February 28, 2013

Horrendous - The Chills

Dark Descent Records have had a Bandcamp page for some time now. Until a few days ago all the albums on it were streaming-only. But as of right now, 12 out of 34 albums are available for purchase at a very fair price.

Dark Descent Records have had a Bandcamp page for some time now. Until a few days ago all the albums on it were streaming-only. But as of right now, 12 out of 34 albums are available for purchase at a very fair price. Maveth, Desolate Shrine, Paroxsihzem, Vassafor, Father Befouled, Adversarial, all great bands you can sink your eager teeth into. And hopefully many more to come.

Also Horrendous. Whose 2012 release The Chills is exactly the kind of death metal I want to hear. Horrendous carefully picks the choicest bits from the corpse of Swedish, Dutch, and US Death Metal, and molds them into an album that's sounds fresh and invigorating. The band (proudly) wears its influences on it's sleeve sure, but they know how to write good songs and just as importantly they know how to play them well. As Atanamar Sunyata writes in his review for Metal Injection

Red hot, detuned heavings intermingle with exquisite, phantasmal leads. The dueling guitars make compelling contrapuntal arguments, spewing a constant stream of superior riffage. The distortion is fucking succulent, abrading the brain with its grizzled edge. The Chills is tied together by fantastic drumming and gorgeously audible bass; ridiculous musicianship abounds.

Songs are varied, as Horrendous seamlessly jump from thrashing death metal, melodic grooves, and even gothic doom, without ever loosing track of the song itself. Note also how Horrendous eschews the standard cavernous growls typically practiced in OSDM worship, and instead gives us almost desperate sounding mid-level growls from the two vocalists. You can read the enthusiastic review by the mighty Autothrall, and you should listen to The Chills below.

February 26, 2013

Trelldom - Til Et Annet

Guest review by That's How Kids Die.

If you’re expecting an objective assessment of Trelldom’s Til Et Annet… I reckon you better look elsewhere. You see, I’m of the opinion that everything Gaahl touches, from the hammering satanic attack of Gorgoroth to the psycho-sexual industrialized freak-out of Gaahlskagg, turns to black gold. Now that I’ve fully admitted my man-crush on the notorious Norwegian vocalist, we can attend to the task at hand; espousing the virtues of Trelldom’s second album, which has been reissued by the fine folks at Hammerheart Records.

Trelldom’s sound is Norse black metal at its most pure; you won’t hear any of the quasi-industrial atmospheres or electronic flourishes that tend to pop up in Gaahl’s other bands on Til Et Annet. What you will hear is an impeccably played and composed slab of total Norwegian black metal orthodoxy, musically evoking the wintery landscapes that tend to grace Trelldom’s album art. It’s the kind of album that will freeze your blood in its veins, made all the more chilling by Gaahl’s eerie vocal performance. Largely free of the distortion and effects he employed in Gorgoroth and Gaahlskagg, the man’s raw talents are allowed to truly shine here.

I’ve talked almost exclusively about Gaahl so far, but trust me when I say that the musicians backing him for Til Et Annet are far from slouches. Guitarist Valgard makes whipping out hateful, frostbitten tremolo riffage sound easy, while bassist Sir (now a member of God Seed) and session drummer Mutt deliver a solid, no-frills performance that serves as a perfect foundation. All these elements work in unison to create a frostbitten blizzard of an album, all cold, sharp edges and icy atmosphere.

It should probably come as no surprise that Til Et Annet was produced and mixed by none other than Pytten at the legendary Grieghallen studios; the album possesses that classic raw, trebly Norwegian sound, albeit with a bit more burl behind it than many of the other black metal recordings of the time. The mix is dominated by the guitars and vocals, with the drums only coming through when Trelldom lets off the gas, and the bass MIA in true kvlt fashion. It’s a sound that’s been done many times over, but the combination of naked ambition, compositional skill and youthful intensity the band brings to it succeeds in making it positively sublime.

Til Et Annet is as traditional a Norse black metal album as you’re likely to find anywhere, but it isn’t the style that makes the album stand out from the pack, rather it’s the level of craftsmanship; Scandinavian bands in corpse paint and spikes were a dime a dozen in 1998, but very few were releasing material of such exquisite quality. Essential grimness, to say the very least.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Botanist - IV: Mandragora

Review by Justin C.

Art by M.S. Waldron

For those who may still be unfamiliar with the strange, black metal phenomenon that is Botanist, here's the short course: Botanist is a one-man black metal band, and the two primary instruments are drums and hammered dulcimer--think of removing the soundboard from a piano so you can strike the strings directly with mallets, like a xylophone. The albums--four so far--are all about The Botanist, a man who really loves his plants but doesn't care too much for humans. They lyrics tell of his hopes and dreams for the destruction of the human race, leaving only plant life behind.

Botanist's fourth album, Mandragora, finds The Botanist raising an army of mandrakes, which in legend are humanoid plants with screams that can drive people mad or kill them outright. The track listing reads like an instruction manual for creating a human-destroying horde, with titles like "To Amass an Army," "Nourishing the Fetus," and "Mandrake Legion." Creating mandrakes is a fairly ghastly process that starts with hanging humans in trees, but I'll leave it to the reader to learn the rest of the details from the lyrics. The misanthropy in the music is pretty standard fare for black metal, but the context is certainly unique.

The menace in the music itself is ratcheted up a bit from the previous recordings. The dulcimer is distorted for the first time, making it sound like some kind of evil harpsichord. Check out the sinister bass line--another Botanist first--in the second track, "Nightshade," or when the vocals rise from the usual low croak to a pained scream in "Nourishing the Fetus." None of these bits are particularly wild deviations from the previous albums, but given the self-imposed limitations on the instrumentation, even the slightest changes can seem monumental.

What has impressed me most with the progression of these albums is the quality of the songcraft. I hesitate to use the phrase "novelty act" because of its negative connotations, but when your main melodic instrument is as unusual in metal as a hammered dulcimer, you can't create four albums worth of material--certainly not material that's worth listening to--without solid songwriting. The melodies on the previous album, Doom in Bloom, are haunting and lovely, and Botanist has kept that up on Mandragora. The song "To Amass an Army" could almost be a ballad, were it not about trying to destroy all of humanity with ambulatory plant monsters.

If the first three albums weren't your cup of tea, it's unlikely that Mandragora will convert you. But, if you haven't bothered with the previous releases because the whole thing sounds like a bit too much to take, I'd urge you to dip into "Doom in Bloom" or Mandragora and reconsider your opinion. I've read that the man behind Botanist may have as many as five more albums in the works for the series, making this potentially one of the strangest and most epic musical arcs in any kind of pop music.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 25, 2013

Photophobia - Humana Fragilitas

Review by Adrian Tan.

The definition of Photophobia refers to an abnormal symptom of intolerance to light. A strangely apt name for a band that embodies within its brand of depressive black metal, a kind of misery that is absorbing and yet, oft misunderstood.

Listening to Humana Fragilitas - the band’s debut work - is an utterly absorbing experience. Riding past the harsh undercurrents of lo-fi production, bounded therein are deceptively musical songs that are intricately constructed. What truly sets this record apart though, is the top-notch performance of vocalist Letaliis’. His achingly choked shrieks, wails and hushed intonations paint a frighteningly vivid image of a tormented soul - trapped and without hope. Consequently, the caustic lyrical subject matter is often delivered with maximum emotional impact.
Imagine a miserable existence, clawing away at the remnants of life.

Imagine a tortured being, shunted and unwanted.

Imagine languishing outside humanity, the feelings of loneliness, anguish and pain that is unbearable.

Imagine a convoluted wanting for warmth.
As the music serves as a conduit to channel these feelings of seeming misery, there is yet a certain beauty in it all. And when these feelings strike home, as it does here, it requires no further explanation as to why it captivates - like a moth to a burning candle flame.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 24, 2013

Vindensång - Terminus: Rebirth in Eight Parts...

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Hailing from the keystone state of Pennsylvania come the Ambient band Vindensång. Their album Terminus: Rebirth In Eight Parts... combine ambient with elements of Black Metal and Folk to create music that is layered and full of atmosphere.

As the title suggests this album has a concept; with each new track, it is one step further on your journey of rebirth. Songs are mainly out of soundscapes with guitars and effects on top, adding to the atmosphere. No parts dominate, with each serving a purpose in the overall sound. Vocals are a mix of deep breathy singing and raspy growls depending on the mood of the track. Songs are well paced allowing the music to envelop the listener. Each one distinct as it represents another part of the journey. The album feels as if it was recorded in a forest at night. Not because of it’s grimness. But because of the open spaces it creates in the listeners mind. As if you are staring at the stars just above the tree line. Alone with the music hearing the sounds of wind, of animals in the distance, and the crackling of an open fire.

This is not a background album by any means, but one that needs and demands your full attention. The music is bathed in emotion. You can hear the heart and soul that was poured into it. Allow it to take you over and fill your ears. Perhaps you will have your own journey of rebirth.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 23, 2013

Label spotlight: Debemur Morti Productions

Debemur Morti Productions is a French label almost solely dedicated to black metal (or the black arts as they say), with very few detours into other genres. Like many other metal labels they have a Bandcamp page, where there's currently 50 albums available. Allow me to bullet point the reasons I think the Debemur Morti Bandcamp is awesome.
  • New stuff! Debemur Morti adds new releases to their Bandcamp. Behexen, Monolithe, Archgoat, Wallachia, they're all there, and all fully streamable. The prices are fair, most albums are 5-6 euros (which is 7-8 dollars). And recently pre-orders for future releases have started to appear, like the one for October Fall's The Plague Of A Coming Age.
  • Great stuff! Many great album from the Debemur Morti back catalog are available. Like the 777 trilogy by Blut aus Nord and Arckanums's fantastic ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ from 2009. The black metal masterpiece that had the mighty Autothrall enthusing: The drums and bass plod like thunder beneath the endless battery of grim, warlike chords. Upon listening to this I am instantly transplanted to black and white fields of carrion, the worship of faiths best left forgotten drilled into the psyche through the repetition of but a few notes.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  • Free stuff! There's Servants Of Chaos, a sampler with 13 songs from recent Debemur Morti releases. Some of the earlier releases are also available as name your price. Mostly albums by lesser known bands, but you can also get the Kontamination EP by Haemoth. Search through the name your price albums and you'll find some...
  • Weird stuff! (V.E.G.A.)'s debut full-length Cocaine starts off in a whirlwind of furious drumming, frenetic shredding, and insane screaming. But soon things get weirder; more industrial influences are added, slower menacing passages start to appear, synths gets more psychedelic. This Metal Archives review tells that Cocaine is intended to represent the downward psychological and physical spiral of a drug addict; this may explain why (V.E.G.A.) finally eschews black metal entirely for a) a solemn instrumental driven by industrial drums b) 1 minute of silence c) 9 minutes of what can best be described as euro-house mixed with Kraftwerk. Weird. But very good.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 22, 2013

Vision of Disorder - The Cursed Remain Cursed

Review by Red.

Metalcore band Vision of Disorder broke up in 2002, seemingly the victim of label politics and their own shifts in approach. I first heard the band via the standout track from 1999’s Imprint, “By the River”, a song that includes a guest appearance from ex-Pantera/Down screamer Phil Anselmo. While there are no guest appearances on The Cursed Remain Cursed, the fiery spirit and explosive pace of the aforementioned track imbue the 11 new songs.

Comeback albums pose the question “does the band still have the fire to produce new material of consequence”? On The Cursed Remain Cursed, Vision of Disorder answers with songs that are immediate, propulsive, and even a little catchy.

Singer Tim Williams puts out what has to be the best performance of his career, either with this band or with other project Bloodsimple. On previous records he was criticized for lacking power in his screams. He shows no lack of ability or vitriol here. Williams isn’t a one-trick pony, though; he adds a bevy of clean melodic vocals which enliven tracks like “Blood Red Sun”, “Skullz Out”, and “The Enemy”.

The rest of the band proves just as capable. The drumwork is consistent throughout, providing energy and keeping the songs from losing momentum. The guitarists provide a number of sharp riffs, the standouts include a nice gallop riff in “Set to Fail” and the aggressive ending to “Heart and Soul”.

The closing track ends with the line “we’re gonna torch this city to watch it burn”; indeed, it seems as though Vision of Disorder has set fire to their discography and the expectations that were placed upon them when they embarked on their comeback. A successful one, at that.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 21, 2013

Vex - Memorious

Review by Andy Osborn.

A few months ago I took a trip to Austin, Texas. Although I was there with family, I naturally went search of what the live music capital of the world has to offer on the metal spectrum. The timing worked out so I was able to see High on Fire’s first show post-rehab, but I was more interested in what the locals were doing. Trad titans The Sword are known as the area’s heavyweights, but surely there were more gems to be discovered. I’m sure it was just a mix of poor timing and lack of research, but all that seemed to be on offer at the metal bars was watered-down Pantera worship and the horde of hardcore folk flocking to the Unearth gig.

I knew there had to be a darker, grittier underground scene in the Lone Star State’s music mecca – it is home, after all, to the revered Chaos in Tejas festival – but it wasn’t until the newest release from Vex that I discovered it. Although the band has been around in one form or another since 1998, 2010 saw Thanatopsi, their first full-length. And with sophomore effort Memorious, the band comes fully into their own without forgetting their sources of inspiration.

Vex isn’t shy about proclaiming their love for Primordial, an influence that shines through in both the songs and the band’s bios. Epic, story-like vocals provide the greatest similarity to the Celtic heroes, but the journeying and dynamic song paths provide an equally powerful homage. Through the 46-minute adventure the band wanders through so many styles; from thrash to melodeath to blackened prog, it’s hard to categorize the Texans as anything other than damn good extreme metal. Exciting natural drums add a freshness to the production that sets the record apart from the machine-gun execution that’s so common in modern recordings. Epic, melodic leads played with a satisfying crisp tone provide the backbone to the monumental tracks that are expansive and huge without the need to go into double digits, making Memorious an easily-digestible offering. And while I normal abhor instrumental filler tracks, Vex uses them as a comma in the tale rather than a full stop, bridging the proper songs without missing a step. It’s hard to highlight any one track, as picking apart pieces only detracts from the odyssey and doesn’t paint a full picture.

Multiple listens only reveal more intricacies, creating a massively satisfying experience. Pick up your favorite Greek myth, turn on Memorious and listen to what the new kings of Texan metal have shared with the world.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 19, 2013

Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle

Review by Sean Golyer.

Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle. Epic black metal done right. Huge orchestration and powerful synths. Big, brooding tracks. Classic black metal vocals executed perfectly alongside a rousing chorus of clean male vocals. Medieval melodies and long, catchy riffs that never get old. Also a great deal of variation and movement. Cheesy? Maybe. But unmatched in quality and dedication to the style in which they play. Not even Summoning was this good.

Oh, and did I mention GUITAR SOLOS? Like, REAL, classic heavy metal guitar solos. Not overindulgent, but not without prowess and skill on the fretboard.

If you don't find yourself humming along, pounding your chest wishing to go on an adventure to vanquish evil, you're doing it wrong. Epic doesn't even begin to describe this album. I haven't been this pumped about a metal album in a long time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Solbrud - Solbrud

Solbrud is a Danish melodic black metal band. Their self-titled debut full-length contains four long sprawling songs filled with repetitive melodic tremolo picking. The key to making this kind of black metal work is the melodies

Solbrud is a Danish melodic black metal band. Their self-titled debut full-length contains four long sprawling songs filled with repetitive melodic tremolo picking. The key to making this kind of black metal work is the melodies; this obviously isn't catchy music, but spend some time with the album and you'll find parts of it become entrenched in your brain.

Musically the most successful track is the epic "Skyggeriget", with it's almost Pink Floydian intro, the tremendously effective riff at 3:40, and the way the guitarists interplay little atmospheric leads against the constant riffing. Lyrically there is a lot of doomy imagery, but where Solbrud excels is in the "longing for a distant shore" style of lyrics, like this part from Bortgang
When the world comes to an end
And it drowns in an ocean of fire
I will stand at the bow of the longship
Being caressed by the swell's tounge of fire
This my home - I know
It is the land where forests have eyes
Where the ground is burning, yet covered in snow
And eternal darkness rules the sky
It works even better in Danish; the lyrics to Øde Lagt, which centers on the same theme, is quite poetic. The production of the album is a little warmer and fuller than usually for this type of music; while not missing any of the requisite rawness of black metal. While not being particularly original Solbrud have created an effective and memorable album, you should check it out.

February 17, 2013

Wreck and Reference - No Youth

Review by Justin C.

Photography by Brandon Gehres

I'll admit my bias upfront: I've never been particularly interested in electronic music. It's not that I think the artists have cheated somehow by not learning "real instruments." I can appreciate the creativity and hard work that goes into doing what they do, but I miss the little touches you get from a person performing on an instrument, like the slight changes in accent and tempo, or even little mistakes. At the risk of sounding too much like a character from The Terminator franchise, I want to hear music performed by humans, not robots. Luckily for me, I listened to Wreck and Reference's album No Youth without having read anything about it. I was struck by the album art, and I knew The Flenser puts out good records, so I just dove in without reading anything about it. If I'd known it was created by two guys using nothing but drums, vocals, and electronic samples, I might have skipped it, but that would have been my loss.

The album can be a little daunting to dive into. The first minute of the opening track, "Spectrum," does indeed sound like construction equipment from outer space. But then a plaintive, clean vocal line begins, accompanied by a lovely melody line played on a stringed instrument that does not exist in the real world. The song builds and adds more, stranger not-real-stringed instruments and black metal-style screeches, but that sense of melody never completely leaves. This level of songcraft is what makes this album so addictive. Having listened to the album, I wasn't surprised to read in an interview that the duo originally wrote the cold, glitchy track "Winter" on guitar, and then transformed and mutated the song into an electronic soundscape. They haven't started with a collection of strange sounds and then tried to figure out what to do with them--they started with songs, and then figured out how to drape those sounds onto the songs. A lot of the music may be electronic, but somehow it still seems like it's being played by a band, not a laptop.

The overall ambience and vocal themes are bleak and sometimes disturbing. The track "Obedience" opens up with the lines, "Where was it that bone met blade / Delicately lowering / your foot into steel trap / Listening for the creak of the spring." The idea of willingly stepping into a bear trap, and perhaps even savoring the brief moment before it springs, is harrowing to say the least. Metal has never been afraid of the frightening or the ugly, but imagery like this can make even the most brutal death metal seem tame. In spite of this, I find the album to be strangely accessible. And at just over 35 minutes, it's not even particularly long, but listening to it is still a very immersive experience.

I could probably go on and on trying to come up with clever ways of describing this music, making up funny names for the non-physical instruments or trying to come up with some combination of subgenres that make sense to hang on this, but really, you should just listen to it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 16, 2013

Ice Dragon 2007 - 2013

Written by Craig Hayes.

Cover art by Adam Burke

I have hazy memories around my first encounter with the acid-fried, heavy rock trio Ice Dragon, and given the band's heady mystique, that fogginess is entirely fitting. In the end, how I discovered Ice Dragon matters little. The point is that I found them, and the rewards have been bountiful and enlightening.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based band are nothing if not prolific. Ice Dragon have released six full-length albums since 2007, along with splits, EPs and singles—all of which are available on their Bandcamp page for a name-your-price fee. The band's sound can be crudely characterized as doom, psych and stoner metal. Although, as with any of the bands you could compare Ice Dragon to (Black Sabbath, Namm, Sleep, Yob or Electric Wizard) it's not really those sonic tags but their distinctive alchemical combination that make them a band you should definitely investigate, if you've not had the pleasure already.

Ice Dragon's career thus far can be loosely broken into two distinct periods. Both blend smoky, lurching and forbidding elements, but one is underscored by brute strength while the other by more psychedelic enticements.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

A mix of red-eyed, lo-fi, steamrolling doom can be found on the band's 2007 self-titled debut, 2010's The Burl, the Earth, the Aether, 2011's The Sorrowful Sun and 2012's Tome of the Future Ancients full-lengths. These albums are perfect for fans of the early raw-edged works of Electric Wizard, spilling over with monolithic sludge and grunty, slow-baked blues. Intrepid journeys abound, with trips to the outer limits, rustic acoustic interludes, dives into magma-filled subterranean lairs, and endless howls into blizzards of tweaked-out density.

Ice Dragon's first four full-lengths are powerful albums—instinctual romps of distorted rawness. However, while there's plenty of percussive heaviness, stacks of lysergic space-rockin' churns, and a strong dose of retro metal to amplify the explosiveness of the band in full-swing, what really defines those albums is the sound of three guys, heads-down, jamming their hearts out. Of course, not every track on every album is solid gold, but each retains that same enthusiastic gritty spirit. An ambience and energy lingers long after the albums have finished.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Chapter two in Ice Dragon's tale arrived with 2012's Dream Dragon. While the band has always been psychedelically inclined, a look at the album’s list of additional instrumentation reads like a prog and psych fan’s dream come true. Aside from the expected guitar, bass and drums, there’s flute, organ, theremin, modular synth, harmonica, Mellotron, and hand drums, all of which are used extensively throughout.

Dream Dragon staked out a new path for Ice Dragon, one that deviated markedly from their previous work. Gossamer tracks like "Dreamliner", "Every Little Star", and the two-part "A Dragon's Dream" were replete with vintage folk and temperate psych-pop stylings that wouldn't seem out of place on Pink Floyd or Hawkwind's earliest works. But the band didn't forgo the heavy cosmic or doom rockers entirely, with "Maximum Trip" and "Bread of Thieves" bringing plenty of hallucinogenic garage rock 'n' roll.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

If Dream Dragon was a shock for fans, Ice Dragon didn’t leave it there. The band's third album for 2012, greyblackfalconhawk, saw another shift in sound. Drawing in windswept drones and stretched-out, viscous Americana, Ice Dragon combined a thrum and strum comparable to a latter-day Earth with its own cavernous fuzz. Tracks such as "todaythepain", "takeitallaway" and "ifnotforthispatheticheart" were some of Ice Dragon's most eccentric and creatively fearless, but while their droning undercurrents were a huge step beyond their earlier bruising doom, they were no less potent as artistic statements.

Ice Dragon finished off 2012 with Season of Decay, a two-track release that returned to the bucolic, though still retained echoes of psych-drone and vintage rock. However, the band's first release for 2013, The Soul's Midnight, brought the hefty psych riffs to the fore. "Understanding Ouroboros" and "The Soul's Midnight" were grimy, punchy, hard rockers, and Ice Dragon ended the four-track EP on the feedbacking crawl of "Winterland", which was 10 minutes of trippy, hollowed-out and ragged vibrations

When you encounter a band with such an extensive discography produced over such a short amount of time, the question of where to even begin looms large. The band don't make it easy. Every album has its own distinct charms, add to that a couple of excellent splits with Kroh and Fellwood you'll not want to miss, and you've got some work ahead of you.

Depending on where you start, you'll likely find a few mind-melting tangents and byways being explored that aren't there on the preceding or following albums, and that's the key to Ice Dragon's appeal. The band is constantly on the move, tumbling, plowing and soaring through endless peregrinations, with a magnetism both familiar and fresh.

Bassist Joe, guitarist Carter, and vocalist/drummer Ron provide an expedition guided by sounds weighty, ponderous, delicate and discreet. If you want a vicious, lo-fi doom-metal pummeling, it's all there. If you want sturdier, thickset and dirty Southern riff riots, you'll find those too. Or, if you simply want to bask in 70s prog and 60s psych, that's waiting for you in the spliff-laden brume as well.

Think of Ice Dragon's oeuvre so far as a free-for-all feast, one that you should be gorging yourselves on forthwith. You can be assured that you'll find rich, rough and riveting flavors to savor for a very long time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 14, 2013

Arcane - Chronicles Of The Waking Dream

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Andrew Saltmarsh and Matthew Martin

Chronicles of the Waking Dream (2009), is the second full length album of the five piece Progressive Rock/Metal band Arcane (founded in 2004) hailing from Brisbane/Australia. It consists of 11 tracks with a playing time of about one hour.

Like the album title suggests, it is a conceptual album,with lyrical themes revolving around someone who’s obsessed with the date of May 26. There’s a narrator, Acolyte Zero relating the story: Memories and visions of events connected to this date are perceived and interpreted from different perspectives by this one person or maybe different persons!? The story is obscure and dark, full of mysteries.

The musical style is atmospheric with symphonic elements, some jazzy sounds and latin and oriental tunes. It is intricate in its technical structures and its melodical arches as well, composed and arranged to result into songs of a thrilling dramatic structure with a well balanced tension of hard heavy riffing and softer melodies.

Needless to say that this can only be created with excellent musicianship and songwriting skills. And Jim Grey’s outstanding vocals add an emotional quality to the atmosphere that is simply breathtaking and overwhelming. The two guest vocalists Molly McLarnon and Annette Askvik on Secret and The Third Silent Year are a nice contrast.

The narrated content with its repetitive character, recurring in different perspectives and interpretations is mirrored perfectly in the varied recurring musical themes.

Chronicles of the Waking Dream is a complex and demanding album and it will surely take several listens to fully appreciate all its goodies, but it is definitely worth the effort. The dramatic structure of the whole album though, offers a relatively “easy” start, because it develops and unfolds its intricacies slowly song by song until it reaches its dramatic climax in the epic 13 minute long Asylum: Acolyte Zero and comes to a soothing rest with the last track Whisper.

Fans of this genre should not miss this gem of an album!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 13, 2013

Junior Bruce - The Headless King

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Based in DeLand, FL, Junior Bruce have been together since August of 2007. Over the last four-and-a-half years, they have produced several independently released demos exclusively available from the band
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim.

Based in DeLand, FL, Junior Bruce have been together since August of 2007. Over the last four-and-a-half years, they have produced several independently released demos exclusively available from the band, usually at their live performances. The Headless King isn't only their first full-length record, but also their first recording to receive proper distribution.

From the moment opener "Defeatist," begins, this band's chemistry and experience are immediately clear. Junior Bruce are closely related to vocalist Scott Angelacos (ex-Bloodlet) and bassist Tom Crowther's previous unit, Hope and Suicide, and so their sound shares a closely knotted consanguinity. Junior Bruce are a more precise and deadly incarnation of that sound though, teeth filed to finer points and blades more highly sharpened.

The Headless King is an aggressive yet somehow thoughtful combination of sludgecore and blackened Southern rock. The songs have a sense of gravity to them, a force that inexorably pulls the listener in. As the album progresses, the audience are overtaken by the uncomfortable feeling that their bodies are being co-opted by the riffs, neck muscles overridden by the rhythm. There is something very natural and organic to Junior Bruce's compositions, but there's also something profoundly disconcerting about how easily this album gets under your skin. The Headless King is perfect for those looking for classic, sludgy riffs and Angelacos's trademark punctured trachea vocals, especially if you rather enjoy being unsettled.

February 11, 2013

Gods of Eden - Gods of Eden

Review by Tentaclesworth.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes, I’d just like to say hi and thank Max for asking me to contribute to the site. I also write for Heavy Blog is Heavy under the moniker ‘Tentaclesworth’ and I’ve decided to branch out a little bit. I look forward to showing you some great underground music!

Gods of Eden are one of the best things to come out of Australia in a long time. The four track EP they released last year are mindblowingly original. Essentially, it’s progressive symphonic technical death metal with a ton of surprises. The second you hit play, god-like shredding snatches your attention and before you have time to admire the insane string-work of our Australian quintet, they throw another curveball at you. Beautiful synths and orchestrations take the ridiculous shredding to the next level. Then the vocals kick in. A decidedly old school thrash approach for the harsher stuff to accompany the relentless attack of synths, guitars and blast beats. As we venture into the next minute of the first track, we get to a spine chilling clean section with angelic clean vocals and more orchestrations that’ll have you singing “Gods of Eden, languishing a top of the stolen throne of slaves” at the top of your lungs while tears roll down your face. Then it makes way for a heavier section where the vocalist gets a chance to show you his brutal side while the band caters to the younger crowd with some syncopated chugs. Another clean chorus and then another curveball. An interlude with flamenco guitars and more clean vocals with heavy reverb reminiscent of a Nile without the death metal.

Sounds pretty crazy right? Well don’t let a blender of awesome things turn you off because Gods of Eden are more than the sum of their parts. Everything comes together in a remarkable way. Mind you I’ve only described the first half of the first song. There are so many more things to be discovered throughout these four songs. Piano solos, electronic influenced djent and enough earworms to make the radio jealous. There’s something here for everyone and you’re only doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check it out.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 10, 2013

Cortez - Phœbus

Review by Justin C.

Phœbus is the second album from the Swiss post-hardcore/metal band Cortez. The band plays as a trio, with guitars, drums, and vocals, but they have a credited fourth member who acts as a composer.

Cortez plays full-bore, high-energy metal. The music is dark, but cathartic. The feeling I get from this album is one I often had when playing guitar in my high school days. After a day of teenage frustrations, I would come home, plug in my electric guitar, and slash and grind through any song I could think of, distorted all to hell whether the song sounded good that way or not. (My sludge cover of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" will be available for purchase soon.) After an hour or two, I'd finish feeling spent, but freed from whatever I was bothered by. It makes sense to call this album "Phoebus," which is another name for Apollo, the Greek sun god who was also associated with healing. I'd almost describe the music as triumphant. It's the soundtrack I'd want for the end of a torturous mountain climb, or even something more mundane, like claiming victory over a difficult project or an abusive boss.

The band rarely lets up in tempo or energy level, which could be a drain, but the small details keep things interesting. The second track, "Transhumance," starts with a charging guitar riff, frenetic drums, and throat-shredding vocals, but at about two minutes in, the guitar changes to a simple, slow-moving chord pattern. The furious drumming keeps up for a while, gradually thinning down to nothing but a bass drum stomp. Any band can stomp on the brakes and quick-shift into a new section, but subtle changes like this keep this album fresh and interesting.

I've seen this band put into the same category as Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan, and while that makes a certain amount of sense in terms of raw energy, Cortez never really goes as far out as those bands do. The songs are complex in their own way, but more in the sense of off-kilter, syncopated rhythms instead of the full technical freakouts you'd expect from those other bands. The music is straightforward without being simple. Highly recommended if you're looking to get fired up, but you want something with a bit more substance.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 9, 2013

Grayceon - Pearl and the End of Days

Art by David D’Andrea

Grayceon's new EP Pearl and the End of Days is a lesson in a making a good thing better. Known for their unique brand of cello driven progressive metal, their last full-length All We Destroy was filled with long, heavy and ponderous tracks. After the intro, you immediately notice that the first song Pearl is faster and rockier, in fact it is goddamn catchy. The same goes for the progressive epic End of Days; the dirgey parts, an integral part of All We Destroy, are here mostly kept to song intros. This is an album made with a lighter heart.

Photos by Taylor Keahey

Another notable difference is that the three instruments of Grayceon are on more equal footing here. Zack Farwell's guitars are heavier, and with a much beefier sound. Max Doyle delivers one wicked drumm fill after another. The cello of Jackie Perez Gratz no longer leads as much, this is true trio music. There's so much playing; the ultimate example would be the last part of End of Days. Listen to 14:15 onwards, and rejoice at the musical skills on display.

Photos by Taylor Keahey

Jackie Perez Gratz' smoky voice is often harmonized to great effect, her harsh vocals are utilized less than on previous albums. Let me close by saying that Grayceon has made an EP filled with emotion, musicianship, and dynamic songwriting. You don't get to say this often about something metal related, but Pearl and the End of Days is just plain lovely.

February 5, 2013

Evoken - Atra Mors

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Evoken have deep, dismal roots in American doom metal. Hailing from Lyndhurst, NJ, they've been churning out lush, deep and textured doom since 1994. Their fifth full-length, Atra Mors, comes after a long period of silence
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim.

Evoken have deep, dismal roots in American doom metal. Hailing from Lyndhurst, NJ, they've been churning out lush, deep and textured doom since 1994. Their fifth full-length, Atra Mors, comes after a long period of silence; it's their first offering in five years. Perhaps that time had an effect on the songwriting and narrative, because Atra Mors is defined by an intense and poisonous pressure, like a powerful pocket of magma that can only escape, molten and oozing, from a crack in the Earth's crust at the painful pace of liquid rock.

John Paradiso's vocals are as punishing as a blast furnace, capable of withering flesh and melting steel. The rattling, shambling weight of the record is alleviated here and there by sprays of spooky, almost impudent synths. The pace is considerably more urgent than the usual shuffling, limbless drag of deeply melancholic funeral doom. While they certainly conjure all of the desperate, clawing misery and resignation of a prisoner being led to execution, the guards are often leading their victim to the gibbet at a quick-march.

An album highlight is the bubbling, rancid boil of "Grim Eloquence," which displays all the subtlety of caustic sludge eating through skin, a wet and swampy violence. The music is troubling and absorbing, a fascinating progression of textures and tones, telling the lugubrious narrative through remarkably tactile sound. This is an example of Evoken's finest work.

February 4, 2013

Undersmile - Narwhal

Guest review by Eric Yanyo from Valley of Steel.

Artwork by Anthony Roberts.

I find myself struggling for the words to describe this album. Since “awesome” has gotten to be so overused that it no longer has the effect it once did, and since “terrible” and “awful” have both come to imply something different, I need to find a different way to communicate how I really feel about what I am hearing. In its entirety (which is absolutely the best way to appreciate this particular work of art), Narwhal is definitely impressive, both awe-inspiring and dreadful.

If you’ve heard either of the band’s prior releases — their first EP or the more recent split with Caretaker (both of which are also available on Bandcamp, by the way) — then you’ll have some small idea what to expect: crunchy guitars, feedback, misery, rumbly bass, minimal drumming, dreary vocals that nearly sound entirely lifeless.

Yes, you’ll find all of that here, but it’s all been amplified to an exponentially higher degree. The guitar and bass riffs stomp all over your ears like some atomically-enhanced “evil lizard” strolling down the streets of your city.

The drumming is very thunderous, yet very deliberately done. One of my favorite parts of the album would be the intro and outro to “Qaanaaq” (which is named for a small settlement in northern Greenland, where, by the way, the native population often hunt narwhals). The song starts out quite haltingly, with the guitars and vocals following the rhythms on the drums, all of it punctuated frequently by sudden silences. Perhaps taking a cue from its palindromic title, the song’s ending mirrors its beginning, but throughout the duration in between, the whole band comes across sounding very oppressive and all-encompassing (like an arctic winter, or perhaps representative of the ocean so frequently referred to in the lyrics).

The opening of “Verdigris” shows an interesting side of the band’s dual frontwomen (guitarists Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown): they frequently use a fairly deadpan vocal delivery, practically expressionless, and dissonant and aharmonious when the two combine; however, in this particular moment they seem almost melodic. Additionally, these surprising hints of pleasant-sounding harmony creep into a few other moments throughout the album: thrice near the middle of “Milk” one of the ladies is singing a particular note but then bends ever-so-slightly to a different pitch, producing what almost seems like a (heretofore unheard of) major-key interval.

Furthermore, there is a sort of lovely harmony that occurs about a quarter of the way through “Myra” — and then again somewhere past the three-quarter mark — although both times this leads straight into expressions of incredible suffering and anguish. (The second time this happens, the screams are so blood-curdling, it’s likely to make one wonder whether they had been induced by actual physical pain.

The vocal parts — discordant and aharmonious though they may be — often give the impression of having a third or fourth part added in, making me wonder whether the gentlemen of the band (bassist Olly Corona-Brown and drummer Tom McKibbin) might have contributed some uncredited additional vocals in certain places, or if the others were perhaps just overdubbed. In any case, the layers of voices often can build to the point where they threaten to overwhelm the listener with fright — such as some of the instances of yelling that take place in “Mandrill,” particularly right at the end of the song.

Which brings me back to my original point: Narwhal could absolutely be considered a terrible, awful, and awesome album — but regardless of what you want to call it, it’s quite an impressive and imposing work that deserves, and demands, your attention.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: This review is adapted from the original published here.

February 3, 2013

Wormridden - Infesting the Grave

Wormridden - Infesting the Grave is a two track demo of doomy Death Metal. Made by David Torturdød from Denmark (Bass & guitars. Member of Undergang) and Takashi Tanaka from Japan (Drums & vocals. Member of Anatomia). And that would be one way of describing it. Another is this piece of Death Metal poetry from the Nihilistic Holocaust webzine:
Once you have swallowed too many coffins, you have to brutally vomit it back (And generally it occurs a morbid way). But you're not always able to belch the tomb, and sometimes it's needed to stitch the lying members resulting from a brutal cadaveric implosion... So the WORMRIDDEN corpse was recomposed from the decrepiting fingers of UNDERGANG, the trembling legs and the gore throat of ANATOMIA...
The two tracks have been uploaded individually, but that just gives me an excuse to link to both of them. Click the players, and enjoy this fine collaboration by two distinguished members of the Intermational Death Metal Association. 666% essential as they say.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

February 2, 2013

Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Artwork By Mark Thompson

In the span of three full lengths and multiple E.P.’s Agalloch have established themselves in the metal community. Their unique way of combining Black Metal, Post-Rock, Neo-Folk, DOOM, and multitude of other influences have set them apart. They have done what so many bands try and do and that is create their own sound. As soon as you hear them you know who it is. Their influence so big they already have countless clones. But never content to stand still, Agalloch grow with each new release. Marrow of the Spirit is no different and again shows the band shedding the past and moving forward.

Photo by Taylor Keahey

They set the mood right away with the instrumental “They Escaped The Weight of Darkness” Lush cello over the sound of a babbling brook and accompanied by chirping birds. Then the pounding of Aesop’s drums take you out of the sublime and “Into the Painted Gray”. Hearing this live was amazing. It was like an explosion of energy. Right away you get the feeling there is more of an emphasis on their Black Metal influences over the Post-Rock influence that was heavy on Ashes. The other thing you notice is what a great addition Aesop’s drumming is to the band’s sound(this being his first album to contain his drumming on it even though his being in the band since 2007). The crown jewel for many with this album is Black Lake Niðstång. Epic and emotional best describe this song. At seventeen and half minutes long it is the longest track on the album. But the beauty is it never lags or bores. Instead the seventeen minutes give the listener plenty to hear and keeps their attention(it also contains piano and field recordings courtesy of Jeffrey Neblock of a fantastic Ambient band called Vindensång). But for me, my favorite track is “Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires”. This song grabbed me the moment I heard it. The opening guitar line has a bit of an 80’s era U2 feel to it. Another track I am lucky to have heard live and it does not disappoint.

Photo by Taylor Keahey

Once again Agalloch have put forth an album that expands on what they have established in their almost 20 years as a band without repeating what had come before. In all honesty this album took a few listens to for me to really appreciate it. But I find that some of my all time favorite albums start that way.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]