SEEN AND HEARD ON A SATURDAY: VIRCOLAC, AZOOMA, FROMHELL, VIOLENT MAGIC ORCHESTRA
Happy Saturday. At least I hope it’s happy for you. I’m feeling a little woozy from the usual bout of end-of-week inebriation, amplified by a celebration of what is surely the final nail in Donald Trump’s maggot-ridden coffin. Surely it is, isn’t it? (And yes, I hear you saying, “Don’t call me Shirley”.)
I spent basically the entire past week writing reviews to accompany premieres, of which we had a shitload of good ones (and one more is coming tomorrow). What fell by the wayside were Seen and Heard round-ups of recommended new music. I now have vastly more on my list than time or room to cover all of them. I’ve moved some into tomorrow’s usual Shades of Black feature, and these four I sifted from that giant list in part to provide variety and in part for… well, I don’t know what the other part is.
I’m pretty sure that I first discovered Dublin’s Vircolac through a 2014 year-end list on our site by the Siberian musician “B” (of Station Dysthymia, among other groups), who said of Vircolac’s debut demo Codex Perfida: “Very nuanced and dynamic release! Vircolac has to be one of the most organic black/death hybrids I know, not so much switching between as seamlessly fusing the parent genres.”
As you’re about to find out, Vircolac have become even more adventurous and adept at organically fusing musical elements together, and they’re not limited to the trappings of black and death metal.
The band’s new EP is named The Cursed Travails of the Demeter, and it will be released by Dark Descent on October 31 (CD and digital). The first advance track from the EP appeared in recent days, and it’s a big grabber.
“Lascivious Cruelty” rumbles, rushes, and thrashes, dishing out murky vibrating riffs and nasty vocal snarling. The drums boom like rapid-fire cannon. The pace slows, the music becoming more gloomy and ominous as dissonant notes ring out — and then it moves to a bit of spectral spellcasting and angular chord-work. How to end this piece of galvanizing songcraft? Well, with a piano of course.
When I reviewed the debut EP of this Iranian band (Hymn of the Vicious Monster) in June 2014, I proclaimed it “hands-down the best technical death metal album I’ve heard so far this year”:
“This is the kind of technical death metal that is as much progressive metal as it is “tech death”, incorporating not only extravagant instrumental forays but also exotic melodies and beautifully timed interludes that interweave elements of jazz fusion and even Latin rhythms. As a result, Azooma are more in the camp of bands such as Gorod and Gorguts (with a bit of Dysrythmia in the mix) than the kind of alien ant swarm that a band like Spawn of Possession serves up.”
I was, therefore, elated to discover (later than I should have) that Azooma are back with a debut full-length. Its name is The Act of Eye and it will be released by Spain’s Xtreem Music on October 10. You can now listen to two tracks from the album on Bandcamp, and they live up to the high standards established on the Azooma debut.
Even just these two songs reveal Azooma’s continuing ability to set off fireworks inside your brain. It’s extremely inventive, intricate, and dynamic music that manages to be both unpredictable and cohesive — ingeniously conceived and masterfully performed. Even the brief symphonic touches and clean vocals work like a charm — and holy hell, the extended guitar solo in “Umbra of Mirth” is wondrous.
I think those three bands I used as reference points in reviewing their first album still hold up well in the context of these two songs. Can’t wait to hear the rest of this album!
I didn’t know anything about the Indonesian band FROMHELL until listening to the song I’ve lined up next for this collection. But when I saw that it was from an album to be released by the dependably tasteful Naturmacht Productions, I decided to give it a try — and then experienced one of those surprising moments of ebullience that reaffirm the value of constantly exploring new underground music rather than sticking to what you already know.
The new album is March of Gravitation, which is FROMHELL’s second full-length. It’s due for release by Naturmacht on November 26, and below you can check out a track that appeared earlier today called “Summoning the Stars”.
The song has a backbone of black metal, but man, there are some surprising and fascinating things sprouting from that backbone. Acid-spraying vocals, wrenching shrieks, and seething guitars are in the mix, along with a dose of heavy drum thunder and bounding bass work — but when the ghostly clean vocals come in, the song takes on a different dimension, one that’s ethereal and entrancing, and that’s followed by a progressively-inclined instrumental section with a mesmerizing guitar solo.
Still more twists and turns lie ahead as the music becomes even faster and more technically explosive. I don’t know what kind of genre label best suits music this diverse and interesting, but I sure like it.
VIOLENT MAGIC ORCHESTRA
Here’s one more band I knew nothing about before checking out the song below after receiving a Bandcamp alert in my e-mail (because I’ve bought other music released by the band’s French label, Throatruiner Records). The song’s name is “Halved” and it comes from an album entitled Catastrophic Anonymous. I’m just going to quote the background about VMO that appears on Bandcamp:
“VIOLENT MAGIC ORCHESTRA is an unique project comprised of dark techno prodigy Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf, Extreme Precautions, Autrenoir), Japanese experimental black metal collective Vampillia and noise master Pete Swanson (ex-Yellow Swans). Their ten-tracks debut album Catastrophic Anonymous features vocal contributions from Attila Csihar (Sunn O))), Mayhem) and Chip King (The Body).”
Having read that, perhaps you can understand why I was curious and indeed eager to hear that one song that’s now streaming on Bandcamp. And it’s crazy, like a fox. It delivers the abrasion and ferocity of harsh noise and black metal, but punches with the compulsive rhythms of industrial/techno — and includes a gliding, symphonic, astral melody as well. On top of all that, the vocals are thoroughly unhinged.
The album was mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Atomsmasher) and illustrated by French artist Metastazis, and it’s scheduled for release by Throatruiner on December 2.
Fromhell is just great. I like 巫峽 Dynasty because of its atmosphere, but March on Gravitation seems to more compact and even better. 48 days until release…cruel.
Violent Magic Orchestra falls a bit outside my comfort zone, but Vircolac, Azooma and Fromhell all sounds bad-ass. Azooma’s unike take on progressive tech-death is really admirable.
Azooma sounds great!!