Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Barbelith - Mirror Unveiled

Written by Matt Hinch.

Art by Art by A.B. Moore

Regular readers of Metal Bandcamp should know by now that this writer has a bit of a love affair with just about everything coming out of the Grimoire Records camp. They've got a stable full of well-bred stock competing hard in the USBM race. The latest charger to burst out of the gate is Barbelith and Mirror Unveiled.

The horse metaphor comes into play as Barbelith combines unbridled power with an inherent beauty as they marry up blistering black metal with spacious post-rock melodies over the course of four tracks and 27 minutes.

In general, the band dynamic relies on athletic percussive violence, harrowing vocal delivery and guitars that weave amongst themselves in fierce opposition while synchronous at their core. Barbelith's dichotomous nature works to not only scorch the earth to eradicate the negative but cleanse it as well allowing a fresh perspective to take its place.

On the longer tracks a cyclical pattern emerges moving from pure raging fury to serenity and back again while incorporating a mix of tempos. Galloping jaunts, skittering shuffles and a pseudo-groove all find a place alongside the ensuing madness and empyrean melodies. Among the obvious black metal comparisons (WITTR, Bosse-de-Nage) one can hear gentler passages reminiscent of Yakuza, Explosions in the Sky and even Pallbearer.

Most often the emotional cacophony builds to a crescendo as it spirals high to unleash a venom across the astral planes between bursts of energy and recovery. The rage seems necessary to clear clouds of melancholy and let peaceful, healing light bathe the listener. It's the juxtaposition of blasting drums and soaring, intimate melodies that really connect on multiple levels. Such as the anger that follows in the wake of hurt, or the fear that precedes opening up your heart and the relief that results.

One can feel a determination and drive to rise above the despair as Barbelith cycle through emotional states making minor changes along the way as no two experiences are exactly the same. And their tendency towards the mix of scorching black metal hatred and emotional melodies mirrors human nature in that the world is not black and white and nothing is fully understood on the superficial level.

Mirror Unveiled is a convincing and compelling album full of emotions both destructive and passionate. It hits the sweet spot balancing the furious with the halcyon, the raw with the refined. It's quite obvious that a broad palette of influences colour this majestic and triumphant work of art, filling all available space to create a surreal, enveloping and at times transcendent experience.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kingsblood - Trudging Through the Field of Crows

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Columbus, OH is an unlikely place to find a ravenous Viking horde, but from such humble geography Kingsblood have sprung. Their seven-inch, Trudging Through the Field of Crows, crams as much blood-drenched intensity as possible into the spare two tracks, making the most of this limited space with searing death vocals, a relentlessly driving pace and viscera-shredding, battle-heralding riffs.

"Hordes of the Night" has a vast, cinematic grandness that evokes sailing across oceans and through storms in a long ship in search of new continents to plunder. "The Howl" best showcases one of the strongest elements of this EP: the exceptional drumming, which drives the music forward and is full of unexpected, yet not overly showy, fills, all precise aggression and muscular violence.

Trudging Through the Field of Crows is an excellent, if brief, offering for those who prefer their Viking metal drenched in heaviness and light on theatrics, like an axe thrown lovingly into the back of a skull.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hope Drone - Hope Drone

Written by Justin C.

I've been listening to Deafheaven's Sunbather lately, "Dream House" in particular. The close of 2014 is kicking me around a bit, so I've felt drawn to music that wears its blackened heart on its sleeve. I haven't wanted to be intellectually engaged as much as I've wanted to be emotionally engaged. Very recently, I stumbled across post-black metal band Hope Drone and their self-titled album, and it scratches a very similar itch that Deafheaven does.

Like Deafheaven's George Clarke, Hope Drone vocalist Chris Rowden sounds as though he wants to obliterate human language and turn it into pure emotion. His vocals sound like they're physically painful to produce. Occasionally, like during the end of "Finite," he sounds nearly unhinged, and it's glorious. But I don't want to belabor the comparison between Deafheaven and Hope Drone too much, because that would be overly reductive and a bit unfair. Hope Drone occupies a similar post-black metal landscape with tons of atmosphere and washes of sound, but they are their own band.

You'll get all the tremolo guitar and blast beats you need here, but there's a great variety in the performances. Album opener "Advent" has guitar that sounds like an electrical storm turned into music. The rest of the song features slower riffs punctuated with tremolo rips. The intro riff for "Grains," although relatively quiet, still has an intense, stabbing quality to it. The drums also add plenty of nuance on their own. Between the requisite blasts, drummer Francil Keil plays everything from straightforward fills to oddly compelling, pulsing flurries.

On the Bandcamp page for this album, one of the buyers, Matt Kaminsky, says this album "gets me right in the feels." That's as succinct a summary as I could come up with. If you're in the mood to get your feels exercised with some gorgeously harsh black metal, you'd be hard pressed to do better than Hope Drone.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]