Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Year to Survive

One of the more terrible years of my life is coming to a close. But before I get to say goodbye to 2017, I had to suffer through another fucking holiday season of appropriated pagan traditions, crass materialism and yuppie entitlement. Do you know anyone who hates Christmas? I mean, genuinely despises it? Well you do now.

Among the more useless traditions of the season is the year end list. As people gather around their screens to feel smug about how hip or "kvlt" their music choices are (delivered to them by the ür kvlt platforms of Spotify and Apple), I thought I'd try something a little different. Instead of "the ten best albums of 2017", I revisited releases by the bands who I've been listening to for a decade or more; the bands whose music shaped what I listen to - and in the case of one band, who I am.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - 2017 Stocking Stuffer Edition

[All releases were listed as free or "name your price" downloads at the time of writing. That can change, so it's best to download these ASAP.]

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mixtape 40 - Rosetta

Here is the 40th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring an interview with Matthew Weed and Eric Jernigan of Rosetta. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Godflesh, Thaw, Svartidauði, Gnaw

Stripped of the grime of their earliest albums, Godflesh still has the power to unsettle. In case you forgot about Justin Broadrick's extended dub phase, Post Self is here to remind you of the fact, following up where releases like Nihil and the temporarily shelved Messiah left off - with G.C. Green's bass anchoring Broadrick's ambient guitar to the most machine-like beats the duo have employed in decades. Robotic in the best possible way. [$8]

Thaw have embraced noise since their earliest recordings. Though the band has deep roots in Poland's vibrant death and black metal scenes, Grains is ostensibly a doom drone album, finding common ground with the likes of Black Boned Angel and Earth in both its monolithic assault and ambient interludes. A marriage of knuckle dragging hesherdom and chin-stroking experimentation. [$7.90]

Iceland's Svartidauði are themselves no strangers to avant garde weirdness. Their latest two song EP is a rabbit hole of nightmarish psychedelic black metal, with "Exultation" consisting of a single guitar melody repeated over shifting drum patterns. Two songs lasting 14 minutes - to ask for more would be to invite madness. [€2]

With a lineage that goes back to the genre-hopping grind of OLD and the proto-industrial of Ike Yard, Gnaw is a band that can be relied on to bring the noise. Cutting Pieces is album number three for the NY band, broadening their caustic sludge with experimental electronic music and Alan Dubin's tormented diatribes. As reassuring as a choir of dental drills. [$6.99]

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Rebaelliun, Degial, Krallice, Pile of Priests

It's good to know that DoC friends Rebaelliun are staying busy since their return. Though marketed as a "deluxe re-issue", half of Bringer Of War (The Last Stand) is new material recorded this year. The new songs show how the band has grown in 20 years: Still able to blast with the best of them but unafraid to inject some Bolt Thrower groove into their sound. Released back in 2000 and long out of print, the original Bringer of War EP helped establish a new generation of Brazilian death metal bands (including Krisiun, Abhorrence, and Mental Horror) who were faster and more vicious than any that came before them. This should go without saying, but expect no prisoners to be taken, and no fucks to be given. [€4.90]

Degial were always an oddity, being a Swedish death metal band who rode the old school revival wave with a style more indebted to Morbid Angel than Entombed. Predator Reign, their third album, is their most accomplished to date, and as blistering and frenetic as anything that's come out of Brazil or Poland. Geography is not destiny. [€6.66]

Krallice are nothing if not prolific - scant weeks after releasing their collaboration with Neurosis' Dave Edwards, the NY band has dropped their 8th album (and 11th release overall since 2008). Go Be Forgotten is the band's most straight forward release in years, utilizing the unrelenting speed and eerie atmospherics of second wave black metal and giving them that unique Krallice twist. For all the fluffier and less credible aspects of American black metal, there's no questioning this band when it comes to work ethic and musicianship. Krallice are simply in a class of their own. [$7]

Denver trio Pile of Priests probably don't see "living in the past" as a bad thing. The convoluted riffs and popping bass on their Tenebrous Labyrinth EP put them in closer alignment with the progressive bands on Roadrunner Records circa 1993 than anything in the modern "tech" or "djent" circles. Tacked on at the end are covers of Sadus, Coroner, and Kreator - in case you were wondering how far the fruit has fallen from the tech/thrash tree. [$5]

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Blaze of Perdition, Aosoth, Blut Aus Nord, Imperceptum

Blaze Of Perdition have survived tragedy to become one of the most interesting and intelligent bands to come out of Poland's celebrated metal scene. Abetted by a stellar production, Conscious Darkness uses the band's knack for blasting judiciously, focusing instead on atmosphere to create songs that are nothing less than monumental. Similar to the more restrained moments of the last Behemoth album, Blaze of Perdition have pushed black and death metal past cartoonish posturing and into real auteurship. [$7.90]

Formed by members of Antaeus and Order of Apollyon, Aosoth takes a more restrained and nuanced approach than its parent bands. Impenetrable on first listen, V: The Inside Scriptures isn't afraid of injecting some groove into its monolithic assault, in addition to the occasional noise interlude. Another reason why the French black metal scene is not to be ignored. [$7.90]

Of course, you can't bring up French avant garde black metal without mentioning Blut Aus Nord. Deus Salutis Meae transposes the band's unsettling discordance into industrial territory, upping the aura of bleakness in the process. An assault by machines of loathing disgrace. [€7.77]

Mysterious one man black metal project (is there another kind?) Imperceptum has had a busy year. The fifth release since 2016, Aeons of Saturnine Desolation leaves no question as to its creator's passion for droning ambient epics. Satan's wet/dry vacs gather for attack. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

An Interview with Squalus

Giant Squid was one of my favourite bands, due to their progressive approach to sludge metal that resulted in some of the most interesting and original albums of the last ten years. Though they called it quits recently, their members are back with a new project called Squalus. Since their Translation Loss debut The Great Fish was one of the albums I looked forward to most in 2017, I was eager to find out more about the band's origins and intentions. Vocalist/bassist A.J. Gregory was kind enough to answer my questions.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Cannibal Corpse, Exhumed, Daemusinem, THÆTAS/Haagenti

Few things in this world are as reliable as a new Cannibal Corpse album. Red Before Black, their 14th gore-soaked (s)platter, sees them reuniting with fellow death metal OG Erik Rutan, whose production brings an immediacy and clarity to the band's deceptively thoughtful songwriting. The most consistent and prolific of the genre's elder statesmen, at this point "death metal" is as concise a descriptor of  Cannibal Corpse as you'll get - and vice versa. [$9.99]

After the oddly restrained Necrocracy, Exhumed are back with a more recognizable cross section of gore fucking metal. A concept album based on the Burke and Hare murders, Death Returns matches Surgical Steel for riff after NWOBHM inspired riff, with symphonic interludes worthy of a Christopher Young score. The return of original Exhumed vocalist/bassist (and friend of the blog) Ross Sewage is as much of a bonus as the Exodus cover included at the end. [$10]

Comprising members of Putridity, Turin's Daemusinem continue largely in the same (opened) vein. Thy Ungodly Defiance is unbelievably fast, with squealing pinch harmonics punctuating the guttural onslaught, and technical in a way that enhances the brutality rather than detracting from it. There's no need to complain that Cryptopsy have strayed too far from their vile origins when bands like Daemusinem are here to pick up the slack. [$7.99]

With members of Buckshot Facelift, there's no doubt DoC friends THÆTAS are committed to expanding what it means to be a NYDM band while upholding their city's brutal legacy. The three songs on their new split release have enough blastbeats and slam parts to make Suffocation proud grandpas, but vary their attack with skronking guitar noise and changing tempos. On the other side of the split (and the L.I.E.) make progressive metal great again by keeping the blast even through shifting time signatures, with nods to fellow Long Island native Chuck Schuldiner along the way. Both sides of the split are available as "name your price" downloads.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Altarage, Vassafor, Krallice with Dave Edwardson, Blattaria

Spain's Altarage haven't been around for very long, but are proving to be masters of the new wave of discordant blast. Endinghent, their second album, is alternately blisteringly fast and creepingly slow, with the band's knack for dissonance keeping the listener on edge. Making death metal grate again. [€9]

Over the course of numerous demos, splits, and EPs since the Nineties, Vassafor have been a fixture of New Zealand's increasingly celebrated metal scene. Their second album Malediction heaps the atmosphere upon their filthy (at times surprisingly catchy) style of black metal without losing its evil core. Black and foul to the utmost. [€7.77]

Dave Edwardson's guttural vocals always brought an extra level of menace to Neurosis, so it's about time they were employed by a much heavier band like NY's Krallice. Frenetic and unpredictable, Loüm lets Edwardson's roar intersperse the dizzying progressive black metal that Krallice are known for. It's a testament to the album's ferocity that the bassist from Neurosis is the least metal thing about it. [$7]

The brainchild of Oklahoma-based Manuel Garcia, Blattaria is no run of the mill one-man black metal band. Their self-titled album (actually their second release) splits its time between skronking blasts and short psychedelic interludes, reaching John Zorn levels of neighbour-bothering cacophony. A wildly creative and unorthodox work; I look forward to hearing more from this project in the future. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Iron Monkey, Ufomammut, Deadsmoke, Stonebirds

One of a handful of bands that pioneered what we refer to today as "sludge metal", the mighty Iron Monkey have returned to sack the kingdom they helped build. 9-13, the band's first album since calling it quits at the end of the Nineties, sees them sticking doggedly to what they do best by molding piercing feedback around Sabbath sized riffs. A cogent reminder that beyond volatile personalities and gig drama, Iron Monkey's reputation was built around some really fucking heavy songs. [$10]

The inclusion of Ufomammut on the Neurot roster should be taken as a sign that they're a cut above the usual sludge/post-metal band. Album 8 puts them within spitting distance of psychedelic warlords Hawkwind, cramming effects into every available sonic space in the band's repetitive grooves. Black light poster boys for hell's own head shop. [$8]

Fellow Italians Deadsmoke shake loose most of doom metal's bluesy roots, leaving behind something primal and monolithic. The seven songs on Mountain Legacy won't be rushed, nearing doom/drone austerity in their sleepier than Sleep trudge. An arduous climb to the land of Nod. [€8]

Though rough around the edges, French trio Stonebirds are incredibly nuanced in their approach. Their third album Time sees them navigating between fragile melancholy and oppressive heaviness, finding common ground with the dronegaze of The Angelic Process as well as post-metal usual suspects Pelican and Isis. Doom for the thinking man. [€5]

Mixtape 39 - Parasytes

Here is the 39th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring an interview with Montréal punks Parasytes.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Unsane, Squalus, Usnea, Helpless

The return of mighty Unsane is always a cause for celebration. No surprises as to what they've cooked up with Sterilize - the NY trio's 8th album (and first for Southern Lord) is still the crushing noise rock that they pioneered in the Eighties, with Chris Spencer's trademark twanging riffs providing the only respite from the blanketing onslaught. Three decades of total destruction and we're all better for it.  [$8.99]

A re-shuffling of DoC faves Giant Squid, Pacifica CA's Squalus continue the pelagic themes and inventive heaviness of their previous incarnation. The Great Fish takes inspiration (and dialogue) from the movie Jaws, using two bass guitars and spacey keyboards to re-tell Peter Benchley's tale of a carcharodon terrorizing a small seaside town. Anyone with a soft spot for prog metal concept albums will find a lot to sink their teeth into here. [$9.99]

Portland doom quartet Usnea have been busy carving out their own niche in the post-post metal landscape. Portals Into Futility finds a middle ground between the cerebral sludge of the Neur/Isis crowd with the more hesher-centric death-doom of Morgion. Who says cookie monster vocals and post-metal don't mix? [$10]

As with most of the recent crop of power violence bands, there's no denying the influence of Converge on Plymouth's Helpless. Debt takes its cues not just from the Boston band's heaviest moments, but Kurt Ballou's speaker-cracking productions as well; the result is as headache-inducing as the best of Nails and Full of Hell. Like a power-drill through the skull - get the Advil out now. [£7]

An Interview with Nucleus

Chicago's Nucleus has been a band to keep an eye on for a few years now, playing a progressive style of death metal that hearkens back to Nocturnus and Voivoid, both musically and thematically. Their debut full-length Sentient and the follow up EP Fragmented Self were both impressive statements of purpose, and showed how far the band had come since their early recordings. As I love music that's both thoughtful and heavy, I got in touch with the band; guitarist Dan Ozcanli was kind enough to answer my questions.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Monarch!, Totengott, Cavernlight, Hundred Year Old Man

The 8th (!!!) album from French outfit MONARCH! plumbs the depths of misery without getting too monotonous. Never Forever is a car crash in slow motion of sludge metal, feedback, and droning noise passages. Emilie Bresson's vocal approach is accordingly eclectic, mutating from shrieks to growls to creepy clean singing and spoken word sections. A band that doesn't just perform doom metal as a form of Sabbath worship. [$7.99 CAD]

Spain's Totengott wear their Celtic Frost influence loudly and proudly. The aptly titled Doppelgänger is a spiritual twin to the heaviest Frost material, including a pretty spot-on Tommy Fisch-sticks impression. The world certainly isn't lacking reverential imitations of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, but Totengott ranks among the best (and heaviest). Urgh! [€5]

Wisconsin's Cavernlight are only on their second album, but have seemingly mastered their style of sludgy doom. As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache (a long title for an equally drawn out and morose album) is at turns crushing and ambient, culminating in the monumental final track, which employs female vocals and a blasting finish. An eloquent and cathartic work of loss and sadness. [$5]

Leeds' Hundred Year Old Man approach the genre with more in mind than slow chord progressions. The three songs on the single/EP Black Fire is suitably bleak, adopting ambient drone to find a middle ground between Cult of Luna and experimental musicians like Aidan Baker. Heavy, but with the thoughtfulness befitting a band on the high-minded Gizeh records. [£2]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Rosetta, Chelsea Wolfe, Ocean Forest

In this age of Trumpism and alt right trolls, we should be doubly thankful for the return of anarchist collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Though rooted in the atmospheric quasi-orchestral sound they pioneered, Luciferian Towers sees the band embracing the power of the riff, resulting in what may be the heaviest album of their career. [$9]

Philadelphia's Rosetta have been shaking lose their hardcore roots to arrive at more cerebral destinations. On Utopioid, the band crafts a concept album in movements, using their cascading guitar lines to flesh out a narco-somatic world of disappointment. The album is available as a name your price download.

Though ostensibly an indie artist, what Chelsea Wolfe does is as dark as anything you'd find with the suffix "metal" attached to it. Her latest album Hiss Spun isn't wanting for crushing riffs and pounding drums, though she's capable of being just as chilling with only her voice and an acoustic guitar on songs like "Two Spirit". [$8.99]

Ocean Forest probably remember the Eighties fondly. On their laconic debut, the South Carolina trio have a shoegazing, surf rock-tinged take on early post punk, delivering 9 songs of the New Wave that could have been - poppy, unvarnished, and haunting. [$5.95]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

in the nineties we loved feedback and arty record sleeves.

Almost completely forgot about this: Dragbody were a band from Florida who did the noisecore thing (a la Converge/Botch/Kiss it Goodbye) and recorded an EP at Morrisound (albeit with an engineer who was neither Scott Burns nor Tom Morris). I saw them at CBGBs and bought this 7" from them (and liked it enough to track down their full-length Flip The Killswitch a little while later).

My memory is a black hole of false impressions and mis-remembered happenings, but I vaguely recall talking with these guys after their set and their being nice to me. That's something that would stand out to a long-haired metal kid who had just started going to hardcore shows in the Nineties.

I'm not sure why Dragbody never caught on with a wider audience; I'll put it down to the innate tribal/lemming mentality of hardcore kids at the time. Most of my hardcore friends would rather listen to a mediocre band from their hometown than take a chance on an unknown band from out of state or another country. [To wit: No one I knew cared about Refused until after they had broken up and made their way to the "best of" lists of punk rock's cool kids. But I digress.] Dragbody's releases were certainly as good as anything else in the style released between Fixation on a Coworker and Jane Doe. I'm glad someone has made this available online; hopefully a Bandcamp release is in the works so their music can find its way to a newer, less boxed-in audience.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Celephaïs, Myrkur, Wolves in the Throne Room, An Autumn for Crippled Children

Five years since their ambitious 25 minute meisterwork Tir N'a n'Og (still phenomenal and still available for free), DoC faves Celephaïs are back with another bout of bleak folky instrumentals. Each track on Monad is a journey of tension and release - prosaic and contemplative one minute, bloodthirsty and unrestrained the next. As far as nature-themed black metal goes, you'll have a hard time finding anything that tops this. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

All the haters in the world haven't slowed down Myrkur. With her second album Mareridt, the erstwhile Amelie Bruun shows the songwriting prowess only hinted at on her unexpectedly divisive debut, letting her ethereal vocals traverse over black metal, gothy doom and neo-folk, along the way teaming up with fellow purveyor of Pitchfork-friendly darkness Chelsea Wolfe. Bruun probably won't end up being the cross-over star that Relapse is hoping for, but she brings a refreshing outsider's perspective to the heaviest of metals (not to mention some catchy tunes). No doubt everyone with a Von patch will hate it. [$10]

Wolves in the Throne Room have returned - for real, this time, and not as a synth rock band. Thrice Woven picks up where Celestial Lineage left off, augmenting the band's already epic forest metal with choral singing and acoustic passages without getting too twee about it. Not sure the bone dry recording (done by the band themselves) gives the songs the richness they require; certainly such passionate odes to nature and paganism deserve a fuller sound? Regardless, if anyone has forgotten why WITTR was such a monumental force in USBM, this should serve as a cogent reminder. [$9]

It may be heresy to describe any black metal as "pretty", but An Autumn For Crippled Children certainly make a case for it. Recorded in 2015, the three songs on morfine meld fuzzed out guitars, shuffling drums and sombre synth melodies for a sound as deeply rooted in Joy Division as it is in Burzum. An opiate haze in the northern sky. [€3]

let my people rock

Had to do some travelling recently. The long layovers and delayed flights gave me an opportunity to catch up on some cartoons. Among the most delightful was this episode of Bob's Burgers that introduces the fictional prog rock band Zentipede and their sci fi concept album/rock opera General Inzanity, complete with laser light show.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mixtape 37 - D.O.A.

Here is the 37th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring an interview with Joe "Joey Shithead" Keithley of Canadian punk legends D.O.A.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Inanimate Existence, Beneath, Pyrrhon, NYN

Three albums into their career, Inanimate Existence have delivered their most definitive statement. Whereas previous albums were somewhat fragmented due to an overeagerness to integrate female vocals and jazz parts with the band's djenty origins, Underneath A Melting Sky is their most cohesive and consistent album; the band has refined their style of slow, thoughtful death metal to create songs that improve with every listen. This may be the album that puts their name with Atheist and Cynic; not as disciples, but as equals. [$8]

After their last album, Reykjavík's Beneath seemed poised to be the next big thing in tech death. But Ephemeris takes a step back from the band's fret-burning past, employing more slow grooves and psychedelic interludes to reel the listener in before the blastbeats start falling like hammers. Iceland's flagship death metal act is maturing like fine hákarl. [$9]

NY's Pyrrhon have returned with more compositions of confustication. Despite their mathy reputation, What Passes For Survival isn't lacking for nastiness, built as it is on a foundation of blastbeats and discordance. A messy stew that owes at least as much to Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan as it does to Gorguts and Brutal Truth. [$7.99]

The brainchild of Virginia-based Noyan Tokgozoglu, NYN's ambitious debut is a discombobulating affair. The aptly (if confusingly) named Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt intersperses frenetic tech death with seaboards and theremins, as well as Eastern melodies and percussion. Noyan is similarly eclectic in his vocal performance, ranging from growls to power metal histrionics with Mike Patton-esque abandon. The approach doesn't always work - in particular, the last track "Taken Away By The Tides" feels like being locked in a room with a particularly obnoxious Nintendo fan - but the talent on display is undeniable. [$7]

Thursday, August 24, 2017

an interview with VÖLUR

I can't think of another band like Toronto's Völur. Though multiple bands through the years incorporated strings with metal, the Toronto-based trio distinguish themselves by eschewing guitars entirely. Their latest album Ancestors shows just how very heavy their violin-centric vision of doom can be. Since there's nothing this blog likes more than risk-taking iconoclasts, I reached out to the band to find out more. Vocalist/bassist Lucas Gadke (also in Blood Ceremony) was kind enough to answer my questions.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Long Hundred 005/100: Ministry - Filth Pig which a band with an appetite for self-destruction delivered one of the darkest, most self-loathing albums of the Nineties.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Interview with Ingurgitating Oblivion

Germany's Ingurgitating Oblivion released one of the most entrancing albums I've heard this year. Ambitious in its scope, Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light branches out from a doomy death metal base, employing jazz and classical influences, along with unorthodox song structures and instruments. Knowing that this is an album I'll be digesting for years to come, I contacted the band to find out more about the album's creation and the band's history. Founder/guitarist/vocalist Florian Engelke kindly took the time to answer my queries.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Long Hundred 004/100: OLD - Formula which one of Earache's least popular albums might be one of their best.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Bliss of Flesh, Tchornobog, Wode, Execration

France's Bliss of Flesh are a band keeping their eyes on both the past and the future. Drawing lyrical inspiration from Dante's Divine Comedy, Empyrean's black/ death swagger is very much influenced by Behemoth, though the blast-centric modern production also brings Anaal Nathrakh to mind. Sometimes darkness needs a sheen to it. [€7.99]

Tchornobog is one of several musical endeavours of prolific multi-instrumentalist Markov Soroka. A study in contrasts, the debut morphs from churning claustrophobic death metal to atmospheric doom and back in its 4 churning compositions, the shortest of which is 12 minutes. Like the similarly chimaeric (and similarly awesome) Abyssal, Tchornobog shows the limits of the genre(s) have yet to be reached. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Don't be fooled by Wode's English origins; the Leeds band eschew the twee leanings of their countrymen for something much closer to Dissection and Necrophobic. If the title weren't a hint, Servants of the Countercosmos is very Swedish in its approach, delivering catchy hooks at no-nonsense speeds and hammering away at black metal conventions along the way. The cosmos should consider itself warned. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Sometimes there's no escaping your nationality; though the band labels themselves "death metal", at their core Oslo's Execration are true and black. Return to the Void has enough blackened thrash mixed with heavy prog to seal it as Norwegian through and through. Even so, with its avant dissonance and Lovecraftian themes, I have no problems with describing the album as "R'leyan". [$8.99]

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

The Long Hundred 003/100: Catharsis - Samsara

…in which a group of anarchists created a molotov cocktail of death metal, crust, and doom,
accidentally inventing metalcore as we know it.

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.

Bandcamp Picks - Ulver, Author & Punisher, Planning for Burial, Longhouse

Ulver's transformation from "True Norwegian Black Metal" to their present state has really been something to behold. Heralded as their "pop" album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar masterfully and unapologetically encompasses kraut rock, synthpop, soul, trip hop, and even an extended John Zorn-esque sax freakout (courtesy of Hawkwind's Nik Turner) - no surprise, considering how boldly Garm moved from black metal to folk to electronica earlier in his career. But who knew that the band that released Nattens Madrigal twenty years ago would surf from black metal's second wave to New Wave? [€7]

I can't think of another act out there like San Diego's Author & Punisher, the musical outlet of mechanical engineer Tristan Shone that utilizes his custom built machines as instruments. Pressure Mine contains five songs of subwoofer-threatening doomwave, with Shone's forlorn vocals sitting astride all the throbbing and clanking. This is R Kelly for robots; Genesis P-orridge and Blixa Bargeld would approve. [$5]

Pennsylvania's Planning For Burial are adept at several kinds of bleak. Below The House runs on droning guitar noise, shuffling drums and plaintive keyboards, traversing from rumbling doom to pop-adjacent shoegaze. Like the album art, an exercise in minimalism. [$8]

If there was a doom metal version of a Whitman's sampler, it might be Ottawa's Longhouse. II: Vanishing draws not only from the indie-friendly heft of Isis and Cult of Luna, but also the velvet darkness of Paradise Lost, with more than just shades of Gregor Mackintosh in the riffs. It's about time someone attempted a unified field theory of doom metal. [$7 CAD]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Interview with Sunless

When they released their first demo last year, Minneapolis-based Sunless impressed a lot of people - not least of which was this blog. Wasting no time, they put out their full-length debut Urraca a few months back, solidifying them as a band for fans of progressive and mathy death metal to remember. I reached out to find out more, and bassist Mitch Schooler was kind enough to educate me on the band's history and the scene they came from.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Cloud Rat, Moloch, Crevasse, Hexis, Sigil, Syndrømes

It's been a few years since their last full-length Qlipoth, and DoC faves Cloud Rat have returned with two split releases. Their grinding hardcore is as fast and chaotic as it's ever been, but they also take the time to dabble in shoegaze ("Amber Flush" on the LP) and off key wailing ("Fish in a Pool" on the 7 inch).  As for their dance partners: Nottingham's Moloch provide the doomy Yang to Cloud Rat's speedy Yin, submitting 18 minutes of feedback-drenched sludge (like there's any other kind). Crevasse, meanwhile, could be Cloud Rat's Continental analogues, sharing both a fondness for Converge and a female vocalist intent on blowing her vocal chords out.  [Cloud Rat/Moloch: $7; Cloud Rat/Crevasse is available as a "name your price" download; physical copies of both are available through Halo of Flies Records.]

Copenhagen's Hexis took DIY to new heights earlier this year, touring South East Asia on their own and even bringing their own lighting backdrop with them. On their second album Tando Ashanti, they ignore most of hardcore's self-imposed restrictions, creating a hellacious racket with discordant guitar noise and floorshaking double bass drumming. Leave it to the Scandinavians to capture the heart of sonic darkness. [€7]

Death metal and hardcore have been crossing streams since their earliest incarnations - so it's not surprising that Austin's Sigil would stake a claim to both worlds. Kingdom of the Grave combines bare knuckle hardcore with the thrashy efficiency of early death metal, and isn't above enlisting a string section along the way. This is where bullet belts and tote bags find common ground. [$7]

Counting Joe Yanick of Masakari and Carl Auge of His Hero is Gone in its ranks, there's no doubting Syndrømes have this dark crust thing down. Unsurprisingly, their debut EP strongly resembles His Hero is Gone with its growling vocals, moody interludes, and fast bouts of barely controlled chaos. 4 songs is not nearly enough; hopefully there's more of this in the works. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.