The Bay Area was once the hotbed for thrash and speed metal, birthing classic bands like Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, and yes, even Metallica (it’s where Kirk and Cliff joined up). Seems like it’s going through another metal renaissance of late, as one of the hotspots of the American black metal scene (USBM). Prolific acts like Leviathan and Xasthur (and Weakling, sadly defunct now) have taken the works of genre forebears like Burzum, Darkthrone and Emperor and spiraled them down into new depths of dread and madness.
It’s not all howled vocals and chilling soundscapes, though – take Ludicra, who smashes black metal together with stoner rock and hardcore punk for a progressive, post-BM sound. Great, buzzy melodic riffs produce a really satisfying, thrashy charge, suggesting a more furious version of Satyricon’s recent stripped-down take on black metal. But then songs slow down to work in more progressive, doomy riffs, enveloping you in a more thoughtful, transportive state. It’s all done tastefully and organically, making for surprising compositions that continually keep your interest. Vocals are a double-edged affair as well – a raspy, spitting screamer trading off with a more atmospheric, ethereal crooner. Both singers are also female, adding to the mystique.
Unpredictable without being overly chaotic or impenetrable, Ludicra has definitely made their mark on the US underground scene with this one. 4.25/5.