As explained in Part 1 of this post yesterday, I made some especially difficult choices about what to cover this week because I had found so much I wanted to recommend. Splitting the column into two parts in order to include more music helped some, but wasn’t a complete solution. The task was further complicated when I discovered even more yesterday. The first selection below is one of those late discoveries, but it turns out that it fits very well with the music of the first three bands I’d originally chosen to begin this Part 2, and that now comes after it.
Yesterday Mephorash released an official video for the third track to surface so far from their fourth opus, the 74-minute Shem Ha Mephorash, which is based on the Kabbalistic 72-fold explicit name of God and now has a release date of April 18th. Before yesterday the band had revealed “777: Third Woe“, which was released as a single last year, and “King of King, Lord of Lords“, which was disclosed last August. We’ve provided reactions to both of those, and now to this new third piece.
With “Sanguinem” Mephorash have poured their talents into creating an exalted ceremonial sensation, one that’s grand in scale and reverential, but also venomous and drenched in blood.There is downfall in the music, and uplift.
Even with all the visceral power that the traditional implements of extreme metal are capable of generating, perhaps the extravagant sounds of a symphony orchestra with ecclesiastical choral accompaniment are more powerful still, especially when the object of the music is to manifest visions of the eternal, of sacred rites and of titanic conflict in a dimension that dwarfs the scrabbling pettiness of mere humankind. And so, to magnify the drama of the music’s themes, Mephorash deploy the boom of kettle drums, the soaring voices of a choir (and a female soloist), the dramatic tones of massed strings and brass.
Of course, the visceral power of extreme metal is in the mix, too — dismal, pestilential riffs; vicious vocals, exclaiming and chanting; calamitous percussion. The gleaming keyboard melodies, which include piano melody, are just as vital to this experience, both during the passages of greatest bombast and in the softest and gloomiest moments.
The video is as gripping as the music. There is a censored version on YouTube as well as an uncensored version (which includes brief nudity) on Vimeo. Both are below.
Shem Ha Mephorash, which is richly embellished with artwork by José Gabriel Alegria Sabogal, will be released on CD, vinyl, cassette, and digital by Shadow Records / Helter Skelter Productions.
STELLAR MASTER ELITE
The first three albums of the German band Stellar Master Elite were the subjects of the 63rd edition of The Synn Report in October 2015. By way of introduction, Andy wrote:
Their sound, though instantly memorable, is actually slightly hard to properly categorise. Certainly there’s a significant Blackened backbone to the band, but this is overlain with a Doomy, occult glamour and a shining skin of cyber-industrial synth work… so it should be no surprise to discover that the band named themselves after a song by legendary (if not exactly prolific) Industrial Black Metal forerunners Thorns… though it must also be said that the Germans are less chaotically aggressive overall, but far more ominously bleak in their approach!
Stellar Master Elite are now approaching the May 3rd release of their fourth album, Hologram Temple, and have recently launched the first track-stream from the album, a song called “Freewill Decrypted“. As mentioned, it seemed to me to flow well from that Mephorash track.
This track is a titanic head-mover, and it also creates an atmosphere of fearsome grandeur, a mixture of exaltation and tyrannical cruelty. The frighteningly expressive vocals are absolutely demonic; the choral vocals are solemn and reverential. The music pulses and pounds at an almost stately pace (the riffing and the drums sync up to amplify the impact), and when it surges in a savage frenzy, great fanfare-like chords ring out. The song is also really infectious.
(Thanks for the umpteenth time to Miloš for alerting me to this new song.)
PA VESH EN
Last fall we premiered and reviewed Church of Bones, the debut album by the remarkable one-man black metal project Pa Vesh En from Belarus. I wrote then:
As the album’s title might suggest, these seven tracks sound as if they were recorded in a vast sepulcher far beneath the surface of the earth, all the shuddering and shattering tonalities drenched in reverb, the music profoundly haunting and deeply oppressive in the weight of the desolation it conveys. The album is sweeping in the scale of its apocalyptic grief and shattering in the intensity of the pain it channels into sound — an expression of emotional collapse that’s so profound it begins to seem majestic, an intense and immersive experience so all-consuming that it swallows up the listener, as if engulfed by the maw of a leviathan…. If you’re looking for music that’s so powerful in its expression of its creator’s unsettling visions that you become part of them, look no further.
Wasting no time, Pa Vesh En is following that album with a new EP named Cryptic Rites of Necromancy, which will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions (who also released the album) on May 3rd. It’s described by the label’s publicist as “a decidedly more violent and chaotic side” of the band, but based on the first track released from the EP, Pa Vesh En is still devoted to creating music that’s powerfully atmospheric.
As mentioned at the outset, I think “Entwined With Snakes” goes well together with the first two songs in this collection. Like those tracks, there’s something grand and exalted about the music, and a feeling of terrible dread and inconsolable loss within it as well. The sound is immense and immersive, as slow in its heaving rhythm as a funeral march, and just as saturated with the presence of death. It also has the style of classical, orchestral music even though it’s not at all what someone would classify as symphonic metal. Absolutely mesmerizing stuff.
Phobonoid is a one-man band from the Martian moon Phobos who has been passing time in Trentino-Alto Adige in northern Italy, near the Austrian border. The second Phobonoid album, released on February 28th, is described as follows:
“La caduta di Phobos, “The Fall Of Phobos”, is a sci-fi concept album about the futility of human quest for answers here represented through a space-time travel through planets and asteroids. Starting off from the destruction of the main character’s world in the title-track, each of the following songs is dedicated to one of those celestial bodies, symbolizing a different leg of the protagonist’s quest”.
As a science fiction addict, that description created great intrigue on my part before hearing a single note. The music proved to be well worth the initial eagerness I felt, though I’m afraid I don’t have the time I would like for a review that would suit the album’s many impressive accomplishments.
The album includes tracks that are dramatic and panoramic in their sweep, with symphonic overlays that enhance the feeling that we’ve been drawn into a worlds-spanning saga. Phobonoid also creates many moments of crushing gloom (the music is actually almost always crushing in its heaviness) and desolating bereavement — Phobonoid‘s music blends elements of doom, black metal, and death metal, with the proportions of the ingredients changing, but with doom usually heaviest in the mix across this album. And Phobonoid is also adept at getting your blood racing in surges of apocalyptic destructiveness. Throughout, the growled vocals are ugly as sin.
The album does have the quality of a journey, and one that’s well worth taking.
LODGE OF THE EMPTY BED
Now we’re finally at the end of this two-part post, and I hope you’ve found some things that have appealed to you along the way.
I first discovered Lodge of the Empty Bed last July through the band’s debut demo Pacta Sunt Servanda, which was released by Glossolalia Records (based in Eugene, Oregon) and reviewed here. The founders of the band consist of guitarist A False Memory and drummer/vocalist Pillar and Light, who also seem to have been involved in Grst and Maestus. For their new demo, those two were joined by guitarist Fatigue and bassist/vocalist Ohlde.
That new demo, Frothing To Betray Limbs, is a single track, nearly 17 minutes long, which was recorded live. Not surprisingly, it’s not 17 minutes of the same thing, and it makes for a hell of an engrossing trip.
The tolling of a bell, a slow syncopated percussive beat, and a backing miasma of ambient sound provide an introduction that might almost lull you into a reverie were it not for something disturbing about those bubbling, skittering, static-y sounds. Eventually, we hear a priest reciting the names of saints, repeated by children… and then comes the metal… in a burst of bounding, bouncing, hammering rhythms and a savage, head-moving riff.
Things get a lot more savage. When the vocals arrive — in horrifying, belly-deep growls and skin-shivering roars and screams — the music grows orders of magnitude more dismal. It stinks of fouled spirits and suppurating flesh. The band also pick their moments to create moods of seething sadism and feverish delirium, of galloping barbarism and cold cruelty. They also reveal glimpses of bleak grandeur and, near the end, the dank oppressiveness of a catacombs.
Frothing To Betray Limbs was released on February 26th in an extremely limited cassette tape edition by Glossolalia Records, and it’s also available as a digital download.