I pride myself on having a breadth of knowledge that is very wide and very shallow. Sure, I could burrow deeply into particular subjects, and then be able to talk about 2 or 3 things in depth. You know people like that, don’t you? They bore the shit out of you, am I right? Broad and shallow, that’s the way to go (except when it comes to metal, about which I of course have near-encyclopedic knowledge).
For example, I know that statisticians have ways of reaching conclusions about large populations of items or people based on a small sampling of data. They have mathematical formulas for gauging the reliability of the conclusions based on their sample size. And that’s all I know about that. If I knew more, I’d probably bore the shit out of you.
I applied a sampling technique to the two compilations that are the subject of this post, because I didn’t have time to listen to all the songs. I’ve concluded that both comps are hot shit. I have no idea whether the conclusions I reached are valid. Fortunately, you can listen to all the songs before deciding whether to spend your hard-drive space on them — and that’s all you’ll have to spend, because they don’t cost money (unless you want to throw some cash at them out of the goodness of your coal-black hearts).
HYPNOTIC DIRGE RECORDS: SUBARCTIC NOCTURNES
Hypnotic Dirge Records is a beautifully named label based in the beautifully named town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They recently released a free digital-download compilation entitled Subarctic Nocturnes: Doomed to Be [Volume 1], with eye-catching cover art by Coby O’Brien. It’s the first of a planned trilogy of comps, each one of which will focus on a different genre of metal, and this first one focuses on doom.
Twelve bands contributed songs to the comp, some of them from the Hypnotic Dirge roster and some not. The styles of music represented in the songs are diverse, though they all have a connection to doom. I randomly sampled only three of them, though I hope to find time to listen to all, based on the quality of the three I heard.
The first song I heard was the opening track, by a band from Saskatchewan named Altars of Grief. “The Plague That Haunts the Darkness” initially moves like slow ocean swells, its heaving distortion-shrouded melody drenched in darkness. The pace eventually quickens and the melody becomes more panoramic and sweeping as the rhythm becomes more hammering. The vocals are a standout feature of the music as well — a mix of scarring shrieks and deep spoken words.
After listening to Altars of Grief, I moved on to Track 2, by Orphans of Dusk, whose members are split between Australia and New Zealand. This song is called “Nibelheim”. It comes out of the gate in a furious rush, but the jabbing, high-energy melodic death metal and the vicious, jagged vocals that accompany those segments are juxtaposed with softer, dreamlike movements that feature acoustic guitars, rippling keyboards, and clean vocals. The sombre clean vocal melody that emerges at about the 4:00 mark proved to be completely captivating.
Running out of time, I randomly jumped to the comp’s eighth track for no reason other than the name of the song: “Colossus”. It’s by a Spanish band named Evadne and appears on their December 2014 album Dethroned of Light (available on Bandcamp here — which I know because I downloaded that album after hearing “Colossus”). As much as I liked the first two tracks I sampled, I think “Colossus” is my favorite of the three. It’s a doom-influenced offering of melodic death metal that’s as entrancingly beautiful in its sorrowful atmosphere as it is heavy (great harsh vocals in the song, too). It should especially appeal to fans of bands like Insomnium, In Mourning, and Daylight Dies.
The full track list is below, followed by individual streams of the songs I heard as well as a stream of the entire album. A link to the page where you can download the music follows the track list.
1 – Altars of Grief– The Plague that Haunts the Darkness
2 – Orphans of Dusk – Nibelheim
3 – Norilsk – Planète heurt
4 – Psychotic Gardening – Searing Cital
5 – Lavagoat – Ageless Nonsense
6 – Nethermost – Weald Reams
7 – Lycanthia – The Harbinger
8 – Evadne – Colossus
9 – Human Collapse – Deep
10 – Enshine – Above Us
11 – Atten Ash Band – The Hourglass
12 – Woccon – Wandering
BLACK METAL ALLIANCE: CRUSHING INTOLERANCE VOL. 2
Yesterday a collective of metal artists who call themselves the Black Metal Alliance released a digital comp on Bandcamp that includes a whopping 22 songs by 22 bands. This compilation was organized by Chase of Deafest and Paul of Twilight Fauna and bears the title Crushing Intolerance Vol. 2. Although the album is a “pay what you want” download, the Alliance says that any and all contributions will go to 350.org, a grassroots organization dedicated to combating climate change. The very cool cover art was created by Dennis Lee Hughes.
I learned about the comp through a Facebook post by a Seattle band named A God Or An Other, who recorded a new song for this comp. I’ve seen and heard their name a lot, because they gig a lot in the Seattle area, but I’ve somehow failed to see any of their performances. That’s going to change soon, because their song blew me away.
The name of the song is “No Shepherds” and it fucking rips — a furious, fire-breathing amalgam of black metal, crust, sludge, and post-metal (among other styles) that features rapid tempo changes, a lot of riveting instrumental flair, and unexpected streams of memorable melody. It’s both intense and mentally engrossing, and the acidic, sandblasting vocals will melt skin and peal paint from the walls. I really can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover this band (their debut album is available here).
The only other song I had time to hear when I dived into this comp was the long song that follows “No Shepherds” — a track named “The Darkened Path: An Earthen Initiation” that was also recorded for this comp by a band named Evergreen Refuge from Colorado. It’s an entirely instrumental piece divided into two parts. In the first, the music is carried by a beautiful acoustic melody and the rhythmic thump of what sounds like a hide drum. The second is devoted to long, low droning tones and the widely spaced beats of that tribal drum. The song proved to be a striking contrast with “No Shepherds”, but I got pulled into the hypnotic embrace of this meditative ritual.
Below I’ve included a separate stream of the two tracks described above as well as a stream of the entire comp.