(Our friend Gonzo rejoins us with a collection of reviews and music streams for albums released in September that got him enthusiastic.)
Confession time: A lot of the music I was going to feature in this month’s column was already covered by our own Andy Synn and DGR. Such is the nature of contributing to a blog that runs on well-intentioned chaos, but let me tell you – even though seeing my byline is less common these days, I wouldn’t have it any other way here.
Anyway, I could sit here pontificating about life or personal updates or the change of seasons or the fact that we may be closer to armed nuclear conflict than any of us would care to admit, but I’d like to just make this month’s post about the music. Besides, I’m about to see Meshuggah on a live stage for the first time in way too long and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Here’s some of the September releases I put together that Mr. Synn and DGR didn’t cover – and let me tell you, that took some digging.
Isolation and loneliness have been major themes woven into all kinds of art over the past few years, and the reasons for that are more than a little obvious by now in our (post?)-pandemic world. German one-man black metal unit ColdWorld is quite familiar with those themes, and after thorough listens to his newest album, Isolation, it almost seems like this thing wrote itself.
If you’ve never heard ColdWorld before, just imagine Alcest, except substitute in low-fi Norwegian black metal where the shoegaze parts would be. Band mastermind Georg Börner isn’t afraid to inject his music with an almost heartbreaking amount of emotion, from the lightly symphonic passages of the very appropriately named “Soundtrack to Isolation” to the Panopticon-like dirge of “We Are Doomed.” Isolation feels like a deeply personal piece of music that might’ve been born from pain or torment but judging by the fact that Börner doesn’t often release his lyrics, we may never know. The mysterious element of this actually makes it more intriguing.
Meanwhile, “Wounds” channels a bit of Darkthrone in their slower, more somber moments, while album closer “Hymnus” feels like the roll of final credits to a very sad movie. Really, what I’m trying to say the most about Isolation is that it’s probably the best possible introduction to colder months, and listening to it next to a roaring fire during a blizzard is the best way to experience it.
Escuela Grind, Memory Theater
After a few years making noise in the underground world, it seems New England’s Escuela Grind have cemented their identity as an up-and-coming powerhouse with Memory Theater.
First, their live set at this year’s Psycho festival in Vegas made me an instant fan. They had complete command of a packed venue, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious most of the crowd wasn’t really familiar with their music. Vocalist Katerina Economou flew around all over the place while spitting vitriol with ease and looked like she was having the most fun anyone’s ever had while doing so. Many of the songs were from Memory Theater, so when this album dropped last week, I eagerly queued it up.
Not only does the spot-on production value capture the band’s live energy with a vengeance, but it not-so-quietly swings its weight from metallic hardcore to noise rock to grind with seemingly zero effort. This band is a goddamn riff factory. They deliver absolute haymakers of riffs and breakdowns, exploding into a grindcore assault (“All is Forgiven,” “Faulty Blueprints,”) while proving they don’t need to rely on any particular style to deliver each crushing blow. (Islander, I officially recommend “The Feed” to appear in 2022’s “Most Infectious Song” list. Readers, take note.)
KEN Mode, NULL
“Extreme noise rock” sounds like a headache-inducing and unnecessary subgenre when it’s on paper, but KEN Mode make their self-described style into the most awesome version of itself.
Really, regardless of how they describe their own music, no other band really sounds like Winnipeg’s KEN Mode. The instantly identifiable sear of vocalist/guitarist Jesse Matthewson’s unhinged scream has been a great form of rage therapy over the years for many, and I’d count myself among them. But the most interesting part of what KEN Mode does is how they manage to evolve their sound without straying too far from their musical DNA.
NULL takes the band’s formula to even farther, darker depths – the industrial, mechanical feeling of “The Tie” sounds more like something out of an Author & Punisher album than it does a hardcore album, and “But They Respect My Tactics” taps into Poison the Well circa You Come Before You. The songwriting from the brothers Matthewson has never been better, with more focus put on the discordance and unsettling nature of their music than ever before. Simply put, the heavy parts have evolved into a cold-blooded audial killing machine. In turn, this makes the more experimental moments sound more like they belong on the album than almost any other release by the band I can think of.
But that’s what KEN Mode have always been – risk-takers. They truly do not give a fuck about how their music is perceived or what box people will put them in as a result. It’s just as cathartic as it is chaotic, and that’s the appeal of both the band and what makes NULL a goddamn fantastic album from start to finish.
Power From Hell, Shadows Devouring Light
At some point during their initial run of slaying the underground with raw black metal fury, Brazil’s Power From Hell earned the attention of none other than Darkthrone’s Fenriz, who lauded the band for their ferocious and uncompromising take on the genre.
Fast forward a few years and albums later, and the Brazilian unit has progressed their music into a more modern sound. Whether or not Fenriz‘s praise had any influence on that is anyone’s guess, but one thing is now very clear: Power From Hell have released one hell of a nasty black metal album with Shadows Devouring LIght. This thing takes you on a trip down a darker realm, presumably the same realm the band ripped a portal open to when they wrote the album. “The Serpent’s Early Throne” channels a bit of early Mayhem, while the doomy intro to the title track finds the band in deliciously atmospheric territory.
I can easily see a corpse-painted crowd nodding their heads in unison to the opening mid-paced riff of “Primordial Impurity.” It’s infectious, heavy as fuck, and the track that I find myself coming back to the most often here. “Wings of Perdition” keeps the evil Venom-esque vibe going strong, and then “Eve’s Holy Vulva” just sends it over the top. This is one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard all year so far, and for the Brazilians in Power From Hell, it feels like a welcoming party to a new, heavy era.
Like what you hear? Want more? Follow my Spotify playlist to hear songs from all the albums I’ve covered here, and a helluva lot more: