Welcome to Bay Area, where the sun shines and destruction crawls, endlessly. Lurking somewhere in the East Bay, the mysterious black metal horde known as XENOTAPH have managed to craft a demo so grand and timeless that it’s almost impossible to believe it’s the work of four young dudes hailing from the sunny banks of the east San Francisco Bay. These four caustic and suffocating blasts of necrotic black metal that the band have crafted under the form of Vitae Iactura sound like something coming straight from the icy and desolate plains of the Norwegian tundra plunged into and endless and demonic winter rather than tunes made by a bunch of Californians.
Arnaut Pavle come crawling out of the frozen northern wastes of Finland to encapsulate everything great about raw old school black metal. Named for a legendary eighteenth century Serbian ‘vampire’ supposedly responsible for a plague of mysterious deaths that decimated his village, Arnaut Pavle sound like exactly that. No modern twinkly teen star shit, nor even the classic Bram Stoker eternal lover; no, Arnaut Pavle sound like a wretched strung out blood junkie forest hermit, a leprous shell of a human that’s been living off the blood of icy corpses and rodents for nigh on three hundred years.
This music is not pretty, it’s rabid and intense and as catchy as a vampire bite. An impossibly icy arctic production vomits up chainsaw guitars that peel off tremolo riffs and surprisingly melodic leads like layers of rotted skin, crashing drums tear through rocking punk inspired rhythms and the vocals screech and croak in hoarse splendour.
Waiting can be a bitch. Like the next Star Wars or sublime dish Taco Bell will cook up, the interval between The Banner‘s last release (2008′s Frailty) and this jet black gem has been a nail biter. Unlike Star Wars (but like Taco Bell), you know that this band’s sound is never in the wrong hands. So here we have The Banner’s first release in over five years, and though its length is brief, this could be equated to their potential Episode VII.
As a band that has continually redefined itself with each release, no matter how small, The Banner refreshes itself with unprecedented speed, skull-crushing fury and Type O Negative. These four tracks have been released sporadically since the beginning of 2012 in rough, unmixed versions. It would be a sin to decry these finalized versions, in fact this EP does little in the disappointment department.
“Wolvesblood” opens with a tongue-in-cheek sound clip from Pulp Fiction that is pleasantly self-referential for these Jersey devils. This self-loathing anthem is as fine a one as they’ve ever produced, tearing the listener down layer by layer until only a shuddering mass remains. The wrath is palpable enough to slash your ears to bits. The words throughout are cutting, a poem that rides on storm winds. “Wolvesblood” flows like blood from a freshly mauled throat into “Lilith,” a spine-twisting blur that demands a sacrificial circle pit. Let us pray to the heathen gods to give these dudes the funding and financial backing to tour, these songs need a live setting. None more so than the apocalyptic, bleak but triumphant “Negative Zone.”
Death metal outfit Obliteration comes from Kolboth, the hometown of Norwegian black metal legends Darkthrone… seriously does the water over there have some magical properties?
After two full-lengths, Perpetual Decay (2007) and Nekropsalms (2009), a couple of EPs and the sick split with Diskord, Lobotomized and Execration, wisely entitled Oslo We Rot, Obliteration took some time off. Thankfully with their latest release, Black Death Horizon, they show that they have not lost any of their edge. On the contrary, they sound even angrier, more manic and even more devoted to what they are doing.
A “punk” band…. Suuuuuuuuuure. TUTTI I COLORI DEL BUIO (literally “all shades of darkness”) from Torino (Turin, in north-western Italy) simply call them selves a “punk band”, but then you play their debut demo - Demo 2013 – and this ferocious hardcore/powerviolence monster proceeds to immediately try and rip your fucking head off with a rage and violence that you will never be able to withstand. Well, okay, it is definitely punk in the sense that this music is pissed beyond reason, but it is also so much more. This is an endless stacking up of violence. Violence stacked upon violence, stacked upon violence, stacked upon violence, endlessly, up to the ceiling and right through the fucking roof.
You better get on your knees, the apocalypse is coming and its four horsemen are Dreadlords. This group of ritualistic racket-makers summon up an unholy concoction of apocalyptic blues, Satanic southern gospel and shamanic sacrilege. This blasphemous demo tape sounds like the sonic incarnation of a Flannery O’Connor short story or Cormac McCarthy novel – back before he started winning literary prestige awards and was still writing twisted Southern bloodbaths about incest, scalping and backwoods violence.
Guitars and piano clang and crash in a free form fall through a cathedral-sized chamber of reverb, while Dreadlords’ singer rants and raves like a schizophrenic madman at the pulpit, veering from Nick Cave-style blues sermonizing (once again, think less his later dad-rock, Kylie Minogue duet-ing phase and more his spastic early years) to black metal-esque croaking and snarling, and even the occasional haunting howl of a werewolf in full moon fever.
Label: Nervous Habit Records
Chicago’s Angry Gods, a new sludge/hardcore crossover band comprised of members of Harps Of Tartarus, Boiling Over and Scouts Honor, play impossibly deep, pummeling metal inflected hardcore full of jack-hammering double-kick drums, down-tuned guitars and guttural catharsis. In only two tracks and six minutes, Angry Gods somehow manage to craft something bordering on epic, rampaging through a whole slew of dynamic twists and turns, from the opening of “Greyed Delay” which feels like being punched repeatedly in the face in rapid succession, to ‘The Swell”s hypnotically repetitive martial outro, which feels like being trampled slowly by a herd of elephants. Admittedly, that’s not the greatest range of experiences, but trust me, in terms of sound as a representation of physical assault, Angry Gods run the whole range of ways to be beaten senseless.
The insane parade of occult, dark and primitive death metal continues. And it is no surprise when you find out that Grave Upheaval comes from Australia, the country from which a big chunk of this type of music originates. With a lineup comprised of members of Portal and Impetuous Ritual, I guess you get a good idea of what to expect in Grave Upheaval’s debut album.
The ritualistic ambiance appears straight from the start, with the band using their mid-tempo vibe to create towering moments of unreal awe. The hellish sound of “1” and the band’s general minimalistic outlook on the song structure are bringing forth a claustrophobic aura. Seriously, it is as if the guys from Grave Upheaval have just thrown you into a dark well. There is no light to be found here, only the haunting vocals, whispering secrets of your impending doom. This is sincerely as dark as it can get, with Grave Upheaval using their chthonic riffs, slithering through the darkness on the backbone of their music, sending waves of desperation your way.
I honestly do not know what is going on in this small and seemingly peaceful country called Iceland. Iceland has given us big names within the black metal scene – we can highlight names like Svartidaudi and Wormlust. There is also a very interesting array of bands there that follow the same path, such as Chao, Azoic, Vansköpun, Dynfari and Kontinuum just to name a few. All of these bands have above average talent and a very characteristic kind of sound, so much “their own” that they could almost certify it with a “Made in Iceland” stamp. From Iceland comes one of the most spectacular albums I have had the privilege to hear this year, brought by the hands of the, until now, unknown band Carpe Noctem.
Connecticut’s Sea of Bones have been pretty quiet for a while now, with six years passing since their debut record The Harvest but perhaps the doom band allows new music to blossom at the same pace as their ponderous riffs.
Where the band is clearly comfortable with extensive and sprawling passages of atmospheric doom tinged with sludge, they have pushed that affinity into extreme territories with this new LP entitled The Earth Wants Us Dead, a heaving behemoth, clocking in at over 90 minutes of sorrowful dirges.