SEEN AND HEARD (PART 1): HANNES GROSSMANN, SKELETONWITCH, GHOUL, COUNTLESS SKIES, MALEVOLENT
(DGR had so much fun stepping up for round-up duty last week that he’s already back with more new songs to recommend. And later today you’re humble editor will throw in Parts 2 and 3 of today’s round-up.)
Just as we managed to post our last series of huge collections of music, even more delicious goodies came to our attention span over the past week whilst we lay on rocks under the sun attempting to capture flies. This time around, music that leaked out within the past few weeks is what we’re hoping to cover — with one notable exception that is a bit more of an anthropology act waiting at the bottom.
Last week saw a handful of huge premieres — including one day at our very site that saw seven pretty huge ones — and we’re hoping to help spread the news. This installment is, again, pretty death-metal-heavy but moreso stuff that has been on the fringes of the genre than stuff that is straightforward blasts and sewage growls. We’re going to cover the tech realm, the thrashier side, the melodic side, and then into one band who covered a vast amount of ground before they went into hibernation. There should also be some pretty hefty names for you all to recognize as well, which made last week fairly exciting to say the least.
Hannes Grossmann – The Crypts Of Sleep
Hannes Grossmann is a fairly well-known death metal drummer, having sat behind the kit for Blotted Science, Obscura, Alkaloid, and a handful of other bands. The guy is incredibly talented and insanely precise and, like the bands he has chosen to play with, has a taste for highly technical and insane songwriting. As noted, he’s been a creative force for both Alkaloid and Obscura, but he also has a solo career on top of that.
In 2014 he put out a disc entitled The Radial Covenant, which in some ways felt like a continuation of his work on Obscura’s Omnivium. Radial Covenant took a lot of the ideas present on that album (he has said he helped write a huge chunk of Omnivium) and expanded upon them, creating a very tight work of death metal that had some lengthy songs, but ones that really traveled places in both the high-minded philosophical realm and the science fiction worlds that many tech-death bands tend to traverse.
After a successful Indiegogo launch for that earlier album, he has returned once again to the same idea for his second disc, The Crypts Of Sleep. He’s asking for 10,000 Euro funny moneys and is already over 60% of the way there — which is a fairly good sign for people worrying that he may not make it. There’s some pretty hefty perks on the side chart, alongside the usual CD + Shirt combos: a pretty interesting perk of both physical copies of the new disc + The Radial Covenant, drum lessons over Skype, production work on a song, some pricier session drumming work, the always dangerous cover-song perk (which, were I millionaire, I’d buy both and we would have a Heart-by-way-of-Hannes Grossmann EP to talk about in a couple of months), and even a private live show.
Long story short, the man is willing to put in some work to make sure Crypts Of Sleep happens. His Indiegogo even has a listing of the people who will be playing with him this time around, and this list is stacked with musicians, including a fair share of his Alkaloid bandmates (as in, all of them) and some of the ex-Obscura crew, Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry, and even Erik Rutan from Hate Eternal.
But aside from wanting to talk about the Indiegogo project, he’s also posted an upcoming song from The Crypts Of Sleep, a song entitled “To Sow The Seeds Of The Earth” — which, if you are a fan of just about anything Hannes has been involved in before, should immediately scratch your itch because that songwriting style is almost immediately recognizable.
It’s a snappy track that goes for the accelerator from the start. The sound you hear in the background is essentially the quickening death of a snare drum, because over the four and a half minutes of “To Sow The Seeds Of The Earth”, that thing is hammered into the Earth by way of his blasts. But on top of that you get about a minute of him covering the whole kit in the middle of the song. “To Sow The Seeds” feels like it is picking right up from his Radial Covenant work, and you know what? That’s alright by me.
Skeletonwitch – Red Death, White Light
August 19th has become a date to watch for this year, as Skeletonwitch are releasing their EP The Aphotic Gloom then. The band have slowly been releasing material from said EP and recently put out the seven-minute epic “Red Death, White Light”. To truncate my opinion on the song, let’s just go with two words: “Holy shit”.
I wasn’t too worried about how the band were going to do post their vocalist shift, as the musicians who comprise the group are pretty strong in the songwriting category. But “Red Death, White Light” should silence quite a few naysayers because it is a truly epic song that takes its fair share of trademark Skeletonwitch thrash sound and goes full-blown death metal with it. It’s a quick-moving seven minutes that travels a lot of ground and manages to keep things fairly interesting throughout.
The closing minutes of the song are fantastic — honestly, after the five-minute mark when that lead melody soars over the double-bass roll, I get so excited — and the whole track is absolutely worth a listen. Check out the song below and then go yell at the sky whilst you wait for two months to pass.
Ghoul – Bringer Of War
While we’re keeping things thrashy death metal, why don’t we check in with America’s Sweethearts, Ghoul? Ghoul have a new disc coming out on July 29th entitled Dungeon Bastards, and recently Revolver Magazine grabbed a premiere for the song “Bringer Of War”.
Ghoul are one of the few bands whom I would describe — likely at the risk of my personal well-being — as a fun band. Their music is gore-soaked as all hell, but there’s a fair share of campiness hidden within all the viscous, blood-soaked sheen on the band that makes them like a B-movie horror film writ large. “Bringer Of War” is a quicker number that makes no compromises in its three minutes; there’s no divergence into prog-rock, no keyboards, just a straightforward death metal guitar riff that quickly gives way into a thrashier one-two while the band attack on the vocal front on top of it.
Did I mention that Ghoul are selling a slime green version of Dungeon Bastards? Yeah, it’s that sort of music. Hit up the premiere, crank it up, and headbang for three minutes and then come back — because we’ve got two more for you.
Countless Skies – New Dawn
The irony is not lost on me that Be’Lakor are releasing their new album, Vessels (reviewed here yesterday), on June 24th, and at the same time the group Countless Skies (who took their name from the last song on Be’lakor’s 2009 release Stone’s Reach) will release their debut disc New Dawn via Kolony Records. New Dawn features six new songs from the group, as well as new recordings of two of their earlier singles, and recently the group put up a full stream of the album on YouTube.
Countless Skies have slowly been evolving since their inception, and their musical path has taken them to the prettier realms of the doom sound, where melo-death and doom collide. That specific region of metal has grown to be fairly popular lately, but it is also one that has been difficult to do correctly. Too often, either the mix is weird or songs are too key-heavy, and at other times the groups just sound like they are parroting influences.
Countless Skies, for being a fairly young band, have managed to dodge a large part of those problems, but I’ll be honest, if someone were to pull me aside and tell me that the gentlemen in the band really like Insomnium I wouldn’t be too shocked. There’s a good chunk of the DNA of that band’s sound in New Dawn, and Countless Skies manage to work well within the genre. Some of the guitar leads on the disc are absolutely gorgeous, and the group do well on the atmospheric front as well. Hopefully we’ll be able to expand more on this in the future, but as it stands right now after a handful of listens, New Dawn is a strong release from a young band.
Malevolent – Gripping The Grinding Of Reality
Put on your best Sam Neill costume (no, not the space station outfit one) because we’re about to do a little bit of fossil-digging with this one.
There have been a handful of Malevolent’s over the years; such will always be the case in heavy metal, especially with the preference for single-word names — but the one we are talking about is actually the Sacramento-based Malevolent. Malevolent were (is? might still be?) a death metal band who were active in the mid-2000s.
They were something of a constant opener at just about every big show that rolled through town. At the time, the gentlemen in the band weren’t afraid of their music getting weird. A large part of Malevolent’s sound was that they were a hammering death metal band, filled to the brim with chugging riffs and large blast-beat-heavy sections, but they were also very mechanical sounding, and they would occasionally drift off into some stranger time signatures.
Over time, the band evolved into one that would wander the musical spectrum, and songs would eventually go from three minutes to upwards of twelve. It’s no shock, actually, that some of the guys in Malevolent would eventually go on to form Imbibed By The Quasar — itself a spacey death metal band that is difficult to describe, and also the band who posted the stream you can hear below.
In mid-May, the album you see below was uploaded to the Imbibed By The Quasar Bandcamp page, and it is a Malevolent album known as Gripping The Grinding Of Reality. The disc was recorded in 2009 and 2010 with Navene Koperweis, whom some of you will likely recognize as the drummer for Animosity, Animals As Leaders, and Entheos, as well as his own electronic project Navene-K.
For whatever reason, the album was never released up until now, and they have the disc uploaded to Bandcamp. In it, you can actually hear how Malevolent got progressively stranger — the disc starts out like a tech-death album, but also has its fair share of almost-deathcore breakdowns and chugging riffs that a lot of Sacramento bands would eventually start using. They were one of the groups that was somewhat on the forefront of that, but as the group got older, the music started to wander, and eventually keyboards would be added throughout and song lengths would extend into these mammoth structures. The closing track on this disc is twelve minutes long. They would even do this live, and if I remember correctly, one of the many times I saw them, they had a two-song set because they basically just played their longest tracks.
Part of the reason why I’m posting this is musical anthropology; Malevolent were always a curiosity in the Sacramento scene, and the guys did get their fair share of traveling in — which means some folks (along the West Coast especially) may recognize them. But the other reason is that in listening to Gripping you can hear that a lot of the music they were playing at the time would hold up now. The death metal that Malevolent were making was hammering as hell, but those odd diversions were enough to keep the group interesting and helped differentiate them from the Sacramento death metal scene.
Gripping is an intriguing listen from front-to-back, and on top of that, it’s Name Your Own Price right now through the Bandcamp page, which means it is an easy recommendation. Plus, if you enjoy it, you should really check out the Imbibed By The Quasar demo on that same Bandcamp — it is their page, after all. It demonstrates where Malevolent would’ve likely headed in some senses, as it too is chock full of spacey strangeness that is about as frenetic as music can be.
I really ought to be paying more attention to Hannes Grossman, especially now considering that note about Omnivium (one of my favorite Obscura discs). New Skeletonwitch promises to be fantastic as well – I think Adam Clemans will work out just fine.
Hot damn, the new Ghoul track is a solid ripper! \m/
All these hard working bands. Finally a spot in the limelight of NCS. But on top, closest to the spotlight, is Hannes Grossmann, leaving everyone else in the shade 😉 This sounds fucking close to Alkaloid, and I don’t fucking mind!
Countless Skies sounds really, really good as well. Reminds me somewhat of Enshine, of the top of my head.
Looks like Hans is channeling his inner Peter Murphy. A side by side comparison reveals that Hans is orthodox, while Peter is a southpaw.
Pardon my misspelling, Hannes.