THIS ISSUE: Mutilated By Zombies, Cancer Lake, Goldblums, Closet Witch, GOSH!, Fowlmouth, I Watched You Die & Skyscraper.
Mutilated By Zombies – Decimation Sentence (self-released)
I don’t know what it’s like to be the only death metal band in my town, but Mutilated By Zombies sure do. Operating in a vacuum, outside of any scene or expectations, Mutilated have spent the past several years developing their own reverent take on the genre. Obviously indebted to the early ‘90s Tampa sound, Decimation Sentence updates the form, but only slightly – and this is not necessarily a negative. The riffs are often in the mold of Cannibal Corpse, complex lines that cycle through the song. The arrangements are consistently compelling and the transitions well-executed, and there is a noticeable lack of extended guitar solos – in lieu of showing off, the band’s focus is on the song. The guitar and bass are a bit thin in the mix in places, but the drums, played with great facility, are light years ahead of Morrisound production, and the vocal doubling and overdubs add a lot to the sound. I particularly dig the stereo panning on “Mock the Sun” – makes for a good headphone listen. It’s been cool to see and hear this band develop their skills over the years. Decimation Sentence is the end result of tons of practice and dedication to form, definitely an album the metalheads oughta pick up on.
Cancer Lake – s/t (The Centipede Farm)
This Des Moines duo, composed of Chuck Hoffman (Fetal Pig, Distant Trains, Musician) and Matt Crowe (Sex Funeral), lays down some impressively oppressive doom improvisations across two sides of a 60 minute cassette. A wall of bass blackout churns around active, but never busy, drumming that is as informed by bonkers jazz as heavy metal. Some hoarse yelling in the background intensifies the struggle. Lots of tension with little release. Great album for the impending winter.
Goldblums – Gnat Bones 7” (Sump Pump Records)
Scuzz-rock from Des Moines. Better than the garage revival because the guitars frequently go into Greg Ginn territory. Recorded in a garbage can, presumably for the reverb. I love records like this – obviously the ultra lo-fi approach is a conceit, but it’s one that serves the songs well. It’s just as hard to do dirty well as it is to pull off some Steely Dan shit. Anyway, Goldblums is not Steely Dan, they’re snotty as fuck and it sounds like they’re having a blast. The record itself is a hell of a package, as tends to be the case with Sump Pump releases, with a cool silkscreened cover jacket and booklet insert.
Closet Witch – Black Salt (self-released)
It took playing in Fargo for me to learn of this intense grind/chaotic hardcore band from Muscatine. Mollie Piatetsky’s throat-tearing vocals frequently evoke that midwest-bred screamo sound and are at that perfect point in the mix, kinda buried but crashing through, that gives it even more gravitas. The production overall is quality – the liner notes urge, “don’t let the lack of funds or knowledge ruin your dreams to record.” Though there is definition and clarity in everything, nothing is too churched up. Add in some samples, a couple shoegazey breakdowns, and a Nirvana cover that somehow distills an already-three-chord song to it’s ultimate form, and this is everything I dug in the late ‘90s.
GOSH! – s/t (Guilt Ridden Pop/Athletic Tapes)
GOSH! played in town recently at the DAAC basement, in support of this, their first album. Cool vibes all around, as evidenced by song titles like “Feelin’ Good” and “Hangin’ Out”. Kinda bummed “Not Fade Away” isn’t a Buddy Holly cover, but it sounds a lot like Free Kitten, so it’s still cool. The male/female vocals, often in unison with melodic basslines, conjure a slacker cool, and the overall minimalism creates a nice laconic groove. The more I listen to this, the more I dig it. Available on CD and cassette, so pick your poison.
Fowlmouth – “Another Ordinary Day” b/w “An Act of Severance” (self-released)
Real rock ‘n’ roll from real dudes. Earnest and raw performances, captured with appropriate basement-fidelity, elicit the sounds of experience and long-lost innocence. Hailing from Kenosha, Wisconsin, a former factory town heavily affected by America’s Roman decline, this quartet epitomizes d. Boon’s “art for the proletariat” ethos. A-side “Another Ordinary Day” chronicles the demise of a junkie in raw, emotional terms. There is no romanticization, just a somber transmission of weariness and loss, punctuated with a question mark. “An Act of Severance” touches on that other great American narcotic, booze. With its stripped-down acoustic approach and subject matter, it’s a crestfallen analogue to the Replacements’ “Treatment Bound”. The band also has a new full-length with eight additional tunes, titled Untitled, that is well worth checking out.
I Watched You Die – Untitled (Breaching Static)
Dubuque’s Alex Nowacki is primarily known for his performances as BOAR, his well-regarded harsh noise project. I Watched You Die is Alex’s harsh noise wall alter ego. Admittedly, this subgenre within a subgenre is not for most ears, but if you’re down for abandoning all precepts of what ‘music’ is, there is a lot to unpack here. My main complaint with HNW is that it goes nowhere – which is often the point, but I’m a fan of dynamics and structure, I can’t help it! Untitled, a single 27 minute-long piece, bridges the gap between static walls and compositional sensibilities. These are sounds for deep listening, for total immersion. Making it to the end offers the same satisfaction as running a race (or so I hear) – it’s a marathon listen, created by a master of the form. Available through Alex’s own Breaching Static label, this is advertised as the last I Watched You Die release, and it’s a fitting nail in the coffin.
Skyscraper – Drums & Hums (Warm Gospel)
The solo project of Kamrar’s Trey Reis, Skyscraper treads similar waters. Samples of old songs intersperse and overlap to create hypnotic sonic collages that are loose and laid back in the best of ways. Drums & Hums is notable for its impetus – according to Reis, he intended to make a mixtape for a friend, but, upon running his turntable through his sampler, was taken by the potential results, and soon set on a different course. As with many of the releases on Des Moines tape label Warm Gospel, electronic sounds form the basis for organic textures. I come back to Autechre as a reference point, but I’m sure there are plenty of millennial touchstones as well (I still have no idea what the fuck vaporwave is!). Either way, when I compare an ambient album to The KLF’s Chill Out, consider it a high compliment. By the time the beats come in, about eight minutes into side 1, I’m already steeped in a meditative haze. The past was the future, and that future is now.
About The Author:
Bob Bucko, Jr. has been in a thousand bands you’ve never heard of. He has released three solo LPs as BBJr, as well as loads of CDs and cassettes under his own name and in collaboration with friends. He also operates the Personal Archives record label and is Board President of the Dubuque Area Arts Collective.