Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Martröð - Transmutation of Wounds (2016)

Genre: Black Metal
Country: USA / Italy

A supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Leviathan, Wormlust and Skaphe.
Although a short EP, the songs are covered in discordance and tremolo riffs.

They plan on dropping a full-length later this year.

FFO: Aosoth, Deathspell Omega, Misþyrming

Download via bandcamp (Name Your Price)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Plague Mother - Lavender In Flame

Genre: Power electronics
Country: USA

Plague Mother's work is never pleasant to listen to, but with the possible exception of 'The Faithful Supine', 'Lavender in Flame' is arguably the Wisconsin PE pedlar's most aurally demanding creation. Opening with an ear-splitting peal of obnoxiously high sine waves, both sides play on the conjunction of this whistle and of crunching, unforgiving blocks of white noise. The effect of this pairing is something deeply unsettling, even when overlooking the obvious initial physical barrier. The whistles, akin to shrieks, sound pained and desperate when breaking through the thick blocks of distortion. Remove the blocks, 'save the tortured' as it were, and you realise that the entity you thought you were saving turns its sadistic mind on you instead.

The aforementioned admittedly does give the impression of this being a wholly impenetrable piece, completely without merit or purpose further than auditory masochism. As it happens, 'Lavender in Flame' isn't totally unlistenable (although it does require plenty of initial substance to get through it all first time around). Inspecting closer, the seemingly monotonous whistles are filled with small glitches; little industrial grinds and miniscule changes in frequencies that give what would otherwise be flat, boring noises dimension and shape. The white noise is hardly a simply on/off affair either, and along with the dynamic changes implemented, there are several distinct 'pitches' to each that provide them with their own discernible characteristics. Some are 'safer', allowing the listener to hide slightly in their lower, thicker timbre, while the slightly thinner, higher walls are arguably the scarier, allowing the sines to perform their aforementioned deceptive work. These little bits of what variation are what make 'Lavender in Flame' what it is; for those willing to be consumed by its undeniably uncomfortable presence, there's a surprising amount to be gained from such a small package.

Fancy splitting your eardrums? Click here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Orrery - Nine Odes to Oblivion (2008)

Genre: Black Metal (instrumental)
Country: Australia

The most captivating aspect of Nine Odes to Oblivion are the blank spaces. Thanks to it's production - raw, but certainly not unlistenable - there are scattered moments where I'm not sure exactly what I'm listening to. Is it the actual music, or am I just projecting what I think would sound best here? After of years of listening, I still don't really know; and I absolutely love that. It's personal, visceral and  each individual that listens to it will have their own unique experience. It's a transcendent album and you're only doing yourself a disservice by not listening to it.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Addaura - Discography

Genre: Black Metal 
Country: United States

Addaura is a band I've loved since the very first moment I discovered  them in 2010. Along with Alda, Skagos, and Fauna, Addaura were the front-runners of the burgeoning Cascadian black metal scene that began in the late 2000's. Though the other bands were certainly good, Addaura were always very much my favorite. Their WIITR inspired sound was absolutely perfect, and their demo is one my favorite black metal releases ever. Black metal has always based around nature-worship, and the Cascadian black metal scene took that concept even further. Musically, I love their repetitive ebb and flow, and the very subtle changes their music featured. It all felt so organic and in the spirit of what they were trying to achieve. Although she's now departed, their vocalist at the time Chantal was fantastic, and her hoarse rasp played a huge part in my love for them. It was a shame that she left, but it was still clear that Addaura had a bright future ahead of them. 

In 2012, the group released their first full-length Burning For The Ancient ,and again I was in awe of what they were able to create. It wasn't a departure of their previous sound, but rather a refinement. Though the songs were longer, their sense of flow had improved dramatically, with each track building and building until it hit its epic climax. Once again repetition played a large role, but because the melodies were so strong and the arrangements so tight, there was never a moment where any section felt like it overstayed its welcome. Guitarist Ryan had taken over the role of vocals, and though I was initially a bit scared, upon his first wail he quickly laid those worries to rest. Not only were his shrieks as good as Chantal's but he was able to deliver monstrous gutturals, adding yet another dimension to the group's sound. Once again, Addaura proved to be step ahead of their peers.

This brings us to 2015, and after a seemingly eternal three year wait Addaura dropped their ...And The Lamps Expire EP. At first, I didn't really know what to think of it. However, the more I listened, the more I began to appreciate what they are attempting to do; finally forging their own sound. Though elements of the Cascadian style (and therefore WIITR) still remain, ...And The Lamps Expire is very much Addaura beginning to create a style of their own. To a degree they've abandoned the repetition and subtly of their previous material, but it really fucking works. Rife with more folk and experimental touches, here Addaura displays a sense of dynamics I would have never expected from them. The more furious black metal segments certainly still sound like them, but now they've expanded their sonic palette, accentuating the strength of the more aggressive moments as well as the softer ones. Overall, it's a great release and I'm certainly looking forward to whatever they do next. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kolmiotaajuus - Pahuuden merkki (2016)

Genre: Dark ambient
Country: Finland

From the crackling, stuttering piano loop that opens '001', Pahuuden merkki is nothing short of eerie. Kolmiotaajuus' debut feels as though it would be a fitting soundtrack for a dystopic video game; dingy corridors, the feeling of being watched and a growing sense of claustrophobia are all easily imagined from its impersonal electronic ambience, made human by the trio's compositional improvisation. '002''s combination of regular, thumping bass and synthesised choral sections alongside inconsistent computerised glitches sits the listener firmly on edge, and the last 3 minutes or so of '006' (following a significant period of silence) serves as a fittingly dissonant finale. Some lightness can be found during the first half of '003', which carries airs of (an admittedly more morose) Explosions In The Sky, and '004' and '005' lean more towards Kolmiotaajuus' sci-fi influences. However, even these have an insidious quality to them gifted through dropping velocities and ominous drones, contributing further to Pahuuden merkki's overwhelmingly macabre atmosphere.

Kolmiotaajuus made an interesting decision in the recording of the album, choosing to take the tracks from 5 different live shows played across 2015. The effect could have been one of disjointed chaos. However, Pahuuden merkki flows miraculously well as an album, the care put into post-production making itself abundantly clear as each chapter segues into one another with only the slightest skip. Their improvisational streak during these live performances is wholly beneficial. Allowing them to make impromptu decisions on what feels 'right' - a glitch there, an 'off' timing there - it makes for an unpredictable listening experience that is not only arresting first time around, but offers enough variety that repeated listening is a must to gain the full picture. The effectiveness of Pahuuden merkki may depend largely on environmental factors, and undivided concentration is a must, but given time and suitably dark, still surroundings, it's an immersive listen that rarely, if ever loses its grip. Keep an eye on that shadow.
Don't act like you're not curious.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lord Snow - Solitude (2013)

Genre: Emoviolence
Country: United States

I'm starting to believe that women may have a natural predisposition to be the best fucking screamo vocalists. Over the course of the this album Steph absolutely shreds her vocal chords, and her commitment and passion are a huge part in why this is one of my favorite screamo records. She jusst can't be stopped. Instrumentally, it's fucking great as well. It has the technical chaos powerviolence while still somehow remaining exceedingly melodic throughout. Even during the most aggressive parts and mathematical parts, the band seamlessly weave complex melodies through the fabric of the music. It's truly fantastic stuff. 

If you haven't heard this, you know nothing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valve - Apnée

Country: France
Genre: Sludge/Hardcore/Black Metal (kinda)

Valve perform an intriguing balancing act with Apnée. The combination of sludge, hardcore and black metal isn't anything particularly new, with bands such as Hexis, Celeste and This Gift Is A Curse making names for themselves in certain circles with their respective amalgams. However, whereas the aforementioned artists play a seamless blend of the three, Valve operate primarily by isolating one or two at a time, drip-feeding the listener with parts of each. This 'drip-feeding' approach means that across its five tracks Apnée feels as though it's constantly evolving, a boon in a style where mid-tempo stagnation can easily occur.

To illustrate this, it's best to look at Apnée as a whole. Opening tracks 'Lapsit Ex Illis' and the album's eponymous number sound remarkably Converge-like in their makeup, albeit slower and with a lower-register grounding that separates them from the seminal hardcore group. However, by the finale '777', a greater focus on the oppressive atmosphere associated with blackened hardcore is apparent, eschewing some of the initial catchiness in favour of distinguishable but serpentine passages. To bridge the gap between the former and the latter is the instrumental 'Odds', which provides not only respite but forms an integral part of the album's structure. By separating the more hardcore-influenced first half from the 13 minute sludge giant 'Une Carcasse Vide de Vie et de Sens', the transition between the two slightly differing halves doesn't feel as immediate, and is therefore less jarring. Admittedly, the linkage between 'Odds' and 'Une Carcasse...' could have been smoother (instead of 10 seconds of awkward silence), but as a compositional tool it allows Valve to experiment with a wider palette rather than boxing them into a singular, albeit well executed style.

Holding the audience's attention is of vital importance to the effectiveness of any artist's work. With such a potentially suffocating presence as sludge this could have proved particularly difficult, yet Valve manage the feat with seemingly consummate ease. By sparingly combining their influences rather than placing all of their eggs in one basket, each track has something different to offer whilst not detracting from the crushing aspect so important to the genre's appeal.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Fuath - I (2016)

Genre: Black Metal
Country: Scotland

A few weeks ago I posted the premiere single from Fuath's I, called "Blood"; it was an EXCELLENT atmospheric black metal track that encapsulated winter without sounding like some terrible second-wave rip-off. The full album was finally released yesterday, and no surprise here, it fucking rules. Like I said before, I am not usually a fan of wintry black metal aside from the classics, but this is totally worth it. Beautiful and hypnotic stuff here. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dissection - Reinkaos (2006)

Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Country: Sweden

I need to start by saying that I can't believe it's been ten years since this album was released. I still vividly remember all the hype leading up to it like it was yesterday. Those were my formative metal days, and it's because of all the attention this album was getting that I ever even decided to check out Dissection. Now, The Somberlain and Storm the Light's Bane are definitely better than this, but I've been jamming this a lot again recently, and it's still undeniably an excellent record. A straight-up melodeath album with plenty of Maiden-esque harmonies and Gothenburg styled riffs, this is a simpler, more streamlined approach from a band that used to create quite complex music. Jon still sounds great and overall, this album is definitely worth your time. Tohu Tehom Theli Than Leviathan Tanin'iver Taninsam!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Abominable Putridity - The Anomalies of Artificial Origin (2012)

Genre: Brutal Slamming Death Metal
Country: Russia

I'm being completely honest when I say that I think most brutal death metal is complete garbage; apparently ripping off Suffocation and Cryptopsy is harder than you think. Add in the whole "slamming" aspect and what you're left with is essentially deathcore.. which you know, generally stinks. That being said, Abominable Putridity is the exemplification of brutal slamming death metal and yet they are fucking awesome. They don't do anything particularly different from their contemporaries, they are simply just better. It's the perfect blend of old-school technicality, indomitable grooves and intelligible gurgles. Oh yes, there are plenty of gurgles - I mean IT IS Matti FUCKING Way - but his clever interplay with the monstrous chugs works amazingly well, creating tons of sickeningly memorable chops in the process. Usually albums like this tend to blend together, and though the tracks here definitely share some similarities, the variety grooves and moshing sections still gives each song its own distinctive feel. This is slamming brutal death metal for fans of the genre, and people who thought they could never appreciate music like this. Recommended.

Slams of Infinity

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Piss Vortex - Piss Vortex (2014)

Genre: Grindcore/Sludge/Jazz
Country: Denmark

Jazz and grindcore have made surprisingly frequent acquaintances over the years. The complicated, semi-improvisational traits that comprise certain fields of the former combine well with the chaotic, balls-to-the-wall aggression so synonymous with the latter. This unlikely amalgam normally manifests itself in, quite frankly, barely comprehensible bedlam; flurries of sweeps, song structures that break the laws of music, and everything else besides. While this can be performed to a fantastic level (and indeed has been), it can also come across as a mere technical exercise, eschewing any attempt to connect with the listener to make room for auditory masturbation.  However, as the saying goes there is more than one way to skin a cat, and indeed there is more than one way of combining jazzy elements into grindcore. Copenhagen-based quartet Piss Vortex take a more coherent approach that focuses more on intelligent song structuring than flawless technicality.

Coherent, it should be stressed, does not mean that Piss Vortex are any less virtuosic than their contemporaries; the difference lies in the application of their music talents. Drummer Niclas Sauffaus offers up the most obviously impressive performance, with machine-gun kit rolls and intricate cymbal work underpinning the winding interplay of guitarist Christian Bonnesen and bass player Rasmus Moesby. While throughout his playing is stellar and consistent, on 'Beaten Womb' he goes as far to actually forming the skeleton of the entire track by the means of a 20 second solo at the start, which provides an infectious groove alongside the grimy riffing. While some tracks inevitably do fade into obscurity when considering the album as a whole, the appreciation for exciting, constantly shifting trackwriting means that there's plenty new to pick up on listen after listen.

Importantly though, despite all of their compositional ability, the resulting feeling after closer 'Our Maker's Invisible Hand' reaches its apocalyptic climax is one of pure, battered awe. Piss Vortex make use of a guitar tone as grim as their name would suggest in conjunction with nightmarish riffs and Sauffaus' terrific drumming to yield an experience not a hundred miles away from a more hardcore-influenced Gorguts. Additionally, a sludgy bass presence and vocalist Simon Stenbæk's mid-ranged roar contribute towards the doomier aesthetics on the slower tracks, and this adds a whole new dimension away from the fast-paced, aggressive riffs that savage much of the running time.

Rather than opt for a well-trodden style consisting of lightning-fast scales and start-stop song structures, Piss Vortex takes on a more controlled character that focuses more of the swing and feel of jazz than the technical elements, while still retaining the ability to leave the audience with the sensation of being hit in the face with a spade. By opting for a slightly more accessible vein this escapes much of the initial mindscrewing associated with the subgenre, but it arguably makes for a debut that only gets more intriguing with each listen.


Verwüstung - Beyond the Watercolor Sunset, We Feel New Life (2011)


Genre: Post-Black Metal
Country: United States

Post-black metal can be pretty hit or miss. A lot of the times, I find many bands to be pretty unbalanced, either leaning too heavily on the "post" elements, or not using them enough, rendering them ineffective. Verwustung is one-man band based in California that has nailed this dichotomy time and again. He's released quite few things over the years (which you can find for free, here) but Beyond The Watercolor Sunset, We Feel New Life is in my opinion, his best. Before I even get to the music, have to say I just love the optimism of the title, and the stark simplicity of that gorgeous album cover. I'm glad to say the music behind it all, is just as gorgeous. In one 29 minute monolith of a track, Verwustung takes your breath away with this atmospheric masterpiece. If Hvis Lyset Tar Oss-era Burzum and Godspeed! You Black Emperor had a baby, it would most certainly sound like this; that description in itself should be enough to convince you to check this out. Drenched in noisy euphoria, the track slowly builds, tension in every guitar strum until it just EXPLODES into a full-blown black metal cacophony. This is where that balance comes into play. There's enough tremolo picking, blast beats and necrotic vocals to satisfy any extreme metal listener, but melodically it has all the heartwarming beauty of post-rock. The length of the song may seem daunting, but it is a surprisingly easy listen, and oftentimes I feel like the track is actually a little too brief. It's a testament to just how well crafted and dynamic the song is. Recommended. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fuath - "Blood" (2015)

Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: Scotland

Fuath is the side project of Andy Marshall, the man behind black metal band Saor. For those of you unfamiliar with Saor, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately - 2014's Aura is an exceptional atmospheric black metal release delving in resplendent Celtic melodies and wondrous tales that will make you want to drop what you're doing and buy the first ticket out to Scotland. Fuath in a way is very similar; Marshall definitely has developed his style as far as crafting atmospheric black metal, but as the cover art would suggest, his newest endeavor transports you to snow-covered mountainsides as opposed to rolling green hills. It's actually very impressive how he's able to compartmentalize various influences and write projects behind one certain motif - this one being winter. Inspired by classic black metals like Burzum and Darkthrone, premiere track "Blood" is an exciting excursion into the frostbitten wilderness. These days, "cold" black metal is a dime a dozen; every band and their mom strive to create a wintry atmosphere, and as result, that sound has become completely played out. Not only are bands now sounding too similar, but they fail utterly to reach the treacherous heights of the classic bands. Fuath succeeds where these bands fail, creating a compelling and fresh soundtrack to your winter season. If "Blood" is any indication, Marshall's upcoming with Fuath, I, will be fucking excellent. You can listen to the track below.

Monday, January 11, 2016

SQRM - Rodeo (2010)

Genre: Noise Rock/Hardcore
Country: United States

A few years back I wrote a ridiculously hyperbolic review for this album, where I meticulously deconstructed every aspect of it, from the cover, to the closing notes of "You Still Can't Live"; needless to say that review was a pretentious piece of shit. I went on to state how SQRM would change the face of hardcore with their downtempo and depressive style, and though I was DEAD WRONG, this is still one of my favorite hardcore albums ever. I love how fucking ugly it is. The album drips with a palpable sense of loathing - both self and outward; this is not your dad's hardcore record. The guitars drag themselves hopelessly from one transition to the next, moving to the beat of primitive percussion and asylum-worthy howls. The lyrics on this are either genius or ridiculous; it walks the line so perfectly, you're only left with the ambiguity. That's kind of what makes it so special though. Highly recommended (unless you're depressed, than you may want to steer clear.)


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bone Awl - Meaningless Leaning Mess (2007)

Genre: Black Metal/Punk
Country: United States

Bone Awl have been hard at work creating some of the noisiest, filthiest, blackened filth since 2002; however, nothing they've ever done compares to Meaningless Leaning Mess. Though often credited as the scene leaders of blackened punk along with Sump, Sexdrome, and Grinning Death's Head, if it weren't for Bone Awl, none of the those bands would exist, as well as a thousand others that currently occupy the dark depths of the current black metal scene. They may be mentioned quite frequently, but I don't really feel like anyone really, REALLY appreciates how so much of the raw and punk-y black metal today stems from this heinous duo, and their apocalyptic take on two of music's most anti-social genres. It's hilarious because this release -and to a greater extent the whole discography of Bone Awl - is nothing but horribly produced three chord anthems that most people would consider to be absolute garbage. But that's also what makes them so awesome; there is no pretense, no kind of hook to draw people in... just one song after another of oddly catchy punk songs you can croak along too. Meaningless Leaning Mess is pure misanthropy set to d-beat drums, and crusty guitar riffs, and yet somehow it's become one of the most influential pieces of music to permeate black metal culture in decades. Recommended.

It's All Death

Friday, January 8, 2016

Arizmenda - Stillbirth In The Temple of Venus (2014)

Genre: Black Metal
Country: United States 

 Arizmenda is the sound of black metal losing its mind. That's what makes them so ***ING good; the trepidation you can't help but feel when listening to them. That spine-chilling sense of paranoia like something is creeping just behind you. When listening to Arizmenda, you don't feel safe. They wouldn't have it any other way.

For all the bands that deal with matters of mental torment, Arizmenda has, since their 2007 inception, been among the best. Their debut album Within the Vacuum of Infinity... was a harrowing experience of atmospheric black metal. Follow-up Without Circumference Nor Center emphasized the psychedelic subtleties of previous record, igniting that fervor into feverish delirium. After what seemed like an eternal three year wait, The Black Twilight Circle's most notorious band have dropped their most accomplished work to date, Stillbirth In The Temple of Venus.

Building on the foundation provided by 2013's glorious compilation Tliltic Tlapoyauak, Stillbirth In The Temple of Venus dispenses with the free-flowing songwriting of the band's previous full-lengths in favor of a style that's more deliberate and consciously structured. The brilliantly titled "Cum In Your Wound" contrasts blackened psychedelia with claustrophobic atmospheres to create a hallucinogenic effect, while "Innocence and Illness" opens with vibrant melodies before descending into a chasm of anxiety-filled darkness. As a whole, Stillbirth... thrives on the dichotomy between deranged melodies and the band's trademarked discordance. Though the album features much more of the former than ever before, tracks like "Satyriasis" proves its increased implementation only serves to accentuate the insanity of the latter.

It's so relieving to see Arizmenda diversify. For as good as their style was, it would have inevitably become stale. Here, we see them progress without losing the core elements that make them such a unique entity. Stillbirth In The Temple of Venus is a black metal album all fans of the genre absolutely must hear; you'd be crazy not to.