(In this post DGR reviews the debut album by Forever Dawn — the serious musical project of The Vegan Black Metal Chef.)
This is a review that has been a long time coming. Recently it’s probably the one that has been weighing on my mind the most, considering that I’ve consistently had the Bandcamp page for it open since finding it two weeks after the disc came out. I think by the time this poor thing is published, I will have deleted and restarted it close to ten times — in part because I wasn’t sure how to approach this release, wondering if I was paying it enough respect or even capable of analyzing its deeper value or whether it was worth listening to.
In part it has also taken some serious time to get my teeth into and be able to talk about because trying to pin it down to one genre is incredibly difficult; I want to make the argument that tagging it as just Industrial Black Metal feels wrong, but I don’t want to launch into some four-paragraph screed about what those words mean to me, given that genrification is already pretty goddamned subjective, without talking about the release as a whole beforehand.
But enough of the lengthy preamble, just what the fuck are we looking at here?
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Cormorant.)
Prog-metal pirates Cormorant have never been ones to shy away from change. Heck, their entire career thus far has been one of slow evolution, from their early beginnings with 2007’s The Last Tree, through the attention-grabbing Metazoa, up to 2011’s game-changing Dwellings.
Coming in the wake of the departure of bassist/vocalist Arthur von Nagel, and his replacement with the similarly talented Marcus Lusbombe, it seems change is still in the air for the group. Earth Diver betrays a fundamentally more blackened edge, expanding and exploring the limits of Cormorant’s established sound, landing somewhere between the prog-death magic of Edge of Sanity and the folk-tinged black metal of Drudkh, but with a style and a flair all its own.
Is it a perfect album? No. But perfection is overrated. Perfection is stagnation. Rather, Earth Diver functions as a prime example of raw passion and creativity, growth and change, the sound of a band unafraid to take chances, to experiment, interweaving tone and texture, interbreeding influence and imagination… pursuing progression in the truest sense of the word.
(Guest writer Booker returns to our pages with a review of the latest album by Siegewyrm from Buffalo, NY.)
As DGR has started divulging at the start of his reviews, sometimes you come across bands in the most random of ways. Case in point for my discovery of Siegewyrm:
Mechina, whom I love dearly not only in real life (purely platonic, musically I’m talking here!), but also happen to ‘like’ in my parallel online existence on Facebook, posted a link to a feature at The Monolith that included their new release Xenon. And while my saner self pondered whether I could really handle a “best of January” list given my post-end-of-year listmania hangover, my sneaky music-oholic self had already clicked through to said list and begun imbibing all it had to offer, whereupon I stumbled across Siegewyrm’s Harvest Begins.
According to Metal Archives, these chaps from Buffalo, NY started off as “Siege A.D.” circa 2007, releasing one album under that moniker before adopting “Siegewyrm” as their call to musical arms, with two albums Legends of the Oathsworn (2012) and Harvest Begins (2014) now under their belt.
(Andy Synn reviews the surprising debut album by a Vermont band named Barishi.)
This one only came out at the tail-end of last year, so I think we can be forgiven for missing out on it in the holiday rush. However, the fact that such a strange, yet incredibly compelling, album failed to ping on our radar is one mistake I’m happy to be able to correct.
Over-simplifying things for the sake of brevity/clarity/hyperbole (delete as appropriate), Barishi – whose name which I dearly hope is drawn from the novel Silverheart and not from… other sources – perform a type of wilfully avant-garde prog-metal, one which mixes Intronaut’s more melodic and psychedelic tendencies with the hardcore bite and bitterness of Poison The Well and the same sort of autistic-savant creativity of Ihsahn’s solo output.
Granted, at first glance it seems like the band’s strange arrangement of sounds and influences is something of an odd conglomeration, opposing styles and off-kilter elements fighting against each other for attention in a crazed cacophony of wild, untamed melody and sudden, spasming aggression. But give it time. It’s not an immediate album. At some point things will start to come together – you’ll tilt your head just so and thing will slot into place. The madness will suddenly make sense, as odd dispositions and disjunctions become conjunction and creativity.
And that’s when things start to get really interesting.
(In this post DGR reviews the new album by Finland’s Insomnium.)
Taken at face value, the idea behind the title of Shadows Of The Dying Sun is an easy one to grasp. Poetically phrased, yes, but when the opening line of its titular song (and album closer) is, “We’re nothing more than shadows…”, you get a real quick understanding of what lies behind the title.
Very few things in the world can make me as pensive as an Insomnium disc, and Shadows Of The Dying Sun has had me thinking about the passage of time lately. It is a crazy thing to realize, but with this album Insomnium have been a part of my life for almost a decade, as I joined the zeitgeist like so many others did with the masterful Above The Weeping World. Since then, the band have been a hallmark of consistently great music, with Across The Dark representing an incremental jump forward and One For Sorrow feeling like another amazing disc as it grew on me.
I never could have told the past version of myself — who came to see Insomnium as such an important band, one who showed there is beauty in emotions such melancholy, depression, and frailty — that in later days I’d be reviewing their music and getting the opportunity to talk to guitarist (and one of the main songwriters) Ville Friman for a previous website. Insomnium are the band I go to for lyrical gems such as, “You can’t win always/but you can lose every time”, that absolutely take the wind out of my sails. So at face value, Shadows Of The Dying Sun should be more of that for me — another album that would let me roil in my melancholy and depression, allowing the group to overtake me with visions of cold and blue.
Yet this time it’s weird, because as far as messages are concerned, Shadows Of The Dying Sun is a surprisingly straightforward and hopeful disc… for Insomnium.
Those of you who are sharp of eye, pointy of ear, and patient enough to wade through my last rant about Facebook’s business model will have already felt the chill of Minnesota’s Nuklear Frost. But simply using the hair-raising shriek from the intro track “Uranium Censer” to express my own contempt (and to reward the perseverance of readers) was hardly an adequate tribute to an album that I’ve listened to and enjoyed repeatedly since it came out in mid-March.
The album’s name is Subjugation, and I first found out about it through a Facebook link to their music by Amiensus, another Minnesota band who share a member with Nuklear Frost (guitarist Joe Waller). It proved to be a great discovery.
Nuklear Frost deliver riveting melodic black metal that hits like a maelstrom in full fury, yet the songs are so packed with righteous riffs and ominous melodies that the music exerts a strong magnetic attraction. The songs have identity and staying power; it’s an album that will draw you back again and again, and not simply for the pure rush it delivers to all good adrenaline junkies.
(Austin Weber reviews the new album by a band we’ve been following for a long time — Canada’s Archspire.)
When Archspire burst out of nowhere with All Shall Align in 2012, it set a new benchmark for blazing extreme death metal, following in the footsteps of previous speed-, technicality-, and songwriting-pushers such as Cryptopsy and stretching the boundaries of death metal to a place that seemed to make a surprising number of people uncomfortable. Regardless, they impressed a lot of people, and their follow-up, The Lucid Collective, has been greatly anticipated. It certainly delivers, acting as a dream of death mirroring our often collective sleepwalking through existence.
Archspire have always flashed glimpses of a love for Origin and Spawn Of Possession, but they have also made the style their own, giving it brutal legs with which to stand and stomp angrily, and managing to give each track its own unique flow and structure. If Brain Drill was Origin-influenced death metal done to excess (in the opinion of some people), then arguably Archspire are a band who have learned all the things that Origin did right, while not being a rip-off of them at all.
An album like The Lucid Collective is not merely music, but a testament to the human will and ability to achieve incredible and nearly inhuman things through hard work, determination, and focus. Every member of the band performs at an astounding level, not in an effort to impress the listeners with vapid showboating, but with a purpose. Collectively, Archspire form an interlocking mass of arresting malevolence that looms large over the shredscapes and techdreams of noodlers everywhere.
Metal is such a diverse genre of music that you would need an enormous number of axes to diagram the spectra of its manifold characteristics (I’m using “axes” as the plural of “axis”, not that electrified thing you use to shred up a storm of notes or the implements you use to cleave the skulls of your enemies). On one of these axes I imagine two extremes at either end:
At one end there’s deeply somber, glacially paced atmospheric music, with few if any riffs and a pall of gloom and grief hanging heavy like a fog. On the other end — well, that’s where you’ll find Rocket Propelled Chainsaws: the place where you party ’til you vomit and mosh ’til everyone’s on their way to the emergency room with sirens screaming.
I found out about this band because it includes guitarist Sean Corkum, who’s also in a band I’ve written before named Eldritch Flamethrower. Obviously, either Sean hangs out with people who’ve got a gift for coming up with awesome band names or he’s got the gift. Either way, Eldritch Flamethrower and Rocket Propelled Chainsaws are mighty fine names.
(DGR reviews the new second album from Canada’s Unsacred Seed.)
Recently I’ve found myself playing with the idea of opening my reviews and articles with a description of how I found each band. Putting it politely, I’m probably a total idiot for doing so, yet I feel like I’m upholding some sort of noble cause by showing that sites like this one don’t entirely rely on whatever PR an agency leaves on our doorstep. Not to say that it doesn’t help to have such assistance, if not just to keep us from going out in public and looking like fools — but I do believe that by showing that there are other paths to getting noticed, perhaps it will demonstrate that putting a little faith in the universe and casting yourself out there can get you noticed. If not, at the very least it makes the process feel a little less “monied”. Maybe it’s just a sense that surfing the net to try and find music is a worthwhile and rewarding venture, one that doesn’t depend on just letting folks shovel stuff in front of you — although, come to think of it, that notion pretty much undermines the purpose of a site such as this.
In the case of Unsacred Seed, however, I cannot remember for the life of me how I found them. I think it may have been a random forum discovery, one of the many devoted to archiving much of what was released in 2013, where one of the band members was sharing his own work — their debut disc for “name your own price”. Thus, I wound up following the band, not only out of personal curiosity but also because I enjoyed that debut disc quite a bit. When I heard they had a followup in the works, that made things more exciting.
Before we really get to the meat of this meal, allow me to state that there are three things that I absolutely love about Canada’s Unsacred Seed: