May 25, 2017

Loss - Horizonless

By Nate Garrett. Within mere seconds of opening track “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” it is apparent that Horizonless is an ambitious expansion upon the crushing, hopeless, and tragically beautiful elements that make Nashville’s Loss such a masterful funeral/death doom band.
By Nate Garrett.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Within mere seconds of opening track “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” it is apparent that Horizonless is an ambitious expansion upon the crushing, hopeless, and tragically beautiful elements that make Nashville’s Loss such a masterful funeral/death doom band. In the opening lines, vocalist/guitarist Mike Meacham’s howls are higher in pitch, a technique that exposes a raw and visceral emotional quality. Over the course of the album, Meacham employs these tortured shrieks, as well as several other vocal styles, to great effect. Which is the story of Horizonless in a nutshell… Loss is experimenting with new sounds and exploring new methods of devastating the listener sonically and psychically. The familiar trademarks are still here, such as the ultra-deep death gurgles, unresolved chords disintegrating and swirling across guitar tracks, driving bass lines, and massive drumming. Yet the band isn’t content to rely upon its tried-and-true methods. By the time the opening track climaxes in a chaotic black metal whirlwind, it’s even more obvious that these guys are pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone, and the results are spectacular.

The second track on the album, “I.O.” is the first of four interludes, each being the brainchild of a sole member. This first interlude is courtesy of drummer Jay LeMaire. The sequencing of the album is song, interlude, song, interlude and so on. Meacham’s is track four, bassist John Anderson’s is track six, and guitarist Tim Lewis’s is track eight. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that though Horizonless would hardly suffer without these tracks, they do add to the bleak vibe rather than detract from it, and they help to create an immersive experience. Lewis’s contribution “Banishment” most closely resembles a full-fledged song and is my personal favorite.

“All Grows on Tears” showcases some of my favorite things about this album. First of all, Loss fully utilizes both guitar players. In fact, the guitars are rarely playing the same thing. They slither and intertwine, forming harmonies, dissonance, and broader chords than just one guitarist is capable of producing. Meanwhile, the bass drives the root notes, embellishing only when it’s absolutely necessary and tasteful. In many ways, the string arrangements are more akin to classical music than any sort of rock or blues foundation. This approach could get messy in the hands of a lesser band, but Loss finds a way to never lose sight of the compelling chord progressions, even when the guitars are in the depths of a tonal maelstrom. The bass and drums are consistently locked in, which helps maintain a sense of familiarity. This song concludes with a surprisingly melodic progression that evokes nihilistic triumph in the midst of the omnipresent despair.

Melody is recurring throughout Horizonless, and is used expertly on every song on the album. “Naught” begins with a haunting clean section and by its conclusion reintroduces elements of black metal, mutating into possibly the most anguished track on the album. The title track is a standout, an epic dirge that again finds Meacham employing new vocal techniques. The biggest surprise of the album comes in the form of a clean vocal section. The chant-like, mournful singing accentuates the funereal nature of the music and is one of the most powerful moments of the record.

Album closer “When Death Is All” is as strong a conclusion as one could hope for. The introduction of guest vocalists Stevie Floyd, Wrest, and Billy Anderson (who also produced and engineered) results in an even broader, more vivid sonic pallet. The band drones on amidst a swirl of moans, eventually driving into a more mid-tempo assault featuring vocals that sound as if they’re being produced by an ancient, mummified corpse. To put the nail in the coffin, a single guitar establishes a tragic descending chord progression which the entire band sink into. Loss rides this passage to the bitter end, awash with harmonized vocals that seem to howl from the void, and a heartbreaking guitar lead as sad as anything the band has ever done.

Horizonless, for being as smothering, depressing, and bleak-sounding as it is, evokes a broad spectrum of genuine emotion. It carries the solemn weight of death, yet brims with stunning melody and triumph. Highly recommended.


Nate is Spirit Adrift, and plays guitar in Gatecreeper.
Tagged with 2017, death metal, funeral doom, Loss, Nate Garrett, Profound Lore Records

May 23, 2017

Wode - Servants of the Countercosmos

By Justin C. I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing
By Justin C.

Cover Painting by Mitchell Nolte.

I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing, Wode is "purely and unashamedly 'Black Metal' in nature – unsullied by time or trend, with no prefixes, suffixes, addendums..." If there's one metal subgenre that I'm the most accepting of (and I think we all have that one), it's black metal. Maybe I overlooked it because of its pureness. Maybe at that time I wanted something weird, with 13-minute-long songs with hurdy-gurdies and lyrics sung in a dead language. Who knows? But I've finally been sucked in by their no-nonsense charms.

With their new album, Servants of the Countercosmos, Wode hasn't broken into any new territories. This is still a band that plays straight-up black metal with just a hint of traditional heavy metal sensibility mixed in. The vocals are still a very satisfying rasp--satisfying in the same way that scratching an itch that you've been trying to ignore for two hours. The riffs are plentiful and memorable--the raging rumble punctuated with doomy melodicism that opens "Temple Internent" is a personal favorite, and there are plenty more where that came from.

What Wode has done with this new album is a slight refinement, and I think it's for the better. Most of the tracks on their new album run in the four-to-six-minute range, which I think suits their sound much better than the eight- and nine-minute tracks from their self-titled. I know that, even though I enjoyed the riffs in the last two tracks of the album, the album suffered a bit from being drawn out at the end. Even in the one case where they do go long on the new album, "Chaosspell," they've gone for a more refined structure that holds your interest over the track's length, leading very nicely into the acoustic "decompression" track that closes the album. Sometimes that kind of track can end up being an annoying non-entity, but this is one is subtle, delicate piece I'd feel comfortable playing in front of a classical guitar crowd.

Trying to find the balance between pushing forward while retaining what made you good in the first place is difficult at best, but I think Wode has done it here. If you liked their last one, they've given more of what they did so well, but at the same time they've tweaked the formula ever-so-slightly, but still to great effect.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, free download, Justin C, Wode

May 21, 2017

Wende - Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft

By Natalie Zina Walschots. The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker)
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker), would situate it perfectly within windswept, much-mythologized Scandinavian landscape. But instead of Norway, this deeply philosophical (but no less frostbitten) project is based deep in the woods of the Okanagan, in Washington.

Originally released in an extremely limited and hard-to-acquire format in 2011, the first full-length from Wende, Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft ("a prelude to the philosophy of the future") has finally been given a wider release, and deservedly so. The record is a strange construction, alternating between tracks of blisteringly acerbic, Burzum-like black metal and much more introspective, instrumental ambience. The effect is profoundly unsettling, but the sense of ebb and flow, construction and dissolution, suits the intellectual framework of the project well.

The one unifying aspect of the record is how cold it is; every riff is as merciless as flesh sticking to frozen metal. But the way the cold manifests can be profoundly different, from the deep cold vacuum of space evoked by the ambient tracks to the violent icy blasts of the more aggressive parts of the record. The environment conjured by Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft is unremittingly hostile, but also unquestioningly beautiful, if you can handle the threat of frostbite.

Tagged with 2011, atmospheric black metal, Moribund Records, Natalie Zina Walschots, Wende