(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Seattle’s Lesbian, which is out now on the Translation Loss label and features striking cover art by Dan Seagrave.)
Before reviewing this album I went back and listened to Lesbian’s album Stratospheria Cubensis for a little perspective. Six years ago when that album came out, they were still pretty committed to not neatly fitting within any sub-genre of metal, and now they have continued to defy those boundaries even more.
Former members of The Accüsed formed this band back in 2007 and have now evolved their brand of proggy death metal into something even more darkly bizarre. Their new album finds the vocals becoming even more varied, blending sung vocals and growls. This is done in a very tasteful way that might win over some of you who think this approach is dated. In some ways it makes me think of what might have happened if Acid Bath had collided with Cynic.
With three weeks having passed since the last time I was able to compile a Shades of Black post, I’ve accumulated quite a large collection of songs, EPs, and albums that I’d like to recommend. I’ve ambitiously given this post a “Part 1” moniker, signifying the goal of following this with at least one more collection during the coming week. Of course, this ignores the lesson I’ve tried repeatedly to teach myself, i.e., that part-time metal bloggers should never disclose what they think they are going to do, given the high failure rate. Hope springs eternal, I guess.
I’m starting with music from two Icelandic black metal bands. There seem to be an endless supply of them, and they seem to be never less than good, and often are great. I’m also beginning to suspect that all the line-ups are drawn from the same group of about five people.
Endalok is a new Icelandic band whose debut demo Englaryk will be released on CD by Hellthrasher Productions and on cassette and vinyl by Signal Rex. The identity of the member(s) hasn’t been disclosed, but the quality of the first preview track suggests the presence of a person or people who have some experience, as well as impressive talent.
I’ve developed a habit through years of experience, much like Pavlov’s dog was trained to salivate at the sound of the bell: When I learn that Sweden’s Mordbrand have released new music, I drop what I’m doing and hungrily scamper over to the music player to listen. This happened yesterday when, without advance warning, a new Mordbrand EP popped up on Bandcamp. The name of it is In Nighted Waters.
This new EP is actually the Mordbrand half of a split LP with California’s Gravehill, which will be released in the U.S. by Doomentia and is now available in Sweden via Carnal Records. It includes four original songs and a cover of “Compost Christ” by Bluuurgh… (rearranged by Mordbrand and including guest vocals by Mike Abominator (Necronizer, ex-Gravehill).
(Grant Skelton reviews the new album by the UK band Eye of Solitude and brings us the premiere of a full album stream.)
I’ve truly grown to love sad metal. A prevalent stereotype among the folks who do not understand our beloved genre is that all metal fans are depressed. Yeah, even suicidal. But sorrow, despair, depression, and even suicidal ideation are not unique to metal fans.
In a study published in Frontiers In Psychology, Ai Kawakami intended to find out just why people like sad music. While Kawakami and his fellow researchers used classical pieces for their study, the result is what counts. The participants in the study enjoyed listening to sad music. “Musical emotion,” Kawakami said, “encompasses both the felt emotion that the music induces in the listener and the perceived emotion that the listener judges the music to express.” (Find out more here.)
Certain kinds of metal are for partying and abusing your liver. Other kinds probably give many of us a healthy outlet for aggression so that we don’t wind up in a padded cell. But some metal — and I definitely place London’s Eye Of Solitude in this category — give us something else. I was recently given the pleasure of listening to their latest album Cenotaph. And what exactly does this album give the listener? In a single word, I’d say humanity.
(Neill Jameson (Krieg) joins us again with another compilation of recommended music, this time focusing on some metal releases that don’t easily fit into established genre definitions. To check out the other playlists Neill has brought us, they’re collected here.)
Listening to the new Urfaust that’s coming out shortly really got me to thinking a bit, which doesn’t happen too often. The subject of the hamster wheel turning in my head was bands that fall outside of a specific subgenre but are still in the metal realm. Outsider metal I suppose. Bands that are still just as dark and carry the same emotional weight but can’t be stuck inside “black” or “death” metal strictly, probably in academic “nerd” terms or whatever you’re calling them in the comments section of popular metal sites you claim not to read. Anyway, a few of them came to mind which I wanted to share, so I’m sitting in my office writing this as a proper way to avoid reality for a bit, much like these bands are also a proper way to accomplish the same thing.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn.)
Recipe for success: one part Bolt Thrower, one part Earth Crisis, one part Swedish Death Metal (of the more melodic variety), and a heavy helping of Germanic thrash. Garnish with relevant philosophical and socio-political themes and roast for 15-20 years in a blaze of righteous fury.
It’s a recipe which has served Heaven Shall Burn extremely well over the years, and, though there have certainly been some valid criticisms of the band for sticking too closely to their own formula at times, it’s one that’s been responsible for keeping the German firebrands right at the forefront of the European Metalcore scene (which, with its slightly more raw and Death Metal influenced sound, I’ve often considered to be subtly distinct from its eventually more commercialised American cousin).
So I don’t think it would have surprised anyone if, on their eighth full-length album, the band had simply elected to continue with the same sound which made Iconoclast, Invictus, and Veto so successful. Why fix what isn’t broken, after all?
But… unexpectedly… that’s not exactly what happened…
(DGR prepared this review of the new album by the Swedish/U.S. band Ovaryrot.)
This disc sounds like a goddamned nightmare.
Every once in a while we’ll come across a release that makes the hair fly back from minute one and then leaves us glued to the wall for the entirety of its run. Not that it is usually a mark of quality, but sometimes from the first moment an album will start out sounding like someone taking a saw to sheet metal and somebody else hammering on a trash can behind it. Sometimes the music is so abrasive that you kind of can’t help but be entranced by it; judgments of quality usually come after the second or third listen, which is just about the time when you parse out exactly whatever the fuck that previous forty-some-odd minutes of whirlwind was.
Ovaryrot’s Suicide Ideation — which came out on August 14th — is one of those albums. Not that we would ever expect a band who go by the moniker of Ovaryrot to play nice; we’ve learned our lessons there before.
(DGR reviews the new album by Sweden’s Volturyon.)
Sweden’s Volturyon are a band for whom I’ve been waving the banner pretty frequently — most of that faith inspired by the EP they put out in 2014 entitled Human Demolition. It’s one that I bring up often because I feel like it flew under the radar of a lot of metal listeners; to me that seems insane, because I am hardly ever on the cutting edge of anything, and if I have something that I feel flew under the radar — something that seems to consistently surprise listeners every time I show it to them — then something isn’t right, and I need to do more to shout it from the mountaintops.
Human Demolition was a concise EP, with four songs and an intro, and three of those songs were blisteringly quick death metal grinders, with one sort of mid-tempo chuggathon to break up the pacing a tiny bit. “Concrete Devotion” is a constant highlight for me. That’s why I was pretty much locked in from the start with the group’s upcoming early-September release, Cleansed By Carnage.
On August 25, Hypnotic Dirge will release the new album by the German band Frigoris, whose name you may recall from the praise we heaped on an advance track from the album named “Trúwen”. Entitled Nur ein Moment… (Just one Moment…), it follows the band’s 2013 debut full-length Wind and is the first part of a two-album concept that follows “the tracks of a protagonist who faces the consequences of suicide in an interior journey.” Today we present a full stream of the album in advance of its release later this week.
Through the course of the album’s six long tracks Frigoris move from passages of soft, ethereal beauty to storms of surging blackened power, interweaving elements of black metal, post-metal and doom to create a journey through a changing emotional landscape of peaks and valleys.
(Andy Synn reviews the debut EP of the UK band Dawn Ray’d, which is out now on Bandcamp.)
As our contributor Wil Cifer wrote recently, “Crust seems to be a hot buzzword when it comes to underground metal these days”, to the extent I’m even starting to see it edge out the near-ubiquitous over-use of the terms “blackened” and “Black Metal” in certain places (but don’t you worry, I have a whole other column percolating in my head about THAT particular topic).
It seems to be one of those terms designed to bestow instant underground-cred on a band, whether or not it’s actually reflected in any aspects of their music, and, as such, I’ve seen it crudely co-opted multiple times by bands and writers who don’t seem to know (or care) what it means, they just want the artificial credibility and cultural capital it bestows.
I’m saying all this as a preamble because I want to make it clear right away that – even though their unwavering anti-NSBM, anti-fascist stance and sharp, punk-edged sound certainly gives them more claim to the term than some others I’ve seen – gritty Black Metal three-piece Dawn Ray’d don’t seem to care one way or the other whether you call them “Crust” or not.
They’re just happy to let the music speak for itself.