I spend so much of each day scurrying around to find and write about new songs from forthcoming releases and to prepare introductions for our own premieres that I rarely have time to write my own reviews of full releases, except in the context of introducing our premieres. On a whim I decided to stop scurrying for 24 hours and share at least a few thoughts about three recent releases I’ve been enjoying.
REBEL WIZARD: THE WARNING OF ONE
The new Rebel Wizard EP is out now. It’s described as “Four anti-shamanic pre-fetal negative metal anthemic warnings of ‘one'”. You should listen to it. You should especially listen to it if you have a taste for the kind of creativity that turns out music which is off of metal’s most familiar beaten paths — although you could also think of it as music that creates intersections of well-loved pathways that usually diverge.
I’ve made no secret of my own attraction to what Rebel Wizard has been doing. And so if you’re a frequent visitor you already know that Rebel Wizard is the solo project of the multi-talented Australian musician NKSV, who was probably best known for his work in the realms of black metal and noise under the name Nekrasov — at least until Rebel Wizard vaulted out of the deeper recesses of the underground, thanks to Prosthetic Records’ reissue of the fantastic Triumph of Gloom album last year.
I heard the new EP’s final track, “One I Call“, before I heard the others, and promptly opined, “Here again is that distinctive sound, a hybrid of riffs and leads in which one can detect thrash, NWOBHM, and power metal; scalding vocal explosiveness that makes one think of an enraged panther that has also been set on fire; heavy, head hammering low-end rhythms; and in this particular track a triumphant starburst of a solo and a closing melody that both merit the well-worn term ‘epic'”.
The other three songs leading up to that one are just as electrifying (and the vocals just as breathtakingly incinerating), beginning with the thundering detonation of “One I Seek“, which includes a stunning guitar solo and a luminescent melody that (to borrow from Little Big Man) makes the heart soar like a hawk. That’s followed by the jolting juggernaut of “One I Know”, which is wrenchingly intense, edged with a sense of brooding, but also gloriously vibrant, with the kind of grand melody that conjures visions of mythic Norse warriors riding to battle beneath wind-whipped, sunlit banners.
“One I See” takes a sharp turn at first, with a mesmerizing intro shorn of rhythm that’s mystical and medieval, providing a moment of reflection before the music surges to life on the back of a galloping beat and an evolving melody that sounds like a fanfare and then a whirling dance. The song also includes an amazing extended guitar solo of the kind that makes you want to lift your curled claws to the heavens with your head thrown back and your eyes closed in exultation.
When Invisible Oranges premiered “One I Call”, Jon Rosenthal wrote that “there is a sort of ‘checking out metal for the first time’ vibe to this, even I found myself smiling and headbanging at my desk when listening to this. This is what black metal would sound like if it was a direct offshoot of classic heavy metal — a separate timeline nostalgia or ‘what could have been'”. That says it well.
There is indeed something about this music that masterfully captures so much of what attracted so many of us to heavy metal early on and has continued fueling our addiction — the fantasy and the ferocity, the wild energy of a pure adrenaline rush, the guitar virtuosity, the head-moving rhythms, the heroic melodies — and combines all that with the terrifying intensity of black metal shrieking pushed to the limit. In a word, amazing.
Order on tape:
PALEOWOLF: MEGAFAUNA RITUALS
Megafauna Rituals is the fourth album by the Serbian one-man project known as Paleowolf, though it’s the first one I’ve listened to. It came recommended by several reliable sources, and I was further intrigued by the thinking behind the music, as described on the Bandcamp page for the album.
It’s difficult to imagine how our Ice Age ancestors must have reacted to the presence of the gigantic lifeforms that shared the frozen tundras and steppes with them in the final millennia of the age, but surely Paleowolf’s creator is correct that those primitive ancestors must have been awe-struck by such colossal creatures. We have evidence of the impressions they made through the images of the creatures inscribed on cave walls.
It appears to be Paleowolf’s belief that although these immense animals — known as Megafauna — may be “lost to our knowledge and perception”, they are “not lost to our collective unconscious and genetic memory”:
“Prehistoric artist-shaman carves the lines and draws the glyphs in the cave walls, creating a Totem of the Megafauna, inviting the mighty ancestral energies of the Wild to take hold of tribe’s life and destiny. The tribe chants and meditates in unison, summoning the Great Feral spirit of Nature.”
It takes more than an hour to absorb the seven long tracks on Megafauna, all but one of which is named for one of the great mammals of the Ice Age. Across that lengthy expanse of sound, Paleowolf has constructed a shamanic ritual experience through a layering of changing ambient sounds (and changing levels of volume and intensity), marked by the deep reverberating boom of tribal drums and the stamp of other percussive tones, as well as the wordless chant of voices both solemn and gruff — and also an imagining of the voices of the creatures who once shared the earth’s frigid landscapes with our precursors.
There are sensations of terror and majesty, mystery and awe, worship and invocation, in this music, as well as compulsive, primal rhythms. Whether or not it awakens ancestral memories encoded in our DNA, the album provides a dreamlike, haunting, and emotionally evocative immersion in sound quite capable of transporting the listener to another world (and putting chills down your spine).
Nineteen months ago a Japanese band named Ithaqua and an Australian band named BØG released a powerhouse split that I frothed about here at our site. Of BØG’s music, I wrote:
“Their two tracks, one long and one short, share the name of “Tomo”. Part One combines, thick, hard-slugging riffs and increasingly deranged and discordant guitar leads. Sometimes soft and floating like an opium dream, sometimes on the brink of a psychotic meltdown, the music is gripping — and the vocals, when not growling or roaring, sound like a man shredding his own skin with a straight razor.
“‘Tomo II’ makes a sharp turn, a solo guitar instrumental with a burst of vocal rage, or agony, or both. It fits, in a strange but not linear way, with the first song. As much as anything else, it proves that BØG have more twists to their creativity; these two songs hint at being merely the tips of an iceberg”.
Little did I know how big the iceberg was. Now I know better.
JIM is BØG’s new album, released in June. I’ve been intending to write about it since before the release. Guilt feelings finally became an irresistible fulcrum, the mounting time spent consumed by the album finally compelling me to get off my ass and say something.
The music is often heavier than the collapse of a bridge in an earthquake, vehicles plummeting down to become a mangled mass of flaming steel, the occupants falling, flailing, and screaming to their doom. It pounds and jackhammers and rampages with ruthless, organ-rupturing force; it drags like chains across a crypt floor; the bass tone alone is enough to reduce concrete to gravel. The terrifying vocals, in which all three band members contribute, gouge and gnaw deep wounds and then cauterize the bleeding. Discordant chords rake and bludgeon. Soul-shaking, agonized melodies somehow become entrancing, even though they’re eating away at any sense of well-being you might have.
It’s a convincingly bleak, black, and brutal experience, harrowing to the point of blotting out the sun and making you question the future, or whether there will be one.
That’s the main line of the album, but it goes off on side rails. The gloomy backwoods acoustic picking at the end of “Original Hate” bleeds over into “Fractured” and carries you out into a haunted, hopeless hinterland, a place of dying towns and dead dreams. The song isn’t heavy in the sense of something that might fracture sturdy bones but instead is heavy like a fractured psyche or a fatally wounded soul.
In genre terms, BØG mix it up, a dose of sludge, a dose of doom, a dose of black metal, big handfuls of arsenic, the aroma of burning cities. The combined effect is staggering, especially when you listen to the album straight through, which is absolutely the way to listen to it. The flow of the album is important, if you want to find the very bottom of the abyss.