Now this doesn't mean I work out in a blind panic, or that I'm always scared while I'm hitting the weights. And oftentimes this fear works in conjunction with other emotions and feelings to drive my workouts. But regularly I find myself recognizing that fear is at the root of the thoughts that get me out of bed on those mornings when I'm not feeling it and not being grumpy at work just isn't motivation enough. Sometimes the fear is work-based; I work construction, and it's a physically demanding job. Sometimes I'm afraid that if I don't stay in shape, I'll get hurt at work and be unable to provide for my family; other times I worry that as a guy in my mid-thirties, without lifting and being in the best shape possible I won't be able to keep up with these smart-ass kids that work fast when they can find the time to put down their goddamn phones. Sometimes my fear is health-based; it may be silly, but I worry that if I'm not physically fit in conjunction with the right diet, that I won't be able to keep my Crohn's in check (such that it is). Sometimes the fear surrounds my family; one Durfling is already running around, and his little brother will be right behind him. I'm scared that not being fit will make it impossible to keep up with them when they're running around, and that will cause me to miss out on memories. They're also gonna be BIG dudes, and I'm worried that they'll be able to kick my ass sooner than I'd like. There's also the Durfette; there's a very real fear I have that without working out, I'll sink into other bad habits and wind up a doughy dolt of a sitcom husband, and she won't be as forgiving as Leah Remini.
Some of these fears are more valid than others, and some of them are complete fabrications of my mind, and in quiet moments of contemplation, sometimes I wonder if it's healthy for fear to compose such a sizable base for my workout drive. Fear has its benefits to be sure, but living a life based on fear doesn't seem like a fun or healthy way to live. Ultimately, I've come to think of fear as a component to my workouts, a tool that helps me maximize my time in the gym, not unlike a good stretch or a protein shake. It's a motivating factor, it helps me stay focused on what I'm doing, and for good or bad, it weaves my workouts into the rest of my life and vice versa, as opposed to just having them be the first hour or so of my weekdays. Anyway, that's enough of how I'm scared of everything; on to the music!
It wasn't supposed to go this way, man. I had a plan for this. The kids would be in bed. I'd head down to the fire pit and get a good fire going. Maybe I'd chance it on my stomach and have a glass of whiskey (Kentucky bourbon, natch). I'd sit before the flames, watching the stars come out, listening to Panopticon the way Dio intended. But then it was raining. And then the in-laws were in town. And then it was 90 degrees at 9:30pm. And then one night the kids wouldn't sleep. And then, before long, I realized that the only constant, consistent block of time I have to listen to music uninterrupted is during my morning garage workouts. It wasn't the perfect, nature-centric evening for my most anticipated album of the year, but it was better than not listening to it at all.
And you know what? It didn't really matter. Sure, ...And Again Into the Light could absolutely be enjoyed by a fire with a nice libation by your side (and will be, certainly), but the setting couldn't be less important. Austin Lunn has created another masterpiece of an album, one that is certainly recognizable as Panopticon, but also displays a newfound growth and confidence. There is a profound sense of peace amidst the blastbeats and orchestral displays on ...And Again Into the Light, and the more I listen to it, the more fully realized it seems. The quiet intro of "Dead Loons" is a perfect example; there are things happening, but after the acoustic opening track, I absolutely expected "Dead Loons" to barrel into the heavy full-tilt, but it doesn't, and this subversion of expectations makes for an undeniably better listen. Moments like this abound on ...And Again Into the Light, some obvious and instantly heard, others more subtle and revealed after repeated listens. Better and smarter writers than I have written about the album at length, so I'll leave the full reviews to him. But suffice it to say that ...And Again Into the Light surpassed every single expectation that I had coming into a new album from my favorite band, and no one should be surprised to see this one end up in many, many AOTY lists come December. Until then, I'll be listening to it regularly. Also, I absolutely CRUSHED leg day today. ...And Again Into the Light is out now on the indomitable Bindrune Recordings.
Diskord - Degnerations
Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever gone two paragraphs on an album before. Definitely worth it. Diskord is a name I feel like I've heard before without ever hearing, which is certainly possible; Degenerations is only the band's third full-length, but that discography spans twenty years, so they've been around for a minute. If Degenerations is indicative of what they've been up to for two decades, then I've sorely been missing out. Degenerations is an all-out, kitchen sink approach to death metal, with progressive elements, heavy straightforward riff elements, and even some jazz elements, all thrown into a blender and then turned on to high speed with the lid left off. So now your kitchen is a mess and there are liquified bits of multiple genres all over your cabinets, but you don't care because you've been dancing in this musical maelstrom and letting it hit you in your face as hard and as often as possible. So yeah, Degenerations has a lot of fun exploring from its death metal base, and kudos to Diskord for making it all work without feeling ostentatious or too much. Degenerations is out via Transcending Obscurity on August 13th.
Viserion - Natural Selection
I try to go in to albums I haven't heard by bands I've never heard of with as
open a mind as possible, but sometimes its impossible to not let band names
influence you just a little bit. Viserion, if I remember
correctly (Ed. Note: Nope, your memory is shit; Viserion is the dragon named after
Viserys, who is the person you're talking about. You're already on the
computer, just use fucking google), was Khaleesi's dickhead brother in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, a sniveling
little shit of a human that really just sucked hard every time he
was onscreen, save for one.
(Spoiler Alert for ten years ago on a show that broke both of its ankles
and every single one of the bones in its legs and also shit its pants on the
landing) After marrying his sister off to Khal Drogo in exchange for an army,
Viserion gets impertinent (as is his default setting) and pulls a knife and
threatens Danarys if the Drogo doesn't give him the army. Drogo
essentially turns into the Michael Jordan "...and I took that personally"
meme, melts down a whole bunch of gold coins, and pours it over Viserion's
head, killing him instantly in one of the most metal deaths on a show that had
a lot of metal deaths. So basically, before I even started
listening to Natural Selection, I was already convinced that it would
either be whiny and annoying or just absolutely, flawlessly intense. The
raw, unyielding black metal on Natural Selection (contained behind
an absolutely brutal album cover) is very much the latter, bleak
and aggressive and violent as killing a man with melted gold. The songs
are all rapid fire assaults on the senses that don't concern themselves with
things like melody or ambiance. These songs are here to kill, not be
killed, and ensure that they are the ones who survive. Which should have
been obvious from the album title, in hindsight. Viserion is
self-releasing Natural Selection on August 13th.
FŌR - The Life Feeding Flame
This isn't my first time listening to The Life Feeding Flame; I discovered it on Bandcamp a month or so ago and was immediately blown away by FŌR's combination of Ulcerate-ish dissonant death metal with blackened doom elements. I let Mick know about it as soon as I finished the EP, because if there's one thing I know about the ol' Boss Man, it's that he loves him some Ulcerate. Actually, if I had to pick just one thing to say I know about him, that probably wouldn't be it. But I do know that it's true, and that because he digs Ulcerate, I knew he would dig FŌR. Which means if YOU dig Ulcerate, then you will ALSO dig FŌR. CRABCAKE SAMMICH. That's what I'd say about Mick if I could pick just one thing. Although that doesn't help any of you out, because it's sort of an inside joke. But just trust me, it's super descriptive and absolutely appropriate for the Töp's Head Honcho. Anyway, I picked The Life Feeding Flame because I needed something fierce and invigorating and relatively short for my HIIT workout today, and this absolutely fits the bill. The Life Feeding Flame came out May 11th on the fantastically named Nihilistic Noise Propaganda.
Replicant - Malignant Reality
So in one of those insanely weird coincidences, I was thinking about Blade Runner the other day (which happens relatively often, I guess) when I opened up my Gmail and saw a band called Replicant. After being extremely weirded out, I decided that obviously I had to listen to the band at my next opportunity, which you've already worked out is today. Replicant play a straightforward but emotive strain of technical death metal that gets your heart pumping and your head banging; the first FFO of Gorguts is absolutely spot on. Malignant Reality is the band's second album, and hopefully it puts them on the map, because it's a pretty impeccable album. Gorgeous, really, in a technical death metal way. Not unlike, say, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhāuser Gate. Malignant Reality comes out via Transcending Obscurity on September 10th. Honestly, at this point, just check out everything TO puts out, because they do not do bullshit releases. Easily one of the strongest and most prolific metal label, top to bottom, working right now.