March 31, 2014

Kever - Eon of Cycling Death

Written by Kevin Page.

Artwork by Raul Gonzalez

Do you remember a band called Morbid Tendency from Israel? Good, neither did I. But they featured Alex Butcher (ex-Sonne Adam) & Tom Davidov (current Sonne Adam) and released this digital EP last year. Well, they have since changed the name of the band to Kever, added some sweet cover art and have re-released this little beauty under the new monicker.

Musically this is a slightly tighter Autopsy with some Morbid Angel-ish solos and a dry scratchy guitar tone reminiscent of Pungent Stench's Been Caught Buttering. Vocally they've gone the route of a satanic Karl Willets of Bolt Thrower with lots of reverberating hellfire. Did I name drop enough bands in that description for ya?

Seriously though, it's a fine slab of old school death metal that manages to feel relevant in an oversaturated field. Besides the current Name Your Own Price digital download, they will be offering this on MLP and CD as well.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 30, 2014

Abest - Demo MMXII

Written by Justin C.

Last month, I stumbled across Cvlt Nation's premiere of "Shiver" (which is now also available for streaming on Abest's Bandcamp), which is a song from the upcoming full-length by the German band Abest. The thundering bass line intro and sludgy guitars hooked me almost immediately. The album, Asylum, doesn't come out until May, but I wanted more. Luckily, I found Abest's 2012 demo on Bandcamp.

Abest plays a mix of airy post-metal and sludgy riffs, topped off with low, hardcore bellows. The first few minutes of the opener, "Solando," nicely captures everything I love about what I've heard from this band so far. The intro is a simple, chiming guitar pattern over bass and minimalistic drumming. If that intro is the nerves before battle as the sun rises over the hills, then the main riff kicking in is the sight and sound of tanks coming over those hills. The music is straightforward without being simple. Which isn't to say that they can't kick up a furious ruckus when they want to. A large part of "Into Grey," for example, is an almost barely-there menace, but around the two-minute mark, the band erupts into a storm of sound before drifting back into tense atmosphere.

Everything works for me here--the low roars, the crunchy guitars, the subtle bass and drumming. Abest takes what some might find to be a relatively limited sonic palette and use it to create brilliantly crafted songs. If the preview of "Shiver" is any indication, they've stepped up their game on the full length, which has put their new work on my highly anticipated list. The demo will have to hold us over for now, though.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 29, 2014

Noble Beast - Noble Beast

Written by by Andy Osborn.

Despite the incredible offerings the beginning of 2014 has presented, I’ve found myself moving chronologically backwards in my collection. I wanted to take a break from the latest and greatest (and blackest) to rediscover what caused the 14-year-old me to hoist the metal flag. Turns out I had completely forgotten how utterly obsessed I was with power metal. The fairly accessible subgenre is undoubtedly a common gateway for longhairs around the world and the likes of Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and Blind Guardian were the torchbearers leading me down the rabbit hole. After revisiting their albums that I know so well and realizing I do still have feelings for their kind, it was time to seek out newcomers to the scene.

Right as I was thinking this, the debut from Noble Beast reared its head. And it just so happens that the first new power metal album I’ve listened to in years is an absolute masterpiece.

I’m still trying to comprehend the awe inspiring power of Noble Beast. It’s epic, fun, and catchy as all hell without too much histrionics or cheese on the side. The lyrics are at once ridiculous and empowering, but the music shows nothing but deadly sincerity. It's everything great power metal should be. The charge is lead by the glorious operatic baritone of Robert Jalonen. He deftly switches between 80s rock god and a slightly more sinister personality that never loses its sense of grandeur. He’s occasionally complemented by gang vocals to ensure that this battle is never being fought alone.

Strong, dueling guitar leads are constantly one-upping each other with a deft interplay that comes to define the band’s sound. Not ones to rest on a cool riff or exciting gallop, they’re always throwing in little nuances to ensure nothing gets recycled or become expected. “We Burn” is a perfect example of the quartet’s dexterity as it’s filled to the brim with infectious melodies, a fantastic folky acoustic verse, and then switches gears to a near never-ending guitar solo that stops just short of being self-indulgent. These songs of battle, triumph and defiance are all anthems in the truest sense with enough of a thrash sensibility to spread their appeal and make a statement that echoes across the entire metal landscape.

Despite my absence from the power metal scene of late, it’s clear Noble Beast’s debut is a fiery triumph of epic metal that rivals any longstanding European powerhouse. This young Midwestern group has studied their heroes and done them more than justice with their first offering. Savor the moment when you put this on for the first time, because goosebumps and a jaw on the floor are guaranteed. This is more than a debut, it’s a declaration of dominance over an entire subgenre. And it’s absolutely perfect.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 26, 2014

Thou - Heathen

Written by Atanamar Sunyata.

One does not simply walk into a Thou album; the visceral journey is a full mind and body experience. Crossing the threshold of Heathen demands patience and attention, but crushing catharsis is a listener’s reward. You can choose to hone in on the doom, sludge, or drone aspects of Thou’s sound, but the wielding of impossible weight is their wont.

Photos by Carmelo Española

Whereas its predecessor soared to intoxicating sonic heights, Heathen hugs the earth. Thou have kept their massively heavy guitar sound intact, and they use it to plow familiar tracts of gorgeously glum landscape, turning over nuggets of melodic epiphany and post-rock brilliance along the way. The rhythms tend towards tectonic trudge, but occasional upbeat outbursts are likely to grab hold of you and compel physical reaction. Drag that fuckin’ weight, man.

Photos by Carmelo Española

Bryan Funck’s radioactive rasp demands a listener’s attention, and his predominantly comprehensible lyrics demand that you dig up the words to comprehend each and every one. As always, for me, it’s Thou’s lyrical treatises that take my engagement as a listener above and beyond. On Heathen we are entreated to exalt, reject, scorn, and defeat. Revel in and accept the agony of existence, persevering, above all, via endurance.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 25, 2014

The Chasm - Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm

The Chasm's lastet full-length Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm from 2009 is, together with almost their entire discography, available on the Lux Inframundis Productions Bandcamp (Lux Inframundis being the label run by The Chasm mastermind Daniel Corchado).

Artwork by Daniel Corchado

The Chasm's lastet full-length Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm from 2009 is, together with almost their entire discography, available on the Lux Inframundis Productions Bandcamp (Lux Inframundis being the label run by The Chasm mastermind Daniel Corchado). This is amazingly creative death metal with a progressive bent. Each song feels like part of an otherworldly adventure, chaptered by fluid transitions and paragraphed by different time signatures and tempo shifts. Only half the album features vocals. and they are mixed quite low. But this gives them a strange storytelling quality, fitting nicely with that otherworldly vibe.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Then there's the riffs. Tons of excellent epic riffs. But this is not riff salad, The Chasm are far too meticulous for that. This paragraph by Tyler Munro from Sputnikmusic does a very good job of explaining their modus operandi:
"They often base entire tracks around only a couple of riffs riffs, which, given the length of some of these tracks, is a testament to their talents. A riff will often sneak in, alone, until it repeats with a bass, then drums, then another guitar. From there, the songs tend to play around within themselves; they speed up, bend and distort. This isn't to say the songs are limited to a small number of riffs (in fact it's quite the contrary), merely that they use one or two riffs as their jumping off point."
The riffs are anchored by dexterous and very organic sounding drumming and a present bass. And accentuated by subtle synths and effects. The production is clear, with a cold and crisp guitar sound. Entirely without the foibles of modern death metal producers it has a pleasing raw quality, giving you the stellar musicianship in all it's unadorned glory.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

I'm sure it won't take you long to find your own favorite passages of Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm, but let me end the review with sharing a couple of mine: The visceral heavy riffing in the beginning of "Vault to the Voyage", and the goddamn triumphant last half of the epic closer "Arrival to Hopeless Shores". "Arriving … so far from home, but this is the place / Farseeing … sun and moon corroding, this is the place"

March 17, 2014

Stormforge - Sea of Stone

Written by Craig Hayes.

If you were to slice the metal scene right down the middle, on its hemisphere axis, it’s the southern portion that’s generally presumed to be home to bands with a certain bloodthirsty temper. Asia and Australia have produced utterly filthy and ferocious extreme metal luminaries aplenty, while New Zealand is home to globally respected bands like the commanding Vassafor, Doom Cult crushers Diocletian and Witchrist, and, obviously, death metal doyen Ulcerate.

Of course, New Zealand’s metal scene didn’t spontaneously erupt in a raft of extreme metal bruisers, it was born from those power metal and New Wave of British Heavy Metal influenced bands that formed the foundations of the scene. However, aside from Demoniac providing members for the internationally successful, UK-based, DragonForce, New Zealand doesn’t really have a profile for power or traditional metal bands at all.

That’s been somewhat remedied of late, and recently, here on Metal Bandcamp, I highlighted the debut EP, Ironhead, from Red Dawn—a band fixed on the hammering harmonies of power metal, more than the outright venom of extreme metal. So it is with Stormforge. The five-piece, Auckland-based, band recently released their four track debut EP, Sea Of Stone, on Bandcamp, and there’s no doubting Stormforge’s influences or inspirations on the EP. Sea of Stone is indebted to power metal’s forefathers—Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Blind Guardian, Helloween, etc—and that same sense of artists combining dramatic theatrics with maestro musicianship features heavily.

Guitarist’s Miro Kao and Flynn Fredriksson tear into Sea Of Stone’s upbeat opening track, “Immolation to Infinity”, with all power metal cannons firing; before vocalist Courtney O'Leary arrives, to bring his powerful classic metal howls and operatic wails. More of the same melodic meticulousness arrives on “As The Night Sky Burns”, as up-tempo, rousing riffs from duelling virtuoso guitars sprint around a galloping rhythm section provided by drummer Antony Mifsud-Houghton and bassist Thomas O'Leary. “Death Sings In The Night” slows things down, for some smouldering balladry, before bursting, inevitably, into a flaming lead-guitar section. Final track, the nine-minute titular epic, “Sea Of Stone”, sees sweeping, progressive metal melodies all advancing towards the inescapable climax; where O'Leary’s soaring vocals segue into, well, hell bent for leather guitars, for a duly epic finale of blazing and shredding soloing.

In all, Sea of Stone features plenty of dynamic and energetic metal, it’s rich in fiery licks and spirited tempos, and contains those all important and enthusiastic injections of over-the-top histrionics that make power metal such a joy for fans in the first place. Like any opening gambit, there’s probably some nerves attached to Sea Of Stone, but Stormforge have nothing to be concerned about here. The EP features a crisp and crunchy production—courtesy of Diocletian and Witchrist drummer Cameron Sinclair—and all up, what Sea Of Stone does best of all, is leave you wanting to hear more.

That’s exactly what you want from your debut recording, and that’s exactly what Stormforge delivers, in spades.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 16, 2014

Coffinworm - IV.I.VIII

Written by Justin C.

I've probably seen Coffinworm most often described as blackened doom. It's probably as good as any, although it's still pretty reductive. Hearing the blasting, grind-like energy that opens their new album, IV.I.VIII, might make you wonder if you're listening to the same album everybody else described. Blackened-doom-grind-death-sludge might be more apt, if somewhat unwieldy, but it captures the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink formula that Coffinworm makes work for them.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Opening track "Sympathectomy" (one of many dark, tongue-in-cheek song titles) settles down from its explosive beginning into doomier territory, but the band has a virtuosic way with tempo. It slows, speeds up, slows down again, pushing and pulling under guitar and bass riffs so thick and meaty that you'll want to bite into them. Vocals come in the forms of black metal shrieks and low, death growls, all distorted beyond reason. The drums range between unhinged blast beats and caveman bashing.

Almost every song is a mini-album in and of itself. The riffs start up, disappear for a while, and come back in mutated forms. Restating a theme and variations is a classic compositional technique, but Coffinworm pushes that idea to its outer limits. The songs on IV.I.VIII shouldn't work--there are too many tempos, too many changes, but somehow they hang together on even the thinnest of threads. It's difficult to put into words, but as disparate as the parts of each song are, they all make sense together.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Is it weird to say I'm charmed by an album that's so vicious and unrelenting? Because that's the best way I can think to describe it. On every listen I pick up something new: Is that an acoustic guitar adding extra texture in "Instant Death Syndrome"? And how about the brief guitar squeals in the same song that act as a command to DESTROY, setting off vicious drum blasts underneath creeping guitar lines? And that slap bass in "Lust vs. Vengeance"! Why does it work so well?

After hearing early samples of the album, I expected a sanity-challenging experience like I had with Indian's new album. In theory, Coffinworm's album should be no less difficult and demanding, but somehow they've made an album just as punishing, but strangely compelling at the same time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 13, 2014

Torrid Husk - Caesious

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Noel Mueller

In January I reviewed a little EP by Myopic. That release was put out by Grimoire Records. It's a nifty little operation they've got going over there. Everything is handled in house. Production, mix, master, even art and promotion. This month's Grimoire release features West Virginian black metallists Torrid Husk vomiting forth a three-song EP Caesious.

Reportedly recorded in a cabin in the woods, the three tracks on hand certainly give off that vibe of natural isolation with feral, primitive exaltation to elder gods. "Cut with Rain" is all searing black metal. Torrid Husk really lay it all out in terms of unabated speed. The riffs are more or less typical black metal swept through the forest, up and down hills and valleys on malevolent winds. The percussion (Tony Cordone) is absolutely relentless pushing the tremolos above the tree line. Guitarist/vocalist Tyler Collins' rasp fulfills the requisite evil quotient to inspire the clenching of invisible oranges. On this track, was well as the other two, when Torrid Husk slow things down the entire aura draws inward and impresses firmly upon the heart.

"Thunder like Scorn" continues the obsidian barrage but is punctuated with brief crunchy hammerblows. It's visceral on all accounts. Dancing riffs accelerate to supersonic speeds before giving way to a melancholic and quiet midsection. The track's later half sees soaring riffs float above the thunderous percussion and progressive bass (Jonathan Blanton) with a measured sense of melody.

Tremolos weaves amongst the onslaught on "Paranoia". A blistering black metal cacophony crashes down into a melancholic valley, returning with a slow and torturous tugging. A portentous vocal misanthropy carries across the bleak landscape. Torrid Husk close out the EP by raging through the night standing tall against the eldritch terrors glimpsed in the moonlight.

Caesious is eighteen minutes of blistering black metal hatred. An aura of ancient reverence clings to its essence like the fetid stench of nameless beasts lurking in the darkest of shadows. Torrid Husk's reckless abandon and infecting atmosphere reek of passion and belief.

The full moon beckons. Let Caesious be your soundtrack to its light.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 11, 2014

North - Metanoia

Written by Justin C.

North's last full-length, The Great Silence, was a sprawling epic of atmospheric sludge, and an album that both I and Aaron Sullivan enjoyed quite a bit. (He saw fit to put it on his 2012 best-of-year list.)

Their new EP, Metanoia, finds the band in similar sonic territory, but with a more stripped-down feel. This probably isn't surprising, because this EP credits only three of the original members from The Great Silence. The press notes mention a lot of internal struggle in the band, struggle which apparently almost ended the group completely. That would have been a shame, because Metanoia is a powerful emotional statement. The word "metanoia" means a spiritual conversion, usually through repentance, and there's definitely a sense of bittersweet triumph in the music.

As I mentioned, the band may be stripped down in membership, but that's not to say their compositions are any less epic. You'll still find plenty of jangly, chiming atmosphere mixed with 10-ton riffs and gravelly bellows, but there's also an immediacy to this EP that's very compelling to me. All of the tracks are excellent, but "Nefelibata" is a stand out for me. The word "nefelibata" is Portuguese, and it appears to roughly translate to someone who lives in their own imagination, but perhaps better described as someone who treads the space between idealistic dreamer and iconoclast. There's a duality to the song itself, a mix of quiet synths and swelling, aching vocals, which are somehow delicate and melodic in spite of being close to growls. The guitars build, grind, stomp, and echo, sometimes in the course of just a minute or two, and the rhythm section carries everything deftly along. I had a visceral emotional reaction to this song the first time I heard it, before I'd looked up what the song title meant or read anything about what the band may have gone through to achieve it. It's possible I'm just projecting my own desires to survive and triumph through rough times in my own life, but I think it's just as likely North has achieved something truly touching.

I could talk on about the other three tracks at length, but now's as good a time as any to tell you to just go listen for yourself. The band describes this as "the transition EP," but taken the wrong way, that might do the music a great disservice. North may be on their way to new territory, but the journey of this EP is well worth lingering on.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 9, 2014

Burial Hordes - Incendium

Written by Steven Leslie

Artwork by Mark Riddick

Greek misanthropes Burial hordes return with eight new hymns of demonic devastation over 40 minutes. It’s been six years since the bands last full length, and there have been some changes in the bands core sound. While it still remains clearly rooted in the black metal realm, Incendium incorporates many more death metal elements than on previous works. This is most noticeable in the vocals of Cthonos. Bearing little resemblance to the more traditional second wave screeching commonly associated with black metal, Cthonos instead opts for a relentless roar. Sometimes coming off as a slightly less processed Demigod era Nergal at certain points. Don’t get me wrong, Burial Hordes always had a bit of deathly influence in their vocal attack, but this album moves them further into the death metal territory, with only the occasional more feral black metal sound being used to highlight specific sections. The vocals are also very prominent in the mix, which increases the barbaric brutality of their assault.

The production and mixing are another significant change in the bands overall sound. While previous albums had a much more primitive sounding production, which fit those albums really well, then new one is much cleaner. Unlike many modern bands however, Burial Hordes has managed to keep a dark and deranged feeling in the music. While the production is improved, it has not sucked the life out of the bands music. Instead it highlights the bands new more death-orientated approach, and the fact that they have improved technically as both musicians and songwriters. There are some searing riffs and even brilliant subtle bass runs incorporated in songs like "Scorned (Aokigahara)", which nods to the dissonant melodies of the current French black metal scene. It’s a quality blend of Greek mysticism, Polish barbaric blackened death metal, and French dissonance.

I must admit that as a long time Burial Hordes fan, the first listen threw me for a bit of loop. While I hadn't listened to earlier records in quite a while, I really was expecting a much more traditionally second wave influenced black metal record. Listening back to the older records, I realized that these deathly elements were always present, just not pulled to the front as they are this time around. Subsequent listens have led to me to appreciate the new approach the band takes. This is overall, one hell of a demonic slab of blackened death metal. Burial Hordes does a great job of keeping this album from becoming a one-dimensional sonic bludgeoning. While the album starts out with a couple of blistering, relentless slabs of bone crushing black death, later songs play with pacing and an increased use of melody and atmosphere. There are enough quality riffs and nuanced songwriting to be able to differentiate different tracks, while keeping the overall vibe and mood consistent. Overall, this is worth a listen for anyone who has been a fan of Burial Hordes in the past or anyone who appreciates a masterful blending of black metal and death metal.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 8, 2014

Dave's Demo Roundup Vol I.

By Dave Schalek.
By Dave Schalek.

Very little is known about Pennsylvania’s Dumal, a black metal outfit playing semi-melodic, war themed black metal with a crunchy guitar tone and rasped vocals. The drums sound a bit weak, but the catchy, riffy guitar playing more than makes up for the relative lack of depth. This four song demo was originally released on cassette, although calling a release limited to 10 copies hardly constitutes a “release”. Well, that’s what Bandcamp (and this site, for that matter) is for. Recommended.

Cold, barren, and grim, Italy’s Orhorho play stripped down, rather thin black metal with a rotten atmosphere, deep vocals, and a fuzzy background anchored by an audible bass. This three song demo of untitled tracks is thematically based around an ancient African occult princess is the debut from Orhorho, a duo with connections to Gottesmorder. Orhorho vary their delivery with tempo changes, moments of hypnotic drone, and surprisingly dynamic songwriting. A few tribal elements creep into the third song, a standout track, and Orhorho are worthy of investigation.

New Zealand has a way of churning out rancid blackened death metal with bands such as Diocletian, Witchrist, and Heresiarch leading the way. Add Trepanation to that list with Hideous Black Abyss, their debut demo. Consisting of very powerful blackened death metal with muted, high pitched rasps, Hideous Black Abyss nicely straddles the line between black metal, death metal, and even grindcore and crust with a very fast approach and short songs. A swirl of riffs and blastbeats are backed up by a very powerful, bottom heavy production that gives the whole affair a thick layer of miasma.

Cover art by Jose Gabriel Angeles

Oakland’s Caffa are treading the ground laid down by Hellhammer and early Sodom, a standard that’s now held high by bands such as Coffins, Teitanblood, and countless others. Caffa combine the deep heaviness of their influences with some dynamic songwriting and a few tempo changes, enough to distinguish themselves from countless other bands. Released by Transylvanian Tapes, Day of Disease is deeply heavy and is sure to satisfy fans of the early, primitive days of death metal.

Day of Disease from Caffa immediately led me to browse a few other releases from Transylvanian Tapes, and this demo from Fiend immediately stood out. An all out blast of thick, heavy grindcore with guttural vocals, this seven song demo clocks in at about seven minutes and demands multiple hits of the repeat button. Nihilistic and caustic, Fiend, from Fresno, California, should be the next big thing if there’s any justice in the world. Wow.

March 6, 2014

Electricjezus - Грязь Поколений (Mud of Generations)

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Album art Timur Khabirov

Electricjezus are a two piece band from Moscow/Russia. Грязь Поколений is their debut album, released in Feb. 2013. The music has strong roots in crusty HC Punk, Sludge and Doom, but its branches breathe in like everything and so the fruits and blossoms are quite full flavored. There’s a lot of Stoner, Black, Post Metal as well. It’s a blend of many different styles, but each song is focused differently and all have their own character.

What I hear in all of the seven songs is a lot of “we don’t  give a fuck what you think. We play what we want and do it the way we want. If you happen to like it, well that’s great.” Oh and I happen to like it a lot! What I also hear in all of them is a direct and raw sound that is due to their  unconventional recording method …“It (the album) was recorded entirely on analog equipment and it fully live record, we recorded the album close to reality and it sounds exactly as we sound on live performances. During recording, we used analog equipment from different years and from different countries, old Soviet synthesizers, old piano, use ride cymbals or broken crash with piece of metal for hi hats, use old microphones.”

There’s a kind of charming “you get what you hear” attitude to it that serves the music well. It’s bracingly unpolished and abrasive, and it flings the angry sludge riffs and hardcore punches directly into your face. The horror movie samples enhance the mood of the songs and give them some cranky creepiness (and twisted sense of humor? maybe that’s just me). And then I also hear a vigorous pleasure of playing that brings a vigorous pleasure of listening. Highly recommended!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Originally posted on the defunct Temple of Perdition blog.

Upyr - Altars/Tunnels

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Upyr are a five piece band from Sofia/Bulgaria. They formed in 2012 and released their demo album Altars/Tunnels one year later in 2013.

What they present on their demo is basically blackened Doom, and Upyr pretty much stick to these basics to create four tracks of monolithic heaviness with an atmosphere of utter darkness, the fundamental simplicity of doom that makes the unearthly and uncanny sound earthy and natural.

The four tracks though, each about 10 minutes long, are unique and diverse, despite all simplicity. The opening track, being the most “traditionally” structured song, sets the mood of a dark, black and slightly cultish/gothic Doom soundscape. The next one drags you deeper down into this mood getting even gloomier and slower. The third track I wouldn't even call a regular song, it’s more or less a hypnotic recitation of Aleister Crowley’s poem Hymn To Pan accompanied by a repetitive melody provided by the guitars only, and the last one is bracingly chaotic and cacophonic. All songs are carefully constructed, with slow build ups that keep the tension to the point, with tempo shifts going easy and seamless from funeral pace to mid tempo.

A really outstanding and defining element in Upyr music are the vocals. The vocalist’s sonorous hypnotic and charismatic voice (once again I’m falling in love with vocals), is used as clean vocals, spoken or whispered words, dark growls or black metal screams, add a great deal of texture and facets of mood to the songs.

Altars/Tunnels is an album with a rich doom atmosphere that simply sucks you in right from the beginning and keeps you there, mesmerized, until the last sound dies away.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 3, 2014

Irkallian Oracle - Grave Ekstasis

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by David Herrerias

Stygian Swedish band Irkallian Oracle formed in 2012, and while they hail from Gothenburg, you won’t find a hint of that city’s famed melodic death metal on the band’s debut, Grave Ekstasis. Instead, what you will encounter is underworld Babylonian mysticism, hermetic existentialism, and apocalyptic occultism; all boiling in a cauldron of arcane black and death metal. Originally released on cassette by underground label Bolvärk in 2013, Grave Ekstasis quickly sold out on that format, and it’s now in the hands of Nuclear War Now!—with the vinyl and CD reissue of Grave Ekstasis no doubt set to bring Irkallian Oracle further into the light.

That, in of itself, presents an interesting dichotomy; because Irkallian Oracle’s “ultra-void vibrations” are wholly suited to the vaults of the rare and obscure. The band’s prophecies may well unearth, or more accurately, disgorge, forbidden knowledge with a primordial and esoteric accent, but Irkallian Oracle’s revelations are more fitting for a close-knit and select cabal of listeners.

That’s not to do the band’s heavily ritualistic sound an injustice, or suggest Irkallian Oracle should limit its audience per se, but Grave Ekstasis is simply cult metal, for the discerning listener. Of course, we don’t live in an age where underground bands remain hidden anymore; anyone with access to the internet can attest to that. So, in order for bands to retain a sense of mystery, or exhibit powerful philosophic or aesthetic expressions of enigmatic and dark metaphysical thought, they need to communicate an all-encompassing vision. One that negates that the idea that spirituality is irrelevant or even absurd in this day and age, while also questioning whether this epoch, spilling over with all its scientific confidence, is really providing all the answers.

Some bands scoff at scepticism while bringing to mind the questions science can’t answer extremely well—see Antediluvian, Grave Miasma, Dead Congregation, Cruciamentum, Teitanblood, Necros Christos, and Vassafor, for a start. Like those band’s, Irkallian Oracle uses black and death metal to weave a sense of conceptual cohesiveness throughout it’s work, with Grave Ekstasis’ magik motifs and thoroughly murky musicality combining to not only speak of matters unearthly right now, but also to ask what comes when our existence in this realm ends.

Are we headed for a dimension where post-existence becomes pre-transcendence, or are we facing a void full of the horror of nothingness? Are we destined for a sphere where the sky bleeds red from the arteries of gods, or is death followed by a spectral existence, where notions of logic, ego, awareness, perception, or reality are rendered meaningless? Who’s to know, until we all get there, but those are the kinds of pathways of inquiry that Irkallian Oracle explores and evokes for 45 fantastically forbidding and phantasmal minutes on Grave Ekstasis.

Irkallian Oracle is here to shatter the illusion of selfhood on lengthy tracks like “Ekstasis” and “Dispersion”, while the 10-minute-plus chronicles, “Iconoclasm”, and “Absenta Animi”, tear the gates to the abyss wide open. Irkallian Oracle’s sound is dense, down-tuned, icy, churning, and is steeped in the swirling waters of thick and asphyxiating doom. Vocals are buried on Grave Ekstasis, with throat-slit growls untangling themselves to fight to the surface, while drums batter away in caverns as glimmers of experimentalism arise--the kind featured in the works of Abyssal or Mitochondrian, or in the oppressive, choking timbre of Portal.

In truth, Irkallian Oracle isn’t providing anything musically innovative as such, but that’s not to say the band isn’t wielding its abrasive arsenal superbly. Grave Ekstasis's claustrophobic crawls come with repetitive, clawing refrains that strip away the bounds of now, encouraging a state of being that mines the possibilities of otherness. Any question that Irkallian Oracle aren't fully aware of their chosen realm of exploration is rendered mute, because Grave Ekstasis avoids any of the superficial otherworldliness of trend-hopping occult death metal, and sounds exactly like a band committed to digging deep into the grottos of the underworld should.

Irkallian Oracle describes it’s ethos/objectives/text in many cryptic ways, but perhaps what suits Grave Ekstasis best is, “a prophecy of black stars revealed as an oracle..." Certainly, Grave Ekstasis feels like esoteric wisdom is being divulged, but it’s also a murky, squalid, and sepulchral album, so it's not granting you any immediate answers to anything. Like the best black and death metal communiqués set on unveiling sinister gospel, Grave Ekstasis's sonic reverberations serve as a catalyst; something to pierce the veil, and offer a glimpse of the beyond, through a crack in the wall of reality.

I guess, in the end, it’s up to you to push on through; question is, how much do you really want to know?

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 2, 2014

Immortal Bird - Akrasia

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Kikyz1313

I faced a challenge when writing about Immortal Bird: My esteemed colleague, Andy Osborn, said the songs on their EP Akrasia reminded him of "a death metal Ludicra." That's high praise in his book and mine, and it's also one of the most succinct ways of describing Akrasia. But just in case you weren't convinced to check it out after seeing it on both Andy's year-end list as well as mine, I'll throw some more words at you to try to sway you.

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Rae Amitay has shown her drum prowess in lots of bands--including Woods of Ypres, Thrawsunblat, and Mares of Thrace--but she also provides the vocals for Immortal Bird. They're a vicious rasp, and one might be forgiven for thinking the lyrics "I'll chew on glass / I can't swallow my pride" from "Ashen Scabland" might be literal, not figurative. There are a lot of choice sensory moments in the lyrics, too, including a nest that "reeks of disease / soaked with mites and fleas" and the observation that it's "hard not to scream / when steel wool is your blindfold." “Akrasia” means acting against one’s better judgment, and lines like “I’ll be your great regret / the one that makes you pray for death” brings the point home. My own regret is that I didn’t get this review done before Valentine’s Day, because this EP is clearly for lovers.

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The guitar and bass--by Evan Berry and John Picillo, respectively--do more than just keep up with Amitay’s vocals. There's a great variety of riffs here, from the swarm of angry insects on "Spitting Teeth" to the pairing of black metal dissonance and Pantera-esque grooves in "The Pseudoscientist." There are even moments of respite, like when the guitar switches to quiet, muted arpeggios in "Ashen Scabland" while Amitay asks, "Where do you think you'll go when you die?" Well, maybe "respite" isn't the right word...

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

None of the tracks are particularly long, and there's only four of them, but Akrasia has a full-album feel. The fact that they can pull elements of death and black metal together and juggle them while still maintaining a clear band identity makes me hope for a full-length, and soon.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

March 1, 2014

Vindensång - Alpha

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Pennsylvania’s Vindensång return after 6 years with their second album Alpha. Their brand of Ambient is combined with Folk and a light dusting of Black Metal to create a unique sound, that on their latest album finds the band expanding upon.

The opening sounds of "The Eternal Return" pick up where the band left off on Terminus: Rebirth in Eight Parts... - but just a ways into the song and in come the drums along with a great vocal thing they do through most of the album. A whispered rasp vocal is layered underneath a throaty harsh style vocal. But neither so harsh as to obscure the words they are singing. Where as Terminus was a concept album, where songs blended into the next with no pause in between, Alpha has a central theme, but the songs stand alone. They are also more song like (if that makes sense); they seem to have a beginning, middle, and end. The drums are very prominent in the mix, something I love. They have this tribal feel to them. With the first few listens I felt as though their was something familiar about the album, aside from the Vindensång sound. Then it hit me. At times I am reminded of another Ambient masterpiece, Ulver’s Shadow of the Sun. In no way is this a rip off. It’s the mood that is the same, not the album. The way they can be so sparse and so atmospheric, yet touch you at your core. Albums you can get lost in and with each listen pick up something you may not have heard before.

As big fan of this band their return was one that excited me. But like with every band that has a new album you wonder will they still excite me the same way. Well Vindensång have done just that with Alpha. Six years is a long time to wait, but it was well worth it. While it may be early, I have little doubt this album will be on my year end list for 2014.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]