I didn’t agree to do any premieres today. I thought I would be in Texas for events related to my day job (I know you’ll mentally insert an F word before “day job” and maybe before “Texas”, so I didn’t bother). But as things turned out I didn’t make the trip, though I do have to make appearances by Zoom (insert another F word). Today’s appearance isn’t until mid-day here, so I used the free time to whip up a roundup.
Tomorrow’s Zoom thing from Texas will start much earlier and last much longer, and for some reason I did agree to a premiere, so no Friday roundup. My crystal ball cracks a lot, but at this point when I look into it I see enough free space in my life to do the usual Saturday SEEN AND HEARD. Even after today there will still be a ton of things to catch up with.
The boundary-pushing Sacred White Noise (reviewed here) really rang my chimes (as it did a lot of other listeners), and seeing Thantifaxath perform live cemented my own fandom. Their follow-up EP Void Masquerading as Matter (which I reviewed here) pushed the envelope even further.
I certainly didn’t expect we’d then have to wait six years for something new from this Toronto group. At least what they’ve done in the interim is a new full-length to make up for the lost time. It has a good and timely title: Hive Mind Narcosis.
When you listen to the first advance song (also the opening track), I suspect your mind will spin. Mine did. “Solar Witch” heaves and groans, deliriously warbles in glittering tones, and eventually begins to bounce off the walls when the drums become frantic and shrill guitars wail like air-raid sirens. Through it all, terrorizing screams enhance the music’s disorienting effects.
More psychedelic twists follow, as dissonant, piercing arpeggios trace odd angles and the drums gallop and boom. The big moaning bass still menacingly heaves and undulates beneath those frenzied frolics, and suddenly the song ends without any tangible sensation that time has been passing, because we’ve been bewitched.
Thantifaxath explain that Hive Mind Narcosis is a lyrical blend of two mutually conflicting ideals: “The album has two levels working in dichotomy with one another. On one level there is a strong resistance to something, and on the other there is a total acceptance of that same thing. Beyond that, we leave it open to your interpretation.”
The album will be released by Dark Descent on June 2nd. The cover art is from “Witches’ Flight” by Francisco Goya (1798).
Tough to know how to follow that Thantifaxath mind-bender, so I just threw a mental dart at my list, and it landed on what turned out to be a very suitable place.
Where it landed is a thrilling video for “Scouring Ignorance“, the first single from Fen‘s seventh album Monuments to Absence. It delivers thundering cannonades, scalding screams and vicious snarls, and the kind of blazing, soaring, yet oddly contorting riffage that sounds furiously crazed and calamitous.
The band keep the throttle wide open and the adrenaline flowing almost all the way through, but they do throw in twists and turns, making the music sound desperate and dismayed, shifting into bracing gallops, and allowing singing voices to rise up. When they do ease up on the gas near the middle, the guitars seem to wail like anguished spirits, and the rhythm section get an even brighter place in the spotlight.
I will also share what the band have written about the song. I suspect that for many of us, its theme expresses a common feeling:
“We originally wanted to pen a piece from a perspective of strength and self-actualization, addressing the idea of literally scouring ignorance from the world through determination and drive. We swiftly became aware of the futility of such a notion and instead, ‘Scouring Ignorance’ confronts ignorance itself as an almost tangible force – an infectious, quasi-elemental power that sweeps across our reality. Enlightenment, reason, empathy and rationality are scoured from thought by the corrosive nature of ignorance itself, willingly embraced by the hapless herds that infest this world. This is a more realistic way to address the manifestations of ignorance swirling around us, reflected in the feverish gaze of foaming-mouthed demagogues and lapped up by the multitudes of the witless. Accompanied by one of our most intense compositions to date and placing the piece as the opener of the album we feel is a defiant and determined statement.”
Monuments to Absence will be released by Prophecy Productions on July 7th.
OLD BLACK (France)
The first two songs in today’s collection exhibited varying degrees of “blackening”, so it seemed kind of natural to follow them with a song from the French trio Old Black, aptly named “Vagabönd öf Hell“.
As we say in the trade, the song is made for the reptile brain. It’s not fancy, but it digs its big ugly claws into the listener’s neck right fast. With distorted guitars tuned to a filthy fuzz, backed by a beefy bass and drums that snap and boom, the band lasciviously rock out like a demon beast in rutting season. The horrid predatory growls certainly don’t sound human.
The band also throw in some woozy, psych-sounding leads backed by drilling double-kicks and athletic drum fills before reconnecting with that filthy, hook-laden main riff, while also hungrily gouging at your guts. The words “primitive” and “primal” spring to mind, and Old Black do indeed sound like vagabonds from Hell.
This song is the title track to an Old Black EP that will be released by the French label Black Pandemie Prod (CD and digital), in co-production with Acid Vicious Zine & Prodon on April 15th.
I didn’t throw a dart to select this next transfixing song and video. Instead I made a conscious effort to shove you off-balance after that Old Black track.
What we have here is the surprise second single from Austere‘s new album, which follows the remarkably multi-faceted first song “Sullen” (reportedly the only single Austere would release from the album). Like “Sullen”, “A Ravenous Oblivion” is a long piece, and it should come as no surprise to learn that it’s also a gem of many facets.
True to its name, you could indeed interpret the song as the sound of a desperately hungering oblivion, or maybe also the sound of people hungering for oblivion themselves (the shrieking vocals are always ravenous and ruinous). How it plays out includes long submersive swaths of sorrowful blackgaze melody; other swaths of horizon-spanning sunrise brilliance; the steady beats of a determined wanderer along the shore; and the hammering of a stressed heart.
As the gem turns, everything rings and reverberates, giving a song of distress a cloak of splendor. It’s easy to fall under its unsettling spell. The video is beautiful.
The name of Austere‘s long-awaited new album is Corrosion of Hearts. It’s set for release by Lupus Lounge on April 28th.
Now to trip you off-balance again.
Soft strumming and lugubrious strings provide the meditative prelude to “Black Maps“, and Dor then extend the spell through the thump of pagan drums, the moan of bowed bass tones, and harmonious singing that seems like a chant. More haunted singing and the bark of a dog emerge when the strumming resumes, strengthening the spell. But it never loses its strength, even when the thumping and cracking pulse comes back to life.
This sad but thoroughly captivating song is from a Dor album named In Circle that will be released by Drown Within Records and Toten Schwan Records on May 19th. Alessandro Vagnoni created the fascinating cover art.
Here, Dor‘s founder Francesco Fioretti is accompanied by Paolo Raineri (Ottone Pesante) on trumpet, Bruno Germano (Arto) on wurlitzer, Sergio Pomante on sax, and Mario Di Battista (Ulan Bator, La Mala Sementa) on vocals and bass.
METEOR VORTEX (Finland)
One more twist in the musical path before I must bid you adieu for that fucking Zoom confab.
For fans of metallic extremity, calling a song “Ultraspeed” has connotations of inhumanly fast drums, blizzard guitars, and vocals that sound like screams carried by a hurricane. However, this particular “Ultraspeed” isn’t any of that. Though it does have a relentlessly pulse-punching momentum, it draws fuel from a feverishly throbbing bass and a drum-drive that’s heavy on the back-beats, more of a head-nodding groove than a blast furnace.
What really seizes attention, however, is the guitar workout (or rather, freakout) that takes place in the song. It sets a big hook with a vivid opening riff that seamlessly goes faster, and then turns that over to the bass in order to deliver a multi-layered psychedelic spectacle. Packed with pedal effects, the guitars warble and scream, quiver and cavort, and the whole experience turns out to be quickly addictive.
I kept waiting for vocals to come in, imagining they would be a high stoner-doom wail, but nope. No vocals. But I’m still hooked. Oh, and the colorful animated video by Matti Pietari Järvinen is suitably trippy too.
The song is from a new Meteor Vortex album named Ignition Sector, set for release on May 5th.