Spun in Darkness paints its sound black

Crypt-raiding death metal, raw-knuckled punk rock and a little jazz to take the edge off headline the latest installment of Vegas music releases:

SPUN IN DARKNESS, “Vengeance from Beyond the Grave” (spunindarkness.com): Spun in Darkness tunes are like gravity, forever exerting this inexorable downward pull.

It’s some awesomely oppressive stuff, obsidian, doomy death metal imbedded with hooks that are like those found in a slaughterhouse, covered in blood and dead meat.

The band’s latest release, a split with fellow cult ragers Gravewurm, is a monolith of elephantine riffs and suffocating bottom end, moving (slowly) from the funeral procession that is “Part of You Becomes Me” to the blackened thrash gallop of “Cloaked in Darkness.” It’s all underscored with a savage, insistent groove that propels these songs forward despite all the bodies piling up before them.

RJ AND THE ASSIGNMENT, “Deceiving Eyes” (rjandtheassignment.com): And now for some light to counter the Darkness.

RJ (aka Reginald Johnson) is a versatile, virtuoso pianist and Chicago transplant who’s worked with artists as diverse as Erykah Badu and Twista.

Leading an eclectic, exceptional cast of players including local notables such as drummer Paul Ringenbach and saxophonist Julian Tanaka, Johnson offers something of a jazz genome map here, ranging from a blithe, nimble take on ’60s-era Herbie Hancock classic “Dolphin Dance” to a jazzy reworking of Pharrell’s hip-hop hit “Frontin’.”

Be it turning “M*A*S*H” theme “Suicide is Painless” on its head, rendering it a limber vamp, or working through well-crafted original compositions such as “Winter in Chicago,” Johnson ably dispels the notion of modern traditionalism being a contradiction in terms.

SURROUNDED BY THIEVES, “Punk Rock Fight Songs” (surroundedbythieves.com): Despite its title, this fierce, hot-blooded five-song EP is more about questioning conflict than catalyzing it.

False patriotism, income inequality and bad relationships light this band’s fire, resulting in fast, streamlined punk battle cries as direct in their arrangements as they are in sentiment.

The disc culminates with a whiplash take on an unrecorded 7 Seconds tune from the band’s original lineup.

“Keep your big mouth shut,” singer-guitarist Buck Nasty snarls at song’s end, heeding neither discretion nor his own advice.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com
or 702-383-0476.

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