(In the longest review we’ve ever published, DGR assesses the mammoth new three-disc album by Finland’s Swallow the Sun.)
We’ve had this disc for a bit. I know we’re late on this, but I hope to make it up you guys by essentially deep-diving and excavating this album, as there’s a ton going on with Songs From The North I, II & II that deserves to be highlighted.
I have become one with this album. It is inside me, and I am inside it. At this point, I consider myself the Jacques Cousteau of album reviewers — minus the whole being French, deep-sea diving, and talented part, but still. I believe the analogy holds on its own merits. I have stared into the abyss through the eyes of this album and asked if there was anything worth saving, and still my heart said, “No”.
Songs From The North is an album that a lot of folks have been approaching with equal measures of dread and excitement. A huge cause of this is obviously down to the fact that the up-front description of Songs From The North was essentially this: doom metal band from Finland decides to release a triple-album — as in, not one disc, or two discs, but three separate platters of music.
(Here’s KevinP’s list of favorite releases during the month of November.)
Last month this column was posted on October 28th, three days before the end of the month. I had a reader and then a friend of mine on Facebook ask me how I could create my list when the month didn’t even ended yet (since there were a plethora of releases due on October 30th). So I realized maybe what I thought was common knowledge (advance promos) wasn’t as common as I thought? For instance, as I type this now, I already have four albums on my iPhone that are due in February.
One of the perks for this labor of love we do here is getting to hear albums from a few weeks to many months prior to release. Record labels and PR companies know websites/magazines need lead time to prepare stuff. As flattering as it may be for some to think so, I would not be able to hear an album on the release date (say October 30th), make an accurate assessment of it, write a column, send it off to Islander, and get it posted the same day.
And now for a few housekeeping items before we get to this month’s releases. This is the first year I’ve done a monthly column. I will still be doing a Best of 2015 list, but will have that ready in early January as to give it some separation from December’s releases. You’re the Best Around, Nothing’s Gonna Keep You Down will be ready next week (where I go over all the OTHER best stuff of the year).
(In this edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Poland’s Obscure Sphinx.)
Recommended for fans of: Cult of Luna, Tool, Triptykon
Polish Post-Prog-Doomsters Obscure Sphynx are one of those bands who you just can’t believe aren’t so much bigger than they are. Both their albums (particularly 2013’s utterly phenomenal Void Mother, which is easily up there with my all-time favourite albums) could serve as a masterclass in how to craft songs melding mood and emotion, rage and clarity, captivating song-writing and focused metallic heaviness – and both have similarly been underrated and underappreciated by the metal-loving public at large.
Well no more! It’s time to sit up and take notice, it’s time to give the devil his due… it’s time… for this band to reap the just rewards for the brilliant music that they’ve sown!
(Wil Cifer penned these reviews of three November shows in Atlanta, Georgia.)
Here’s a snapshot of metal onstage and in the flesh. Over the course of the past week I caught three different metal shows at three different venues with the genres spanning from industrial to thrash to black metal.
The first of these was almost on the periphery of what most might consider metal when Author & Punisher played The Earl, a hipster dive bar with a venue in the back.
We arrived just in time to catch the Portland duo Muscle and Marrow. Never really gave their last studio album The Human Cry the time to immerse myself in it, but their live show changed the way I think of them. There are metal elements to what they do, but I would not call them a metal band. Even then, of the three shows, I would say they were the most emotionally heavy band of the week. This was channeled in a very honest physical manner. Singer/ guitarist Kira Clark’s voice goes from an almost black-metal-like scathing scream to a vulnerable soprano. The duo implemented samples and layers of vocals triggered from a laptop off stage, but in comparison to Author & Punisher they were very organic.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Denmark’s HateSphere.)
Out of all the bands that came out of the post-Haunted neo-thrash movement, my two favorites — and I’d argue to a point the objective best — have been Carnal Forge and HateSphere. I was a rabid devotee of HateSphere’s first five albums, but then the majority of the band left and founding guitarist and song-writer Pepe Hansen was forced to find new blood. Their output has had varying results for me since then.
I loved the music of To The Nines but couldn’t stand the weak vocals of Jonathan Albrechtsen in place of the band’s original vocalist Jacob Bredahl, who was as feral as it got. I LOVED The Great Bludgeoning; it had riffs, it had aggression, it had frantic energy — and the new vocalist and still current vocalist Esben or “Esse” Hansen had that vomitus tone to his vocals that called back to Bredahl, and the result was that he fit the music quite a bit. I enjoyed SOME of the bands next record Murderlust, but I have to admit that a lot of it was really forgettable. The thing is, I still love this band, even if they aren’t exactly the same band I used to love, but the spirit is definitely still there.
So I guess the question is where does New Hell stand?
The word “technical” is a frequently used word in the community of extreme metal. It seems to be used most often to describe the rendering of notes (or beats) at high speed and with impressive physical dexterity. But while those skills may be worth admiring for what they are, we all know that technical skill alone does not mean that the music it serves is worth applauding as a work of art. Even when that kind of flash-bang athleticism is employed creatively in songs that follow inventive, non-linear trajectories, it can still leave listeners cold. There is, after all, a lot of impressive mechanical frenzy in a washing machine with a busted counterweight, but your first impulse is to pull the plug as fast as possible.
However, when technical skill goes beyond even top-shelf levels of physical adroitness, when the musicians seem to have such an intuitive and deeply understood feel for their instruments, and when that kind of intimate mastery is joined with imagination, stylistic diversity, and a skill at songcraft that matches the performance techniques, then you get something really special. And that’s what Antlion have achieved with their debut album, The Prescient.
Last weekend we celebrated the glorious sixth anniversary of our site, and today we present the glorious 100th edition of THAT’S METAL! We’re really covered in glory this month. I didn’t realize the stuff was so sticky. I feel like I need a shower even though a whole week hasn’t passed since the last one.
In celebration of this sticky event I thought about searching back through the previous 99 editions of the series, beginning with the first one back in January 2010, to compile a “best of” collection of items featured over the last six years. I then realized how much work that would be, so that ain’t happening. Instead I’ve got ten new items for you — all of them things I think are metal even though they’re not (metal) music. [I had to insert “(metal)” before “music” because a couple of today’s items do include music.]
However, I must give credit where credit is due: The first edition of this series was inspired by New Zealand blogger Steff Metal — and the image at the top of this post from a series of photos of abandoned buildings in Detroit was lifted from her blog in that first edition. When I wrote it, I didn’t call it “No. 1”, because I had no plan to make it a continuing series. Steff, of course, is innocent of all crimes committed in the next 99 installments. I’ll also repeat the preamble I wrote for that first installment:
It’s Sunday morning here at the NCS compound, and that must mean it’s time for another installment of The Rearview Mirror, in which we take a rare backward look at the metal of yesteryear. It’s also time for me to feed the loris horde before they start sharpening their knives again. But I think I’ve got enough time to put up these tunes before they launch an assault; they’re very deliberative.
Today I decided to include music from two bands, Axamenta from Belgium and Ragnarok from Norway. It’s quite a contrast.
Over a span of roughly 10 years, Axamenta put out a handful of demos and EPs and two albums, the last of which was 2006’s Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture — and then split up before releasing anything else. Metal-Archives classifies them as “melodic death/black metal”, but there’s certainly a symphonic component to their sound as well. In fact, there are times on Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture when they really go over the top with the keyboards. But the album also includes some powerful, memorable, and at times unconventional melodic death metal, with potent riffs and majestic melodies draped in a shroud of thorns.
This is kind of an odd Saturday. Here in the U.S., it’s the middle of a long holiday weekend, two days after Thanksgiving, a day after Black Friday, and two days before what snake oil peddlers have annointed “Cyber Monday”, when people get back to their high-speed internet connections at work and are encouraged to buy shit online that they don’t need, with money they don’t have. Hail Satan!
Anyway, I’m not sure if anyone will be visiting us today, but I’ve stitched together some (mostly) new music anyway, because instead of leaving my house to spend money yesterday I hunkered down and doused myself with a few hours of new metal. Much more satisfying and much less costly.
I decided to start this round-up with a healthy heaping serving of high energy, beginning with a blast of speed metal from the Greek band Endless Recovery. The band’s new album (their second full-length) is named Revel In Demise, and it’s set for release by Witches Brew on December 24.
(On this black Friday, we present Comrade Aleks’ interview with Regen Graves of Abysmal Grief.)
Probably someone could have missed the appearance of Abysmal Grief in one of NCS’s latest Seen and Heard themes, so here’s a chance to take a look closely into their crypt.
It’s naturally one of darkest and most ominous bands of Italy; for eleven years they have written hymns in the name of Death and have done it well. Strange Rites of Evil, the fourth full-length album of Abysmal Grief, is heavy as a coffin lid, it’s filled with chilling breeze from the crypt and pervaded with night fog. Need to resurrect the dead? Play it loud.
Meanwhile we had a talk with Regen Graves, one of Abysmal Grief’s undertakers.