Here’s the second part of this week’s column, which I began here yesterday. As usual, I’ve been unable to write about everything I wanted to write about and have had to be (relatively) brief, but that’s because I have a couple of album reviews to finish writing — they will accompany premiere streams today, both of which will be worth your time.
All of the music you’ll find below was created by one-person bands — one from the UK, one from Germany, and two from Portland, Oregon. In these days of the virus, when most people follow the edicts of social distancing, we may come to increasingly rely on such one-person projects for new music. Not all of that will be as good as what you’re about to discover.
This is the UK project I mentioned; its creator lives in Norwich. The album, Metaphysics of Mass Murder, was released on March 17th. The band’s thumbnail description of the music on Bandcamp is “Apex Dissonance. Labyrinthine Technical Black Metal”, and that happens to be not only evocative but also accurate — though it doesn’t go quite far enough.
Dissonance does indeed play a dominant role, used here to create atmospheres of mind-warping uneasiness and visceral fear. The mutilating dis-harmonies are unbalancing, generating queasiness and sensations of becoming immersed in nightmarish hallucinations. However, the dissonance comes in different shades, some of it intensely nerve-wracking but at other times channeling deep and all-too-human despondency. And there are also passages, such as within the title track, when dissonance evaporates, replaced by clean guitar melodies — albeit often minor-key ones.
There are also scorching blasts within all the mercurially twisting and turning movements, both inhumanly fast drum fusillades and expulsions of cauterizing shrieks, as well as great thunderous deluges of earthshaking sound. Yet much of the time the guitar work is slow and methodical rather than the kind of blizzard-like flurries you might expect when you see the word “technical” in a musical description. It’s just that those gradual fretwork permutations are macabre, twisted, and mutating in unnatural ways.
When the riffing and the leads do speed up (as in “North Walsham Misanthropia”), it’s refreshing — but that’s a relative term, because the sound is freakish and more than a little deranged. On the other side of the spectrum, things significantly slow down too; the keyboard-driven apssages of “Introverta Doedskvad” create mental images of the vast cosmos expanding before us, though the song includes bursts of percussive mania and the flow of desperate, trilling melody. Elsewhere, Iskalde Morket incorporate passages of blood-freezing grandeur. And the closing track, “Apotheosis” becomes soulfully, and gloriously, beautiful — as well as utterly ravaging.
And so, “labyrinthine” is indeed an accurate description, because there’s a lot going on in this album, and it changes course in unexpected ways despite the dominance of certain elements. Definitely the kind of record that should be experienced from start to finish, and it’s one that won’t wear out its welcome any time soon.
(Thanks to to Rennie from starkweather for turning me on to this record.)
Now we come to the one-person project based in Leipzig, Germany. We’ve written before about ColdWorld. Back in 2013 erstwhile NCS contributor Alain Mower introduced me (and perhaps others) to ColdWorld when he praised the album Melancholie² in a feature devoted to music made for listening in a long, cold winter season. Eight years after the release of Melancholie² ColdWorld finally released another album, this one called Autumn. In his NCS review, Wil Cifer commented on the changes in ColdWorld’s sound as compared to the previous releases, “which have made this more of an atmospheric black metal album than a depressive black metal album”. He wrote that “it is easy to hear this album as the project’s majestic step forward into a more epic sound”.
There have been no new albums since Autumn, but ColdWorld has released a sequence of shorter works, most recently the next song you’ll find below, a digital single called “Vellos Camiños” that came out on March 21st.
The soft acoustic overture of the song, accompanied by bird song, is beautiful, but it doesn’t last long. On the other hand, there is beauty to be found in the trilling and twittering of the layered guitars that follow, though it is a sad kind of beauty, a feeling of intense yearning for things just out of reach or perhaps recently lost. The emotional impact of the melody, occasionally accented by acoustic guitar again, is deep and lasting, while the vocals are scarring, and scarred. Very easy to sink into this, and be carried away by it.
(Thanks to Miloš for alerting me to this single.)
When Rennie wrote me about this next album, he said “One of the best things is the contrast of cover art to what the music is inside.” Man, was he ever right. I was really tempted not to say anything about the music, and just let you get shocked, but I can’t resist expressing my enthusiasm for the album — at least briefly.
You’ll discover immediately that what flowers in this black/death album is explosive firepower and mutilating savagery — an amalgam of merciless, light-speed drum assaults, massive low-end tumult, mind-mauling riff torrents, and a blend of cavernous roars and ghastly howls. The usual feeling is of being teleported into the midst of a cyclone that’s cutting swaths of destruction in a careening path, leaving the survivors in the depths of despair and grief.
In those times when the impact is less cyclonic, less dissonant and deranged, the music moans and groans, channeling crushing agony. But when the Omnikinetic is firing on all cylinders, the sound is incredibly violent and the effect is overpowering, so much so that it feels like the wind is being sucked from your lungs by the vacuum left in its wake and fragments of you have been scattered across miles of wasted landscape. In a word, this is stunning.
The album is named Kinesis, and it was released by this one-man band from Portland on March 17th by Repose Records.
(I owe thanks again to Rennie of starkweather for opening my eyes to this record.)
CRUSTY OLD TOAD
To conclude today’s column I’m turning to another one-man project from Portland, and this is one I’ve written about before, reviewing Crusty Old Toad‘s 2017 debut album, Nefarious Occurrence, as well as a couple of singles released last year, which are supposed to be included on a new album. Whenever I mention this band I feel compelled to repeat the advice I’ve given before — don’t be fooled by this band’s name or by the often juvenile humor that often surfaces in the lyrics, because the music is very good.
The latest output is yet another single, this one named “Scholastic Vivisection“, which surfaced on March 18th. As before, Crusty Old Toad displays a love for lots of heavy metal. Though there are certainly elements of black metal in the mix, including barbarous vocals straddling a line between a growl and a howl as well as tremolo’d guitar, this galloping song includes glorious heavy metal riffing, sparkling solos, and the mood of an epic, exuberant anthem (even if that’s not what you’d get from the lyrics).