Starkweather This Sheltering Night

Starkweather are a rare breed these days. Unconcerned with touring regularly or keeping up with what's current, they exist as a vehicle for the members' artistic expression in a way that few metal or hardcore bands do. While their early recordings helped pioneer the first wave of metalcore, 2005's Croatoan saw them step up the heaviness a fair bit and push their sound into more progressive metal realms. This Sheltering Night crystallizes that evolution into something entirely unique. Abandoning all hardcore influence, breakdowns and hooks, the sound of Starkweather in the new millennium is amorphous, bleak and, at some points, downright unsettling. Vocalist Rennie Resmini makes many unconventional choices, alternating effortlessly between throaty rasps, meaty bellows and clean caterwauling that would be unlistenable if it didn't come across as so utterly vital and genuine. Musically, the album is difficult to pin down, with a broad but, at times, slightly suffocating range of Neurosis-esque percussive punishment, twisted yet melodious riffage and song structures that are simultaneously fluid and claustrophobic, all complemented by a handful of noisy interludes that serve as the album's proverbial smoke breaks. While the Hot Topic set would do best to steer clear, Starkweather will appeal to anyone whose taste in heavy music is free from boundaries and tolerant of the bizarre. (Deathwish Inc.)