Friday, May 22, 2015

Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs

Written by Justin C.

When we talk about metal bands being "old school," the timeline doesn't go back all that far, relatively speaking. For black metal, that might mean a second wave sound, or maybe going all the way back to ye olden days of the late 1980s for Bathory. Metal as a whole doesn't go back much past 45 years or so, if we're considering Sabbath to be the genesis. Obsequiae, however, is here to show us what real "old school" means, and it's medieval. Literally.

Obsequiae's second album, Aria of Vernal Tombs, finds the band building on the sound they established on their debut, Suspended in the Brume of Eos. Blackish metal is interspersed with, and takes inspiration from, music from centuries ago. Aria's opener, "Ay que por muy gran fremosura," is from a collection of religious musical poems dating to the mid-1200s. "L'amour dont sui espris" is a rocking little lute ditty attributed to a French troubadour from roughly the same time period. All of the medieval pieces on the album are interpreted by Vicente La Camera Mariño playing a medieval harp.

The metal tunes, in turn, take inspiration from the ancient songs that fall between them. "Autumnal Pyre" plays with the melodic ideas in "Ay que por muy gran fremosura," except with distorted guitars and blackened shrieks. But if this were just an album that alternated between medieval tunes and metal covers of those songs, it would be more novelty than art, but the band doesn't fall into that trap. Obsequiae somehow manages to live in a musical world that's both ancient and modern at the same time. It's an alternate universe where electric guitars were invented 600 years earlier and were not only used to play the music of the time, but also changed the development of that music fundamentally.

The medieval tunes take a more prominent role on Aria than they did on Brume of Eos, but there's still plenty of meaty metal to sink your teeth into. "Pools of a Vernal Paradise" may mimic the free-flowing intro of the lute piece before it, but the thundering percussion and hints of Sabbath-ian riffage bring the heavy. The closing track, "Orphic Rites of the Mystic," may be preceded by one of the most delicate harp pieces on the album, but it contrasts that with some of the most ferociously performed vocals on the album.

There are a million great moments to absorb here. The songs are complex, mixing in ornamentations well known from Renaissance and Baroque music with surprising bits of dissonance and rhythmic sleights of hand that you wouldn't expect. It's a fantastic piece of music, and as a classical guitar player, I think it would be incredible if more people dug into the music Obsequiae is drawing from. But those excursions should be in between obsessive listens and re-listens to Aria, of course.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Violet Cold - Desperate Dreams

Written by Celtic Frosty.

Violet Cold is, according to its lone member Emin Guliyev, an “experimental one-man band from Baku, Azerbaijan.” Azerbaijan is a small transcontinental country situated where Eastern Europe and Western Asia meet, sharing borders with Iran, Armenia, Russia, Georgia, and flanked by the Caspian Sea to the east. You’ve most likely never heard of it until now, but with Desperate Dreams, Violet Cold’s first full length after releasing 24 singles and 2 EPs, Emin has burst through the doors of obscurity into the light. And what a beautiful, rapturous light it is.

It’s possibly due to Emin’s relatively unknown (at least within the metal scene) locale that Desperate Dreams is such a unique find within the saturated genre of post black metal. In the opening seconds of “La Petite Mort,” the album’s first and featured track, it becomes immediately clear that Mr. Guliyev is an extremely bold and gutsy songwriter. That major chord synth pop melody is one of the most joyous lead-ins to a black metal record you’re likely to find, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album with authority. These synth pop melodies and hooks are ever-present throughout all 8 tracks, usually serving as the centerpiece that holds the swirling chaos surrounding it in tact.

Though that description may be a turn off to the more morose among you, the synths on Desperate Dreams do nothing to round the sharp edges of Violet Cold’s ferocity. These black metal tracks rip and snarl, trying to claw their way to the promise of the shimmering euphoria to which those pop undertones elude, but ultimately falling short. Desperate Dreams is tagged on Bandcamp as “depressive black metal,” and despite an abundance of what could only be described as feel good moments, there’s an ever-present bleakness to these songs as Emin’s sorrowful screams betray the bright music surrounding him.

There is beauty in the existential struggle we all face as sentient beings. The daunting task of finding meaning, understanding ourselves, and ultimately surrendering to our own demise. Violet Cold has managed to stir that beauty to the top of the pot, if only for a brief 33 minutes, and asked us to consider this balance of light and shadow. The contrast and the interconnectedness of it all. The idea that even though we may always walk in the shadows, we are by definition never far from the light.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Graves - Fides Ad Nauseam

Written by Craig Hayes.

Over at his blog Six Noises Craig is celebrating New Zealand Music Month, "New Zealand’s annual celebration of homegrown music". He writes "Generally, that involves a lot of mainstream media highlighting a lot of mainstream acts. So I’m here to try and redress the balance a bit. I’ll be posting a link to some rowdy New Zealand music for you to check out every day over the next month. Some bands will no doubt be familiar; others I hope will be fresh to your ears." Here's his take on Grave's new album, which he wrote before the celebration began.

Artwork by Keiran D Sipes

There’s a great review of Abandon All Life, the 2013 album from Californian powerviolence crew Nails, that’s always stuck in my mind. Chiefly because the author noted that in order to really capture Abandon All Life’s high-speed hostilities, their review should have: been one paragraph long, been written in ALL CAPS, and ended by telling you to go fuck yourself.

Obviously, if you've heard the kind of vicious and undeniably malicious noise that Nails make, then you’ll know that statement is essentially 100% accurate. However, that very same sentiment also happens to be an exceedingly good fit for Fides Ad Nauseam, the latest release from Auckland, New Zealand, band Graves.

Fides Ad Nauseam is an unquestionably ferocious and belligerent album too. And its contents are also delivered at hurricane speed by an extremely hostile sounding band. More to the point, Fides Ad Nauseam is loaded with fuck you firepower. With Graves’ incensed musical barrages bringing the kind of breakneck pandemonium that’s unleashed when hardcore’s hammer is used to bludgeon the darkest punk and metal into shape on vitriolic songs.

Graves’ metallic hardcore is raw and abrasive, and there’s a lot to enjoy if you’re a fan of Boston throat-tattooed crews, the savage racket of pulverisers like Mammoth grinder, or bands like Baptists, Hierophant, Dead in the Dirt, or Full of Hell. Similarly, Graves’ music is very much in the crossover vein. With everything played at a white-knuckled pace, and stacked with the kinds of nosebleed frequencies and enraged tones that’ll provide something for crust, D-beat, hardcore, and metal fans to enjoy.

Graves have released three ear-splitting recordings so far, with their 2012 self-titled debut, their 2014 split with Conniption, and the terse and turbo-speed Fides Ad Nauseam, which is Graves’ best release yet. Just as important as Graves’ sonic stamp on those releases is the imprint of the band’s attitude. Because there’s a strong DIY drive to Graves, along with a hefty chunk of confrontational clout too. So, you can expect zero concessions, or any hooks thrown in for your comfort.

Certainly, Fides Ad Nauseam starts off at 100mph, and never steps off the gas, no matter how bone-breaking the terrain. It’s all a crashing and gnashing deluge, with high-speed grinding guitars, and nine-tracks spat out in 12 brain-battering minutes.

Admittedly, given the primal punk and metal fusillades found on Fides Ad Nauseam, it might even seem somewhat counterproductive to think of breaking Graves’ methodology down to specifics. I mean, dissecting Fides Ad Nauseam clearly amplifies Graves’ best attributes. But then, the kind of assaultive noise that Graves dishes out is set on pummelling the listener into submission, not opening itself up for any in-depth analysis.

Graves deal in gut-felt hardcore and metal on Fides Ad Nauseam. The kind of brutal wall of noise that instinctively sends the blood pressure skyrocketing. So, sure, it’s right to praise the nuance. And yes, the skill it takes to play as hard, fast, and tight as Graves do should be acknowledged too. But, really, Graves aren't out to impress us at all. They’re here to impress upon us that there’s a very ugly world lurking right outside your door.

Graves go about dispensing that news in an exceedingly punishing manner on Fides Ad Nauseam. Leaving no room for sympathy, and little room to breathe with highly pressurized songs. With single word song titles such as “Hatred”, “Choke”, “Scorn” and “Vermin”, there’s little doubt about Graves’ thematic gamut either. It’s all punk rock’s wrath, delivered with a heavy dose of metal’s spitefulness. And it’s exactly the same mix of shock and awe on Graves’ other releases too.

There’s a musical consistency to all of those releases as well, with all being recorded, mixed and mastered by Tim Shann. And Shann has captured Graves’ visceral bite and bile extremely well on Fides Ad Nauseam. The album is hot-blooded and frenzied. With vocalist Richie snarling and spitting over guitarist Josh’s meteoric riffs––which switch from fierce hardcore to blackened punk to grindcore to crust, while the dirty distortion buzzes. Throw in drummer Martin’s relentless assault, and bassist Taz’s wallop, and Fides Ad Nauseam’s broadsides become incredibly cathartic, as well as very darkly anthemic. (Also, Fides Ad Nauseam features a couple of ripping covers in “Skitliv”––originally recorded by crust punk heroes Skitsystem––and "A Nation Sleeps", from hardcore legends Dropdead.)

Obviously, you can take your pick where to start with Graves’ three releases. They all feature the same innate and lightening-fast uppercut of metallic hardcore. They all contain abundant punk rock grime and fury. And with half an hour of music released in total so far, it’s not going to take you long to appraise Graves’ three blistering releases either.

Still, I’d recommend starting with Fides Ad Nauseam. It’s Graves’ most volatile release yet. It’s certainly an adrenaline-fuelled salvo from start to finish. And it just boils with seething intensity, and incandescent energy.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]