I’m scurrying this morning, so I’ll dispense with introductory comments and get right to the music I’ve chosen for this round-up — but did you see Mitchell Nolte‘s fantabulous artwork on the cover of Aborted’s new three-track EP? Of course you did — how could you miss it? The EP is called La Grande Mascarade [sic], with a release date of April 17th.
I’ve previously spilled some demented words here about the truly demented first song and video (“God Knows Why“) presented in advance of the release of Medico Peste‘s new album, ב :The Black Bile. Now I can’t resist crowing again about this Polish black metal band because another song from the album has escaped out into the world.
At times, “All Too Human” sounds Anything But Human, but man, it rocks so hard! The clanging chords have a grim aspect, and the vocals are cruel and murderous, but the flickering leads, in addition to becoming quite addictive, seem like the fever-dreams of demented minds (the vocals get unhinged too). When the rocking stops, the music drifts away from earthly confines into eerie astral planes where ghostly voices wail and angelic voices soar. That interlude is hypnotic but also a bit unnerving. The song further includes a riveting finale that’s majestic and strange.
Altogether, it’s a tremendously good track, and a fine complement to the first single.
ב :The Black Bile will be released by Season of Mist Underground Activists on March 20.
NECK OF THE WOODS
My friend Andy, who has an increasingly bad habit of pointing out when I forget things, reviewed this Vancouver BC band’s genre-bending debut album, 2017’s The Passenger, praising its “riveting blend of big riffs, big grooves, and equally big hooks which should readily appeal to fans of similarly Prog/Death-inspired acts like Iron Thrones (RIP) and Black Crown Initiate.” Now they’ve got a new album on the horizon, which blasted its way into my consciousness because of the wonderful cover art created by Vancouver tattoo artist Arlin Ffrench. Entitled The Annex of Ire, it will be released on March 20th by Pelagic Records, and based on the recently revealed title track I’m damned stoked for it.
The video through which the song was presented is itself worthy of commentary. It’s a beautifully filmed, mysterious narrative set in the wilderness that involves a survivalist and a stalker (both of whom seem to be receiving directions from radio devices), enigmatic hand-scrawled power-line directions, and a visit from an alien being. There is violence and death, terror and madness, and time doesn’t seem to be moving in a straight line, nor does death seem permanent.
As for the song, vocalist Jeff Radomsky‘s performance is a jaw-dropper — he sounds like a cross between a bear and a panther that has become an enraged Old Testament prophet. And the music behind him is a wonderfully multi-faceted concoction that delivers grim, feral riffing, rambunctious pulsating fretwork, swirling leads, jolting grooves, and persistently riveting performances by the rhythm section.
The song also subsides into acoustic strumming and a soulful bass solo. That interlude is completely enthralling, and then the bass becomes increasingly animated, leading the song back into an high-energy closing passage, which features an electrifying guitar solo.
NECK OF THE WOODS:
Monte Verità is the debut album of the French black metal band Cénotaphe, whom you may remember from last year’s Empyrée EP (which we premiered and reviewed here). The music will of course speak for itself, but I want to quote at length from the press release we received because I found it so interesting, and because it makes clear that Cénotaphe aren’t a conventional black metal band (which you would already know if you rad what we had to say about Empyrée):
“Though loosely inspired by a specific mountain in Ascona, Switzerland that, beginning in the early 19th century, attracted a stream of outcasts, artists, and intellectuals in search of solitude and respite from the chaotic world below, the concept behind this album is more allegorical and metaphysical. The lyrics, written in French and delivered in anguished bellows by vocalist Khaosgott, are contemplative and poetic, rich in imagery and allusion.
“Progressing in stages, each track on the album recounts an individual’s journey, spurred by necessity and guided by instinct, toward detached seclusion from the world of men—observing from a vantage point high above, where the lives of others condense into an indistinct hum vibrating in the valley below. The epiphany may be short-lived, for even after reaching the summit, the lure of society—its traps and its vices, the vulgar pursuits and banal routines of existence—are a constant source of temptation, drawing the individual away from that elusive, enlightened truth.”
I’ve had a glimpse at some of the lyrics, and the characterization of them as “contemplative and poetic, rich in imagery and allusion” seems right. They are definitely absorbing. And so is the first song made public from the album.
“Aux cieux antérieurs” is the album’s second track, and so comes relatively early in the journey described through the record. It’s an immediately electrifying experience, all rampant drumming and grand swirling and soaring chords, matched with truly scorching vocal extremity. The music is wild and ecstatic, but with a sweeping, larger-than-life impact, as if transmitting glorious visions that transcend the mundane.
In the song’s mid-section, when the drums briefly disappear, reverent choral voices and a distant haze of riffing amplify the feeling of an unearthly experience, but what follows is a super-charged extravaganza that sends the music to new heights of unchained and savage ebullience.
Monte Verità will be released on March 10th by Nuclear War Now! Productions.
This next song and video I’ve chosen is a rarity in these round-ups. I’m usually focused on brand new tracks from forthcoming albums, but “By the River” comes from an album released in March of last year. That album, Chapter One, was the debut full-length of Grafstroem, the solo project of Norwegian musician Marco Storm, who was a member of the much-missed Benea Reach (and other groups). I learned of the song and video when recently receiving the news that Grafstroem is at work on a new release.
The video is very cool. It multiplies Marco Storm into a full band and includes a changing panorama of other eye-catching visual effects unfolding behind all the dark figures.
The music, which could be considered an amalgam of post-metal and sludge, is also very cool. At its center is a kind of skirling melodic riff that becomes increasingly penetrating and transfixing, and it’s undergirded by humongous bass lines and skull-cracking drumwork. The melody evolves, but in all its permutations it never loses its sorcerous allure, and the heavyweight rhythms never lose their ability to bend the listener’s neck — except when the music shifts gears into a dreamlike, prog-minded guitar interlude, which is entrancing.
The music often has a dark cast and Marco Storm‘s vocals are incinerating, but there’s also something grand and glorious — indeed elevating — about it.
Chapter One is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, and other streaming services (though not Bandcamp, unfortunately).
I don’t often make time to check out the lyrics of extreme metal bands, usually because I’m too busy, and also because the vocals in extreme metal are usually just another instrument for conveying percussive and emotional sensations rather than any intellectual content that intelligible words might supply. Also, I learned long ago that most extreme metal lyrics (though certainly not all) range from “not very good” to “godawful”.
But for some reason (and honestly, I can’t remember why) I decided to read the lyrics accompanying the tracks on this French atmospheric black metal band’s debut release, Ahi Cab (which means “At the beginning of the world”). And then I read some additional texts provided by the band which explain their concept.
Idolos claim to be blue-blooded beings from Venus who were present at the origin of all earthly civilizations and have now returned. The tales on Ahi Cab are drawn from the Popol Vuh, a text recounting the mythology and history of the Kiche people, including the Mayan creation myth, the exploits of the ball-playing hero twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué (who venture into the Mayan underworld Xibalba to avenge the deaths of their father and uncle at the hands of Xibalba’s lords), and the chronicle of the Kiche people. I won’t attempt to summarize the lyrics any further, only to say that together they create a very entertaining narrative over the course of the record (and might have a few important messages of warning to communicate as well).
I suppose I should say something about the music of Idolos too. Following the mystical ringing tones and echoing spoken recitals in “Prolog”, the band discharge a bracing and often mesmerizing attack of hammering drums and swirling riff storms, of gruff, bestial growls and wild howls, of dark reverberating chords and dramatic gleaming arpeggios — and the soulful and beautifully fluid guitar soloing in “The Deeds above” draws upon traditions not often found in black metal (which is true of the music as a whole).
The multi-textured and wonderfully dynamic music creates sensations of grim grandeur, heart-stricken melancholy, and depressive despair, as well as beguiling the listener with beautiful, ethereal interludes and occasionally setting the nerves on fire through episodes of hurtling tumult. The drumming and vibrant bass lines are riveting, although their cadence is usually measured rather than maniacal.
“The Summoners” is my own favorite, but all three of the main tracks are quite compelling, and the trip through the EP as a whole is an immersive experience that I highly recommend. It leaves me quite eager to discover what these Venusians do next.
Ahi Cab was released on January 28th (CD and digital) by Anthrazit Records. A digipack edition with new artwork and an additional bonus track is expected from Wolfmond Productions in April. Idolos further hope to find a label who will release the EP on vinyl. They are working on two more EPs that, along with this one, will create a Mayan trilogy.