(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!
(In this 32nd installment of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the full-length discography of a band from the depths of Tasmania — Ruins.)
Recommended for fans of: Satyricon, Goatwhore, Shining (Sweden)
I’ve had this band primed and ready to go for a while now, but I’ve been waiting for the right moment to unleash it. With the release of their fourth album Place Of No Pity at the tail-end of last year, now seems the perfect time to introduce you to the cut-throat black metal of Ruins.
The Tasmanian twosome (Alex Pope on vocals and guitars, David Haley on drums – recently upgraded to a full quartet) started weaving their black magic in 2004 with the Atom and Time EP, and have since unloaded four lethal rounds of their brutal, remorseless attack into the world.
The guitar tone is the sound of a man strangling the life out of his instrument, wringing every drop of black blood from the contorted strings, the vocals a blast-furnace bellow of pestilential misanthropy, and the drums… Well, it’s the one-man wrecking machine David Haley behind the kit, delivering an overwhelming barrage of sonic devastation and brooding, slithering groove.
(In this 31st edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of a band from Georgia named Lilitu.)
Recommended for fans of: Green Carnation, Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium
Something of a mysterious and fluctuating entity, over the years the gothically-inclined melodic black/death metallers of Lilitu have gone from relative obscurity, to underground acclaim, to the cusp of mainstream (at least in metal circles) attention, and then right back again.
The brainchild of one Henry Derek Bonner, the band has gone through numerous line-up changes since its inception (including, in one of its most recent incarnations, current Arsis bassist Noah Martin), as well as steadily transfiguring its sonic identity from a more earthen, doomy sound, tinged with blackened melancholy, through a more progressive, gothically-influenced approach, to its final form of focussed, melodic death metal dynamism.
An entire album entitled White Nights In A Day Room, Black Sun In The Daytime was shelved around 2006, and the last known communication from the band confirmed that the group had become a two-piece — with all musical and vocal duties being shared by Bonner and his new partner in crime Justin Blake Stubbs — and that they would be taking their sound back towards its roots, with a darker, more primordial sound, with a more potent black metal influence, something which had steadily been pared back over the years.
(NCS writer Andy Synn pauses after the 30th installment of THE SYNN REPORT to take a look back at the first two years of the series.)
Ok, so we’ve now had 30 ‘official’ entries in The Synn Report. I hope that a good number of you have discovered new bands and gone out and shown your support for them, buying music, merch, gig tickets, etc.
I thought, since the year (and the world!!!) is coming to an end, it might be a good time to provide a quick one-stop summation of all the previous entries, for those of you who maybe missed a couple, or for new devotees of the site who have yet to encounter the earlier editions and the bands contained therein.
Did you know that the genesis for The Synn Report was not entirely down to me? There’s a post that I consider ‘The Synn Report: Year Zero” which was written by Islander himself, in response to my recommendation of a particular band. That post is included here, as I think it’s an important foundation stone in the genesis of The Synn Report, and because I think the band in question are utterly phenomenal.
So there we go, after the jump there’s a tiny entry on each band from each edition of The Synn Report, with a short genre description and a re-iteration of the “Recommended for fans of:” section. Which ones did you miss? Which ones should you give another shot to? Click each one to be linked to the appropriate article, where you’ll find the full write-ups and sample songs from each release!
(In this milestone edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Norway’s Antestor.)
Recommended for fans of: Cormorant, (early) Dimmu Borgir, Edge of Sanity
I really wanted to do something special to mark the 30th edition of The Synn Report. I searched through my list of worthy bands for a while, before finally settling on Antestor. It certainly helps that they have a new album out (their first in seven years) at the end of the month!
Formed in Jessheim, Norway, in 1990 under the name ‘Crush Evil’, changing to Antestor in 1991, the group have produced 3 full-length albums and one EP of what has been dubbed ‘Sorrow Metal’ – a blending of doomy, melancholic death metal with a depressive black metal undercurrent.
Starting out as they did, both in terms of the time and the place, it was inevitable that the rise of black metal would influence their growth over the years; certainly the speed and intensity of their caustic tremolo passages increased as the years progressed. That said, the group also incorporate some decidedly gothic moments into their sound and augment their classically influenced structures with some distinctly progressive tendencies.
(Our UK-based writer Andy Synn provides this update on the doings of certain bands featured in previous editions of THE SYNN REPORT: Vesania, Emeth, and Crocell.)
So we’ve almost reached a milestone of 30 SYNN REPORTS (plus a few more varied entries). That’s 30 new, or underappreciated, bands I’ve tried my best to bring into the cold embrace of the NCS bosom. But before we reach the hollowed ‘Big 30’ (who it’s going to be I still haven’t decided), how about we catch up with a few quick updates on past SYNN REPORT alumni?
Well first of all, we have the little teasing image above from Polish symphonic black metal maestros Vesania, which shows their drummer Daray in the studio. Which means they’ve already started work recording a new album. This was kept pretty quiet, but I for one am already salivating at the prospect of more crushing blackened-death metal with a lunatic, symphonic twist.
Secondly, the fine young Belgian gents in Emeth have posted a slew of updates regarding the gear and the songwriting from their upcoming fourth album:
(In this latest edition of the Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of German black metal band Agrypnie.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Dark Tranquillity, Enslaved
Germany is currently producing some of my favourite, black metal based music. From the cosmic-infused technicality of Dark Fortress, to the shadowy arcana of Secrets Of The Moon, not to mention the snarling, infernal fire of less well-known acts like Infestus and Odem Arcarum.
To that list we can add Agrypnie, a band I only discovered when they were announced for Summer Breeze, but who I instantly fell head over heels in love with. With 3 albums and one EP to their name, and a fourth album prepped for release soon, the group have helped fill the void left in my life by the (forthcoming) dissolution of Abigail Williams. I needed something with that introverted rage and extroverted passion, a band who wrote long songs because they wanted to explore the limits of their sound and vision, and that’s exactly what Agrypnie offer.
Currently a five-piece (at least live, as their Facebook page lists a litany of contributing members) after their initial inception as a one-man project, the band occupy a unique place, balanced on the pinnacle of ferocious, yet melancholic black metal, machine-like death metal force, and majestic post-metal dynamics. Grand touches of Alcest-ian melody and Agalloch-ian majesty vie with hints of Insomnium’s focussed power and Dark Tranquillity’s harnessed aggression, all melded together to produce a sound that blurs the boundaries between melodic black metal and melodic death metal, with a progressive verve that manages to recall both Enslaved and even Anathema at their most expressive.