The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Label Spotlight: Meteor City Records

Their motto is "Soothing troubled minds since 1997." Operating out of Tendoy, Idaho, one of the last places one would expect to find a record label catering specifically to stoner, doom and sludge rock (or maybe it's locale is right on the money), Meteor City Records is one of the hippest indie labels you're going to come across.

Their current roster may not be household names quite just yet, but the quality of groups Meteor City carefully nurtures makes them a reputable imprint, particularly if you're down for a loud 'n dirty, space truckin' good time from your music player. Of course, other bands you are familiar with reside at Meteor City such as The Atomic Bitchwax, The Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, Spiritu, Farflung and Nebula.

On the rise, however, are names you'll want to get acclimated with such as Elder, Unida, Black Pyramid, Flood, WhiteBuzz, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Snail, Ararat, Eighteen Wheels Burning, Dead Man, Village of Dead Roots and Leeches of Lore. Here's a look at a handful of Meteor City's recent offerings:

You have to approach Leeches of Lore simply because their name begs your attention. What you're getting from these guys is one of the more original attacks to dropkicked metal filled with old school thrash ala Deaf Dealer and Blood Feast, and random surprises such as folk, funk, western and desert drone. Don't forget an abundance of the outright weird.

Leeches of Lore's self-titled album is like the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino flick not-yet-made about a speed metal band circa 1986 taking a drunken trek out of San Francisco into the desert for a climactic showdown against confederate tarantulas and karate-kicking drug peddlers.

Originally recorded by the Albequerque-based duo of Steve Hammond and Andy Lutz, Leeches of Lore will slam your head against the table with the dynamic "I Am the Raptor," which comes out blaring with brutally fast thrash and then skids into a delightfully strange sequence of malleable modes. Take a trip with a dusty swerve onto a lost highway with spacey acoustics, followed by translucent funk lines before "I Am the Raptor" resumes its heavy course.

If you remember Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, you'll undoubtedly cue them to mind on the Mexicana twang of "Cenozoic Death Waltz," while "Pig Scrapings" blares with a titanic doom crunch following a reverential lead-in. Take the rest of the journey if you dare. Leeches of Lore will challenge you straight into the ethereal, the goofy and ultimately the boisterous. Thrash metal should've been this creative back in the day...

Snail is a band which some might consider what the Foo Fighters might be if Dave Grohl stayed underground or at least kept his foot firmly planted on the distortion pedal from song-to-song. As wonderfully explosive as the Foos can be, Seattle's Snail is the methodic, chugging and harmonious embodiment of Grohl, Josh Homme and Fu Manchu without a sleek veneer. When they cite shoegazer acts such as Lush and My Bloody Valentine amongst their influences, "Blacklight" is their proof positive.

Having performed in the past with Matt Pike's revered stoner sect Sleep, Snail's Blood is a rare album which seeks as much melody as it does syrupy thickness. Though "Mental Models" moves just above a crawl, it possesses undeniable groove, as does "Cleanliness," "Underwater" and "Committed."

"Not for Me" is Blood's signature tune, erupting from a slow-timed syncopation as Mark Johnson (formerly of Blessing the Hogs and The Crucified) and Eric Clausen blare from their axes and fuse in some trippy organs amidst the song's agreeable fuzz threads. The beat patterns from Marty Dodson vary from midtempo and pinpointed to more uppity, allowing his gang to improv at times while never losing the internal vibe. "Not for Me" unravels into a smartly-short jam session at the end, leaving the listener wanting more, even if Blood clocks in around 50 minutes overall.

The members of Snail reportedly took a 13 year spiritual journey to Sheol and if so, their audile reunification on Blood is a happy enjoinder filled with more cadence than simplistically-penned rawk usually accommodates. The interchanging swirls and chunks of "Blacklight" certainly testifies these guys found something meaningful through their sabbatical.

Northmapton's Black Pyramid is one of the most focused bands on Meteor City's expanding roster. Playing in a more classic style of doom and stoner with a dedicated discipline to cohesive structure ala Pentagram and Sabbath, Black Pyramid's self-titled debut is one of the most confident doom albums this year.

"Visions of Gehenna" is nearly relaxed despite its pinpointed strikes and cumbersome tones. Andy Beresky homages Tony Iommi amidst "Gehenna's" steady throb and still jerks out his own psych lines between the apocalypyic raid of his wah-yanking.

Black Pyramid doesn't get much faster than a stamping march on "No Life King" and the Ozzy-era Sabbath slide to "Twilight Grave" and "The Worm Ouroboros." However, they are constantly alert on "The Cauldron Born" and don't hesitate to exploit potential melody with acoustic intros such as the one found on the closing track "Wintermute."

They make no excuses for their influences nor their propensity to honor them. Black Pyramid's existence is to comment about war, sociology and the occult with a shambling output emphasized by thick chord progressions and sixties and seventies-laced guitar solos. A familiar script, sure, but Black Pyramid pulls it off as if they were born to it...

Like their densely-saturated namesake, Flood's latest album Native is a drowning session in murky chords and waterlogged movements. In fact, Native hardly aspires past a submerged slosh at all, save for some random snare-tom roll-throughs and occasional step-ups tempo-wise.

Closer to Earth, Weedeater and Electric Wizard than Sleep, Sunn O))) or other drone-drenched lords of the quagmire, Flood literally seeps into their frequently extensive stoner compositions. The 18:29 "Aphelion" and the 10:38 "Water" are not only exercises in endurance; they dare their listeners to wait for the increased amplitude you know is coming.

Bearing supplemental samples and assorted aural flotsam to create a sometimes haunted atmosphere to their dank projections, Flood's sluggish tunes enhance the primary doom spirals they dabble exclusively with.

Sure, Flood is focused on being louder than midnight marauding and they do tend to be a bit clumsy here and there on interchanges, but if you like your metal set upon a deliberate course, these guys can roll it with a fixated purpose and give you a thundering payoff at times. "Dam" especially works itself past an aloof set of bass and guitar tugs into a raging funeral march.

Only The Ocean and Ahab can outdo these guys in their tidal-crashed doings...

--Ray Van Horn, Jr.

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