Thursday, October 31, 2013

All things dead must rise again when twilight's blanket falls

Tonight is Samhain, when people around the world dress outlandishly, stay up late watching horror movies and decorate their homes with evil things. Or as I like to think of it, amateur night. Someone once asked me why I never dress up for Halloween; I told them quite seriously that Halloween is when everyone else dresses like me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Necrophobic, Oranssi Pazuzu, Thrall, Temple Of Baal

Four years ago was when we last heard from the mighty Necrophobic, but the wait is over and well worth it. Womb of Lillithu is the band at their best, full of inescapable hooks and icy melodies, delivered with a confidence and panache that only true veterans possess. In a move that even Dissection couldn't pull off, Necrophobic successfully blows the scope of Swedish black metal wide open with a sound that takes them through the realms of NWOBHM and early thrash, for a spin on svart-metal that's both modern and classic. My vote for Swedish black metal AOTY. The album is available as a digital download for $9.99.

Since their inception, Oranssi Pazuzu have been dragging black metal into strange new worlds, and their newest album Valonielu is no exception. Pulsing with otherworldly menace, this is heavier than a psychedelic record has any right to be. If the idea of Unsane taking peyote and going black metal sounds awesome to you - and it should, because it is - then this needs to find its way to you, stat. The album is available as a digital download for $7.77.

Mid-period Darkthrone and Satyricon cast a deep shadow over Aussies Thrall. Aokigahara Jukai (named for Japan's infamous "suicide forest") has the same mid-tempo - dare I say, toe-tapping - swing that characterized the ever mutating second wave of black metal in recent years. If you rock out in the suicide forest and no one's around, does it make a sound? The album is available for AUD $8 (or USD $7.58 according to Paypal).

Of course, if scope, psychedelia or toe-tapping aren't your thing, there's always the devastating bludgeon of Temple Of Baal. Verses of Fire is black metal at its most brutal and direct, searing flesh from bone in a maelstrom of blastbeats, tremolo picking and bestial howling. In a word: Sublime. The album is available as a digital download for $8.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Gigan, Plague Widow/Oblivionized, Anakronis, Cyclamen

Gigan has been on my radar for years, but I never got around to checking them out until now. If their previous albums are anything like the mind-melting Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science, then I've been missing out. Impressive but never overbearing, this is tech death for people who don't like tech death. Recommended for anyone who loves blastbeats and convoluted riffs. And whale sounds. The album is available as a digital download for $7.99.

Plague Widow are a band that I've had my eye on for a while, their first self-titled EP being one of the best death metal debuts I've heard in recent years. This Black Earth, their split with Brits Oblivionized, carries on in that vein, with an unrelenting blasting fury that only makes me more impatient for a full-length. On their side, Oblivionized show that they're not ones to be overshadowed, with a slightly schizo approach to modern death metal that's highly reminiscent of The Red Chord. The four song EP is available as a digital download from the Buried In Hell Records Bandcamp page for $1.99, and worth every penny.

It's looking like Canada is the place to be for technical death metal, and adding to that reputation is Anakronis with their Regression EP. I like my tech-death light on the arpeggios and heavy on the blasting, and this definitely suits me. The hyper-compressed production doesn't quite do their musicianship justice, but that's not enough to obfuscate the band's potential. Ones to watch, for sure. The 5 track EP is available as a "name your price" download.

I'll give this to Tokyo's Cyclamen: they're nothing if not modern. At its best, Ashura recalls the likes of Ihsahn and the Ocean in representing prog-metal at its heaviest, though at times the djenty rhythms and clean vocals skew too close to the more unfortunate trends of metal's recent past. But the sheer talent on display is impressive, as is the impeccable production. Two different masterings of the album are available on Bandcamp, both as "name your price" downloads.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pretty Mouth: Fears

In good news for enthusiasts of feedback and chaotic hardcore, Pretty Mouth are back with their new release Fears, to have their way with traditional song structures the way a couple of hillbillies did with a quivering Ned Beatty. With two songs from their previous cassette release ("Apotheosis" and "The Joke"), Fears is very much in line with the Pretty Mouth oeuvre up to this point.

The band have refined their attack since I first encountered them on Men of the Tie, Men of the Cloth, Men of the Lie. Though "refined" may not be the best way to describe this evolution; their love of noise is still very much on display, but used in more deliberate and jarring ways. On songs like "Bridges" and "Demons", Fears swings like an ether huffer on a skiff, hinting at a newfound affection for groove. I can't help but think of Greg Ginn, and what he would have done if he had grown up on hardcore instead of inventing it. The result would have sounded an awful lot like Pretty Mouth.

Near the end of the release comes "Nights", a spoken word piece about black magic in India, offering the listener a brief respite without relieving the tension. It's strange to hear a band as politically and socially conscious as Pretty Mouth build a whole track around witchcraft; but as singer Lance Marwood says, "everyone's on that upside down cross dick these days."

With few exceptions, the tracks on Fears zip past in under two minutes. My one complaint about Pretty Mouth in the past was that their releases weren't longer, but I've since changed that opinion. After 10 minutes of my earbuds feeding this into my brain while I walked around town, I was crazed and bug-eyed, scaring tourists and locals alike. God knows what another 20 minutes would have done.

Pretty Mouth are back. Best to keep all sharp objects locked away.

Pretty Mouth - ghosts from YOSH Photography on Vimeo.

Fears is released on 30 October 2013.

Pre-orders are available through Pretty Mouth's Big Cartel and Bandcamp pages.

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