Friday, October 24, 2014

Abazagorath - The Satanic Verses

Written by Justin C.

U.S. black metal band Abazagorath has been around since 1995. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with their work, but in defense of my ignorance, this year's The Satanic Verses is their first full-length since 2004. Better late than never, though, because as I told Max when I first heard the promo, "This band rips like some kind of industrial ripping machine!" (Yes, I am a true wordsmith.)

The basis of Abazagorath's sound is more second-wave Norwegian than anything you might associate with the present-day USBM scene. When I first listened to the opening tracks, I thought this would be very thrashy, Satan-obsessed black metal, not unlike what I've heard from 1349's new album. Very good, but maybe nothing ground breaking. On repeat listens, though, I kept finding more and more things to like.

Founding member Warhead. Photo by Metal Chris

There's a great amount of vocal variety happening here. The wraith-like rasps are very satisfying, but there are also some deeper gutturals and an occasional raspy clean mixed in. And that's not even the most interesting part--in several songs, like "Visions of Azrael," there are vocals that sound very much like Mongolian throat singing. It's mostly used sparingly--more for an accent than anything else--but the growling resonance of the technique is well-suited to black metal. Variety is also the name of the game in song lengths. You get everything from quick, two-minute blasts like "Revelations," up to nine-minute mini-epics like "Return to Jahilia." The latter, in particular, shows off the band's songwriting chops. The intro could be another throwaway acoustic intro, quickly forgotten, but they take care to incorporate that melody into the song itself, which a lot of bands don't seem to bother with. As with many albums that make the transition from good to potentially great, there's an attention to detail here that makes all the difference.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

As an added bonus, the band has taken the time to put albums going all the way back to 1996 on their Bandcamp, so there’s a lot to check out.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Castle - Second Coming / Labyrinth of Death

Written by Maxim Björky.

The difficulty of writing grandiose diatribes about two-song EPs hasn't stopped people from doing it before. The best is when a tech death EP –itself a combine-like exercise barely deserving to be labeled art— invokes a wheezing essay that reads like a vocabulary quiz. None of that here, ladies and gents. The two jams on this here Castle 7” are a nice snapshot of the forceful trad/doom hybrid the band has become known for, but they don’t justify my subjecting you to a measure-by-measure root canal of a review.

Instead I wanna talk about how incredibly underrated I think this band is and why people are bad at understanding why this band is good.

This EP combines a haunting cover of Alice Cooper’s “Second Coming”, a song whose only real downside is that it is less than 3 minutes in length, with “Labyrinth of Death”, a track from the full length released shortly thereafter. To my knowledge, Under Siege doesn’t exist on bandcamp and, all that being said, I’m gonna use this EP as a chance to preach from up on high for a couple of paragraphs.

First, this Alice cover is fantastic. It’s been a nice keynote in my recent rediscovery of his early work. “Labyrinth of Death” is a jammy Sabbath Vol. 4 type track with some nice grooves and hooks. Liz Blackwell’s vocal ambitions aren’t any more extensive here in terms of range but she’s still that hybrid of Ozzy and Leather Leone that makes this band instantly recognizable. Needless to say, the last full-length, Under Siege, really stuck with me. I find something peculiarly enticing about Castle’s ability to tap into Mercyful Fate, the aforementioned Alice Cooper, NWOBHM weirdoes Hell, a bit of Venom, and a few other vibes. It’s the sound of a time when evil was mysterious, sexy, left something to the imagination. At the same time, they don’t sound exactly like any of these; pack songs with plenty of jagged rock riffs; and demonstrate that songwriting lightweights they certainly are not. From what I know, they’re nevertheless playing club shows to 25-40 some odd people a night, as happened last time I saw them.

If ever there remained a flicker of doubt in your mind that public opinion remains a race to the bottom, this should be the end of it.

Thanks for letting me clear the air. Namaste.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Label spotlight: Rising Beast Recordings

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Art by William David Pollard.

Rising Beast Recordings is based out of Los Angeles and run by James L. Brown. He may be most well known for being the guitarist of L.A. Black Metal band Harassor along with Pete on vocals and Andor on drums. A band I have had the pleasure of seeing many times as they are part of my local scene. The label seems to serve as a place for James to experiment with other genres of music he also enjoys. The three bands, other than Harassor, that are on the label are Moonknight, Dargar, and Attakkr along with some self-titled music. All different in their own way despite being from the same person.

First we start with Moonknight. Moonknight is best described as Atmospheric Black Metal. With three full lengths, two E.P.’s and two splits this is the band with the most material. The first album Toplov is very raw. Burzum-esque riffing, with distorted vocals. But with the second album, Ligeia, the production is a little less raw on most songs. The sound is full and the atmospheres even more present. Song lengths increase allowing him to do more in each song, the song "Thyrsgreiden" being a perfect example of this. That album even ends with an ambient track. With 2014’s Death Card it is a perfect mix of all that has come before. The production is not too raw and not too clean. It’s the sweet spot in between that gives great atmosphere but allows for everything to be heard. Even with shorter song length nothing is lost, they are leaner and meaner if you will. This is top notch Atmospheric Black Metal. Fans of Burzum, Striborg, and ColdWorld will not be let down.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Next up is Dargar. This sees James teaming up with Harassor singer Pete Majors doing guitar and vocals with James doing drum programming. Dargar are a Blackened Noise band. Harsh guitars over cold electronic drumming with gurgling distorted shrieks. The sound is ugly and violent at times. Other times slow and dark. Songs are disjointed and unnerving. At no time does this feel like safe listening. Can’t tell what the lyrics are, and I’m not sure I want to know. All of this adds up to a great listening experience for me. At the time of this writing I am on a big Noise/Dark Ambient kick, so this was just what I was looking for. While Moonknight’s atmospheres are expansive at times. Dargar’s atmosphere is claustrophobic, intense, and unsettling. Best heard with headphones in total darkness.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Then there is Attakkr. Best described as Ambient Drone. Three albums all recorded in 2006 but not released until 2013. Even though they are divided into three albums all the songs could really make up one album. These are songs to get lost in. At times it reminds me of Boris when they get drony. A song like Heavenly Bodies (from Blade of Ithiel) is aptly titled. As it makes me feel as though I am ascending into the sky. The song Amalantrah (from Zantetsuken) even having clean vocals and sounding like some lost Shoegaze track from the early 90’s. Never overly harsh with just the right balance of dark and dreamyness added to the mix.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

There's also his self-titled material. The first being a Drone/Noise album Isle of the Dead. This one featuring another member of Harassor drummer Andor Kappen doing vocals on "Twilight of the Beast". At first listen I wondered why this had not fallen under the Attakkr name. But there are enough differences that I assume he felt the separation was needed. The cool part is each track really stands on it’s own. Drone runs through each, but the songs are all very different from each other. Like the Drone into Sludge of Psychometry or the shoegazy drone of The Hollow.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The other self-titled album may be the oddest of the bunch. It’s a two track Theremin album. Now I won’t pretend to love it. But I do love his willingness to experiment and try something new. It’s an interesting listen to say the least. Trippy, psychedelic, and a bit creepy all at the same time.

The thing that is impressive about this label is the variety found within. Now that is not too uncommon for a label. But the fact that it is primarily being done by one man is what really sets it apart and makes it more impressive to me. Many artists have tried to express themselves outside of their comfort zone. Some fail, some succeed. I count James L. Brown among the successes.