SEEN AND HEARD: SUM LIGHTS, THUMOS, AORTES, LIMBES, AZKEN AUZI, VITAE CRUCIS
Like yesterday I found myself with a little extra time this morning before having to turn to other tasks that are un-connected to NCS. The music I chose to recommend goes in many different directions, but one thing they have in common (with one exception) is the terrifying intensity of the vocals.
SUM LIGHTS (Germany)
I’ve mentioned before that Rennie Resmini (starkweather), one of my constant sources of new musical discoveries, has a fairly new SubStack blog where he writes about his own new musical discoveries. I have found it to be a blessing and a curse, a blessing because it’s packed with good shit, a curse because I was already deluged with new music to check out before I started reading there.
I’ve decided to book-end today’s round-up with music I found via Rennie’s newest SubStack newsletter. The opening salvo is a song by the German black/death unit Sum Lights, who came roaring out of the gates in late 2021 with an album named Emanating Fulguration. I can only hope that the new song, “The Sense Of A Sun“, is sign of more to come soon.
What you get with “The Sense Of A Sun” is a wild head-trip. In part it’s a giant storm of furiously hammering drum, immense steamrolling riffage, shrill crazed leads, and maniacal vocals. In part it’s a heavy and slowly heaving monstrosity, punctured by gunshot snares and pierced by weird wailing tonal radiations. In further part it becomes hallucinatory, thanks to a woozy saxophone (or something that sounds like one), with the low end still crawling, gauging, and pounding out the punishment.
And then you get chant-like singing and willowy astral guitars that lead toward a vortex of calamitous madness, fronted by vocals that seem to find an even more frightening dmension of throat-ruining insanity.
Thumos has remained busy over the last two years, as a glimpse at Metal-Archives would tell you, and now 2023 will bring the project’s second album, Symposium. As suggested by the album’s name and its song titles, it appears to have been inspired by the principal characters in Plato’s famous dialogue, Symposium, who gathered together at a banquet and gave speeches in praise of love.
The first song revealed from the album, “Aristophanes“, is the exception to what I wrote earlier about the vocals in today’s roundup – because there aren’t any vocals. Instead, the song is an arresting post-metal instrumental. It builds slowly from brittle eerie guitars and shimmery synths into braying chords, bowel-loosening bass, and skull-smacking beats.
The twang of the opening guitar motif carries forward, strange and inviting, as another guitar yowls and the drumming becomes increasingly tumultuous. Ethereal eeriness creates a pause, and then Thumos continues working in variations on the song’s main melodic motif, pushing and pulling the volume and switching up the drum patterns, and managing to dig that motif deeper under the skin.
Symposium is set for release on February 14th by Snow Wolf Records.
Somewhere around late 2021 this Lithuanian band, prompted by line-up changes, changed their name from Autism to Aortes and began a re-start of their music as well. A year later they announced that a new album named Devouring Gloom would be released on February 28. As the album name conveys, the central themes of the record “deal with the struggle of the overwhelming feeling of despair, hopelessness, loneliness – or as we thought of it – a gloom that surrounds and devours you…. But there is always hope”.
Along with that announcement Aortes released the title track and an accompanying video, which, like the music, is haunting and harrowing. The first segment of the song is soft, allowing crystalline guitars to ring in ways that sound gloom-stricken and beseeching above heavy booming drums. A building swath of windy tones carries the song forward into a second segment, where the guitars slash and swirl, and the screaming vocals raise goosebumps on the skin.
Tension and torment build in the music, creating a maelstrom of fury and anguish segmented by start-stop punishment and vocals that seem the product of un-survivable pain. The band briefly pull back from that unnerving crescendo, moving in a soul-stricken and unearthly march, but only to throw the listener into another catastrophe, a finale where the guitar-mass seethes and sears way up high, the vocalist skins himself alive, and the rhythm section tumble and pummel.
Here’s another band that has undergone a name change. In years past I wrote about the two releases by the cleverly named French band Blurr Thrower, a 2018 EP and a 2021 album, but at some point after that album the band’s sole member Guillaume Galaup decided to change the name to Limbes, and now there’s a first album (Ecluse) under the new name on the horizon.
“Corridors” is the first song out there from Ecluse. The drums race from the start while above them it sounds like the skies have caught fire. The lead guitar boils within the vast sheets of high-end flame. There’s a feeling of almost celestial grandeur in the music, but it screams in a way that puts nerves on edge, and the vocals are utterly unhinged.
Lots of percussive romping and rioting happen as the song proceeds, providing a pulse-quickening liveliness within those other sweeping cinematic swaths of sound. No one ever tries to soothe Guillaume Galaup in his role as vocalist though. He still tears himself apart.
Ecluse will be released on January 13th by Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions.
AZKEN AUZI (France)
Last summer this sludge/doom band from Toulon independently released their self-titled debut album. I missed it then, but have now learned about it because Argonauta Records picked it up for a new release on January 13th. Along with that news the band recently released a hell-hued video for the album’s opening track, “Disgrace“, and it struck a chord.
The music comes across like a primitive hulking and heaving menace, but one that emits piercing (albeit corrosive) wails. The shaggy riffs and neck-snapping drums put a hammer lock on a listener’s head as it lurches and sways, and so you can’t get away from the maddened braying vocals, which are as raw as road-burn.
Strands of musical misery come through as this juggernaut of a song progresses, and at the 5:00 mark a shimmering lead seems to bespeak a poignant yearning and heart-breaking grief. It’s a soul-stirring experience, even as the cold-hearted beast in the music continues to put your head and torso into reflexive movement.
VITAE CRUCIS (UK)
Here’s the other bookend for this roundup that I discovered thanks to Rennie, a three-song self-titled debut EP of experimental black metal centered in Canterbury, UK. Rennie wrote:
Rage for the light? Quick glimpse at the Vitae Crucis lyrics one wouldn’t take this as unblack, but, does it really even matter when you’re taking a sound throttling? Besides, the mission statement could even relate to the Bloodborne video game, so, again, who care? What does matter is the music and this UK black metal act brings a mix of feral and choral vocals and very interesting guitar work that ranges from frosty hyper picked runs with great details to end phrasings and a nice undertow thump from the bass.
That ought to be enough to pull you into this EP, but I’ll add that getting through it is something like diving into a head-spinning and mind-mangling vortex of immense scale and power. It’s fascinating in its ingenuity, but deeply unsettling, frequently bewitching but just as often a hellscape that’s ruinous of body and soul.
The band’s preference is for elaborately layered dissonant and discordant tones, constantly varying drum and bass patterns, and a devotion to moods of bewildering confusion and fear, inner and outer turmoil, infernal grandeur, and a general splintering of sanity, only briefly leavened by a couple closing moments of unsettling peace. As Rennie forecast, the vocals are also all over the map, ranging from berserk screams to gargantuan growls, deep, solemn singing, and ghostly wails (among other things).
As a New Year’s Day release, this is a truly startling way to begin the year. Join the nightmare cult of Vitae Crucis via the stream below.
Azken Auzi…On Another Level…I Don’t Recommend Quite Often..If I… Its Gotta To Be Outstanding