SEEN AND HEARD: SANZU, ROTTEN SOUND, TURBID NORTH, CLARET ASH, CHROME WAVES, VOLLOÍOM (AND MORE)
I’ve been reading my friend Andy‘s writing about metal for more than a decade, and even so, what he’s done this week had been mind-boggling. I marveled at how much music he listened to this year and at his ability to make year-end selections, organize them, and write about them distinctively. I mean hell, I marvel at how much time it must have taken him just to put all the embedded links to the streams in his articles this week!
All of which is to say that his week-long series of lists deserves the spotlight, and deserves all the time it would take you to go through them and make your own discoveries. His series ends today, but LISTMANIA will roll on next week as we begin posting year-end lists from other NCS contributors, including the annual five-part list from DGR.
Last weekend I announced that, by design, we wouldn’t have the normal volume of premieres on the calendar this week in order to keep the focus on Andy‘s series (and a few lists I’ve shared from “big platform” sites). I thought I might take advantage of the lull in premieres by compiling more new-music roundups during the week than I can usually manage. I admit that does seem a bit inconsistent with the goal of keeping the focus on year-end lists, but the lure of spreading the word about new music is a powerful one.
I did manage to get a roundup done on Monday, but failed at the next chance on Wednesday because of interference from paying work. Today, as you can see, I was able to follow through. I’ve also got things lined up for the usual Saturday roundup too.
With lots of potential choices in front of me today, I erred on the side of bands we’ve been very high on in the past, beginning with…
Back in the 2015-2016 timeframe we heaped a lavish amount of praise on this Aussie band through no fewer than 8 posts, including laudatory reviews of their debut EP (Painless) and their debut album (Heavy Over the Home), a couple of premieres, and various year-end accolades. What did Sanzu do to reward all the attention? They made us wait seven fucking years for new music, and then put a fucking monster upon us.
That monster is a new single named “Throne Of Hope“, which will appear on the band’s forthcoming new album Our Behaviour When Drowning. The clanging and crushing heaviness of the music is monstrous. The dissonant strains of agony in the music are monstrous. The warping gut-deep vocals are monstrous. The monstrosity stalks at first, but eventually attacks in a convulsion of guitars, the spitting of percussive bullets, and bestial fury in the voice.
On top of all that, the lyric video that was released along with the song is one of the most interesting and perplexing ones I’ve seen all year.
It’s not clear that Our Behaviour When Drowning is finished yet, but hopefully it will reach completion in time for a release sometime in 2023. The band have disclosed, however, that they do have a second single that’s ready for release. We’ll be watching for it.
ROTTEN SOUND (Finland)
We knew Rotten Sound would be releasing a new song this week, which was a titillating realization. When it happened, DGR sent me the news. As he put it, “they came out swinging” (an American idiom that may be lost on some of you, but I knew what he meant). The band made this comment about the song:
“‘Sharing‘ is a track about how wealthy instances in control provide mainly cosmetic help towards the ones in need to improve their public image, while the world is in turmoil. Riffs were written by guitarist Mika Aalto and it’s one of the faster ones on the album (tempo-wise) with some heaviness at the end.”
Hell yes, they did come out swinging, which is to say this is a riotous war-zone of sound that screams, rips, and ravages, but also pounds like kinetic missiles hitting the earth from rail-guns discharging in the stratosphere.
This new song is one of 18 on a new Rotten Sound album named Apocalypse, which will be out on March 31st of next year via Season of Mist.
TURBID NORTH (U.S.)
Just before Thanksgiving we premiered (here) the second advance track from the first Turbid North album in seven years, along with some relevant background info about it and Andy Synn‘s impressions of the song, plus his somewhat cryptic hints about how it fits within the album as a whole.
Now we have a third advance track. This one, “Patients“, had its video premiere at Invisible Oranges with an introduction by our friend Tom Campagna that included comments from frontman Nick Forkel about the influence of A Clockwork Orange on both the lyrics and the visuals.
Turbid North waste no time in this one, using about 1:40 to mount a furious, turbocharged death/grind assault that’s violently berserk but puts a jackhammer to work on your spine too. It’s a further sign that their new album is full of surprises.
The name of that new album is The Decline. It will be released on January 20th.
CLARET ASH (Australia)
Like Turbid North, Claret Ash are a band we’ve covered extensively, beginning in 2015. Our mass of words has included reviews, album and video premieres, and appearances in other columns like this one. It’s been four years since their last album, so needless to say it’s great to have them back.
The sign of their return is a single named “Gateways“, which the band describe as “the first track in the next era of Claret Ash with the current line-up and the first in the ‘Worldtorn‘ series of releases”.
The reference to the current line-up seems to refer to original founding member and long-time guitarist James now focusing on bass, the return to the band of guitarist Josh, and the fact that all four members have collaborated in the writing of this new song and others to come. Worldtorn hasn’t been fully described, so far as I’ve seen, but the lyrics to “Gateways” do suggest the beginning of a continuous narrative.
“Gateways” is a good example of this Canberra band’s multi-faceted songwriting. It includes hard-charging black metal ferocity packed with obliterating drumwork, blaring and frenetically writhing guitars, tumultuous bass-lines, and absolutely unhinged vocals. It also includes soaring but intensely agonized melodies that add to the breathtaking impact of the music.
The scale and sweep of the calamity translated by the music is vast, but the song also includes guitars that ring like chimes through misty surroundings, an extended guitar solo that is absolutely glorious, but tragic, and an instrumental finale that’s thoroughly beguiling (and seems to twitter like an electronic bird).
CHROME WAVES (U.S.)
Chrome Waves have been around for a dozen years, but it’s fair to say that they’ve been riding a surging wave since the release of their last album, 2021’s The Rain Will Cleanse, which (as our own Andy Synn expressed in his extensive review) represented a significant movement away from their more blackened influences “in favour of a sound that favours the more emotive and expansive, Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Shoegaze-inspired side of their identity”.
In keeping with the sense of urgency in their creativity that’s been displayed through prolific output, the band already have another album on the way, this time with the M-Theory Audio label and a new drummer in the fold (Garry Naples of Novembers Doom, Wolvhammer, and Hatemonger), and the first sign of it is a new single named “Under the Weight of a Billion Souls“. Singer/guitarist James Benson has explained its theme:
“Humanity as a whole and its greed and ability to hyper focus on only our small “tribe” and remain in echo chambers with social media while our neighbors suffer through turmoil in front of our blinded ways, and those with resources make no changes to help millions in poverty. It is a stark vision of our future collapse.”
As you probably know, Chrome Waves have become an exception to our rule about singing, an exception earned again by the vocals in this new song, but there are also vicious vocals here that scar the ears and remind us of the band’s black metal roots. The song also slashes, slugs, snaps the neck, even as the ring and swirl of the different guitars and the bounce of the beats fires up the pulse.
Even though the song’s visceral punch is strong, it’s in many ways still a somber song, and becomes even more stricken and abandoned-feeling as it crawls in bitterness near the end. At the end, the voice cries out in lament, the steel guitar wails, the bass hums in sorrow, and dejection rules the mood.
The name and release date of the new Chrome Waves album haven’t been announced yet, but it will come our way sometime next year.
Up next is the return of another band that we (actually, I) have written about before, though only once, because there has only been one other release by this Canadian solo project, a single named “Votum” released this past September. The name of this new chaotic extragalactic chant is “Descent of Imploding Star“.
This musical descent lasts almost 14 minutes. Its eerie and increasingly stressful ambient/symphonic opening is devoted to transporting you far out in the cosmos, with the location chosen so you’ll have a good view of the impending stellar implosion. You’ll be in company with someone whose voice is a harrowing embodiment of mental and emotional fracturing, along with what might be a celestial host crying out in grief and pain.
Distant beats and booms, almost completely submerged in swelling and receding seas of searing sound, provide the music’s pulse, such as it is. Those sounds are submerged, I assume, so as not to distract from the centerpiece of the track, which is the truly horrifying vocal performance. Even the vast waves of backing sound don’t diminish the extreme agony in that voice, but they do provide a complementary expression of agony and apocalypse.
I guess you’ll have to be in the right mood for this. Speaking for myself, I had an inkling of what was about to happen due to my familiarity with “Votum“. Even though I expected/hoped that some kind of change might come, it never did, yet I still couldn’t tear myself away.
I’m not finished with the new music in this column, but I am finished writing. I thought I’d end with new videos from some bigger names, and let you explore them, including the twist at the end, without commentary from moi.