Embracing the Descent: May 2 – 8, 2021

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Two weeks in a row with this thing. Maybe we make it three? We’ll see, but I told you that bottle of Russell’s Reserve wouldn’t go to waste. This year is the year that artists are making a splash even though the world is still in this hell of a mess we’ve been in for…too long. Read up, listen up, and try these on for size and don’t forget to check out the full listing from Monday’s Initial Descent.

Herzschlager - All the Nights Are Done

What to do when your normal band of bearded riffsters is on a forced hiatus due to this shitty thing called Covid? You form a duo based on a shared love of punk, hardcore, and d-beat, hammer beers, and call it Herzschlager. Which is exactly what Tom Ballard and Alan Cordner of bearded beasts Allfather did. 5 tracks and a shitload of piss and venom comprise this EP of frustration and anger and the need to just do…something. All The Nights Are Done can be viewed several different ways if you’re looking for an academic definition, but here the only thing that matters is getting in, wrecking shit, and getting out. “Unstoppable Herz” is a steamroller of aggressive riffs and a do or die DIY punk attitude while “Blood Sick” saddles up close to hair of the dog after a long night out and a long night ahead of terrorizing stages and neighborhoods. “Rollin’ Bones” gets the Disfear led out and the self titled closer stomps and snorts much like an Allfather track after a hit of speed. These tracks fly by in part because, well, they’re short but more than that because they’re a shit ton of fun and remind me of the old days of cueing up Fear or Discharge and shotgunning beers with my closest friends. And for that reason alone, Herzschlager is on to something here. Their main band’s slogan is Beards. Metal. Fuck You. and this, all too fast EP, keeps that ethos alive and well. More please.

I love me some filthy sounding speed metal as much as the next guy that counts Motörhead and Venom as metal royalty. So, Quick and Dirty from German duo Poisöned Speed hit that sweet spot. This ‘album’ is a collection of six previously released demos with a fresh mastering job and two new tracks that speaks to speed freaks as much as it does fans of Lemmy. I mean, Tobster’s vocals are a damn near reflection of Lemmy in the early days and honestly no one would be blamed for thinking this isn’t a collection of long lost Motörhead tracks. My Lemmy and Co. fan ears perked up to nearly every track but then there’s the whole ‘shitty bathroom recordings’ vibe of early Venom to process which really is a plus for speed metal in general, the shittier sounding the better in my opinion. A few choice Charlie Manson words and hell, we’ve got a banger here. Breakout tracks like “Crash and Burn” and “Speed Will Succeed” are the soul of nasty speed metal and show a band with a ton of promise. And, honestly there’s nothing wrong with aping Motörhead and Venom everywhere else when you twist your own nuances out of it (“Fistfights Under Neon Lights”) and put some damn hot sauce and rock your ass off on it (“Ale Jammer”). Being a fan of the aforementioned bands and minus any output from them, I’m all in for Poisöned Speed. They’ve got balls and a deep seated knack for the kind of speed metal/rock that’s perfect for smashing whiskey by the gallon to which I’m all here for.

The path Vokonis have travelled since their stoner/sludge/doom debut Olde One Ascending to their impending fourth full length, Odyssey, has really been a great path to travel along with them. And, a path that has seen them come into their own in a way we rarely see, or rather, we rarely see as successful as this. Odyssey is an album as refreshing as a light summer breeze through its classic ‘progressive rock in a huge arena’ sound and as heavy as a muggy, southern August night through the band’s sludgy doom foundation. Throughout their history, the perfect marriage of these two sounds has been elusive, but now comes to excellent fruition. Simon Ohlsonn’s vocals have never sounded better as he shows a very well-rounded handle on the cleans, see the title track for an early clue and the open-the-sunroof-and-sing-at-full-volume feel of “Azure.” Long time fans will be happy to hear that the first half of the album is loaded with the kind of bruisers you’d expect from Vokonis, but with a higher level of experimentation than we’ve been accustomed to. Where things really get interesting is “Hollow Waters” with one foot in endearing classic rock and one foot in truly progressive music, and it really is bliss for this listener. Sky high solos, vocals with tons of heart, groove for days, and riffs you could retire on. All that and there’s still the epic length closer “Through the Depths” which pulls out even more of this newfound relationship in a way that never retreads their past and never glorifies anything other than what Vokonis is after here. Which in my opinion, is to be one of the best progressive metal/rock acts out today. Yea, I know, progressive metal has become a ‘let’s hide here since no other tag fits’ kind of deal, but this band has truly progressed and will continue to do so as long as they’re making music. If you want the best example and proof of the high praise I’m layering on, go back to that closer and really listen…and again…and again, then give the entire album another run through. YES, there it is—I told you. For me, this is the best they’ve ever sounded and selfishly I want them to stick to this exact sound, but I know that wherever they tread next will be at least this stunning. Meanwhile, catch me on a beach somewhere jamming this at full volume and getting a mean sunburn while I let the rough side of this world, and current state of said world, just melt away.

These last two weeks have been fun, at least for me, so hopefully something here will stick, but if not, I’m sure you’ll find something to occupy your time and lighten your wallet. Anyway, until next time…

Josh

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