We’ve now entered the second full month of a government-ordered shutdown here in Washington State, with only minimal re-openings permitted before June, and maybe not even then. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country communities are being encouraged to become human petri dishes by venturing out to movie theaters, gyms, restaurants, beaches, etc. Good luck to them. I’ll be interested to see what grows within their cells, or doesn’t.
Meanwhile I’ll try to suppress my own depression and anxiety over the prospect of another month within these walls, and continue to sift through the great mass of new metal in an effort to make my life, and perhaps yours, a little more harrowing and wretched. To that end, below you will find six individual tracks and one album to stream. I also have a collection of other complete releases I would like to recommend. Maybe tomorrow….
I arranged these offerings in alphabetical order by band name, and so we begin with a song by a relatively new band named Ascendency. “A Birth In Fire” is its name, and well-named it is. The energy in the music is open-throttle tumult, thanks to a powerfully head-moving bass and jet-fueled drumming. The band shift the rhythmic gears in ways that bust skulls with mighty grooves, but the riffing is almost always wildly exultant and white hot, and the vocals are insane.
There are some slithery bits of desolate melody in the track and flickerings of crazed leads even when the song is moving at full speed, but near the end the band reveal a different dimension of sound, slowing the pace to create an eerie atmosphere and then ending the song in a way that’s dismal, diseased, and devastated in its mood.
From the debut EP Birth of an Eternal Empire (four tracks and 16 minutes), which will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions on July 17th. The EP “chronicles the rise to power of a despotic tyrant and will be the first of a trilogy of short releases, with a continuous conceptual narrative, about the thirst for power and hegemony and the ultimate betrayal of ego and arrogance”.
When I first outlined what I would do with this post I had limited myself to individual singles or advance tracks. And then my friend Miloš sent me a link to a just-released album by Biesy (a Polish word for “fiends”), and the mere news of that set off fireworks inside my head, based on memories of the band’s debut album Noc Lekkich Obyczajów (for which we premiered a song and video). The music on this new album, Transsatanizm, had the same effect.
I’ve just finished making my way through the album for the first time as I write this, and have barely collected my thoughts. The opening track, “IHS“, dropped my jaw and popped my eyes wide open as it moved from the heavy, piston-driven electronic groove and weird psychedelic riffing of the opening into a mid-paced stomp anchored by a sludge-heavy bass-line and enriched by a layering of weird and wondrous chiming guitars. The extravagant vocals variations in the song are just as eye-popping as the instrumentation.
It’s a deeply sinister and bone-smashing track, but equally mesmerizing as well, and quite varied in its stylistic ingredients, including the ethereal keyboard solo that rears its fantastical head near the end, and the organ chords and shivering arpeggios that then emerge to build an atmosphere of gothic horror into this dynamic song.
The rest of the album is just as fantastic (and fantastical) as that opening song. It’s an adventurous musical kaleidoscope that refuses to be frozen into any single pattern or confined to any one genre pigeon-hole, a wild and ingenious carnival of sound that’s alternately frightening, vicious, hallucinatory, bone-breaking, chaotic, and intoxicating. I hope to hell word of it will spread far and wide….
On Friday, to coincide with Bandcamp’s waiver of its fee for purchases, a lot of bands released new singles. Virginia’s Helgamite was one of those, providing a preview track from a forthcoming album. The name of the new track is “Against The Laws Of Nature“.
“Dark psychedelic Appalachian stoner doom” is the musical description for Helgamite that you’ll find on their Bandcamp page. When I reviewed their 2016 debut album, Hypnagogia, I thought that was fair enough, but not nearly adequate to capture all of the music’s phenomenal permutations. In closing I wrote: “As much as I love Hypnagogia, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. But it mixes lumbering stomps, dizzying acrobatics, and bouts of hallucinatory derangement with amazing flair. It strides the earth like a titan, but its head really is way up in the stars”.
The new song is also not what you would probably expect from Helgamite‘s description of their sound. Though it is indeed dark and psychedelic, it’s explosively energetic and head-twisting in its permutations. It continues to show off the top-shelf instrumental talents of this band, with every aspect of the performances leaping out and transfixing the mind simultaneously. Thanks to an amazing drum performance and the concrete-excavating power of the bass, the song is capable of giving you whiplash-neck syndrome, while at the same time the mercurial guitars spin up and around in displays of spine-tingling, unearthly menace and magnificence, and the blackened shrieking of the vocals raises goosebumps on the flesh. Fantastic!
In February this year our valued supporter Speelie wrote a guest edition of this column (here) that included a shout-out to the Quebec black metal band Kenaz and their new album Nord hostile. Just a few days ago Speelie wrote me again about Kenaz:
“Two days ago, April 27, was the sad 1-year anniversary of the death of Russian Black Metaler Kaldrad, from Branikald, Forest, and other projects. Kenaz must have been a big fan, as they recorded a song in his honor, and released it on the anniversary…. It’s a pleasantly rough song, that hopefully has Kaldrad smiling, somewhere….”
The title of this new song, “Par la Flamme dans nos veines (forest)”, is what I assume is the French rendering of a Forest track (most of Forest‘s titles were in Russian). It is indeed rough in its sound, with a lo-fi abrasion in the riffing and the vocals rendered in tones that are frighteningly demonic. The drumming is off-the-hook, the gravel-chewing bass is relentlessly vibrant, and the frenzied riffs are intensely charismatic despite their murky and corrosive sound. There’s a feeling of broken-chain ecstasy and savage abandon in the riffs, intertwined with a mood of despair. It’s easy to get caught up in this, all the way through to the pitch-black hopelessness of the final minute.
This next song, “Putrid Harvester“, is a goddamn juggernaut, a black/death marauder that pummels, plunders, and scythes with barbaric intensity, fronted by a tandem of monstrous roars and ghastly shrieks. But the band also have a good feel for dynamics, and a talent for infiltrating the pure physical destructiveness (and neck ruination) of the rhythms with shivering, shimmering melodies that have a spellbinding effect.
To be sure, these are very dark and dismal spells, which create sensations not only of unearthly, blood-freezing eminence but also of plague-borne misery. It is as if we are witnessing the cruel acts of an implacable tyranny and also the wailing of spirits stripped from their now lifeless hosts and the mourning of shattered survivors.
The song is from Death Nova Upon The Barren Harvest, the debut EP by this German strike-force. It will be released by Blood Harvest on July 17th. (And thanks again to Miloš for this one.)
Fedor Kovalevsky, the creative force behind the Tunisian band Omination, whose music we’ve praised in the past, wrote this about the new 26 1/2 minute single released by Omination on May 1st: “Since February I have got inspired by the global Covid-19 crisis, as the pale horseman has given us a visit, I have had to express this vision. Keep your beloved ones safe and be ready to say goodbye to many others.”
Within a song of such extravagant length, particularly if you’re familiar with Omination, you might expect a varied experience, and you would be right. It conveys feelings of awe-inspiring grandeur, celestial mystery, chaotic frenzy, apocalyptic ruination, and the soul-shattering despair that might come from confronting a world-ending plague that cannot be stopped. The music is often stupendously heavy and overwhelming in its power, but is also elaborately textured, with a collage of differing musical accents, including swells of orchestral magnificence, the slow ripple of forlorn piano or Mellotron-like keys, the wailing tones of spectres and sirens, and the pulse of darting strings.
The vocals are also quite varied, ranging from deep-voiced, spoken-word incantations to terrifying abyssal growls, gargantuan roars, completely insane screams, and a soaring, angelic female voice (thanks to guest performer Camilia Daoulette).
In short, this is absolutely stunning — a ravishing nightmare symphony for the end times.
(Huge thanks go to Rennie (starkweather) for alerting me to this new Omination ruination.)
And finally, here is “Mantra“, a new advance track from the debut album of Tithe from Portland, Oregon. At first it proceeds at the solemn pace of a plague wagon groaning under the strain of corpses piled high, and sounds just as pestilential and putrefying. But the song changes, again and again, erupting in bursts of blasting and writhing mayhem and slowing into imperious, dissonance-laced marches. The vocals also change, to suit the song’s overarching aura of mind-mutilating misery and madness — they are always intense, but morph from larynx-lacerating shrieking to a kind of ecclesiastical, near-clean chanting.
Tithe‘s album is entitled Penance, and it will be released by Tartarus Records on May 15th. If you jump over to the Bandcamp page for the album you can also check out the title track.