St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
In the wake of my review of the excellent VANHELGD release, a near-nadir of negativity for new stuff on this blog so far, it seems appropriate to discuss a bit more of what the fine folks at 20 Buck Spin have offered as of late.
Formed in 2005 and based in Olympia, WA, 20 Buck Spin has been steadily accumulating their reputation for rock-solid mailorder and a roster of quality, eclectic underground metal. The last go ’round, as if by mind-meld, Into the Void fortuitously received a few promos for new 20 Buck Spin releases that proved right up our collective alleys.
If the quality of what we received is an indication of 20 Buck Spin’s dedication to real old school death metal, there’s more hope for that once-languid subgenre than I imagined. These bands vary in experience and reputation but are united by an atavistic drive to creatively explore partially uncharted metal realms.
One beautiful thing about being old is watching these popularity cycles complete their phases and practically knowing exactly what will come next. I hope I and 20 Buck Spin are both right in this case.
CAULDRON BLACK RAM [FULL ALBUM ON BANDCAMP] is by far the elder of the two bands described here and can claim lineage as far back as 1996, with their first full-length offering coming 10 years ago already. Born of Australian outlaw blood shared directly with such fierce and varied acts as MISERY’S OMEN, STARGAZER, MYRDDRAAL, MARTIRE and others, CBR fashions death metal after the shared oceanic visions of their island-bound countrymen.
Anybody familiar with the above pedigree should have a decent concept of CBR’s death metal tack on their latest disc Stalagmire: downtuned, rolling groove here, unbalanced timing and blast beats there, all buried deeper in murky waters than a chest full of gold-leafed lead. Oh, didn’t I mention pirates? Not the RUNNING WILD sort of fancy-lad swashbuckling type, either, but more the rum-swilling, Stevensonian salty dogs extracting ransoms and hanging as warning in seaside scaffolds. Nothing on Stalagmire, save a few stray paeans to the stellar realms (think MOURNFUL CONGREGATION), gets too fancy, but a few catchier riffs and wider songwriting net could have made this quite excellent. As it stands it’s an enjoyable, off-kilter affair with some surprises and a unique take on early/mid-90s death metal.
Across the mighty Pacific, 20 Buck Spin has also provided San Francisco’s VASTUM [FULL ALBUM ON BANDCAMP] a home with late 2013’s Patricidal Lust. VASTUM’s is a uniquely American take on guttural death metal; their crawling, nauseating churn shares similarities peripherally to Bay Area legends AUTOPSY along with smaller acts such as AVULSION, ACCIDENTAL SUICIDE, DIVINE EVE, CIANIDE and other old-school USDM luminaries who remembered their CELTIC FROST along with their SLAYER.
For better or worse, and perhaps obvious from their album’s title, VASTUM’s imagery is fully engaged in sexual perversions and deviancies. To their credit, they’ve eschewed the typical frustrated fantasies everyone familiar with CANNIBAL CORPSE can recite by rote and instead touch on a range of twisted sexual experience and psychology. Perhaps even more to VASTUM’s credit is their ability to make this apparent musically without direct access to the lyrics; the cadence (polka beats!) and rolling, rumbling exhortations paint a bleak introspective picture that’s quite hard to shake from the mind’s eye when the music is done. Great work, that, in a genre where lyrics are often considered afterthought merely because the vocalist can’t be immediately understood.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on this label as you well should. Upcoming releases will feature Minnesota’s medieval patrons OBSEQUIAE, among others. Cheers!
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