Aug 282019


In mid-July the Dutch genre-benders in The Fifth Alliance released a single named “Black”, the opening track on their new album The Depth of the Darkness. It made a stunning first impression on this writer (only a first impression, because I hadn’t encountered the band’s previous two albums, Unrevealed Secrets of Ruin (2013) and Death Poems (2015)).

“Black” amalgamates gigantic, heaving, low-end tones and bone-cracking drum beats; glinting guitar notes and wailing clean vocals; haunting atmospheres of shivering moodiness and building tension; and a thundering eruption of blackened ferocity that takes the seeds of pain in the music and makes them flower in thorns. In that eruption, the guitars buzz and boil in a grim torrent of sound as the rhythm section leaves wreckage in their wake, and the vocals vent scarring torment. After that storm of sound the music becomes spectral and chilling (the vocals even more insane), but seductive as well as disturbing. Those ringing notes you hear at the end don’t go away even after the silence falls.

Of course it is true, as most parents teach their obstinate children, that first impressions matter a lot. But what you do afterward can either undermine a brilliant opening gambit or prove instead that it was no fluke. So the question here becomes, did The Fifth Alliance build on “Black” across the remaining four substantial tracks on The Depth of the Darkness or deflate the lofty expectations created by that first single? You’re about to find out. Continue reading »

Jul 212019


We missed a day yesterday, dammit. I spent too much time listening and not enough time writing — so much time listening that I have many things I want to recommend across many heavy genres. I liked the way the following four tracks flowed together, so I’ve collected them here. The plan is to post a second installment of this round-up tomorrow. It goes in very different directions than this one. I’m not posting it today because I want to make time and room for the usual SHADES OF BLACK column, which will arrive soon(ish).


I spent an hour yesterday listening to Mizmor’s new album Cairn, which is how long it takes to proceed through the record’s four long tracks (they range from 10 minutes to 18 in length). It’s an emotionally overpowering experience, as stunning as the Mariusz Lewandowski painting (“Time Immemorial”) that Mizmor’s alter ego A.L.N. commissioned for the record. Of the album’s four tracks, the opener “Desert of Absurdity” is the first one out in the world, and the first one in today’s collection. Continue reading »