DGR’S MULTI-BAND REVIEW NIGHTMARE (PART 2): INFRACTION, AXIS OF DESPAIR, JOURNAL
(DGR delivered a tome of reviews so massive that we decided to serialize it throughout the week so as to avoid fracturing your spine beneath its weight. This is Part 2.)
On occasion we find ourselves backlogged with albums that we want to write about but seem never able to find the time to do so. Sometimes this results in multiple review ideas getting tossed and never revisited, and at other times you get posts like this one as we deseperately try to hammer out a whole bunch of reviews about EVERYTHING that we’ve been listening to.
In this case that means 13 different releases, unsorted by genre and from all varying walks of all things heavy. So, with the floodgates now fully open, let us wade forth into the rushing waters of heavy metal to recommend some stuff that perhaps might have flown by you.
Infraction – Poshumous Release
It’s rare that we ge to type such a phrase but that’s the fun of writing about music, so here we go: You can blame Gadget for this one.
Sweden’s Infraction unleashed their third EP at the top of the year — January 6th — in the form of a twenty-two-minute fit known as Posthumous Release. It only landed on my radar due to my habit of bouncing around band pages to see what they were posting about, and there was one small, almost commentary-less note from the Gadget crew with a link to this other group’s latest release.
Posthumous Release starts off threateningly peaceful, but quickly pulls that veil away in favor of a much darker, more violent, and much more in line with the group’s genre descriptor within the opening segments of the EP’s second song, “An Industrious Breed”. Poshumous Release is a moody release as an EP; it’s eight songs (with a lot of the EP’s runtime coming from its closer, at a little over six minutes), which run right into one another, making Posthumous Release feel like one explosive burst of energy let out from a dimmer corner of the universe.
The EP has a thin sheer of sludge layered over it, suffocating the band in reverb and intentionally noisy, the vocals brought all the way up front to fight it out with the immense low rumbling of the rhythm section, which of course also includes a drum kit being shattered to pieces whenever the band aren’t finding a giant groove to float with for a few fleeting moments.
Songs like the mid-point pairing of “Unto Nothing” and “Filter” feel especially apocalyptic. “Unto Nothing” veers heavily into the deathgrind realm and then languishes in it as one of the longer songs of Poshumous Release — though its two-and-a-half minutes look like a literal nothing in comparison to “Filter” and its almost six minutes of slow and oppresive groove, or album closer “dÂm” and its over-six of minutes of fading noise. The one time in the middle of “Unto Nothing” where it gets into a circle-pit riff is one of the few times when the band fade away; most of the song is an exceedingly violent and in-your-face assault before it closes events out with a gigantic death metal drill.
The ever-constant swirl of noise that surrounds Poshumous Release makes the twenty-minutes spent with Infraction a densely atmospheric experience, and one well-worth wading into the smoke-filled haze to listen to.
Axis Of Despair – Contempt For Man
The sales pitch for Swedish grinders Axis Of Despair and their new album Contempt For Man — releasing July 27th via Southern Lord Recordings — is an easy one. Axis Of Despair are most of the Coldworker crew, with the added bonus of their drummer having been part of Nasum and a bassist who is also in Volturyon.
Contempt For Man is the group’s first full-length release after two EPs, clocking in at a neatly tied off thirty minutes that span a whopping twenty songs. The metallic-fueled grind-off approach is almost immediately recognizable as Axis Of Despair descend upon their listener with a very familiar blastbeat-driven artillery blast of songs. The vocalist rattles off a lyrical barrage timed perfectly with each percussive hit, taking advantage of each drum blast in order to help propel the song forward, making much of Contempt For Man move at one very particular and very fast speed.
Songs blur together into a maelstrom of grinded-out guitar riffs moving from one punchy moment to the next, especially when eighteen of the twenty songs don’t clear the two-minute mark. Each track is one conflagration of music that extinguishes itself in its own ashes just as quickly as it appeared. You would think a track like “Crush The Empire” with a length closer to three-minutes would be one of the slower, sludgier songs, in line with what this genre is prone to do, but Axis Of Despair put that specific song through the ringer; they find plenty of time to groove (and bring the bass guitar right up to the forefront) throughout it, but just as quickly bring it into the blast-fold so that you almost miss that the song changed from previous annihilator “Det ga∞r aldrig”.
Vocalist Joel Fornbrant rips his way through the whole disc, sounding especially hoarse by the end of it, his very in-your-face and up-front yelled delivery getting more harsh by the time the group’s final triplicate of “To Smite”, “A Brutal Truth”, and “Flytande Dˆd” decide to throw their weight around and end Contempt For Man‘s relentless grindfest.
Contempt For Man doesn’t really push at the boundaries of the drum-destroying, hyperfast, circle-pit-fueled grind segment of the heavy metal world, but it certainly delivers on the adrenaline-rush front, providing a solid white-knuckled experience as songs pile over one another for a little over a half hour and then quickly loop around to do so again.
Journal – Chrysalis Ordalias
Why not shift gears from a straightforward grind-party to the technicolor wonderfuck that both the cover art and the music deliver through the latest album, after a very long wait, from Sacramento, CA prog-math-genre-blender Journal.
Chrysalis Ordalias is a concept album — which comes with a 160-page book in its ultimate package — and it’s a dizzying eleven-track adventure that includes a multitude of vocalists and breakneck song structures that remain as mind-boggling as the group’s previous album Unlorja. Journal even include instrumental versions of all those songs as well, in case you really want to try and dive into each segment and figure out which part is being played on guitar and which is just a drummer hitting a trashcan with a hornets nest inside.
You have to prepare for Chrysalis Ordalias, because Journal throw a lot at you from the word “Go”. A good half of the songs here are over the six-minute mark, and Journal aren’t the sort of band to ever go slow, so those six-plus minutes are jammed with part after part after part piling over one another like Black Friday shoppers trying to get to a pile of TVs through the one entrance a store has open. There are times where Journal’s recruited vocalists for this round sound like they’re hanging on for dear life as the band spins around and around with millions of notes pouring out of each song.
Journal could be pigeonholed into a sort of progressive math-metal/metalcore hybrid, and for sure, that’s about seventy percent of the formula — but given the amount of space each song has, Journal fill it with differing explorations of all sorts. Title track “Chrysalis Ordalias” has drummer Justin Tvetan going into full death metal blastmaster mode in its closing minutes before flinging the sticks around to try and time a bunch of cymbal hits with the craziness that comes from the final minutes of guitar work. And there are absolutely moments of calm throughout this conceptual journey, and a healthy smattering of sung segments to go alongside the multitude of roars throughout.
The willingness to get adventurous with their sound has been a hallmark of Journal’s songwriting for a long time, but it still remains stunningly impressive as you work your way through Chrysalis Ordalias. It’s hard to focus on one particular song simply because to describe one song might feel like attempting to describe the album as a whole, distilling descriptors down to the calm sections and chaotic segments while extrapolating just how much is present here. Chrysalis Ordalias is an explosion of energy, each particular beam bouncing off a million surfaces and never settling down.
Eight years may have passed between releases but there’s more than enough music in each song to make it clear that Journal were never resting, just continually adding more and more to each track; that they ever found a place to settle is stunning. But given just how angular these songs can be and the sort of controlled chaos they unleash, it can by equally hard to tell where they ever settled on where to begin each song. Easily recommended as one of the more head-spinning collections of music in this multi-part post.
Utterly addicted to Chrysalis Ordalias. A daily spin at least and I reckon that’ll be the case for weeks to come. Just like their previous record which I’m sure I’ve listened to over a hundred times, I love it more and more each time. Enormous appreciation for these guys taking their time to craft the music they want to make.