(In the following post NCS contributor Austin Weber reviews the new album by one of our favorite bands, Oregon-based Arkhum.)
When Anno Universum dropped like a bomb all the way from Eugene, Oregon, in 2010, many sites and fans were made curious and became stuck on this new group’s virulent combination of technical death metal with brutal vocals and black metal soaked in sci-fi concepts. Earthling finds Arkhum in an even more mature place where instead of merely crossing genre streams, they’ve upped the black metal aesthetic and given it considerably more room to grow.
Like the last record, they decide when and where things will switch from black metal to death metal, but they do it with much more skill, and oftentimes that integration and the decision of when to do it are the coolest parts of their music.They have an unparalleled skill in fusing black metal and death metal together. This leads to two interesting dichotomies: black metal-fueled death metal and death metal-fueled black metal.
I’m still catching up on new songs from the last few days. Here are two you should hear.
Cloudkicker is the alter ego of Ben Sharp, a one-man instrumental wizard, maybe the king of all the one-man instrumental wizards who have made their mark over the last 2 or 3 years. Today I learned that Cloudkicker has bestowed upon metaldom a Christmas gift, which takes the form of a new song named “Signal/Noise”. The song is a free download on Bandcamp. It is better than most Christmas gifts you will receive, unless you’re expecting someone to give you your own island or a sex slave.
The beats of the song have gotten under my skin, and the distorted guitars have abraded it from the outside. It scampers and pulses and rotates like a burrowing machine as it digs through my head. Merry fucking Christmas.
There are few things sweeter than a great riff, the kind that grabs you by the spine and shakes you hard, your head bobbing like the top of a rag doll. Yet, perplexingly, I’m not a big fan of most thrash, a genre where the riff is king. The “classic” thrash vocal style has something to do with that. But that’s not to say that I’m averse to all thrash. I’ve found from experience that I like it just fine when it’s caked with filth, when it’s raw, punked-out, and covered in crust.
An aura of the infernal helps, too, which is probably why I’ve become a fan of black thrash, though that’s a subject for another day. What I’ve got for this day is new music and a new video from three bands whose servings of thrash are so so jammed with filth they will stop up your toilets for a week — and the riffs may leave you convulsing, too: Hellbastard (UK), Toxic Holocaust (U.S.), and Eldritch Flamethrower (U.S.)
Hellbastard came into being somewhere in late ’84 or early ’85. Some say they were the band who created the “crust” wave of the 1980s. Some say they coined the genre name “crust” with their 1986 demo release Ripper Crust. But by 1992 the band had fallen apart. They re-formed in 2008, and now they have a new five-song EP on the way, which will be released on vinyl by Patac Records on November 15. I’ve only just begun listening to it, and it’s damned good — so good that I wanted to say a few words about it right away.
So good to be back in Seattle after a fucking 6-hour flight home last night. Did you know that your feet swell up something fierce after 6 hours at 40,000 feet? Did you know that this is really not a good thing if you’re trying to recover from a serious ankle sprain? Did you know that it could cause your toes to turn black and your ankle to turn red and blue even a week after your accident, so that it feels like weasels are ripping into it? Well, now you know.
Did you know that if your hearing is sort of shitty and you try to listen to metal at the proper head-wrecking volume on your earbuds during a 6-hour night flight that your neighbors who are trying to sleep will look at you like they want to set you on fire? Did you know that if enough neighbors look at you like that, and you’re a weenie, you will sheepishly remove the earbuds and lose out on the chance to catch up on new metal for 6 hours and instead drink heavily and become surly and morose? Well, now you know.
Did you know that when your body’s time clock is still in a time zone that’s three hours later than where you are, your body will wake up thinking that it’s 6:30 a.m. when in fact it’s 3:30 a.m.and you’ve only been asleep for 4 hours after being awake for nearly 24 hours and you will feel like day-old shit with your ankle throbbing and be unable to fall asleep again? Now you know.
Did you know that even when you’re a really important metal blogger and you’re mostly out of touch with metal for more than a day, metal is still happening, as if it did not depend on your paying attention in order to continue happening? Amazingly, that seems to be true.
Here’s what I found this morning in between hobbling trips to the coffee maker to recharge my bowl-sized Deathwish coffee cup: Crypticus (U.S.), Nidingr (Norway), and Arkhum (U.S.).
EDITOR’S FORWARD: I’m a big fan of Portland-based Arkhum and have written about them multiple times at NCS, including this fairly recent post. The band includes two brothers — lead vocalist/lyricist Kenneth Parker and guitarist/vocalist Stephen Parker. Recently, each of them has provided NCS with guest interviews — Stephen interviewing Jason William Walton (Agalloch, Self Spiller) and Kenneth interviewing Izedis of apocalyptic black noize merchants Enbilulugugal.
As part of our year-end Listmania series, I asked each of them if they would let me publish their personal lists of the year’s best albums, and they agreed. Both lists include albums I’ve never heard before — which is a big part of why this Listmania thing is fun — and so at the end of this post I’ve randomly included some music from the albums that were new to me. Here we go:
STEPHEN PARKER’S TOP 11
1. Light Bearer – Lapsus
If anyone out there is a fan of the sludge/neocrust titans Fall of Efrafa, you know who Light Bearer are. The first track I heard was ‘Prelapsus’, and it was amazing. The track starts with the signature vocal magic from Alex CF. His harsh but emotional vocals really set the tone for this entire track. After a lengthy but necessary buildup, the track busts into an orgasmic display of bassist Tom Watson’s vocal range. When you hear Watson and Alex sing/scream the lines “We are the sons of fire, we are the daughters of light”, prepare to have chills from your head to your toes.
EDITOR’S FORWARD: Beloved readers, allow me to make a few introductions. Kenneth Parker is the vocalist for Arkhum, a Portland-based metal band we’ve written about frequently (most recently, here). Izedis is the vocalist and bass player for Enbililigugal, a self-described apokalyptic black noise band from the nether regions of California with “an insane vision of Frostfucked Black Metal Goatsodomy.” His bandmates are known as KumSlinger and Alcoholonomicon. Recently, Kenneth Parker interviewed Izedis for NCS, because, to be brutally honest, I was too fucken scared to do it myself.
Kenneth: It’s been quite a length of time since the release of your full-length, Noizemongers for GoatSerpent. Any plans, immedidate or otherwise, to unleash a second album?
Izedis: When the GoatSerpent commands, there is a feeling in which you get where you spontainiously combust in orgasmic fecaltude. The Full Length is called “The Day After” and in which it shows the destruction of this thing in the world called human beings, there is a sense of calm in the deaths. This is why there are many ways to interperate this blank expression of cunt noise. To tell you the truth, there is nothing that can be done to passify the trends from within the scenes of the mules known as consumers, so we just give it to the public the way they see it, no sense of hope. After this, the full length has no name but is in the works with Alcoholonomicon. KumSlinger made “The Day After” into a. And within this the senses will tell you to pull away and take the high road with The GoatSerpent. Run for the mountains now.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our first guest post of today is an interview conducted by Stephen Parker, the talented guitarist of Oregon’s Arkhum. I’m a big fan of Arkhum and have written about them multiple times at NCS, including this fairly recent post. The subject of Stephen’s interview is Jason William Walton. He’s probably best known as the long-running bass player for Agalloch (another big NCS favorite and still one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen) but his musical resume is a long one. In addition to playing bass for Sculptured, Nothing, and Celestial, he has also played with Self Spiller, Especially Likely Sloth, and a half-dozen other bands that I know of. He’s also the owner and operator of a recording and production studio called Audio Savant. I’m really grateful to Stephen for landing this interview for us, and of course quite grateful to Jason Walton for participating.
SP: First of all, I’d like to thank you for answering these retardedly repetetive questions. I can understand that life has you pretty busy right now, but I genuinely appreciate you taking the time for this.
JW: Of course. I enjoy doing interviews from time to time, and it has been a while.
SW: I’d just like to jump into some business. How are things going with Audio Savant Studios? I know you recently relocated, so has that played a part in a lull, or has it really mattered?
JW: I have had a lull in business over the last year, but it has nothing to do with location, and everything to do with time. I do expect a couple projects coming up this fall and winter, but I have had less work this year than usual. Plus, Agalloch touring has taken precedence over Audio Savant. It is always a balancing act. In 2012 I hope to refocus my energy on Audio Savant.
SW: From all of the reviews I’ve seen, it seems like Marrow was widely regarded as “fantastic.” I remember even seeing it on Tom Gabriel’s list of the best of 2011 in Decibel. Do you think you’ve achieved a better response to this album, compared to Ashes Against the Grain or The Mantle?
JW: I don’t think it is fair to say a better response, but it has undoubtedly been very positive. Way more positive than we had anticipated. Each of our albums receives negative and positive feedback, and for different reasons and Marrow of the Spirit has been no different. I think it may appear that we are getting a better response for this album, but I also think we are more in ‘the public eye’ this last year than we have been in quite some time. I think if you asked the average Agalloch fan what their favorite album was, most people would still say The Mantle. (more after the jump . . .)
Isn’t that just the most fucken rad name for a metal band? Actually, Eldritch Flamethrower isn’t exactly a full-fledged metal band just yet, but they’re on their way. I know about them because of their connection to Oregon’s Arkhum, a band to whom we’ve paid a fair bit of attention at NCS (because they are also fuckin rad), most recently here. Specifically, Arkhum’s bassist Matt Edwards is on lead vocals, Arkhum’s vocalist Kenneth Parker is on bass and backing vocals (sounds like a game of musical chairs), and Arkhum’s guitarist Stephen Parker is doing the production work plus yelling along on gang vocals.
But this isn’t an all-Arkhum side project. It also includes Sean Corkum from another (recently deceased) Eugene-based outfit called Rocket Propelled Chainsaws (there’s another fucking rad band name for you) and Nathan Kelley from the sludge band Boneblossom (yep, there’s another one). All I’ve heard from Eldritch Flamethrower so far is a track called “Human Barbeque”, which is a f*cking rad song title. The final mix on the song isn’t even finished, but it’s more than enough to get me up and stomping around the room, scaring the piss out of my cat and disturbing the termites who’ve started a home-sweet-home in the baseboards.
It’s raw, primal, punk-y thrash, but without the classic vocal style that I often find annoying about thrash. It’s party music for a cannibal feast. Sean Corkum has cooked up some nasty headbanging riffs, and he executes a charcoal-fired solo that’s so smokin’ you can almost smell the human flesh on the grill. Yum!
Speaking of which, I really want to yell “Human Barbeque!” along with the gang vocals on this track. In fact, I think I will do that right now, especially because I’m running out of variant spellings for the word FUCKING. You can sing along, too, because I decided to stream the song right after the jump. (also, the photo I lifted for this post is copyrighted by Tristan Savatier)
There’s a happy symmetry about this post. Exactly one year ago today we posted our review of Anno Universum, the debut album from Oregon’s Arkhum, along with an interview of brothers Stephen and Kenneth Parker. On that day, we were thrilled to report that Arkhum had signed with Vendlus Records, who released Anno Universum last fall. We were “early adopters” of Arkhum’s music, but over the last year they’ve racked up a slew of positive reviews worldwide and enthusiastic fan response to Anno Universum.
The band are now working on songs for their second album for Vendlus, with the goal of releasing it in 2012, and on this one-year anniversary of those previous posts, we have a few tastes of what’s to come. First, we have the premiere of a pre-production version of a brand new song called “Cenancestor”, which will appear on the next album. The vocals and instrumentals are scratch tracks and the recording reflects a rough mixing and mastering, but this is still a sweet song, and you’ll be able to download it.
Second, we’ve also got some icing on this cake — we’re also premiering video of the band’s excellent guitarist Stephen Parker playing along to “Cenancestor”.
Today also marks the official digital release of a new, three-song Arkhum EP called Olalain Linal Tutulu. It features a reimagined version of the song “Bloodgutter Encircling” from Anno, a remix of the song by electronic artist Beta Project, and a remixed, remastered version of the “Bloodgutter” track as it appeared on the album. We’ll give you a link for a free download of this EP. Stay with us after the jump for all this fine shit.
We first stumbled across an unsigned Oregon band called Arkhum about six weeks ago. We were intrigued by the striking cover art for a yet-to-be-released album and included the band in one of our occasional EYE-CATCHERS features (here). At that time, the only music we had available to us were rough mixes of two songs for the forthcoming album and an earlier 2009 track. But those three songs certainly grabbed our attention in a big way.
Much has happened to Arkhum in those six weeks. Today, the band officially releases its debut album, Anno Universum, and we can now report that they have been signed by the Vendlus Records label (home to such talented bands as Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room), which will begin distributing the album worldwide later this fall.
Arkhum was kind enough to give us an advance copy of the eight songs on Anno Universum and we’re happy to report that our earlier instincts about the band have proven to be correct: Anno Universum is stunning — one of the best debuts we’ve heard in 2010.
We got so excited about the music that we pestered Arkhum for an interview, and brothers Stephen and Kenneth Parker patiently answered our meandering questions. In the post immediately below this one, you can read that interview, which turned out to be pretty damned interesting.
In this post, we’ll try to explain why Anno Universum has made such a strong impression on us and why we think you’ll be hearing lots more about Arkhum in the months to come. (more after the jump, including a song from the new album . . .)