SEEN AND HEARD: PESTILENCE, ATARAXY, WHOREDOM RIFE, TALSUR, VIELIKAN, HOLYARROW
After a nearly two-week vacation in which I blogged very little, I returned to Seattle late last week and was promptly slammed by my fucking day job, unforeseen personal obligations, bad weather, and a whole bunch of NCS articles to write or edit, including the continuation of our LISTMANIA series, interviews, reviews, and a bunch of premieres. I can’t really say I need another vacation already… but I kind of do.
Anyway, I haven’t written one of these round-ups in 12 days, and I’m way behind in even listening to all the new songs that have appeared since my vacation began 19 days ago. I started working on this collection early this week but decided to include a couple of songs that have appeared more recently. I hope to do more catch-up round-ups this weekend, including a Sunday SHADES OF BLACK feature, because holidays don’t mean shit around here.
Roughly four and a half years after their last album, Pestilence will release a new one via Hammerheart Records named Hadeon, and earlier this week Hammerheart previewed the album with a single called “Multi Dimensional“. It didn’t take long for my NCS comrade TheMadIsraeli to send me an alert about the song, wth a positive message.
Pestilence is a special band for him, and for me. In his case, TheMadIsraeli once reviewed every Pestilence release in a series for our site, from the earliest demos through the last full-length, Obsideo, an album that once seemed like it would be the final Pestilence album ever to be recorded (all the reviews are collected here).
In my case, I’ve been so fascinated by Patrick Mameli’s twists and turns (and by his rotating cast of bandmates and session allies) that I even hung in there for Doctrine, finding it immensely appealing even when it seemed most (or at least many) of the band’s fans were throwing up their hands in frustration or disgust. But if this new song is a valid indicator, I don’t think the new album will prove divisive at all.
Hammerheart tells us that “Hadeon is the return to form album, this is the album that could have been the follow-up to Testimony of the Ancients, a return to old school Death Metal, but of course with some innovation going on”. Based on the new single, that sounds accurate.
But before we get to that song, here’s what I’ve been able to discover about the current Pestilence line-up, in addition to Mameli as vocalist and lead guitarist: It appears to include drummer Septimiu Hărşan, bassist Tilen Hudrap, and new lead guitarist Calin Paraschiv (who joined the band after Hadeon was recorded); former Pestilence guitarist Santiago Dobles also recorded some solos on Hadeon.
In addition, I’ve read that the album was mastered by Dan Swanö and mixed by Christian Moos. The stunning cover art was created by Michal “Xaay” Loranc.
Okay, let’s move on to some brief impressions of “Multi Dimensional“: It is indeed multi-dimensional — speedy and savage, brutal and battering, very catchy, and with a deliciously mercurial and mind-bending guitar solo in the mix. I’m a fan of the guitar tone in the riffing, too. So… good omens for the new album.
Hadeon will be released by Hammerheart Records on March 5, 2018. There’s a digital pre-order up now; I haven’t yet seen a place for physical pre-orders, but if you follow the links below, you’ll be sure to see the announcement when it comes.
“A Matter Lost In Time” is the next song in this collection, a nearly 11-minute offering from Where All Hope Fades, the new album by the Spanish death metal band Ataraxy, which will be released by Dark Descent on February 16 (with vinyl coming via Me Saco Un Ojo). This song previously appeared on a Dark Descent sampler this past summer, but it’s so good that its recent appearance on a new Bandcamp page for the album (which includes cover art and the track list) prompted me to call attention to it again.
The mood of the song changes. Gloomy, ominous, and unearthly from the beginning, it builds a sense of tension and unease at the same time as its morose but magnetic melodic currents seep ever deeper under the skin. When the tension breaks, the music achieves an air of bleak majesty — no less ominous, to be sure, but with a kind of mesmerizing and mournful grandeur looming in the mind’s eye.
And then the pace accelerates, the energy surges, and a sense of feverish urgency becomes entwined with a mood of desolation, a mood that becomes even more deeply felt when that surge has been exhausted and hopeless grief dominates the finale.
I’m still smiling to myself over seeing Whoredom Rife’s debut album Dommedagskvad in the No. 49 position on Metal Hammer’s 2017 best-metal-albums list (republished here) – first, because it deserves all the recognition it can get, and second, because it’s right next to Alice Cooper’s latest album. Yeah, that Metal Hammer list is very odd.
And yeah, Dommedagskvad really is remarkably good, and a guilty pleasure of mine, because I have reaped great pleasure from it and therefore feel very guilty that I never managed to write any more about it than some heart-felt praise of a single advance track, “Beyond the Skies of God“. I was reminded of those guilt feelings when the band released a music video for that same song four days ago.
Since I’ve previously given my impressions of the song, I’ll just say that the whole album is one you really should listen to if you haven’t. It’s brilliant. I’ll also provide a quote below from the Völuspá (c. 901 – 1000), as translated by Ursula Dronke in The Poetic Edda : Volume II : Mythological Poems (1997), which I found in searching for the source of this band’s name. It describes the state of humanity at the time of Ragnarök.
Brothers will fight
and kill each other,
will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
—an axe age, a sword age
—shields are riven—
a wind age, a wolf age—
before the world goes headlong.
No man will have
mercy on another.
Talsur is a Russian one-man band formed in 2015 whose past albums have varied in their style — the first two atmospheric doom, the third one stoner doom, the fourth one (enthusiastically reviewed here by TheMadIsraeli) funeral doom. Talsur has also released two EPs since that last album, and the latest one appeared on December 10, entitled The Gates.
According to Talsur, the songs on the EP were “collected from many ideas that were born a long time ago,” hence the title, which refers to “the gates to the past”: “The future is immense, the present is meaningless, and the past is full of memories that will always be with you.”
Doom is obviously the through-line on Talsur’s releases, and it is a dominating presence on this new EP, too, though perhaps it would be fair to call it a blending of doom and melodic death metal. Along with deep, massive riffs, gut-punching, skull-cracking drumwork, and grim, craggy and snarling vocals, these songs deliver spellbinding melodies crafted with a clean guitar tone, piano and other keyboard accents (“In Vain” is nothing but piano, voice, and keyboard shimmer), and a significant share of somber and soaring clean vocals. And the music isn’t always slow and grief-stricken either.
Very appealing, and very memorable.
Vielikan is not a new name at our site. At the end of 2016, I wrote about a single (with a video) named “Everlasting Smile”. This Tunisian/Russian band now appears to be the solo project of its founder Fedor Souissi Kovalevsky. The song below, presented through a music video, is the latest of three singles that have been released since Vielikan’s debut album in 2010. This new digital single, which appeared last month, is “Voskresenie“.
Something about the genre-bending song makes me think of an out-of-body experience. It’s intense, exotic, and surrealistic (though the video has something to do with that impression of surrealism as well). It builds in speed and volume as it unfolds, the guitars eventually soaring and whirling in a kind of devotional ecstasy, the vocals morphing from vicious growls to harrowing shrieks, wailing cries, and ritualistic spoken words. I found it captivating, and harrowing.
Fedor S. Kovalevsky directed, edited, and produced the video, in addition to writing, recoding, mixing, and mastering the music.
I’ve been following (and writing about) the musical exploits of Holyarrow since the appearance of the band’s debut album Oath of Allegiance in 2016. It is the solo black metal project of a man named Shi Kequan from Amoy (aka Xiamen) on the southeast coast of The People’s Republic of China.
The song below (which first appeared on December 8 and is accompanied by a lyric video) is “御戍/To Defend Fatherland” It’s the title track to Holyarrow’s forthcoming second album, which will be released by Pest Productions next year. Holyarrow’s past releases have been conceptually rooted in aspects of Chinese history, and so is this new one. As explained by Shi Kequan:
“All songs are inspired and based on real local historical events from the year 1276 till 1366, telling the story about the Mongolian invasion, The Ispah Rebellion and the wipe off Islam of my land.”
With lyrics sung in the Hoklo/Hokkien language, the song is a bracing, warlike ride, one that incorporates the sound of traditional Chinese melodies (at least to these Western ears) as well as classic head-moving heavy-metal riffs and clean vocals — along with ripping black metal savagery and an entrancing instrumental interlude. There’s an epic atmosphere to the song, befitting the dramatic historical events that inspired it. Thoroughly engrossing stuff.
Talsur is number one on my “please put out something on vinyl” list. Can’t find any physical releases from them.