July 13, 2018

Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

By Justin C. Theeyyyyy're back! The black metal-adjacent band that seems to ruffle more kvlt feathers than any other has returned with a new full length, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. The title alone will probably be enough for the trve
By Justin C.


Theeyyyyy're back! The black metal-adjacent band that seems to ruffle more kvlt feathers than any other has returned with a new full length, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. The title alone will probably be enough for the trve to ball up their fists in rage, although it's not some attempt at emo-cleverness, but rather a line from a Graham Greene novel written nearly 70 years ago.

That said, the band made an interesting choice with the first track, "You Without End." It starts with a simple piano figure that feels like a movie soundtrack focusing on a melancholy return home. The rising guitar line that ramps the song up turns it into a song you might have danced to at your prom...except for George Clarke's trademark growls, that is. It's almost as if the band is daring critics and fans alike to recoil.

It's the first step on a strange journey. The second track, "Honeycomb," brings us back to territory more familiar to previous Deafheaven albums, with the twist added of some seriously Dinosaur Jr.-inspired guitar work amongst the tremolos and blast beats. But hey, if you're going to cite a guitar influence, it's hard to do better than J. Mascis, regardless of genre.

Deafheaven 2016. Photos by Webzine Chuul.

"Canary" and "Glint"--the latter of which might be my favorite track--go along with the theme of making the listener wait, perhaps to the point of being confounded. Both have relatively mild guitar openings pushing past the two-minute mark before the METALZ kick in. But hot damn, when they kick in, we're back to the emotionally cathartic, heart-on-sleeve roars from Sunbather and New Bermuda.

And just to add to the already somewhat-strange mix, "Near" is a short, almost straightforward shoegaze tune with subdued clean vocals, and "Night People" brings Chelsea Wolfe in to co-lead vocals with her own, inimitable darkness. And if I'm not mistaken, that's Clarke singing cleanly along with her.**

As I've always said, I try not to read other press before I write my own review, but in this case, most of my listens came through NPR's stream of the album, and I can't help but pull a few choice bits. I do think the band is being "willfully cheesy" at points--although I don't think NPR or I would use that as an insult. I think their observation that, "If you've mocked Deafheaven in the past, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love does not care to meet you in the middle." is also on point. This album probably won't change your mind if it's already made up. To be honest, if I read what I'd just wrote, I'd be skeptical, even as a fan. Truth be told, though, I listened to this album three times in a row on first sitting. As willfully cheesy, twisting-and-turning it may be, I can't help but feel that Deafheaven is a band that is earnestly making the music they want to make, without an eye toward popularity or grimness or anything else. I have to admit that New Bermuda didn't stick with me the same way Sunbather did, but Ordinary Corrupt Human Love already has me hooked.


**At the time of this writing, I did not have access to liner notes, so I'm just assuming the male cleans are Clarke here. All apologies if it turns out another singer is credited with that part.

July 3, 2018

Empire of the Moon - Πανσέληνος

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.


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. Nowadays, Polish and Icelandic black metal are becoming part of the forefront, while others are making a comeback. The Greek black metal sound has always been around, but it’s making a comeback, and for a sound that gave us Rotting Christ, we tend to forget the other bands. Call them the true black metal denizens if you will.

Celebrate your crepuscule nature,
Rid of your innocence and grace,
Crush the righteousness of your creation,
Crucify the savior inside.

A quick translation note (anyone can correct me if I am wrong): While the word Πανσέληνος can translate to “full moon” in English, there is something else that is worth mentioning. The word σέληνος can be transliterated to selinos, which gives us the name Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon and the translation to the word “moon”. However, given the prefix Παν-, meaning “all”, “everything”, and, in this context, “involving all members”, can literally translate Πανσέληνος to “involving all members of the moon”. This means that the band didn’t just focus on one primordial goddess lyrically; they focused on a triptych of goddesses and their associated realms: Tiamat, Kali, and the obvious Selene.

From the very beginning, Πανσέληνος has a consistent flow in the music, especially between and within its transitions from song to song. It starts and ends with a classical piece, with heavy piano and backing strings. The first seconds sound like something is ascending towards the heavens, before the piano, strings, and what sounds like a full orchestra come together and create a first movement. After the first track, the album spears forth with sinister synths, heavy distorted guitars, and hellish vocal work. Hearing the clean play of the blast beats and distorted guitars is highly satisfying. It’s fast, filled with moving emotion, and brilliant tonality that remains grandiose, culminating in the fifth track, “The Nine Skulls of Kali.”

Throughout the album you can also hear spoken word mantras, as if the speaker is worshiping the triptych of goddesses that gave birth to this album. What I love most is the lyrical content. Not only is the band worshiping moon goddesses as a whole, but they are worshiping the primordial female nature of life. While these goddesses gave us life and can be seen as generous or even tender in nature, they can also be destructive and cause calamity onto us who don’t understand or insult them in any way. Ah, the essence of woman!

All in all, Πανσέληνος is an album filled with soft yet destructive ferocity, and one that seems content in reveling in its nature. There is a lot of emotion and clean production values that shouldn’t go unnoticed on this album and shouldn’t be forgotten. Given the strong, infernal vibes this album has, their lyrical content is something to look forward to. I expect great things from this band, and I do look forward to their next release!

June 22, 2018

Khemmis - Desolation

By Calen Henry. Khemmis’ last album, Hunted, immediately grabbed me. Their “doomed rock and roll” combined melodic, epic doom with elements of stoner-doom, death-doom, and traditional metal for a wonderful “kitchen sink” approach to metal.
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Sam Turner.

Khemmis’ last album, Hunted, immediately grabbed me. Their “doomed rock and roll” combined melodic, epic doom with elements of stoner-doom, death-doom, and traditional metal for a wonderful “kitchen sink” approach to metal. Desolation sees the band digging in to their signature sound and shedding much of the kitchen sink approach to create their best record yet. The album will likely cement their legacy alongside bands like Pallbearer and Power Trip as crossover darlings.

The vast majority of Desolation is Khemmis’ signature melodic doom: melancholy, slightly sinister riffs under soaring tenor vocals. This time they delve even deeper into melody, edging further towards traditional metal, with harmonized vocals lines, lyrical dual guitar leads, and even some lower register vocals reminiscent of the late David Gold of Woods of Ypres

The mix of traditional metal and doom carries through to the band's lyrics. They adopt a lot of the swords and sorcery trappings of traditional metal, but, in a time when traditional metal lyrics about the glory of conquerors' pillaging can seem problematic, Khemmis are refreshingly depressing. Truly living up to their self-styled genre, "doomed rock and roll," they sing of cursed bargains, doomed legions, sole survivors and the associated guilt, isolation, and desolation. It’s extremely fitting that the album is called Desolation, as that single word gets right to the crux of the album’s themes.

Photos by Nessie Spencer.

They also ditch other musical styles, except for death-doom, and the result is transcendent. The deep dive into melody juxtaposed against the filthy death-doom riffs creates a fantastic dynamic throughout the album, but it’s when the band directly mixes the two, giving us twin guitar shredding over galloping death-doom or harsh vocals over soaring guitar melodies, that their sound becomes truly legendary. Album opener “Bloodletting” showcases this beautifully, when soaring guitar and epic vocals suddenly break into a filthy death-doom riff accompanied by an extended twin guitar solo.

With the overall stylistic change, the album doubles down on melodic vocals and some raspy harsh vocals that are more black metal than death-doom, but they work extremely well with the band’s overall sound. The melodic vocals are even better than on previous albums, and the combination of lower vocals and faster tempos than Pallbearer sets Khemmis apart from their closest sonic touch point.

The production is also slightly improved over Hunted. It's a bit more dynamic, and although it's still brickwalled, the slight improvement makes a difference. There is no audible clipping, and everything sounds just a bit better than it did in 2015.

Desolation one of the year's best metal albums, and the stylistic changes mean that anyone not completely melody-adverse should check it out, even those not sold on Khemmis' previous material. The band has completely come into their own. Hunted absolutely floored me in 2015, and Desolation is leagues ahead of it.