photo by Forrest Locke
(For this 68th edition of The Synn Report, Andy takes as his subject the discography of SoCal’s Seven Sisters of Sleep — including their brand new album due for release by Relapse on February 5.)
After traversing the parched, sun-beaten wastelands of Texas in last month’s edition of The Synn Report, this time we’re travelling West to the city of angels, Los Angeles, to catch up with inveterate noise-mongers Seven Sisters of Sleep.
For those unfamiliar with the band, here’s a warning. This is some nasty, unrepentantly nihilistic stuff, straddling the blood-crusted nexus point between filthy Sludge, groaning Doom, buzzing Drone, seething Hardcore, and grim Old School Death Metal… with more than a few splashes of venomous Grind thrown in for good measure. Suffice it to say, this is definitely not music for the faint of heart.
By the same token though, it never feels like the band have just mashed-up all these sounds into one big, messy Extreme Metal sundae. Rather their sound comes across like a distillation of each of these styles down to their shared essence, filtered and refined to produce pure Extreme Metal moonshine, that’s just as likely to make you bang your head and scream your guts out as it is to make you go blind… and scream your guts out.
Though the band have a fair few splits and EPs to their name, I’ve elected to stick just to the full-length albums for this edition of The Synn Report, in particular their about-to-be-released third album Ezekiel’s Hags.
(In Part 67 of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of a band who began in North Pole, Alaska — Turbid North.)
Recommended for fans of: Crowbar, Misery Index, Mastodon
Ok, cards on the table – this edition of The Synn Report is basically just an excuse for me to finally wax lyrical about last year’s Eyes Alive, an album which only just missed out on consideration for my Critical Top 10, and which I’ve been jamming repeatedly ever since discovering the manifold pleasures contained within its nine tracks of gritty, blood-pumping Death-Prog stomp and swagger.
That’s not meaning to downplay either of the band’s two previous releases. Their debut, Under the Eight, is a solid (if somewhat familiar) enough slab of heavily Pantera-influenced Death-Thrash, while the follow-up Orogeny (the album which first brought them to wider attention) ups the ante considerably, showcasing the group beginning to truly find their feet and their own sound in a whirling cavalcade of rumbling Death Metal riffs, grinding sludge-soaked grooves, and dizzying prog/tech fretboard freak-outs.
But it’s definitely on the band’s most recent album where their star truly began to shine, culminating in nine tracks of blissful metallic perfection that sound like the members of Crowbar, Misery Index, and Mastodon having one last narcotic-fueled jam at the very end of the world.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!
(In this edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Poland’s Obscure Sphinx.)
Recommended for fans of: Cult of Luna, Tool, Triptykon
Polish Post-Prog-Doomsters Obscure Sphynx are one of those bands who you just can’t believe aren’t so much bigger than they are. Both their albums (particularly 2013’s utterly phenomenal Void Mother, which is easily up there with my all-time favourite albums) could serve as a masterclass in how to craft songs melding mood and emotion, rage and clarity, captivating song-writing and focused metallic heaviness – and both have similarly been underrated and underappreciated by the metal-loving public at large.
Well no more! It’s time to sit up and take notice, it’s time to give the devil his due… it’s time… for this band to reap the just rewards for the brilliant music that they’ve sown!
(Andy Synn presents the 65th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, reviewing the discography of Withered — who have a new album on the way.)
Recommended for fans of: Ulcerate, Krallice, Lord Mantis
Ugly. Raw. Nihilistic. Harrowing. These words — and many more besides — can all be applied to the work of bile-spewing troubadours Withered, who have so far produced three particularly stellar (if also particularly underappreciated) albums blending the raving savagery of Black Metal, with the wrenching heaviness of Death Metal, and the slime-drenched grooves of Sludge, each one bathed in a scalding miasma of acid-rain atmospherics and bleak, bitter misanthropy.
If you’ve encountered the band before, and/or have read any other reviews of their work, then I’m sure you’ll have noticed just how much of a struggle it is to adequately categorise the Georgian quartet (recently reduced to a three-piece after the departure of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Kilgore – who’s been replaced by Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy – as well as both long-time bassist Mike Longoria and his interim replacement Zach Harlan, with bass duties on the upcoming album being handled by a certain Colin Marston).
It’s not that the basic elements of the band’s sound are wholly unique – I, and others, have picked out references to everyone from (early) Mastodon to Morbid Angel, from Dissection to Neurosis, from Deathspell Omega to Entombed, underpinning their particular brand of Blackened Death-Sludge (or, possibly, Ensludgened Death-Black). It’s just that the resultant cacophony, this grim and godless entity that calls itself Withered, rises above these comparisons to stand defiantly on its own two feet.
Some people call them Death Metal. Some people call them Black Metal. Some people call them Sludge Metal. But whatever we all decide to call them, I’m sure we can all agree that they’re awesome.
(In this unusual edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn brings us reviews of albums by three one-man bands.)
This particular edition of The Synn Report is going to be a bit of a strange one, as it actually contains three different bands instead of the usual, singular focus on a single artist.
Why, you may ask? Well to be honest I wanted to write about all three of them separately but, for whatever reason, was struggling to find the right angle of attack by which to approach them as separate entities.
Thus it was only when I realized the obvious fact that they each had one thing in particular in common –that each “band” is really the solo project of a single individual – that I found the necessary ideological crowbar that allowed me to finally crack this column.
So please, after the jump, enjoy the immersive instrumental cosmology of Widek, the experimental Cascadian naturalism of Stellar Descent, and the prolific sonic nihilism of Voidcraeft.
(In this 63rd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Germany’s Stellar Master Elite — including their just-released third album, Eternalism.)
Recommended for fans of: Thorns, Satyricon, Aborym
The Synn Report isn’t just about covering bands retrospectively you know? In fact, frequently I’ll stumble across a band for the very first time and just feel compelled to write about them immediately (see Parts 57 and 60 for recent examples).
German grim-meisters Stellar Master Elite are another example of a band whose name has been floating around the various circles in which I wander for a while, but who – with their upcoming third album (which is being released today) – I’ve only just gotten round to checking out.
Their sound, though instantly memorable, is actually slightly hard to properly categorise. Certainly there’s a significant Blackened backbone to the band, but this is overlain with a Doomy, occult glamour and a shining skin of cyber-industrial synth work… so it should be no surprise to discover that the band named themselves after a song by legendary (if not exactly prolific) Industrial Black Metal forerunners Thorns… though it must also be said that the Germans are less chaotically aggressive overall, but far more ominously bleak in their approach!
So if you’re looking to get your grim, inhuman groove on, then you’ve definitely come to the right place!
(In this 62nd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Arizona-based Vehemence.)
Recommended for fans of: Abysmal Dawn, God Dethroned, At The Gates,
I currently have more candidates for The Synn Report on my docket than I really know what to do with, and although on the plus side that means I’m in no danger of running out of options within… oh… the next year or two at least… on the negative side of things it means I’m scrambling to write-up and include a number of bands who have new releases out in 2015 (either already released or still forthcoming) and slowly but surely running out of time in which to do so.
One of those bands just happens to be recently resurrected Arizona wrecking crew Vehemence, whose three stellar full-lengths — The Thoughts From Which I Hide (2000), God Was Created (2002), and Helping the World to See (2004) – are soon to be joined by the long-awaited fourth album Forward Without Motion (out Oct. 23rd), which largely reunites the band’s original line-up for nine freshly carved and crafted tracks which aim to put the “DEATH” back into “Melodic Death Metal”.
So what better time than now to get caught up with the band’s killer back-catalogue?
Let the riffing commence!
(In this 61st edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Finland’s Ikuinen Kaamos.)
Recommended for fans of: Opeth, In Mourning, Daylight Dies
Though their current status is somewhat… up in the air… the Prog Death collective known as Ikuinen Kaamos (seemingly reduced now to just mainman Jarno Ruuskanen) remain, to my mind at least, one of the most singularly impressive and underappreciated acts ever to attempt to step out of the shadow of their own, admittedly weighty, influences.
Though the fingerprints of major luminaries such as Opeth and Emperor are immediately obvious to all of those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Ikuinen Kaamos clearly take great care to invest each track with a sense of their own unique character and voice, never shying away from admitting their influences, yet never being defined solely by them either.
With two full-length albums to their name, along with one rare and hard (though not impossible) to find digital EP, the band’s back-catalogue may not be the most extensive, but it’s still incredibly deep, and brimming with complex nuances and subtle elements that reward those patient enough to unpick the many layers inherent to the music.
(Andy Synn delivers the 60th edition of The Synn Report, reviewing the discography to date of Philadelphia’s Burden.)
Recommended for fans of: Ahab, October Tide, Celtic Frost
This was not the column I was supposed to be writing this month. Only an hour ago I was discussing with my NCS compatriots which of two particular bands to choose to focus on with this month’s edition of The Synn Report.
Yet the best-laid plans of mice and men so often go astray… particularly when you stumble upon an artist so good you just have to write about them. And that’s exactly what happened in this case.
Gloomy progressive Doomsayers Burden hail from the darkest depths of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, to be exact) and have, so far, produced two full-length albums and two stand-alone singles of dense, introverted Doom and groaning, cavernous Death Metal, each time employing subtle progressive touches and splashes of captivating melody to maintain a sense of bleak vitality and cleverly shift the dynamic of their lengthy compositions.
Granted, this sort of music often takes a real investment of patience and time from the listener, but when it’s this good it’s definitely worth it. In fact their most recent album, last year’s Without, is probably one of the most under-appreciated and under-rated gems I’ve heard in a long while!
Scarve – 2003
(In this new edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Scarve.)
Recommended for fans of: Strapping Young Lad, Darkane, Gorod
Often tagged with the ever-so-damning “Modern Metal” moniker (shudder), French musical metallurgists Scarve – whose most recent line-up includes Darkane vocalist Lawrence Mackory, Soilwork guitarist Sylvain Coudret, and Extreme Metal’s resident VID (Very Important Drummer) Dirk Verbeuren – can be a hard-to-classify beast.
Existing somewhere in the irradiated wasteland between Death and Thrash, the strong hints of Meshuggah-esque futurism and Fear Factory-style mechanised rhythms have, at varying stages of their career, seen the group lumbered with awkward references to “Cyber-Metal” and “Industrial Death Metal”, neither of which seem to accurately capture the band’s overall sound and style.
Still, we’re not here to bandy genre terms and stylistic tags, we’re here to experience some damn good Metal! So, without further ado, click onwards and feast your ears on the blisteringly technical, ferociously aggressive, and enigmatically progressive Cyber-Metal assault of Scarve…
Dammit, I said it didn’t I?