SEEN AND HEARD ON A SATURDAY: KRYATJURR OF DESERT AHD, OXBOW, BALMOG, SARVEKAS, HOST, ÚZKOST
Happy Saturn’s Day (and good wishes to the dead Romans who named it.). For me, paying work was all-consuming during the first part of this past week, but it was sheer laziness that kept me from compiling a roundup of new music in the closing days. Those two phenomena were connected of course. After some NCS editorial work and some premieres during the days when the paying work relented, I felt like I’d earned the right to stop scurrying and attempt a mind-meld with sloths.
With no head-start behind me, here I am with a giant slag-pile of new music and videos to go through, and great risk of cutting myself followed by infection as I try to paw through it. But paw I did (thankful for band-aids), and the results are presented below. It doesn’t include everything that grabbed me, but to include everything would have left me still writing come sundown. I don’t want that. I want time to go outside and enjoy the warmest day of the year so far here in the Pacific Northwest, or more likely just take a nap.
As if I didn’t have enough picks already, this morning brought a new installment of Renni Resmini’s starkweather substack, and as usual I hadn’t heard the majority of those selections, and as usual his writing compelled me to check out some of those, which has made this roundup even longer.
KRYATJURR OF DESERT AUD (Australia)
Admittedly an odd pick to start, because “hot off the presses” is usually the organizing principle of these roundups, and Deafening Supercells of Thunder and Death is an EP that came out in February. However, the EP’s name stuck and I finally made time to learn whether the portents of the title were accurate, and if so how they would be realized.
Yes, the portents were indeed accurate. I’ve never been caught in a deafening supercell of thunder and death but I can imagine it when listening to these four tracks. How it was realized? Well, the opening track “Moisture” does sound like up-close recordings of a massive thunderstorm, but with alien machines lurking within it — an intersection of the natural and the unnatural. The thunder detonates and roars, and eerie clicking and shimmering tones radiate from the core. Maybe void-spawned creatures are wailing and screaming within it too.
In the title track, the thunder comes from gatling-gun drums, and the alien synth-screaming is more flesh-searing and ear-bleeding. Muffled detonations still go off; echoing wails and imperious monstrous growls can still be heard; piercing sounds throb like mechanized fevers within the immense turbulence. In short, Hell is visited upon Earth.
All the tracks were clearly designed to flow from one to another. This would best be heard in a format that provides not even the micro-breaks that occur in the Bandcamp stream. And so the relatively brief and mainly rhythmless “Mesocyclone” carries forward the Hell realized by the end of the title song, and that cacophonous collage of sounds creates an even more hellishly cataclysmic impact.
Then you reach a closing track that of course is named “Hellish Windstorms Absorb Our Shelter“. The drums return, but the clattering and the bomb-bursts are unstable. No wonder, because the broiling sounds around them are overpowering. The roaring aliens are applying massive blowtorches from within the supercell vortex to turn our flesh to ash and our ground to glass. Warning sirens seem to wail, but they’re obviously far too late. By the end, everything that has not been torched to cinders falls to ruin, crashing into rubble.
The EP is a prime example of noise that’s so terrorizing that it becomes mesmerizing.
That EP is described as the beginning of “the Kluurja cycle”, and to my surprise this project’s Bandcamp page already includes the second EP in the new cycle, Deadly Floods of Hurricana Humiliate our Higher Grounds, which was released in early March.
This one, like the first one, was mixed and mastered by Markov Soroka (of Tchornobog). This one, like the first one, also includes four tracks, and they again flow together seamlessly in similar fashion — artificially divided at Bandcamp into short, long, short, long (very long) segments. Like the first one, it uses natural disaster driven by climate change as its theme, this time an ocean-spawned hurricane that brings its ruinous power to land.
I won’t go track by track again. Suffice to say that in most ways it’s a fraternal twin to the one above, not identical but clearly close kindred, equally devoted to creating fear with mind-mutilating intensity. Perhaps the noise, the drumming, and the voices are even more deranged than before.
I thought perhaps the novelty would wear off listening to a second episode of such horrific trauma, and some of it did, but I still found myself staying in place for it, white-knuckled to the end. As a way of imagining what Nature might do when it has finally had all it can stand of us, this is again very fucking potent.
Both EPs were released via Vigor Deconstruct.
Out of consideration for people who actually make their way through these roundups and listen to everything, I felt it was necessary to follow those last world-ending terrors with something less stressful.
This next song was one I explored thanks to Renni‘s latest substack collection. He wrote: “Sumptuous production, beautiful tones, delicate melodies and heartbreak. Not exactly the first things one thinks of with this unit, but, man, there is a gravity at play here that is unmistakable. Brings to mind the final recordings in the Bowie catalog.” I couldn’t resist.
“1000 Hours” is mesmerizing in a much more conventional way than the ruinations of Kryatjurr of Desert Ahd. In their poignancy, Eugene Robinson‘s soulful vocals are sublime, as are the bluesy twangs of the guitars and the backing shimmer-sounds. The grooves are big, and the mood dark enough to find a place here.
This is the first single from Oxbow‘s upcoming album, Love’s Holiday, due for release on July 21st from Ipecac. It includes secondary vocals by Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish/Beck).
Now that you’ve had your mental palate cleansed, it’s time to return to another kind of Hell.
Next up is a long and brilliant new Balmog single named “Covenants of Salt” that I’ve had my eye on since receiving a Bandcamp alert announcing its presence. It was conceived as a sequel to the band’s 18-minute single “Pillars of Salt” from the spring of 2020, which I commented about here. As of yesterday we can all now hear it, though it won’t be officially released until May 1st.
Sweeping and even cinematic at first, with an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding, the rhythm section then begin to rumble and inhuman howls rise up from freezing depths. The music still comes in heaving waves, both glittering and hypnotic, but near the 4-minute mark a seething guitar-bridge tells you something else is coming. What comes is a burst of hammering drums, hurtling bass, torrid screams, and guitars that slash, swirl, and pulsate in eerie and electrifying signs of madness.
From there, the band begin jabbing and jolting, but also layering in vibrant bass maneuvers and quivering, reverb-ed guitars that reinforce the song’s seductive yet chilling atmosphere, seemingly otherworldly in origin. There’s a bit of a hypnotic pause (still chilling), and then the music swells and swirls in sounds of sinister psychedelia again.
The sensations become increasingly labyrinthine, but also soar in icy splendor, prior to another storming and thoroughly exhilarating whirl in which either guitars or keyboards frantically pulse and waver. The ebbs and flows continue, with the music finally building to celestial heights of wonder, and a zenith of vocal extravagance as well.
Rennie wrote about this song too:
“Epic stuff opening with Sacrilege UK dual guitars keening in octaves, thunderous drums, and combination of male/female vocals we are set to embark on an momentous journey pulls out all the stops. From raucous wild huntsman dervishes, pensive melodic introspection, to the shores in flames of hammerheart Bathory, it’s all in there and there are moments for all the musicians and vocalists to brightly shine.”
“Covenants of Salt” is available for pre-order now through BlackSeed Productions and War Anthem Records.
It’s not quite fair to ask any band to follow that Balmog epic, but someone has to do it. Enter Sarvekas and their new song “Of Bloodlust & Nightside Sorceries.”
The song is a reflexive head-nodder, thanks to its hard-rocking grooves, but the high-flown melodies are glorious and the vocals are wolverine-vicious. The drums do kick into thundering and bombing gear, and the guitars heat up to a boil, but Sarvekas keep sending the song up into the stratosphere, even though at times the sounds are both sinister and despairing.
Speaking of glorious, that’s what the guitar solo is — something made for a big arena. And, frankly, the song as a whole doesn’t seem capable of being confined within the cramped walls of any club. It’s just too breathtaking in its scale, and its power becomes frightening.
The song is from the debut Sarvekas album Woven Dark Paths, which will be out on May 26th through Soulseller Records.
Well, maybe it’s time for another breather.
There was no way I could resist checking out this cover of A Flock of Seagulls‘ 1982 hit “I Ran (So Far Away)“. I’m not going to divulge my precise age, but let’s just say that my wife and I used to dance to this song when the possibility of marriage wasn’t yet on our minds. I have it committed to memory. So what have Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes done with it?
Well, they’ve made it less bouncy and bright and a lot more haunting. There’s still punch in the song, but the kind that would double you over if thrown by a fist, and the soloing screams in a way that makes this eerie rendition even more chilling. Kudos to Host for not making this a purely faithful cover (I can hear the original in my head whenever I want)
The song is included on the “deluxe” edition of Host‘s debut album IX, which is out now on Nuclear Blast.
I mentioned my wife in the last segment above. These days she lives in a state of near-perpetual rage over the increasing dominance of a right-wing theocracy in the United States. Both stunned and furious, she rails about becoming “a second-class citizen” again and about the clear and present dangers to the health as well as the self-determination of women. At those times I tend to keep quiet, because I can’t think of anything hopeful to say.
Pittsburgh-based Úzkost are also infuriated by this same state of affairs, and they express that in their new single “23 Ribs“. Lest there be any doubt about what inspired the song, check out the lyrics at Bandcamp.
As for the music, it also rages — bringing to bear bombing and clattering drums, turbulent bass lines, fire-storm riffing, and screamed vocals that are scalding to hear. The song becomes a roiling mass of grim yet macerating guitars, with a choir of even more riotous and revolted vocals, and a rumbling bass that sounds like an earthquake in progress.
The chords moan in agony and wail in misery, but eventually there’s a convulsion of shrill swirling and screaming fretwork, blistering drums, and cauterizing vocal intensity. Somehow it sounds both desperate and violently unhinged. No “peaceful protest” here, only fury in the red zone.
The song includes guest vocals by Colleen Munn.