Written a decade before Jon Schafer of Iced Earth attacked the U.S. Capitol, though apparently he did appear on Alex Jones’s conspiracy show in 2011, which might have clued me in to his Proud Boyish proclivities had I been paying attention. (Runs in the family, apparently — he told Jones his dad was a Bircher.) Below, he’s unfortunately not alone – Most obviously, Varg Vikernes was a legendary, uh, western chauvinist before western chauvinism was cool. And Iceage were at least known to dabble in proto-fascist iconography now and then. As for Cradle of Filth? Nachtblut? I dunno; you tell me.
Black Tusk, Set The Dial
Playing heavily rhythmic, butchershop-riffed metal, but yelling like punks (low voice sorta early Black Flag and high voice sorta Dropkick Murphys, usually with An! Exclamation! Point! On! Every! Word!), these Savannah Baroness cronies keep things concise, by metal if not hardcore standards – ten songs, almost all around three or four minutes. The tracks assume creative stop-and-start structures, grind speedily here and sludgily there and oily always, and boom like old Swans toward the end of “Carved In Stone.” But does “Bring Me Darkness” go “Six! Six! Six!,” or “Sick! Sick! Sick!”? Or both?
Boris, Attention Please
Probably the least aggressive, most atmospheric music these Japanese iconoclasts have coughed up, Attention Please is mainly a vehicle for the sleepy, breathy, Björky, ricepaper-thin murmuring of lady guitarist Wata. She’s always in forefront, variously mixed atop billowing trancetronics (title cut), flushed-toilet machine swirls (“See You Next Week”), and reverberating lounge pulsastions (“You.”) Even the guitars tend toward shoegaze-metal, though “Tokyo Wonder Land” punctuates its relaxation session with buzzsaw noise spurts, and “Les Paul Custom ‘68” gets some blurry glam-punk gurgle going.
Boris, Heavy Rocks
Not to be confused with either Boris’s 2002 album with the same title or their Attention Please album released on the same 2011 day, this slab o’ sludge opens with a lowdown monster-riffed downer pounder called “Riot Sugar”, then oozes from there: Sabbath chords wed to hardcore hoots and hollers, mournful funeral croons exploding rocketship-like into the stratosphere, modernized drag-race rock slowing to a standstill under kitsch “doo doo doo”s, maddeningly sluggish plod-metal disintegrating into the Radiohead ozone. To close, “Czechoslovakia” accelerates from classic doom to murderous thrash.
From hopefully reformed murderer and church-burner Varg Vikernes, now two years out of the slammer, another sickly slab of one-jerk-band elevator metal. After a brief, gurgling winter-forest intro, six subsequent extended tracks key around simple mulched-and-ringing guitar figures, submerged but repeated ad nauseam amid exasperated Norwegian whispering and retching. In the ten-minute “Budstikken,” an almost lovely pagan-chant section gives way to rock riffs. Then the set closes with an apparent drum circle, coming off what sounds like Indonesian mallet instruments recorded four islands away.
Cauldron, Burning Fortune
Young Toronto trio Cauldron dedicates itself to metal’s lost early ‘80s, when thrash and glam bands hadn’t yet gone separate ways, and low-rent burnouts in jean jackets imagined themselves stomping like Hannibal’s pachyderms across the Pyrenees. Between over-the-top Flying V solos as pretty as they are speedy, and borderline tongue-in-cheek lyrics shrieked clear enough to highlight every teen-anthemic cliché, this might be metal’s catchiest album in eons. Most prominent topic is girls — “Miss You To Death” is a hilariously mythic, astoundingly melodic breakup song. And the titles of “Queen Of Fire,” “Taken By Desire,” and the implausible “Frozen In Fire” all rhyme. (Rolling Stone)
Chelsea Grin, My Damnation
On their second album, this outwardly infuriated Utah outfit conforms in a paradoxically well-behaved manner to mandates of the deathcore genre. Their curse-spewing vocal signature trades off rumbling low grumbles (the torturer?) with high piercing shrieks (the tortured?); three credited guitarists rarely feel like more than one, though “Kharon” makes for a pastoral interlude, and some chiming toward the end of “Last Breath” gives the moshing mulch some room to breathe. Then they close with “All Hail the Fallen King,” in which Whitechapel’s Phil Bozeman ups the intensity level a smidgen.
Chickenfoot, Chickenfoot III
Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith have no problem finding a groove on Chickenfoot III, the confusingly titled second album by their Cabo Wabo hobby turned globetrotting alliance. These old-schoolers remember when hard rock meant funky chunky stuff with misogynistic machismo on top, so brontosaurus burgers like “Alright Alright” and “Up Next” turn soul rhythms heavy. But the band plods more than pushes, and the riffs stick but the songs generally don’t. The talked-not-sung unemployment report “Three and A Half Letters” and gas-guzzling road-burner “Big Foot” get by, though–It’s hard to hate such big-boned butt-rock from geezers clearly making it because they still love the form. (Rolling Stone)
Cradle Of Filth, Evermore Darkly
From these corpse-painted Hot Topic ghoulies, an eight-cut, 40-minute-plus stack of rarities and remixes. It opens with a staticky late-night-radio call-in about Siberian oil-drillers encountering “sounds from Hell,” then gets kitschier from there, tempering all its demon-and-witch cat-fighting with plenty of Brit-accented Masterpiece Theatre declamation. Notable moments include medieval moans and AOR crunch riffs opening “The Persecution Song”; an electrotrance-dance reboot of the confession-boothed “Forgive Me Father,” and some concluding haunted house program music, “Summer Dying Fast.”
Cynic, Carbon-Based Anatomy
Two years after their second album and 17 after their first, Florida’s prototype prog-death crew deliver six songs in under 25 minutes that suggest they’ve mostly purged the metal from their systems, give or take brief heavy embellishments in, say, “Elves Beam Out.” But there’s plenty of fusion intricacy and ethno-beat airiness, nodding to the middle (“Bija!”) and far (“Amidst The Coals”) east and, supposedly, the Amazon rainforest. Vocals are relaxed throughout; rhythms occasionally electronic. And in closer “Hieroglyph,” guest songstress Amy Correia recites a few “shamanic” new age thoughts.
Danava, Hemisphere Of Shadows
Keeping most songs right around the five-minute mark, this paradiddle-loving Portland math-metal bunch make their third full-length an onslaught of sections within sections, little riffs hidden inside big ones. Gregory Meleney’s vocals float airy and nasal á la an aging Ozzy, and his and Andrew Forgash’s guitars certainly have their heavy stoner moments – notably in the title track. A couple mid-album tracks also add some extended Heep/Purple cathedral organ, out of a dusky sort of Western prairie feel in “The Last Goodbye.” But hooks you’ll remember aren’t what you’d call Danava’s priority.
Dixie Witch, Let It Roll
Even with a new guitarist, this Texas trio demonstrate that they might’ve had the riffs and rhythm to hold their own against boogie brontosauri back on ‘70s farm pastures. They rock chunky and filthy as buffalo chips throughout, and “Red Song” socks the jaw of any geek who claims they’re not metal enough. But the vocals too often feel piped in from down the hall, and where your Foghats and Blackfoots really had these guys beat is in the melody department – though mullet ballad “The High Deal” and road-dogged “We’re An American Band” rip “Anthem” give it a good shot. More cowbell couldn’t hurt.
Earth, Angels Of Darkness Demons Of Light I
Still dirging to the moon and back but not distorting half as much as in the old daze, these drone-doom titans open slow then get slower. But the first few cuts here feel, well, down-to-earth regardless, mainly because their gradually shifting minor-key metal-gaze seems constructed out of rustic reverberations and dusky twang that hark back to spaghetti westerns, maybe even Link Wray, with enough quiet space to hear the cymbals tinkling. As the tracks draw out longer, though (ultimately peaking above 20 minutes), be prepared for your eyelids to get heavy – though not necessarily in a bad way.
Earth Crisis, Neutralize the Threat
On their second album back in action after an eight-year ’00s hiatus, Syracuse’s straight-edgers sound typically ticked off — or at least Karl Buechner does, given his PETA-inspired praying-to-porcelain-god horror-thuggy tirades about capitalism, biological weapon attacks, parasites and vileness, and self-preservation. For a vegan, he sure does have a low-fiber throat. Still, the stars here are guitarists Scott Crouse and Erick Edwards, who temper the band’s thick-necked heavycore with all manner of surprising surf, psych, soundtrack and wah-wah licks.
Elder, Dead Roots Stirring
Monster drum grooves (reportedly slammed out on an enormous John Bonham-style kit) and verdant, searching soloing sets this power trio apart from most Sabbath-doom types: In some ways, they’re more a heavy hippie band, stretching out every one of their second album’s five elongated (8:43 to 11:56) songs with blues-based jam interplay that mimics the album art’s drug-dream vistas, and occasionally blasts into a deep-space black hole. In parts of the title track they even sound like the mid ‘80s, Dead-and-Neil-Young-infused Meat Puppets – perhaps absorbed via Elder’s fellow Boston boy J. Mascis.
Fantomas, The Director’s Cut Live: A New Year’s Revolution
Mike Patton and fellow tricksters ring out the old and in the new on stage, drawing the first 15 of 18 selections from 2001’s Director’s Cut, which was all reverent-to-mangled remakes of mostly instrumental themes from scary, suspenseful, and/or supernatural movies and TV shows from the ‘20s (Der Golem) to ‘90s (Twin Peaks). So: plenty of blips, blurps, oinks, grunts, whispering, screeching, fritzing, flatulence, and door-creaking, with occasionally grindcored eerie olde-world tuneage tossed in. To close, they follow a punchline-less riddle with noisy joke covers of Al Green and T. Rex songs.
Freedom Hawk, Holding On
These Virginians mine stoner-doom waddle for hot momentum, melancholy warmth and sticky tunes galore. T.R. Morton’s high Ozzyesque vibrato helps a lot, but so do twin axes that balance delectably dirty tone with heaven-bound uplift, and the dynamics with which gears suddenly switch into bulldozer Budgie beats. “Zelda” is some gorgeously wordless rustic psych, too. But stick around for “Bandito”’s border dope-trade Zappabilly, “Flat Tire”’s whinnying guitar break, “Faded”’s Gregorian-dirged early-Aerosmith space-trip metal, and the supremely confident and climactic speed-closer “Indian Summer.”
Gates Of Slumber, The Wretch
This is the sort of Brobdignagian power-plod you never imagined could come from Indianapolis – super-sized melodies set to wobbling walrus-blubber doom riffs straight out of Saint Vitus, with downcast vocal howls sometimes stumbling into deep La Brea Tar Pits of reverb or making way for strange Moogy electronic breaks. Gates Of Slumber have no problem going the hard-charging NWOBHM route (“Coven Of Cain”), but more often prefer to keep things depressive and nocturnal, as in the ten-ton suicide note “Day of Farewell” and “Iron & Fire,” an even heftier album closer that lasts almost 13 minutes.
Gentlemans Pistols, At Her Majesty’s Pleasure
James Atkinson is an efficiently howling blooze-rock he-man, but what makes these Brits exciting is their playing – especially when drum breaks funk out like metal hasn’t in eons, in hard-swingers like “The Ravisher.” They open at a Sabbath/Free midnight-crawler midtempo, structuring concentric riffs into tough stomps. But before long they’re racing into Thin Lizzy tromp-and-roll overdrive in “Your Majesty,” tripping out like ‘71 Alice Cooper in “Into The Haze,” conjuring Dust’s scorched prehistoric street-boogie in “Sherman Tank.” “Lethal Woman,” finally, ends it all with a jam taking flight.
Iceage, New Brigade
From four Danish teens tripping over each other and speeding up when their trigger fingers get itchy, here are 12 songs totaling about 23 minutes. But this isn’t hardcore. Concision or no, the closest “punk” precedent might be Killing Joke – for the somber moods, staggering march-steps, repetitive structures, and metallic chord progressions. Low, exasperated Euro-accents are buried in barely produced blur, monotoned through congested adenoids, and indecipherable save for pessimistic titles (“Rotting Heights,” “Total Drench,” “Collapse”) that serve as hooks of a sort – as do occasional coughs.
Iced Earth, Dystopia
Florida’s most famous Viking rockers deliver a concept album – and maybe surprisingly, it involves single moms, homeless folks, and interplanetary aliens who get off on “filling our heads with false identities” and leaving us “imprisoned in celestial space.” The plot’s hard to follow, of course, and its weight is even harder to bear. But at the end, some microchips get removed and the resistance prevails over the dystopia after all. The music, naturally, is power-metal that marches and flexes muscles throughout, breaking ranks with one crooned power ballad and a couple speedy concise slammers.
In Flames, Sounds Of A Playground Fading
Given the seeming breakup-song bent of several lyrics (inspirational verse: “You never understand me! And I don’t care what you think! Or maybe I do!”), the “playground” in these once-death-metallic Swedes’ tenth album title doesn’t seem to signify abandoned jungle gyms so much as a loss Glen Campbell once lamented in “Where’s The Playground Susie.” Decorated in minor-key-melodic intros and on-and-off electronic body beats, In Flames sound pretty sad all through – also pretty samey, though it’s sort of special when they enter extreme hermit mode in “The Attic” and the talked “Jester’s Door.”
King Mob, Force 9
These mostly 60something London tailfeather-shakers – including guitar god Chris Spedding and Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers – show pub-punk upstarts like Jim Jones Revue how it’s done, with nasty but nimble boogiebilly chops in the tradition of Link Wray, the Yardbirds, Dr. Feelgood, and recent Jace Everett. They’re old enough to know how to temper heavy blues knuckle-dragging with jazz smoke and Sun Studios echo. “Selene Selene” is a tough noirish stomp, “American Slaves” a hard-swung shuffle about Western decline. Then they end with some Diddley-beat space-train hoodoo about the band.
Lamb Of God, Resolution
As on its 2009 predecessor Wrath, the 2011 album by these Virginia death-metal lifers lurches and pounds within predictably prescribed perimeters. Given Elmer Fudd-enunciating Randy Blythe’s oppressive but orthodox screech-grunting at a world of lazy liars, it’s no shock that the most intriguing track is probably the drowsy, buzzing instrumental “Barbaroosa.” Still, the radio-friendly chorus of “Insurrection” lets some psychedelic melody seep in; “To The End” hides hard classic-rock swing under Blythe’s retch; and closer “King Me” mixes in Mozart motions, Latin lingo, and dusky monologues.
Mastodon, The Hunter
Over their first four studio albums, Georgia sludge-thrashers Mastodon grew increasingly conceptual, centering lyrics around the classical elements while expanding toward classical-movement songlengths. But after 2009’s grandiose Crack The Skye, The Hunter reigns things in: No songs over six minutes, and a straightforward, mostly midtempo attack comparable to post-grunge commercial rock. There are occasional moments of extreme eccentricity: the synthesized swamp-beast psych of “Creature Lives”; the off-kilter asteroid-belt metal of “Bedazzled Fingernails.” And “Spectrelight” is an over-the-top blitzkrieg. But the set mainly manages to demonstrate how contemporary radio rock can be still made with imagination, precision, and a majestic sense of force. (Rolling Stone)
Several of these 13 songs were once bonus tracks, downloads, or videogame placements. Yet the hodgepodge hangs together okay, partly thanks to lots of aging-Alice Cooper shtick: Notably in the multi-rhymed bad-guy tune “Public Enemy No. 1,” teen-angst tantrum “(Whose Life) Is It Anyways?,” and schlock horror story “Deadly Nightshade.” We get current events, too: global illuminati conspiracy theories in “We The People” and “New World Order”; Mexican cartels in “Guns, Drugs, & Money.” Plus some hot guitar – curiously Van Halen-like in spots; occasionally steamrolling, shredding, or psychedelic.
What makes this creepy-crawly Kraut crew stand above the black-metal pack are Teutonic symphonics and electronics – straight out of Rammstein, in many cases, with robotic beats jackbooting in their lederhosen (“Kreuzigung”); Gregorian chants and steeple bells that’d make Enigma cry (“Kreuzritter”); and all manner of stained-glass, high-mass, stations-of-the-crass production touches (“Gedenket Der Toten.”) Opening and closing cuts are quite catchy too. But the farther the music stays from metal, the better it is – though the hush-and-grumble vocals that suggest Gollum rapping are rather neat.
New Keepers Of The Water Towers, The Calydonian Hunt
For contemporary metal, this is both protean and meaty stuff. Arrangements take surprising turns but don’t out-wear their welcome: Four (of nine) tracks clock in under three minutes. And the rhythmic throb often retains a whiff of the blues, á la certain nuclear-caveman thrash bands (Carnivore, early Voivod) from the mid ‘80s. The vocals, nearly as tough to decipher when howling as when grunting, can be an Achilles Heel; too bad, since these Stockholmers’ alleged obsession with mythical beasts is a new twist. But cuts like chugging closer “The Sword In The Stone” hook you memorably regardless.
For ten albums, Stockholm quintet Opeth have been gradually opening up their sound, inching away from death-metal’s ogre-grumbled wall of terror. In recent years they’ve gravitated toward old-school prog-rock, complete with Renaissance folk interludes, jazz-fusion time signatures, and medieval organ passages. Heritage ups the ante, with unexpected energy and rhythm – “Slither,” especially, charges forward at the most optimistic overdrive this once doom-ridden band has ever allowed itself. Add woodwinds, boom-bap drums, middle-Eastern percussion, and cascading Celtic-to-flamenco-to-blues guitar beauty into the mathematically convoluted bricolage, and you’ve got a confident career record that reimagines prog as rock’n’roll, even while portentously insisting “God is dead.” (Rolling Stone)
Queensrÿche, Dedicated To Chaos
Opening with a long-term relationship song that might be the closest thing to a Stones rip they’ve ever done, and seemingly inspired from there by Extreme, INXS, early ‘80s Queen, and – no joke – Justin Timberlake, these prog-metal vets make a funk-rock record. And they don’t hide it – “Wot We Do” has Geoff Tate begging you to “put your hands in the air” on “the dancefloor.” He also pants a lot (in “Got It Bad,” “Higher,” “Drive”) about wanting to turn on hot women. Things get more subtle and protesty, and slightly heavier, toward the end. But mostly these old guys just wanna get down tonight.
Lou Reed And Metallica, Lulu
When Lou Reed and Metallica walked the wild side together on a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame anniversary stage in 2009, it seemed a one-off. But two years later, they’ve joined forces for a collaboration less ridiculous than you might expect. Metallica are prog-metal maximalists at heart, but on Lulu, the mode of elasticity is mostly the sort of high-decibel extended droning that the Velvet Underground learned from avant-minimalist composers: repetition, atonal overtones, traffic-jam audio verité.
Whatever their obvious differences, both acts have long had a thing for long songs. But here, three tracks break an 11-minute barrier Metallica’s never challenged before. Marathons like “Dragon” open buzzing gorgeously, emphasizing power-jangle guitars or 69-year-old Reed’s continuum fingerboard. Once the late-40s young’uns in Metallica start impatiently stomping, though, the synthesis can turn ponderous, incongruous; same thing happens whenever James Hetfield groans assent behind Reed’s already congested poetry recitations. But just as often, the band beefs up his pretension into something muscular.
The ambitious art-song cycle – written for a Berlin theater production, inspired by proto-expressionist Frank Wedekind’s turn-of-the-20th-Century German “Lulu” plays, declaimed from a female protagonist’s POV – revels in dominatrix decadence and bodily fluids (“a bleeding strap across my back…”); 44 years after “Venus In Furs,” the words won’t shock anybody, though they try. Fortunately, Reed’s reading is flat enough to get subsumed in the drone; you can ignore the plot if you want. And at a time when plenty of extreme metal opts for enraged ambient trance-out, his vocals are certainly more useful than your typical Cookie Monster vomit. (Rolling Stone)
Russian Circles, Empros
On their fourth album, you can totally tell this instrumental trio comes from Chicago. That’s where Tortoise and Sea And Cake came from, and Russian Circles’ metal machine Muzak basically rushes in circles like a louder, distorted version of the new agey so-called “post-rock” that those bands concocted back in the ‘90s. There’s plenty of bloodily valentined oceanic shoegaze, too, which aligns them with combos like Isis, Pelican, Cult Of Luna, and Red Sparrowes. In “Attackla,” they even manage some bombastic Glen Branca overtones. And in closer “Praise Be Man”, they finally murmur a few words.
Subtract the placid minute-and-a-half intro with drifting female vocal and the under-a-minute stoned-in-freshman-dorm monologue about how there’s enough stars up there for each of us to have our own world, and that leaves just four songs on these Arkansas avant-sludgers’ 2011 platter – all extremely long and intermittently psychedelic, with hysterical yowling and yapping that suggests a chupacabra caught in a bear trap alternating with occasional Middle Eastern melodies, backwards masking, nifty guitar solos, and drawn-out sad parts. At the end, somebody informs us that it was all a dream.
Saviours, Death’s Procession
Though they claim to be inspired by speedmetal’s early giants and flaunt negative production values to prove it, these Oakland throwbacks rarely keep their tempos fast for long – not even in the drum-rolled “God’s End,” which enters whiplashing like 1983 Metallica. But boy can they stomp like a barbiturate-hopped stegosaurus. “The Eye Obscene” and instrumental “Earth’s Possession and Death’s Procession” are seven-minute wonders of moon-cave ooze; “To The Grave Possessed” tops hearty ‘70s rock riffs with a manly chorus. Then “Walk to The Light” finishes it all by scaling Power Metal Mountain.
The Scorpions, Comeblack
With two venerable members both 62 and Kentucky drum and Polish bass recruits well into their 40s, Germany’s eternal hurricane-rockers opt for an easy way out of retirement: re-recording seven classics from 1980’s sleazy night on the town “The Zoo” to 1991’s Perestroika anthem “Wind Of Change,” then covering six songs made famous by British bands from the Stones to Soft Cell. Klaus Meine can’t shriek so high anymore, but Rudolf Schenker can still punch out riffs. And judging from the news sample in the T. Rex “Children Of The Revolution” remake, they were watching in 2011 when England rioted.
Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned, 30 Weight
For a macho-baritoned shotgun wedding of thick-plod doom metal (including a Saint Vitus cover) to roadhouse blues (in both the Doors and ZZ Top sense), this feels surprisingly goth — and not just ‘cause there’s a vampire song. Still, Smith flies his Carolina flag: names one track “South,” and ends honky-tonking two Jim-Beamed redneck outlaw numbers with lap steel and washboard. Add guitar intros that sound like 1993 Urge Overkill ripping ‘70s AOR (“Ride With Me”) and 1975 Pere Ubu dabbling in Sabbathoid psychedelics (“Born To The Highway”), and the Dixie Damned earn their motorcycle licenses.
Steel Panther, Balls Out
They dress like ‘80s hair-glamsters, but the sound and stance on these jerky spandex jokers’ second set owes just as much to recent strip-pole rock; Chad Kroeger’s guest spot is no mistake. Obsessions include Tiger Woods (“balls are gonna wind up in the rough”) and defiling groupies, both by slapping them around (once while requesting Chris Brown’s help) and spewing DNA across their backsides. Ron Jeremy also naturally gets a shoutout, there are two insincere power ballads, and “It Won’t Suck Itself” involves a groin-area rattlesnake bite. Hey, some people think Howard Stern is hilarious, too.
Strikemaster, Vicious Nightmare
Swiping moves from every bush-league ‘80s speed-metal also-ran you’ve long forgotten, this unusually accented Mexico City thrash squad gives it their all, though not so you can tell many songs apart – give or take the instrumental intro and outro, the latter of which wields an off-balance concentricity suggesting a police siren dueting with a child’s music box. “The Way To Na Trang,” apparently about Vietnam, at least adds martial drums, a bugle call followed by “chaaarge!!,” and a murderous pep-rally cheer. And now and then – most notably in “Inflexible Steel” – some comely shredding occurs.
Thulcrana, Under A Frozen Sun
Charging Goliath-like atop speedball blastbeats out of the icy wilderness (“Aeon Of Darkness,” “Life Demise”) or skulking amid a billowing storm while mourning your mortal soul (“In Blood And Fire”), these black-metal Germans have no interest in letting any light into their bleak midnight worldview. They do allow brief moments of melody, though – the title cut seems loosely based on some familiar classical theme. But mostly they moan and wretch and exhibit acid indigestion reminiscent of Tom G. Warrior’s old burping fits. Their “Gates Of Eden” lasts nine minutes – way longer than Dylan’s.
Tia Carrera, Cosmic Priestess
Unlike most 2010s instro-metal, there’s nothing “post” rock about this improvising Austin trio. They could be back on a 1969 mud festival stage, blasting heavy Groundhogs or Santana fusion-psych boogie into the Apollo 11 zone while keeping it caked in soil, sweat and pipe residue. Cosmic Priestess kicks off with a Sabbath riff then gets proggier and bluesier from there, once with a keyboard. Four jams stretch across 60 minutes, including 33 for Sun Ra’s favorite planet. Solos stay non-boring; drive and groove maintain; final cut funks out with wah-wahs and Kraut-rock zap guns. Then you exhale.
Wounded Lion, IVXLCDM
Babbling about Roman numerals, covert ops, Sacagewea, hair length, old vs. new world monkeys, and Batman hitting on Catwoman as their Velvety drum drone propels ringing guitar fuzz, this know-it-all L.A. quintet remember when new wave was loud. They skirt metal in the Television-via-Wipers sense in “Raincheck Vibrations”; weird out á la Pere Ubu’s Dub Housing in “Going Into The Unknown”; follow a Modern Lovers intro with This Year’s Model riffs and Fred Schneider yelps in “I’m Sad”; close covering Lou Reed with an Eno-loop organ. Result: nerd rave-ups like almost nobody’s rocked for decades.