May 012016



By way of explaining why my own output at the site has been sparse over the last week, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have a close friend in the ICU at a Seattle hospital whom I’ve been visiting for hours each day. One week ago she was driving to work in downtown Seattle and was hit in an intersection by a big city aid truck responding to an emergency call. She’s still in a coma, with a brain injury, though there are signs that she is approaching wakefulness.

Yesterday being a Saturday, I spent a few hours at home listening to music before returning to the hospital. I listened to some new metal that suited my mood, which I plan to compile in a Shades of Black post later this morning. But in a sequence of unpredictable but serendipitous events I also happened upon all the music collected in this post. There’s a bit of metal in the first and last items, but mostly this music is way off our usual beaten paths, yet these songs also suited my mood. I hope you’ll appreciate them, too.


A Russian friend in Novosibirsk (and a member of Station Dysthymia) recommended this first band, calling the music “hauntingly beautiful” — and so it is. The band’s name is Offret, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I’m not sure if this is a one-man project or a group. What I heard was a self-titled EP released on April 25, 2016, via Bandcamp.


Offret art


If you visit Offret’s Facebook page, you’ll see a list of musical influences that includes Converge, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Steve Von Till, and Black Heart Rebellion.

Of the four songs on the EP, the first is one of the more metal songs. It includes the crack of drums and the gravelly distortion of a bass as well as varying, clean vocals and the brief shriek of a guitar; it’s slow and pensive at first, becoming darker and heavier by the end. The second track carries the gloomy mood forward with the strumming of acoustic guitar, a vocal harmony that’s ghostly, and the moaning exhalation of what might be keyboard notes.

The third track features more acoustic picking and ethereal, falsetto vocals before the bass rumble comes in to drive the music down into doom territory and a haze of electric guitar adds some beautiful, intense abrasion. As the picking grows more animated, the vocals turn harsh and raw with anguished emotion.

This brilliant EP comes to an end with a track that is no less sorrowful than what preceded it but greatly magnifies the heaviness factor. Introduced by long, droning notes and the avalanche crash of drums and reverberating chords, it flows like congealing blood on an ice floe, barren and desolate — but a black flame burns in the music thanks to the unhinged extremity of the vocals. When the drums and bass move to a repeating tribal rhythm, they only deepen the sense that things are falling apart.







Tamas katai-Slower Structures


As many of you know, Tamás Kátai is the musical mastermind behind the masterful Hungarian band Thy Catafalque. Eleven years ago he created a solo album named Erika Szobája, and he has now completed work on a second solo full-length, though he is joined by some very talented guests. The name of the new album is Slower Structures, and it will be released on May 2 by GS Productions (100 hand-numbered digipak CDs). Tamás explains that it was inspired by the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he has lived for many years. He describes the music as “some sort of experimental, minimalist chamber music written to piano, violin, double bass and electronics”.

The song I heard yesterday (accompanied by a video) is “Slowing Waters”. It features Tamás on piano and Balázs Hermann on the contrabass. It’s slow, somber, and achingly beautiful. I wish it were longer, though it might bring tears if it were. The video is beautiful, too.

One other song from the album was released earlier, a track called “Raining This Morning”, and I’ve included it below as well. It’s a piano instrumental, brighter than “Slower Waters” but with a wistful, longing quality (or maybe that’s a reflection of my own state of mind).

Here’s the full list of participants in the album:

Tamás Kátai – piano and electronics
Balázs Hermann – contrabass
Dimitris Papageorgiou – violin
Gyöngyi Kudlik – voice
Bettina Kátai – voice on tape

UPDATE:  After writing this post I learned that Slower Structures is available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp via the link below.  And so I am also including the full album stream after the two tracks I originally wrote about.











Mikko Joensuu-Amen 1


I grew up in central Texas in a household with country music on the radio and the record player almost constantly. Country musicians were in our house a lot, rehearsing and playing for fun. This was old-time country music and bluegrass, played with fiddle, acoustic guitars, piano, and occasionally a dobro or mandolin. For a whole bunch of reasons, I haven’t regularly listened to country music in a very long time. But every now I’ll come across a song like this next one that strikes a chord.

I paused to listen to this song mainly because of the novelty that it comes from a Finnish musician. His name is Mikko Joensuu and he has a debut album named Amen 1 due for release by Svart Records on June 10. It’s the first in a trilogy of connected albums and was recorded in a cabin by a lake in northern Finland. Joensuu explains that of the three, “Amen 1 is perhaps the most fragile. It’s an effort to find balance between great sadness and beauty, and to understand the very strange state when one’s mind is close to collapse and yet at the same time more alive than ever”.

The song below, accompanied by a great video, is named “Warning Sign“. It’s haunting and penetrating and hard to forget. I’ll also quote the introduction to the song that accompanied its premiere at The Line of Best Fit:

“Warning Sign” starts with pedal steel, the sound of sadness in a musical instrument, and Joensuu’s wavering rumble of a classic country vocal joins, posing himself the question “how come every time I see a warning sign / I just pass on through?” Alongside plaintive piano, a choir joins in the chorus and strings swoop in sumptuous fashion, the obvious nod would appear to be towards the grandiose fragility of Josh T Pearson, someone also well acquainted with behaviour which they are doomed to repeat.








Kam Lee logo


Kam Lee isn’t slowing down, though of course he could simply be resting on his laurels by now. Though Massacre has been laid to rest, he was active in such bands as Bone Gnawer and The Grotesquery, and he has more recently formed a funeral doom band named Akatharta with a three-song promo expected in May, as well as a “UFO-Grind” group called Alienanalprobe that released a two-song promo last month and a solo d-beat crust punk project called Oozing Scabs. On top of all that, he also has a solo project with a 7″ EP expected at Halloween and an album after that.

The song you’re about to hear will not appear on that EP; instead, it’s a free promo track (there will be a download code accompanying a planned 7″ vinyl release, or people can request the code now to get the download). It’s a cover of the theme from the movie 28 Days Later that includes performances by guitarist Aaron Whitsell and drummer Brynjar Helgetun (Crypticus, The Grotesquery, etc.). The song was mixed by Patrick Bruss (Crypticus). Lee explains:

“In this – my re-imagined and reinterpreted version, it comes with a lyrical and vocal approach to convey an overall atmospheric sense of dread, doom, and complete isolation and loneliness. Not only suggesting days & weeks gone by… but actual months and eventually years. {* For me personally, it has a deeper & more very personal meaning, as all my lyrics always have a deeper meaning in one sense or the other – either literally or metaphorically.}”

This song has a more metal component than most of the music preceding it in this post, but it is indeed the atmospheric quality of the interpretation that hooked me. The simple, looping guitar melody and Helgetun’s spine-shaking drumwork provide the foundation for the sequence of Lee’s widely varying (and layered) vocals. The music grows in intensity and power as the song progresses. By the end, I couldn’t get it out of my head.


  1. All of these are perfect Sunday morning soundtracks. Great to see Tamas Katai and Mikko Joensuu coverage here, and Offret is an awesome new discovery.

    • Glad you’re enjoying the Offret discovery. And it seems you found Mikko Joensuu before me. I’m suddenly very interested to hear more from him.

      • I only got to him maybe a week or so ago when Svart posted another advance track, so I’m not TOO far ahead 🙂

  2. Islander; i wish your friend comes back in full health soon; cheerful and stronger than before.

  3. Hi, Islander! Thank you for your review and appreciation.
    Offret ia one-man band.

  4. Not surprisingly, Kam Lee crept furthest under my skin, and Offret comes as a good number two.
    It annoys me that I haven’t found any time to puzzle together another Under the Radar post to contribute my share in these tough times, but what little time I’ve had recently, has all gone into putting out a few things myself.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an imminent awakening with an absolute minimum of injury.

  5. Just sayin’, Bone Gnawer is dead and the Grotesquery have been dead/on indefinite hiatus since 2015

    • Well shit, I didn’t know Bone Gnawer was officially split up, but I’m not giving up on The Grotesquery yet (though I have adjusted the verbiage in my post).

  6. Thank you, Sir for the post. I wish you and your loved one good health.

    • Oh and Slower Structures is available on Bandcamp for free.

      • Thank you for your good wishes and for the Bandcamp news. I have updated what I wrote to include that information as well as a stream of the album. Very anxious to hear all of it now.

  7. Hope your friend gets better. All the best!

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