You may have noticed that over the weekend I only posted one article on our site, despite the fact that for more than 6 years I’ve been obsessed with posting something every day of every year, weekends and holidays included. I think Saturday was only the 7th or 8th day when I’ve completely fallen down on the job since I started the site, and I had wanted to do more than one post on Sunday. As sometimes happens (but rarely), I just got too overwhelmed by personal obligations and the demands of my fucking day job to focus on NCS.
I’ve actually been kind of overwhelmed since the middle of last week. One of the things I’ve been unable to do is post round-ups of new music that I like. I did attempt to fly through the interhole and the NCS in-box from time to time and make a list of songs I wanted to check out as time permitted. When I looked at the list yesterday, it had new songs from 30 bands on it — all of which appeared just within the last week!!!
I have a tendency to become paralyzed when confronted with tasks so large that I can’t immediately see how to accomplish them. To avoid paralysis, this time I decided to just pick three songs from the list at random (can you guess how I did that?), and all three proved to be as good as I guessed they would be. I hope to make other forays into my list for tomorrow (though no doubt it will have grown further between now and then).
The first song in this collection is also an entire EP — a single 40-minute track by the Idaho duo Wolvserpent named Aporia:Kāla:Ananta, which was just released on Friday by Relapse Records. I haven’t found an official explanation for the title, and so made some guesses about it — guesses informed by the experience of listening to this absolutely enthralling piece of music:
Aporia is an ancient Greek word (ἀπορία) that refers to reaching an impasse, a state of puzzlement due to an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory. And the word, as used in rhetoric, refers to an expression of doubt.
According to this source, “kāla” is a Sanskrit word with two different meanings. It means “black”, but can also refer to “a fixed or right point of time, a space of time, time … destiny, fate … death”.
And “ananta” is another Sanskrit word, which means “endless” or “limitless” and can also be understood as meaning “eternal” or “infinite”.
Although the EP is a single composition, it does include discernible movements (as well as movements within movements) that could correspond to the concepts reflected in the title.
During the segments that make up roughly the first 16 minutes of the piece, Brittany McConnell’s violin performance (she is also the band’s drummer) plays an important role, establishing looping motifs on which she and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Blake Green add layers of multi-textured sound, creating an atmosphere that’s ephemeral and hypnotic.
The music begins with an overture of about six minutes — a blend of ghostly ambient sounds and shimmering orchestral tones (which sound like strings and horns) that swell and subside in their midst. In the following segment, marked by brief moments of silence at the beginning and end, the violin again establishes a musical motif, joined by the slow pounding of a drum. When the drums move into a martial rhythm, the volume swells and an enchanting, melancholy melody begins to glide through the music, with Green’s deep, growling voice intoning words like a chant.
One more segment follows in which the violin and drums establish a repeating foundation for the layering of other instruments, as well as the sound of something like an angelic choir, and the hypnotic drift of another beautiful, melancholy melody. But at about the 16-minute mark, the music takes a dark and dramatic turn.
For the next 16-17 minutes, the music becomes vast and apocalyptic, beginning with the appearance of immense, distorted doom chords, pavement-splitting drum beats, and cavernous, echoing roars. Dissonant, hallucinatory, squalling sounds rise and fall as the glacially paced music generates an increasingly frigid and frightening atmosphere.
The drums eventually slow into widely spaced blasts over the drone of guitar distortion and the shimmer of ambient melody until the drums eventually stop altogether, and the continuing drone is then punctured by unnerving feedback and destructive electronic grinding sounds.
With about two and a half minutes left, the groan of feedback ceases, and the warbling sound of strings appears, carrying the song to its conclusion against a backdrop of what sounds like distant thunder or the wash of waves.
When I saw Wolvserpent perform at the 2014 edition of Gilead Fest in Wisconsin, the two words I used to sum up the experience were “hypnotic” and “flattening”. Those words apply equally well to this new recording. Wolvserpent continue to explore shades of emotional color in ways that few bands even attempt, much less accomplish, and in this new EP they’ve created a a vast soundscape that’s both spellbinding and utterly staggering. Well worth your time (and your money).
(I’ve included two music players for the EP below, in case you find one platform better than another.)
Over the more than five years that have passed since the release of Dualitas, I confess that I had forgotten about Atlanta’s Withered until Andy Synn made them the subject of a complete discography review (here) last November and alerted me to the fact that they had a new album on the way. And then I was hit last week, as if by a bolt from the blue, by the appearance of album art and a new song.
The new album is named Grief Relic and it features album art by the great Paul Romano, who appears to have modeled his work on Arnold Böcklin’s “Isle of the Dead” (Die Toteninsel). Joining the band for this new album are bassist Colin Marston (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Krallice), and Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man as vocalist/guitarist.
The new song is called “Husk” — and it’s a stunner.
When Andy made Withered the subject of a SYNN REPORT, he characterized their music as “blending the raving savagery of Black Metal with the wrenching heaviness of Death Metal and the slime-drenched grooves of Sludge, each one bathed in a scalding miasma of acid-rain atmospherics and bleak, bitter misanthropy”. Much the same could also be said of “Husk”.
Withered launch the song with huge grinding riffs and a meshing of double-bass thunder and back-beats, but the percussion soon turns to a fusillade of blasting joined by McCarthy’s horrifying roars (and later by terrifying shrieks). The melody is grim, cold, and bereft, and the song’s groaning guitar notes and pummeling riffs enhance the song’s ugly power. Both utterly bleak and crushingly bombastic, this is sonic warfare of the finest kind.
Grief Relic will be released by Season of Mist on May 27, and it’s available for order here. To listen to “Husk”, visit DECIBEL, where it’s exclusively streaming:
I’ve been fortunate to hear the self-titled debut album by Wode from Manchester, England, which will be released on April 8 by Broken Limbs in North America (and by Sell Your Soul Records in Europe). I hope I or someone else around here will find time to give it a fitting review, because it’s really good. But for now, be sure to listen to a song from the album named “Cloaked In Ruin”, which premiered at Stereogum last week.
In introducing the premiere, Michael Nelson dropped names like Dissection, Watain, and Taake, while also making reference to “recessive elements indebted to the seminal doom of Cathedral or Candlemass and the timeless thrash of early Metallica or Megadeth“. That kind of rhetoric sets high expectations, but Wode live up to them.
“Cloaked In Ruin” sets the hook so fast, with a dual guitar harmony followed by an anthemic riff — and then the song takes flight in a gripping flurry of blasting drums and vibrating chords. The song loses none of its appeal when the pace eventually slows, so compelling is the somber melody that snakes through the music. It’s a fascinating and successful integration of styles that’s emblematic of the strength of the album as a whole.
(And by the way, kudos to the band for choosing a painting by Zdzisław Beksinski for the album cover.)
This is another exclusive premiere, so you’ll have to tear yourself away from our friendly confines and go here to listen: