Doom Party: Hell – Hell Review

Hell Salem Or Review

Doom Metal, by nature, inherently evokes catastrophe. The funereal pace, cannon-like percussion, unholy yowling and cheese grater guitars suggest apocalyptic imagery of abandoned necropolises, overgrown cities, alien planets, and abattoir battlefields, even without the Lovecraftian imagery and occult and warlike imagery that so often graces doom records.

Much like the horror genre, or most forms of extreme music, it’s a wonder that anyone listens to doom for fun. As Kim Kelly wrote recently for Noisey, speaking about the newest full-length from Salem, Or.’s HELL, “Right now, as you read this, two sad, stupidly powerful men feint and jab at one another, flaunting nuclear arsenals like toys and holding the fate of the planet in their vulgar fingers.” Kelly goes on to comment on HELL’s appeal, in these troubled times, “By enveloping myself within HELL’s radium-bright notes, agonized howls, and ominous dirges, it’s almost like I’m inviting the unthinkable… or the inevitable, depending on which side of the nuclear divide our current administration deigns to drop us.”

Hell Doom Metal Review
detail from Hell MMXVI Cassette Box Set on LowerYourHead

So, is listening to doom in times of strife just simple tragedy porn? Or is it some kind of survival instinct, preparing ourselves for the worst possible outcomes? Or maybe we’ve just been living the apocalypse for such a long goddam time that this is just how we party, at this point? Like Bonnaroo meeting The Hunger Games, betting on gladiator sport in between eating rats and post-industrial dance parties, high on gasoline fumes from the generators and huffing chrome.

Whatever the motivation, the fearsome din from the mysteriously monikered MSW, out of the ancient primevil forests of Salem, Or. sounds damn fucking fine in these troubled times. HELL’s trademarked pyroclastic flow of brutal bass tones washes over you like the final moments of Pompeii, while shrieking guitar feedback comes over like the dying stars falling out of the sky, while the drums pound like the Five Armies converging on Lonely Mountain.

That Tolkien reference is no coincidence, as HELL carry a lot of the good time vibes of classic doom merchants like Sabbath or Kyuss, with all of the geeky mythological religiosity. The classic doom and sludge is well in evidence, on HELL’s fourth self-titled LP, with massive (and massively catchy) riffs that get stuck in your head, while bludgeoning you to the dirt like a cyclop’s club. Unlike a lot of classic doom, however, HELL’s doom is low-down, dirty, messed up, and disturbing, rather than the cartoonish caricatures of Black Sabbath, Count Raven, Witchcraft, or Saint Vitus (not that there’s anything wrong with that). HELL’s down-tuned, cacophonous sludge is spiked and studded with windy black metal and harsh noise, as well as moments of breathtaking beauty, like the striking orchestral fade-out of “Victus”.

MSW favors a raspy, wraithlike vocal style, much more Mayhem than Metallica, heard in fine effect on tracks like the “Sub-odin,” or in the grunting, shrieking invocation of “Inscriptus,” one of Hell’s most scorching moments. MSW’s gowlin yowl is much more bone-chilling and spellbinding than much of doom’s Cookie Monster death metal grunts or Freddy Mercury operatics.

“SubOdin” also boasts some of the finest blackened guitar work of the record, of the windswept Explosions In The Sky-style post-rock/metal, distant, dreamy, gauzy, beautiful, and emotional, as if viewing the world through a veil of mist. The gracefulness erupts with next track “Machitikos,” which is a straight-up flying fretboard shred-a-thon, acid-fried pentatonics at the speed of thought that would do Hendrix proud, over a crunchy, thudding headbanging beat. Monolithic and groovy, it’s all that is good and unholy about DOOM.

The raspy vocals and multivalent guitar textures are some of what really separate HELL from the imitators, those lacking in imagination or creativity. MSW switches it up constantly over Hell’s too-brief seven tracks. The blasts of buzzsaw black-metal power chords and delicate, shooting star leads punctuate the ominous heaviness of doom’s crawling-through-the-dust pace. So many funeral doom records get caught up in their 70 bpm headspace, and never relent. While one can appreciate 70-minute of bleak, hopeless downtuned guitars and skull-punching drums, it can get a bit homogenous at a certain point. Like watching a bunch of Gaspar Noe films on loop, we get bludgeoned to death, numb, jaded, and disaffected.

And while there is a time and a place for that, and i can certainly get down, i get enough of that in my daily life lately, reading the news. HELL reaches across the void, delivering their despairing message. The stars are aligned for us to receive, to really listen and hear. The news might be grim, but it’s not all bad. HELL promises it’ll be a hell of a party, even if we do go up in flames.

HELL is playing tonight, with Seattle’s Bell Witch, and Portland’s own dark folk magus Aerial Ruin.

Hell Oregon review

Hell is out today, co-released by Sentient Ruin and MSW’s own label, LowerYourHead.

Hell FB

LowerYourHead Bandcamp

Sentient Ruin FB:
ig: @sentientruin
Sentient Ruin Bandcamp:

New Facts Emerge – The Fall

Released worldwide today, July 28th, the new album by The Fall, has the weight of years working against it. The group has been an ongoing concern for roughly 40 years, and New Facts Emerge is their 32nd studio album. Combine that number with the many singles, live albums and compilations that have been released, and you would be hard pressed to find a person who had not heard, or heard of The Fall. Let alone have no opinion one way or the other, regarding this new album. The lines were drawn a long time ago, love them or hate or turn an indifferent cheek, but ladies and gentlemen, the new album is a triumph.

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Freeform Portland presents:  5 Questions with Swintronix & DJ Adam

In this installment, Swintronix interviews fellow Freeform Portland DJ Adam of the weekly show Instead Of White Men.

How did you hear about Freeform Portland?

I remember I was walking around town somewhere, and there was a poster advertising the station and calling for DJs. I had no radio experience before–but it was always one of those things that I wanted to do. I have a deep love for music, culture, and community, so I thought: “this might be for me.” This was before Freeform was liberating the airwaves. I visited the site, I think it was a Google Doc and it seemed chill enough and DIY enough for me to give it a try. I applied for a show and was offered a slot, but due to time conflicts I had to hold off. I started out heavily volunteering for the station, and it was a good move. It was a great way to get connected to the community aspect of things.

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Freeform Portland presents: 5 Questions!

In this installment, Swintronix interviews fellow Freeform Portland DJ zen_hound of the weekly show Whoa This Is Heavy.

How did you hear about Freeform Portland?

I first heard about Freeform through Jeff Simmons, a founder of XRAY FM, on twitter. XRAY was new but going strong, and I was doing some volunteering and digging the community nature of it. Then I hear Jeff’s working with people on ANOTHER community station, this one all music all day, and it only increased my excitement for how things were going musically in Portland. Listening to my friend Ben do his show Cities in Dust made me finally get off my butt and apply for a show.

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Songs For Trains

Trains are spiritual places for me. A sense of time slowing down while you move through the world at a standstill. I spend a good deal of my train rides listening to music whether I’m doing so while reading a book, gazing out the window, napping or writing a Freeform Portland blog post. So, I did some thinking on songs I strongly associate with trains. Many are literal “train songs,” but there are a number that use trains as a means of speaking to something less tangible.

Vashti Bunyan – “Train Song”

“Traveling north, traveling north to find you…”
Haunting. Best for routes that firstly, move northward, and secondly, are winding, remote and ideally immersed in fog. Don’t spend too much time getting attached to anyone you meet on these sorts of train rides.

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