(Andy Synn reviews the new seventh album by Germany’s Dark Fortress.)
Quite often I see the music of Dark Fortress categorized as “Melodic Black Metal”, and while it is strongly, and darkly, melodic, and it’s definitely Black Metal… I still feel like that particular classification is something of a misnomer.
I don’t know about you, but when I think “Melodic Black Metal”, my mind immediately goes to the masterful Dissection and all their ilk, and while the earliest Dark Fortress albums certainly fell in line with that style, their third album, 2004’s Stab Wounds, signified the beginning of a major stylistic shift, one that has, over the years since, led the band into deeper, darker waters.
The addition of Morean on vocals for 2008’s Eidolon seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle necessary for the band to fully manifest their new-born identity, one of fire and anguish and boundless creative freedom, and paved the way for the complex and multi-faceted metallic madness of Ylem, perhaps the band’s finest hour thus far.
Venereal Dawn is certainly a spiritual follow-up to Ylem in many ways – indeed, without many of the creative seeds planted by that album much of Venereal Dawn simply would not exist – and yet it is far, far removed from being a simple copy.
Intimately progressive and hauntingly introspective, it is perhaps a less extreme and less technical album than its predecessor, albeit still dripping with black fire and venom, yet it remains just as challenging and creatively ambitious, and always true to the band’s own unorthodox ethos.
I originally intended to write about only one song from this album, as part of a collection of three striking songs from different bands that I heard back-to back a few days ago. I’m still going to do that — later today in fact — but after I made my way through the rest of this album I felt compelled to write about the album as a whole. Why?
Because Deathsteps To Oblivion is one of the most apocalyptically crushing albums I’ve heard all year, and also one of the most exotic — it really doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard. And for an album that’s terrifyingly bone-crushing, it’s also ridiculously addictive.
Deathsteps To Oblivion is the third album by a band from Brisbane, Australia named The Dead. It’s my first exposure to their music, so I’m not competent to compare this new one to what has come before. But if what preceded Deathsteps is in this same collapsed and cut-down vein, I want to hear it.
Five years ago I didn’t own any 7″ vinyl records. I can’t even remember reading about any 7″ vinyl records five years ago, at least in the realm of metal (though I hasten to add that the darker, deeper corners of the underground were largely unknown to me back then). My how things have changed.
Though I’d venture a guess that most 7″ records today are being released by smaller underground labels, it seems like everyone is getting into that game. What’s more, some of the best songs you’re likely to hear this year are waiting to be discovered on these small vinyl releases rather than on full-length albums (and fortunately, many of them are also being made available for download, for the record-player-challenged in the audience).
Here are three examples of superb 7″ releases from 2014 that I’ve discovered quite recently (thanks to a Facebook post by Krieg’s Neill Jameson). You’ll understand why I’ve grouped these three together after you hear them.
VEGAS is an acronym, which stands for “V.ermouth E.quilibrium G.hanoush A.sphyxia S.onata“. The band’s members are scattered around the globe, but I couldn’t tell you their names because they don’t exactly publicize them. They trace their musical inspiration to such bands as Japan’s G.I.S.M. and hardcore heavyweights Integrity. I was unfamiliar with them (because I only dabble in hardcore and crust) until hearing their new four-song 7″, Sagevisule.
This is bleak, multi-faceted, throat-gripping music — an amalgamation of riveting melodies (including acoustic ones!), massive riffs that slam with the weight of sledgehammers, bone-smashing percussion, and a combo of bearlike vocal roaring and shrieking blood spray. The pacing varies from doom-stricken stomps to crust-punk rampages, with incinerating guitar solos and head-smashing breakdowns to add extra punch. And goddamn, this thing really punches hard.
(Our friend Leperkahn wrote this review of the new album by Ireland’s Ilenkus.)
If you remember the ancient days of roughly a year ago, you may remember a post by the name “Random Discoveries in Dublin”. Cringe-worthy title aside, I wrote of a chance encounter with two Irish bands, Gacys Threads and Ilenkus, at Fibber Magee’s in Dublin, while on a vacation to visit family. This was both my first post for any site, my misguided step into the world of metal journalism that I still pretend to be a part of, and my introduction to the mercurial post-metal of Ilenkus. Back then, they were playing shows on the strength of their first full-length, Rule By Thieves. A year past, they now return to the fray with a new full-length, The Crossing, a disc that further expands on the Dillinger Escape Plan-meets-The Ocean sound they had used to breath new life into post-metal.
First song “Devourer” does quiet a bit to continue injecting new life into post-metal. Unlike so many hordes of their colleagues, Ilenkus choose to open the album not with a soft, ethereal melody or intro, but with a damn-near grind-y explosion of sound, acting as a slap in the face to the tranquility you might be expecting. These first moments prove to be the first of many times the band defies the listener’s expectations on this album. Just as quickly as Ilenkus start with “Devourer”s firestarter of an intro, they move just as suddenly into a softer, foreboding sense of ominous calm, then escalate back to cacophony with the ferocious bellows of guitarist/vocalist Chris Brennan and the propulsive riffs of guitarist Sam Ellis (I’m taking a random guess here, it could be any of the three guitarist/vocalists in the band – Ellis, Brennan, or Josh Guyett), establishing an ebb and flow of catharsis and despondence that runs like a thread throughout all of The Crossing.
When I used to think of current Finnish death metal (not the melodic kind), I tended to think of crushing death/doom, or perhaps a few famous death/grind deviants. Mine eyes have now been opened wider.
Obscure Burial are a relatively young band from Turku, Finland, whose first demo was released in 2012 by Ireland’s Invictus Productions. Invictus, which has dependably refined tastes in filthy extreme music, is about to follow up that first abomination with a second one. The new demo is named Epiphany, and it’s due for release on September 15.
Anyone who shies away from raw, flesh-rending, berserker blackened death metal with a heavy emphasis on speed can stop reading right here, because that’s what you’ll get in spades from Epiphany – and from the song we’re about to premiere: “Night Queen”.
On the other hand, if you get a flooding adrenaline rush from ripping riffs, weapons-grade drumwork, and vocals that sound like a demon pantheon, you’re about to get a satisfying fix for that addiction. In fact, you may not need another fix for days or weeks, because this is potent, uncut, and borderline toxic stuff.
(Here’s DGR’s writeup about the new album from The Haunted. I think it’s finally time to suck it up and rename the site NO SHORT REVIEWS.)
Exit Wounds has been out for a week plus by now, and I am still consistently surprised by how The Haunted are one of the few bands out there who can do anger and aggression incredibly well. It’s hard to believe that a group lucked into having two incredibly distinct and different frontmen, both of whom were able to help elevate the band with a sense of utter malice — whilst directing it toward two different things. There’s always been an essence of conviction to the band’s reason for yelling, when so many other groups out there have a sort of toothless aggression, metal and brutality for their own sake and feeling like it was done paint-by-numbers style. The Haunted have always had bite, where other bands have felt like being gummed to death by the world’s angriest toddler, full of energy but not a whole lot getting done.
When the band effectively hung up their hats, it was a bummer, because although there are people out there who will relentlessly bitch about Unseen, it was a progression in one of the two ways that the band could have followed after The Dead Eye. It was joyfully demented, but not necessarily as sharp and pointed as The Haunted usually are. That said, it’s not like the band haven’t done a “return to form” before; it seems to be The Haunted’s calling card, but listening to the group talk, maybe it just wore on them a little bit too much. Which made the sudden re-formation both surprising and exciting. Two of the group’s members decided to stick it out, and on top of that the band filled in the empty spaces with Haunted members from the past, as well as recruiting a hell of a weapon in the form of Feared guitarist Ola Englund.
Exit Wounds, released September 2nd here in lovely North America (and a week earlier in Europe), is the result of the group’s new lineup, one for a band who may have found themselves with a lot to prove this go ’round. It’s a common narrative: re-formed band with a new lineup and a new album, scrappy as hell, and coming off of a divisive as hell previous disc. The crazy thing with Exit Wounds is that it also feels partially like an unintentional comeback tour, especially after pulling back musicians who haven’t associated with the band for some time. So, flag planted, line drawn in the sand, foot on the ground, pancake on head, robe and wizard hat donned, various other metaphors for standing your ground and facing opposition — just how well does Exit Wounds make the case for The Haunted’s continued existence?
You’re really not going to find anything better today that costs you nothing — including even the air you’re sucking in — than this two-song single released yesterday by a band from Arizona named Ill Breed. I found it sitting in my e-mail in-box after a long, frustrating day at my fucking day job, and man alive, was it refreshing.
I was in the mood for something crushingly heavy and cathartic and spine-tingling, and when I listened to these two songs, I got all that, and I got more besides.
What’s extra cool about this music is that it’s not all one thing. It’s freaked-out howling feedback and weird noise. It’s skull-clobbering hardcore. It’s tribal drumming and headbanging riff rhythms. It’s strutting, stomping, testerone-fueled chest-baring, topped by venom-spewing, bile-vomiting vocal mayhem. It’s groaning doom chords and hard-jabbing thuggery.
I thought I’d pass along a few more recently discovered items before calling it quits for the day. Obviously, I think everything in here is worth your time.
I’m about as peace-loving a soul as you could ever meet, yet much of the music I enjoy is violent. Maybe listening to violent music helps me keep cool most of the rest of the time. But I really don’t listen to violent music for therapeutic purposes — I listen to it because I get off on the power and the energy.
Violence in metal takes many forms. Fistula’s new album Vermin Prolificus (released by To Live A Lie Records) is the kind that just wants to beat you senseless with grotesque sludgy riffs and tear your throat out with raw, shrieking vocal extremity.
For the music reviewed in this post, we need to turn back the clock. In the first place, the music was released more than two years ago, in June 2012. In the second place, the unholy spirit that surges through the songs is older still — much older — but it’s no less ferocious and its appetite for destruction is still insatiable.
The band’s name is Maze of Terror and they’re based in Lima, Peru. Their sole output to date consists of a five-song EP entitled Skullcrusher, and points must be awarded for truth in advertising: This EP is one hell of a skull crusher.
I could tell you this music is the kind of throat-throttling, honestly deviant, impeccably executed thrash that would have been right at home on mix-tapes from 30 years ago that people are still talking about today. Or I could tell you this:
(In this post Leperkahn reviews the new EP by Orange County’s Phobia.)
Phobia may have just won the prize for the most hilariously literal release title in existence.
They are releasing a new 7” via Deep Six Records. It’s called Grind Core. If you’ve heard of Phobia before, that’s truly all you need to know to understand this thing slays.
In the hands of most bands, naming your release after the well-established sub genre in which you traffic might be seen as a bit ill-advised. We all might release a collective groan if Morbid Angel named their next album Death Metal, especially after the out-of-touch fiasco that was Ilud Divinum Insanus. A hypothetical new Mayhem album entitled Black Metal would probably warrant a plagiarism lawsuit. But in the hands of Phobia, such a title really does tell you all you need to know before even setting down the needle. It assures you that Phobia haven’t pulled a highly-unlikely genre-180 to explore complextro — and that the band are still churning out grind as potent as ever and aren’t bashful about saying so.