I don’t know if I’ll manage to follow through, but my plan for today is to post two round-ups of new music, this one being the first. As the post title suggests, I carved these songs away from the others and pulled them in here because the vocals in each of them aren’t solely of the kind that would suit the (demonstrably porous) rule in our site’s title. That’s right (gasp), there are some clean-sung melodies in these tracks… combined in each song with harsh ones.
Of course, to my ears the tracks have many other things to recommend them or I wouldn’t have asked you to listen. But the varied voices in these tracks are part of what made them stand out to me.
In April of last year I came across and wrote about a song from a two-track demo by a Bay-area band named Ails, whose line-up included two former members of the sorely missed Ludicra — vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman and guitarist/vocalist Christy Cather — as well as guitarist Sam Abend (Desolation, Abrubt, Scurvy Dogs), drummer Colby Byrn (One In The Chamber, 2084, Aequorea), and bassist Jason Miller (Apocryphon, Cretaceous, Phantom Limbs). At the time, Ails was in the process of mastering their full-length debut and were seeking label support — and they got it, to no surprise of mine or anyone else who heard that demo.
That track I wrote about last spring, “Dead Metaphors”, earned its significant length, traversing landscapes of craggy, sodden, doom, and chugging, hammering, seething black/death (featuring harmonized guitar delirium and darting/flickering arpeggios), capped by a riveting extended guitar solo (and the whine of feedback). The vocals formed a similarly varied tapestry of arresting sound, from haunting croons to piercing shrieks that cut like straight razors.
Now, The Flenser will be releasing that debut album, The Unraveling, on April 20th. And in cooperation with Metal Injection, they premiered a song yesterday named “The Echoes Waned“, a song that reaches out and grabs you immediately, thanks to a great riff and a great tandem of clean and blistering vocals. It’s a dark and intense piece of music, with a lighter shade emerging in an acoustic section, right before the intensity reaches its zenith with a shrieker of a guitar solo.
Have you ever heard the phrase “slack-jawed”? As expressions go, it’s probably a bit dated, as am I. But it’s a pin-point description of my face as this next song unfolded. “Bug-eyed” would be another apt descriptor.
The song is “Released to Aion“, and it’s a new single released a couple days ago by a part American, part-Canadian group named Sarasvati. For this recording (which follows a previous single and an EP), Sarasvati’s line-up consisted of the following people:
Clean vocals: Chela Rhea (White Empress, ex-Amiensus), Joe Waller (Adora Vivos, Nuklear Frost, ex-Amiensus)
Harsh vocals: Joe Waller
Guitars/Bass: Joe Waller
Drums: Matthew Paulazzo (Aegaeon, Aetheric, The Zenith Passage, Decrepit Birth (live), The Black Dahlia Murder (live))
The vocal tandem in this song is undoubtedly one of its great strengths. The opening juxtaposition of the somber, hauntingly beautiful duet by Rhea and Waller and Waller’s monstrous, miles-deep, miles-wide growls is riveting, and the continuing contrast between Rhea and Waller in this dramatic song is striking.
But the song has many other riveting qualities. It’s as heavy as a heart attack, as explosive as a cannonade, and as soaring as hawks carried aloft by rising thermals. It’s emotionally powerful the first time you hear it, and the melody stays with you long afterward.
“Released to Aion” was mixed and mastered by Roman Ra Arsafes. The artwork was created by Chela Rhea.
Look for the debut of a lyric video for this song on Friday of this week.
CAGE OF CREATION
In the spring of last year I encountered the unorthodox Russian black metal band Cage of Creation through an EP (reviewed here) that concluded a trilogy of EPs. The band are now embarking on a new trilogy, the first installment of which is a three-track release named I am the Void. The first of the songs disclosed from that release is “За чертой / Beyond the Line“.
The clean vocals in this song, like the first two above, are one of its strengths, but they’re quite different from those above. They’re the voices of a solemn male chorus with a distinctly Slavic resonance. They give immediate gravitas to a song that in other ways wastes no time in setting the stage for something dramatic. There’s a big build-up in the opening, one that leads to a swelling anticipation, and then the song delivers.
Grandeur and gloom co-exist in the music, along with pain (thanks in part to the contrasting cries and shrieks of the harsh vocals), and the music includes enthralling instrumental variations, not least of which is the vibrancy of the bass, as well as folk-influenced melodies and head-bobbing rhythms that merit the term “infectious”.
The clean vocals in Myrkaverk’s “Hyllest! Reia!” are the most subtle of the four tracks I chose for this round-up. In fact, it’s possible that they’re figments of my imagination. Or possibly I just didn’t want to wait until the second part of this round-up to post about it. But I’m not imagining Grutle Kjellson’s voice on this track, and his isn’t the only famous name among the guests who contributed their voices to this Norwegian band’s debut album, Naer Døden. Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) and Hoest (Taake) did so as well.
“Hyllest! Reia!” is so damned good. Slow and chilling at first, with a lurching cadence and a sinister, hallucinatory aura, it provides the accompaniment to frightening, distorted vocal expressions that don’t seem human. The music becomes more lively as the minutes pass, the guitar emanations growing increasingly sorcerous, the intensity building… until it stops well short of where I thought it would. Or maybe I was just yearning to have this strange, dreamlike experience go on and on….
Naer Døden will be released by Blut & Eisen Productions on March 13th. To listen to “Hyllest! Reia!“, you’ll need to go to DECIBEL, because their premiere of the stream is an exclusive one:
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