Monday, February 29, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Odyssey, Divine Realm, Oranssi Pazuzu, Aloft

Spokane instrumental trio Odyssey return with possibly their best album yet. As per the band's name, each song on Voids feels like a journey and an epic tale of its own - not unlike recent Cynic [sans the lovesick robot vocals]. But when they pick up the pace (as on the Voivod-esque "Before There Were Eyes"), it's apparent their hesher roots run deep. [$7]

Divine Realm aren't beyond showing off a little. Halfway between Steve Vai and Fredrick Thorendal, Tectum Argent is stubbornly idiosyncratic and wonderfully unpredictable. It's all a bit too "djenty" for this aging curmudgeon of a hesher, but the album is still laudable for its ambition. [$7 CAD]

Oranssi Pazuzu remain as committed to darkness as ever in their own psychedelic way. Doom, black metal, kraut rock and psychedelia are thown into the cement mixer they call Värähtelijä, and the results are as compelling as they are frightening. [€6.50]

Atmosphere is key for Texans Aloft. Their cosmic-minded debut Dark Energy combines classic prog and psych rock with some trippy electronica and even the occasional twangy rockabilly moment. This is begging for a laser show at a local science center; or at the very least, a black light poster. [$7]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Ulver, Entropia, Spektr, Aluk Todolo

After the invitation to nap that their collaboration with Sunn O))) ended up being, Ulver returns with something actually good. As the cover suggests, ATGCLVLSSCAP's mostly instrumental, ostensibly improvised "soundscapes" (because of course Ulver no longer perform anything as prosaic as "songs") show Garm is expanding from his black origins to explore infinite other shades. This is the most engaging Ulver album since Shadows of the Sun. [€7]

Following up their stellar (and still free) debut Vesper, Entropia deliver another dose of forward thinking black metal. For all the psychedelic overtones on Ufonaut, it's never less than utterly heavy. This joins recent albums by Thaw and Blaze of Perdition in making Poland one of the most exciting black metal scenes around. [$7.90]

French duo Spektr aren't afraid to take a bat to the black metal paradigm. The Art To Disappear re-contextualizes the dissonant scales and razor sharp riffing that characterized the second wave, and reassembles it alongside trip hop beats and shoegazing ambiance. But don't let their avant sensibilities turn you away; this is as dark as anything 1349 have done. [$7.90]

Speaking of French duos and breaking paradigms, Aluk Todolo have been redefining what it means to be a metal band for over a decade now. Essentially a single song broken up into 6 parts, Voix is an immaculate display of tension and release, creating drama through pace and dynamics. Layering skronking guitars over a driving rhythm section, this is what a film score would sound like if you let Unsane do it. [€7]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Abbath, Naðra, Hyperion, Grafvitnir

After Immortal's very public and very embarrassing disintegration  - who could have guessed that a band with a predilection for make-up and costumes could be capable of such drama? - mainman Abbath has struck out on his own. Predictably, his eponymous debut sounds like a mix between I (his last solo excursion) and the most recent Immortal albums, taking the galloping NWOBHM-isms of the former and melding them to Immortal's trademark speed. The result is damn near irresistible. The gates to Blashyrkh may be closed for now, but its most prominent ambassador is still out there crusading on its behalf; I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.  [$9.99]

Apparently Iceland is quite the hotbed for metal these days; I've gushed about Sólstafir and Beneath in the past, and am ready to add Naðra to that list. Allir vegir til glötunar juggles black, folk and occasional post influences with style, and shows that the band has a refined sense of pacing and structure: Even when their songs stretch to the 14 minute mark, they never feel like a chore. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Hyperion are nothing if not ambitious on their debut full-length. Seraphical Euphony marries the folk and faux-classical elements of early In Flames and later Emperor, respectively. Sometimes their symphonic tendencies fall on the wrong side of twee; but you have to admire their moxie. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

If you like your svartmetall as svart as possible, Grafvitnir are only too happy to deliver. Necrosophia tears off all frills and burns them in its rush to deliver black metal in its purest and truest form. Black as coal, and just as likely to start fires. [$6]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Keep'n it R'lyeh

Within the heaviest of heavy metals, there’s a sound that's becoming increasingly prominent; that favours odd time signatures, discordance, and slow lurching riffs as much as blastbeats; and throughout it all, sustains a dark and oppressive atmosphere. It crosses the boundaries of death, black, doom, and sludge, heedless of categorization (and the nerds who need it). Death metal OGs Immolation and Gorguts epitomize this sound, as do rising stars Ulcerate and Mitochondrion. The last few years has seen an explosion of new bands like Creeping, Teeth and Abyssal who started on a similar path and crafted their own take. I'm even inclined to shoehorn bands like Blaze of Perdition and Deathspell Omega, who share similar tendencies...but I already did a lot of convoluted pontificating about "avant noir", so maybe I'll leave that alone for now.

An Interview with Ego Depths

FEAR EMPTINESS DESPAIR: It's not just one of the seminal albums of my youth, it's the prism through which I see the world. So when I discovered one man project Ego Depths (OᎮƎDEPTHS if you nasty), I felt an immediate kinship since that was the description attached. At times oppressive and overwhelming, at others calm and meditative, their approach to extreme doom is something I found myself returning to often. With a new album out through Dusktone records, the time seemed long past due to find out more. The mysterious Stigmatheist was kind enough to answer my questions in the limited window my Chinese New Year weekend provided...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Master, Chthe'ilist, Awe, Sunless

Not resting long after their last tour and an appearance on the main stage of MDF, death metal OGs Master return with their 13th album in a career that's older than most of their fans. An Epiphany Of Hate is pure unrelenting old school heaviness (in that style before "thrash" and "death" went their separate ways), looping in some Sabbath influences along the way. It all sounds a little familiar, but there's probably no impetus to reinvent the wheel when you helped shape it in the first place. [€7]

Sharing members with tech/death stars Beyond Creation, it goes without saying that Chthe'ilist can play circles around most bands. But Le Dernier Crépuscule has little in common with the clinical brutality of their other gig, instead going down a more atmospheric route full of convoluted riffs, tricky time changes, and guttural vocals. Like a night time hike through R'Lyeh.  [$9.99]

I had no idea Greek band Awe existed until fairly recently; but let's be fair, neither did you. Providentia is their ambitious first full length, and the three songs herein add up to 50 minutes of chimaeric black/death, running the gamut from slow atmospherics to total destruction and back again. A surprisingly forward-thinking and original addition to the Pulverized roster. [$9.99]

Minnesota's Sunless only have a two song demo to their name, but are already turning heads. Ulcerate and Gorguts are cited as influences, but I also hear a lot of the discordant hardcore that came out at the turn of the millennium. One way or another, a band a lot of people will be watching closely. The demo is available as a "name your price" download.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Interview with Exterminate

Readers should know by now that I love me some Brazilian death metal. In fact, this blog probably wouldn't exist without it. So I was stoked to discover Porto Alegre's Exterminate. In a dry year for all out brutality, their debut Burn Illusion encapsulated all the things that I love about that scene: unrelenting speed, memorable songs, blasphemous intent; take no prisoners, give no fuck death metal. Bassist Marcelo Feijó was gracious enough to answer my questions, with an assist from both sides by Google Translate.