The Round Up Tapes // Volume XIV

Couch Slut – Contempt

Couch Slut aren’t taking any prisoners on their follow up to 2014s My Life as a Woman and on Contempt they continue to mine the terrifying real situations the band members have found themselves in. On first glance their music is a mind-melding mesh of noise, old school hardcore and even some nods to second wave black metal, but Couch Slut introduce increasingly off-kilter moments to create an atmosphere of dread and unnerving fury. Front-person Megan Osztrosits wraps her harsh, visceral tones around opener “Funeral Dyke” and its bizarre segues from raging punk to weirdo black metal and even a subtly beautiful riff that soars suddenly over all before fading into groove-laden guitar and screams.

As Contempt progresses it takes on various other forms – “Penalty Scar” incorporates church bells and “Snake in the Grass” begins on slow, sludgy notions that soon turn into climbing guitar leads that are altogether gorgeous in their sounds before giving way to an almost post-rock section  – yet these contrasts are never to the detriment of the music and Couch Slut are deftly cohesive even when everything around them is changing.

“Won’t Come” closes out the record on sickening guitar strikes that squeal with feedback and follow the slow, deliberate drums that pound out the beat. Megan’s voice is slyly hidden by the squall above yet the vitriol behind the words is unmistakable – Couch Slut have a lot to say and this won’t be the last we hear of them.

Listen and buy here.

 Hell – Hell

Beginning opening track “Helmzmen” on a mayday distress call sets out Hell’s manifesto succinctly – the frightening realisation that no matter what, you can’t turn back and instead you are found accepting the notion that the following moments will be defined by fire, fury and death and you give in, you allow the sounds wash over you and to envelop you completely. To witness Hell is to witness the end and in the ten or so years that the project has been active, enigmatic founding member MSW has been creating music to soundtrack the apocalypse.

Screams cast their shadows over all with MSW twisting his voice into high-pitched howls and opposing guttural registers, often within the same song, to create a dense and textured palette of tones that are unique to this band. “Helmzmen” continues to pulse on weighty riffs and hypnotic rhythms, and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience Hell live, you’ll understand how truly terrifying it is to come to after it’s over.

The infernal groove that permeates “Machitikos” is a phenomenal stroke of genius; the guitars just cover MSW’s accompanying vocals but both work in sync to create a feeling of movement towards a finite point. It’s somehow magical but ultimately ghastly at the same time – no fun should be had on this journey to the underworld.

“Victus” oppresses in its multi-layered drones and guitars that ramp up the claustrophobia to an almost unbearable level, swelling to the highest point before giving way to sorrowful chords and gorgeous strings that signal the bittersweet serenity before the fall. Final track “Seelenos” brings to life Emily Dickinson’s “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” which alongside a mournful female voice that sings an ode to the end, brings a closure to a record that will echo across the ages.  Hell is astonishing in its weight and scope and MSW’s star will continue to ascend while the world falls apart around us.

Listen and buy here.

MAR – Fill Your Lungs

Hailing from Rhode Island, the duo behind MAR create sludgy, dirt-laden doom that speaks of pain and trauma and their music serves as cathartic expression. Vocalist Kay Belardinelli draws you in to her distress with raging screams and personal epitaphs while the music behind during “Weather the Storm” is slow, purposeful and desperate – giving her space to breathe and deal with the demons.

Instrumental track “Mother of Broken Men” intersects the album allowing a small moment of time to reassess the anger held within and its unusual synths cloak proceedings in a desperate melancholy (think Aäkon Këëtrëh’s Dans la forêt… and its unusual sound) before “Sick of It” fires through its subsequent minute with fiery rage.

“To My Dead Brother” is a song that speaks of great loss and the personal sadness that is driven forth by Kay’s howls is one that cuts deeply. There’s a definite anger to be heard but it’s one that is marred by hindsight and not knowing how to cope with tragedy. One can only hope that even such a small step into acceptance is something that can bring about peace. The lesson here is to find your words, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Listen and buy here.

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