Sep 112017

 

(TheMadIsraeli prepared this review of the new album by Iceland’s Beneath, released in August by Unique Leader Records.)

I was a 100% emphatic fan of Beneath’s sophomore release The Barren Throne. it was one of 2014‘s finest examples of technical/progressive death metal done with immaculate nuance and care. I wasn’t a big fan of the band’s first album, Enslaved By Fear, but it was different from The Barren Throne. Based on the band’s new album Ephemeris, I can now see that what I attributed to just natural evolution or getting better as a band wasn’t that. It’s actually that Beneath wants to write a different kind of death metal album every go around.

Ephemeris abandons The Barren Throne and it’s Suffocation-esque mix of bleak melody and noodily passages of inter-dimensional angular tangents, opting for something of a more opaque sci-fi aesthetic.

Jun 222017

 

That’s Jinx Dawson’s coffin up there, rising above the stage at Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle last Saturday night. Trust me, she was about as far from dead as you could get, but that’s where she was, inside that box when the lights came up. The crowd went crazy when she came out, and didn’t stop until a while after Coven finished their headlining set on the festival’s last night.

Someday soon I’ll write about the festival, and maybe a little about the chaotic experience of actually helping put on a festival instead of just watching the show. That’s a box I’ve now checked off on the bucket list, even though it wasn’t on my bucket list before the planning for NWTF began last year. As I think back on the experience, I’m lucky I didn’t kick the bucket before the weekend ended. Nevertheless, we’re doing it again next year, and perhaps I will emerge less exhausted, having learned a few things from the first outing, but probably not.

Anyway, since about the middle of last week I’ve had no time to compile a round-up, and am thankful to DGR for stepping into that breach not once but twice (even though he too helped out with the heavy lifting at NWTF). In the meantime, my list of new things to check out became typically overwhelming. To make the job of choosing somewhat easier, I’ve focused on more recent revelations, and perhaps will dig deeper into the last week or two in the coming days. So, let’s begin….

Aug 262014


Sólstafir’s Addi Tryggvason with Skálmöld at Eistnaflug

 

(Gemma Alexander is a Seattle-based writer and NCS fan who visited Iceland in the fall of 2012 during the Iceland Airwaves festival and was generous enough to send us interviews with such bands as AngistBeneathKontinuumSólstafirGone Postal, and Skálmöld. In July of this year she returned to Iceland for the Eistnaflug metal and rock festival (“Eistnaflug” being Icelandic for “flying testicles”), and we are once again the beneficiary of her writing. Today we present Part 2 of a three-part report on the festival, illustrated with Gemma’s own photos. Visit her own excellent blog here and check out more of her reporting on the festival at KEXP’s web site. Part 1 of her report for us is here.)

 

The second day of Eistnaflug began at noon with sets from Pink Street Boys and Oni. I, on the other hand, began less ambitiously, arriving at the venue after 2 p.m. I don’t know anything about the first band, but was sorry to have missed the sludgy, Neskaupstaður-based Oni.

http://oniiceland.bandcamp.com/releases

 

The first band I saw on Friday was In the Company of Men. Billed as mathcore, the effect was individuals doing their own thing in the company of others. But they each went to eleven with it, and maybe my math isn’t very good.

https://www.facebook.com/InTheCompanyOfMen/timeline

 

I had heard that Morð (“murder” in Icelandic) was divisive in the local black metal community. In the event, I couldn’t really see what was so unorthodox. Was their corpse paint all wrong, or was it a slight tendency to slip into groove? Whether tr00 or transgressive, Morð put on a good show.

http://morth.bandcamp.com/

Apr 252014

(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new 53-minute hell storm by Beneath from Reykjavik, Iceland.)

Unique Leader has just been hitting it out of the fucking park lately with tech death.  We premiered the first single from Beneath’s sophomore album The Barren Throne — “Chalice” — about a month back, a slab of utter blackness and crushing weight that harkened to bands like Suffocation, Hate, and Hate Eternal.  Now it’s time to review the full album itself, and I’ve come away thoroughly pleased and impressed.

The three names I dropped are pretty accurate suggestions of the sound that Beneath channels.  The riffs are razor-edged, reservedly technical in that Suffocation style of just enough but not too much, with the speed and majesty of Hate, and Hate Eternal’s sense of chaos and dissonance.  In a sense, Beneath deliver the ultimate 90’s-and-onward death metal sound.  It’s perfect in its execution.

Mar 212014

In early February we featured the fetching piece of cover art by Raymond Swanland that you see above, along with the fetching news that Iceland’s Beneath would be releasing a new album named The Barren Throne, via Unique Leader on April 29. We’ve written frequently about Beneath. To quote our chum Gemma Alexander, who interviewed members of the band in Iceland a couple of years ago, they are fairly new, but the musicians behind the name are some of the heaviest hitters in Icelandic metal.

“[W]ith Unnar Sigurðsson of Ophidian I fame on guitar, and with drums provided by Atrum’s Ragnar SverissonBeneath came out swinging in 2009, winning Iceland’s first Wacken Metal Battle. An EP followed in 2010, with their first full-length, Enslaved by Fear, released [in] July [2012]. Needless to say, all of the usual metaphors involving blunt force trauma apply.”

Beneath have a new vocalist since their last release — Benedikt Natanael Bjanason (also with Azoic) — and we’re delighted to give you a first listen to him and to what Beneath have cooked up for their new record as we premiere the official lyric video for “Chalice”.

Feb 042014

I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t spend much time with new music debuts over the last day or two. I’ve learned the hard way that if I snooze for even 24 hours, I miss a lot of worthwhile stuff. And so I’m hoping to get a couple of round-up posts written for today, because I found a metric fuck ton of worthwhile goodies while catching up this morning. Let’s start with some perty pitchers, shall we?

IMPETUOUS RITUAL

I saw that dark piece of artwork this morning, the one at the top of this post. Profound Lore Records says it’s the cover for Unholy Congregation Of Hypocritical Ambivalence, which is the name of an album due out sometime in April by Impetuous Ritual. The band’s first album, Relentless Execution Of Ceremonial Excrescence, was released back in 2009. This is clearly a band with a pronounced fondness for multisyllabic utterances. I can get behind that.

Impetuous Ritual are from Brisbane, Australia, and their ranks include members of Portal and Grave Upheaval. That makes me interested. This music from their last album also makes me interested:

Nov 192012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle-based writer and NCS reader Gemma Alexander happens to be a fan and student of all things Icelandic. After months of planning, Gemma journeyed to Iceland in late October to see the country, and she timed her visit to coincide with the Iceland Airwaves festival, which includes over 420 bands playing all over Reykjavík for five days, plus 400 more unofficial, off-venue performances.

Though Airwaves may be best known as an indie pop fest, it also includes performances by an impressive array of Icelandic metal bands. Knowing of NCS’ own appreciation for Icelandic metal and the attention we’ve paid to Icelandic bands this year, Gemma offered to arrange interviews with several of them. We previously posted her interview of Angist, and today we’re privileged to give you Gemma’s interview of two of the members of Beneath, whose killer debut album was released earlier this year by Unique Leader (featured at NCS here).

Gemma has also been blogging about her entire Icelandic vacation — and it’s wonderful. Do yourself a favor and check it out HERE. And now, here’s Gemma’s interview — with some Beneath death metal at the end.

********

Beneath is fairly new, but the musicians behind the name are some of the heaviest hitters in Icelandic metal. Fronted by Gísli Sigmundsson of the historic Sororicide, with Unnar Sigurðsson of Ophidian I fame on guitar, and with drums provided by Atrum’s Ragnar Sverisson, Beneath came out swinging in 2009, winning Iceland’s first Wacken Metal Battle. An EP followed in 2010, with their first full-length, Enslaved by Fear, released this July. Needless to say, all of the usual metaphors involving blunt force trauma apply.

I was fortunate to meet with Gísli and Ragnar at Dillon Whiskey Bar in Reykjavík before the Iceland Airwaves festival. We talked about the band, their music, and the state of Icelandic heavy metal.

Nov 122012

Angist: Halli (bass), Edda (vocals/guitar), Gyða (guitar), Tumi (drums); photo by Jose Carlos Santos

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes great things happen to you when you least expect or deserve it.  Case in point: We have become acquainted over the ether with a Seattle-based writer and NCS reader named Gemma Alexander, who happens to be a fan and student of all things Icelandic. After months of planning, Gemma journeyed to Iceland in late October to see the country, and she timed her visit to coincide with the Iceland Airwaves festival, which includes over 420 bands playing all over Reykjavík for five days, plus 400 more unofficial, off-venue performances.

Though Airwaves may be best known as an indie pop fest, it also includes performances by an impressive array of Icelandic metal bands. Knowing of NCS’ own appreciation for Icelandic metal and the attention we’ve paid to Icelandic bands this year, Gemma offered to arrange interviews with several of them, and today we’re privileged to give you the first of those — Gemma’s interview of three of the four members of Angist, a very talented band we’ve featured previously at this site.

Gemma has also been blogging about her entire Icelandic vacation — which is still in progress. I’ve been reading her travelogue on a daily basis since it began, and it’s immensely entertaining. Not only is the subject matter fascinating, but Gemma is a superb writer. Do yourself a favor and check it out HERE. And now, here’s Gemma’s interview with Angist — with music at the end.

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NCS has talked about Angist before, when we were impressed by their EP, Circle of Suffering. Theirs is an impure take on death metal, featuring precision drumming from Ophidian I’s Tumi Snær Gíslason, and vocals that alternate between brutal growls and a banshee black metal shriek. Gyða Hrund Þorvaldsdóttir, and siblings Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir and Haraldur (Halli) Ingi Shoshan met me before the rúntur on the Friday before the Iceland Airwaves festival at Reykjavík’s Irish pub, Celtic Cross, to talk about the band and heavy metal in Iceland.

Jun 072012

To be clear, I’m not actually adventuring in the actual country of Iceland, though I wish I were, because it seems like a fascinating place, and even if the landscape turned out to be less dramatic than it looks in photos, I feel pretty sure I could get my head whomped pretty hard by some live metal.

No, the adventuring in this post is following up on some new music from a couple of bands we featured on our impromptu Iceland Metal Month series last month. One of the bands is Ophidian I, who we wrote about here. The other is Beneath, featured in this post. They’ve both started streaming additional tracks from their forthcoming albums, and the new songs are slaughtering me, in a good way — the kind of slaughtering where body parts come off and you eat them with the music ringing in your earholes and you realize that you don’t taste half bad despite what you might have thought.

Also, since I’m back on the subject of Iceland, I thought I might as well throw in some music from another band we haven’t covered yet. It’s not an Icelandic band. They’re actually from New York, but they recorded a new two-song 7″ at “Sundlaugin”, a studio in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, owned by the band Sigur Ros. (The session was engineered by Birgir Jón “Biggi” Birgisson.) The band is called Self Defense Family, and the music is a big, sweeping left turn away from our well-traveled path around here — but it has managed to sink its hooks in me. Maybe it will hook you, too.

May 312012

Here on the last day of May, I decided to christen the month Iceland Metal Month at NCS (see today’s first post).  Since we’ve wrtten about 8 Icelandic metal bands so far, it seemed like the logical thing to do. And having gone that far, I decided we ought to go further and bring the total to an even dozen. So, here we go . . . four more bands worth getting to know from a country that’s starting to seem close to Finland in the ratio of killer metal bands per capita of population.

BENEATH

I found out about this Reykjavík band while doing a little research on Ophidian I, who I included in that earlier post about Icelandic metal today: It seems that guitarist Unnar Sigurðsson is a member of both bands. It further appears that drummer Ragnar Sverrisson is also a member of another awesome Icelandic band, Atrum (who we’ve written about more than once in the past).

Beneath’s line-up solidified in late 2008, and in 2009 they won the Wacken Metal Battle contest in Iceland, thereby becoming the first Icelandic band to perform at the Wacken Open Air festival in August 2009. They released a debut EP titled Hollow Empty Void on Mordbrann Musikk in 2010 (it’s available on iTunes), and they’ve finished recording a debut full-length, Enslaved By Fear. That album will be released on July 17 by the dependable Unique Leader label. The eye-catching album cover was done by Raymond Swanland.

Now, about their music . . .

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