(Andy Synn presents three more meaty morsels of home-grown heaviness from the UK)
I’d like to begin this article with a quick apology to the bands involved – I had every intention of writing about you sooner (especially those of you I’ve written about before) but life… uh… got in the way.
Still, we’re here now, and even though these reviews are coming post-release I hope they bring all of you some new fans (and hopefully some new sales too). You deserve it.
EVEREST QUEEN – MURMURATIONS
It’s been a little while since we last heard from Everest Queen, but it doesn’t take long for their second album, Murmurations, to convince you that the band’s time has been well spent over the last few years.
As the simmering, psychedelia-tinged intro to “Sunken Thorn” transitions into a stomping series of bruising, brooding riffs and thick (or, should that be “thicc”?) meaty bass lines, all topped off with a rivetingly raw and visceral vocal performance, it quickly becomes clear that the band have been putting in the work in the metaphorical musical gym getting their sonic swole on, and the equally dark ‘n’ doomy – albeit slightly more upbeat and aggressive – attack of “Of Treachery and Shadows” only reinforces this impression.
But while Murmurations is most definitely a heavier, heftier, album that its predecessor, it’s also a more atmospheric and introspective piece of work too, especially in its second half where the climactic triptych of “Dormant River”, “Divergence”, and “The Burial” find the band exploring and embracing an altogether moodier, Post-Sludge style dynamic reminiscent of latter-day Isis.
Perhaps the only issue I have with this record, when all is said and done, is that while it certainly proves that patience is a virtue (in the sense that all of these songs both demand and reward the listener’s full attention) the fact that the album’s second half is such a step up… and such a clear tonal shift… makes the entire thing seem a little disjointed.
It’s all good stuff, of course (especially that final trio of tracks) it just feels a little like the band weren’t entirely sure which direction they wanted to go in and ended up splitting their focus a little.
That being said, I don’t think anyone is going to be disappointed in what they find here, and hopefully this will earn the band a few new fans who’ll be keen to stick around and see/hear what they get up to next.
TERRA – FÜR DICH EXISTIERT DAS ALLES NICHT
It’s been a little while since we last heard from Terra, but – on the evidence of this album – they don’t appear to have missed a step in the intervening years between then and now.
If anything, the band now sound even stronger (and noticeably more sinister) than before, with the incorporation of some claustrophobia-inducing Drone elements and a plethora of darker, sludgier, Doom influences into their creative palette allowing them to explore even harsher, heavier sounds without sacrificing any of their hard-earned and carefully crafted atmosphere in the process.
Sure, at over an hour in length – most of it spent either under constant, withering fire or huddling in terror, waiting for the next attack – Für Dich Existiert Das Alles Nicht can be a pretty demanding listen (indeed, the individual four songs themselves are each a miniature odyssey in their own right) but it’s also well worth your time and energy, all the way from the nerve-wracking opening of “The Beginning” to the unexpectedly minimalist, piano-led outro of “The End, My End”.
In between these two extremes you’ll be confronted with passages of helter-skelter, blast-riddled Black Metal, whose moody-yet-multifaceted delivery incorporates dashes of spine-tingling melody, doomy passages of grime-soaked groove, and an array of anguished, howling vocals (as well as some understated, but undeniably potent bass-work) which together add up to much more than the mere sum of their parts.
Welcome back boys. Now, try not to take so long with the next one, will you?
VACUOUS – DREAMS OF DYSPHORIA
It’s been a little while since… no, wait, scratch that, this is the first time we’re covering Vacuous, but hopefully won’t be the last.
That’s not to say I’m going to be quite as effusive in my praise as some people have been (some of the hype around this record has been a little excessive imo – though it’s always nice to see such enthusiasm about a relatively young band) but I am definitely going to recommend that you give this album a full and thorough listen and then mark these guys down as ones to watch going forwards.
Let’s face it, the appeal of this album is pretty easy to sum up – Vacuous clearly live, breathe, and bleed Death Metal, and that passion is obvious in each and every moment of Dreams of Dysphoria, from the slow-burning, approaching-apocalypse vibes of doom-laden, atmosphere-swollen opener “Devotion” all the way to the end of the unflinchingly ugly, yet also eerily melodic, title-track.
And while they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel here, they’re certainly injecting a fresh batch of fuel into the engine – check out the nitrous-injected assault of “Body of Punishment” or the none-more-brutal bombardment of “Stigmata Scourge” for evidence if you don’t believe me – and dropping some seriously heavy riffs and equally gnarly vocals (primarily delivered in a truly gut-wrenching growl, but occasionally rising to a throat-shredding shriek) in the process.
It’s the hints at wider ambitions however – such as the occasional use of lurid lead melodies (the end of “Matriarchal Blood” being a prime example) or the willingness to really stretch out the dynamic tension to breaking point (see “Paranoia Rites”) – which tell me that, as good as they already are, Vacuous may well have even more to offer in the future. So, like I said… keep an eye on them.