“Iron Tyrants” Compilation (1984)

There are a lot of things happening with this cover. First off, there’s a ton of white space, which is pretty odd for an 80s metal album, comp or otherwise. I guess it makes some sense in that it provides space to list the bands on the bottom, so I’ll give it a pass. As for the photo, which features Mesomorph’s Steve Steele, it includes quite a few metal tropes. Buff Conan the Barbarian looking dude. Check. Long, kind of feathered hair. Check. Wearing a big cross necklace (it wasn’t all fire and brimstone…). Check. And the pièce de résistance, check out those gauntlets, specifically the American flag motif. Plus that gaze… that gaze….

Lest you think I’m talking crap, I’m really not. It was the 80s. This is how things looked. If I’d come across this album in 1984 I’d have thought the cover was bad-ass. Plus with ten tracks by ten different bands from all over the US, I’d have bought this without thinking twice. In looking through the enclosed booklet (make sure the booklet is included if you’re buying a copy!) the bands also cover a range of visual styles, from the muscle heads of Mesomorph to the dirt ‘staches of Boss Tweed, the Twisted Sister-esque look of Teeze (and of course spelling Tease as Teeze… very 1980s… and don’t confuse them with the band on the comp called Teazer!) to the mall glamor shots photo of Backstar, it’s all here.

Musically I’m hooked. This is right in my 80s metal sweet spot. Yes, it’s a bit dated. But this is the metal I cut my teeth on. I grew up with this! Enforcer’s “High Treason” is tremendous, and Blackstar’s “To Your Knees” is pure sleaze. Most of these bands never made it, though Tyton managed two studio albums and Nasty Savage put out three in the 1980s and another in 2004, plus a live one from a 1987 show, so that’s pretty solid. Bottom line is that if you’re a fan of 80s metal, you’ll dig Iron Tyrants.

HAAi – “Systems Up Windows Down” (2020)

This was an impulse buy the other day over at Seattle’s Silver Platter Records. HAAi is Australian DJ Teneil Throssell, who survived the collapse of her band only to reinvent herself as an electronic musician. Her most recent effort is the recently released six-song Systems UP Windows Down.

There’s a tropical flair to this record, a sense not so much of being deep in the jungle but more in the edge of town where nature keeps a skeptical eye on its invaders, that borderland where entropy and negentropy do their dance and hold to their uneasy truce. “Chonkiboi (Choi Park)” takes it further, incorporating children singing/chanting in a way that feels non-Western, though I’d be hard pressed to place them firmly into Africa or Asia, or possibly even somewhere else entirely (perhaps her native Australia?).

HAAi brings her own unique flavor to Systems Up Windows Down, breaking free of the cookie cutter and doing something of her own design, and it works.

Nirvana 2002 – “Recordings 89-91” (2009 / 2020)

I’m glad we live in a world in which there is just enough interest in extreme music to make it feasible to collect a bunch of 20 year old recordings, clean them up, and put them out. I get that death metal isn’t everyone’s bag. Let’s be honest – it’s almost nobody’s bag, and if it is your bag it’s a bag full of blood and bones. But that didn’t stop Relapse Records from scraping together 15 suitable tracks from the first generation Swedish death metal band Nirvana 2002 and putting them out back in 2009. And there was enough interest to re-press it on vinyl (1,000 copies total spread over three different colors) again in 2020. Somehow one of the black vinyl copies found its way to Seattle’s Silver Platter Records, and that’s why I’m getting to enjoy my first taste of Nirvana 2002s blast beats.

It seems almost impossible to believe these guys were between the ages of 14 and 16 when they formed Nirvana 2002 (originally called Prophet 2002, then Nirvana, and they when they heard one of the early Sub Pop Nirvana singles they switched to Nirvana 2002). And they never played a single live show during their original incarnation. It’s hard to believe because this music is so outstanding – “Mourning” is a flat-out metal masterpiece, while “Snake” takes the band in a more thrash direction for a bit and absolutely shreds. The insert liner notes provide some background on the band and the songs, including the lyrics, which is useful since there’s very close to a zero percent chance of understanding them just by listening.

You can stream the entire album HERE, as well as purchase the download. The rehearsal tracks are a bit rough, as one would expect, but the first half dozen songs are tremendous and worth the price of the download all by themselves.

Sex Gang Children – “Singles Collection” (2003)

Take some goth, add some jungle rhythms, wailed metal-like vocals, black-and-white vampire movies, mummy dust, and black eyeliner, blend them in a concoction of fortified wine and sparkling soda, and serve slightly chilled and you’ll get something that’s kinda sorta like the early (1982-85 era) Sex Gang Children songs on Singles Collection. Eleven compositions, aural collages blending hope and despair, taking you down dark paths that are both frightening but tinglingly exciting at the same time.

Nun – “The Dome” (2018)

Is it just me, or does dark, retro synthwave seem to be on the rise? It seems like you can’t throw a rock these days without hitting some black-clad musician playing a vintage synthesizer and gloomily singing, dragging their words along like a reluctant kid being pulled into church against their will. Fortunately I enjoy this mind of music immeasurably. By way of proof, please see the message I sent to a buddy of my when I first came across Nun’s most recent album, The Dome, a few weeks back.

Nun are from Australia, and it was a good four years between their debut and The Dome, their sophomore effort. Based on some brief listens to their earlier work, the material on The Dome seems a bit more polished – which is neither good nor bad, it just is. I’m particularly partial to the slowly swaying “Pick Up the Phone” and the somewhat gloomier “Fairhaven”. Long synth notes, cold beats, and female vocals layered to create a dark blanket of smothering sound, thick enough that you could wrap it around yourself on a cold and rainy night and while it might not keep you dry, it would allow you to make your way through the dreary city streets unnoticed, an embrace to protect you from what is outside yourself.

You can listen to The Dome on Nun’s Bandcamp page HERE.