Well, here we are at the mid-point of an odd week, a week that falls between two big holiday weekends in a year when both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Saturday nights, enhancing the opportunity for revelry. Lots of people are having to work this week, but it feels like no one really has their heart in it. Others are on vacation. The usual flood of PR e-mails has slowed to a trickle; most of metal blogdoom is snoozing. As the new year rapidly approaches, people are beginning to fantasize about 2017 being better than 2016 and wondering what other well-loved celebrities will be cut down by the Grim Reaper in the few days before it arrives.
Obviously, we’re still forging ahead during this limbo week, and I thought I’d provide a forecast of what lies ahead at our site.
LISTMANIA will continue into the new year. This week we’ll finish rolling out the year-end lists by NCS contributors Grant Skelton and Wil Cifer and we’ll post year-end lists from our old friend SurgicalBrute and from three more invited guests — Johan Huldtgren (Obitus), Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams), and Seb Painchaud (Tumbleweed Dealer).
And then LISTMANIA will continue next week with some big brutal lists compiled by our old friend Vonlughlio from the Dominican Republic, as well as lists from a few other invited guests that I’m anxious to see. I trust that I’ll also receive the annual Not-Metal List from ex-NCS slave BadWolf (aka Invisible Orange’s editor Joseph Schafer) along with Andy Synn’s list of favorite 2016 songs. And undoubtedly there will be a few other LISTMANIA surprises before next week ends.
I’m also very close to beginning the rollout of our list of 2016’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. I might even begin it before this week is over. We’ll also have a few more reviews during this final week of the year, on top of Andy’s last edition of The Synn Report for 2016 posted earlier today.
And tomorrow we’ll make an official announcement about our participation in the first annual Northwest Terror Fest, which is coming together in a way that will blow people’s minds when we start dribbling out band names.
I’ll also do my best to shoehorn in a few Seen and Heard collections of recommended new music this week and next — including this post.
I didn’t realize until after I had selected these tracks that fully five of the nine bands include women, and three of them are the vocalists in these songs. So, conveniently, that allows me to alternate those tracks with the other four. I’ll warn you that some of them include clean singing, but they are well-earned exceptions to our Rule.
Dreaming Dead have a history of being delayed in their releases for different reasons. At times, I’ve thought maybe they would just surrender — but fortunately they continue to forge ahead. And now, almost four years after the band’s last album Midnightmares, they have a new one named Funeral Twilight that will be released on February 20 by their new label, Hammerheart Records based in The Netherlands. It features cover art by Travis Smith, which is always a good sign.
The first song in this collection, “Buried”, comes from that new album. Vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Schall’s top-shelf talent continues to shine like a beacon on this track. She’s joined on this album by her long-time collaborator, drummer Mike Caffell (Terrorizer LA), as well as guitarist Chris McCarthy (also active in Murder Construct) and bassist-vocalist William Palacios-Toledo.
“Buried” is a jet-speed death/thrash scorcher with head-spinning fretwork, hair-raising banshee shrieking, and a couple of dark, hallucinatory digressions from the main barrage. Explosive music that’s an exciting preview of the new album….
The next item in this collection is a two-song 7″ EP named Abomination Temple by a the Danish death metal duo Sulphurous. It’s set for release on January 30 by Night Shroud Records.
Both of the two songs, “Abomination” and “Temple”, are cyclonic black/death rampages that are as electrifying as they are malignant, the seething riffs and blasting drums segmented by gut-punching percussive booms and eerie, serpentine soloing. Both songs also exhibit impressive technical chops and dynamic tempo changes, along with deep, monstrous roars that magnify the music’s atmosphere of dread and catastrophe. Strikingly impressive….
I was immediately captivated by the two songs you’ll hear next. They are quite unlike most of the music we feature on this site, and I admit that their unusual distinctiveness is itself part of their attraction. I think they’re also very, very good.
Both songs come from an album named Ad Augusta Per Angusta that will be co-released on January 30 by Symbol of Domination (Belarus) and United By Chaos (Finland). The name of the band is Aegri Somnia, and it’s a collaboration between two Spanish artists with very different backgrounds — Cristina R. Galván (aka Lady Carrot), who comes from the world of Castillian folk music, and Nightmarer, who has been a participant in the avant-garde metal bands As Light Dies and Garth Arum.
You’ll get a sense of what’s unusual about the songs by looking at the lists of instruments performed by these two:
Cristina R. Galvan: Galician and Castilian tambourine, pandero cuadrado, palo de agua, spoons, almirez, shells, and claps
Nightmarer: electric and acoustic guitar, fretless bass, keyboards/synths, programming, violin, accordion, wind chimes, claps, and stomps
The ethnic folk aspects of these songs are prominent. Though I’m not well-versed enough to tell you their provenance, Aegri Somnia have explained that the songs are “a compilation of Iberian popular folk songs from the late 19th and the early 20th century”:
“A travel through the rural Spain watered by our ancestors’ sweat and blood, an approach to the magical Spain with its lights and its shadows, and a gaze into the abyss of the black and tenebrous Spain with the inner cruelty and brutality of human beings. Pieces of memory, tradition, secrets and myths transmitted over the years from generation to generation, around bonfires, while long working days under the sun or during celebrations. Small samples of popular wisdom which, unlike others already entered into the mists of time, have been rescued from our elder memory before their demise.”
The two songs below are “Ronda De Mayo” and “Señor Platero”. On both of them, Cristina Galván’s voice is a marvel, as are the exotic melodies she expresses through it, and the ingenious combination of her singing with the dark heaviness of Nightmarer’s riffing, the ethereal glow of the keyboard overlays, and the sonic textures of other acoustic and percussive instruments, is completely winning.
Of the two tracks here, there is greater intensity, hard-driving speed, and weight in the dervish-like whirl of “Señor Platero” (until you reach the final segment), while “Ronda De Mayo” is simply mesmerizing. Can’t wait to hear the rest of this.
Final Man is the name of the debut album by the Australian band Contaminated, which began as the solo project of Lachy and has now grown to a full band with members drawn to the fold from other groups. Final Man was preceded by two demos, and it will be released early next year by Sweden’s Blood Harvest Records.
The first advance track from the album, “Squalid Survival”, is a goddamned brutal beating, but one that gets the adrenaline racing. It groans and stomps like a leviathan, and it explodes in crazed berserker frenzies, combining the deep grinding guitar tone of old school Swedish death metal with horrific, hoarse roars, swarming pestilential leads, and a drum performance that will pop your eyes wide open.
If you’ve been yearning to sink deep into a sewer of festering filth while your skeletal structure is bashed into fragments, your wish has been granted.
Vintersea are based in Corvalis, Oregon, and on January 21 they will be releasing their debut album The Gravity of Fall. I mentioned at the outset of this post that three of the bands in this round-up featured female vocalists, and this is another of them. Here, the vocals are performed by Malaysian-born Avienne, for whom Vintersea is her first band. What you can check out below is a recently released lyric video for the album’s title track.
Usually, metal bands require two people to produce the kind of tag-team vocals that Vintersea bring, but Adrienne can obviously do both, moving between truly vicious blackened snarls and clean vocals that range from ghostly to soaring.
Honestly, I’m only rarely attracted to metal bands whose music features this kind of vocal combination, because the songs themselves often seem to be formulaic and forgettable. But this dynamic, genre-bending track has grabbed me. It has a dark, tense atmosphere throughout, with up-tempo parts that include technical flair and progressive touches and a slower, acoustic-accented segment that’s sublimely spooky.
The roots of Japan’s Solitude go back into the mid-’90s (and even deeper still, given that two of the members were in the band Sacrifice for almost a decade before that). Their latest album Reach For the Sky was released in North America this past November by Test Your Metal Records. Today brought the premiere of a lyric video for a song from the album named “Blow” — and it hit me in the right place at the right time when I heard it.
It’s hard to believe that today is the one-year anniversary of the death of Lemmy Kilmister, but it is. To my ears, “Blow” is a fitting tribute to his legacy, and especially worth hearing on this day.
To order the album, check these links:
Lexington, Kentucky, is home to a trio named Black Knife, whose members are vocalist/guitarist Josh Lay (Cadaver in Drag, Glass Coffin), bassist Tiffany Blair, and drummer Edward Smith. Their self-titled debut EP was released on December 6, and a recent e-mail from the band led me to it.
On this EP Black Knife tear through ten tracks in less than 20 minutes, and it’s a thrilling hellride all the way through. In varying degrees depending on the song, the band mix an utterly vicious but tasty brew of black metal, hardcore punk, d-beat crust — and Motörhead. The music sounds just rough and raw enough to suit the primal, garage-rock energy of the songs and the scalding, sulfurous fury of the vocals.
I mentioned that the mix of ingredients varies from song to song (as does the pacing), which is one of the reasons this infernal and highly infectious EP is a kick in the head all the way through. But one thing they all have in common — the riffs are made of gold.
PRAY U PREY
I nearly didn’t check out this next song because the band’s name brought connotations of deathcore to mind, but when I saw that their debut album Figure The 8 would be released by SelfMadeGod Records, I suspected that was probably a false assumption, and so it proved to be.
Pray U Prey are a British quartet with a veteran line-up drawn from such bands as Suicide Watch, Prophecy of Doom, and Alehammer. They released a demo EP last year, and remixed versions of those songs will be included on this new album along with 11 (!) new ones. Judging from the album’s title track (below), it will be well worth checking out.
“Psychodrama Peepshow” is thoroughly barbaric and thoroughly magnetic. At top speed it’s a blast furnace of death/grind, hot enough to melt lead and savage enough to send wolf packs fleeing in fear. At slower speeds, the song is sickeningly morbid and, at the end, brutally bludgeoning. And the music is produced in a way that enables it to strike with overpowering force. I’m also a big fan of the vocals, which are authentically murderous, merciless, and maniacal.
Figure the 8 will be released on January 20, and you can pre-order the CD, a T-Shirt, and a bundle here
To conclude this collection of new things I’d like to share a new video for a previously unreleased track by Aube Grise. There’s no clean singing on this song, nor any other kind of singing — nor any conventional metal instruments. Yes, this is off our usual beaten paths, but it’s not the first time I’ve written about Aube Grise, and I suspect it won’t be the last.
The artist behind Aube Grise is Anna M., the photographer and graphic designer for the fascinating French label Distant Voices, which releases black metal and ambient music in very limited handmade editions wrapped in fine papers or fabrics. Her second Aube Grise album, Mauvais Augure, was released this past fall, and a new EP named Hanterieur will be released by Distant Voices on March 19, 2017. But this next piece isn’t from either of those releases, though it was recorded during the Mauvais Augure sessions.
This short piano composition is called “ton ombre, mon linceul”. Slow, sombre, and spectral, it weaves a spell in almost no time, but it’s an uneasy spell. A skittering sound races around behind the notes, matched in a way by the flickering candle flames in the video. Fitting music for the dead of winter.