(Andy Synn delivers the last monthly SYNN REPORT of 2016, and reviews the discography of the British band Fall of Efrafa.)
Recommended for fans of: Neurosis, Amenra, Downfall of Gaia
Taking in elements of Crust Punk, Post-Metal, Post-Rock, Drone, and Hardcore, and spitting out a captivating conglomeration of pulse-pounding riffs, cascading melodies, and harsh, gritty vocals, Fall of Efrafa were, for a time, one of the most vital and visceral acts in the UK.
The band’s three albums, Owsla, Elil, and Inlé together form a conceptual trilogy inspired by the 1972 literary classic Watership Down (whose author, Richard Adams, passed away peacefully at the grand old age of 96 just a few days ago), with the quintet channelling their political, religious, and social philosophy – particularly their opposition to theocracy and blind faith – through the themes of Adams’ seminal novel.
Following the release of their third album the group disbanded, having completed the work for which they originally came together. In this way, and in many others, Fall of Efrafa were just that little bit different from most bands out there. They had a goal, they had a vision, and chose to both begin and to end things entirely on their own terms, leaving behind an impressive (if still under-appreciated) legacy of passion, ambition, and uncompromising integrity.
Which is why I chose them for this, the eightieth edition of The Synn Report, which I’m also dedicating to my friend Charlie as a testament to her excellent musical taste.
(In this month’s edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Terra Tenebrosa.)
Recommended for fans of: Blut Aus Nord, Leviathan, Ævangelist
Some bands are easy to categorise. Death Metal. Black Metal. Thrash. You can stick a band in one of these boxes and (generally) have a good impression of the sort of sounds you can expect to hear.
Of course, sometimes the category itself can be a bit nebulous. Metalcore. Nu-Metal. Progressive Metal. These aren’t quite as well-defined, and are frequently used as a catch-all term (often, but not always, with negative connotations) for bands that don’t fit properly in one of the “core” Metal genres (no pun intended).
And then there are bands like Terra Tenebrosa, who seem to willfully defy categorisation altogether.
“Avant-Garde Black Metal” seems to be the closest approximation that most people have settled on for their sound, but even this doesn’t quite capture it. There are elements and undercurrents of everything from gloomy Post-Metal and chaotic Hardcore to pulsing Industrial and droning Ambient music, all wrapped up in a grim shroud of morbid, blackened vibes and horror-movie atmospherics.
Whatever it is, though, it works.
(In this October edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Italy’s Hierophant — including their brand new album Mass Grave.)
Recommended for fans of: Trap Them, Rotten Sound, Black Breath
There are times in your life when only the nastiest, gnarliest, most pissed-off and punishing form of auditory abuse will do. Which is the perfect time to crank up any one of the four albums by Italian iconoclasts Hierophant.
Each of the band’s releases is a short, sharp, 600-volt shock to the system, a nose-splintering headbutt from out of nowhere, a stiff, straight shot right to the kidneys, a swift and sudden punch to the throat that leaves you gasping and choking… what I’m trying to say is that these boys don’t play nice, they fight dirty.
Straddling the line between Hardcore and Grindcore, with a hefty helping of blackened venom and sludge and doomy nihilism to boot, the band’s sound is definitely one of the most singularly aggressive and gleefully ugly that I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to encounter in recent years.
And so, with a new album on the horizon, I felt it was high time that the rest of you were made to share my pain!
(In this September edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Ohio’s Shatter Messiah.)
Recommended for fans of: Nevermore, Exodus, Arch Enemy
I want to start off this edition of The Synn Report with a quick history lesson, if I may? You see, back when Islander first started this site with his two cantankerous compatriots, the name “NoCleanSinging” was chosen as a response to the horrible proliferation of bands roughly shoehorning a sickeningly saccharine clean-sung chorus into every song in a vain attempt to appear more artificially “emotional” or to improve their commercial viability.
However, you may have observed that, in the past few years at least, we’ve not stuck quite as closely to that “no clean singing” ethos as Islander and co. did in those early days… which is why today I have no hesitation in bringing you an overview of the four album catalogue of Akron, Ohio Power-Thrash quintet Shatter Messiah.
Of course it’s impossible to ignore how much the band have in common with the much-missed, much-mourned Nevermore… not least a certain guitarist (and main songwriter) by the name of Curran Murphy. In addition the raw, gritty melodies of singer Greg Wagner (and, later, his replacement Michael Duncan) carry the same sense of spite and venom as Warrell Dane at his most vehement, as well as sharing a similarly indignant anti-religious, anti-authoritarian lyrical stance.
And then there’s the guitar work, Murphy and his chums delivering a plethora of massive, Loomis-esque seven-string tech-thrash riffs and soaring, fleet-fingered lead-lines (that would make the Amott brothers nod their head in serious appreciation) which mix proggy intricacy and dark melody with a brand of heaviness that occasionally borders on Death Metal levels.
(For the August edition of The Synn Report, Andy compiles reviews of all the releases by Sweden’s Apathy Noir, including the band’s 2016 album Across Dark Waters.)
Recommended for fans of: Opeth, In Mourning, October Tide
By my current reckoning I’ve got at least another two years’ worth of entries for The Synn Report lined up, and I don’t doubt that I’ll end up discovering even more bands worthy of inclusion during that period, so we’re in no danger of running out of potential candidates just yet. Hell, I’d hazard that there’s probably several other bands in my current collection who’ll be eligible by that time as well. So there’s no need to worry. This particular column won’t be ending any time soon.
For today’s entry we’re off to Sweden to touch base with Prog-Death duo Apathy Noir (formerly Apathy), the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Viktor Jonas, who have so far produced one EP and three stand-alone albums, the most recent of which, Across Dark Waters, was released in January of this year.
Now, to address the elephant in the room, I’ll acknowledge that the solemn Swedes owe a very heavy debt to early Opeth – particularly around the My Arms, Your Hearse period. But I’m confident you’ll find that there’s more to them than just that, particularly when they delve into the doomier, gloomier side of their repertoire.
Still, with Akerfeldt and co. treading ever further down the path of pure retro-proggery, there’s something of a vacuum out there right now, and Apathy Noir seem to be doing their damnedest to fill it!
(In the glorious 75th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of South Dakota’s Woman Is the Earth.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Wildernessking, Wolves In The Throne Room
Hailing from Black Hills, South Dakota, Woman Is The Earth deal in a brand of Black Metal that’s as heavy in atmosphere as it is in aggression, with songs that meld writhing riffage and rolling drums with passages of acoustic contemplation and ambient meditation, all without falling prey (in my opinion at least) to the more generic tropes and clichés of the over-saturated “Post Black Metal” scene.
They do this by never forgetting that – unlike some of their more populist peers — they’re definitely, even defiantly, a Metal band at heart… and a Black Metal band at that… so their music is never in danger of pandering to the notions of bland accessibility or pretentious artistry which undermine so many other acts of this type.
Having released their latest (and greatest) album earlier this year, and with the recent demise of Agalloch still weighing heavy upon so many of our hearts, now seemed like an opportune time to expose our readers to the band’s particular blend of grim grandeur and metallic majesty!
(In this June edition of The Synn Report, Andy reviews the discography of Gigan.)
Recommended for fans of: Gorguts, Cephalic Carnage, Wormed
I try my best to keep things (relatively) fresh and exciting here at The Synn Report, and a big part of that is keeping things varied and different between editions. As such we’re taking a leap away from the monolithic fields of Post-Metal we explored with last month’s offering and jetting off into the bleed between dimensions in the company of Gigan and their mind-melting, brain-bending brand of calculated Tech-Death chaos.
Hailing from Chicago (by way, originally, of Tampa, Florida… something which potentially explains the undercurrent of semi-lucid lunacy present on every song), the three-piece clearly take a warped sense of pride in pushing Tech-Death into some truly weird and wonderful places, anchored by the unholy talents of multi-instrumental main-man Eric Hersemann, who not only handles 99% of the guitar-work across the band’s three albums, but also the bass, synths, theremin, and xylophone(!) to boot.
So, if you’re in a particularly masochistic mood, and fancy having your brain reduced to a quivering mass of over-cooked and over-stimulated neurons, then by all means, please click on…
(In this 73rd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Maryland’s Dying Sun.)
Recommended for fans of: Altars of Plagues, Cult of Luna, Massive Attack
Every so often a band comes out of nowhere and blindsides you with how utterly fantastic they are, making you wonder how in the world you ever managed to get along without them.
Dying Sun are one such band.
The Maryland three-piece deal in a brand of intensely metallic, immensely atmospheric Post-Metal not quite like anyone else I’ve heard (although general comparisons to both Cult of Luna and Altars of Plagues are certainly valid, to an extent), packed full of titanic, weighty riffs, anguished vocals, and cosmological waves of pulsating programming.
Ever since discovering them I’ve had all three of their releases (arguments can be made as to which of them counts as an EP or as an album) practically glued to my playlist, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time to share their moody magnificence with you all.
Well, that time has come.
(We present the April edition of THE SYNN REPORT, in which Andy discourses about all three albums in the discography of Italy’s Incoming Cerebral Overdrive.)
Recommended for fans of: The Dillinger Escape Plan, (early) Mastodon, Nero di Marte
Somehow this Italian quintet have completely passed me by up until now, despite releasing three extremely well-received albums within the past 8 years. Thankfully this edition of The Synn Report allows me an opportunity to rectify my mistake, and really dive into the band’s eclectic, eccentric, electrifying Prog/Tech/Math Metal stew.
Now, to be clear, when I use the term “Progressive” in this column, it’s to refer to the more chaotic, out-there-adventurousness of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, and early Mastodon – so don’t go expecting some sort of Dream Theatre-esque instrumental extravaganza or gleaming, harmony-laden Post-Metal odyssey – as Incoming Cerebral Overdrive (or I.C.O. as they shall hereto forth be referred to) have a much rawer, more experimental vibe to their music, and aren’t afraid to take a few risks whilst also keeping things nice and heavy.
That being said, their most recent album (2012’s Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift) definitely saw them reining in the chaotic Hardcore influences of their earlier works in favour of a more refined — though no less challenging — sound, so it’s clear that the Italian band aren’t done experimenting and progressing (in the most literal sense of the word) their sound just yet!
(In the 71st edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Code.)
Recommended for fans of: Borknagar, Ihsahn, Leprous
For whatever reason I’ve decided to stick close to home again for this edition of The Synn Report, following up the beefy Death Metal of Dyscarnate with the category defying, blackened-prog vibes of the legendary Code.
Though originally a joint venture between members from Norway and the UK, with strong ties to such groups as Ulver, Dodheimsgard, Indesinence, Season’s End, etc, the current incarnation of the band is an entirely British affair.
However, despite the many changes in the band’s line-up, and the ever-changing, ever-evolving nature of their sound, there remains an undeniable and intangible thread of identity and continuity within their music, running all the way from the very first track of their debut, Nouveau Gloaming, to the final climactic notes of last year’s phenomenal and shamelessly progressive mut.