April 24, 2017

Ingurgitating Oblivion - Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light

By Bryan Camphire. Ingurgitating Oblivion is a Berlin-based group headed by Florian Engelke, who has hewn his visionary style of death metal for the past twenty years. Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light, features a new cast of musicians
By Bryan Camphire.


Ingurgitating Oblivion is a Berlin-based group headed by Florian Engelke, who has hewn his visionary style of death metal for the past twenty years. Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light, features a new cast of musicians, perhaps most notably Lille Gruber of Defeated Sanity on drums. Engelke remains as the band’s sole original member and functions as the group’s primary songwriter.

It bears contemplating the word ‘symphonies’ from the album’s title, because the album is just that. It is not difficult to imagine this music transcribed for an entire orchestra, as the record is rife with rich interlocking harmonies. The composer is clearly a careful student of the deep history of death metal. Rather than looking inward and provoking an old school revival as is commonly done, this music looks outward toward what death metal can become.

Visions... is a collection of four long-form tunes that are packed with dynamics. The heavy sections are chock full of unorthodox guitar harmony and blistering convulsive rhythms. The guitar uses a lot of sustain - letting notes ring out for several beats, which is a technique more common to doom rather than death metal. Interestingly, the rhythm section keeps churning and pummelling throughout, giving the music an almost seasick off kilter feeling like an uproarious crashing sea amidst a horrible storm.

A fair amount of space is devoted to more restrained sections of music, which serve as a sort of ballast, stabilizing the tunes between apoplectic fits. Still, during its quieter moments the record maintains its savagery. At such times it tends to remind me of post-hardcore masterpieces by 90s bands like Don Caballero or Rodan. Ingurgitating Oblivion do play pretty sections of music, yet these stretches always feel foreboding, with the possibility of an attack ever looming overhead like a sword.

The second track, the brilliantly titled, “A Mote Constitutes What to Me Is Not All, and Eternally All, Is Nothing”, begins with bowed vibraphone. If anyone can tell me of a heavy metal song preceding this one that begins with bowed vibraphone, I will happily eat my shoe. And the record just keeps getting stranger as it goes along. The piano outro of the third track sounds almost like an excerpt of Scriabin's mind-melting Piano Sonata #6. Still, make no mistake, this is very much a death metal record, and a crushingly heavy one at that.

With Visions…, Ingurgitating Oblivion show themselves to be a group with originality to burn. It is unusual enough for a band to have riffs that sound like no one else. It is especially rare for a band to have its own approach to timekeeping. Ingurgitating Oblivion's rhythms feel nuanced in a way that is entirely of their own invention. The phrasings leave the listener grasping for solid footing, like scaling a steep cliff face as rocks turn to dust in your hands and under foot.

Adventurous listeners will find themselves transported by this music into weird realms of dizzying heights.Visions… offers forth strange imaginings that travel beyond the frontiers of accepted knowledge of the form, arriving at a heavier and darker death metal. With all the buzzing dissonant harmonies and menacing rhythmic assault on display, the music seems to come at you like a swarm of enemy insects. It is almost too much to take in all at once, nevertheless there it is, and it is dangerous.

Tagged with 2017, Bryan Camphire, death metal, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Willowtip

April 22, 2017

Farsot - Fail·lure

By Justin C. German black-metal act Farsot has released their third full-length, Fail·lure. The dot is intentional, not a stray umlaut that's broken and fallen between the cracks. The album name is actually a portmanteau
By Justin C.


German black-metal act Farsot has released their third full-length, Fail·lure. The dot is intentional, not a stray umlaut that's broken and fallen between the cracks. The album name is actually a portmanteau of "failure" and "allure," and according to the description on Bandcamp, the album "addresses the inevitable dilemma between fascination and mania, desire and disgust, power and weakness..." It's a great topic to address with a metal album, and the music matches the concept.

One of my first thoughts when listening to this was that it reminded me a bit of late-period Enslaved. I know that's a bit dangerous to say because some people are angry that Enslaved has, in their view, drifted too far from some sort of black metal purity standard they adhered to in earlier albums like Frost, but I disagree. (In fact, I think "Thoughts Like Hammers" from RIITIIR is one of their best songs. Fight me!) Farsot isn't an Enslaved soundalike by any means, but their combination of different vocal styles, including cleans, and their mixture of heaviness and more sparse interludes find them exploring similar sonic territory.

"Vitriolic" opens the album with what at first sounds like your standard "evil sound effects," but on closer inspection reveals laughing and sobbing mixed together, tying back to the opposing forces in the album's conception. The music itself starts out with a buzzing, droning riff made propulsive by the underlying drumming, and low, croaking vocals in the vein of Abbath. But it's not long before the guitar line thins and some clean, chanting vocals enter. As I hinted at earlier, the music matches the concept by pairing gnarly black metal with more varied and spacious sounds. You'll find similar pairings in other songs, like the simple arpeggiation that opens "With Obsidian Hands." If you think this will be a song without bite, you're soon proven wrong, as the screams that soon kick in are some of the most pained-sounding on the album. This track also shows off some chunky riffs that would sound at home in a regular hard rock tune (if anybody even makes "regular hard rock" anymore). That's not a criticism at all--they're damn good riffs, and they add another layer of contrast, and that’s not even getting into the slick bassline that kicks in later, and probably another dozen layers I could point out to this song alone.

Another strength of this album is that although it's technically "progressive" in nature, it's still a tight listen. It's 48 minutes long, which isn't a record breaking length by any means, but I kept finding that as the instrumental closer, "A Hundred to Nothing," came along, I was still ready for more. The philosophical ideas may be weighty, but that weight doesn't push down on the listeners. Fail·lure is yet another great entry for off-center black metal this year.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Farsot, Justin C, Prophecy Productions

April 21, 2017

Artificial Brain - Infrared Horizon

By Bryan Camphire. Artificial Brain begin their sophomore record, Infrared Horizon, with a tune called “Floating in Delirium” and they could hardly have chosen a more fitting title for a cut to kick off this monstrous record.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Artificial Brain begin their sophomore record, Infrared Horizon, with a tune called “Floating in Delirium” and they could hardly have chosen a more fitting title for a cut to kick off this monstrous record. The track starts and immediately your sense of gravity is completely thrown off because you don’t know what just hit you. Artificial Brain has just come at you like a highly sophisticated well-oiled killing machine with razor sharp teeth.

Titles to tunes further on in the record can serve as something of an interstellar road map. “Estranged from Orbit,” “Vacant Explorer,” “Graveyard of Lightless Planets”... we are seeing a theme developing here. This behemoth of a release seems to be dealing with things not as they should be. In the face of such quandaries, there is a sense of constant frenetic motion in the music. A darkness resonates on Infrared Horizon, as though the music is frantically charting a course spiralling toward a deep black void. Perhaps that’s why the horizon is seen as infrared, because it might be completely indecipherable otherwise.

Artificial Brain plays with tempo so drastically that each song feels like a violent car chase as the music careens every which way, peeling out, caterwauling, switching gears, heaving and roaring toward a fiery death. Maybe all this is occurring on a distant lightless planet. It’s impossible to be sure.

This band is no vehicle for one star player, everyone in the group pays a deep commitment to the crushingly complex material. The playing is executed with surgical precision from all of its members.

The vocals range from deep guttural lacerations to shrill maniacal screams. The low vocals often seem to harmonise with the detuned guitars, rather than to act as a mere ornament. A highlight is the denouement of the record’s title track, the instruments lock into a half-tempo dirge, and this malevolent juggernaut roars past when the instruments drop out. A sinister bubbling emerges out of the wreckage. The vocals spew forth immitigable vibrations of tectonic dissonance, down to the very burning core of human suffering where the heart seems to crackle like flesh on hot coals.

The bass is quite prominent throughout the whole record; not only is it high in the mix, but bass lines are often leading the music. The drumming is completely visionary and suits the music perfectly. It’s never predictable and always exceedingly precise. The guitars eschew typical power chords and are constantly augmenting the band’s harmonies with jarring discordant playing. It’s a dense admixture, and in another band’s hands it might be murky. The production is so clean on this record, however, that all of the band’s harmonic mischief is on gloriously vivid display. The choice of amps and distortion for the guitars seems to steer away from a wall of sound approach, instead letting the sinister melodies speak for themselves. This effect is helped by the breakneck pace at which the band plays, throwing new parts and new atmospheres at you every five or ten seconds. All the while, Artificial Brain is really straining at the reigns shattering the confines of what has been done thus far in death metal.

Artificial Brain do not sound like that band from Canada that plays dissonant death metal. They don’t sound like that band from France that plays dissonant black metal. Nor do they sound like that band from New Zealand that plays dissonant blackened death metal. Artificial Brain sounds like Artificial Brain. They set themselves apart by putting forth dynamic tunes, none of which sound quite alike. Each song possesses its own integrity, its own gravity and its own atmosphere. With Infrared Horizon, Artificial Brain have emerged as one of the most unique sounding bands in the vast ever-expansive universe of death metal.

Tagged with 2017, Artificial Brain, Bryan Camphire, Profound Lore Records, technical death metal