“Mining Metal” is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence writers Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.
As I’m writing this, the metal underground is still reeling from the unexpected passing of Riley Gale, vocalist for Texas thrashers Power Trip. Gale was known for his unabashedly political lyrics, charismatic live performances, and interpersonal messages of kindness. The underground will be feeling his loss for some time.
I first heard Power Trip a few days after publishing an essay on Invisible Oranges declaring the post-Municipal Waste thrash revival dead. Power Trip’s debut album, Manifest Decimation rendered my thoughts obsolete overnight. After one spin of their song “Crossbreaker”, I went back and listened to Power Trip’s earlier releases, and heard their song “Suffer No Fool” in moments of great personal weakness. I’ve thought about getting its last lyrics tattooed on my body: “And If I try and fail, at least I suffer no fool.” Words to live by.
Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Power Trip four times, opening for luminaries like Cannibal Corpse, Danzig, Lamb of God, and High on Fire. Three out of four times, Power Trip outplayed the headliners following them (It’s hard to best Lamb of God). The band instantly had a personal connection with their audience, and had a way of connecting with older fans, who were there chaperoning their teenage kids. A big part of that was Gale, who had an uncanny mix of humility and confidence that I haven’t seen in any other frontman.
It’s rare that a band from the metal underground gets its due. Too often commercial pressure collapses a band’s songwriting ability or drives members apart. Power Trip’s second album, Nightmare Logic, succumbed to nothing. Its songs were leaner, meaner and more memorable than those of its predecessor. Riley’s lyrical barbs only got sharper, and Power Trip seemed only more united as a band of brothers. They were on their way to the top by anyone’s estimation. The last time a singer for such a band left us so suddenly was Mitch Lucker from Suicide Silence. He and Gale were the kind of frontman who had nothing but promise ahead of them.
While remembering Riley Gale, I urge listeners not to let this brief memorial overshadow the music below. This month features eight of the best releases of the year, full-stop, including the premiere of maybe the catchiest EP of 2020 (Cobra Spell’s Love Venom), and Necrot’s unstoppable album of the year contender. –Joseph Schafer
Cobra Spell – Love Venom (Premiere)
This month’s selection skews heavily toward growls and blast beats, but Cobra Spell’s new effort wouldn’t sound out of place on a SoCal radio station circa 1983. On their self-released debut EP, Love Venom, this international quintet reach back to the golden era of glam metal and re-contextualize that style’s unselfconscious hooks and horniness for the modern era. Songs like “Come on Tonight” and “Poison Bite,” with their lust for ‘virgin blood’ and promises to ‘bring you to your knees’ evoke the sinister edge of glam as earlier invoked by W.A.S.P., Mötley Crüe (dig the intro to “Shake Me”) or even Alice Cooper on Trash. In fact, according to guitarist Sebastian “Spyder” Silva, Cooper himself encouraged the formation of the band after encountering Sylva and his guitar partner Sonia Anubis while the former was on tour with “Mining Metal” alums Idle Hands. If Love Venom is any indication, Sylva has a second successful project on his hands — that’s why we’re premiering it here. Get in on the ground floor and buy it from Bandcamp. –Joseph Schafer
Atramentus – Stygian
Funeral doom is such a strange beast, almost anti-metal in the way that it is driven predominantly by interwoven moods and textures more than things like riffs and energy. The compositional strategy is often closer to long form orchestral music, ambient music or progressive rock than typical heavy metal, despite its clear lineage in the world of extreme metal. Atramentus’ debut, Stygian, is a profound and moving document of the genre, drawing from the worlds of epic doom, black metal, ambient music and of course funeral doom but arriving at something that, like all the very best funeral doom, feels liminal and dreamlike in its imagistic power. The power of this release feels commensurate with the debuts of Bell Witch or, before them, Samothrace, a vision of nearly impossibly-scaled epic heavy metal that feels like it creates whole worlds around you. This isn’t just good; it’s one of the albums of the year. Buy it from Bandcamp. -Langdon Hickman
Humavoid – Lidless
Perhaps it was the new Haken album from earlier this year that primed me for it but, much to my surprise, I found myself not only enjoying a djent record but being blown away. It helps, of course, that (like the very best of that subgenre) Humavoid pumps a great deal more thoughts into their approach to prog metal than just syncopated eight string chugs. For one thing, there are oodles of fusion licks on this baby, something I’m a perennial sucker for. And, despite the winding modulations and ever-changing time signatures, Humavoid manage to keep their songs trimmed and tight, forgoing the by-now cliche of prog metal instrumental over-indulgence (not that I’ve ever minded it, to be fair). Wrap all this up in production that absolutely drips with color and breath instead of being compressed and crushed to death or, worse, sounding like bad AxeFX presets, and you have a mighty fine prog metal record on your hands in Lidless. Buy it from Bandcamp. -Langdon Hickman
Krallice – Mass Cathexis
Krallice are a curious band. The first period of the group’s work, up to 2012, seemed of a singular extended thought, one expanding post-Weakling American black metal with King Crimson-driven hi-tek prog firepower. Their second period, from 2015 on, was substantially more amorphous, each record seeming to isolate an angle of their sonic ideal to experiment with. Mass Cathexis feels, at last, like the return home for the group, albeit a return infused with all the lessons learned from their isolated experiments over the past five years. The group has always had an unstated sonic center, but now that center is elaborated on with everything from crystalline synths pinched from kosmiche to the occasional punky flair and level of both immediacy and anthemic impulse that some struggled to find in their previous 10-plus minute workouts. Is this the best the band has ever put out? It’s too early to say, but don’t be surprised if you start hearing that thought being bandied about. Buy it from Bandcamp. -Langdon Hickman
Necrot – Mortal
It seems like each year one band from the metal underground manages to propel themselves into the upper echelons of the genre with a career-making record appealing to heshers and critics alike. This year, that crown belongs to Necrot’s sophomore LP, Mortal. These Oakland raiders play old school death metal with an ear for hooks, and punky songwriting that emphasizes groove and punch over atmosphere and aesthetic. That Mortal is worth listening to should come as no surprise — Necrot are a relatively new band, but all three members are seasoned veterans of the Bay Area’s musical community. That it’s this good, however, is remarkable. In each song bassist and vocalist Luca Indrio snarls out a lifetime’s worth of rage at the unjust status quo while drummer Chad Gailey pounds out dirt bike patterns that would make Fed Estby proud. Guitarist Sonny Reinhardt proves himself a more expressive soloist than he had on the band’s debut. The disparate pieces combine and transcend on the eight-minute title track, which never sacrifices crusty propulsion while it laps the tracks that precede it. Buy it from Bandcamp. –Joseph Schafer
Nug – Alter Ego
If a djent record on this list surprised you, let me surprise you one more time with a post-metal record. Not one of those punched-up and modernized post-metal records, mind you; on Alter Ego, Nug’s approach to the genre is a pretty by-the-numbers affair, supremely close to records we all would have had in our collections in the early to mid 2000s. The key difference, however, is, just like the Cult of Luna record from last year, they absolutely nail the style, from the big-picture cinematic sweep to the fine grain details of how to measure and modulate trance-inducing rhythmic explorations over large spans of time. Nug’s debut is an exercise in execution over innovation, an exercise frankly more groups should pay attention to, because they kill it. How often do we get to be this excited about a post-metal debut in 2020? Buy it from Bandcamp. -Langdon Hickman
Question – Reflections of the Void
Why haven’t you already listened to Question? That this Mexican quartet deserves widespread attention should be as obvious as Necrot’s dominance. The answers might be obvious: Mexican death metal never seems to catch on in the states the way it should (see: The Chasm). To make matters worse, the band have next to no online presence, and can’t seem to stick to a release date —Reflections of the Void would have been included in last months’ column had we known about it earlier. It earns a late entry thanks to the undeniable quality of Question’s songs. While the shadow of Morbid Angel looms large over the album, Question play with light and shadow where most of their ilk would rather sink into the muck. Clean interludes add weight to their determined attack. In between, dissonant moment that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ulcerate record provide breathing room. Better, Reflections of the Void doesn’t sound one second longer than it needs to be. Question accomplish more in five minutes than most bands do in fifty. Buy it from Bandcamp. –Joseph Schafer
Terminal Nation – Holocene Extinction
Terminal Nation practically earned their slot in this column by incorporating popular leftist tough guy taunt “f**k around and find out” in a song. Them’s fighting words, and the band’s music sounds similarly pugilistic. With one foot in the crossover thrash sound pioneered by Cro-Mags and the other up to its high top socks in death metal danger, Terminal Nation unify two of modern metal’s most vital movements into one vicious whole. Somehow, they hail from Arkansas, rather than Boston or Brooklyn, but lifetimes lived in the Bible Belt have put some massive chips on these boys’ shoulders. Songs like “Revenge” and “Caskets of the Poor” are blunt and bloodthirsty, not to mention tons of fun. Bump Holocene Extinction at the gym or while gearing up for your next protest — Terminal Nation play mosh jams like all of our lives depend on your doing both. Buy it from Bandcamp. –Joseph Schafer