I intended to get this roundup posted yesterday, but obviously my word is no good. So it comes today
The artwork at the top of this post grabbed my attention. It was created by Aaron Turner (of Isis fame, and a prolific graphic artist) for a 12″ release coming on Record Store Day from A389 Recordings. The title is Bloodlet – Live on WFMU-FM (03.23.95), and as the title suggests it’s a previously unreleased live recording from about 20 years ago that was recently mastered for this release.
Bloodlet is a name I’ve heard before, though I can’t remember if I ever heard their music. They made a name for themselves in the 90s as a metallic hardcore band (long before the “metalcore” label came into currency). They’ve been on hiatus since 2003, but reunited to play the A389 Records X Anniversary Bash in Baltimore on January 18, 2014.
As previously advised, I’m on the road again in the grasp of my fucking day job, but I did carve out some time to make the rounds in search of new things and, as usual, found quite a lot to like. Because time is short, I’ll divide what I found into two posts, this being the first.
HOUR OF PENANCE
Almost exactly two years have passed since Italy’s Hour of Penance delivered their last album, Sedition, which was excellent. Today the band announced details about the release of their next album: The name is Regicide, and it will be coming our way via the Prosthetic label on May 13 in North America (May 12 in the UK and EU, May 16 in Germany).
From a previous Facebook post by the band, I know that the album art was created by the same Gyula Havancsák (Hjules Illustration and Design), whose work for Arkona’s new album we featured here recently. He also created the covers for HoP’s Sedition and Paradogma.
I’m headed for the airport again this morning, and then winging my way back to sunny Southern California for my day job, returning to sodden Seattle on Sunday. This will again restrict my blog time. Before leaving, I wanted to share a few recent discoveries.
This Toronto band, whose three members prefer to remain anonymous, released a self-titled EP in 2011, and now they have a debut full-length on the way. Entitled Sacred White Noise, it’s coming out on April 15th via Dark Descent. Not long ago the band premiered an advance track named “The Bright White Nothing At the End of the Tunnel”. I’ve been meaning to check it out, and finally did so last night — and I’m in love.
There’s a writhing, dissonant guitar lead that begins almost immediately and then intermittently continues to whip and squirm its way throughout the rest of the song, and once heard it’s hard to forget. But that’s only part of the music’s attraction. The song also includes hammering percussion, scalding riffs, bestial black metal vocals, and a load of other strange but magnetic repeating motifs.
I would guess that established metal bands face a quandary every time they begin work on a new album. By “established metal bands” I mean those who have put out enough records over a long enough period of time that they have a well-defined sound and, by metal standards, a large and relatively devoted fan base. I’m guessing, because I’m not in an established metal band and don’t know anyone who is. Fortunately, lack of first-hand knowledge has never held me back from expressing opinions.
Here’s the quandary: You can continue to do the same kind of thing you’ve done before. This is the safe route. You know you will probably please the die-hard fans, because you’re giving them what they’ve liked in the past. You’ll please your record label, because whatever pleases your established fan base most likely means predictable sales. And because it’s the same kind of music you’ve done in the past with success, you can be reasonably confident that you won’t fuck it up.
But maybe it’s not so safe. Because there’s a difference between writing good new songs that are recognizably YOU and… coasting. Coasting is risky, and I would guess (see above re my complete lack of personal knowledge) that it’s also boring for the people in the band. And when people in a band start to get bored, they’re on the brink of a death spiral.
This round-up of news and new music is skewed toward the especially dark, depraved, nihilistc end of the extreme metal spectrum, hence the name “Shades of Black”, even though only two of the bands march under the black metal banner.
Once you’ve seen Jef Whitehead’s cover for the new album by Chicago’s Lord Mantis, you really don’t forget it. I splashed it across the top of our site when it became public about two weeks ago, though back then I hadn’t yet heard any of the music from Death Mask. Now I have, and man, it makes a scarring impression, too.
The song that premiered last Friday is the album’s searing opening track, “Body Choke”. Three things about it stand out. First, there’s the visceral pounding of the rhythm section, with Charlie Fell’s bass and Bill Bumgardner’s drumming interacting like men at work on a demolition project. Second, there are Fell’s vocals, which sound like a man drowning in sulfuric acid. And third, there are the doomed, devastating, degraded riffs; they create a choking, noxious atmosphere.
You will want to headbang. You may also want to open a vein.
Masha Scream, photo by Greg Shanta
Russia’s Arkona have completed a new album named Yav. It will be released on April 25. I’m very interested in hearing it, not only because I’ve enjoyed previous recordings but also because I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the two live Arkona performances I’ve seen so far in Seattle. The frontwoman Masha Scream is a force of nature on stage, in addition to the fact that she has a great dual voice (both harsh and clean).
I’ve read that for the new album she wrote almost all of the music and almost all of the lyrics, which was the first time it dawned on me that her role in Arkona goes well beyond that of vocalist and magnetic stage presence. But this post actually isn’t about her, or anyone else in the band. It’s about Gyula Havancsák, the Hungarian artist who created the artwork for Yav.
In addition to creating the album cover, which you will see in a minute, he also created pieces for each of the album’s 9 songs. Beginning last week, Arkona began posting the song illustrations on their Facebook page, along with poetic translations of the Russian lyrics into English. So far, five of the illustrations have appeared, and they’re very cool. You can see them next, along with the album cover. To hear a teaser of the new music, go to this location.
I’m still catching up on news, new music, and video premieres that I didn’t have time to write about late last week while I was on the road for my day job. In addition to what I pulled together yesterday, I’ve got the following four items to recommend.
Khonsu is the Norwegian band started by multi-instrumentalist S. Grønbech. We wrote about Khonsu frequently in 2012 during the run-up to release of their debut album Anomalia (which was reviewed here by Andy Synn). On Anomalia, Grønbech was joined by his brother Arnt (aka Obsidian Claw, guitarist/keyboardist for Keep of Kalessin) as well as Keep of Kalessin’s vocalist Thebon. I hadn’t heard much about Khonsu since then, but last weekend brought a flood of news — and yesterday brought a new song and video.
The news is that Khonsu will release a new full-length album this fall, and a new EP entitled Traveller will be released for download on March 22. Beginning yesterday, and on each Saturday through that release date, Khonsu will add new songs from the EP for streaming on YouTube. There are five in total, including new versions of two KoK songs originally released in 2003 (“Traveller” and “Ix”), a cover of “Army of Me” by Bjørk, and a purely electronic version of “The Malady” from Anomalia. But the first song released yesterday through a music video is a new one that will appear on the forthcoming album: “Visions of Nehaya”.
I’m still being squeezed by my day job, with a road trip adding to the squeezing, but I do have the following four discoveries from yesterday that I’d like to toss your way.
Ifing is a two-man band consisting of Fritz Petersen and Tim Wicklund. They live in the wilds of Grand Rapids, Michigan. They named their band after the great river in Norse mythology that separates the realms of the gods from the giants. And if you think that may be the beginning of a clue to the music, you may be right.
They have recorded a debut album entitled Against the Weald, and it’s scheduled for release by the excellent Finnish label Blood Music on May 6. Yesterday Terrorizer premiered a song from the album named “The Stream”. At more than 13 minutes in length, “The Stream” takes up almost half of Against This Weald‘s running time. I still thought it was too short.
Here’s the second round-up of new music I promised earlier today. It doesn’t include everything I had originally planned to cover because… fucking day job… so I’ll try to shoe-horn the rest into a post tomorrow.
Metal Blade announced today that it will be releasing the fifth album by Tennessee’s Whitechapel on April 29 in NorthAm. The title is Our Endless War, and the cover art by Aaron Marsh (with a new logo) can be seen above. The band have described the album as one that includes “dashes of every record we have done so far mixed with the intensity of a new sound.” And they’ve also given us a first taste of what’s coming through a lyric video for a new song: “The Saw Is the Law”.
This track betrays the band’s death core roots in some respects, which could be a plus or a minus depending on your perspective. But it’s also a very heavy storm — a bludgeoning, howling hurricane loaded with interwoven cut-throat riffs, hammer-smashing grooves, and a dose of rapid-fire vox.
Although the dreaded day job is impinging on my precious blog time for the next couple of days, I did have time last night and this morning for a fast breaststroke through the fetid waters of the interhole and the NCS inbox. When I came up for air, I had managed to snag some items of interest — so many, in fact, that I’ve divided them into two posts, this one being the first.
According to a press release from Season of Mist, Misery Index (above) have finished recording their fifth album, which will be named The Killing Gods. It was recorded at Visceral Sound Studios with Scott Hull (Pig Destroyer). It will be released on May 27 in NorthAm (May 23 everywhere else, because… I don’t know why everywhere else gets it sooner). The album art has been finished, but it’s not yet available for public consumption.
“Highly anticipated” — I think that’s the appropriate cliched label for this album. In other words, I am high with anticipation. And anyone else who’s a fan of grindcore and/or death metal ought to be, too. Let’s have a little taste from their last studio album, shall we?