January 31, 2014

Serpent Eater - Hyena

Written by Majbritt Levinsen.

*Insert 3 lines of foul words in capital letters here* Or in other words: Yes, yes, yes... you need to hear this, if you haven’t already!

Sadly I encountered Serpent Eater and their brutally massive Hyena too late to be way up high on my top 10 of 2013, it 'only' positioned itself at number 9. But the fact that they did manage to maneuver into my top ten is not something to take lightly.

So what is it that made Hyena blow me away? Well every time I listen to it I just get an undeniable desire to jump around the house going berserk and belch out whatever it is the singer is screaming. Sadly I can’t hear a word and no lyrics posted, which makes me a bit sad as usual. According to the release notes on Bandcamp the lyrics are about "the weirdness and deformations of the psyche as well as the emotions of a violated mankind in modern society" and that only makes me more curious. Musically this is massive rumbling fury straight out of Germany translated into death blackened sludge hardcore" (Quoting the band here, as it is so much more).

It is groovy and easy to get into. Every instrument has equal focus and as a bass enthusiast I’m delighted to hear the sweet sound of the bass. But what I really like is the perfect combination of fury, despair, beauty, anger and melancholy woven into the tapestry of so many musical genres I don’t even want to begin to try and write them down. That is what makes this album so great: the diversity, the blasting fury and the calm waters, the ugly and the beauty, the unpredictable and the comfort.

I have had a hard time not to add foul words to emphasis my true feelings about this album and struggled not to hit caps lock when writing this review. That is how good I think Hyena is! But enough words, now you go and listen, and let the music speak for itself.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 29, 2014

Things you might have missed.

Written by Kevin Page.

Punishing French flamenco death metallers return with a 2 song EP, along with a new lineup. If you enjoyed their debut as much as I did (2010's La Iglesia del Odio), then you will surely find lots to love here. Without losing an ounce of their brutal death metal approach, they smartly integrated even more flamenco aspects, which can only help separate them from the countless hordes of bands these days. Let's hope this is a sign of even more new music from them in 2014.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Whiplash has been plugging away with their brand of thrash since 1984. Their third album, 1990's Insult to Injury, is my personal favorite thrash album of all time. So naturally I've been anxiously awaiting some new material, as their last release was in 2009. Finally we are graced with a single from the upcoming EP, Old School American Way, Volume 1. Sword Meet Skull, Skull Meet Sword was released back in June with no mention of when the EP is actually due (or how many songs it will have). So in the meantime we just have to enjoy a basic, catchy, quality Whiplash tune.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

While we await a new full length in 2014 from these Canadian masters of swirling death metal chaos, we at least have a two song EP to wet our appetite. Picking up right where 2011's Parasignosis left off, its 12+ minutes of brain dizzying madness barbarism. Does this sound even more sinister than they usually do? I think so.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I love death/doom as much as the next guy, but let's face it, each day brings a seemingly a new band into the fray with a 60+ minute album. My real life commitments prevent me from really absorbing too many of those types of ditties these days (especially since I need repeated listens to accurately judge the product). So it's completely refreshing that Orlando, FL's Druid Lord eschew that notion. They have yet to write a song longer than six minutes. It's death/doom but it gets to the point. After releasing their debut album, Hymns for the Wicked in 2010, they have been busy with three splits and now their second EP, Baron Blood. Featuring their slowest material to date (yet not treading as far into funeral doom as you would imagine), these two songs are the perfect soundtrack to a horror film torture scene. It truly does feel like a rotted corpse has crawled from the earth to terrorize the living [Note: The two songs on the EP are not available together, they must be bought separately].

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 28, 2014

Thou - Summit

Thou has a Bandcamp now. It is a little spotty right now; the full-lengths are there - including a placeholder for the next one Heathen due in March) - all available as name your price downloads. Else it's a few empty albums, including one Algiers I have no idea what is. But I got a heads up from the band that "We're remastering a pile of the EP stuff, so that'll all be uploaded once I have the new WAVs", so more goodies are forthcoming.

Summit from 2010 is their latest full-length. It's an excellent piece of doomy sludge with more black metal influence than typical for the genre. Songs are long and generally slow, but they are filled with creative details like blast beats introducing a song (and organ ending it), piano underscoring a riff, a discrete horn section (even a little chamber ensemble instrumental). Thou's attention to detail also shows in the guitars; besides the requisite fuzzy heaviness, they provide sometimes quite subtle interplay, surprise riffs and melodies that make each song stand out.

Thou have a very strong DIY sensibility- check out Cosmo Lee's write up on the band (and Summit) from Invisible Oranges - so it's a little surprising that it took them this long to make the jump to Bandcamp. But maybe it was already having a solid DIY setup in place that made it take longer, I don't know. Either way, I'm glad they did.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 26, 2014

Ritual Chamber - The Pits of Tentacled Screams

By Dave Schalek. The Bay Area continues to demonstrate why it’s one of the most vibrant scenes in metal. Ritual Chamber is a rancid death metal project plying the same stylistic waters as explored by murky death metal outfits such as Grave Miasma and Teitanblood.
By Dave Schalek.

The Bay Area continues to demonstrate why it’s one of the most vibrant scenes in metal. Ritual Chamber is a rancid death metal project plying the same stylistic waters as explored by murky death metal outfits such as Grave Miasma and Teitanblood. The Pits of Tentacled Screams is a five-song, self released demo with both feet firmly planted in the aesthetics of the genre. Anchored by murky, evil sounding death metal loaded with atmosphere, a hazy production, and deep seated vocals, The Pits of Tentacled Screams is a more than promising debut.

Ritual Chamber happens to be a project of Numinas, who handles all of the instrumentation and vocals. Numinas may be familiar to readers as the prolific talent behind the long running, separate black metal projects Krohm and Vetus Obscurum, as well as having a hand in a myriad of other black and death metal bands over the last twenty years. Given Numinas’ background and experience, Ritual Chamber is sure to attract fans of the genre and is yet another promising act to emerge from the Bay Area scene.

January 24, 2014

Yellow Eyes - The Desert Mourns

Written by Sean Golyer.

Yellow Eyes lay before us a desert landscape washed in starlight and drenched in gore. The atmosphere is heavy and the mood is unsettling. My eyes dart across a scene of surreal self violence.
A man throws handfuls of his blood.
I’m fixated now and can’t turn away. A primal urge within me keeps me listening. Keeps me watching.
Red yawns widen and splatter; He spreads his belongings on the sand.
The Desert Mourns is one of those rare pieces of art that has moved me in a way that leaves me at a loss for words. I’m at once excited to share it with others without really being able to conjure up the right words to describe it. On its surface Krallice may seem like an apt comparison, but that doesn’t serve this band justice. If you’ve enjoyed either of their past two albums chances are you’ll enjoy this EP. And yet something feels different about this release; something darker and more mature that drew me in immediately. Their ability to catch me off guard and sweep me into their twisted, chaotic world grows ever stronger. The Desert Mourns is a testament to their mastery of storytelling and songwriting. I yearn for more.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[DELETED] Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse

Written by Steven Leslie

Art by Paolo Girardi

Inquisition are a U.S. by way of Columbia black metal band that have been plying their chosen trade since 1988. While they started out originally as a thrash band they have morphed into one of the more unique black metal bands over the years. Obscure Verses for the Multiverse is their latest installment and it is absolutely killer. Carrying on from where their previous two albums left off, this beast is a must have for anyone who considers themselves a die hard black metaller.

Photo by Metal Chris

What makes Inquisition so worthwhile is that they have managed to take the black metal template and inject their own personality into the music. They have accomplished that rare feat of creating a sound that is at once recognizable as only Inquisition. The first thing to note is the unique guitar sound, which deviates from the standard high end reverb laden distorted tone so common in black metal these days. The riffs vary from all out trem picked onslaughts to mid paced crushing grooves making for a dynamic listen. This variation in tempo makes for a compelling listen allowing the blasting sections to hit just that much harder. The drums follow a similar pattern and morph from all out blast beat assaults into more measured grooves. Be warned this is a black metal record that will cause some serious nerve damage to your neck from induced headbanging.

Photo by Metal Chris

While the music will be easy to enjoy for any metal fan, the main sticking point for many will be the vocals. While I personally love Dagon’s sound, some may find it too over the top. There is clearly a Abbath influence as he sounds like a dying frog croaking over the vicious black metal assault. Comparisons could also be made to the vocal approach of Greek black metallers Naer Mataron. It should be noted that while the vocals may take some getting used to, they are essential in creating a unique sound and aura for the band. Another thing to note is the lyrics. While they have the traditional satanic backbone, they take a much more intellectual tone as Dagon casts his gaze to the cosmos. Exploring the darkness of outer space and the destructive power of black holes, this makes for a much more interesting lyrical approach than the standard hail satan, fuck christ approach of many black metal bands. Special mention should be given to the stunning cover art, which hints perfectly at the cosmic satanic themes expressed in the lyrics. Overall this is another killer album from a band that has established a unique voice within the U.S. black metal scene.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 22, 2014

The Sustained Low 'C' of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" - Lime/Meat

Written by Matt Hinch.

Those who know me know I have a bit of a man-crush on Toronto blackened doomcrustcore titans, uh, Titan. Their 2012 album Burn landed at #1 on my EOY list. Part of what I find so endearing about them is the vocals of James M. There's a raw, feral quality to them and with James you know the words behind the screams are intelligent. Luckily we don't have to wait for another Titan record to hear them. Enter The Sustained Low 'C' of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (TSLCORSASZ) and Lime/Meat. In addition to James (also in Gates) the band features a number of Torontonian cohorts in guitarist Joel (Fires of Mammon), bassist John (Gates) and drummer Spencer (Eating Glass, Rising Crust).

"Lime" is blistering black metal with the bass rumbling away, confidently guiding the ship amidst the torrents of relentless percussion and searing USBM-style tremolos. James' rage is palpable as the Krallice-like wall of insanity swirls to soaring heights, building and building with trepidation. It all reaches for escape, reaches for peace. Intricate guitar work and emotional solos carry through the catharsis. The density of the track deflates more than explodes at its apex but it's far from a letdown. It's a release.

"Meat" is no less oppressive despite taking a different approach. Where "Lime" used breakneck speed to engage the listener, "Meat" takes a slower, more measured path. James still screams like legs are being cut off with a rusty butter knife while battery acid drips into the wound, but "Meat" is a doomy, heaving beast (with accompanying growled vocals). Its lumbering cadence condenses and expands moment to moment. As the pressure builds and the mood becomes more immediate, "post" guitar lines become prominent, perhaps symbolizing a fragility beneath the rage and hurt.

Lime/Meat may only be less than a quarter hour of music but that doesn't lessen its impact. TSLCORSASZ pack a dense array of doom and black metal into these two tracks. It's monstrously heavy and emotionally taxing. Repeated listens only make the experience more pleasurable. I'm not really sure what the name is supposed to mean either but that's inconsequential when the music is this good.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 21, 2014

Indian - From All Purity

Written by Justin C.

When I was trying to figure out how to sum up Indian's new album, From All Purity, the usual phrases from the Metal Description Thesaurus weren't working for me. Is it a "gut punch"? An "explosion"? Is it "pummeling"? "Stomping"? "Scarring"? Well, all of those could true at different points on the album, but I think i finally figured out the best way to sum it up: From All Purity is like being smothered. With lava.

Metal fans aren't typically daunted by music that's challenging or not immediately accessible, but Indian doesn't pull any punches on this album. This is a blast of what I'll call blackened-doom-drone-sludge. The opener, "Rape," starts with a dissonant, droning mass of distortion punctuated by vicious, black metal-style rasps. The track doesn't even really bother to change chords for the first three minutes, as if the band's trying to scare off anyone who isn't hearty enough to come along on this hell-ride. The slow, three-chord main riff, when it comes, almost feels like sweet release compared to what proceeds it. The next track, "The Impetus Bleeds," doesn't offer much respite, unless the kind of respite you're looking for is being dragged into a cave against your will.

Photo by Metal Chris

"Directional" is probably my favorite track, and it's probably the closest thing on the album to a song with "traditional" structure. The slow, grinding riff is the soundtrack for Vikings coming ashore and destroying your village, and the bastardized version of the Golden Rule that shows up in the lyrics, "What's done to me, will be done to you!" feels less like a statement of triumphant revenge than a brutal act of retribution that offers no solace.

Make no mistake--this is a difficult album to get close to. It's disturbing and frightening, and there are very few pauses to catch your breath. "The Rhetoric of No" slowly devolves into vocals that sound like the snarling of a caged animal, and "Clarify" is a squealing horrorscape of brutality for your ears. The closing track, "Disambiguation," has a more welcoming, doomy feel, but you'll be well past your wits' end by the time you get there. I've listened to this album a lot recently in preparation for this review, and at times I felt like I was losing my mind.

Photo by Metal Chris

Saying something like that would be a brutal trashing of an album in most genres, but of course metal and metal fans often embrace the difficult and the ugly. Indian's last album, Guiltless, has a bit more variety and is easier to get your head around, and although the sonic elements from that album are still present here, the band has moved to a slower, more droning version of their particular band of viciousness. How fans react to the change will be more a matter of personal taste than any drop in quality on the band's part. This isn't an album you're going to play on repeat for days--it's just too ugly and bruising--but I suspect that it's one I'll come back to now and then, just to revel in the abuse.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Slaughterday - Cosmic Horror

Written by Kevin Page.

Artwork by Thomas "Necromaniac" Westphal

If there's two things we don't really need more of these days, it's: another old school death metal band and a death metal band from Germany. Seriously, Germany has more bands than Finland these days (or so it seems). Is it possible that everyone who listens to metal in Germany is in an actual band?

Anyways, after saying that, ignore it. Slaughterday, a German 2 piece, playing old school Swedish death metal, pull it off marvelously. This four song demo was apparently just a teaser of things to come. As I typed this review I noticed they released a full length album on December 6, 2013 through F.D.A. Rekotz (two of these four songs are on the full length).

Chock full of down tuned buzzsaw riffs and fat bouncy bass, what makes them stand out from the pack is actual memorable songs. So many retro bands mire the same tired well with tunes that go in one ear out the other. "Cult of the Dreaming Dead" may be the catchiest and best death metal song of the year to boot. "Cosmic Horror" isn't far behind as well. It's no small surprise those are the two songs that were carried over to the full length.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 20, 2014

Interview - The Hanging Gardens of a Botanist.

After Justin C's review of the Botanist / Palace of Worms split The Hanging Gardens of Hell / Ode to Joy, we got a request to give the English version of the following interview a home. The original Italien interview was conducted before the split was released by Andrea Minucci for Begraven Mot Norr.

Photo by Milton Stille

The last time we spoke was in 2012, when we discussed Botanist’s first two releases. More than a year later you have four albums, some live performances (with Wreck and Reference, Grayceon and Pale Chalice among others), a planned tour around the West Coast (even with Agalloch) and a forthcoming split with Palace of Worms. Things seem to be going pretty well.

Hello and nice to speak with you again. Things are going very well, indeed. The split album will have been released by the time this interview posts. It’s great to have the opportunity to work with artist Robert Høyem for the cover image. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw the art for Fyrnask’s Bluostar.

What makes me really glad for you is that now you are running the stage, how is it going?

We couldn’t have asked for better touring mates for our first time out on the road than Behold... the Arctopus. They were professional and pleasant, and kept great attitudes and high performance values even when they all became quite ill on tour. Our trip was proof that Botanist is an effective live band with an already developed show, and that the music translates well to the stage.

One of the questions of the last interview was about your plans about hypothetical live shows, your answer was, ”by ‘plan,’ let’s say it’s being worked on. The demand is definitely there. What is needed are people to play dulcimer. Two are necessary (at least), as well as a bass player and someone to play harmonium, but the real key are the two dulcimers. I would play drums and do vocals. It would be welcome to have a live line-up for Botanist to tour with. The only thing that would help is to spread the word of this request. Maybe some day…” can you talk about the other members of the band and how you met them?

I’m glad to say that it was by broadcasting the will to make Botanist a live band that led it to coming true. One D. Neal read one such interview and contacted me. It seemed from the outset that he would be an excellent fit, but it wasn’t until he recruited his friend R. Chiang to fill the 2nd dulcimer’s part that the ball really started to roll.

I’ve known vocalist/harmonium player A. Lindo for years. Both he and touring bassist Bezaelith are on the Allies disk that comes with Botanist III. Bezaelith isn’t able to tour further, so we are lucky to have Balan from Palace of Worms playing bass for us.

Plants from Biodiversity Heritage Library

Did you find any particular difficulties bringing your music on stage?

The biggest difficulty was trying to figure out the technical issues to having the world’s first distorted hammered dulcimers on stage. Since no one makes electric hammered dulcimers, we had to have our own invented by having magnetic pickups adapted for the instruments. We’re still refining this sound and system.

Do the other members are just live-members, session members, or Botanist will play as a band even in your next albums?

I have a plan to gradually integrate the members of the live band into the recording studio, which began when I had D. Neal and R. Chiang write an intro for our live shows. Perhaps by album “VII,” we will have a credited line-up featuring an entire band. Anything prior to that is unfortunately impossible as all those records have already been completed.

I've read on The Flenser's website that is ready a Split album with Palace of Worms, how this collaboration was born?

The seed was planted in 2011 when I asked Balan if he wanted to do a split. It seemed like a nice way to promote the material of the latest wave of Bay Area black metal artists.

How will these songs be part of Botanist’s main concept?

There are two immutable aspects that will be featured in Botanist’s work forever: that the songs are about plants and feature dulcimers. “The Hanging Gardens of Hell” was the original intended title for the first Botanist full-length, which was then changed to “The Suicide Tree” based on the strength of the image of the Cerbera Odollam. The concept of this first EP is that all the plants presented are hanging plants. There are two more songs from the EP that were cut out so Botanist’s side could fit on one half of an LP. Those extra songs will be released at some point in the future.

Photo by Alvashredd

Somewhere I did read that you changed the number of albums you first planned for your project. I remember, but i might be wrong, that at first you planned to do only five albums.

Your memory is half right. I had once said, around the time when five albums were completed, that if there would be a foreseeable end, it would be at album ten, largely because I liked the idea of “X” being the final Botanist. But I also said that wasn’t set in stone and the amount of planned material could change. At this time, there are six recorded full-lengths, and something like five recorded EPs, and the concepts for albums “VII,” “VIII,” and “IX” are in place. Demo versions of the seventh album are currently being written and recorded. “VII” will be Botanist’s most conceptual album, perhaps of all of them.

Can you please tell us what are your plans for the following Botanist's albums? How are you going to develop the concept?

We’re thinking about skipping the release of “V” and going straight to “VI,” as everyone in the band thinks that “VI” has not only better songs, but is the best available progression from “IV.” I personally feel that the emotional space that “VI” is in is a better reflection of where Botanist is philosophically at this time... and those songs will come over better live, too. Both “V” and “VI” are not particularly remarkable conceptually as far as going along with any form of a story. It’s more the progression of the sound of “VI” that makes it an interesting successor. Again, it won’t be till “VII” that those looking for a deep thematic concept will come about again, and I can promise it will be the most philosophically developed one.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 19, 2014

Ghost Bath - Ghost Bath

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

What's this? A depressive black metal album that's actually... good? That's right, ladies and gentlemen. This is Ghost Bath, or as they are known in their native tongue, 鬼浴. They hail from China, and their self-titled debut EP just blew me away. Whenever I write off the depressive black metal genre as dead, a band from China comes along and prove me wrong.

What really makes these guys stand out from the crowd is how they fuse depressive black metal with post metal and give it a heaping dose of melody. The drums offer up a really diverse performance. They range from simple mid-paced rhythms that are influenced by post metal to rapid blast beats, and they even include plenty of double bass that helps to create an overwhelming atmosphere. I swear, their performance almost reminds me of Austere. I especially love how powerful the snare sounds. You can't imagine how hard it is to find depressive black metal drums that sound this powerful.

You want to know what's even better than the drums? The guitars. Unlike the rest of the depressive black metal scene, they spend far less time on sounding as sad as possible and more on offering up good riffs. These riffs sound really melodic and manage to sound both dark and graceful at the same time. It reminds me of Nontinuum's latest work. I also like the handful of solos they include here. I can't figure which band they remind me of, but they sound powerful and beautiful at the same time. They're quite a wonder to behold. They even include some post metal-inspired clean guitars that offer up a nice change of pace.

I also like their inclusion of piano. It's not the fanciful neoclassical piano that Gris plays. Instead, the piano performances on this album are simpler and more subtle. Their focus is on building atmosphere. Listening to their performance makes you feel like you're walking through an empty park on a cold fall day. There are also a few times when they're played alongside the metal in a way similar to Austere. This is especially obvious on the song “Lust”.

The one part of the band's performance that may irritate a lot of people are the vocals. They mainly consist of high-pitched screams that are full of agony. Some people might say that he sounds like a cat that's getting strangled, but if you ask me, his performance reminds me of Silencer. In short, the vocal style might take some getting used to, but they fit the music perfectly.

Ghost Bath is one of the most promising bands I've heard in a long time. I know I say that about many other bands, but I really mean it this time. I love their fusion of depressive black metal and post metal. I love their implementation of melody. I love their simple but beautiful piano pieces. These guys definitely deserve more attention, so go to their Bandcamp page and download their album now. I'm confident that you'll love it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 18, 2014

Dead Existence - Born into the Planet's Scars

Written by Justin Petrick.

It is very rare that a 2 song 27 minute EP could produce so much dread and melancholy but Born into the Planet’s Scars does just that. The heavy tone to them it is almost like an anvil on your chest. The feeling I got the first time I heard the album was scared. Not in a bad way, but the heaviness and doom where these songs live feels so strong coming through the speakers, that it almost drowns you. As “Down the Crooked Path” powers right into the main riff, any thoughts of a calm calculated journey through the song is shattered. From the first bit of feedback you realize wretchedness is apparent.

Photo by Elke Teurlinckx (Flickr)

Dead Existence moves fluidly between sludge, doom, death and even thrash. Keeping the listener hooked through the confident and well mapped out songs and the solid musicianship involved. With minor chord and tempo changes they take you on a long drawn out journey into the vast and desolate wastelands of the world they inhabit. There may not be a darker, scarier place than that which Dead Existence introduces you to on Born into the Planet’s Scars.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 16, 2014

Porta Nigra - Fin de Siècle

Written by Majbritt Levinsen.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to describe Porta Nigra’s sound and style, the music awakes a turmoil of feelings and thoughts that are hard to grasp and translate into words. It is a bizarre, dark, feverish nightmare, that is melodic and strangely enjoyable. This is avantgarde black/dark metal wrapped in a gothic veil. But this quote from Debemur Morti Productions own description of the release is quite spot on: "...A dark and bizarre smorgasbord of degeneration, PORTA NIGRA draws inspiration from a myriad of sources to conjure a sound that has a life of its own."

If we look to the title Fin de Siècle and the imagery the band has created around themselves, Porta Nigra have managed to translate the essence of the degenerated mentality from the end of 19th century, when boredom, pessimism and decadence began to show in literature and arts, into music. I can easily imagine myself in a smoke filled room with heavy curtains blocking out any sun- or moonlight, where hazy silhouettes of well dressed bodies eat,drink and enjoy themselves, not caring for the world outside. Bodies lazily hanging in well padded chairs and chaises, slowly sipping liquor from delicate glasses, cigarettes smoking themselves in lifeless hands while internal monologues troubles the mind of its owner. Self loathing and self admiration going hand in hand.

Porta Nigra resides in Germany and the lyrics are both in German and English. The bands two members Gilles de Rais (Guitar and Bass) and O (Drums and Vocal) have managed to create something new, to me at least. I have to say that even though I like this album, it does give me an unsettling feeling in my guts. It must be the darker undercurrents that flows under the songs and the eerie dark lyrics. It is not music you listen to when you want to get in a good mood, that is for sure.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 14, 2014

Myopic - Beyond the Mirror's Edge

Written by Matt Hinch.

The press release for Beyond the Mirror's Edge by Myopic presents the 3-piece as progressive black metal. I myself would tend to lean more towards the progressive than black after hearing this 4-song EP. The foundations of black metal are there, but Myopic don't sit still long enough to entrench themselves in the mud and blood of one genre.

The second track however, "Iron Towers" holds truest to black metal standards with a hack 'n' slash approach and plenty of tremulous guitar work. But even it lays back later in the track. Although, even it works its way into an almost jaunty place with some Les Claypool-inspired bass and post-metal touches to go along with the dark atmosphere. As black as Myopic, and this track in particular may be, its not an oppressive black. It remains quite open, making the transition into other genres not as out of place as they could be.

The title track is relatively sludgy but with plenty of drama provided by the progressive moments. While the overall tone isn't necessarily heavy, it has a nice flow. It moves back and forth between the edgy sections and the more melodic, like an artist in the throes of creativity, working furiously one moment then stepping back to observe and contemplate.

Myopic's diversity is on full display during "Backstitch", an entirely instrumental track. Prog mixes with USBM and doom. Soaring guitars nestle close to post-hardcore. The track twists and turns and the listener finds themselves in many different places as the track goes along. There's swing, a paranoid feel, hard notes, upbeat ones, and screaming ones. It's definitely the sort of track that lets the winds of fate determine its course.

Final track "Lord of Damnation" might be the most eclectic of them all. Imagine a mash-up of Primus and the Toadies with rock and roll swagger and pseudo-blackened screaming. It's spastic, light-hearted yet menacing, and often off-kilter.

Myopic come across as a band with plenty of talent who definitely pay attention to the intricacy of their arrangements. It all sounds good and crisp without a cut-and-paste feel. Your ultimate impression therefore depends on whether you regard their unorthodox black metal menagerie as a band refusing to confine themselves to genre restrictions, or as a band unsure of its identity. Everything they do they do well, and it can be crazy catchy. Trust me. I guess it all depends on how open your mind is.

Bet you never thought you'd hear "black metal" and "Toadies" in the same review, did you?

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 13, 2014

Woebegone Obscured - Marrow of Dreams

I, Voidhanger Records has opened a Bandcamp page. Among the albums available you can find Marrow of Dreams, the new release from Danish band Woebegone Obscured. Metal Archives touts them as 'Blackened Funeral Doom/Death Metal' and the PR material lumps them together with Disembowelment, Evoken and Thergothon. This is both right and wrong. Woebegone Obscured is obviously funeral doom, blackened and death too; But the tempo is generally a little higher, and Woebegone Obscured doesn't seem so intent on crushing you under the weight of the music as those three bands (The very non funeral doom cover might also be a giveaway there).

The songs on Marrow of Dreams are like progressive funeral doom symphonies. They cover a lot of ground and touches more genres than the aforementioned. Goth metal. Progressive metal. Traditional doom. Jazz and flamenco even. All the time there is an underrunning current of dissonance (both in playing and feeling) and disquiet. Which makes sense considering that the album is inspired by main man Danny Woe's "long period of time that lead him to deep depression, to a paranoid/schizophrenic disorder diagnosis, and to a seemingly timeless stay at a mental hospital". Danny is listed as sole vocalist and he utilizes an impressive range of styles - from death growls and blackened barks to wavery cleans - to tell his tales of, well, woe.

The production is clear and layered, you can pick out every instrument. Which makes sense, there is a lot to listen to. That also goes for the length of the album, it clocks in at 80 minutes. Which may be too long, at least I could have done without the second song "Vacuum Ocean". It is less adventurous, more plodding, than the others and suffers somewhat from it. The wavery cleans are overdone, and the 'sounds of waves lapping at the shore' thing so clichéed. Plus points for the unhinged blackened vocals, and the whale noises near the end though. But besides that Marrow of Dreams is a successful release. The playing is top notch and there's so much going in the songs that your interest never wanes. The transitions never seem forced, which is paramount in making long, complex, and slow songs work. This is not the harshest doom you'll ever hear, nor the most extreme, but it's pretty damn interesting.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 11, 2014

Ignis - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi - II - Phaeton

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Just when I thought I had mined all that I could find in 2013 I stumble upon some Russian Post-Black Metal courtesy of Ignis. As if that weren’t enough I find on their bandcamp they have released three albums in 2013 all showing different facets of their sound. And as an added bonus they are all free for download.

The first album is Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (latin for "thus passes the glory of this world"). Three songs of soaring Post-Black Metal. Two of them hits the 12 minutes mark, allowing the music to shift and explore from roaring Black Metal to Post-Rockish mid sections. Drums are fast and heavy while guitars furiously keep pace. The vocals sound like rasped wails of torment. The ending of the third song hinting at their Ambient influences (which we will get into later). At times you get a slight hint of Deafheaven in the way they balance the Black and the Post.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Next up is II. This is where they let their Hardcore influenced Black Metal flag fly. Songs are shorter and go straight for the throat. These are songs made to get the pit moving and heads bobbing.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The third album, Phaeton, is the curve ball. Though hinted at in the first album as I said before. This is a full blown Ambient noise album. Consisting of two songs, "Dream" and "Decay", they bare a strong resemblance to the work of Dark Ambient master Lustmord. As the song titles would suggest "Dream" is the more subtle of the two songs while "Decay" is the more sinister and harsher of the two. But both have that underlying creepiness that Dark Ambient does so well.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

It’s one thing for a band to have many influences. It’s not uncommon for bands to show those influences over several albums. But it is quite another to do it in three albums in one year and for all those albums to not only be able to stand on their own, but to be well done and still feel like they are from the same band. That is quite an amazing feat. I love the ambitious nature of this band. Who knows what they will do next?

January 9, 2014

Eternal Khan - A Primitive History

Written by Kevin Page.

Artwork by Ultrabat

I'm generally "anti" most of the things from the New England area and for good reason (Red Sox, hardcore, annoying accents), but let me take off my curmudgeon hat for a moment to wax poetic about something positive for a change.

Eternal Khan, from Providence, Rhode Island, play a mix of blackened frostbitten thrashy death doom. And it even has a certain "warmth" to it.  Yeah, its sounds like crazy talk no doubt.  But that's the best description I could come up with.  The blending of these styles all works without feeling out of place or "shoehorned" in there for the sake of doing so.  I'd even go as far as saying there's some originality to boot.

They released a 2 song demo in 2012 and this 4 song EP in 2013 (if you grab the CD version, you get all 6 tracks).  Full length album is being worked in for a 2014 release (knock on wood).  It should prove interesting.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Geryon - Geryon

Written by Matt Hinch.

Geryon bassist/vocalist Nick McMaster and drummer Lev Weinstein are best known for their work as the rhythm section for Krallice. But in Geryon they are the only members. That's correct. This project is a bass and drum only musical connection. While being touted as death metal, their self-titled release is tied to the conventions of genre by the thinnest of threads, namely Weinstein's incessant percussion and McMaster's forceful roar loaded with the intent to stun. The bulk of Geryon then is left to wild experimentalism and atonality.

Nothing is straightforward as chaos in its many forms reigns supreme. Shades of malice rise and fall, curling around thick and skronky bass lines. At times everything sounds at odds with everything else, as if two (or more) forces desperately attempt to follow their own circuitous paths yet find themselves pulled together if only momentarily. It's as if some powerful entity is continually smashing together malleable forms of sound like neutrons in the LHC and interpreting the results like a twisted auditory Rorschach test.

One feels the need to continually look over their shoulder as a deep background and off-kilter timing keep the listener off balance creating a feeling of dread and paranoia. McMaster spins those webs of deceit while Weinstein's percussion keeps the mind rooting in the present, preventing the tendency to drift off to places unknown.

The bass growls like a beast while the pull-offs poke and provoke, sending the consciousness into headlong flight. Wide-eyed and with reckless abandon, the listener is chased towards the abyss, pushed over the edge by waves of crashing malevolence. Thrashed and broken, falling to unfathomable depths into an obsidian pool. Sinking deeper and deeper inward, space and time are warped around quasi-theoretical frequencies until being swallowed by Geryon's vast vision, decadently rich in darkness.

Geryon is demented and misdirecting, tossing the listener around effortlessly, lifting and dropping, squeezing and releasing. Dark flames burn slow and hot, leaving you scarred and gasping for breath yet unable to pull away. Fall into the chasm and let Geryon's wings carry you.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 7, 2014

Melencolia Estatica - Hel

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

Black metal is often a solitary pursuit, as there's something about the gelid, tortured song structures and grim, isolationist themes that often draw artists who desire complete creative control. Sombre and atmospheric, Italian act Melencolia Estatica are primarily the work of a single woman, Climaxia (Absentia Lunae), who performs all of the instruments and is responsible for all compositions (with additional vocals from Afthenktos).

Hel's mood is grim and funeral, and the production complements this, sometimes as clear as a tolling bell, at others shrouded as if through a veil. It's also a concept album, following the narrative of Fritz Lang's 1927 dystopian opus, Metropolis, about the idea of a city transformed into a massive machine and a pointed critique of classism. The songs have a gritty greyness to them, as merciless as Metropolis's towering skyscrapers, and the churning pace evokes the misery of labour and hopelessness. This is a skilfully wrought and intelligent album, as wounding as it is well planned.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 6, 2014

Craig - Ten Triumphs From 2013

Written by Craig Hayes.

I can’t speak for the other contributors here at Metal Bandcamp, but my motivation for being here is pretty straightforward. I’m here to write about great bands that we all get to enjoy thanks to Bandcamp’s success, and I’ve certainly ended up with another huge catalogue of fantastic releases from spending endless hours lurking on the site in 2013.

That leaves me with a pile of bands I could highlight in my final post this year, but rather than repeat myself, I’ve plucked ten triumphant releases I haven’t had the opportunity to write about in 2013. Before you dig into the list, I wanted to pass on my thanks. Metal Bandcamp obviously doesn’t exist without its loyal readers, and it’s been a privilege to write here this year and have my name appear alongside fellow scribes who are vastly more knowledgeable and articulate than I’ll ever be here.

Cheers to you all, and, of course, tip of the hat to Metal Bandcamp overlord Max for allowing me to ramble on and on and on this year. Merry Anti-Christmas. I hope 2014 is filled with more sonic mayhem for you all, but before it continues, here’s a few ear-splitting delights from 2013.

Seizures - The Sanity Universal.

I might as well start with an album I only acquired recently thanks to another A+ recommendation from my compadre (and occasional Metal Bandcamp contributor) Dean Brown. Californian band Seizures make a hellish racket combining incandescent metallic hardcore with flashes of experimentalism and math rock. Of course, the clue to what you’ll find is in the band’s name, and The Sanity Universal is seizure-inducing, all round.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Stallion - Mounting the World.

German trio Stallion travel back in time to the exact point where heavy metal injected that extra dose of velocity to see a slew of speed metal steeds race ahead of the herd. Mounting the World is a stampeding six-string gallop across old school pastures, and best of all, it kicks ass like a fittingly testosterone fuelled beastie.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Hawkeyes - Poison Slows You Down.

Featuring a four guitar line-up, Hawkeyes set to exploring acid and space rock with down-tuned abandon on Poison Slows You Down. Deep cosmic doom abounds on the album, with mammoth and monolithic tunes that dig deep into tone and texture channeled through flaming amps. Tune in, drop out, and plummet into the psychedelic abyss.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Blackrat - Whiskey and Blasphemy.

Canadian trio Blackrat released a lo-fi burst of blackened thrash and punk with Whiskey and Blasphemy this year. Expect cut-throat vocals and buzzsaw riffs, all backed by the kind of raw and hell-hammering intensity that’s only ever found in the most perfectly putrid pits of the underground.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Kröwnn - Hyborian Age.

Kröwnn’s Hyborian Age was one of many, many enjoyable and promising demos I stumbled upon this year. The Italian doom trio wielded hefty riffs, drew its lyrics from fantasy authored works, and the band’s methodical trawls brought all the requisite weight and psychotropic pummel.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Caffa - Day of Disease.
Cover art by Jose Gabriel Angeles

I don’t know who first tipped me off about Caffa’s Day of Disease, but if it was you, I owe you a debt of thanks. Day of Disease was an absolutely fetid crawl through trenches of sonic excrement, with the kind of blackened doom and death metal that’ll leave a stain, and more importantly, a horrendous stench on your soul.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Druidus - Bestial Crust Demo MMXIII.

Druidus’s Bestial Crust Demo MMXIII was about as caustically raw as you could hope for, with the iniquitous sonics and devilish thematics situated right up front. Death metal met black metal at the altar of unholy worship on the demo, leading to a frenzied and uncompromising fight to draw first blood.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Thrawsunblat - Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings.

Magnificently epic black metal featured on Thrawsunblat’s Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings this year. Replete with varying strains of black and folk metal interweaving throughout, and spilling over with heart-swelling melodies, Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings was, pretty much, perfection.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love.

An Autumn For Crippled Children are a three-piece experimental black metal band from the Netherlands, and if there was any justice in this world, Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love would be sitting high atop all those end of year lists in ’13. It was a magical, majestic, and wholly breathtaking album, filled with melodic waves of beautifully understated orchestral flourishes.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Young Hunter - Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain.

Psychedelic drone, alt-country, and stoner and indie rock all mixed with doom metal on Young Hunter’s Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain EP this year. Vast clouds sweeping down over dustbowl vistas featured, with a steely precipitateness decelerating into bucolic, tumbling laments. Young Hunter’s 2012 debut, Stone Tools, was an impressive debut, and Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain signals even more awe-inspiring landscapes set to be explored in the future.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 4, 2014

Justin C's End of Year List

Written by Justin C.

When I was in high school, I was a pretty serious alto sax player. I auditioned for quite a few competitions--district band, regional band, honors band, etc. That meant spending lots of time in basement practice rooms in other schools, soaking up the aroma of sweat and emptied spit valves, spending a last few minutes trying to perfect some horrible, atonal piece of audition music I'd practiced for months, a piece that served no musical purpose whatsoever, but rather tested our technical limits with our instruments. I lost more than I won. There was an alto phenom in the next school district over, and he often talked to his saxophone. How could I beat a guy who could converse with his horn?

What I finally learned from all of the trials and tribulations is that there is no quicker way to kill the joy of music than to turn it into a competition. So what am I doing now? Compiling a list of the best music of the year. To alleviate my guilt, I'll at least forgo the actual rankings and present them as an unordered list.

Gorguts - Colored Sands.
Artwork by Martin Lacroix

There were some big releases in death metal this year, including Portal, Ulcerate, Immolation, and the long-awaited return of Carcass. All good albums, but in my humble opinion, none of them could touch the new Gorguts in terms of strange beauty and savagery. It didn't hurt that head Gorgut Luc Lemay was so nice to me in spite of my hack interview skills.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Shining - One One One.

Saxophone! Jazz! Metal! This album is catchy as all hell, and it still has me running around yelling, "YOU WON'T FORGET!"

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Deafheaven - Sunbather.

There was plenty of talk about this album, e.g., "It's hipster metal!" or "I hate the vocals!" or "I hate pink!" In the end, though, my abiding memory of this album is listening to it for one of the first times while driving far too fast down a backroad just after a rain storm, "Dream House" blaring away, making my cold, dead heart feel all kinds of feelings.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Sandrider - Godhead.

A power trio in every sense of the word, Sandrider's second album delivers all of the gut-punching metal of their first release, while expanding their sound. Yeah, it toes the line between hard rock and metal--it's certainly less extreme than what I usually cover--but it deserves to be played loud and screamed along with.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Batillus - Concrete Sustain.

Batillus mixed their sludge with a heavy dose of industrial for a sound like a sledgehammer. Like Shining, this one will get stuck in your head, and who doesn't like barking, "SUSTAIN AND DOMINATE!" at their coworkers? You'll spend a lot of time in Human Resources, but you'll also get uninvited from a lot of meetings.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Botanist/Palace of Worms - The Hanging Gardens of Hell/Ode to Joy.

I was torn between this one and IV: Mandragora, but as excellent as Mandragora is, I think this split edged it out. It's hard to imagine someone doing a cohesive split with the bizarre and beautiful Botanist, but one-man band Palace of Worms pulls it off. This is a split that sounds more like a whole album.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory & Injury.

I was surprised to learn, in a comment thread on this very site, that this album was somewhat controversial. I couldn't imagine how one could overlook its brilliance, and I was saddened to learn so many people are wrong. Maybe it's a matter of expectations--Altar of Plagues kept only traces of black metal and mixed in industrial and grinding noises from outer space, but maybe I was also primed to like it because of the similar shift in Batillus's sound. Either way, this album haunts me. I won't go so far into crazy talk as to say it's better than Mammal, but maybe...

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Seidr - Ginnungagap.

Austin Lunn of Panopticon also has a doom band, Seidr, and their newest is simply brilliant. Expansive, immersive, and incomparable. Sadly, it's not buyable on Bandcamp yet, but buy the two-CD set. Just do it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Non-Bandcamp Metal Albums That Deserve Mention

Hail of Bullets - III: The Rommel Chronicles
Cult of Luna - Vertikal

Albums That Likely Would Have Landed on My List if They'd Arrived Earlier in the Year and I'd Spent More Time With Them

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Non-Metal Albums I Dug This Year

Zola Jesus - Versions
The Cave Singers - Naomi

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Is This Album Metal or Non-Metal? Who Cares Its Awesome

Alice in Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Best Bandcamp of a Classical Guitarist Who Happens to Write Reviews for Metalbandcamp

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]