I’m beginning today’s round-up with two recent videos, which are quite different both visually and musically but which share two common features: Both were directed and produced by the same person (Eric Revill-Dews of Bigger Boat Film), and both include the voice of our own Andy Synn, in all its increasingly varied range of tones.
And then I’m following those two wonderful videos/songs with a selection of other recently discovered releases that also helped make my listening session last night a real joy.
Until watching this first video for the song “Dying Earth” I had no idea that any place in England could look as vast, as inhospitable, or as starkly beautiful as Derbyshire in the wintertime. Until reading the credits I assumed that the three grim-visaged gentlemen in Twilight’s Embrace had smuggled themselves on board a flight to Scandinavia (though of course I’ve never been there either). Apart from teaching me something new about the landscape of England, the video also proved to be a wonderful match for the music… which is itself as powerfully moving as the vision of those snow-covered reaches.
The song is gloomy yet vibrant, craggy and chilling, wistful and wrenching… and it also soars. A mixture of heavy, head-moving riffs, pounding rhythms, and crystalline melodies, it conveys moods of grief, despair, and defiance.
Like the video, Andy’s changing vocals are another fine match for the music, bringing to the table an array of cavernous yet fiery growls, cracked, goblin-like snarls, and somber yet soulful clean vocals. Nice work, my friend!
“Dying Earth” is one of four engrossing tracks on Penance, the new EP by Twilight’s Embrace, which was released on February 23rd. A second song, in addition to “Dying Earth”, can be heard on Bandcamp, where the album is available now for download and for order in a CD edition.
According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, “apoptosis” is “a process of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms” in which cells kill themselves. It happens to all of us every day — tens of billions of our cells regularly destroy themselves. “Apoptosis” is also the name of the song that’s the subject of the next video, and it comes from Seekers, the latest album from Beyond Grace, which was released last summer.
My friend Andy performed the vocals for this track (and album) too. And in crafting the lyrics, he drew excerpts (with permission) from the sci-fi novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which is well worth your time, as is this song.
“Apoptosis” is a turbocharged flurry of jolting rhythms and fret-leaping leads that dart in staccato fashion and swirl like a rushing fluid. But the blood-pumping savagery of that attack is balanced by a softer, sparkling-bright final segment that’s simply entrancing… and then becomes eye-popping as it builds to a final crescendo.
If you haven’t heard anything of Seekers before, you’ll find that Andy’s vocals go off in still more directions than those which were displayed in that Twilight’s Embrace video. And this video (which features interior scenes of a disturbed occultist) is quite different from the first one, too.
I was tremendously impressed by Endless, the 2014 debut demo by this band from my old hometown of Austin, Texas, so much so that I attempted to be more poetic than usual in my enthusiastic review. It was thus exciting to discover (thanks to a tip from my Serbian acquaintance Miloš) that Hinayana will be releasing a debut album named Order Divine on March 19th. And so far, it’s sounding even more impressive than Endless.
I say that based on the first advance track, “Return To Nothing“, which builds in a slow burn from a moody opening to a powerful surge. The almost ethereal arpeggio from the opening reappears, leavening the dark, heavy-weight power of the main line, which benefits not only from gargantuan vocals but also from a core melody that’s tremendously memorable. By the end, the music feels like it has taken flight over a breathtaking landscape.
This is an outstanding example of doom-influenced melodic death metal, and gives further reason to get excited about Order Divine.
For the last two items in this collection I’ve resorted to a strategy I typically use when the volume of music I’d like to recommend exceeds the time I have to write about it: I’ve chosen only one track from complete albums that are available for listening in their entirety, in the hope that the songs I’ve picked will lead you to listen to more.
In this case, the full album is Méditation Astrale by the French solo project Âqen. It was released by Endless Decrepitude Productions on February 22nd. The song I’ve chosen, which Âqen also chose to stream first on Bandcamp, is “Terreur Intérieure“.
More than 13 minutes long, the song traverses a variety of soundscapes, intertwining movements that are haunting, achingly soulful, deliriously frenzied, vicious, funereal, ritualistically ceremonial, and as ominous as demons lurking in the shadows. The guitar work is beautifully accomplished, even when it’s discordant; the vocals are ugly (and deranged). The song as a whole is unsettling, but escaping from this menacing apparition isn’t a realistic option.
(I owe yet another thank-you to Rennie from starkweather for pointing me to this release.)
The second full album included in this round-up is Into the Unknown by the band Oracle from Mobile, Alabama. The album will be released on April 1 by a German label that never steers me wrong, Naturmacht Productions, although all the music is available for streaming now on Bandcamp. Naturmacht accurately describes the record as “a blasting, atmospheric and devastating black death masterpiece, which with all its variety like a diamond becomes one amazing opus”.
I chose the opening track, “Caressed by the Hands of Fate“, in part because it follows a pattern that’s somewhat similar to that of the two preceding songs in this collection. Beginning with a light, bright solo guitar melody, it segues into a hammering, plundering, writhing storm of sound (augmented by palpably predatory vocals), while still hanging on to the melody introduced at the outset (which proves to be quite infectious). The song also includes a guitar-driven interlude that turns down the power level, but only increases the song’s engrossing attractiveness.