I may have mentioned that I’m on vacation through December 8. In addition to not writing much for NCS, I’ve also largely abandoned my daily routine of reading press releases and roaming the web looking for metal news and video or song premieres to feature on the site. However, today some of my NCS comrades gave me a slew of links that together make a tidy package of extremely diverse new things worth writing about.
First, Andy Synn wrote me as follows: “New Kampfar. Put that in your pipe and smoke it”. I tried to smoke it, but the song smoked me instead. It’s name is “Mylder”, and it will appear on this excellent Norwegian band’s new album Djevelmakt, due for release on January 21 via Indie Recordings.
If I could shriek “Helvete!” like Kampfar’s vocalist, I would, because that’s what I want to do when I listen to “Mylder”. It’s an electrifying, dynamic song — with plenty of reaping, roaring, stomping, and jabbing, but also infiltrated with an ethereal flute melody (among other unexpected elements). It’s a great combination of black metal savagery and memorable songwriting. Djevelmakt can’t come soon enough.
Are you like me? Do you think packing for a long trip is much more fun if you wait until the last minute and then scurry around like a rat with rabies, thereby increasing the odds that you’ll forget a bunch of things and then feel like a dumbass when you get where you’re going? Yeah, I thought so. Everyone loves to do that. Which is why I’m sitting here banging out this round-up of diverse new items I saw and heard over the last 24 hours instead of packing for my vacation trip, which begins . . . (shit!) . . . in a few hours.
I saw that Profound Lore’s first release of 2014 will be the much-delayed third album by Chicago-based Avichi, Catharsis Absolute, which was recorded by Andrew Ragin (The Atlas Moth) and mixed by Sanford Parker (Nachtmystium, Twilight). The official release date is January 21. This album will be entirely the solo work of Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski (also in Lord Mantis). PL has also begun streaming one of the album’s new songs, “Lightweaver”.
“Lightweaver” is a study in winding the coil and then letting it go. Avichi builds the tension, ratcheting it upward with storming, tremolo-picked scales . . . and then lets the storm break in a rocking beat with a bounding bass line . . . and then proceeds to tighten the spring again. And so it goes, back and forth. And through it all, Aamonael howls like a winter wolf while weaving a trilling (and thrilling) guitar melody, chaining together chaos and something approaching beauty. Listen next:
(DGR reviews the new album by Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon project. This is obviously an Exception to Our Rule.)
I have a deep and abiding love for the Ayreon project. Describing it to people on the occasions when I can do so has proven to be an endless source of entertainment because it always ends with someone just going, “That sounds ridiculous”. They’re right too. Ayreon is a ridiculous project, one in the business of making space metal operas filled with multiple characters represented by multiple singers and then having insane guestlists of musicians written up for each one as well.
It’s not so much that I love Ayreon for how well Arjen Lucassen does with the music, but more so because of the absolutely insane amount of ambition that the project has required. He has told stories that span galaxies and cover millenia in the blink of an eye, and he has wrangled some of the best vocal performances out of an amazing array of musicians that I’ve ever heard. It just seems so grand, and when it comes to that, The Theory Of Everything is at face value a concept disc about a father/son team of geniuses working to unite physics of the macro and quantum levels; yes, the whole thing just seems… ridiculous.
No matter how hard outlets like Popular Science, Bad Astronomer, and Io9 try, physics at a granular level isn’t a sexy subject (although googling ‘sexy physics’ has provided hours of entertainment), but the results are. When broken down into layman’s terms and punctuated with pretty pictures, physics can seem incredible, but physics is much like meeting your heroes/watching your favorite food being made. It loses a lot of that appeal when you realize how much bookwork/math/study goes into it. The idea of Ayreon tackling this subject, whilst also dealing with the ideals of a father who feels inadequate because his son ranks somewhere high on the savant/autism range, is remarkable.
Here are three new recommended videos that premiered in recent days, two of them this morning. Recommended by me, because I like them.
When Andy Synn reviewed Satyricon’s self-titled 2013 album for us, he wrote this about the song “Phoenix”: “Instantly divisive, seemingly designed to be hated, its clean, almost bluesy vocals (courtesy of Sivert Høyem) and ringing guitars initially like a step beyond all bounds of the group’s history. But look closer. Those drums, those slow-blooming riffs, they retain the essence of the band. Listen to what the song represents. They have rediscovered their spark, their fire, and their roots – but not perhaps in a way that they, or any of us, would have thought. It’s strange. It’s unexpected. It’s provocative… It’s Satyricon through and through.”
On September 8 Satyricon performed “Phoenix” as part of their concert with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus in the Norwegian Opera House in Oslo. That performance has now become the first official music video from the new album, and it again features Sivert Høyem on vocals. I love this song (and yes, I know it’s nothing but clean vocals), and the video is damned cool, too. Watch it next.
We get messages every day from bands who ask us to check out their music. I wish I had the time to listen to everything that comes in, but I don’t. I don’t even have time to write about everything I hear that I like. But I thought for this MISCELLANY post I would write about the music of the last five bands who wrote us over the weekend. Obviously, there’s not much rhyme or reason to the selection, and as you’ll see, the bands don’t have much in common with each other.
But that’s the way MISCELLANY works: I pick underground bands whose music I’ve never heard, I listen to one or two recent songs, I write up my impressions, and I stream the tracks so you can make up your own minds. Here we go:
Eastern Spell are a group of hairy, doomy dudes from Portland, Maine. Earlier this year they released a single via Bandcamp entitled Entraced, and about two weeks ago they also released a video for the song. Eastern Spell bring the misery with seismic resonance. It’s slow, pulverizing music, with burly riffs, agonized, gravel-throated vocals, and a drummer who sounds like he’s trying to drive his kit straight into the ground. Deep into the 11-minute song, the band briefly rumble into more animated life, and there’s a surprising (and beautiful) acoustic finish to the song, but in the main this is suffocating sludge/doom — done very well.
Two days ago New Jersey’s East of the Wall released their latest opus, Redaction Artifacts. It has already been showered with praise from many quarters, including Austin Weber’s review for our own humble site (here), which called the album “eclectic and captivating”, “a swirling hodge-podge of hostility, soothing calm, frequent tempo shifts, and beautiful singing mixed with hoarse bellows⎯all while being shred-filled and shaded by mercurial melodic explosions”, and the band’s “finest album yet”.
While we would like to believe that all right-thinking people accept our word in such matters as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — despite the fact that we rebelled against our own site’s name in recommending the album so strongly — the music speaks more powerfully than mere words. And while two songs from the album have previously been made available for streaming, we are privileged today to bring you Redaction Artifacts in its entirety. So listen to it next, and if you like what you hear, the album is available now, on CD through the band directly HERE, CD and digital at Amazon HERE, and the LP via Science Of Silence HERE.
Amiensus and Oak Pantheon are two Minnesota bands we watch closely at this site. Both of them produced debut albums in 2012 that we praised in our reviews — Restoration by Amiensus (reviewed here) and From A Whisper by Oak Pantheon (reviewed here). Both of them can be considered black metal bands, but both of them have incorporated so many other musical elements that diverge from the Scandinavian orthodoxy that one day we will have to concoct a new genre name for what they are doing. “American black metal” isn’t specific enough, and although both bands come far closer to Agalloch than they do Marduk or Taake, “Cascadian black metal” isn’t right either.
While we continue to ponder just what shorthand to use in describing what each of these bands are doing, we can now consider their latest creations, which come conveniently packaged together in a new forthcoming split release entitled Gathering. Before I heard a note, I had a good feeling, because both the main album cover (“The Plains of Heaven”) and the alternate cover (“The Great Day of His Wrath”) were crafted from 1849 paintings by John Martin, and that just exudes good taste, as does the decision to have both tracks mastered by Arsafes (Kartikeya, Above the Earth) (and he mixed the Amiensus track too). Those good feelings proved to be prescient, because both bands’ contributions to the split are stellar.
(NCS contributor Austin Weber reviews the new album by New Jersey’s East of the Wall.)
I first heard about East Of The Wall a few years ago while talking to their old bass player Brett Bamberger in Indianapolis. I talked to him after The Binary Code set when he proceeded to tell me he was merely a touring bass player and his actual band was called East Of The Wall. He ended up giving me their debut because I had spent all my money on merch. I listened to Farmer’s Almanac several times on the way home and became an instant fan. Now a few years later, and times have changed, yet East Of The Wall have only grown stronger with age. Since Farmer’s Almanac, they added vocals to their music and dropped several more albums, each a different snapshot of a multi-faceted style always in flux. This new album Redaction Artifacts is no different in that regard and is yet another welcome change sonically for the group.
A series of recent line-up shifts has seen Brett Bamberger leave and their guitarist/harsh vocalist Chris Alfano switch to bass in his absence. Guitarist Kevin Conway left as well, which made room for two new guitarists⎯Ray Suhy and Greg Kuter. While this did inevitably change some of their sound, the music here is no less experimental or tastefully complex than before. Redaction Artifacts includes the most clean singing of any album, as new guitarist Greg Kuter sings frequently in addition to an enhanced singing output from longtime guitarist Matt Lupo. Their combined range hits everywhere from what Tommy Rogers to what Chino Moreno sounds like, and then some. For a truly progressive band such as East Of The Wall, all this new blood and focus on singing are just more tools in the shed for them to use in making their music even more eclectic and captivating.
Last week I had the chance to see Sweden’s In Solitude perform in Seattle as support on a tour headlined by Watain (who, by the way, were stunningly good). I was already a fan of the band’s 2013 album Sister, but came away even more impressed because of the high quality of their live show — an experience marred only slightly by the over-the-top “I’m a rock god” posing of the band’s bass player in the spotlight at the center of the stage while the true rock god, vocalist Pelle Åman, positioned himself off to the side, head down, hair covering his face, belting out wailing vocals that were damned near pitch-perfect.
This morning I watched a new video of the band in an unusual setting that captures their skill in the flesh, as well as the brilliance of their songwriting. A Swedish TV channel called PSL journeyed to the band’s hometown of Uppsala last spring to interview the band. While there, In Solitude took the crew to the band’s favorite hometown place, the castle ruin of the bloodthirsty King Erik XIV, who descended into madness before ultimately being deposed and most likely poisoned while in prison. As PSL writes at their online blog:
As the clock struck 12 – exactly 446 years after the king orchestrated a bloodbath in the very room where we stood – the band played us the song ”A Burried Sun” from their latest album ”Sister”.
And that’s what’s captured on the shadow-blanketed video — the potent mix of occult rock, doom, and psychedelia that makes up “A Buried Sun” and the spooky power of Pelle Åman’s voice. It’s very cool, and it’s available for viewing right after the jump (and yes, the music is an Exception to the Rule around here).
(NCS contributor Austin Weber reviews the new album by Reflections from Minnesota.)
For me the best way to find good djent in a sea of boredom is to apply a four-fold set of criteria. Most important is to find the bands who are interesting songwriters, then look for the most unique grooves/groove patterns, followed by interesting and creative lead guitar-work, and lastly search for the bands who bring in outside influences and plenty of tempo changes to break up the mid-paced chugging. The new album Exi(s)t by Reflections satisfies all four of those criteria, and then some.
“Exit” starts off the album and lulls you into believing it’s merely an opening instrumental, until a terrifying wall of dissonant heaviness emerges in a way that’s reminiscent of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. In fact, a liberal dose of squeals, taps, and noisiness that reflect a strong Danza influence pop up and flavor many parts of Exi(s)t. By incorporating such touches, Reflections have found a sub-niche within djent to explore, and the effect is to grace their music with a palpable ferocity that often escalates into sheer hateful peaks.