Well, it’s already late in the day, so I’ll dispense with introductory blather and just get right to it.
“Potencée d’Or” first appeared on this French band’s debut demo T.R.I.A.D.E back in 2008. Along with three other tracks from that demo, it has been “re-imagined” and re-recorded for the band’s new album (and their last one) Initiatio. The album also includes a revised version of “Monumentum” from the Archivum MMV-MMX demo dating to 2010, plus four new compositions, including two ambient numbers recorded live with the help of Frater Stéphane (N.K.R.T., Rosa Crux).
The song is composed of different elements of sound, each its own emotional resonance, that phase together. The lilting guitar instrumental that briefly opens the track has a mesmerizing, medieval air. By contrast, the fuzzed-out chugging riff and the thumping, head-cracking rhythm produces a primal, carnal response, while the deep croaking vocals strike fear in the heart. When the wailing and eerily shimmering tones of the song emerge, along with distant shrieking, they seem to open the door to a glimmering spirit world. The guitar solo is also otherworldly, but also glorious.
Altogether, these different sensations — both visceral and vicious, frightening and fantastical — create a diabolical atmosphere that’s fascinating.
Initiatio was produced by Brungard of Herxheim (who also have a new album coming out), who also contributed lead guitars, keyboards, and backing vocals, and it was mastered on analog gear. It will be released on July 17th by I, Voidhanger Records, and features cover art by Luciana Nedelea.
If I’ve done it correctly, I’ve also left a YouTube stream of T.R.I.A.D.E that’s set to begin playing the original version of “Potencée d’Or”, so you can compare.
Some Kind of Vampire is a new EP released on May 1 by the one-person band Valravne from Asheville, North Carolina. Its four tracks are unusually creative and completely fascinating, and no two of them are completely alike.
The title song was the lead “single”, presented through a music video about the serial killer Ted Bundy (whose face is also on the EP’s cover). The pounding bass-line and neck-snapping snare beat are immediately head-moving, while the riffing is wild and ecstatic (and highly infectious). The song also melds chiming, dreamlike arpeggios, larynx-shredding vocals that do indeed seem vampyric, and strange, darting electronic tones.
But before you get to that fascinating track on the EP, you’ll experience the enthralling delights of “Contempt For All Humankind“, which is bleak and grand, and includes attention-seizing violin performances as well as blood-rushing drum-work and wisps of melody that sound like they have a connection to the Indian sub-continent. And after the title track you’ll encounter two more songs that, if you’re like me, will leave you even more wide-eyed in wonder over this EP.
“Vada en my Ecafe” has a depressive atmosphere, but also a dreamlike quality, as if leading us through dark and oppressive urban canyons stripped of souls, with wraiths lurking in the alleyways. “Taylor Mountain“, which makes prominent use of synths and varying keyboard tones, is the most dreamlike of all the tracks. But it is a haunting and perilous dream that the music conjures, a spell that’s seductive but with gasping monsters waiting in the shadows.
Duthaig hail from Lausanne, Switzerland. Their debut EP, Harlech’s Sleep / Cyhyraeth (released on May 15th), contains the two songs named in the title. The first is longer than the second, though both share certain key qualities.
They make use of shining, shimmering riffs and synth layers that create an atmosphere of mystical wonder as those ethereal melodies flow in panoramic fashion across changing drum rhythms and tortured, flesh-scarring vocals (whose wrenching intensity prevents the music from completing the spells it comes so close to achieving). Both songs also have sharply contrasting digressions. In “Harlech’s Sleep” a syncopated drum rhythm anchors melancholy piano chords, the sound of deep strings, and wordless choral voices, and there’s a wonderful outro sequence as well, while “Cyhyraeth” breaks the intensity with a spoken-word sample and wistful acoustic notes, which then lead the song into a passage of sublime but sad beauty in which the sounds of what might be a violin play a role.
This is another EP that I find myself summing up as “enthralling”.
Fetishism‘s EP Fetishistic Adoration Of Death, released on April 23rd, is a fanatical exercise in sonic and emotional abrasion. The band make no bones about that. On their Bandcamp page they say: “4 tracks of debilitating madness & improvised darkness. recorded in 2012 over the course of a few hours using the most primitive equipment and recording technique available”. In other worlds, these are unearthed tracks, and they were created by an obscure project whose creator is allegedly associated with better-known bands.
The opening track sounds like a choir singing at some kind of backwoods revival to the strumming of a mandolin. But the name of the song is “Serpent Soul“, and things begin to fall apart near the end, and a big, distorted humming sound rises up, overwhelming the increasingly harried voices.
That opening track might stiffen the hairs on the back of your neck, but the fear factor in this EP increases dramatically with “Death Is the Key“. Cruelly distorted chords create a raw and slowly writhing wash of noise over a methodical drum boom, with vocals that move between a wailing, ululating sound that seems almost Arabian and a terrifically horrifying cacophony of grotesque roars and boiling-in-oil screams. Eventually, the music itself seems to moan and scream in an expression of hopeless degradation. As nightmares in sound go, this is way out on the bleeding edge.
I’ll dispense with specific comments about the remaining two tracks, other than to say they also include wailing female or falsetto voices along with distorted demonic ones, and they also seem single-mindedly devoted to mutilation of the mind and ruination of the spirit (there are some other audio ingredients in the mix as well, including church organ and what might be a trash compactor in hell working on flesh and bone).
As to why I’m so transfixed by this EP, I’m still trying to work that out in my mind. Possibly it will take some sessions of intense psychotherapy.
RUNESPELL / FOREST MYSTICISM
On May 15th Iron Bonehead Productions released Wandering Forlorn, a split release by two Australian bands, Runespell and Forest Mysticisim, each of which contributed three tracks.
The first and third Runespell songs carry forward the band’s existing stylistic proclivities. They are immersive and powerfully atmospheric, channeling moods of cruelty, sorrow, despair, and even joy, while using medieval melodies and mist-like synths to portray those moods in a setting that seems like an ancient age or a realm of myth and mysticism. The reverberating vocals are pure poison, and as in the past, Runespell also provides an acoustic instrumental (in the second track), which is both spellbinding and in keeping with the impression that we have been drawn into an ancient or mythic age.
Forest Mysticism‘s three tracks complement those of Runespell (and vice-versa). The first and third ones also incorporate medieval-sounding melodies and throat-cutting vocal savagery, but with frequently more riotous drumming and glorious ripples of shining melody high above that seem designed to capture the awe-inspiring wonders of vast green landscapes (though in the third track there are moods of tension, turmoil, and sadness in the guitars and a more stately marching cadence in some of the drumming). Forest Mysticism‘s second track is also an instrumental, but the acoustic strumming is bright and alive, and the ethereal backing keyboards seem like an amalgam of celestial bird song and the shine of a brilliant sun on a rippling stream.
Listening to these six songs together is an experience that succeeds in transporting listeners away from the humdrum monotony of our shut-in existences, and in some ways, from the entire world that we used to know.
(Thanks to both eiterorm and Miloš for reminding me about this release.)