(Austin Weber introduces our premiere of the new album by Michigan’s Thoren.)
A number of different factors explain the rising popularity of instrumental metal of all stripes. Some say it’s because not everyone likes “extreme vocals”, others say it’s because groups like Animals As Leaders and Chon (among many others) have helped prove that you can be popular in the metal scene without having vocals. Whatever the reason, I support it as a long-time fan of instrumental metal dating back to the early days of Spastic Ink and other groups.
With that in mind, we’ve got an early stream for you today from the Sterling Heights, Michigan, group Thoren, an instrumental metal act that falls less on the bright and melodic side, and more on the dissonant and chaotic side.
To be fair, that isn’t totally unprecedented, as instrumental groups like Dysrhythmia continue to flourish with an overall dark and adventurous vibe delivered in an uncompromising vision seemingly created out of the members’ love for the music alone, not out of a desire to appeal to any demographic or class of metal fans.
In describing the sonic territory where Thoren dwell, bringing up Dysrhythmia (and Gorguts) is probably the closest I can get to giving you comparisons that might help you decide whether you’ll dig this or not — although, hard as it may sound, Thoren seem to be coming from an even more alien and discordant place than the off-the-wall realm where Dysrhythmia comfortably reside.
The band operate in a power-trio format, with skilled guitarist Anthony Lipari guiding the ship, supported by the bouncy bass guitar presence of Joseph Paquette, and rounded out by none other than Coma Cluster Void drummer Christopher Burrows laying down a thick blanket of off-kilter grooves and blasts in between the dizzyingly complex guitar-driven compositions.
Beyond the core line-up on Brennenburg, the album also includes a few high-profile guest spots. The first comes from famed guitarist Fountainhead, who has a solo on “Depraved Dreams” that is fantastic. The second comes from Coma Cluster Void’s own John Strieder, who performs the first guitar solo on the title track, “Brennenburg”. John Strieder also created the art for the album, while also mixing and mastering the release at his studio.
The last guest spot is from the modern dissonant classical duo XelmYa (which includes Coma Cluster Void bassist Sylvia Hinz and others) who perform a haunting closing number on the album called “Achas (Dread, Fear)”. While different from the other songs, it fits nicely within the overall horror-soundscape feeling on display throughout Brennenburg.
Brennenburg is definitely the kind of release that tests the limits of listenability, and also one’s ability to take in music that’s abstractly structured. A truly solid grasp of Brennenburg doesn’t happen until you’re several listens deep, so give it some time. But with music like this, that’s for the best, as it makes it more rewarding to catch all that it has to offer over multiple spins.
If you like your metal music to defy the norm, to offer up a unique and unsettling experience, then Brennenburg is probably for you. It comes out this Friday, October 28th, and can be pre-ordered through the Bandcamp link listed below.
Had a feeling I’d Come across Brennenburg before, particularly given the castle on the album cover. Indeed I had – Castle Brennenburg was the setting of 2010 horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent, widely regarded as one of the scariest games ever made. Given the terrifying dissonance of the music I don’t think it’s far fetched to imagine the game served as an inspiration!