Islander

Sep 122014

When I used to think of current Finnish death metal (not the melodic kind), I tended to think of crushing death/doom, or perhaps a few famous death/grind deviants. Mine eyes have now been opened wider.

Obscure Burial are a relatively young band from Turku, Finland, whose first demo was released in 2012 by Ireland’s Invictus Productions. Invictus, which has dependably refined tastes in filthy extreme music, is about to follow up that first abomination with a second one. The new demo is named Epiphany, and it’s due for release on September 15.

Anyone who shies away from raw, flesh-rending, berserker blackened death metal with a heavy emphasis on speed can stop reading right here, because that’s what you’ll get in spades from Epiphany – and from the song we’re about to premiere: “Night Queen”.

On the other hand, if you get a flooding adrenaline rush from ripping riffs, weapons-grade drumwork, and vocals that sound like a demon pantheon, you’re about to get a satisfying fix for that addiction. In fact, you may not need another fix for days or weeks, because this is potent, uncut, and borderline toxic stuff.

Sep 112014

 

(In this post our man in the UK, Andy Synn, reviews a live September 4 performance in Islington by the collaboration between Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval known as Casualties of Cool.)

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to see Casualties of Cool, the world’s finest proponents of Ambient Canadian Space-Country, perform a gorgeous, mesmerising set at The Union Chapel in Islington. And it’s taken me a while (I have been somewhat busy/ill in the intervening time) but I’ve finally got round to penning some thoughts about the experience.

To start with, for those of you who don’t know, the venue itself is pretty magical, a beautifully apportioned and enclosed chapel with rows of pews on ground level before the stage (and pulpit) and several more on balconies up above. The stained glass windows and hanging wrought-iron chandeliers add a touch of weight and worth to the surroundings, while the candles flickering in alcoves in each overhang only enhance the warmth and beauty of the place.

When it came to the show itself… well, there’s a reason this was sold under the title Casualties of Cool, and not under Devin’s own name. Because for once this really wasn’t a Devin Townsend show.

Sep 112014

Not very long ago I mused about the benefits and risks of albums that incorporate a wide variety of musical styles. When successful, such albums can surprise and stand out from the sea of records whose creators choose to focus on basically the same kind of sound (save for the occasional instrumental intro or interlude). When a band’s reach exceeds their grasp, however, the result can be a jumble that lacks cohesiveness and becomes jarring instead of fascinating.

As Light Dies from Spain are an example of a band whose diverse musical interests and ambitions have pushed them into the realms of the avant garde – which to be honest is a nebulous phrase that often gets thrown around when we can’t think of a better description, one that encompasses both creatively exuberant, genre-jumping successes and the kind of jarring jumbles referred to above. The latest album by As Light Dies (their third) signals right in its title that normal metal conventions will not apply to what lies within its nine tracks and 35 minutes: The Love Album – Volume I.

And if that’s not plain enough, consider that the list of musical influences they identify ranges from Wim Mertens to David Bowie to Phillip Glass to Dead Can Dance, Borknagar, Ved Buens Ende, Mordbid Angel, and Gorguts.

While you try to wrap your mind around that, let me say a few words about “Nemesis”,  the song we’re about to premiere from TLA – Vol. I.

Sep 112014

 

Today we bring you the premiere of a song by Nightbringer from their fourth album Ego Dominus Tuus (I am your Lord).

The song can be understood and appreciated on many levels. Standing alone, as you will hear, it’s tremendously powerful. Yet it’s also the final track (and the longest) on a 10-track album that’s more than 70 minutes in length, the culmination of an intense listening experience that’s not merely powerful but overpowering. It brings to a dramatic close a work whose spiritual intent would be manifest even if you knew nothing of the lyrics: It is prayer, it is worship, it is exaltation. It’s a declaration of belief, a proclamation of fealty, a passionate expression of yearning, and an offering to Lucifer on a pyre of flames.

Ego Dominus Tuus sounds like a majestic black metal opera. It’s grandiose and bombastic, with an orchestral quality created not only by the soul-stirring riffs but also by the effective use of keyboards, and there is a narrative quality in the movement of the songs that bespeaks a story being told (even though the lyrics don’t form a continuous narrative). The enormously expressive vocals sometimes sound like exchanges between different characters, each of them driven by fervent and usually fierce emotions — sometimes to the point of madness — as they are buffeted by the tumult of life-shaking occurrences. The music storms and subsides, as if turning points have been reached as the story moves toward its inevitable climax.

As you listen you can imagine the unfolding of transformative events, from the stately processional of an infernal coronation, to the agonies of torture, to the conflagration of war. At the end, you feel drained and breathless.

Sep 112014

 

We have three song premieres coming your way on the site today, and I’m busy getting them ready to roll out, but I decided I needed to take a break for this one piece of news (published by Metal Hammer) to which my comrade Andy Synn just alerted me. Because it relates to the new album by Bloodbath.

First, they haven’t yet announced who will be the new vocalist in place of Mikael Åkerfeldt, so don’t bother asking. However, they have announced that the name will be revealed on September 16 via Metal Hammer. I already made my guess back in February (here).

Second, the name of the new album was disclosed today — Grand Morbid Funeral. It sounds like a grand name.

Third, the cover art was revealed — you can glimpse it above.

Fourth, it will be released by Peaceville Records on November 17.

Fifth, the press statement released today includes these titillating comments by guitarist Anders Nystrom:

Sep 102014

Once again I find myself in the miserable position of having many new songs I’d like to write about before ending our posts for the day but having only time to write about one (I blame my fucking day job). So, what to pick?

Ironically I’m picking one I can’t even play for you here, because it’s streaming exclusively at another site. But the song is so good that I want to send you over there to hear it. The song is the title track to the forthcoming second album by Montreal’s Beyond Creation, Earthborn Evolution.

It’s really the kind of music that should be held up as an example of how to use extravagant, technically exceptional performances in the service of an actual song, rather than as ends in themselves. “Earthborn Evolution” is thus a marvel both for the wizardry of the instrumental spellcasting and for the musical flow, dynamics, and memorability of the song as a musical composition.

So even though I know how wrenching it will be for you to leave our humble site, please do go here and listen (but do come back to us if you have any thoughts you’d like to share about the music):

Sep 102014

There’s nothing wrong with albums that provide a steady diet of essentially the same kind of music from start to finish, as long as the music suits your tastes and is well-written and well-executed. Yet when an album takes the listener on a journey through dramatically changing musical landscapes, it has the potential to stand out in a way that more monochromatic albums can’t. Such ventures are always risky — doing more than one thing well is a talent that’s in short supply, and even when the skills are available, the results can often display a jarring lack of cohesiveness. In short, great ambitions and complete success don’t always go hand in hand, when a band’s reach exceeds its grasp.

The Swedish duo Sons of Crom obviously set their sights high when they created their debut album Riddle of Steel. They crafted the music around a narrative concept, following the torturous path of a lone warrior through a journey that is both physical and psychological — exposing him to savagery and bloodbath in the physical world while leading him ultimately to reflections about the true nature of his greatest enemy — which may be himself. But the band didn’t limit this concept to the lyrical narrative of the songs — they also attempted to tell the story in the music. And to do that, they threw genre constraints to the wind.

You know you’re in for a head-trip when you see tags on the album’s Bandcamp page that include such names as Bathory, Arcturus, Enslaved, and Falkenbach, and when you see descriptions of the music that include such phrases as “epic heavy metal”, “thrashing brutality”, “classical moods”, “folky interludes”, and “soaring melodies”. But it turns out that none of this is overstated or inaccurate. You don’t have to take our word for it, because after the jump you can hear the album for yourself in all its epic, multi-textured extravagance.

Sep 102014

 

(Here’s DGR’s writeup about the new album from The Haunted. I think it’s finally time to suck it up and rename the site NO SHORT REVIEWS.)

Exit Wounds has been out for a week plus by now, and I am still consistently surprised by how The Haunted are one of the few bands out there who can do anger and aggression incredibly well. It’s hard to believe that a group lucked into having two incredibly distinct and different frontmen, both of whom were able to help elevate the band with a sense of utter malice — whilst directing it toward two different things. There’s always been an essence of conviction to the band’s reason for yelling, when so many other groups out there have a sort of toothless aggression, metal and brutality for their own sake and feeling like it was done paint-by-numbers style. The Haunted have always had bite, where other bands have felt like being gummed to death by the world’s angriest toddler, full of energy but not a whole lot getting done.

When the band effectively hung up their hats, it was a bummer, because although there are people out there who will relentlessly bitch about Unseen, it was a progression in one of the two ways that the band could have followed after The Dead Eye. It was joyfully demented, but not necessarily as sharp and pointed as The Haunted usually are. That said, it’s not like the band haven’t done a “return to form” before; it seems to be The Haunted’s calling card, but listening to the group talk, maybe it just wore on them a little bit too much. Which made the sudden re-formation both surprising and exciting. Two of the group’s members decided to stick it out, and on top of that the band filled in the empty spaces with Haunted members from the past, as well as recruiting a hell of a weapon in the form of Feared guitarist Ola Englund.

Exit Wounds, released September 2nd here in lovely North America (and a week earlier in Europe), is the result of the group’s new lineup, one for a band who may have found themselves with a lot to prove this go ’round. It’s a common narrative: re-formed band with a new lineup and a new album, scrappy as hell, and coming off of a divisive as hell previous disc. The crazy thing with Exit Wounds is that it also feels partially like an unintentional comeback tour, especially after pulling back musicians who haven’t associated with the band for some time. So, flag planted, line drawn in the sand, foot on the ground, pancake on head, robe and wizard hat donned, various other metaphors for standing your ground and facing opposition — just how well does Exit Wounds make the case for The Haunted’s continued existence?

Sep 102014

I’ve fallen behind in completing some reviews (one in particular) that I had planned to post on Monday of this week. Partly, this is the result of how many new music premieres and press releases of interest I’ve found this week. The last 24 hours have been no different. What follows is a sextet of such things.

THE MONOLITH DEATHCULT

One of this site’s favorite bands made this statement yesterday:

“We have some exciting news! To bridge the gap between TETRAGRAMMATON and our forthcoming album we decided to record some tunes from our first album The Apotheosis. This because The Apotheosis is sold out and we simply aren’t in for an ordinary repressing. We will release it as an EP+ some cool rare recordings we collected through the years. The title of the EP will be BLOODCVLTS & DEATHCVLTS.

At the moment we have no idea how and who will release this EP. Maybe it will be on vinyl, maybe on CD or maybe only on Itunes and Spotify. Stay tuned!”

Sep 092014

I’ve collected a bunch of new things I want to write about since the last round-up, but the old fucking day job isn’t going to let me do that at the moment. So I’m picking this one thing to write about, because I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it.

The news is that Little Rock’s Pallbearer, Iceland’s Sólstafir, and Brooklyn’s Mortals will be touring the U.S. West Coast and certain parts of the country’s midsection together beginning on December 2. (There’s also a Vancouver date on the schedule.)

In the opinion of your humble editor, these three bands are collectively responsible for three of the year’s best albums: Foundations of Burden, Ótta, and Cursed To See the Future, respectively. The chance to see them perform together on one show is a chance not to be missed.

This is especially exciting for those of us on the West Coast because I don’t think either Sólstafir or Mortals have previously performed outside the East Coast.

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