Friday, October 31, 2014

Universe217 - Ease

Written by Kevin Page.

It's been a stupendous year in Greek metal, with a seemingly high quality release coming out every couple of weeks. So it should be no surprise that we are about to add yet another one to the list, via Athens own, Universe217.

Practicing what I guess you would call "experimental doom", they released their stunning 3rd album, Never, in 2013. They have now followed that up with a new EP, appropriately titled, Ease. Just like the name implies, the band is showing us their mellow side without losing an ounce of effect. I would say this is similar to what Alice in Chains initially did between their full length albums on SAP and Jar of Flies. They went acoustic, slowed things down, got tender, wrote great songs, and still maintained their identity. If these Greek maestros continue to do this, consider me on the bandwagon.

Photo by alepuda

Throughout the course of its 21 minute run time, there isn't a single wasted note. It starts off with this ambient ethereal sound (like the morning sunrise) with vocalist Tania making her presence felt immediately. To say I'm in love with Tania's voice would be as dramatic of an understatement I could make. She could read the classified ads and I'd find it utterly enthralling. For those new to the band, think Janis Joplin, but less raspy, with maybe a touch of Ann Wilson, singing metal songs.

Once the opening track kicks in, its memorizing. The beautiful bass tone, tasteful drums and gently picking of the guitar, They exercise such restraint, that it always leaves you wanting more, but in the best possible way. Sometimes a song winds down and you almost expect another chorus/bridge (just out of habit with most music) yet its not there. Whether this is intentional or not, I'm not sure, but it's brilliant. I'm never unsatisfied, yet always craving more.

Picking out a favorite track is next to impossible. Every song has its moments that I could point to as a highlight. Not only do I highly recommend this release (since it is THE BEST EP I've heard all year), but suggest you to listen undistracted and in one sitting. Let this envelop your mind. I don't even want to taint your experience by getting overly detailed about the music either. Stop reading and press play. I implore you.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Myopic / Torrid Husk - Crawling Mountain Apogee

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Brandon Geurts

I've written about both Myopic and Torrid Husk before and now the two come together on a split entitled Crawling Mountain Apogee. Each band contributes two tracks, the shortest of which clocks in at 8:12. With so much time to work with there is plenty of room to explore. And explore they do.

Myopic opens the split with the 10:44 “Unction in Passing”. The track builds slowly with dominant bass leading the way. Post-black metal moments give way to the progressive bass and searing black metal runs. Even then, they surge with a tremulous flair and flow and an openness that's hard to categorize. It's when the bass takes over that the soul of the track is laid bare. There's a beauty in the simplicity that gives it tremendous heart. From there the track meanders hither and yon, returning to its blackened core and integrating their exploration as it circles around between aggression and progression.

Moving into “Remembrance” Myopic takes a darker, more menacing turn bringing in doom elements. Holding on to the prog and post touches the storm intensifies as trembling guitars break free of earthly tethers to dance among the stars. Eventually the darkness pulls the track back into the depths and set it upon a chase before concluding in an amalgam of the track's elements.

Torrid Husk follow up with “All Ballasted the Elk”. Field recordings give way to their melodic black metal full of reluctant warmth and disgusted raspy growls. It morphs into a zone with some bounce to the percussion. Even the melodies take on a different, more uplifted feel. That doesn't last as a brief scorched earth moment leads to quiet introspection like a fog clearing to reveal true feelings; shedding an artificial protective exterior. Even more desperate vocals call for a blasting, swirling, burrowing return. Fight and flight at once, closing out with harsh but relieving melody to ease the scars.

“So howled out to the world to give him a name” goes for the throat in a most unsettling way. Deathly growls and a paranoid aura are enough to make the skin crawl under a relentless battering of percussion and fast yet creepy rhythms and melody. Delicate guitar breathes air into the song's midsection only to be destroyed by black metal's annihilating force. Progressive elements and soaring melodies mingle with forceful percussion and slavering vocals coalescing into a wave of feedback and a closing return to the field recordings.

Both bands have upped their game on this excellent split. Fusing powerful and velocious black metal with dynamics and progressive explorations, Myopic and Torrid Husk push their names into new regions of recognizability. Coupled with the spectacular production that comes out of the Grimoire Records camp, it's apparent that there is a wealth of talent and vision comprising these two bands. Crawling Mountain Apogee is everything the name implies and more. Unsettling, awe-inspiring, far reaching, muscular, challenging and captivating.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sterilizer - Sterilizer

Written by Craig Hayes.

Sterilizer is the latest one-man bout of musical mayhem from the mind of the talented graphic artist, designer, and songwriter Brandon Duncan. A couple of years back, under his Sequence of Prime moniker, the Missouri-based Duncan self-released a phenomenal album, Inter-. That album was technically dazzling, cerebrally challenging, and featured a turbo-speed collision of industrial thrash and grind. Everything on Inter- came from the sharp-witted brain and instrumental mastery of Duncan himself, which was impressive enough. But he was also more than willing to share his passion for the science and technology that inspired the album, because Inter- also came with a rather wonderful recommended reading list that was essentially nerd nirvana.

Sterilizer also brings a heavily scientific accent on the band’s self-titled debut, but things seem much closer to home than the galaxy gazing of Inter-. Songs titles like, “Depopulator”, “Dis-content”, “Revenge”, and “Equalizer” suggest a certain amount of sci-fi influence, perhaps combined with a loathing of Homo Sapiens, or at least a level of disgust at humanities failings. That’s all backed by Sterilizer’s music, which mixes an ice-cold and clinical technological approach to reassembling sound into to exterminating noise.

In fact, there's something of a Terminator-ish endoskeleton to Sterilizer. The album definitely feels retro-futuristic, and mechanically ruthless, and it contains abundant industrialized metal riding on a destructive power-electronics pulse. There’s a nerve-shredding feel to Sterilizer, residing somewhere between the engineered chaos of Author & Punisher and the industrial death noise of Theologian. However, the strongest call-back here is that Sterilizer grinds along with the kind of industrial dread that Ministry brought when the band was still a force to be reckoned with, circa The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste.

The punishing drum programming and seizure-inducing noise found on Sterilizer contains as much pummelling sonic muscle as it does utter emotional insanity. As one of my more astute Facebook pals noted, there are parts to the album that sound like, “Nailbomb going off in Godflesh's Fudge Tunnel”. I couldn't have put it better myself. Sterilizer does hark back to an age of musical revolution with its rapid-fire metal-and-electro-grind. But the album still manages to push forward into a new dark age, filled with abundant pandemonium and despair.

One-man. Many ideas. All gathered and rendered into a wholly impressive and assaultive avalanche. Sterilizer is yet another mad/genius release cooked up in Duncan's laboratory.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]