(In this 7th and final installment of a multi-part piece, Austin Weber continues rolling out recommended releases from his latest exploratory forays through the underground. Previous installments are linked at the end of this post.)
Exhausted Prayer are one of my favorite Los Angeles metal bands, and their streamlined yet progressive merger of black and death metal is a thing of wonder to take in. They’ve been at this since 1997, and Ruined marks their fourth full-length as a group, completely self-released by the band. Somebody needs to sign these guys, for real.
Ruined is an organic, often heavily atmospheric and deeply breathing record — one whose airy yet not hollow production perfectly marries their impressive approach to fusing black and death metal together. Ruined sports a natural production, one which will likely require you to turn your speakers up since it isn’t a loud, brickwalled lump of pain. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to a record that isn’t an over-compressed offering that hurts to listen to with headphones.
According to The Font of All Human Knowledge:
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country’s aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride; for the symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My Homeland”), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native land; and for his First String Quartet, From My Life.
“My Fatherland” is described as a cycle of six symphonic poems. Interestingly, according to the article quoted above, it was composed after illness had rendered Smetana completely deaf in both ears. The second part of the cycle is entitled “Vltava” and it was finished in late 1874. As the article explains, it was named for, and inspired by, “the river that runs through Prague towards its junction with the Elbe [and] is Smetana’s best-known and most internationally popular orchestral composition”.
And why, you may ask, am I writing about Smetana and “Vltava“? Because the Czech black metal band Cult of Fire have recorded a two-song EP dedicated to the composer and will be releasing it on 7″ vinyl through Iron Bonehead Productions on the 140th anniversary of Smetana’s completion of “Vltava“: December 8, 2014. This is the band’s fourth studio release overall, and thus it’s entitled Čtvrtá Symfonie Ohně (The Fourth Symphony of Fire), with cover art created by David Glomba.
I’ve included in this post reviews of two new short releases that I strongly recommend to lovers of infernal music.
This five-person German black metal band whose members don’t publicize their identities released a 2009 demo (With Burning Tongues), an EP (Fire and Faith) in 2010, and then a full-length album (Consolamentum) later the same year. After the passage of nearly four years, they have now returned with a two-song release named Deathless Light that the World Terror Committee will release on Samhain (October 31).
Of the two songs on this release, both of which are long, the title track will appear on a forthcoming full-length album, while the second — “Garden of Stone” — was recorded exclusively to this release. Both songs are tremendously effective in creating atmospheres that are staggeringly heavy, grim, and often sorrowful — yet they are both charged with energy and passion, and the mainly clear production only magnifies their black power.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sweden’s At the Gates.)
Seriously… how am I supposed to even begin to review this album?
After all, the war between the forces of Hype and Anti-Hype began in earnest pretty much the moment At War With Reality was announced, and the back and forth antagonism has since churned the waters into an almost impenetrable mass of muck-raking and mud-slinging, making any attempt at clarity and objectivity a difficult prospect at best.
Think about it. How many people have you seen/heard claiming, with full confidence, that this is going to be “the best album of the year”, with little more than hope or blind faith as their main source of evidence? Probably quite a few. In fact, probably about as many people as you’ve seen stating, with arrogant superiority, that At The Gates “are shit”, and that this album “…is going to suck”, without even hearing a single note of music.
I mean, let’s face it, a lot of people will have made up their minds about At War With Reality long before they heard anything from it. The fanatics are preconditioned to love it even if it’s awful, and the elitists are predisposed to hate it even if it’s phenomenal. So really there’s not much I can say to either of those groups.
But maybe, just maybe, I can reassure some of you out there who don’t fall into either camp, and who might have their own (fully understandable) doubts about the return of At The Gates after all this time.
(DGR reviews the new album by Anaal Nathrakh.)
It’s probably telling that, lately, Anaal Nathrakh’s discography has become the soundtrack to just about everything that I’ve done. It’s the drive to work soundtrack, and the drive home after the shitshow routine is completed eight hours later. When people portray heavy metal as music consisting of catharsis, Anaal Nathrakh immediately springs to mind as a band whose very reason for existence is to let anger out — both from the musicians in the band and from the fans around them — in one expulsion of energy. A gamma burst from a dying star of utter negativity.
Anaal Nathrakh have built their career out of being as abrasive as humanly possible. As a latecomer to the band, it has been fun to go back through their career and experience the inordinate amount of inhuman noise and utter abstract madness that this duo have unleashed since their formation.
I’m still more than 2,500 miles from home as a result of the old fucking day job, with precious little time to call my own, but I did take some breaks last night and early this morning, just long enough too explore three short releases that I’ve been meaning to check out. All of them are good, all of them are on Bandcamp, and all of them are either wholly or partly in the realms of black metal.
I can’t remember which of my Facebook friends linked to this two-song EP, but whoever you are, thank you.
Jøtnarr are a three-man group from Colchester, England, and the title of that two-song EP, which is their most recent release (from December 2013), is Divide the Growth and Stone. Last month they were featured as “Band of the Day” at Terrorizer (here), along with an interview by Kez Whelan, and that may have been how my FB friend stumbled upon them.
I learned about Finland’s Less Than Three through an e-mail from my old web friend fireangel (Night Elves), who for many years has made it her mission to focus on and spread the word about Finnish music.
The band started as a bedroom project of one Jesse Soiletsalo (ex-Medicated) in 2010, but in time he recruited quite an impressive line-up of allies to record the music he had composed: drummer Samuli Mikkonen (Profane Omen), vocalist Tommy Tuovinen (MyGrain), bass-player Pyry Hanski (ex-Before the Dawn, Mörbid Vomit), and second guitarist Ari-Pekka Repo (ex-Murdershock).
They recorded a self-titled EP and released it in March 2013, and this month they’ve released a second one, entitled The Black Box, with vicious cover art by Jussi Salolainen – or at least they’ve released it for listening. Announcements about a physical or digital release are yet to come.
We’ve thrown an unusually large number of recommended songs, videos, and releases your way today, but we’re still not finished. In this post you’ll find a review and a music stream of an EP I recently discovered that made quite a strong impression. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Numenorean from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, began as a two-man project in late 2011, with Byron Lemley recording and writing all the songs and Brandon Lemley providing the vocals. With additional vocal assistance from Aidan Crossley on one song, the band released a two-song demo in June 2014 totaling almost 20 minutes of music, and I listened to it yesterday.
And why did I listen to it? Because an e-mail from the band used references to Agalloch, old Alcest, and Falls of Rauros to describe the style of their music. I reacted to those references much like Pavlov’s dog at the bell: I started salivating. And then I listened to the first of the two tracks, “Let me In”.
(Our Norwegian guest contributor Gorger, whose own blog is here, returns to NCS with the third and final Part of an entertaining post in which he recommends music we’ve overlooked — with a couple of conclusions at the end.)
Welcome to my last installation of stuff I’ve enjoyed these last months that has not been covered on NCS. The previous posts are here:
ENDZEIT: YEARS OF HUNGER
The difference between demos and self-released EPs can be rather minimal. Endzeit defines this as an EP, and the music is mature enough by all means to justify this. Negativity is about as popular here on NCS as clean, high-pitched singing performed by castrated power vocalists. Nevertheless, I have to address just this one negative aspect: Soundwise, there’s a somewhat unfinished feel. The sound is slightly flat and tame, whilst this music feels as if designed for a bombastic sound with a violent punch. The sound is by no means completely lifeless, though.
Endzeit is from Finland and was initially conceived as a one-man band by guitarist Polaris in 2012. This original intention was, however, quickly discarded as Black (vocals and guitar), Samuli (drums), and Pyry (bass) came along. The EP was written the same year and contains 22 minutes divided over five tracks. The guys have come up with a lyrical concept about a doomed, future-less world where decay has gone too far to be reversed. The inspiration is the city of Detroit, where large blocks/precincts are characterized by urban decay and vacancy. Condemned buildings allegedly serve as rat’s nests for criminals.
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the eagerly awaited second album by Bloodshot Dawn.)
I’ve been anticipating this ever since their debut came out. Bloodshot Dawn’s debut self-titled SAVED melodic death metal for me. It seemed that the only thing you could turn to for truly good melodic death metal was the doom-flavored Daylight Dies/In Mourning stuff. That stuff is excellent, and is one of my favorite musical developments in metal, but there hasn’t really been a champion for fast, aggressive, and riffy melodic death metal to prove it’s not an irrelevant copy-cat circle jerk. Bloodshot Dawn is now that champion.
Of course, I was apprehensive about whether Demons would be able to live up to its predecessor. The self-titled is so well-written and the perfect 50/50 split between melodic death metal and straight death metal that the balance the band established seemed like it would be a very delicate thing to maintain. With their second album, I have to say I think this is my first legit album of the year candidate, and it’s looking likely that it will be my album of the year in a few months time.