Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ill Omen - Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence

Written by Craig Hayes.

Cover art by Alexander L. Brown

Home might be where the heart is, but you can be damn sure that hate resides there too. In fact, where you live in this wide world really matters little as far as brewing hate is concerned. As human beings, it’s in our nature to always find someone or something to detest, and Australian one man back metal band Ill Omen is proof of that. The sunny skies of Ill Omen’s homeland shine no light on the band’s oeuvre, and all the sunbeams in the world wouldn't change Ill Omen’s desire to remind us, in the most hateful fashion, that we’re all heading towards a pitch-black grave.

Ill Omen was formed in 2006, by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist IV, and the band’s full-length debut, 2011’s Divinity Through Un-creation, was packed with odes to accompany you on your journey to the final exit. Divinity Through Un-creation isn’t the only nightmarish fare that IV’s been involved in recently either. He’s also a member of Temple Nightside, and that band’s Condemnation album, released in 2013, was a wonderfully spiteful piece of black and death metal, and it’s well worth tracking down.

There’s no mistaking IV’s obsession with death’s cold embrace on Ill Omen’s latest release, Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence. Fact is, we’re all going to rot or become ashes, and while that’s not news to any of us, Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence envelopes you in bitterly cold and bleak black metal to really hammer that point home. There’s a conceptual arc to Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence too, with the album’s 11 tracks all titled “Abhorrence” (with numerals running from I to XI, separating the songs). As mentioned, Ill Omen is interested in the grimmest of destinations, and Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence doesn't allow hope to shine for a second.

“Abhorrence I” starts that journey, with corrosive washes of tremolo riffs, ill-tempered percussion, and vocals rising, fittingly, from the tomb. “Abhorrence II” adds a little more dissonant, buzz-saw fury, and “Abhorrence III” brings even more of that. However, while Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence cuts a clear pathway towards a harrowing end point, IV ensures there are twists and turns to hold the interest, on your way to meet the Angel of Death.

“Abhorrence V” brings Gothic-tinged acoustic guitar, and “Abhorrence VI, VII, and VII” see majestic melodies rising from the catacomb clamour. “Abhorrence IX”, finds sinister choral vocals, set around frostbitten guitars and Stygian drone, and “Abhorrence XI” ends the album with a steep plummet, into a black hole of noise. It’s all one long wretched march towards your demise, with blackened avant-garde progressiveness meeting the indomitable evil of first and second wave black metal.

IV mixes the darkest colours on the palette on Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence. Slower, rack and ruin riffing transitions into stormier sections. Droning soundscapes are cut by mournful howls. And every song here sends shivers up the spine. There’s no doubting the esoteric angle on Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence; this is, blood-curdling and cryptic black metal after all. IV certainly makes the most of Ill Omen’s sonic sorcery to dig deep into the burial pits as well, but as we all know, black metal bands seeking to do the same are a dime a dozen.

What marks Ill Omen as a band worth paying attention to comes down to Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence’s production. The songs themselves are interesting enough, but what tops it off is the bone-chilling atmosphere. Everything resounds back and forth of catacomb walls, with feedback playing off percussion, and whispered, croaked, and rasped vocals arising from the deep dark depths. It all makes for a very evocative album, and there’s no spit and polish here.

Death isn’t pretty, and Ill Omen clearly has no desire to make it so. However, to ram the misery home, the band doesn’t simply rely on chaotic assaults to break the will. It’s the constant pressure the band brings to bear through that deadfall production, throat-gripping sense of impending doom, and all that unremitting wickedness. Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence isn’t an album for anyone looking for some quick-fix blast of black metal, because it’s a 60 minute funeral rite that you need to experience in full. Don’t go looking for any sympathy or reassurance here either. This is where you rot. This is the end.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dave’s Demo Roundup Vol. III

Written by Dave Schalek.

Here we go with the third edition of Dave’s Demo Roundup! This time around, we take a look at a variety of different bands in various subgenres.

Gruesome is the result of a collaboration between guitarist Matt Harvey and drummer Gus Rios, both of whom participated in the early incarnations of the Death To All Tour, a tribute to Chuck Schuldiner and Death. Harvey and Rios decided to further pay homage to early Death by forming Gruesome as a side project along with Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen. The band is working on a debut album, but, in the meantime, you can whet your whistle with two initial songs that have been posted on Bandcamp. Both songs, “Savage Land” and “Closed Casket,” sound as if they’re straight outta the Scream Bloody Gore/ Leprosy era with the latter song featuring a guest solo by none other than James Murphy himself. Jump all over this one, folks!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Rome’s Deceptionist, play technical death metal on The Beginning, a four-song promotional CD given a digital release on Bandcamp. Consisting of very tight riffing and a range of tempos, Deceptionist firmly toe the line between technical and semi-progressive death metal with this well done assault. Most of the songs concentrate on the technical riffing backed up by gruff vocals, but a few moments of melody creep in with some well placed guitar soloing and a nice jazzy bass line or two. Although Deceptionist are not particularly original, they certainly know their way around their genre of choice.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Here’s an EP from Finland’s Ghastly, released by Demonhood Productions. Playing old school death metal with a doom laden vibe, Ghastly display a great deal of potential. Although this two-song affair is a low quality recording with hollow drums, Ghastly play with tight musicianship and showcase some songwriting chops. Backed up by a powerful production, I've no doubt that Ghastly could sound like a freight train, but that ideal has not been reached on this recording. Regardless, this taster will leave you hungry for more.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Florida’s Tetragrammaton play very powerful, doom laden black metal with a huge, dense production on this demo from 2013. A plodding, crushing pace and a gigantic sound to the guitars anchor the band’s approach with vocals somewhere in between a scream and a rasp. Two songs appear on this demo with the second track showing considerable variation with haunting, clean vocals, and a blastbeat or two making appearances. A subsequent EP on Dying Gods Records has since been released by Tetragrammaton.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stomach Earth - Stomach Earth

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

Art by Sophie Penrose

This self-titled morass of a debut is the first solo offering from Mike "Gunface" McKenzie, founder of, and guitar player in, the Red Chord. Stomach Earth is a death-laced doom tar pit, weighty and laboured. The layered guitar work has various thicknesses of distortion, from subtle, wounded trembling to almost unrecognizable blasts of feedback. Likewise, the impossibly deep growls are layered and so deeply broken and obscured that they sound inhuman, as though issuing from several monstrous mouths at once.

The clawing, crushing rhythm is the most industrial influenced aspect of the record, recalling the grimmer, more threatening elements of Godflesh, but the guitar work is unquestionably the highlight. Huge, looping riff structures suck the listener into a sick, suppurating centre, like the relentless pull of a maelstrom in an ocean of bubbling pitch. Bleak, terrifying and relentlessly heavy, this is funereal doom if your burial plot is located in the Pit.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]