We Should Be Hopeful About Metal's Future
How two young Japanese girls convinced me that metal is changing for the better (plus new tunes from Carpe Noctem, Minority Threat, Domkraft, To End It All, and more).
Photo courtesy of Carpe Noctem
To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
Audrey is a 10-year-old girl living in Nagasaki, Japan who records videos of herself playing rock and metal songs with a Guitar Hero-esque music video game called Rocksmith. She takes it very seriously, and is really, really good. She picked up the guitar in 2011, and has been posting these videos since she was six years old. Sometimes her enthusiastic young friend Kate backs her up, hamming it up for the camera as she belts out Bon Jovi, Rage Against the Machine, and Slayer lyrics into a pool noodle. Between the two of them (Kate has recently picked up the bass, and her death metal version of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Buffalo Soldier” is a necessary watch), they’ve uploaded dozens of these things, churning out these precious little jewels of content at a pace that makes Thou seem lazy.
The entire thing is an absolute delight, and when I came across it today thanks to a friend on Twitter, I stopped thinking about how garbage the rest of the news cycle has been this week, and was just happy. I was happy to see these girls shredding and laughing and doing a damn good job of replicating some of my favorite old songs (their joyful, manic rendition of “Painkiller” should be preserved in the Smithsonian).
The fact that their videos regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views and the overwhelmingly positive tenor of the comments underneath makes it clear that a whole lot of other people out there agree, too. They’ve also posted videos showing them receiving gifts from fans, including Trivium’s Matt Heafy (the girls are big Trivium fans), about which they made the only good unboxing video on the internet.
These videos warm my heart as much as they make me feel a bit wistful. I really wish Audrey and Kate had been around when I was a kid, because even something as simple as seeing other young girls who liked weird, loud, heavy music would’ve blown my tiny mind. I was a year older than Audrey is now when I first started listening to Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, and it was only a year or two later when I started stealing Hatebreed and Korn CDs from Walmart (sorry, Mom).
I didn’t meet any other girls who liked the same music as I did until I got to high school, and as I got deeper into death metal and grindcore, I was still the odd person out most of the time. Youtube wasn’t even a thing until I was in my teens (and my family still has dial-up internet), so it’s not like I could’ve found them, but the sentiment stands. I truly wish little Kim could’ve seen their cover of Arch Enemy’s “Nemesis”—the Swedish melodic death metallers and their powerful vocalist, Angela Gossow, will always have a place in my heart, and Gossow herself was one of my very first female metal role models. Knowing that you’re not the only one is so important, especially when you’re young, and isolated, and feel like a weirdo for wanting to rock System of a Down shirts instead of Hollister.
I wrote at length in last week’s column about the importance of representation in metal culture, and of how crucial it is for metalheads from marginalized communities to see themselves reflected onstage. This week has been a good one for that, and I’m feeling a little more hopeful about the state of our micronation than I have in awhile.
Outside of Audrey and Kate’s videos, metallic hardcore legends Racetraitor also dropped a video of their own, for the track “Cataclysm.” Taken off their upcoming album,
2042 (which you’ll be hearing about a lot more next week—stay tuned), the track pummels and roars, rattling basement walls and playing off familiar DIY imagery, but the band itself is nowhere to be found.
"With the 'Cataclysm' video we wanted to play off of the classic hardcore metal video of a band in the basement and use it to tell a pressing story. No one in Racetraitor is in the video," vocalist Mani Mostofi explained to No Echo. "Instead it is an underground band representing our community which for us is inclusive of women, immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, queer people, and white men who reject what the far right has to offer them. That is who makes up the band lineups in the video."
That’s the kind of sentiment that made Racetraitor so necessary in the first place, and the fact that they’ve now returned feels like a harbinger of better days. As more and more metal (and metal-adjacent) bands find the courage to speak up about the problems in our scene and in our greater society, the more room there will be for positive change. Keep it up, pals.
Here are a few other excellent releases that I highly suggest you spend some time with once you’ve exhausted Audrey and Kate’s adorable archives.
Icelandic black metal horde Carpe Noctem predates the current wave of Vánagandr-rooted bands by half a decade (and shares members with half of them). Despite their affiliations and geographical kinship, though, the Reykjavík quintet stands apart; their take on black metal leaves ample room for whiffs of aggressively technical, dissonant death, and their general mien is far more Deathspell Omega than Dissection. Their latest album, Vitrun, is streaming above, and drops this week via Code666 Records.
To End It All
Eye of Nix vocalist Joy Von Spain joined forces with noise artist Masaaki Masao on this utterly harrowing release, which melds clattering power electronics, tectonic drone, death industrial, and harsh noise with von Spain's inimitable operatic vocals. The project's debut, Scourge of Woman, is an atomic blast of an album—terrifying, and wonderful, and completely devastating.
Minority Threat's blown-out new EP drips with long-simmered vitriol and righteous outrage, tempering beatdown riffs and two-stepping swing with shreds of powerviolence and empire-toppling lyrics. If you needed a dose of ferocious political hardcore to help fuel your rage and soundtrack the daily struggle against racism, capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, this is it.
Remain plays crusty, black metal-influenced skramz from somewhere within the grimy urban nightmare we call New York City. They're rough around the edges, but still promising as hell; there's not a lot of music like this coming out of NYC right now, and I'm glad they're surfaced (I also hope I get to see them play soon, because I have a feeling this would whip ass live).
Set and Setting
Set and Setting is one of those perfectly beautiful bands that singlehandedly justify the existence of post-rock as a genre. The Florida outfit's new album, Tabula Rasa, is shot through with rays of light, as heavy and new as the air after a summer storm. They do get aggressive, too—it's not all airy melodies—but my favorite parts are when they stretch out, and go gentle and thoughtful. They make space for quiet in the most careful, lovely way.
If you're a longtime denizen of the riff-filled land, Swedish outfit Domkraft's spacey, psyched-out stoner doom scratches every itch. Their new album, Flood, is out October 19 via Blues Funeral Recordings, and is just the thing to warm you up on those chilly autumn nights to come.
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey, and can also be found on Twitter if you're into that sort of thing.