Talking with the Creators of Metal Swim 2
The first thing I notice in talking with Adult Swim creative team Laura Sterritt and Jason DeMarco about the new Metal Swim 2 compilation is their unabashed love for all things metal. You can tell that the second edition of the animated program block's offering of unreleased metal songs is a labor of love that the two also had some fun creating and unleashing upon the world. DeMarco, creative director at AS on air, says he is always "checking out new metal, stuff that doesn't always get talked about". He was the impetus behind the inaugural Metal Swim compilation, back in 2010, which was heavy on the atmospheric sludge genre with a few curveballs thrown in, stylistically. This time around the tracklist curation was handled by Sterritt, an AS writer/producer who wanted to "mix in musicians without a lot of exposure". She suceeded in introducing me to a few artists that I hadn't heard yet with her choices and as far as metal subgenres go (to the uninitiated, there are probably thousands), there is a respectable assortment going on here: sludge, thrash, black metal, prog, post metal, experimental noise, drone, and industrial. The track list is, as she says, "broad enough that every type of metal fan will find stuff they like" and "oppositional", but "universal".Jason and Laura both talked about finding new music through Bandcamp and that website has pretty much become a standard go-to for discovering new metal for myself, as well. The website's malleability as a streaming or download site, combined with its excellent portal for artists to market their physical and digital products to an online audience makes it very popular with both bands and fans. The first Metal Swim was a downloadable set of files but with the surging popularity of streaming, the second installment can be played directly from the AS website only. As DeMarco says, "labels understand streams better" and licensing is much less complicated this way. Even though all tracks are currently unreleased, he says most if not all should be available from the individual artists before the end of the year.
Laura took the groundwork Jason laid out with the first Metal Swim and ran with it, she says. Both understand the growing popularity of metal and have leaned upon some of the best bands doing metal or metal-adjacent music for each release. I highly enjoyed the stream and liked the inclusion of more female-fronted groups this time around; MS2 comes right out of the gate with a banger from all-girl Brazilian thrashers Nervosa, followed by a shifting, moody piece by Florida duo Dark Castle, led by the screams and guitars of Stevie Floyd, a lady who can still wreck your ears even though I hadn't heard much new from them in years. Just the fact that they have a 2019 song promises a new record this year and that's a prime attraction about this comp: setting us up for fresh music this year by some of our favorite bands. Sterritt says she discovered Iranian black metal one-man band Akvan through Bandcamp and his lo-fi middle-eastern take is a great variation of the genre. Author & Punisher probably represent the most electronic/ industrial style here and its another great new track from them; if you enjoyed last year's great Beastland album from them, this is more throbbing, Godflesh-style metal to salivate over. Dreadnought was one of the acts new to my ears and I instantly became a fan of the Colorado band's proggy but doomy post-black metal with female vocals that switch gears between ethereal and then raging. Their upcoming release, Emergence, is firmly on my radar now. Kat Katz (from the great Salome) joins forces with Andy Gibbs (from Thou, who released Magus, my favorite album, any genre last year) for a disturbing and tense drone dirge. California black-metallers Volahn offer a high speed romp in their usual careening style that only relents in its nearly 15-minute span for a spaghetti-western breakdown sung in Spanish. Maybe the most popular band here, Savannah sludge legends Baroness offer a glimpse into what their sound is progressing towards with their highly anticipated Gold & Grey record; "Front Towards Enemy" is the most accessible of all the tracks here, while still retaining the bite and proficiency that made them so good in the first place. Botanist offer more atmospheric nature-inspired black metal and young New Zealand thrashers Alien Weaponry are still running with a sound inspired by Chaos AD-era Sepultura, which I am growing to be more of a fan of through the years. Looking forward to seeing them at Epicenter Fest this weekend now. Canadian sludge duo Vile Creature haunts with its beautifully deranged vocals and this was another new group for me to check out down the road. The Belgians in Oathbreaker created one of my favorite records of 2016, Rheia, and new track "Ease Me" offers more beautifully constructed post metal. The legendary Louisiana sludge kings Eyehategod offers a quick and dirty new one and if this means a new album is coming, that will make a lot of metalheads happy. The Body sent in a new, heavily metallic but industrial rager that's tense and wiry and the comp ends with the magnificent Sunn O))), who deliver a ten minute opus that would fit right in with their amazing new Life Metal release.
Coming in at around 90 minutes of new, unreleased music by some of the leaders in the genre, Metal Swim 2 succeeds in being represenative and showing the growth of styles since the first one dropped. As far as another Metal Swim hitting our ears in the future, Jason is forward thinking and doesn't rule it out. When I ask about the possibility, he replies, "I like trilogies", so go stream the fifteen new tracks over at Metal Swim 2 and maybe we can make that a reality soon enough.
Sean Knight is a South Carolina native who has bounced back and forth between Texas and SC most of his life. He has been playing music for over 30 years and writing about it for a decade. Always striving to listen, always striving to be heard.