Monday, August 29, 2016

Giveaway - A Fortnight Spent Beneath Ashen Skies t-shirt by Christian Degn

Welcome to the second Metal Bandcamp giveaway! Recently I fell in love with a t-shirt featuring the gorgeous drawing A Fortnight Spent Beneath Ashen Skies by Christian Degn. After procuring it a thought entered my mind: more people should know about this shirt
The giveaway is over. See who won at the bottom of the post.

Welcome to the second Metal Bandcamp giveaway! Recently I fell in love with a t-shirt featuring the gorgeous drawing A Fortnight Spent Beneath Ashen Skies by Christian Degn. After procuring it a thought entered my mind: more people should know about this shirt, so they can love it like I do. Hence this giveaway, enter it and you may win the t-shirt for yourself to wear.

Besides the giveaway we have music as well. Christian was kind enough to send me a Bandcamp playlist of albums that kept him company while creating the drawing. Enjoy, and check out his store for prints (and the t-shirt if you do not win it here).



The title of the drawing on this shirt is "A Fortnight Spent Beneath Ashen Skies, an Eternity Under the Eyes of Our Lord” which was a phrase that kept repeating in my head as I was drawing it. This is usually how I name pieces, if they do end up getting a name. The only symbolism that I intentionally put into this image was the hour glass, and it’s meaning is actually not terribly deep, simply representing mortality. I suppose this whole illustration could be dedicated to this idea. Everything else is just there because I liked how it looked. I have plans to make more shirts with other illustrations I’ve done, but I figured I would start out with one of my older drawings. In total I probably spent around 20 or so hours on this piece, possibly more or less. It was on my desk for about a month while I worked on other drawings and school work, picking away at it slowly. Of course I had plenty of music keeping me company through this process, here are a few of the albums I recall playing regularly around the time of working on it.


This album was playing as I started this drawing. Originally I was only planning to draw the left half of the image. I had started it a couple of weeks before my birthday and was drawing it as as a sort of gift for myself, and with another year passing, an hourglass seems fitting. Xothist has a interesting songwriting style that really lets my mind wander with their meandering compositions, but it still has a rawness that keeps it very mysterious and menacing while demanding attention. I also had the Dwarfer cassette playing a lot as well around this time, though I’m not sure if the band has a stream anywhere. Either way, this stuff deserves way more praise than I see it getting. Really top notch stuff!



I’ve always been infatuated with Locrian’s music since I was first introduced to them, but this album really caught me off guard from track one. All their releases have a really long shelf life for me as well, if that’s the right way to put it? I mean I had this album in rotation regularly up until Infinite Dissolution which followed this release (and it’s kinda been the same story with that album!) My routine during this summer was to go for an evening run and come home and sit by the fan and blast this record while playing an hour or so of Metroid 2 on gameboy before working on art stuff. It makes for the perfect soundtrack to a lonely space exploration game! Locrian’s musical sensibility and aesthetic always has the feeling of intrigue and haziness, like seeing a mysterious door in a dream that you know you want to approach, but are apprehensive about. But the band shows you inside the door and it’s usually nothing to be afraid of, but something to find wonder in. I also always love seeing Terence Hannum’s collage pieces using cassette tape and design elements from labels. As a generally line-oriented artist, I’ve always taken a lot away from seeing his work. I hope I can see some in person eventually, I’m sure the light interacting with the tape provides a whole new level to the viewing experience. I’ll quit fawning now ha!



I always have to listen to a Krallice album at some point during a drawing. There’s something about hearing the way these dudes account for every detail in their songs that really lends itself to falling into that sort of zen state, where inking monotonous lines becomes more meditative than tedious. The word I always see people throw around to describe Krallice is dizzying, which really is probably the best way to describe any Krallice riff. The other thing I love about how detail-oriented this band’s discography tends to be, is that I can almost always find something new on every listen. Not a lot of bands do that for me! This was another album I was playing on cassette a lot, and hearing that extra layer of fuzz really makes you aware of how much influence these guys drew from that raw black metal sound. If you can find a copy I recommend you snagging it! (if only for the alternate cover art on the j-card, which has grade-A layout!)



I believe I may have actually stumbled across this album through this very site! I probably played it at least once during every drawing I did between 2014 and 2015. I really love how spacey this album feels, despite a pretty grind-y backbone. For me it feels a lot like Vektor meets Gridlink but a little bit more blackened? I think the thing that really kept me coming back to this release the most was actually the vocal mix. It has those sort of DSBM howls and it fits with the song writing excellently. I usually pay attention to guitars and drums more than anything so it’s rare for me to find vocals done in a way that actually make them the highlight. These make me feel like a little kid hearing heavy metal for the first time and being kind of scared but still transfixed. Also just like.. the riffs, man!



This might be my favorite album ever. It’s almost always in rotation, but I was listening to this more than usual right as I was finishing up on this drawing because, if I remember correctly, The Unnatural World had just come out earlier in the year. I thought about including that album instead, since it was as significant around that time for me, but I couldn’t bring myself to put it above this record which always really messes me up in the best way on every listen. I don’t know what I could say about Deathconsciousness that hasn’t already been said and said more eloquently than I’m capable of, but there’s no way I couldn’t give it a mention. Also I believe the Flenser just announced another pressing recently so I suggest jumping on that if you get the chance! The sleeve and zine included are absolutely stunning! A detail I love is that the Flenser pressing uses the Jaques-Louis David cover, and then uses the original LP cover for the zine. This album definitely demands your attention the first handful of listens. I suggest turning it up very loud and turning off all the lights! Repeat until you’ve gained enough immunity that you can actually draw to this album without sobbing all over your paper!



The giveaway is over. Thanks to all who entered, and for all the nice comments. The randomly selected winners are:
Brad Sanders29 - bradscottsand AT gmail DOT com
AM30 - merschat AT gmail DOT com
The t-shirts have now been sent to Brad from New York and Artie from Texas. Congratulations to both of you!


Tagged with 2011, 2013, 2014, black metal, dark ambient, death metal, deathrock, Dephosphorus, drone, free download, grindcore, Have a Nice Life, Krallice, Locrian, post-punk, Xothist

Friday, August 26, 2016

SubRosa - For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

By Justin C. I read a blurb about SubRosa's new album, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, that irked me a little. The writer basically said SubRosa was talented, but boring and repetitive. I wasn't irked because I disagreed, but because it was clear this person hadn't actually listened to the album.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Glyn Smyth @ Stag & Serpent

I read a blurb about SubRosa's new album, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, that irked me a little. The writer basically said SubRosa was talented, but boring and repetitive. I wasn't irked because I disagreed, but because it was clear this person hadn't actually listened to the album. On the other hand, I myself was initially wary--the album is heavily front-loaded, with the first three songs taking up nearly 45 minutes of its 64-minute run time. I ultimately came to the realization that this album might be a bit difficult to approach for those used to more immediate gratification, so I'm going to be a little schoomarmish and tell you not only why you should listen to this, but also how you should listen to this. There are no two ways about it--you have to sit and focus on this album. This is doom, but it's a particular kind of doom with an intricacy that doesn't yield itself up to scattered attention.

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

A superficial listen to the first track, with its warm bass intro, simple guitar figure, and hauntingly pretty vocals might lull you, but you have to listen further, in a weird sense of that word. Remember that this band has two violists, and they're not just used for texture. They twist around each other, in and out of harmony, sometimes bowed, sometimes plucked, but always important. Check out their diving lines in "Killing Rapture." I admit that I started to flag at this point, but the violins’ part in building the intensity of the song kicked my butt back into the thick of things. There's a bombast here, sometimes as much orchestral as metal, but it's not like a giant timpani drum pounding in your face. It's more of an irresistible undercurrent.

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

Listen to the vocals. Sometimes, it sounds like Rebecca Vernon is going to go for the cliche, like in "Black Majesty" when she sings, "Isn't it good to be / acquainted with darkness." Oh, great, you might think, high school goth poetry. But Vernon twists around by following it up with, "to caress it gently, to slit its throat." That’s not where I expected that to go. The words themselves aren't only interesting, but the delivery is as well. Vernon often pushes her voice to what I call her "proclamation" mode, still clean but pushing toward a harsher sound, but the harmonies with her bandmates are also to die for. When she sings about "The self-assurance of the pure," there's a lovely vocal dance over that last word. (I know you can't see it, but I drew some awesome wiggly lines in my notes to mark this. I'm a true professional.)

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

And I haven't even started in on the guest appearances by flute and sax, and even a lyre on "Il Cappio" (Italian for "The Noose"), or the fact that the album was inspired by a Russian dystopian novel from the 1920s, We by Yevgeny Zamayatin. I haven't read the book, and you don't need to in order to enjoy the album. Lyrics like "Choice is too precious / To be wasted on vermin" gives you a very clear idea of the dystopian vibe. That said, I probably will soon, just so I can peel a few more layers back from this music. It's a fascinating concept that inspired a fascinating album. If you need steering wheel-pounding driving music, this isn't going to be for you, but the best way to find out is to sit with it and pay attention.

Tagged with 2016, doom metal, François Carl Duguay, Justin C, Profound Lore Records, sludge metal, stoner metal, SubRosa

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Spire - Entropy

In chemistry and physics, entropy is a thermodynamics quantity that describes the degree of disorder in an isolated system. This ties into the second law of thermodynamics
By Hera Vidal.


In chemistry and physics, entropy is a thermodynamics quantity that describes the degree of disorder in an isolated system. This ties into the second law of thermodynamics, which states that a system’s disorder will increase over time. In other words, entropy is the gradual decline of order into chaos. For such a deep and honest record, no name could have fitted better.
What are the themes on the album? And where did you take inspiration from?

G.A.: We present a nameless protagonist struggling with the widespread phenomenon of suffering, both personal and more broadly. Each song is a stage in this journey which begins with moral introspection and conceptual meditation, but ultimately (due to perceived purposelessness of existence) leads to a feral descent into insanity.

Our purpose is to show that while logic, reason and morality may well be the ‘best’ intellectual tools that people can use to make sense of, and function in the world – they come at a very high cost. Our inspiration is simply taken from the frustration borne of living in a miserable fucking world where suffering is (and always has been) plentiful, whereas purpose is not. (from The Midlands Rocks)
Right off the bat, Entropy begins with a strong usage of ambience. It’s ominous—the droning hum used in the background is haunting and functions like nightmare fuel. The instruments, mainly the guitar and the drums, only add to it, creating a wall of sound that oppresses you and makes you uncomfortable. There are moments where the music stays constant, before it hammers into you with an incredible intensity and rage that wasn’t there before. It also creates an incredible contrasting effect between the music and the vocals. They take turns in being the highlights in each track, but you eventually come to realize that the instrumentality creates the atmosphere and the vocals are there to create to show how chaotic the organized mind is. There is also a hint of dread that accompanies the album, because you can’t stop events from unfolding and you have to keep listening. It’s unsettling in its essence, but it’s beautiful in its construction.

However, the vocals are possibly the greatest highlight of the entire album. They are both soothing and haunting, launching the listener into their own existential crisis. They are also the most unexpected part of the album, because you don’t know when they are coming and how they are going to sound. It only increases the anticipation of what is going to happen. This becomes evident in “Void”, where vocal ferocity and slow tonalities become the center point of the song. It almost sounds like the speaker is having a breakdown, and the listener can only watch in horror as they continue towards the proverbial void. Eventually, the listener realizes that the proverbial walk to insanity has already happened; he is just listening to how the speaker got there and embraced his inner demons. It’s brilliant—the fact that the album starts with “Ends” and ends with “Entropy” only goes to show how effective it is to see the ouroboric nature of the album at work.

All in all, this album is one of the strongest, enjoyable debuts I’ve heard in 2016. It has all the elements of a good black metal record: it’s dark, unsettling, and chaotic, living up to its name. It’s a deeply honest and personal record—even without understanding the lyrics, the ambience is enough to relate to the pain and the suffering given to us. I have high hopes for Spire’s future—their ferocity is something to appreciate in a subgenre that seems to walk the line between the personal and the exaggerated. Kudos to an excellent release!

Prominent tracks: “Labyrinthine”, “Void”, “Entropy”


Tagged with 2016, ambient, black metal, Hera Vidal, Iron Bonehead Productions, Spire

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From The Metal Archives Vol 3 - Migration Fest edition.

I had the time of my life at the recent Migration Fest, held in Olympia, Washington. Musically the festival was a stunning success, I mean just check the lineup. It was superbly organized and run. Also Migration Fest simply oozed good atmosphere
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

I had the time of my life at the recent Migration Fest, held in Olympia, Washington. Musically the festival was a stunning success, I mean just check the lineup. It was superbly organized and run. Also Migration Fest simply oozed good atmosphere, more than any festival I can remember; three days of friendship and metal.

For a good full roundup of Migration Fest check out this three-parter by our friends at No, Clean, Singing. What you have here is simply Metal Archives reviews on two of my takeaways from the fest: Dead to a Dying World, who I reconnected with, and Yautja, who I had not heard before. Both played fantastic sets; go check them out live if you get the chance.


Artwork by Sera Timms

Considering "atmospheric" has been essentially reduced to another genre tag, it doesn't capture what Dead to a Dying World have achieved here. Litany feels carefully crafted in a way extreme metal rarely does, and perfect balance every song strikes between doom and classical elements captures the mournful spirit that bands that label themselves "atmospheric" wish they could emulate. Dead to a Dying World call their music "apocalyptic," and the musical nihilism that implies perhaps comes closest to conveying the terrible beauty of Litany's six movements. (read ThuribleOfDarkness's full review here).



Artwork by Caleb Gregory

Sure, there's grind here but there's a lot of other stuff like mathcore, death metal, experimental and a big dose of sludge. It's almost like a southern appropriation of the US East Coast's hipsterism. In some ways, they're Tennessee's chaotic answer to Krallice or to early Mastodon, they have those odd rhythms while keeping the heaviness as an integral part of their identity. While there's an interesting variety of tempos, all of supreme quality, you never get lost with Yautja. They're taking you places that you wasn't quite sure were real. From the grind might of "Blinders" to the weird epic sludge of "Faith Resigned" (a song that sounds like Crowbar who suddenly became a forward thinking band), it's as a varied as you'll get for a grindcore band. (read Metantoine's full review here).


Tagged with 2014, 2015, blackened sludge metal, crust, Dead to a Dying World, doom metal, Forcefield Records, grindcore, sludge metal, Yautja

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Label Spotlight: Iron Bonehead Productions

MOBILE PREVIEW
By Steven Leslie.


While I tend to enjoy almost all of Iron Bonehead’s releases, this one was both a surprise and a revelation. From the opening seconds of “The Heartbeat’s Drum” to the closing motif of “Burial Ground Trance” these two Fins had me spellbound. Much like Sworn to the Dark era Watain, Celestial Grave inject a keen sense of melody and song craft into their art without sacrificing any of the atmosphere or grit black metal requires. Like Bolzer did for black/death metal, Celestial grave have taken the base components of black metal, stirred them up and manifested their own unique concoction. They have managed the rare feat of creating something familiar that still feels completely fresh and new. The spectacular guitar work is the real star here as the band deftly blends more traditional tremolo riffing with grooving melodies and soaring leads creating an intensely emotional and powerful backdrop. I also get hints of the brilliance on Nachtmystium’s Instinct Decay as Celestial Grave is unafraid to expand their sonic palate beyond the standard sounds of traditional black metal. Each of these three tracks takes you on a wondrous and unique journey into the darkness. If you pick up only one of these albums from Iron Bonehead, do yourself a favor and make it this one as this is easily one of the best black metal demo releases of the year.



Cover art by Daniel Corcuera

Comprised of members Ill Omen, Naxul, Grave Upheaval, and Vassafor this was always going to fall well within Iron Bonehead’s wheelhouse. While I usually don’t like the featuring members of review, it’s important to mention here as the music Temple Nightside produce really is a conflagration of those influences. Temple Nightside’s earlier more black metal releases were all solid if not ultimately forgettable. This time around they have embraced the blackened death metal trend that has popped up in the last few years. Good news is they do it well and with enough of their own style to stand out from the crowd. While the vocals definitely fall within the ‘recorded in a distant cave sound’, they have taken a much cleaner approach to their instrumental attack, allowing their crushing, miasmic dirges to really sink their claws in from the first listen. This type of black/death metal lives and dies by its atmosphere, which Temple Nightside unsurprisingly nail with their ponderous, dismal hymns. The funeral doom of Ill Omen’s most recent album also flows through The Hecatomb as the band tap into the same dismal mood and effectively utilize more drawn out tempos to heighten the oppressive nature of the album. If you aren’t a fan of this style of cavernous black death, The Hecatomb is unlikely to convert you. But if you like your death metal dragged through the stygian darkness, this is worth checking out.




Offering up a far more visceral and barbaric take on black/death is Mexico’s Sacrocurse. If there was ever any doubts about why this style is referred to as war metal, they are shattered as soon as you press play. You won’t find anything nice or pretty on this unrelenting, sonic assault. It’s riff after bludgeoning riff delivered over LZ’s blazing inferno of blasts with the occasional dive-bombing solo thrown in to enhance the album’s chaotic nature. ZK’s hate filled, satanic barking ensures that no enemies are left standing and no prisoners are taken. But what really helps Sacrocurse stand out from the pack on Destroying Chapels is their ability to sneak in some seriously catchy riffs within the chaos. Take opener “Total Devastation” for example, which kicks off with a maelstrom of traditional war metal riffing before dropping into a swarming solo that soon makes way for a grooving riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Bolt Thrower record. And they do this without sacrificing any of the feral nature of their aural onslaught. Little flourishes like this help ensure that each song stands out and that Sacrocurse doesn’t fall into the trap many lesser war metal bands do of turning the EP into an indiscernible mess of noise. If you dig bands like Black Witchery, Bestial Raids or Nechbeyth this will be a great addition to your collection.


Tagged with 2016, black metal, Celestial Grave, death metal, Iron Bonehead Productions, Sacrocurse, Steven Leslie, Temple Nightside

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gilded Lily - Mongrel's Light

It's always gratifying to see a band progress. I reviewed Gilded Lily's blast of rage just a little over a year ago, and they're already back with a full length that finds them making a huge leap as a band.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Quinn Henderson

It's always gratifying to see a band progress. I reviewed Gilded Lily's blast of rage just a little over a year ago, and they're already back with a full length that finds them making a huge leap as a band.

Mongrel's Light is a more focused and powerful album in almost every way. The sound is dark and heavy, the production is better, and a clear lyrical theme runs throughout. But don't mistake that change for the band losing any of their original fire or chaos. The heart of the band is still black-ish-grindy-death-y metal, but they're in no way afraid to take a sharp turn when they want to. "Bellflower," a song with a deceptively pretty name, starts out with galloping black metal, but eventually throws out some sweet guitarmonies before moving into a doomier section.

"A Spare Room" recalls some of the unhinged sounds from the first EP. The sound fittingly puts one in mind of someone screaming into a nearly empty room, be it as a result of imprisonment or worse, while the guitar and bass--at least at first--lay relatively low next to a layer of static, ultimately breaking out and sharing space with a cleanly sung line that sounds both angelic and haunted at the same time.

Although "A Spare Room" isn't exactly typical for the whole album, it does reflect the bleak atmosphere. I mentioned lyrical themes earlier on. This album tells the tale of a bleak city, sometimes in ruins, and sometimes in the process of collapse. Perhaps it’s a straightforward, apocalyptic take on society, or perhaps it's more metaphorical than that, using the idea of a crumbling infrastructure to describe the song’s subject’s own failings. "The City Ends" gives us
In the wreckage of a dozen burned bridges / Picked through by mutts and beggars / The mementos of languished friendships...
"Bellflower" tells of someone trying to get lost in a city known too well, and observes,
I can see you thumbing at your empty pocket / Where you used to keep the knife you bought / You used to think you could use if you needed to...
Does this person need to defend themselves, or are they looking for violence? Clearly Gilded Lily has taken their lyrical game way up, but both the EP and this new full-length reward listening with the lyrics in front of you.

The energy, the filth, the poetry. All of these make this a band to continue to watch. Mongrel's Light is a quantum leap ahead for Gilded Lily, and I can't wait to see what they do next.


Tagged with 2016, black metal, death metal, Gilded Lily, Justin C, post-hardcore

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pallbearer - Fear and Fury

By Karen A. Mann. It’s been almost two years since Pallbearer’s last full-length, the widely praised Foundations of Burden. For those of us getting impatient to see what the band will serve up next, there’s Fear and Fury
By Karen A. Mann


It’s been almost two years since Pallbearer’s last full-length, the widely praised Foundations of Burden. For those of us getting impatient to see what the band will serve up next, there’s Fear and Fury, a surprise three-song limited release out this week on Profound Lore. There’s nothing new here: The song “Fear and Fury” is a remastered version of their 2015 Decibel Magazine flexi single, and “Over and Over” and “Love You to Death” are covers by Black Sabbath and Type O Negative, respectively. But just because you’ve heard these songs before doesn’t mean Fear and Fury is a minor release. The remastered version of “Fear and Fury” is an improvement over the original, and that alone makes it essential for any Pallbearer fan. However it’s the two covers that make this EP so much fun.

Brett Campbell 2012.

Singer/guitarist Brett Campbell has serious cojones to tackle not one but two songs by two of rock’s most iconic and distinctive frontmen. He (and the entire band) nails it in both instances, paying homage to the originals while imparting his own unique stamp on both songs. “Over and Over,” which Ronnie James Dio sang on Mob Rules, begins with Campbell’s multi-layered voice singing “Over and Over and Over,” fading in like some transmission from the abyss, before the music itself hits you like an avalanche.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Campbell’s voice is that he always has a slightly hopeful inflection, which shines through no matter how emotionally devastating the lyrics. That’s true on “Over and Over,” and the truly surprising “Love You to Death.” As “Love You to Death” begins, Campbell almost sounds like he’s parodying Peter Steele’s breathlessly dramatic delivery. By the end, as he sings “am I good enough for you,” his voice soars, and suddenly a song with some rather cheesy eroticism becomes shimmeringly happy and sincere.


Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Karen A. Mann, Pallbearer, Profound Lore Records

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mizmor - Yodh

By Matt Hinch. I couldn't have picked a better night than this to pen this review. It's a Monday. I've been miserable all day. Disappointed and frustrated.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Zdzisław Beksiński

I couldn't have picked a better night than this to pen this review. It's a Monday. I've been miserable all day. Disappointed and frustrated. Yodh, the latest release from Mizmor plays right into those feelings. This gargantuan blackened doom opus to survival (surviving life more than say, being hunted by psychos) comes saturated in frustration, misery, despair and longing.

However, instead of pulling a shroud over his head and hiding under forlorn melodies and woe-is-me sappiness, sole member A.L.N. goes on the offensive; thunderously powering through the darkness, tearing through it with a piercing scream breaking the quiet intro to “i. Woe Regains My Substance”. Following that attention-grabbing moment come rage and terror.

That long opener covers a lot of ground, from twisted black metal to funeral doom and back again, all through a distortion beyond reality. It's the soundtrack of utter ruin and pain. Until it slices open the vein and a more traditional (read: second wave) black metal furor flows in. That's the kind of chaos that keeps long, brutally tortured songs from losing the listener and sets the stage for the album.

Four more tracks follow the path of apocalyptic doom segueing through textures, paces and noise, all tearing at the psyche like a vulture. The transitions often paint a bleak picture that tips over the abyss into the rollicking steamroll of black metal wrought with horror. The unhinged vocals lead an army of spectres on a mission of terror, none more unsettling than as heard on “iii. The Serpent Eats Its Tail”.

This 14+ minute endurance test of malevolent doom puts forward a different sound in its first half, sounding quite like Pallbearer. The vocals are grotesque and demonic though. Deadly growls meet high screams trapping the listener in their own personal hell. Think The Body but you don't feel like it's an animal that needs to be put out of its misery. The track's second half pummels like waves of doubt crashing perpetually upon the listener's mind, assaulting with dementia and enduring weight.

If by this point you haven't run for safety, you'll get more of Mizmor's desolation littered with the detritus of the empty things that we think make us happy but only plunge the soul deeper into frustrated melancholy.

Yodh is brilliantly crafted for both emotional impact and listenability. The long runtimes never drag. Instead the songs insulate the listener from any semblance of time passing and bore deep within to draw out the listener's inner demons.

Yodh is complete sonic alchemy fit to blacken the skin as it enhances the muscle beneath. The outstanding cover art is but a fantasy compared to the level of horror, pain and tortured souls that lurk within. Misery never sounded so good.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, doom metal, drone metal, Matt Hinch, Mizmor

Spirit Adrift - Chained to Oblivion

By Ulla Roschat. Spirit Adrift from Arizona came to life in Mach 2015 with Nate Garrett as the band’s sole member. Chained to Oblivion is the bands second release
By Ulla Roschat


Spirit Adrift from Arizona came to life in Mach 2015 with Nate Garrett as the band’s sole member. Chained to Oblivion is the band's second release, a full length album of five songs and an overall playing time of nearly 50 minutes.

When I praised the debut EP Behind - Beyond to the skies I was super excited for the first full length album to come out. It's here now, and I can't even apply the sentence "Chained to Oblivion was worth the long wait" or the like.

Less than half a year lies between the two releases, yet the musical development Spirit Adrift has made in this time is enormous. And he didn't start at a low level either, as I said above, I praised the EP to the skies. Now I have no option but to praise this album to space. And space is where it seems to go at times, anyway.

The five songs of the album sound much more focused, more elaborate, more varied and more balanced. Songwriting, instrumental and vocal skills, all have grown immensely.

While on Behind - Beyond the vocals sound kind of separated and rather laid over the instrumental work at times, here they step back a little to give the instruments more room, are intertwined and corresponding, more a part of the whole thing. Still they are definitely a strong characteristic element throughout the album.

The guitar and vocal melodies are of a gloomy and haunting beauty, the heavy Doom riffs monolithic and relentless and the warm clean vocals radiate a sense of urgency. The psychedelic moments offer genuine escape from the sorrow as well as the uplifting changes in the mood. Pain and darkness are infused with hope and light.

The emotions come across immediately, undressed, unfiltered, unpolished, but with a great sense of majestic grandeur and triumph.

Chained to Oblivion is insanely beautiful and deeply moving.



The song "Psychic Tide" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 119

Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Spirit Adrift, Ulla Roschat

Marsh Dweller - The Weight of Sunlight

By Justin C. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Panopticon and Obsequiae made sweet, blackened, medieval love and made a baby, then raised that baby on a hefty dose of classic metal? Wonder no more, because that baby is Marsh Dweller. It's not surprising that John Kerr, the primary member and creator of Marsh Dweller
By Justin C.


Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Panopticon and Obsequiae made sweet, blackened, medieval love and made a baby, then raised that baby on a hefty dose of classic metal? Wonder no more, because that baby is Marsh Dweller. It's not surprising that John Kerr, the primary member and creator of Marsh Dweller, would draw on those influences, given he's drummed in Seidr with Panopticon main man Austin Lunn and worked with Tanner Anderson from Obsequiae. You can read a fair amount about this musical friendship in the delightfully rambling, drunk interview with Kerr over at Meat Mead Metal.

Given that description, you may have a good idea of what this album will deliver, but it will probably still surpass your expectations. You'd expect great drumming from Kerr--and you get it--but the beautiful guitar worship, complete with a nearly endless supply of melodic riffing and soloing, adds a whole other dimension. If you think you also hear a little medieval twist, you wouldn't be wrong--Anderson from Obsequiae contributes a guitar solo to "The Dull Earth." It would be hard to list all the cross-pollination and influences from these musicians, but "Feathers on the Breath of God" might sum up this album more than any other single song. You start with black metal tremoloing and Kerr's mid-range yowl, only to be thrown into an old school thrash riff. The riffs trade back and forth, but check in at around the 4-minute mark if you want to hear how sublime this music can be. The interplay between the low, grumbling riff, the intricate drum fills, the majestic solo line, and a touch of synth is a delight.

If I had one, minor complaint (and it is a very minor issue), it's that occasionally the nature field recordings are a bit too intrusive. "Empty Light of Heaven" is a beautiful, delicate piece of music, slowly building with an almost orchestral feel, but for me, the incessant babbling brook clamors for too much attention. And I'll be blunt: The crunching footstep sounds at the end of "Feathers" sounds a bit like a cow chomping on some grass. I grew up around dairy farms, O.K.? I hear what I hear.

But in the end, this is a nature-centric album, so I can understand Kerr's motivation with adding these, and even if I personally find them a little distracting, they're by no means my biggest takeaway from the album. This is a must-have for Panopticon and Obsequiae fans, and even if you haven't dug into their respective catalogs, anyone interested in yet another interesting direction black metal can be taken should give a listen.

Tagged with 2016, Justin C, Marsh Dweller, melodic black metal

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Batushka – Litourgiya

By Hera Vidal. Religion and politics in black metal aren’t the best topics to discuss with other people, because things can get touchy and extremely hostile. Some can claim that religion has no place in black metal—think of the unblack metal debate that has emerged over the years
By Hera Vidal.


Religion and politics in black metal aren’t the best topics to discuss with other people, because things can get touchy and extremely hostile. Some can claim that religion has no place in black metal—think of the unblack metal debate that has emerged over the years—but then, they haven’t heard the eeriness of Gregorian chanting and the atmosphere of black metal combined to deliver one of the most mysterious albums to date. Black metal has evolved—and it’s turning the vernacular on its head.

What makes Batushka (“Holy Father” in English) enigmatic is how we know absolutely nothing about the band itself. All we had is this album, which makes this one of the most interesting things to come out in late 2015—and the album speaks volumes. The album is filled with all the black metal elements we have come to love, including the well-known blast beats and the deep, atmospheric droning that seems to now be a thing in post-black metal. Although the band is Polish, the language they are singing in is Church Slavonic, the language used in the Orthodox Church in parts of Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and some nations in the Balkan Peninsula. There may be also some strong political and ideological undercurrents coming from this album, due to the indications of Poland’s current state of affairs and the anti-Russia stance they have in their government.

The vocals here are not just the deep rasping we have seen in black metal; they include chanting in deep and high male voices and, in one song, there is a female voice. The chants are a nice touch to the screaming we hear throughout the album and accentuate the fact that more interesting instruments are being used. For example, you can hear the echo of ecclesiastical bells being used throughout the album, as well as some cleaning singing that seems to elicit chills. What’s even better is the elements of doom metal that seem to drone on, given the album an edge that has not been used. Even to the most unreligious sort of person, you have to admit that this album brings some sort of peace. You know that the brimstone is coming, but it isn’t going to hurt. It’s a sermon you have to hear—and you want to hear again.

All in all, this album is an excellent piece of work, filled with incredible instrumentality that elevates black metal to new heights. There is nothing quite like it, and it’s a refreshing thing to see in black metal. Black metal is evolving, and we can no longer deny that there is a place for religious overtones. Given the overwhelming positive response since it came out, this album now has a place in black metal, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will become a classic in due time.


Tagged with 2015, Batushka, black metal, doom metal, Hera Vidal, Witching Hour Productions

Friday, August 5, 2016

Russian Circles - Guidance

By Justin C. Russian Circles is now 10 years into their career, with six full lengths. An instrumental trio with just guitar, bass, drums, and the very occasional guest vocal appearance. So how do they manage to keep their sound so distinctly their own without making the same album over and over again?
By Justin C.


Russian Circles is now 10 years into their career, with six full lengths. An instrumental trio with just guitar, bass, drums, and the very occasional guest vocal appearance. So how do they manage to keep their sound so distinctly their own without making the same album over and over again? Is it just pure musical goodness? Yes, I'm going to go with that.

Guidance is an interesting choice for an album title, given that the cover art is a photo of a man being led to his own execution. Bassist Brian Cook's husband was given an envelope with a series of photos, with no explanation other than the enigmatic line, "I thought you should have these." We don't know if the man is a good guy or a bad guy, a political prisoner or a murderer, but it's hard not to hear a sense of defiance in this record after seeing that image of a man with his head held high, walking to his death.

I did a little more reading about this album than I usually do, but I found it interesting that Pitchfork's take was of a "more bad-ass Russian Circles" on this album, when my initial reaction was that it had some of their most delicate work to date on it. But in reality, it has both. The band has always been masters of dynamics. They don't pound you over the head with exhausting LOUDsoftLOUDsoft grinds like some bands in this genre do (*cough* Explosions in the Sky *cough*). Their swells and fades are well earned and well composed.

Photos by Caroline Harrison.

The first four tracks of Guidance merit special attention. They appear to be parts of one musical whole--there's no break between songs until the fifth track--so one's left to wonder if they're telling a story about the man on the cover, or something else entirely. All I know is that those tracks take me somewhere, and it's a place I want to stay. "Asa" is the delicate opener, with a faint tremolo riding over a simple but very effective plucked figure. At times, it put me in mind of Zeppelin's solo guitar works like "Black Mountain Side" or "Bron-Yr-Aur." Before you know it, though, the drums roll in like a thunderstorm and a sweeping riff comes in with "Vorel." "Mota" brings that defiant feeling again, with a very tasty staccato riff and a great moment when the bass steps out, loud and buzzing. "Afrika" rounds out this four-movement tour with cascades of sound and piercing melodies, giving you all the feels you need.

The rest of the tracks deserve this kind of attention, too, whether it's the abrasive dissonance in "Calla" or the doomy intro to "Lisboa," but song-by-song reviews can get tedious. So the bottom line: even if you think you're not a fan of instrumental music, or you have "all you need" with some of their contemporaries, just go buy this. Then listen. Then repeat with all their other albums.


Tagged with 2016, Caroline Harrison, Justin C, post-metal, rock, Russian Circles, Sargent House

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hollow Leg - Crown

By Karen A. Mann. With two full-length releases and one single under their belt, Jacksonville, Florida’s Hollow Leg have gained a significant following with their heavy-hitting brand of groovy sludge. Originally a guitar-and-drums duo, the band is now a well-honed quartet and a beast live.
By Karen A. Mann.

Album art by Maz Armageddon

With two full-length releases and one single under their belt, Jacksonville, Florida’s Hollow Leg have gained a significant following with their heavy-hitting brand of groovy sludge. Originally a guitar-and-drums duo, the band is now a well-honed quartet and a beast live. They were one of my personal highlights of the recent Maryland Doom Fest. On Crown, the band branches out, exploring their bluesy roots in surprising ways and adding a bit of psychedelic drama to their swampy brand of doom.

The first song, “Seaquake,” stomps out of the gate with a punching riff and gives the listener a good taste of what’s to be found on Crown. Singer Scott Angelacos angrily sings about cursing the flesh and shaking the sea in a Matt Pike-worthy bellow. Brent Lynch’s delay-drenched way guitar gives the song a spacey, psychedelic feel.

Photos by Karen

The remainder of the album sees the band alternately slow and lumbering, and angrily charging. They even go full acoustic on the instrumental “Atra,” which combines handclaps and a hypnotic blues riff in a spellbinding way. As might be expected from a band that operates in the same fertile ground that spawned both Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers, there’s always a heavy head-bobbing groove simmering underneath. All these ingredients blend together perfectly on what’s perhaps the album’s best song, “Seven Heads,” which mixes hypnotic hooks, a crushing rhythm and abrasive vocals.

Crown was released on CD in March by Italian label Argonauta Records. The song “Coils” also appears on Argonauta’s just-released summer sampler, Devouring the Mountains Vol. III.


Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Hollow Leg., Karen A. Mann, sludge metal

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Indie Recordings is label number 200

Bandcamp has grown a lot a since they began in 2008. As as small example of that growth just look at our Metal Labels On Bandcamp page. Back in 2011 I wrote an article for our rowdy, but big-hearted brothers at No Clean Singing
Bandcamp has grown a lot a since they began in 2008. As a small example of that growth just look at our Metal Labels On Bandcamp page. In 2011 I wrote an article for our older brother, the rowdy, but big-hearted No Clean Singing, called Black Goats and Candlelights: 10 Metal Record Labels on Bandcamp. Back then there was less than 20 labels on the list.

Now it's 2016, five years later, and Indie Recordings just became label number 200 to be added to the list! And the official opening of their Bandcamp page was even announced with a proper press release:
Founded in 2005, Indie Recordings is the home to a unique hard rock, hardcore, and metal roster. The label has released over 100 albums including recordings from Enslaved, Satyricon, 1349, Warduna, El Caco, Kvelertak, Cult Of Luna, and more. Pre-orders for new albums from King and Sahg will launch in the coming week.
Right now the page is a bit underwhelming with 24 albums and 64 singles (?). But look at the artists page; so many great bands there, surely a sign of good things to come. All that said, if you look around there are some good finds like this Enslaved live album from 2008, the latest from Gehenna, and my favorite Kampfar's Djevelmakt from 2014.


Keeping it in the family, Andy Synn from No Clean Singing wrote that "Kampfar are in the midst of an ongoing (and seemingly unstoppable) creative and critical renaissance", called Djevelmakt "ravenous" and bestowed it with this very fitting haiku review.

Hellish. Heroic.
Riffs that prowl like wolves. Blood red.
Pure as driven snow.

Listen and you will agree...



Note: In August you will get a free 26-song sampler with every full album purchase on the Indie Recordings Bandcamp.

Tagged with 2014, Indie Recordings, Kampfar, pagan black metal