In the northern hemisphere Winter officially began on Wednesday, December 21st, the day when half of Earth was tilted the farthest away from the sun, and the shortest day of the year. Since then the days have gradually become longer, not that you’d notice yet. But if you live in North America I bet you did notice Winter over the last few days, kind of like someone deciding to attract your attention by whacking your knee with a hammer. We all fall down!
Here in the Pacific Northwest at the metallic NCS island HQ we were only without power for 10 hours yesterday, presumably because the weight of snow brought some tree limbs down on the power lines that have been strung through them. No power lines are buried here, so they are at the mercy of the trees, and the trees are at the mercy of the wind, which is the usual culprit in the roughly 300 power outages experienced on this island every year, in addition to the occasional snowfalls.
When the power goes, so does the internet, without so much as a wave goodby. I was able to get most of yesterday’s NCS posts loaded and launched by using my phone as a hotspot, the cell service having survived the Winter blow. But I didn’t listen to any new streaming music yesterday, even after the power returned last night. It was kind of a nice break.
Probably some of you had it worse than we did over the last couple of days. At least we weren’t out on the roads or stuck in airports with canceled flights, or maybe something worse. Looks like things remain shitty for a big portion of the U.S. today, but less shitty here because the temp has risen above freezing and now it’s pouring rain instead of snowing, and that will melt all the snow and ice pretty fast. If Winter wanted to give us a real sucker-punch it would drop the temp below freezing again and cause all the vehicles to hydroplane on the roads once again, but the forecast says that won’t happen.
And oh hey, tomorrow is Christmas.
I’m excited about the idea of getting to blacken the holiday with tomorrow’s usual Sunday column, especially since my 13+ year mission (largely successful) has been to ignore every holiday at NCS and keep launching metal into the ether. But I don’t know how I’ll feel about that tomorrow. If laziness were a creature, it’s perched on my shoulders, chortling and getting fatter. But it hasn’t brought me to my knees yet, so here’s some new music I checked out this morning and thought was more than good enough to share.
THE CANYON OBSERVER (Slovenia)
Things do eventually get very wintry in the selections I’ve compiled today, but not at first. At first I have for you a tremendous video which shows the small army of performers in The Canyon Observing recording the second track from their new record Figura.
It’s a real kick to watch the two drummers, the cellist, the two saxophonists, the guitarists, the bassist, a third percussionist, and the rasping and screaming vocalist make their way through the song “Koža“, all of them performing live, apparently in the same space.
The music juxtaposes a lot of sensations, from the start-stop battering of the percussionists and the synced-up flashes of the guitar and bass to the sad and soulful strains of the strings and the wail of the brass. There’s no mistaking the feeling of growing tension and turmoil, which boils over in drum mania and then suddenly subsides into strangeness before the band start knocking you back on your heels again and cutting loose with their various sonic flamethrowers, creating a storm of multifarious mind-fuckery and beating you senseless along the way.
How many hours of rehearsal did it take to get this labyrinth of lunacy just right? The mind boggles at the thought. The mind boggles at the sights and sounds too. Let’s ask these folks to take a bow (along with cameraman Nejc Pisanski and film editors Darej Šömen & Nik Franko):
Bojan Varga – drums
Gašper Prus – drums
Gašper Letonja – guitar
Miloš Miloševič – guitar, vox
Matic Babič – vox, noises
Nik Franko – bass
Jure Boršič – alt sax
Jasna Kolar – baritone sax
Tadeja Žele – cello
Katarina Kozjek – cello
Figura will be released on January 9 by Kapa Records. Thanks go to Rennie from starkweather for recommending this epileptic awesomeness.
Shortly before Thanksgiving I had the honor of premiering and reviewing an extraordinary album by Estrangement named Disfigurementality that I acclaimed as “so astonishingly eclectic, so wildly creative, and so mind-blowing to hear that it really does seem unparalleled in the annals of extreme doom”. Those were just some of the flood of words I loosed upon readers, and here are so more:
Every one of the album’s long songs becomes a true musical tapestry, meticulously crafted and often richly embroidered. Some of those tapestries (and especially “Clusters” or “Womb of Worlds’) might bring to mind the more hellish works of Hieronymus Bosch. In listening to others you might imagine something woven in The Middle Age or then the Renaissance, or the modernistic flailing of paint or blood against a large blank canvas.
As well as tapestries, we could also analogize these songs to odysseys, or to The Odyssey itself — renderings of epic, timeless journeys through the underworld as well as a surface world populated by magical and monstrous creatures, and portraying the potential for magic and monstrosity in us all.
The occasion for reminding everyone about the album is the band’s release of a video for one of those hellish works mentioned in the block quote — “Clusters“. The beautifully made video interweaves film of the performers with a video narrative that’s as unnerving as the music. And I think you’ll find that although “Clusters” is significantly more nightmarish than the first piece of music I chose for today’s collection, there is a kind of kinship between them, an not only because of the deployment of instruments not typical for metal.
Credit for what you’re bout to see and here goes to these people:
Directed by Michal Imielski, starring Sylvia Marie Keays.
Czar – Violin
Euterpe – Flute
Ligamincer – Double bass
JS – Cello, Voice, Guitar, Percussion
Disfigurementality is out now on the Aesthetic Death label.
After three albums denominated by Roman numerals this Portuguese project is returning with a third one, named The Scab of Days. The first taste of it is the title track, released five days ago.
Reaching nearly 9 1/2 minutes, it sets the hook early with a kind of menacing rhythmic groove that throbs and slashes through ambient waves. There’s grim and gloomy singing here that rises into gritty cries as the music builds and expands, sweeps and sears.
That pulsing groove continues digging in, hard to resist, and when it takes a brief breather, the music becomes ethereal and entrancing, and then the cycle resumes, surging in intensity, diminishing into ghostly mists and brittle guitars, and building once more into a wave of wrenching splendor, with the vocals shouldering the weight of the music’s pain in a heart-expanding finale.
The Scab of Days is set for release on January 10th. It will probably become available for pre-order on Bandcamp soon.
My next choice for today is a lyric video (in Portuguese) for the song “Memória“, the first single off a long concept album by the band Carma. Inspired by the Conchada Cemetery located in Coimbra, Portugal, it is described by the Monumental Rex label as an exploration of “various cemeterial aspects, such as the architecture, the burials and the atmosphere, and the related feelings – fatalism, futility, loss, mourning, longing, among others.”
As you might already imagine, “Memória” is an expression of doom metal, but an expression that brings other ingredients into play. Mournful strings and lonely bass notes provide the overture, and from there corrosive guitars pick up the melody and carry it forward like a coffin almost too heavy to bear, over harrowing screams and a staggering drum cadence, accompanied by a lead guitar that wails its stricken lament.
In time, everything becomes more stricken, from the increased feverishness of the drums to the long agony of the guitars. Even the spoken words that arrive seem afflicted. After a pause, the dance of the guitars becomes a sound of yearning, just before the music swells and sweeps across pulse-punching drums, and the voices turn to hallowed singing. The experience is abysmal, but also tragically beautiful.
The album, Ossadas, is set for release by Monumental Rex on the distant day of March 3rd, 2023.
On a day like today (and recent days), it’s hard to resist the temptation to check out the music of a band called Wintermorph, even though the dictator of their homeland has done such a fantastic job smearing the reputation of their country with shit. It was a good decision to give their debut EP Flames a listen, and they, after all, did not invade anyone.
The music here is both fierce and forlorn, a rendering of post-black metal where the ringing riffs flash like lightning or provide a grim pulse above the hard-charging propulsion of hammering drums, a thrumming bass, and the savagery of bestial snarls. But when the adrenaline fuel lapses, the band make way for haunting piano melody and sorrowing strings.
The swirling leads, the flickering and fluid keys, and the inventive drum rhythms exert a powerful and bright allure, but there’s no mistaking the threads of grief and desolation that tie everything together as you make your way through “Flames” and into “Ashes” and “Trails”. Each song has its own feral and haunting moments, and every one of them on this excellent first EP is memorable.
PIERRE NOIR (?)
This makes the third Pierre Noir EP I’ve written about over the last three years. This project’s music has probably been on the outskirts of what NCS readers might favor, even people who favor black metal. Black metal ingredients do play a role in Pierre Noir‘s music, but so does the kind of pounding electro beats that that loosen fillings in listeners’ teeth.
The new EP, A rave of death, is indeed a rave, “A Black rave for dark days”, at least for the first two tracks. Those first two tracks hit the ground hard enough that it might make you bounce, like standing on a trampoline while a grizzly bear gleefully goes up and down on it, biding its time before it catches you in its jaws on one of the descents.
Around those thudding grooves, Pierre Noir creates multi-textured embellishments that range from screaming guitars to flickering keyboard mania, from screamed words to swaths of panoramic sound both brilliant and despairing, from delirious fireburst-soloing to dismal chords that moan and quiver. The closing track, “The Fall”, marks a departure into mesmerizing gloom. Something like a trombone quavers in the midst of glinting and glimmering guitar harmonies, and the slow echoing beat sounds like a funeral march, making a fine soundtrack for cold dark days.
I still don’t know who is in this band or where they are located. The new EP was released by the Spanish label Grabaciones Autobombo on December 23rd.