I’ve been gone for a few weeks, but not entirely idle. In the interest of getting some more exposure for Michigan artists and creating a platform for them in my column on Moshpit Nation, I’ve endeavored to do monthly roundups of bandcamp releases for Michigan artists I think our readers would enjoy. I can’t guarantee that these installments won’t be late, inconclusive, or even entirely comprehensive, but I can guarantee that each month our state puts incredible art out there for free that’s worth our support. Check out the artists below, and if there are any you know about that we’ve missed, be sure to shout them out on our Facebook page!
Swamp Lord – The Drip Demo
Kalamazoo’s Swamp Lord look like a fun bunch of guys. Their debut demo showcases a blend of Michigan and Indiana sludge with a production value WAY better than you or I or anybody else expects from an unsigned sludge band. Musically, they’re a delightful blend of Lair of the Minotaur and eyehategod with elements of Municipal Waste thrown in. The riffs are good, and there are plenty of sing-along mosh moments, but the true brilliance of Swamp Lord is in their clever use of tempo changes to shift the momentum and keep things interesting. In 2019, I could have done without the Misfits cover, but it does serve the “sing along & mosh” theme of the record. To be sure, Swamp Lord are the best Fun Club sludge band I’ve heard in a long time and I look forward to their future releases.
Fav track: “Season of the Witch”
Animus Stench – Mangled, Bled, and Burned
Piss Gargler Records [I thought this was fake, but it’s real! -JG]
It’s tough being a metal artist in a small town. Personnel recruitment is always difficult in extreme artforms, and these challenges are only amplified in communities with a smaller pool to draw from. For one-man death metal band Animus Stench, the obstacle of being headquartered in Sparta is also an opportunity to create art that stems from a single vision; free from the distractions of conflicting inputs and the pitfalls of having too many proverbial cooks. This same freedom also allows for some daring and unexpected decisions regarding the songwriting and production side, with the oxford comma debut Mangled, Bled, and Burned being one of the more interesting releases in this roundup. The sound is reminiscent of Human-era Death in both the timbre of the instruments and the riffing style, while throaty lo-fi vocals make for a very 90’s retro chic combination that is both timeless and topical; especially since the band truly capture the early death metal styles and sounds well. Further fleshing out their 90’s death metal influences, there’s plenty of Cannibal Corpse worship to be found in the lyrical content, vocal delivery, and the arrangement of the songs. The title track is a brilliant example of the “swamp ass death metal” that writers from No Clean Singing and Invisible Oranges find so endearing about the Michigan underground scene, bringing to mind one of my local favorites, the sadly defunct Genocya.
Fav track: “I Despair”
Skinners – The Death of Hydra
This is another one of those “Hell, Michigan” bandcamp bands that I’m pretty sure isn’t actually from here, but they put our name on it so I’m saying it’s ours! The anonymous individual behind Skinners is very up front about the intentions of the project, especially the part where nobody, especially the creator, are meant to take any of it seriously. This lack of metal’s occasionally problematic kayfabe allows Skinners to be kinda goofy,fairly lighthearted, and wholly enjoyable. Plus, whoever made this can clearly play their ass off on a guitar; the programmed drums aren’t bad either. The death metal-meets-djent riffage takes an unfortunate backseat to a subpar vocal mix, but rough edges like this are to be expected from a joke band with their tongue this firmly implanted in their cheek. Yes, it’s just for fun, but it’s good enough to be worth sitting through, and if this person ever decides to start taking it seriously, I’ll be the first to hype their future projects.
Monsters or Mayhem – s/t
In the twilight years of Ann Arbor’s notorious punk scene, Monsters or Mayhem were a regular fixture in the live music events coming out of places like Raw Haus and its successor The Beer Can Garden. I personally attended dozens of MoM performances in those days; their offbeat wailing ubiquitous and inseparable from the idea of a Deuce Punk shindig. Some of their contemporaries recorded diy demos in those days, but I was never aware of anything from MoM until now. The sound quality of the songs, combined with the loss of their titles on the release, make me suspect that the recordings are genuinely of the period, and are only now being made available, but I have no proof of these suspicions. Backstory aside, what this self-titled collection represents is a final dying gasp of a fading culture scene based around an outdated artform. Like a bitter octogenarian, it makes no excuses for its own imperfections, sometimes even shoving them in your face like badges of honor, other times just forcing you to accept its complete contempt for even the pretenses of keeping up appearances. Monsters or Mayhem is rough, raw, and full of mistakes, but in that one wheezing, smokey breath it’s also as genuine a “punk rock” experience as you could possibly find this side of the Reagan administration. The whole thing weighs in under ten minutes, so take a trip down memory lane to the beer-soaked living room of Raw Haus and remember people crowd surfing off the second story staircase; remember the time the crowd got so rowdy we broke the floor; remember when the streets were good (…the streets were never good)
Fav track: Track 8, which is actually called BATMAN!!!
Pussy Pirates – First Session
I know I’ve just waxed poetic about Monsters or Mayhem and how they represent “true Ann Arbor punk”, but the fact is, while MoM sound like the traditional idea of punk rock, local legends Pussy Pirates truly capture the sound of Ann Arbor’s interpretation of punk rock. The trumpets wail, the saxophones scream, and the upbeat drums compel you to skank and mosh. Pussy Pirates are somewhat left-field for the typical Moshpit Nation offerings, but I feel like their musical uniqueness is interesting enough to invite most new listeners in, while their over-the-top riot grrrl ferocity will appeal to most fun-club metal fans. This release is powerful for me, personally, because it showcases a sound that was once a staple in my community that sadly doesn’t seem to exist here anymore. I know I throw a lot of curveballs at my readers here, but I can’t recommend Pussy Pirates highly enough, especially for anyone who can appreciate quirky music that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Fav track: “Die”
Torture Pig- Big Scrotes, Slit Throats
Returning to your usually scheduled programming, Torture Pig is a one-man goregrind project from Detroit that’s heavy on the samples, the gutturals, and the everything else. Their fourth release Big Scrotes, Slit Throats is a goofy, slammy, overdriven throwdown with plenty of tongue in cheek humor; songs like “Satan Pussy” and “All Meth’d Up and Ready to Fuck” reassure that it’s all just harmless fun. None of it is very long, which prevents the listener from getting overwhelmed; a common pitfall in music that spends full time at full force.
Fav track: “All Meth’d Up and Ready to Fuck”
LanzerRath – Enlightened Descent
Raw black metal has a special place in my heart, and LanzerRath put their own unique spin on it that I find particularly enjoyable. The band’s most valuable tool is their ability to seamlessly transition between moments of consonance and dissonance and the way they compose with a variety of musical densities. The band’s deliberate attempts to eschew traditional music theory and composition tropes lead to unexpected choices and sounds that make LanzerRath stand out in a genre of admittedly same-y sounding bands. Adding to the enjoyability of Enlightened Descent is the album’s surprisingly high production value; it sounds great by any standard, which is another standout feature unique from most of the band’s peers. Sonically, it reminds me of Deathspell Omega in a certain sense; like their cosmic black metal contemporaries, LanzerRath use a constantly shifting composition style that manages to be engaging and hold the listeners attention without becoming riff salad, and the feat is sufficiently well executed as to keep the album from feeling too long despite having several songs at or above six minutes in length.
Fav track: “From the Black Hole”
Worm Monolith – Struktures
I seem to be turning myself into something of a “extreme experimental noise” guy. I’ve never been particularly drawn to the genre, but these kinds of releases keep coming across my radar and it becomes a kind of personal challenge to see if I can finish them. Struktures is said to have been born out of a single album-length song that eventually grew into five distinct movements of equal length. For the artist, it also represents an interlude between trilogy albums; and while not related to the series of full-length releases which began with 2018’s self-titled release, Struktures is nonetheless a considerable undertaking. Maybe I just don’t “get” noise music yet, but I wish there had been more variety within each movement, especially considering their 9:36 run times. As is, you can really just start a movement and listen until you’re content before skipping to the next one without missing any musical evolution. The effect of the piece is diminished in a way, but there isn’t a lot of substance to miss out on; just density.
Fav track: “Struktures 5”
Decay Within – Demo 2018
Brutal Cave Productions
Mike Nastasy has been contributing to Michigan’s metal underground in one way or another for over 20 years. If that weren’t enough, he’s now begun releasing material through Brutal Cave PRoductions for his new solo project, Decay Within. Working on his own this time allows the prolific Michigander a space to craft uncompromising death metal of the finest quality. Production value in this release stands head and shoulders above other releases in this roundup, maximizing the listenability of Mike’s old school death metal music delivered in punk rock sized pieces. The exceptional traits of this demo go beyond its shockingly good sound quality; the riffs are all killers, the tone is fantastic, and every instrument is made a true embodiment of everything American death metal is supposed to be.
Fav track: “Hollow State”
ExCxLxCxCxBxPxCxTxSx – Unrecognizably Putrefied
I can’t say I was familiar with “gorenoise” music before this. The name aptly fits the sound coming out of this album, and it must be said that the genre fusion with goregrind makes this kind of noise project much more enjoyable to me than others I’ve encountered. Each song is distinct and showcases a sense of variety while maintaining that noise music sense of uniform texture. The drums sound thin and tinny in the background as everything else is so massively overdriven that it forms one huge alien and unparseable wall of sound. There seems to be a “singer” of sorts, but their contribution is made to sound less like human vocalizations and more like somebody blowing bubbles in a glass of milk through a straw. It’s awesome, and I gleefully bounced in my chair for the entire 7:39 run time of this tape.
Fav track: they’re not really divided up into tracks but if they were it’s be the last one; with the weird bass noises
HEINOUS – Fathoms EP
Dying in a shipwreck is a real concern for people who live on Lake Superior. The tragic loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald is just the most well-known of countless local legends about the lake and its merciless power. For HEINOUS, this idea forms the central theme of their concept EP, Fathoms; combining elements of ambient black metal, electronic music, and deathcore into a largely instrumental art piece that is truly unlike anything else I’ve heard. The building blocks are each familiar, but the final product is something unprecedented in my experience; like seeing someone use legos in an all-new way and thinking “I never knew you could do that!” With so much black metal being about Satan, or black holes… or nazis… it’s refreshing to hear a moody, atmospheric project that takes a simpler yet more horrific approach in the form of a truly dreadful experience that has been a known fate for so many unfortunate Yoopers; chalk it up to the death metal influence.
Fav track: Fathom 20 // Dreaming in Opium [a)pressure 20%]