(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.
In recent months we’ve had the pleasure of bringing you two songs from one of the most remarkable “comeback” albums in recent years, and one of the most distinctive and accomplished of this year by any band. The album is Pure, and the band is Norway’s In the Woods…, and today the album is being released by Debemur Morti Productions. To help spread the word, we are bringing you the full stream of the album for the first time.
We have already spilled many words about Pure over the course of our previous song premieres and our full review of the album, and especially because you can now hear it for yourselves, extensive repetition probably isn’t the wisest use of our space. But I do think these excerpts from Andy Synn’s review are worth repeating:
Two months ago we had the honor of premiering the first new song by Norway’s In the Woods… in 17 years. The name of that song was “Cult of Shining Stars” and it appears on a a new album entitled Pure that will be released by Debemur Morti Productions on September 16. Since then Debemur Morti has revealed another song (accompanied by a beautiful music video), “Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War)”, and we have published our review of the album (by Andy Synn), who called Pure “as unique and enigmatic a musical experience as you could wish for” and “one of the most compelling, captivating, and truly complete musical masterpieces of the year”.
Today it’s our pleasure to bring you a third song to hear in advance of the album’s release, and the name of this one is “Mystery of the Constellations”. When Andy reviewed the album, he wrote that “some of [the songs] rock a little harder, and some of them err a little more sombre. Some of them brood, some of them swagger, and some of them drift in a dreamless languor – at times all within the same song – but each and every one of them has something special about it, something magnificent that truly lets it soar… its own particular identity, its own particular brace of distinctive hooks and melodies.” And “Mystery of the Constellations” is further proof of that.
Happy Monday! I mean that sincerely, despite the usual depressive aspects of the day, because this Monday brought us three exciting new song premieres that I discovered soon after caffeinating myself strongly enough to stun a bull, plus an announcement of an exciting U.S. tour. And here’s what I found:
As our regular readers are well aware, we have become ardent followers of the Greek band Aenaon since discovering the wonders of their 2014 album Extance, which made no fewer than four different year-end lists published at our site, as well as a host of our reader’s lists. It was also the source of a song (“Grau Diva”) that I included in my list of 2014’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. You may then be able to imagine how eagerly we have been awaiting the band’s new album, Hypnosophy.
That stunning vista above these words is what greeted my eyes this morning. I’m on a short vacation in the presence of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I’m not telling you that to be a dick, but only because I know how vitally interested you are in my every movement, except perhaps for bowel movements.
I did tear myself away from awestruck gazing at the horizon long enough to listen to four new songs, one of which comes with a video. I thought all four were good enough that they would make a nice collection for this Saturday morning, saving me the agony of trying to sift through all the other good stuff that came out since my last round-up.
The first two songs are exceptions to our oft-violated Rule, and the last two open up the extremity throttle in very different ways.
(Krieg’s Neill Jameson recently completed a very well-read three-part NCS series on obscure black metal from the ’90s (collected behind this link), and now he returns to our site with a different kind of mixtape.)
Even though we’re still in the middle of the season where your chances of getting skin cancer AND being irritated at all times is still going strong, I’m attempting to be forward-thinking. Thus to take my mind off the heat, I’ve decided to write about miserable and morose music this time around. I figure if places are trying to shove pumpkin beer up our asses in the middle of summer then I might as well shove some gloomy music up whatever orifice you prefer. I’m trying to be considerate.
As some of these artists have wildly varying styles across recordings I’m just going to hone in on one specific one per, but the majority of these fine and well-adjusted folks have a lengthy resume to choose from, so don’t just take my preference as gospel, which I’m sure no one does anyway.
Just as yesterday’s Seen and Heard round-up was much shorter than usual, so too is this Sunday’s edition of Shades of Black. I got back to Seattle last night from that four-day wedding festivity in Vegas I’ve mentioned before, but between the two premieres I’ve posted since then and a backlog of personal stuff to deal with, I haven’t had time to write about everything I wanted to include in this post. I’m hoping to supplement it during the coming week before going off to Migration Fest on Thursday, when our site’s content will probably diminish again.
With so many songs and full releases on my list of Shades to choose from, I picked the following four items to recommend, without much rhyme or reason. The bands are less obscure than usual for these posts, until you get to the end.
I suspect I will always consider Alcest to be a shade of black even if Neige and Winterhalter decide to start playing bluegrass — though that hasn’t happened yet. The fifth Alcest album is named Kodama, which we’re told is the Japanese word for “tree spirit” and also refers to the process of sounds reverberating across mountains, valleys, and forests that’s often attributed to these spirits.