I came across a ton of new music yesterday that lit me up, too much to cram into a single post. So I made some hard choices, and selected this grouping from six artists with an eye toward creating a diverse listening experience. The last item, of course, isn’t metal — except it kind of is. You’ll see. If I have time I might be able stitch together some more new songs for later today, and if not, tomorrow (because tomorrow is the glorious sixth anniversary of our site’s birth).
January 15 is the date set by Relapse Records for the release of the new album Chasm by Oakland’s Lycus. As you can see, it features cover art by Paolo Girardi. The band’s last album, 2013’s Tempest, was fantastic, and I’ve been curious to see what Lycus would do next.
The new record consists of four long songs, and one of them, “Solar Chamber”, debuted yesterday. Drummer Trevor DeSchryver described its concept this way:
“Serving as one of the more sonically diverse songs on the album, ‘Solar Chamber’ was inspired by the unavoidable horrors of this world revealed by the sun. It is based on the notion that one may find serenity and solace in the darkness of night, as opposed to the crippling fear and anxiety brought on by the oppressive light of day.”
Rumbling and dissonant at first, moaning and groaning later, and eventually beautiful in its forlorn sentiments, “Solar Chamber” is a gripping song and a tantalizing first plunge into the depths of Chasm. It’s doom of a particularly intense and disturbing variety, the electrifying effect of the music enhanced by the extremity of the vocals, the spectral aura of the guitar melodies, and the near-ceaseless avalanche of the drum performance.
Chasm is available for pre-order on CD, LP, and digitally via the Bandcamp link below.
Fórn is another band whose debut album (2014’s Departure of Consciousness) made a very strong impression. Their new offering is an EP entitled Weltschmerz that appeared on Bandcamp yesterday (and will be released on 12″ vinyl by Gilead Media on December 11).
The EP consists of two long songs, “Saudade” and “Dolor”, each of them divided into two parts. There is sublime, heart-aching, mystical beauty in the music, in keeping with the EP’s title (which is a German word for melancholy and world-weariness). But the music is also massively crushing. Chris Pinto’s vocals diverge along each of these two pathways as well, sometimes wrenching and monstrous in their anguished extremity and sometimes ghostly in their ephemeral lightness.
The songs create juxtapositions of sound that make each half of the Janus-like contrasts even more powerful — the completely pulverizing monoliths of heaviness seem even more staggering when set against passages of lonely, echoing guitar notes and the wraithlike shimmering of ethereal chords. And those spectral emanations of melody seem even more otherworldly when they appear in place of (or over the top of) the slow-motion, pavement cracking hammer blows in the low end. A truly immersive experience that’s both spellbinding and obliterating. Don’t miss this!
The vinyl edition of Weltschmerz is available for pre-order at Eroding Winds here. It features cover art by another of my favorite artists, Bryan Proteau, and comes with a download code. The digital version can be downloaded now via the first link below.
Okay, time for a big change of pace.
Per Valla has drawn quite a bit of attention in recent months as the guitarist for Abbath, perhaps overshadowing the fact that he is also the vocalist and guitarist for Norway’s Vredehammer. That band’s very good first album Vinteroffer came out last year, and February 5 will see the release of their second full-length, Violator (via Indie Recordings). One song from the album named “Spawn Tyrant” premiered at Decibel about two weeks ago, at a time when I couldn’t do much metal listening, but I saved the link and finally checked it out yesterday.
Decibel quoted Per Valla describing his approach to the song: “I felt like making some damned aggressive shit”. I’d say he succeeded. The song explodes right from the start in a fury of darting, whipping riffs and machine-like drum blasting and it just gets more adrenalizing as it barrels forward. A real scorcher that gets me pumped for the rest of Violator.
An now for another change of pace.
The most recent album by Iceland’s Skálmöld was 2014’s Með Vættum. Yesterday the band released a new lyric video for the song “Að Vetri” (“In Winter”). The band’s lyrics are Icelandic, but for this video they’ve been translated by Snorri Kristjansson (the author of a book series called The Valhalla Saga). The video again features the epic album artwork of Ásgeir Jón Ásgeirsson.
I was familiar with the song before watching and listening to this, but given the rapid encroachment of winter, it seemed like a fitting thing to explore again. This song puts such a big smile on my face every time I hear it… it’s a serious ear worm, it’s made for headbanging, the vocals are great, and the change in the music that begins at the halfway mark is such an unexpected and ingenious contrast with what comes before — and that’s all I’ll say. Listen!
I first learned of this next offering via my Serbian friend “M“, who continues to be a valued source of recommendations (far more than I have time to write about, unfortunately). It’s a debut album named Dor by a Dutch trio named Turia. It was released digitally on Bandcamp a couple of days ago, and it’s also available on cassette via Haeresis Noviomagi.
I listened to the first song from the album last night, right before going to bed. It stayed in my head as I went to sleep. Not long after I woke up, it reappeared in my head. That says something, doesn’t it?
The beginning of “Behoudenis” sounds like the bowing of a double bass, and the deep thrum of the main riff courses through the racing that follows the introduction like a giant python. The high, contrasting guitar melody in the song ripples and shines in a way that’s equally riveting, while the vocalist’s unhinged shrieking will set your teeth on edge. There’s a similar rippling and thrumming quality to the bass lines in the music, which mesh with the shimmer of cymbals and the hard-driving drum rhythms. In some ways it’s a simple song, built on repetition, but man, it still has its hooks in me.
Most of the rest of the album is in the same vein — propulsive, atmospheric black metal with teeth, barbed with melodic hooks and relying on a sequence of repeating movements that drives the music into your head like railroad spikes. You don’t get much of a chance to breathe until near the end of the second track, which provides a moment of unsettling calm after the tumult. “Zuiverheid” backs off the racing pace of the first two tracks — a doomed, dragging, depressive piece that’s weighted with grief but just as effective at getting under your skin (and at the end it explodes in a way that gets all the nerves firing).
The final track, “Halsstarrig de Dood Tegemoet”, introduces a rocking, rhythmic back-beat capable of getting your head moving while the bass pulses and the guitars steamroll in a heavy, grinding onslaught. When the band ease up on the throttle, it’s to introduce a bleak melody and an alien-sounding, droning ambient finale that’s strangely hypnotic (and again reminded me of the bowing of a double-bass). It’s the last thing I listened to while writing this post. It’s now stuck in my head, too.
When I was much younger, David Bowie’s earliest albums were the soundtrack to large segments of my life. I devoured them, regurgitated them, and devoured them again — almost endlessly. I continued listening to everything he put out, up to a point, and then I confess that I stopped. And eventually he stopped, too — knocked from the ring by a heart attack in 2004. He has made a few guest appearances since then, but didn’t record or release any new music of his own for a decade. The Next Day came out in 2013, and I didn’t listen to it. Still haven’t.
But now he has revealed a new song named “Blackstar” from a forthcoming album of the same name, and an official video to accompany it. Both the music and the video are exceedingly strange, but I found both fascinating. The unusual drum rhythm at the beginning of the song is transfixing and so is the music’s varied movement from where it starts to where it ends — and the entire experience seems cloaked in a pall of increasing dread.
I have no good idea what the video is about, and I won’t attempt to describe it, but I couldn’t look away. Even at this stage of his career, Bowie clearly hasn’t lost the spark of creativity.