Jul 142023

Here we are at another Friday, with yet another big pile of new metal staring us in the face and not nearly enough time to make much of a start in selecting recommendations before the sun gets high in the sky (or is replaced by the moon where you might live).

I’m reminded of the statement attributed to Laozi about how the journey of a thousand miles begins, a proverb that usually doesn’t motivate me at times like this, when a thousand-yard stare is all I can usually muster. But today I tried harder to take the proverb to heart, and actually made two steps. Unless like puts a bog in my path, more steps will follow tomorrow and Sunday.

WOE (U.S.)

My first selection is a new song from Legacies of Frailty, a new album by Woe and the first one since 2017’s Hope Attrition. Since then, it’s hard to deny that the human world around us has slid backward, more rapidly and in more disgusting ways than even the pessimists among us had contemplated, and the natural world has suffered for it as well.

These developments certainly weighed on the mind of Chris Grigg, who for the first time since 2007 made this Woe album by himself (albeit with additional drumming on three tracks by Lev Weinstein). The result is a concept album, described by Grigg in these words:

“The phenomena of people desperate to belong to something bigger than themselves is something Woe explored on the last album in “No Blood Has Honor” and it fascinates me. Every issue, every position, you’ll find people eager to weaponize you’ll find people glad to be weaponized. These are key themes in Legacies of Frailty, a concept album about the way a society collapses as our modern intellect is overwhelmed by the primal call of tribalism and warfare. Religious brainwashing and self-proclaimed prophets manipulating the masses are classic black metal themes. They’re extremely relevant right now. Legacies of Frailty tells the story of a world engulfed in it and describes a population that’s helplessly consumed by the fires of conflicts that we thought were long-extinguished.”

The first single from the new album, released earlier this week via a premiere at Decibel, is “Scavenger Prophets“. Many things stand out from the music, but first and foremost is the sheer burning fury in both the vocals and the torrential riffing. The combined impact is scorching and scathing on a broad scale, and the full-throttle drumming only adds to the song’s adrenaline-fueling effects.

Although the riffing roils and writhes, rises and falls, and the drumming delivers some well-timed ax blows to the neck and slugs to the body, the song’s intensity never really abates, but the music does eventually channel feelings of beleaguered sadness as well as rampant rage. The vocals markedly change too, but there’s no relent in the passion of the delivery. All in all, it’s a breathtaking experience.

Serbian artist Khaos Diktator Designs painted the stunning cover art for the new album, a tragic scene entitled “Anguish and the Great Fire”, and the album cover also includes a revised version of Woe‘s logo by Stephen Wilson (Unknown Relic).

Legacies of Frailty is set for release by Vendetta Records on September 29th.




夢遊病者 (SLEEPWALKER) (Japan/Russia/U.S.)

The preceding week also brought us Sentient Ruin‘s announcement of details about a new album by the multinational collective 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker), and a first song from the album that was premiered with a video by our friends at Last Rites.

The name of the new album is the tongue-twisting Skopofoboexoskelett. In its announcement, Sentient Ruin included these head-twisting words:

Where does reality end and where does it begin? And who, or what, decides this? Multinational experimental black metal enigma 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) ripropose this question to us via their masterful fourth album Skopofoboexoskelett, an enigmatic and playfully formulaic quandary of deconstructed visionary counter-music reminding us a simple concept: that reality is dictated by perception, and as such, by manipulating perception (via the arts), any reality is not only possible but also valid. And as is always the tradition with 夢遊病者, music is the alchemical key via which questions are raised and answers are found in the labyrinth of history, culture, lore and world traditions.

In the case of Skopofoboexoskelett, an exploration of the notions of self-reflection, intuition, phobia, luck, and failure in the context of the evil eye, its historical, cultural, physical and metaphysical meanings, as well as its psychological affects, carefully unraveled and revealed. Within this paradigm Skopofoboexoskelett takes 夢遊病者‘s vision, agenda, and intents, further than ever before, with musical boundaries shattered, definitions pulverized, genres, styles and aesthetics ridiculed into a masterful sensorial manipulation which draws the listener into the deceptive and subversive absurdity that is their own perception being stimulated in unprecedented ways.

Drawing their own line and dictating the guidelines of music’s end as we know it, 夢遊病者 use their unique sonic idealizations made of lysergic black metal excoriations, kraut, psych, noise rock, world music, improvised deconstructionism and schizoid free jazz to transcend conscience and reason, devastate the senses (particularly the auditory one) and open the mind unto a new plane of perception of which the only logic is illogicality, as only true and unquestionable experimental arts dictate and demand.

And, well, I can’t resist some further head-twisting verbiage about the first advance track from the album, “Silesian Fur Coat”, courtesy of Rennie Resmini‘s starkweather Substack:

Lap steel, blower bass, whispered chants, delicate acoustics and staggering drums overtaken by feral metal and return to a Morricone spaghetti western score in the tundra and cycling around to Scorpions and Maiden themed solos by way of GISM and reprising Ry Cooder’s Southern Comfort swamp blues with punctuations of reed instruments and mouth harp. Absolute brilliant adventure in sound and sonic texture within some of the most grounded song writing thus far from the enigmatic globe trotting cabal.

So who needs more words before the music itself speaks? Well hell, I do! I must also speak!

Somewhere up above the word “lysergic” appeared, and there is indeed an hallucinogenic quality to the channel-shifting maneuvers that take place at the outset around the song’s rhythmic starts and stops, and Rennie‘s reference to swamp blues makes sense there too. But there are indeed many twists and turns to come — bursts of percussive hammering and acid-drenched screams, siren-like and flute-like wailings with an indigenous sourcing, the appearance of squirming and squealing sonic sprites, the roar of grizzly bears, bits of crashing and slashing metallic abrasion, and all along a rhythm-section interplay that activates the reptile brain and keeps it interested.

It does make an old westerner like me think of the Old West, if viewed through a continually warping lens. Fascinating for sure, twisted but stitched together in a way that’s thoroughly engaging — and somehow makes sense. The video, by the way, is a hell of a thing to see too, a fine accompaniment to such a remarkable audio experience.

Skopofoboexoskelett will be released by Sentient Ruin on August 4th on LP, CD, MC, and digital/streaming, with related apparel.


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