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Devillock / Panther Skull - These Graves; Slothwave

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Artist: Devillock / Panther Skull

Album: These Graves; Slothwave

Label: SNSE/Pacrec; SNSE

Review date: Nov. 20, 2005

While cross-pollination and side projects are nothing new to many U.S. noise musicians, the releases of Slothwave and Panther Skull in such quick succession are still noteworthy. Both discs are the product of one man, Justin C. Meyers, and while they're certainly not identical, they contain far more parallels than two subsequent recordings by one of Meyers' contemporaries might.

Devillock is Meyers’ primary performance vehicle, with releases on his own Tone Filth label and a few others. The dark imagery of his moniker and album titles may seem almost stereotypical for music like this, but to mistake Meyers for some small-time imitator would be a mistake. On both discs, Meyers proves to be a gifted constructor of atmosphere, with a well-tuned sense of tension and release and an ear for details.

The arrangement of These Graves is symmetrical, with two fifteen-minute pieces sandwiched by a pair of minute-long interludes. As Devillock, Meyers wraps peals of feedback in shrouds of gritty distortion. He also experiments with ways of letting sound die away - it's as if he allows his music to rot away like flesh or plants. His tracks are a constant struggle of sound against sound, wrestling matches of ever-shifting dominance. Cleaner sounds are increasingly encrusted with detritus, and persistent feedback creates potholes and fissures in solid walls of cemented static. Dark sludge boils under much of These Graves like the dirt of the Earth gone molten, inspiring, as the disc's title suggests, visions of the unholy screams of the undead come to life.

Slothwave is the first Panther Skull CD, a follow-up to a debut cassette on Tone Filth. Like Devillock, Panther Skull is heavy on the hefty drones, though there’s less aggression and menace in Panther Skull’s sustained meditations. The first untitled track is claustrophobic feedback with mechanical exhalations (as if metal could breathe), music that impressively permeates the physical space in which it’s played.

Slothwave projects desolation, like cold winds through empty spaces, or the amplified echoes of the ambience of an arctic cave. Meyers excels at dealing with subtle shifts in sound, especially when magnifying seemingly small sonic events. And even if, as it sometimes seems, the best moments on Slothwave are as much the product of fortunate accidents as they are attention to detail, the album is no worse for it.

Whether performing as Devillock or Panther Skull, Justin Meyers makes music that doesn’t meet the ears neutrally. There are many who would do nearly the same thing and sound mundane, but Meyers does more than enough here to justify offering two nearly concurrent releases of his material.

By Adam Strohm

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