In the early days of NCS I began a recurring series called MISCELLANY, which got up to 78 installments before it died away from neglect. The self-imposed rule for that series was that I would pick bands I’d never heard before and listen to one song (or maybe two) from something new they’d released, record my immediate impressions, and then leave it to readers to decide whether to explore further. That strategy allowed me to sample from albums and EPs that I didn’t have time to listen to completely or review in full, without knowing in advance how the music would strike me (or you).
As you can now see, I’ve decided to revisit this format today, as a way of highlighting some new discoveries I’ve made. In each case here, except for one, I didn’t have any idea how the music would strike me, but dipping my toes in these waters proved to be a good idea (I bought all three of these). So, start wriggling your own toes, and let’s begin.
ASTHENIC SYN (Russia)
This first album is the one out of today’s three that wasn’t a complete shot in the dark. It was recommended to me by Rennie (from starkweather), and I can’t think of any instance where he’s steered me wrong. As a further inducement to check out Asthenic Syn (from Stavropol, Russia), he mentioned that the music made him think of Kriegsmaschine, a reference which drew me like flies to honey. The fact that the individual behind this solo project has taken the name illwisher sealed the deal
In the former days of this column I didn’t always pick the opening track as the test case, but did so here. The opener is a 10-minute monster storm named “Possessed“. The vicious riffing cycles over and over, undergirded by assaulting drums and accented by glittering and rapidly writhing streamers of lead-guitar within the cutting chords. No less vicious than the riffs, the vocals are manifestations of rabid, come-for-your-throat hostility.
The violence in the music is livid, both maliciously cruel and maniacally frenzied. There’s a break in the ravishing attack, a melding of gloomy spoken words and glinting acoustic strings, though it shows no signs of hope before the crazed barbarity resumes, and later the drums rumble and the layered fretwork jitters, squeals, and screams, setting up another repeating refrain that fervently digs into the listener’s head like a dissonant diamond drill. It’s an unnerving experience but a thoroughly gripping one — and more than enough to justify digging deeper myself.
The reasons for making Cabinet the next experiment in this MISCELLANY revival were two-fold: First, because of the odd, syllable-packed album title — Decomposing Hexahedronic Seplophobia — which I knew would end me scurrying to the dictionary even if I didn’t listen to it. And second, because the album was released by Bloody Mountain Records, home to other bands to which I’ve become fixated. Cabinet’s four members don’t reveal their legal names, but I suspect they overlap with other Bloody Mountain bands, which increased the temptation.
I again chose the opening track as the test case. “Entering Into the Mold” immediately embarks upon a campaign of pounding, pulsing, and mangling, accompanied by hideously distorted growls and regurgitations. The sharp snare crack and febrile bass throbs induce reflexive, piston-like movement, but the morass of guitar abrasion is ugly and mauling, and the eerie, mewling leads sound miserable. Nearing the half-way point, the music changes, halting the catastrophic destructiveness and transforming into a gloriously blazing (but still scary) wave of sound.
Take a quick breath because the song again starts working on your fast-twitch muscles and clawing at your mind — until it slows dramatically and begins groaning, dragging, and stomping in titanic and deeply oppressive fashion. It heaves the earth, even as that little mewling refrain comes through like a squirming maggot, and then the cycle of obliteration renews, capped by the reverberation of otherworldly keyboard tones and demonic vocal frightfulness.
The track is thoroughly ruinous yet fascinating, and here again I’m eager to go further and allow the album to swallow me whole and begin breaking me down and digesting what it finds.
P.S. A “hexadron” is is any polyhedron with six faces, and “seplophobia” is a fear of decaying matter.
In the case of Scald, I decided to have a peak into their recently released album Regius I because they’re from Belfast, Northern Island. As far as I know, I have no ancestral connection to Northern Island, but I’m one of those American idiots that’s drawn to Irish things out of an affinity for tragedy and romance.
For the third time, I picked the opening track as the test of whether I might want to go further. That one, “Lex Vermitronis“, proved to be creepy and crepuscular in its opening, presenting an amalgam of celestial synths and a baritone choir. While the borealis-like synths continue to cascade, the song breaks into a bone-shaking industrial beat and ghastly gutturals, with dancing keyboards providing a sparkling melody. Those growls are bestial, and the music shivers in disturbing fashion. The soaring cascades seem ominous, like an approaching storm of devastation, even as the keyboards continue to sparkle with life.
I decided to stick with the album for one more song, which is even more cataclysmic in its hammering, even more black-eyed in its thunderous beatings, and the sheen of the high-end sounds seem more frightening than glorious. The riffing is electric, but as before, the harsh vocals are insanely hateful, though here the choral voices are mesmerizing. Once again, sitting still isn’t an option as the song jolts the spine, slugs the kidneys, and generally does a good job of overpowering the senses. I’m sold on this one too.
Only after I listened to these tracks did I notice the note on the Bandcamp page that Scald disbanded in 2017. Perusing Metal Archives, I learned that the Scald‘s earliest releases go back to the ’90s, and that three more albums preceded this one, though the last of those appeared 14 years ago. M-A shows the band as still active, but I don’t know why.
The band’s Facebook page makes clear that the music on this new album consists of re-recordings of “original, unfinished and unreleased Regius album demos”. There seem to be two more such albums in the works — hence the appearance of the Roman numeral after the album name.