SEEN AND HEARD: CATTLE DECAPITATION, THEOPHONOS, THE OCEAN
Yet another big week for new metal. I have many things I want to recommend, but not enough time today to throw them all your way. So I’ll make a start now, with a sandwich made of some big names at top and bottom and stunning Theophonos in the middle, and continue on Saturday.
CATTLE DECAPITATION (U.S.)
It’s kind of amazing that Cattle Decap have now been around long enough to release a tenth studio album, which is what will happen on May 12th when Metal Blade ushers Terrasite into a waiting world.
We have a linguistic preview of what’s coming, thanks to this statement by guitarist Josh Elmore:
Photo by Nick Van Vidler
“After a record like Death Atlas, you have to make a turn. Everything about that album – the concept, artwork, music, etc. – was a final statement. The only way to move forward is rebirth. In approaching the newest record, it was not only necessary to keep the musical trajectory the band has been aiming towards since the beginning, but also to further explore the ambient/textural elements that were part of Death Atlas.”
And then there’s this from vocalist Travis Ryan:
“I wanted to do the 180° opposite of Death Atlas. I already had the concept idea from years back and since Death Atlas was so dark and brooding, I wanted a completely opposite effect – I wanted this to take place in the daylight. I’ve always found daytime horror to be really unsettling so I wanted to make sure what was going on on the cover took place in the light of day, which also finds its place within the lyrics.”
Ryan invented the album’s title, which means “earth-eater” and stands as “a metaphor for humanity’s role in the destruction of the planet”. You can think about that as you watch and listen to the video for Terrasite‘s first single, “We Eat Our Young“.
And well, yeah, there’s almost nothing dark and brooding about the song. Fingers and limbs fly in an outburst of furious savagery as Ryan roars and screams like a mad barbarian bent on vengeance. I say “almost”, because while the music is brazen and brutal, it does have undercurrents of bleakness — as well as darting celestial strings, a burst of head-moving riffage, and a closing sequence that soars and screams at the same time as it inflicts obliterating percussive punishment.
Theophonos is the new solo project of Detroit-based Jimmy Hamzey, himself the Theophonos behind the now-interred avant-garde black metal band Serpent Column. That alone would be reason enough to check out the debut Theophonos record Nightmare Visions, released two days ago by Mystískaos and Amor Fati Productions.
Nightmare Visions winds its way through eight tracks of significantly varying lengths, ranging from the short, sharp shock of “Lower Types” at 1:26 to the bombshell brilliance of closer “Of Days Past“, which comes in just shy of eight minutes.
Like the track lengths, the music is also varied, and not easily summed-up. Black metal at its core, and amplified in its intensity by napalm vocals, it also twists and turns in a multitude of head-spinning directions thanks to multi-layered guitar-work that shifts like a fast-turning kaleidoscope of sound and percussive variations that are equally dynamic and unpredictable. And while black metal is at its core, Theophonos pulls from other stylistic well-springs, including (but not limited to) hardcore, post-metal, and prog.
The music is capable of igniting bonfires of riotous and ravishing delirium, but also jolting like high-octane pile-drivers. It reaches blazing heights of jaw-dropping extravagance, with an explosiveness that feels like megaton air-bursts and a fury that throws off all chains.
Out of nowhere you’ll hear stripped-down punk chords or near-atonal clangs, or insectile fretwork fevers and arpeggios that seem to scream in agony, or the kind of hard-driving momentum of a racing tank attack and the kind of bludgeoning brutishness that cracks concrete. But you’ll also encounter wailing chords and slithering melodies that become entrancing, attention-grabbing bass-and-drum interplay with a proggy nuance, and even moments when the guitar’s ring fashions visions of desolate desert landscapes.
Like the instrumentation, the moods are also in rapid flux, ranging from head-exploding catharsis to agonizing pain, from unabated fury to bewildering confusion and even soul-draining loneliness. But in the main, Nightmare Visions will keep your heart pounding at an accelerated rate, suck the wind from your lungs, and spin your head all the way around, perhaps most of all during that fantastic closing track, which is home to some remarkable guitar soloing in the midst of turbulence, torment, and haunting gloom, culminating in a final bright sequence of almost folk-like strumming.
Really a phenomenal record, Nightmare Visions is available as a digital download and is also captured on LP vinyl. Both come with an extensive booklet of illustrations by Hafsteinn Ársælsson (Wormlust, Guðveiki). I’ve bought the record myself, and can attest that the booklet, which includes the evocative and poetic, yet daunting, lyrics, is wonderful.
THE OCEAN (Germany)
It’s fair to say that any year which includes the release of a new album by The Ocean will be a year worth remembering with at least some pleasure, no matter how many awful events it will otherwise deliver. And 2023 will be one of those years, because Pelagic Records will release a new album by this collective on May 19th.
Staying with their nomenclature of geologic epochs, The Ocean have titled the new one Holocene, the name given to the last 11,700 years of the Earth’s history — the time since the end of the ice age, sometimes also called “The Age of Man”. And thus for the band the album functions as a closing chapter to their paleontology-inspired album series.
As a first preview of what the album brings we have a video for a song called “Parabiosis“. I think it’s worth sharing some significant information about both the song and the video, which I lifted from a press release:
“Filmed on tour in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, the video shows the artificially-aged band members sign up for an ‘eternal youth’ program and shows them aging in reverse. The track itself is ‘about stem cell research and the cosmetics industry’s war against aging and our society’s quest for rejuvenation elixirs, plastic surgery etc, which leads to the question of— how far can and shall we go regarding bio-engineering and medicinal progress?’ the band comments.
“They continue, ‘The cult of eternal youth has lead to death being hidden from our everyday lives. You literally see no old people in our modern inner cities anymore, everyone is young and healthy and the sick and dying are locked away in clinics and retirement homes where they won’t remind the general public of the fact that we are all going to die one day, which keeps us stuck on a hamster wheel of spending the time of our lives working jobs we hate to afford things we don’t need…”
photo by Jaqueline Vanek
As for the music, it does bring modern electronic beats into play, along with mesmerizing piano melody and softly floating vocals, but also syncopated grooves, acrobatic drum fills, more extravagant singing, mournful strings, and meandering sax-like melody. The song has an ebb-and-flow-momentum, a push-and-pull intensity, and so it slugs, gouges, and bludgeons too, and the voices rise in fire just as effectively as they carry the hook-filled melodies.
Quite a trip it is, right up through the futuristic outro, and the video is a hell of a thing to watch as well.
Cattle Decapitation and The Ocean singles sound great (although very different from one another). I’m stoked with the list of upcoming albums this year.