(Andy Synn has four excellent under the radar releases for you today)
Well, it’s that time again… time for me to harangue and browbeat you all for failing to keep up with all the great new releases that came out last month.
Of course, that’s not why I do these pieces at all. In fact, as much as I’d hope they provide a public service – cluing you in to some stuff that may have, understandably, flown underneath your radar(s) – there’s an argument to be made that I do them just as much for myself as for other people.
After all, I enjoy writing, and writing about new artists/albums I’ve discovered is a particular joy unto itself.
So here’s four releases from the last month (and a bit… I’ve stretched things a little this time around) for you to check out whenever you get the chance.
ASTERIÆ – GASNĄC
Poland’s Asteriæ are a band I’ve not really seen or heard anything about before now. And while this is understandable to an extent (this is, after all, only the band’s debut) it’s still a real shame, as their potent brand of Blackened (Post-) Hardcore definitely deserves to reach a wider audience.
Fans of bands like Downfall of Gaia (whose new album I’ll be reviewing next week, FYI), Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, and Celeste in particular would do well to check out Gasnąc, as the group’s blending of Black Metal intensity, Post-Metal atmosphere, and Post-Hardcore emotion, strikes a similar chord to their more well-known peers, while still retaining just enough subtle differences to set itself apart.
The core point of differentiation, to my ears at least, is the Polish band’s more prominent use of melody, with their focus on high, keening notes (“Puls”, “Blask”) and shimmering ambience (“Puch”, “Lament”) providing a striking counterpoint to the churning riffs and chattering blastbeats which propel tracks like “Chłód” and “Gorycz”.
To top this off, the raw, emotive vocals – primarily delivered in a tooth-gnashing Hardcore howl, interspersed with occasional moments of sombre spoken-word – ring far truer than the hate-fuelled hymns of many of the corpse-painted clades with whom Asteriæ share at least some common ancestry… so while they may be less “true” in some senses they are certainly more “real”. And that makes all the difference.
CLARION VOID – DEAFENING SOUNDS OF MORTALITY
Talk about putting your best foot forward, eh?
Clarion Void‘s debut album is eight tracks of viciously intense, virulently infectious, Blackened Sludge (or Sludgy Black Metal, depending on what angle you’re looking at it from) that plants its flag somewhere between Body Void and Wolvhammer (with maybe a bit of Lord Mantis and/or Dragged Into Sunlight thrown into the mix for good measure) and then proceeds to lay waste to everything around it.
It’s a monster of an album, make no mistake, that splits its time between more savage cuts like dizzying opener “Price of Solitude” and the catchy-yet-caustic “Conscious Plague” (both of which also incorporate a hefty amount of fetid, lurching groove) and longer, more atmosphere-heavy numbers such as the brooding slow-burn of “The Raven at Dawn” and catastrophic, doom-laden closer “Dead on the Water”, making for a great ebb and flow between short, sharp shocks and desolate, drawn-out dirges.
Whichever way that choose to lean, however, the trio are careful to lace every single track with some seriously sadistic hooks as well as a surprising amount of bleak, blackened melody, so that even the face-melting fury of “Victim of Passion” and the wounded, gut-shot stagger of “Give Up, Understand” manage to be as memorable as they are monstrous.
So if you’re a fan of any of the bands mentioned above – or are just looking for something horrible to listen to – then check this one out ASAP. You might just fall in love. Horrible, hateful love.
CRYPTDWELLER – AEON VOID
Having received a bit of flack last year for not praising certain members of the latest OSDM revival as much as I apparently should… while also, supposedly, giving too much attention to all the wrong sort of bands… I’m here once again to tell you to stop listening to whoever the most recent flavour-of-the-month bunch of death-dealers are and instead turn your attention to a more deserving band… namely South Carolina’s Cryptdweller.
What sets these guys apart, in my opinion at least (and, let me be clear, I’m not claiming they’re reinventing the wheel or anything, simply providing a refreshing alternative to many of the more over-hyped acts out there) is the palpable sense of darkness surrounding their music.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as crushingly catchy and nihilistically nasty as you might expect, but there’s an altogether darker hue to the album’s musical palette – with none of the overly-desperate need to appear “fun” (though it definitely is a hellishly good time) or cheap shock value that many of their peers opt for – that infuses every writhing riff and twisted tremolo melody.
As a matter of fact, this use of intensely evil melody – coupled with their occasional dabbles in sinister atmosphere (the finale of “Carousel of Pain” being a prime example) – reminds me quite a bit of early Sulphur Aeon, especially during both apocalyptic opener “Unrelenting Breed” and the closing pairing of “Disdain of Light” and “Choirs of Agony” (with the visceral, blackened intensity of the former marking it out as perhaps the best track on the album).
So while the band may not be as big, or as (in)famous, as some of their peers, Aeon Void strikes me as the connoisseurs’ choice for the discerning Death Metaller.
THE WORLD IS QUIET HERE – ZON
If I know our readers at all – and, by now, you’d at least hope I’ve got a vague handle on who they are, right? – then I can predict that this particular entry is going to divide them.
Let’s face it, this sort of outlandishly Prog/Tech Metal – easy to describe, hard to define – tends to be pretty polarising, and I don’t expect this entry to be any different.
That being said, I am (obviously) very much in love with this record, which combines the ambitious, vaudevillian songwriting of Between the Buried and Me with the twitchy, agile riffage of Psycroptic and the infectious weirdness of Faith No More into something delightfully eccentric and stunningly energetic.
Indeed, it’s this sense of boundless energy, of lightning captured in a bottle, which really makes the album at work, with the electric fretwork and eclectic vocals of “White Sun” (where outstanding new vocalist Lou Kelly immediately proves himself a force to be reckoned with via his majestic, Mike Patton-esque performance behind the mic) swiftly setting the tone for the entire album – technical yet playful, proggy yet catchy, grandiose yet also grounded, and a whole lot more besides.
This juxtaposition of ideas and influences – from ambient and acoustic passages that wouldn’t sound out of place on the most recent Hypno5e album, to punchy rhythmic passages which recall MIA Prog-Metal maestros The Human Abstract, to bursts of twisted Tech-Death reminiscent of The Faceless at their best – makes for a true odyssey of oddities which, miraculously, the band have managed to weave together into a singular piece of progged-out art-core that only gets stronger (and stranger) the more you listen to it.
Hell, I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite this OTT since Devin Townsend released Deconstruction… and Zon might just be even better.
That was a cool review of The World is Quiet Here. Delightlfully eccentric is right. I am getting into it.