Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Oct. 8, 2010
Marrying Big Four thrash with black metal menace at a Southern cross, Austin's Pack of Wolves reigns in blood with its crimson-colored 10-inch Penance of Pestilence (Arclight), a 26-minute vinyl-only manifesto for end times as epic as 2007 LP Betrayer. For all the fire and fury engraved into the dual guitars and blast-beat percussion, there's a surprising clarity and depth throughout, especially in vocalist Trey Ramirez's harvest of sorrow. "I've seen the rise and the fall of the biggest tide. History can point the way back to genocide," he seethes in "Justice Born of Sin," which opens with winding acoustic guitars, like a ceremonial dance before battle. The instrumental "Never Sleep," likewise, summons the wolves to the throne room before the baptismal closer "Rain You" – glorious nihilism. Beyond Gods & Empires charts similar terrain at 45 rpm on its 12-inch, four-song debut, Descolada E.P. Tracked live in the studio, opener "Insurrection Song" demonstrates the blunt trauma to be expected from this local quartet's mosh pits – lean American metal with hardcore intensity – while "With a Hammer" beats to a pulp with all the civility of a prison riot. On the opposite end of the spectrum, TV Torso chases two complimentary singles last year with 12-inch EP Status Quo Vadis. Frontman Matt Oliver still scratches at the same dark corners of his former Sound Team, mainly Bowie's Berlin (the Krautrock glimmer of "Nobodies") and Montreal indie rock ("Slouch Hat City"), but lacks the pop center to pull it all together, though "Two Glass Eyes" comes close. Of course, it might help if Oliver didn't insist on singing through a 30-gallon tank.