Lately I've noticed one of those aggregated ranked-list articles—the kind usually with "iconic" in the headline—popping up on my social media newsfeed. This one tackled the greatest music scenes in the United States. (Nashville took the top spot, with Honolulu in second place, in case you're interested.) This type of article is noteworthy mainly for the amount of social media shares it generates—people from each city or town listed, as well as those not listed, provide insta-virality, while each website that republishes its findings aggregate the possibly iconic content. For our purposes, however, the achievement is not in cynical corporate-speak, because Tucson, AZ has been crowned the seventh best music scene in America. Of course, this is hardly surprising; music fans here know we're sitting on a prize, and I say that with no flippancy.
It's not often that one individual can be pinpointed as a catalyst and principal contributor to an artistic community, but David Rodgers—who doesn't even live in Tucson anymore(!)—is one who can. The music festival he founded several years back with two of his buddies, Southwest Terror Fest, cast a long shadow on the proliferation of specialized metal and hardcore events throughout the country and lots of deserved attention to Tucson. Sadly, the Terror Fest has closed its doors for 2017 but Rodgers' band, the equally important Godhunter, has returned with a new EP.
Godhunter's 2014 album City of Dust was a highly ambitious and completely accomplished work that would typically be a band's career high point. And for Godhunter, up to now, it was. Rodgers and his bandmates used the commonplace dirge-y doom-metal equation of combining Blacks Sabbath and Flag as the foundation, but what they built atop that made it exceptional. First, the seamless usage of electronics and found sound samples added a dimension of modernity that was actually comparable to Public Enemy's still avant-garde collages. Second, vocalist Charlie Touseull delivered lyrics that, with the music, coalesced into a shockingly complete portrait of Tucson, the City of Dust.
Touseull isn't on Godhunter's latest, Codex Narco, having left the band. Several guest singers and musicians from fellow travelers like Demon Lung and Methra take his place. This strategy works brilliantly, allowing the group to shift gears from overtly political lyrics to more abstract ideas and melodic singing. "Like Glass Under Black Fingernails" is a masterful refraction of Godhunter's distinctive epic crawl, but songs like "Walking With a Ghost," a Tegan and Sara cover(!), which connects the dots between doom and '90s alt-metal, and the cold and abrasive "Unarmed Combat," truly show Godhunter surpassing their sky-high standard.