SEEN AND HEARD (PART 1): BRÉAG NAOFA, HIGHLAND, FELO DE SE, CADAVER DISPOSAL, MASTEMA
I wrote this post yesterday afternoon. At that point it included two new EPs, two tracks from recently released albums, and one song from a forthcoming release. I picked those items in part because the collection provides diversity of extremity, and also (of course) because I really like all of it.
However, since I finished writing this I discovered more music I thought was worth your time. So there will be a Part 2 tomorrow.
Seattle’s Bréag Naofa (pronounced Bray-G Nay-Fuh) explain that they took their name from an old Irish Gaelic phrase that means “holy lie”, reflecting the members’ shared conviction that “religion still poisons every aspect of the human experience”. They haven’t been prolific, until now releasing only one album (self-titled, in 2012) and two splits (in 2013 and 2014), but they’re in the process of expanding their recorded output significantly.
On April 2nd the band self-released a new EP named Cearo. At the same time they announced that they’ve reached the mastering stage for a new full-length that they’ll be shopping around to labels, hoping for a release toward the end of this year.
Bréag Naofa’s past music hasn’t been easy to classify (Metal Archives categorizes them as a blend of sludge and post-metal), and Cearo will only make that more challenging. The EP consists of two songs, which are themselves different from each other and from the band’s past works, and if there’s a common kinship that connects them and runs through the band’s other releases, it’s a chain of emotional intensity.
“The Morning Of” begins in entrancing though desolate fashion, its strummed and slowly sweeping melodies penetrating like cold mist rolling off a wintry forest lake. Its intensity gradually grows, the heart-aching melancholy of the introductory section seamlessly evolving into music of stirring vibrancy, though the atmosphere of loss doesn’t evaporate, becoming only more anguished. More than six minutes go by before the vocalist’s wrenching howls appear; they push the mood to even more extreme levels of soul-ripping suffering. But make no mistake: the song is also beautiful in its bereavement, and constructed in a way that sends the listener’s mind sailing away on its dark tides.
“Phosphorus” provides an immediate contrast to the EP’s first movement, surging ahead in a grim fury. Darkness pervades this song’s gripping melodies, as it does the first track, but leavened with an air of anger and frustration. Tension mounts, anchored by a bruised heaviness in the low end… and then the tension breaks in the middle as the pace slows, the song becomes more crushing, and the mood turns to one of sorrowful resignation — but, once again, the band tease beauty from this cascade of tears and blood.
In a nutshell, Cearo is a very fine EP, and further proof of this band’s emotional power. It’s available digitally at Bandcamp (name your price), and a vinyl “with rare etchings” is expected in the months ahead. The band have disclosed that the full-length “will be much heavier as we experimented with different tunings and tried slowing tempo even more than before”. Anxious to hear that.
I must confess that I’ve heard few black metal bands from Los Angeles whose music makes me enthusiastic. It would be tempting to guess that the weather is just too damned nice and there’s just too damned much fun to be had in order to foster the proper spirit, but it’s probably more complicated than that.
However, Highland is an L.A. black metal band whose new album Loyal To the Nightsky is one I’m eager to hear. I haven’t made time to listen to all of it yet, but the first advance track, “Abu Sindi“, is excellent — and the fact that Romanian artist Luciana Nedelea created the cover art and separate art pieces for each of the album’s 11 songs is another significant selling point.
The three members of Highland are Armenian-Americans who originally formed a speed/thrash band named Raze, but started Highland in 2008. They released an EP in 2013, and Loyal To the Nightsky is their full-length debut.
“Abu Sindi” strikes with clarity and heavy-weight power, and reveals different facets as it unfurls — from barbaric, chaotic ferocity to bleak, stalking gloom. The central guitar melody that surfaces has an aching, heart-chilling quality that’s quite affecting (and memorable), and it brings the song from seething feverishness to the brink of grim majesty.
Loyal To the Nightsky will be released by the band on May 15. Highland have been posting Luciana Nedelea’s artwork for the songs on their Facebook page, and they’re definitely worth checking out. To order, go here (the band are offering the album in a variety of formats):
Highland on Facebook:
FELO DE SE
This next item is the second full EP I promised you. It’s the debut creation by a one-man band from Liège, Belgium, named Felo De Se (the lone member is Joachim Kinet). Entitled Fidelis In Se, it was released on February 10, 2017, via Bandcamp.
This is one of those releases where I got stuck on the first song I heard and didn’t make my way through the rest of the EP until days later because I kept replaying that one song. The song is “Fall of Ikaros”. After a light but entrancing acoustic introduction, it begins to drive hard, and then an utterly magnetic melodic lead appears (and reappears). The song surges with galloping power, but breaks again later for a scintillating solo. The deep, jagged roars, coupled with the occasionally wintry chill of its atmosphere, put me in mind of both Wolfheart and Insomnium, without really sounding exactly like either one.
The other four songs on the EP are all gems in their own right, too. Racing Scandinavian melodic death metal provides the consistent propulsive power, while off-pace accents (such as the piano intro and the sparkling, emotive solo in “Irreducible Truth”, and the slow mystical interlude in “Beyond the Sadness”) provide dynamic contrasts; the intros to all the songs after the first one, in fact, provide beautiful breaks in the action.
The song-writing is very strong, with the core melodies of each song getting their melancholy hooks under your skin almost immediately… and they stay there. And the soloing is just excellent (credit for the guitar solo on “Ursa Major” goes to Felo De Se’s guest Nicolas Pirlet).
Melodic death metal has been done to death, of course, and so it’s an especially welcome surprise to find music like this, which is so vibrant and emotionally affecting.
The next song in this collection is called “Tanathosphere“, and it comes from Golden Worlds, which is the second album by a band from Szczecin, Poland, named Mastema. The album was released on March 31 by the Polish label Via Nocturna.
This song happens to be the only one that’s streaming in a way that allows me to embed it for this playlist, although exclusive full album streams are available at multiple sites outside the U.S., a list of which you can find on the Facebook pages for Mastema and Via Nocturna.
I’m very high on “Tanathosphere”. Its pulsing riffs and dynamic rhythms are a heated blood rush, and the otherworldly, extended guitar solo sends an already good song into rarefied air. On top of that, the song hits a compelling start-stop groove in the back half, electrified by squalling bursts of guitar and a grumbling bass solo, and then propels you to a hellishly good finish. The vocalist’s hoarse, throaty roars are also distinctive and ferocious.
Transformatio Mundi is the second album by the German death metal band Cadaver Disposal, which was resurrected after an earlier split-up and now includes new bassist Alex Voss (Majesty) and new drummer Torturer (Bethlehem, ex-Belphegor, Mor Dagor), in addition to original vocalist Stefan Meyerhoff (ex-Braindead) and original guitarist Dennis “Blaze” Baron (Mallevs Maleficarvm, Final Depravity).
Transformatio Mundi is a concept album and will be released on April 28 by Nihilistic Empire. It features cover art by Brazilian artist Marcelo Vasco (Slayer, Kreator, Belphegor). The cover art is used to good effect in the lyric video below, which is for a track called “Divine Delectation”, which includes guest appearances by Andy Wolf of TavaroN and Emanuel Knorr of Majesty.
The video has been out since January but snuck under my radar until recently. The song is brutal and clobbering — earth-shaking in its thuggery — with the lyrics voiced in grim spoken words, cold, murderous roars, and vicious shrieks. In addition to all this mid-paced grimness, the band also launch into a piston-driven charge that jacks up the pulse rate, without diminishing the savagery, and also find time for a tasty, fret-melting guitar solo.
Perhaps the explanation to the trve spirit of Highland has to do with the three members being Armenian-Americans. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. As good a reason as any to protest vehemently.