Sunday, July 23, 2017

An Interview with Azarath

Poland's Azarath has been releasing incredibly brutal albums since 2001, but most metal fans probably only know them as Behemoth drummer Inferno's other band. With a terrific new album out through Agonia Records, the time may finally have come to redress that. As a longtime fan of the true brutal daeth matel, I got in touch with the band, and guitarist Bart was kind enough to answer my questions.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Ex Eye, Völur, Progenie Terrestre Pura, Cosmic Void Ritual

If there's one band that seems to reaffirm Relapse Records' commitment to digging up unusual acts (and not just Neurosis/Mastodon clones), it's the New York based Ex Eye. At times recalling the frenetic intensity of the first Lightning Bolt album (with Colin Stetson's saxophone in place of Brian Gibson's bass), at times encompassing the grandeur of Godspeed You Black Emperor (and on at least one song, ACTUALLY COMBINING THE TWO), their self-titled debut may be the most experimental album the label has issued since they shut down the Release imprint. I've never heard an album quite like this one.  [$10]

Violins and doom metal are natural bedfellows - just ask My Dying Bride - but Toronto trio Völur make it an exclusive relationship by eschewing guitars all together. With its emphasis on strings as well as choral arrangements, their second album Ancestors brings to mind European doom oddballs 3rd and the Mortal and In The Woods, as well as more recent eclectics Giant Squid and Grayceon. It's not all moody introspection; the closing track picks up the pace to create a cacophonous racket. A lesson in violins you won't soon forget. [$6.99]

"Space metal" is becoming an increasingly crowded if diverse genre; Italians Progenie Terrestre Pura are cosmic explorers in their own way. A blender baby of different subgenres, oltreLuna doesn't shy away from either caustic black metal or prog indulgence, adding electronica, new age keyboards and acoustic sections along the way. As bold and experimental as anything Devin Townsend has done. [€6]

Cosmic Void Ritual are only interested the darkest parts of space. Transcendence Through Galactic Death, their second EP in as many months, combines the "recorded in a sewer drain" aesthetic of early Carcass with tricky time changes and unconventional riffs. A project as intriguing as it is enigmatic. Both EPs are available as "name your price" downloads.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Long Hundred 002/100: Sacrilege - Lost in the Beauty You Slay which a group of also-rans with a borrowed name released one of the seminal melodic death metal albums of my youth.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Sólstafir, Dynfari, Skáphe, Draugsól

One of the most memorable concert experiences of recent years was seeing Sólstafir play a late afternoon set in Maryland a few years back. With their eclectic style and oddball charisma, they seemed like a band on the cusp of bigger things. Their latest album Berdreyminn might be their breakthrough album; simultaneously looking forward and backwards, it draws on a bygone era of psychedelia and space rock as well as modern post rock/dream pop to power their uniquely trippy style of heavy rock. Add in the occasional choir and piano accompaniment, and you've got a kaleidoscopic opus of longing and nostalgia. [$11.99]

Fellow Icelanders Dynfari have their own psychedelic proclivities. Ostensibly grown in a mushroom field, The Mind of The Four Doors strays brazenly from its atmospheric black metal roots into more experimental territories, with Timothy Leary-esque dissertations on the nature of reality and acoustic folk excursions. This is what happens when black metal goes to college and gets existential. [€7]

Skáphe is a project created by Alex Poole of US black metal pillars Krieg (among others) with Dagur Gonzales of Icelandic black metal standouts Naðra and Misþyrming (among others). Their latest release is single 22 minute composition, a nightmare world of dissonant notes, reverberating howls and sudden time changes. A journey to the center of an unwell mind. The track is available as a "name your price download".

Not everything is avant garde and experimental up in Iceland - newcomers Draugsól stick to a more traditional template. Volaða Land grafts black metal malevolence to death metal savagery, resulting in a speedy little rough-hewn debut that never gets monotonous. Quite possibly the first ripples of an emerging behemoth. [€7]

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Devouring Star, Artificial Brain, John Frum, Ingurgitating Oblivion

The new three song EP from Finland's Devouring Star splits the difference between "black" and "doom". Embodying cold restraint, Antihedron goes about its work with all the emotion of a steamroller (and at around the same pace). Glacial in more ways than one. [€6]

In their short career, New York's Artificial Brain have managed to carve out their own niche of sci-fi themed death metal. Infrared Horizon, their sophomore release, combines speed and dissonance while smartly using repetition to anchor its tumultuous sturm und drang. A hadron collider of simplicity and progressive sensibilities. [$8.99 CAD]

With a line up that includes alumni of Dillinger Escape Plan and John Zorn's band, you'd be forgiven for expecting some batshit crazy calculator rock from recent Relapse signing John Frum. A Stirring In The Noos is only slightly offbeat in its approach, fusing elements of mathcore to NY-style death metal in a way that's reminiscent of the Red Chord in their early (and best) years. A smarter take on brutality. [$8.99]

Since 2001, Germany's Ingurgitating Oblivion have been distilling their own unique blend of avant-garde death metal. Befitting its convoluted title, their third album Vision Wallows In Symphonies Of Light is a twisted, morphing behemoth that excels in conjuring haunting soundscapes that are in no particular hurry to end. The seeds that Gorguts planted 20 years ago are bearing some strange and interesting fruit. [$8.99]

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Full of Hell, Succumb, Art of Burning Water / Nothing Clean, Lock Up

Following the noise-centric experimentation of their collaborations with Merzbow and the Body, DoC friends Full of Hell return with a back to basics, head to toe battering. Trumpeting Ecstasy shows how much the band have mastered their brand of grinding power violence, plying their hellacious racket at breakneck speeds without ever losing control. Throwing in a Morbid Angel riff (and possibly a Pete Sandoval dig) on "Crawling Back to God" is a nice touch, as is the ambient interlude on the title track. Ruthlessly economical. [$7.99 CAD]

Labels are a tricky thing with Bay Area band Succumb. Ostensibly a death/grind band, the tumultuous discordance on their self-titled debut has as much in common with Converge as it does with Incantation, with Cheri Musrasrik's howls sounding like they were recorded in a particularly malevolent storm drain. With the fawning over the old school revival drawing to a close, the time is ripe for savvy experimentalists to fuse genres in ways that haven't been done to death. [$7]

DoC faves Art of Burning Water are as prolific as any band you'd care to mention, most recently issuing a split with fellow Brits Nothing Clean. Nothing Clean fires off 7 tracks of grinding powerviolence in less than 5 minutes, the cumulative effect being that of a curb stomping. AOBW contribute a Negative approach cover and two originals that bludgeon you quicker than it'll take to read their titles aloud. It's a fine line between stupid and cleaver. The split is available as a "name your price" download.

The newest addition to the Lock Up saga has Brutal Truth frontman Kevin Sharp making his first recorded appearance alongside fellow veterans Shane Embury, Anton Reisenegger and Nick Barke. Demonization distinguishes itself from both Brutal Truth's embrace of chaos as well Napalm's recent experimental excursions by firing off 13 impossibly tight, teeth-rattlingly fast grind anthems, plus the title track (which is very much a sequel to the under-rated Napalm industrial dirge "Contemptuous"). I don't know if Lock Up are generating quite the same excitement as when the supergroup was first announced; and the preponderance of other Napalm/Truth spin-offs has tarnished some of its luster (smile and wave, Venomous Concept). Still, few people have a handle on the genre as firmly as the gentlemen in this line-up. [€7.99]

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - The Obsessed, Duel, Farflung, Doctor Cyclops

The Obsessed have returned with their first new release since the seminal Church Within album came out back in 1994. Sacred is an appropriate title for the fourth Obsessed album, because HOLY FUCK THAT GUITAR TONE. [It's the same guitar tone that sent me sprinting across a parking lot in Baltimore back in 2013.] The album is of everything the band released previously in their nearly 40 (!!!) year career - though the double bass drumming that pops up on "Stranger Things" is a surprising but welcome deviation from their classic sound, adding a bit of Motörhead bombast to the proceedings (which is appropriate, as Wino has always been a kind of doom metal Lemmy). It's a bit of an over-reach to call this an Obsessed "reunion", since no one from previous line-ups is involved; packaging new Wino material with a recognizable name is more of a marketing decision, really. In truth, there has been very little to differentiate Wino's various projects over the years - but it's still good to know that he's out there, no matter what the incarnation. [$10.99]

Following a solid if somewhat forgettable debut, Austin's Duel return with an album that's both heavier and more memorable. Witchbanger maintains the band's laconic pace, but adds some Tipton and Downing bombast, channeling Priest's early albums with its galloping swagger, though singer Tom Frank utilizes a soulful tenor instead of the vocal hysterics that characterized Seventies metal. Even without Halford's stratospheric range, this delivers the goods. [$8]

On their latest EP, the long running Farflung have updated Hawkwind's search for space with some modern post rock inflections. Anchored by hypnotic basslines, Unwound Cellular Frown lets its FX pedals burrow into every bit of sonic space, combining the repetitive, reverberating indulgences of two eras for one long psychedelic journey. [$7]

The past is present for ocular rockers Doctor Cyclops. Their third album Local Dogs is a Hammond organ assisted love letter to Sabbath, as well as the bands that followed in their wake like Pentagram and Witchfinder General (who are covered at the end). Noted insalubrious descanter Bill Steer shows up on a couple songs to contribute some leads and indulge his retro fixation. Hey, it's gotta be 1974 somewhere. [€10]

Friday, April 28, 2017

Catching up with Necrowretch

I first encountered Necrowretch back in 2015 when they were touring South East Asia. It took me a 5 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur down to Johor Bahru to see them, and their hellish thrashing death metal did not disappoint; neither did the podcast interview we did. Since then, they found a new home with Season of Mist Records, and just released their third album. I checked in with vocalist/guitarist Vlad to find out more.