Tone it down, Earles.

Here is a previously-published installment of my current (and only) metal column, which can be read in its corrected/edited (though I had some pretty amazing free-reign with this one….please note, so as not to scare off potential/future editors) form by picking up the last issue of……DIW Magazine…….the one before the issue that you just looked at (where there is a second installment). Ok, so who out there wants a big care package of metal promos (I’ll forget to mail it, so don’t bother)?

(complete with notes to the editor!!!)


Proposed names:
 “So You’re Not A Metalhead”

 “Another Indie Rocker Writing About Metal”

or something really funny, like….
 “Faceplant: The DIW Metal Column”

“Back Alley Beatdown: The DIW Metal Column”
  “Pussy Eraser: The DIW Metal Column”
 “Whisker Biscuit Repellent: The DIW Metal Column”

An intro disguised as a disclaimer, or vise versa….

I pitched a no-thrills metal column to my editor hear at DIW and he went for it…obviously. I am perhaps a little too aware of the negative and positive attention hoisted upon “hipster metal” (as a round table discussion in Decibel and a piece in Guitar Player magazine refer to such things) and the simple act of non-metal people getting into metal, or saying they’re into metal, or dressing like they’re into metal. I don’t know where I fit in, and would rather not waste the energy trying to figure it out. I have never considered myself a metalhead, tried to look like a metalhead, or tried to pass myself off as a metalhead. Unsurprisingly, I come from an indie/college rock/post-hardcore upbringing (in terms of taste, not creation), but have been writing about metal, on and off, since 1998. The best I can give you, dear reader, is a fair knowledge of the word and its innumerable sub-genres…AND SOME LAUGHS.

The Column

There is a built in problem that unites the progress of the otherwise very different Mastodon and Lamb of God, and this problem has reached a head on their respective new albums. Both bands are gradually getting worse, moving away from the interesting places that they were once taking metal, and in the context of “extreme” metal, that means that the pressures of popularity (from labels, increasing size of fanbase that is now very meathead-heavy, etc) have changed the music itself, for about half of each record, into the LCD crap that wouldn’t be out of place entertaining semi-literate halfwits in the playlist of your local date rapist X-rock station. You have plenty of places to turn after giving up on those two superstars, and if you want to confuse the hell out of people, start espousing the wonderment of the Harvey Milk discography. Like Mastodon, they are from Atlanta, unlike Mastodon, they make little sense in terms of consistency, alternately perfecting the difficult and the great. Special Wishes, on Megablade (Troubleman’s “we’re into metal now, too!!” imprint), is the latter. Isis are back with In The Absence Of Truth. I can help that problem by hereby declaring Isis the next Tool. There is your truth. Seriously, take out the ever-decreasing element of guttural vocals, and all of the pieces are now in place: The palatable, slower-moving prog parts, the not pretty/not ugly singing, jazzy-song construction. Mark my words, and if more proof is needed, head over to the latest In The Fishtank EP (#14, on Touch and Go/Konkurrent) – a pairing of Isis and Aerogramme that sounds exactly like a Mogwai mini-album with occasional screaming. With help from the two guys that make up Big Business, The Melvins clean house with (A) Senile Animal (Ipecac). Fans of Stonerwitch and Stag take note, or at least unstrap that Baby Bjorn and take note. Size 4XXL’s rejoice, Dream Theater mark their 25th anniversary with a 3-CD live set, complete with (big surprise) an orchestra. They were, at one time, a metal band. Load Records has once again taken a detour into structure and released the new one by The USA Is A Monster, titled Sunset At The End Of The Industrial Age. It’s like Dream Theater, or Fate’s Warning, or Meshuggah done by two crustcore holdovers that live in a refrigerator box. No matter the praise that Striborg accumulates, the colorfulness of its Tasmanian rain forest origin, or the popularity of one-man BM outfits, Embittered In Darkness (Southern Lord) sounds like Mortiis, late-period Christian Death, and any sociopath with a keyboard battling it out with 400 slot machines on Senior’s Day. What I meant to write is that it sounds really fucking silly. It immediately makes me thirst for this column’s token non-metal entries, Planes Mistaken For Stars’ Mercy (Abacus) and The Hope Conspiracy’s Death Knows Your Name (Deathwish). The former: Barely metallic, but very hard, Midwestern post-faux hawk rock and roll. The latter: Total 90’s hardcore without a Metalcore meathead in sight. No matter your current stance with Tom Araya and Co., everyone should be a little curious as to what a new Slayer album sounds like in 2006. I’m a Seasons in the Abyss man myself, choosing the 16-year-old underdog of their “seminal” period as a fave, and Christ Illusion (American) should have, and could have, been the follow-up. Across Tundras’ Dark Songs Of The Prairie (Crucial Blast), despite their frosty name, foreboding title, band member pedigrees, and original origin in a Midwest hellhole, is only metal in the way that Bitch Magnet was OG indie-metal in 1989. In duty to the temporarily unknown, Memphis’ Evil Army (s/t CD on Get Revenge! Records) make real-deal crossover magic (Accused, Hirax, Misfits, S.O.D., and early Metallica) and Clevelend’s Skeletonwitch follow-up their full-length with the Worship The Witch EP (self-released), one of the better Blackened melodic thrash attempts out there. To conclude, I was sent the new Mushroomhead CD, Savior Sorrow, but you have got to be fucking kidding. Really.

-Andrew Earles






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