December 24, 2014

Entombed - Left Hand Path

[Metal Bandcamp is taking a week off, the next post will be on New Years Eve. Until then here's another Autothrall Classic, featuring his review of a truly seminal death metal album. I hope you all get to enjoy the holidays the way you want
[Metal Bandcamp is taking a week off, the next post will be on New Years Eve. Until then here's another Autothrall Classic, featuring his review of a truly seminal death metal album. I hope you all get to enjoy the holidays the way you want - I give you my left hand holiday cheers.]

Cover art by Dan Seagrave

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhhh!!! Who could forget that opening to an album, as the horror chords of a synthesizer part ways like a funeral and the ears begin to rupture to some of the sickest, ooziest guitar tone that has ever been recorded emits from the speakers. Entombed have arrived from the ashes of Nihilist, and death metal could never be the same. This is the face that launched a thousand ships, if ships were Scandinavian death metal bands.

The crushing tones are delivered in blitzkrieg fashion, owing as much to early grinders Discharge and Repulsion as it does to the few death metal forebears that existed by 1990. But there is considerably more to Left Hand Path, the album is truly dark, from the psychological imprint left by the cover image to the morbid, erupting cemetery vibe contained in the riffs. The title track opens the record, 6:39 of fast, crisp riffing that winds down into massive grooves, blistering leads, and even a creepy breakdown with more horror flick synthesizers.

I dip my forefinger in the watery blood
Of your impotent redeemer
And write over his thorn torn brow
The true Prince of Evil
What man's created
Man can destroy
Bring to light
That day of joy

But that track was simply the icing on the grave. "Drowned" grabs your ankles and pulls you back into the band's festering morass, with some punkish hardcore fury and old school brutal guitar lines under Lars-Göran Petrov's echoed barks. "Revel in Flesh" radiates more hardcore/punk influence, with a churning, mid-paced thrust. "When Life Has Ceased" weaves more complex riffing into a violent momentum, and "Supposed to Rot" has that amazing, emotionally descending rhythm. "But Life Goes On" was one of the breakout tracks here, memorable for the pattern of chords behind Petrov's chorus, and the frenzied grinding guitars.

Visually a corpse
But what's inside my head
Don't consider I once was deceased
So I guess I'll come back from the dead
Dying my death
In relentless aggrieve
Dead and put down in a wooden box
Just can't be my destiny

"Bitter Loss" is one of my personal favorites, even among such standout peers, for the shadows cast by the melody over the dense, opening chords. The verses are total d-beat grindage that bands are getting paid today to copy. "Morbid Devourment" is pure slugfest, and "Abnormally Deceased" uses its guitars like hammers on your spine. "The Truth Beyond" is the original closing track to the album, with some evil guitars and more of the band's flattening chords, but if you have the CD version then you've also got the punk flavored "Carnal Leftovers" and the sadistic "Premature Autopsy", with its freaky vox (I wish they had used these more often).

The influence of this album upon decades to follow is monolithic. I can rattle off the names of many bands whose entire sound and career relies upon their ability to copy Left Hand Path, changing the notes and song titles but shoveling you the same shit you had already known. It's also the album most responsible for the proliferation of Skogsberg's Sunlight Studio guitar tone, which many other death metal bands adopted (even those that weren't cloning this band's riffs). It's one of the most important death metal records, one of the cornerstones for the foundation and survival of the genre into the 21st century. It's spotless.

[Left Hand Path is available in two versions on the Earache Records Bandcamp. This is the "Full Dynamic Range Edition" of the original LP, it does not include the two songs from the "CD version" mentioned in the review. The regular version of the album (which does include the songs) is available here.]

December 23, 2014

IRN - Sewer Disease

Written by Ulla Roschat.

The sewer disease is nasty and highly contagious. The very first contact with this aural malodorous pestilence that oozes from your speakers like the essence of every kind of foul insanity will infect you and slowly, but inevitably, cover and shroud you in a devouring nightmare.

Sewer Disease is the second album of Toronto’s three piece band IRN. The band founded in 2012, put out their self titled debut album in 2013 and Sewer Disease was released in 2014. This is three tracks and about 40 minutes of sludgy doom, slow, thick, gluey and heavy.

Right from the start the first song “Sewers” sets out to drag you into those very ones named in the title. In several build ups of sound, drenched in fuzz, the song crawls up to you like bubbling, boiling waves of caustic filth and hatred. The next one “Causing Decay” then overwhelms and inundates you like a nauseating maelstrom that takes you into a world of septic, reeking hideousness and abominable existence with its monolithic riffs and hypnotizing rhythms to enhance the sense of a creepy lurking danger. "Rat’s Disease”, the last song of the album and with an epic length of about 20 minutes is the most extensive in variety, intensity and change of moods. Sparsely used quiet parts that feel like a break from all the density gives room to catch your breath, but only to make you feel the next heavy crushing riff all the more.

Throughout the three tracks of the album the riffs seem to be caught in their own fuzz and reverb to brew up intensity. Rhythms with a pace near to asystolia create a nightmarish atmosphere of damp depressive paralysis bare of any prospect to escape from all this fetid filth, infectious matter and slime.

And as if all this wasn't nasty enough, IRN add a subliminal noisy black metal vibe, with jarring guitars and a trembling, buzzing vibration, that pierce through the infectious boiling mire, grind the gangrenous wounds and stir up the nauseating stench. This increases the unsettling sense of a lurking threat of sickness and insanity to make the state of paralysis even more horrifying. What more could you wish for from a perfect nightmare?

The song “Causing Decay” is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 76.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 20, 2014

House of Burners compilation

Written by Matt Hinch.

The fellas at Pre-Rock Records sure put together one cracker of a compilation in House of Burners, the label's first release. Painstakingly curated by the label (made up of members of Shooting Guns) it offers a “cross section of Canada's heavy/psych/garage scene” leaning heavily on the psych end of the spectrum. Covering bands as far west as Victoria, BC and as far east as Moncton, NB this is the sort of compilation I get excited about as the likelihood of these bands actually passing through here is pretty good.

Here's a few words on each of the 16 tracks.

Powder Blue - “Go On Forever” (Saskatoon, SK): There are days I wish this song would go on forever. It's got an easy, breezy rock base riding a wash of psychedelic keys and serene female vocals. It's totally chill and swollen with relaxing melody.

Public Animal - “One Way Ticket” (Toronto, ON): Public Animal is Ian Blurton of C'Mon's new band. And they kick ass. This track has lots of rock energy, lots of vocals, groove and keys. I've heard they're great live and given this track, that's no surprise.

Bison - “These Are My Dress Clothes (Live)” (Vancouver, BC): Even a good recording such as this does no justice to the experience of seeing these sludgeoners in the flesh. I gave my chiropractor fits and this song was a big reason why.

The Switching Yard - “Tanya” (Saskatoon): One of the biggest highlights of the compilation, TSY find a riff that works and ride it along the tracks while adding texture and psychedelic flourish with few vocals. Brilliant psych-rock.

Shooting Guns - “Taylor St. Champagne Room” (Saskatoon): Of course there's a Shooting Guns song. Good one too! Killer grooves hold down the fort as psychedelic keys move in and out of focus, making it both earthbound and spacey at once.

Krang - “Upstairs” (Edmonton, AB): This one sounds very jam oriented. Bluesy guitar meanders around as psychedelics (obviously) swirl, dive and weave. Dynamic track where the guitar “speaks” with so much heart.

Lavagoat - “Moleman” (Saskatoon): Undoubtedly the heaviest track on hand, it's thunderous and vile. Heavy as a brick doom riffs smack you with a face full of sludge and bile. Oh, and some psychedelic touches of course.

Hawkeyes - “March of the Elephants” (Kitchener, ON): This one's almost as heavy but much more psychedelic. Not sure what the elephants are high on but they're trippin' stratospheric, man. Massive riffs, hypnotic groove and no vocals to get in the way.

Mahogany Frog - “Saffron Myst” (Winnipeg, MB): The least “metal” and arguably most psychedelic of the bunch. Programmed beats and lush synths/keys set on a dreamy course through undiscovered areas of the mind, stimulating hormone release if you know what I mean. Sexy!

Chron Goblin - “Deserter” (Calgary, AB): With a name like that, expect stoner rock. And yeah, you got it. But this one has stomp to it. More like beer and whiskey are the driving force of beefy riffs with southern flair. Crack a cold one and groove out!

Black Thunder - "Too Late/Death Stare" (Regina, SK): So fuzzed out I have to go brush my teeth. Beautiful riff-fest straight outta the early 70s. The percussion is fantastic. Think Dozer, sHEAVY and just about the whole Sucking the 70s compilations.

Rehashed - “F.U.C.K.” (Saskatoon): The oddball of the lot. This is full out hardcore rage. Mosh pit violence and vocal venom (think Blacklisted, Ringworm) lay a serious beating from a dive bar basement. No psych at all but damn does it make you want to kick the shit out of something.

Devonian Gardens - “Glow” (Calgary): Bewitching and a little eccentric. Sounds like gypsies tripping on mushrooms. The journey here is far from linear taking psychedelic side trips that can disorient the listener in the best of ways.

Cop Shades - “Burn This Village to Save It” (Moncton, NB): This one has kind of a greaseball indie rock vibe but with balls. But of course, it does shoot off into orbit as psych is almost necessary. But refuelling on this ball of dirt needs to happen too.

Clunt & The Scrunts - “Card in the Spokes” (Victoria, BC): This is some pretty catchy and upbeat rockabilly type stuff. Some Americana gets brought in to break up the speed. Cool shit. Wouldn't seem out of place in a Tarantino movie.

The Pack A.D. - “Night Crawler” (Vancouver): Steel guitar leads into a “We Will Rock You” beat. The duo rides out a simple hypnotic riff with tripped out, multi-tracked vocals. Be careful, detachment from reality is a possibility.

And there you have it. 16 tracks from a range of Canadian bands, most of which can make you trip balls if you aren't already. It's a most excellent selection of tunes, from the burly and bloody knuckled to the idyllic and intoxicating. Trust me, there are some medical grade pupil dilators on this. Dig it!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 18, 2014

Gravecode Nebula - Sempiternal Void

Written by Steven Leslie.

As a diehard devotee to extreme music for close to 20 years, it is increasingly rare for me to find a record that truly scares me. Gravecode Nebula’s Sempiternal Void, released last year, is one of the few records post 2000 that has been able to accomplish that feat. To be honest, I’m very surprised that this album somehow managed to fly under the radar and was not a prominent feature on many best of 2013 lists. Truthfully, it’s probably the lack of publicity this band has received that has helped make it have such an impact.

Not since the early days of second wave black metal, when bands shunned the spotlight and simply let their music (and sometimes their actions) do the talking, have I heard an album so terrifying and so sincere at the same time. It is that very sense of the unknown that helps make this album such a prized possession in my ever-growing collection. There are a few things worth noting before I really dig into the album. First, this is not an album that sits neatly inside a single subgenre. This is one of the few modern records that manages to combine elements from several different genres, mainly black, death and doom, without diluting or destroying the essence of any of them. This isn't just a tremolo riff thrown over some death metal grunts with the occasional slow atmospheric buildup. Instead, it is a lethal combination of the best aspects of all these genres. On a random side note, the presence of Hel’s spectacular bass lines should destroy anyone’s preconceived notion that women in extreme metal is just a gimmick.

At a little over an hour Sempiternal Void is not an easy listen. This is not a record you can just throw and headbang along to or drop in as background music. This album needs, nay demands your full attention. Kicking off, “Bloodcraft of Andromeda” sets the tone for the rest of the journey. The song starts off slow with a lumbering riff and simple but powerful drumming as a disembodied roar creeps in. As if this blackened doom template wasn't sufficient, at three minutes the pace picks up and we are treated to some spectacular straight up black metal riffs and blast beats, before dropping back into the atmospheric death/doom that started the song. The rest of the track continues to mutate between genres. One minute brings a minimalist slow doom riff like you might hear on a Monarch record that then transforms into some of the best death/doom around, before throwing you completely for a loop with a section swirling black metal chaos. It is a testament to the bands skill that these elements flow together so seamlessly. This constant ebb and flow makes this album so engrossing and rewarding.

Each of the remaining five tracks follows this template of constantly morphing between agonizing death doom sections and blistering blackened assaults. The performance of each band member is spectacular throughout, making it hard to highlight just the guitars, bass or drums, as they all meld together so effectively to create such a devastating whole. In fact trying to point out a single riff or drum fill would actually do this record a disservice, as it is the whole rather than it’s individual parts that make this such a fantastic album. That said, it is worth taking note of the stellar vocal performance put in by The Zodiac. It is rare that you find a vocalists with such versatility. Whether it is horrifying deathly bellows, atmospheric spoken word sections or ominous chants, he somehow manages to accomplish all of them with the same level of expertise. The superb uses of effects by Dyingnysus and Lupericus Infernale are also worthy of note. While never taking prominence, their subtle touch adds a layer of darkness that would be otherwise be sorely missing.

While this album is most likely to appeal to fans of death/doom, as the majority of the album sticks close to this template, there are definite rewards to be found for black metal and extreme metal fans in general. Fans of the current wave of blackened death metal being produced by bands like Abyssal, Grave Miasma and Grave Upheaval, will find much to sink their teeth into on Sempiternal Void. I would argue that while not stylistically fitting neatly into the black metal genre, Gravecode Nebula have managed to create a record that touches on that magnificent darkness that the early second wave bands made their calling card in a way that many modern black metal band fails so miserably to accomplish. So pick this one up, turn off the lights, and drift off into the sempiternal void.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Lotus Thief - Rervm

By Justin C.. Botanist's third full length, Doom in Bloom<, included a second disc called Allies, featuring collaborations with other musicians. Those songs stood in stark contrast with Otrebor's usual one-man, blackened hammered-dulcimer show. One of those songs, Nymphaea Caerulea, was with an immensely talented woman going by the name Bezaelith
By Justin C.

Botanist's third full length, Doom in Bloom, included a second disc called Allies, featuring collaborations with other musicians. Those songs stood in stark contrast with Otrebor's usual one-man, blackened hammered-dulcimer show. One of those songs, "Nymphaea Caerulea", was with an immensely talented woman going by the name Bezaelith, who also was a touring bassist with Botanist for a time. The duo went by the name Lotus Thief, and they're now back with a luscious full-length, Rervm.

Instrumentally, Otrebor provides his usual high-caliber percussion here, and Bezaelith handles everything else. The lyrical content of Rervm is based on the epic poem "De Rerum Natura", written by Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus over 2000 years ago. The poem was meant to elucidate the ideas of Epicurean philosophy and science, which contains some surprisingly modern ideas, given its age. Lotus Thief cleverly labels their genre as "text metal," and as you might guess, the lyrics are pretty fascinating to read.

To be honest, though, I connected with this album on a more emotional level. I got my hands on the promo a day before going in for surgery, so I was in a bit of a distracted state before and after. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, Bezaelith's vocals on this album were a major comfort to me in the hours immediately before and after the actual operation. They're cleanly sung, and she often harmonizes with a veritable chorus of other Bezaeliths. If you can listen to the opening vocal lines of "Aeternvm" without your heart melting at least a little, I don't know what to do with you. It's made all the more satisfying when the subtle underlying percussion suddenly bursts into furious Otreborian blasting immediately after.

Musically speaking, this isn't the heaviest thing you'll hear all year. The riffing actually reminds me a bit of bands like A Perfect Circle at times--heavy, but with a heavy focus on melodicism. But regardless of the level of heavy, it's brilliant. The electronic touches Bezaelith adds to her guitar and bass are on point, and Otrebor supports it all with a deft touch on the drums. The album subtly ramps up in complexity and aggression as the six tracks progress. For example, "Discordia," appropriate to its name, is a darker and more aggressive song than "Aeternvm," so if things seem a bit too sweet at the outset, that's not all Lotus Thief has to offer you. I know that some reviewers have found the ambient interludes off-putting; each song ends with one, and they vary in length, but I find letting them wash over me to be a perfectly pleasant experience. I haven't subjected them to much intellectual scrutiny, but I don't find myself getting impatient with them like I do with some long intros and outros. The album breathes with them in place.

There's a lot to delve into with this album, and other reviewers have done much more thorough discussions of the text and lyrical content than I have, but as multi-layered as the album is, it's also immediately accessible. I can't recommend it enough.

December 15, 2014

Year of No Light - Tocsin

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Simon Fowler

If I only could make movies, I’d make a movie to this soundtrack, the pictures and stories are all here in my head. Once again Year of No Light prove that they aren’t only able to write a perfect soundtrack to a movie, but that they can write a perfect “soundtrack” that creates a movie in your head.

After two full length albums, several split releases and the soundtrack project Vampyr, Tocsin now is the third full length album (and the first through ‘Debemur Morti Productions’ ) of the French Post-Metal band from Bordeaux. The album comprises five tracks with an overall playing time of nearly one hour - one hour of atmospheres and heaviness, carefully balanced out to keep up the tension between a sense of a lurking hovering menace, its execution and its emotional impact.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

The opening track "Tocsin" takes its time to conjure up a haunting atmosphere, beginning with quiet synth sounds, slow paced drumming a dirge like doomy atmosphere which builds up as a harbinger of pain and sorrow. The ambient sounds grow slowly from ripples into huge waves a colossal sea monster would raise when emerging from the dark cold depths of the oceans. By the time you notice and recognize its presence in form of a heavy monolithic riff you’re already lost in the deathly embrace of its tentacles, dragging you down to meet cold dark emptiness in dissonant electronic sounds and feedback. The track is indeed a perfect introduction into the album. Starting slow, quite simple in structure, but with details and layers, forceful and hypnotic.

"Géhenne" seems, at first listen, to leave the thread of moods the opener had set. Much faster and sounding almost cheery and light, it’s a real counterpart to all other songs, but actually it gives expression to the state of mind after you've met a devastating evil force. Jarring black metal sounds, melodic but noisy, steer the song towards a frantic dissonant ending. The ostensible cheeriness is one of hysterical insanity.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

With "Désolation" the album turns back to the more slow and doomy atmospheres. Here you find yourself, quasi in sober state again, in the dark lonely vast emptiness, recognizing its inescapability with an utter depressing heaviness executed by droning sludge doom. Here the balance between crushing heavy power and and melancholic solemn atmosphere is most outstanding and of vibrant emotional tension which is continued in the following track "Stella Rectrix". A short quiet and slow synth intro, followed by a monstrous riff and beautiful melancholic melodies, gaining speed with a dynamic build up, with swirling guitars, breathtakingly energetic drumming and a lot of references to early dark ambient electronic krautrock. The last track "Alamüt" is the least describable (at least for me). It feels somewhat like a long outro, its dynamic, chaotic, still not incoherent.

If I only could make movies…., Tocsin is one of the most inspiring albums of 2013’s releases. Is it the fact that it’s entirely instrumental, or indeed Year of No Light experience of actually having made movie soundtracks, the overall dark and epic orchestral sound (3 guitars, 2 drums, 1 bass, 4 of 6 band members taking care of all the electronic sounds, synths/keys), or their ability to create that incredible balance and tension between heaviness and atmospheric parts of which both strike with a devastating emotional impact?… whatever might be to blame for creating pictures in my head… who cares!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: Originally posted on the defunct Temple of Perdition blog.

December 14, 2014

Atriarch - An Unending Pathway

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Artwork by Hal Rotter.

Portland's Atriarch return with their third album entitled An Unending Pathway. One of my favorite new bands of the last few years, I love all three of their albums and have had the opportunity to see them live a few times. In fact I was privileged to hear An Unending Pathway performed in it’s entirety when they did a small west coast tour before hitting the studio to record it.

Atriarch's first album, Forever the End, were pretty straight forward Funeral/Drone DOOM with hints of blackendness (if that's a word). It was their next album where they really stretched out. On Ritual of Passing they added a Gothy Deathrock sound to their Blackened/Funeral/Drone/DOOM. While many other bands may find it hard to incorporate all these different sounds into an album, for Atriarch it flows very naturally not just from song to song but within songs themselves. Another thing that sets them apart are Lenny’s vocals. He can go from these snotty punkish vocals to droning chants to death growls to blackened screams all with in the same song.

2014’s An Unending Pathway is a more streamlined and confident approach to what was established on Ritual of Passing. The famed production of Billy Anderson may also have a little something to do with it. As is the case with all three albums, there are no gaps in between songs. They just flow into the next one. Telling the listener that this is meant to be heard as one piece, not in pieces. An Unending Pathway, like Rituals of Passing, also features guest vocals from Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros. With each album has come a change whether in sound (or label, each album being released by a different label). But the one constant has been their willingness to move forward and never stay in one place musically and vocally. A solid band with three great releases under their belt and hopefully many more to come.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 12, 2014

Cara Neir / Venowl / Highgate

Written by Craig Hayes.

The vast proportion of heavy metal’s grimmest fare is riddled with hackneyed clichés that are more likely to give rise to chuckles than chills. That said, we're all still perfectly willing to buy into the intent of the whole deal. Because metal obviously makes for a great escape from the mundane, and stock phrase frights still resonate at some level. However, everyone eventually discovers that the real world is terrifying enough, and you do get desensitised to the cheap scares found in the realms of metal, so that often makes finding any genuinely unnerving music a difficult task.

Difficult, but not impossible. Because there’s disturbing music out there. Like the hellscape noise of Illinois-based trio Venowl. I reviewed the re-release of the band’s 2012 debut, Patterns of Failure, for Metal Bandcamp recently, and that album was definitely intimidating in its intensity. Patterns of Failure was incredibly bleak, abrasive, and confrontational. But what made Patterns of Failure was that it was such an unhinged cacophony. There’s no question Patterns of Failure wasn’t for everyone, and Venowl’s members, ][ (guitar/voice), :: (percussion/voice), and // (bass/electronics/voice) rendered their roles into typographic reference points, extinguishing individualism to serve the cause in a harrowing cesspit of doom-drenched and improvised noise.

Patterns of Failure was a gigantic ‘fuck you’ to the notion of desensitisation. Ear-piercing feedback, distortion, and dissonance boiled away on the album’s lengthy tracks–pushing well past any run-of-the-mill doom and gloom. That sense of long-lost fear oozed from Patterns of Failure’s demoralising tracks, and Venowl have recently released a couple of split releases, with Cara Neir and Highgate, that shred the nerves in exactly the same manner.

The avant-grind and post-this-and-blackened-that pursuits of Cara Neir are no strangers to praise on Metal Bandcamp’s pages. The Dallas-based duo’s split with Venowl was recently issued via label Broken Limbs Recordings on a limited cassette run, which quickly sold out, but it’s still available digitally via Bandcamp. Cara Neir contributes three songs to the split. “Aeonian Temple” is a screaming/screamo black metal riot. “Nights” a much gentler and jazzier amble. While “Pitiful Human Bindings” ramps things back up with a frosty and raw screed. In all, Cara Neir’s contributions display the same ignoring of genre boundaries as they did on their last, and widely hailed, album, Portals to a Better, Dead World.

Counterpointing Cara Neir’s contribution on their split, Venowl issues the 20-minute plus “Scour (Parts I and II)”. The track is a slow-motion, acidic, and devastating plummet into the abyss. Miserable, for sure, with inhuman shrieks only adding to the tracks sense of hopelessness and dementedness. Still, like that death march atmosphere found on Patterns of Failure, “Scour (Parts I and II)” is all about the undertones and overtones mixing in a feedback frenzy. The song is bleak, and unquestionably challenging, but the more you listen, the deeper you sink, and the more you discover. I’m not saying those discoveries are going to bring you any joy. But they are going to twist your mind and get under the skin. And we all need that, on occasion.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Venowl’s recent split with sludge and doom band Highgate is streaming on Tartarus Records Bandcamp (Venowl's part is available on their own Bandcamp). Highgate heave closer to Venowl’s stern on their split, with the band’s “Carved Into Winter” providing 26-minutes of crush and churn. “Carved Into Winter” is all filthy tones, grimy fuzz, and growling grunt–and there’s a psychedelic undercurrent to the cavernous and glacially paced song. It’s all massively heavy, and when “Carved Into Winter” drops out for a isolated ambient section, those cleaner guitar lines cut right to the marrow.

Venowl's contribution to the split is comprised of the 34-minute, “Vacant Cellar”. Again, there’s plenty of vocal screeches to scare you witless, and that’s all surrounded by music that heaves and lurches its way across desolate terrain. “Vacant Cellar” features plenty of the Venowl’s demented and distorted drone and doom, and the song certainly claws its way through its lengthy running time without a second of sympathy for your nerves. Like all of Venowl’s recordings thus far, “Vacant Cellar” features fathomless darkness, and a monstrous countenance, bringing an unrelenting unification of punishing and pulverising sounds.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

There’s nothing on Venowl’s contributions to their splits with Cara Neir or Highgate that could be called hospitable or even welcoming, and you have to admire Venowl’s complete disinterest in creating any easily accessible fodder for the masses. However, more to the point, the best thing about Venowl is that you don’t have buy into the band’s intent. Venowl shoves insanity down the throat of trepidation, and that forces you to feel something instinctively and immediately. That’s a rare art. Sure, it might not be the kind of art you enjoy. But when was the last time you heard something that provoked a genuine visceral reaction?

December 10, 2014

Bränd Jord - Ledan & eländet / Förstärkta defekter

Written by Majbritt Levinsen.

Ledan & eländet (ennui & misery) by Swedish band Bränd Jord (scorched earth) is a very intense and interesting album. The variety of melodies and styles you'll find cramped into the 12 tracks is impressive and makes the album memorable. You'll hear angsty vocals with bleak lyrics accompanied by a highly energetic, raw and melodic mixture of Black Metal and a hardcore-punk-ish attitude and a whole lot of progressive touches.

Bränd Jord manages to capture the internal struggles of life’s hardships that on the outside only shows as total resignation to the fact that you are stuck on life's bottom level or the depths of your own troubled mind. The cover for this release couldn't have been chosen more successfully. "Beim Dengeln" (whetting the scythe) by Käthe Kollwitz from 1905 depicts the core of Bränd Jords lyrics, as she documented the lives of the less fortunate by capturing harrowing moments of despair, inconsolable loss and devastating feelings.

I have had a hard time choosing tracks to point out as each track has their moments of brilliance and something worth mentioning. "Bittert flöde" (bitter flow) the opener actually almost made me burst out in laughter, there is something in the manic drumming and the frantic pace of the track from the get go that caught me of guard. I wasn't expecting it and as the track progressed I got more and more curious how this would evolve. I love to dive down in the layers of this kind of music and let myself get carried away on the bass’ frequencies while the drums holds the pace and the guitars coats everything in while the vocalist tells his accompanied poetry of despair and anxiety. All of the songs on this album have extremely enjoyable structures and a lot to absorb and digest. They are all a ride you want to rediscover over and over.

The last song on this album "Oduglighetens krona" (the crown of incompetence) however, is one of those I have enjoyed listening to the most. Musically it hits a nerve in me and raises some good emotions from the gut. It is simply a good song to close off an album filled to the brim with the turmoils of the human mind and a lot of musical surprises.

The lyrics orbits around the same theme over and over: an even gray colour palette of troubled thoughts from a troubled soul.
"Potentialen var aldrig något att tala om
Nu är det slutligen för sent
Småsinta, patetiska drömmar
Speglar en futtig existens"

-- "Nollpotential" (zero potential)
The potential however for these 3 guys from Gothenburg is already there, and has proven with this album that the darkest places of the mind can harbour something highly creative, intriguing and enjoyable.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The 27th of November they released the EP Förstärkta defekter (reinforced defects) containing 4 tracks, which are all just as interesting and varied as the above mentioned tracks and just as highly recommended! I simple love the skewed desperate chaotic structure of "Återvändsgränd" (dead end) and I find myself grinning with joy like a lunatic. This is what makes me happy and drives me to continue exploring the endless universe of music.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 9, 2014

Cretin - Stranger

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Emerson Murray

If it's intensity you want, you've got all the intensity you can handle with Stranger from grinding death dealers Cretin. It's been eight long years since we've heard the likes of this band and the intervening years have done nothing to lessen their abusive nature. Eight years is a long time. Long enough that enough life happens to make one a very different person. Thankfully it feels like Freakery was released yesterday and Stranger is hot on its heels ready to stab it in the back.

The quartet has the same relentless drive as always but Stranger feels a bit stranger. Of course. The stories bassist Matt Widener has come up with for vocalist/guitarist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley to bark and growl out with piercing ferociousness are plenty twisted. While it's far from verse/chorus/verse there's more than enough to shred your own throat with. Whether it's screaming about the “Sandwich for the Attic Angel” or foaming at the mouth because “We Live in a Cave”, you are honour bound to get involved.

Involvement doesn't end with bellowing from deep in your gut though. Drummer Col Jones blasts out those beats with a perverse inhumanity that involuntarily controls your extremities like a puppet. Furious speeds and tremendous power with reckless abandon compel the listener into all kinds of cathartic violence.

The whole album belligerently elbows its way into your consciousness and demands bodily response. From Martinez-Hoadley and Widener's hard charging rhythms to guitarist Elizabeth Schall's scorching, shredding, screaming leads, there isn't a second that goes by without some sort of energy. Even during the less intense (but brief) moments there's still that anticipatory potential for explosiveness.

Opener “It” indeed explodes right out of the gate, confirming the earlier point about not mellowing out. The corruption continues unabated for another half hour and change. Their ground and pound, death metal approach is bruising and brutal while the sheer speed and primal delivery defines what it means to grind. Deceptive grooves and mosh-inducing savagery make for a safe expression of aggression. Like a kid going apeshit on a pillow instead of a sibling.

While there may be some playful eye-rollers in the lyric department, not to mention an outright (good) laugh at the end of “Ghost of Teeth and Hair” and a big grin moment in “Husband”, it's not necessarily all fun and games. Suicide isn't a funny topic but you have to snicker at “Mister Frye, The Janitor Guy”. But that's what makes Stranger so much fun. You can't take life too seriously even if life is serious.

Stranger is a brilliant and raging return. For many this may be their introduction to Cretin and there's no better place to start. There's so much power, grinding intensity and cleverness here that it's hard to imagine death and grind fans finding issue with Cretin's unfailing dedication to speed-ridden ass kicking.

There's no danger with this Stranger.

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December 8, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 5: Fields / Church of Broken Glass

By Andy Osborn. Hammers of Misfortune were my first introduction to John Cobbett, who quickly became one of my most beloved musicians. I seek out anything he contributes to from the essential genius of Ludicra to his recent supergroup of VHOL
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy Osborn takes a look at each of the albums, concluding here with 2008's Fields / Church of Broken Glass.

Hammers of Misfortune were my first introduction to John Cobbett, who quickly became one of my most beloved musicians. I seek out anything he contributes to from the essential genius of Ludicra to his recent supergroup of VHOL... hell, even part of The Sims 2 video game soundtrack he wrote and recorded himself is fantastic and hilarious. Everything the man has touched is at the very least worthy of attention as he’s proven to be one of the country’s best metal songwriters. At the time of this double album’s release he was playing guitar in Hammers of Misfortune and Ludicra and had just finished working on Slough Feg’s best releases. There’s even a rumor that he had a brief live stint in Gwar. What I'm getting at is the man is dedicated to his craft and talented as hell. His unique galloping rhythms and spot-on palm muting technique are his trademark that he brings to all his recordings, and this double album is no exception.

Fields / Church of Broken Glass was written after a stark lineup change, and before yet another one. Mike Scalzi and Jamie Myers left the band, replaced by scene newcomers Patrick Goodwin and Jesse Quatro, who took control of vocal duties. Their addition makes this a different Hammers of Misfortune album since Scalzi’s soaring voice had become a mainstay of the band’s trademark sound. And the now-sextet cranked the dial from prog to Prog as the music takes a grander, more experimental turn. These changes result in the most polarizing work in the Hammers of Misfortune catalog, but one that still doesn't stray too far from their original mission.

The Hammond organ is more forward than ever and it occasionally shares a place in the spotlight with a Jethro Tull style flute and Floyd-esque songwriting that shows Hammers wearing their 70s English fandom on their sleeves. Some will argue this is a vast improvement, but the fact that their previous soft approach to this influence was part of their charm may make it a little disappointing to others. Coupled with the new, vastly different voice of Patrick Goodwin to get used to, there is a lot on the surface that makes this 70-minute epic less appealing on the first listen.

Sigrid Sheie & Jesse Quattro 2009. Photo by brandi.

Patience for multiple spins is essential as it helps soften the blow of the new direction, making clear that the old Hammers we know and love still lives and breathes. The double album is a powerful listen and fans of more traditional Prog will find themselves drooling. Besides, I’d rather see one of my favorite bands experiment with their already complex sound than rest on their laurels. But Lulu this ain't, as the foundation of exciting guitar-driven heavy metal and playful instrumentals is still clearly in full effect. Jesse Quattro quickly proves to be the bands most skilled female vocalist to date, her emotion on “Fields” is hauntingly beautiful, and the playful upbeat melodies on “Rats Assembly” and “Almost (Left Without You)” make them two of the finest songs in the Hammers catalog. John’s guitarwork on “Always Looking Down” and “The Gulls” is world class; he makes you realize that no matter what direction Hammers of Misfortune takes, their music will always be in safe hands under his leadership. I came into this review less excited than the others, but diving deeper into this album after so many years completely changed my mind about its importance to the band's legacy.

After this one-off release on Profound Lore, Hammers of Misfortune finally got the attention of a label worthy of their world-class skills and were offered a deal from Metal Blade Records. But that blade is double edged for us here, as this means there is no Bandcamp page available for the incredible follow-up to Fields / Church of Broken Glass, 17th Street. As for the band, it’s been over three years since that album, and there has been no mention as to what, if anything, will come next. And our thoughts go out to current vocalist Joe Hutton, who was recently involved in a serious motorcycle accident and is on the long road to recovery. But as all great art takes time, it’s best not to be impatient. I eagerly await whatever they decide to do next as their incredible two decade run as Unholy Cadaver and then Hammers of Misfortune has shown they are one of America's greatest heavy bands.

Note: 17th Street has since been released on Bandcamp and Sundays of Misfortune continues here.

December 7, 2014

Aureole - Alunar

By Justin C. I've been wanting to write about one of Fallen Empire's releases for a while, but I had trouble deciding on which one. I've been gobbling up nearly all of them as soon as I can get my grubby, digital mitts on them. A lot of them, like the Skáphe and Eos releases previously featured here have had immediate appeal
By Justin C.

Art by Ariella Vaystukh

I've been wanting to write about one of Fallen Empire's releases for a while, but I had trouble deciding on which one. I've been gobbling up nearly all of them as soon as I can get my grubby, digital mitts on them. A lot of them, like the Skáphe and Eos releases previously featured here have had immediate appeal, but I ultimately decided to talk about one that took a while to sink in, Aureole's spaced-out epic Alunar.

This is doomy, ambient black metal. I hesitate to label it "ambient" because that's not a flavor of music that I'm typically very interested in--it suggests a certain formlessness that doesn't hold my attention. But in spite of being slow-moving and, at times, barely-there music, I eventually succumbed completely to the charms of this album. Fallen Empire's Bandcamp describe Alunar like this: "The debut album from AUREOLE takes us to the helm of Citadel Alunar, exposing the unforgiving reality of our universe." The world "helm" certainly suggests a spaceship of some sort, even if it's only metaphorical, and listening to this often feels like a very isolated journey through the depths of space, not unlike perhaps Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but even lonelier and more desolate. And if you want to hear what desolation-made-into-music sounds like, let yourself be hypnotized by the sparse, echoing percussion sound in the album closer, "V: Alunar, Decrepit..."

I initially found it difficult to write about this release because the music is so impressionistic.** Imagine Monet painting a nebula and then that somehow being translated directly into music. The melodies are strong but melancholy. The tremolos wash through, almost like cosmic background radiation. There are lots of different sounds, familiar but yet somehow strange and new, like otherworldly chimes, bells, and stringed instruments that may not actually exist in reality. The vocals are pure black metal, but they don't appear often, and when they do, they're buried in the mix, sounding like a weak transmission coming from some far off place.

As you might guess, this is an album that's meant to be taken as a whole, but if there's a centerpiece, I'd say it's "IV: Crusade of NGC 5128." The slow, tribal drums and the ebbs and flows in the melody are probably some of the most evocative on the album. "Crusade" initially made me think of a fleet of starships slowly closing in, but when I read that "NGC 5128" is actually the designation of a galaxy that is in the process of devouring a nearby, smaller galaxy, the song took on a whole new meaning in my mind. Granted, that process doesn't sound like anything because there is no atmosphere in space for sound waves to travel in, but in a more figurative sense, the song could easily be the soundtrack for the slow collision of two massive systems.

This is one of those albums I really want you to give a chance to, even if, like me, the "ambient" label isn't a big draw. Like any genre of music, there are true gems that transcend what our perceptions of that genre are, and I think Alunar is solidly in that category.

**I'm not really talking about the hallmarks of what's been called Impressionism in classical music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although there may be some similarities. I'm not enough of a music historian to say one way or the other, but I kept coming back to that term nonetheless.

December 5, 2014

Jucifer - District of Dystopia

Written by Matt Hinch.

You never really know what to expect from a Jucifer album. L'Autrichienne's cleanliness was a departure from If Thine Enemy Hunger. Throned in Blood got all black metal. The Russian Album brought down the doom. And now District of Dystopia changes things up again. One thing you can count on though is that anything from Jucifer is going to be loud.

If you've seen Jucifer live then you know just how loud they can be. I once couldn't walk a straight line after a show of theirs in a small club and it had nothing to do with the beer. So it is that the primal magic of District of Dystopia crystallizes in the cozy confines of Jucifer's own Winnebago. The devastation that occurs when Thee White Wall is erected on their never ending tour is just as potent, and loud, when played and recorded is such a constricting environment.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

The duo of Gazelle Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood are nowhere near constricted here though. DoD is just as manic and muscular as anything they've done and possibly more chaotic. Doom and grind ricochet off the cabinets (both kinds) in erratic patterns over the course of 25 filthy minutes.

The stripped down and unpredictable approach makes so much sense though. DoD is a concept album about the District of Columbia, but chronicles hundreds of years of atrocity inflicted by the Americans “in power”. From the first off the Mayflower through to Obama, including Vietnam, Japanese internment camps in WWII, genocides, despicable treatment of Native Americans, military opportunism, Afghanistan and Iraq, ISIS and more all driven by one thing. Greed.

So DoD is kind of a wake up call if not exactly a protest album. Going all punk rock DIY, lo-fi and raw can be seen as a rebellion against “the system”. The expectation of the music industry/government I suppose is clean, civilized and conformist. DoD is dirty, unrefined and individual. Perhaps the inconsistency (in a good way) reflects the non-standard application of foreign policy?

Photo by Pedro Roque.

It's that feral energy that both Amber and Edgar bring to this recording that is its most endearing feature. Amber always pulls out all the stops in the Department of Riff Relations, from massive doom to primitive grind movements to noisy, off-the-wall unorthodoxy. Edgar too is at his brain-bashing best as Ambassador of Aggression changing course as the fluid structures dictate.

Keeping the song lengths down to a little over typical grind length (mostly under 3 minutes) the duo pack in a number of tempo changes as well as shifts in mood. It's done all the time but I'm always amazed at how a percussive change can totally alter the feel of a song from one moment to the next even though the riff stays the same. The inverse is true as well although Edgar is usually the one with the attention issues. His unconventional handling of the instrument is what makes him one of today’s very best drummers. Hands down.

The bond between the two is coiled tight on a musical level which comes as no surprise. However, there are few who can blend chaos, doom, death metal, noise and pure unrestrained energy into 1:56 and not miss a beat as on “Justice” the way they can. They are able to work in synchronicity and in opposition with ease.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

As raw, honest and just plain noisy as District of Dystopia is, grinding at the ears and slicing away any notion of sheen, the lyrics are not to be overlooked. Amber may be dispensing them in a shivering mix of screeches, barks, yowls and growls but on paper their poetic nature shines. Her brutal passion gives the words extra power and the essays she wrote to accompany the release reveal how deeply she feels about the topics discussed.

DoD may sound simple in its musical approach but lyrically it's anything but. It may sound like a couple meth-heads making an unholy racket in an RV but that's what makes it so beautiful. And so Jucifer. They've always done things their own way and this is no exception. It's gnarly, raw, primal, chaotic grinding doom with a little but of whatever thrown in for good measure. Most of all it is ugly. Just like history. Brutality, death and power.
“He who controls the past, controls the future.
And who controls the present, controls the past.”
George Orwell - 1984

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 4, 2014

A Pregnant Light - My Game Doesn't Have a Name

Written by Greg Majewski.

After three years of splits, singles and EPs, Damian Master finally released his first full-length album as A Pregnant Light on 11/11. For those not yet indoctrinated in the fertility cult, let me provide a brief rundown of what to expect on My Game Doesnt Have a Name: Master plays a raw yet disarmingly melodic blend of black metal and post-punk he calls “purple metal.” It’s an apt descriptor, considering the color’s feminine connotations and the sultry Golden Age starlets who graced the covers of his early output. Hell, dude even recorded a lovingly faithful cover of Madonna’s “Live to Tell” in 2012 with Bay Area metal mavens Sigrid Sheie (Hammers of Misfortune) and Kris Force (Amber Asylum) sharing lead vocals. So it goes without saying he ain’t afraid of a good hook.

The Madge influence is the dominant force behind Master’s pop sensibility, which is more present on My Game than anything in APL’s past. Master’s riffs are giant, impossibly catchy things, and My Game’s first half is a perfect introduction to the APL mystique. “Born to Ruin” and “Dream Addict” both lock into slide-driven halftime grooves, the latter balancing blast beats with backbeat and boasting leads more informed by Johnny Marr than Demonaz.

These early songs carry traces of Master’s 2013 EPs Domination Harmony and Stars Will Fall. Since those two beauties, he’s been working towards a clearer sound, pulling APL out of the basement haze that buried much of his earlier work. My Game is the first A Pregnant Light album recorded in a studio and the first to feature additional performers, as Master enlisted Jake Duhaime and Tim Lenger from his circle of bands in Grand Rapids, Mich. to play drums and bass, respectively.

Those two upgrades are readily apparent from the outset. While APL guitar tracks have possessed Kevin Shields levels of depth since the band’s inception, the mix itself requires less effort than previous releases to peel apart the layers Master has folded on top of each other. Opener “Unreachable Arc” gets right to it as Master builds a ringing hook that flows into effortless tremolo with guitar tracks in the left, center and right of the mix, each playing off the other and compliment and counterpoint. Master claims there are five or six guitar tracks on every song, but I lost count on a few. Previous efforts demanded good headphones to pull the subtle hooks from their tape hiss mausoleum. My Game demands good headphones and repeated listens to hear all the Easter Eggs Master left for us, all presented in stunning clarity.

It’s in My Game’s second half where Master’s earworms translate into clean singing, a recent addition to his vocal repertoire he balances with his established hardcore bellow. He practically croons during the bridges on “Fresh Flower Offering (Purple Night)” and “My Days and Nights In You,” the latter exploding into an anguished howl and a torrent of blasts, all after the poppiest, post-punkiest intro in APL’s catalogue.

My Game Doesn’t Have a Name was actually supposed to come out last year, but instead of celebrating the release of his first LP, Master found himself dead on the operating table during a lengthy surgery to correct a chronic spinal problem. After doctors revived him and completed the operation, Master put writing on hold and spent the next six months recuperating. His near-(or actual) death experience led him to adopt the creed “too tough to die,” an old Marine motto. It’s also the inspiration for the fatalist theme woven through the album’s lyrics, most notably on “Circle of Crying Women”:
Digging through the trash in my wake
You’ll find nothing
So stop looking
The secrets are here
In the songs I sang
It’s A Pregnant Light’s most fully realized statement to date, a microcosmic reflection of death from the perspective of the recently passed that stops on a dime during its hyperspeed tremolo for Master’s sing-songy refrain, “You know, you know, I had to go.” There’s the ear for a hook, Master’s uncanny ability to shape a simple melody into something cruelly catchy, his penchant for turning mortality into positivity. After all, “Who wouldn’t want a circle of crying women praying over their body?”

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November 30, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 4: The Locust Years

By Andy Osborn. What does a band do after such a perfect output as The August Engine? Do they switch it up and forge a new path or keep going with what worked so well previously? Impressively, The Locust Years sees Hammers of Misfortune doing a little of both
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy Osborn takes a look at each of the albums, continuing here with 2006's The Locust Years.

Cover art by Thomas Woodruff

What does a band do after such a perfect output as The August Engine? Do they switch it up and forge a new path or keep going with what worked so well previously? Impressively, The Locust Years sees Hammers of Misfortune doing a little of both, albeit with enough restraint as to not exceed their grasp or limit their creativity. Part of this change is a shift in the lineup, foreshadowing much bigger changes that are soon to come. Jamie Myers of Wolves in the Throne Room and Sabbath Assembly fame replaces Janis Tanaka on bass and backup vocals, both of which are more pronounced this time around. The rest of the band sounds largely as they did before, with the exception of Sigrid switching from piano to Hammond organ. Its unmistakable tone gives a circus-like feel to the tales of dystopian politics gone mad.

Some familiar tricks are employed as Cobbett and Co. recycle a few choice riffs to maximize their impact; once again the (partly) instrumental intro acts as the reservoir for these fantastic streams of sound that grow into raging rivers as they reach their apex. Overall the music strays closer to the ballad side of things, with emotional slow burners like “Famine’s Lamp” and “We Are The Widows” dominating the mood. But the guitar-forward epic “Trot Out The Dead” and the painfully pretty “Chastity Rides” are the highlights of this more somber album.

The key to Hammers of Misfortune’s success is, as I’ve hinted at this before, their ability to balance all the ingredients of their complex recipe. At once playful, deadly serious and forward-thinking, there’s just the perfect amount of prog in their prog metal. But that’s prog with a lowercase “p” because there’s not a hint of pretension or weird for weird’s sake to be found. Just a group of musicians growing comfortable together, learning from one another and pushing each other to make devastatingly captivating music.

Bits and pieces of The Locust Years are easily as - and sometimes more - memorable as The August Engine, but as a whole it isn't quite as perfect. This slowed down and more reflective version of Hammers of Misfortune doesn't reach the grand scale they’re capable of. But that’s hardly a criticism. If anything, this third full-length solidifies their rightful place as a band to be reckoned with. Their quirky individuality, songwriting genius and the unstoppable duo of Mike Scalzi and John Cobbett make The Locust Years a fantastic addition to the Hammers catalog.

Dhwesha - Sthoopa

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

I don't really review a lot of metal that comes out of India, mainly because most of the stuff they make doesn't really appeal to me. Luckily, I finally managed to find a band that interests me. Their name is Dhwesha. They formed in Bangalore in 2008 and released their full-length debut, Sthoopa, eight years later. This album is a great homage to death metal's early days.

The music these guys play is mid-paced and crushing. It sounds like a mix of Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel. The bass is played by guest musician Avinash Ramchander. His performance is really high in the mix, which means the rest of the music sound dark and gritty as a result. Many modern death metal bands don't pay attention to the bass. It's good to know that the Indians are holding true to the old ways. Drummer Tushar Bajaj eschews rapid fire blast beats in favor of steady mid-paced rhythms that sound like a wave of cataphracts charging across the plains. The snare sounds like hammer blows and the cymbals sound like the clashing of steel. He also spices things up by playing a few elaborate patterns and fills that are influenced by traditional Hindi music. This influence becomes most apparent at the end of “Yuddhabhumi”. I loved that song.

The vocals are performed by Ajay Nagaraj. He belts out growls are dark and cavernous. He sounds like an army of ancient soldiers that had been risen from the grave. The guitars are performed by Somesha Sridhara. He has no interest in shredding your face off. Instead, he chooses to play lots of crushing mid-paced riffs that sound like the stomping of elephants from hell. These riffs possess a dirty, old school sound that would make the death metal gods smile. These rhythms eventually give way to piercing, high-pitched riffs and solos that radiate grace and beauty, a perfect contrast to the meaty old school riffs that dominate the album. As with the guitars, they also take the time to play a few riffs that are inspired by traditional Hindi music. This can be seen on songs like “Sabhe”. I love it when foreign metal bands spice up the recipe by mixing it with their culture.

These Indians have made something special here. Whereas most modern death metal sounds squeaky clean and sterile, these guys play it the way it originally was: dark, disgusting, and evil. They pay homage to legends like Bolt Thrower while also throwing in bits of their own culture into it. The end result is music that is powerful, aggressive, and unique

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 29, 2014

Meat and Potatoes with a side of Dal Bhat

Written by Kevin Page.

Sweden's version of Bolt Thrower, Just Before Dawn, returns for their sophomore effort of war induced death metal, aptly named, The Aftermath. This is the brainchild of ex Amon Amarth guitarist, Anders Biazzi. Following the path of its predecessor, it's loaded with guest appearances from well known members of the scene (too many to list, you can see who after you click the link and listen). It's death metal, its mid paced, it's like getting hit by an artillery strike. This should come as no surprise as the band isn't looking to reinvent the wheel here. If you'd like to know more, read my interview over at No Clean Singing.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Yes, more Swedish death metal. Is that ever really a bad thing? Featuring Per Boder and Björn Larsson of God Macabre fame, Mordbrand have released multiple splits and EP since 2010.  Imago is the band's debut full length and finally something that clicks with me.  It's not that I disliked their prior material, but it just never did much for me.  I can't put a reason on why or what it is about this album that resonates with me though.  Did they finally wear me down with their take on the style?  Did I have an epiphany?  I dunno, I just like it.  It's thick and heavy but with a looser and dare I say "bouncier" vibe than most bands doing the 'ole Swede thang.

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Another Swedish band, really? Well, Pyre are from Russia, but they sure sound Swedish. Think of an old school Dismember, during their violent and angry era (Like an Ever Flowing Stream/Pieces). I wrote about their prior 2012 EP here and stylistically they haven't changed one lick. And why should they change? They've only gotten better and better with each release. But before you roll your eyes and think they are yet another band mining the same overused well, give it a listen. If their conviction and energy don't win you over, the earworm riffs will.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Now what do you we have here. This band from Nepal unleashes their debut album seemingly out of nowhere. While they refer to themselves as Hindu/Vedic death metal, it often straddles the line of brutal death metal. The use of traditional ethnic instruments, along with chants and some female vocals add to the diversity. At times this works flawlessly and at times it feels slightly jumbled. When the band turns to blastbeats and treads into the brutal death metal category, it usually feels underdeveloped and/or "old hat". Overall there is much more to like here than be critical of. This is a band that is just screaming out for a more polished and refined sophomore record. I hope they can pull it off when that day comes.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 28, 2014

John, the Void - John, the Void

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Whenever an album has some kind of intro and outro tracks, I take it as a hint that probably listening to all of its tracks in the given order might make sense. And it obviously does in the case of John, the Void’s self titled EP of six songs and a total playing time of nearly 36 minutes.

An instrumental track called “The Eleventh” opens the album with dark metallic sounds like hammer on steel, creaking, grinding metal and distorted voices, accompanied by a dark ambient atmosphere as obscure that it leaves you wonder which direction the whole thing might take…, it could lead into some dark ambient industrial sounds as well as into the realms of post metal.

The following track “In Rows” though, leaves little doubt that this will become a post metal experience enriched with big portions of drone, doom and noise to create dark apocalyptic images and atmospheres. Any traces of doubt still left will be destroyed when the vocals set in for the first time at about 1:45. Harsh, growling screams that support the vibes of bleak, cold violence perfectly well, alternate with ambient instrumental parts, moments of quiet melancholy and despair carried by beautiful, emphatic melodies.

The rare wan rays of light and hope that are detectable through the otherwise cold and lonely darkness of “In Rows” are getting totally obliterated by the devastating heaviness of the next track “Quiescence”. This, being the longest song of the EP (and my favorite), shows the excellent songwriting skills of this five piece band. The nearly 9 minute song is filled with several build ups and a variety of moods and tensions. Layers of sound slowly grow into thick and heavy soundscapes and the ambient instrumental parts with their haunting, somber melodies are no less intense than the depressive crushing doom.

The “The Reversionist” continues the slow painful agony of destruction with forceful strained vocals at the start and menacing ambience evoking gloomy emotions. “The Ascension” contains the explosive energy of a final uproar ending in black and bleak nothingness, and the outro track “The Seventh”, as if it were possible, seems to even increase the nothingness, but adds a soft droning ambience that is almost soothing and consoling. This is also an instrumental and the complementary to the intro track and closes the album.

Within each song there’s an excellent balance between the heavy parts with their strong vocals and the instrumental ambient ones with this unique melancholic quietness still full of tension and a huge emotional impact. The album as a whole has its own build up as well as each of the songs and makes it all sound perfectly organic.

The icing on the cake is a stellar DIY production.

The five piece band from Pordenone/Italy formed in 2012, the current line up exists since 2013 and this self titled EP from June 2014 is their debut release !!!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The song "Quiescence" is featured on a The Wicked Lady Show 73.

November 26, 2014

Barbelith - Mirror Unveiled

Written by Matt Hinch.

Art by Art by A.B. Moore

Regular readers of Metal Bandcamp should know by now that this writer has a bit of a love affair with just about everything coming out of the Grimoire Records camp. They've got a stable full of well-bred stock competing hard in the USBM race. The latest charger to burst out of the gate is Barbelith and Mirror Unveiled.

The horse metaphor comes into play as Barbelith combines unbridled power with an inherent beauty as they marry up blistering black metal with spacious post-rock melodies over the course of four tracks and 27 minutes.

In general, the band dynamic relies on athletic percussive violence, harrowing vocal delivery and guitars that weave amongst themselves in fierce opposition while synchronous at their core. Barbelith's dichotomous nature works to not only scorch the earth to eradicate the negative but cleanse it as well allowing a fresh perspective to take its place.

On the longer tracks a cyclical pattern emerges moving from pure raging fury to serenity and back again while incorporating a mix of tempos. Galloping jaunts, skittering shuffles and a pseudo-groove all find a place alongside the ensuing madness and empyrean melodies. Among the obvious black metal comparisons (WITTR, Bosse-de-Nage) one can hear gentler passages reminiscent of Yakuza, Explosions in the Sky and even Pallbearer.

Most often the emotional cacophony builds to a crescendo as it spirals high to unleash a venom across the astral planes between bursts of energy and recovery. The rage seems necessary to clear clouds of melancholy and let peaceful, healing light bathe the listener. It's the juxtaposition of blasting drums and soaring, intimate melodies that really connect on multiple levels. Such as the anger that follows in the wake of hurt, or the fear that precedes opening up your heart and the relief that results.

One can feel a determination and drive to rise above the despair as Barbelith cycle through emotional states making minor changes along the way as no two experiences are exactly the same. And their tendency towards the mix of scorching black metal hatred and emotional melodies mirrors human nature in that the world is not black and white and nothing is fully understood on the superficial level.

Mirror Unveiled is a convincing and compelling album full of emotions both destructive and passionate. It hits the sweet spot balancing the furious with the halcyon, the raw with the refined. It's quite obvious that a broad palette of influences colour this majestic and triumphant work of art, filling all available space to create a surreal, enveloping and at times transcendent experience.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]