SEEN AND HEARD: BELL WITCH, SUMMONING, INCANTATION, OBITUARY, BOLT THROWER, BLASPHEMY, SXUPERION, SERPENTS LAIR, FIREBREATHER, ORBSEVEN
This is, obviously, a humongous round-up of things I’ve recently discovered. I’ve organized it in this way:
First up there are two news items that feature imagery and info about eagerly anticipated new releases but no music. Then I’ve got new videos and music streams by (or related to) a quartet of venerable and revered bands, followed by new advance tracks from two younger favorites who are returning with new releases this year. And then I’ll close this out with music from two bands whom I’ve just discovered.
On most days I post a piece of usually dark or surreal artwork on our Facebook page. I keep an archive of what I’ve posted over the years, as a way of trying to avoid repeating myself. In that archive I’ve counted 22 paintings by the Polish artist Mariusz Lewandowski that I’ve posted over the years since I began doing that, which I think is proof of how strongly I like his creations. But as far as I can recall, he has never created artwork for the cover of a metal album… until now. And his cover for the new Bell Witch album will surely stand as one of the best album covers of the year, if not THE best.
Yesterday Profound Lore Records revealed the stunning artwork and also announced that the new Bell Witch album will be entitled Mirror Reaper and will be released on October 20th. It follows the magnificent Four Phantoms (reviewed here). Interestingly, PL further disclosed that the album will consist of “one continuous 83-minute piece unfolding as a single track”. That’s obviously going to require a particular (and probably rare) level of dedication by listeners… but if anyone can pull off that feat, it’s Bell Witch. Here’s further info about the release:
“Engineered and mixed by veteran producer Billy Anderson (Swans, Red House Painters, Sleep), the duo of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals, organ) have pushed the band’s sound further than it’s ever gone before. While retaining the monolithic heaviness of their previous releases, Mirror Reaper sees the band explore the more meditative, melancholy, and introspective aspects to their sound through the introduction of long, lonely organ passages and the return of honorary BELL WITCH member, vocalist Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin), offering a prominent presence.”
Profound Lore’s announcement also included these words from the band about the concept and lyrics of the new album:
“The title ‘Mirror Reaper’ is indicative of the Hermetic axiom ‘As Above, So Below,’ written with two sides to form one whole. The song is both its own and its reflection, as an opposite is whole only with its contrary. Our focus as a band has always been the perception of ghosts and the implied archetype of the dichotomy of life/death therein. ‘Mirror Reaper’ is a continuation of that concept.
“During the writing process we were devastated by the loss of our dear friend and former drummer, Adrian Guerra. In love and respect to his memory, we reserved an important yet brief section in the song for him that features unused vocal tracks from our last album. This specific movement serves as a conceptual turn in the piece, or point of reflection. We believe he would be proud of it as well.
“‘Mirror Reaper’ was the first collaborative writing project with the new line up, and Adrian’s death during it brought extra emotional weight. We sought to match the complexity and weight of these events within the composition of the piece.”
We’re obviously not going to see a song premiere for this album, but PL has stated that excerpts of the album will be forthcoming.
Because I always prefer to include music with whatever I write, here’s a stream of my favorite track from Four Phantoms (and probably my favorite Bell Witch song yet… pending the arrival of Mirror Reaper). It’s only 22 minutes long.
The last album by the Viennese wizards in Summoning was 2013’s Old Mornings Dawn. Yesterday Summoning updated their profile picture on Facebook with the image you see above, without comment or explanation. Their Facebook page has only existed since late June, and there have been few posts since then, but one in July included these words:
“Welcome to the official SUMMONING Facebook page! Like and follow this page to be the first to hear about news from the band – and there WILL be news coming in the not-so-distant future…”
Based on these two pieces of evidence it doesn’t seem too wild a leap to guess that a new album is on the way. To which I say, Hallelujah!
If perchance you’re unfamiliar with Summoning, you could read this REARVIEW MIRROR post about the band that I wrote in the spring of last year. And you could also listen to the streams below of Old Mornings Dawn and/or 1999’s Stronghold.
INCANTATION (AND GOAT’S BLOOD MEAD)
Yesterday Incantation released a lyric video for yet another song from their forthcoming album Profane Nexus (due from Relapse on August 11). This one is “Lus Sepulcri“. The video was directed by Don Tyler.
I continue to be amazed at how good this album sounds. More than a few bands of Incantation’s vintage have subsided into mediocrity, but not this one — and “Lus Sepulcri” is a fine example of how strong the new music is. It’s a blistering, slaughtering, full-throttle ravager from start to finish.
And now for some news about mead.
August 11 is not only the release date for Profane Nexus, it’s also the release date for a new mead brewed in honor of Incantation and branded in collaboration with the band.
The very metal name of the mead is Goat’s Blood, and it was created by Brimming Horn Meadery in Milton, Delaware. According to the brewery, the beverage “was crafted from the finest red grapes, tart cherries and buckwheat honey. It’s beautiful crimson color matches its namesake and comes bottled in a green 500ml bottle.” Here’s an excerpt from a statement about the brew from Incantation bassist Chuck Sherwood:
“Our friends at Brimming Horn Meadery and us in Incantation are proud to announce the unveiling of this limited contribution to you devoted fiends. A first ever mead and metal collaboration! It’s a libation of grapes, honey and cherries whose dark crimson color inspired it’s name. Goat’s Blood! A testament to the near 30 yrs of the bands existence and to the amazing talents of those award winning folks at Brimming Horn. In rare hand numbered bottles you too can join us in raising a mighty hail to metal and the brotherhood that we share with all of you.”
I’m damned tempted to place an order before this limited run of 200 bottles runs out. And by the way, 66 of the bottles are hand-numbered, and 10 of them have been personally signed by Incantation. For more info, including how to order, check the links below.
(Per the comment we received from Brimming Horn, Goat’s Blood will be available in their tasting room on Friday, August 11th, and they will have things ready for order and shipping towards the end of August. It will be available through vinoshipper.com).
Brimming Horn Meadery:
The latest (self-titled) album by the Tampa legends Obituary was released this past spring. Recently they released an official live video for the track “Sentence Day” off that album. It was filmed in 4K by James Pesature and his crew at Magnetar Studio at several locations on the band’s tour with Gruesome earlier this year.
The song here is a blood-rushing thrasher, and the video is really, really well-done. Enjoy….
BOLT THROWER (THE CVLT NATIONS SESSIONS)
Bolt Thrower released their first album, In Battle There Is No Law!, in 1988. Yesterday CVLT Nation released the latest in their series of CVLT Nation Sessions, and this one is devoted to that album. It includes covers of all the songs on the album (including “Blind To Defeat”, which wasn’t listed on the original vinyl sleeve) by these bands: Of Feather and Bone, Gateway, Fuming Mouth, Legion of Andromeda, Thetan, Cease, Atrament, Hissing, and Pigs Blood.
So far, I’ve only listened to Feather and Bone’s cover of the title track, and man, is it good. I have high hopes for the rest of these tracks (and good reason to be hopeful, given the quality of the participating bands).
This compilation is a free download at Bandcamp… and you can listen below.
Blasphemy’s origins can be traced as far back (or further) than those of Bolt Thrower and Incantation, and I would guess their music has also inspired almost as many bands as those other two — which might be surprising, because they haven’t released much music and have had long periods of dormancy. Their only two studio albums were released in 1990 and 1993, and two live albums were released in 2001 and 2016. And this item isn’t a surprise announcement of new Blasphemy recordings, but it is something new — a rare piece of history.
I’ve learned that the Malaysian label Diabolicurst Productions (with permission from Blasphemy frontman Nocturnal Grave Dececrator and Black Winds) will release a cassette tape called Rehearsal that includes rare rehearsal recordings dating back to the band’s early days, with cover art by Christophe Moyen.
I’m not sure of the complete track list, but what you can hear below is a 1989 rehearsal of a track from the band’s debut album, Fallen Angel of Doom…., which Diabolicurst Productions has uploaded to Soundcloud. It’s as raw as a bleeding wound, as poisonous as arsenic, as nasty as a pit of vipers on fire, and a sign that this tape will be worth having apart from its historical value.
Blasphemy on Facebook:
Diabolicurst Productions on Facebook:
Now I’ll turn to forthcoming releases by a couple of newer bands who have become personal favorites. The first is Sxuperion, whom I discovered in January of last year through Sxuperion’s split release with Verräter (discussed here). For those who might not be familiar with Sxuperion, it’s the solo project of the drummer (Matthew S.) for three other excellent bands, Valdur, Weverin, and Endless Blizzard.
Following that split, Sxuperion released an excellent album named Cosmic Void (reviewed here), which only solidified my interest in the project. And now there’s a new Sxuperion EP headed our way, named Myriad. It will be released by Bloody Mountain Records (CD and digital) on September 1. Thematically, it completes the narrative of Cosmic Void, focusing “on the view of a world being governed by human insecurities through the eyes of a space traveler”.
Below is an excerpt from the EP. A sense of tension and unease emanates from the vibrating and glimmering sounds at the outset, and the tension builds and boils over when the drums kick in and the deep, ominous riffing and horrific roars and howls kick in. The song continues to change as it moves forward through another passage of mesmerizing and unearthly ambient drift and then a concluding surge of violence. A very enticing teaser for the EP….
Bloody Mountain Records:
In 2015 I reviewed an impressive first demo by a mysterious hooded group from Sjælland, Denmark, named Serpents Lair. And then last year I had the good fortune to premiere (and review) the band’s very impressive debut full-length, a seven-track, 43-minute album entitled Circumambulating the Stillborn. Yesterday I learned that later this year the band will be releasing a new vinyl EP named Perpetual Hunger through a collaboration by Amor Fati and Fallen Empire, with visual art by Sandullos. As the band have explained:
“The EP is manifested as a sonic tribute to the fundamental ontological premise for all life, and as a homage to the great pessimist and his follower and loving betrayer; the dionysian optimist.
“We offer this in honour of the perpetual hunger, that is becoming, that is life.
“We will all die with dry throats, in attempt to sate the thirst for life. Life is finite, the will to life is infinite.”
One preview track from the EP has been posted, one that appears to be the title track. It displays the talents that marked Serpents Lair’s debut album — a talent for combining sensations of terrifying delirium, staggering catastrophe, preternatural menace, and spine-shivering atmosphere, and doing all that in a way that’s transfixing in the moment and durable in the memory.
(Thanks to our friend and NCS contributor Gorger for making me aware of this new song.)
And now I’ll turn to those two bands I mentioned at the outset who are new to me. The first one is Firebreather, a doom outfit from Gothenburg, Sweden (and though I was unfamiliar with them, I do know and like the music of Galvano, a band that was kind of a precursor to this one). I was drawn to explore the music you’re about to hear because of the absolutely stunning cover art created by Adam Burke, who is simply killing the world of metal album covers this year. It adorns Firebreather’s debut self-titled album, which will be released by Suicide Records on October 13.
The song below, in video form, is “The Ice Lord” and it premiered yesterday at DECIBEL. It’s a hugely infectious bone-breaker, with dark riffs the size of redwoods and clobbering rhythms, both of which get the head moving immediately, as well as penetrating leads that bore into the skull like energized drill bits. And the gritty yowling vocals are equally arresting; it sounds like he’s got something caught in his throat… something like human bone splinters and clotted blood.
I’ve left this new release by Orbseven to the end, not because it’s the least worthy of attention but only because it was the last music I heard before wrapping this up. It is, in fact, extraordinary.
I was unaware of Orbseven until listening to this new album, Cosmos Out Of Chaos, which was released on June 27. The Bandcamp page states that Orbseven is the solo project of San Antonio-based multi-instrumentalist Zeven, and has been going on since late 2004.
Because I’m running out of time, I’ll comment only about the first track set to stream on Bandcamp — “The Descent of Spirit Into Matter”. It’s a multi-textured, genre-bending maelstrom of sound. At times it’s so massively punishing that just listening to it risks a concussion. At other times, it’s a manifestation of brain-mangling discordance and delirium. In the mid-section it becomes mesmerizing, with a repeating, heaving riff and ghostly guitar emanations that worm their way into your brain.
But there’s still more to come. In the second half it briefly becomes softer and even more strange before a howling storm of destruction bursts again… and then melodious (though despairing) clean vocals come in over the gales of grinding riffs.
And here’s a hint: Everything else on the album is just as multifaceted and just as distinctive and fascinating — and the stylistic ingredients in this intoxicating potion become even more diverse as you move through it.
Cosmos Out Of Chaos is streaming on Bandcamp, but not available for download there. I’m not sure how to get this release, but if I find out I’ll update what I’ve written here.
(Huge thanks to starkweather for linking me to this phenomenon.)
Thanks for getting the word out Islander! We appreciate it. Goat’s Blood will be available in our tasting room Fri Aug 11th and we will have things ready for order and shipping towards the end of August. It will be available through vinoshipper.com. Skal!!!
Happy to help… and I added the info in your comment into the post, in case some people don’t get down this far on the page.
I love Bell Witch, and would never willingly bet against them, but they have their work cut out for them if they want the music to surpass that artwork. Absolutely stunning, but hardly surprising; I’ve been a fan of all their album art.
I’m afraid I don’t like Bell Witch, but sweet christ that artwork!!! I want that on my wall.
Riiiiiiiiiiiight?! I’m almost – almost – afraid to even listen to the album, for fear that it won’t live up to it. Just so good.
SUMMONING, BOLT THROWER, BELL WITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Also Firebreather sounds pretty dope, like a Black Metal Mastodon meets Visigoth.