Wow, here’s a little bevy of surprises that tumbled into my Quad Cities-themed Bandcamp feed from seemingly out of nowhere. Well, specifically from ye olde Davenport. Keep the sieve open while you’re panning for Bandcamp gold and you’re gonna find some 24-karat nuggets in there before long, no matter where you look.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Quad Cities have a psychotic, improbably centralized, and densely packed scene when it comes to death metal.

Dark Family has really stepped up both their songwriting and production games, peeling away some of the lo-fi haze and the more languid song structures to reveal the most direct, tuneful compositions I've heard from them yet, all presented at a level of clarity that marks a turning point in their catalog.

We last heard from Davenport-based composer William Campbell earlier this year with the release of his soundtrack to the Academy Award-nominated short film Hunger Ward, which profiled the famine in Yemen and the efforts of health workers to combat starvation and malnutrition of the children in the region. While Campbell’s score for the film featured swathes of his moody, affecting composition for the piano, the instrument formed only one piece of a larger palette that incorporated dark-ambient electronics and orchestral strings.

The Quad Cities' doom-metal/post-grunge duo Murnau seems to be getting back on the horse once again. Not that they ever necessarily fell off the horse, but, you know, society as a whole pretty much fell off our collective horse – and that fall was much more pronounced for musicians who were used to jamming at top volume in their pummeling guitar + drums sludge metal project. For now, it doesn’t seem like Murnau have announced any major album project, but they have individual tracks trickling out of the faucet here and there to keep us satiated.

While Davenport-based experimental folk artist and singer/songwriter Sammerson Bridge foregrounds his new album Happy Day with an air of self-deprecation and presents the project as a tossed-off lark, from the crude photo collage on its album cover to the tongue-in-cheek verbal greeting he plants at the beginning of the first track (“this is my new album”), these appear to be little more than defense mechanisms to downplay the fact that the dude makes great music.

Iowa City-based underground jack-of-all-trades Samuel Locke Ward is one of those dudes around whom a scene seems to coalesce. He plays in numerous bands and one-off projects, maintains a busy slate of releasing new solo music, and recently dropped a full duo album with Mike Watt of Minutemen on which, not to put too fine a point on it, he served as the D. Boon-esque singer/songwriter/guitarist foil to Watt’s still-sick bass shredding.

There must be something in the water in the Quad Cities that makes absolute shredders out of its residents. I feel like every month, when I’m digging through local music on Bandcamp, some new project that I’ve never heard of before leaps out at me with a malevolent grin and says, “Here, take this masterful, fully realized [death metal] [black metal] [progressive metal] [grindcore] album that was probably recorded in some guy's home studio but that hits with rock-solid ideas and a professional level of production that can compete with the most high-budget release on a larger label.”

Once again, thanks to Bandcamp’s region-based search, I've happened upon an inexplicable pocket of highly technical metal nestled somewhere along the riverbanks of the Mississippi, this time courtesy of Davenport-based shredder Austin Korth. If the material he has here is any indicator, his self-proclaimed quest to "play and record as much music as possible" (as per his Bandcamp bio) shows plenty of promise for idiosyncratic Quad Cities home recording.

Whoa! Before discovering this gem on Bandcamp, I had no idea that living legend Mike Watt, the bassist and co-guiding force of seminal independent punk progenitors Minutemen and a whole host of other great projects from the '80s and beyond, had a duo with an Iowa-based musician – Iowa City’s jack-of-all-trades songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist Samuel Locke Ward (a.k.a. SLW). As you might expect from anything in Watt’s orbit, it rips.

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