LIAM EASLEY, CROSS WIRE STAFF WRITER
Since March, when lockdown began and local music venue Spicoli’s Reverb stopped all live shows, the music scene in Iowa has been crippled. Live shows, events that kept the scene alive in the state, have ceased, leaving fans and bands alike in the dust. While shows and other social gatherings have been suspended, many local bands from around the state have been releasing new music. These are five of the heaviest Iowa releases of 2020.
I. Pit Lord – Seasonings in the Abyss
A new sound has been brewing – or in this case cooking – in the modern death metal scene, and fans of the underground have probably heard of labels like Maggot Stomp or Sewer Rot Records. Bands like Frozen Soul and Sanguisugabogg have made a name for themselves recently and this sound has made its way into eastern Iowa. Welcome to the stage Pit Lord, the barbeque-themed death metal riff-dishers.
July marked the release of their first full-length, “Seasonings in the Abyss,” a play off the famous Slayer album of a similar title. The crushing riffs of “Deveganize” and “Grill Marks” will have you dragging your knuckles on the ground and craving a thick, juicy slab of red meat. Beyond the riff, Pit Lord even snuck in some progressive surprises on tracks like “Spiritual Black Digestions.” Pit Lord’s debut can be streamed on Bandcamp and Spotify.
II. Frontal Assault – Assisted Beliefs
Closer to home base is the Cedar Rapids death/thrash metal band Frontal Assault. They’ve offered up one of the tastiest bites of thrash metal this year as seen yet. Unlike the barbeque party of Pit Lord, Frontal Assault’s offering is but an appetizer, a five-song EP that leaves you wanting more. But don’t be fooled by a seeming lack of content – this band has all the desirable traits of a good thrash band.
Bits of old school bands like Demolition Hammer and Exhorder can be sighted on “Assisted Beliefs,” along with some more death metal influences from Obituary or Skeletal Remains. If you seek the hostility and aggression of early 1990s thrash and death metal, look into this band. You might just find yourself enjoying every bit. This EP can be streamed on Spotify.
III – Hell Vendetta – Hell Vendetta
Also along the thrash metal vein comes Hell Vendetta from Sioux City. These thrashers have already been around for a few years and they have finally brought forth recorded material – and it comes in the form of pure havoc.
Their self-titled debut album is full of hardcore- and death metal-infused thrash similar to acts like Nuclear Waste or Morbid Saint with plenty of space reserved for mosh breaks. When shows start back up, this band will destroy the most venues. “Hell Vendetta” can be streamed on Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube.
IV. Astral Space – Blacklist
This space-themed band is a veteran of the Iowa metal scene. Their unique brand of deathcore with synthesizers is one of the most individualistic in the state. Their newest full-length, “Blacklist,” is a mere 25 minutes in length, but it delivers heavy riffs and layered synths all throughout. While playing live, the band employs black lights to light up their instruments and bodies, both covered in neon tape. Mixed with the etheric deathcore, the visual is just as good as the audio.
The new record features melodic synths over rhythmic guitars as well as vocals that sound a lot like Cattle Decapitation vocalist Travis Ryan. Breakdowns pound around the vocal and synth melodies, being able to maintain a balance between electronic and hardcore. If you want something new, exciting and begging for repeated listens, look no further than “Blacklist.” It can be streamed on Spotify and YouTube.
V. Plea of the Sword – Trials & Tribulations
On August 21, Waterloo deathcore newcomer Plea of the Sword released its first recorded material, the single “Trials & Tribulations.”
To put it simply, this track is sublimely heavy. It almost has a slam-type of feeling to it, at times being reminiscent of Internal Bleeding, but the modern deathcore sound is still there. The melody of the guitar solo over the atmospheric arpeggios is especially delicious and adds totally new dimensions to the song. This track is definitely promising for Plea of the Sword, and they’re a band to keep your eye on – they’ll have an EP out in the near future. The single can be played on Spotify and YouTube.