Archive for September, 2014

Nordenglander are featured on the upcoming SixSixSix Music Deep Underground digital compilation (keep an eye out for that baby, very soon), so I felt like I needed to become better acquainted with them. Their ‘Treading the Waters’ EP is available on their Bandcamp, and is another strong release from the scene.

Opening with the delicate acoustic number ‘Linn’, complete with twittering birdsong, Nordenglander match the natural beauty of their artwork, while evoking some of Drudkh’s more mellow moments. When the black metal kicks in on ‘Lost Beneath the Bows’, it is after an ethereal moment which erupts into cascading blastbeats and vicious tremelo riffs. There is something remarkably Emperor-esque about it, the vast scale of it with the backdrop of haunting keys. It is very ‘Nightside Eclipse’, which is a good thing. It’s always been my favourite Emperor record. The peace and tranquillity of birdsong reappears about halfway through, and it then becomes a bit of a pagan hymn. A melodic solo is a particular highlight, before the thundering darkness returns.

After the following ‘Interlude’, which continues the acoustics from ‘Linn’ but with a slightly more mournful edge, ‘Blackhill’ explodes into pure second wave blasting fury. Another ripping black metal track, and I like how the ethereal synth moves subtly in the background, adding to the atmosphere. With another soaring solo, Nordenglander are fast becoming a personal favourite. Closing with the more melodic ‘These Green and Pleasant Pastures’, ‘Treading the Waters’ is another great release from the north of England’s underground scene. One of these bands will become the new Winterfylleth, it is just a matter of time. Nordenglander could be it.

Vacivus are another gem of the UK underground scene. First appearing in 2013 with their debut record, ‘Dawn of Chaos’, they have released a new rehearsal demo AND have confirmed their debut live gig at this year’s Byker Grave event in Newcastle. The rehearsal demo is the first music I’ve heard from Vacivus, but I’ll be heading straight to listen to ‘Dawn of Chaos’ after this!

‘Rite of Ascension’ opens with a dark, dense, sludgy sound, immediately raising the specter of bands like Hooded Menace or Coffins. This isn’t the savagely precise death metal of your Cannibal Corpses or your Hate Eternals. This is the howling voice of the void, groaning over rumbling Autopsy riffs and death rattling drums. It’s nasty as hell, and I fucking love it. ‘Ageless, Nameless’ starts with a wailing, eastern guitar riff that descends into another clattering assault on the senses. The spiralling solos on this track are awesome, and it is accentuating by the bowel rumbling depths of the other riffs. This is primeval, evil shit. ‘Hostis Rei’ has this uneasy vibe about it, almost Immolation in its swaying, off kilter groove. It is another finely crafted piece of old school death metal.

This rehearsal demo is a stunning mix of dense groove, thick atmosphere, vocals that sound belched from the deeps and undeniably good songs. ‘Hostis Rei’ is my highlight here, sounding like a soup of Immolation and Autopsy, with added gore thrown in. Recommended. Get it here!

I moved away from traditional and power metal bands in about 2004 or 2005 when I moved to uni in Glasgow. I was a big Iced Earth, Iron Maiden and Metallica fan, Blind Guardian, Motorhead, Sabbath too. I didn’t quite get heavier stuff at that time, I was a late bloomer shall we say. Chimaira changed that. I’d heard some of their stuff before that, particularly ‘Power Trip’ and ‘SP Lit’ but never really went further with it. That changed when I heard opening track of their self titled record. Holy shit, ‘Nothing Remains’ destroyed my mind. This was the most brutal groove I’d ever come across that I had actually liked. It was a watershed moment for me. I suddenly found a new appreciation of metal, particularly since the New Wave of American Heavy Metal was truly taking hold at that point.

Suddenly, I had Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Killswitch and Chimaira to get stuck into. But Chimaira’s self titled is still my favourite record from that time. As much as I’ve drifted away from then in more recent years towards darker and more extreme music, I still fucking adore the groove of that record. Be it the head cavingly heavy ‘Inside the Horror’, the powerful ‘Salvation’ or the epic ‘Lazarus’, ‘Chimaira’ should still be held high as a high moment in NWOAHM. It was insanely catchy, heavier than a planet, and filled with more grooves than Abdullah the Butcher’s head (obscure wrestling reference points!) I saw them on tour for this record, and they had the most insane pits I had ever experienced up to that point. Only Decapitated a few years later has ever beaten that.

I was only mildly disappointed to hear about Chimaira’s split recently, however after spinning this record again I must say I’m more upset now. It stands proud with ‘Alive or Still Breathing’, ‘The War Within’ and ‘Sacrament’ as a Big Four must have. All together now, ‘NOTHING REMAINS!!’

Now, full disclosure. I’ve not normally spent a lot of time listening to what HaatE is deemed to be, which is dark ambient. I have listened to a decent amount of ambient music, plus ambient black metal, so I have a reasonable grounding in the style, but I am by no means an expert. So I thought this review would be reasonably difficult for me to do, approaching it as an almost novice. But, as they are releasing a new digital split with fellow countryman Chiral (big fan), I thought I better do what I can.

‘As the Moon Painted Her Grief’ is split into three tracks, each over ten minutes long. The opening track, ‘As the Moon Painted Her Grief (Part 1)’ begins with an ominous rumble, with a climbing synth line that buils slowly in volume and strength. It is a droning, hypnotising track, accentuated by heavier, dirging notes in places, and another melody that is reminscient of an organ. It then fades back to a crackling rumble, before the melody returns. It is a dark and draining piece of music, seeping into your mind and lurking within the dark recesses.

Second track ‘Crystal’ is much more ethereal, with sweeping synth at the beginning leading into a more haunting flute led melody. Then, all of a sudden, blastbeats! Well, not as you’d expect, but the percussive backdrop to this song makes it more immediate than its predecessor. There is something almost Wolves in the Throne Room about it, if lacking the bite and razor edge of the black metal aspect. This is then removed entirely for what is the most uplifting moments of the demo, as electronic melodies give that sense of open sky and brilliant sunshine.

‘As the Moon Painted Her Grief (Part 2)’ ends the record with some more menacing moments. The ‘dark’ element of dark ambient is more prevalent here; its more sombre and mournful. Percussion thuds echo through the gloom, sounding for all the world like bombs being dropped in the night. For all that HaatE isn’t my usual cup of tea, I do like the mood it portrays, with a droning quality that is both relaxing and interesting. Definitely worth checking out

I may have mentioned before that I. FUCKING. LOVE. BORIS. Boris are Japan’s great shapeshifters, they lurch from epic drone and crushing doom to stoner rock to ambient noise weirdness to J-pop with little care for what sticklers for genre types think. I first got into Boris through their rock opus ‘Pink’ in 2005. That title track man, what a fucking rock tune that is. It’s one of my all time favourite records, and opens with one of my all time favourite songs of any genre ever, ‘Farewell’. ‘Farewell’ is an epic piece of post metal beauty; staggeringly fragile yet powerfully heavy. I will never get tired of that song, it is movingly, achingly perfect.

They also have a history of collaboration, with US drone terrorists Sunn0))) (the staggering ‘Altar’), Japanese guitar virtuoso Michio Kurihara (‘Cloud Chamber’ and the volcanic ‘Rainbow’) and Japanese noise artist Merzbow (most famously on ‘Rock Dream’). Their work with Kurihara particularly is electric, bringing extra psychedelica into the music. Boris debuted with 1996’s ‘Absolutego’, a one hour plus drone track that taught me a true appreciation of music as sound, rather than as music. It was a pivotal moment for my tastes in general; lying in bed a bit pissed and letting that record expand my brain.

Three records that are essential: 2005’s ‘Pink’, 1998’s ‘Amplifier Worship’ and the classic ‘Feedbacker’ from 2003. Other highlights from their discography include the skull caving debut ‘Absolutego’, the heavy rocking ‘Heavy Rocks’ from 2002 and their ‘Soundtrack from Film Mabuta No Ura’, a soundtrack written to a film that doesn’t exist. Of their collaborative efforts, ‘Rainbow’ with Michio Kurihara and ‘Altar’ with Sunn0))) are of particular note.

Turn on, turn up and melt

Denmark’s Serpents Lair are the latest in a long line of quality black metal discoveries for me. This two man project has a two track demo available on their Bandcamp page, and a limited run of 200 cassettes available through Duplicate Records in Europe and Fallen Empire Records in the US.

The demo itself is two, reasonably lengthy black metal tracks of excellent quality. ‘Labyrinthine Offerings’ is first, opening with a lurching riff that rings out with atonal melodies. It then descends into a hellish assault on the senses, a flailing uncomfortable entity. It is dense, dark and suffocatingly evil. It has that unsettling quality you find in Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega’s style of black metal, particularly the clearer, slower and more malevolently minor key section in the middle. It then plummets back to the blasting maelstrom of darkness. A simply stunning statement of intent.

‘Epistemology of Death’ has a lot to follow, and follow it does with almost nine minutes of majestic, roaring black metal. This is a more traditional beast, taking more influence from the icy blasts of Immortal and the sweeping grandeur of early Satyricon. Even the vastness of ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’ seems to loom over proceedings, Serpents Lair taking notes from each of these legends but creating something of their own.

Serpents Lair’s demo is truly ace. Two songs that both fulfill expectations easily, their sense of scale and atmosphere are both perfect, and their adventurous spirit is another huge positive. It is NOT ok in this day and age to simply put out uninteresting, monochrome black metal. To paint in shades of grey is the way forward, and Serpents Lair are artists in this form.

RECLVSE are a Welsh doom band whose ponderous, fuzz soaked riffs bring to mind the wonders of Reverend Bizarre instantly. They have a murky atmosphere about them too, hypnotisingly bleak and dark. ‘Temptress!’ is a massive track, groaning with gothic undertones and a glacial pace before being powered forward by some more urgent riffing. RECLVSE have an interesting tone about their sound; it is uniquely odd. Vocally there is more than a hint of My Dying Bride in the intonations, and it suits the wall of sound like riffing.

‘Of Many Names’ is shorter, but still has that innate sense of ethereal strangeness about it. There is a charmingly lo-fi feeling about the proceedings, they feel like an intimate ceremony in an abandoned place. There is a definite sense of groove, but the glacial pace squeezes that to its limits. Solo guitar lines squeal from behind the grey curtain of doom, disappearing almost as fast as the light they brought. ‘Bewitch the Sky’ feels very Electric Wizard; having the same slow, drawn out riffs that envelop the listener. Mournful guitar lines soar into the grey unknown, grasping for strands of life.

RECVLSE have achieved something important in the world of modern metal, and particularly of modern doom. They’re playing music that, while nodding its head to a number of classic influences, doesn’t sound like anyone else. This release is dense, almost impenetrably at points, but the ghostly vocals and the oblique melody lines create something I’ve never heard before. It is bleak, glacial and beautifully depressing. Just like proper doom should be. Download here