SEEN AND HEARD: ETERNAL STORM, HESPER PAYNE, THUNRAZ, BEFORE THE DAWN
Oh hell what a week it’s been. One of those weeks when I’ve barely had time to write up the premieres I agreed to do, much less focus on other new music and videos. So now I’m staring at all the links to the stuff I wanted to check out, featuring big names known to all and names I’ve never seen before. Time is still short, but I’d better make a start and then hope to fill in more tomorrow and Sunday.
ETERNAL STORM (Spain)
In 2019 we gave a lot of attention to this Spanish band’s debut album Come the Tide. It popped up on a lot of the year-end lists we posted, and a lot of year-end lists at other sites acclaimed it as well.
To quote only from our own staff, Andy Synn (who included Come the Tide on his list of 2019’s Great Albums) wrote that “if there’s one band who might just be able to kickstart a brand new Melodic Death revolution, it’s Eternal Storm“, and DGR (who put the album at No. 14 on his year-end list) summed it up as “a master class of progressive death and melodeath hybridization that makes an hour just fly by”. And for my part, I hosted a song premiere and then put a different song on our list of the year’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.
Needless to say, therefore, I was quickly drawn to the two singles that Eternal Storm digitally released in quick succession over the last week — “Grey Skies (MMXXIII)” and “Last Refuge“.
Accompanied by hair-raising screams and guttural roars, the former blazes and darts, gallops and blasts, but also makes room for some dark and desolate melodies.
The latter is twice as long, and therefore much more varied and interesting. It’s also often adrenaline-fueled, but sounds more tormented, and there’s singing (both crestfallen and soaring) as well as shining keyboard splendor and beautifully melancholy guitar soloing in the mix. It also makes room to jolt the hell out of your neck in its penultimate phase, a phase in which mandolin-like guitars take the lead in enthralling fashion. As it ends, synths expand the scope in panoramic yet haunting fashion.
HESPER PAYNE (Belgium)
This band, which used to be in the UK but now identify as based in Liège, brought forth a new single earlier this month, their first one in two years (if you don’t count their take on a Wham! pop jam near Christmas Eve 2021).
The new song, “Thee Final Doom of Hanton Rutherford“, narrates a scary story of a protagonist whose curiosity led him deep beneath a mountain, into a lightless abyss where something monstrous dwells and from which he will never escape.
As for the music, it’s a multi-faceted musical horror tale, as theatrical as ever. In part it sounds like a massive, shaggy, lumbering beast soaked in doom, from which strange flickering lights glisten and gritty wails emerge in agony. It also includes darting symphonic strings, muscular lurching riffs, knee-capping drum blows, horrid growls, a witchy guitar solo, and blood-freezing ambience.
Yesterday brought another new song from this Estonian band’s forthcoming album Revelation. This one is named “Detritus“. It’s paired with a B&W video that ingeniously provides a changing collage of disturbing imagery — to go along with the equally disturbing music. One might guess from the video that the detritus to which the song refers is the filth and decay that human beings leave behind wherever we go.
You get the sense from the music that Thunraz think that filth and decay might be the only lasting testament to humanity’s existence — because the music is absolutely desolating. The riffing comes in mangling, abrasive swarms; the bass rhythmically clangs like girders; something hideous seems to be undulating even further down below; and both the cold-hearted gutturals and the hair-raising shrieks are horrifying.
The song does become less destructively chaotic, with drums brutally pounding and cymbals crashing, but the guitars drag in such ugly, hopeless tones that the sound is suffocating.
One more song from the album, “Panzram“, was released in January, and I’ll include a stream of it too. I already spilled a lot of words about it here. Revelation is set for release on May 29th.
BEFORE THE DAWN (Finland)
I wrestled with myself over whether to include this last song and video. It’s a throwback to a by-gone era, which is one way of saying it brings nothing new to the table, and is much more of a nostalgia trip for me than anything that connects with what I’m most interested in hearing these days. But the nostalgia factor is strong, because I used to be a die-hard fan of this band back before founder Tuomas Saukkonen killed it off in early 2013.
So yes, they’re back again, this time with Paavo Laapotti doing the singing (Saukkonen has moved behind the drums, and Juho Räihä is still in harness on lead guitars), and the first single from the comeback album is a calculated crowd-pleaser. I’m pleased enough myself with its slugging grooves and fast-swirling Scandinavian melodeath melodies. Have to put this in the category of “guilty pleasure”. Maybe there will be other new songs that are more interesting than this one.
The album is Stormbringers, and it’ll be out on June 30th via Napalm Records.