(Andy Synn reviews the new album by UK-based Eye of Solitude)
Some albums are a real slog. They drag, they stagger, they pull you down. They’re like a car crash in slow motion (and not in the good way). You simply can’t turn away from them. You get through them only by virtue of sheer will-power and bloody-minded perseverance.
Those are the bad albums.
Others are an epic journey. Physically and emotionally draining, yet cathartic and captivating. They hook their fingers into your soul and simply refuse to let go until the last dying note. Every step along the way reveals something new, something memorable and magical, making every aching mile worth the effort and toll.
This is one of those albums.
(In this post DGR reviews the new fourth album, now available on Bandcamp, by the one-man entity known as The Howling Void.)
Winter has descended upon Northern California, leaving us all frozen in ice cubes every morning at the shock of sub-thirty-degree weather. As usual, the melancholy mood that strikes around this time of year has found us once again, and so we shift in terms of music from the speed, tech-death, thrash, melo-death, and grind upon which most of this year’s listening has been spent and crawl into to the familiar comforts of the slow, depressing depths of the metal subgenre known as doom — specifically, the type that is remarkably European, laden with keyboards, and created to make the listener envision vast, open fields covered in snow or cities long destroyed, slowly being overtaken by ice. Ethereal almost, if the word strikes you.
When Nightfall by The Howling Void came across the metaphorical desk of yours truly it peaked my interest, in part by defining itself as glacially slow doom and in part because it came from Texas. Not to generalize North America in any sense, especially considering the humongous variety of metal that we have put out and adapted to our own sensibilities over time, but much of the doom that seems to come out of this continent is of the low-fi, fuzzed out, stoner doom sect, rarely using the term “glacial”.
“Glacial” brought up images of slow-moving ice and thus immediately connected to the idea of the more ethereal brand of doom that seems to be a mainstay in Europe, especially when combined with this album’s forest-themed artwork and the band’s logo. From the very start, these signposts made it pretty clear what The Howling Void aimed to achieve on Nightfall, and the album succeeds, coming out of nowhere with a pleasant surprise of that slow, depressing movement for which we come to this genre.
(Our UK-based writer Andy Synn was present when Watain, Funeral Throne, and Coltsblood played Birmingham, England last weekend, and he delivers this report.)
Is there a better way to spend a Saturday evening than experiencing the metallic musical rituals of Satan’s own special cheer-squad, Watain? Maybe a few, but not many that don’t involve taking off your clothes…
As it stands, myself and my good friend Gary (both fully clothed) jaunted our way over to Birmingham early Saturday evening. Arriving a little earlier than we needed to (despite doors opening at 6:00), we dropped into a pub on the corner, and eventually found ourselves seated at a table right next to the headliners and their entourage.
Obviously we didn’t want to bother them – particularly since the group formed a tight knit and inviolable circle that exuded a certain “keep away from us” vibe – so we just decided to enjoy our beers and catch up. It was, however, interesting to see how far the band have co-opted the biker/gang mentality and look, everyone dutifully wearing their patches and “colours”. It works for them though. Watain (and their associates) have always been a “gang” – now it’s just more visually obvious.
(TheMadIsraeli continues his retrospective assessment of the discography produced by the seminal death metal band Pestilence, whose new album Obsideo was released recently. The first part of this series can be found here, the second part here, and the third part here.)
Spheres, released in 1993, would be Pestilence’s last record for quite a while. I don’t know exactly what prompted that delay, although I know Spheres was not at all well-received. Maybe it was a record too ahead of its time, who knows. As far as it appeared, Pestilence were done. Mameli would go on to try and make a band called C-187 (who were widely regarded as absolutely terrible) his new haven, but it didn’t work out.
So, with so many years of silence and the only peep from the band’s founding member being something that never got off the ground, I think people must’ve been shocked when a Pestilence reunion was announced. I remember the great deal of hesitancy on the part of Pestilence fans at that time, principally those who felt Spheres was garbage and those who remembered C-187.
It sucked, the skepticism that Mameli was under. As I stated in the last piece, I think Spheres is a great record. I will say, though, that C-187 was not exactly the best musical move. The man was under a lot of pressure, and every Pestilence record post-reunion has suffered from what I felt was shallow and baseless criticism. People were and still are hung up on Consuming Impulse. I can’t say I get it.
(BadWolf reviews the remarkable collaborative effort by two St. Louis bands: The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket.)
I’ve had to re-write this review around three times to really sum up my feelings about A Black Sea, the collaborative album from St. Louis sludge metal band The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket, a folk outfit from the same city. Although I haven’t had much time to listen to the album, I feel quite strongly that it is one of the finest extreme metal albums released in 2013.
I first heard of this project right here, when Islander posted a stream of “Wolves,” the first cut from this album. That song’s mix of metal and folk brought up more than a few touchstone sounds—Agalloch and Neurosis, most obviously, and Opeth and Cobalt to a lesser degree. It made a good enough first impression to put A Black Sea near the top of my priority list.
Consider expectations met. A Black Sea is the sort of album that one can listen to from front-to-back and then re-start. Both Indian Blanket and The Lion’s Daughter carry a versatile array of styles, and employ every one of them on this album. As a result, even though the overriding mood stays bleak, the album winds from churning sludge to delicate acoustic passages—it feels every bit like a journey across the titular sea, or into the foreboding, prehistoric forest depicted on the cover.
(In this extensive guest post, Booker details the history of Greek band Chaostar, reviews the band’s discography, and provides lots of sample music and videos.)
Every now and then some of our favourite metal musos delve into that ‘other’ territory of music – you know, that strange place that incorporates all those non-metal genres. It’s terrifying to think some people actually enjoy pop for example, but the world is a dark place, full of all kinds of horrors and outlandish fetishes. While we’re all familiar with fusion of metal with other genres, what I’m talking about here is when metal musicians release entire albums with their feet squarely planted in non-metal territory. And if you’re reading this blog you’d probably agree with me that metal can boast some of the most amazing musicians on the planet, so it can be interesting to see what their minds produce when put to other ends.
Which brings us to the topic of this here rant – Christos Antoniou, of Septic Flesh, not only sports some of the greatest dreads in metal, but has revealed himself over the years to be quite a creative individual indeed, and with a degree from the prestigious London College of Music, it should be no surprise that he is responsible for the symphonic elements in Septic Flesh’s works, particularly more prominent on their latest albums. But probably lesser-known is that he has also been the helm of a side-project in the form of Chaostar – a neo-classical “band” he uses to pursue his more experimental side as a composer.
Over the years the band has also included other members of Septic Flesh — Spiros Antoniou (aka Seth Siro Anton, vocalist; who has also done some of the band’s artworks), and now Fotis Bernando (drummer for Septic Flesh) — as well as a cross-over of musical elements between the bands. So if you’re in the mood for a retrospective look over their discography of experimental, often gothic, but largely non-metal, works, read on…
(TheMadIsraeli continues his retrospective assessment of the discography produced by the seminal death metal band Pestilence, whose new album Obsideo was released recently. The first part of this series can be found here and the second part here.)
So, after you’ve released a beast of an album, an album that is praised as one of the greatest death metal records ever, what do you do from there? After releasing Consuming Impulse, Pestilence were at a point where the band had to either continue doing the same thing over and over again with consistently stellar results (not an easy thing), or take a ninety-degree turn and pave a new way.
I suppose I really should be saying Patrick Mameli in particular here, because in the end this is HIS band. This becomes no more apparent than during the period after Martin Van Drunen leaves and Mameli takes up both the guitar and mic duties again. For the Pestilence name, the music that would be produced in the next two records would be a definite risk. Neither containing the feral savagery of Malleus… nor retaining the foaming-at-the-mouth ferocity of Consuming Impulse, the next round of Pestilence material would see Mameli exploring progressive structures and ideas, and digging back into and even further exploring the alien brand of riffing found on Malleus….
It’s here that we’ll see experimentations with odd time signatures, fringe elements brought in from other sub-genres (some jazz fusion elements, black metal, and doom metal stuff) and an overall disregard for the conventional. This is where Pestilence would become associated with the likes of Cynic, Death, and Atheist.
(We are delighted to welcome Mick from the excellent Brutalitopia metal blog to our site with this guest review of the new album by Hypnos.)
I suppose I’m preaching to the choir, but No Clean Singing does an outstanding job of introducing all of us to new bands. In response to Islander’s call to arms for guest posts, I figured I’d return the favor to the NCS community and contribute a band I just discovered a couple months ago that really took me by surprise… so much so that *spoiler alert* it should be making an appearance on my year-end list over at Brutalitopia. If post-metal is your thing, you’re going to want to have Hypnos on your radar.
Hailing from Lyon, France, Hypnos is a five piece post-metal band that sent me a promo back in September for their debut album, The Fall. Despite being a generally lazy listener, I thankfully hopped on this album a few weeks after getting word about it. Only six tracks in length, The Fall utilizes atmospheric passages that bring acts like Isis and Mouth Of The Architect to mind, while throwing in harsh vocals that are somewhat akin to Behemoth. These harsh vocals dominate the album, which, much to the glee of many readers here I’m sure, leaves the album void of clean vocals and accentuates some of the droning harshness The Fall takes the listener through.
(In this post TheMadIsraeli continues his retrospective assessment of the discography produced by the seminal death metal band Pestilence, whose new album Obsideo was released recently. The first part of this series can be found here.)
Fucking finally I can fucking get back to this fucking shit and fucking write about fucking metal and shit. I must finish this Higher Criticism series and review Obsideo before the year is over or else my lungs will claw their way out of my ass (you can thank Michael Swaim of Cracked for that one) from the feeling of abject failure.
I both love and hate these two records. They stand as a testament to the pinnacle of how thrashy death metal can and SHOULD be done. In a way, I think Pestilence can be considered the most influential factor in the birth of the so called deathrash style. I mean, there were other bands sure, but not many who weaved the two styles together this seamlessly at the time. Maybe Devastation, and maybe early Death, but those are about the only other examples that occur to me.
(Andy Synn reviews the seventh studio album by Sepultura.)
Talking about a new Sepultura album is surprisingly difficult.
The politics, the media attention, the factions, and the infighting – both between the band and ex-members, and between the fans of various eras – mean that getting any sort of clarity of feeling or judgement can be a tricky business. It’s very easy to be biased or prejudiced, one way or the other, when it comes to a band with so much contentious history.
It’s a bit unfortunate that this is the case, as The Mediator… (as it shall henceforth be referred to for brevity’s sake) continues what I see as a pretty damn fine run of form for the modern incarnation of the band, a group who simply refuse to rest on their laurels or let their legacy continue to be defined solely by past glories.