For Part 1 of today’s column I picked a handful of individual songs and videos that were loaded with head-moving hooks, but still preserved a feeling of sinister menace. In this part I’ve gone in a different direction… though I’ve gone back in the other direction with the last selection. I’ve started with an advance track from a forthcoming album, and then focused on four complete releases, though a shortage of time has driven me to provide mere sketches instead of more thorough-going reviews.
To begin, I’ve chosen “The Snare of the Fowler“, the second single from the new album by this stand-out Canadian band. Grim are the lyrics, ending with the statement: “There is no redemption arc in the records of eternal truths. Just an endless sequence of cross-currents to the terminus of all paradises lost”. But who with eyes to see could possibly deny that bitter arc, or the sentiments expressed in a preceding lyrical passage:
[And now they] arm the angels,
Bedevilled by our lesser judgment.
And another man will die;
It is practically what he is here for.
And they will fly their flags at half mast
As if this would imply justice.
Never pitied, they will make this mistake again, and again – the damned deny the ages, and the greatest of ironies:
Our enlightenment would rise;
And with it, the vileness of man.
Panzerfaust‘s line-up obviously includes a powerful lyricist, but their music is equally powerful. The song is as bleak and harrowing as the words (which are delivered with terrific passion and in ever-changing tones), but is a dark gem of many facets. A panoply of distressing melodic hooks ring throughout the song, and around it the band ring their own changes in intensity, driving it into a storm of violently frenzied despair and fury, and pulling it down into a trough of bitter anguish (while simultaneously allowing the rhythm section to put on a grand show).
“The Snare of the Fowler” will appear on From The Suns of Perdition: Chapter II – Render Unto Eden, a new album that will be released by Eisenwald on August 28th. The cover art is by Kaethe Kollwitz.
At long last (and it was indeed a long wait), Kall’s new album Brand has been released by Prophecy Productions. I’ve written about advance tracks as they’ve appeared, but various distractions kept me from saying something about the album as a whole. Still distracted, I’m limited to only a few paragraphs, mainly to provide a further urge for you to check this out if you haven’t already.
In making your way through Brand you’ll never feel like you’re trudging along a change-less path. The album is marked by ash and gloom, but is also often soft and self-reflective, hallucinatory and noirish, and incredibly vibrant — to the point of being emotionally riotous. The riffs and melodies are damned catchy, the drumming is finely attuned not merely to suit but to greatly enhance what’s happening as the songs change, and it’s one of those welcome albums where you could easily listen to the bass to the exclusion of everything else and be transfixed by what you hear. The vocals are usually as intense as road rash, but they change too, along with the moods of the songs.
Kall pull from a lot of different musical styles (across many decades) and incorporate many instrumental textures, to the point that trying to slap a genre label on them is a fool’s errand. The band themselves refer to “using the idioms of Scandinavian black metal, shoe-gazing post rock, saxophone-fueled psychedelia and the saddest of pop to get the message across”. Cvlt Nation cleverly called them “the Velvet Underground of black ‘n’ roll”.
I sometimes fear that Kall‘s refusal to fit into any neat musical boxes will hold the album back, even though all the twists, turns, and textures fit together supremely well. I hope that’s not the case, because I’ve been thoroughly enthralled by it from the first listen.
Lune is a mystery. I don’t know who is in the band or where the band is located. Wild Lands Of The North is the name of the debut album, released on July 17th, but that doesn’t necessarily point to even the right hemisphere; black metal bands from everywhere are drawn by tradition to render musical tales of the northlands. Wherever Lune is from, however, the music is arresting.
The usual black-metal maelstroms of malice are rarely present and accounted for (though thunder and ice storms do break through), so don’t go into this expecting a typical second-wave rehash. While often drenched in bleakness, and with persistently harrowing vocal intensity (until you get to the stately heroic choir in the closing track), the songs are spellbinding. The spells aren’t classically pretty and bright, but it’s still easy to succumb to them. The melodies don’t immediately hit you over the head, but instead stealthily tend to creep up on you until they’ve got you surrounded.
The songs hang their heads in hopelessness, lift them in defiant determination, climb toward spectacular heights of forlorn grandeur and solemn reverence (“A Dying Star” and “Wild Lands of the North”, for example, will put your heart in your throat), and sail across breathtaking panoramic vistas. They’re also accented with unexpected keyboard touches that increase their binding power; you’ll encounter the first of many at about the 2:30 mark of the first track, when an ethereal, Lustre-like keyboard motif surfaces, and the same song includes a glorious but soul-fracturing guitar solo.
The tracks are all long, most of them in the nine- to eleven-minute range. A lot to take in, but well worth the time, especially if you need to just lose yourself. I don’t know who’s behind Lune, but a lot of heart and passion went into it, and that strength of feeling is contagious.
(Thank you to Rennie (starkweather) for recommending this album. He sent me these impressions: “Not sure from whence this comes… at turns blasting frosty melodic, dissonant atmospheric, and mournful elegiac”.)
The Danish trio Glemsel dropped their lengthy debut EP Unavngivet in March of this year, but I discovered it late. I google-searched the meaning of the title, thinking I might get a clue to the EP’s themes, and learned, with a smile, that it means “Untitled”. Better clues are provided by the song titles, which translate to such things as “deathwork”, “indifference”, “autumn winds”, “mother’s cry”, “farewell”, “a last prayer”, and “horror” — and by the band’s name, which means “oblivion”.
As those titles suggest, the music isn’t generally an uplifting experience. Accompanied by cracked-throat demonic vocal hostility, it ranges across moods of chilling dread, cold cruelty, crushing desolation, and mind-melting despondency. When the band hit the accelerator, the feeling is more one of frantic despair than fight or fury. The sound is clear, heavy, and potent, but Glemsel also deftly interweave quieter, acoustic-accented moments charged with wistfulness and regret, as well as music of more cinematic sweep.
What becomes quickly clear, and only solidifies as you go, is that the band have an impressive talent for crafting powerfully evocative melodies that provide catharsis for downcast moods, and an equal talent (thankfully) for making the experience a dynamic one.
P.S. On September 18th Unavngivet will be released on vinyl and CD through Vendetta Records.
(Thanks go to Miloš for recommending this one.)
As I wrote at the outset, I’m reversing direction now, turning back to the kind of primal, hook-filled numbers that were the prime focus of Part 1 of this column. But I have to warn you that these hooks are encrusted with blood, and maybe other bodily fluids typically found on stained sheets.
Scathing blackened death/thrash is the name of Eternal Bloodshed‘s game, as quickly becomes apparent on the first track set to pay on the Bandcamp page for their debut album A Heinous Portrait. That song, “W.H.O.R.E.“, will flood your blood with adrenaline. The thrashing riffs are pure heat lightning, the vocals are rabid-wolf levels of viciousness, and the drumming is so electric that it feels like those popping, turbocharged beats are coming from a drumkit set up inside your head. It’s a gloriously wild experience, but the menace in the music is just as palpable, and it further includes distinct traces of melancholy in the melodies.
So, what that song demonstrates is that Eternal Bloodshed have got more going on than a blood-rush of highly infectious ripping and tearing, and the balance of the album doubles-down on that promise. The music’s backbone is definitely full-throttle thrashing and jackhammering, but the band frequently switch up the tempos and drum patterns, they enliven the music with attention-grabbing bass patterns, and probably most notable of all, they make room for emotionally affecting melodies and doses of classic, glorious, heavy metal riffing too. (And for Satan’s sake, don’t miss the bass solo and the following guitar solo in “Dreams Don’t Come True”.)
In other words, these dudes know how to write damned good songs.
P.S. The line-up of Eternal Bloodshed consists of veteran central Ohio musicians Jake Grim (ex-Darkmoon), Mike Lare (Ringworm), and Scott Pletcher (Demonic Christ, ex-Darkmoon/Wehrwolfe).