As promised, I’m posting three editions of MISCELLANY in three successive days, this being the second.
Here’s how the MISCELLANY game works: I pick bands whose music I’ve never heard, usually focusing on under-the-radar groups whose names I’ve never heard before either. The selection process is random; for these three editions of the series, I tended to focus on bands who’ve written us recently. I try to limit my listening to a song or two and then write my impressions, while streaming what I heard so you can form your own opinions. I don’t know in advance whether I’ll like the music, so there’s an element of surprise involved (good or bad). For this listening session I investigated the music of three bands.
Ophidius are an instrumental death metal band from New Jersey. Their debut album (or I suppose you could call it an EP too), The Throat of the World, was released via Bandcamp last December and it’s available for a price you name. It consists of four songs, and the band explain that the compositions were inspired by “The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim”.
I’m an ancient, peculiar creature and among my many oddities, I am not a gamer. I have zero familiarity with Skyrim, and so I can say nothing about how the music corresponds to the inspiration. But even without that context, I’m really impressed by the song I picked for this listening session — “Discerning the Transmundane”.
Even operating without vocals, Ophidius really do succeed in delivering the toothsome savagery of death metal and the bleak atmospherics of the music while also filling the song with a plethora of wonderful instrumental performances. The skill level is really impressive at every station — I thoroughly enjoyed the bounding bass, the blazing drum work, the eye-watering solos, and the head-spinning dual guitar harmonies. The song is both explosive and fascinating.
The Bandcamp stream is below, and I’m also including a play-through video featuring drummer AJ Viana, which is damned impressive.
King Dead are an unusual outfit from Stroudsburg PA — unusual in the sense that they play instrumental metal but the instruments are limited to two bass guitars (one a six-string, the other a four-string) and a drum kit. And if that weren’t enough to peak my interest, their thumbnail description of the music sealed the deal: “turgid spaghetti western doom instrumental”.
The band’s five-track, self-titled debut album is set for release on April 19 (Record Store Day). It wasn’t hard to pick a song for MISCELLANY purposes, because there’s only one track from the album currently available for streaming — “Length of Rope”. It drags like a heavy cart full of plague victims, but you can easily see the sense of that “spaghetti western” reference in the bleak, reverberating bass melody — Sergio Leone mutated into doom metal, with poltergeist cowboys. It’s spare, stripped down, and builds in intensity as it reaches the climax. I’m digging it.
The album is available now for pre-order, both as a digital download and in CD form, via the Bandcamp link below. After listening to “Length of Rope”, I also found a very positive (and well-written) review at The Obelisk, which you can read here.
Naga are an Italian band who released a self-titled debut EP last year and their first album (Hēn) last month. The band explain that “Hēn is the word used by the ancient Greeks to indicate the One, the divine principle embracing the whole reality, it’s the highest idea, it’s what the Becoming implies, it’s where everything originates and everything returns.”
The album is available on Bandcamp, and all five of the songs are long ones, with four of them in the 10+ minute range. The first song that’s set up for streaming when you visit the page turns out to be the shortest — “Heirophania” — at “only” 7 1/2 minutes, and that’s what I heard for MISCELLANY purposes.
It begins with a long vocal sample in Italian (and I need to find out what it is, because surely it has a connection to the rest of the song). The music is a mid-paced rumble of blackened doom, driven by a simple (but capably performed) rock beats and leaden chords. There’s a bit of stoner doom in the sludgy riffs and more than a bit of black metal in the scarifying shrieks. The riffs really are key in music like this, and “Heirophania” is built around some good ones, and when the music collapses into a turgid crawl near the end, you can feel the tar congealing around your struggling limbs. Good stuff.