November 29, 2017

Shooting Guns - Flavour Country

By Matt Hinch. You know why instrumental music is important? Without the distraction of someone else’s narrative your mind can open up and create its own story to which the music provides the soundtrack. Or conversely, the opened mind can
By Matt Hinch.


You know why instrumental music is important? Without the distraction of someone else’s narrative your mind can open up and create its own story to which the music provides the soundtrack. Or conversely, the opened mind can empty and simply let you drift into a state of mental suspended animation where no inner dialogue interferes with peace. How your mind chooses to handle riff wranglers Shooting Guns and their latest effort, Flavour Country surely depends on a number of factors but isn’t it worth a try? Just to see? C’mon. It’s cool, man! (Yes, I am peer pressuring you.)

Shooting Guns generally have two methods for propelling you into higher states. The first is a hard-driving heavy psych and the other is a more prairie-fed approach leaning on Americana (or Saskatchewana in this case). On Flavour Country’s six tracks we get a taste of both.

The first two tracks (“Ride Free”, "French Safe”) take the former approach. “Ride Free” show no signs of organ failure as Hammonds are all over this one, driving the free ride down an endless highway. It’s a common feeling one gets from Shooting Guns and their ability to take hold and whisk you away. Their video for “Go Blind” always comes to mind when they’re in this mode. Just rollin’ and rollin’, plowing through whatever they encounter. It’s a more apt visual for “French Safe” though as it crashes harder and faster. Enough so that you can picture the train outfitted Mad Max-style blasting through the lines in its scant 1:42.

“Beltwhip Snakecharmer” and “Vampires of Industry” are the more dusty sunset type tracks here. Laid back and breezy. They’re more chill than the first two for the most part. After the high octane beginning these two feel like you’re stopping for the night on some sort of trip. The setting sun, stillness of night, and soothing psych lead to bliss as guitars and keys dominate with relaxing atmosphere.

A clip from the movie Slackers sets up the album’s final third where the title track and “Black Leather Jacket” bring back the heavy. Heavy psych that is. As usual a base riff keeps the tracks cohesive as the psych-laden leads wander the plains filling mind and soul with images and landscapes. Muscles get loose and eyes get heavy as the slow burn takes hold. Total zoner. But Shooting Guns always find a way to heavy it up, even just for a little while.

The ever-prolific band does what they do again on this one. They stick to their strengths (fuzz, psych, atmosphere, and groove) and deliver another strong album ready to take a load off your mind. Welcome to Flavour Country.

Tagged with 2017, Matt Hinch, psychedelic rock, RidingEasy Records, Shooting Guns, stoner rock

November 25, 2017

Genevieve - Regressionism

By Justin C. When I wrote about Genevieve's last album, Escapism, I got a bit hung up on genre discussions. That point hasn't become any clearer on their new album, Regressionism, but I promised myself not to obsess about it this time.
By Justin C.


When I wrote about Genevieve's last album, Escapism, I got a bit hung up on genre discussions. That point hasn't become any clearer on their new album, Regressionism, but I promised myself not to obsess about it this time. Perusing the interwebs, you'll find them described with every combination of black, noise, grind, and sludge, but let's just agree that they play metal that sounds like ALL THE THINGS.

If anything, Regressionism finds the band expanding even further. The opening track, "Smoke," lulls you with clean guitars, heavy and low, before collecting itself into a hypnotizing doom with clean vocals. But at the halfway mark, all hell breaks loose and the track becomes a real stomper with exceptionally powerful vocals somewhere in the black/death spectrum. They make me feel like PUNCHING THE WORLD or falling to my knees and cursing somebody's god, sometimes both at the same time.

Most of the songs here embrace one or more kinds of dualities. "The Judge" roars through grindy dissonance while lower and higher screams trade off over slower and faster tempos. "William Blake," which is either about a criminal from America's Wild West or your favorite Romantic Age poet, is more compelling than any 11-minute song chock-full of switch-ups and hard turns has any right to be. Whether it be more clean, arpeggiated guitar riffs, a thunderous bottom end no doubt enhanced by the band's use of baritone guitar, or surprisingly emotive clean vocals over brutal eruptions, each section that should feel disjointed becomes one unified piece. Where most bands doing something like this would make me think, "Ugh, what's going to be next?" this band makes me think, "Wow! What's going to be next?" (You have to imagine the difference in tone of voice there, I suppose.)

Even though it's an outlier, I can't help talk about "Wind Chimes." This is a lovely interlude that uses acoustic guitars plucked in arrhythmic patterns to evoke wind chimes, although it's the set of wind chimes that comes with only dissonant intervals. (If I were more skilled, this is something I would craft by hand and annoy my neighbors with.) It would be fantastic on almost any album, metal or not, but Genevieve includes it because...why not? Expectations remain thoroughly subverted.

I said that I felt pulled along by Escapism, but this new album is even more compelling. Music like Genevieve's is more often an intellectual challenge more than emotional one, but I think they've managed both with Regressionism. It's a wonderful, weird ride that may suffer for publicity by coming out so late in the year, but here's hoping we see it on some year-end lists so it gets the attention it deserves.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, death metal, experimental, Genevieve, Grimoire Records, Justin C, noise

November 24, 2017

Thantifaxath - Void Masquerading as Matter

By Justin C. The new Thantifaxath EP, Void Masquerading as Matter, starts with a song called "Ocean of Screaming Spheres." That's all you need to know. Go buy it. O.K., fine, you want more details? I can help you out. This 35-minute "EP" finds
By Justin C.


The new Thantifaxath EP, Void Masquerading as Matter, starts with a song called "Ocean of Screaming Spheres." That's all you need to know. Go buy it.

O.K., fine, you want more details? I can help you out. This 35-minute "EP" finds Thantifaxath once again pushing the boundaries of their dissonant black metal, teetering between the abrasive and the downright chaotic. As with the transition from their self-titled debut to Sacred White Noise, the band makes more strides forward, although "outward" may be a better description. The jagged, off-kilter riffs are still here, as is the audible bass that anchors the songs without pushing too much bottom end. But there's also a new expansiveness. The previously mentioned opener transitions halfway through the song to a slow, somber piano line accompanied by a swarm of angrily buzzing insects. The bass eventually comes back, roughly mimicking the piano line, but ultimately leading into frenzied accelerandos and crescendos as the vocals become more and more desperate.

The second track, "Self-Devouring Womb," uses a similar sense of expansiveness. A mournful section of violin and acoustic guitar puts one in mind of the soundtrack of an old, black-and-white movie. There's a train platform, and the leading man is leaving the love of his life--maybe to join the front lines of World War II--but instead of a bittersweet and predictable ending, seeing the lovers reunite or the woman left behind to mourn him being killed in action, the man throws himself into the machinery of the train before it even leaves the station. Even Thantifaxath's quiet sections lead to a profound sense of unease.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

The performance and compositions are virtuosic--just check out the dizzying guitar lines that run up and down throughout "Cursed Numbers" and enjoy the warm, blissful feeling that comes from part of your brain being liquified and dripping out of your ears. This track is probably, at times, the most traditionally heavy hitting, but there are still bits of what I call in mind "evil twinkling" and a bassoon (or electronic equivalent) adding a plaintive line. The song refuses to be pinned down, nearly falling apart in the middle before moving to full blast again.

And then there's the closing title track--a seven-and-a-half minute choral piece. This isn't unprecedented for the band. The first track of their self-titled debut was also a choral piece, but this one pushes even further into the realms of the bizarre. It's as if the band took Mozart's Requiem and pushed it through some mathematical space just beyond human understanding. The song is punctuated by restless lines in the higher voices, occasionally contrasted with forceful blasts from the low vocalists. As with most of the album, there's often a sense of imminent closure coming up, perhaps in the form of a nice, consonant blast to offset the dissonance, but the song, and the album itself, drift off on a mysterious note rather than ending. A fitting end to another brilliant album for this band at the end of a bizarre, unsettling year.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Carmelo Española, Dark Descent Records, Justin C, Thantifaxath

November 23, 2017

Phlebotomized - Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact

By Hera Vidal. Phlebotomized is one of those cult bands that disappeared during the late 90’s, only to resurface 16 years later. Their music is what I can only describe as avant-garde, reminding me a lot of Ven Buens Ende and their classic Written in Waters.
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Patrick Van Der Zee

Phlebotomized is one of those cult bands that disappeared during the late 90’s, only to resurface 16 years later. Their music is what I can only describe as avant-garde, reminding me a lot of Ven Buens Ende and their classic Written in Waters. However, unlike Ven Buens Ende, Phlebotomized is much more approachable, less chaotic (to an extent), and much more enjoyable. While researching this band and album(s), I saw comparisons between Phlebotomized and Amorphis, and even listened to Tales from the Thousand Lakes to see whether the album had the same sound. I would consider Phlebotomized to be Amorphis’s more flamboyant Dutch cousin – they run in the same sonic circles, but Phlebotomized likes to experiment.

Now, Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact is actually a compilation of their classic albums, Immense Intense Suspense, released in 1994, and Skycontact, released in 1997. Because this is two albums in one, I will be focusing on one album at a time before giving my closing remarks on this compilation.

Of the two, Immense Intense Suspense is the most conventional – that is, it follows the true-and-tried of death-doom, but it does have some quirks to its music including touches of tech death in the guitar, acoustic tones used sparingly throughout the album, and an avant-garde vibe that comes out through the usage of keyboards. What makes the music work is actually the usage of a violin. There are moments were the main focus of the music is a heavy, sludgy guitar that really brings out the death metal. It can be heard throughout the album, warring with the violin, creating an intense wall of sound that doesn’t let up even during the quiet parts of the album. In fact, one can say that the album is focused around the violin, making sure it shines when it can. Throughout the album there's a suspense coming from not knowing what to expect, as it surprises you at every turn. It definitely sounds a lot different than what was available at the time, but, nowadays, you can find similar surprises in album from say, Oranssi Pazuzu or A Forest of Stars.

Skycontact, on the other hand, decided to throw much of the conventional metal out the window and go full avant-garde. Unlike the non-linear musical structure and lyricism that was used in Immense, Phlebotomized decided to fully embrace their quirky soundscape and their penchant for experimentation, forgoing the violin for the usage of synthesizers and fuzzy guitars. This leads to a cohesive structure of music that, while it can go from one place to another rather quickly, can still follow a set theme. One can claim that Skycontact is a full descent into madness and dreams, dense in its complexity and atmospheric in vocal usage. If Immense is the outside world, then Skycontact is Wonderland. The dreamlike atmosphere of this album is something to behold, fully embracing their quirks without losing all of their previous death-doom sound (see the delightfully titled “I Lost My Cookies in the Disco”).

All in all, Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact is a compilation album that provides ready access to a band’s discography that is highly niche and would need someone else to direct you to it. Depending on whom you ask, either album is polarizing yet accessible. Personally, of the two, I would suggest starting with Skycontact first, as I think it is the most accessible and enjoyable of the two. Given my penchant for progressive metal, that side of the compilation was easier to take in. Overall, the compilation is a great introduction into the avant-garde, and I fully recommend it to those who enjoy a little weird in their metal.


[Note: track 1-7 is Immense Intense Suspense. Track 8-13 is Skycontact.]
Tagged with 1994, 1997, 2014, avant-garde death metal, doom metal, Hammerheart Records, Hera Vidal, Phlebotomized

November 20, 2017

Archspire vs. Gigan

By Calen Henry. Technical death metal is a hard sell for me. Necrophagist's Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums but little else, save for Virvum and early Arsis has really grabbed me. I've investigated Necrophagist alumni's various projects
By Calen Henry.

Technical death metal is a hard sell for me. Necrophagist's Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums but little else, save for Virvum and early Arsis has really grabbed me. I've investigated Necrophagist alumni's various projects as well as other tech death royalty (Spawn of Possession, Beyond Creation, First Fragment, etc.) and though I like a lot of them, they mostly don't stick for me. It's ironic, then, that I'm writing a double tech death review for two albums released in the same month, but here we are. Maybe it's because they're both space metal....I do love space metal....

Artwork by Eliran Kantor.

What grabs me about Necrophagist is the successful juxtaposition of neo classical solos over top of filthy death metal riffs. Until Virvum took that template to space on Illuminance, adding synths and leaning on augmented arpeggios, not much else "post-necrophagist" had stuck with me. Archspire take all the parts I love about Virvum and Necrophagist and dial them up while also adding aspects I generally thought I didn't like about tech death; relentlessly fast drums and extreme extended range guitars. I like Relentless Mutation a lot. Archspire have won over this tech death cynic.

Archspire write songs. Above everything else that's what makes Relentless Mutation work. The riffs, solos and vocals all work together to create songs. Faster and more complex songs than most bands, but songs first. There's a flow to the songs that guides the listener through their whirlwind of musicianship. Plus, spacey synths and solos are always a good thing in my book.

The core of the sound is ridiculously fast riffs, inhuman drumming and ridiculous neo-classical solos. They even manage to utilize extended range guitars without coming anywhere close to the "inept Meshuggah" sound lots of bands end up with. Almost unique to Archspire, though, are vocals that keep pace with everything else. The lyric video for "Involuntary Doppelganger" is almost too fast to read. The vocal style will likely be polarizing but it suits the band and increases the cohesion of their sound.

I find Archspire are a bit too "up to 11" to be an all out win for me. Though Relentless Mutation is a stronger album than Illuminance and less overt Necrophagist worship, I personally prefer Virvum's approach because they really embrace the atmospheric side of their sound slowing things way down for long periods. That's not a criticism, though, merely my personal preference. Archspire are extremely talented and write amazing songs.

Given my general tech death cynicism, anyone looking for amazing, creative, neoclassical tech death that absolutely doesn't let up needs to check out Archspire. They've created one of two tech death albums to really grab me since 2005, and that's no mean feat.


Artwork by Dr.Winter.

Gigan sound like Gigan and only Gigan and Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence sounds like Gigan. The closest reference point would be Artificial Brain with a dash of Portal, but Gigan are the undulating, tentacled eldritch space horror to Artificial Brain's soot covered, smoke belching robot overlord. They're also the farthest thing from Archspire despite undeniably being technical death metal. Gigan are the antithesis of the tight tech death of both the neo-classical solo loving side of tech death and the complex dissonance of Gorguts and their myriad followers. They also predate the recent influx of WASDM (Weird-Ass Space Death Metal), having been releasing albums since 2008.

Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, and various other "Dissonant death metal" are something I usually appreciate but don't really actually want to listen to. I love Gigan, though. They are similar in sound but their approach is more organic; ebbing and flowing through ambient interludes, dissonant madness and massive headbanging riffs seemingly by feel rather than due to tightly constructed songs.

There's an almost lazy feeling to the flow largely due to the amazingly laid back drumming in the face of the buzzing guitar riffs. The drumming creates an overall groove that's unmatched by any other technical band and makes Gigan's flow seem effortless.

Interestingly, though the record features some of the most accessible WASDM riffs in tracks like "Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum" and "Ocular Wavelengths' Floral Obstructions", the album is bookended by two 10 minute tracks that hold nothing back and have no interest whatsoever in accessibility (one of them, "Wading Forwards Through Matter and Backwards Through Time" has to be in the top 5 track titles of 2017).

You have to want to get into Gigan and they don't seem to care if you don't. But they really are among the most accessible WASDM and my personal favourite. There's an addictive weirdness to Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence that keeps me coming back. Essential listening if you're up for the strangeness.

Tagged with 2017, Archspire, Calen Henry, Gigan, progressive death metal, Season of Mist, technical death metal, Willowtip

November 15, 2017

Auðn - Auðn

By Hera Vidal. Iceland has become known as one of metal’s most buzzed-about places, especially since their music scene is home to some of the biggest names in black metal right now. We know that Iceland’s climate serves as inspiration to the raw emotion
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Víðir 'Mýrmann' Þrastarson

Iceland has become known as one of metal’s most buzzed-about places, especially since their music scene is home to some of the biggest names in black metal right now. We know that Iceland’s climate serves as inspiration to the raw emotion behind the music, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that anything that comes out of Iceland is worthy of note. However, my preferences lie towards the atmospheric, so when I saw this album, I decided to take the plunge and listen to it.

Auðn is a relatively young band, having only released this album, but they already sound like pros. They are already set in the way they wanted to sound, and it shows. Everything about their musicianship sounds impressive, and it comes as no surprise that their atmosphere is one of the most noticeable things this album has to offer. Auðn’s atmosphere may be cold, but there is also some warmth that is offered to the listener. The warmth stems from the album’s melodic nature, which is strange considering how most atmospheric black metal is supposed to sound bleak and cold. However, the highly melodic sound and the bleak atmosphere provide a beautiful sound that makes it greater than itself. It literally takes the listener elsewhere, and transcends them to a place where they can forget about everything for a while. Given how this album is 36 minutes long, it seems Auðn thought it appropriate to make their debut succinct and enjoyable.

Now, another thing worthy of note is their production value. I try to not focus on production a lot, but their production is so clean and so well-done that one can’t help but notice how elevated it sounds. In my listening experience, black metal albums don’t have good production values, and, if they do, they tend to emphasize a part of their sound while staying relatively the same elsewhere. What Auðn has done is place emphasis on parts that are stressed throughout the tracks, but have also kept the album consistent—there are no stray notes or stray sounds. When these parts are stressed, you can hear all the different elements they have added into the layers of music—you can hear the deep bass, the clean vocals, and the syncopated drumming. For a band whose name translates to “wasteland”, there is nothing desolate or barren about anything this album has to offer. It’s beautiful and grand, which is a big statement coming from a young band.

In short, Auðn is a gem of an album that has a lot to offer and say in the span of 36 minutes. This feature makes the album digestible and enjoyable. The best part is that this album gets better with every listen, and you can always come back to it for comfort. I have a feeling we are going to see more from Auðn, and, when they do decide to release another album, I hope it is just as fantastic as this debut.

Tagged with 2014, atmospheric black metal, Auðn, Hera Vidal

November 12, 2017

Noothgrush / Corrupted split

By Craig Hayes. Bandcamp is a fantastic resource for discovering, acquiring and sharing mountains of neck-wrecking music. However, for whatever reasons, loads of formidable metal and punk bands are still either virtually or entirely absent
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Hal Rotter.

Bandcamp is a fantastic resource for discovering, acquiring and sharing mountains of neck-wrecking music. However, for whatever reasons, loads of formidable metal and punk bands are still either virtually or entirely absent from Bandcamp’s pages. One of the best of that bunch was cult Japanese sludge legends Corrupted. But label 20 Buck Spin recently remedied that issue by reissuing the band’s long out-of-print split release with Oakland, California sludge titans Noothgrush.

Corrupted and Noothgrush’s self-titled split hit like a war hammer when it was first released in 1997, and it remains a significant release in the annals of genuinely misanthropic sludge to this day. Rather than give the split a polish before its re-release, 20 Buck Spin handed the collaboration over to studio wizard Brad Boatright. His remastering adds a “fresh layer of tar” and ensures the split’s corrosive potential is maximised. And Hal Rotter provides new and fittingly grim artwork for Corrupted and Noothgrush’s split as well.

If I’m being honest, while the split is certainly intimidating –– and arguably even iconic –– its arrival on Bandcamp is also just a great opportunity to finally wax lyrical about Corrupted right here on Metal Bandcamp. (And if any label wants to upload the rest of Corrupted’s releases to Bandcamp, I’d be eternally grateful.)

Corrupted are notable (as much as any deliberately reclusive and recalcitrant underground band can be) for a number of reasons. First, since forming in Osaka in 1994, the band have avoided media-friendly antics, and they’ve maintained an aura of hermitic mystery about their status to this day. Second, most of Corrupted’s lyrics have been sung in Spanish –– although, English, German, and Japanese turn up too. Third, the band hues closer to a second wave punk group than a metal band in aesthetic terms, which isn’t too surprising given sludge’s origin story or the sheer number of filthy punk-informed metal bands in Japan. And lastly, much of Corrupted’s extensive discography is found on split releases with a wide range of sludge, doom and grindcore bands.

Musically, Corrupted are often staggeringly heavy. And they're always toxic in tone too. The band remain steadfastly wretched, even when exploring more ethereal pathways. And like a lot of other Japanese metal and punk bands –– see Church of Misery, Funeral Moth, G.I.S.M., Framtid, Disclose, and innumerable others –– Corrupted cut right to (and then rip out and expose) the visceral heart of their chosen subgenre. The band’s ultra-slow and doom-fuelled sludge is threaded with drone’s deepest, darkest and most mesmeric minimalism. But Corrupted are also an inherently belligerent band only too happy to upend expectations and deliver delicate or quickfire songs.

Corrupted’s punishing sound is primarily constructed of distorted and down-tuned guitars, guttural growls, and layers of feedback framing megalith riffs on often epic-length tracks. The band’s 1999 album, Llenandose de gusanos, featured two songs: a 50-minute doom and dirge number followed by a 74-minute ambient crawl. 2005’s El mundo frío featured a single and surging 72-minute track. And alongside those releases, albums like 1997’s Paso Inferior and 2011’s Garten der Unbewusstheit (the band’s most creatively subtle work yet) highlight Corrupted’s astute understanding of how to increase the audio torture and tension while also providing a crucial cathartic purge.

That’s all there on the band’s split with Noothgrush as well. The release might be two decades old, but age hasn’t tempered the palpable sense of intense loathing and then emotional exorcism that both Noothgrush and Corrupted display. The three songs on their split provide consummate lessons in nihilism, antagonism, and abject fucking misery. In fact, the release makes it readily apparent that bands like Noothgrush and Corrupted clearly schooled plenty of today’s sludge and doom miscreants in how to crush listeners in both psychological and musical terms.

Noothgrush sculpts a harsh, uninviting scene on opener “Hatred for the Species”. The track’s an animosity-filled haven for sonic masochists, but Noothgrush have no problem upping the ante with 14 minutes of “doomed psychosis” on the mind-mangling follow-up “Draize”.

Corrupted provide the split’s final 15-minute track, “Inactive”, which sees them dragging throat-slit barks and undulating sludge across a hypnotic hellscape. The track’s steadily grinding cadence pushes the raw and slow-baked sludge forward throughout. And if you’re a fan of the pioneering muck and murder of bands like Dystopia or Grief, then there’s a lot to love (in a very unhealthy way, of course) right here.

As the blurb on the Bandcamp page for Noothgrush and Corrupted’s uncompromising release points out, ‘doom metal’ means many things to many people nowadays. There's no question that the split is the antithesis of the kind of hip sludge and doom that wields “upbeat warm waves of ‘stoner’ riffs” made by bands wearing their “top dollar vintage tees”. Noothgrush and Corrupted deal in hatred, not hugs, and their split is a firm reminder of a time when underground sludge and doom combined a genuine sense of emotional devastation with withering levels of malice.

Tagged with 1997, 20 Buck Spin, Corrupted, Craig Hayes, doom metal, Noothgrush, sludge metal

November 9, 2017

Dynamic Metal - Round Two

By Calen Henry. The previous article in this series got good traction so I'm back with a few more bands that do more than just make great metal. They also make great sounding metal. Solstice play Epic Doom Metal, a genre that is really big in 2017.
By Calen Henry.

The previous article in this series got good traction so I'm back with a few more bands that do more than just make great metal. They also make great sounding metal.

Cover art by Harry Clarke.

Solstice play Epic Doom Metal, a genre that is really big in 2017. New Dark Age, though, was originally released in 1998 and the dynamic CD master is on Bandcamp. It measures in at DR 12 and absolutely crushes. Their epic, melodic medieval approach to doom can be heard in numerous newer bands. Darkest Era sound like Solstice + Primordial. Khemmis take epic doom and apply the "kitchen sink metal approach" to blending the genre. Bands like Atlantean Kodex simply sound like Solstice. Plus, their "archaic language about castles and monsters" approach is everywhere in metal now.

Apart from simply being fantastic doom metal New Dark Age is eally elevated by the folk influences. The riffs, vocals, and lyrics are extremely folky and the album features numerous fantastic tracks that are straight up folk songs with no metal whatsoever. This commitment to "folkiness" can make the vocals seem a bit off putting at first. There are some sections that feature harmonies not usually used in metal. Bands like Darkest Era have much more approachable vocal styles. But the vocals on New Dark Age complete the sound and after an acclimatization period I found myself to be a big fan.


Album art by Dymond Starr Austin.

Dreadnought play the proggiest metal to ever prog. They might be best described as "blackened prog rock" All the prog rock trappings are there. Their albums are an elemental cycle with the title track from their newest album being 17 minutes long. They use flute, piano, organ, and saxophone as well as lots of clean vocals. They mix that with vicious blast beats and snarled vocals.

Lifewoven is the first in their elemental cycle, being earth themed. It is also, unfortunately, the only dynamically mastered album in their catalog measuring DR 10. Bridging Realms (aether themed) and A Wake in Sacred Waves (water themed) are both excellent albums but they are not at all dynamically mixed both coming in at DR 5 and DR 6 respectively.

Lifewoven sets up Dreadnought's sonic template from which they don't much deviate on later albums. Long songs with complex multi layered sections flowing between prog rock and black metal. Though sounding nothing alike their long form immersive approach to songwriting brings to mind Elder, and is part of why I like both bands so much.


Album artwork by KolaHari.

Æther Realm are part of an amorphous wave of new American (and Canadian) metal taking influence from myriad styles but always with a bit of melodeath, folk, and black metal. Thrawsunblat play the blackest version of it, Wilderun are the folkiest, and Xanthochroid are the most symphonic and cinematic.

Æther Realm, hailing from North Carolina, exhibit the strongest melodeath links but mix it with black metal, a bit of folk, a symphonic edge, and phenomenal production. The master for Tarot is DR 10 and it sounds incredible. The drums, in particular are punch of give the music a great visceral quality, like Vainaja (though sounding almost nothing like them). The mix doesn't emphasize guitars over other instruments so everything comes through wonderfully.

Tarot is an album that piqued my interest on production but really sells the music as well. The musicianship and composition are excellent as well and improved, rather than hampered by production.



Dead Congregation's Promulgation of the Fall is a modern old school death metal classic. It also sounds terrible. It's incredibly dynamically compressed (DR 4), to the album's detriment. Amazingly they followed it up with a two song EP that incredibly dynamic (DR 12). It's also, unsurprisingly, excellent. Hitting a sound between Ominous Circle and Vainaja. Worth a look for any death metal fans wanting great sound to go with great music.


Artwork by Anni Buchner.

Ruff Majik sound like The White Stripes weaned on stoner rock. The vocals are very "Jack White" and the music has the same frantic raw feel of early White Stripes but with a metric tonne of fuzz. The band also records their material live in studio which gives the music an organic spontaneous feel at the expense of some fidelity. So far the band has a trilogy of animal themed EPs and are working through releasing four parts of an album to coincide with the change in seasons. They're South African, though, so the season changes are opposite to what us northerners are used to. Of their catalog The Swan appears to be the only release with a dynamic (DR 12) master, but musically it's all great.

Tagged with 1998, 2013, 2016, 2017, Æther Realm, Calen Henry, Dead Congregation, death metal, Dreadnought, epic doom metal, folk metal, free download, melodic death metal, progressive rock, Ruff Majik, Solstice, stoner rock

November 6, 2017

Sol Sistere - Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum

By Hera Vidal. I have had my run-ins with Chilean metal over the years and they are probably best known for their thrash metal, given both the speed of the music and the freedom the subgenre gives them for creating music.
By Hera Vidal.


I have had my run-ins with Chilean metal over the years and they are probably best known for their thrash metal, given both the speed of the music and the freedom the subgenre gives them for creating music. In this scene, a lot of bands wish to reach some mainstream prominence, whether it is getting signed to a major label (prior to their split, Mar de Grises was signed to Season of Mist) or being well-known around the world (Pentagram Chile comes to mind due to the underground tape trading circuit). However, some of the best bands are actually underground.

I used to have a silence manifestation
Directly outwards explodes your mind
When you reset your reality
Mind destruction is the authority

Sol Sistere is one of those underground black metal bands that already have so much experience in the Chilean metal scene, given how all of its members have been in bands prior to this one. However, what makes this band—and this album!—stand out is just how ballsy they are with their music. Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum sounds like an atmospheric black metal album, but it has the ferocity of classic black metal that doesn’t let you go away. However, unlike classic black metal, where anger seems to be the default emotion that can be heard, there is a sadness that shrouds the music. “Death Knell” sounds like a death tone, something you play to let everyone know that someone has died.

From that point, the music just seems to get sadder with each track, although the emotional range that is found within each track is something of note. For example, “Sight of the Oracle” starts off with constant guitar picking and backing bass before launching into a flurry of desperation that takes over the track. However, it quickly goes back to that atmospheric quality that we see a lot of in black metal and it makes sure to bring that emotional range back to peak. The vocals here are a work of art; they are not overwhelming and are thought to be more of an accent piece. Because of it, the focus is usually on the music and the atmosphere it brings to the listener. If you don’t feel something at the end of it, then you need to listen to this again.

Despite all of this, there is something that Sol Sistere lacks before they can be considered to be one of those classic metal bands. The problem with reaching peak during an album is that it doesn’t offer something new in the music. One of the faults of atmospheric black metal is the fact that the music can drone on forever without anything changing its structure or its tone. In such cases, atmospheric black metal should value quality over quantity. However, despite its constant musical structure, Unfading has the emotional backing to make this one of the most enjoyable albums I heard in 2016.

All in all, Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum demands your attention with its brand of straightforward, atmospheric black metal and emotional range. There are moments where the album flatlines a bit, but it picks up and continues to soldier on. This band is young, and I do have high hopes for them as they continue to specialize in black metal. They may be called South America’s best-kept black metal secret, but they still have a lot to prove to everyone. Kudos to Sol Sistere!

Tagged with 2016, atmospheric black metal, Hammerheart Records, Hera Vidal, Sol Sistere

November 3, 2017

Nomasta - House of the Tiger King

By Calen Henry. Nomasta take their most clear influences from interesting places. They sound like a mix of High on Fire and early Mastodon; between the slightly dissonant angular riffs of Remission and the more polished filth of Leviathan.
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Steve Myles

Nomasta take their most clear influences from interesting places. They sound like a mix of High on Fire and early Mastodon; between the slightly dissonant angular riffs of Remission and the more polished filth of Leviathan. Given that the members of Mastodon reportedly met at a High on Fire concert it's and interesting and fitting mix of influences.

One of Nomasta's biggest strengths is the ability to really get at the feel of both bands without sounding like they are outright copying. They mix the thrashy stoner stomp of High on Fire, as well as eerily Matt Pike-like vocals, with the monolithic rolling riffs and the coiling serpentine leads of Mastodon but all the riffs are their own, paying homage rather than copying. The result is a straightforward sounding record that belies the underlying complexity, much like the bands they draw influence from.

With those primary influences House of the Tiger King is unsurprisingly loud and riff filled. But melody runs through the whole record. From the angular melody of their Mastodon worship through the more straightforward metal riffs and the melodic flourishes layered over top they expertly inject melody into the heaviest sections. That's coupled with soaring fuzz-drenched dual guitar leads, reminiscent of Blue Record era-Baroness.

In the present golden era of prog metal, Nomasta also stand out by not sounding particularly "proggy". For me they don't quite reach the heights of Dvne's Asheran for "Mastodon torchbearers". But their more straightforward approach will likely win them the type of old Mastodon fans that fell out of love around Blood Mountain or Crack the Skye and don't go for Dvne or other overtly progressive doom.

Tagged with 2017, Calen Henry, Nomasta, sludge metal

October 31, 2017

Beyond Grace - Seekers

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. Once more, I return from the void that is adult life and parenthood to discuss a particularly appealing and intriguing musical work. Today, we examine Seekers
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Artwork by Michael Cowell

Greetings and salutations, friends. Once more, I return from the void that is adult life and parenthood to discuss a particularly appealing and intriguing musical work. Today, we examine Seekers, the relatively recent release from Nottingham's own Beyond Grace. I say relatively because Seekers has been out for several months, but I've been otherwise preoccupied and so it has taken me much longer than I'd prefer to work up a proper review.

Beyond Grace are something of a modern-style technical death metal band, although the label itself is unduly restrictive. Technical death metal may be a large part of the foundation of the band's sound, but it's heavily dosed with melodic, progressive, and blackened aspects of death metal. Now, I know what you are likely thinking: there are a lot of bands out there that meld these styles together, and so it gets harder and harder for a band to stand out, so why should you give Beyond Grace your precious listening time? And you are correct, the modern technical/melodic/progressive/blackened death metal scene has become incredibly saturated in the past several years. It's not enough for a band to possess a great deal of technical skill, because there are a hundred other bands full of chaps filling their songs with fleet-fingered arpeggios and mind-melting scales. It's not enough to have a drummer who can change tempos on a dime. It's not enough to have a bassist who can simultaneously underscore the riffs and provide an adventurous counter-melody.

And that brings me to Beyond Grace's true strength, which is their songwriting. They clearly have the elements I just mentioned, like many bands, but those talents are often wasted on disjointed, uninteresting songs that exist more as a collection of technically impressive but ultimately monotonous musicality. Beyond Grace, on the other hand, understand and value the importance of restrained and cohesive songwriting, and that's the true heart of Seekers. There are moments of absolute ferocity, instances of brilliant technicality, but there is always a sense of control, which lets the band take on mid-tempo material effectively, something a lot of technical death metal bands struggle with.

It helps that the album sounds immaculate. Sometimes this can lead to a feeling of sterility, of inhuman mechanality (I'm not sure if that's actually a word, but it is now), but there's a sense of power in Seekers' production that keeps the listener grounded. Vocalist Andy Walmsley alternates deep guttural roars with higher-pitched screams with ease, yet his vocals remain intelligible enough that the lyrics can be understood. Guitarist Tim Yearsley shows a knack for laying down bruising riffs and intoxicating melodies, while bassist Andrew Workman intertwines his own melodies, granting the songs additional depth. The backbone of it all is drummer Ed Gorrod, whose nimble style sees him switching tempos seamlessly while adding texture to the songs with his fills and footwork.

The lyrics are one of the highlights of the album, thanks to the writing of Walmsley. You may know him as Andy Synn, a longtime writer for No Clean Singing, and his work as a writer serve him well, granting his words an intelligence that elevates Seekers even further above many of their contemporaries. One of my personal favorite details is that the track "Apoptosis" is heavily influenced by Jeff VanderMeer's brilliant novel Annihilation, the first book in the deeply unsettling Southern Reach trilogy. Moreover, Walmsley reached out to VanderMeer and got his permission to use some excerpts from the book in the lyrics. It's a wonderful touch on an already excellent song.

In some ways, Seekers is linked in my mind with Blood of the Prophets' album The Stars of the Sky Hid from Me (reviewed by yours truly here). Both bands are stellar examples of how the ability to write coherent, intriguing songs can help a band stand out among similar sounding bands. Seekers is a labor of love from a hard-working band, and the attention to detail paid to these songs is what makes them truly shine. I simply cannot recommend this album highly enough. Beyond Grace have established themselves as a band to be reckoned with.

Tagged with 2017, Beyond Grace, death metal, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

October 27, 2017

Podcast of Death: Ingurgitating Oblivion Interview

By Bryan Camphire. Welcome to the Podcast of Death, the first (but hopefully not last) podcast on Metal Bandcamp. In our inaugural episode Bryan interviews Florian Engelke from Ingurgitating Oblivion, a death metal band from Germany.
By Bryan Camphire.


Welcome to the Podcast of Death, the first (but hopefully not last) podcast on Metal Bandcamp. In our inaugural episode Bryan interviews Florian Engelke from Ingurgitating Oblivion, a death metal band from Germany. Their latest album, Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light, is unlike any other record you'll hear this year, and it is excellent. Florian, the mastermind behind Ingurgitating Oblivion, was kind enough to speak to our intrepid reporter via Skype to answer some questions about his unique vision of music.

Visions... is a collection of four long-form tunes that are packed with dynamics. The heavy sections are chock full of unorthodox guitar harmony and blistering convulsive rhythms. The guitar uses a lot of sustain - letting notes ring out for several beats, which is a technique more common to doom rather than death metal. Interestingly, the rhythm section keeps churning and pummelling throughout, giving the music an almost seasick off kilter feeling like an uproarious crashing sea amidst a horrible storm.

The above quote is from Bryan's review of Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light. You can read the rest, and listen to the album, right here.

Tagged with 2017, Bryan Camphire, death metal, Ingurgitating Oblivion

October 20, 2017

Yellow Eyes - Immersion Trench Reverie

By Justin C. I've always had an interesting listener-band relationship with Yellow Eyes. I jumped on board with their 2013 full-length, Hammer of Night, but not without some resistance. It's entirely possible I'm developing synesthesia
By Justin C.


I've always had an interesting listener-band relationship with Yellow Eyes. I jumped on board with their 2013 full-length, Hammer of Night, but not without some resistance. It's entirely possible I'm developing synesthesia, but Yellow Eyes' sound is abrasive in an almost physically tactile way. Describing metal music often involves figurative physical descriptions of head-snapping and gut-punching, but Yellow Eyes sometimes seems like they're trying to scrape the outer layer of my epidermis off. I resist it at first, sometimes finding it a bit too hard to listen to, but then I end up listening to each new album 17 times in a row.

And that remains true on their new album, Immersion Trench Reverie. I really loved Sick with Bloom, which our own Mr. Sunyata described thusly: "Whorls and eddies of dense melodic alchemy evoke the nofucksgiving of Weakling, while skirting the esoteric inhumanity of Krallice." That certainly applies to Immersion, and I'd have a hard time topping that description, but I'll see what I can do.

Immersion Trench Reverie lacks some of the immediacy that I felt with Sick with Bloom, but that's not a knock on either album. Immersion is dense, dissonant, and difficult, but every time I thought I might take a break from it, I felt pulled back. I started to crave that low-fi-but-not-really esthetic, scratching an itch somewhere in my brain. I needed to hear the contrapuntal riffs that open up "Shrillness in the Heated Grass," punctuated by Will Skarstad's pained shrieks. Or the quiet acoustic instruments that open "Blue as Blue," only to give way to layers of distorted guitar I'd call "lush" if they didn't retain so much of their harsh edge.

The visual imagery invoked by the song titles and lyrics are another fascinating facet of the music. The album title brings to mind the trench warfare of World War I (when the term "trench foot" came into use to describe the horrible damage done to the feet of soldiers constantly standing in cold water), while "Velvet on the Horns" of course brings to mind deer shedding the fuzzy outer coating of their horns--often by scraping them against trees--in preparation for rutting season and stag battle. "Velvet" was the only song I had lyrics to at the time of this writing, and the lyrics manage to be evocative and oblique at the same time. The song opens with the stanza

Overnight
Or was it not
Green ragged cloth had fallen
On the path
The way I took had velvet on the horn

Certainly sounds woodsy, but the later lyrics go in almost a suburban direction:

Imagine that a propane tank
When squarely struck
Becomes a bell
Yet huddles by the driveway in the cold

Why do I suddenly have melancholy feelings for an anthropomorphized propane tank? What is this black metal witchery?

Kim Kelly summed up Sick with Bloom in her 2015 year-end list as simply "The future of American black metal." I agree wholeheartedly, and that makes Immersion the beguiling next step into that promising future.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Justin C, Yellow Eyes

Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

By Justin C. If you peruse the metal interwebs, you probably already know the headlines about the new Bell Witch album, Mirror Reaper. It's one song, and it's nearly an hour and a half long. This sprawling piece is, for the most part
By Justin C.

Artwork by Mariusz Lewandowsk.

If you peruse the metal interwebs, you probably already know the headlines about the new Bell Witch album, Mirror Reaper. It's one song, and it's nearly an hour and a half long. This sprawling piece is, for the most part, composed and played by just two members on drums, bass, and occasional organ. In lesser hands, this could devolve into a droning, aimless mess, but Mirror Reaper is as far from that as it could be. It's an enveloping experience that you have to surrender yourself to.

Trying to give you some minute-by-minute breakdown wouldn't give you a great idea of the whole, and it would probably bore you to tears, but there are a couple of things worth nothing. Some vocals are recordings done by former member Adrian Guerra, who passed away during the writing of this album. This is funeral doom, so it's going to lean toward the sad side, but knowing that going into the album, it's hard not to hear that current of loss. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention what happens at about the 53-minute mark. Guest vocalist Erik Moggridge adds pure, aching clean vocals that run throughout the rest of the song. They're understated, almost to the point where you feel like you're eavesdropping on someone singing to themselves in another room, but they're as powerful as any scream.

Bell Witch 2015. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

And of course you do get harsh vocals, along with the bass guitar doing double duty as the carrier of the melody and thundering bottom ends. Quiet sections that are almost barely there alternate with mountain-crumbling heaviness. It's an amazing amount of sound and passion to be made by just two people with (primarily) only two instruments. If you were a fan of Four Phantoms, as I was, then you have a general idea of what kind of sounds to expect. What you won’t expect is just how massive this album is, well beyond what the runtime might suggest.

I've seen arguments that Mirror Reaper is just several songs smushed together, but I beg to differ. My primary listenings to this album were in the car during long drives, which was the only way I could immerse myself in this with minimal distraction (save for the occasional motorist trying to kill me, but I live in Massachusetts, after all). It's possible I'm willing to buy this as a single composition because that's what the band told me it is, but I honestly don't think that's it. It feels like it's all of a piece. I'd liken the experience to floating in a sometimes-calm, sometimes-tempestuous body of water, absorbing waves of emotion--loss, defiance, and the swelling joy of hearing music so well done.

Yes, you're going to have to sit with this and listen to it, and at its running length, it's a big ask for music listeners who have a million distractions and other streams to click on. You can't listen to 0:00 to 13:47, then come back to it a few hours later and listen up to 28:57. You're depriving yourself of a large amount of its power by breaking it up. You miss the arc, the repeating melodic motifs, and the sheer expanse of the thing. I'm asking a lot, but I urge you to give it that time and allow yourself to be as moved as I was by this masterpiece.

Tagged with 2017, Bell Witch, funeral doom metal, John Mourlas, Justin C, Profound Lore Records, sludge metal

October 18, 2017

Antiversum - Cosmos Comedenti

By Bryan Camphire. The time has come for Antiversum to rear their ugly head once again on Invictus Productions. They're here to deliver their debut long player, Cosmos Comedenti (Cosmos Eater in Latin). The title is full of portent
By Bryan Camphire


The time has come for Antiversum to rear their ugly head once again on Invictus Productions. They're here to deliver their debut long player, Cosmos Comedenti (Cosmos Eater in Latin). The title is full of portent: we've got some nihilistic music on our hands. Glistening obsidian adorns the cover, confirming any and all suspicions: this is oppressively heavy material of elemental depredation.

Antiversum adopts a sound that is well-defined and make it their own. You'd be forgiven for comparing them to Portal; the influence is palpable. However, Antiversum is no mere simulacrum of the gods. The band stands tall because they write great songs. Would Portal exist if not for Morbid Angel? Asking such questions is only useful in illuminating how pathways have been paved for new ideas over time. When all is said and done, solid songwriting is what's tantamount to transcending one's influences. Cosmos Comedenti is an expertly crafted work that continuously beckons the listener back for more.

The first minute of the record sounds like gathering gloom on a hopeless night. This is before Antiversum have even struck a note. "Antinova" is the name of the tune in question. It's a made up word, perhaps referring to some kind of cosmic increase of darkness. How fitting for a record about eating the universe.

Antiversum comes ripping through space like a nemesis to heavenly bodies all and sundry. A churning rhythm locks into place, throwing all equilibrium out of orbit. Ghostly whispers enshroud the atmosphere in a thick putrid all-encompassing fog. Stars blink out. Fear sets in. Unwholesome melodies smear the senses. "Antinova" winds down and things get stranger still. Guitars scratch through the black, opening up the landscape like a wound. This gaping maw murmurs forth a remembrance: This is not a dream.

Cosmos Cemedenti clocks at thirty eight minutes with four tracks. It's a succinct offering, one that sticks with you long after the music stops. Invictus Productions have put out some of the darkest metal to be heard this year. The first proper full length by Antiversum is a formidable addition to the roster of this fiendish imprint.

Tagged with 2017, Antiversum, blackened death metal, Bryan Camphire, Invictus Productions

October 13, 2017

Altarage - Endinghent

By Bryan Camphire. The more I listen to this record the more I want to turn it up. Bilbao's Altarage have delivered another scorcher of a release, and repeated listens can feel like witnessing the spreading of wildfire.
By Bryan Camphire.


The more I listen to this record the more I want to turn it up. Bilbao's Altarage have delivered another scorcher of a release, and repeated listens can feel like witnessing the spreading of wildfire. The band has upped the ante for themselves on Endinghent, their second proper full length in as many years. The record plays on the strengths that made their debut Nihl so remarkable, and makes everything meaner. This is caustic death metal played on a colossal scale.

Opener "Incessant Magma" gets right to it. Searing guitars are tremolo picked as the rhythm section pounds out a violent undulating dirge. It erupts white hot and blots out everything in its wake. Endinghent is a record that makes you want to throw up your fists while it pulls you under, deep into its pyroclastic flow. Still, for all of the band's vivid roiling might, it's the excellent song writing that keeps the listener coming back. The tunes each possess a distinct individuality, and there is not a dull cut in the batch.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

What makes Endinghent a meaningful record is its ability to deliver hopeless blackened death metal in a fresh way. Altarage add a secret ingredient to their ominous sound—something which has made metal so engaging since its inception, something that has a tendency to get subjugated in the name of innovation. Simply put, they play riffs that make you want to headbang.

All of the instruments possess this propulsive quality. And yet the playing is never formulaic, always nuanced. The rhythm section changes things up often enough to keep things from getting predictable, yet still manages to grind out rhythms that make you want to break stuff. The guitars come across like parasitic cordyceps worming their way into your brain and dominating your thoughts and feelings. Unique unexpected chord choices open the music up at intervals. The sinking spiraling entropy never lets up.

Endinghent triumphs as a work of meticulously calculated order that gives way to an outpouring of raw, cataclysmic fury. It infiltrates and takes control. All the while, this music breeds virulent destruction like a nemesis bent on stopping overpopulation. Listen to Endinghent and bang your head as the world burns.

Tagged with 2017, Altarage, black metal, Bryan Camphire, death metal, Pedro Roque

October 6, 2017

Spirit Adrift - Curse of Conception

By Calen Henry. There's a bit of a doom renaissance going on. Bands like Crypt Sermon are carrying the traditional doom torch alongside the likes of Monolord and Elder; deep down the rabbit holes of their own sound.
By Calen Henry.


There's a bit of a doom renaissance going on. Bands like Crypt Sermon are carrying the traditional doom torch alongside the likes of Monolord and Elder; deep down the rabbit holes of their own sound. Meanwhile Khemmis, Pallbearer, and Dvne are pushing the boundaries of the genre by incorporating myriad other influences. Nate Garrett's solo doom outfit Spirit Adrift burst onto that crowded scene last year with the impressive and impressively traditional Chained to Oblivion. A year later, backed by a full band, he follows it with Curse of Conception.

By sticking close to traditional doom Spirit Adrift show what's possible within its confines. The songwriting and playing are incredibly varied but extremely cohesive. In almost complete antithesis to bands like Monolord, Curse of Conception is a barrage of riffs, acoustic interludes, and dual guitar leads. Never really leaving the confines of doom, Spirit Adrift nonetheless push them. The varied tempos and searing solos edge into traditional metal territory but it always comes back to the doom.

It's stand-out riff after stand-out riff; from the legato stomp of "Curse of Conception" through its major key change outro (also beautifully employed on "Spectral Savior"), into the very Pallbearer'y (and very excellent) intro to "To Fly on Broken Wings" and through the mandolin/synth intro on "Wakien". Then, saving the heaviest for last, the absolutely obliterating "Onward, Inward".

The riff madness is all anchored by Garrett's soulful vocals. I initially found the vocals to be the album's weak point; Garrett isn’t the most technical singer but ultimately his vocals really complete the band's sound. They are mostly clean with just a bit of "grungey" grit and are delivered with absolute conviction. Like with many great bands, anything he may lack in technical skill is more than made up for in the commitment with which he sings. He sells every note.

Fans of Khemmis and Pallbearer absolutely cannot miss Curse of Conception. Softer than Hunted, more traditional than Heartless and as crushing as it is gorgeous, it elevates Spirit Adrift to new heights making the doom darling duo a triumvirate. A traditional doom record this good in 2017, with such strong competition, is a jaw dropping achievement. Unless you hate melody do not miss this record.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2017, Calen Henry, doom metal, Spirit Adrift

September 28, 2017

Pantheon of Blood - Tetrasomia

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Finnish underground black metallers Pantheon of Blood have chosen to explore the conceptual potential of the four alchemical elements in their latest EP, the blistering Tetrasomia. Over the four tracks
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


Finnish underground black metallers Pantheon of Blood have chosen to explore the conceptual potential of the four alchemical elements in their latest EP, the blistering Tetrasomia. Over the four tracks, Pantheon of Blood touch upon the four corresponding elements: air, fire, water and earth. While still a harsh and acerbic album, especially when it comes to the vocals, which are as dry and withered in tone as they are icily intense in delivery, Tetrasomia is a more melodic effort than 2011's Consociatio Solis et Lunae. There's warmth and trembling vitality to the instrumentation that allow moments of softness and vulnerability to penetrate the darkness. This focus on melody, as well as clearer production values, also allows Pantheon of Blood to display their musical skillset more effectively, such as the sinuous, supple guitar leads on "Monta Maailmaa Nähnyt." A succinct, tight EP with a strong conceptual framework and solid execution, Tetrasomia is a refreshing black metal album that still adheres to the principles of an old-school aesthetic.

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Natalie Zina Walschots, Pantheon of Blood

September 26, 2017

Monolord - Rust

By Calen Henry. In fine Swedish tradition Monolord's sound starts with a Boss guitar pedal. The Boss Hyperfuzz is the backbone of their world crushing sound. Its extremely aggressive fuzz paired with their mammoth riffs has become instantly recognizable.
By Calen Henry.


In fine Swedish tradition Monolord's sound starts with a Boss guitar pedal. The Boss Hyperfuzz is the backbone of their world crushing sound. Its extremely aggressive fuzz paired with their mammoth riffs has become instantly recognizable. Through three records in four years Monolord has maintained their core sound while evolving their musical approach.

Empress Rising was a meditative psychedelic introduction to their fuzzed out instrumentals and reverb-drenched vocals. An exercise in riffery off the highest order, they established their early mastery of long form doom. The production, though, was unpleasantly modern; almost completely void of dynamic range. With Vænir they moved their sound a bit more retro; opening, up the dynamics and adding an ominous Sabbathian edge to the songs. For me, though, it lacked some of the meditative magic of the longer songs from Empress Rising.

Rust sees them split the difference musically between the first two records but with better production than both, making it unequivocally the best Monolord record so far. In a year of stellar doom records (Pallbearer, Elder, Ordos, Loss, Dvne) I was skeptical that Monolord's comparatively simple approach would continue to yield solid material. But Rust stands out because of that, not in spite of it, by tweaking their formula rather than reinventing it to deliver a truly jaw dropping "traditional stoner doom" record. There are a few twists; guitar solos, an organ intro on the title track and a beautiful violin solo at the end of "Wormland" but it's mostly just Monolord doing Monolord the best they ever have.

The production clinches the album's doom supremacy. It's actually difficult to go back to their previous two albums because Rust sounds so much better. The added dynamic range and the organic production makes every part of every song shine.

Most of the songs on Rust are simply composed and performed but the composition is excellent. In contract to previous albums, though, the vocals this time around are as memorable as the riffs. There is something magical about Monolord's sublime monotony; the specific combination of fuzz, riffs, and vocals that's perfected on this record. Their riffing is so visceral that they can get away with the same riff for minutes at a time.

The album closer, "At Niceae" is 15 minutes long and features about four riffs, yet it's a standout track. The riffs and transitions are flawless. At the half way point it dramatically shifts to solo electric guitar, gradually building and adding slide guitar before a lovely acoustic outro. It's the longest example on the album of Monolord's absolute command of flow and composition but the whole album is a showcase for it with nary a superfluous moment regardless of track length.

Monolord have finally realized the promise of their first two records, one of the purest distillations of Sabbathian doom, and I would not be surprised if this ends up becoming my favourite doom record of all time.

Tagged with 2017, Calen Henry, doom metal, Monolord, RidingEasy Records, stoner metal

September 22, 2017

Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

By Justin C. If you've read anything about Chelsea Wolfe's new album, Hiss Spun (and you probably have), you've probably heard that this is one of her heaviest records. That was my first impression, too. There are plenty of doomy riffs
By Justin C.


If you've read anything about Chelsea Wolfe's new album, Hiss Spun (and you probably have), you've probably heard that this is one of her heaviest records. That was my first impression, too. There are plenty of doomy riffs right from the first song, and by the third song, "Vex," you've been treated to guest-growler Aaron Turner, who's been in a couple of popular bands you might know. But the more I listened, the more I questioned whether a bit more distortion really means "heavier." She's always been heavy, in impact if not in actual decibel levels.

I think Chelsea Wolfe's dark music and heart-on-sleeve vocals have long appealed to metal fans regardless of how heavy the instrumentation behind her is. I know that when I got back into listening to metal, it was in part a reaction to the "all ironic, all the time" indie rock scene at the time that I'd grown truly bored of. I wanted a bit of emotional authenticity, and although there are plenty of metal bands that you need to take with a grain of salt, you can certainly find authentic bands putting their all into the music. Wolfe does that, too, and it's been a constant through her catalog.

Photos by Michael Lamertz.

Hiss Spun is no different, except that it might be even more raw in its own way. Wolfe's lyrics may be sketches of stories rather than tales plainly told, but lines like, "I'll never tell the secrets of my family" in "The Culling" will provoke an immediate, visceral reaction for most. The track's early minimalism eventually erupts into heavier fare, signaled by a bass drum hit and a horror movie-soundtrack guitar sound. The underlying tension never goes away, though.

"16 Psyche" is another track that immediately grabbed me. On its face, the song title sounds like an address for a mental institution, but a little Googling reveals that it's actually the name of an asteroid. There's no denying the immediately gripping vocals and compelling melody lines, though. No matter how much fuzz that's added, Wolfe's vocals will always be the beating heart of this project, and the fact that her voice is so versatile--moving from whispers to full-throated croons, and making ever-so-slight changes in timbre, like in the surprising acoustic-turned-bombast track "Two Spirit"--reminds you of what a joy it is to hear someone who has full command of her instrument. Every person who watches singing competitions on TV and equates "LOUD" with "good" would do well to take a listen.

Photos by Michael Lamertz.

On "Two Spirit" and several other songs, I found myself thinking that some of the guitar work had a late-90s/early-00s sound, and that's likely due to the present of Troy Van Leeuwen, guitarist in A Perfect Circle, Failure, and Queens of the Stone Age. The interesting contributions don't end there. Along with Mr. Turner, Wolfe's long-term collaborator Ben Chisholm adds all manner of sound and texture. In a recent Decibel interview he talks about how the sound of a tractor bucket dragging along the ground became the inspiration for the album-closer "Scrape." At times it's a downright scary tune, with Wolfe piercing through the noise with lines like "I don't need your help / or you hindrance / You stay the fuck away from me."

Going into this review, I had it in my head that although I liked the last album, Abyss, I found myself going back to Pain Is Beauty more often because the album felt more direct. Hiss Spun feels like a merging of those two worlds. Some songs want to reach out and touch your cheek (or grab you by the throat), and others unspool more slowly, rewarding repeat listens. I hope this album finds Wolfe getting more, well-deserved attention, because it's a dark gem.

Tagged with 2017, Chelsea Wolfe, doom metal, Justin C, Sargent House