Surprise! After a busy June in which I was only able to complete four of these round-ups over the entire month, I’ve now finished two, back to back, in just the first two days of July. One must make hay while the sun shines, although in my case I treat that proverb as less of a command than a suggestion, and one that I don’t follow much more often than “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow”.
As in the case of yesterday’s post, I’ve culled these selections to provide variety, in the hope of appealing to a range of tastes, and mixing at least one widely known name with others that should be better known and still others that are brand new.
“Milano” is the name of the second advance track from this powerhouse instrumental trio’s new album Blood Year, which will be released on August 2nd by Sargent House. As compared to previous releases, the album is billed as “Russian Circles at their most brutalising”, “fully embrac[ing] the most forceful aspects of the band’s repertoire”, in which “blissful respites and ebbs of calm are fewer and farther between”.
“Milano” is indeed crushingly heavy. Russian Circle‘s drum-and-bass tandem deliver a spine-shaking, gut-punching performance, and the riffs have a bleak, abrasive, brain-raking quality. Gleaming melodic accents surface as the music mounts in intensity, but not enough to dispel the oppressive gloom and tension — though that night-dark atmosphere is paired with explosive (and compulsively head-moving) power.
“Milano” was preceded by a track named “Arluck” in the run-up to Blood Year‘s release, and you’ll find that one below as well.
This one-man, London-based, black metal band made a striking first impression through the band’s 2016 debut EP Humans (which I reviewed here), and an even more stunning impression with the 2017 debut album Faces Turn Away. To quote my own review (because if I don’t, who will?):
“The music isn’t too beholden to tradition, but doesn’t completely forget it either. It’s boiling hot, scalding enough to bleed your ears, but just as often it’s as desolate and drifting as cigarette smoke in a lonely desert bar out in the middle of nowhere, with brilliant stars and moonlight overhead, mocking the wasted lives below. It strikes that perilous balance with a sure hand, the fire and the smoldering embers connected at a deep and organic level….
“[E]very song connects at a primal level, plumbing the depths of human affliction and resilience. Dramatic variations from song to song add to the overall strength of the album as a transportive experience, all the way down to the mystical ambient drift of the closing track, ‘Pulse'”.
My reference to lonely desert bars might have jarred a bit, since Kassad‘s creativity is impelled by “the misery, futility, and madness of modern urban life”. That connection is unmistakable in the video for the latest Kassad song, “The Boundary“, which recently premiered at Invisible Oranges (with a very perceptive and eloquent introduction).
I had become familiar with the song already, thanks to its appearance on a Hypnotic Dirge compilation released in April, and it has lost none of its power since then, although this beautifully made video seems to draw even more emotional power from the music while at the same time making its bleak urban connections all the more apparent. The video matches gorgeous natural settings in a stately flow with the song’s moody yet mesmerizing passages, and then shifts to accelerated black-and-white frames in its depiction of dense, frenzied urban panoramas when the music’s intensity (and sense of despair) swells.
“The Boundary” will appear on a new album by Kassad, which conceptually looks into a near-future “where the city itself is a personified, malevolent being where human empathy and culture have been replaced by artificial intelligence”.
(Thanks go to starkweather for a notice about the video on the band’s FB page, since I had managed to overlook a press release sent our way.)
My NCS colleague and friend Andy Synn works his tail off promoting his death metal band Beyond Grace (when he’s not working his tail off to keep NCS going strong), but he didn’t ask me to write anything about the band’s new single “Barmecide Feast”, which debuted today at Pure Grain Audio. He didn’t even give me an advance listen to the track or any other type of preview about it. I assume he did not want to be seen as trading on his position in our foul cadre.
Obviously, Andy‘s well-mannered reticence hasn’t prevented me from writing about “Barmecide Feast“, and I do so not out of friendship or any sense of obligation but instead because it’s such a fucking good song.
Matt Moss from Slugdge provides guest gutturals on the track, and between those and Andy‘s ferocious growls and savage howls, the vocals create a palpable sense of rage — a visceral mood that’s matched by the plundering destructiveness of the music. The song is also a dynamic one, richly embroidered with electrifying fretwork that’s both bleak and berserk (and a scintillating solo), and fueled by rapidly changing drum and bass rhythms and tempos that amplify the music’s adrenaline-triggering impact.
As disclosed by Andy‘s comments in the Pure Grain Audio write-up, the theme of the song concerns “the growing divide between rich and poor, and the ways in which we’re all conditioned to play along with this as if it were normal”, and in keeping with that theme Beyond Grace is donating all proceeds from sales of the single to The Trussell Trust, who work to end hunger and food poverty in the UK.
The single will appear on Beyond Grace‘s forthcoming second album, Our Kingdom Undone, which was produced by Charles Elliott (Abysmal Dawn).
Now I’ll turn to a brand new band, Phantom Hymn, which is a one-person project based in Portland, Oregon. On June 19th Phantom Hymn released a debut EP named A Story of Days to Come, and both tracks on that release got their claws in my head damned fast.
In genre terms, as I hear the music, it’s a fascinating hybrid of black metal, crust punk, doom, and what I’ll call (for want of a better term) classic heavy metal. For most of its length, “Crucifixion Awaits” is a full-throttle riot, driving hard and fast, with scorching vocal hostility, but what really sets the song apart are the guitar heroics. There are glorious melodies (and a spectacular screaming solo) in the song — and gloomy moods too, which surface in the song’s less-rampant mid-section.
The grumbling, gravel-throated bass that opens the second track, “The Other Side of Paradise“, immediately creates a dark and hopeless feeling, and that sense of beleaguerment remains even when the song fully unfolds. It’s a heavy, lumbering, doom-cloaked beast, but the strength of the song-writing revealed in the first track is evident here as well. As despondent as the melodies are, they’re still very memorable. They become hauntingly soulful in an interlude that’s undergirded by a rapid, syncopated drum pattern — and even yearning and hopeful at the end.
This new release is currently available as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp. I’m told that an LP will be coming soon.
To conclude today’s round-up I’ve chosen a song by the Finnish group Goatburner, whose members consist of Keijo Niinimaa (Rotten Sound, Morbid Evils, Age of Woe) and Jaakko Forsman (Ratface, Skulmagot). They released a digital EP in August of last year entitled Time To Burn, which I overlooked, but have now signed with Time To Kill Records for the September 27 release of a debut album entitled Extreme Conditions.
In connection with the announcement the label launched the stream of an album version of “Time To Kill“. After a few moments of cataclysmic pounding the song takes off in a battering, abrasive gallop, creating a dense shroud of bruising, slashing riffs, propelled by drumwork that’s both neck-wrecking and skull-smashing. The vocals are persistently scalding in their unhinged viciousness, but the backing music changes as it goes, introducing some memorable (and grim) melodic accents.
I’m not sure what genre label to tack on this. The Bandcamp page for the album ticks off death metal, powerviolence, and sludge. Whatever label one might concoct, it’s a hell of a good song.