Last Saturday I explained that because of a serious brain injury to a close friend and colleague, I wouldn’t be able to write much for the site this week other than introductions of premieres I had agreed to host, and that has proven true. When not working at my fucking day job, I’ve been with her and her family in the ICU. That’s not likely to change in the coming days. My friend is showing signs of progress, and it seems likely that she will wake up soon, perhaps today or tomorrow. And then we will begin to find out how the injury has affected her mental and physical functioning. I’m optimistic, and terrified.
Though my routine this week hasn’t been anything close to normal, I have discovered a few excellent new songs and videos, thanks to recommendations from friends, and I thought I would collect them here. I’m grateful for the supportive comments I’ve received from readers, and for all the posts I’ve received from our regular writers and guests this week to keep this train rolling on down the line.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer is the name of the new album by the Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor, who began worshipping the Devil through their music back in the mid-’90s. This is the band’s sixth studio album and their first since 2011 (in the intervening years, the band’s line-up has changed). It was released by Hammerheart Records in February. Not long ago Hammerheart and the band released a lyric video for the song “A Vision of Exalted Lucifer”.
As you may have discerned by now, I enjoy not only recommending new music in these round-ups but also selecting items for them that don’t all come from the same genres of metal. For this Saturday collection of recent discoveries, however, there’s perhaps more variety than usual because I’ve partially gone outside the realms of metal. This is always a risky maneuver because I so rarely listen to anything that isn’t metal. I don’t know how dependable my metal tastes are, but when I veer off those pathways I’m pretty sure my taste isn’t dependable at all. Self-doubt has never held me back, though, so here we go….
SÓLSTAFIR AND LEGEND
More than two years ago I wrote (here) about a split release by two Icelandic bands, Sólstafir and Legend, in which each of them covered a song originally recorded by the other. In Sólstafir‘s case, they put their stamp on a Legend song called “Runaway Train”.
Yesterday the two bands released a video in which members of both groups joined together last fall for a live performance of that same song from the split (which they had earlier recorded together at Studio Neptunus). The performance occurred in an abandoned industrial factory and was filmed by Brynjar Snær Þrastarson and edited by him and Frosti Jon Rúnólfsson.
(Andy Synn reviews the new collaborative album between Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas, which was released on April 8. Accompanying photos are by Pär Olofsson.)
The name Cult of Luna should need no introduction or explanation to long-time readers of this site. After all, the stupendous Swedes have dwelled amongst the ranks of Metal’s mightiest heroes for a solid fifteen years now, and yours truly even selected their phenomenal Vertikal as the best album of 2013 (beating out stiff competition from the mighty Gorguts in the process).
The name Julie Christmas, however, might not be quite as familiar, though she certainly has considerable prestige and pedigree of her own, having acted as vocalist for both much-loved Doom/Post Metal troupe Battle of Mice and sludgy noisemongers Made Out of Babies, as well as forging her own career as a solo artist and frequent collaborator with other members of the Rock and Metal community.
Now, hopefully, this whistle-stop introduction should help give you at least a tentative grasp of why the idea of the two artists collaborating was met with such awe in certain quarters, and why Mariner has been one of 2016’s most highly anticipated albums ever since it was first announced.
We had such a big line-up of premieres and reviews yesterday that I didn’t have time to pull together a round-up of new things, so I’ll do some of that today. As a consequence of waiting, the first couple of items in this round-up of new videos (and one new song excerpt) will no doubt have been seen by most of you already. I still want to leave them here because they’re so good — though I don’t think I need to say much about them. The second two are somewhat more recent, and are by bands who don’t have quite the name recognition among metal heads as the first two, so I’ll spill a few words about those.
Nergal has a reliably interesting artistic vision for Behemoth’s videos, and a knack for enlisting help from talented people in making them a reality — including Sharon Ehman of Toxic Visions for the costume and prop design in this video, among a long list of others (who are identified in the notes to the video here). Of course, the dramatic natural setting for this video is the real star.
When names as big as Gojira and Katatonia both release new music on the same day, if you wait more than a few hours to write about it, the odds are that almost everyone who cares about those bands has already been clued in by someone else. But I’m writing about these developments anyway because “Half-Assed” is my middle name and I feel compelled to live up to it. And I’ll throw in a few other new developments that have been somewhat less pervasively recognized across the web.
As I read Rolling Stone’s interview/listening-session (here) with the Duplantier brothers that appeared yesterday, I became increasingly uneasy. Reading Kory Grow’s descriptions of some of the songs from Gojira’s forthcoming new album that he heard while talking with the brothers in their New York City studio made me fear that Gojira have become a French variant of Mastodon, making a big sweeping turn into radio-friendly rock. Will their first video for the album include twerking?
I’m working on a Friday round-up of new songs, but I decided I would carve these two out from the larger group and post them separately. Both of them are covers of well-known songs. The first one is actually a cover of a cover.
BENIGHTED IN SODOM
The prolific Matron Thorn seems to be one of those people for whom making music is as essential to his continued existence as oxygen and food are to the rest of us. He’s the principal creative force in Ævangelist — whose next release will be a split with Blut Aus Nord (!) — as well as a new project I’ve written about before named Death Fetishist, but one of his longest-running solo projects is Benighted In Sodom, and that’s the name under which he recorded the first song in this little collection.
This is a collection of new songs and videos, most of which I intended to share yesterday before I discovered a torrent of other hot-off-the-presses debuts that appeared the same day. And of course, as a result of the delay I spotted more new things that appeared since then — including the first and last items in this round-up.
As previously reported a couple of weeks ago, Atlanta’s Withered are primed to release their first new album in more than five years. This one is entitled Grief Relic and it’s coming out on May 27 via Season of Mist. One song named “Husk” got its debut at DECIBEL on March 7, and today Revolver brought us another one named “Feeble Gasp”. Here’s a statement about the song from guitarist/vocalist Mike Thompson:
On May 13, Season of Mist will release Wistful, the second album of Norwegian composer and multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine. On this new album, Sylvaine again composed all the music and handles vocals and almost all instruments, with Alcest’s Neige and Stephen Shepard splitting the drum performances and with additional guests Coralie Louarnika and Thibault Guichard performing violin, viola, and cello on the title track.
What we have for you today is the debut of the album’s opening song “Delusions” (one of the tracks on which Neige plays drums). If you’re unfamiliar with Sylvaine, you’ll learn from the first seconds of “Delusions” that her music is in many ways an outlier for our putrid site. Most obviously, she has a beautiful, ethereal singing voice, but the exceptions to our “rules” don’t stop there.
(KevinP introduces our premiere of the new album by Universe 217 from Greece — a well-earned exception to the “rule” in our site’s name.)
Today we have the honor and privilege to present to you the fourth full-length album from Greek doom masters, Universe217. Change is due on March 18, 2016 via Ván Records and is simply the best material of their career.
While I never subscribed to the theory that vocalist Tanya carried the band, I could understand the sentiment. She is in a class all her own, like a more dynamic and powerful metal version of Janis Joplin. But Change shows a band that is on equal ground; no longer does the music take a back seat to Tanya’s soaring, emotionally driven vocals. There’s a sonic immediacy to it, with a richer and fuller sound and with more textures — the instrumental music could easily stand on its own.
Gaelynn Lea is a musician in Duluth, Minnesota. According to the biography on her web site:
“She has been playing violin for over twenty years. First classically trained, she began learning traditional Celtic and American fiddle tunes at the age of 18. During her college years Gaelynn started sitting in with various folk/rock musicians and developed an improvisational style all her own. Eventually she also began singing and dabbling in songwriting.”
“Dabbling” is a humble word for it. Gaelynn was one of more than six thousand un-signed musicians or bands who submitted music videos in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. Under the rules of that contest, the song had to be an original work created solely for the purpose of entering the contest, and it had to be performed “at a desk (any desk!)”. All those thousands of submissions were reviewed by a panel of six judges, and they picked Gaelynn Lea’s submission as the winner.
I read the judge’s comments about the song and the video before I heard it. The judges were Robin Hilton, Bob Boilen, Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys and The Arcs), Son Little, and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius. You can read their comments about the song here. In a nutshell, they were all profoundly moved. They explained that they heard other songs that displayed better musical craft and skill, but what Gaelynn did was to create something unusual and memorable.
I can’t separate the song from what I watched in the video and what I knew immediately about Gaelynn Lea from seeing it. It makes the song more poignant and powerful — but I believe (though I’ll never know for sure) that I would have found it tremendously poignant and powerful anyway.