The Secret – Solve Et Coagula (Southern Lord, 2010)

The Secret dispense with the icy cold black metal aesthetic, instead churning up a hot, humid tropical depression. A fetid breeze wafts scents of sludge over arpeggiated darkness with “Cross Builder,” and we get our first glimpses of the boiling demonic voice that will narrate this tempest. The offshore winds slowly gain strength before engulfing you in a teeming downpour of rage with “Death Alive.” Here the curious nature of this music fully reveals itself; the Secret are a perfect storm of hardcore riffs doused in dissonant darkness, tossed with frenetic drumming that shifts between thunderous hammering and bludgeoning blastbeats.

Tracks like “Weathermen” bring occasional lulls from the lashing blackness, slowing enough to let pools of viscous ooze flood the landscape. “Eve of the Last Day” brings a rare bit of tremolo-picked siren's call, certainly evoking Black Anvil before beckoning us to smash everything in sight with a doomy stomp. ”War Desire” follows a similar path, calling our attention to a minor keyed melody that floats above the tune before dragging us down into an atonal slaughter.

Marco Coslovich's vocals lead us into a cathartic cyclone of anger, taking aim at religion, society, war and the egregious excess of modern life. We're encouraged to burn it all down and walk away. The album's title invokes a dictum of medieval Alchemy, literally imploring us to “separate and join together” or “dissolve and coagulate.” I suspect this sentiment is in no way conciliatory; there's nothing redeemable about our world. In “Pursuit of Discomfort,” Mr. Coslovich informs us that “The only choice that we're free to make is to find the right circle of hell.”

Forged in their native Italy but recorded by Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studio, Solve Et Coagula is gorgeously produced. Michael Bertoldini's char-broiled guitar tone has a guttural gravitas that unsurprisingly sparks thoughts of Converge. Enrico Uliana's bass pulsates with distortion and adds heft to Tommaso Corte's rhythmic siege. Through it all, Marco Coslovich spews vitriolic diatribes in a voice that is nothing short of filthy.

Hardcore has made many new incursions into metal of late, but this experiment appeals to me much more than the endless splicing and dicing of Entombed DNA. Solve Et Coagula's appeal is immediate and visceral; I want to throw wide my arms and let this storm of anger wash over me. Now come tour the United States, please.


The Secret Myspace


Streetwalker, Flourishing, Unmen – October 19th – The Charleston, Brooklyn

I'm working on a theory that local grindcore shows are always fun, whether or not you're familiar with the bands and their music at all. My initial motivation to come out on this night was to see Flourishing, whose A Momentary Sense of the Immediate World EP is still one of my favorite albums of the year. A brief survey of the other bands on Myspace revealed an array of thrashing grind goodness. I was sold. In terms of promotion, Catbomb has been putting together some badass shows lately, so this was ultimately a no-brainer.

Death Mold, first on the bill, canceled at the last minute, taking with them all the mildewed witticisms I had in store. In their place we got a micro-set from GetOverHere!, an Unmen side-project inspired by a deep love of Mortal Kombat and its assorted finishing moves. Sporting a straight ahead, classic grind sound with a bit of brutality, GetOverHere! cranked out brief blasts of thudding riffage and growled gurgles. It was a perfect warm-up for the evening and an excellent performance for a last minute save.

Unmen unleashed a cacophonous grinding assault, shattering ear drums and getting some decent action from the surprisingly large crowd. While the band bowled austere riffage and gutterball grooves, vocalist Timm Sparks flew straight over the cuckoo's nest. The guy punched himself in the face repeatedly with the microphone while issuing demented screams in a stunning display of non-restraint. At one point he forsook amplification altogether, tearing across the room, screaming uncontrollably. Turns out he didn't need a PA after all.

Unmen choose a more dissonant take on classic grind, sprouting thrash vibes and power-violent overtones. Bass player Josh Walton jumps in on the vocals to expand the band's vile vocal palate while Marco Caruso leads the band down rhythmic paths that beg you to dance. Their set was certainly fun; I was compelled to pick up the band's demo afterward. Guitar player Jeremy Suria is also an incredible artist. I bought a pile of stickers and a T-shirt with some crazy illustrations for dirt cheap. (I hear his artistry skills are for hire.)

The last time I saw Flourishing my evening was cut short by the gods of public transportation, so I was quite looking forward to a repeat performance. The band threw down a set of mostly new material, a bold move showcasing their creative momentum. Guitar player and vocalist Garett Bussanick also plays in Wetnurse, but it doesn't seem to have injured the flow of new ideas in Flourishing.

Flourishing thrive on rhythmic diversity, and these new tracks displayed the full force of their attack. Drummer Brian Corcoran extracted an absurd perfection from his massive kit with seeming ease. Eric Rizk hammered out bass lines that alternate between complex melodic counterpoint and rhythmic augmentation of the drumming. Garett Bussanick seems to have concocted a fresh set of riffs that slip and slide lithely between melody and discordance. His vocal performance is still a maniacally over-caffeinated trip, with careening howls augmented by some newly clean speaking/singing. “Snake Charmer,” closed out the set as the sole crushing representative of their debut EP. I'm dying to hear their upcoming full length. Look for that to explode next year.

Streetwalker are out on tour, having successfully survived their trip from Seattle. Their punk inflected, thrashing grind assault is shockingly coherent and entertaining. Streetwalker feature a triple vocal attack; guitar player Chris Napolitano and Bassist Brandon Curry both toss in yells while Jacqui Alberts takes the lead with throat ripping screams. The band promised a “delicious set” and delivered the flavor, opening with “We Can't Win”off their latest album, Revelling In The Din of Humanity. I picked up the CD after the show, and it's absolutely worth checking out.

The inebriated crowd was a sloppy moshing mess. Several fine fellows appeared to actually be wrestling on the floor, their heads narrowly missing the steel beams that hold up the bar above. Jacqui Alberts' flying dreads formed a shield in front of the band, holding the raucous mob at bay. Folks felt free to scream out ridiculous requests, including a repeated call for a cover of “Dream Weaver.” It didn't happen.

Several songs were prefaced with explanations. “Pine Box,” a killer track, is about a man who hangs himself after being falsely accused of rape. Another song was about being locked up in the mental ward of a Seattle hospital. Good times.

Joe Rizzi carved a deadly rhythmic swath with his drumming, leading a charge that often swerved into realms of death metal to my ears. These tunes are entertainingly eclectic without sounding desultory. I heard strains of everything from Napalm Death to Obituary to waves of hardcore punk. It was in fact a vicious and delicious dish. Streetwalker are definitely worth your time. Their North American tour continues back west for another couple of weeks. Catch them if you can.


Krallice, Infernal Stronghold, Concussion – October 7th – Shea Stadium, Brooklyn

I was there for the last wretched game at Shea Stadium in Queens, lost by the Mets in pathetic, soul-crushing style. Although that blue and orange monstrosity of memory is bulldozed and paved over, some masochistic music lovers in Brooklyn have adopted the name for their performance and recording space. Located in the same industrial isthmus as The Acheron, Shea Stadium inhabits a second floor loft and matches a decent sound setup with a cozy, lived-in and mostly unfinished atmosphere.

Concussion sound great on tape; their Dried Blood EP (available for free on BandCamp) is sweet mix of Gothenburg-spiced thrash and hardcore rage. In person they didn't sound quite as articulate, but every bit as powerful. Lead guitarist/vocalist Blake looks like a metal postcard from 1982 with his snarling delivery and bobbing mop. Bass player/vocalist Bones played so hard that he actually broke a string. In all my years of concert experiences, I've never seen anyone break a bass string. Members of the crowd were moshing as if seeking a concussion of their own. The PA speakers at Shea Stadium sit directly on the low stage and don't offer the fidelity of an overhead rig, but the band muscled through with style. Concussion are a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from them in the near future.

Infernal Stronghold took the stage next with 40 oz. bottles of Olde English and Colt 45 in hand. Although I came late to the game, I'm a big fan of the band's 2009 full length, Godless Noise. Infernal Stronghold peddle over-the-top, blasphemous and crude black metal with thrashing punk overtones. Although the band hadn't played a show since May, they were surprisingly cogent, if not sober. Infernal Stronghold ride the absolute edge of madness, emanating chaotic mayhem from a stage that could barely contain them. The massive alcohol consumption didn't seem to affect the band's blistering attack, but the stage banter did degenerate into complete incomprehensibility.

Infernal Stronghold played a couple of excellent new songs, one of which I believe was called “Infestation Obsession Possession,” or some such absurdity. Vocalist and guitarist Eddie Chainsaw introduced another new track, purported to be about dying before the age of thirty, and followed it up with gratuitously powerful belches into the microphone. Godless Noise tracks like “A Dog You Call God” and “Fuck 'Thou Shalt Culture'” ripped just as hard as the recorded versions. As the band closed out the set, drummer R.B.D. signed off with “if you think the show sucked, you can eat our shorts.” Yes, Infernal Stronghold bring the good times and show you don't need corpse paint to be clowns. I'm quite looking forward to new music and further live performances from these guys.

Krallice are the rare band that engage your mind as much as your ears. A census of my CD collection would show that Krallice and Dimensional Bleedthrough have been played far more than any other albums on the shelves in the last year. No matter how many times I spin these things, I always become cognitively absorbed in the listening experience. On an emotional level, these songs evoke wistfulness and wonder, with stints of the raging empowerment good metal will engender.

The live Krallice experience is another thing altogether. With the exception of Colin Marston, I've got to know the guys in the band a decent bit; they're a relatively laid back lot. Put them on stage and they are transformed by the physical rigors of this music. The Mick Barr screaming death into the microphone bears little resemblance to the guy I know. My own reaction to this music is different in person. My head has no qualms about banging through an entire 14 minute song. Several times on this night, I suddenly became self-conscious of the air guitar I was involuntarily shredding.

Krallice hadn't played live in six months, but it didn't show at all. “Aridity” kicked things off with a shower of feedback and gargantuan swing before gliding across impossible planes of mutant melody. Lev Weinstein quickly settled into the absurd gait of the song that would last a quarter of an hour. His performance was a sight to behold unto itself, as always. Colin Marston and Nick McMaster sport swivel necks while tapping out arachnid patterns on their instruments. Mick Barr disappears behind a wall of hair and emerges only to emit inhuman shrieks.

Two excellent new tracks followed, one of which had never been played live before. The new songs frequently feel familiar, but also display new dynamic directions for Krallice. There's no indication the band will stop evolving their sound in the near future. This was followed by the impossibly complicated “Energy Chasms,” which shows off one of the rare bits of Krallice guitar work you might be inclined to call a guitar solo. Another esoteric new track closed out the set before the band was called back out for an encore by a chant of their name. The blasting brief might of “The Mountain” brought the evening to an end, with Nick McMaster howling into the microphone and possessed of demonic fortitude as he pounded out the hyper-speed bass lines.

After the show, Krallice packed up to ship out to the Fall Into Darkness fest in Portland. They don't have any upcoming tour plans that I know of. Let's hope we get that new album soon.

Suren of f.666 has an excellent set of photos from this show here.


Wormrot, Defeatist, Mutant Supremacy, Psychic Limb and Curandera – October 3rd – The Acheron, Brooklyn

Metal is sprouting out of every rancid nook and cranny of New York City. On Sunday night, grindcore spewed from a joint called The Acheron, and it was another in a long line of venues I've not yet patronized. Situated in a veritable warehouse wasteland in Brooklyn, The Acheron closely resembles the trash compactor of the Death Star. The deep, narrow room has high ceilings and claustrophobia-inducing walls. The concrete floor is ideal for life threatening mosh pits, replete with a strange side door that opens directly into the melée. At some point during the night, the place started to fill up with water. No shitting. On the bright side, The Acheron has a nice, high stage and an excellent sound system. In a world of brutal basement shows, those last two features rank The Acheron amongst the elite.

Curandera blasted us with a dazzling display of muckified grind, frequently shifting velocity and generally making good use of the high quality sonic accoutrements. Next, Psychic Limb devoured every inch of the narrow stage with a cacophonous and spastic noise attack. Singer Brian Montuori's antics teased out smiles from the rapidly expanding and imbibing crowd. The band's vicious and intriguing tunes incited a pit into which I accidentally stepped. One quick taste of the brick wall was enough for me. I retreated to safer ground, but there's not much in the way of secure real estate at The Acheron.

Between the first two sets I made the acquaintance of Mutant Supremacy's gregarious front man, Sam Awry, as well as drummer Robert Nelson. No rock star bullshit here – just nice guys willing to talk it up with fans. No one seemed the least bit phased by the insertion of killer death metal into the middle of a genuine grind-fest. Infinite Suffering is still in heavy rotation, so I was really looking forward to this set.

Mutant Supremacy made good on the promise of their recorded music, absolutely annihilating the crowd with a hypnotic performance. “Extinction” started things off full throttle, instantly giving my neck a workout and demanding I scream along. Mutant Supremacy didn't have the most articulate mix from the soundboard. I would have liked to hear a bit more of Sam Awry's guitar in there, but it didn't detract from the destruction.

The set transported me back a good fifteen years to my early concert going days. The ripping death metal vibe reminded me of shows at long-closed clubs with line-ups chock-full of shredded carnage; Mutant Supremacy would have fit right in. I felt the same drooling jealous awe I did as a kid, witnessing professional musicians rip off complex riffs without breaking a sweat. Mutant Supremacy kill.

The Mutant Supremacy pit raged unchecked and reached its apex when the band tore into a cover of Death's “Zombie Ritual.” The guy in the Scream Bloody Gore shirt was certainly pleased. I don't have the slightest idea why Mutant Supremacy aren't signed to a label and touring the world amongst the elite.

Speaking of elite, Defeatist ratcheted up the evening's absurdity with a mind blowing display of grind warfare. The Acheron seems built to channel the sonic ethos of three-piece bands. Defeatist sounded infinitely clearer than they did when I saw them last at Cake Shop. Once again, Joel Stallings stole the entire evening with an ungodly display of drumming. He and Josh Scott comprise the most dynamic and explosive rhythm section you'll find anywhere. (Incidentally, the duo have an incredible side project called Radiation Blackbody that showcases those dynamics.) Aaron Nichols' vocals weren't particularly high in the mix, but his deceptively complicated guitar riffs sang loud and clear. The slide-stepping slaughter of “Death Holds Her Brood” sent the crowd into hysterics. Righteous.

Finally, Wormrot burnt the Acheron to the ground. Everything about this set was twice as precise, twice as fast, and twice as potent as the Bowery Electric show in September. A month on the road has transformed Wormrot into an inhuman grind machine. The crowd was berserk throughout the entire set, stage diving and otherwise beating the hell out of each other. The claustrophobic confines of The Acheron were magnified, as if someone had switched on the Death Star trash compactor in an attempt to grind us to bits.

The split with I Abhor again comprised a good chunk of the setlist, with a sweet selection of Abuse tracks rounding out the menu. The new song Wormrot debuted last month has coagulated into a thing of beauty. The band played for a good long while, leaving a bruise that will not soon fade. By now their tour is over and the 'rot are on their way back to Singapore. Safe travels, come back soon.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of visual aides. I managed to leave my camera at home on this night. I'm not sure I would have caught anything but a blur, in any case. The kind folks at Brooklyn Vegan have risked their lives to lovingly document this show on film, so check that out over here.


Black Anvil, The Absence, Ipsissimus – September 28th, The Studio at Webster Hall, NYC

I was more than a little bit curious and concerned about this show. Put on by corporate sponsors as part of a new “Metal Night” showcase, I wondered what strings might be attached. Additionally, entrance could be gained by buying the new Black Anvil CD from Best Buy (in-store or online). Although this meant the show was essentially “free,” would this sales gimmick keeps fans away from Black Anvil's record release gig? The answer to that is no, plenty of people showed. Ultimately, the only oddity of this evening was the lineup, but the proceedings ended in complete victory for the hometown trio.

Walking up to Webster Hall, I was stunned to find a large crowd and a line of people down the block. Had Black Anvil really broken through like this? Not quite – I realized these folks were queued up for British alterna-yodelers James, who were playing in the main room at Webster. The Studio was modestly full at this point, but that would change. The only sign of corporate influence was a pile of Scion detritus that is no uncommon sight at metal shows these days. From a fan's point of view, no further corporate tithe was required to enjoy the evening.

The first band to plug in was Ipsissimus, from Connecticut. I had checked out the band's music on Myspace and was quite impressed. In addition, Mick Barr of Krallice had recommended their egregiously blasphemous brand of black metal a few weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, these guys were recently signed to Metal Blade and are working on their debut album.

Ipsissimus have no lack of charisma. Bass player and vocalist Tichondrius is a frothing fount of bile but also displays a keen sense of humor. This is blasphemy for blasphemy's sake. Guitar player Ryan Adams (AKA His Emissary) maintains a head-down stage presence as he unleashes a tremolo picked storm. Drummer Haimatokharmes (!?) put in a preposterous performance, managing to keep up the grueling pace with panache. These songs are entertaining, bouncy affairs with quite a bit of icy melodic dynamism. In their finer moments, Ipsissimus evoke glorious thoughts of Dissection.

One oddity of the show was that each band seemed to have an equally large time-slot. Ipsissimus played for a good 40 minutes, and their set only dragged a bit during some extended instrumental passages. Ryan Adams' guitar tone was a bit thinner than on the recordings I heard; Ipsissimus might benefit from some additional guitar layering on stage, especially during solos. I picked up the band's excellent 2008 EP, The Three Secrets of Fatima, and I'll certainly be looking forward to their full length on Metal Blade.

The Absence were the odd men out. The band has always been of borderline interest to me, but as my tolerance for melodic death metal has declined over the last decade, that interest has faded. Be that as it may, I still wanted to see the band play live. The Absence have a new album out and have evidently been on the road playing new material to receptive ears. The crowd on this evening was mostly passive, but at the very least they were polite. Front man Jamie Stewart seems to thrive on energy, and he wasn't getting any from the audience. He let everyone know that, tossing out thinly veiled barbs about the crowd's concrete feet. To the credit of the concertgoers, this situation didn't devolve into catcalls or taunting. The band pulled off a decent set, playing a wide array of tunes while sounding taut and precise. I felt that the mix didn't do justice to the crunchy tone of their albums, but at least the guitars were audible (see Arsis' failure in this regard at the same venue).

Black Anvil opened their set with a startling cover of Von's “Veadtuck” (from their 1992 Satanic Blood demo). The soaring, sibylline instrumental was a perfect herald for the chaos to follow. This would be my fourth convocation with the Black Anvil triumvirate, and it was definitely the best. The mix at The Studio was auditory perfection. Gary Bennett's guitar sported its full tonal malignancy and each note was discernible. These guys always manage to tease the best sound out of a venue.

The Triumvirate tracks sounded fresh, precise and full of energy. “Angels To Dust” was absolutely pummeling and set off a raging pit in the now full venue. The song is a good example of the synergistic dynamics that drive Black Anvil. Paul Delaney may command your full attention with his manic bass attack and vicious screams, but when Gary Bennett steps up to trade off some bellowing vocals, you know that this is a team effort.

Black Anvil possess a hypnotic stage presence. Paul Delaney plays his bass as if it were a spitting cobra, and this life and death battle dominates your consciousness. Raeph Glicken is fixed with a terrifying glare as he unleashes devastating bombardments. Black Anvil beckon you to lose control, and under the thrall of their rhythmic assault, people do. For the first time in a good long while, I was compelled to take off my glasses and jump in the pit. It was worth the danger of dismemberment.

Black Anvil present an intense and cathartic concert experience. Tracks like “Dead and Left” and “Transparent” sit perfectly alongside older affairs to slake your metal thirst. If anything, the set was entirely too short for a headlining act, but such are the rules of “Metal Night.” I expect Black Anvil to win over an army of new fans when they head out on tour with Watain next month. Be there.



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