(In what has become an annual tradition as we near the finish line for our LISTMANIA series, our good friend and long-time NCS comrade BadWolf (aka Joseph Schafer) takes a break from his responsibilities as editor of Invisible Oranges and brings us his year-end list of top non-metal albums from 2016.)
Three things kept me from turning this list in sooner, one large and fairly insurmountable, the other small and petty but terribly uplifting.
Let’s begin dark, and head upward toward the light, because these albums are, on the whole, not very pretty.
The Milanese band Mindful of Pripyat made an explosive appearance on the scene with the 2015 release of their debut EP …and Deeper, I Drown In Doom…, which I praised in a review here at our putrid site and KevinP anointed with an award as one of the best albums released that month. In his words: “Think Terrorizer and early Carcass with absolute razor precision backed by a solid production…. One of the fresher pieces of grind I’ve heard in awhile.”
On March 1 we will finally have new music from Mindful of Pripyat, because that’s the date set by Everlasting Spew for the release of a new split by the band, a split on which they’re joined by the Venetian marauders in Stench of Profit. What we have for you today is a premiere of not one, but two songs from the Mindful of Pripyat side of the split — “Hostage” and “Specimen“.
(The UK-Ireland Tour of Meshuggah and The Haunted rolled through Nottingham, England, on the night of January 14, 2017, and our man Andy Synn was there — and files this report, with video evidence.)
Why do we go see live music? That’s a question which I’ve been pondering, cogitating on, and generally wondering about for many, many years.
After all, in one sense all that’s going to happen is that we’re going to hear some songs we already know, played with (potentially) more mistakes, in a venue where the sound quality is always a question mark, whilst packed in cheek-to-jowl with a plethora of ne’er-do-wells of dubious morality and questionable personal hygiene.
But, often when we go to see a band and they play TOO perfectly… the reaction is generally just as bad as if they’d played terribly. So it’s clearly not just a case of going to see a band to watch them reproduce the music from their albums wholesale.
I don’t have an answer to that question above by the way, it’s just something that’s been on my mind for a while. If you think about it, the whole process of going to see live music is a little odd after all.
Though I suppose if you think about anything too much it starts to seem a little weird.
Two weeks ago we brought you the premiere of the title track to Dans La Joie, the debut album by the French band Au Champ Des Morts that’s now less than 10 days away from its official release by Debemur Morti Productions, and today we have another excerpt from the album — “Le Sang, La Mort, La Chute”.
For those who are only now discovering the band, it was founded in 2014 by guitarist/vocalist Stefan Bayle (Anorexia Nervosa) and he is joined on this album by bassist/vocalist Cecile G. and drummer Wilhelm. Dans La Joie was preceded by an impressive debut EP (Le Jour Se Lève) released by Debemur Morti last June.
Welcome to the lucky 13th Part of our list of 2016’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. To scroll through the preceding 12 parts, click this link.
For the trio of songs I’ve collected in this installment, I decided to dive deeper into the underground than I have for most of the songs that I’ve chosen for this list so far — deep enough that no one else suggested songs by any of these bands when I solicited input from readers and other NCS writers. But they happen to be favorites of mine (and as it also happens, the first of these isn’t likely to remain deep underground for very much longe)r. I also picked these songs because all the bands are cross-genre alchemists.
My happy acquaintance with Australia’s Rebel Wizard began back in the fall of 2015 when I discovered Negative Wizard Metal, the fourth of five EPs that Rebel Wizard released that year. I frothed at the mouth about it on our site, and then did more frothing later in the year when the fifth EP (Invocation of the Miserable Ones) reared its head.
(This is Part 2 of a 3-part series written by Austin Weber about noteworthy January releases and a few from the end of last year. Find Part 1 here.)
While the quantity and quality for label-released metal in January seems a bit sparse as far as my tastes go, the underground never disappoints and 2017 is already off to a fantastic pace due to plenty of lesser-known acts dropping killer new material. Just recently I came across a number of new releases (and a few largely unknown ones from 2016) that you just might want to check out — presented here in three parts.
THEORY IN PRACTICE – Crescendo Dezign
I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, but since it’s a self-released effort, I felt it was worth sharing here for anyone who didn’t catch it when it dropped last week without much media attention. These legendary Swedes have a long and rich history in the death metal and technical death metal scenes dating back to the mid-’90s to the early 2000s before their initial hiatus. Since returning in 2015, Theory In Practice have deftly proven that they’ve lost none of their initial spark, with an inspired two-song EP we covered here called Evolving Transhumanism.
Cleveland’s Curse of Denial are a new band, but this isn’t the first rodeo for the people in the band. The line-up includes former members of Descend (whose roots go back to the ’90s) as well as vocalist Rob Molzan (also a member of From the Depths, whose tenure with Decrepit goes back to that same decade). Their debut album The 13th Sign reflects all that experience, and includes a slew of notable guest appearances that bring even more veteran seasoning to the carnage of this battleground. The album will be released on February 3 by Redefining Darkness Records, and today we have an excerpt to whet your appetite — an unusual lyric video for “The Tower of Silence“.
Apart from the sure-handedness that comes from experience, one other thing will become evident as soon as you hear this new song: The music isn’t easily pigeonholed, instead reflecting a range of extreme metal influences that have been combined in electrifying fashion.
(Our Norway-based contributor Karina Cifuentes brings us this new interview with Andreas Vidhall of the Swedish band Stilla.)
Stilla is an interesting band with a distinct sound. Their artwork is pretty somber, cold, organic, and melancholic, and so is the music.
The last album Skuggflock has some Darkthrone-ish influence and I simply love that. Another band that I like for the same reason is Hate Meditation. But in spite of those common vibes, you can’t really say the bands are alike. I prefer to use the word “vibes” since the degree of presence and the way in which a band let their influences flow into their own compositions (whether consciously or unconsciously) varies so much. Personally I find it delightful to listen for those details, it keeps it interesting.
Skuggflock gives you a bit of Ulver-like ambience at times, but it can switch to avant-garde Arcturus style, slighty goth, and even stoner. It’s complex if you pay attention to the details, but everything is done in a subtle way, not messy or overwhelming. It’s just enough detail and change to enrich the musical experience. You can say Stilla dwells both in the past and the present. They have succeeded in composing an album that gives you the ’90s BM vibes while incorporating diverse influences that render it modern — but not so modern as to call it “post-black”. I think they have kept a balance, and that also makes the music enjoyable.
Until 2015, Wombbath’s last album was 1993’s classic Internal Caustic Torments, but two years ago the band made a remarkable reappearance with Downfall Rising. That new album made a big impact on lovers of Swedish death metal worldwide, and was the source of a song we humbly anointed one of 2015’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.
Wombbath followed the release of Downfall Rising with a triumphant performance at 2016’s Maryland Deathfest (reported here), and two 2016 split releases, one with Revel in Flesh called Dragged Into the Obscure and another with Departed Souls entitled Embracing the Cold…. And now they’re participating in another new split release — and we’re fortunate to bring you the premiere of Wombbath’s side, a song called “Smell of Lice“.
The name of the new split is Upward On A Thousand Lies, and on this new release Wombbath are sharing the vinyl with Germany’s Obscure Infinity. The split was released on January 13th on multi-colored wax by Germany’s Brutal Art Records.
If you begin the task of educating yourself about the phenomenon known as “Viking metal” you’ll probably first see references to Bathory and perhaps Enslaved, soon followed by a group of famous Swedes with their longboats and drinking horns on stage, but it won’t be long before you see the name Helheim.
“Viking metal” is indeed a phenomenon rather than a genre of music, which quickly becomes evident when you consider that bands as diverse as those listed above, as well as other groups such as Unleashed, Manowar, and Moonsorrow, have all carried that label at one time or another. To the extent there is a unifying factor, it derives from a lyrical and thematic focus on ancient Norse culture, mythology, and paganism, rather than a consistent sound — and even there, the depth and focus of the themes can be significantly different.
Helheim go beyond the most familiar (and often caricaturish) thematic tropes of most bands branded as Viking metal, with a devotion to Norse heritage that treats it as still relevant to modern life, and still shrouded in mysteries of the Runes that are worth exploring, and perhaps best understood in the spirit they convey rather than through archaeological and linguistic dissection.
As you’re about to discover, Helheim’s music also goes light years beyond the most familiar tropes of “Viking metal”.