I wouldn't lie to you

New music, old music, new thougts.

I wouldn't lie to you
Section of Leatherface's Mush

Over the past couple of months, some very kind people have said some very kind things about this newsletter. So, if you're new here, welcome aboard. In the time since my interview with Pile's Rick Maguire, there have been a handful of newsletters I've started writing only to metaphorically crumple them up and toss them in the trash. Perhaps it's because I felt like everyone was weighing in on Pitchfork, or the latest hardcore drama, or, fuck, I don't even remember what else now. The point is, I didn't feel like adding another naval gazing essay to the pile. Beyond that, I just didn't want to deal with other people having opinions about my opinions. I know, how utterly precious of me, but I think with some of these things hitting closer to home, I didn't want to feel like my life—or my thoughts—were fodder for anyone else's content.

Earlier this year, my good pal Dan Ozzi wrote a piece called "In Defense of Shutting Up" and it's been kicking around in my head ever since. Right now, I feel like my creative self isn't fulfilling by having opinions online. Unfortunately, when it comes to writing, those two things are inextricably linked. That's part of why I tossed those other essays aside, as it just felt like contributing to the landfill instead of adding any value. I know screeds about the corporate enshittification of media or how hardcore is slowly killing itself would garner a lot of views, but I don't know if I want to write them anymore. I just want to do my thing and let the rest of the noise melt away.

During all this time, Nina and I have been watching a ton of movies and shows by the Canadian director, writer, and actor Matt Johnson and it's been as inspiring to me as anything else in recent memory. His creative approach, which essentially boils down to "Do everything they tell you not to do when making art" makes me remember that there's always utility to being on the other side of what an industry says you should be prioritizing. There's freedom in doing what you want and I plan to do more of that with Former Clarity this year. With that in mind, let's talk about some music.

Deletär, Deletär

The fallibility of year-end lists is that try as you might, you always miss something. Last year, I missed out on Deletär's incredible second full-length. I could try to cheat and tell you that because Sorry State Records released the U.S. pressing of the record in 2024 it's actually an album from this year, but those kinds of mental gymnastics don't serve anybody. It's an older record, but I'm excited about it now, so here it is.

While the French band is rooted in D-beat, these songs tap into a catchiness that I've always found inherent to the genre. Sure, it's abrasive, but the pounding rhythms, simple riffs, and repetitive slogans allow these songs to burrow into your skull after just one listen. It's a record that's been on repeat for me since the start of the year and, if you're lucky enough to live in one of the cities they're playing on their upcoming American tour in April, I implore you to go. Also, I always love a band where every release is just self-titled. They now have three releases all named Deletär, and that rules. It feels like categorization and marketing are complete afterthoughts, and that's something that speaks to me on a very deep level right now.

Dissimulator, Lower Form Resistance

Is thrash coming back? Or at least a more extreme version of thrash? Well, maybe not, as I think people are still mad about getting duped by bandana thrash 20 years ago but, for the first time possibly ever, there are two thrash records in a Former Clarity roundup.

The first is Lower Form Resistance by Dissimulator which, I've gotta say, has that kind of dry guitar production that makes me feel like I just teased my hair and strapped on some white high-tops before going to drink Slurpees in the 7-11 parking lot. There's a good chunk of death metal in this thing but what I hear most on this record is Voivod. It's easy to say that given that Dissimulator similarly mines sci-fi and technology as a lyrical and aesthetic focus, but the sideways riffing on display here shows that they are serious about tapping into that influence. In spots, some hyper-processed vocals made me think of Cynic, which shows they are pulling from that more prog-indebted well without getting sucked into a place of pure pretension. While I find thrash can often feel purely revivalist, Dissimulator updates the style while still understanding the genre's roots, which is something I fully welcome.

Pura Man​í​a, Extraños​ Casos De La Vida Real

Without talking too much shit, I've been fairly disappointed in the follow-up releases by some of the more recent Oi! revivalists. The Mexican-Canadian band Pura Man​í​a was ahead of many of them, with releases dating back to 2014. Now, after a seven-year gap, they just released the Extraños​ Casos De La Vida Real EP on Roachleg Records. To my ears, it's the best thing they've done. Before this, I thought the band was solid but not particularly inspiring. Given that I'm touchy with both Oi! and post-punk, putting the two together can be a tough sell for me. However, when done right, I love it. As you've correctly guessed by now, that's the case here.

This was such an immediate listen that, when I first played it it, I paid $17 for this 7-inch. I tell you that because it speaks to the fact I was willing to throw all common sense aside and plunk down the cash to make sure I could throw these songs on whenever the mood struck. Exposing my own financial humiliation is the biggest endorsement I can give to something, and this one gets it.

Sovereign, Altered Realities

Here's our second thrash record of the newsletter which, again, feels truly wild to me. To the untrained eye, Dissimulator and Sovereign look like they could be the exact same band. They both borrow heavily from bands that mined pulpy sci-fi novels for inspiration, and their album covers could probably be switched with one another and work just as well. That said, they come at those influences from different angles. Where Dissimulator is a bit more Voivod and Sadus, Sovereign is Pestilence and Nocturnus. Both deploy razor-sharp riffs and time-warping synths, but they never end up sounding alike. In fact, I think there's a distinct possibility you might like one band and not the other, which speaks to the fact that they each find new paths into sounds that could have easily become muddled.

Spectral Voice, Sparagmos

I'd been waiting for Spectral Voice to follow up 2017's Eroded Corridors of Unbeing for… well, I guess exactly seven years. Through the grapevine, I'd heard that their new record was in progress and that there were some pretty heady things at play, so my anticipation had been growing steadily for a while. Much like I try to avoid watching trailers before seeing a movie, I tend to avoid pre-release tracks, especially from an album that only has four songs. But when Spectral Voice released "Red Feasts Condensed into One," I couldn't hit play fast enough.

Where the Denver band was previously paying a huge sonic debt to Disembowelment, on Sparagmos I hear those same death-doom influences run through a Swallowed filter. For my money, Swallowed's Lunarterial is one of the most inventive metal albums of the past 10 years. In the case of Swallowed, listening to their discography is fun, not only because every release is good, but because you get to hear them go from imitating Nihilist to becoming a death-doom band and then, finally, releasing Lunarterial and just sounding like a haunted house. In that same way, Sparagmos creates an atmosphere so suffocating the entire band ends up feeling like one giant, all-consuming riff. Listening to an album like this, it's almost impossible for me to dissect the origins of these songs. Even when you focus on one element and follow it, at least three other layers are pulling you in a different direction at any given time, and each one feels essential to the whole ordeal.

For my money, it's going to be tough for any album to top Sparagmos in terms of sheer sonic cohesion. But I hope that I'm proven wrong by the time I write another year-end recap in December.

Warkrusher, Armistice 

I love Bolt Thrower. I also hate nearly every band that tries to replicate Bolt Thrower.

Here's the thing, the reason Bolt Thrower worked is because they were a crust band that became a death metal band, and, speaking generally, most people who try to channel them have never actually listened to Sacrilege. It's also why the bands that actually get closer to emulating Bolt Thrower are ones like Hellshock, who are just straight-up bulldozing crust bands, as opposed to Frozen Soul or whoever the fuck.

Anyhow, when I first saw the cover of Warkrusher's Armistice my first thought was, "Let's see how much this sucks" and then I immediately went and ordered it. Jokes on me! As I hinted at above, this is a crust record that sounds like Sacrilege and Hellshock which means, by proxy, it sounds like a demo version of Realm Of Chaos. Armistice is a thick, tank-like attack that never lets up, and it serves as a lesson: whoever is loudest about their influence often doesn't know how to wield it. The ones that actually do just let the music do the talking.

Classic pick from the shelf: Leatherface, The Stormy Petrel

When you make a perfect punk record, it's really hard to get people to care about any other album in your catalog. In the case of Leatherface, the record you will always hear about—and rightly so—is Mush. Even today when I put that album on, having known it for roughly 20 years, it still feels just as powerful to me as it did then. However, if I were to recommend a second Leatherface album to someone, it would be 2010's The Stormy Petrel. This isn't to say that Mush and The Stormy Petrel sound alike, they most certainly do not, but I find them to be the two most impactful albums in the band's discography.

The Leatherface of The Stormy Petrel sounds completely weathered, and that's meant as a compliment. They can't blast through sections like they did on "Not A Day Goes By" or "Dreaming" anymore, so they don't try to. Instead, Frankie Stubbs sounds like a man who has been through it all, because he kind of has. Opening with "God Is Dead" the band perfectly sets the tone for what's to come on this record. The lead guitar lines dance back and forth just like they would have 20 years earlier, but they aren't rushed. Each note is played with deep consideration and, when they hit the gas on that first chorus, you're left in awe of what they can still achieve after all this time.

Throughout The Stormy Petrel, Stubbs' voice feels more emotive than it ever had before. During the band's original run, his gravelly delivery could often cause his words to (fuck, I'm gonna do it aren't I?) mush together but, here, you don't just hear him articulating his words, but the totality of the concepts behind every phrase. A song like "Broken," which laments a life lived the exact wrong way, coupled with an inability—or perhaps unwillingness—to atone for it, doesn't just sound real, it feels it. In lesser hands, one would opt for something more cloying, but that's not the way Leatherface operated. They were a messy, prolific band that occasionally struck gold. And when they did, it was better than anything else you could imagine.