I have some friends on this site (and I’m thinking mainly of Andy, Austin, and Gorger) who have a talent for compiling collections of brief reviews that get their points across concisely and then let the music carry the baton across the finish line. I’m going to try that here myself, because I’ve sadly admitted to myself that I’ll never get around to writing proper reviews of these releases. These aren’t even improper reviews, just impressionistic streams of consciousness.
Three of the following releases are albums I hinted on Sunday would be covered in an extension of my SHADES OF BLACK series. The fourth one is an EP that popped up unexpectedly. I’m hoping to compile another collection like this one for later in the week.
SCÁTH NA DÉITH
I was very impressed by this Irish band’s 2015 EP, The Horrors of Old (reviewed here) and I’ve been meaning to write about this album for a long time, ever since it came out in mid-January. I kept delaying until I could find the time to write something long, detailed, and adequately reflective of the enthusiasm I have for it. And then I realized that day may never come. Turning even one new person onto the album would be worth something as meager as this little “review” — better this than further procrastination.
The music surges with black fire, with deep shadows that have gleaming eyes and sharp teeth, with the pulse and pound of your own blood rushing, to escape or to run headlong into the grasp of something that pulls you in with a primal force.
This is supremely intense music that connects on a deep level, but never feels contrived. It offers no comfort for what ails you, but it somehow expresses the intense desire for breath when everything else around you is trying to choke away the last molecules of oxygen. And it finds and expresses a grim magnificence in the clawing for survival that has carried our wretched species to this place in time.
If you think those words are overwrought, I invite you to submerge yourself in the album and then judge whether I’ve gone overboard. By my lights, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far in 2017.
I owe a gigantic thank-you to starkweather for recommending this Croatian band’s new album Sveta Stoka, which he described as a “nauseous brand of black sludge core”. I’ll take the liberty of quoting him further: “Bestial growling vocals take command, riding wave upon wave of churning riffs that make way for seasick melodic picked passages that break into short stabs of black metal runs. If you enjoyed Erdve’s Vaitojimas this will certainly be in your wheelhouse.”
A nice description, and an accurate one. I’ll add this: The album is punishing, pulverizing, perilous, and packed with surprises, including those melodic passages referred to above, which are eerie and uneasy, though trance-inducing for as long as they last. However, they tend not to last very long, because it seems the band is intent on flipping your head upside down along with your stomach.
Author & Punisher dropped a surprise on everyone yesterday — actually, a pair of surprises. The first of those was the announcement that Author & Punisher has signed a deal with Relapse Records.
The second surprise was the release of a new EP named Pressure Mine. As I listened to it, I began to suspect that someone had slipped a narcotic tranquilizer into my afternoon coffee. The music is devoted principally to deep, looping rhythms, with the melodies coming mainly from Tristan Shone’s own hazy clean vocals; a nasty edge doesn’t come over his voice until “Nazarene”, and that’s the only time.
I was hoping against hope for something berserk to leap out of the hypnotic machine rhythms, spooky melodies, and queasy wobbling oscillations. Didn’t happen. I’ve listened to this twice, and there’s a certain chilling, noir-ish charm to the exercise, but I can’t decide whether I’ll visit it a third time.
Author & Punisher’s first album for Relapse won’t arrive until 2018.
The drive is familiar, the ugliness of the vocals is too, but the music of this Greek black metal band has an emotional pulse that’s authentic and gripping. A chill is in the air, and so is a sense of precariousness, the rush along the edge of an emotional precipice where a misstep can send you plummeting.
The depressive resonance of the music is haunting, the gloom feels damp and decaying, but it’s still a spiritual experience, because we can’t ever let go of the dead, can we?
And this music also gives voice to the place in our despair when we tear ourselves apart. Ask me later why that kind of wrenching intensity is worth re-living in music; I don’t have an answer I can verbalize now, but the need is undeniable, the hunger for it lurks beneath the surface, and this album feeds that need.
Okay, yes, I’ve gotten carried away again. I should mention that the last track on the album is a demonic, hellfire-spewing cover of Slayer’s “Evil Has No Boundaries”.
The new A&P feels like Jesu to the last few releases’ Godflesh, if you’ll forgive my pretension. I really like it, there’s a lot of obvious 80’s influence in there.
I don’t think that was pretentious. You did a better job than I did trying to capture what has changed in the style.
Ha, thanks! It’s almost as if I write for a living 😉
I’ve listened to that EP a couple of times now, there are a lot of comparisons to be made with Gary Numan, Portishead and even the last Misery Loves Co. album. I hope it’s an exception rather than a full-blown new direction though, because I bloody love his more abrasive output.
More good comparisons (Gary Numan actually did occur to me, too). It’s hard to tell from the press statement by Tristan Shone whether the EP represents a new direction he will follow on the next album:
“AUTHOR & PUNISHER begins a new chapter this year with a self-released EP, Pressure Mine, which Shone describes as ‘dark and heavy, yet harnessed and restrained, with a focus on rhythm and deep full bass textures from all analog sound machines’…. ‘2016 and 2017 have been very unique for AUTHOR & PUNISHER retooling mechanically and sonically. In the pipeline for years but only now coming to life, the latest machines, GRIDIRON, are made up of a number of reconfigurable manual/physical units, each intended to couple with a separate piece of analog gear, and give unique control over it. The force feedback from the interaction of machine components and materials, coupled with the integrity and quality of scrutinized analog sounds, is meaningful and powerful. Whether harshly rhythmic or dissonant, these are relatable in ways that programmed sequences often aren’t. This new exploration is an attempt to work with one foot within rhythmic framework of existing analog drum sequencing, while dragging a tire iron on the railroad spikes.’”
Thbbbtttt!! Lord Bumchasm is the best screen name ever. 😛
I still have to work my way through all of these, but holy shit is this Scáth Na Déithe record fantastic.
Glad you like it!
A review can be long and thorough, in an attempt to turn every stone. One can even go too far. I’ve written a few lengthy pieces where I eventually feel sorry for the poor bastard who have to endure reading it.
Sometimes, cutting to the core, extracting the essence and presenting its overall atmosphere and expression, mayhaps in an allegorical fashion, rather than revealing every single detail, might work just as well.
As in these cases. “deep shadows that have gleaming eyes and sharp teeth”, “the edge of an emotional precipice where a misstep can send you plummeting” – brilliant.
Oh, and my “talent for compiling collections of brief reviews” is no more than a “talent” of compiling already written reviews, penned over a span of days, weeks or months.
Lots of goodies here. Scáth Na Déithe is spot on. Muka is relentlessly hostile. Isolert (Norwegian for Isolated) sounded a bit ordinary to begin with, but their palette gradually paints an eerie picture.