August 15, 2018

Dvne - Asheran (Vinyl Master)

By Calen Henry. Just in time for the first anniversary of Asheran, Dvne and Wasted State Records released a digital version of the vinyl master on Bandcamp. The vinyl master (DR 9) is less compressed, allowing details in the music to come through better
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Eli Quinn.

Just in time for the first anniversary of Asheran, Dvne and Wasted State Records released a digital version of the vinyl master on Bandcamp. The vinyl master (DR 9) is less compressed, allowing details in the music to come through better than the digital master (DR 6). The original master is quite good for a loud master, but it's such a dense and carefully composed album that the vinyl master gives it the depth it always deserved.

Asheran is a concept album. Drawing inspiration from Frank Herbert, Hayao Miyazaki, and other conservationist-leaning science fiction writers, it tells the epic story of a long exiled space-faring race returning to their home planet to find those left behind having shunned technology, living in harmony with nature. The returning Asheran see the planet as their birthright and thus are compelled to wage a holy war on the others, forcing them to break their sacred oath and unearth their long dormant war machines to defend themselves. Eventually the planet itself goes into self-preservation mode and culls both factions, restoring the balance of nature.

The music flows naturally through the acts of the story, but it’s an album of contrasts: quiet builds versus crushing fuzz, psychedelic stoner metal versus suffocating death metal, and Victor’s cleans against Dan’s growls. The added dynamic range gives a heft that was lacking before. Almost every track on the album features some kind of soft/loud or fast/slow contrast, and these sections sound glorious on the dynamic master; little details surface with each listen. The band has said that they cut around 30 minutes of material from the final album, and it shows. It is expertly paced.

The most evident improvement is the clarity of the bass and drums. All the little cymbal accents are now apparent, and transitions into drum-heavy sections, like the intro to "Viridian Bloom," sound huge. The bass is an integral part of the compositions, often picking up the melody and leading songs, and the added dynamic range helps the bass cut through giving a much fuller listening experience.

Asheran was already a jaw dropping achievement, and the newly released vinyl master makes it even better. Credit to Wasted State Records and the band for releasing it, and simply adding it to the existing album listing, rather than a separate album forcing people to double dip. Hopefully for their next album Dvne will simply release the DR 9 master as the standard version, like Pallbearer and Unleash the Archers.

August 13, 2018

Golgothan Remains - Perverse Offerings to the Void

By Hera Vidal. Black metal will forever be associated with Norway; there is no denying that aspect, given black metal’s origins and lyrical content, especially post-Black Circle shenanigans. Because of this, country-specific black metal is usually overlooked and underrated.
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Morkh.

Australia is well-known for their vast metal scene, and while my focus has remained on the realm of black metal, I tend to pop up my head from time to time to smell the flowers outside. Now, death metal is certainly not my thing – I tend to prefer the symphonic and melodic versions of death metal – but I slowly eased into enjoying Perverse Offerings to the Void, Golgothan Remains’s debut album. A stellar piece of work that comes wrapped in a disgusting, putrid layer of sound that contains the dirtier aspects of wherever this album came from.

Before jumping headfirst into the album, I wanted to look into the band’s name. Their name is a reference to Golgotha, known as Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. Although no one can agree where exactly the crucifixion occurred, the Gospels claim that Golgotha was outside the city of Jerusalem, accessible to passers-by. Golgotha can also be translated as “skull,” meaning that church scholars have interpreted the name to mean a place that looks like a cranium or has skulls buried on site. (Golgotha is also said to be the final resting place of Adam’s skull.) It would make sense that the band would take their name from the remains of Calvary, as it was known as a heap of death where the skulls of the deceased could be found.

Perverse Offerings to the Void is unlike anything I have ever heard. It has a heavy black metal backing but remains heavily focused on its death metal roots. There is something incredibly melodic about it, slowly easing the listener into enjoying the record. However, a big part of the album’s impact is just how gross it sounds. It feels like the members are playing music with instruments covered in filth and grime, making them sound harsh and dissonant. It also doesn’t help that Golgothan Remains made their music sound cacophonous with a touch of melody. This becomes evident on “Timeless Eradicator” and “Looped Depraved Spell,” as their penchant for melody helps contrast the sound of the down-tuned guitars and harrowing vocals. Perverse Offerings to the Void sounds like death metal being played in a swamp in dense climate, which, given Australia’s climate, should come as no surprise.

The vocals also don’t help with easing this image of filth and putridity, as they are both ferocious and muted. Their quiet aggression is constant, and they sit in the foreground, acting as a balance point to the music. They also have a tendency to be haunting, as if the void opened up and let all of these screaming souls out by accident, calling anyone unfortunate enough to hear them to their doom. I also couldn’t help but notice that the vocals sounded a lot like their brethren Spire’s on Entropy. Underneath the layers of filth, the vocals are the only anchor that keeps the listener hanging on beneath the heavy atmosphere and the cacophonous instrumentation. They haunt you and torment you until the end of the album, and you can only hope that their onslaught is over before you decide to end it yourself.

All in all, Perverse Offerings to the Void is a good debut that fills a niche in death metal. Although its brand of death metal is not something I am familiar with, I can appreciate the aesthetic and the dedication that went into making this album. I found myself enjoying the album despite its cacophonous nature, and I recommend this album to anyone who needs some intense death metal in their lives.

August 11, 2018

Parius - The Eldritch Realm

By Calen Henry. The Eldritch Realm surfaced from cruising Bandcamp tags. Stephen Andrade’s pitch perfect 1930’s movie poster-inspired cover jumped out from the list. Expecting some sort of horror themed “Scooby doom” album, I was pleasantly surprised
By Calen Henry.

Artwork painted Stephen Andrade

The Eldritch Realm surfaced from cruising Bandcamp tags. Stephen Andrade’s pitch perfect 1930’s movie poster-inspired cover jumped out from the list. Expecting some sort of horror themed “Scooby doom” album, I was pleasantly surprised to find Parius play technical melodic death metal permeated with vintage horror. Though death metal is rife with supernatural themes, Parius is the only melodeath band I’ve encountered that’s so committed to the campy vintage horror aesthetic usually confined to doom bands, right down to a Rod Serling impersonator narrating segments to bookend the story.

Technical death metal tends to be a hard sell for me. I like bands with a unique spin on the genre over simply riffs. Parius’ sound is rooted in the melodic death metal of US heavy hitters like Arsis and The Black Dahlia Murder, with a dash of neoclassical-leaning Necrophagist. Parius bring killer but accessible melodic riffs and solos. They're not reinventing the wheel. Their strength is how they alter the formula with aesthetic. For Parius the aesthetic is far more than a gimmick; it permeates the album and elevates it to something truly special. It’s a concept album, of course, and in 29 minutes they’ve got more conceptual ideas than many bands can manage in an album of any length.

An unnamed protagonist goes on a journey to save his immortal soul. Guided by Lilith, the earth’s second moon according to astrologer Sepharial, the protagonist journeys across the river Styx, phylactery in hand, unafraid, taunting death. Led by a mysterious melody, he passes through the Lychgate, the threshold to the underworld, on his way to confront the Ophidian God. On his way, the serpent king snares him and destroys the phylactery. The hero disconnects from his physical body and breaks the bonds, but, shock and terror, his unbound self is given totally to the mysterious melody, and he becomes enthralled. Lilith, now personified as a demon, has betrayed him, and he takes her place at the serpent king’s side, binding him forever in the Eldritch Realm, just as fear of death sets in.

The album starts with the crackle of needle on wax, then an ominous orchestral intro, segueing into the first track’s introductory piano motif, reminiscent of "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits." The music then moves right into full-on melodeath assault, but the campy horror is never lost. Underneath the lightning guitar solos, hard-hitting riffs, and machine gun drums, a vein of reference and reverence runs. Without straying far from the melodeath formula, they add motifs and progressions found in vintage horror soundtracks. The back half of "Crashing Black Moon" offers some of the most prominent examples, including reintroducing the bass riff from the first half of "Eldritch," the piano picking back up the intro to underscore the double kick-driven clean vocal section, a spooky keyboard solo, and the break into evil circus music.

The vocals tie the musical approach together with an equally all-encompassing approach. Vocalist Louis Thierry is a beast. Like the instrumentals, the vocals are rooted in death metal, mostly split between a rasp and a guttural growl, both wonderfully delivered. But as the story progresses, he also employs a hard rock sneer, falsetto vocals (sometimes harmonized), a manic sermon style delivery, and some spoken word passages. There are even a few times when a vocal melody is revisited by the guitars or bass, tying the concept together further.

It’s possible that this would all fall apart if they didn’t have such a fantastic concept to tie it together. Drawing from pulp horror, debunked astrological musings, and Greek mythology, they’ve crafted a story that’s Lovecraftian without any mention of Old Ones; campy, but not totally silly, and the concept is more rewarding the deeper you look.

Like the recurring motifs that underscore the death metal, song titles and lyrics reference each other. The phylactery, being boundless, and what lies between hell and the protagonist recur throughout the album’s run time. The whole thing is also perfectly in tune with both "The Twilight Zone" and Lovecraft’s writing, where in the face of adversity, the protagonist may not come out on top and dramatic irony looms large.

The icing on the cake is the production. Though not particularly dynamic (DR 6), everything sounds excellent and balances. The bass is clear and present, and the drums have an appropriate heft without succumbing to the clicky sound that busy tech-death drums sometimes can. They sound human, but all the complexities are apparent. In fact I’m hard pressed to think of another album with high-speed drums that sounds this good. It’s hugely impressive for an independent release.

From nowhere Parius have blown me away and released one of my favourite albums of the year. They’re asking next to nothing for The Eldritch Realm on Bandcamp. You won’t hear anything else like it this year. It won’t bring the tech the way some other bands might, but I like it all the better for the way they balance it with concept. The whole package is like nothing else I've heard.