(Here’s the latest installment of KevinP’s series in which he runs down his list of the best releases from the preceding month.)
The French are weird (but we knew that, so it’s not really weird). Dark Descent Records just came up a little short. Ever realize the island country of Cyprus had metal bands? Let’s eat some Vegemite and sauerkraut. And the Greeks have returned to the countdown. Now, let’s get on with it.
5. Corpo-Mente – Corpo-Mente
If you are a fan of Gautier Serre and the thoroughly warped Igorrr, you may have heard of this side project of his. Featuring the lush operatic vocals of Laure Le Prunenec (Öxxö Xööx, Rïcïnn), it’s much more, shall we say, “tame”. It’s a classical journey of baroque, trip-hop, and acoustique. It’s by no means a metal album, but that doesn’t stop it from being one hell of a piece of art.
(Austin Weber reviews the debut album by Irreversible Mechanism from Belarus.)
The story of how Irreversible Mechanism were signed and the subsequent re-release of their briefly heard debut, Infinite Fields, is an interesting one. I was initially tipped off to the band by Essence Of Datum, an instrumental death metal act based in Belarus, who mentioned them to me in early November. Irreversible Mechanism are also based in Minsk, and are highly technical as well. The band then released Infinite Fields in December, and I only got to hear it in full twice before it was pulled from Bandcamp after only a single day. It turns out that after hearing only one track the night before the release, Finland’s Blood Music immediately wrote to propose the signing and an agreement was quickly reached, though not before the band had launched the album on Bandcamp — for one day. That should give you a hint as to how impressive a debut Infinite Fields is.
On a side note, the way this happened is something I’ve noticed other labels doing recently. It’s an interesting way for newer labels to find talented new bands and help make them more well known.
On my first two listens, I will admit to thinking that I had heard very similar riffs, leads, solos, and drum-beats from Cosmogenesis-era Obscura and The Faceless, with some definable though less prevalent Necrophagist influence as well. But my opinion of the album has changed and grown, and I’ve become quite fond of this record. Although the two main major musical influences I just cited are at the heart of Irreversible Mechanism’s gravitas, the band really do a lot to add more layers and different influences and they have created something that can definitely be considered its own unique take on technical death metal.
Four Phantoms is unspeakably sad, an extended lament so vast and panoramic that it seems more like an expression of bereavement for the loss of an entire race than for that of an individual soul. Yet it is also sublime, as if Bell Witch had swum endless fathoms down beneath an ocean of grief, down to the pristine alabaster core of human loss resting in the blackness, and surfaced again to erect it like a monument, gleaming with cold light under a half moon.
You’ll have to forgive me for these flights of verbal grandiosity (there will be more to come). The music is the kind that carries your imagination away. It induces introspectiveness. Its emotional impact is profound. In my case, it makes me search hard for words that are grand enough to suit the music; I’m sure I’ll fail, but it’s too late for you to stop me from trying.
The music is slow, spare, and seemingly simple. There are probably more notes and beats in a few measures of tech-death frenzy than in an entire song on Four Phantoms — and of those four songs, two are more than 10 minutes in length and two last more than 22 minutes. But what Bell Witch do with their seemingly simple tools is to build something exalted, yet with a weight that’s almost too much to bear.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Der Weg Einer Freiheit.)
From Dark Fortress and Secrets of The Moon, to Infestus and Agrypnie, via Ascension and Odem Arcarum, Germany seems to have produced an inordinately high number of my favourite Black Metal artists. And yet, despite all dealing firmly in the blackened arts, each band produces such a distinct strain of metallic darkness that, in many ways, this shared nationality seems to be the only common thread linking them in any sort of “scene”.
Well, to this amorphous grouping you can now add Bavarian sensations Der Weg Einer Freiheit, as their new album, Stellar, firmly and unequivocally establishes them as stars in the ascendant, and is already one of my top contenders for 2015’s inevitable End of Year list(s).
(TheMadIsraeli introduces us to a band from the Detroit area named Fell Ruin.)
I found out about Fell Ruin through the vocalist from a Michigan band we’ve covered here, Scorned Deity. Brian Sheehan hit me up, wanting me to check out another project of his who’ve finally gotten to release their first bit of music after some time. I love Scorned Deity, so I thought I’d see what he was doing with Fell Ruin.
Fell Ruin are definitely worth your time. I can’t quite describe what they do, but in an attempt to give you an idea, I’ll say it’s basically blackened death grind doom sludge? I don’t even know. It’s riveting stuff though, and savage like a pack of feral hyenas.
(Austin Weber reviews the debut album by Seattle’s Theories, which will soon be released by Metal Blade Records.)
Of all metal, grind is often the style where one can really do no wrong as long as things are fast, ear-shatteringly loud, and brief in run-time. But naturally, those rare grind bands who write more interesting songs or who choose to reach outside their genre stylings and bring in other dimensions to their music are going to be the most interesting — which is exactly what Seattle-based Theories accomplish so brilliantly on their new full-length album, Regression. I love all grind, but what Theories have done so well on Regression is to produce a record that has a lot more intensity and replay value than most of their peers.
There isn’t a single song under two minutes on Regression, which is certainly a rarity for a grind band. Theories have a more intricate and densely composed sound than the average quick blasts of fury that populate their genre. Theories could be called deathgrind, but I would say their sound is along lines that are similar to Misery Index.
(Andy Synn reviews the long-awaited new album by Norway’s Dødheimsgard.)
It seems I’ve picked up a taste for the strange recently. Whether it’s Porta Nigra’s latest foray into exotic metallic melodrama, or the burgeoning anticipation of Sigh’s newest musical menagerie, it seems there’s any number of acts ready and willing to delve into the uncharted waters of the weird.
Resurgent Black Metal mariners Dødheimsgard are certainly more than familiar with the pull of stranger tides, as over the years these currents have carried them from their origin point as part of the genre’s eminent “second wave” out to the very edge of its ever-expanding event horizon, dwelling right on the fringe of what might be considered as Black Metal.
A Umbra Omege, their first release in eight years, is undoubtedly a challenging, provocative piece of work, and – true to form – is definitely not an easy listen. It constantly confounds expectations, tacking off on unexpected tangents and swerving unpredictably away from where you think it might be heading in a manner that will surely prove as divisive as it is curiously compelling.
(Austin Weber reviews a new release by guitar wizard Felix Martin.)
Recently when I wrote a review for a Felix Martin concert here at NCS, I didn’t get to talk about one of the most important things that happened that night. After Felix Martin and his band finished their set I went to inquire about merch and talk with them. When I asked Kilian Duarte, their bass player, just what was in this new CD called The Human Transcription that I hadn’t heard yet, he told me it was inspired by the last Blotted Science EP. I knew then that I had to buy it. Little did I know just how amazing it would be.
To introduce the concept, here is an important explanation of it that I am quoting from Felix Martin’s website:
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by West Virginia’s Byzantine.)
Anyone who could get to sit down and have a real, lengthy chat with Chris “OJ” Ojeda would quickly learn that the dude is one of the coolest cats you could have the pleasure of talking to. He’s still got a youthful passion for metal, as if he hadn’t aged from his teenage years at all. I remember back in the early/mid-2000s a marketing term being thrown around, the meaning of which I was never sure of: “working man’s metal”. If you take the words literally, Byzantine are certainly that. For OJ, music really has been the thing he gets to indulge once the rest of life is taken care of. Yet Byzantine’s music is one of the most compelling cases for the argument that some of the best metal is written when it’s not created with careerist intentions.
Normally, I would have been afraid that To Release Is To Resolve wouldn’t stack up to the band’s previous work. They lost two members who contributed a lot of touches that made the band: Michael “Skip” Cromer’s bass playing and back up vocals were gone, as was Tony Rohrbough, one of my favorite guitarists of all time and a hard-to-replace identity in the lead guitar slot. However, I didn’t have that hesitation, because since my introduction to Chris when I reached out to him concerning my retrospective of their discography, I learned that Ojeda is, in many respects, Byzantine incarnate. This is his baby, and he wouldn’t allow it to stagnate or put out material that wouldn’t be up to par.
(DGR hath delivered the following round-up of two new EPs and one new single.)
It’s been a little while since I’ve had time to really trawl around the internet and pen up one of these humongous roundups — mostly because smaller descriptions have been mutating into full album reviews. Often, I’ve used this kind of feature to help folks catch up with stuff they might have missed (or that we missed) and discover things that may have happened weeks ago, but flew under our collective radars. This time we’re having a little fun and attempting to bring a theme with this one — the theme of desaturated artwork, because what is more METAL than black-and-white artwork?
The answer is “nothing”, for it is bereft of all color, like our hardened and blackened souls. So I present unto you the most recent collection of things I have found, which actually share not one, but two things connected to the printed format: They are in black-and-white, and I was really fucking slow in writing about them and getting them out to you.