(In this new edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn explores the discography of Seattle’s Book of Black Earth.)
Recommended for fans of: Immolation, Grave, Belphegor
The Synn Report is like a fragile eco-system. Cultivating it requires maintaining a careful balance between editions. You can’t have too many Black Metal bands, or too many Death Metal bands, one after the other. You can’t go too dark, or too melodic, for too long. You can’t oversaturate the tech or over-indulge the prog. You need to cover as much ground as possible, varying your approach, as the whole ethos of the column is one dedicated to exposing deserving bands from across the metal spectrum.
While I have some definite surprises planned for the future, this time around I felt like we needed something raw and vicious, something filled to the brim with rabid vocals, blasting drums, and buzz-saw guitars, where even the barest hints of melody have a dark and menacing feel to them.
And since I’m off back to Seattle again soon, I decided that now was the best time to introduce you all to the killer Black/Death hybrid of Book of Black Earth, a band who have walked the left hand path, worshipped at the altars of madness, and dwelt under the sign of hell ever since the release of their first demo, way back in 2004.
(In this post, Andy Synn provides updates about five bands who have been the subject of past SYNN REPORTS (and one “proto Synn Report”): Martriden, Astarte, Anata, V.A.S.T., and Persefone.)
Wow, it’s been almost two months since the last edition of The Synn Report! Where does the time go?
In the intervening time I’ve been very busy, both with work, band stuff, and my personal life (yes, I do have one outside the site… erm, kind of…), and simply haven’t had chance to settle down and get to work on things in the more in-depth way that The Synn Report requires of me!
Don’t worry though, a new edition, with an all-new band, is on its way. In the meantime, I thought we might as well check in with a few updates from those bands we’ve featured here in the past.
(In this milestone 40th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Argentina’s In Element.)
Recommended for fans of: Darkane, Mnemic, After The Burial
It seems we’ve reached another big round number in the annals of this column, and as a result I thought I needed to do something a bit special to celebrate. Because that’s just how I roll.
So today’s artist not only hails from Argentina - receiving its first visit from The Synn Report – but they also offer all of their studio releases (3 albums and one EP) for free download over on their website! That’s right, if you like what you hear you can go straight over to www.in-element.com and download to your heart’s content. Though I’d appreciate it if some of you also bought some physical albums and/or merch, because they definitely deserve your support!
Formed in 2003 and releasing their first album in 2005, these Argentinian antagonists combine state of the art, cybernetically-enhanced melodeath with punishingly technical metalcore flourishes, vicious death metal vocals, and a glorious atmosphere of star-kissed, celestial ambience.
(In this 39th of his reports, Andy reflects upon the discography of Azarath.)
Recommended for fans of: Hate Eternal, Dark Funeral, Krisiun
We’ve had a couple of more proggy, melodic acts featured in the last few Synn Reports, so I think it’s about time we got down to something really nasty.
Polish blasphemers Azarath deal exclusively in a brand of raw, bestial, blackened death metal which has its touchstones in the unrelenting assault of Hate Eternal and Dark Funeral and the bone-grinding riff-contortions of Insision and Blood Red Throne, along with occasional flashes of wickedly evil anti-melody a la Necrophobic or Belphegor.
Formed in 1998, the only remaining original member is infamous Behemoth blast-master Inferno, but despite this, the band’s modus operandi – corrupt, brutalise, blaspheme – has never changed.
(In this 38th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Persefone from the small nation of Andorra, including the band’s new 2013 release, Spiritual Migration.)
Recommended for fans of: Wintersun, Into Eternity, Edge of Sanity
It’s funny how things work out. Persefone had been on my list as a potential Synn Report for some time, and what with them recently releasing their fourth album it was pretty clear that I could kill two birds with one stone and link a short appraisal of it in with the usual Synn Report format. I decided pretty much straight away after finishing Part 37 that the Andorran prog-metallers were going to have to feature in the next edition, and then by coincidence a good number of our readers started mentioning Spiritual Migration as one of their albums of the year so far. It’s crazy how these things line up.
Persefone are the first Andorran artist to feature in The Synn Report, but their sound has worldwide appeal – indeed, their progressive proclivities, ostentatious keyboards, and epic song structures have a fair bit in common with In Vain, who were the subject of the previous edition of this column.
To put you in the right state of mind, a flurry of other names which have been thrown out in response to the band’s music are Dream Theater, Edge of Sanity, Symphony X, Opeth, Into Eternity, Borknagar… all prog-metal behemoths, ranging from the Power Metally inclined to the Death Metally devoted. The fact that these acts are so frequently referenced when talking about the Andorran sextet should (hopefully) give you some indication of just how highly regarded their albums – and their musical abilities – are by those in the know.
After the jump – four albums’ worth of technical skill, creative flair, grandiose ambition, and magnificent storytelling (and keyboards)…
(In this 37th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Norway’s In Vain.)
Recommended for fans of: Vintersorg, Swallow the Sun, Leprous
Picking bands for The Synn Report is a task unto itself (I don’t just throw darts at a board, despite what you might have heard). Many factors are involved: the genre of the band (I like to keep successive columns varied if I can), the size of their discography (basically how much am I prepared to write at any one time), and the current status of the band are just a few. I recently bumped Man Must Die up the list so as to coincide with their funding campaign for their next album, I pushed Ludicra up the list when they announced their dissolution, and the last edition was written purely because I’d been putting off writing about The Funeral Pyre for far too long!
In the case of Norwegian prog-metal mobsters In Vain, the band made it into contention purely because their latest album was just released earlier this year, and has been sitting in my “To Review” pile for far too long. So it seemed prudent to kill two birds with one stone and fold a sort-of-review of their latest release into the traditional format of The Synn Report!
(Andy Synn brings us another edition of THE SYNN REPORT, focusing on the discography of California’s The Funeral Pyre.)
Recommended for fans of: Gorgoroth, Abigail Williams, 1349
The phrase “American Black Metal” is like a red rag to a bull to some people (random fact: bulls are colour-blind, so it’s actually the motion that they’re responding to). Due to an unfortunate combination of cultural xenophobia and musical possessiveness they immediately dismiss the concept with a knee-jerk reaction of ugly contempt, or even outright anger.
And that’s a shame because there is a wealth of black metal talent in the American underground these days. And it’s not all of one uniform sort either. I suppose I could even wax lyrical how the USA has developed its own particularly American brand of the blackened arts (appropriately too, since Black Metal has always been a musical form which builds on cultural nuances and interpretations) but that’s a column in and of itself!
Hailing from La Habra, California, The Funeral Pyre were initially among the more European-sounding of the American Black Metal underground, with a frostbitten melodic attack that at its roots recalled vintage Dissection. Over the years, however, their sound has developed into something far more distinctive, a blazing conflagration of dry bones and dead-eyed malice, burning in agony beneath the pitiless desert sun.
(Andy Synn brings us another edition of THE SYNN REPORT, focusing on a band who’s off our usual beaten path.)
Recommended for fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Ulver, A Perfect Circle
So this will be the third Synn Report in a row emanating from the British Isles… I’m not sure why… possibly some sort of deeply repressed guilt or sense of ingrained responsibility to the UK metal scene? Who knows. Don’t worry though, I’ve already set out who the next edition is going to focus on, and they’re not from the UK, so I think we’re safe from any pro-imperialist accusations.
After two distinctly death metal flavoured editions in a row we’re heading into more unusual waters this time around, with a band who come to NCS from a rather different direction.
Forming in 1998, Sunna have had a very up and down career in the British underground. Arriving at the tail end of the nu-metal years the group were lucky enough to avoid being tainted with the same artificially-angsty brush, while also benefitting from a renewed interest in more arty and more dramatic forms of rock/metal (which some would say was a counter-counter-culture response to the more… clunky… forms of mainstream metal at the time).
Dealing in a sound somewhere between the industrial groove of early Nine Inch Nails, the pulsing ambience of Massive Attack, and the soaring riffage of A Perfect Circle – with underlying influences from both Bowie and The Beatles (at their most psychedelic) – the group delivered their well-received debut in 2000, before completely and unexpectedly falling off the radar. It was over nine long years later that the group would return with their follow-up record, continuing even further along their esoteric, industrial/electro-ambient path.
By the release of their third album the band were essentially a solo project of vocalist/guitarist Jon Harris (along with contributions from a number of notable other musicians), but continued to deal with their themes of inner turbulence and turmoil through the medium of their complex compositions and thought-provoking, often painfully honest, lyrics.
(Andy Synn delivers another SYNN REPORT, assessing the discography of the UK’s Mithras.)
Recommended for fans of: Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Fallujah
Let’s stay in the UK for a second straight edition of The Synn Report, shall we?
Tech-death before tech-death became a pissing contest between directionless shred-lords, Mithras deal in a form of technically gifted, wilfully complex death metal that successfully marries progressive ambition with stunning instrumental prowess, without short-changing the listener in either regard.
Drawing from the more imperious side of Morbid Angel’s dark death metal aesthetic as their primary influence, together with an ear for the more challenging, arty side of Pestilence’s body of work, the duo who form the core of Mithras have woven these influences into a sound entirely their own – unique, difficult, esoteric, but ultimately rewarding – one that served, in hindsight, as a precursor to the spacey death metal sound slowly gaining traction today. Trend setters and taste-makers without meaning to be, they were one of the first death metal bands I had heard in a long time to truly take the sound and do something so distinctive with it.
Their mix of raw, pummelling drum work, crippling riffage, and finger-blistering technical skills stood head and shoulders above their competitors at the time, and remains so today. This is due not only to their impressive abilities behind the kit and on the fretboard – their bio-organic symbiosis of natural progression and seamless mechanical precision is nearly unparalleled – but can also be attributed to their patient perfectionism, whose song-writing focussed just as much on atmosphere as it did on aggression.
(Andy Synn delivers another SYNN REPORT, assessing the discography of Scotland’s Man Must Die.)
Recommended for fans of: Cryptopsy, Katakylsm, Job For A Cowboy
You want brutal? Well this Scottish band are here to give you brutal, no holds barred, no quarter given. Though they’ve gotten more technical and more complex over the years, they’re certainly no flashy tech-death band, instead delivering gut-wrenching shots to the solar-plexus that qualify their “technical” skills with a big capitalised “DEATH METAL” uppercut.
There’s a scrappy, thrashy underbelly to the band’s armour-plated, tank-like delivery of steroid-injected metallic rage, which allows for some surprising flashes of melody here and there, while the megaton riffage and bulldozing drumming patterns ensure maximum devastation with every listen. Neck-snapping rhythms and sudden shifts in timing and tempo attest to the group’s impressive, but never overblown, technical abilities
The band were actually signed to Relapse until not long ago, and their current status as an unsigned act really is mystifying, particularly when you consider that the band’s sound seems primed to capitalise on the resurgence of both Suffocation and Cryptopsy, while also having one foot (or at least a toe) in the thrash revival aesthetic, as well as appealing to the new-school death metal fans brought into the fold by the tech-friendly stylings of Demonocracy or Deflorate.
Thankfully, the group haven’t given up, and have a PledgeMusic campaign currently active where they’re hoping to get the money to cover the recording and production of their fourth album. If you like what you hear below then I implore you to head over to http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/manmustdie and show the group some love!