Album Roundup

Music by Mike Waite
Issue 43 • September 2016

Featured in this roundup:
Petrichor • Petrichor
The Big Drum in the Sky Religion • More Songs About Politics and Religion
Illiterate Light • Earthworm
Backtraveller • 2/2
Butcher Brown • Virginia Noir


Richmond • July 5, 2016

“Petrichor” is defined as the earthy smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry period. With such warm, pastoral connotations, it isn’t a word that you’d expect a metal band would use to identify itself, but for this four-piece, it fits. Like the cicada adorning the cover of their self-titled debut (illustrated by Fredericksburg-based artist Kelley Drake), Petrichor is a renewal, a transformation. Each band member draws on a wealth of influences from their time spent in other bands, combining elements of classic heavy metal, doom, and gothic folk into an eminently listenable brand of occult rock. Throughout these five tracks, Tess Fisher’s voice, wailing at the top of her register, grabs hold of you like icy hands reaching out from the darkness, punctuated by the growl of drummer Harrison Christy. With constantly shifting balances between crushing heaviness and melodic tension, darkness and light, Petrichor is an album that perfectly captures the metal aesthetic of Richmond, a city where the legacies of rock still thrive like so many post-apocalyptic cockroaches. Available on CD and cassette.

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion
More Songs About Politics and Religion

Harrisonburg • June 28, 2016

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion declares that they are not a religion. Still, on their latest album, More Songs About Politics and Religion, ideology and noise seem to unite as a kind of belief system, a schizophrenic set of values somehow coming across as both tongue-in-cheek and dead serious all at once. Big Drum combines sampled oddball quotes like, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe” with dissonant banjos, guitars, and drums like a zen, backwoods Godspeed You! Black Emperor remixed by The Books. Strangely mesmerizing and thought-provoking.

Illiterate Light

Harrisonburg • August 4, 2016

In the past, Illiterate Light was known for their quirky, lo-fi intimacy. Songs such as “Like a Peach” revealed this Harrisonburg duo’s undeniable chemistry and unique songwriting perspective, but didn’t necessarily suggest that a full-bodied rock ’n’ roll record was on its way. That’s exactly what Jeff Gorman and Jake Cochran have delivered with Earthworm, a six-track EP that could, no joke, be mistaken for an offering from My Morning Jacket or Dr. Dog at first brush. Full of rich vocal harmonies, adventurous instrumentation, and a matured lyricism, Earthworm is the sound of a humble band doing big things.


Charlottesville • July 26, 2016

Backtraveller is the solo project of Will Mullany, one-third of the new band ING. 2/2, a sequel to his previous release 1/2 (no surprise there), is a collection of recordings made over the past two years. Influenced by shoegaze and chillwave, the seven songs aren’t necessarily meant to be cohesive. They show a restless experimentalist rather than someone who’s completely found their niche. Mullany certainly knows how to craft a song, though, like on standout track “Three” where he sings like he’s at the bottom of the ocean and pretty happy to be there.

Butcher Brown
Virginia Noir

Richmond • July 14, 2016

As a band, Butcher Brown has earned a solid reputation for itself, but considering some of the members’ recent solo efforts, that notoriety could soon increase exponentially. Guitarist Keith Askey has worked with Kendrick Lamar and keyboardist DJ Harrison recently joined legendary turntablist DJ Shadow’s label, Liquid Amber. Their latest release, Virginia Noir, is a deft display of jazz funk mastery, perfect for a drive through the moonlit streets. There’s a Grover Washington-esque downtempo vibe here that is at times serene, others anxious, but always irresistible. Throw this on the hi-fi and let your world become ten times more chill.

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