(Andy Synn recommends four albums from last month which you may have overlooked)
So we’re officially one month into the new year and… my list of artists/albums that we didn’t cover in January is already four or fives times longer than the ones we did write about.
Maybe it’s time to accept that it’s impossible for us to stay on top of everything, and just be happy with what we are able to do?
Hell, usually it’s another couple of months of stress and strife before I/we inevitably come to this realisation, so perhaps this is a sign of what I think they call “growth”?
Whatever… here’s four releases from January that you might have missed (but which, thankfully, we didn’t).
DYSTOPIAN OMEN – MEDUSA’S RAGE
On their debut album, Spanish quintet Dystopian Omen don’t fuck about, delivering ten tracks of chunky, chop ’em up Death Metal (with a dash of Grind influence) reminiscent of early Landmine Marathon and/or War of Attrition-era Dying Fetus.
Sure, they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel, and a little bit of trimming down and tightening up (and I would suggest leaning even more into the “get in, get out” Grindcore side of things) would probably help them hit even harder (less is more, after all… or, at least, that’s what they tell me) but there’s a lot of potential on display here.
That’s not a knock on the album itself by any means. For one thing pretty much every song has at least one major moment designed to put a massive grin on your face – whether that’s the perfectly placed drop into a gigantic gut-wrenching groove during “Mousetrap Surgery”, the core, chugging hook of “My Heretic Creed”, the bone-headed (and bone-breaking) finale of “Sleep Paralysis”, or the staccato rhythmic refrain of “Symphony of New Order” – and, for another, the band’s individual and collective talents are pretty obvious throughout.
It’s more that by the end of Medusa’s Rage (whose climactic title-track I believe references the modern analysis of Medusa not so much as a monster but as a victim of uncaring powers – something which is well worth reading up on, if you’re interested) you already feel like the band are capable of more.
Which, again, is not a criticism – it’s simply that there are already hints, nestled within these tracks, of where and how the band could further develop their sound in the future, and I already can’t wait to hear what they do next!
ὉΠΛΊΤΗΣ – ΨΕΥΔΟΜΈΝΗ
It’s probably a little (or, a lot) too early for us to be talking about “album of the year contenders”… but if it wasn’t then the debut full length from China’s Ὁπλίτης (transl. Hoplites) would definitely be up there.
Yeah, I know, I know, I’m just playing into the hands of the hype machine, even without meaning to, but when it comes to this sort of twisted, tangled, avant-garde amalgam of dissonant fury and discordant technicality the list of bands who do it this well (Suffering Hour, Serpent Column (RIP), Haunter, etc) is a pretty exclusive one, and – on the evidence of Ψευδομένη – Ὁπλίτης have more than earned their place alongside them.
Possessing a feverish intensity that borders on the lunatic, and a frantic, face-melting riffing style that sits just on the right side of barely controlled chaos, songs like the absolutely punishing “Ψευδόμαντις” and its punkier, but equally abrasive sibling “Ψευδομάρτυς”, offer absolutely no quarter to either the experienced or the unwary listener, establishing a level of violent intensity that makes this a record not recommended for the weak of heart.
That being said, however, while the sheer ferocity of tracks such as “Ὁ τῶν δακρύων ἄγγελος” and the apoplectic assault of “Μάρτυς” is undeniable, it’s when Ὁπλίτης choose to push the envelope that little bit further – during the undulating, unpredictable Avant-Black odyssey of “Ὁ τῶν δακρύων ψεῦδος”, or the distressing wall-of-sound and disturbing atmospherics of “Θελκτήριον”, for example – that you become truly aware of the steely-eyed method behind all the apparent madness and, in turn, come to appreciate the incredibly detailed construction of an album which demands, and deserves, to be listened to and appreciated in its entirety every single time.
SIGNO ROJO – THERE WAS A HOLE HERE
A little bit punky, a little bit proggy, and a lot sludgy, the new album from Sweden’s Signo Rojo strikes a delicate balance between the atmospheric intensity of mid-career Neurosis and the dirty, dynamic hooks of early Baroness, with a dash of Mastodon-ish melody added into the mix for good measure.
All these elements are on display, to a greater or lesser degree, during the album’s ambitious opener “Enough Rope”, whose hefty grooves and heartfelt vocals help to immediately set the tone for the rest of the album, and while all this name-dropping might have you thinking that you already know what There Was a Hole Here sounds like, the truth is that the band thread the needle in just such a way that they never quite sound exactly like any of the aforementioned artists.
If anything, the best/closest comparison would be with their highly respected (and newly reformed) countrymen in Burst (“Dead on the Vine” in particular has some serious Origo-esque energy to it) with whom they share an affinity for both big hooks and equally big riffs, as well as a talent for juxtaposing both rough and clean vocals in order to really get their message across.
Even with this in mind, however, key cuts like the irrepressibly energetic “Looking-Glass Self”, the shamelessly hooky title-track, and climactic closer “Botfly” all showcase a punkier, grungier approach than most of the band’s previously-mentioned peers and progenitors, one which has helped them to carve out a little bit of space all to themselves over the course of this album and which makes them well worth checking out even if you already think you know what you’re going to hear.
THAUMATURGY – TENEBROUS OBLATIONS
Last, but by no means least, we have an album which I initially checked out purely due to its eye-catching cover art (never underestimate the value of good artwork folks!) but which I selected for this article based purely on the strength of its suffocating atmosphere and soul-crushing intensity.
Clocking in at just over forty minutes, Tenebrous Oblations is a monstrous piece of work – part delirium-inducing death-dirge, part baleful blackened barrage – that recalls a doomier Teitanblood or a more aggressive Ruins of Beverast… or something between those two… in all its gruesome, gut-wrenching glory.
Much like its more infamous and/or iconoclastic inspirations, however, this album’s true power stems not (or, at least, not just) from its unrepentant extremity, but from its unexpected subtlety and restraint – whether that’s the hypnotic threads of malevolent melody which tie “Rites of Uncreation” together, the sinister sense of space which surrounds “Null Cosmic Womb”, or the sense of grim grandeur with which “Withered Flesh Effigy” crowns the record’s colossal climax.
That being said, I don’t want to undersell just how nasty songs such as the choking, churning “Gift of Blight” and the violent (yet virulently contagious) assault of “Plaguearchon” are – especially since every cavernous growl, every charnel-house riff, every catastrophic percussive pattern is the product of just one man’s creative voice and vision – so don’t expect an easy ride from this one once you push “play”.
But, if you’re anything like me, it’s a ride you’re going to want to take again and again… and one which might even take you all the way to the end of the year.
All you had to say was “burst”. Instant buy.
I’m having a hard time not declaring ὉΠΛΊΤΗΣ one of the most incredible albums I have ever listened to. I’ve listened to it at least 10 times in the last 2 days and it’s all I can think about.