“1985” — Kvelertak

In the music video for Kvelertak’s ball-check of a single “1985,” four dudes blow up a toilet. They also throw a fridge out a window, smear their own blood on their faces, terrorize (and potentially murder) a coupla’ old squares, and do some ritual thing involving fire and a satanic-looking staff. But most importantly, they blow up a toilet, and it in this moment that the Norwegian metal band provides the most apt metaphor for their music that I can think of.
Throughout their nearly ten-year career, Kveltertak’s guiding principle seems to be that the phrases “black metal” and “bro as fuck” not only can but should exist in conjunction with each other. They are Thin Lizzy in corpse paint; they are Andrew W.K. if he partied exclusively in hell. When I put Nattesferd, the title of Kvelertak’s newest album, into Google Translate, the quick-not-always-accurate service spat out the phrase “lit night journey.” Now, I assume Kvelertak meant this as a journey into a barren wilderness armed only with a torch to ward off and/or invite evil, but goddamn if it doesn’t also provide an incredible image of Nordic dudebros partying in the middle of a forest trying to chop down trees with their beards, or whatever manly men do after consuming paint-thinningly potent booze and they’ve said all the requisite ominous chants. “1985” in particular feels tailor-made for full-on, dropped-g cruisin’, wind in your hair and worldly troubles at your back.—Drew Millard
“50 Inch Zenith” — Westside Gunn ft. Skyzoo


In a year dominated by rappers who have staged open revolt against tradition, a certain strain of rap fan—the type once drawn Young Thug because he zigged where the world zagged—has embraced the old school like never before. Though guys like Roc Marci, Freddie Gibbs, and Ka have always held it down for hip-hop’s #bars-centric underground, we’re entering an era when hard-headed formalism can be viewed as bold an aesthetic choice as abandoning rapping altogether.
Enter Buffalo, NY’s Westside Gunn, who represents the best and boldest of this particular strain of underground rap. Though he and his brother Conway have been making noise for quite some time, in the past year Gunn’s distinguished himself as a force, with both his Roses Are Red… So Is Blood EP with the UK rap producer Purist, as well as the solo record Flygod, which is a clinic in delivering menacing, taut rhymes over even tighter loops. Brooklyn’s Skyzoo, a master of smooth tough talk, breaks from the internal rhyme party line and lets an intricate verse fly from the hip as he and Gunn take Statik Selectah’s airy instrumental and tear it to shreds. It’s proof that the cream rises to the top in rap, whether it’s delivered by someone pushing the new hot style, or two guys who do things the old-fashioned way, managing to breathe new life into it in the process.—Drew Millard


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