A couple of months ago in the New York Times one of the guys from Mars Volta mentioned a great new ultra heavy band from California called "Mammatus". I tracked down the album at Vintage Vinyl and have been listening to it constantly. It reminds me of reading Heavy Metal when I was a kid, particularly "Conquering Armies" by Dionnet and Gal. I can picture armored men cutting through jungles in search of lost treasures to only fall short of their goals and die. Very heavy then very spacey and then really heavy. Cool stuff with a dragon on the cover.
So last night I finally did a little research on "All Music" (one of the 2 or 3 greatest resources on the web) for similar bands. I found them and now I'm finding them as downloads to preview. So far so good.
The first one I found is simply called "the Sword" and their debut album is "Age of Winters". Where Mammatus only gives us four long songs 9one clocks in over 20 minutes), these Texicans hold the times to near radio-manageable lengths and go for more riffing and song structure than the latter's heavy, exquisite drone.
From "Age of Winters" we get a pretty Arts and Crafts maiden on the cover and songs about Norse goddesses and wolves (with howls) inside. There's not a hint of irony or self deprecation. These guys, like Mammatus are doing what they love without a hint of post-modern distancing involved. I think if they even felt like they had to avoid that they would fall apart. These albums work because they're played by utter true believers. Definitely thunderous stuff.
There's more stuff I'm trying to find right now, particularly "High on Fire" and "Turn Me On Dead Man". It's pleasing to learn there's a generation of people who know where to look for musical inspiration (the early 70's - Zep, Sabbath, and, well, that's sort of it. OK, maybe a little early Floyd like "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" for the spacier bits) and then know what to do with it.
For years I've complained about the lack of variety in music, especially heavy stuff. I don't want another (I really don't want any) metal/hip-hop band singing about their crappy lives. Even when I loved hardcore I was more into the political than the personal. I mean lyrically what's all that different from any filthy little emo-band and some modern metal act? You don't have to sing about dragons and harpies (though I'm drooling at the thought), but c'mon. I'm forty now and I don't really care about the misery of some teenager's problem. SO give me my super heavy riffs and keep singing about them ruins and dragons. I'm a happy listener for the moment.