(DGR reviews three releases by bands he came across while… face-planting.)
The idea that 2015 has been a year that has been moving in fits and starts in my neck of the woods has slowly become something of a mantra. With a sample size of the four or so years I’ve been kicking around these parts, I’ve usually got a backlog of albums about eight deep — which means that if I’m not spending a good chunk of my year listening to the same discs over and over again, telling myself I have to review them, to the point of nausea and then stressing out about it later when I come home so tired from work that I can’t even fathom typing — I figure that I’m fucking up.
However, since 2015 seems to be in a mode that consists of violent seizures of music and then absolutely nothing, I’d hazard to say that with the publication of my Wolfheart review, I was caught up with music for the moment — at least as far as the releases I’d been keeping an eye on were concerned.
The other goofballs that also staff this site have done a tremendous job keeping us up to date, but it also means I’ve been drifting for a bit. My method of drifting, though, usually involves a drunken stumble and a face-plant on the concrete or two, and this is how I tend to discover music these days. I try to keep track, but more often than not I seem to be face-planting into the yards of bands who’ve had releases that hit this year and who seem to be flying just under the radar — so we find ourselves once again sifting through three releases, via Bandcamp, of bands who run the gamut from death metal, to symphonic black and death, to low-end heavy deathgrind, and all three see us travelling a pretty good chunk of the globe.
So, I present to you, my latest edition of foibles that I believe we may find interesting to pick apart and dissect, ones that take us from Latvia, to the good ole’ US of A, and then to our buddies in Poland via Selfmadegod.
CHAOSACT – KINGDOM OF PIGS
Our first trip round the world takes us to Latvia courtesy of the death metal band ChaosAct. ChaosAct are a young band, having first come to into existence in 2013, and two years later they have put out their debut release Kingdom Of Pigs.
ChaosAct’s brand of metal is heavily steeped in death and groove, meaning it actually shares quite a few hallmarks with OSDM’s more mid-tempo tendencies, and because of this, Kingdom Of Pigs is a big ol’ beefy slab of music. It consists of eleven songs, ten originals and one cover of a song by the band Huskvarn (with whom ChaosAct guitarist Girts Janson played before that group called it quits). Kingdom Of Pigs came out in April, but this is one of those releases that could use some help reaching out into the wider expanse, if only because of the evocative cover art.
It actually does have a sense of melody to it despite the music being somewhat tried-and-true and traditionally death metal, but you’ll never go broke playing to the cheap seats, and ChaosAct show that they can hang with the best of ’em on their debut record. Plenty of chainsaw guitar and guttural vocals abound across Kingdom Of Pigs, as well as a dystopian atmosphere running through the whole affair, with some of the songs taking on a futuristic tone in both how their titles are typeset as well as the sharply-precise guitar riffs within (looking at you I.M.possible).
Kingdom Of Pigs can be grabbed for five funny E-shaped symbols on Bandcamp (I believe it might be called a gyro?), and if you need a mean bit of death metal then I am more than happy to provide…. five months late.
TINE – THE FOREST DREAMS OF BLACK
I think that it is safe to say that I am not the “black metal guy” around these here parts. I usually grab a lot of recommendations from our resident Andy Synn, but even then I have found that most of the black metal bands I do tend to enjoy lie real close to the death metal spectrum, and more often than not are either symphonic death with high vocals, or blackened-death metal bands. One of the things I do love about black metal, though, is the theatricality that has slowly overtaken the genre and the sheer dedication required: You pretty much have to come to terms with the fact that people are going to address you with a raised eyebrow from the get-go the moment you don the “uniform”, and more often than not it results in some overly earnest depictions of the corpse-painted kvlt crews.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to Pennsylvania’s Tine — a black metal duo hailing from Rice’s Landing consisting of musicians going by the names Count Murmur and Vanth. Count Murmur handles a huge chunk of the traditional instruments and vocals, and Vanth provides the orchestration and keyboards, as well as (according to Bandcamp) serving as the group’s makeup artist and photographer. Combined with the band’s logo resembling a pitchfork (a tine) and the album being called The Forest Dreams Of Black, and you can see why at the very least I was drawn to it. because if anything, Tine have heart for their music.
Despite my initial, “this is perfect” sort of detour based on the band’s logo, the members’ names, and the album title alone, the music within The Forest Dreams Of Black is solid symphonic black metal with a heavy death metal element to it. The guitar work on this disc veers from a fairly dark groove coupled with dramatic keyboard swells, into the super-high-speed buzzsaw riffs that seem to echo across their musical forest. The vocal work of Count Murmur favors the death metal realm with a low growl and roar and the occasional high — which tend to make Tine feel like an ambitious symphonic death project were it not for the favoring of light speed blasting and long, intricate songs that delve into the ritualistic.
Tine obviously have some deep waters to tread and could easily drown in the depths of self-parody, but right now seem to be playing it as straight as possible. The Forest Dreams Of Black may not appeal to a pure black metal music aficionado, but as one who enjoys some hefty symphonic works and dramatic keyboard invasions in my death and black metal, the group has certainly had their appeal.
NORYLSK – CATHOLIC DICTATORSHIP
Judging by the cover art on Catholic Dictatorship, one can assume that only good things are happening within its musical boundaries. Norylsk are a long-running band (having operated under the name Trocki prior to 2008) with a strong anti-religious streak that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.
They play a style of grind that verges on brutal death, with a vocalist whose hoarse yells quickly give way to gravel-throated gurgles that would’ve been perfect in a murkier-swamp-style death metal band. Norylsk keep a relentless pace, as is common for grind, and the songs are just overwhelming lessons in brutality. Fourteen songs across thirty minutes quickly becomes fourteen songs of strangulation, and each tune tends to have one purpose and that is to filter a whole mess of guitar and screaming over a variety of blasts.
Long story short, Norylsk’s strong suit is not subtlety, and that they fall into what Swiss grind band Mumakil coined “blastcore” for a good swath of Catholic Dictatorship isn’t too shocking. It is music that is meant to be ugly and abrasive, and Norylsk tend to apply to the skin about as well as 40-grit sandpaper. They make the type of music you listen to if you feel like taking repeated blows to the head with a hammer over thirty minutes.
Funny thing is, in general I actually utterly DESPISE the sort of “Black Metal” that’s done in the name of “theatricality”. It’s musical theatre with distorted guitars.
However I do separate out the imagery employed by bands like Behemoth, Vesania, etc – to whom you could certainly apply the term if you wanted, though to my mind it has the wrong connotations when compared to the more… ritualistic aspects I see in my favourite corpse-painted ne’er-do-wells – from the sort of bad, LARP-friendly, “skinny-nerd in greasepaint pretending to be a dark lord of the night” look adopted by so many superficial, entry-level “Black Metal” acts.
And with that bit of jarring negativity, I’m off back to my dark cave in the wilderness to listen to bands who’ve never actually recorded anything… or even existed. That’s how kvlt I am.
Get out of my cave. I thought that was my job.
All three sound killer! I think Norylsk is my favorite 🙂