After three days of cruising along with lots of time to devote to NCS I ran into a wall. The demands of my fucking day job are unpredictable and weekends aren’t any more sacrosanct than they are at this site. So I had to work yesterday and this morning. You just never know when people will urgently need a delivery of toilet paper.
I finally did manage to squeeze in some listening and some writing for this weekly column, just so it wouldn’t completely go missing, but it’s shorter and more hurried than I wanted it to be.
To begin, we have a video for the song “Satsui” from the forthcoming 12th album by the remarkable (and long-lived) Japanese band Sigh. It’s the kind of song that’s capable of hooking people damned hard and damned fast.
In addition to the fact that you can get your groove on to the track’s main riff, the music has a sinister character that reveals itself in both brazen and reptilian ways, and it’s spine-tingling when Mirai switches from spitting the words in shrieking bullets to proclaiming them in theatrical quavering tones.
The drumming is also constantly attention-grabbing, and there’s a scintillating solo that adds to the aspects of the track which bring to mind the revels of a hellish carnival, yet the song’s forward and its finale also bring to bear feelings of bleakness.
Sigh‘s Mirai Kawashima has explained this about the track:
“The album Shiki is mostly about my personal fear of getting old and my fear of death, but some of the songs are a bit off topic and ‘Satsui’ is one of them. ‘Satsui’ means ‘Intent to Kill’ and it is my personal view on the death penalty. You often hear people say ‘The criminal penalty is not meant to be for revenge’ or ‘we all live in a country governed by law’, but I do not think things are that simple; but of course everybody has the right to have their own opinions though. I guess the song is one of the most straightforward ones on the album”.
Shiki will be released on August 26th by Peaceville Records. Joining Mirai and Dr Mikannibal for this release are Frédéric Leclercq of Kreator, plus US drummer Mike Heller of Fear Factory, along with an appearance by longtime member Satoshi Fujinami on bass.
P.S. The music you’ll hear on the video is just part of an album track whose title in its entirety is “Satsui – Geshi No Ato”. Last week Sigh and Peaceville digitally released the complete track, and I’ve included a stream of that as well. As the title suggests, it combines “Satsui” with a second piece called “Geshi no Ato“, which Mirai describes this way:
“‘Geshi no Ato’ is a completely different song. I composed that as an outro to ‘Satsui’, and the lyrical concept followed. The title means ‘After Summer Solstice’’, which is a metaphor saying that your heyday is gone. I played all the guitars on this and Mike Heller banged chairs, pieces of wood, boxes, water bottles, etc to create the beat!”
This second part of the song is melodically connected to the first part, but is indeed very different, and very intriguing.
On September 30 the Indisciplinarian label will release Intet • Altet (“The Nothing • The All”), which is the third album by this Danish band. My next choice for today’s column is the first advance track from that record, a song called “Fra dyden“.
The bass and drums give the song a heavy, head-moving beat that seems to amble along, while the guitars come in dense abrasive waves. Those waves carry a languid, musing melody, but it’s unmistakably sorrowful. The song becomes more heated, both in the bursting drumwork and in the feelings of despair and confusion that swell in the feverish riffing, and eventually become sweeping in their scale. The layered harsh vocals exacerbate the song’s tormented moods. Selfishly, I wish the track had been longer.
UPDATE: My wish has been granted. I’ve now learned that what you’ll hear below is only an excerpt from a much longer track, running 24 minutes in all. And the entire album is 4 tracks running 92 minutes – quite the mammoth!
VETER DAEMONAZ (Russia)
After more than a decade of activity this Russian band released a debut album last June via Osmose Productions. Its name is Муза Проклятых (Muse of The Damned). I wrote about the song “Волшба Луны” (Moon Sorcery) in advance of the album’s release, and intended to write something more about the album as a whole — one of numerous plans that never came to fruition.
Unfortunately, I’m not following through on that plan today either (my time is short, dammit), but I did want to do something more to encourage folks to check out the record now that it’s out, and so I’ll focus on one more individual track. This one, “Нить” (which seems to mean “thread” or “string”), is the track that’s set to play first on the album’s Bandcamp page, although it’s the record’s penultimate track.
One thing that’s striking about “Нить” is how massively electrifying and immersive it is. You can feel the bass in your bones, and the riffing and keys sound immense as well as searing. The music’s sweep is also powerful, and dire, but no less dire than the utter savagery of the vocals. Eventually the bass and drums accelerate and the riffing blazes like skies on fire, or like heaving, storm-tossed oceans of pain. And man, that bass throbs like a leviathan heart, and is central to the song’s captivating allure.
I doubt you will stop with this song, and you really shouldn’t. The whole album is distressing in different ways (including ways that mesmerize, as well as overpower the senses with their towering might), but it’s terrific from beginning to end.
To close today’s column I’m doing what I just did in the case of Veter Daemonaz, i.e., picking one song from an album you can hear in its entirety, just as a way of encouraging you to give the album as a whole a good shot. Here, the album is Whispers From Beyond, the second full-length by Swarn, which was released in a variety of formats on August 8th by the Warhorn, Stuka Records, and the Guano label.
The song I’m focusing on is the album opener, “Grimoire XIII“. It’s stunningly heavy, with guitar and bass tones that stagger the senses, maybe like the product of HM-2 pedals on steroids. The song heaves, harrows, and surges like a mountainous demolition machine. The bestial, crypt-dwelling, vocals are ugly as sin and completely unhinged, but thoroughly spine-tingling. The lead guitar spears and spirals out of the humongous and head-moving destruction like a deranged spirit, giving voice to freakish occult vibrations.
But that’s not all that happens. If the first part of the song sounds like a vision of the apocalypse, the second part sounds like the aftermath, like a portrait of blasted and barren earth with the sun blotted out and all life failing. It lurches forward and radiates abject hopelessness and agony, maybe even scarier than the way the song begins.
Once again, I doubt you’ll stop with that track — and you shouldn’t — though you may have to repair the foundations of your home by the time the album ends, while simultaneously trying to find and reassemble the splinters of your mind.
Despite the album’s title, these tracks aren’t whispers, but gargantuan black/death/doom monstrosities given free reign to stride, stagger, rumble, and rampage. The band wisely do throw in softer parts, including brief piano and guitar instrumentals, but those are so hallucinatory and chilling (as is the nightmarish track, “Whisperer From the Stars”) that it’s not exactly a reprieve, just an opportunity to catch some quick shuddering breaths before the ruination resumes. And brace yourselves when you reach the last track — it’s a blood congealing epic that goes on for 20 minutes.
Seriously, I can think of few albums I’ve heard this year that are as heavy in all ways as this one.
The Guano label puts out some good shit!
Someone had to.
OK, I laughed and groaned at the same time.
The preview tracks from Veter Daemonaz sound great. Unfortunately, I just can’t make myself buy anything that will put money into the Russian economy. For now, it goes into the Bandcamp favorites folder.
It’s not my place to lecture about such decisions, especially because I detest the devastation that Putin’s regime has inflicted on Ukraine and the non-stops lies that his propaganda machine spews to support the invasion. But I can’t resist offering the suggestion that although punishing international economic sanctions levied against the dominant businesses and elites of the Russian economy are vital in resisting Russian imperialism, withholding a few dollars from underground musicians who have nothing to do with the decision to invade and provide no financial or propaganda support for the aggression goes too far.
Perhaps you have a point. Mine is a bit of a black and white point of view. I will have to think about it.
Thanks for the the thoughtful response.