I’ve done this before, I’m sure I’ll do it again. Sometimes I listen to new music by bands whose music I haven’t heard before, and by complete coincidence it lines up. That’s what happened here — though this particular listening experience also included a revisiting of an EP I’d heard before.
By chance, I listened to all the music in this post back-to-back a couple of nights ago, and it was not only very good from beginning to end, it also seemed to flow in an interesting and connected way despite the dramatic differences in the music of each band. The wind blew with a chill… and that’s the best way I’ve come up with to capture the sensation of the experience.
I love a lot of things about this first song, and the video that accompanies it, but the bagpipess are a huge reason. And now that I’ve mentioned that instrument, I’m sure that some of you will want to run from the song like wolves are on your heels, which I suppose is one reason why some cultures have used them as war instruments. Everyone else, please read on… and listen.
The song is “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by the Swedish band Apocalypse Orchestra. It comes from their new album The End Is Nigh, which will be released on May 12 by Despotz Records. The song and video were premiered a couple of days ago by Metal Kaoz.
The song combines ancient folk melody with a forlorn aspect — led primarily by the bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy — and the deep, heavy crunch and chug of metal riffs. It further combines both solemn and soaring vocal expressions (excellent clean singing, mind you), and the boom of old timpani with the hard slugging of a metal drummer. Folk metal this may be, but it’s not a dance; a mantle of melancholy drapes its atmosphere. It’s emotionally evocative, and quite memorable.
I really enjoyed the video as well. It was filmed at Vasaborgen, which is a museum in Uppsala, Sweden which preserves the ruins of a castle that King Gustav Vasa began building in 1549. By the fogs of breath coming from the performers, the setting seems to have been suitably cold at the time of the filming. Kudos to Magnus Ewald, who directed, filmed, and edited the video.
I’ve also included the band’s performance of a second song from the album, “Flagellant’s Song“, captured at Classic Metal Crunch in 2014, when the band performed with the Gävle Symphonic Orchestra and the Forsbacka Chamber Choir. It’s even more draped in doom and heartache, but no less emotionally powerful or memorable — qualities enhanced by the orchestration and the choir.
I’m very glad to have discovered this band, at long last.
I’ve seen that kind of knife before, but wasn’t sure what it was when I saw it on the cover of this next album. I should have guessed: As I learned through some researching, one of its names is the hawk bill knife, also called a hook knife. You don’t stab with it, you come down with it and then you pull. You can cut linoleum with it, or maybe gut a living thing.
The image appears on the self-titled release by Hawkbill from Manchester in eastern Kentucky, a trio that includes members of Seidr, Below, and Motherplant. Hawkbill don’t dodge the fact that Manchester is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the U.S. That fact feeds the black roots of their music.
Hawkbill are serious bone-breakers and mind-manglers, arming their music with massively thick, earth-shaking riffs, abrasive guitar dissonance and psychoactive soloing, and brain-clawing vocal torture. The music is both dark and sinuous, in the nature of a giant python coiling about helpless prey and squeezing the breath from it, and staggeringly powerful, in the manner of a mountainous pile-driver punching big holes through fracturing pavement.
Hawkbill’s catastrophic brand of doomy sludge is mainly mid-paced and deliberate, though the aptly named middle track “Hate” is a more up-tempo juggernaut that amps the feeling of destructiveness. The overarching emotional resonance of the album is one of utter hopelessness. Hawkbill lob a fragmentation grenade into the center of your emotional well-being, leaving it in a smoldering pile of rubble. Or, to mix my metaphors, the music will gut you (and get your head moving, too).
Hawkbill recorded the album themselves. It was mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred (Inter Arma, Across Tundras, Yautja, Hellbender, etc.). It’s on Bandcamp.
Hawkbill on Facebook:
I got a Bandcamp alert for this next EP and started listening to it right after finishing that Hawkbill album… and just kept listening.
The EP is named Monologues, and it’s the first release by a Swedish band named Ov Shadows. It was originally released last September as a digital download, and I reviewed it then. I got the new Bandcamp alert because the band have just made it available on tape. I hadn’t listened to it in a while, and so I decided to dive in again. Good decision — and I’m writing about it again, in the hopes that it will find new fans among those who missed it last year.
Monologues flowed almost seamlessly from the Hawkbill album, because although it’s black metal, the music is alloyed with thick, sludgy riffs and an atmospheric overhang of oppressiveness and doom. The opening track “Lifeless Cold They Gaze Upon” begins building that sense of atmosphere immediately, through its slow, cold, clobbering central riff and the bestial abrasion of the vocals. But the song does explode in a paroxysm of thundering, swarming, pestilential fury.
The other two songs on the EP are made of similar ingredients, anchored by a pulverizing rhythm section and massively heavy, coiling riffs, with melodic currents that are dissonant, dramatic, and disorienting. When the explosions of violence come and the vocals become incinerating in their derangement, the effect is stunning.
Very cold, dark music, but magisterial as well as menacing — and damned infectious, too.
Monologues is now available on tape, and digitally, via Bandcamp. Fans will be happy to know that Ov Shadows are now recording a debut album.
Ov Shadows on Facebook: