(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sahg from Bergen, Norway.)
I have something to confess. Something that’s probably going to cut deep into my well established metal cred (ha!). You see, I don’t really like Black Sabbath.
There, I said it. Let the shaming begin.
It’s not that I actually dislike them. Far from it. As a matter of fact I enjoy them whenever I hear them (particularly the Dio era), and fully respect the band’s timeless legacy (more on that in a moment).
But they’re just not the sort of band whose albums I’d ever spin for my own enjoyment.
However, in the same way that although I’m not really much of a Slayer fan (there goes the last of my credibility), yet still absolutely love many bands who count them as a major influence, there’s a number of artists in my collection who cite Sabbath as their prime reason for being, and who can trace the roots of their sound right back to the Brummie masters (of reality).
And one of those bands is Norwegian doom-groove quartet Sahg.
I hope you’re having a good Saturday, and that this post will make it even better.
I know we’ve been throwing vast quantities of music your way lately as we try to clear the decks for the coming orgy of year-end-list features, but I still have a lot of metal that I feel the need to recommend. I’ll continue trying to keep abreast of advance tracks from forthcoming albums that sound promising, but what’s really burning a hole in my head are excellent full EPs, splits, and albums that have already been released but that we’ve neglected. The best way I know to deal with that problem is to compile posts like this one, abbreviating my own reviews and letting the music speak mainly for itself.
THE LOOM OF TIME
NihilReich is the eye-opening debut album of an Australian trio named The Loom of Time. It was released in March, though I didn’t listen to it until last month despite the significant praise it received from numerous reviewers.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by the band Oni.)
Some of you old-timers might remember that I was super-hyped on Black Crown Initiate. I enthusiastically reviewed their debut EP and while I didn’t review their first album, I absolutely loved it. 2016 rolled around, and Selves We Cannot Forgive rolled around and it was… not the BCI I was hyped on. The album was a complete disappointment in fact, and I was extremely, extremely dismayed that the band had already seemingly fallen off the horse. We’ll see what the future holds, but as to what made me lose faith in the band, it was their conversion to a rather directionless, meandering style of songwriting combined with riffs that were barely riffs.
Oni are poised, already, to kick Black Crown Initiate off their own throne where they once brandished a distinctive brand of technical, groovy, yet poppy and melodic progressive death metal. The two bands share many similarities, but with Oni taking it a step further and adding even more influences and elements. I don’t think you can say Oni sound like BCI, but to my ears they have definitely taken the BCI formula and brought it to the next level, whether doing so consciously or not.
When you confront a truly daunting task, sometimes the result is paralysis; the magnitude of the effort discourages effort. Experience teaches that sometimes the only way to overcome that paralysis is simply to make a start, no matter how small the step may seem. Usually easier said than done, but that’s what I’m doing today.
I’m sitting on a ton of recent music and videos I want to write about in the time I have left before our year-end LISTMANIA extravaganza inevitably begins monopolizing my time. I haven’t figured out how I will get everything out and before you that I think you should check out. But this is a start, selected in fairly random fashion, but with an effort to cover a range of styles.
Early last month we enthusiastically premiered a stream of the new album by the French black metal band Sordide. Entitled Fuir la lumière, it is now available through Avantgarde Music and from the band. And as a further reminder about how good Sordide’s music, they’ve now released a live performance video. It was recorded on October 23 at White Noise Studio.
(Our long-time supporter and occasional contributor Booker returns to NCS with this review of the new album by Norway’s Wardruna.)
Wardruna are an exception to the rule here. On the one hand, because of the singing, which is not only “clean”, but is often chanted, whispered, or spoken-word, as well as being in a language few of us would understand. And the foreign-ness of it means that the significance of the vocals – the message, or meaning — is simply the rhythm and emotion the vocals produce, rather than the what the words signify – arguably, in that respect, perhaps not too far off a lot of the metal we listen to.
But they’re an exception, too, as you won’t find any distorted guitars here, nor any traditional drum kits, blast beats, breakdowns, or sounds belonging to the mosh pit. But what’s on offer will hopefully move and entice you all the same.
The rise of Denver’s Khemmis into the upper echelons of doom has been nothing short of meteoric, thanks in large part to the enormous appeal of their 2015 debut album Absolution. Since that album’s release, Khemmis have confronted what always comes with stellar debuts — the pressures and perils of high expectations by fans for a follow-on album. In two short weeks, that testing time will arrive as 20 Buck Spin releases the second Khemmis album, Hunted. By one measure, Hunted has already met and exceeded expectations — Sam Turner has again created one hell of a metal album cover, with the Khemmis wizard on an armored steed, flanked by death dealers you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. As it turns out, the music meets and exceeds expectations, too.
In 2015 we had the pleasure of premiering a song from Absolution, along with one of the most interesting and entertaining band interviews we’ve ever published. We now count ourselves lucky that we also get to bring you the premiere of a song from Hunted in advance of its October 21 release. Its name is “Beyond the Door“.
(In this September edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Ohio’s Shatter Messiah.)
Recommended for fans of: Nevermore, Exodus, Arch Enemy
I want to start off this edition of The Synn Report with a quick history lesson, if I may? You see, back when Islander first started this site with his two cantankerous compatriots, the name “NoCleanSinging” was chosen as a response to the horrible proliferation of bands roughly shoehorning a sickeningly saccharine clean-sung chorus into every song in a vain attempt to appear more artificially “emotional” or to improve their commercial viability.
However, you may have observed that, in the past few years at least, we’ve not stuck quite as closely to that “no clean singing” ethos as Islander and co. did in those early days… which is why today I have no hesitation in bringing you an overview of the four album catalogue of Akron, Ohio Power-Thrash quintet Shatter Messiah.
Of course it’s impossible to ignore how much the band have in common with the much-missed, much-mourned Nevermore… not least a certain guitarist (and main songwriter) by the name of Curran Murphy. In addition the raw, gritty melodies of singer Greg Wagner (and, later, his replacement Michael Duncan) carry the same sense of spite and venom as Warrell Dane at his most vehement, as well as sharing a similarly indignant anti-religious, anti-authoritarian lyrical stance.
And then there’s the guitar work, Murphy and his chums delivering a plethora of massive, Loomis-esque seven-string tech-thrash riffs and soaring, fleet-fingered lead-lines (that would make the Amott brothers nod their head in serious appreciation) which mix proggy intricacy and dark melody with a brand of heaviness that occasionally borders on Death Metal levels.
No, this post isn’t about the new Mithras album, though it has been on my mind lately. It’s about a listening experience I had late last night (after possibly drinking too much), when the music fell into place as if it had been ordained by some ingenious higher power. I feel compelled to share it, not only because of how good each piece in the chain is, standing alone, but also because of the interesting ways in which each piece flows into the next and eventually comes back around to join together, the end resonating with the beginning in an unexpected way.
I’ll tell the story of how I came to move from each of these four recordings to the next precisely in the order set out below, because at least to me it makes this playlist even more strange and wondrous. And to be clear, the connections between the recordings aren’t predictable — it’s more like an evolution, progression, and transformation that’s occurring instead of a collection of like-sounding songs — with things becoming increasingly heavy and extreme. By the end, I had bought all four of the releases on Bandcamp.
This experience began last night when I happened upon a Facebook post by metal writer and musician JR (I haven’t told the people involved in this story that I’m writing about them, so I’ll be using initials instead of full names). In it, he linked to a just-released new album by Kinit Her, calling it “magic”.
Where I live, the season is changing rapidly. The daylight hours are diminishing, the darkness constricting like a noose. A chill is in the air. The fall is coming.
Last night a strange and serendipitous thing happened as I was making my usual way through a list of new songs I had discovered yesterday. I happened to listen to everything I’ve now collected in this post, one after the other, right in a row. I was struck by how perfectly they suited the mood of the change in seasons. I’ve re-ordered them slightly in this post, as compared to the order in which I originally heard them, to include two songs that are exceptions to our “rule” in the middle of this chilling playlist.
I discovered Lost Hours through an e-mail they sent us yesterday. They’re from Atlanta and a few days ago they released their third album (III) through Bandcamp. It consists of two songs, “Gently Before She Dies” and “Your Vice is a Locked Room”.
The rule stated in explicit terms in the title of this site has been riddled with exceptions beginning even in the early years, and it has become more riddled over time. But on a percentage basis, it’s still mainly THE RULE. Why then does this post exist?
I suppose even I need a short break from the generally bestial and infernal ferocity that’s my daily metal bread and butter. And these songs happen to have struck a chord, despite the fact that the singing is mostly clean and most of the music relies more on syncopated rhythms and a particularly recognizable guitar sound than what I usually listen to.
Perhaps something here will also prove appealing to you. And if not, there will be a Shades of Black Post on Sunday, and you know what that means.