My Listening Week: 3/31/23

Thoughts on 03 Greedo, Slayer, No Innocent Victim, Black Country, New Road, and more.

My Listening Week: 3/31/23

Every Friday, my corner of music Twitter uses data to make 5x5 grids of what we listened to throughout the last seven days. In this column, I share my grid and write a few blurbs about some standout albums from the pool.

03 Greedo - Halfway There

This is 03 Greedo's first dump of new music since he was released from prison earlier this year. In January, he dropped a tape called Free 03 that featured some of the most exhilarating jail-call raps I've ever heard, as well as a bunch of older stuff that he'd banked before he was incarcerated in 2018. The new material on that tape, the ones recorded over a dusty prison line, featured some of the most dexterous, fired-up verses I've ever heard leave his lips, and this new 33-song load — all recorded within the last couple months — allows him to show off his hungry new flows in a proper studio. Songs like "Hummers," above, pivot from the slurry, soulful and melodically gooey vibe he's known for, instead rattling off breathless tangents with a newly-activated speed and precision. He's always been able to turn on the heat, but he's rarely kept it burning for as long as he does on Halfway There, making this one of his most gripping projects yet. Greedo's a generational talent and one of my favorite vocalists across all genres of music, and it's so relieving to hear him back doing what he does best.

Holldën - Off the Bone

I don't have the skillset to write about house or techno music in an intelligent way, but I still have pretty discerning taste about what I like and don't like in this medium. These four songs by Portuguese producer Holldën are exactly what I'm looking for out of a dancefloor record. Grooves that chisel into every crevice of the room they're playing in, rattling the walls until the mice start raving and the mites on the mice's backs start fistpumping and the microscopic bacteria on the mites say, "fuck it," and start letting loose as well. Tasteful synths; crisp, clean production; taut, thumping drums; bass that rumbles your tummy like a plate of jello. I love this shit.

Brutal Truth - Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses

The title of this record rephrases Lenin's axiom, "One must always strive to be as radical as reality itself," which is a message that feels realer and more pressing each day that a new anti-trans, anti-book, anti-black, pro-child labor law gets passed amid a backdrop of environmental destruction, mass shootings, mass incarceration, mass police violence, mass fascist mobilization, mass infrastructure decay and mass economic rot. Two decades onward, Brutal Truth's grindcore magnum opus is an even more relevant and cathartic soundtrack to these hellish times, and it felt really good to crank this shit this week. I love the groove on this album, as well as the beefy production and cumbersome death-metal riffage. Fast grindcore of the Napalm Death variety only does so much for me, I need the music to pull back and swing. Drag. Shovel. Scrape. Brutal Truth songs do that, finding the perfect sweet-spot between Obituary — specifically their Cause of Death / The End Complete era — and Terrorizer.

No Innocent Victim - Flesh and Blood

I grew up in an era when Christian metalcore was at its hilt, with bands like the Devil Wears Prada, Underoath, August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying, and a whole lot of shittier knockoffs filling the lineups of Warped Tour and signing to all the major metal labels. I was a devout atheist in high-school but I was able to shrug off the (usually subtle) holy messaging of these bands and just headbang along, so I don't know why I have such a mental block when it comes to Christian hardcore and death metal. For whatever reason, knowing that No Innocent Victim were Christian always turned me off to them, but I finally decided to give them a proper try earlier this week when a musician I interviewed said they were one of his biggest influences. As I suspected, the music fucking rules and is extremely heavy, well-executed metallic hardcore of the late Nineties persuasion. Christianity is one of the leading causes of violence in the entire history of the world, so I guess it's pretty naive to think those folks wouldn't know a thing or two about pound-town breakdowns.

Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall

I liked this band's first album for its Slint-like epics of tension and release, and felt relatively indifferent about last year's divisive Ants From Up There, which was even more loquacious, ambitious and, while gratifying at some points, harder to take in overall. Since then, they've lost their lead singer, Isaac Wood, so this new live album feels like a way of showcasing what they'll sound like going forward. It's my least favorite thing they've ever done. Just incredibly boring and slogging to my ears. Not a fan.

Slayer - South of Heaven

South of Heaven was always the "classic" Slayer album that I never paid much attention to. The way I was fed Slayer's catalog as a teen, this was always presented as the lackluster follow-up to Reign in Blood, the one where they polished up the production and got slower in an attempt to be slightly more commercial. Even if that's all true, I always loved their next record, Seasons in the Abyss, so I'm not sure why I thought the puzzle piece between Reign and Seasons would be a miss for me. Obvious classics like "South of Heaven" and "Mandatory Suicide" are killers, but I even love the deeper cuts on this record. Fast thrash can only go so far (and Slayer pretty much hit the end of the road with Reign in Blood), so hearing them play their infernal riffs with a little more groove — and sure, a little more sheen on the mix — really works in their favor. It's missing the fiery chaos of Hell Awaits and Reign, and I can see why that would bother an OG fan, but unless you only like pre-1986 thrash, then I don't see why any metalhead wouldn't fucking love this record.