(In this post BadWolf reviews the live performances by Mayhem, Watain, and Revenge at El Corazon in Seattle on January 27, 2015, with photos by Madison Lieren.)
For a minute there I was so inundated with European black metal, its tropes, and its lyrical hullabaloo, that I forgot about the genre’s troubled, violent, church-burning past, and in a sense that’s where I wanted to be from the get-go, since unlike some people I actually found the genre’s flirtations with homicide and terrorism to be a turn-off before I actually listened to the music.
Leave it to Norway’s Mayhem, original purveyors of quote-unquote dangerous black metal to drag me back into my discomfort zone by headlining the Black Metal Warfare tour, a nationwide trek wherein the second generation provocateurs, alongside Watain and Revenge, inspired mosh pits, threw blood on the crowd, and peddled tee shirts lionizing “Panic, Terror, Arson, Metal, Chaos.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” I thought to myself, looking at the merch rack hobbled in the corner of Seattle’s El Corazon, “I fucking love blowing stuff up. Silly me, where *did* my balls go?” A prescient thought, as the night wound up being a testament to testicular fortitude.
Not long ago we included a feature about the title track to a new album by Poland’s Kurhan in one of our occasional round-ups of impressive new songs. Now we have the pleasure of bringing you a full stream of the entire album, the title of which is Głód (“hunger”).
When I first heard the title track, it really grabbed me by the jugular. I compared it to taking a ride on a whirlwind, or something like being caught in a swarm of bats embarking on a night of feeding at full speed. But in addition to unleashing a plethora of technically impressive high-speed riffs and hard-hitting percussion, Kurhan made the song a rhythmically dynamic work and threaded appealing strands of dark melody into their blazing tapestry as well.
Now having heard the entire album, more metaphors come to mind. Listening to it is like being dropped into a war zone, with shrapnel flying fast and furious and bursts of adrenaline flooding the bloodstream from all the imminent peril.
(Our man Austin Weber turns in this review, with his photos, of a recent performance by Felix Martin and company in Louisville, Kentucky.)
Beyond it’s aggressive attraction, metal at its core is about evolution and will, a desire to explore experimental and uncharted musical territory. In just the past few years, 14-string guitarist Felix Martin has been wowing audiences and expanding upon his unique blend of genres, playing largely in an eight-finger, two-handed tapping manner, one hand on each neck of a double-necked guitar configuration. His playing spans metal, jazz, blues, traditional Venezualuen music, country, and other genres that you’ll discover as as you delve into his back-catalogue, starting with his first record, Bizarre Rejection, a record that I’m proud to own.
Recently here at NCS, I wrote about his latest video, and also mentioned his most recent tour. Unfortunately for me, though, his tour date in my hometown of Louisville was added at the last minute, so I was unable to request time off work. This meant that I had to rush to the venue after work and missed the set of NCS favorites Barishi, arriving just as Felix Martin and his band were setting up. Really pissed that I missed Barishi because of work, but I tried to make it up to them by having Barishi and Felix Martin and his band stay at my place for the night.
It has come to this
Family mansion for this life
Family tomb for the next
Shroud of Despondency have done it to me again. Last November, not knowing much about the band, I decided to devote just a few minutes to their new EP, Defective Overpass, just to see what it was like. And the music promptly shoved all my other plans over the side and wouldn’t let me alone until I had gotten my thoughts about it up on this site.
I found out yesterday that the band’s final album, Family Tomb, is now available on Bandcamp. I thought I was better prepared this time, having heard the EP. But I wasn’t. And here I am again, unable to do anything else I had planned to do until I’ve spilled my thoughts all over this page.
I haven’t listened to the album as much as I should, and I haven’t spent as much time writing this review as I should — but I have to tell you about this album, and I need to do it now.
(Andy Synn penned this review of the new album by Germany’s Porta Nigra.)
Inspiration is an unpredictable mistress. You can never be sure when, or how, she’s going to strike.
I hadn’t planned on reviewing Kaiserschnitt, not consciously anyway. Even though I still have a lot of sick love for Fin de Siècle, Porta Nigra’s devilish debut, I initially intended to listen to their latest release merely to satisfy my curiosity. After all, I had other, more important things to be focussing on.
Or so I thought.
As I said, inspiration strikes at the oddest times and in the strangest of ways, and from my first listen to the album I found myself making up the disconnected mental notes and disordered comparisons which, ultimately, have come together to make up this review. I couldn’t have predicted it, I certainly hadn’t planned on it, but here we are anyway.
(Grant Skelton reviews the new album by a Norwegian band named The Devil and the Almighty Blues.)
Even a cursory listen to metal will reveal elements of two of its parent genres, blues and jazz. But metal’s kinship with these genres does not end with musical derivation and composition. Metal, blues, and jazz also share similar folklore. Long before parents were blaming Dee Snider and Rob Halford for their little hellions’ (see what I did there?) adolescent tyranny, jazz was called “the devil’s music.”
One might trace this attribution to the decadence of the “Roaring 20’s.” Alcohol was outlawed, and that meant no sales taxes. On the black market, anyone who could provide alcohol could make a pretty penny from a customer who wanted his choice poison. As it happened, the establishments that provided the booze provided the music. Jazz itself had nothing to do with the alcohol, cocaine, and hedonistic sexuality of this era. But in the minds of many, jazz was guilty by association. Sin sells. And in the 20’s, jazz was its soundtrack.
(Here we have Austin Weber’s review of the new album by Sarpanitum, from the UK and Japan.)
I often follow new or lesser-known metal bands after hearing flashes of brilliance that hint at possible future growth and evolution. This is exactly the reason I began following Sarpanitum after hearing their 2011 EP Fidelium. It was an interesting effort, but now they’ve moved from hinting at brilliance in spots to displaying brilliance in spades on their second full-length, Blessed Be My Brothers.
If you want a sonic snapshot of what Sarpanitum seem to execute, song after song with ease, imagine a merger between Hate Eternal and Nile that then gets a heavy melodic boost and focus, while surrounded by blackened infusions and enhanced by atmosphere-building moments that add a dual epic/triumphant feel to Blessed Be My Brothers.
(Austin Weber reviews the forthcoming second album by Imperial Triumphant from New York City.)
From time time that rare band will come along that ushers in a paradigm shift, one whose style and ideas will be aped by countless other groups, the majority of which will never be able to improve upon what inspired them. Throughout the history of metal (and all other musical genres) this pattern has held true, no matter how much the metal community likes to talk of the good old days where everything sounded unique, which is a revisionist lie. However, though a rare accomplishment, there will always be a few acts capable of shifting and squirming out of the confines of their influences and branching out into new territory.
As modern metal has increased in complexity, genre-defining bands such as The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Necrophagist, Gorguts, Ulcerate, and Deathspell Omega have provided inspiration that, in most hands, amounts to little more than re-tread templates used by bands who have a hard time making it their own. I mentioned Deathspell Omega last because their surging influence in black metal, and recently in death metal to degrees, is something I welcome, but often those who take influence from them seem to produce music that is more “in the vein of” than anything which improves upon Deathspell Omega or takes what they did to a musically new or different place.
As I said though, it’s a trend I am definitely behind, as it has led to a paradigm shift in the sound of many newer black metal bands. Yet I still do want to hear someone build upon that foundation to create something new rather than repetitive.
All of this is on my mind because New York City-based Imperial Triumphant have done this. They are the real deal — they have drawn inspiration from Deathspell Omega, but they’ve managed to meld that with classical influences, droning psychedelia, and an often death-metal-styled ruthlessness, coming out the other side with a warped sound distinctly their own. Their new album, Abyssal Gods, is everything they’ve done before, yet taken to so many higher and darker levels, showcasing even crazier, more manic drumming, even more insane songwriting, and somehow, even weirder riffs than before.
(Comrade Aleks, whose name is usually seen in our pages because of the interviews he delivers, has now brought us a review of a most interesting album by the Peruvian band Reino Ermitaño.)
Peruvian shamans of traditional doom Reino Ermitaño have a consistent approach to their work throughout, and they’re always loyal to their roots and folk traditions. I think that is one of reasons why, step by step, the band have created stable and quality stuff since 2001, improving their skills and succeeding with new, authentic records. Reino Ermitaño’s last album Conjuros de Poder was released in autumn 2014 on the band’s own label Ogro Records right before the start of their European tour.
The title of the album translates as “Spells of Power”, and they’re not empty words. For those who hear the band’s name for the first time, I need to tell that the key elements of Reino Ermitaño’s music are heavy, doomy riffs, highly enthusiastic and profound guitar solos, the strong and seditious vocals of Tania Duarte, who sings in Spanish, and lyrics on mystical topics enhanced by elements of tribal melodies and rituals. But first of all, Reino Ermitaño play doom.
Five years after their debut album Messio and three years after their last release of any kind, the Moscow doom band Aethyr have returned with a new full-length entitled Corpus. In advance of its February 19 release by Cimmerian Shade Recordings, we’re pleased to being you a full stream of the album in all of its staggering immensity. But I need to immediately apologize for calling Aethyr a “doom band”, because the music on Corpus is not so easily summed up.
Across the seven tracks and 50 minutes of music that make up Corpus, Aethyr integrate elements of black metal, sludge, and ambient noise into their core framework of titanic doom. The musical landscape changes as the album unfolds, but never leaves the blasted territory of hopelessness and ruination.