No Clean Singing write about lots of music genres, 99% of it metal, and about 99% of that extreme metal. They’ve been around since November 2009. A blog devoted to extreme metal and other stuff we care about.
(TheMadIsraeli re-surfaces at NCS with a group of quick recommendations of recent releases for your earholes.)
Kolossus are a pretty neat Finnish band whose music I couldn’t peg when I first heard them but I’ve settled on calling it melodic death metal. Really good melodic death metal is rare for me these days, but this group’s combination of the playfulness of Into Eternity, Before The Dawn‘s style of morose gothic melody and atmosphere, and their militant energy and propulsive grooves bring to mind both Byzantine and System of A Down.
These ingredients have Veritas sticking out to me as a quality debut album by an interesting band on their first outing. I’m admittedly even more interested to hear what the band does next, however, as their base sound, raw as it is, has a ton of potential.
KOLOSSUS - Mantsurian Kätyri [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] - YouTube
Kolossus - Vieras Kodissaan - YouTube
Kolossus - Vapauskerroin - YouTube
This is one of the best thrash albums of the year thus far, and in fact I’ve yet to hear anything that surpasses it. On Sentenced Since ConceptionWarchest play a style of slightly progressive, technical, and endurance-based death-trash that calls to mind the most envelope-pushing moments of bands like Dark Angel, Death, Coroner, or Vader in what is one of the most pristinely vicious records I’ve heard in 2019. Frankly, only the music can adequately speak for how good this record is.
This inclusion might be cheating? This album was technically released back in 2013 but with a totally garage-quality recording, and the original band doesn’t exist anymore. But Interstice is a re-recording from scratch of the same album, totally redone by the band’s founder Pedro Mau, now operating Kneel as a solo project. From what I gather, there are song writing changes here and there from the original as well, so it’s not quite cheating in my mind.
Interstice is one of the most belligerent, intense, and delightfully progressive hardcore records I’ve ever listened to. It mixes plenty of old and new sounds with a lot of metallic infiltration, and it’s honestly one of the most enjoyable albums of 2019 for me thus far. This shit is just savage. The way it switches from Converge-style chaos-core to more Meshuggah-esque experimentations (and other permutations in between) from song to song is impressive, and I’ll certainly be checking out more of the Kneel project’s music when that happens.
We’ve already premiered the barn burner “Amend” off this record, but I still want it out there that this album is fucking great and you should be eating every bit of it up, especially if you miss the glory days of very metalized hardcore from the mid 2000s. The album was just released and is now at Bandcamp.
I am shocked that no one is talking about the new De Lirium’s Order record, Singularity, since it might be the greatest tech-death album of 2019. At least thus far. But maybe I shouldn’t be making forecasts about the year as a whole.
Anyway, this band has been MIA for 7 years, their last album (Veniversum) released all the way back in 2012, and that was one of 2012‘s best death metal albums. They were ambitious back then, a riveting example of tech-death with lots of performance AND compositional technicality that was on another level. Singularity sees the band continuing this with progressive inclinations added.
There’s a sci-fi kind of bent to this record and a reduction in that noodily Necrophagist style they were keen on before; here they go for more definitive riffing and a bit more atmosphere. This is a must-listen album for 2019 and the fact it’s gone overlooked is kind of insane to me.
Krucyator Productions and Atavism Records are presiding over a marriage made in hell. On July 11th they are joining forces to release Encomium of Depraved Instincts, which is the appropriately-worded title of a violent new split by the Swiss nihilists Eggs of Gomorrh and the Turkish blasphemers Sarinvomit. The album-length split includes four tracks by each band, with each group contributing a pair of new songs as well as live performances of two tracks from previous releases.
What we have for you today is one of the new songs by Eggs of Gomorrh, “Shrine of Disgust“, which only further cements this band’s reputation for delivering astonishingly savage forms of sonic mutilation with impressive technical skill — and slipping in some grooves and eerie melody in the midst of their foul, slaughtering tirades.
Eggs of Gomorrh
When last we encountered Eggs of Gomorrh (earlier this year) they were ramping up to the release of a new EP named Outpregnate, which in turn followed their 2016 debut album, Rot Prophet. The EP was an exercise in rampant audio terrorism, which was to be expected, but revealed a few shifts in compositional approach, without in any way restraining the band’s superheated expressions of carnage, apocalyptic hate, eternal sodomy, and murder.
As suggested by the title of the song we’re presenting today, a palpable sense of furious disgust floods the music, channeled in part by the squall of distorted guitar and the call-and-response between noxious howls and gruesome roars, and in part by the savagery of battering and rumbling drums and the thunder of merciless bass lines.
The cruel and corrosive chords generate dismal and demented sensations, interspersed with bursts of jaw-dropping drum mania and methodical hammering, as well as lashing riffs and writhing leads that gleam within the toxic melee around them. The music seems to moan and shriek in wretchedness while also engaging in orgies of sadistic destruction. Yet, as mentioned earlier, this is a brand of black/death obliteration that finds room for grooves, especially near the end, when the band segue into a head-moving pulse (over extravagant drum fills) before a final eruption of violence.
Of course, Sarinvomit are themselves adept at delivering nuclear-strength incineration (coupled with the generation of dynamic atmospherics). Putting them together with Eggs of Gomorrh in a single album is some sort of war crime. For many of us, it’s also a cathartic gift, for which thanks are due Krucyator (who will provide the CD release) and Atavism (who will provide the cassette tape edition). You’ll find pre-order links below.
Credit for the artwork goes to Artem Grigoryev. The mastering worked was done by Phil “VK” Kusabs.
(DGR reviews the new album by the Swedish band October Tide, which was released on May 17th by Agonia Records.)
In Splendor Below is a very different album from its predecessors. Since reforming and releasing A Thin Shell in 2010, October Tide have kept to a pretty steady release schedule of every three years, with the most recent album prior being 2016’s Winged Waltz. Since that time the group have added two of the gentlemen from Letters From The Colony in their midst, picking up the rhythm section while the Norrman brothers stay on guitar and vocalist Alexander Högbom sticks around to deliver the deep-throated and anguished yells that have become a staple of the band since his first appearance on Tunnel Of No Light.
While there is a definite sense of lineup familiarity in place, the death metal atmospherics and groove that have worked their way into the group’s sound between the release of Winged Waltz and now are certainly new. Guitarist Fredrick Norrman was quoted in the press release for thier Our Famine lyric video describing the album as “a bit more aggressive, a bit more death metal, and with an overall colder feeling than previous records.” And that feeling makes itself apparent immediately.
It actually isn’t until three songs in that you’ll hit your first six-minute crawler of a song from the band, and a decent chunk of In Splendor Below stays within the four-to-five minute range, reflecting the new speed at which the band operate.
The opening moments of “I, The Polluter” make that even more evident as it lays the groundwork for the first few songs of In Splendor Below to build upon. It has been a long time since the group have made themselves known so immediately in their songs, but “I, The Polluter” is a different style of opening track for them, built around a massive and heaving groove that arrives soon after the opening eerie guitar melody fades away. It continually reappears, dancing in and out of the song while the more rhythm-focused segment of the band hammers out a viciously catchy headbanging riff — so much so, that the distinct groove of the song can easily win out over that eerie guitar melody for getting stuck in your head, appealing more to the primal and caveman aspect of heavy metal listenings.
It’s from the groundwork laid out by “I, The Polluter” that the following two songs, “We Died In October” and “Ögonblick av nåd”, are built. It only took the October Tide crew seven albums to finally reference the month of October in a song title, interesting in part as it serves as something of a song-title prequel to the closing track of Winged Waltz, “Coffins Of November”. “We Died In October” is a little more of a familiar hunting ground for October Tide, still a shorter song but a hybrid of the album’s opener and the more familiar crawls through the cold and miserable atmosphere that have become the October Tide trademark. “We Died In October” wins out on the guitar front first as it buries the listener in multiple layers of echoing melody while the lyrics over-top request, “Emptiness, walk with me”.
“Ögonblick av nåd” is a different monster entirely. It is the only song sung in another language, which is an interesting turn, and it is also one of the most straightforward-heavy songs on In Splendor Below. “Ögonblick av nåd” starts out heavy, fueled by a driving and powerful rhythm section that never lets up, and guitar work that is just as happy to shift between chugging groove and multiple leads that spiral further into the cold and doomed world, with vocals delivered at near rapid-fire pace (for October Tide) and containing an absolutely massive howl about halfway into the song — right when it finally chooses to let off the pedal for a bit.
On the classic doom-heavy side of the spectrum, October Tide remain a force to be reckoned with. The band are old hats on this front, yet songs like “Stars Starve Me”, “Our Famine”, “Seconds”, and “Envy The Moon” — the slower songs on the disc — all just continue to add to the band’s reputation. They all come in the back half of the disc, creating a sort of listening momentum where In Splendor Below starts fast and then begins to slowly let its pace crawl, favoring gorgeous atmosphere over its initial aggressive opening assault.
The one outlier to this is the late-appearing “Guide My Pulse”, which for the most part is a mid-tempo stomp that turns into a slowly freezing melodeath song with a sudden and short blast section in its back half. “Guide My Pulse” arrives after the anguish of “Stars Starve Me”, a song which whiplashes between an absolutely gorgeous and slow lead-guitar-driven opening and the death metal grooves of the opening few songs of the album. “Stars Starve Me” also contains a powerful and hard-driving chorus, one which actually has something of a twin in “Guide My Pulse”‘s straight-ahead rhythms.
“Our Famine”, which is the follow-on to “Stars Starve Me”, is the first really recognizable older-style October Tide song on In Splendor Below. It’s where the album really starts to drag itself through the mud, reveling in its own misery and slowly pulling away from the surprising amount of headbanging-groove in the album’s opening half.
As mentioned above, In Splendor Below is a different sort of album for October Tide. After three discs of beautiful yet unrelenting misery, the band shift gears a bit from their funeral doom expertise and in the process have created one of the fastest-moving albums they’ve created. The music maintains its focus on the dour and frozen, yet the energy within the eight songs here is exciting. There’s plenty to discover if you love the band at their slowest and most outwardly expressive of whatever lyrical pain the songs require, yet the multitude of moments where you can just nod along to it makes it a more thrilling-at-first-listen sort of experience.
Whereas their previous albums have all had beautiful and cold atmospheres with plenty of slow-moving dirges to remind you of the group’s doom pedigree, October Tide stretch those boundaries a bit on In Splendor Below and have made one of their most dynamic albums to date, one that could easily win some people over who may not have enjoyed the band’s slower-moving tempos from before. In Splendor Below is the sort of album where there is so much to discover within. The initial experience is one of almost uncontrollable headbanging to the album’s driving rhythms, and yet each dive-in afterwards has led to discoveries of the multitude of different and interwoven melodic lines throughout each of the songs and how they tend to dance just above the more primal moments of the disc, creating that cold atmosphere that has long become an October Tide hallmark.
(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Denver’s Call of the Void, which was released on May 10th by Translation Loss Records.)
For the sake of simplicity we often tend to think of the Metal scene as being split between the “underground” and the “mainstream”. But, of course, nothing is that simple.
The “underground” scene is itself separated into several distinct strata, from the upper echelons where the various “big” names live, well-known to all of us, but still practically invisible to the “mainstream” audience, all the way down into the deepest, darkest, dankest pits of squalling, sub-musical noise that only a handful of people are ever likely to hear… and everything in between.
And while Call of the Void have been hovering on the brink of breaking through to the wider underground for a while now, Buried In Light looks set to elevate them to a whole new level entirely.
The more I listen to this album the more I’m put in mind of two other bands whose pivotal “breakthrough” moments managed to introduce them to a larger audience without sacrificing their underground cred in the process.
On the one hand the greater use of meaty, Death Metal riffs (“Living Ruins”, “Drowning Hour”, “Buried In Light”, etc.) and dynamic vocal hooks (often shared between the band’s members and delivered in a brutally effective call-and-response manner) reminds me of Misery Index circa-Traitors, with CotV adopting a similarly focussed-yet-ferocious approach to songwriting that’s as cruelly catchy as it is absolutely crushing.
On the other the mix of frantic energy and proggy, sludgy grooves showcased on tracks like “Suck Me Dry”, “God Hunts”, and “Almighty Pig” brings to mind the calculated chaos and wide-eyed catharsis of Remission–era Mastodon, giving you the sense that the Colorado quartet have been waiting for a chance to fully unleash this side of themselves for quite some time.
And yet the overall similarities to those bands/records mentioned above are more about spirit than sound, as Buried In Light still sounds very much like a Call of the Void album. The rough-hewn, ragged-edged vocals… the gnarly, bone-saw guitar tone… the reckless abandon and raw intensity of the drums… all these are recognisable as coming from the same fevered minds which concocted Dragged Down A Dead End Path and Ageleless. It’s just that they’ve evolved somewhat since then.
This evolution does, however, mean that Buried In Light is a much less grind-focussed record than anything which the band have produced before, which will undoubtedly prove to be a point of contention for certain people in certain areas of the metalsphere.
But don’t take this to mean that CotV have abandoned their roots. Both scorching opener “Disutility” and the relentlessly savage “Waves of Disgust”, for example, lean hard into the band’s early Grindcore/Metallic Hardcore influences (without sounding forced or dated), while the appearance of members of Pig Destroyer during the stunning Death/Grind/Sludge assault of aptly-named closer “So It Ends” provides the record with a welcome endorsement from some modern-day Grind royalty.
If there’s one real criticism that can be levelled at this album though, it’s that, at thirteen tracks it’s possibly ever so slightly too long, and cutting a track or two (my suggestions would be “The Master” and “Enslaved”, although it’s a difficult call to make) might have made for an even leaner, meaner record overall.
Still, it’s a relatively minor issue in the grand scheme of things (not everyone believes that “less is more” after all), particularly when the latter-half of the album delivers just as much explosive intensity as the first (I haven’t even mentioned how good penultimate pounder “Lurker” is).
Make no mistake, Buried in Light is an absolute monster of an album, and one that’s destined to raise the band’s profile significantly. Just don’t think of it as selling out. Think of it more as giving the rest of the scene a chance to hear what they’ve been missing!
(Comrade Aleks returns to NCS today with a new interview, and this time his guest is Óscar Del Val of the resurgent Spanish band Dormanth.)
Born in 1993, this Spanish band has always balanced on a verge of death and death-doom metal, giving preference to fast, direct, and aggressive stuff. Dormanth split up in 1996, having only one demo, a split, and a full-length album in their discography, but one of the band’s founders, Óscar Del Val (guitars, vocals), decided to return the band back to life in 2015, and suddenly has succeeded in recording one EP and two full-length albums with a new lineup.
Base Record Production will release a new EP, Abyss, on May 27th, so I got in touch with Óscar to learn more about Dormanth’s past and present.
Óscar, Dormanth was started in 1993. What was your initial vision of the band? What kind of ideas did you want to fulfill through the band?
Like all the bands that were formed by boys of 17-18 years old, to play and be a big band like the ones you heard. You saw all of them in the magazines and their concert photos and you wanted to be like them.
The band recorded the demo Sadness in 1994, which is performed in a pretty old school death metal way. What were your initial influences back then?
Death and doom in general, but above all the sound that came from the north of Europe and also the melodies that came from England. American death metal is different and we identified more with the Nordic. Bands like Entombed, Dismember, Edge of Sanity, Amorphis, those sounds, but all the melodies in the line of Paradise Lost, for example, we liked too, and we wanted to mix them. The velocity and the melody.
The 1995 Valley Of Dreams album keeps the same vibe with some minor doom metal influences. How was the band’s sound formed on this album? What are your memories of this recording?
We listened to doom for its melodies but certainly the tempos on many occasions seemed very slow, and for that reason we looked for our own seal of identity. We are left with the beauty of the doom and the aggression of death.
For lovers of doom we are very fast, and for fans of death we are very slow, but it seems that it is a formula that interests people. In that recording we saw for the first time a computer … imagine.
Dormanth – So Dies Another Day
Dormanth - So Dies Another Day - YouTube
How did you get on the Shadows In The Night split with Pandemia and Infestation? Did this release help you to gain some recognition? How did you promote the band in its early years?
We had just released Valley of Dreams and American Line Productions in Mexico offered us the split. We immediately said yes. Everything was good for our promotion, at a time where everything was by letter or by comments with your friends. There was no internet, and appearance in magazines was often a place only for large groups. The fanzines did good work.
How often did you play gigs back then in ’90s? How was everything organized? Where and with what kind of bands did you play usually?
There was a time that you played every week. In any place. There were not many places, and they were always busy, so you got together with other bands to do several concerts in a row. There were no great festivals and people went to concerts. It was easy to do sold out shows. You plugged in your amplifier and played. There was no means, only energy.
What happened in 1996? Why did you stop activity by the band? And what finally led you to Dormanth’s resurrection in 2015?
What happened to many bands happened to us. We began to have differences, and after some changes we decided to stop. It did not seem right, but there was no other way but to accept it. I tried to reunite the boys again several times until I managed to convince them to do something in 2015. It was not really what I imagined but it was something, and after that I decided to lead the project.
Oscar, you recorded the Winter Comes album in 2016 together with drummer Victor Franquelo. These songs are performed in a straight death metal manner without any hints of doom. Why did you decide to switch on this more direct stuff?
Let’s say that in the LP of the return I wanted to give it a focus on the fastest part of Dormanth, closer to the Nordic style but always with melody. There are some slow part, but basically the speed was sought. I really do not think it’s a change of style because it keeps sounding like Dormanth. Two songs were made in 1993, although they were redone.
Dormanth – Like Ice
DORMANTH Like Ice [Official Video] - YouTube
Oscar, you didn’t play metal for almost 20 years before the return of Dormanth. How did it feel to play extreme stuff again? And how did you interact with the new surroundings – labels, new venues in your place, new zines, etc.?
The truth is. that was hard. I had not stopped playing but I had moved away from this whole network. The way things are done now is different than 20 years ago. In some ways I liked it more before. Everything was more direct, if more difficult and expensive, but people gave more value to everything. The achievements were more transcending, and now they are more ephemeral.
You wrote all the lyrics for the album. Did you have any special message you put into these texts?
There is no special message. Only themes already used in the past were used … faith, the internal thoughts of people, the feelings … all in different situations. Every work of Dormanth is related in some way to the previous one, and this produces the union of lyrics and some of the themes composed in the first epoch.
How did people react to the band’s return?
Well, you can say that they reacted well. Both people and labels or promoters and media. You have to understand that we were not a super-famous band either, and there were not millions of people waiting for us, but we do have our public that wants our music and supports us.
The next Dormanth album, named IX Sins, shows your interest returning towards doom music. How did you write this stuff? Was this returning of doom a conscious decision?
As I say, it is not that it is something new in Dormanth, it simply depends on the work as to which is more focused on one or another facet. This time it made sense to return to making songs slower and more loaded with melody. Find an “old school” sound and focus on both the lyrics and the voices. Here, it all surrounds the number 9.
There are nine tracks on IX Sins — did you have a concept behind it?
Here the message is the nine songs as if they were representing 9 sins, not literally, but as a sample of things that the human being does not do well, or does not do with the correct address in their acts and thoughts.
The nine figures on the cover represent the guardians of those sins, what protects us from them but also what makes us commit them over and over again.
But there are seven original sins in the Christian tradition. What was new that you added to this list?
Hahaha…yes, many people are going to think about the seven deadly sins but there are also the 9 satanic sins. They are neither. Dormanth never talks about a particular religion in his lyrics, he talks about religion in general. For that reason many people were going to think about it, but in reality they are the sins, our sins, those of humanity
Did you perform live shows with Dormanth, as you didn’t have a full, constant lineup in this period? How far did you tour?
No, until 2018 there were no shows by Dormanth. We looked for a stable line-up to be able to play, and we started right out of IX Sins where we played in different places in Spain.
What happened next? I see that Dormanth is turning into a more active band – you have a full line-up, and now Base Record Production will be releasing your new EP Abyss! May I ask you to tell us more about the new release?
We got together to do a few shows, and we saw that the response was good from the fans, so we decided to give continuity by recording a new work and continuing with live shows. Abyss is the most melodic music that Dormanth has ever made. The melody was searched for at all times, without thinking about the rhythm, whether it was slow or fast.
It may be the right way to work. We are really satisfied with the result.
Dormanth – Abyss
DORMANTH - Abyss (Audio samples) 2019 - YouTube
These songs were recorded with a new lineup. How was the session organized? How much time did you spend in the studio? And was it a relaxed or stressful experience?
Stressful hahaha. We live in different cities so all the work is remote. It is a lot of work to prepare all the recordings separately and then send it for mixing and mastering. I would like to say that I enjoy the recordings, but it is not like that. I particularly enjoy the result. Probably others are a little more relaxed, but for the type of work that I have to do, I can not really enjoy it during the process.
Oscar, I guess that’s all for today. Did we forget anything? How would you like to finish our interview?
There are always things to talk about, it’s the beauty of life. Enjoy life, and if Dormanth helped to bring a moment of happiness, no matter how small or big … thank you!!!!
In just about every review of an album by Black Crucifixion there seems to be an obligatory history lesson, and there will be one here too, because in the case of this band the historical context may actually matter. And there are other reasons to appreciate their history, which we’ll come to.
At the same time, the road traveled by this band has led them to a very different place than where they began in their songcraft almost 30 years ago, as it has in the case of such other early black metal stalwarts as Ulver, Satyricon, Ihsahn, Tom G Warrior in his Triptykon days, Enslaved, and Carl-Michael Eide under the banner of Virus. What doesn’t seem to have changed is Black Crucifixion‘s devotion to the devil.
As for the history lesson, let’s note three things, from which certain inferences may be drawn (though a lot of you will already know these things). First, they produced their first demo (The Fallen One of Flames) in 1992 and their first EP (Promethean Gift) in 1993, and what they did in those releases made a mark in the early Finnish black metal scene. Second, as far as can be discerned from historical records, they released no other music between then and 2006, when their first album appeared (Faustian Dream), and since then they’ve released three more albums, including this newest one, Lightless Violent Chaos. Third, the two key members of the band — Forn and E. Henrik — were there in 1992 and are still there.
Those first two Black Crucifixion releases are revered even today by discerning devotees of black metal, though for reasons that are difficult to understand they didn’t receive their full due when they came out, at least not as compared to some of their better-known Finnish brethren. And that’s one reason for the history lesson — because even today they are still well-worth discovering if you haven’t. In the current context, they’re also proof that deep musical talent is capable of transferring into different realms, and perhaps will always feel the impulse to change.
Forn and Henrik weren’t compelled by material considerations to begin making music again, 13 years after Promethean Gift (because, presumably, they occupied themselves with other things to avoid starving between 1993 and 2006); some creative impulse inspired them to begin again. They are presumably in their 40s now, and have lived some life. Speaking as an old fart myself, I know this doesn’t mean they have necessarily become wise, but it does mean they probably had a few things to say with their music that weren’t in their heads 20 years ago, and still do. And because they were an early black metal band with something of a reputation in the early scene, it’s unlikely that the impulse that drove them to start again was a fervent desire to copy current trends, or to repeat what they’d already done.
Of course that’s not always the case. Other bands have revived after a decades-long absence and proven to the world that they should have just stuck with their day jobs. Take it from me, mid-life crises drive people to make all manner of embarrassing decisions. But that’s not what happened here. Here, Black Crucifixion have changed in ways that are extremely valuable. Their recent albums have been compelling, and persistently fascinating. The instrumental skill of the current line-up (which again includes the Finnish prog rock legend Rekku Rechardt as lead and rhythm guitarist) is evident, but what stands out is the song-writing, which is brilliant.
The band’s last album, 2013’s Coronation of King Darkness, was one of my favorite records of 2013. If you were also a fan, you will love Lightless Violent Chaos, which is very much a musical kindred of that record, but even more accomplished. Perhaps you already love it — it was first released in the summer of last year, though in limited fashion, and now it will receive a more globally-oriented distribution through Séance Records on June 3rd.
Compared to the band’s earliest days, and despite the new album’s title, the music isn’t abrasively harsh (though Forn’s intense snarls and roars are still savage enough to put the hair up on the back of your neck) or ferociously aggressive. There’s still a bit of distortion in the sound, though far more reverberation (almost everything rings). The music rocks far more often than it ravages. Progressive tendencies are more in evidence than scorched-earth tumult. The music is incredibly nuanced and dynamic, revealing a degree of care and craft that is the hallmark of the best song-writing.
But make no mistake, the music is still profoundly sinister, only now more sorcerous and bewitching. The songs are packed with compulsive rhythms, and equally packed with immediately infectious and durably memorable riffs and melodies, but menace and mortification lie within these tracks, too. What inspires the music, apart from influences you might pick out, which cross many decades and musical genres, is still evident in the song titles and the lyrics (well-enunciated despite the gritty, snarling delivery or the spooky whispering), which often sound like chants.
The band have a tendency to build their songs to crescendos of grandeur, layering in the instruments as the music swells (though “Black Hole Metal” soars early on). “Free of Light”, for example, is a true devilish rock anthem. At times it sounds like a fanfare for the arrival of a dark eminence. But like every other song on the album, it harbors other dimensions. The soloing is glorious, but the most transfixing lead in the song has an exotic Arabian air that is melancholy, and becomes more bleak even as it becomes more feverish. When the fever breaks, the moody, reverberating guitar notes cycle like the casting of a sonic spell, and the melody seems to weep.
Every song is like a gem waiting to be discovered. Sometimes the music has the widescreen sweep of a soundtrack, sometimes the swagger and assurance of an epic stage show in a vast arena, sometimes a grave solemnity, sometimes a striking despondency. The haunting guitar notes in the opening of “Deathless Be Me” reminded me of an Ennio Morricone film score, but the leads in the same song boil like a fire elemental. “Of The Godless and Brave” has a mood that’s beleaguered but defiant, a mood enhanced by somber clean vocals, but the double pulse of the bass and guitar harmony is incredibly vibrant. “Discipline”, perhaps the most sinister song on the album, even though it’s the most-stripped down, includes cavernous vocals that reminded me of a more horrifying version of Leonard Cohen‘s voice. And “Intuition” is a classic build that swells and subsides, hammers and scorches, and ends the album on such a strong note that the impulse to go back to the beginning and become immersed in the record again is irresistible.
There are so many finely crafted moments within these songs, so many astute variations in tone and intensity (even the Stratocaster from The Fallen One of Flames sessions was employed in the recording), so many careful chosen additions and subtractions, that trying to name all of them would make this review even more tedious than it already is. But it’s one of those intelligently fashioned works that doesn’t forget the power of the riff and the hook. These are songs that will get stuck in your head damned fast and call you back to them like sirens on the rocks. And they do all of that while casting spells of other kinds too — a spell that works most powerfully when you listen to the album without interruption, from start to finish.
In short, it’s dazzling. Hope you’re as dazzled by it as I am. Look for it on June 3rd via Séance Records.
Every song on Hornwood Fell‘s new album Damno Lumina Nocte is named “Vulnera” — the Latin word for “wound” (accompanied by Roman numerals I – VII) — every one of them a projection of “dark landscapes, discomforts, and open wounds of the society we live it”. Every one of them is a cavalcade of disturbances, a mind-warping amalgam of dissonance and derangement that seems to embody mental fracturing and emotional splintering. It is as if the band found Pandora’s Box, and without hesitation opened it, recording the sounds of all the evils within as they escaped in a mad rush of freakish abandon.
This is not easy listening. The music is persistently abrasive and frequently cacophonous. There are twisted melodic motifs and rhythmic patterns that appear often enough to stitch the songs together, often in physically compulsive ways, but things change unpredictably, and veer so sharply and so often that it’s hard for a listener to maintain any balance — like trying to walk a high tightrope that’s being plucked (rapidly) by giant fingers.
It is also, perhaps perversely, an utterly fascinating experience. There is a mad genius at work within these tracks (two of them, actually), and the songs are so weirdly transfixing that the minutes speed by like starlings in flight. Looking away from these deep, festering rounds turns out to be very difficult.
Hornwood Fell began their career with the objective of playing second-wave, Norwegian-inspired black metal. That’s not what they’re doing any more. Their avant-garde music does continue to include elements of black metal, but they’ve gone far off that road and into uncharted territories. It’s as if these two twin brothers, Marco and Andrea Basili, put themselves into a state of possession and became the instruments of something other than themselves. It’s no surprise to read that they wrote and recorded the album in two days — “the perfect time for us at that stage to gather energies, catalyze them, then release them, without contamination”. The experience, they say, was “hard and pure, like some kind of shock therapy where we drained ourselves of all emotions, letting them flow with sincerity, then exploding, not holding back.”
The drumming is excellent, and as much as anything it gives you something to hold onto as these riots of dire (and delightful) sound flourish around them. But, to be clear, the drum patterns themselves constantly change, ranging from manic to metronomic, as does almost everything else. What goes on around these flexing rhythmic drives is a juxtaposition of deep, sludgy bass tones, shrill, shrieking guitars, and a cornucopia of other tonalities. You’ll encounter quavering organ chords, meandering note reverberations, bleating and moaning harmonies, and wisps of what might be cello and upright bass matched with tinkling guitar emanations.
The music combines sensations of brutish destructiveness and the revelation of hallucinatory visions. The sounds channel dismal moodiness and psychotic frenzy. The music roars, and is speckled with fleeting ethereal melodies that ring like ghostly bells. One minute you’re choking in a miasma of corrosive symphonic strings, and the next you’re caught in a strafing run of blasting drums and boiling riffage. It is a richly layered tapestry of arcane possession and cataclysmic obliteration — like being caught in an earthquake while receiving garbled transmissions from a celestial sphere.
The vocals are themselves a riot of sound — veering from red-throated yells to cold-blooded roars, from wretched wails to dictatorial howls and livid screams. At one point swirling choral voices rise up in an aria of pain.
The music would challenge the ability of a better wordsmith than this writer to communicate the experience of this album, but fortunately we have a full stream of it below. It is recommended that you take it all in at once, because the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts. And yes, as dissonant, destructive, and disturbing as the music is, it is also a delight, simply to be in the presence of people who have so thoroughly surrendered themselves to whatever muses may have possessed them as they made this.
Damno Lumina Nocte features artwork by Matteo Valentini. It was mixed and mastered by Emiliano Natali at Fear No One Studio. It will be released by Third I Rex on May 31st — and you can pre-order it now.
For a song named “Hope Annihilator“, it kindles hope — actually it provides more of an assurance than a hope — that heavy metal will live forever. It’s such a damned good song, in part because it so seamlessly interlocks so many classic sounds, and because it’s delivered with such authentic spirit. And, to be fair, it’s also an annihilator.
The song comes from the new fourth album by the Italian band Barbarian, which has a timeless name in addition to a brilliant amalgam of classic sounds: To No God Shall I Kneel. The album will be released on June 7th by Hells Headbangers, with suitably barbaric cover art by Acid Witch’s Shagrat.
“Hope Annihilator” is the second track revealed from the album so far. The first one, “Birth and Death of Rish’ah“, richly merited the PR references to early Running Wild and ’80s Manowar, to classic Celtic Frost and Venom. It’s a great mix of savagery, glory, and gloom, a kind of blackened old-school heavy metal that’s the stuff of swords and sorcery but is also red meat for a headbanger. It soars as much as it romps, while also creating a mythic, fantastical atmosphere. It makes you want to close your eyes, throw your head back, and hoist invisible oranges to the sky.
Like that first track, “Hope Annihilator” sinks its hooks in your head damned fast, maybe even faster, thanks to a riff that alternately darts and brays. But that’s just the beginning of the wind-up, which further includes solemn, chant-like tones over a riotous drum eruption. When the pitch comes, it’s a warlike charge of scorching vocal ferocity, battering drums, and cruel, scything guitar work — which alternates with a kind of lurching, menacing cadence before the song launches into a gritty thrashing gallop.
There is, of course, a solo, which suits the anthemic qualities of the music, and an even more anthemic ending. My only problem with the song is that the ending comes too soon. I would have been quite happy for Barbarian to cycle that epic ending for a few more minutes. Fortunately, there are four more songs to come after “Hope Annihilator”, and they won’t let you down.
To No God Shall I Kneel will be released by Hells Headbangers on CD, LP, and cassette tape, and it’s available to order now:
(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the first album in 10 years by Rammstein, which was released on May 17th.)
It seems like every year, if not every six months, the Metal Media is overwhelmed with a glut of articles declaiming the imminent “death” of the scene, and asking “who will be the next Metallica?”
Yet amidst all the pontificating, prognosticating, and populist predictions – will it be Trivium (no, despite their best efforts)? will it be Slipknot (I hope not)? will it be Five Finger Death Punch (dear god no…) – one name seems consistently omitted and overlooked, despite the fact that they’re already quite capable of filling arenas and selling umpteen records without even breaking a sweat.
That band, as the more astute of you might already have guessed, is Rammstein.
Now, in my mind at least, the similarities between the German sextet and the works of Hetfield and co. have been mounting up for some time, but they’re arguably more explicit than ever on the band’s new, untitled/self-titled record (shades of “Black” album, anyone?).
Opener “Deutschland”, for example, is not only one of the best tracks the band have ever written (with a strident, strikingly heartfelt message about the group’s complex feelings towards their homeland), it’s also based around the sort of massive guitar lines and major-league hooks that their American brethren haven’t really managed to reproduce since the “Enter Sandman” days.
Similarly, the humongously groovy (and succinctly-titled) “Sex” comes across like a ridiculously self-aware, über-German version of “Sad But True”, while there’s more than a hint of the brooding bombast of “Wherever I May Roam” to the riff-heavy “Zeig Dich”.
Heck, there’s even a few shades of “The Unforgiven” to “Puppe”… at least until it transforms into a ranting, raving, Ministry-esque monster in its second half!
Of course even with all these notable (possibly coincidental) similarities, the idea that the German sextet are the “next” anyone is inherently reductive (and, potentially, a little insulting). Rammstein are Rammstein, plain and simple, and they’ve gotten to where they are now by being themselves, not by trying to be anyone else.
Long-time fans shouldn’t, therefore, be too worried that the band they love has transformed into something unrecognisable in the decade-long gap between albums. In fact I’d argue that their new record is perhaps the most Rammstein album yet and, if rumours are to be believed, a more than fitting conclusion/summation of the group’s entire career.
Take songs like the effortlessly catchy “Radio”, the shameless electro-rock/techno-rave of “Auslander” (whose flagrant Depeche Mode-isms disguise some clever political commentary), or the surprisingly epic “Weit Weg”, for example, which channel echoes of both Sehnsucht and Reise, Reise in equal measure, without sounding tethered to any one specific era of the band’s career.
Then there’s “Tattoo”, a pounding Industro-Metal stomper in the proud tradition of “Asche zu Asche”, “Du Hast”, or “Links 2-3-4” – albeit with a much more melodic overture courtesy of Till Lindemann’s increasingly operatic vocals – while both “Was Ich Liebe” and moody closer “Hallomann” conjure the same sense of gloomy grandeur which made Mutter such an era-defining, career-making record almost twenty years ago.
It’s not quite a perfect album of course – the touching, tender strains of “Diamant” fade out far too soon, ending the song before it’s truly had a chance to establish itself, and, more generally, not every track reaches the incredibly high bar set early on by “Deutschland” – but it’s still one of the best albums in the band’s entire back catalogue by anyone’s reckoning.
So if this truly is to be the band’s swansong then I can’t think of a better way for them to end things than like this, still doing things totally in their own time and entirely on their own terms.
Wow, 16 days since I posted the last of these new-music round-ups. And that one came 10 days after the one before it. Not a good track record, but my job has been a jealous mistress lately, or more like a starving wolverine hungry for my flesh. It’s unlikely things will improve in the near future, but for different reasons.
In two days, for the 6th year in a row, I’m flying to Baltimore with a bunch of Seattle friends to take in Maryland Deathfest. My NCS comrades Andy Synn and DGR will be there, too, and I doubt they’ll be spending their free time banging out content for NCS either. And then the week after that I’ll be spending a shitload of time helping to put on the third edition of the NCS-sponsored Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle. My day job probably won’t leave me alone over the next two weeks either.
So, it won’t surprise me if another 16 days pass between today’s round-up and the next one. Or maybe I’ll throw together a round-up that just consists of one new song. Or maybe two, if I skip showers and breakfasts. But today I have five, because I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Although I’ve made an (incomplete) effort to add to my endless lists of songs to check out over the last couple of weeks, the songs I chose for this Monday round-up didn’t come from those lists. I just didn’t have time to dig into those. Instead, three of them came via recommendations from friends that arrived this past weekend, a fourth I just randomly happened to spot last night, and the fifth grabbed my attention just this morning.
What has happened to the Polish black metal band Batushka since the release of their stunning 2015 debut album Litourgiya is not a pretty story. The condensed version is that band founder and guitarist Krzysztof Drabikowski (who says that he composed and recorded almost all of Litourgiya himself) and the vocalist he recruited for Litourgiya (Bartłomiej Krysiuk) have gone to war.
Krysiuk has claimed ownership of the band name and other properties associated with it, and his version of Batushka has signed a deal with Metal Blade Records for the release of an album named Hospodi on July 15th (there’s a new song from that album you can check out here). Drabikowski has sued him in Polish court and hopes to establish his own legal rights to the band’s name and related intellectual property interests. The Drabikowski version of Batushka has also recently released a new song, and that’s what you’ll find below.
For now, the track is simply entitled “Песнь 1” (Song 1), and it comes from an album named Панихида (Panikhida), which is apparently the name for “a liturgical solemn service for the repose of the departed in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches, which follow the Byzantine Rite”.
The music begins in haunting, mystical tones and then rises up in daunting, gloomy, and gleaming magnificence. A jolting pulse and bursts of blasting intermittently drive the song, which also soars through clean, reverent vocals which alternate with harsh, raking snarls. What a wonderful song it is….
(Thanks to eiterorm for linking me to this song. He says the one released by the Krysiuk/Metal Blade version of Batushka is boring. For reasons explained in the intro to this post, I haven’t had time to check it out yet, and the fact that I trust eiterorm‘s tastes also has something to do with that.)
I thought this next song was damned exciting even before I reached the 2:30 mark in the video for it. And then it blew the top of my head clean off, which is just further proof that I don’t need a head to do what I do for NCS.
Before I lost my head I was hooked by the rhythmic interplay between the bassist and the drummer, by the flashes of darting and delirious guitar, and by the alternation between caustic Finnish howls and clean vocals (which thankfully aren’t too pretty). The song is a fireball of riotous, infectious energy that’s difficult to pin down in genre terms, but it reaches new fever-pitch heights when the guitarist delivers a jaw-dropping solo. Man, this song is so damned much fun — and the video is lots of fun to watch too.
The song’s name is “Mantsurian Kätyri“, and it was the first single from Veritas, the debut album from the Finnish band Kolossus. The video below was released in April, and the album is actually out now (released on May 15th). I’m very eager to hear the rest of it.
(Thanks to my NCS colleague TheMadIsraeli for recommending this song; he compared Kolossus to a Finnish version of Byzantine.)
KOLOSSUS - Mantsurian Kätyri [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] - YouTube
One week ago I had the great pleasure of premiering a new EP by the Swedish death metal band Mordbrand. It consists of two songs, and each one — “Döden” and “Efter Döden” — uses a poem by the great Swedish writer Gustaf Fröding as the lyrical text. Now, Mordbrand have released a video for the second of those songs, which I watched this morning.
“Efter Döden” rocks soooo damned hard, and it also simmers and vibrates in a way that might make you uneasy, as if channeling a form of psychosis. Speaking of which, it may help in your understanding of the video to know that Gustaf Fröding struggled with his own mental illnesses. According to The Font of All Human Knowledge:
“The latter part of his life he spent in different mental institutions and hospitals to cure his mental illness and alcoholism, and eventually diabetes. During the first half of the 1890s he spent a couple of years at the Suttestad institution in Lillehammer, Norway, where he finished his work on his third book of poetry Stänk och flikar, which was published in 1896. He wrote much of the material at a mental institution in Görlitz, Germany”, and he was also later institutionalized in Sweden.
Döden / Efter Döden is available now on 7″ vinyl via De:Nihil Records:
Mordbrand - Efter Döden [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube
I’m staying with Finland but moving back to black metal with some new music by Kalmankantaja. They’re prolific, to say the least, with roughly three-dozen entries on Metal Archives — so prolific that I overlooked the fact that they released another album (Kaski) since the last time I wrote about them in January. I haven’t had time to check out that album, which came out on April 30th, but since then (on May 6th) they also released a split entitled Essence of Black Mysticism with Drudensang (Germany) and Hiisi (Finland).
Now it turns out that the Kalmankantaja track on that split is a single they previously released named “Ruumiinvaellus“, which I wrote about in January of this year. It’s a great song, and because of the release of the split, it’s now available digitally only as part of the split. That was the first cause I had to mention it again here, but I’ve also become enamored of the songs I’ve heard by Drudensang and Hiisi (I haven’t heard all of their tracks yet, but the ones I have heard are very good). Here’s what I wrote previously about the Kalmankantaja track:
“The solitary reverberating notes of the song’s introduction have a sorrowful and introspective mood; and the music’s melancholy mood persists as it stalks ahead in a stately pace as the vocalist shrieks in scalding pain and sweeping waves of lush, rippling melody swirl through your mind.
“Periodically punctuated by heart-hammering blast-beat eruptions, the song’s melodies have a way of seeping in deeper and deeper, becoming increasingly hypnotic (and intense) as they loop through the song, without losing an ounce of the desolate grandeur that is their chief hallmark. Near the end, when the drums become silent, we’re carried away into a dream of terrible loss.”
Like the last item in this round-up, the next one is just an excerpt from a longer release. In this case, the band is Dark Plague, a French black metal group, whose fourth album Be More or Fade Away was released on May 18th.
The one song I’ve heard so far, because it’s set to play first on Bandcamp, is “Plague“. There’s something about the song that seems almost dreamlike in its midnight darkness, despite the fact that the vocals are frighteningly savage and the drummer periodically launches into hammering fusillades. The shimmering melodies that cascade through the song like cold dark seas have a despairing emotional resonance, yet are absolutely captivating.
As I write these finishing words for today’s collection I’m listening to the song which follows “Plague“, and it convinces me that this album will be well worth my time — and hopefully yours as well.
(Thanks to DaNasher for pointing me to this album.)