Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Landmine Marathon

Landmine Marathon's new album, Gallows, is one of the releases I've really been looking forward to, so with it's impending arrival in my mailbox, I figured I ought to revisit their back catalogue.

I picked up that little box of goodies from the awesome tape label Selfish Satan Recordings, which is run by an awesome dude named Ami. I've had it sitting around for months now, but I've never really given the first coupla albums (Wounded and Rusted Eyes Awake) a proper listen, since I was so enthralled to their third, Sovereign Descent. Gonna do this thing chronologically, starting with their debut, Wounded.

Side A hisses into life with '25th Hour', a slow starter riff which crawls along before the drums come in, and the pace picks up. So far, so good, but then Grace Perry's feral snarling vocals come in over the music, and I hear what makes me love this band so much.

Landmine Marathon might not play a style of music that hasn't been done to death (ha!) a million times over, but they do it with a genuine ferocity that comes through in the delivery. The catchy-as-fuck riffs meander their way into your skull before bludgeoning it from the inside (that was my millionth attempt at a terrible metaphor. That one was particularly shit. I'm proud of it's shitness.). The drums blast in all the right places, and descend to snail's pace crawls in others, giving the songs real dynamics, not just 'look how fast/complicated/show-offy we can be!'.
This bands writes SONGS.

But before I get too off track yet again, what I was getting at was that Grace's growls, shrieks, and demented howls are genuinely unsettling in parts. When I hear her voice, I get that feeling I've probably mentioned in so many other posts about why metal gives me a feeling no other genre does.
It sounds like there is no way in hell that these sounds can be made by a human being, and that Grace Perry is surely just the worldly name of some horrifying howling creature trapped in a woman's body.

As the first side of Wounded plays through, I can definitely tell that this is their first album. Since I started with their third album, I'm used to hearing a cohesive unit do what it does best, but on these initial songs, they sound like a band still finding their feet, at least in comparison, because they find them pretty fucking fast. All through the rest of side A, and all of the second too, tracks like 'Thunder Blasted Bodies' and 'White Widows' have enough variation, ideas, and are delivered with enough acid-thrown-in-your-face raw aggression that this never gets old even for a second.
The penultimate track stomps out of the speakers at a funeral march pace, a string-bending rotting note lurching along until it explodes into 'Time Movement', the albums closer. This contrast of tempos and delivery are what I like about the death-ier end of the metal spectrum when it's done well, it's not just relentless rythm at a million bpm, it's the dynamics, the contrast, the shock of the velocity, the ferocity.

I can't believe I haven't listened to this tape before now! What a fucking idiot. I wish I still had my old '90s walkman so I could blast this as I walk to work tomorrow.

I am a little more familiar with Rusted Eyes Awake, but it's still not deeply ingrained enough in my brain for me to remember off by heart what I thought of it, which is why I'm having this marathon (no pun intended, honestly!) tape listening session.

Using the phrase 'more of the same' is not intended as an insult by any stretch, because when the same has been tightened up, refined, yet lost none of the impetus and scathing energy, then that is a very fucking good thing. Opening with 'BILE TOWERS', a title so awesome I had to capitalise it, this album announces that yes, this is indeed more of the same. They didn't turn around and drop in rapping, EBM beats, and start wearing pvc legware, like some bands are known to do these days. Landmine Marathon still play death fucking metal.

I spent most of my day today trying to drown out the radio by deafening myself with plenty of Death, Entombed and Bolt Thrower, and listening to LM now, hours later, I'm struck by how well these songs stack up against the greats, how this band wouldn't have sounded out of place if they were putting out albums on Earache in the golden years of that label.
Admittedly, that's not a conclusion I am alone in, I've seen plenty of 'proper music writers' describe them as pure Bolt Thrower worship, and though this isn't unaccurate, it's far from a bad thing.

'Bled To Oblivion' is by far my favourite track from the first side, Grace's voice being joined in what probably passes for the chorus by Antony Hämäläinen from some band I've never heard of. Though judging by the way his voice works alongside the main vocals, providing a deeper bellow to counterpoint the snarl, I should probably give 'em a shot. The twin guitar work in the final minute is seriously 'bang-worthy.

Side B opens with another caps-worthy song title, HEROIN SWINE. This is just straight out blastbeat nastiness, never relenting for even a second to let you catch your breath. Or whatever metaphor you want to come up with meaning respite for your ears. Oh wait, there's a breakdown (NO! not that kind, there is nothing remotely -core about this song) with some widdly guitarwork. Then it's back into double-kick mayhem until the end.

The rest of the tracks blur past in a red-misted haze of frantic blastbeats, corrosive guitar tone and venomous vocals, with the final, and title track winding things down in a much more mid-paced fashion, with a swaggering rythm and the harshest, most throat-shredding fade-out ending I've ever heard.
The tape hisses and clicks and ends. Whew. Next up...

A fade-in on the first track, Exist, excellent! I am a little biased towards this album because I've played the fuck out of it for a year now, but it still sounds fresh and exciting to me every time. It still makes me want to go out and run until my lungs burst. Which I'm sure isn't a very mentally stable reaction to music...

When I first encountered Landmine Marathon, the first thing that caught my eye, literally, was the album artwork by the awesome Dan Seagrave, and if you don't know who that is then just go fucking kill yourself.
I won't list every amazing record artwork he's responsible for, because it would take me forever, but safe to say he's pretty damn legendary among death metal artwork nerds (an admittedly niche section of society). I would link to his website, but it seems to be a flash monstrosity, and I can't even get it to display, so stop reading this shite and go research him yourself already...

Anyway, I checked the band out based on the artwork, and fell in morbid musical love. Especially when I saw the video for the next track, Shadows Fed To Tyrants. Check it out, tell me that doesn't look like the most fun ever?

It confirmed everything I thought when I heard their music, that they'd be a no bullshit, built-to-destroy-things-to live spectacle. I really hope they cross the Atlantic sometime, I need to get bloodied up to this song. The breakdown (again, I have to stress that it's not THAT sort of breakdown) in the middle of the song is worth headbanging to until your eyes fall out.

Flood The Earth is my favourite track on the whole album. It's... pulverising perfection. Not much more to say about it than that.

I can't think of original things to say that properly convey just how fucking good this album is. Just buy it, get into it, then get at me about it so I have someone to talk to about this fucking awesome band.

You can pick up the single cassettes, or the boxset, from Selfish Satan
Or get the CDs from Prosthetic
Kit yourself out in a shirt
And keep up with the band's tour schedule and other shit here

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