(Andy Synn wrote this remembrance of Tristessa, of the Greek metal band Astarte.)
Sad news my friends. Yesterday I learned that Astarte frontwoman Tristessa (aka Maria Kolokouri) passed away due to complications suffered while fighting off Leukaemia. Not only was her wonderful life tragically cut short, but she also leaves behind a husband and young son… and I cannot begin to imagine what they must be going through. My heart goes out to them for their loss.
I’d been following Maria’s battle via the Astarte Facebook page, and her husband’s occasional updates, and had been hopeful she would be able to pull through, because I have been a huge fan of hers (and of Astarte) for a long time now. Indeed we’re coming up on the 50th edition of The Synn Report (not even counting special editions) and it was Astarte who I chose to cover for the very first edition, way back in January 2011.
Here’s how I described them back then:
“With a consistently changing line-up, the primarily female band Astarte began life as a purely Black Metal band, albeit one with an ear for a distinctive and dark melody.
“Over the years they have metamorphosed into a more Black/Death hybrid of a band, shedding and recruiting numerous different members along the way, but each time progressing and improving upon their own sound. They have in the past ten years gained a cult following of their own, whilst also gaining the patronage and friendship of some of the larger leading lights of the international Black and Death metal scenes. Guest slots from members of Rotting Christ, Dimmu Borgir, God Dethroned, Arch Enemy and Mayhem have all served to cement them as a band to be taken seriously on the world stage, although their overall lack of exposure (coupled with their inconsistent line-up issues) has yet to provide them with that all-important break-out opportunity.”
In hindsight I think it holds up pretty well. So, in tribute to Tristessa, I’ve asked Islander to reprint the original Synn Report below, in the hope that more people will be drawn in to appreciate the scintillating blackened art of Astarte.
(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Junius from Boston, Massachusetts. Their music is an exception to our Rule.)
Recommended for fans of: Deftones, Katatonia, Solstafir
I first heard about this band in a rather unusual way back at the tail-end of 2011, when they stepped in at the last minute as replacements for Ghost, who were forced to drop off Enslaved’s North American tour at the last minute due to visa issues. Having no prior knowledge of the band at all, I was particularly intrigued when I started to see a quiet shit-storm floating around certain parts of the internet about “that indie band opening for Enslaved”, and felt compelled to check them out… after all, there must be something to them to be causing such a fuss.
And I’m glad I did, because the music they make is astonishingly beautiful and moving, with a sense of haunting atmosphere and blooming melodic power. The guitars shimmer and blossom in great waves of light and shade above an electric foundation of looping bass lines and lithe, progressive drum work, while the vocals – pulsing with echoes of both Joy Division and The Smiths – weave their own distinctive spell of captivating, clean-sung poetry and passion.
The band have been described in several ways… “Alt Metal”, “Post Rock”, “Indie Metal”, “Art Rock”, “Shoegaze Doom Metal”… though none of them really hit the spot. There’s certainly elements of Post-Punk and New Wave in their DNA, that’s obvious enough, as well as a fascination with the metallic atmospherics of acts like Neurosis and Isis, but really their sound is quite unique – oddly anthemic, yet strangely apocalyptic.
Ultimately then, the proof is in the listening. Perhaps start with their latest EP, and work your way backwards. After all, this may not be typical NCS fare, but you trust me… right?
(In this 49th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Send More Paramedics.)
Recommended for fans of: Municipal Waste, Suicidal Tendencies, Exodus
The early part of this new century wasn’t exactly my favourite period when it came to the underground metal scene here in the UK. Not that there weren’t some great, hard-working bands out there doing their own thing (and doing it well!), but it seemed like every other band I encountered was desperately trying to be a sub-standard version of either As I Lay Dying, or Converge, but without an ounce of originality or integrity (while also essentially trying to be as dumb and needlessly confrontational as possible).
Now, that’s not the whole scene by a wide margin, but most of what was out there just wasn’t really clicking with me. However, there were definitely a few exceptions, and one of those was the sheer bloody-minded, self-declared “Zombiecore” madness of Send More Paramedics.
Part thrash, part punk, all crazy… Send More Paramedics rose from the grave in 2001, and were sent back into their deathless slumber in 2007, leaving behind a strange legacy of blood, brains, and bile… set to a soundtrack of rabid thrash riffs and punked-up aggression. The band actually reformed for a few reunion shows earlier this year, but unfortunately I couldn’t make any of them. So, instead, here is my tribute to the heathen masters of undead disaster.
(In this 47th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reflects on the discography of Ov Hollowness, and we have Bandcamp streams of all the albums, as well as Andy’s suggested songs from each one.)
Recommended for fans of: Abigail Williams, Nachtmystium, Sólstafir
After the one-two punch of brutality of the last two editions it’s about time for something a little more… nuanced.
Ov Hollowness is the name of an atmospheric/progressive/post Black Metal project masterminded by Mark Rafferty of Edmonton, Alberta (that’s in Canada, for you less geographical types). Since the project’s genesis in 2009 it has produced 3 albums of driving, blackened riffs, thundering rock beats, and cold, haunting ambience.
Though primarily a guitar-driven affair, the vocals are also of prime importance and add their own vital character to the mix, blending bloody, blackened rasps and passages of portentous spoken word with moments of piercing clean-sung melody and clarity. Even the drums, electronically-programmed though they might be, are written and incorporated into each overall song in a way that seems both fluid and natural.
Over time the sound of the project has undergone a slow, organic evolution, moving from a raw, yet fluid early aesthetic, to a grandly melodic, deeply atmospheric, powerfully passionate vision that takes the building blocks of Black Metal and uses them as a foundation upon which to construct something altogether more ambitious.
(In this 46th edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Lecherous Nocturne.)
Recommended for fans of: Hour of Penance, Nile, Aborted
Lecherous Nocturne play Technical Death Metal – not Tech-Death. There’s a subtle, but important, difference there. Because this shit is brutal. With a capital B. And possibly a lot of other capital letters too.
The disgustingly violent quintet from South Carolina have three full-length albums under their belt, the last of which was only released last year. That’s three albums of stunningly technical riffage and sheer metallic mayhem, devastating drum work and bleeding-edge bedlam. Utterly merciless and unforgiving.
It’s an appropriate time to be covering the band too, as next month they’re joining Abigail Williams and Panzerfaust on a massive US tour sponsored by NCS. So if you like what you hear (and you will, if you know what’s good for you…) then make sure you catch them live in May/June! [the schedule is here]
(In his 45th Synn Report, Andy Synn looks back at the discography of Denmark’s Horned Almighty.)
Recommended for fans of: Mayhem, Aura Noir, Goatwhore
Time for something beautifully filthy, brutally heavy, and just downright nasty.
Horned Almighty are a four-piece Satanic coven from Denmark who deal in a ragged, ugly form of Black Metal which melds raw thrash intensity with a Satyricon-esque sense of groove, and a primal punk-ish passion for perversion. There’s even a hint of Death Metal to the band’s sickening sonic synthesis – their gargantuan guitar tone and booming bass lines are delivered with the same crushing, tank-track aggression of early Obituary – while the bowel-shaking, gut-level heaviness of the band’s low-end rumble is pure Celtic Frost.
With four albums of malignant musical menace already under their collective belt, the band are currently in the studio laying down the foundations for their next full-length World of Tombs, so now seems like the perfect time to introduce you all to their brand of balls-to-the-wall blackened misanthropy.
photo by Wout Muyldermans
(Andy Synn delivers the 44th installment in this series, reviewing the discography of Belgium’s Marche Funèbre.)
Recommended for fans of: My Dying Bride, Eye of Solitude, (early) Paradise Lost
Doom – any form of doom, from groaning cadaverous crawl to crushing melodic melancholia – isn’t really a genre I’ve touched on all that much in The Synn Report. Oh sure, there’ve been a couple of bands that flirt with doomy atmospherics and haunting ambience, but (as far as I can recall) no one who’s really been a full on Doom Metal act.
Well it’s time to change that.
Hailing from Antwerp, Belgium, Marche Funèbre deal in a form of downcast, depressive Death/Doom which shifts seamlessly between a funereal march and a thunderous death metal gallop, accented by frail threads of plaintive clean vocals and searing flashes of majestic lead guitar.
Desolate and depressive, ominous and oppressive, their often lengthy, drawn out songs are simultaneously draining and invigorating – at times they hit with instant impact, at others they build slowly and insidiously, insinuating themselves into the darkest corners of your mind.
(In this 43rd edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of the sadly departed Russian band Heironymus Bosch.)
Recommended for fans of: Gorod, Atheist, Obscura
Are you a fan of Tech Death? Or Progressive Death Metal? Bands with a Schuldiner-esque grasp of futuristic fretboard faculties that blur the lines between the two and stretch the boundaries of what can be done within the genre? Then this one, my friend, is for you…
Now I’m afraid I can’t take credit for discovering this wonderful little band on my own, as that must go to Mr. Andrew Workman, the fleet-fingered bassist for both my own band and for Taken By The Tide, who, while driving to play a show in Bristol last year, calmly turned to me and said the immortal words, “Did I ever play you any Hieronymus Bosch?”
He hadn’t. But now I’m damn glad he did.
Because Hieronymus Bosch were a fan-fucking-phenomenal Progressive/Technical Death Metal band from Russia who produced three albums of viscerally heavy, virtuoso complexity before their eventual dissolution in April 2010, leaving behind a little-known legacy of amazingly intricate, astronomically implausible riffs, belligerent, barking vocals, sinuous fretless bass work, and drumming that was the very definition of “superior”.
There’s no doubt in my mind that – were it better known – this is the sort of stuff that would leave Michael Keene green with envy, and have Gorod eating their berets out of sheer jealousy. The sort of stuff that belongs in the Progressive Death Metal hall of fame alongside such luminaries as Death, Cynic, and Sadus. It really is that good.
(Andy Synn provides this update on three bands who have been the subject of previous editions of THE SYNN REPORT.)
While I’m busy putting together the first “proper” Synn Report of 2014 (it’s coming together and I guarantee you’re going to love it) I suppose I should take the opportunity to check back in on some of our previous alumni and update you all as to what’s been going on!
To make it easy for you this one’s in alphabetical order, A, B, and C, because I know you people have trouble with anything more complex than that!
First, and most importantly, it was revealed just before the new year that Astarte mastermind Tristessa was gravely ill in hospital with a form of leukaemia. This was of course terrible for her and her family, and the outpouring of support from her fans did little to assuage the dark cloud hanging over the whole situation.
Thankfully a few days ago the following post appeared on the band’s Facebook page which, while not a complete about-turn, certainly gives us all more cause for hope:
(In this new edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Derelict Earth from Grenoble,GFrance.)
Recommended for fans of: Cormorant, Alcest, Borknagar
Like I’ve said before, writing each edition of The Synn Report takes up a fair bit of time. And, since my job is pretty busy these days – and involves a lot of writing/typing – it sometimes takes me a while before I have a chance to really settle into the groove of things, to find the energy and the impetus to put finger to keyboard and rattle off a new edition.
I do try and keep to a “one per month” rule, but sometimes that slips. It’s unavoidable. So, with that in mind, please consider this particular entry, the second for December (and the last of 2013), as recompense for the lack of one last month.
You see I’ve been wanting to talk about Derelict Earth for a while, but the timing’s never been quite right. Until now.
The brainchild of one man – Quentin Stainer – Derelict Earth have produced three albums of sublime prog melody and startling aggression, melding bold strokes of creative colour and artistic anxiety into a tremendous triptych of emotionally charged, intellectually stimulating, prog-metal majesty.
What’s best is that each of these albums is available for free on the internet, with the artist’s full consent. So if you like what you hear after the jump, then you’ll be able to immerse yourself in his creative vision to your heart’s content!