Category Archives: Avant Garde

To Be Kind (CVLT Nation)

Swans – “To Be Kind” Review + Stream

“The Taste for Nothingness

Dull soul, to whom the battle once was sweet,
Hope, who had spurred your ardour and your fame
Will no more ride you! Lie down without shame
Old horse, who makes his way on stumbling feet.
Give up, my heart, and sleep your stolid sleep.
For you old rover, spirit sadly spent,
Love is no longer fair, nor is dispute;
Farewell to brass alarms, sighs of the flute!
Pleasures, give up a heart grown impotent!
The Spring, once wonderful, has lost its scent!
And Time engulfs me in its steady tide,
As blizzards cover corpses with their snow;
And poised on high I watch the world below,
No longer looking for a place to hide.
Avalanche, sweep me off within your slide!”

I wanted to quote the Baudelaire poem since I believe once read without its Romantic implications of the awe for nature, it would perfectly maintain what I’ve interpreted to be Gira’s current philosophy, means, and perception of music — that is the avalanche, the flow of absurdity, and the Will to null. Jennifer Church; who performed guest vocals on “To Be Kind” – after being mistaken for Annie Clark by both fans and the press at the release of ‘A Little God In My Hands’ – when asked about what she was singing, referred to something radically interesting that I’d like to relate to what has been just said.  “The vocal line…hrmmm I suppose you could call it “Gira-nese” – It’s mysterious – and I think he likes it that way – (a little godlike chant in your head perhaps…),” she replied. And there exactly lies the answer. In fact, there are no words involved, there are no lyrics, there is “no story to tell” like Francis Bacon once said; leaving out ‘Just A Little Boy’.

Of course, one might ask what about Gira’s own vocal lines, he does sing in proper English after all. First, this is by no means abstract music or — in the case of the lyrics — one-hundred percent Dadaist like those of Kurt Schwitters’ in “Ursonate”, this of course deals with inclusive songwriting as much as it deals with the exclusive. And secondly, I would like to refer to the point of creation of some of these seemingly sound lyrics, which at times — as stated by Gira himself in a number of interviews — is rooted in not an ordinary say, muse, but rather nothing at all. “I didn’t have words, and I just started singing and at one point…I see it all I see it all I see it all…kind of seemed to fit with the kind of the spiritual aspect of the music” says Gira on who ‘The Seer’ is. This, whether call it method evolves into a more vulgar approach with “To Be Kind”, as Gira frees his voice more and more throughout almost every song on the record; a possible upshot of their heavy touring and the various experimentations they did during each performance of the same song.

 

Swans (CVLT Nation)

 

At this point, it is more or less clear that as Gira was inspired by Sade and Genet during the early Swans days; the time he also spent writing short stories that Hubert Selby, Jr. would later call them “hallucinatory” among other things, he is now relatively (or even more intensely) driven by what Heidegger called anxiety — an anxiety formed by the fear of nothingness, death. In the same interview, Gira clearly states that it is not the environment that inspires him but “the fear of death”. Now, this anxiety is not the anxiety one might usually think of; that is, the anxiety the so-called psychotherapist would want to exorcise. This isn’t being depressed in the sense most people tend to think either, and as a matter of fact, such thinkings are often implanted by the same, forgive me saying, pseudo-psychoanalysts. This is the very essence of living, and in this case, writing songs. And in the case of Swans, it can relate to the idea of the Will to null as well. The songs can be seen as manifestations of this nothingness that death brings with itself. One would want to become God and one would want to imitate death too.

Still and all, “To Be Kind” can be also seen as a more ‘mild’ effort in contrast to “The Seer”. That statement might seem to contradict what I’ve said earlier about the vulgarity of the vocals, and it sure does. Yet the vocals tell but one side of the story. On the sonic side, “To Be Kind” uses the same formula “The Seer” did; the embracing of the lengthy, organic, and improvisational composings, contrasted with a number of more accessible, shorter songs, with the single difference that in “To Be Kind” those of the latter tend to be more groove-oriented and less startling compared to, say, their counterparts in “The Seer”. The lengthy ones still remain as agonizing, though. And most of them offer a good deal of brand-new sections in comparison to their previous versions, which you might have heard before either on “Not Here / Not Now” or during one of the live performances.

 

Swans - To Be Kind (CVLT Nation)

 

Talking of previous versions of some of the songs, it would be relatively curious to hint at the unfolding of Swans’ each composition, which has been revolving around the short tunes Gira writes on his acoustic guitar — since “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”. The process follows with the rest of Swans accompanied with Gira himself initiating a long voyage, deep into the unknown, improvising and jamming around each of those acoustic pieces during the rehearsals and even live gigs. The function of multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris along with lap-steel guitarist Christoph Hahn here is of drastic importance, where the duo are practically capable of transmuting almost everything. The Thor Harris is to be regarded as the mastermind of all things esoteric about the new sound of Swans; whether because of him channeling sickening improvisations on his (at times handmade) wind instruments, or texturing each composition with the delicate, every so often menacing, sound of bells. On the other hand, Mr. Hahn injects sonic heroin in the body of each song. Add to that the unrelenting drumming — also the exceptionally beautiful hammered dulcimer lines — of Phil Puleo, the crackerjack bass-lines of Christopher Pravdica, the universal musicianship of Norman Westberg, and many of the other contributors outside the Swans; then you have what makes this line-up stand out as the most yielding, the most fierce Swans line-up since forever. In substance, Swans’ music on “To Be Kind” remains as collective, as dangerous, and as organic, that it is as though a Hermann Nitsch piece is being performed by some krautrockers high on acid – it’s psychedelic, it flows, and it swallows you up.

Enough of sounds, let’s get back to language. Within this affair of the nonsense, there are numerous allusions too — think Finnegans Wake — from the obscure and more personal ones like Nathalie Neal, to Howlin’ Wolf, Toussaint Louverture and Kirsten Dunst. Yet this record, more than celebrating the supine Justine from Von Trier’s “Melancholia”, celebrates the child. It could be Howlin’ Wolf, it could be Bob Biggs’ screaming baby-image, it could be the Freudian id, it could be the Deleuzean child dreaming of the cosmos, or it might be the child Bataille observed in Kafka, Sade, Baudelaire, Genet, William Blake and Emily Brontë — “the child in revolt against the world of Good, against the adult world, and committed, in his revolt, to the side of Evil.” (Literature And Evil, 1957)

Purchase the digital version here.

Pre-order the record (on vinyl/CD) here.

Stream the album in its entirety:

Check out the heavily improvised performance of ‘Just A Little Boy’ — including major differences in the instrumentation as well as the bass-line compared to the version in “To Be Kind” :

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Blut Aus Nord / P.H.O.B.O.S. – Triunity Split Review

In recent years, there hasn’t quite been any black metal band as consistently brilliant as France’s Blut Aus Nord, save maybe for their fellow countrymen and sonic brethren in Deathspell Omega. Their ‘90s output was solid, but 2004’s The Work Which Transforms God is an absolutely flawless piece of avant-garde black metal, rivaled only the band’s 777 Trilogy released between 2011 and 2012, the final installment Cosmosophy marking a beautiful and breathtakingly versatile take on the band’s sound.

EP releases have surfaced since then, but this split Triunity with P.H.O.B.O.S. takes centre stage for the mysterious outfit, bearing a great deal of significance, as the band must surely be on course to release a new LP sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Here on Triunity, they serve up an impressive 19 minutes of hypnotic black metal that’s sparse on vocals and ridden with many of the traits that made Cosmosophy so untouchable. This manifests itself on the opener, ‘De Librio Arbitrio,’ with spectral and glistening lead guitar work that eventually gives way to miasmic and jarring passages of mid-tempo black metal and snarling vocals from the abyss.

‘Hùbris’ is an altogether more lethargic song on the other hand, where Blut Aus Nord flirt with their melodic side and the occasional doom tendency, while ‘Némeïnn’ returns to a more unruly pace, with the guitars at their most piercing.

The recurring theme with Blut Aus Nord’s latest material is the drive of the gorgeous lead guitar that is epic and grandiose – in the truest meaning of the words – coupled with the altogether cacophonous rhythms and indecipherable growls and hell howls.

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P.H.O.B.O.S., the pseudonym of Frenchman Frédéric Sacri, meanwhile, is a very different prospect and unfortunately gets a little lost in the shuffle here.

His industrial metal conjures an altogether more mechanical vibe that’s at odds with Blut Aus Nord’s more natural and affecting tones. Tracks like ‘Glowing Phosphoros’ swirl with discombobulating dissonance, angular drums and ceremonial vocals that amble along at an eerie pace.

It’s a tone and vibe that’s maintained throughout his side of this split. There isn’t a great deal of deviation within these tunes though, but P.H.O.B.O.S. seems intent in simply making the listener feel uncomfortable.

This is definitely Blut Aus Nord’s moment in the end, proving that they are truly one of the few unbeaten black metal bands of the last decade or so.

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Exclusive
CVLT Nation Streaming:
BEIGE EAGLE BOYS
You’re Gonna Get Yours

Fuzzed Out and Bugged Out decided to have a sonic bastard child and name it BEIGE EAGLE BOYS. These noise-addicted audio freak subhumans have a new album entitled You’re Gonna Get Yours that comes out today via Reptilian Records. So now plug yourself into this full stream below and know you will not hear another record like this this year…The BEIGE EAGLE BOYS are their own solar system!

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Gnawstic:
Dissonance in the Heartland
Streaming Now!

Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t the first place one would go looking for avant-garde prog metal, but that’s part what makes this noise-influenced two-piece such a unique outfit. Though Gnawstic still resides in the depths of the metal underground, the duo of Sam Meints and Marshal Fisher have been recording and playing their abrasive instrumentals around the midwest since 2011. With a continuously growing catalog and a full-length album in the works, Gnawstic continues to grow and confuse. Stream their current catalog here.

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Fragment King – ‘Angel Position’
Review + Stream

Fragment King is a band I had little to no familiarity with going into this, and I honestly think that was a boon to my overall listening experience. With no preconceived notions of the band, it was much easier to confront the subtle brand of chaos that Fragment King offers. Angel Position is really a great example of why you should never form an opinion of a release until after multiple listens; I’ve listened to this album all the way through about three times now and have found some new nuance to marvel over each time.

Upon first attempting to learn more about the band behind this release, I was both impressed yet unsurprised to learn that it was a one-man project. The nasty noises you hear are courtesy of Mark Kammerbauer, and the band has a been around a suprisingly long amount of time, considering this is the first time I am listening to them (I will definitely be checking out their back catalouge after this experience). Fragment King’s (or fk as they are also known) sound is best described as dark avant-industrial. Godflesh and Navicon Torture Technologies are listed as influences, and their marks are apparent. If you are looking for a more recent comparison, think of a more freeform/minimalist version of Mike IX’s Corrections House. Similar to all of the aforementioned bands, they create a smothering atmosphere of discontent and agitation. This album will either piss you off or disturb you, depending on whether you agree with what Mark is shouting at you or not. Either way you feel after listening, you’ll be enriched for it. This is a damn good album.

The perfect word to describe this album is simmering. Fragment King is angry and discontent; disgusted. However, not so angry as to shout it directly at you. His hatred and disgust summer just below the surface, barely controlled. The blackened, noisy guitars and synth textures are buzzing and humming, threatening to erupt at any moment into full blown chaos. But it never does, which is a very good thing for this album. It immerses you in the humming feedback of his malcontent, forcing you to feel what he does without pushing you over the edge. It incites rather than excites, pushing the aggression onto you and forcing you to rage on your own, rather than doing it for you.

The aforementioned buzzing, almost-too-distorted-to-be-discernible guitar is a big part of creating this mood. In combination with the nasty synth textures and noisy soundscapes, it absolutely smothers you. The vocals also add to this feeling, barely cutting through the haze, and heavily distorted themselves. Every grungy, affected shout of ‘You… Mean nothing… To me!’ only serves to further accentuate how displeased this guy is. If the vocals were more varied or frequent, they might serve to distract from the overlying feeling of the album. But they are kept sparse and simple, and serve their purpose perfectly.

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Cutting through the hissing, popping and rumbling noise that comprises the meat of this album is the machine-based, synthy percussion. The percussion provides a bit of direction and structure in the dark haze, giving the listener a current to swim frantically along with so that they don’t get lost in the black sea of misanthropy. The percussion might be the deal breaker for a few would-be fans. At times, the industrial, house-like synth beats seem almost out of place amidst the humming darkness. The insistent, synthy beats can also get a bit repetitive, as in the latter half of the longest song on the album, ‘Constellations’. On the reverse side of that coin, the repetitive nature of the percussive force and can also serve to drive the point home, as in the short, staticy bursts present through out the title track.

The album is also masterfully paced and ordered. I really feel as though albums such as these should be taken as a whole, as the feeling crafted by one track builds as the album progresses. It is a journey. You don’t just look at one corner of a painting when appreciating art, and I feel the same way about music such as this. It is an experience, a package deal. The album opens with a slightly calmer (but by no means calm) track in ‘Mobilize,’ and then the visceral, biomechanical discontent continues to flow and pulse throughout the rest of the album, until finally reaching a crescendo and then dripping and oozing away in the much more subdued, but no less disturbing and noisey, ‘Kingdom’. You also get the bonus of a remix of one of the best tracks on the album, ‘Nullifier’. The remix is predictably much more industrial than any other song on the album. It doesn’t really fit the sound profile of the rest of the album as well as the original, but it is a remix, so I don’t really count that against it. Taken by itself it is a fine song, but definitely remove yourself from the dissatisfied anger of the rest of the album before you listen to it. 

If I were forced to single out a track, I would say that my favorite one is ‘The Squealing of the Pigs’. This track perfectly encapsulates all of the best things about this album and delivers in every way you expect it to, and in a few that you do not. But that seems to be the story of this album. Put on a pair of headphones and listen to the whole album in one go. Then do it again. Then fight the urge to go throw a brick through the establishment’s window.

Out now on MHz

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Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite
Review.Stream.Footage

When I heard that Wolves in The Throne Room were going to release a new full-length, I was thrilled. And this excitement only increased when it was mentioned that their new album, Celestite, would act as a companion to their previous full-length, Celestial Lineage. And why should I not be? This band, in my mind, has always released great albums, from Diadem of 12 Starts, Two Hunters, Black Cascade to Celestial Lineage, I was never disappointed with what they did. But Celestite is not your typical Wolves in The Throne Room album, and it is quite different from anything they have done up until now.

OK, so what is the deal with Celestite? It is basically what the band said it would be: a companion to Celestial Lineage. Wolves in the Throne Room leave behind their black metal identity for this one — I know it does not sound plausible, but it still happened. Well, at least they leave behind their black metal instrumentation. Celestite sees the band taking on synths and parting with guitars and drums, trying to convey their ideas and emotions in a completely different manner than ever before. Now you are going to ask if that is good. Well, it is not bad. To treat Celestite with disdain just because the band is trying something different is not what I am going to do, and even though this was not a move I expected from the band, it does not mean I should trash the record, and neither should you.

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In essence, Wolves in The Throne Room are much closer to Pink Floyd in this album than to, let’s say, early Ulver or Darkthrone. Their use of synths is nothing short of grand, with “Turning Ever Towards the Sun” taking you on a majestic trip through space and time, while at the same time keeping a quite malicious and sinister outlook. And as the rest of the tracks unfold you can get glimpses of their true, disturbing nature. For instance, in both “Initiation of Neudeng Alm” — which, by the way, is one of the most distressing moments of Celestite — and in “Celestite Mirror,” you will get some drone guitar parts to enrich the synths, revealing the darkness that always lies at the core of this band.

From that point on, if you are also a fan of psychedelic music, then you will easily appreciate the trippy effects of “Bridges of Leaves” and its spiraling melodies, as well as the inherent darkness of “Celestite Mirror,” which contains some stunning compositions from the band and a very majestic stance. And then you also get the completely insane moments, the moments that you thought you would never hear from Wolves in the Throne Room, as is for instance the part about four minutes in “Sleeping Golden Storm”.

This album is not meant for all the fans of the band, and I am quite sure that the band will be bashed by many people for their decision to try something different. So my guess is that if you want Wolves in the Throne Room to simply be a black metal act releasing only black metal albums, then you better avoid Celestite. On the other hand, if you are into some more experimental stuff, then you should have a listen and judge for yourself. Personally, I think that it is a good album, and a quite enjoyable listen. And I will be looking forward to their next one.

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Non-Fiction (CVLT Nation)

Death Blues – “Non-Fiction” Review + Stream

I think attempting to debate what Mueller has written on the newly-released Death Blues record will get me straight back to where I was with Chrome’s “Feel It Like A Scientist”, so I’d prefer not to go in that direction for the sake of exploring another, say, new dimension instead. To get you a little info about the whole project, as well as the main persona behind it, let’s start with making a comparison: Jon Mueller’s Death Blues has its roots in last year’s release of the same name, which might too have functioned as the stepping stone for the singularity of the idea to come — this year. The process of evolving from a solo release to an autonomous project recalls one of John Zorn’s Naked City, which also took place in pretty much the same manner. Now, the difference here being most of you don’t know Mueller, while a lot of you know Zorn; yet you might take it into your consideration that not many people were into Zorn back in the early 90′s either. But why am I so desperately trying to link Mueller with Zorn? The answer would have to do with the general lack of info on the contemporary experimental music, and musicians. People always tend to be one or two decades late — Born Too Late? Nope, no pun intended — when it comes to the genuine, brilliant music; you can notice that very easily by sneaking into social platforms like Last.fm or Discogs — people are still getting into John Cage, leaving behind Martin Iddon; into Ornette Coleman, leaving behind Ken Vandermark; into Alvin Lucier, leaving behind Jin Sangtae; into Can, leaving behind Acid Mothers Temple, etc etc. Needless to say, there is a chance of misunderstanding what just has been said by thinking I’m bashing any sort of interest in the past, for if nothing else, I am an avid listener of everything past — this only concerns the look into the past with the complete disregard for the present.

There are a variety of ways to introduce you to Mueller. He’s been a member of handful of math/post-rock bands since the late 90′s, that is, in addition to his fruitful solo and collaborational discography; can be bought on P-Vine Records — among others; collaborations w/ Z’EV, the Rhys Chatham trio, and the record w/ James Plotkin, which also introduced me to Mueller two years ago: “Terminal Velocity”. The notion shared by almost all of those records is the solitary desire for things beyond the boundaries of rock music. You heard me right, ‘things,’ as these are abstracts, the drives for the composer to move on, although having acknowledged his limits within the medium of music, whether experimental or not. Death Blues is then referred to as a “multi-disciplinary project” addressing “the inevitability of death as impetus to become more present in each moment”. The idea is an old one: the Heideggerian perception of finitude as the key to the next level of understanding. Its channeling is, though, different. With Death Blues, it is neither the case of Dasein, nor the case of Buddha. In fact, Mueller’s escaping of writing traditionally-set lyrics for the composed songs marks phlegm for getting too theoretical about it, no matter how he also wrote about the concept later on — the record is what ultimately stands out, not the additionals and peripheries.

 

Death Blues - Non-Fiction (CVLT Nation)

 

The music of Death Blues can be best described as ‘maximal’. I know there’s a good deal of debate on that particular word when it comes to music, and that precisely is my aim here — to put some light onto this seemingly baffling phenomenon. First song ‘Are’ starts off as a homage to a non-existent performance of the Tony Conrad/Faust piece ‘From The Side Of Man And Womankind’ by Swans. So what exactly is so ‘maximal’ about that? The seminal film director and painter Daryush Shokof wrote the Maximalist Manifesto back in the 90′s, but that rarely had anything to do with music. By ‘maximal’ here I’m making reference to Zappa, Swans and the delicate link between them. The Mothers of Invention’s output have always been problematic for critics to label; either to call their music psychedelic/prog rock or to dump it in the virtuoso cycle is a grave fallacy. The Mothers incorporated a multitude of — for the lack of better terms — styles and/or genres of music with the ultimate denouement of a sound so rich and organic that it could have seemed too good to be true for many — something acknowledged by Zappa himself, with seeing themselves as parallels of those in the Tod Browning flick “Freaks”. The same factor exists in pretty much everything Michael Gira has done with Swans ever since “Soundtracks For The Blind”; in other words, the people who are surprised by Gira mentioning Mothers as an influence are paying less attention to the point that what Swans have borrowed from the Mothers is not aping their sound, but rather inheriting their bed-ground of maximal music, channeling it their own way.

I mentioned the hypothetical performance of the Tony Conrad/Faust piece by Swans, so if Swans are on the maximal pole; we all know what the Conrad piece is representative of: minimal music. That’s where the postmodern effect comes in: with Death Blues, the music is maximal yet it becomes only possible through the minimal vessel. Here acknowledging the inevitability of death not only acts as to become more present in each moment, but for torpidity and for suspension of the moment in order to realize it thoroughly. The two compositions on “Non-fiction” are ever-evolving and organic within the impending structure of their beat, the element that suspends a great amount of possible groove, acting as a protocol for the different passages of each song. Something in reminiscence of those examples of minimal music that tend to have less to do with drone and noise, and are more classically-influenced; as in Terry Riley’s illustrious “In C”, La Monte Young’s “The Well-Tuned Piano”, or even the William Duckworth piece “The Time Curve Preludes”. For all that, those same compositions betray the beat in a number of times, interrupting and shifting the entire pattern into a new one; as in ‘Are’, everything stops in the middle and the song moves towards a whole deviant landing-place, with a mid-tempo, pseudo-black metal, almost grindcore beat replicating the Dadaist vocal patterns before it.

 

Death Blues (CVLT Nation)

Sharp, crystal-clear production is what some noise rock fans dislike and some embrace. And on “Non-fiction”, precision and clarity is what matters. Mueller seems, more than any time before, to be concerned about things that Harry Pussy fans or Mainliner fans not only don’t care about but are in the habit of escaping them as well, and so Death Blues’ brand of noise rock can be read to be closer to that of Oxbow, Shellac, Swans or even Rhys Chatham’s: it is heavily organized and orchestrated, and so the given label “multi-disciplinary” is not far from truth. The hammered guitars, the tribal beats, the rock beats and the nonsensical vocal lines all come together to create an organized chaos, and their triumph can be felt just after the first ten minutes.

“Non-fiction”, no matter how short — running around 34 minutes — is one hell of a listen and for sure makes you crave for more enthralling in your finite existence, more sonic re-definitions of your reality and unreality, and more Death Blues; for John Fahey might have left us, but there’s more to Death and to Blues.

Purchase the digital version here.

Pre-order the record (on vinyl) here.

Stream the album in its entirety:

Check out the performance of ‘Impermanence’, a track from Mueller’s 2013 release “Death Blues”:

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GOG Track Premiere
The Lies, They Want to Give You Something…

Hit play, and let the sinister audio veils of GOG descend upon your mind…”The Lies, They Want to Give You Something” is the first track off their upcoming s/t record, and it takes your mind to a place where a grey mist clamors with beautiful melodies, and the sweetest suffocation of your braincells brings you through to the alternate universe of GOG. King of the Monsters will be releasing GOG on June 30th, and the pre-order starts today, so pick it up HERE. CVLT Nation is honored to be streaming “The Lies, They Want to Give You Something” below…

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Suck My Death! Artist Spotlight:
K.F.R. Sounds & Visuals

Maxime Taccardi is a human that is creative beyond fucking belief, from creating insane artwork to directing sinister and deranged films. He also knows how to conjure demonic sonic terror in the form of his musical project K.F.R.. His music sounds like you have your ears connected to a dust storm tearing up your brain. When I listen to K.F.R., I can see the beauty in all of the ugly world that surrounds me. We compiled all of his rancid visual and audio death blows below…So grab the hands of rotting flesh and gaze into the sounds of K.F.R.!…His first album can be bought HERE!

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A few copies left, DLP gatefold in high quality lim to 100 handnumbered and signed with my blood.
Sick and fucked up black metal.

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Banana Slugs, Dadaism, and Violins:
A Look Into Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

There have been two times in my life where I wanted to be a banana slug. The first would’ve been on June 22, 1999, when Oakland California’s Sleepytime Gorilla Museum played their first show to an audience of one small, yellow attendee. About two years later, the group put out their first recorded offering, Grand Opening and Closing, and the world was exposed to the bizarre genius that laid within.

Little is known about the origin of the band’s name. When asked, the band members offer up fantastic stories about turn-of-the-century futurists, museums and dadaists (an avant garde art movement that started in Europe around the 1910′s). While they certainly tell convincing and captivating stories, no evidence of the people or stories mentioned exists outside of their own words (that’s not to say it makes their stories untrue). The mystique and eccentricity of their mythos fits their music perfectly, with a typical song containing multiple time signature and tempo shifts. As musicians, the band employs a vast range of instruments and noise-makers that are almost as mind-boggling as the music they make. From violins, to accordions, to a giant home made “piano log” and literally almost everything in between, each band member plays at least six different instruments. Like most music (but especially Sleepytime’s) words simply cannot do it justice. Check out this video of their performance at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom a few years back and witness the madness that is Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's debut album, Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s debut album, Grand Opening and Closing
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HK8 – JIHAD
Review + Stream

As the new incarnation of ritual-noisic project Cultus Sabbati (less one member), HK8 makes good on the commitment of its remaining members to provide their listeners with aural snapshots of an evolving spiritual journey.

Debut album Jihad is ritual music with the desert at its heart: heaving, caustic drones slowly drift like desolate seas of sand beneath a relentless sun to bury the listener under its pervasive auditory assault. While the scorched textures are reminiscent of Skullflower’s elemental, guitar-based conjurations on Orange Canyon Mind, HK8 employs a diverse sonic palette - exotic instruments and samples, hissing, distorted vocals, and old school synths punctuated by glitchy, hypnotic percussion evoke a surreal, cinematic montage of Middle Eastern culture. Song titles frame the work in a mystic context, drawing on those elements of Sufism which describe a practitioner’s spiritual pilgrimage towards enlightenment (and, loosely translated, this is the type of struggle that the word “jihad” connotes; although political associations may be inferred as well, via “Sleeper Cell” and “Death of the Qutub”.)

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If anything imbues the album with occult tendencies it is its use of effects, mainly distortion and reverb, coupled with understated, dubby beats. Following the dark psychedelic example of Menace Ruine, HK8 transmutes old Casio synth sounds into snarling, fuzzed-out drones that echo for miles, while the spirit of Skinny Puppy, circa 1986′s Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse, is invoked through Ogre-esque squelches of wretched vocal distress, and the ubiquity of low-viscosity rhythms that hint of Muslimgauze make a potent source of fuel for Jihad‘s dark rites; the combined impression is of an ominous, tense undercurrent that seeps like crude oil beneath and between the more obvious strata of sound.*

Sound, like sand, is an incursive agent – it burrows into the head of the listener to penetrate sensory awareness – and, just as individual particles of sand can eventually blast smooth the face of an ancient statue, so the smallest fragments of sound, persistently applied during a sufficiently meditative state, can erode the edifice of ego. While this may allow one to comprehend the timeless immensity of the desert, no one can truly grasp its totality; ritual music thereby transforms both the practitioner and the listener through a shared experience that belongs to neither. With Jihad, HK8 exemplifies this paradox by the constant unfolding of whirling sounds that nevertheless seem to hang, suspended in space and time, like a mirage on the horizon.

 

*(Incidentally, for those curious to read an occult interpretation of oil and its role in the Middle East, please see Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity of Anonymous Materials.)

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CVLT Nation
Artist to Artist Interview
William F. Collins Vs.
Daniel Menche
Plus Exclusive Video Premiere!

Pick up the William Fowler Collins/Daniel Menche split here via SIGE Records.

WFC: How did you find the Jean Paul text we used for inspiration for this split?

DM: It all started by stumbling on this odd extract from the brilliant blog 50watts that is dedicated to amazing old book design and art. They have a page dedicated to the 1796 writings of Jean Paul’s Speech of the Dead Christ from the Universe that There Is No God.

When I first laid eyes on the text, I was rather amazed by the elegance of the horror displayed. It’s very rich with that dark cosmic existentialism. It has a very psychedelic tone to the writing as well. I’ve known about this text for some time, and just this minute I re-read it and have a whole wider perspective of the text now, because just this weekend I finally watched for the very first time the movie 2001: a Space Odyssey. I saw this movie on the biggest screen with the best sound, and yes, that movie blew me away. Again, never seen this movie before, and shocking myself, why I never have seen it before, and then slumbered into a brief depression realizing I saw the crappy Gravity movie BEFORE seeing 2001: Space Odyssey…oh the shame!

Anyway, now I’m reflecting on this Kubrick sci-fi movie and this text from Jean Paul’s dream sequence, with Christ trying to find his father – it has a certain connection of sorts. In short, the pursuit of mankind in going into the cosmos to find something “bigger” and discovering something not at all what was being sought after…rather, a vast unknown of horror. The great Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata wrote in one of his short stories, “Because you cannot see him, God is everywhere.” Yasunari Kawabata was not a Christian at all, but this is a good summery of sorts of the foolishness in mankind’s pursuit of the big divine. In Jean Paul’s dream sequence, he portrays the pursuit of the father (God), then the horror of not finding him and knowing that the people killed his father (God). We are indeed silly humans, always with that strange pursuit to seek beyond the beyond, whereas the animal kingdom simply seeks food and survival.

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Now back to the Jean Paul’s story “Speech of the Dead Christ” – what fascinates me about this story is that it comes across as a blasphemy or heretical story, and yet Jean Paul was a devout Christian. If this was written by a devout atheist or anti-Christian, it wouldn’t have its tone of doom-laden horror the same way. Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling is one side of the coin for the other side of Nietzsche’s Antichrist. Both on the same coin, but they need each other. Kierkegaard was a Christian, as maybe you know, but an interesting and very cutting edge type of Christian. His criticism of Christianity has as much potent venom as Nietzsche’s, and yet there is still this much-needed doom and gloom despair present in describing the eternal search for the so called Father (God).

All this makes this whole idea of searching for divine and realizing it’s been killed very…Metal…ya know what I mean? After all, Metal is a byproduct of depressing Christianity. Just ask Ozzy or Iommi. Or you can just listen to SLAYER with the knowledge that Tom Arya is a full-on Catholic Christian…which fascinates me to no end. I love that SLAYER has that odd twist in them, and there’s that divide with the other band members. Oddly, I really like that album God Hates Us All, and I read an interview about how difficult it was for Tom Arya to sing all the lyrics, which he did NOT write, but rather Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King did. Maybe they wrote those lyrics just to annoy their Christian bandmate singer? I don’t know, but that album has a wider WTF-ness to it. Certainly there are some seriously corny teen-angst lyrics on that album, but it’s clear there is that dark, Christian horror vibe again. Tom Araya and Jean Paul have the same thing going on. The Jean Paul text reads like 17th century Slayer lyrics. I was inspired by the tone and feeling of Jean Paul’s text, and my composition for this split has that beginning “launch,” like starting to fly and rise up to the sky or heavens, and the music starts to get really massive and huge until it breaks up and falls apart back down to the ground. I love it when noise has the feeling of rising up to the heavens and it all becomes one big hell. The beautiful “rise” and the violent “fall”…ya know – the good things in life!

WFC: There is so much rich visual imagery in the text. The opening paragraph lured me right into working with the text:

“I traversed the worlds, I ascended into the suns, and soared with the Milky Ways through the wastes of heaven; but there is no God. I descended to the last reaches of the shadows of Being, and I looked into the chasm and cried: ‘Father, where art thou?’ But I heard only the eternal storm ruled by none, and the shimmering rainbow of essence stood without sun to create it, trickling above the abyss. And when I raised my eyes to the boundless world for the divine eye, it stared at me from an empty bottomless socket; and Eternity lay on Chaos and gnawed it and ruminated itself. –Shriek on, discords, rend the shadows; for He is not!”

Ascending suns, traversing worlds, shrieks, shadows, chasms and rainbows. Unbelievable imagery to work with! And yes, Jean Paul’s own horror at the discovery that there is no Father is palpable! God is such a huge topic and I won’t attempt to tackle it here, but obviously many people live in fear of a higher power. There are masses of people doing horrendous things for an unseen figure who supposedly rules over them. To me, it is both frightening and also easy to see how it can provide plenty of inspiration for the darker arts such as heavy metal!

William Fowler Collins “I Heard Only the Eternal Storm ” (Excerpts) from Daniel Menche on Vimeo.

Do you usually focus on a particular theme before you start on a piece of music?

DM: I do, and it’s really the best way for me to get inspired to work on a project. As you maybe know, I simply do not improvise. It’s not in my DNA. I like the analogy of making music like one would write calligraphy. You have to find that one word or words first, then make the singular motions to create the ultimate calligraphy. Everything has to have a distinct, targeted approach, and a theme of sorts is crucial for me to bounce off of. If one had to follow my discography through the ages, there is always some sort of theme that is abstract of sorts, but certainly something that gives the music a backbone.

The funny thing is that I have always generally avoided any and all religious tones. That Jean Paul text was so strange and haunting that it did indeed provoke me to work on music that had an overtly religious tone to it, but not at all religious, because that isn’t my game. Coincidentally, I have for several years spent a lot of time at an amazing monastery in a remote town in Oregon. The Mt Angel Abbey Monastery is where I go often for the library, and strictly for the library mind you, and not at all for any religious reasons. Although, the monks there are pretty damn cool really. Hell, they even walk around smoking while they wear their big black robes. Smoking monks! I mean, I hate smoking, but if it’s a monk smoking then I’ll give them a pass. Reminds me a bit that Black Sabbath album cover “Heaven and Hell”. Well anyway, this monastery has one of the most eccentric and unusual libraries, with seriously some of the weirdest books. I love going there for the library and just chilling out on the monastery grounds. It’s on top of a big huge hill above Mt Angel, Oregon, and the view is amazing! One day I was there and I heard the massive pipe organ playing from the main cathedral, so I went in to check out the sounds, and there was a monk practicing on the organ. It was really sloppy and inelegant playing. He was playing different key sections at a time. Just the bass for a while, then the highs and so forth. Well lucky me, I had my Zoom digital recorder and recorded a bunch of sloppy monk organ music…nice! I took those recordings and made a lot of drones out of them, and the whole piece of music was built from there. Come to think of it, I should probably give some of the monks a copy of this record!

WFC: Your time at the monastery sounds great.

I actually never work with a specific theme when I am creating a new body of work, so this was a rare experience for me. I will start my process by way of improvising, but everything after that is shaped through editing and mixing and overdubbing. The exploratory stage is quite improvisational for me, and I love that the road is not yet laid out ahead of me when begin I working on a new piece. By the time I finish, however, there is little evidence of anything improvisational as intention takes over.

Have you ever seen Tibetan monks chant? I saw some a few years ago here in New Mexico and found it very powerful. I have a CD called Tibetan Tantric Choir which is amazing. I don’t purposely seek out religious music myself, but I did find my way to Bach’s St. John Passion through watching Tarkovsky’s films. Apparently he was a Bach fanatic. The soundtracks by Eduard Artemyev for Solaris and Stalker are fantastic. I find his movies to be like dreams. I recommend watching all of them if you haven’t already.

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Does film influence your work?

DM: I am indeed a huge film lover, and especially soundtracks. Bela Tarr’s Satantango had quite the effect on me when I saw it on the large theater screen for the whole 7 hours length. Not sure if that influenced my music, but it did certainly influence me to get a camera and start making my own black and white photos. But for music…not really influenced by film, because I strive to have my music come from abstract inspirations. Abstract meaning something undefinable. A feeling or an atmosphere is the ideal influence.

Certainly, there have been many times that I see films and am greatly jealous of the soundtrack. I really wish I could make soundtracks for films. I’m always looking for that opportunity, in which very few have come my way. (Hollywood, are you reading this? Just kidding…sort of). My favorite soundtrack of all time is for Once upon a time in the West by Ennio Morricone. I loved that soundtrack so much and have played it countless times, and the funniest thing is that I have never seen the movie! For well over 20 years, that soundtrack has been cherished by me, but I’m still waiting to see this film in the largest cinema possible.

Another soundtrack for a movie that I really really, really love is for Valhalla Rising by Nicolas Winding Refn. That movie was just pure bliss for me when I saw it on the big cinema with loud sound. The imagery and the music and especially the silence in that movie are just so profound. For cinema or photography, there are facial landscapes and then there are nature landscapes. One can gravitate towards the human face and get inspired or influenced, but for me, it’s really about big gigantic landscapes of nature. Huge, widescreen landscapes of mountains or forests can really inspire me. One example is an Australian horror movie called Wolf Creek. Ok, I really did not like that movie at all for the human characters and story line. Absolutely did not care or like it, right. But there were a lot of these awesome landscape shots in the movie of the outback, and it was remarkable and very experimental. The soundtrack to Wolf Creek is awesome! I was thinking when seeing that movie in the theater how amazing it would be to edit only the nature landscape scenes from Wolf Creek along with the music, and it would be the greatest landscape experimental film. I have a few movies with grand landscapes of mountains that I suppose inspire me a bit. But of course, I hike a lot here in the Northwest and see a lot of landscapes with my own eyes, so that’s where much of my influence comes from. I prefer real experiences more than cinema experiences, but it’s true. Given the choice, the real stuff is the real deal for me.

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WFC: I would love to create music for the right film. I believe that what I take from film, other than any subconscious influence that might be revealed in my work, are the story arcs, the edits and transitions between scenes, the shots and cinematography and of course the characters. I wouldn’t say that a film in its entirety influences my work, but certainly some elements of the film might be sources of inspiration. Watching film is definitely part of my creative process at this point. Even though my work is non-linear and doesn’t usually subscribe to a particular narrative, I do attempt to suggest some sort of storyline within the overall form of an album or even within an individual piece. I sometimes think of my compositions as being related to “scenes” or “chapters” rather than musical compositions.

Getting back to the text, I found that the thought of Christ in outer space was intriguing and it definitely brought to mind some of the moments in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love the use of Ligeti’s music in that film. Kubrick was so good at placing music in his films. I might not have discovered Penderecki if it hadn’t been for The Shining. The fact that the Penderecki music in that film was written independently as opposed to being scored specifically for the film gives one a gives a sense of how heavy the music is on its own. Heavier than most of the metal I’ve come across, that’s for certain!

Another soundtrack that struck me recently was Takemitsu’s score for Woman in the Dunes, a film by Hiroshi Teshigahara. I love Morricone’s work as well and in some cases his music is better than the film itself! Lalo Schifrin’s score for The Amityville Horror is great (as are many of his scores). You owe it to yourself to see Once Upon A Time in the West. Grab some good headphones and watch it until the big screen version comes to town! That’s a film where sound, in addition to the music, plays a huge role. The sound design is excellent. Wind machines, the sound of cowboy boots drenched in reverb. Amazing. David Lynch does great things with sound in his films as well. Blue Velvet comes to mind first, but there are other examples in his work without a doubt. Even within the horrific nightmare that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there is brilliant original sound that was created by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper. There are downloads of that are out there if you go digging.

I know what you mean about being inspired by nature. Living in New Mexico, I cannot escape the vast landscape. I live amongst harsh desert terrain, volcanoes, mountains, apocalyptic fires, scorpions, black widows, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, raptors, and drought. The dramatic open space and sparse population are wonderful aspects the state. I recall feeling as if I were driving on the bottom of the ocean when I first moved here. There’s also the dark history of genocide that of course isn’t unique to New Mexico, and we still have the black plague. Since I began making music here, the comparisons with this place have been constant. It isn’t a conscious effort on my part, but New Mexico seems to reveal itself in my work time and time again.

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DM: I think one of the many subtle reasons in choosing to do a split with you is because I clearly can hear/see how the environment around you influences your work. I mean, your work “sounds” like an apocalyptic desert. Whereas my work is very far from that, with my surroundings being big mountains, forests, rain rain rain and more rain…and of course I live in an urban city as well. I felt that this could make for a good contrast of sorts for a split. Two totally different environmental settings that distinguish us, but with this Jean Paul text to inspire the music.

But in all, I believe that natural and urban environment is key to the influence of art and music. We are all guilty of regurgitating our record collection or cinema viewing as our source of artistic inspiration…For some, a hell of a lot of vomiting, and for few, very little cultural regurgitation. We’re all guilty of this. Eating culture and vomiting it back up and calling it our art…yadda yadda yadda…Sure, we’re all guilty of this, even when we really don’t want to admit it. But the big, big, big, main influence/inspiration for art is environment. There are very distinct differences in music that come from environments that are hot or cold, dry or wet, urban or rural. How about the role in the three main monotheistic religions that they were conceived in deserts?!?! Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad all got their kicks in the desert. Was it the minimalism of the landscapes? The sound of the winds blowing in the dunes interpreted as the voice of God? Dehydration? Starvation? I tell ya, deserts are not at all my song and dance! I’m a forest and mountain type of guy. The Redwood forest in Northern California is my favorite place in the world. As soon as I step foot in there, I am at my happiest and most peaceful. All those big trees blasting out pure oxygen…oh man, that’s my heaven right there!

Deserts are cool, but they scare me a bit……Scorpions! Snakes! Heat! Dehydration!!! Yikes!!!!! You know what would be really fucking cool? If we followed up this split LP with ourselves starring in a remake of the movie Ishtar! That shit would rule! I’ll be the Dustin Hoffman character and you’ll be the Warren Beatty role, and we both rollick around the desert entertaining unsuspecting victims with our comedic musical hijinks! Whatcha say? You on? We’re going to Ishtar the fucking world!

WFC: The desert builds character. If the Ishtar thing doesn’t get off the ground, maybe we can be featured on a future episode of Portlandia instead? You and I browsing titles in the feminist bookstore?

Until then, I’ll leave you with this scene from No Country for Old Men:

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CVLT Nation Exclusive: SUNWØLF
Beholden To Nothing And No-One
FULL STREAM

Last week, we premiered the new video from UK’s SUNWØLF for their track “In The Darkened River I Found The Silence Loom,” and this week we have a full stream of the album the track was taken from, Beholden To Nothing And No-One. This gorgeous album is the soundtrack to an inward journey, taking you through layers of your own consciousness, pulling back the walls of fog that separate us from our inner selves. This stream will be up for a limited time, so make sure you pre-order this awesome double CD release before it’s June 30th release date via ARK NOISE!


Art by Rainbath Visual

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The Room Colored Charlatan – Primitives Review

The Room Colored Charlatan hail from Indiana, and the quintet are on the cusp of breaking into the collective consciousness of those who enjoy something a little more on the difficult, but listenable, side. Intricate details fall into their sound, but by no means does that suggest that Primitives errs on the technical-for-technical’s-sake edge of the sphere. The Room Colored Charlatan know their way around a tune, and their second record shows a deft maturity and an awareness of how to construct and create a song – something that a lot of bands take their sweet time in doing. Vocals are deep, guttural and powerful, and in Jared Bush the band have a frontman who can convey emotions during those moments of otherwise aggressive sound. First track, “Instinct,” bursts into life on sweetly rendered guitar tones full of sound and nuance, and when the song steps back into more atmospheric territory to take in gorgeous string movements and softer shades, there’s no loss of coherence – instead, the band work those more subdued effects into the fabric of the music and allow it to breathe and form its own path through the song.

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“Native Habitat” is a short interlude which bridges the gap nicely from the first to the next track, and “Apex Predator” storms into being on odd time signatures and groove-laden riffs that are sure to get even the hardest of metal fans bobbing their heads. The title track is a huge monster of a song, and within it, The Room Colored Charlatan explore different soundscapes, adding passages that work with the flow of the song and lift it out of the depths and into new realms of hopefulness. Clean vocals appear alongside mournful guitar progressions and a hidden, barely perceptible choral element creeps in to carry the track into “Questions of Origin.”

The Room Colored Charlatan are a young band, but Primitives is a keen indicator that they are planning on going very far indeed. While they may not be showcasing anything new here and can sometimes slip into clichéd sounds (those bass drops and that chug), the record is a defiant stamp on the musical world and for them, an incredible starting point. Having produced, mixed and mastered it themselves, there’s a clear awareness of their own sound, and it’s lovingly put together – from opening note to the mostly instrumental “The Atlas Artifact” to the closing notes of “Nexus Point” – which features ex TesseracT vocalist Daniel Tompkins – although perhaps the band are a little too close, as at times some small elements become a little overwhelming. Still, Primitives can hold its own with The Room Colored Charlatan’s peers and in time they’ll be one of those bands that younger groups look up to.

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The Room Colored Charlatan are streaming the album on YouTube and you can buy the record via their bandcamp page or physically here.

Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about techy, progressive rock and roll and as such this write up isn’t full of comparisons or notes on who to check out (although the most obvious are Between The Buried And Me, The Contortionist and TesseracT). Generally I head into a record with no preconceptions and if it’s good, it gets a solid review – which Primitives absolutely deserves.

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New
Wolves In The Throne Room Song:
Celestite Mirror Streaming Now!

Come follow Wolves In The Throne Room as they take a new approach to creating music on their soon to be released album via Artemisia Records, Celestite. What you will hear on this offering is the instrumental, experimental companion record to 2011′s Celestial Lineage. Check out their sonic astral journey of a song called “Celestite Mirror” streaming below!…Pre-order the album HERE!

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TIME TO REBUILD…
Krautrock – The Rebirth of Germany
Documentary Now Showing!

When we hear music, we don’t always know where the foundation lies. Krautrock is at the foundation of a lot of music we like. For instance, if you asked many musicians who create black metal, positive punk (goth), space rock or doom metal, many of them would cite Krautrock as a major influence on them. On a personal level, I think this type of music is the shit; bands like Neu and Can are awesome. Here is a killer documentary that the BBC made about the birth of Krautrock. Enjoy this cool CVLT Nation documentary special.

http://youtu.be/cHUwkYkn_kA

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Column of Heaven – Precipice

The opening salvo of “Nothing” announces Column of Heaven’s album Precipice with a bulldozer crunch, furious drums and the only decipherable lyrics cutting through, saying “nothing” over and over again. The offset, the surprise, the negative energy and the ferocity are what make this band; and it’s exceptional this time around.

Last year’s trinity of releases, FailuresHoly Things are for the Holy, and Romance, explored uncomfortable tones in a myriad of textures, pulses, buzzes, and loops. Maintaining the same ethos and tone, the first half of Precipice is mostly grind that’s solidified in it’s rapid-fire riffing, stop/start blast beats and complete worship of speed. Thankfully, it’s not that black and white, as bouts of noise cut through, loops appear here and there and, of course, somewhere along the way a couple of samples from Possession make their way into the mix and man are they fucked (not to mention the whole loop talking about angelic vibrations and unconditional love – yikes).

The second half of the tape moves into weirder territory (somehow), with a Ride for Revenge cover and two tracks of ambient industrial courtesy of the band’s offshoot Wolves of Heaven. The Ride for Revenge cover is done faster, with a guitar (!) and extremely well (those Finnish weirdos are perfect for Column of Heaven). The other two tracks, “Love is a God from Hell” and “Hell is a Love from God” are calmer bits that do well to ease out, and roll out the last toothpaste in the tube of Precipice.

The band’s attention to atmosphere and aesthetic is, and has been, one of their most alluring features. When the tracks on the first side are flying high, it’s still the gaps in between riffs, whether they’re endlessly echoing vocals, the aforementioned samples or bits of noise, that really pull me in. Religious symbolism and fanaticism are portrayed in such a harrowing way that speaks so much louder than anything Paul Ledney or his ilk have said.

Not sure where to grab this tape, but hopefully it will be pressed on vinyl, or at the very least, be made available online for those unable to snag these.

Stay current on the wolves here, here and listen here.