When: Tue., March 18, 8 p.m. 2014
As South by Southwest approaches its fourth decade, the annual horde of musicians and bloggers, hangers-on and industry hopefuls inspires evermore cynicism. The critical refrains form a predictable chorus: You can barely see a band without embracing a brand. You spend more time in the back of lines than in front of stages. You have to pay for water, but hey, at least the beer is free. For all of its corporate alliances and aggressive crowds, though, South by Southwest remains one of the world's biggest musical magnets, capable of drawing acts of every sort to Austin with the promise of exposure. And for two weeks on either side of the event, those bands have to move through the country like weather systems, migrating in multi-state waves to or from the main event. As easy as it is to mock what South by Southwest has become, it's more enjoyable to enjoy the bands it indirectly routes through North Carolina each year.
The local highlight of this year's Texas diaspora is Obliteration, a menacing quartet from Kolbotn, Norway, the same town that launched Darkthrone a quarter-century ago. A band for more than a decade, Obliteration released two albums on small Norwegian imprints before making their big American debut last year with Black Death Horizon, on Relapse. They've arrived stateside at the right time, as Black Death Horizon is their best work yet. It's an anarchic mix of vintage forms, with crust punk swirling around death metal, black metal tied to ghoulish atmospherics. During "Goat Skull Crown," they inherit the strangeness of Darkthrone's oeuvre, shifting from black metal bursts to haunting, no-tempo interludes that hang like fog. They don't overthink the alchemy, either; it's primal stuff that speeds through its own stylistic hairpins, unafraid to fly off the rails. —Grayson Haver Currin