SEEN AND HEARD ON A SATURDAY: PANOPTICON, PHENDRANA, ANCST, ALLEGAEON, VAELMYST, ESTUARINE
I had a very busy week, both on and off our site, so busy that I wasn’t able to cobble together a round-up of news and new music. However, I did try to keep abreast of what was coming out, and my list of intriguing tracks that appeared over just the last week is YUGE — so YUGE that I’m afraid I’ll have to resort to an OVERFLOWING STREAMS post on Monday, one in which I don’t do anything but just stitch together new music streams and release details without commentary.
But I decided I would do something for today as a head-start (in addition to working on a SHADES OF BLACK post for tomorrow), and here’s what I’ve done: I picked the latest recommendations from three of my NCS colleagues, and then added one of my own, which happens to be the latest new song premiere that I’ve listened to. But first, a news item…
A few days ago the administrator of Panopticon’s official Facebook page posted the artwork you see above, along with these few words: “Slip case cover for the new double album. the scars of man on the once nameless wilderness. Out in March on Bindrune Recordings in the USA and Nordvis in Europe. Art by Hanna Larsson of Sólfjall Design.”
And that’s really all I know, but the prospect of a new double album by Panopticon is extremely exciting. And part of what makes it exciting is that Panopticon will be one of the three headliners at the second edition of Northwest Terror Fest (co-presented by No Clean Singing) in Seattle on May 31 – June 2 this year, and I assume the set list will include music from this monumental new release. (And by the way, tickets will go on sale this coming Monday, January 8, at 8:00 am Pacific — follow this page to get the link.)
This next song is the one I picked myself for this SEEN AND HEARD round-up. It happens to be the most recent advance track I’ve listened to. The name of the song is “Sanctum” and it comes from the debut album, Sanctum: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, by the Mexico City band Phendrana. The album will be released on Monday, January 8, and includes as its cover artwork a painting named “Vanitas Symbols in a Landscape” by Matthias Withoos.
Phendrana describe the album as “a conceptual work about a Sanctum, an ethereal place where lost souls find shelter. The album is divided in 7 parts: A description of the Sanctum, 3 transitions from different souls to it, 2 stories about the past lives of Sanctum inhabitants, and an ode to the night.”
They also describe their music as “atmospheric post-metal”, which is accurate, though the vicious rasping vocals add a bit of blackening to the vibrant mix of sounds. I found this first multi-textured advance track completely enthralling, from the thoroughly compulsive rhythmic drive to the equally compulsive swirling and darting guitar leads, from the grim, jolting riffs to the beautiful piano motifs and sublime prog-metal digressions.
Prepare for vigorous headbanging. I’m suddenly very eager to hear the rest of this musical story!
My colleague Andy Synn made me aware that he planned to review the new album by Germany’s Ancst, and provided a link to the Bandcamp page where I found this next song, “unmasking the imposters“. The album is entitled ghosts of the timeless void and it’s set for release on March 2 by Lifeforce Records.
Lifeforce explains that “The band’s third album is a mirror of its surroundings and time and an elegy to a world on the verge of decline”, and their particular blend of melodic black metal and brutal hardcore crust would seem well-suited to that task.
This new song is a heavy hitter, and catchy as hell. It gets the blood rushing like water through a high-pressure fire hose.
The next song came my way via my NCS colleague DGR. It seems that when Denver’s Allegaeon recorded their last album, 2016’s Proponent for Sentience, they recorded not one but two covers of songs by the famed Canadian rock band Rush. One of those, “Subdivisions“, appeared on that album, and a second cover was released yesterday.
For this new cover Allegaeon chose the song “Animate” from Rush’s 1993 album Counterparts (“Subdivisions” is off the 1982 album Signals.) If you like Rush (as I do), I think you can’t help but like this cover too; Allegaeon do a great job with it, both instrumentally and vocally. And if you missed that earlier cover, I’ve included it below as well.
The next song also came my way via a message from DGR — it arrived just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, but I decided to toss it in here anyway.
The song is a single named “Dear Esther“, and appears to be the first release by California-based Vaelmyst. DGR explained to me that he thinks the man behind the project, Jonathan Vomithan, “has been the behind-the-scenes lyricist/concept songwriter for October Tide and a couple other Fredrik Norrman projects” (and indeed, this track features Fredrik Norrman). But regardless, DGR observed, “this track is promising”. And so it is — very promising.
I used the word “compulsive” to describe that Phendrana track up above, and that’s the first word that comes to mind in thinking about this new Vaelmyst offering — you can’t help but move your head to it. And it’s damned catchy, too. The variety of deathly vocals is fun, as are the song’s progressive flourishes.
“Dear Esther” is the first track on a forthcoming EP and is a “name your own price” download at Bandcamp — and the band’s Facebook page identifies not only Jonathan V. as the vocalist but also Ronny Lee Marks (guitarist), Tom Warner (guitarist), and Jeff Martin (bassist).
The last item in this collection came my way via TheMadIsraeli. He wrote: “I have no idea what to call this, but I’m going with progressive/technical death metal”. Having now heard the song, I think that makes sense.
The song in question is “Phosphorus and Sulfur“, and it appears on Sic Erat Scriptum, the third album by this Tampa-based one-man band, the one man being Hydrus (Christopher Ryan Skrocki). The album was released on January 1, and I haven’t had time to listen to any other songs but this one.
But this one is a big high-speed brain-twister, as savage as a rabid wolf but also instrumentally intricate and exuberant (and full of surprises) in a way that left a big smile on my face. And this makes the fourth song in this collection that adds prog-rock flourishes to very good effect.
Phendrana is excellent. Just yesterday I was listening to Proponent for Sentience, where Subdivisions is the last track, and thought to myself I should really check out some Rush. I see their name dropped by so many bands.
Glad you like Phendrana, and yes, you should investigate Rush. They were bigger than Mount Rushmore in their prime and have proven to be enormously influential. The music has held up very, very well despite the passage of time.
Pretty much all their albums are great. Their late 80s-present material is hit-or-miss for some, but you can’t really go wrong with anything from “Signals” and before. I’d recommend starting with “Moving Pictures” and “Permanent Waves.”
Their earlier albums from the 70s are a lot more in the “traditional” progressive rock vein (like Yes, King Crimson, etc.), although I figure if you’re really into that sort of thing you’d probably already be familiar with Rush by now, haha. Rush is a great place to start if you haven’t dug into that world much, though.
Excellent, thanks for the info. I’ll get a hold of Moving Pictures and start there. I think it’s one of those scenarios where I didn’t know anyone who listened to them when I was growing up and I never managed to get round to checking out their back catalogue.
Really stoked for new Panopticon ( My favorite Kentucky hometown band ) I have been sad to not see Austin Lunn’s year end list on here as it is my favorite list of the year and the closest to what I listen to. I’m sure he has been busy. Any word on that? Some great stuff here. I’m really digging the new Ansct tracks. It’s going to be another great year for Metal for sure!
Lots of goodies. Vaelmyst sounds fucking awesome, though.
Estaurine artwork is excellent.