Utter filth in audio form – that’s the best description I can give you of the debut demo by London-based drum and bass doomsters Slow Plague. Low end and rhythm bathed in layers of dirt so deep as to be almost sub-sewer level, and with vocals that sound like Chris Reifert desperately yelling for help from the bottom of a Sarlacc pit. Neanderthal, atavistic violence performed at a knuckle dragging pace. Total musical primitivism, total brutality.
Take the song we get at the halfway point, the snarling “Hollow,” as just one example. Coloured with samples of grim, end-of-the-world dialogue over a wave of bass feedback, the duo kick into a Venom style gallop, alternating it with crawling slower parts, as those hideous vocals yell cursed exhortations. The pace drops right down about half way through into a full on dirge – and then, suddenly it’s over. Until the next song comes along and the nightmare begins again.
It isn’t pretty. It’s not precise, or polished. It’s just total horror from start to finish- the sonic equivalent of watching “Hellraiser” with the absolute worst case of delerium tremens imaginable. An ugly bastard spawned from an archaic point where the most atonal punk and the earliest roots of death metal collide (some of this could honestly be what Hellhammer could have sounded like had Tom Warrior just sung over the bass and drums instead of adding guitar), Slow Plague are absolutely not for the faint of heart, or those who like their music to have any hint of sophistication. Music for masochists.
Seems like we’ve got some true Norwegian metal on our hands here with the second release by Djevel, made up of members of notable metal acts such as Nettlecarrier, Kvelertak, LJÅ, Enslaved, Gehenna and Koldbrann. Recorded this past winter in Caliban Studios, Besatt Av Maane Og Natt is a triumph of an album – it is as ambitious as it is nostalgic. Djevel are innately important because of this very pure sense of nostalgia, as they are effortlessly recreating and redeveloping the sound of 90s Nordic black metal. Between the overwhelming sense of atmosphere and raw, blistering musicianship, Djevel juggle notions of fierce Northern apocalypse while simultaneously expressing a relative “newness” to tropes that are often made into caricatures by hip metalheads.
So let’s dig into it from the beginning – you’ll notice a painful bleakness that permeates from the moment the music begins. In the same way bands such as Deafheaven evoke a sense of unwavering emotion, particularly hope and honesty, Djevel would rather channel a painful, surrounding fear and uncomfortable tenseness. The first track’s overall speed is something for ones’ ears to behold, as Djevel seamlessly craft together powerful, thunderous drumming in conjunction with technically pleasing and exemplary guitar work. More importantly, the track plays with the relationship between atmospheric longing and the capacity for animalistic hate, which is a truly interesting listen. The track “Marefar” is beautifully written; it is a track that evokes a real sense of expedition and the daunting obstacles of a Viking sojourn, constantly rocking and churning while thundering onward. At one moment, there is a silence which quickly gives way to an undeniably fun guitar solo. But more importantly, the song reveals that Djevel are not a band in which each instrument works to create a sense of wholeness to a song, but rather than it is the work of the guitar players that is defining the music. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as it gives leeway to the drummer to play as fast as he wants while simultaneously letting each guitar player control the emotional turmoil that is being played.
Woes are a band that took me completely by surprise. Very few artists I’ve come across have been able to craft such a strong debut. Valley of Desolation, Woes’ first release, pools its influences from everything from Darkthrone to GISM. The sinister vibe of classic black metal coexists abrasively and peacefully with the savage apathy characteristic of D-beat. Woes’ combination of outright presence and gloomy atmosphere play with little clunk over the demo’s six tracks.
The intro plays with woodland ambiance and Gregorian chants while iced riffs cut through it, a doom-paced snare underlying it all before the vocals set the pace into an ever-ascendant fury. “Blasphemous Runes” rides into battle on guitars straight from Blashyrkh that take a slimy punk turn, exchanging gauntleted blow with anarchic fist at a sweat-less pace. “Runes” descends into the obscenely bleak “Stone Knife,” an atmospheric middle-track that matches its Norwegian ferocity with glacial pacing. The deep winter blast that consumes the song at its midsections comes gusting with unsettling murk, becoming a maddening dirge by song’s end.
If the hair at the back of your neck stands up straight every time that you listen to Black Sabbath (with Ozzy) and you think that one of the best things that have ever happened to metal are the newer retro bands that started coming out in the early 00s, then Orchid is the next logical step for you.
In the band’s second full-length album, The Mouths of Madness, the third release of Orchid to come through Nuclear Blast after their last two EPs, Heretic and Wizard of War, Orchid invoke the spirit of Black Sabbath, adding influences from legendary bands such as Pentagram, Trouble and Count Raven while at the same time keeping an eye on the newer generation of doom bands such as Sahg (from the II and III albums), Devil (great doom metal band from Norway, check their second album, Gather The Sinners) and the first two Witchcraft albums obviously.
The result is a great doom metal record with heavy rock extensions. That much is obvious from the very energetic opening track “Mouths of Madness”; with heavy riffs pummeling down constantly and a great vocal performance, it is as good as it can get, with its more atmospheric and laid back moment about four and a half minutes into the song with the acoustic guitar playing. That is until the Sabbath-ian “Marching Dogs of War” kicks in, with a great groove and excellent guitar work. And even then Orchid manage to top themselves once again, with the “as doom as it can possibly get” third track, “Silent One,” a classic doom epos with disturbing guitar leads (from the very first fucking note), it spans over seven minutes of heavy music, picking up the pace and with the addition of the guitar solos it is easily one of the highlights of the album, it even includes bell samples (fuck yeah!).
Image via Pelecanus.net
Abstracter’s Tomb of Feathers actually came out nearly a year ago and sleeping on it was a huge mistake. This sprawling album from the Oakland band is post metal in excelsis with aspects of sludge and psychedelica to boot. Frankly, there’s a lot going on in this record, which is why it demands your full attention at all times.
Swirling death doom riffs collide with lush melodic passages that drink from the Pelican fountain from time to time, meanwhile the vocals carry a similar dichotomy. When not shaking the very ground we’re walking on with deathly bellows and barks, vocalist Mattia lays down staggering clean vocals that are near operatic in their scope; just take the gauntlet laid down by the first track ‘Walls That Breathe,’ for example.
There’s even a flair of Tool to be heard slithering around in these bleak sonic journeys, heard in the more stripped back verses only to be complemented by the cerebral riffs of the aforementioned Pelican and the unavoidable influence of their neighbours, Neurosis.
This has been brewing a while. It’s been three years since Year of No Light’s last full-length Ausserwelt and in that time the French soundsmiths have crafted out a new niche for themselves thanks to their collaborative record with thisquietarmy and a split LP with Altar of Plagues. Vampyr sees the band continue an intriguing metamorphosis that began to take place with Ausserwelt, their first album with the current line-up and one that saw them go entirely instrumental, trading vocals in for more layered guitars and a second drummer.
No artist sounds like Wreck and Reference. Maybe my musical interests and knowledge are a bit narrow, but I doubt I’m wrong about my previous statement. Last year’s
Youth was not only one of my favorite records of the year, but one of the most intriguing and genuinely different things I came across. As the band’s progressed, we are given Content, an EP that has many of Youth ‘s attributes, but brings them into a whole new world.
“Absurdities and Echos,” the opener for the EP, is a water logged subterranean cloud of swirling textures – both haunting and otherworldly – organic drum work and the band’s best vocals yet. The vocals are augmented in a way that they reverberate in a lower tone and sound like the singer is trapped far below ground and yelling to the surface through an old well. They ebb and flow over the rich drone of effects that come through as a dark hum, sparkling static, and stabs of some type of melodic synth.
You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me is Thrill Jockey’s latest record to be released onto the world and it’s definitely a veritable feast for the ears. Under the pseudonym of Wrekmeister Harmonies, this music is the creation of JR Robinson and his collaboration with notable guests such as Bruce Lamont, Jef Whitehead, and Sanford Parker to name a few, all exploring different aural vistas in the shape of one 38 minute movement.
Originally this collective gathered in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to perform this meandering and avant-garde piece to a sold out crowd. Soon they congregated once again, this time in the studio belonging to none other than a certain Mr. Steve Albini, and recorded what would become You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me. Needless to say, the story is an interesting one and the music itself is even more intriguing.
CENTURIES from Florida is one of the few bands that dwell within the reach of Hardcore that are able to keep things highly interesting and distinct without receding too far away from the given principles of the genre. The band recently inked a deal with Southern Lord Records, so you probably might guess that CENTURIES are not exactly playing Pop Punk. Their all-go-no-slow approach shows an edge that has been immersed in frustration, angst and despair, accumulating in a dismal cloth of anger that covers all of their recorded material to date.
All this recorded output plus four new previously unreleased songs are to be found on the compilation Broken Hymns, which has been put out by This Charming Man and Halo Of Flies Records. Thus the record perfectly portrays the development CENTURIES underwent from their very first EP to the current day.
On the Creation/Extinction EP from 2010, all the trademark elements of CENTURIES’ sound are already present, but still had to be fully formed. Taking the same line as His Hero Is Gone for example, CENTURIES expressed their anger in an unaltered, pure matter, paving the way they were about to follow later on.
Bleak, depressing, anguished, tormented. All of these are adjectives that I could use to describe this next album I’m about to introduce. A blistering mix of black, drone and doom layered with some beautiful atmospheric parts, all blended perfectly that will leave you under the spell of Old Witch.
There isn’t much information about this enigmatic act floating around. All I basically know is that they’re a two member band (judging by the blurred pic featured on their Bandcamp) from the U.S.. I understand the reason for the band to remain so scretive. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not the fact that knowing exactly from where they come from that is going to change my opinion about them. What I’m really concerned about is this: how come such an enigmatic and unsigned band, coming from God knows where, releases one of the best doom albums I’ve heard this year? The music is amazing, awesome lyrics, well performed, full of rich textures and layers. I’m overwhelmed.
“Funeral Rain”, the track that opens the album, appears charged with an immense negative energy, like a dark cloud on the horizon approaching increasingly stuffed with drone noises that completely transform the landscape, darkening it and giving rise to a bleak and desolate scenario now dyed in tones of gray, dominated under a powerful doom that crawls at a snails pace. The rough voice fits perfectly in, this record, and judging by the band’s name I almost imagine it coming from the mouth of a an old mystical and sinisterly contorted figure, forgotten by time, wandering painfully through this forest made of anguish. From here, and during the next half hour we are about to lose ourseleves in the dark old forest that is “Come Come Mourning“.