(Another months is in the history books, and so it’s time for KevinP to name the releases from last month that most impressed him.)
May has been the most ecletic month of the year so far. Interesting and all over the map (as you’ll see below). I guess that’s why it took me more time than usual to decide on the final pecking order. I went back and forth a few times, even shuffled albums in and out. Damn you metal for making me THINK 😉
Anyways, here we go…
(Wil Cifer provides this interview with Mirai Kawashima of Sigh, whose new album will be released on May 4 by Candlelight Records.)
I recently got to catch up with and pick the brain of Sigh’s main man Mirai Kawashima to discuss the new album Graveward and the ghosts of metal past, present, and future.
With Scenes From Hell you took a sharper turn into a more progressive sound. Graveward retains that but steps back into a more metal direction as well. What inspired this?
Mirai: The biggest inspiration on this album is 70s / 80s Italian zombie flicks. At first I was planning to make it filled with old keyboards like Minimoog, Mellotron, Hammond, Fender Rhodes etc., as a dedication to those movies. The final result was pretty much different from the initial plan, but I think you still sense the atmosphere of zombie movies.
I’m not sure what you meant by “metal direction”, but Graveward is filled with mid-paced to up-tempo songs, I mean they’re slower than those on Hangman’s Hymn or Scenes from Hell. In that sense, Graveward is a very metal album. Other than that, the change of guitarist affected a lot on the sound. I’ll talk about it later.
(Wil Cifer offers some thoughts about Graveward, the new album by Sigh.)
Once upon a time one of my favorite black metal bands put out an album called Scenes From Hell and they transformed from one of my favorite black metal bands into one of my favorite prog metal bands. Their new album finds them getting some of the aggression back as they study the various aspects of death.
One thing that is interesting about Sigh is even though they are based in Tokyo, the band do not employ the Oriental dodecaphonic scale, but pull from a variety of western music ranging from Deep Purple to klezmer. This album opens in a fairly straight-forward metal manner for this band, with a slight leaning toward Emperor as the clean vocals sweep in amidst the twists and turns normally narrated by the more scathing snarls. The clean vocals have a more typical progressive metal vibrato, like something Therion might throw in.
Sigh continue to use a chaotic mix of varied elements, which are sometimes stirred together more smoothly than at others. There are some good metallic moments in the title track, which settled in with me more quickly than the opening song (“Kaedit Nos Pestis”); that one took a few listens to sink in.
(Having heard of my job-related inability to assemble round-ups of new music for the last week (and the next one), Austin Weber has graciously stepped up to fill the void… and then I didn’t even have time to post his first installment in a timely manner. The delay is my fault, but even late, it’s still very much worth reading. There’s a lot of good music in here.)
Our esteemed leader, and general in our revolt against metal mediocrity, Islander, has slipped into the shadows once again. Sometimes when his job flogs him too much he doesn’t have any spare time to flog his ears and spread that beating around to the fine folks who read our daily crazed musings here at NCS. So, once again, I’ve decided to cautiously fill in and ensure that killer new music from across the metal spectrum graces your ears. All death threats, grumblings, or perceptive complaints can be sent to my email: email@example.com. Lots to cover so let’s dive right in.
Vermörd are a Maryland-based blackened death metal band who are new to me, and one Islander had meant to write about before his current work debacle denied him the chance to do so. As such, I figured I’d include them in this post, and also because he told me to check them out under the theory that I might like music. And right he was.
(Earlier this week, Metal Injection published a discourse on The 10 Most Lethal Weapons In Black Metal. In the introduction to the article, the author alluded to the reasons why certain kinds of weaponry have been associated with the genre. Now we get the author’s full explanation — a Part 1, if you will, to the Part 2 piece that appeared at Metal Injection. At NCS, you know the prolific author as Rev. Will. In the course of his research, he consulted members of Noctem, Sigh, and Edge of Paradise, as well as the Vegan Black Metal Chef.)
Funnily enough, whenever black metal weaponry floats to the surface of the perpetually random sea of thoughts slushing about in my head, the next thing that invariably comes to mind is the “bling-bling” of hip-hop culture. Before the elitists out there start coming down on me with the wrath of Satan’s cheeseburger, consider for a moment the following comparison.
Now, I am not insinuating that there is a musical similarity between both genres. What I would like to point out is that just as bling-bling is the Statue of Liberty of hip-hop, black metal weaponry is very much an iconic part of black metal that serves as the first graphic reference for most people’s memory banks when they try to recollect what they can of the grim metal sub-genre (someone ought to give it a catchy name too, maybe “cling-clang”). Just as many hip-hop artistes are famous within the mainstream music circle for their overly-flashy jewelry, black metal musicians are infamous within the underground music community for their ostentatious weapons as well.
Over time, both sets of accessories have evolved from merely being elements of sub-genre attire into cultural movements of their own. Bling-bling and cling-clang are both usually made of metal, but that’s where the similarity between both cultural movements stops. Unsurprisingly, for a sub-genre and cultural movement as pessimistic and misanthropic as black metal, its proliferation in the early ‘90s even had the occasional political motive—something much of hip-hop has left far behind since its early days.
I don’t listen to a lot of black metal. That is, I don’t listen to a lot of straight-up black metal. I like my black metal to be experimented with, diluted, wrapped around electronic melodies (Thy Catafalque) or folky weirdness (old Finntroll) or prog (newer Enslaved). So, although I am a big fan of In Somniphobia, the newest release from Japanese black metal weirdos Sigh, my experience with them to date only goes back to their Gallows Gallery album.
I’ve been meaning to go back further, as I understand that they really started to experiment with their sound fairly early on, but I have too much music to listen to as it is. What I have heard, I have greatly enjoyed, and the three albums that I’ve listened to previously have all had their own interesting sounds, from the eclectic jazz-and-power-metal-influenced Gallows Gallery to the orchestral thrash of Hangman’s Hymn to the all-out orchestral insanity of Scenes From Hell.
Considering how different all of those albums are in relation to one another, I had no idea what to expect from In Somniphobia, but I suspected it was still going to be pretty fucking good. And I was not disappointed.
My biggest concern for In Somniphobia was the production. Scenes From Hell was a great album filled with real symphonic instrumentation, but it was hamstrung by an awful mix, where everything was compressed and flattened all to hell. It was still a well-written, interesting album, but what should have been an open, dynamic album instead felt somewhat lifeless. Thankfully, In Somniphobia does not suffer from the same problem. The mix isn’t perfect, sure, but it’s still a major improvement, and the album is that much the better for it.
December and 2011 are both over, and with the end of the last month, it’s time to round up what we saw over the last 30 days about forthcoming albums.
We usually try to post these updates on the first of the month, but the first of this month was New year’s Day, and I was moving kinda slowly that day. Plus, I’ve been focusing on year-end lists from a variety of sources, and, well, I’m late with this. I have more excuses, if you’d like to hear them. No? Okay, I understand. I’ll just shut up and get going with this list.
So, here’s the deal: In these METAL IN THE FORGE posts, I collect news blurbs and press releases I’ve seen over the last month about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like at NCS (including occasional updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know their music yet. In this series, we cut and paste those announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.
Remember — THIS ISN’T A CUMULATIVE LIST. If we found out about a new forthcoming album before December, we wrote about it in previous installments of this series. So, be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported earlier.
This month’s list begins right after the jump. It includes some real eye-openers. In fact, it’s not too soon to say that 2012 is already looking like yet another royally skull-fucking year for metal. But as usual, this list is half-assed rather than comprehensive. I confess that in December I was even more half-assed than usual in keeping my eyes open for news about new albums. So, feel free to leave Comments and tell all of us what I missed when I put this list together. Let us know about albums on the way that you’re stoked about, even if you don’t see them here!