Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Long Hundred: Redux

A while back I announced that I was working on a series of posts called "100 Albums I'm Glad I Heard Before I Died."; the idea was to write about albums that had a profound effect on me, that changed me in some way, or that I felt lucky to have heard. That was 3 years ago, and I have yet to post a single one. [Anyone who knows me is probably used to big ideas with no follow through.]  Instead, I started a podcast, focused my spare time on writing and recording my death metal project, and grew to despise my own writing thousands of time. Doing a hundred posts seemed like it required more of a time commitment than I was prepared to make.

Bandcamp Picks: A Forest of Stars, Terra, Downfall of Nur, Taake

Send home the maid-of-all-work and break out the laudanum, A Forest Of Stars return with their fourth album Beware The Sword You Cannot See. The number of seemingly disparate elements in play here is staggering: Violins and female vocals rub shoulders with blastbeats and tremolo picking; elsewhere, psychedelic guitars and neo-folk sprechstimme wash over Eighties goth keyboards. It's a lot to take on in just one sitting; luckily, the album comes pre-divided into two sections, with the second half of the album being the six-part "Pawn on the Universal Chessboard". This is as black as artisanal coffee and just as twee. [$6.99]

If the descriptor "British black metal" makes you think of tinkly keyboards, costume parties, and over-exuberant chipmunk squeaking, newcomers Terra throw all those preconceptions out the window. Their Untitled debut is pure atmospheric black metal, with only a sparing use of [heavily reverbed] vocals, strongly reminiscent of Wolves In The Throne Room at their prime. A commendable debut. [£5]

Argentinian folk/black metal "proyect" Downfall of Nur occupies both the raw and epic spheres of black metal; with no post-rock influence and a guitar tone as frigid as anything that came out of Oslo during the second wave, Umbras de Barbagia plays like a rawer, less NPR-friendly Agalloch. Or maybe this is what "tote bag metal" sounds like in Argentina. [€4]

Taake turned a lot of heads with their last album, pulling out the banjos like a bunch of black metal rednecks (photos of them playing with swastikas and/or their junk showing certainly helped solidify that impression). There are no banjos on Stridens Hus, but there is a classic metal influence that pops up occasionally. Besides that, it's business as usual for Taake: Frostbitten riffs and blastbeats driving songs built for memorability. Beneath the controversy and coloured contacts may be the last great Norwegian black metal band. [$7.50]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Osmantikos Interview

Osmantikos are a long-running Malaysian crust band, a staple of the local scene who epitomize the dark hardcore sound that's becoming increasingly popular. I find them endearing for their lack of pretension - made evident by the fact that they're comfortable playing shows in whatever they happen to be wearing that day, dad hats and all. With a new split release and their first Japanese tour eminent, it seemed like a good time to sit down with them and talk about their past, present, and future.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bandcamp Picks: Hacavitz, Skogen, Leviathan, Epoch

For all its charms, unrelenting black metal can quickly turn monotonous. Mexico's legendary Hacavitz, having shed the overt Incantation influence of their earlier albums, wisely mix up their blasphemous assault with a generous helping of midpaced (dare I say, rocking) sections that keep Darkness Beyond from dragging. [$7]

The debut by Sweden's Skogen has recently been re-issued as the album, originally released in 2007, has long been out of print. (I would like to take this moment to point out to you trendy cassette and vinyl fetishists that digital releases never go out of print; Bandcamp or bust!). Aside from sharing its name with another Swedish black metal band's seminal debut, Vittra is a masterful take on epic folky black metal. [50 SEK]

Leviathan are back, and this time without any relationship/legal baggage to weigh them down. Scar Sighted is a return to the band's churning roots, filled with eerie atmospherics and blastbeats aplenty. The future of USBM is safe for now (even though, according to mainman Jeff Wrest, this isn't black metal at all). [$8.99]

While many in the current black metal scene seem unable to keep their private lives private, the mysterious Epoch have successfully obscured their identities, even nationalities: All I've been able to dig up about them is their album was recorded in France, though allegedly the band members are Greek. Regardless of its geographic origins, Sacrosanct is the kind of unrelenting blackened death metal that throws my neck out of alignment, reminiscent of Zyklon and Brazilian masters Nephasth. This is a fantastic (I think) debut. Highly recommended. [$7]