Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Live Review: Deafheaven/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Metal No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

And now for the only full-on metal act of this entire festival, the eagerly awaited (by some) Deafheaven. A lot of folks at the fest were clearly not ready for vocalist George Clarke’s gut-wrenching shrieks, but whatever. We will be back to indie rock mumbling and such soon enough.

A certain segment of metal critics/fans lost their collective shit for the band’s 2013 release, “Sunbather,” a wet dream for anyone who is equally enamored of both, say, Gorgoroth and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I have been largely unmoved by the band’s records, but I will say their shoegaze-y elements are much more stirring in a live setting. Also Clarke’s evil-German-film-studies grad-student vibe actually works live; he’s got a weird kind of sexy malevolence that fits their sound and is dynamic to watch. They debuted a new track,”From The Kettle Unto The Coil” with a nice chunky breakdown in the middle that appeals to my metal traditionalist sensibilities. You win this round, Deafheaven. Mostly because you guys are the only metal I’ll see all weekend. (Keidra Chaney)

Preview: Pig Destroyer/Reggies Rock Club

Metal No Comments »


Pig Destroyer is about as close to a household name as underground metal can get, to the point that some metal snobs consider the band to be “mainstream” in comparison to its younger, more extreme counterparts. (They probably wouldn’t pass the “does your mom know them?” test, unless your mom goes to Kuma’s regularly.) Of course musically, the band is no less savage than they’ve ever been. Their last full-length, 2012’s “Book Burner” was both unusually ambitious–with some of the best, most disturbing lyrical storytelling vocalist J.R. Hayes has ever written–while sounding younger and more punk than ever, thanks to primary songwriter/guitarist Scott Hull’s guiding hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Dillinger Escape Plan/Metro

Mathcore, Metal No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDdillinger escape plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan is not every metal fan’s musical cup of tea. Some are put off by the frenzied, tempo-hopping riffage of guitarist/founding member Ben Weinman. The “no clean vocals” purist crowd doesn’t care much for vocalist Greg Puciato’s smoother vocal stylings. Even so, the mathcore quintet’s fan base seems to grow with each new release, despite an ever-changing lineup and a commitment to creating persistently alienating music. Their most recent album, “One of Us Is the Killer,” shows the band at their most artistically confident, marrying the incomprehensible technicality of Weinman’s guitar playing and Billy Rymer’s drums with melodic , dare I say, pop-influenced choruses. It’s all topped off with Puciato’s impressive vocal range, jumping from high-pitched shrieks to guttural bellows to R&B-tinged crooning, sometimes in one song. It’s a trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Earth/Empty Bottle

Ambient, Drone, Experimental, Metal, Minimalism, Noise No Comments »


When Black Sabbath abandoned the name Earth, it was left for Dylan Carlson’s crew to assume two decades later. Earth’s mythology and music from the early nineties have proven to be equally formidable forces. Their seminal “Earth 2” is regarded as the first drone metal album, though their stint on Sub Pop is considered the beneficial byproduct of a close friendship with Kurt Cobain. Carlson and Cobain were former roommates, confidants and co-dependent drug users; their camaraderie culminating in Cobain’s suicide via a shotgun purchased in Carlson’s name. Two more albums were issued on Sub Pop, the epic distortion excursions of their genre-defining masterpiece tapered to shorter outbursts edging toward standard song length, replete with a Hendrix cover. And then, radio silence. In recent interviews, Carlson has credited this lost time to a continued struggle with drug addiction and depression, but by the mid-aughts, Earth had begun playing out again, revitalized by the inclusion of Carlson’s wife Adrienne Davies on drums, and supported by the successes of bands like Sunn O))) who owe much to the genre’s forebears. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Scott H. Biram/Reggies Rock Club

Bluegrass, Blues, Country, Metal, Punk, Rock No Comments »


Though Texan Scott H. Biram has released a number of well-received albums and has been performing for more than a decade (amassing a considerable following in that time period) his latest release from Bloodshot Records (“Nothin’ But Blood”) is bringing new fans out of the woodwork. Biram calls his music “the bastard child of punk, blues, country, hillbilly, bluegrass, chain gang, metal and classic rock,” and for once this is not an example of an artist over-selling himself. Despite the first track on his latest album implying that he’s taking it “Slow & Easy,” Biram still preaches as much hellfire as he does redemption with both his lyrics and musical style, following loud, fighting-angry metal tunes like “Church Point Girls” with easy listening bluegrass ballads like “I’m Troubled.” Seeing Biram take the stage alone with his signature trucker hat, the uninitiated may expect a fairly typical country singer-songwriter—but once he gets going, it becomes clear why he’s also known as “The Dirty Old One Man Band.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Russian Circles/Metro

Metal, Post-metal No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDRussian Circles

What exactly is “post-metal?” Some fans swear by the term, others loathe it. It tends to be used in reference to bands that appeal to people who don’t have much use for heavy music in any other context. You can decide for yourself whether or not the description quite fits for Chicago’s Russian Circles, but anyone with an appreciation for the layered instrumentals of Explosions in the Sky, or the heavier riffing of Pelican will appreciate this band. Without a singer to tell stories through lyrics, the trio—guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz—create musical narratives through finely crafted arrangements. Read the rest of this entry »

Pleasantly Unpleasant: A New Extreme from Chicago’s Indian

Chicago Artists, Interviews, Metal No Comments »

By Keidra ChaneyIndian

Extreme metal’s never been a genre known for its appreciation of gentle beauty. But when critics and fans alike consistently describe an album’s listening experience as “ugly” and “torturous”–and it’s meant as a compliment–you can assume you’re in for something special. “From All Purity,” the fourth full-length release from Chicago quartet Indian, has been lauded by many as the band’s most impressive release to date, while at the same time being described as one of the more unpleasant and difficult musical offerings in recent memory. Not a small feat from a band that’s already built a reputation for their particularly snarling sound.

The six tracks on “From All Purity” radiate loathing and paranoia through a wall of feedback and power electronics punctuated by vocalist/guitarist Dylan O’Toole’s rabid screams. The pummeling opening song, “Rape,” immediately gives you an idea of the type of album you’re in for from the title alone. The eardrum-splitting penultimate track “Clarify,” is a four-minute-long rising cacophony of feedback that becomes nearly unbearable. The album is a challenging listen even for extreme music fans, but at only forty minutes long, “From All Purity” is also a lean and well-crafted musical statement.

“Unpleasant is how I describe it [too],” says guitarist Will Lindsay (formerly of Wolves in The Throne Room and Nachtmystium). Lindsay moved from the Pacific Northwest to join O’Toole, drummer Bill Bumgardner, and bassist Ron DeFries during the band’s last album, “Guiltless” (2011) and now splits songwriting and vocalist duties with O’Toole. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Moonspell/Reggies Rock Club

Metal No Comments »


While Portugal’s Moonspell has had the usual shifts in style that are characteristic of a band with a lengthy history, in a black-metal-dominated contemporary scene that clings to “no clean vocals” like a religion, the band’s gothic influences are an acquired taste for certain fans. That being said, “Alpha Noir,” part of the band’s most recent two-part release, is their thrashiest in years. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Amon Amarth/House of Blues

Metal No Comments »


Amon Amarth has been churning out face-melting, Nordic-lore-inspired epic metal for the past twenty years. Much like the delicious casserole at your grandma’s house, you’ll never see much change in the recipe, but the experience will be consistent and satisfying. The band’s latest opus, “Deceiver of the Gods,” finds the group in their proven form, with vocalist Johan Hegg’s usual demonic growl matched with the majestic, dual guitar riffage from guitarists Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen that would be right at home on a Maiden release. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Oozing Wound/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Metal, Noise No Comments »
Photo by Joe Martinez

Photo: Joe Martinez


Was 2013 the year of Oozing Wound? The first 200 copies of the metal band’s Thrill Jockey debut LP arrived to record stores wrapped in a blood-red silk-screened print, flames shooting out of a cratered eyeball, music contained therein thrash enough to earn the name “Retrash,” every bit as glorious as it sounds. If tracks “Autopsy Turvy” or “Sustained By Hatred (Rambo 4)” sound familiar, 2012’s “Vape and Pillage” tape may have turned up in your collection, a welcome addition to any fan of smart speed metal with a sense of humor. Hence the type of gross fun one encounters when Googling their drummer’s record label “Rotted Tooth,” a local mainstay for the best punk-metal oddities around. Read the rest of this entry »