(NCS writer BadWolf gives us a triple shot — a combined review of three new albums by Glorior Belli, The Atlas Moth, and Rwake.)
So, I believe everyone has a pet subgenre. For some it is Kvlt black metal, for some American metalcore, or retro doom. My pet is prog sludge. Neurosis, Isis, Jesu, Mastodon, Kruger, Burst, Kylesa, Iron Thrones, the list goes on. Basically, if it sounds anything like Breach [GO LISTEN TO BREACH!], I probably love it. Anyway, it’s just felt like a long time since a great, forward-thinking sludge record came to my attention.
And then three amazing records that fit that description drop on the same day.
What the hell, right? Anyway, I’m too busy listening to music to review all three of these amazing albums, so I’m just going to tell you that all 3 of these records are on my short list for album of the year. I have no complaints about any of them other than they end. Truly we are blessed. (more after the jump, including music . . .)
My god, Metal Blade is killing it this year. Battlecross, a new Hammers of Misfortune record, and now this? If Glorior Belli puts out a fifth record and it’s even a little bit better than The Great Southern Darkness, they are my new favorite band.
So these French madmen sound as if Sworn to the Dark-era Watain (the best Watain) decided to start playing Danzig covers. They definitely keep the black metal atmosphere, but their riffs have a fat low end and tons of American blues in the mix. Glorior Belli have an uncanny ability to cruise with dissection-inflected riffage and then drop the black, revealing a deep, slow groove that actually existed in the music the entire time. Most metal bands remain stripped or layered the entire time and just adjust from loud to soft, or heavy to clean. Glorior Belli add and remove layers as casually as you or I put on or take off a jacket.
If that sounds a little cheesy, it is, and the band embraces that. For proof of concept, observe their video for “They Call Me Black Devil,” which is not Red Fang funny, but comes close. Look ma, no budget. No strings!
Oh, and did I mention it’s not just a cool dynamic—the songs are there, complete with big singalong moments. For once, the “ballad”—the title track, which does an amazing job of Imitating a “Stone the Crow”-type Down song before shifting gears into grimy blackness—is a standout centerpiece.
The Atlas Moth
For further proof that Chicago is the capital of American metal at the moment (sorry, San Francisco, Brooklyn), look no further than The Atlas Moth’s An Ache for the Distance. I’d been meaning to check this band out before, but this is such a good introduction I’m afraid their back catalogue will disappoint me [if you know more, comment below!].
This album is a tone-chaser’s wet dream. The guitars are always heavy, but go through so many subtle shifts in sound that Ache becomes the sonic equivalent of staring into a kaleidoscope. Sometimes they channel Kyuss, and other times Eyehategod. And even more often they are both at once, with the bass acting like scorching desert sand and clean, almost U2-like guitars playing the buzzards circling overhead.
The Atlas Moth’s sound is about counterpoint. The drums will push forward while the strings wander, or high shrieks will trade off with a clean baritone voice. That constant state of conflict draws the listener in, so that when things drop into glorious unison you *will* headbang.
Perhaps it’s the production (by the band’s guitar/synth player Andrew Ragin), but in a lot of ways this feels like a spiritual successor to Nachtmystium’s Assassins record. The feel is very psychedelic, very Pink Floyd in its use of heavy grooves with lots of clean tones over them. That’s also where the title becomes appropriate—an Ache for the Distance has moroseness to it, while Glorior Belli and Rwake spray more anger out than in.
These guys are early-00’s sludge royalty back from the dead. A king zombie if you will. Well, king and queen zombie since there’s male and female vocals [both unclean as a Tijuana motel room] on Rest. After an intensely long gestation period, years of Rwake songwriting has paid off: Rest is the shit.
Rwake’s discography in general is spotty, but their debut, Hell Is a Door to the Sun [recently re-released on Relapse] is 40 miles of bad road, one hell of a trip. A few listens in I would call Rest its equal—a few more listens and I may like it better.
More than anything, listening to Rest is exhausting in a way that reminds me of great grind and hardcore bands like Gaza. The songs actually feel like trudging through a muddy field of dead grass. The guitars play behind the drums, getting stuck in the stinking muck of negative emotions while the drums propel the songs ever forward. At its best, Rest topples forward into moments of freefalling guitar wailing before the rhythm picks back up, especially on “An Invisible Thread.”
Rest was definitely written with the LP format in mind—interludes aside, it’s 4 long songs, each suited for one side of a double gatefold vinyl. Each song has a definite beginning, middle and end; they wander from tranquility to rage and back. At times the songs feel spacey and mellow as post-rock, other times suffocating and claustrophobic as any modern crust punk or black metal record. People missing Opeth’s brand of flip-flopping songs may find some solace in Rest, but should expect lots of spite, not romance.
The Great Southern Darkness was released by Metal Blade on September 27 and is available for purchase wherever fine metal is sold, including here. Glorior Belli’s official web site is at this location.
The Atlas Moth’s new album was released in September on Profound Lore. It’s available for purchase at Amazon and iTunes, among other places. The Atlas Moth’s Facebook page is here.
Now . . . a song from each album:
GLORIOR BELLI: “THE GREAT SOUTHERN DARKNESS”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/06-The-Great-Southern-Darkness.mp3|titles=Glorior Belli- The Great Southern Darkness]
THE ATLAS MOTH: “COFFIN VARNISH”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01-Coffin-Varnish.mp3|titles=The Atlas Moth – Coffin Varnish]
RWAKE: “IT WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT NOW IT’S SOUR”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/02-It-Was-Beautiful-but-Now-Its-Sour.mp3|titles=Rwake – It Was Beautiful but Now It’s Sour]