(In this post Andy Synn reviews the special EP recorded by Blut Aus Nord to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Debemur Morti label.)
At least in the majority of the metal media, Black Metal rarely gets its due in terms of its progressive side and forward-thinking ambition. Whereas “Progressive Death Metal” comes in multiple forms and guises, and the term “Progressive Metal” has been bastardised to seemingly refer solely to bands who deal in basic polyrhythms and melodramatic caterwauling, the term “Progressive Black Metal” still doesn’t seem to carry the same weight or cultural currency.
Some of that is due to the perception of the genre – by many, but nowhere near by all – as being firmly rooted in its own past and firmly captivated by its own legend. There’s some truth to that, as there are (and always will be) bands still carrying the ebon flame of those early years and keeping the original spirit of the genre alive. Yet although they have their place (something I’m not denying), to judge the entire genre by those standards would be a major mistake.
Because, to my mind at least, few sub-genres of metal can claim the scope of style and sound that Black Metal does these days. Elements of its influence have infiltrated numerous sub-genres, in often surprising ways, while, at the same time, its most artistic adherents have mixed and melded influences from outside its strict confines into their own strange, alchemical works, forging new and unusual weapons of war with the black flame of their own darkest emotions.
And chief amongst these are Blut Aus Nord.
(DGR wrote this review of the new album by Sacramento’s Alterbeast.)
Alterbeast are a group who have been rapidly moving through the Sacramento music scene for a while now, previously operating under the name Gary Busey Amber Alert (G.B.A.A. for short). Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to catch them live over the years could’ve told you that they had huge potential to go places — at the very least to escape the confines of this cowtown. Seeing the group live was like witnessing a controlled series of explosions through a tech-death lense. Thus it was that the group’s signing to Unique Leader came as no shock; the only question was whether the band could capture the intensity of those live performances on a disc.
The group’s name change came with a lineup change as well, meaning that Alterbeast and their new disc Immortal feels almost like the launch of an entirely new band. We at NCS waited eagerly to hear what would be captured on the album, as Immortal remained in the forge for some time — being hammered out at multiple studios, including familiar names like Mayhemness in Sacramento, Castle Ultimate (who have recorded multiple Sacramento groups — you’ll recognize Zack Ohren’s booming drum recording instantly), and Augmented Audio out in LA.
With Immortal still a couple weeks out, we finally got our grubby, disgusting hands on the album and we can confirm for you this much: Alterbeast have themselves one of the strongest launch discs in some time, a relentless, quick, calculatingly violent mix of the current tech-death metal scene, brutal death, and even some of the dark, heavy groove sounds that bands such as Black Dahlia make their trade on.
Possession’s 2013 demo, His Best Deceit, stirred up a buzz among underground aficionados of black/death bludgeoning, but this Belgian band’s forthcoming 7″ EP, Anneliese, should stoke the buzz to deafening levels. My only regret is that it’s only two songs long. Today, we’re giving you the chance to hear one of them in its entirety.
Possession achieve the kind of sound and aura that many newer bands strive for but few achieve as well. It’s the sound of primordial death metal, rising from the ooze and radiating an otherworldly malignancy. It’s rough and raw, but there’s a lot more to its appeal than feral ferocity: Possession write some delicious riffs that are as infectious as they are morbid.
The gut-punching drum beats and reverberating chords that form the intro to the title track tell you that something wicked this way comes, but you may still not be prepared for the driving rock rhythms, slashing guitars, and feral howls that follow it. It’s an immediate headband trigger, and if you don’t get a charge out of the grinding bass solo in the song’s back half, there’s no hope for you. The horror-filled atmosphere of the song’s down-paced finish makes a killer of a song all the more lethal.
We discovered Kaunis Kuolematon last August through their release of a striking song named “En Ole Mitään” (I Am Nothing) — so striking that it was the only track we named to our list of 2013′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs that didn’t come from an album or EP. That song was the advance guard of the band’s full-length debut album Kylmä Kaunis Maailma, which will be released through Violent Journey Records on April 25, 2014. Today we bring you the premiere of another song from the album — “Kivisydän” — plus a few words about the album as a whole.
In a nutshell, Kylmä Kaunis Maailma is just as striking as that first advance track that captivated us last year. Kaunis Kuolematon (“Immortal Beauty”) aren’t the first Finnish band to deliver melodic death metal drenched in doom, but they are one of the few to do it this well this fast. Blending gargantuan heaviness with a panoply of wrenching melodies, they’ve recorded nine powerful songs so well-written that they all have the capability of getting stuck firmly in your head.
The music is almost entirely mid-paced and almost entirely somber in its emotional atmosphere, yet the songs never lose their tight grip on the listener’s attention. Apart from all those reverberating melodic hooks, the band are masterful in their creation of contrasts. They juxtapose jagged, jabbing riffs and booming bass lines with rippling lead guitar instrumentals that shimmer and soar. They’ll hammer your head like an anvil and in the next moment pierce you right in your anguished heart.
(In this post Austin Weber reviews the debut album by Artificial Brain.)
Most mentions of Artificial Brain focus principally on the fact that Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo is in in the band and that it’s his group. From what I’ve read in interviews it would seem he helped found it, and he no doubt writes a lot of the music. However, I feel that writing about Artificial Brain from this angle could be a disservice to the highly talented efforts of the other band members. As a group Artificial Brain offer an odd mix of old school and new school death metal shot through with alien black metal, and the way they make it all come together is frequently surprising and varied. They have enough different flavors to interest a wide range of fans as they touch on straight-up brutal, ambient and atmospherically focused, technical, and grimly dissonant jaunts — often within the same song.
If other black/death is a grim peering into hell, then Artificial Brain is the work of Lovecraftian monsters peering out from unearthly realms — ready and willing to inflict horror on the cosmos. Labyrinth Constellation is truly unsettling, and its monstrous, cold depths echo the band’s space themes eloquently.
(We welcome back Professor D. Grover the XIIIth (ex-The Number of the Blog) with his comments on the music of four bands.)
Greetings and salutations, friends. In the time since my previous missive, I have weathered several storms in the grim and frostbitten lands of Northwestern Ohio, and I have also traveled to the warmer lands of Florida for an all-too brief week, experiencing the sort of time dilation that causes eight days to pass by in the span of four, thus ending my journey far sooner than I would have liked and thrusting me back into winter’s icy grasp. The relaxation was most welcome, though, and needed, as I have since thrown myself into my work, having taken but a single day off in the past two weeks, and coming off working 12-hour days the past three.
Still, I return bearing notations and observations on a quartet of musical acts from varying walks of life and schools of sound. The hope, as always, is to open your eyes and ears to something new. We begin.
(Right here, right now, DGR reviews the just-released debut album by Japan’s Babymetal.)
I don’t like Japanese idol music and J-pop. It’s probably one of my least favorite things out there. We often like to sit on our high horses and jaw all day about how all pop music sounds the same, how there are formulas and the artists are becoming so increasingly transparent that you can practically see the marketing department that put them together pulling the strings. Yet, Japan has been doing this for years with their pop music — consistently forming girl groups around gimmicks and novelty, as well as teaming them together in some unholy mish-mash whether they actually get along or not, singing talent aside. They’ve gotten very good at constructing groups and finding formulas and then hammering them into the ground. It’s everything I’ve despised about pop music, cranked up to eleven and made so obvious that you can’t even act like you’re being lied to. You like it because of those reasons. You know what you’re getting into from the get-go most of the time.
So when Babymetal were initially revealed — a combination of pop idol music and heavy metal, like a mad, unholy experiment consisting of throwing darts at a board to come up with another talent group to manage and grind into the ground, as if the girls weren’t human — the eye-roll was tremendous. And when the song “Doki Doki Morning” came out, the groans grew even louder. Yet, over time the group have morphed into something entirely different from the way they began, something that I’m not quite sure the management knows how to handle.
I’m writing about this album for five reasons.
FIRST: This Norwegian band’s name is Whip. Not too long ago I wrote a post about the importance of band names. I included the opinion that the best metal band names are generally one-word names — though it sometimes seems that all the really good ones have been taken. And then I found out about Whip. That’s a fuckin’ great one-word name.
SECOND: The album is named Digitus Impudicus. Not being a Latin scholar, I ran that name through a Google search and discovered (via The Font of All Human Knowledge) that it means the ”shameless, indecent or offensive finger” — you know, the middle one sticking straight up. I had no idea that giving someone the finger is a practice that dated back to ancient times, but so it is. That’s a fuckin’ great name for a metal album.
THIRD: This album was released by Polypus Records, which turns out to be an artist-owned label (started by Whip’s vocalist/guitarist Jens “Sturt” Johansen and some friends) that’s affiliated with an association of 11 bands named Bjølsebubben Kulturforening; the bands share rehearsal space and a common recording studio located in an old factory building in Oslo. As Sturt explained in an interview, the decision was made “that we have to take control of our music as the music business is out drunk-cruising between icebergs.”
(We welcome this guest review by one our Italian readers whose name is Pietro.)
The thing with Folk has been excellently summarized by Jon Voight, in an episode of Ray Donovan when he puts a gun to Rosanna Arquette’s head and screams: “Am I authentic enough for you, fucking tourist?”. Folk today comes too often in super glossy, ultra-cool, mega-polished coffe-table editions. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Most of the time, it’s just too domesticated. Airport souvenirs. We’re all fucking tourists. But sometimes, as is the case with Armenian progressive metal band Dogma, Folk can be just an incredibly pleasant surprise.
In 2008 I was travelling through Armenia, and while strolling along the green parks of Yerevan, the capital city, a gig poster took my attention. I was late for the gig, but the visual style was intriguing, so much so that I took a photo (above) and, once back home, began some investigating.
I found out that the band had come together only months before, and they had a blog. A few weeks later I was the proud owner (probably the only one in Italy) of Dogma’s sophomore release, Ethnic Methnic, a highly accomplished piece of work, cleverly alternating metal stompers and acoustic ballads. Contemporary music infused with traditional melodies, dominated by the incredible vocal talents of Zara Gevorgyan.
I’ve been following the progress of the Elemental Nightmares project since before it became public, writing about it for the first time in July 2013. It began as an effort to raise money for a subscription series of 13 splits on 7″ vinyl (with digital download options) featuring one exclusive song each by 26 up-and-coming bands from around the world. As the project evolved, the format has changed:
Last Friday, Elemental Nightmares announced that instead of releasing 13 splits with 2 songs per side, they will release 7 splits on 10″ vinyl, with each split containing four songs instead of two. And, because of the new format, there will be 28 bands instead of 26. In addition, as previously announced, Elemental Nightmares is offering the splits for sale on an individual basis, as well as subscriptions to the series as a whole, and the digital-only option is still available.
But the best news is the announcement that the project will happen. To see the names of the original 26 bands and for more info about purchase options, go here. The two new bands will be announced soon.
And finally, Friday also brought the premiere (by Invisible Oranges) of four songs that will appear on the fourth installment of the series, and it’s a damned strong way to start off: The bands are Porta Nigra (Germany), Membaris (Germany), Ashencult (Philadelphia), and Vuyvr (Switzerland).