Shevils‘ latest album Lost In Tartarus deftly straddles the line between hardcore abrasiveness and pop-punk hookiness. It delivers 10 mostly short songs that are all irresistibly catchy but backed by enough split-lipped, heavy-booted aggression to feed an appetite for destruction.
It’s almost all one high-energy, blood-pumping, head-nodding romp after another. Most of the tracks are built around punchy, start-stop riffs and compulsive rhythms that are driven home by conjoined bass-and-drum beats that will get your head bobbing. Some (like “Black Eyes” made me want to pogo — if I were young enough to do that without spraining an ankle) and others (like “Timelines”) made me want to bust up some furniture.
There’s a dark, menacing air to “These Walls Are Coming Down”. Corrosive and battering, it benefits from magnetic bass guitar work, which really shines throughout the album but plays a near-starring role on this track. “We Walk on Shattered Glass” ingeniously combines a big, strutting, hooky riff with a piercing, almost spacey guitar lead that comes and goes.
I may have mentioned that I’m on vacation. “Active” is not the word for my vacations. More like “slothful”. I sleep like I’m in hibernation, eat a little, drink a lot, and talk with people unlike any I know at home. I swim with fish that make rainbows look drab, stare at turquoise vistas, and photograph dramatic clouds that leave me silent in awe (yes, silent, it’s a miracle!), every vision unlike any other, never to be repeated.
And I read a lot. I’ve read a few things during my trip that made me think about metal, even though I haven’t been listening much since this vacation began. For example, I read this final sentence from a movie review by David Denby:
“It’s a film devoted to inanition, made with considerable artistry, but it’s far from a work of art.”
My first thought was, “What the fuck does ‘inanition’ mean?” But even before finding the answer, I was thinking about whether the statement was relevant to metal. Probably a poor allocation of limited brainpower, because over-analyzing the things you enjoy is usually a mistake. But I decided yes, it might be relevant, perhaps especially at this time of year when people are compiling their Best of 2013 lists.
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the fourth installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on Germany’s Essenz. Click that wonderful cover art to make it larger.)
This is proof that I’m not stuck in the past, as Essenz are one of the more curious troupes I’ve come across in the past few years. Straddling a strange middle ground between black and doom, they erect gigantic foreboding sermons of dread, which crawl, or blast, with an incessant fervour. Both albums are worth hearing, though my preference leans towards the debut (KVIITIIVZ – Beschwörung des Unaussprechlichen) — but don’t rule out the second opus (Mundus Numen), as it has been steadily consuming my being on a regular basis lately.
These platters are best administered through (quality) headphones, so you can block out the outside world’s banal monotony. Though some may say that’s exactly what Essenz sound like. I’ll let you be the judge.
(Here’s DGR’s review of the new album by Sweden’s Exhale.)
When Exhale released the music video for “Wrath Unleashed” the band managed to worm their way inside my skull like no other managed to this year. Based on one furious, grinding, explosive blast of metal I found myself looking forward to Exhale’s release of When Worlds Collide… and then waiting… and waiting.
For being a minute and twenty seconds long, “Wrath Unleashed” has a way of grabbing you with its bony fingers and gripping your arm like a claw, then never letting go. Keep in mind, the video for “Wrath Unleashed” was uploaded to YouTube in late December of last year, so Worlds Collide has had a long time to simmer and get us hyped up about its forthcoming release. It’s rare that a band is able to hook someone like that on the strength of one song, so when Exhale managed to pull that off, I knew we would be in for something special.
Later releases of “Avsky” and “Machinery” would add fuel to that fire. Although initially difficult to find because it was on a sampler, “Avsky” promised more of that initial rush that was delivered via “Wrath Unleashed”, and it felt good. If the song could’ve been inserted into my veins then I’d probably still be riding that high. “Machinery” was the sort of song that hit like molten steel, sparks and everything ejected from it in every which direction. It was the sort of song (as I described it in my initial discussion following its release) that you put on in your car at full blast and then drive full speed into a wall.
I may have mentioned that I’m on vacation through December 8. In addition to not writing much for NCS, I’ve also largely abandoned my daily routine of reading press releases and roaming the web looking for metal news and video or song premieres to feature on the site. However, today some of my NCS comrades gave me a slew of links that together make a tidy package of extremely diverse new things worth writing about.
First, Andy Synn wrote me as follows: “New Kampfar. Put that in your pipe and smoke it”. I tried to smoke it, but the song smoked me instead. It’s name is “Mylder”, and it will appear on this excellent Norwegian band’s new album Djevelmakt, due for release on January 21 via Indie Recordings.
If I could shriek “Helvete!” like Kampfar’s vocalist, I would, because that’s what I want to do when I listen to “Mylder”. It’s an electrifying, dynamic song — with plenty of reaping, roaring, stomping, and jabbing, but also infiltrated with an ethereal flute melody (among other unexpected elements). It’s a great combination of black metal savagery and memorable songwriting. Djevelmakt can’t come soon enough.
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the third installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on Iron Monkey.)
These barbaric English lunatics gave the world a severe beating in the late 90s. Had it not been for the unfortunate passing of Jonny Morrow (RIP) in 2002, they may have even returned to take on Eyehategod for the sludge crown. I know that’s fighting talk, but Iron Monkey were a genuinely fierce up-and-coming contender, underpinned by glistening layers of deliciously thick riffs and Morrow’s tortured vocals. They even made the songs memorable, albeit as sadistically as possible.
I think the artwork from their second album Our Problem encapsulates their putrid spirit majestically; obnoxious, provocative, deliberately vulgar, but so enticing that you cannot restrain yourself from gazing a little longer.
(We are delighted to present to you this guest post by Alain Mower, which takes us off the rails of our usual course and onto a very different line.)
Have you ever found yourself sitting in your dimly lit, Victorian Dining Room, listening to your Burzum/Sunn O)))/Dark Space 1st pressing vinyl in the background, sipping only the finest of that last cask of ’73 lambs blood sitting across from your man/woman/android and thought to yourself, “I wish this could be classier, but I don’t want to sacrifice any of my soul-damning resolve to do so.” Well you, classy reader, are in luck, for I present to you ‘Noirjazz – or Darkjazz for you laymen.
No I’m not talking about Shining (Norway)’s brilliant album from this year, I’m talking about atmospheric, soundscape-driven, foreboding and looming, downtempo (old man’s) jazz.
(NCS contributor Austin Weber has delivered unto us a three-part introduction to new and forthcoming releases by 7 bands. In this second part, he focuses on Beaten To Death and Inanimate Existence. Part 1 can be found here.)
The end of the year is usually a slower time for new music releases, a time when much alcohol is consumed and countless amounts of money are wasted on bullshit soon forgotten. But fortunately I’ve got plenty of releases and new songs to catch up on and spread the word about.
BEATEN TO DEATH
I first heard about Beaten To Death in the way I have for many a band, by scanning the always handy Metal-Archives.com. I was re-visiting She Said Destroy’s page and noticed that their vocalist Anders was in this group. Intrigued, I bought their 2011 debut, Xes and Strokes. What I got was a no-frills grind record that was killer from start to finish, even if they weren’t doing anything anyone else wasn’t. They just recently dropped their second album, Dødsfest!, and like their last record, it sonically benefits from the raw intensity gained from being recorded live in their practice space.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates the holiday, and condolences to everyone who feels they have nothing to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving used to be a pivot-point in the year in the U.S. — it marked the end of normal life and the beginning of the Christmas onslaught. Now, however, the onslaught begins before Thanksgiving, though I guess Black Friday will be as black as it ever was. Thanksgiving also sort of begins a countdown to the end of the year, and in the world of metal, we’ll start seeing more and more lists of the year’s best albums.
Back in 2009, when this site was just a few days old, I wrote a post about year-end lists and why people bother with them. The best reason still seems to be this: Reading someone else’s list of the albums they thought were best is a good way to discover music you missed and might like.
We don’t do an “official” NCS year-end “best albums” list. However, we publish the picks of each of both our regular staff writers as well as guest writers (which we’ll start doing in December), and we also publish the year-end lists that major metal publications and “big platform” web sites are compiling; we started doing that yesterday with DECIBEL magazine’s list of 2013’s Top 40 Albums (and you probably forgot, but we also posted MSN Entertainment’s list of the Top 50 metal albums back in September (?!?)).
But the Thanksgiving Day tradition here at NCS is also to invite our readers to share their lists. If YOU have made your own list of the best metal albums or EPs you heard this year, we want to see it. (details about this invitation are after the jump . . .)
(In this post guest writer DiabolusInMuzaka provides reviews of three recommended albums, with full music streams for each one.)
With the internet providing a platform for even the most obscure Indonesian-black-death-drone-ambient-progressive-neo-folk project (recorded entirely in analog in a cave in mono of course), a lot of music understandably slips by under our metal radars. That, and we’re oversaturated; too many bands to check out, too little time. My aim in this post is to provide a good description of the music offered by the bands here, so that you, as the reader, can judge whether or not this band would be suited to your tastes. Full streams of each album are present in the article, so if anything piques your interest, click play and give it some of your time. You just might find a particularly refreshing drop in the vast, ever-expanding metal ocean. So, without further ado, here is some shit you may have missed in your metal travels.
Gorelust – Reign of Lunacy (PRC Music – reissue; New World Symphony – original pressing)
As the name would imply, Gorelust is death metal. Reign of Lunacy, released originally in 1995, was the Quebec band’s debut and only full-length album. The album is short (clocking in at just under 30 minutes) but absolutely refuses to relent for its entire running time. Being released in 1995, this album presents an interesting form of death metal: it sounds like the missing link between Cryptopsy’s 1996 masterpiece None So Vile and their much more tech-death oriented 1998 beast Whisper Supremacy (it’s worth noting again that this was released in 1995). The production sound is close to Whisper Supremacy as well, which makes sense, as Cryptopsy’s frequent partner-in-crime Pierre Remillard engineered this album.