Over two years ago, I was listening to Harvestman, another persona of Steve von Till. The phone rang and my sister, who I don’t see much, told me my father had been given six months to live, he had gotten pancreatic cancer. I put down the phone and my whole perception was altered, this was a death sentence for him. The Harvestman album was like a soundtrack to intensified somber thoughts. It was a huge epiphany of rock bottom, a pure emptiness. He lasted only four months. The music I connected to deeply was Harvestman/Steve Von Till, Zoë Keating, Clint Mansell and the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score for ‘The Road.’ All helped me cope with this mental state.
Music can evoke multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through our minds. It can reflect and even shape our environment rather than be just another product for us to accumulate until the next one.
“Rudiments of Mutilation,” the second full-length by sound warriors Full of Hell, is as threatening as music gets. Following the face-bending “Roots of Earth are Consuming my Home” and a smattering of fantastic splits, “Rudiments” represents the band’s style in full, unapologetic form. The sludge oozes with caustic immediacy. The grind churns above, thundering at a calamitous pace. Voices of near every frequency rise and fall, forming a damned chorus enslaved by the album’s bleak drone. Full of Hell offer nothing tender, only coarse lessons on how far the boundaries of musical discomfort can be pushed.
While one would think “Rudiments of Mutilation” was a quickie when considering its twenty-minute run time, this record fucks with your ears, drags them through the dirt and subjects them to all manner of agony, rage and paranoia. It is nothing short of enjoyable. “Dichotomy” pierces your skull from the get go, that signature broken frequency used by so many peers but made a weapon here. Roars echo from beneath, a booming, forlorn mantra establishing a tone that would call a David Lynch film kin. “Vessel Deserted” manifests as a punk neckbreaker, only to morph into a barren soundscape that fluctuates from freneticism to corporeal loathing. “Throbbing Lung Fiber” allows no trespassers beyond its virulent arsenal, melding its missile silos with zero flaw into the menacing warheads of “Indigence and Guilt.”
It seems Dark Descent have once again done well by unleashing Lantern’s newest effort upon the metal landscape, sprouting another frigid root into the festering soil of death metal to petrify and rot whoever enters its reach.
My introduction to Lantern was through their Subterranean Effulgence EP, and while it was good for sure without having gone back and re-listened to it recently I would’ve have said it wasn’t too memorable. Promising? Sure. However with their new record Below they’ve definitely got my attention. Lantern has heightened their unique, chasmal death ceremony, resurrecting old heretics and using their essence to form something decidedly old school, and cleverly (if not subtly) inventive as well.
Look at the artwork that adorns this split release. It’s a forest or hillside that, at any other time would, have been a picturesque scene but here it is now, engulfed in a sea of flames, a conflagration that is burning this once serene area of nature to the ground, leaving only ash and sorrow in its wake. If there ever was a fitting image to complement the music held within the record this is it. This is the split cassette between Amarok and Hell.
Both bands have always offered their own brands of diseased doom metal with drone and sludge elements and each released noteworthy split records last year respectively, Amarok with Pyramido and Hell with Thou, so their pairing for this split makes perfect sense and easily gives their predecessor records a run for their money.
Amarok serve up a 20 minute dirge of harrowing sludge in the form of ‘V: Red Oak Wisdom’. It wastes no time whatsoever, erupting with a cataclysmic riff that ushers us into a dreary world of doom that trudges along with Thou-like riffs that would move tectonic plates. This is until around the eight minute mark where the band fearlessly recoils into sombre territory where piano and strings take centre stage, crafting an entirely different world for the listener.
Canadian blackened doom quintet Ensorcelor have teamed up with UK punk infused sludge act Moloch to create what could possibly be described as the greatest fucking thing to ever be created in the history of things that have ever been fucking created. On just about every split there is always one band that stands above the others, be it through a more concise recording, or just sheer talent, we rarely get to see multiple outstanding artists on a single release…until now. The tandem energy these two bands utilize create the flowing atmosphere that makes this album one that is engaging, encapsulating, and just as intriguing no matter how many times you spin it.
Ensorcelor comes out first with a creeping display of sundering lows that are veritably torn apart by harsh vocal onsets and haunting melodies that carry an uneasy feeling throughout the entirety of their 20 minute offering. Trapping a landscape that differs its way from a blackened pool of infinitesimal hate into a realm of endless sadness and confusion. Allowing for a more emotionally rapturing soundscape to pour into the empty spaces of silence that surround and convey while still retaining the reflecting overtone of utter and complete irrelevance. The track bores its way into your subconscious and delves into what would remain after all sorrow has subsided, a full on confrontation between body, mind, and soul. The song fades into a harmonious departure that does not end but simply stops, leaving no room for your senses to return before the next track begins.
With their third album Withdrawal, Philly-based Black Metal band WOE set about becoming one of USBMs strongest new forces. The band that started out as Chris Grigg’s one-man project became a full-fledged band with the previous Quietly, Undramatically, with all members contributing to the song-writing now. Maybe due to this fact Withdrawal is definitely WOE’s most varied output to date, with many non-BM influences enriching the heavy, melancholic sounds that gained them already quite some recognition over the last years.
One thing I always liked about WOE is that they never even tried to imitate certain trends within the realm of Black Metal: not the tree-hugging primitivism of WITTR and the likes, nor the “transcendental” aesthetics that occurred around the same time. And WOE didn’t fall back to a total Scandinavian mock-up either.
Instead WOE take the inscribed aggression and melancholy of Black Metal, boosting it with a heavy, powerful production and more or less remote influences, which they take from a quite wide range of different genres. For example, the backing-vocals in This is the end of the story definitely sound very Hardcore’ish, and the clean vocals that appear now and then could also have been borrowed from certain Post-Hardcore bands. At the same time WOE also made their homework when it comes down to classic Heavy Metal. And there are traces of Post Rock and even Pop music woven into Withdrawal.
Skagos have always been a little mysterious – finding information on the band and their music has been somewhat difficult in the past, and it seems that that is just the way that Skagos like it. Their music is their voice and Anarchic is the culmination of much hard work; work that has taken a long time to become complete (in this case, possibly years). It was around this time last year the Skagos released “Side A” onto bandcamp, with “Side B” eventually following and the knowledge that that these two pieces comprised movements I-V of a new Skagos release was enough to begin fresh interest in the Cascadian flavoured black metal project that first came to my attention with the incredible Ást in 2009.
Skagos may come from a background that’s rich in history and textures, but their choice to always sit on the fringes of the “scene” is reiterated during the hour long rhythms of Anarchic. This work is not what you expect and is all the more interesting and intriguing for it. Hours of toil and blood and heart have gone into this recording and it’s a wonder that Skagos even managed to survive the ordeals that are rendered within the record.
Santa Cruz doesn’t seem to be a place to invoke the most grim and gloomy kind of black metal. But with Leucosis, the story is different. The band made its debut back in 2011 with the amazing “Pulling Down The Sky” that pulled off really impressive reviews along its way. The level of black metal presented then by the band, through the quality of the tracks and their sound, really caught up the attention of many out there, including myself, in such a way that i had to put “Pulling Down The Sky” in the altar of my favorite releases of that same year. This year they mark their return with another brilliant milestone into their young, yet prolific career. A self titled album made out of six amazing chapters which have a total of more than one hour of length. Although it’s a long release, I assure you that it’s one of the most well spent hours you will have. At this point, before i go further into the album i must warn the fans of “Pulling Down The Sky” that here they may be a little bit disappointed or even upset by Leucosis sound on this album. It all depends on how you like your black metal and how open-minded you are. I believe that this evolution in Leucosis sound is quite good as the songs themselves, united by different nodes that culminates into something quite interesting and innovative. It becomes a bit difficult to classify Leucosis sound with this new record. Atmospheric Black Metal Doom? Cascadian Blackened Doom? Whatever. It’s clearly black metal that drinks from cascadian and atmospheric fountains of inspiration and obviously some doom. Whatever the result, the way it’s made and how it sounds, it’s awesome.
The album begins with “Anaesthesia“, which is the perfect track to begin this album with. An epic track that contains 14 minutes of the most perfect doom infused black metal where the rhythm ranges from slower sludgier/doom rhythms to the most cascadian influenced black metal stretching even to some beautiful instrumental territories with melodic contours that all together, offer an excellent gateway to what is a brilliant album. If we dissect this track we will see that 80% is merely instrumental, the voice when marks its presence, it shouts from way beyond, in total despair all caught up in this whole mix. But what really amazes me is how Leucosis take all of these different influences and create this unique harmony. Immediately glued “Calcinate” whose initial tone reminds me a snippet of “Time as Automation” from Buried Inside. Sweet and melodic notes are gently released as they slowly build a scenario that aims to be, at least, epic. The tone that the band injects into their tracks really has that dramatic charisma and melancholy that is so simple yet so brilliant. The tone increases before a deluge of thick blackness drowns us all. The voice is quite creepy as it echoes through this impenetrable wall of sound.
The album opens up with “Like Embers” which has one of those Neurosis type riffs that you will stay going around in your head for a few days. It then builds and builds into an unrelenting Sepultura-esque ditty, but then turns back into that sense of decay again with the opening riff. Certainly a real impressive introduction to ‘Inhumanform’. Every subsequent song after offers something that is unique onto itself. By the time you get to the track “Black Rain” it opens with a real rocking High On Fire type rhythm. But again takes a different path and changes tempo completely. It should be mentioned that the album was mastered by Brad Boatright (From Ashes Rise) who has in the past mastered High On Fire, Sleep, Tragedy etc.
Age Of Woe have great independent ethics and have toured through ‘Rise! Bookings‘ so have played many DIY venues. Being autonomous does not bring in money, hence so many bands end up recording in cheap as chips type recording studios. But they recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Where in the past Led Zeppelin, Rammstein, Entombed etc have recorded, so you know the band have pumped every cent/krona they have into this recording. The result of course is a very highly polished production that will last the test of time.
New Zealand’s Beastwars first came to my attention a little earlier this year due to the nonstop praise the wonderful Craig Hayes (Six Noises, Pop Matters, About.com Heavy Metal, Hellbound.ca) was giving this stoner driven quartet. New Zealand doesn’t have a vast metal scene (Ulcerate is the only other group that comes to mind right now) so it’s always a big deal when a band from NZ suddenly starts blowing up the airwaves. I checked ‘em out, and damn, they were definitely worthy of all that hype. Crunchy riffs, growling vocal lines and huge songs that kick you right in the guts – Beastwars are something very exciting indeed and we are incredibly pleased to present an exclusive stream of the track “Imperium” from their new record Blood Becomes Fire.
Blood Becomes Fire is an age-old story of dealing with our own mortality and the band explains that:
“The new album serves witness to the end of days, told through the eyes of a dying traveler from another time. It is a work inspired by eternal themes. It’s a reflection on mortality, death and disease. Sooner or later they come for all of us and we’ve all screamed to the gods for answers, not that they’ve ever come.”
The songs found here are powerful, and of course loud, and the narrative of the record is fed through each track with a stylish blaze. From the opening crunch of “Dune” and Matt Hyde’s rough, immediate voice to the sneaky melancholy of closing track “The Sleeper,” Blood Becomes Fire travels the path of life via highs, lows and straight up rocking out.