September 21, 2018

Abysmal Torment - The Misanthrope

By Bryan Camphire. Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment churn out mighty intense brutal death. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal
By Bryan Camphire.


Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment return with their fourth full-length in a dozen years. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal with an extra emphasis on the moshpit. Yet, this new record, The Misanthrope, doesn't divulge its secrets easily. The torrents of blast enshrine the majesty of this release like the walls of a fortress shield the riches of the keep.

With The Misanthrope, Abysmal Torment have upped the ante on all levels of their music including the production, squashing the mix with massive amounts of compression so that it sounds as loud and as in your face as can be. It's easy to view this type of production with disdain: it's very modern; it's the type of thing done by nauseating bands like Metallica today. Truthfully, I had to lower the bass on the equalizer on my car stereo while listening to The Misanthrope just so that I could hear more of what was going on with the guitar work on this release. I can not think of any other musical release I've heard that has this much kick drum in it, both in volume level and in quantity. This was off-putting for the first few spins. Then it drew me in. The bold-faced velocity of Abysmal Torment's full frontal assault beckons me inwards to look for subtlety in the eye of their mile-wide mayhem.

Indeed, subtleties abound in the music of The Misanthrope. The intricacy of this set on display more than makes up for its lack of dynamics, like a church ceiling that transfixes you despite your lack of faith. No doubt the sheet music for these songs would be liable to make a person cross-eyed. The details are dizzying, yet ever so meticulously composed and executed. Abysmal Torment are surgeons of slam, precise and exacting after they lay you out flat.

The emotional thrust of this brickmason-like music is what becomes so surprising about it over repeated listens. Tracks three four and five are a highlight for me, and each of them make me feel like Beavis and Butthead on speed as I listen. This is one of the bands best slight's of hand: amidst their unrelenting onslaught - riddled with odd meters, delivered at blistering speed - it's the groove they deliver that hooks you and riles you up.

I became such a big fan of Abysmal Torment over the years that I've scoured the rosters of many a record label that peddles this type of brutality - including Pittsburgh's venerable Willowtip Records, home to this release - and have found no other band who produces this sound with such finesse. They almost make it seem easy. If you're a fan of hyper complex rhythms, listen to the first track on Abysmal Torment's 2009 release, Omnicide, and try to count it. That song continues to mesmerize me many years after first hearing it.

The band has stayed true to their trademark density on The Misanthrope. Like Abysmal Torment's colossal records before it, I'm certain The Misanthrope will trickle clues to its mysteries that will seep slowly into the consciousness for many years to come.

September 14, 2018

Bosse-de-Nage - Further Still

By Justin C. Reviewing Bosse-de-Nage's new album feels a little like a homecoming to me: III was one of the earlier reviews I wrote for this site way back in 2012. It was in December, and I remember a lot of long, cold commutes to and from work
By Justin C.


Reviewing Bosse-de-Nage's new album feels a little like a homecoming to me: III was one of the earlier reviews I wrote for this site way back in 2012. It was in December, and I remember a lot of long, cold commutes to and from work trying to wedge my brain into what, at times, seemed like almost impenetrable music, a sound that seemed to try to push me away while at the same time continually revealing hidden depths. It haunted me, in the way that only good art can, much like All Fours did three years later. Now, in 2018, the band is back with their fifth full-length, Further Still.

In a break with their more anonymous past, the band has actually done some press this time around, with vocalist Bryan Manning sitting down with Invisible Oranges for an interview. The interview briefly touches on whether Further Still has "nostalgia" moments from earlier albums. I started this review talking about nostalgia, so it's an interesting question. I don't hear "throwback" elements to earlier albums as much as I hear the band refining their core sound. As early as II, the band had come to the kind of sound that, to my mind, defines them, but doesn't confine them. Maybe at some point they’ll do a complete stylistic shift, but so far, sinking into new Bosse-de-Nage always feels both familiar and bewildering at the same time.

Duality in general has long been the band's hallmark. The lyrics to the first two tracks--"The Trench" and "Down Here"--are both bleak little short stories of people who have been abandoned or about to be, yet there are moments of sweeping, chiming melody in the guitar lines in "Down Here" that, ironically, sound almost sunny. "My Shroud" starts with a slow burn, then alternates between energetic, almost poppy guitar lines and sections with some of the most intricate and harrowing compositions they've done. (Big emphasis on "almost" when I say "almost poppy"--they're probably not going to tour with Ed Sheeran any time soon.) The lyrics themselves describe an invisible shroud the narrator wears from birth to death. The listener is free to read whatever they wish into this narrative device--does the shroud represent the inevitable grinding down of life, or is there more to it?

"But wait," you might say. "That doesn't seem as weird as 'The Washerwoman' from All Fours. Isn't there something stranger?" Oh yes. I won't give away the whole story, but tension builds throughout "Sword Swallower." What might seem like an old-fashioned circus trick takes on new dimensions as the swallower takes his act in a fairly extreme direction before his crowd responds. It put me in mind of Kafka's story "A Hunger Artist,” but that's not surprising since Manning discusses his enjoyment of Kafka in the IO interview.

The music, as ever, is abrasive, punishing, and glorious. Manning's vocals are still of the strip-paint-off-the-walls variety, and the instrumentals grind, stab, warp, and soothe as needed. And as always, those drums. Those crazy, intricate, deft drums. I can say without exaggeration that the percussion on these albums are some of my favorite in all of metaldom.

I think the cost of entry for the listener of Bosse-de-Nage remains high. As Iggy Pop once said of John Coltrane, the music is difficult to get close to. But as with their previous work, this album will plant a seed inside you and grow if you let it.

September 10, 2018

Tragedy – Fury

By Craig Hayes. Crust punk titans Tragedy are one of the most revered bands around, and that was recently reaffirmed when the Portland, Oregon-based group’s new EP, Fury, suddenly appeared on Bandcamp. Fury’s arrival was greeted with almost rapturous fervour
By Craig Hayes.




Crust punk titans Tragedy are one of the most revered bands around, and that was recently reaffirmed when the Portland, Oregon-based group’s new EP, Fury, suddenly appeared on Bandcamp. Fury’s arrival was greeted with almost rapturous fervour by diehard fans, myself included, and that wasn’t any kind of overreaction. Tragedy’s music is colossal, concussive, and deeply authentic, and it’s been six long years since the band’s last vitriolic release, 2012’s Darker Days Ahead.

Tragedy’s breakneck, self-titled debut was released in 2000, and the LP was instantly (and rightly) hailed as a crust punk classic. However, Tragedy’s backstory also includes a very important introductory chapter. Tragedy features members who also played in the much-admired crust band His Hero Is Gone, and the sledgehammering noise that band made (before they disbanded in 1999) has had an incalculable influence on the world of thickset punk and metal.

His Hero Is Gone took the brawnier/crustier strain of punk that UK bands like Amebix, Antisect, and Hellbastard had formulated in the 1980s and made it bigger, badder, and even swampier. The band added heftier guitars and distortion, and a neck-wrecking amount of oomph, and that set the template for an entire generation of heavyweight crust bands.

Tragedy have unquestionably carried that tradition on. Their stentorian music has proven to be equally influential, and they've played in front of appreciative audiences the world over. However, Tragedy aren’t only famed for making high-powered music.

The band’s always known for being staunchly DIY and operating well outside the usual ‘music biz’ networks. Tragedy have also shown a complete aversion to social media and online marketing –– so much so that a few hardcore fans will no doubt protest about the band turning up on a platform like Bandcamp.

Appearing on Bandcamp doesn’t radically alter Tragedy’s DIY aesthetic though. If anything, Bandcamp has revolutionised the way underground bands and fans can connect without the need for hyped-up web campaigning. That suits Tragedy’s agenda, which has seen the band self-release their own records, avoid interviews, and deliberately sidestep the grinding wheels of the publicity machine.

In doing all that, Tragedy have become “folk heroes” within the contemporary punk underground. And there’s still a strong element of mystery to the Tragedy mythos, even if the group’s members happen to play in scores of other well-known and well-regarded punk bands.

Tragedy 2013. Photos by Carmelo Española.

Tragedy utilising Bandcamp means that tracking down a copy of Fury is that much easier –– and FYI: any punk fan worth their salt should purchase a copy forthwith. Produced by Portland heavyweight music wizard Billy Anderson, Fury features six tracks bursting with belligerent rage. The EP’s running time barely hits the 17-minute mark, but that’s more than enough time to appreciate that no one channels mind-crushing hostility quite like Tragedy.

Fury’s first track, “Leviathan”, roars out of the gate with thundering guitars, guttural barks, and crashing bass and drums. Stampeding hooks are scattered throughout, snagging you and dragging you along, and by the time second track “Enter the Void” kicks in, it’s clear that Tragedy haven’t lost one iota of their passion or potency.

In fact, guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette, bassist/vocalist Billy Davis, guitarist Yannick Lorrain, and drummer Paul Burdette sound like they’re ready to riot. I’m guessing the band have been inspired by the overwhelming number of end-times headlines that seem to greet us every day. But, speculation aside, it’s simply magnificent to hear the band still sounding so fired up after so many years in the punk rock trenches.

Fans hankering for Tragedy to return to their feral and ferocious roots will be thrilled that tracks like “Kick and Scream” and “Fury” are speedier and more overtly unhinged than the mid-tempo (albeit still savage) tracks on Darker Days Ahead. Ripping guitars and pick-sliding galore cut through Fury’s murky mix, and scorching leads and fist-raising, shout-along choruses arrive with a palpable sense of urgency throughout the EP.

Throttling dirges are trampled by hurtling hardcore on Fury, and the EP’s final tracks, “Swallow the Pill” and “A Life Entombed”, underscore Tragedy’s ability to craft dark and blistering melodies that reflect shattered dreams, nightmare realities, and endless frustrations.

In that sense, with the world in turmoil and anxieties at an all-time high, there’s never been a better time for Tragedy to return. The band bring hope, and relief, delivered in a purging/surging rush of ear-splitting punk, backed by exorcising howls.

Over the years, countless raucous bands have tried to copy the most ferocious elements from Tragedy’s formidable playbook. However, as Fury proves, yet again, few bands exhibit Tragedy’s talent for making primal rage manifest. Even fewer bands can cast out anger with the sheer intensity of Tragedy’s cathartic anthems. And Fury adds six more reasons to stand in fucking awe of Tragedy’s intimidating discography.