Relapse: 25 Essential Tracks

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essential relapse tracks

Nasum essential Relapse songsNasum – “Stormshield
from Helvete (2003)

Swedish grindcore troupe Nasum has long had a better handle on melody and hooks than a lot of their peers, and more traditionally hardcore in their greatest moments. One of them, “Stormshield,” has a staggering amount of depth and dynamics for a track that spans less than two and a half minutes (which makes it the second longest track on 2003’s Helvete). It gallops at a breakneck pace, with vocalist Mieszko Talarczyk barking relentlessly. The band throws almost everything at the listener in their arsenal, including clean-tone guitar three quarters of the way through the song. So it’s remarkable that, despite their go-for-the-jugular approach, Nasum end up performing something here that’s unusually accessible by grindcore standards. It’s catchy, and you can sustain a nasty bruise to it! – JT

Mastodon LeviathanMastodon – “I Am Ahab
from Leviathan (2004)

In retrospect, a metal concept-album stirred by Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick makes sense. And no other band besides Mastodon would have executed the idea as judiciously. Mastodon is strange but wonderful throughout Leviathan, and those same two descriptors could be used to express Moby-Dick as a read. “I Am Ahab” is as tactful as Mastodon gets. It’s as rough as those fictional seas, but able to be navigated. The song is one huge call to arms. It’s funny that this track is taken from Captain Ahab’s perspective because Mastodon is biting as hard as the white whale’s teeth, denying all of revenge. – JJM

essential relapse songs pig destroyerPig Destroyer – “Gravedancer
from Terrifyer (2004)

With 2001’s Prowler In the Yard, Virginia miscreants Pig Destroyer turned grindcore into an elevated, and even more twisted art form. With 2004’s Terrifyer, they made it somehow bigger, more eclectic, deeper grooving and harder rocking. No longer merely a sprint toward some horrific end, Pig Destroyer explored the depth and nuance of their visceral and virulent grind and turned out more than a few rippers with more sophisticated — yet still concise — songwriting. One such highlight is “Gravedancer,” which is maybe the closest the band will ever get to Queens of the Stone Age. It has a bit of boogie in its backside, as well as some of the abrasive scrape of fellow Relapse alums Unsane. In fact, it’s pretty much a blast until the final minute or so, in which the music drops out for the sake of a muffled theatrical interlude that could either be a poorly recorded play rehearsal or a voyeur’s personal capture of a domestic dispute. – JT

essential relapse tracks high on fireHigh on Fire – “Anointing of Seer
from Blessed Black Wings (2005)

This song makes me want to jump off of a fucking stage. And if you don’t feel similar notions about “Anointing Of Seer,” then you’re too damn composed. High On Fire have stirred up similarly primal feelings for 15 years, laying slab after slab of engrossing stoner metal. B-I-G riffs and grimy hooks, and “Anointing Of Seer” is tall order. Matt Pike’s guitar whips like a bull, Joe Preston’s bass tethers around, and Des Kensel’s tom rolls are ready to blow ear drums (thank you, Steve Albini!). And there is a signature Pike solo to boot. “Anointing Of Seer” could go on forever and I wouldn’t get bored. Destroyer! – JJM

essential relapse tracks Dillinger escape planThe Dillinger Escape Plan – “Milk Lizard
from Ire Works (2007)

Ire Works was The Dillinger Escape Plan’s third and last album with Relapse, and the first recording to not feature spazz jazz workhorse drummer Chris Pennie, who left the band to join Coheed & Cambria after one long stare-off with the other members of DEP. Understandably, fans were concerned about Pennie’s absence; he was a chief songwriter alongside guitarist Benjamin Weinman. However, the band turned out to be stronger than ever, and new drummer Gil Sharone was the secret weapon that carried Ire Works to newfound heights for DEP. Horns are rarely used in metal songs, but Matt Lupo’s trumpet part in “Milk Lizard” was an experimental success. It may take a few listens to notice the trumpet; the strategic placement of the brass instrument makes sure not to distract from the rest of the frenzy. Somehow, the trumpet is still a focal point. There are bands that throw everything but the kitchen sink into an album, and then there are bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, who toss the sink in there, too. – JJM

essential relapse tracks agoraphobic nosebleedAgoraphobic Nosebleed – “Trauma Queen
from Agorapocalypse (2009)

Scott Hull has already made one appearance on this playlist with his other band, Pig Destroyer, but the real star of Agoraphobic Nosebleed is vocalist Katherine Katz, who joined the band in 2007. Her vocals add an entirely different aspect to the band, counterbalancing Richard Johnson and Jay Randall’s throaty growls with a more piercing shriek that complements the band’s thrash-addled grindcore perfectly. The best showcase of this is the short, menacing “Trauma Queen,” which is fast and aggressive enough to be punk rock, but much, much heavier than punk has ever been. The album on the whole is a strong showcase of the band’s confrontational, often smart-assed thrash-hardcore hybrid, but if you want the essence of Agoraphobic Nosebleed distilled into one minute and 51 seconds, this is the song you’re looking for. – JT

essential Relapse tracks BaronessBaroness – “A Horse Called ‘Golgotha’
from Blue Record (2009)

The inarguable anchor of Baroness’ sophomore LP, Blue Record, has to be “A Horse Called ‘Golgotha’.” The best song on the Savannah, Ga. quartet’s best record, this track is a classic that merges all of the elements that make Baroness one of the world’s last great rock bands. From its seamless mix of sludge, heavy metal and post-hardcore to its incorporation of southern gothic aesthetic to its raw, beefy presentation, “A Horse Called ‘Golgotha’” powers forward with an every-measure-blows-away-the-last-one kind of attitude. When you hear those opening chords, it’s like the slow, steady ascent at the start of a roller coaster. Buckle up, because this drop is a fierce one. – ATB

essential relapse songs minskMinsk – “Three Moons
from With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (2009)

Peoria, Illinois’ Minsk craft a psychedelic, doom-tinged post-metal through complicated song progressions, heavy imagery, and a production style influenced by their more ambient and shoegaze-leaning contemporaries. Taking that into consideration, “Three Moons” is quite a mouthful to swallow in one bite. Between its pummeling, six-minute run and whopper lines like “And life filled my nostrils/ As veins ran so dry/ Dead to the world/ And dead in your eyes,” this track has a tendency to dig deep. But give this one a chance to settle in your head and Minsk reveal themselves to be something akin to a connoisseur’s alternative to Tool: Rich, dense progressive rock whose players hit the books as hard as they hammer their instruments. – ATB

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