Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart)
It’s the same old story. Metal is such an over-boiling cauldron of creativity that if you have to wait a few days to go exploring for new things, you find yourself up to your neck in hot water. Or at least that’s what happened to me yesterday.
Having failed to compile a round-up of new music since last Sunday, I felt overwhelmed when confronting how much I wanted to write about today. I had to make some hard choices about what to recommend, and even then I had to stifle my usual verbosity — time is a harsh mistress, and not in a good way. So, with a regrettable (to me) minimum of introductory comments, here’s a selection of what lit me up over the last 24 hours, presented in the order in which I saw and heard them. I’ll have a few more new items to share with you on Saturday.
Earlier this month Spinefarm Records re-released Winterborn, the fantastic album by Wolfheart that we praised to the skies (repeatedly) when it was first self-released by the band in 2013. The re-issue comes with two bonus tracks (“Isolation” and “Into the Wild”). Two days ago Wolfheart premiered a music video for the album’s first track, “The Hunt”, which shows scenes from the recording of the track. It’s a wonderful song (it was on our list of 2013′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs), and any excuse to hear it again is welcome.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Norway’s Enslaved.)
The phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same” is almost beyond cliché at this point, yet I feel that it still retains some value… as long as you use it in the right place, and at the right time.
Case in point: It seems to apply to Enslaved more than to most bands I can think of, as few other artists seem to have perfected the almost zen-like balance between progress and preservation as the Norwegian natives.
If you see the band live these days you’re likely to hear material from across the length and breadth of their career, from Frost to Monumension to Axioma… all seamlessly integrated and interwoven together… and it’s truly amazing to be able to hear songs like “Allfǫðr Oðinn” and “Death In The Eyes of Dawn” next to one another in the same setlist, forcing you to realise that no matter how far they’ve come or how much they’ve progressed over the years, Enslaved are still very much the same band they always were at heart, and that there’s no era or element of their sound that doesn’t represent who they are.
I’m finally finished with the project for my fucking day job that has kept me on the U.S. east coast for the last three weeks. Tomorrow I return to Seattle and some semblance of normalcy, both for life in general and for NCS.
I still feel like I’ve been put through a goddamn meat-grinder, and it will take some time to get over being exhausted (and to finish posting what other writers sent me over the last week), but I did spend an hour this morning trying to figure out what I missed in the way of new music over the last couple of days. As usual, given the persistent flood of new metal that’s been coming our way since this new year began, I found A LOT. I’m going to include three new videos in this post. I hope I can get another round-up done tomorrow before heading to the airport.
Enslaved’s new album In Times is one of my “most anticipated” 2015 releases, so it’s been frustrating that I haven’t had time to listen to it since our advance copy arrived about a week ago. But this morning I did listen to the first advance track, “Thurisaz Dreaming”, which began streaming as a lyric video at Noisey yesterday along with an excellent interview of Ivar Bjørnson.
Norway’s Enslaved have been teasing their new album for months, but today brought some especially enticing details — along with the announcement of a month-long North American tour next March, with support from YOB and Ecstatic Vision.
First, the album news: The title of this 13th studio full-length is In Times, it features painted artwork by Truls Espedal, and it will be released on March 6 in Europe and March 10 in North America. The artwork is wonderful, so let’s have a look at it next (click the image to view a larger version):
(In the second of three round-up posts for today, Leperkahn delivers news of forthcoming albums of interest.)
It seems that yesterday roughly an eighth of the entire metal universe announced the recording of new albums on the horizon, or provided updates on said recordings. I’ve collected the ones that especially caught my eye below, much to the chagrin of my wallet.
According to a Nuclear Blast press release that Islander forwarded to me, Enslaved are entering the studio to record their 13th album. “Main recordings for the as-yet-untitled new album are taking place at Duper and Solslottet Studios in Bergen, Norway with additional recordings done at Conclave & Earshot Studios (presided over by ENSLAVED members [vocalist/keyboardist Herbrand] Larsen and [lead guitarist] Ice Dale), and Ivar Bjørnson’s Personal Sound Studios.”
The band will also apparently venture to Valevåg, a rural woodsy area south of their hometown of Bergen, for additional recording (the band had previously gone there to record their 2012 7” Thorns). The album will apparently be produced by Larsen, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, and guitarist Ivar Bjørnson with Iver Sandøy, with mixing done by the inimitable Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden.
Considering how much RIITIIR – and for that matter pretty much all of the Enslaved catalog – kicked ass, I’m sure we can all bet that this will open minds and crush faces.
(Andy Synn shares some thoughts about bands who change their sound over time, with two contrasting examples.)
Here’s something I’ve noticed, and I don’t doubt you will have, too. Pretty much anytime a reviewer (or a commenter) sees fit to question a band for changing their style – whether it’s a legitimate question or not is almost irrelevant – someone’s panties get in a bunch and they feel the need to hit back with an accusation that:
“You guys just want everything to sound the same! I applaud this band for changing and progressing! You just want everything to sound like Cannibal Corpse, etc, etc…”
What’s interesting about this is that – whether consciously or not – it’s reframing the terms of the argument, not addressing the original issue. It’s cleverly saying that anyone who questions a band’s decision to change its sound is clearly closed-minded and of limited intelligence. And while that’s probably true of a certain percentage of the metal community, it still doesn’t say anything about the band in question.
I wet myself a little bit when I was informed of this tour, announced not long ago. Okay, to be honest, my bladder completely loosened and I’m now swimming in the processed fluids of last night’s beer. It’s such a good feeling, because seriously, look at that line-up.
Amon Amarth, Enslaved, and Skeletonwitch will be touring fortunate parts of the U.S. during January and February of 2014. Tickets are on sale now at this location.
My bladder-loosening enthusiasm is tempered only by the fact that neither Seattle nor any other city in the Pacific Northwest are on the schedule. Looks like San Francisco is as close as this bladder-loosening extravaganza will come. Fuck, there may be an SEA-SFO plane ticket in my future, though the airline would have to upholster my seat in plastic, or maybe I’ll finally have to splurge on some personal care products.
In case you have trouble seeing the dates in the tour flyer, you can find them listed after the jump.
(Here’s the third and final part of Andy Synn’s review of 2013′s edition of the SUMMER BREEZE festival in Germany. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. Once again, Andy provides video that he filmed at the performances.)
The third, and final, day of the festival was a funny one. It seemed (at the time) that this was going to be the day when I only saw a few bands – particularly as I had a long gap planned at one point to do some shopping and eating and such. But, now that I look back on it, I see that I actually watched a good seven full sets, most of them pretty long, five of them from bands I absolutely adore. So, all in all, actually a very, very good day.
Oddly enough the first band of the day was to be Portugese goth-metal masters Moonspell, a band I’m not really a fan of, per se, but whose stellar performance at Inferno earlier this year definitely made me want to check them out again.
Consummate showmen, with an enviable brace of infectious songs and killer riffs, the group managed to turn a brightly-lit early afternoon slot into something of a gothic mecca, their passionate performance crafting a clear and well-received connection with the crowd before them.
We were also treated to one of those wonderful “festival moments” when current Tristania singer singer Mariangela Demurtas came out to add her vocals to a fantastic run-through of “Raven Claws” (although her awkwardly sexy dancing and casual clothes felt oddly at odds with the song’s darkly seductive vibe).
On February 11, 2013, the night before Enslaved received their seventh Norwegian Grammy nomination, I had the pleasure of seeing them perform in Seattle at a bar called The Highline, which is rapidly becoming my favorite place in town to hear live metal. Somehow, despite its very small size, it’s booking some really amazing tours. It’s a clean, cozy, comfortable place with cool people working there (Dylan Desmond from Bell Witch was behind the bar this night, and I’m pretty sure I saw his bandmate Arian Guerra helping out, too), and they make some good cocktails.
Enslaved weren’t the only draw for what turned out to be a jam-packed audience. Three bands who had breakout years in 2012 were also along for the ride: Arkansas’s Pallbearer was the direct support, preceded by Ancient VVisdom from my hometown of Austin and Atlanta’s Royal Thunder.
I was somewhat familiar with Ancient VVisdom’s music (having featured them in this post at the end of 2011), but I must be the only metal blogger in creation to have missed Pallbearer’s critically acclaimed 2012 album Sorrow and Extinction, and I think I’ve previously heard a grand total of one song by Royal Thunder. So yeah, I was pretty much there for Enslaved.
Nevertheless, I and my friends got to the Highline early enough to grab places to sit on a raised area that runs down the left side of the floor against the wall. We were so far forward that we were almost — but not quite — on the side of the stage, as you’ll see from the angle of the photos I took. And yes, I’m sorry to tell you that this review, as usual, will include a lot of my amateur concert pics.
A nice coincidence: Last night I saw Enslaved perform at a bar in Seattle. This morning, Enslaved were nominated for Best Metal Album of 2012 in Norway’s version of the Grammy awards, which are called the Spellemann awards.
The other nominees in that category are Nekromantheon for Rise, Vulcan Spectre and El Caco for Hatred, Love and Diagrams. You gotta love a country where fuckin’ Enslaved and fuckin’ Nekromantheon get nominated for Grammy’s. Songs from each of their albums made our list of 2012′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. Hell, last spring I even wrote about a song from El Caco’s album (here) — though the song is more hard rock than metal.
Contrast this with the American Grammy Awards: Although there were 81 award categories for 2012, there is no award for Best Metal Album. As close as we get is an award for Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance. And Halestorm won that award two nights ago. Uh huh.