Among the names on my mental list of highly anticipated 2014 releases, Falls of Rauros and Panopticon were in the upper reaches. This spring, Bindrune Recordings will be releasing a 12″ split by the two bands. Falls of Rauros contributed two songs — “Unavailing” (at nearly 12 minutes in length) and “The Purity of Isolation” (nearly 7 minutes). Panopticon contributed four songs, totaling nearly 25 minutes. Having heard the split, I can say that it has more than met my very high expectations.
I had hoped to scribble a review by now, even recognizing that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But alas, I’m way behind. What I do have, with thanks to DECIBEL magazine, are two of the songs from the split, one from each band. Since I still harbor a feeble hope of writing my own thoughts about the music later, I’ll not say more about the songs now — but simply provide the streams for your listening pleasure.
Our fellow blogger Full Metal Attorney published a new post on his site today entitled, in intentional Buzzfeed-speak, “7 Metal Bands That Will Blow Your Mind”. He began it this way:
I’ve been reading about Babymetal since No Clean Singing first covered them two years ago. Now I’m starting to read about them everywhere, and it’s blowing the minds of regular people. Even my six-year-old son–who has grown up completely immersed in pop music and extreme metal–had a “WTF?” look on his face: “Why are those girls there?” You’re right, son, it doesn’t make any sense.
It hadn’t occurred to me that Babymetal would be so interesting to non-metalheads (outside of J-pop fans, anyway). So I started thinking: What else might blow the mind of a normal person? Metalheads, this list isn’t really for you: Share it with your friends.
And he then proceeded to provide a list — a list of bands who in very different ways have combined musical elements with “mainstream appeal” (my words) and elements more familiar to metalheads. The idea struck me as one that might generate some discussion here at NCS.
So, no, this isn’t yet another NCS post about Babymetal (because they’re even getting coverage from the likes of USA Today as well as currently holding down a spot on iTunes Top 10 Rock Albums chart in 7 countries — the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Sweden). Those of you who think Babymetal are the greatest threat to our way of life since the fluoridation of water can relax.
I intended to get this roundup posted yesterday, but obviously my word is no good. So it comes today
The artwork at the top of this post grabbed my attention. It was created by Aaron Turner (of Isis fame, and a prolific graphic artist) for a 12″ release coming on Record Store Day from A389 Recordings. The title is Bloodlet – Live on WFMU-FM (03.23.95), and as the title suggests it’s a previously unreleased live recording from about 20 years ago that was recently mastered for this release.
Bloodlet is a name I’ve heard before, though I can’t remember if I ever heard their music. They made a name for themselves in the 90s as a metallic hardcore band (long before the “metalcore” label came into currency). They’ve been on hiatus since 2003, but reunited to play the A389 Records X Anniversary Bash in Baltimore on January 18, 2014.
(In this post Andy Synn reviews the special EP recorded by Blut Aus Nord to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Debemur Morti label.)
At least in the majority of the metal media, Black Metal rarely gets its due in terms of its progressive side and forward-thinking ambition. Whereas “Progressive Death Metal” comes in multiple forms and guises, and the term “Progressive Metal” has been bastardised to seemingly refer solely to bands who deal in basic polyrhythms and melodramatic caterwauling, the term “Progressive Black Metal” still doesn’t seem to carry the same weight or cultural currency.
Some of that is due to the perception of the genre – by many, but nowhere near by all – as being firmly rooted in its own past and firmly captivated by its own legend. There’s some truth to that, as there are (and always will be) bands still carrying the ebon flame of those early years and keeping the original spirit of the genre alive. Yet although they have their place (something I’m not denying), to judge the entire genre by those standards would be a major mistake.
Because, to my mind at least, few sub-genres of metal can claim the scope of style and sound that Black Metal does these days. Elements of its influence have infiltrated numerous sub-genres, in often surprising ways, while, at the same time, its most artistic adherents have mixed and melded influences from outside its strict confines into their own strange, alchemical works, forging new and unusual weapons of war with the black flame of their own darkest emotions.
And chief amongst these are Blut Aus Nord.
As previously advised, I’m on the road again in the grasp of my fucking day job, but I did carve out some time to make the rounds in search of new things and, as usual, found quite a lot to like. Because time is short, I’ll divide what I found into two posts, this being the first.
HOUR OF PENANCE
Almost exactly two years have passed since Italy’s Hour of Penance delivered their last album, Sedition, which was excellent. Today the band announced details about the release of their next album: The name is Regicide, and it will be coming our way via the Prosthetic label on May 13 in North America (May 12 in the UK and EU, May 16 in Germany).
From a previous Facebook post by the band, I know that the album art was created by the same Gyula Havancsák (Hjules Illustration and Design), whose work for Arkona’s new album we featured here recently. He also created the covers for HoP’s Sedition and Paradogma.
Grey Skies Fallen are a New York band who trace their roots back to 1996. Since then they’ve released three full-length albums and two EPs, all of which are available for free download at the band’s web site (here). Along the way, they’ve made changes in their sound, as well as changes in the line-up, and they’re now set to release a new album entitled The Many Sides of Truth. Today we’re giving you a glimpse into the new work through our premiere of “Ritual of the Exiter”.
When I first heard this long song, I was left bedazzled, and grasping at straws in thinking about how to describe it. Just when I thought I understood what the band were up to, they crossed me up. As the title suggests, there is indeed a ritualistic quality to its progression, with the parts of the rite segmented by unexpected guitar interludes that break the building tension before the intensity begins to build again.
The song is anchored by a really good rhythm section, with both the bass and the drums getting their hooks into you. But the bleak melodic motifs in the music are the key to its success, along with the vocals, which are both clean and agonizing. Genre boundaries are ignored, with elements of doom, prog, black metal, and melodic death metal in the mix.
I’m headed for the airport again this morning, and then winging my way back to sunny Southern California for my day job, returning to sodden Seattle on Sunday. This will again restrict my blog time. Before leaving, I wanted to share a few recent discoveries.
This Toronto band, whose three members prefer to remain anonymous, released a self-titled EP in 2011, and now they have a debut full-length on the way. Entitled Sacred White Noise, it’s coming out on April 15th via Dark Descent. Not long ago the band premiered an advance track named “The Bright White Nothing At the End of the Tunnel”. I’ve been meaning to check it out, and finally did so last night — and I’m in love.
There’s a writhing, dissonant guitar lead that begins almost immediately and then intermittently continues to whip and squirm its way throughout the rest of the song, and once heard it’s hard to forget. But that’s only part of the music’s attraction. The song also includes hammering percussion, scalding riffs, bestial black metal vocals, and a load of other strange but magnetic repeating motifs.
I would guess that established metal bands face a quandary every time they begin work on a new album. By “established metal bands” I mean those who have put out enough records over a long enough period of time that they have a well-defined sound and, by metal standards, a large and relatively devoted fan base. I’m guessing, because I’m not in an established metal band and don’t know anyone who is. Fortunately, lack of first-hand knowledge has never held me back from expressing opinions.
Here’s the quandary: You can continue to do the same kind of thing you’ve done before. This is the safe route. You know you will probably please the die-hard fans, because you’re giving them what they’ve liked in the past. You’ll please your record label, because whatever pleases your established fan base most likely means predictable sales. And because it’s the same kind of music you’ve done in the past with success, you can be reasonably confident that you won’t fuck it up.
But maybe it’s not so safe. Because there’s a difference between writing good new songs that are recognizably YOU and… coasting. Coasting is risky, and I would guess (see above re my complete lack of personal knowledge) that it’s also boring for the people in the band. And when people in a band start to get bored, they’re on the brink of a death spiral.
(TheMadIsraeli decided to make this list of the people he judges to be the top metal guitarists of all time, with sample music. Comments are welcome, as always.)
I decided to take a much needed break from NCS activities, mainly due to the fact I had shit I had to do, and stuff I wanted to do. Stuff and shit has pretty much dominated my life for the last couple weeks, but now it’s time to get back to doing this shit.
First thing on my list? Well, the name of the post should tell you everything. My top guitar players of all time is a pretty specific calculated list, with some choices that may turn out to surprise people. I’ve played guitar for 15 years now, and have gone through my share of temporary idols, but these are the guys who’ve stuck with me. Being able to shred and having ridiculous skill is not a sufficient qualifier for this list. At the end of the day, while you’ll find almost all my choices are excellent shredders, riffs at the end of the day will matter more.
A lot of people of the more shred persuasion, like Rusty Cooley for example, can write all the cool solos they want, but he for example can’t write a riff to save his life. That perfect balance between riff and virtuosity in the lead department has always been something that’s very rarely accomplished. I think probably for awhile, Yngwie Malmsteen was the only guy in that department who knew how to write good overall SONGS that exhibited technical prowess combined with memorable moments and recognizable style all at once.
I value riffs more than solo-crafting ability for the obvious reason, that it’s what you mostly hear in metal; especially metal with vocals. Those riffs have to tell a story, convey a definite idea, one that contrasts with or enhances the solos when they crop up. And those solos? They have to be fucking mini voyages through the cosmos. They can’t be just sheer displays of technical skill. You get people like Rusty Cooley or a lot of other solo shredders, and it’s becoming even worse in the djent market with all these pseudo-sloppy fusion guys coming out of the woodwork who just follow by rote basic fusion melodic progressions or simply execute solos that their songs could’ve well done without. Half-assed fusion influence is probably the worst offender in modern metal guitar playing right now.
As is usually the case with my lists, order doesn’t signify better or worse here.
(NCS writer BadWolf interviewed Neill Jameson of Krieg and Twilight, whose third and final album is due for release in a couple of weeks. To say it’s a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred discussion would be an understatement. You don’t want to miss this.)
When it comes to the US Black Metal movement, few individual musicians have made as much of a splash as Neill Jameson. He released his first demo tape as Imperial in 1995—just a year after Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. In the nearly twenty years since, Jameson has produced raw and honest “bedroom” black metal as the sole member of Krieg. Many consider his 2004 LP The Black House to be essential USBM listening. There will be a new Krieg album this year on Candlelight, but first Jameson needs to live through the press cycle for the third Twilight album, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb.
Jameson had his hands full recording III, dealing with a rotating cast of characters. Twilight has been blighted by negative media attention since the arrest of founding member Blake Judd (also of Nachtmystium). Judd is now out of the band, but Thurston Moore of esteemed noise-punk outfit Sonic Youth is in. Alongside them stands super-producer Sanford Parker, as well as Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth and Wrest of Leviathan. These five musicians are giving Twilight the swansong the project deserves.
Jameson took time out of his busy schedule as proprietor of a record store (the man’s Facebook posts, often putting his own customers on blast, are among the funniest you’ll read) to talk with NCS about the tumultuous story of Twilight, from beginning to end.