(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Junius from Boston, Massachusetts. Their music is an exception to our Rule.)
Recommended for fans of: Deftones, Katatonia, Solstafir
I first heard about this band in a rather unusual way back at the tail-end of 2011, when they stepped in at the last minute as replacements for Ghost, who were forced to drop off Enslaved’s North American tour at the last minute due to visa issues. Having no prior knowledge of the band at all, I was particularly intrigued when I started to see a quiet shit-storm floating around certain parts of the internet about “that indie band opening for Enslaved”, and felt compelled to check them out… after all, there must be something to them to be causing such a fuss.
And I’m glad I did, because the music they make is astonishingly beautiful and moving, with a sense of haunting atmosphere and blooming melodic power. The guitars shimmer and blossom in great waves of light and shade above an electric foundation of looping bass lines and lithe, progressive drum work, while the vocals – pulsing with echoes of both Joy Division and The Smiths – weave their own distinctive spell of captivating, clean-sung poetry and passion.
The band have been described in several ways… “Alt Metal”, “Post Rock”, “Indie Metal”, “Art Rock”, “Shoegaze Doom Metal”… though none of them really hit the spot. There’s certainly elements of Post-Punk and New Wave in their DNA, that’s obvious enough, as well as a fascination with the metallic atmospherics of acts like Neurosis and Isis, but really their sound is quite unique – oddly anthemic, yet strangely apocalyptic.
Ultimately then, the proof is in the listening. Perhaps start with their latest EP, and work your way backwards. After all, this may not be typical NCS fare, but you trust me… right?
Collected here are four new songs and one teaser reel of new music from five bands that I heard over the last 24 hours and believe are worth throwing at your head like a nail bomb. I present the music in alphabetical order by band name.
Go ahead, click that image above to enlarge it. I’ll wait.
Pretty fuckin’ cool, isn’t it? It’s the creation of Belgian artist Kris Verwimp and it graces the cover of a new album entitled Cthulhu by Ceremonial Castings. Cthulhu will be this Washington State duo’s eighth album and it’s due for release on July 8. Based on descriptions on the band’s Facebook page, it will be a monumental concept album spanning 2 CDs, the first consisting of 11 tracks divided into three chapters, with a total run-time of more than 70 minutes, and the second consisting of a single 61-minute work entitled “Cthulhu Unbound”.
(Andy Synn wrote this review of the new album by Sweden’s Vintersorg.)
So it’s probably worth starting out this review by clearing something up. When Vintersorg (Andreas Hedlund and Mattias Marklund) announced that they were going to release an interlinked quartet of albums, each based on one of the four classical elements, I’m sure that a lot of you, like myself, initially expected each one to be quite different from the others, as befitting the divide between the elements themselves. Something akin to the way Thrice explored very different tonal and musical textures with The Alchemy Index I-IV, perhaps.
Well, we were wrong about that it seems. With the release of the first two albums, Jordpuls (“Pulse of the Earth”) and Orkan (“Hurricane”), which dealt with the elements of earth and air respectively, it became clear that the band’s core sound – a melding of archaic, folkish melody and blackened, progressive metal – remained enviably focussed and largely unchanged.
That’s not to say there weren’t differences between the two albums, of course. Jordpuls certainly possessed a certain earthy flavour and an ageless tone, while Orkan captured the flighty, intangible nature of the wind remarkably well with its ethereal song structures and skittering flutes. But, ultimately, neither was a major shift in style or sound for the band. And that’s ok. They weren’t meant to be.
Really, this whole experiment is more about filtering and refining the established Vintersorg sound in interesting, incremental ways, than it is about altering it wholesale. It’s about changing the little things, the small shifts in focus or delivery, adding a few deft touches and artful rearrangements here and there, all designed to re-envision the band through a different, elemental lens.
Once again I waded through the fetid swamp of the interhole this morning in search of new things worth blabbing about. Once again, I found new riches in the muck. Here are three of them.
If you think I’m ever going to get tired of pimping Sólstafir, think again. My pimping energies are endless. The latest excuse for writing about them is today’s premiere of yet another new song from their next album, Ótta, which will be released by Season of Mist on August 29 in Europe and September 2 in North America.
The new song is named “Lágnætti”. From the slow piano chords, the sound of strings, and Adi Tryggvason’s plaintive vocals at the beginning, the song builds in intensity with a driving beat and riffs that moan and claw at the sky. Tryggvason’s voice turns searing, but the haunting melody persists through to the end, the piano and the distorted guitar chords forming a duet that sinks it home. Wonderful.
To stream “Lágnætti”, go to this place (and pre-order the album here, or you and I will be having some words):
Find Sólstafir on Facebook here.
I watched a lot of new music videos yesterday, many of which made me smile, though not all for the same reasons. I decided to put all the smile-inducing ones right here for you — five of ‘em, in alphabetical order by band name. That’s right, five. Settle in, fix a bucket of popcorn and douse it in that movie theater goop that should be labeled IT TASTES LIKE BUTTER BUT IT’S NOT!, and watch. And listen. Listening is important.
If none of these makes you smile, then I surrender and will take my lashes without complaint. Because I never complain when that happens.
As we’ve previously reported, India’s Demonic Resurrection have a new album entitled The Demon King that’s due for release on July 14 by Candlelight Records (and by Universal Music in India). Yesterday the band started streaming the album’s first single, “Trail of Devastation”, and it’s a winner — well-written, well-produced, dynamic, memorable, and made for fist-pumping.
It combines swirling guitar melody, sweeping orchestration, and riffs that alternately twist insidiously and jab like a prize-fighter. The Demonstealer puts his multifaceted vocal talents to good use in the song, too, with an array of harsh roars, scalding shrieks, and carefully placed, soaring clean vocals that really work.
I mainly wanted to put up a couple of cool new album covers before calling it quits for the day, but I just saw a new video that I decided to throw in here, too, because we always need music.
The first cover is for Clearing The Path to Ascend, the new album by YOB, which is due for release by Neurot Recordings in September. I’m expecting great things from this album. I take PR reports with a grain of salt, but this excerpt from today’s announcement still gets me pumped up:
“Those threads of progressive rock and drone that have always underscored the music of YOB are now fully realized with Clearing The Path To Ascend, as each track forges into the next with a ferocity that’s as completely unhinged as it is utterly focused. Drummer Travis Foster wields his signature rhythmic furore here with bombastic precision while bassist Aaron Rieseberg, coils around the sonic tide with an unforgiving churn – all the while in a deadly synchronicity with Scheidt’s uncanny vocal range and its pendulous movement between the triumphant howls of a medieval madman and the earth splitting growls of a war-battered titan.”
Here are some new things I found over the last 24 hours that I thought were worth sharing around. I’m doing my best to finish a review, so I’m going to atypically attempt to be brief. I know this will cause mass depression among readers, but that’s just the way it has to be.
As previously reported, the next album by Iceland’s Sólstafir is named Ótta and will be released by Season of Mist on August 29 in Europe and September 2 in North America. Today the album became available for pre-order in triple-LP format (here) and the cover art was disclosed (above). I don’t know what thinking is behind the use of this photo or how it relates to the music and/or lyrics, but I like it – such a dramatic setting, and such a fascinating face. Bought it.
Also today Stereogum premiered the new album’s title track. You may not be prepared for it. You may not even think it’s metal. But I think it’s goddamned awesome. It’s icy and adrift, bleak and beautiful, melancholy and memorable. But it has a harsh edge as well, it rocks in its own way, and the soaring of the vocals into a howl near the end are very cool. And is that an electrified mandolin I’m hearing, along with the synth and strings? (Answer: Nope, it’s a banjo!)
Go HERE to listen.
I’ve written before about the Relapse reissue of the one and only album by Sweden’s God Macabre — a band who’ve frequently been on my mind ever since seeing their magnificent set at Maryland Deathfest XII last month. One of my friends who was there with me surprised the hell out of me a few days ago with a gift of the special MDF edition of the LP. And then yesterday I noticed that the digital version of The Winterlong reissue is now available on Bandcamp. If you haven’t heard it, you should. It has lost nothing in the two decades since its original release. Here it is:
(Andy Synn wrote this review of the new album by Liverpool’s Anathema.)
Let’s start things off by getting a few things out of the way first, shall we? If your initial reaction to this post is:
“That’s a stupid name. I won’t listen to what any site named No Clean Singing has to say!”
“What is this? This is not metal! This site is stupid!”
Then there’s the door. Feel free to let it hit you on the way out.
For those of you who’re still reading (hopefully that’s most of you, because our readership here at NCS is, in the majority, pretty open-minded and interested in the albums/bands we elect to cover), thank you for sticking around, and I hope to make it worth your while.
As a general rule, when I put together these “Seen and Heard” collections of new music I write about what I like (of course) and I also try to spotlight music from bands who are often overlooked by other metal sites. This particular collection is a departure from the norm. First of all, In Flames, Mastodon, and Opeth are among the biggest names in metal. Over the last week, each of them has premiered a new song from a forthcoming album, and the odds are high that you’ve already heard the music — because every metal site in creation has been spreading the word about them. Second, I have mixed feelings about the music. So what I’m really doing with this collection is trying to satisfy my own curiosity about what our readers think about this new material — which means I want your comments!
The new In Flames album Siren Charms will be released on September 15. The first advance track from the album, “Rusted Nail”, is now available to European Spotify users (here), and it has also started appearing illicitly on YouTube. So of course I listened to it. I ought to repeat that this band were one of my gateways into the more extreme genres of heavy music. For that I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for them. In addition, unlike many hidebound fans who haven’t liked anything In Flames have recorded since Clayman (or even before), I remained enthusiastic all the way through Come Clarity. But even with that said, “Rusted Nail” is failing to make much of a mark.
When our man Andy Synn reviewed Casualties of Cool, the new album by Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval, he called the music “Canadian Space Country”. I thought that was a clever turn of phrase, but also an apt description of the songs. And when he came to the album’s second track, “Mountaintop”, he wrote that it generated an “earthy, alien-country vibe”, the “ghostly strumming and phantom background radiation conjuring a series of strange, synchestrated visions out of simple sound and silence”. Only today did I realize that “synchestrated” isn’t in the dictionary. But it too somehow sounds… apt.
And I’m thinking about “Mountaintop” because today the UK’s Independent premiered an animated video for the song. The artwork is by Jessica Cope, who also created the fantastic video for Steven Wilson’s “The Raven That Refused To Sing” (which you should watch here if you haven’t already). Here’s the description from the Independent: “It follows the story of a traveller who is lured to a sentient planet which feeds off of the fears of its inhabitants. He finds solace in old objects he finds there, including a vintage radio and a phonograph, and eventually confronts his fears. In turn, his actions free a woman trapped inside the planet.”