(Todd Manning provides this review of a debut EP by the Texas band Monte Luna.)
Austin, Texas duo Monte Luna have just released their debut two-song demo on Bandcamp at the name-your-price level, and it would be best if you didn’t sleep on this one. Mixing equal parts Doom, Sludge, and Dark Psychedelic vibes, they create an atmosphere of tasteful heaviness, full of subtle menace.
“Father Arbitor” kicks things off with bits of noise swirling around while a sample invokes the dark spirits overseeing the material. James Cl’s guitar is distant and striking, heavy but not overtly so. The gravity of the track comes from Phil Hook’s immense beats, slow and tectonic. The vocals sound like they blew in on the wind, ghosts creeping at the edge of the campfire. While it would be mistake to say this isn’t heavy, atmosphere seems to take center stage.
(We welcome back New Zealand writer Craig Hayes (Six Noises), who wrote this review of the debut album by Verberis, which has recently been released by Iron Bonehead Productions.)
The roster of German record label Iron Bonehead Productions reads like a who’s who of pre-eminent cult metal bands. That’s certainly true when it comes to bands who reside in the far-flung isles of New Zealand. Indomitable underground New Zealand bands like Vassafor, Sinistrous Diabolus, Veneficium, Witchrist, Diocletian, Creeping, Prisoner of War, Solar Mass, and Heresiarch have all had storming works released under Iron Bonehead’s banner. And next on the label’s list of uncompromising releases from the southern latitudes is Vexamen: the debut full-length from blackened death metal band Verberis.
(Grant Skelton reviews the new album by the UK’s 40 Watt Sun.)
On October 14, 40 Watt Sun birthed an album that has proven difficult for me to review. Part of this is because the music on Wider Than The Sky is just about the complete opposite of what we cover here at No Clean Singing, though surely we’ve covered many bands that exclusively employ clean singing, as an exception to our “rule.”
But there are other reasons why reviewing Wider Than The Sky has been an atypical experience for me. In a recent interview with Sarah Kitteringham for Noisey (here), 40 Watt Sun’s Patrick Walker expressed his distaste with the band’s previous record label promoting them as “doom metal”.
During this past weekend two very good German bands released a split in which each of them covers a song by the almighty Bathory. The bands are Ultha and Morast. The split is available on Bandcmp now and will be released on 7″ vinyl by Vendetta Records (Halo of Flies will have copies for U.S. distro). The songs will also be included in a Bathory Tribute Compilation to be released later this year by CVLT Nation. Here are a few thoughts about the split, plus streams of the songs:
In March of this year I posted (here) an interview of this new German black metal band along with a stream of a song from their debut album Pain Cleanses Every Doubt, which was originally released by a group of European labels last year and then re-released in April 2016 by Translation Loss Records.
And then in August I also reviewed the band’s new EP, Dismal Ruins. Both releases were so very good that I was eager to hear Ultha’s cover song for this new split.
(This is the second part of a multi-part post prepared by Austin Weber putting the spotlight on recent releases, and today he focuses on music from these three bands: Ehnahre, Absvrdist, and Körbl. To check out Part 1, go here, and Part 2 is at this location.)
EHNAHRE – NOTHING AND NOTHINGNESS
Back in January of 2016, I helped the Boston-based avant-garde doom group Ehnahre stream their fascinating new full-length called Douve here at NCS. It seems 2016 is a particularly productive year for Ehnahre, as the band is already back with a freshly released EP called Nothing and Nothingness.
(This is the second part of a multi-part post prepared by Austin Weber putting the spotlight on recent releases, and today he focuses on music from these three bands: VIII, Shioya, and Cyprus. To check out Part 1, go here.)
VIII – DECATHEXIS
For all the things in modern society we blame on social media, the flip side is how much good comes from using it as a tool to spread and share new music and other art forms. Without it, I would never have heard of VIII, a strangely named Italian black metal group whose new album Decathexis continues to blow my fucking mind.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sweden’s Dark Tranquillity.)
Broadly speaking, Dark Tranquillity’s career has been one characterised by successive sequences of sudden reinvention and steady refinement, with every major breakthrough followed in turn by a corresponding period of careful, if somewhat less impressive, polishing and fine-tuning.
It’s a pretty obvious pattern in hindsight. The early success of The Gallery was followed by The Mind’s I… the melodic, proggy proclivities of Projector were the jumping-off point for Haven… and then Damage Done, probably the biggest metamorphosis in the band’s career, in turn gave us both the oft-underrated Character and the (arguably) somewhat overrated Fiction.
Unfortunately it’s around this time that things get a little tricky, and we enter what has become a bit of a sensitive area for some fans, as there’s an argument – and not an unreasonable one – that the band have been stuck in something of a rut ever since, repeating the same old formula, to ever-diminishing creative (if not commercial) returns.
For although Character was, in my opinion at least, a worthy enough follow-up to Damage Done, Fiction was effectively just a brace of crowd-pleasing singles surrounded by a wealth of generally solid, but not necessarily stunning, material. And while We Are The Void hinted in places (such as the icy, blackened “Arkhangelsk” and the darkly atmospheric “Iridium”) at burgeoning changes to come, neither it, nor the disappointingly average Construct, managed to capitalise on this potential in order to fully reignite the band’s creative fires.
So the question now is, does Atoma signal another long-awaited, and long-overdue, renaissance from the Gothenburg alchemists?
Black metal has morphed into many different shapes since the term was first coined on the cover of Venom’s second album. Even the now-classic albums released by Norwegian bands in the early ’90s are referred to as the “second wave” because the changes had already begun, though those albums could justifiably be considered the ones that created the genre as most people now know it, far more than the prototypes of the ’80s. Of course, the morphing has continued with increasing speed from then straight up to through present.
The Dutch band Tarnkappe have little apparent interest in all the spinoffs and mutations that have transformed “black metal” into a genre term of such breadth that it no longer provides much specific guidance about the sound of bands who use it. Their new album Winterwaker (“Guardian of Winter” in English) is firmly rooted in the early ’90s — and it thrives in that cold black soil. Yet Winterwaker still has its own vivid and dynamic personality.
(DGR reviews the new album by Spain’s Noctem, which was released on September 30 by Art Gates Records and Prosthetic Records.)
Spain’s Noctem have kept themselves to a pretty tight every-two-years-put-out-a-new-album schedule, something made more impressive by the fact that the group have had some pretty consistent — though small — lineup shifts in between each album. In the case of Noctem’s new disc, that isn’t the case anymore, as the band’s current lineup features three new members, with the change made official in 2015.
Noctem are one of those groups who have drastically refined their sound with each release, as they trim whatever fat they find, or make a shift in sound. In the case of the group’s 2014 release Exilium, Noctem wound up a fairly sleek, blackened death metal band with a penchant for going at hyper-speed for most of the album; they sounded like a hyperbasting death metal band with just a slight bit of recent-era Kataklysm guitar shred tossed into it. The songs were of the shock-and-awe-assault type: no time to build, just starting at a million miles an hour and accelerating from there. Whatever wasn’t destroyed by the initial blast still had to weather three-plus minutes of the band roaring at you.
Haeresis is Noctem’s fourth full-length disc and it stays pretty close to its siblings Divinity, Oblivion, and Exilium in terms of run time at about ten songs and forty-five minutes in length. Barring Oblivion, which is an outlier with a last track running thirteen minutes long, Noctem have at this point found a pretty concrete formula in terms of just how many songs they want and how long an album needs to be. They’ve found that a sleek forty-some-odd minutes tends to work for them, and with Haeresis, the band do that without any instrumentals in the mix, meaning that all ten songs on Haeresis are Noctem at their most vicious.