When I started this site almost five years ago I picked the name “NO CLEAN SINGING” not so much to announce a rigid rule we intended to follow about the site’s content but more as a protest against something that had happened to the music of one band I used to care a lot about — Bury Your Dead. Matt Bruso had left the band to teach school and he had been replaced by Myke Terry, who introduced clean singing into their music, and the music just seemed to lose some of its weight all the way around.
Even though my musical tastes have evolved in increasingly extreme directions and I’ve lost touch with a lot of what’s happening in whatever scene is left of the one BYD inhabited, I still keep the early BYD albums in my car and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of them.
So, when a Facebook friend recently posted a link to a brand new EP named Weightbearer by a Spanish band named Dremenuart and made comparisons to the”über-low-tuned hardcore metal” of bands like early BYD, that pushed the right button and I had to check it out. I’m so very glad I did.
Today the Elemental Nightmares project released the fourth of the seven vinyl splits in the series, with a fourth segment (above) of what will eventually become one massive piece of artwork for the series as a whole — and as of today it’s also now available for download on Bandcamp.
I’ve been especially looking forward to this split because it features two old favorites of this site — Canopy and Obitus — as well as two new ones, Harasai and Kall.
Last summer we had the pleasure of premiering the tracks by Canopy and Harasai, and I’m going to include the accompanying write-up below, along with thoughts about the Obitus and Kall tracks. In a nutshell, this is a great quartet of pleasingly diverse songs.
It’s inevitable, given the heritage of Kall’s members, that their debut self-titled album will be compared to and contrasted with the music of their former band, Lifelover. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. To this day, almost four years after that band’s final album, Lifelover has such a devoted following that Kall will benefit from the attention, and I have little doubt that those fans will like Kall a lot.
But if I were in a band, I think I would prefer to have my music considered as it is, rather than described and evaluated in terms of its similarities or dissimilarities to the work of a predecessor group. And so, at least here, this is the last you’ll hear of Lifelover – other than to note that the album’s final song is named “Far väl” (“fare well”).
I’ve been waiting for this album since July of 2013, when I discovered a song from Kall named “Då, nu – Jag och Du” (and wrote about it) that was then planned to appear on a debut EP. A second song and an excerpt from a third one eventually followed, and I wrote about them, too — and then instead of an EP, this album finally appeared. It was worth the wait.
(DGR reviews the new third album by Xerath.)
Allow me to start this review by stating this fact; I am so happy that Xerath got the chance to record another album because Xerath records discs like music is going out of style. They are one of the few bands out there who rank incredibly high on the under-appreciated-to-ambition index, because every album the band have put out, despite their inauspicious album titles, have been massive slabs of music. I think they should deserve multiple opportunities in the future to do so based on their cover of “Speed Demon” by Michael Jackson, because it confirmed that I was not the only one who heard that bassline in the song and went, “There’s a metal song in this.”
Nobody really does the “bang for your buck” routine quite like Xerath do. They remind me of the time when a friend of mine ordered one of those gimmicky massive burgers that restaurants come out with, and when the waitress brought it out, we laughed at it because our simpleton minds could not comprehend the reality of this huge slab of meat sitting in front of us, we paid for it, boxed it, and left.
Xerath make no compromises in their music, and I absolutely love the fact that the FIRST SONG of this album is over seven minutes long, because for a group who should be earning a massive fan base, they love to put barriers to entry the size of the Berlin Wall at the front of their albums. In those seven minutes the band pack every single thing that has ever defined Xerath into one song: a huge blast of orchestration, a giant-sized serving of mid-tempo-focused groove riffs, super-high screaming and occasional clean singing. and complicated drumming. It’s like they were told III was going to be a one-song album.
But III is not a one-song trip. In fact, III has fourteen songs on it, and like its brethren I and II, the album includes long, arduous journeys through multiple landscapes — seemingly guided tours of a beautiful apocalypse, and you really have to be prepared for what you are about to undertake. III, also like its brothers, is a great album, but also shares in some of the issues that hampered them a bit as well. It’s a huge disc that needs to be approached as you would a thousand-mile journey, one step at a time.
(Our Nottingham-based writer Andy Synn ventured down to London to catch the Venereal Dawn Tour MMXIV and files this report, with video of the performances.)
From the moment it was announced, there really was no way I was going to miss this show. Two of my absolute favourite bands, Dark Fortress and Secrets of the Moon, along with one of this year’s best discoveries, the ineffable Schammasch, all on the same bill?
The fact that it was down in London, at The Underworld (a venue I’ve always loved) was both a blessing a curse, as it pretty much guaranteed a great sound and atmosphere for the night, but also necessitated leaving work early and making a three-hour (give or take) drive through the irritating London traffic.
Still, totally worth it.
In this post, we’re premiering the title track to Random Cosmic Violence, the new album on Relapse Records by Usnea from Portland, Oregon. If you’re smart and/or impatient, you’ll scroll down and just listen to it. But I have some things to say about the album as a whole, and I will have my say.
Almost everything about the album is huge. The human skeletal structure is sturdy, but it wasn’t made for the utterly crushing force of this music. It’s enough to collapse bone like an accordion. And the parts that aren’t cataclysmic are mostly disturbing, except when they’re entrancing.
The music is kindling for metaphors, if you’re given to that sort of thing, which I am. The album was named for a line by Carl Sagan in his book The Demon Haunted World, a line that explains our existence and that of the cosmos itself. We and everything around us, out to the limits of the universe, are the products of violence on a titanic scale. The music imagines all that cold, careless, destructive vastness.
I’m pathetically late in reviewing this split. My shame is magnified by the fact that I first heard the album months ago and knew from the first listen that it was one of the best I’d heard all year. It still is.
Each of these bands — Mexico’s Majestic Downfall and Australia’s The Slow Death — contribute three long songs, collectively totaling more than 67 minutes of doom.
The first of Majestic Downfall’s songs, “The Dark Lullaby”, is full of contrasts and is impressively dynamic, both in its pacing and in its changing moods. It joins together massive guitar tone and huge, brutish bass hammers with light, ringing acoustic guitar harmonies. It incorporates melodies that are both entrancing and drenched in sorrow. It pairs gargantuan roars that come up from some bottomless abyss with harrowing howls that convey sensations of intense anguish. Slow, skull-splitting riffs and gut-punching drums cohabit the song with ripping tremolo- and blastbeat-driven storm fronts. And in the song’s second half, you’re treated to a squalling guitar solo that will seize your attention, followed by a heavy guitar motif that wouldn’t be out of place in a Scandinavian-styled melodic death metal anthem.
(In this 7th and final installment of a multi-part piece, Austin Weber continues rolling out recommended releases from his latest exploratory forays through the underground. Previous installments are linked at the end of this post.)
Exhausted Prayer are one of my favorite Los Angeles metal bands, and their streamlined yet progressive merger of black and death metal is a thing of wonder to take in. They’ve been at this since 1997, and Ruined marks their fourth full-length as a group, completely self-released by the band. Somebody needs to sign these guys, for real.
Ruined is an organic, often heavily atmospheric and deeply breathing record — one whose airy yet not hollow production perfectly marries their impressive approach to fusing black and death metal together. Ruined sports a natural production, one which will likely require you to turn your speakers up since it isn’t a loud, brickwalled lump of pain. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to a record that isn’t an over-compressed offering that hurts to listen to with headphones.
According to The Font of All Human Knowledge:
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country’s aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride; for the symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My Homeland”), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native land; and for his First String Quartet, From My Life.
“My Fatherland” is described as a cycle of six symphonic poems. Interestingly, according to the article quoted above, it was composed after illness had rendered Smetana completely deaf in both ears. The second part of the cycle is entitled “Vltava” and it was finished in late 1874. As the article explains, it was named for, and inspired by, “the river that runs through Prague towards its junction with the Elbe [and] is Smetana’s best-known and most internationally popular orchestral composition”.
And why, you may ask, am I writing about Smetana and “Vltava“? Because the Czech black metal band Cult of Fire have recorded a two-song EP dedicated to the composer and will be releasing it on 7″ vinyl through Iron Bonehead Productions on the 140th anniversary of Smetana’s completion of “Vltava“: December 8, 2014. This is the band’s fourth studio release overall, and thus it’s entitled Čtvrtá Symfonie Ohně (The Fourth Symphony of Fire), with cover art created by David Glomba.
I’ve included in this post reviews of two new short releases that I strongly recommend to lovers of infernal music.
This five-person German black metal band whose members don’t publicize their identities released a 2009 demo (With Burning Tongues), an EP (Fire and Faith) in 2010, and then a full-length album (Consolamentum) later the same year. After the passage of nearly four years, they have now returned with a two-song release named Deathless Light that the World Terror Committee will release on Samhain (October 31).
Of the two songs on this release, both of which are long, the title track will appear on a forthcoming full-length album, while the second — “Garden of Stone” — was recorded exclusively to this release. Both songs are tremendously effective in creating atmospheres that are staggeringly heavy, grim, and often sorrowful — yet they are both charged with energy and passion, and the mainly clear production only magnifies their black power.