(Andy Synn presents a trio of reviews, with accompanying music streams.)
So today’s column is actually a bit of a coincidental confluence of events and circumstances.
My original intent was simply to put together a single piece of writing covering three separate bands as something of a direct response to last week’s epic Schammasch triple-review. However, as I started to pull together the necessary three albums to fulfil this idea it dawned on me that what I was actually doing was accidentally putting together another edition of my “Best of British” column, such as originally reared its ugly head last year.
Call it coincidence. Call it kismet. Call it what you will. But whatever you call it, prepare yourself for some homegrown metallic thrills and spills of the Sludge/Doom/Hardcore/Black/Death variety!
(Our old friend from New Zealand and occasional guest writer Booker brings us a collection of new releases discovered through their cover art, along with some very entertaining words.)
“You should never judge a book by its cover”, or so the saying goes. No doubt most of us try and do the same with our approach to metal. Yet somehow, in amongst all the diversity of music out there, the community of metal musicians seems to self-organize; just like some drops of T-1000 liquid metal coming together to form a greater terrifying machine, different minds and souls from across the world end up uniting in their artistic endeavours and adorning their albums with specific, identifiable, cover themes. For the most part, seeing a cover with a certain “typical genre X” album art style can lead you to a fair idea of what aural treasures lie inside, but sometimes they can come out of left field and surprise you. We shouldn’t judge albums by their cover, but let’s be honest: we might say we don’t, but we all do. Like masturbation.
Once upon a time back in NCS history, Islander ran a series called “Eye Catchers” dedicated to albums that hooked you in with their artwork (and other tasty aspects). As I was perusing Bandcamp for delicious new audio treats, I realised that I too was basing my decisions of what to listen to by inadvertently succumbing to the artwork, like a moth to flame. So I figured, the hell with it, let’s see where this folly-filled exercise leads me…. and after a few surprises, and some fails, here’s a few highlights I’d like to share.
(We’re late reviewing the very impressive debut album of Necrosavant, but DGR does his best to make up for the delay with this extensive review.)
Sometimes reviews start out as entirely different beasts from the ones that are eventually published. You close your eyes and start typing — in my case usually to discover that your fingers were off to the left by just one letter after about a paragraph — and the next thing you know your opening segment has spent more time talking about other projects that a band might be involved in than the release you were initially focused on. This review has one such lineage, starting out as one for In Mourning, before shifting to October Tide, before finally becoming a review for Necrosavant.
Believe it or not, there actually is a throughline for those three releases. The initially wild and wooly paragraph that opened up this monster would’ve taken you on a journey ’round the world before landing on why those three are tied together somewhat. Instead, it came down to the fact that although our site posted about the Necrosavant kickstarter way back when it launched, and I personally was on pins and needles hoping to see it succesful (based on a one-minute sample video of guest vocalist Tobias Netzell (In Mourning, Antarktis) delivering a monstrous vocal performance), we actually never got around to talking about the whole album after its end-of-February release through Kolony Records came and went. The time has come.
When a band name themselves Revulsion, it’s a safe bet that they’re not going to play break-up songs, narcotic stoner jams, or ambient drone. Of course, that still leaves a lot of open territory, most likely the kind that resembles a war zone. But as much fun as guessing games can be, we won’t leave you guessing for much longer.
Of course, some people reading this will already know about Revulsion, but the two-track 7″ we’re premiering today was my first exposure to what they do. You can probably guess that I think it’s damned good. The name is Drain / Reject Myself.
Most of the music in this Shades of Black series comes from the realms of black metal, but not all of it. Music can be black for other reasons as well, as demonstrated by the first of the four bands featured here.
This is a collection of songs that have been keeping me company in recent dark days. Until I decided to add the fourth band, I was going to call this Shades of Black — Long-Form Edition, because the songs by the first three bands are indeed much longer than average. They convincingly earn the extra minutes, and I hope you’ll carve out some space for them.
SEA OF BONES
As far as these selfish ears are concerned, far too much time has passed since New Haven’s Sea of Bones released their last album, The Earth Wants Us Dead. At last, we have something new.
(TheMadIsraeli returns to NCS with a review of the new album by Textures.)
So what’s the result when a long-running, respected force in metal makes an album after the man who was thought to be their mastermind leaves?
Phenotype is Textures best record since Silhouettes without a doubt in my mind. If I have any complaint, it’s that the band didn’t use this rush of inspiration to write even more material, the album having only having nine tracks on it of varying lengths. Those nine songs however, are dynamic, diverse, and intense in a way the music definitely was not on their previous record Dualism, which, despite my enjoying it, was definitely stagnating a bit.
The third and final part of Triangle is bound to be the most divisive and most hotly debated segment of the album, showing a very different third face of the band which (almost) entirely eschews the metallic menace of Part I and instead finds the band taking the esoteric progressivity of Part II to its logical conclusion, delving deep into a metaphysical void of moody, ambient minimalism, one which is punctuated here and there by exotic instrumental passages and hypnotic drumming rhythms.
It’s the sort of album designed to either be loved or hated – there’s no middle ground here – and it’s also the sort of album that will potentially take more than a few listens to fully appreciate and come to terms with as well.
Spheron – A Clockwork Universe
I’m actually surprised that the new Spheron record, A Clockwork Universe, hasn’t been covered here yet since their last one got covered quite a bit at NCS. At any rate, Spheron’s latest is a fantastic record that deserves to be heard by more people! For those unfamiliar, Spheron play a particularly proggy and dense sort of tech-death with a stronger emphasis on complex rhythm riffing over flashy lead playing.
(We present the second part of a three-part review by Andy Synn of the new triple album by the Swiss phenomenon Schammasch. Part One is here; Part Three arrives tomorrow.)
As it was written, so let it be done… I said I was going to write this review in three parts, echoing the construction of its subject matter, and with the publication of Part I yesterday it seems I’m now committed to this three-part treatise on the esoteric wonders of Triangle.
Now, as much as I foresee a certain amount of wailing and wringing of hands about it, the triple-album format of this release really does give the band a chance to fully indulge their more atmospheric ambitions and progressive proclivities while still retaining a sense of continuity and over-arching identity across each separate segment.
Apropos of this, with Part II you can really feel the doomier, proggier side of the band coming through, although this neither downplays the doomy touches already making themselves known during Part I, nor the blackened bite that many of the songs on Part II still possess. It’s simply an acknowledgement that for Schammasch this is yet another step onwards down a path of their own choice and making.
(Austin Weber continues to pitch in on round-up duty with the second part of a multi-part post recommending metal we haven’t previously covered. You can find Part 1 here.)
Arms – Blackout
You ready to get down with some nasty math-grind? Because Arms bring it throughout every jagged and howling minute of their sophomore full-length, Blackout.
I have Ken Reda from Bhavachakra (previously covered in a song premiere here at NCS!) to thank for tipping me off to this most excellent display of virulent rad viciousness! I think it’s additionally cool that the diverse and complex sonic whirlwind that Blackout delivers is the result of only one guy, Orlando, Florida-based musician/sound engineer Paul Hundeby.