummer spends most of their time pounding out a perfect d-beat, though the crazy fill that ends “The Cold of Night” proves they could do a lot more than that if they wanted to. Likewise, the guitarist’s riffs are straightforward but meaty in all the right ways, and the leads that pop up in nearly every song are like 25% rock and roll, 75% Kawakami-style “nuclear rain,” a perfect proportion in my book. The vocals have a howling style, drenched in reverb and sitting toward the back of the mix, not drawing a ton of attention until the super catchy last track, “Doomed Life (The Cycle).” Maybe the straightforwardness of the execution here puts this in a “d-beat fanatics only” category, but even if that’s the case, the execution is so strong that those d-beat fanatics are sure to love it.

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