(In this post Andy Synn reviews the second album, released earlier this year, by Iranian one-man project From the Vastland.)
When it comes to writing about albums from further afield – in particular those somewhat removed from the terrifying hegemony of Western imperialism (cue scary music) – there’s an occasional tendency for reviews to offer up the sort of opinions that are ultimately damning with faint praise, in the guise of being positive and supportive.
All too often I’ve seen reviewers focus on the “hardships” or “difficulties” of being a metal band from a country where the political or religious climate is far from conducive to it, to the extent that the actual quality of the musical output is considered only as a secondary factor.
Now I’m not saying that Metal should be a genre confined solely to the privileged few of the First World, but what I am saying is that excusing an album’s lack of quality because of its creators’ circumstances is akin to saying “that was good, for a girl” – condescending and ultimately unhelpful. You shouldn’t write a review if you have to lower your standards to give it a positive appraisal. It does everyone involved a disservice.
Thankfully, there’s no such issue with Kamarikan, which is a nasty little phenomenon in its own right. I just felt it was something to bear in mind for the future.
By coincidence, I heard new music from three bands last night, right in a row, that had a few things in common: The music is all superb, and it’s all black as hell. I don’t mean to say it’s all black metal, though some of it is. I mean to say that it’s all dark, heavy, and harrowing.
Little more than a week has passed since I reviewed Ævangelist’s lengthy (and brilliant) contribution to a forthcoming split that will be released in the coming months by Aurora Australis Records. I also mentioned that the band had finished recording a new album, Omen Ex Simulacra, that will be released later this year by Debemur Morti. And lo and behold, yesterday Debemur Morti gave us a precise release date — October 11 — and premiered a song from the album named “Abysscape”. [Update: we also now have a preview of the album art by Andrzej Masianis, which you can see above.] Interestingly, “Abysscape” is the last song on the album, though it’s the first one being released.
It’s another long one, though in the music of Ævangelist, time is an important ally. “Abysscape” is a dense, bottomless, indigo whirlpool of doom, made for immersion. Immense grinding guitars match up with immense, horrific vocals and stunning drumwork. Alien keyboard melodies call out like the cries of homeless souls. The ravaging music alternately storms and drifts. You look into the void, and “Abysscape” is there, looking back at you.
Here’s some recent album-release news that got me excited.
Early yesterday we reported about a U.S. tour scheduled for October that will be headlined by Deicide. One of the supporting bands is Chicago’s Broken Hope. I mentioned in that post that Broken Hope had recorded their first new album in 14 years and that it would be released by Century Media in October under the name Omen of Disease. And then later the same day we got an official announcement of the release dates: October 1 in NorthAm and September 30 in Europe.
We also got an unveiling of the album art, featured above. That’s one imaginatively nightmarish creature, isn’t it? I think I saw one of those fuckers in the corner of my bathroom one night. Right before I blacked out. That was a bad night.
The cover was painted by the illustrious Wes Benscoter, who has created artwork for the likes of Slayer, Hypocrisy, Autopsy, Kreator, and many more. In a coming-full-circle kind of episode, he also did the covers for two of Broken Hope’s own albums, though that happened in 1995 (Repulsive Conception) and 1997 (Loathing).
This is a rant, so if you’re not in the mood, just skip it. Won’t hurt my feelings.
I got pissed off by something that happened on the NCS Facebook page yesterday. That’s pretty rare. The fact that I’m still pissed off is even more rare (I’m old enough to have figured out that although giving in to my temper occasionally has its uses, most of the time it accomplishes nothing good). So, dumbass that I am, I’ve stewed about it, trying to understand why.
In a nutshell, I wrote a post yesterday about a re-recorded song by Deprecated. Like just about everything I write here, I was excited about it. Like everything we post here, I added a status on our Facebook page about the post for people who follow us there. In my FB status, I asked the rhetorical question whether people would like to hear some brutal death metal performed by Derek Boyer and Terrance Hobbs of Suffocation, Matt Sotelo of Decrepit Birth, AJ Magaña (ex- Disgorge (USA), and drummer Torrey Moores, and then I added, “I’m going to assume you said yes”.
Someone who shall remain nameless put this comment on the status: “I really really don’t like suffocation or decrepit birth. I’ll pass.” I suppressed the desire to respond with some snarky retort, and simply wrote, “I guess I made an erroneous assumption. :)” To which the original commenter wrote: “It happens when you’re trying to promote something. c:”
In mid-July I saw a report that Deprecated had signed with Unique Leader. The press release stated “The band’s latest album, Deriding His Creation, will be re-released on October 1.” Kind of a tongue-in-cheek announcement, since Deriding His Creation was originally released in 1998, and it was a 14-minute EP. But here’s the reason why this matters:
Deprecated came back to life after a decade-long dormancy with the release of a 2011 single, and the new line-up now includes not only original bass-player Derek Boyer (Suffocation), original drummer Torrey Moores, and original vocalist AJ Magaña (ex-Disgorge, ex-Defeated Sanity), but also new guitarists Terrance Hobbs (Suffocation) and Matt Sotelo (Decrepit Birth).
And what’s more, the guitar and bass tracks of the reissue of Deriding His Creation have been re-recorded by the current line-up, and the EP has been remixed & mastered by Zack Ohren of Castle Ultimate Studios. And as of today, we get to hear the results, because the EP’s updated title track had its premiere.
New videos have given me an excuse to write again about two excellent songs.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve posted different performances of “Fjara”. I don’t think it will ever grow old for me. And today brought me another excuse to do it again.
On July 25, Iceland’s Sólstafir performed at the Metaldays Festival in Tolmin, Slovenija. Someone with good equipment filmed the band’s performance of “Fjara” and uploaded it to YouTube. It looks like a beautiful setting for a festival (you get a glimpse of it at the end of the clip), though it’s a little strange to see the band performing in blinding sunlight. But apart from some overexposure brought about by all that daylight, the video looks and sounds very good.
And the song remains amazing, and the band remain the Kings of Cool, and I remain very stoked about the idea of seeing them live at Maryland Deathfest next May, where surely they will play this song. Watch and listen next . . .
Here are a couple of items that caught my eye last night.
NEW DEICIDE TOUR
Word has escaped that Deicide will be headlining a U.S. tour this October, though to be honest, the supporting bands are the ones that have really peaked my interest: Disgorge, Necronomicon, and Broken Hope.
I’ve been a fan of Montreal’s Necronomicon for years, and their 2013 album Rise of the Elder Ones is quite good. San Diego’s Disgorge has occupied a storied place in the annals of brutal death metal, and they’re now at work on their first album in eight years, with a revised line-up (Angel Ochoa behind the mic and Diego Soria on bass). And speaking of revivals, Chicago’s Broken Hope will be delivering their first album in 14 years when Century Media releases Omen of Disease in the same month that this tour occurs.
In other words, there’s going to be a full slate of new metal from a group of veteran death metal carnivores, wholly without regard to whether Deicide manages to bring it hard at the top of the bill.
Many of you already know how this unfortunately infrequent MISCELLANY game works, but for everyone else, here’s what it’s about: I randomly pick bands whose music I’ve never heard (usually bands whose names I’ve never heard either), I listen to one recent track from each of them (though sometimes I cheat and listen to more than one), I write my impressions, and I stream the music for you so you can judge for yourselves.
Every other musical feature on this site, other than this one, involves metal that I or the other writers have heard in advance and want to recommend. MISCELLANY, on the other hand, is a shot in the dark. I don’t know what these selections will sound like. We’ll both find out together. Today’s bands are a trio from the U.S. —House of Atreus, Zud, and Sloths — plus one from The Netherlands (Control Human Delete). They all turned out to be winners.
HOUSE OF ATREUS
I learned about this Minneapolis band via an e-mail from ex-TNOTB writer Tr00 Nate. That makes this selection less random than usual, since I’ve learned through experience to trust his recommendations. And this one turns out to be no exception.
We’ve already let loose a string of posts about new song and video premieres today, but we have one more. The first is a new video from . . .
Not long ago we reported that this Bay Area band who we’ve written about frequently (writings collected here) had signed with the Unique Leader label, and that Unique Leader plans to re-issue the band’s self-released debut album, Called To Rise, on October 15 (check our review of it here). Today we got the new official video for the album’s final track, “Omniverse”. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, a mix of heart-racing death metal performed with technical flare and eerie atmospherics.
That eerie quality that drifts through the song is captured in the visual effects and animation in the cool new video by Brandon Hunt. Check it out next:
(About one month ago, NCS writer Andy Synn devoted the 37th edition of THE SYNN REPORT to the discography of Norwegian metal band In Vain [here], and now follows that up with an interview of Johnar Håland.)
Hello! So to start off, please, introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi. I’m Johnar, guitarist and songwriter of the Norwegian metal band In Vain. We have been around since 2003 and released our third album, Ænigma, in April this year.
In your own words, describe the In Vain sound, if you would!
We have labeled our music ‘Progressive Extreme Metal’. The term ‘extreme metal’, due to our combination of Death and Black Metal. The term ‘progressive’ because we are open-minded musicians and incorporate a lot of non-metal elements into our music. In my opinion, progressive also means to evolve and not to be static and stick to one musical landscape. When I write songs I try to combine what I consider as the strengths in the various genres that I enjoy. From the start, In Vain has had a vision of trying to combine all these elements, without making the songs chaotic and non-cohesive. That makes us progressive in one sense I believe.
You would be considered one of, if not the main, In Vain songwriting force, correct?
That is correct. So far I have written all the songs.