I did listen to these songs on a Saturday, but it wasn’t this Saturday. It was a week ago while I was in Houston, but for reasons I explained last weekend I didn’t have either the time or a clear enough head to write anything. And then, as forecast, my day job prevented me from doing anything more than write premieres last week.
So here we are, 10 days since the last round-up of new music I posted. Do I try to catch up with all the new stuff that’s come out over the last week, or just go with what I would have done last weekend if I’d had the time? I decided on the latter plan, because it will probably take me the rest of the day just to figure out what I missed. Maybe some of what’s below will be new to you anyway.
There are some old favorites among the bands I chose for this round-up, beginning with the veteran Kansas City collective, Ares Kingdom — Chuck Keller (guitar), Mike Miller (drums), and Alex Blume (bass, vocals). Their fourth album, By the Light of Their Destruction, will be released on May 15th (CD and vinyl) by Nuclear War Now! Productions, and the song below is a track named “Eighteen Degrees Beneath“.
According to Keller, the catalyst for the new collection of songs was his discovery of some unused song ideas created for Vulpecula, a “celestial black metal project” that Keller worked on many years ago after the dissolution of his first band, Order From Chaos. Lyrically, there are also differences from previous releases, with the band’s martial themes augmented this time (according to press materials) “by stories of ancient gods, their myths and symbols, and their sublime manifestations in the world of men”.
Driven by Miller‘s vibrant, constantly changing drumwork and Blume‘s bass hammer, the song is a rushing rampage of fierce, cruel riffs and shrieking leads, the overall delirious feeling of the music pushed toward further heights of insanity by Blume‘s cornucopia of layered vocal extremity. It’s a strikingly dynamic and persistently electrifying track, but you’ll get plenty of chances to wreck your neck along the way.
NUCLEAR WAR NOW:
Like Ares Kingdom, the Chilean band Sol Sistere are another old favorite, though a more recent discovery than the men from Kansas City. Sol Sistere‘s first album, Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum, same out in 2016 (following a debut EP from 2014), and their second full-length, Extinguished Cold Light, is now set for release on May 24th (CD/LP/MC/Digital) by Hammerheart Records, who recommends it for fans of Drudkh, Altar of Plagues, Dawn, and Wodensthrone.
“Insignificance Upon Us” is the first song to be revealed from the album, accompanied by a video. There are dramatic vistas of natural majesty in the video, and the scintillating melodies in the song also channel a feeling of grandeur, albeit one that’s pulled downward by melancholy and lined with pain, thanks to the wrenching, tortured fury of the vocals and the electrifying passion that surges through the riffing.
It’s one of those songs that can make you feel like you’ve been swept aloft, carried away above the earth, though in its softer and more ethereal moments it’s equally capable of drawing your thoughts inward in gloomy introspection. There’s a figure in the video, isolated and insignificant in the midst of natural wonder, perhaps beseeching a higher power, but ultimately lost beneath vast indifferent waters. It seems a fitting accompaniment to this beautiful yet desolating music.
P.S. Although the official release date for the album is still a few weeks away, you can stream all of it via Bandcamp now, and I’ve included that stream below.
This is the third band in a row whose previous releases I’ve showered with praise at NCS. This one, the Italian band Barbarian, have a new album (their fourth) scheduled for release on June 7th (CD, vinyl, cassette tape) by Hells Headbangers, with cover art by Acid Witch’s Shagrat. Its title is To No God Shall I Kneel.
The press materials for the album describe it in these words: “To No God Shall I Kneel takes that characteristically sweat-drenched symbiosis of early Running Wild and ’80s Manowar, grinds it through the gravel of classic Celtic Frost, and finishes it off with the panache of likewise-classic Venom“. The first track released for streaming, “Birth and Death of Rish’ah“, seems to merit such references.
The music is a great mix of savagery, glory, and gloom, a kind of blackened old-school heavy metal that’s the stuff of swords and sorcery. It’s red meat for a headbanger, and it soars as much as it romps, while also creating a mythic, fantastical atmosphere. Makes me want to close my eyes, throw my head back, and hoist invisible oranges to the sky.
THE MONOLITH DEATHCULT
As forecast, here’s one more old favorite, The Dutch “Supreme Avant Garde Death Metal band” The Monolith Deathcult. Their latest album, V2 – Vergelding: Dawn of the Planet of the Ashes, has been out since November of last year, though I only got around to reviewing it (at length) last month. I will refer you there for details about lyrical themes and impressions of the album as a whole, because here we’re dealing only with a new lyric video that surfaced very soon after I posted the review.
The video, created by TMDC member Carsten Altena, is for the track “Come Forth Lazarus“, which I described as “ominous and miserable, infiltrated by shrieking, febrile filaments of alien melody and laced with especially gruesome and imperious gutturals and with fusillades of snare-drum mania”, while also being “still heavy and jolting enough to fracture vertebrae”. I also took note of the “waves of dolorous symphonic strings” that cascade through the song’s latter half in a display of grief-stricken majesty — though when you see the words, you’ll realize it is not grief that’s being channeled in that grand finale.
Thematically, the album is about vengeance, and in this particular song you’ll see that it’s about the retribution of an angry god, using the power that allegedly brought new life to Lazarus in a way that drives reanimated corpses to assault the living who have turned away from Him. The video is a perfect companion to the music.
Now I’m turning from old favorites to a new discovery, though it’s a band with some familiar names in the line-up. Nekroí Theoí are a Floridian death metal band founded by JJ Polachek (Monotheist, 7 Horns 7 Eyes), Mark Gonzalez, and Dustin Rogers from the ashes of Ovids Withering, rounded out by guitarist Luke Phillips and bassist Matthew Marino. Before listening to their music, I read PR verbiage which referred to a combination of “guttural brutality, oppressive atmospheres, and crushing doom low-end” fusing influences from Defeated Sanity, Deathspell Omega, and Neurosis with Flordian death metal. Their debut album, Dead Gods, will be released on May 31st by Prosthetic Records.
There’s a video out in the world for the album’s first advance track, “Blue Shirt//White Hood“, one that depicts the band’s performance in shadowy and seizure-inducing frames. The song is unabashedly brutish and violent, with more bass drops than you can count, coupled with thundering drum artillery, gruesome gurgling gutturals, and freakish shrieking and moaning riffs. The music batters, jabs and jitters in a frenzy, and pounds with no mercy and no remorse. As displays of bloodthirsty lunacy go, it’s also tremendously electrifying.
To conclude this collection, I’m making what will probably strike you as a significant departure from everything that precedes it, and the music isn’t as extreme or as ear-gouging as what usually attracts my attention. But I was captivated by this song the first time I heard it a week ago, and still experience a strong emotional response listening to it again now.
The song, “Lost Forever“, is presented through a music video that deepens that emotional connection. The video warns us immediately that it deals with depression, and the hard journey through it, in a way that might disturb some viewers. The album as a whole, In Time For The Last Rays Of Light (the third full-length by this French band, featuring a new line-up), is described as “a chronicle of the ravages of coping with loss and mental illness”.
I don’t mean to suggest by my opening paragraph above that the song isn’t heavy, because the sound of the rhythm section is in fact heavy enough to shake your bones, and it’s heavy in another way: The slow, woozy and wailing guitar melodies are laden with grief, and the singing (a worthy exception to our “rule”) are tremendously evocative of the song’s themes. There are signs of hope in the music — rays of yearning brightness shine through the gloom and pain — but the feeling seems fleeting.
The video (directed by Michael Leclere) is heartbreaking, but ambiguous in its resolution (and much the same thing can be said of the music). It’s hard to tell how much of what we see is being imagined, and how much actually comes to pass. It’s one more example in today’s collection of imagery that goes hand-in-hand with the music in a way that creates an experience larger than the sum of its parts.
In Time for the Last Rays of Light will be released on May 24th by Deadlight Entertainment and Small Stone Records.