Feb. 23Fever Ray, “Plunge”Now this is one that my household and I have been waiting for for a long time. As a huge fan of The Knife and the first Fever Ray album, I was ecstatic to hear that Karin Dreijer was returning for a second solo effort. My girlfriend and I sing the words to “If I Had A Heart” to each other all the time, and this new album isn’t quite as moody as the first record was, but it is certainly just as immersive. Dreijer’s voice ebbs and flows like receding and refreezing glaciers, pitch-shifted not to sound unnatural, but to sound supernatural. The record is powerfully sexual and alarmingly political, merging those two themes into one as much of the world’s political discourse does the same. “This country makes it hard to f---” indeed. The record is a pupa that emerges from the cocoon at the end of “Mama’s Hand,” the final track where most of the ambiguity is stripped away, leaving Dreijer’s unaltered voice and some tribal staccato drum rhythms talking about “the final puzzle piece/a little thing called love.”
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, “Polygondwanaland”Originally released as a free download in mid-November 2017, the Australian modern prog weirdos in King Gizzard finally bring one of their latest releases to the physical world this week. The opening opus “Crumbling Castle” is as apt an opening as any, introducing with a slow riff build over syncopated drum rhythms and warm, weird synthesizer lines. This track might be one of the strongest offerings in their history, though I am admittedly not a superfan of theirs. Like many great prog epics, the beginning and the end are the big ticket items here: The tracks in between are fine, but end up serving as little tasters between the two best tracks of the record. The last minute of the album is an absolute eruption of stoner rock glory that kicks into high gear, sounding like material one would expect from, say, Queens of the Stone Age.
Wake, “Misery Rites”There is no music as aggressive as grindcore – two-minute sonic assaults that pierce your eardrums with misanthropic barrages of the ugly side of humanity. I love grindcore. Canadian grindcore band Wake has unleashed a wonderful portrait of hideousness with their second album, “Misery Rites.” Opening with a foreboding and atmospheric track that creeps up your spine, they do their best to prepare you for what is to come. What follows is 23 minutes that will absolutely blow by as you are busy speeding along in your car and headbanging to the groove-filled grind. The final track, “Burial Ground,” employs some of the death metal groove and slows it down into a sludgey style reminiscent of bands like EYEHATEGOD that gives the record just enough variation to not be too repetitive, but doesn’t shake up the formula enough to forget what lies at the bloody black heart of “Misery Rites.”