SEEN AND HEARD: DARKENED, GRAVEYARD, ZURIAAKE, GEIST, KARST
I had time last night to check out a bunch of new songs that surfaced in recent days, and from that listening excursion I decided to pick the ones below for a Tuesday playlist. Serendipitously, all the bands have one-word names. However, both their locations and musical styles are diverse. You’ll encounter varieties of old school death metal, black metal, metallic hardcore, and death/crust — and I hope you’ll like all of it, because I sure as hell did.
Metal-Archives lists two long-defunct bands named Darkened, one from Sweden and one from the UK. The Darkened whose music I’ve chosen to begin today’s round-up is obviously neither of those, though the line-up of this new band does include members from Sweden and the UK — as well as the U.S. The band may be new, but those members will be known to many of you through their numerous other projects:
From left to right: Linus, Andy, Hempa, Daryl and Gord
Hempa Brynolfsson – Guitars (Excruciate, Ordo Inferus)
Daryl Kahan – Bass (Funebrarum, ex-Disma)
Andy Whale – Drums (Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower)
Linus Nirbrant – Guitars (This Ending, A Canorous Quintet)
Gord Olson – Vocals (Ye Goat-Herd Gods, Demisery)
There’s obviously a lot of talent as well as a lot of experience in that group, and all of that shows in spades on the first song below. It comes from a four-track EP named Into the Blackness that will be released on August 23rd through Edged Circle Productions (with a 10″ vinyl edition coming from Chaos Records).
I have very quickly become addicted to “The Offering” — to its mix of full-throttle galloping and bone-smashing grooves, to its bleak but boiling energy, to the dark and dismal melodies that course through the song, to Gord Olson‘s monstrous growl… and to the magical and magisterial atmosphere that rises up from the music near the end as the vocals change, just before an exotic, spiraling guitar solo that brings out an almost Arabian quality in the melody.
This one goes on my list of candidates for this year’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. And I’m now eager to hear the rest of this record.
EDGED CIRCLE PRODUCTIONS:
The next song I’ve chosen is “Of Extant Cults and Living Terrors“, the third track on Hold Back The Dawn, the forthcoming fourth album by the tremendous Spanish death metal band Graveyard. That album is the third installment in a tetralogy based on H.P. Lovecraft‘s cosmology, which started back in 2013 with The Sea Grave and will be closed with the band’s next record.
On this new song, released for listening yesterday through a lyric video, Graveyard again prove their skill in creating an atmosphere of supernatural dread while also channeling high-voltage ferocity. The eerie, soaring melody that announces the song resonates with both grandeur and grief, but the band then deliver a battering and swarming attack, augmented by deep, full-throated roars. The arcane melodies and flickering solos in the song enhance the atmosphere of Lovecraftian horror, which again assumes majestic form as the pace slows and craggy chords rain down. The soloing in the song’s back half is especially wonderful.
At the end, when vocalist Julkarn proclaims the advent of “a nightmare from the stars”, we can see it in our mind’s eye through the music. He beckons us to “come gather and dance til no dawn comes”, and through this music it’s a seductive invitation.
Hold Back The Dawn was recorded and mixed by Graveyard‘s Javi Félez at his renowned Moontower Studios, and it was mastered by Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound Studio. The album is set for release by War-Anthem Records on September 20. Digital pre-orders available now. Pre-orders for vinyl, CD, and tape editions will begin later this month.
WAR ANTHEM RECORDS:
I first learned of the Chinese black metal band Zuriaake (葬尸湖) — whose name roughly translates as “lake of buried corpses” — through Teddie Taylor‘s marvelous photos of their performance at last year’s Roadburn festival (which we published here), and then learned of their new EP yesterday thanks to a blog post on Asian metal by Seattle writer Gemma Alexander.
That EP, 深庭 | Resentment in the Ancient Courtyard, will be released on August 15th by Pest Productions in CD and tape editions, but it’s streaming and available digitally now. In addition, one of the two songs, “Evil Spirit” (厉鬼), has also been released through a video that makes good use of Guang Yang‘s cover art.
“Evil Spirit” is a creepy and sinister piece of music to be sure, but it’s a serious, heavy-grooved neck-wrecker, too, pairing shrill, wraithlike leads with caveman stomps. When the pace accelerates, it’s as if we’ve been pulled aboard an unstoppable juggernaut train from Hell. The vocals become increasingly berserk, and the riffing increasingly feverish — until a bass solo calms things down, as a lead-in to a slower and more dismal and doom-stricken interlude before a final escapade of evil lunacy, capped by a fret-melting solo. [Zuriaake invite you to learn something more about the song by searching Wikipedia for “Onryō” and “Vengeful ghost”.]
The second track, “Forlorn Tomb“, breaches the 10-minute mark, and thus gives Zuriaake even more room to maneuver. They take full advantage of the added minutes, moving from dragging doom with an oppressive and pestilential atmosphere (with soaring, solemn voices paired to goblin shrieks) to an orgiastic frenzy of terror and pain (matched by horrid roars and spine-tingling screams). As they shift between these movements, Zuriaake deepen the atmosphere of dread, hopelessness, and the presence of implacable evil. Yet paradoxically, the music also becomes mesmerizing, thanks to the beguiling quality of the melancholy and then anguished guitar melodies that take over in the final minutes.
I’ve written about Geist (from the northeast of England) on two previous occasions. The first was when we premiered their split with Sunlight’s Bane in 2016. On that occasion I wrote:
“Of the two Geist songs on this split, ‘Gold Sores’ comes first and punches damned hard, a crust-punk beating inflicted with riffs as thick as redwood trunks and blazing drumwork. The song eventually hits a massive groove you can feel in your intestines and then slows into a dismal, ominous lurch laced with poisonous guitar arpeggios. All the while, the vocalist screams as if he’s ripping his own guts out with butcher knives.
“The second track, ‘Location Data’, is equally dark and no less obliterating. If anything, the song is even more maniacally violent, though it too packs a massive, heavy-grooved punch. Both songs are ferocious enough to leave you gasping”.
The second occasion came a year later when we premiered a video for “Dear World”, a track off their 2017 EP Disrepair. Let’s just say they hadn’t backed down from the teeth-loosening, gut-punching vehemence they displayed in that previous split.
Last year they released another split (Everything Went Black), and now they’re approaching the release of an album called Swarming Season through Cursed Monk Records on September 20. The first track revealed from the album, “Sleep Deprived“, is, as expected, ferocious. The massive riffs,rock-crushing bass lines, and obliterating drumwork are punishing, but also electrifying, while the vocals are completely unhinged. When the pace slows, the song becomes a bleak, black-eyed, bruiser that gives no hint of hope for a better tomorrow.
The cover art for Swarming Season is wonderful, and credit for it goes to André Trindade.
To close this collection I’ve picked a new single by Karst, an “encrusted grinding death” band from San Pedro, California. This single, a nine-minute song named “The Sword and the Martyr“, follows the band’s 2018 debut EP, Blindness Sees No Misery (which I haven’t yet heard but soon will).
The song builds gradually, and proves to be an ever-changing affair. Its opening has a mystical and mysterious quality, thanks to ethereal guitar reverberations, and then becomes progressively heavier when the lead-weighted bass and bone-cracking drumwork come in. That eerie melody returns, but is quickly followed by the kind of pile-driving power that will take a few inches off your height, accompanied by inhuman, hollow-hearted bellows that are just as barbaric.
The band shift gears frequently, mixing in chugging riffs and melodically miserable leads, pummeling drum flurries and freakish fretwork, viciously drilling riffage and feverish, wailing leads, dirge-like bass reverberations and crushing, doom-laden crawls. The song becomes downright oppressive… and then spirits us away to ghostland at the end.
ZURIAAKE…. next level stuff.