I don’t have any words of wisdom to offer today, other than the usual: Wear your damn masks, stay away from other people as much as possible, and stop bathing and wiping after you take a shit so that other people will stay away from you. If you must go out, play the following tracks on a boom-box so people will run away.
To begin, here’s a video for a song called “Pandemic” because, as you can tell, the virus is on my mind (as it is on most days) — but also because the hooks in this song are potent, from the rocking and rumbling drum rhythms to the darting, gleaming, and roiling riffs. The vibrancy of the song is as contagious as the subject matter, and so is the menace that surfaces in its more frenzied episodes. Meanwhile the vocals are utterly scorching.
I got flashes of latter-day Amebix in listening to the song, and flashes of queasiness watching the unsettling imagery of insects and infections in the video. And I appreciated the message sent by the drummer wearing his mask.
World Serpent, which will be released by Prophecy Productions on December 11th (vinyl in February 2021), is the Fortíð album that includes “Pandemic“. The press materials describe it as consisting of two halves of five songs each. The first half was recorded by the line-up of the band as it existed in Norway before mastermind Einar Eldur Thorberg moved back to Iceland, and in those songs Thorberg “experimented a bit with influences from Bay Area thrash both in the singing and the guitar sound”. The second set of songs were recorded by Thorberg and drummer Kristján Einar Guðmundsson (Kontinuum, Potentiuam), and those songs see “a return to a more black metal approach with screams and clean vocals.”
“Pandemic” is one of the songs in World Serpent‘s half. Thorberg explains: “The chapters are bound together by an apocalyptic theme that provides a red thread running through this album.”
Cro-Mag‘s new song “2020” stands out for at least three reasons. First, the drumming is great, and impressively inventive. Second, the long chords and swirling leads give it a sweeping, anthemic vibe, albeit one with a dark undercurrent. And third, the fast-hammering percussive blasts sound like rapid-fire artillery going straight into your guts. I could easily have continued to ride on this song for many more minutes.
“2020” is the title track to a new six-song EP that’s intended to provide a reflection on this rotten year of turmoil and disease. It will be digitally released on December 11th, and it follows the band’s first album in twenty years (In the Beginning), which was released earlier this year.
I suppose I ought to warn you that this next song by the Ukrainian death metal band Обрій (Obrij) includes some rapping near the end, albeit Ukrainian rap. But even if you’re not a big fan of hip-hop (and I certainly am not), I doubt you’ll mind at all, because the song is so damned good.
Obrij make no secret of their attraction to Bolt Thrower, and that comes through loud and clear in the track’s bludgeoning grooves. In addition, it includes doses of jittery, violent fretwork as well as swirling, mesmerizing leads, and the vocals are both harrowing and distinctive, as if roared from a throat near-choked with clotting blood and splintered bone. The song will jackhammer your spine and work your neck, and set your skin tingling with its grand soaring bursts of melody. The guitar solo is scintillating, and the Slavic rapping is savage.
The name of the song is “Маятник змінює вектор” (“The pendulum changes its vector”), and the band explain that “the lyrics are inspired by the latest events in Belarus, where people continues to struggle against the regime of Alexandr Lukashenko, not giving up and resisting the pressure of the illegitimate autocrat’s repressive machine”.
In making the song Obrij collaborated with Kulya, a member of a “Ukrainian boom-bap/hardcore hip-hop duo” from Kyiv named Тулим (Tulym), and were inspired by “extreme guitar music of the ’90s, from European death metal in vein of Bolt Thrower or Morgoth, to rap-metal bands like Biohazard, Stuck Mojo, Downset, and all the music you could see on MTV’s Headbangers Ball back in the day”.
“Маятник змінює вектор” was released through Bandcamp on November 24th. It’s the first of two collaboration tracks that Obrij have planned for the end of 2020 – the beginning of 2021. Very curious to see what comes next. And by the way, I heartily recommend their 2019 EP, В залізних обіймах лещат (In Severe Stranglehold), which I reviewed here.
DESTROY MY BRAINS (Canada)
The woozy guitar tone in this next song has a warm feeling, but the mood of the music is alternately flailing and desolate, and the larynx-lacerating vocals are incredibly intense. The song also includes hard-slugging, head-hooking rhythms and a tremolo’d guitar melody near the end that shimmers with soulful longing. The longer the song goes, the more it grows on you (that’s certainly what happened to me), though its portrayal of human damage, and of desperate fury, is punishing. The imagery of lost and listless people in the accompanying video underscores the message.
The song is “Pure Filth” and it’s off Lifeless, the third album in a four-album series by this Canadian doom/sludge outfit. We’re told that when all the albums are done their first letters will spell the word “W.I.L.T.”, and that the band then plan to write “an epic progressive sludge song that is going to be about 20 minutes long” as a way of closing the sequence. Lifeless is set for release on December 15th.
Almost all the songs in this round-up are here because I got quickly addicted to them, and in my case this next one might be the most infectious of all. There are peaks and valleys in the music. At low ebb — which is a relative term in this context — the song seems to waltz like participants at a demented infernal carnival. At high tide, the music is thoroughly exhilarating. It’s wild, and climbs higher and higher, reaching spectacular pinnacles, propelled by hammering drums, glorious melodic leads, and unchained vocal passion. The bridge near the end, just before the song begins to dance its beguiling demonic dance again, also gives the music a majestic aspect. I’m completely captivated….
The name of the song is “Streifzug” and it’s from this Viennese one-person black metal band’s latest EP, Akt II: Fall, which will be digitally released on December 1st. A tape version will also be released on December 1st via Death Kvlt Productions.
KAUNIS KUOLEMATON (Finland)
I’ve already written (here) about the wonderful first advance track from the new album by Kaunis Kuolematon, and now there’s a second one out in the world, also wonderful.
Slow and stately at first, the song pounds and moans, clatters and writhes, and soars sky-high in the beautifully sung chorus, as the vocals trade off with the gargantuan, tormented growls and unhinged screams. Like other songs in today’s collection, this one is highly infectious — and becomes spellbinding in the soft interlude near the end, which features acoustic guitar and female (or falsetto?) vocals and serves as a prelude to a magnificent finale. By my lights it’s another triumph for this doom-leaning melodic death metal band.
The album that includes this song, Syttyköön Toinen Aurinko, was released yesterday by Noble Demon. Presumably the entire album stream will soon be available on Bandcamp; I haven’t managed to listen to all of it yet.
We began in Iceland and we end there too.
You’d best settle in for this final song and video, because they’re 13 1/2 minutes long — but you should also prepare to be un-settled. “Monocarp” is a slow build. The opening passage sounds like eerie electronic transmissions from deep space, and from there the song swells into something that’s the audio equivalent of a primitive megalith, one that’s towering and monstrous. The eerie transmissions continue to surface as the music both slowly and methodically attempts to stomp the listener into the ground while also forcing the breath from your lungs by the immense weight on your chest.
Coupled with weird and wailing vocals, as well as voracious growls, the music proves to be alien and narcotic as well as cold, towering, and tyrannical. The narcotic effect derives in part from a bass-and-drum duet that gradually leads into a dose of scary sonic hallucinogens with a kind of symphonic sweep. The guitars wail and reverberate in perfectly chilling fashion even as the rhythm section continue to shudder the earth with the immensity of their movements. A truly hellish and harrowing experience….
The video is a gripping thing to see, and a very nostalgic one (at least it was for me). In the band’s words, “The video is a retro sci-fi tribute, chronicling the story of the song, the invasion, the fertilizing and the harvest”, and to tell that tale the video makes use of cleverly colorized clips from some memorable old movies. And it’s all frightening.
The album that includes this song, Null Dimensions, is the second album by this five-piece psychedelic sludge/doom metal band. It includes only one other track, but it’s significantly longer than “Monocarp“. The album will be released on December 5th (Vinyl/CD/Tape) by Ozium Records and Sludgelord Records.