(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the Georgian quartet (recently reduced to a three-piece after the departure of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Kilgore – who’s been replaced by Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy – as well as both long-time bassist Mike Longoria and his interim replacement Zach Harlan, with bass duties on the upcoming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?
(For the 58th edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Vindensång.)
Recommended for fans of: Agalloch, Ulver, Altar of Plagues
I’m going to throw a bit of a curve-ball your way with this edition of The Synn Report, as we tack smoothly away from the brutal and the bombastic towards calmer, more atmospheric waters. And, yes, I know that’s a mixed metaphor. Just go with it.
Hailing from the dark and forbidding depths of… Pennsylvania (cue thunder and lightning), the Ambient/Post-Black/Neo-Folk triptych who operate under the moniker of Vindensång have so far produced two albums and one EP to their name, with last year’s phenomenal Alpha providing (in my humble opinion) one of the most compelling and captivating listening experiences of the year, exploring the depths of negative space and droning Post-Metal dynamics in a truly unique and unforgettable manner.
Though large swathes of the band’s sound seems distinctly un-Metal, there remains something… something in the emotions they evoke and the sonic textures they create… that still feels intimately familiar, hinting at a strain of blackened marrow in the band’s soul, one which colours and shades every rippling acoustic passage and ambient bloom with a morose and desolate grace.
(Andy Synn devotes his 57th edition of The Synn Report to reviewing the discography of Germany’s Ichor.)
Recommended for fans of: Hour of Penance, Aborted, Carnifex
After last month’s more progressive and atmospheric offering… let’s go for something different this time around, shall we?
Let’s get heavy.
Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that “ichor” was originally a term used to describe the golden fluid that served as the blood of the gods in Greek mythology? And that it has, over the years, also been used as as a (now outdated) piece of medical terminology referring to bile, as well as cropping up as a literary reference frequently employed by H. P. Lovecraft?
And did you also know that it’s also the nom de plume of a bruising band of German ne’er do wells who deal in a gut-wrenching, butt-clenching, neck-snapping brand of Death Metal/Deathcore?
Well you do now.
(In this 56th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reviews the discography of Finland’s Callisto, whose latest album was released in January.)
Recommended for fans of: The Ocean, Cult of Luna, Thrice
There’s definitely a small chance, but a chance all the same, that Finnish Post-Rock/Post-Metal experimentalists Callisto might be a bit of a hard sell to our regular audience here at NCS.
Described on their Facebook page as “Metal / Experimental / Rock”, and by their own admission as “Progressive Noise Rock”, although the band clearly learnt much of their craft at the (metaphorical) knee of Isis and Cult of Luna, they quickly took a much different path than their predecessors, borrowing more from the Post-Hardcore and Post-Rock fields as their discography expanded, incorporating many more jazzy-influenced and experimental/ambient touches along the way.
It seems to me that this verve for experimentation – often divisive, yet never anything less than intriguing – contributed to the band missing the boat slightly during the mid-2000s Post-Metal explosion. Where others were (rightly) praised and lauded for their atmospheric expansion of the metallic landscape, Callisto were, in places at least, castigated for not being “Metal enough” as their interests swiftly diverged from those of their contemporaries.
Which is a shame, because I can honestly say that if you’re a fan of any of the bands mentioned above – or even the more atmospheric approach favoured by Junius and recent Sólstafir – then the Finns definitely deserve your time. And, although it does take a bit of effort and commitment to get deep into some of their albums, I promise you that effort will be amply rewarded.