Dig: Grayhawk – The Sacred Seal
As a fan of the ephemera of ‘80s metal—the Iron Maiden mythologies, the abject noise of thrash bands from Sepultura to Exodus, the advent of the Tampa death scene—listening to, and better yet, engaging in, the conceptual first album from Grayhawk, The Sacred Seal, was a nostalgia trip that took me back to basements full of blacklight posters, dirt weed, contraband literature, and lots of late-night fantasy quests.
While there has always been a thriving metal scene in Columbus, it seems as of late it has become a competitive arena, with each new release seemingly trying to top the one before. Grayhawk, a power trio in every sense of the term, consisting of guitarist Zac Szymusiak, bassist Rob Camstra, and drummer Jack Proctor, have taken it upon themselves to create an intricate story filled with swords and sorcery, witch elms and phylacteries, and all the trappings that come in rolling the 24-sided die. Sonically it was a labor of love for Szymusiak to try and simultaneously capture the raw vision of a long-lost demo and the intricate arpeggios and drum fills that define metal’s technical attention to detail. The epic “Test Your Metal” is testament to that dabbling, going from speedy battle anthem, to faery folk, and a glorious upward bridge in the span of seven minutes. It’s not for the faint of heart, or those with a lack of imagination—it may need a companion comic book as it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the adventure, ideal for a hard Ohio winter-in.
To hear Grayhawk’s The Sacred Seal visit grayhawk.bandcamp.com.
Shuffle: Javon – Irrational Thoughts EP
Javon Wright understands the stigma attached to Soundcloud rappers. Given the tag, the 21-year-old phenom doesn’t let that stop him, instead he treats the platform as the metaphorical double-edged sword. On one hand it’s a place where “lazy artists” and “mumble” mouths flourish, accumulating clicks and viral ascension overnight. On the other, in his own tiny corner of the internet, Wright’s creative talents can run wild. And though he’s a maturing lyricist and emcee, maybe it’s the foundation where he doesn’t even need to deem himself a traditional “rapper” anymore.
Little to nothing is traditional about Wright’s latest release. Of course there are touchstones of modern hip-hop on the eight song Irrational Thoughts EP, from Drake’s sing-speak melodies to the steely industrial grind of Death Grips, but Wright is focused on innovation over imitation. His is a cadence that glides silky smooth, yet bubbles with righteous anger, a perfect foil to the cooing Sade sample on “It’s What You Make It.” Simply look at the title for the point from where his inspiration springs. For Wright, making oddball beats in his bedroom has become his “therapy,” as the strange thoughts—from worrying about domestic violence to the government apprehending him for googling the Illuminati—fuel the music. It’s heady stuff, post-Soundcloud, in a universe of gimmicky amateurs.
To hear the Irrational Thoughts EP visit soundcloud.com/javxn.
Click: Sam Corlett – “Take Me to the Beach”
I don’t have any official counter to measure exactly how many times I’ve listened to Sam Corlett’s sparkling “Take Me to the Beach,” but it’s enough times to warrant it my favorite single piece of music made in Columbus, Ohio in 2018. Maybe it’s the hypnagogic looping—contemporaries to Corlett include US Girls and Tune-Yards—that attract multiple listens, as the buoyant melody could play forever.
As one half of Maza Blaska, Corlett has always written within a dreamy template. In this first statement as a solo artist, though she’s hoisting a guitar on the cover, boundaries seem inconsequential. It’s all voice, and perhaps some mouthed percussion, with Way Yes visionary Glenn Davis helming the knobs and levels. All the while, Corlett’s repeated question, “Who’s riding with me?” sounds like a “just wait until my next song” call to arms. If this minimal earworm is any indication, there’s a wondrous bounty on the horizon.
Sam Corlett plays Kafe Kerouac on Saturday, February 16th. To hear Corlett’s first single visit samcorlett.bandcamp.com.