AMN Reviews: Lesotho – Summer Wars (2021; Suspended Soul Tapes & Records); Real Loud – Real Loud (2021; New Focus Recordings)

In 2021, the genre of heavy metal continues to adapt and evolve. Musicians have developed a set of building blocks, some taken from other musical styles and others new, that can be combined in various novel ways. Here are two recent releases that approach metal from vastly different and unconventional directions. Both have appeal beyond any implicit categorizations.

Lesotho is a Boston-based power trio that incorporates instrumental post-rock into their mix. Eschewing guitar solos in favor of walls of chords, most of Summer Wars moves at a moderate pace. The riffing is textual and moody with higher-pitched notes drawing out slow and soaring themes over fuzzy atmospheres. And yet, Lesotho breaks out from time to time with exhilarating speed metal runs that feature creative drum licks. A few passages are drawn to more introspective acoustic playing. Regardless, as a debut EP, Summer Wars promises much more to come from a young outfit that already plays and records with an admirable level of maturity.

Real Loud describes themselves as an “antiphonal chamber metal band”, and their self-titled debut features a double trio of musicians with Tristan Kasten-Krause and Evan Runyon on bass, James Moore and Brendon Randall-Myers on guitar, and Mark Sauer-Utley and Clara Warnaar on drums & percussion. This unusual lineup allows them to approach four pieces from Pascal Le Boeuf, Paul Kerekes, Randall-Myers, and Jenny Beck in a spatial manner. Each trio appears to be dedicated to the left and right channels, respectively, and they use this separation to employ contrapuntal, de-synchronized, and call-and-response motifs. This music is disjointed, complex, and aggressive, having more in common with that of Glenn Branca and Roger Trigaux’s Present than any conventional metal band. In particular, the overlap of speed picking and orchestral percussion stylings is quite compelling.