DGR SEEN AND HEARD (PART 2): BE’LAKOR, THE VISION BLEAK, CENTAURUS-A, OBSCURA, THE SHADELESS EMPEROR, WITHERSCAPE, SOILWORK, SOLUTION .45
(DGR presents this round-up of new music, which completes a two-part post that he began here.)
I joked in the previous collection that I wrote that the flood of music which hit in June was a little hilarious. There’s been so much that it feels like I’ve become a giant net in which news lands and then I dump the whole thing upon this site for users to romp around in, and guess what? The comedic flood of music continues unabated with Round Two of our roundup.
We posted Round One last week, and the dredging of the internet continues as we dig for more music videos/song streams/full album streams to talk about. This time around the collection is actually pretty Europe-heavy, with our one huge divergence being a trip out to Australia — which happens to be our lead-off as well. The collection of bands this time around also features one newer discovery and also a check-in with a band who haven’t had some stuff out in some time.
Be’lakor – Smoke Of Many Fires and Vessels Album Stream
We’ve reviewed Be’lakor’s Vessels already, and I share Andy’s opinion that Vessels is a really good album, but recent weeks have brought even more news — though I can now keep this a little more truncated. One is that the band premiered a lyric video for the song “Smoke Of Many Fires” over at Horror Society, and two, if you prefer your music streams less lyric-video-heavy, Bloody-Disgusting grabbed a whole album stream here.
Both these news items coming from horror-themed sites should prove surprising considering the type of music we regularly discuss here — it’s not like our background consists of a fuckton of skulls, enough to make the catacombs jealous — but still, it certainly raised an eyebrow that both of these came from the not-usual sources, though I have noted Bloody-Disgusting has done their fair share for the metal scene for a while. Also, Vessels. That’s a really good album, you should check that disc out.
The Vision Bleak – Into The Unknown
What follows is something of an unintentional block of groups from Germany and parts thereabout — it felt like a bunch of bands from there conspired to all drop news in mid-June, with The Vision Bleak, Centaurus-A, and Obscura all hitting within a week or so of each other.
The Vision Bleak are a personal favorite of mine, a musical invocation of gothic tragedy with a fair share of horror-movie camp involved in their music. They’ve spanned a variety of genres at times that have been fairly doom-flavored but they’ve also got quite a few songs that step up the pace a bit.
In June, the band put out an album called The Unknown — and we actually covered a bit of it in one of Gorger’s Beneath the NCS Radar columns — but now that the disc is out, the band have put out a video for the song that I feel is one of the better tracks on the disc, “Into The Unknown”.
I actually enjoy the whole Unknown album quite a bit as a whole and feel it is up there as one of their best, I just haven’t known how to bring it up here on the site. The Unknown feels like the band really locked in with a theme this time around and it inspired a collection of really good music — “Into The Unknown” being chief amongst them.
Centaurus-A – Down The Drain
There has been some hefty passage of time for people following Germany’s Centaurus-A. In fact, we’re getting into the upper reaches of about seven years since the group’s last album, Side Effects Expected. The four-piece, quick-moving death metal band returned recently, with a music video for a song titled “Down The Drain” from an upcoming disc entitled Means Of Escape.
“Down The Drain” basically waits for no one; the moment the song starts, it is foot-to-the-floor, a hell of a way to return after years of silence. The whole track moves quickly before it breaks down into a series of discordant grooves about halfway through, where it sounds like the vocalist is losing his mind as the band crashes around him, before it reconstructs itself back into the thrashier main riff before the second verse and solo section.
Of course, in what seems to be a trend recently, the lyrics to the song are scrawled all over the wall behind our videos protagonist, so you can follow along — but if anything, this is a song perfect for max volume, as quick and heavy as it is. These guys have certainly made a solid return.
Obscura – Ten Sephiroth
It feels crazy to think that Obscura’s Akroasis hit five months ago — yet here we are once again letting the passage of time make us all look like idiots. After years of off-handedly joking that a next Obscura disc was likely going to go the route of a ‘next Necrophagist‘ disc, Akroasis not only came out but actually happened surprisingly fast. It felt like two songs were released and then boom, the whole album hit with a shuddering impact.
Despite all of the publicity surrounding the band members who split off from the band, I actually feel Obscura did a pretty good job following up Omnivium, albeit with a lighter and much more melodically focused death metal disc than the previous album — but I think that has kind of been the unspoken rule when it comes to Obscura; which is that they were the melodic technical-death metal band.
The group can play circles around anyone, and the current lineup of musicians is just as terrifyingly skilled as the people who made up the band previously, yet they manage to put hooks in their songs that can make these death metal tracks into earworms like few can. I know I’ve had times where the back half of “Ode To The Sun” (and the “Dredg” song as well, in a very odd rotation) got stuck in my head for what felt like weeks.
A few weeks back Obscura released a video for the song “Ten Sephiroth”. It’s a pretty basic playthrough video, one that pits the band against a stark-white background with the album art fading in and out, but mostly you get to watch the Obscura gentlemen work their magic across their fretboards and drum kit, all whilst dressed in form-fitting black.
The Shadeless Emperor – Sullen Guard
The Shadeless Emperor are a prog-melo-death band who hail from Greece. They initially came to my attention with their video “Sullen Guard”, via the group Aetherian. I liked what I heard enough to post it here, because it’s a really solid melo-death track. It has the Euro-doom element to it, but it’s mostly a growler with some heavy drumming behind it and a quick-moving guitar lead that seems to dart in and out between verses.
In case you’re wondering what sort of band Shadeless Emperor are, I did note that the band have a live cover of In Mourning’s “A Vow To Conquer The Ocean” on their YouTube page, so their hearts are certainly in the right place.
Below, you will find both a lyric video for “Sullen Guard” and a Bandcamp stream, which you can buy ahead of the group’s debut full-length release Ashbled Shores. The single even comes with an 8-bit version of the song, and I wonder whether it will keep with the trend of all metal groups with 8-bit music sounding like Castlevania stage songs. Either way, check the song out below.
Witherscape – In The Eyes Of Idols
It wasn’t that long ago that we posted another Witherscape song in the form of “Wake Of Infinity”, off of Witherscape’s upcoming album Northern Sanctuary, which hits on July 22nd via Century Media — but alas, ever we play catch-up. Last week, Witherscape released a lyric video for the song “In The Eyes Of Idols”, and you know what? Like “Wake Of Infinity” this track is actually pretty goddamned good.
It’s poppy as all hell, but just as catchy as “Wake Of Infinity” is. That guitar lead that weaves its way throughout the verses and the melo-death styled gallop — even treading a bit on what feels like Omnium Gatherum’s ground — is enough to keep this listener happy as can get. Witherscape may really be on to something this time around with Northern Sanctuary; both the songs released so far have been enjoyable.
Soilwork – Helsinki
It wasn’t intentional at the start, but it seems I originally bookended this roundup with two larger melo-death bands around a swath of death metal news (though one late addition kept this one from being a bookend). However, quite a few of us amongst the NCS staff have a soft spot for Soilwork, or at least the current era of the band. That’s why news of a lyric video for the song “Helsinki” is actually an exciting development around these parts.
It is one of the two new songs on Soilwork’s upcoming collection, dubbed Death Resonance, which is comprised of rare songs, b-sides, and others. “Helsinki” actually sticks to the parts of Soilwork that I generally enjoy, i.e., the song is a faster track, has a ridiculous solo about three quarters of the way through, some healthy blasting to follow that up, and a chorus that doesn’t seem to dwell in its own cheesiness as Soilwork are want to do sometimes (it hits, it’s catchy, and it gets the hell out of the way of a faster-moving track). Honestly, if this one had popped up as one of the tracks on The Ride Majestic instead of one of the more ballad-heavy songs, it probably would’ve been a plus on that disc.
When you think about it, there has been a goddamned lot of this era of Soilwork in the past few years and most of it has been pretty enjoyable — this “Helsinki” song adds to that pile.
Also, holy shit, we’re already talking about August releases. (This one comes out on August 19 via Nuclear Blast.)
SOLUTION .45 – Built On Sand
Usually when a band puts a Part-something on their album, it becomes the extended version of a series of long, drawn-out waits. Whenever you see such-and-such, Part something, you know you’ll have some time between discs, and often it’s a risky maneuver, especially if the first part didn’t work out so well.
Solution .45 apparently want nothing to do with that, as the group’s followup to Nightmares In The Waking State Part I will be hitting this year, titled — hold your breath for this — Nightmares In The Waking State Part II. It will be out on August 26th of this year via AFM Records, and just recently the band put out a lyric video for the seven-minute whopper of a song “Built On Sand”.
It’s a hell of an intro to the new disc, as the opening guitar parts on this song sound like madness before the band drop into a more standard rhythmic groove for Christian Älvestam to sing over. At first it seems like “Built On Sand” is going to be a more ballad-heavy song, but Solution .45 have slowly been getting more willing to explore with their song-writing, and a lot of Nightmares Pt. I had them wandering among a variety of death metal styles. You could still recognize that they were a singing-chorus-oriented band, but in between it felt like a lot of the restraints were off and they would get relentlessly heavy.
“Built On Sand” *groan* builds on that in its back half, going back to the well that gave us that opening minute of guitar madness and interspersing it throughout the growled sections of the song.
Been digging that Vision Bleak, and Centaurus-A don’t sound half bad.
Heck yeah can’t believe the second part of Nightmares in the Waking State is already being released. Christian Älvestam can do no wrong in my eyes.
Witherscape is good. Very good. Dan Swano just knows how to make music. Doesn’t bother me that it’s poppy at all. He’s somehow managed, like a few other bands, to find a great balance of poppiness, brutality but elegance all at once. Really looking forward to this.
I’m patiently …. as in, not so patiently 😉 … waiting for Be’lakor to upload Vessels to bandcamp, which apparently is on the way in the not too distant future.