I’ve been waiting for this one anxiously. And then, as (bad) luck would have it, when my beautiful pumpkin orange vinyl copy of this 7″ split arrived late last week from Holy Terror Records, my turntable decided to turn mulish and uncooperative. Fortunately, Holy Terror relieved my frustration and spared that turntable a severe beating when it decided to begin streaming the two songs on Bandcamp beginning late yesterday.
The split features songs by two of the longest-running and most influential of U.S. black metal bands, Leviathan and Krieg. It is a natural pairing in many respects, not least because of the friendship between Leviathan’s Wrest and Krieg’s N. Imperial, and thus it’s not surprising that the idea for it was conceived almost a decade ago. Yet only now has the split become a reality. Impressions of the music follow…
(Austin Weber reviews the new album by Phobocosm from Montreal.)
A lot of modern death metal is shiny, flashy, and in addition, purely cutthroat. Well, the Montreal-based group Phobocosm are nothing like that. They are relentlessly ugly and unforgiving, often content to stew in misery at a slower pace, entrenched in massive, sickening riffs that churn bowels and cause minds to enter a state of hopeless insanity. If a cutthroat death metal record feels like a physical assault, then consider Phobocosm masters of taking that assault directly into your brain, feeding you clouded questions that don’t lead to any answers, submerging you in a sadness and longing that reeks of perversion. Deprived offers an evil and different take on the death metal sound. Yes, there is plenty of lively double-bass, and the album has its frenzied moments, but often this is a skulking, wounded beast — preaching a horror beyond gore, beyond death.
An eerie Immolation and Incantation influence is clear — from the riffs to the grooves to the structuring. However, Phobocosm are far from wholly a clone of either group. Besides those two points of reference, the music sometimes calls to mind the approach of Ulcerate, embracing and reflecting in atmospheric reverberations, sometimes by themselves and at other times mixed within the band’s full-throttle moments. The back and forth sway of the songs on Deprived is one of its greatest strengths, frequently manifesting a battle between faster and lurching tempos.
At still other moments on Deprived a black metal undercurrent is injected into the mix and further poisons the music’s already pitch-black feel. In this respect, the album is reminiscent of Deathspell Omega or Mitochondrion, though the blackened coloring occurs largely within a death metal framework overall.
(We welcome guest contributor Gorger, who explains himself and the objective of this new series as follows… )
Let me start off with a short presentation of myself. For almost a year I’ve been running a Norwegian metal site with a focus on reviews of metal releases. The site is split into two forms of reviews. There are the standard reviews, where I listen a plethora of times before writing a medium-long, moderately indept description with a dice-scaled rating, and then there are what I call “Impressions”, where I listen to an album a few times before writing short and somewhat impulsive description with a classification as Approved (V), Dissapproved (X), or Intermediate (VX).
Like Islander, I know what lack of time is. I have a wish of making a parallel, English-language version of my site, but that ain’t happening any time soon. When Islander told us all he’d be leaning back between two loud-speakers and enjoying some full albums for a change, I decided this was a perfect time to both give something back to this enlightening site and also do a “pilot” of English translations, to see how that would work. I plan to present 16 releases from the past two months over three posts, and the criteria are these:
-Only albums that have not earlier been presented in any way at NCS.
-Only music that fits the NCS profile (i.e., no clean singing)
-Only music that fits the NCS concept (i.e., only recommendable releases)
We are all excited to see which records will be reviewed by our host. In the meantime (yes, time is mean indeed) I hope you’ll find something interesting here. For those with Scandinavian linguistic skills, check out Gorger’s Metal.
I’ll put it all in chronological order. Now, let’s get started, shall we?
(DGR wrote this review of the debut album by Black Crown Initiate from Pennsylvania, which will be released tomorrow — Sept 30.)
It feels like music moves in ten-plus-year generational cycles, especially when it comes to heavy metal. This seems stupidly obvious, but the fact that it still continues unabated is pretty spectacular — because it allows people to sit around and prognosticate like true intelligentsia when it comes to even the most banal of subjects. You’ll have discs that come out right about the time a new generation can pick up on it and have their minds blown. In turn, they draw heavy influence from that specific time frame, and when it becomes their own turn to take the stage, it’s like watching the previous cycle re-incarnate, combined with some of the current sounds that are popular. And so, the sound iterates, especially in the case of heavy metal, as things move incrementally in different directions.
The past few years. especially, have really put the various spectra of death metal into the spotlight as both tech-death and progressive death have seen numerous new entries from young bands, groups who over the past decade have taken in so much of what began in the early aughts and now seek to put their own mark on it. Reading, Pennsylvania’s own Black Crown Initiate are one of those bands who have seemingly had the stars align for them. They are a young band who succeeded in finding the almost perfect combination of songwriting talent, musicianship, and artistic bravery to stretch well beyond their own genre conventions and managed to make quite the loud entrance with last year’s EP Song Of The Crippled Bull. You could tell, especially by our own review, that if Song Of The Crippled Bull was anything to go by, Black Crown Initiate were going to have a lot of heat behind them.
And so, we find ourselves looking to the band’s label debut, The Wreckage Of Stars, and if you haven’t quite figured out where this introduction is heading yet, let’s summarize it for you: There is a reason you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Black Crown Initiate over the past year, and if Wreckage Of Stars is anything to go by, you’re going to be hearing a hell of a lot more of them in the years to come.
Shiva Rudrastakam by the Nepalese band Dying Out Flame is one of the most unusual, most inventive, and most instrumentally accomplished metal albums you will hear all year. It fuses together elements of death metal reminiscent of bands like Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, and Behemoth with classical Hindu melodies and sanskrit chants. But it is far more than a stitching together of disparate musical traditions for the sake of creating a curiosity. It represents an authentic union of the creators’ passions, one that succeeds in finding an unexpected harmony in all these divergent ingredients.
An informative Decibel interview of the band’s co-founder, vocalist, and bass-player Aabeg Gautam reveals that the band’s name refers to the last phase of the burning of a corpse in the open air, an ancient Hindu sacrament designed to release the soul from the body after death, with fire acting as the medium between man and god. In the same interview Gautam calls the band “the instruments of Lord Shiva”. But even without these disclosures, the extent to which spiritual themes have inspired and fueled the band is abundantly evident in the fiery music itself.
The songs are impressively dynamic, ever-changing in ways that are fascinating rather than jarring. There is no doubt that the band could have recorded an album of pure death metal, both written and performed with an exceptional level of skill: In every song after the introductory track they unleash powerful torrents of brutal fret-burning riffs and hyper-active percussion with jaw-dropping flair. Yet this is only one facet of an intricately layered and vibrantly multi-textured work.
(Austin Weber witnessed the live performances of Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, and Gigan in Covington, Kentucky, on September 24, 2014, and provides this report and a big collection of photos.)
With this tour, three of the brightest and best modern American death metal bands have united to present one of the best tour lineups of the year — one with no crappy/boring support bands, and with each bringing a defined and unique identity to the table. All three share a similar convention-denying approach and an out-of-the-box nature.
So I made the hour-and-a-half, each way, trek to Covington, KY, near Cincinnati, to take in this most marvelous show. While I have often had Nik Vechery accompany me and take photos, I was unable to line that up, so I took the pictures as well. A few are scattered throughout the review, and the rest are collected at the end.
Unfortunately, the camera I borrowed from my roommate I had never used before, and due to putting Gigan up for the night on the evening preceding the show, I had no time to mess with various photo settings, exposure settings, and the like. So, while shooting the show I had fun going nuts switching up the ISO settings and varying the exposure speed to trippy effect, although I didn’t get as many pictures of Artificial Brain as I would have liked.
Still, I think I got some wild shots that express the energy and insanity of the bands who played. I missed most of the opening band, whose name I did not catch, so I focused on shooting and covering the bands who were touring. I was pleasantly surprised that the sound for the small venue in question, Backstage Cafe, was excellent and perfectly captured the spirit and vitality of all the bands present.
(Andy Synn delivers another installment of his irregular series of album reviews in haiku. Two more reviews come after the jump. With music, of course.)
Time for some more of your favourite bastardised poetry, courtesy of another edition of the world-famous Reviews in Haikus!
This time around we’ve got three bands all dressed in various shades of Black (Metal) for you to enjoy…
FROM THE VASTLAND – TEMPLE OF DAEVAS
A huge step forward
Blistered vocals, blazing riffs
Burning black magic
(In this post we present Andy Synn’s review of the forthcoming second album by Norway’s Hellish Outcast and an exclusive premiere of the song “Heresiarch.)
It’s always nice to see a band you love progress and move forward. Whether it’s in terms of getting proggier and weirder, or just downright heavier and nastier, it’s always such a joy to watch them grow up.
Case in point: It’s been two and a half years since Hellish Outcast unleashed their debut album of fist-clenching riffage and throat-bursting agony on the world, but it’s clear that they’ve not been idle in the intervening time.
No, they’ve been sharpening their knives, honing their skills, and biding their time. And now they’re ready for war once again.
Faster, heavier… fundamentally darker and more malevolent than ever, Stay of Execution improves on the band’s debut in pretty much every way, drastically ramping up the kill-count with a merciless display of calculated lethality and an undercurrent of sinister, progressive melody.
(Austin Weber reviews the forthcoming debut album by Singularity.)
By now, you’ve probably heard of Singularity here at No Clean Singing, either through the recent “Throne Of Thorns” song premiere we did recently, or my post regarding them last year. But if you haven’t heard them, now is your chance for redemption, because this band is incredible and worthy of your attention.
They are a self-described technical black metal act from Tempe, Arizona, and that genre tag certainly holds true, though within there blackened madness is a boatload of technical and melodically infused death metal.
Singularity are experts at fusing a malleable, shifting mixture of black metal and technical death metal together, to arrive at a new, previously unexplored horizon of majestic grimness. They are aided in their goal by a grandiose veneer of powerful orchestral key work, a characteristic present on all tracks, in a way somewhat akin to Fleshgod Apocalypse. Yet musically, they are a completely different group whose music is worlds apart; the orchestral sound just happens to be integrated and fuels the fervor of the tracks in a similar way.
(Andy Synn reviews the new seventh album by Germany’s Dark Fortress.)
Quite often I see the music of Dark Fortress categorized as “Melodic Black Metal”, and while it is strongly, and darkly, melodic, and it’s definitely Black Metal… I still feel like that particular classification is something of a misnomer.
I don’t know about you, but when I think “Melodic Black Metal”, my mind immediately goes to the masterful Dissection and all their ilk, and while the earliest Dark Fortress albums certainly fell in line with that style, their third album, 2004’s Stab Wounds, signified the beginning of a major stylistic shift, one that has, over the years since, led the band into deeper, darker waters.
The addition of Morean on vocals for 2008’s Eidolon seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle necessary for the band to fully manifest their new-born identity, one of fire and anguish and boundless creative freedom, and paved the way for the complex and multi-faceted metallic madness of Ylem, perhaps the band’s finest hour thus far.
Venereal Dawn is certainly a spiritual follow-up to Ylem in many ways – indeed, without many of the creative seeds planted by that album much of Venereal Dawn simply would not exist – and yet it is far, far removed from being a simple copy.
Intimately progressive and hauntingly introspective, it is perhaps a less extreme and less technical album than its predecessor, albeit still dripping with black fire and venom, yet it remains just as challenging and creatively ambitious, and always true to the band’s own unorthodox ethos.