I’m probably one of the least qualified people imaginable to review this new EP. However, every day I read about, and occasionally meet, all manner of motherfuckers who are unqualified to do what they are doing, so I don’t know why that should stop me. Besides, unlike all the motherfuckers to whom I refer, at least I’m being honest about my lack of qualifications. Putting to one side the question why you should continue reading this review in light of my disclosure, I shall forge ahead.
The title of this EP is Dreading Consciouness and it was released on November 18 by Canada-based Hypnotic Dirge Records. That label releases an eclectic range of music, but Dreading Consciousness is an odd one even for them. It’s a collaboration between netra (the one-man project of Steven LeMoan, a Frenchman who now lives in Norway) and an underground rap duo (Hockeymask and Konsept) who call themselves We’rewolves. Netra provides the music, We’rewolves the rhymes.
And here’s where my lack of qualifications come in — because I am not well-versed in either the kind of trip-hop backing music that dominates most of the three songs on the EP or hip-hop, yet I do like this.
Two days ago Torture Division released their latest offering of “the world’s best death metal”, The Sacrifice. I’ve written about Torture Division so often at this site that explaining who they are and their approach to releasing music runs a high risk of redundancy, yet there’s always the slim chance that a few lost souls are discovering them for the first time. For them, here’s the back story:
The three members of this Swedish band – Lord K Philipson (guitar), Tobben Gustafsson (drums), and Jörgen Sandström (bass/vocals) — collectively have over 60 years of combined death metal experience, including membership in bands such as Grave, Entombed, Vicious Art, The Project Hate MCMXCIX, Vomitory, and God Among Insects. Their modus operandi is to release short demos and give them away for free. Every time they finish releasing a group of three demo’s, they or a record label package them up and sell them as a compilation CD. So far, this has happened three times; the latest compilation, The Army of Three, was released as a digipack earlier this month and has already sold out.
In June of this year, Torture Division gave away the first three-song demo in a new trilogy. That one was named The Worship, and I reviewed it here. The new one, which was again mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö at Unisound, delivers three new songs — “Queen Sacrifice”, “Fähund”, and “Flesh Before My Eyes”.
Here’s a random round-up of destructive new music I found today, including a review of a stunning new EP I stumbled upon quite by accident.
I first came across this three-man collective from Mammoth Lakes, California (and wrote about) them more than three years ago following release of their excellent second album, Raven God Amongst Us. In September 2012 I found out that Valdur had finished writing their new album and were set to begin recording it the following November, and I also found out about an excellent two-song EP entitled The Hammer Pit that they had previously self-released, consisting of “rough version” of two new songs. We featured those songs here and here, and both tracks are now streaming at Bandcamp. And then last December I saw that Valdur had released a stupendous new single entitled “Blast Beast”, which I wrote about here and which is also available (pay-what-you-want) on Bandcamp.
And now, finally, we have news about the band’s third album and a “rough version” of one of the new album tracks to hear. The album is entitled At War With, it includes 10 songs plus the killer album art you see above, and it will be released on December 17, 2013, by Bloody Mountain Records. The pre-mastered song that went up for streaming two days ago appears to be the title track — and it’s a blackened death metal masterstroke.
Vanhelga are a Swedish band, the brainchild of Jacob Ottosson (aka “145188″), who until recently has been the band’s vocalist and sole instrumentalist. With Vanhelga’s most recent EP, Sommar, he is joined for the first time by Johan Gabrielson (“1853″), a former member of the late, lamented Lifelover, as a vocalist and lyricist. To be honest, that Lifelover connection was what finally drew me into Vanhelga’s music, although the band have previously released two full-length albums and five shorter works.
Although Vanhelga themselves characterize Sommar as an EP (which explains the “Short But Sweet” title of this review), it’s almost 32 minutes long and includes seven songs. Other bands have used the “full-length album” label for shorter collections of music. But whatever the right characterization, there’s no denying that Sommar is a significant achievement.
Trying to describe, much less summarize, the music is difficult. It’s an unusual combination of styles, including (but not limited to) black metal, post-rock, post-punk, and gothic. Its overall atmosphere is melancholy and at times even depressive, with textures of urban angst and desolation — and occasional eruptions of fierce anger. The mainly mid-paced song structures are relatively simple and relatively conventional, with the component parts looping back on themselves in a way that cements the infectious but tormented melodies in the listener’s mind. But that’s not to suggest that the music itself is utterly stripped down or simple, and it’s certainly not to suggest that it ever ventures into any kind of comfortable territory.
This is a review of a split release by two German black metal bands — Unru and Sun Worship — that will be issued on 12″ vinyl on December 10, 2013, by An Out Recordings and Sick Man Getting Sick Records. Each band contributes a single song, one per side. Both songs are now streaming on Bandcamp and both are available as immediate downloads with pre-orders of the record. And both are really good.
Unru’s first release, Demo MMXIII, came out this past January. It was an 11-track affair in which none of the songs reached four minutes and more than half were less than two. By contrast, Unru’s contribution to this split, “Von der Flüchtigkeit des Todes”, is nearly 10 minutes in length. For most of that time, it’s a storming cascade of distorted tremolo-picked guitars and blasting drumbeats through which a grim melody rises and falls like heaving waves. The seething intensity of the music is enhanced by acidic, reverberating shrieks.
(DGR reviews the latest EP by Psychotic Pulse from Toronto.)
Psychotic Pulse were initially brought to my attention by their drummer, who was (and is) the proprietor of a project known as Tyrant Of Death. The group had just released their self-titled debut earlier this year, and to no surprise it turned out really, really well. They manifested themselves as a hybrid of industrial, groove, and death metal that strode atop shrieking vocals with many a heavy section that triggered near instantaneous headbanging. I thought the Psychotic Pulse self-titled disc was great.
Psychotic Pulse have the industrialized, machine-like sound hardwired into their system. They’re precise as can be and nail every beat almost perfectly, with enough machine noise and electronics filtered into their sound to bring to mind the apocalypse via The Terminator; metal by way of Skynet, with the machines making as much cacophonous noise as they can unleash as a form of psychological warfare.
Doom comes in many flavors, but at the core of the sound there’s always a black hole, no matter what else may be draped around it. It’s just a question of how big that light-sucking core happens to be. On the forthcoming Southern Lord split LP by Noothgrush and Coffins, it’s massive.
My introduction to Oakland’s Noothgrush came in 2011 via Southern Lord’s The Power of the Riff tour, a limited run of west coast dates that marked the band’s return after splitting up in 2001 (and their first show in Seattle since 1997). Reading again what I wrote about the show (here) reminds me of what a revelation the band’s music was:
“Imagine this: You’re chained in an iron receptacle, and through vents in the bottom, hot paving tar slowly flows in. Inexorably, at a glacial pace, it covers your feet, it climbs up your legs, it reaches and passes the part of your body that does all the thinking, it covers your abdomen and your chest, your arms strain at their chains and you scream as the tar boils the flesh away until it reaches the empty cavity on top of your shoulders and pours into your ears, mouth, and nose, suffocating you in a blistering black agony. Your last sensations are the smell of your own incinerating flesh and the shrieking chants of this band’s vocalist…. Sick, sloooooow, sludgy, and ultimately irresistible.”
Pelican, who performed later the same night, posted this on their Facebook page right about the time Noothgrush finished their set: “Good lord, Noothgrush are heavier than a knapsack full of anvils.”
A week ago I posted a list of the best releases I’d heard over the last five years by newer bands whose sound was strongly influenced by old school Swedish death metal. The last release I put on that list before posting it, though you couldn’t tell, was the 2013 demo by a Swedish band named Under the Church. I heard it for the first time the day I finished the list, and one listen was all it took. Since then I’ve listened to it again and again, and the more I’ve listened, the more I’ve liked it.
Word has been spreading ever since the demo became available months ago, probably in part because the band was started by two former members of Nirvana 2002 — drummer Erik Qvick and bassist Lars Henriksson — but mainly because the music is so good. And sure enough, in the week since my list went up, Under the Church announced some good news: They’re going to record an album, and the album is going to be released by Pulverised Records. If you’ve already heard the demo, then you know just how good this news is. If you haven’t, I’m going to explain.
This is a review of a forthcoming 7″ EP by Vancouver’s Auroch, but it happens to coincide with a piece of significant news announced yesterday, so we’ll start with that: After making a particularly striking impression with their 2012 album From Forgotten Worlds, Auroch have now signed with Profound Lore, who will be releasing the band’s next album during 2014. Recording is expected to begin in February. Congratulations are in order, both for the band and for the label. That album goes on our highly anticipated list for the new year.
Now, back to the new EP. The name is Seven Veils and it includes two songs — the title track and a b-side called “Coronation”, which is a re-titled and re-recorded version of a much earlier demo track.
“Seven Veils” is a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred onslaught of blackened death metal, with meat-tenderizing drum blasts and a maelstrom of ravaging guitar and bass distortion. The blast-furnace effect of the music is regularly punctuated by brief moments of separation, sometimes no longer than one big twang of a bass string or a few morbid arpeggio notes. The music finds its groove here and there, but its mainly a fascinating over-the-top frenzy. The vocals are also completely unhinged, ranging from boiling-in-oil shrieking to the rapid-fire barking of what sounds like a really big mastiff. When you listen, your first impulse may be to duck and cover.
Amiensus and Oak Pantheon are two Minnesota bands we watch closely at this site. Both of them produced debut albums in 2012 that we praised in our reviews — Restoration by Amiensus (reviewed here) and From A Whisper by Oak Pantheon (reviewed here). Both of them can be considered black metal bands, but both of them have incorporated so many other musical elements that diverge from the Scandinavian orthodoxy that one day we will have to concoct a new genre name for what they are doing. “American black metal” isn’t specific enough, and although both bands come far closer to Agalloch than they do Marduk or Taake, “Cascadian black metal” isn’t right either.
While we continue to ponder just what shorthand to use in describing what each of these bands are doing, we can now consider their latest creations, which come conveniently packaged together in a new forthcoming split release entitled Gathering. Before I heard a note, I had a good feeling, because both the main album cover (“The Plains of Heaven”) and the alternate cover (“The Great Day of His Wrath”) were crafted from 1849 paintings by John Martin, and that just exudes good taste, as does the decision to have both tracks mastered by Arsafes (Kartikeya, Above the Earth) (and he mixed the Amiensus track too). Those good feelings proved to be prescient, because both bands’ contributions to the split are stellar.