I’ll be brief: There is an amazing show happening at The Know tonigt. The four bands playing—Amarok, Protestant, Raw Nerves and Squalora—all have new records out. I review them below. Spoiler alert: I love them all. This is a can’t-miss affair, folks. Be there. Buy these records while you’re at it. I’d give you a money back guarantee, but I don’t have money—I have these records. And that’s kinda all I need right now.
Amarok -
I’m not gonna front like I know a whole lot about the swampier regions of the metal world, but I know enough to have noticed what a banner year it’s been for the slow stuff. The Year Doom Bloomed? Not quite, but 2011 has been pretty sweet: YOB and Witch Mountain caught the attention of the metal maniacs at NPR with their respective full lengths; misanthropic California legend Noothgrush got back together; Thou and Batillus both released murderously good slabs of molasses; and now, Amarok come out of nowhere (Chico, California—same diff) with its self-titled debut album, a dank and dark collection of syrupy riffs drowning tortured screams and death metal grunts. To these admittedly inexpert ears, Amarok’s right up there with the aforementioned doomsayers. The epic song lengths reward patience (i.e. stoned reverie): when album opener “I” briefly detours into a bluesy groove after eight minutes of crushing sludge, it feels like salvation, deliverance into the light after a dark night of the soul. The reprieve from the black quicksand is short-lived, but it’s sharp shafts of light such as this that throw such lovely shadows over the rest of the record.
Protestant -
Gotta cop to being outta the loop re: Protestant until about a couple weeks ago. Goddamn was I ever missing out. This Milwaukee crew’s
10”, out now via Halo of Flies Records, is consonant with the brutal metallic hardcore Southern Lord has been blessing us with lately, and I’m sensing something like a movement here. Granted, it’s probably been going on for a while, unbeknownst to me, but when I hear Protestant and the aforementioned Southern Lord sickos (Trap Them, Baptists, Heartless, Alpinist, Black Breath), I catch a not entirely unpleasant whiff of muscular nineties metalcore (Integrity especially) windmilling its sockless way back into punk rock. However, there’s a good deal of crust in Protestant’s pores, so I see back patches instead of hoodies, Tragedy shirts instead of Hatebreed tats. It’s as huge and devastating as anything Dwid and company put out fifteen years ago, but it doesn’t make me feel like I’m one questionable Victory Records purchase away from being on a football team. What I’m trying to say is that Protestant’s record is tough, and it could probably beat you up, but it’s been around the Profane Existence catalog long enough to know why that would be so wrong, so it’s going to content itself with messing with your head for twenty incredibly intense minutes instead.
Raw Nerves
Burnt Skin
Arctic Flowers and its amazing
LP have been hogging much of the heat thrown in the direction of Inimical Records, but the Seattle-based home of my favorite Flowers did PDX punk another good turn this year: it escorted Raw Nerves’ vicious new EP into the world. Although
Burnt Skin
doesn’t radically alter the formula that made this Portland outfit’s self-titled LP so powerful, the three songs here charge into the hardcore fray with a bit more meat on their bones. The spectre of California punk of yesteryear still looms--Black Flag’s influence cannot be denied--but there’s a meanness, a ferocity on
Burnt Skin
that puts me in mind of the kinda scary (to this Bay Area kid) sounds of east coast hardcore, which I always imagined (maybe accurately?) as the rogue punk twin with a secret predilection for sadism. I’m not talking about D.C. hardcore, which is only threatening if you’ve never heard an electric guitar before, but Agnostic Front, SS Decontrol, Slapshot even. And I, for one, am grateful for this injection of menace into Portland punk, which rarely if ever makes me worry for my safety. Okay, not being afraid is actually a really awesome thing, but once in a great while I want to feel the hairs on my neck stand up in a fight-or-flight nightmare of my own invention.
Burnt Skin
gets me just close enough to such sweet terror.
Squalora -
Its most recent full length,
Hell is Other People
, is barely six months old, but Portland’s Squalora is back already with
, a four-song study of pretty much every exhilarating, mind-melting thing crust punk is capable of doing to a man in his early thirties. Goosebumps, I tell ya—I got ‘em all over me! The first half of
had me scouring the old skull for fond memories of the East Bay; visions of Filth and Dead and Gone danced in my head, a noggin that I must admit to momentarily considering adding a mohawk and Antischism tattoo to. But before I could do such misguided things to that hard thing from which my pretty face hangs, the second half of
switched strategies and came at me with the kind of buildings-are-falling-and-bridges-are-burning crust that His Hero is Gone was so good at, at which point I figured my vandalistic urges might be put to better use decorating a Shell station with terse rebuttals. Not much punk that crosses my path these days fills me with that glorious teen urge to hurt something large and immovable. Squalora’s doing just that. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go exhaust myself jumping rope. What I really want to do is urinate in Target’s produce aisle, but the new season of
just premiered, so I can’t risk jail at the moment. Priorities, people—I got ‘em.
SEE IT: Squalora, Raw Nerves, Amarok and Protestant play The Know on Wednesday, Oct. 5. 8 pm. $5. 21+.