Eagle Twin slither through doom filth on ‘The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale’

Certainly we all know the saying “seeing is believing.” Surely, we’ve all used it at some point to describe something we’ve heard is spectacular, terrible, otherworldly, whatever, but couldn’t really grasp until we saw or experienced the thing in person. A lot of people use that same line of thinking to explain their lack of belief in a religion or a god or a higher power or aliens or scientific theory.

That “seeing is believing” thing had a profound impact on me the first time I saw Salt Lake City-based duo Eagle Twin perform live. Before that, I had their first record “The Unkindness of Crows” on which to base my judgment, and while I was intrigued by the recording, there was a bit of a disconnect. I wasn’t quite sure about the throaty vocals, the compositions were really muddy but had a hint of something more beneath the surface, and the content certainly was pretty different from most other bands out there. I mean, the album title pretty much summed up what the songs were about.

Luckily, I caught the band before they opened for Sunn 0))) in Pittsburgh, and the experienced changed the way I felt about the record. The power and mystery and passion behind the music that I heard so many people describe, I finally felt and realized in person. The whole thing really sunk in at that moment, and the pieces fell into place. Next day, I listened to “Crows” again, and lo and behold, the record started to capture me. It still was weird and unconventional, but that started to become a positive. I was getting it. No other band sounds like Eagle Twin at all, their unorthodox artistry is something I’ve grown to appreciate and admire. Since my live journey with the band, I’ve had people hear the record over my shoulder or in my home and kind watched them furl their brow. Yeah, I was there before. Then I saw what I needed to see, and now I believe in it.

So it was with great anticipation that I greeted the band’s second record “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale,” and just like their first, it didn’t fully register. But unlike their debut, this one unraveled quickly for me, and just a couple visits with this record, I was fully immersed, soul and spirit. This record is incredible, one of the best Southern Lord releases of the last few years, and every time I listen, I get more involved and more excited by what’s coming out of my speakers. It’s a gigantic step ahead.

The story itself spills over from the tragic conclusion to “Unkindness,” where the crows documented on that collection tried to battle the sun and were sent burnt back to earth. Now they take snake form, and the Eagle Twin fellows – guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley, drummer Tyler Smith — take time to examine the role of serpents throughout time, in stories and human history. With the multiple references to Adam, the Garden of Eden comes into play as well as the Biblical assertion of sin into humankind. But there’s plenty more going on as well that looks at spiritual and mythical background of snakes, and it gives the whole thing an even darker, more sinister edge.

The album opens with the incredible “Ballad of Job Cain” parts 1 and 2 that sprawl over nearly 20 minutes and never fail to be anything but captivating. The songs are bluesy, doomy, and smoking, and Densley switches back and forth from a thick croon to a gravelly growl, depending on where he’s at in the story. My wife pointed out that the growls remind her of a mix of Tom Waits and Dr. Teeth from “The Muppet Show.” She doesn’t listen to metal, so let’s give her a pass on that one. “Lorca (Adan)” is based on a piece by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, with the lyrics based on the English translation of that work, and musically they delve into Midwestern terrain. It sounds like they’re channeling Dylan Carlson and their soon-to-be-tourmates Earth and shows a whole different sonic side of the band. Here, the Book of Genesis-based fall from grace story is recalled in bloody detail in a way perhaps you haven’t heard before.

That theme also seems to spill into “Snake  Hymn,” where Densley, over bluesy riffs and searing drone, howls about “the snake in the garden” as the band then transcends to an incredibly emotional terrain. The song is flushed with color, as they imagine a paradise built on snakes, and it flows headlong into “HornSnakeHorns,” the record’s shortest non-instrumental track. This, too, hits a dusty trail, a Southwestern finish, and vocals that are yowled with character and expression. It sinks into doomy tar and eventually bleeds into interlude “It Came to Pass the Snakes Became Mighty Antlers,” a thorny, pushy scene-setter. Closer “Epilogue, Crow’s Theology” begins mystically before settling into a slow-driving pace with guitars that hang like a haze, thick, burly riffing, and at the end, a solitary drum beat that closes the book on our tale.

Eagle Twin already had built a nice level of respect in the underground metal scene, but this one should wake up anyone who’s been asleep on this band. “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale” is a record that catapults Eagle Twin from an intriguing doom-based band to one that’s about to become a major and unique force. This record still is one that may take some people unfamiliar with the band some time to understand. Once you do, the venom sets in and you’re finished. That’s a good thing, by the way.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/eagletwin

To buy the album, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php?dept=MCH

For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/

Southern Lord breaks deeper into crust, digs up Oiltanker, Nuclear Death Terror


I’m going away soon, something that’s been planned since winter. It’s so close now, I can practically taste it. As a result, time’s going really slowly, and finding proper motivation is not exactly at its apex. So what to do?

Not much has worked, to be honest, and no matter what I do, my anticipation cannot be quelled. I, of course, tried a musical approach to help me along before vacation and relaxation take hold. But nothing’s really worked that well. I have a ton of upcoming releases I’ve been anticipating that have helped a little, but I can’t formulate proper thoughts about them yet. I’ve tried spacious material hoping that it would take my mind elsewhere and let me tackle more intellectual things. That’s been for naught. I’ve even gone back to some old albums, some all-time classics to see if that could get my mind on the music and not seven days of luxurious craft beer. Nope.

The closest I’ve come to breaking through the doldrums of pre-vacation jitters has been some fiery hardcore. I admit, I’m not the biggest fan of that genre in the world. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m way more a metal dude. I grew up that way, and it’s something that’ll never be broken. But for some reason, the raucousness and fury has worked the best — though not perfectly — for helping me get on with things and muscle through the days I have left before I can turn off my brain, recharge my batteries … and drink hundreds of gallons of beer.

Southern Lord, which practically operates as a hardcore label these days, had a hand in helping. They have a few new releases in this realm coming at you, and two in particular have kept the meager fires going in my heart as the finish line comes into focus. I’ll go over the other ones we don’t discuss today at the end, and there’s no problem with those releases at all. As noted, not having hardcore in my blood, four new albums from that genre is a fuck of a lot for me to absorb at once. So these are the two that moved me the most, though there certainly is merit behind the others.

Both Oiltanker and Nuclear Death Terror (one of my favorite new band names, and not to be confused with the legendary Extreme Noise Terror) are a part of the Lord’s efforts to shed a light on the crusty underground scene that doesn’t get a whole lot of love by too many labels. Yes, you have your Deathwish your A398 and whatnot, but it seems all the shitty glossy crap is all anyone wants to discuss in magazines. Southern Lord’s taken a little bit of heat in places for sort of transforming what they do and going more after hardcore, but at least what they uncover is worthy, especially for someone like me who doesn’t care to dig too deep.

We’ll start with Oiltanker, who hail from Hartford, CT. Wait, a band from Hartford makes something this nasty and destructive? Look, it may not seem like hardcore heaven, but I’ve been there before and hated every moment of my trip. Maybe they do too. And maybe I’m just a jerk. The band boasts a D-beat fury, a sound that pays some homage to traditional hardcore, and a social/political platform that’s not uncommon in this genre but certainly hits hard this time of year as we’re slandering and libeling each other on our way to selecting our presidential choice.

This limited-pressed disc is called “Shadow of Greed/Crusades” for a damn good reason. The collection is a compilation of their “Shadow of Greed” LP along with their “Crusades” 7-inch, thus the crafty album moniker. With this package, you get 16 songs that blast by in 32 minutes, and you get almost no downtime to take a breath. The pace is punishing and nasty, the vocals are damn near infernal, and the whole thing is delivered with unbridled aggression.

The quartet hits hard on tracks such as “Who’s in Control,” that even has a bit of slide guitar mixed in for texture; “The Circle Complete,” that has tasty pockets of old-school thrash; “By Death or By Force,” a track that really needs no further explanation. “Suffer” also has some thrashy goodness but also folds in some catchy, meaty guitar riffs; “Crusades” is fast and unforgiving; and “Plagued” is total devastation, with mangled vocals, searing guitar leads, and smoke rising from the ashes. This is a really satisfying collection that, had the Lord not released it, I may never have heard. Glad things didn’t happen that way.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Oiltanker/178083802211595

Nuclear Death Terror

Nuclear Death Terror is more my thing, as they go the Entombed/Discharge route and even mix in some thrash metal influences along the way. So yeah, I dig it because it sounds more metal to me, and this Danish band is one I’m certainly going to explore further now that I’ve gotten familiar with “Chaos Reigns.” This is similar to the Oiltanker album, as it’s a compilation, but it’s made up of tracks taken from some of the band’s vinyl releases. That said, these songs all fit together quite well, and it never has that feeling of a best-of, and I’ve spent the most time with this than any other release I’ll mention here.

“Chaos Reigns” is an excellent title for this record for two reasons. First, complete, utter decibolic fury goes on here, and I’d imagine this would translate into a rather violent live display. Second, the word “chaos” appears quite frequently in the lyrics, so it makes for kind of a theme for these tracks. “Crisis” opens the collection on a growly, monstrous note, leading toward other hellacious cuts such as “Collapse,” that has some nice shout-along parts that make me think of the thrash connection; “Descent,” the song where the album title is actually shouted and that even has some slick rock and roll guitar work weaved into the pattern; “Devolve to Submission,” a crushing song with words that are practically spat out; “Chaotic Alliance,” where more metallic stabs enter the fray; and their awesome cover of Celtic Frost classic “Morbid Tales,” complete with that shrill opening scream that should make Tom G. Warrior blush.

If you’re more on the metal edge of metallic hardcore, Nuclear Death Terror may be more to your liking than Oiltanker. That’s certainly the case with me, as I prefer their thrashy riffs, forceful growls, and crusty crunch. This actually has inspired me to pull out records from some of their influences as well, something I always find satisfying.

For more on the band, go here: http://nucleardeathterror.blogspot.com/

As noted, there are more hardcore-based records ready for your dollars courtesy of the Lord. There’s a brand new Poison Idea reissue compilation in the form of “The Fatal Erection Years (Pick Your King)” that follows last year’s “Darby Crash Rides Again.” Nice history lesson here, kids. Milwaukee’s metallic hardcore heroes Enabler have their new record “All Hail the Void” out on SL imprint, and it’s righteous, catchy, and sarcastic. Find links to all the rest of the bands below, as well as where to buy their records. Now shut up and let me go think about beer.

For more on Poison Idea, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Poison-Idea/60605554861?ref=pb

For more on Enabler, go here: http://www.enablermke.blogspot.com/

To buy any of the albums above, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php

For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/

A Forest of Stars are theatrically weird, strong on ‘Shadowplay for Yesterdays’

Weirdness in music doesn’t bother me at all. Actually, I encourage weirdness in just about everything, except for eating habits and anything that involves things being kept sanitary. Everything else is fair game. So when I get a record by a band that doesn’t exactly go by the book, that’s generally a good thing.

That doesn’t mean what I’m going to hear is going to get a gold star necessarily. For example, as much as they are heralded by so many people, I just can’t fully get with Peste Noir. I get what they’re trying to do, it’s really bizarre, it makes me listen the entire time, but usually once their albums end, so does my interest. On the other hand, Palace of Worms and Wrnlrd are really unconventional projects with music that comes at you from so many different points, but while they’re very ambitious and not afraid to bombard you, I find that the end results really work. I follow everything that both projects produce.

That brings us to the U.K.’s wonderfully theatrical A Forest of Stars. Actually, formally their name is A Gentlemen’s Club A Forest of Stars, and the membership includes female members, but let’s just go with the shortened handle since that’s the one on the spine anyway. I’ve had my ups and downs with this band that claims they hail from the 19th Century and takes on names and patterns of dress to boot. It’s all in good fun, and while unabashedly over the top, their albums keep me interested while I’m visiting. My reaction to their work, however, has been mixed, and I imagine it’s always going to be that way. But at least they’re not mundane and always have a ton of new tricks to pull out at every stop on their records. There is a TON going on at all times, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

The crux of my issue always has been, always will be their charismatic, bleeding-heart vocalist Mister Curse, who sounds like a street thespian on crack cocaine. The guy, straight up, is a performer, and he throws every bit of himself into his performances. You never are left wondering if he’s into the material and the characters he assumes, and he is front and center of each piece, no matter how many instruments are layered into the production. My issue is with how crazed his voice comes off at times, because it can be unintentionally comical. It’s one of those voices that, if you exposed it to someone who doesn’t like metal and/or doesn’t take the medium seriously, probably would result in belly laughs. Mister Curse is a bizarre man, yet you can’t help but love him, even at times when he annoys you. Luckily on the band’s third record “A Shadowplay for Yesterdays,” he’s at his very best, keeping those moments that make you blush to a minimum and displaying just how engaging and effective he can be as a frontman. And a showman.

As for the rest of the band, they’re spirited, full of heart, and never afraid to mix raw black metal with folk passages, rustic scene-setting, carnival whimsy, and classic rock thunder. In fact, much like their frontman, the band never has been tighter, more focused, and more alive than they are on “Shadowplay.” There are times when their work here is astonishing, and you might be able to sit down someone who likes Bathory and Mayhem with someone into The Decemberists and have everyone walk away thrilled. That’s not easy to do.

“A Shadowplay for Yesterdays” is a concept piece, which you’ll figure really early on as the record opens up to you. The story here, quite loosely, is about a man who is at a sort of crossroads with himself. As the band puts it, he’s at a point where he’s struggling between virtue and a blasphemous self-destruction, and you’re left to decide what path the character takes as these tracks play out. It’s plain from the music and the song titles, the option of choosing a god or heading toward the confines of the church are not pleasing ones, so the latter seems to be the path of least resistance in his mind.

“Directionless Resurrectionist” sets the stage, as it’s an introduction piece that leads the way to “Prey Tell of the Church Fate,” an eerie, off-kilter song that is menacing and psychotic until the rest of the band takes the reins from Mister Curse and navigates through a thunderous prog rock wave. Actually, the band’s prog chops are stunning on this album, showing a true elevation of their capabilities in that style, and it’s what gives these songs their heart and soul. “A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh” is dramatic and sweeping, with rants and growls sprinkled amid sweeping guitars, acoustic treading, and some lovely contributions from Katheryne, Queen of Ghosts, who also provides lush strings and woodwinds. “The Blight of God’s Acre” lets Mister Curse take full command again, as he becomes the demonic storyteller in the vein of classic King Diamond. That all bleeds into “Man’s Laughter,” a cosmic, dreamy interlude that unfurls alien influences and leads into the second half of our tale.

“The Underside of Eden” is coarse and emotional, with Mister Curse taking on a David Bowie-esque demeanor. He howls, “God is dead, and dead is God!” at his theatrical best, almost as if manning a singular spotlight-lit stage, and the band blasts behind him with folk and metal. “Gatherer of the Pure” is just wacky, opening with farm animals squealing, and a sea chantey-style melody kicking up before it dissolves into psychedelic madness and noise. Toward the end, behind all that chaos, come group vocals that sound fitted for some twisted Disney production. “Left Behind as Static” is truly sad and isolated, with the main character wondering about his place in history and if it’ll simply dissolve into soundwaves. Meanwhile, the band takes time to touch upon just about every style they spill into each song. The dual “Corvus Corona” pieces stretch out to nearly 10 minutes, with the first half acting as a precursor and scene-setter for the second, that’s built on weird piano, harsh undertones, and the one spot where Mister Curse really goes overboard vocally. Closer “Dead Love” is a sobering, seething end to the story, with no one left a winner, and no positivity bubbling to the surface to send listeners home happy. Not every story ends happily, after all.

“A Shadowplay for Yesterdays” is a Forest of Stars’ most cohesive, enjoyable album to date, and it makes up for 2010’s maddening and frustrating “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring.” The band never has sounded better, and they’ve gone from an interesting troupe to a massive force of prog/black metal/folk goodness. And they should only get better. Mister Curse, he still frustrates at times, but he’s the perfect narrator for this tragic tale. This band, and this record, is not for everyone, and those not equipped to deal with ambitious, go-for-broke artistry might be terrified by what they hear. But that’s what makes this band so damn interesting. You might be baffled by what you hear, but you’ll be hard pressed to turn away.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.aforestofstars.co.uk/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.prophecy.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.prophecyproductions.de/front_content.php

Ash Borer’s black metal turns on cosmic gazing with genre-altering ‘Cold of Ages’

If anyone out there doesn’t believe in cosmic happenings and alignments, allow me to blow your mind. The very morning that photos from the Mars Rover made their way to Earth, I got very excited to see what was coming back. I wanted some fitting background music for seeing these images for the first time, and literally the second I clicked on the story, the new album from Ash Borer landed in my inbox.

Not that the band is on some sort of intergalactic adventure or something, but they’d certainly be fitting for setting a mood for stretching the mind. As heavy and disruptive as the band can be at times, I never fail to gaze into the distance and do heavy thinking while listening to their music. It’s well documented on this site that music of that nature appeals to me, and for the last couple years, Ash Borer have been one of my go-to bands anytime I want to spend time concentrating, reading, or examining because they keep me mentally stimulated while allowing my brain to work on more weighty subject matter that takes some effort.

So it was that my first experience I had with “Cold of Ages” coincided with my space dreams and curiosity over seeing new shots of a far-away land (granted, these images were pretty miniscule, but it didn’t prevent me from imagining what was beyond the frame). I didn’t know quite what to expect, which is always the case with Ash Borer, but when those alien keys washed over during the introduction to opening track “Descended Lamentations,” I realized there probably was no better soundtrack than this song. Then everything exploded and we were off on a black metal voyage through time and space, with doors to other dimensions being torn off hinges with their aggressive assault, proper time to float steadily being worked into the mix when the pace slowed and they took on passages that reminded me of some of the more mystical moments of FALSE’s work, and then everything came back around again with the speedy, furious ending. Out of breath, completely.

“Cold of Ages” is the band’s second full-length effort, with their self-titled debut dropping last year on Psychic Violence. They also have a couple of demos to their name, a split with Fell Voices, and last year’s cassette discography compilation that wasn’t produced in terribly large numbers and was nearly impossible to track down. So the California-based band has been quite busy since their inception in 2008, and with each release, their sound gets bigger, bolder, and more impossible to classify. Yes, it’s black metal at its heart, and it’s harsh and uncompromising, but this new album finds Ash Borer incorporating way more synth into their stew, with N (Nhate Clmnt of Servile Sect) taking on a large role creating mood and atmosphere. It adds a surprising and lush element to the band’s chaotic violence that wasn’t there quite on this level before.

The rest of the singular letter-monikered band — K on vocals and guitars, A on guitars, R on bass, M on drums, and, naturally, N — has grown even deadlier, obliterating your senses with their sheer power and will, and pulling you back in from your daydreams with infectious guitar work that is weaved into every song. They always find a sticky spot in various sections of their sprawling epics that are designed to pull you back to center, and when you do refocus on the matter, you can’t help but surrender to their will and take the entire ride with the band. This is something that gets more apparent with each listen. And you’ll need many listens for complete digestion.

The shortest song on this album is tiny, little “Phantoms,” clocking in at 11:25 and sounding like endless sheets of a thunderstorm. Interestingly, K’s voice takes on a different dynamic and he seemingly digs as far into his chest as possible and comes up with something that sounds like Brian Johnson being tortured. It’s effective, sounds like it hurts, and adds a new depth of intensity to a song that runs the gamut of sound dynamics but ends in cold, icy keys.

“Convict All Flesh” is the longest cut here at 18:09, and it covers a country’s worth of terrain. The song opens with piercing guitar notes hanging in the air, slips into slow, doomy threads, eventually erupts like a comet striking land, and continues to shape shift toward its conclusion. The song is chock full of emotion, K howls like he’s trying to be heard from an ocean away, and the conclusion blasts into something angrier and faster than anything else on the album. Also on that track, adding a level of ghostly beauty, is Worm Ouroboros’ Jessica Way, whose gorgeous voice just chills. Closer “Removed Forms,” that also features Way, tests your will, opening with a spoonful of deathrock courtesy of coldly plucked clean guitar, but four minutes into this dirge, the explosion happens, dizzying guitar work shakes your body, synth is layered in like a thick fog, and cathartic melodies and shouts push things to the limit. It ends in total devastation, almost like a world burning to its core, making one wonder what those Mars photos may have looked like had we gone there thousands of years ago.

Every time Ash Borer emerge from hiding with a new piece of music, their brilliance comes more into focus. This band quickly is becoming one of the most important in all of United States black metal, and soon, with more records like “Cold of Ages,” those parameters should expand to the world. There is nothing but genuine, human emotion coming from this band, and they choose such a medium because their message is so powerful, only this sound could serve their overall purpose. Ash Borer is one intense machine that should only get more catastrophic as time elapses.

For more on the band, go here: http://ash-borer.blogspot.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/plr-items/ash-borer-cold-of-ages/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

The Foreshadowing finally bring gothic doom to States with Metal Blade’s help

People that deny depression is a true illness and disorder that requires treatment always grate me. Those people either never had a bout of depression (which I doubt) or they’re those faux tough folks who think you just suck it up and move on. Be tough! Yeah. Doesn’t really work that way. Trust me, I know.

So yes, I’ve been down that road many, many times myself, and now and again, I’ll make some return trips for old time’s sake. I’ve been on treatment for more than half a decade (but effectively for the last couple of years), and I can attest that being out of the throes of such constant misery is life altering. But those characteristics I often showed and the weird chemical imbalances in my brain aren’t cured, they’re just kept under control, so when I identify the same things in other people, I can empathize. That’s probably a major reason I identify so much with doom metal, because it can be dreary and the summation of one’s inner turmoil.

That expression can be healthy, though. Bottling everything inside just makes for a powder keg ready to explode, and no one benefits from that, not the least of which is the person suffering. I often find when I visit truly sorrowful doom that I can remember some of the trials and tribulations that overtook me and revisit the ways I started to feel better and how I don’t care to return to that place. It also allows an outlet for dumping the things that still do ail me, because it’s OK and perfectly normal to feel sad, alone, and downtrodden. If anyone ever tells you any differently, smack the person.

So that leads me to Italian gothic doom outfit the Foreshadowing and their latest attempt to break this band in the United States. Metal Blade is picking up the band’s new record and their 2010 release “Oionos” from Cyclone Empire for wider distribution domestically, and people who like bands such as 40 Watt Sun (who are labelmates), Katatonia, and Woods of Ypres might be interested in learning about these guys. The band is made up of members of other notable, but lesser-known outfits such as Klimt 1918, Grimness, Spiritual Ceremony, and How Like a Winter, and their experience making dark, sad metal elsewhere certainly seems to have benefitted these guys with this project. They’re well oiled, effective, and tight, and these two records here certainly deserve your attention.

We covered the idea of sorrow and depression that makes up a giant chunk of the Foreshadowing’s music, but there’s another foreboding element at foot: Apocalypse. You can hear their many references to war, slaughter, and societies burning to the ground to know these guys go beyond just feeling bad. They see the evil and destructive nature of what’s around us and of each other, and they seem very preoccupied with the idea we could be lighting the match to our destruction. Really, can anyone blame them for seeing things this way? Only if your eyes and ears are closed to reality.

We’ll start with “Oionos,” their 2010 sophomore record that’s getting reissue treatment (their debut “Days of Nothing” was released by Candlelight) and should immediately insert itself into the discussion of this decade’s better pure doom albums. It’s a really strong document, one where the band plays with confidence and precision, and the gothic undertones serve the music quite well. A lot of times when bands go that route, they get cheesy and ridiculous, but these guys instead use the intrinsic sorrow found in that music to make their creations even more organically darker.

Vocalist Marco Benevento is worth the price of admission alone. Even when the songs have some weak moments, which they do here and there on “Oionos” and more so on “Second World,” he muscles the band through those parts and keeps you captivated. His voice, an expressive baritone, suits these songs perfectly, and his grasp of emotional delivery is tight and true.

“The Dawning” opens “Oionos” properly, with militaristic drumming, a deep sense of melancholy, and Benevento pondering, “Who knows if we’ll wake up at dawn?” The title cut is interesting, as it opens with what sounds like throat singing, then spills ominous doom and heavy organs all over the place. “Fallen Reign” examines defeat and failure, with the reflective line, “What remains of this life?” “Lost Humanity is crunchier and heavier, showing the more muscular side of the band they’d display in greater force on “Second World.” Same goes for “Chant of Widows.” “Hope. She’s in the Water” is a dark, crushing examination of war-time destruction and how it affects mankind. Accompanying the track is a sample of FDR’s “a date that will live in infamy” speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The band covers Sting’s “Russians,” an odd choice musically but certainly not thematically, and they do a fine job, while sobering “Revelations 3:11″ (a scripture passage Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown”) lets the fires burn out and the soot left for examination.

“Second World,” originally released in April by Cyclone Empire, is the Foreshadowing’s latest effort and third overall. It stays the course pretty much, so you’re not in for a lot of surprises, and overall it’s not as strong as “Oionos.” For one, some of the guitar work is a little mundane and dull. Some of the downtuned stuff by Andrea Chiodetti and Alessandro Pace comes off as clichéd and not terribly imaginative (specifically on “Havoc” and “Aftermaths”), but luckily that’s only a sliver of the overall pie. This certainly is a good record, that manages to gain steam as it moves along, and by the time it closes with somber, slightly ambient “Friends of Pain,” the payoff to this experience is measurable.

“The Forsaken Son” is an example of the band getting a little grittier and heavier, and overall the sentiment is a little rougher on this record. There also are some intriguing passages on this album, from the passionate, somber sentiment of “Outcast,” to the near liturgical chants turned in by the band on atmospheric tracks such as “Reverie Is a Tyrant” and excellent “Noli Timere.” The best of all of the cuts are crushing ballad “Ground Zero,” a heart-lies-bleeding piece that could take on any number of meanings, with Benevento observing, “We call our last goodbye,” and folk-infused, furious “Colonies,” which is full of anger and desperation. When Benevento howls, “In the name of Western homicide, we built our empires,” you certainly can feel every ounce of emotion in his voice. It also should give the listener a lot on which to reflect.

It may have taken some doing and a pick-up by Metal Blade for the Foreshadowing to finally have a chance for impact in America. Whether their music takes is another thing, but I don’t see why it can’t. It’s emotional and real, sad and biting, and with rage where it’s appropriate. Plus, they happen to be a damn capable band, one worth following into their murky future.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.theforeshadowing.com/

To buy the albums, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/14960/

And here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/14961/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/english/content.php

And here: http://www.cyclone-empire.com/

Jess and the Ancient Ones unleash occult doom charisma to enrapture on debut

Playing catch-up is something this site tries to avoid at all costs, but sometimes it’s necessary. Or at least it’s just what happens. But I think there’s something to at least being on record with something even if it seems like you’re super late with getting up to speed. I am over-explaining.

Anyway, today’s story has a dual purpose. For one, it’s to shed more light on a really awesome band that certainly defies the parameters of metal and, as a result, comes up with something awesome that could find audiences beyond the extreme listeners. Second, it’s to get to work covering releases from Svart Records, who we haven’t touched upon yet but, with an infusion of new releases from them in my inbox (all of which are quite varied and really engaging in their own right), they’re definitely going to be a part of the mix going forward.

So, even though I’m a few months behind on this, let’s talk about the incredible new self-titled album by Jess and the Ancient Ones, a Finnish occult rock band that might find favor with fans of groups such as Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, and The Devil’s Blood. There are seven people behind this majestic rock, and every moment of this record oozes with charisma and energy. It’s like a glorious ’70s cult doom record rose from the ashes, reinvented itself, and picked up enough modern traits to make an impact in 2012. And holy shit, Jess. Her pipes are killer, sometimes raspy, always emotive and soaring, and she immediately catapulted toward the top of my list of favorite modern-day vocalists. She just kills everything on this record, and her singing should be deemed a metallic treasure.

The album has the spooky inspiration of having been crafted by various occult experiences the band members have gone through, and from the sounds of things here, they were profoundly impacted by their experiences. Sometimes bands of this ilk can lay it on a little thick with this stuff, damn near reaching the level of self-parody, but Jess and the Ancient Ones never do that. They always come off as serious and solemn, even when they’re smashing the side of your head with rock so delicious, you’ll want to gorge yourself on their offerings. And hey, go for it. No calories, kids.

I did say rock and not metal. There certainly will be an appeal for some metal fans, especially if you’re into the more adventurous, melodic sides of Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Iron Maiden (not vocally, as Jess keeps her voice more down to earth than in the stratosphere), but people who need things all brutal all the time will be lost. That’s their fault for being so closed-minded. Does it help that this band recorded in the same studio that produced some of Watain’s music?

“Prayer for Death and Fire” greets listeners with its smoky organs, muscular riffs, and Jess’ driving voice, pushing the song a little bit toward blues territory. “Twilight Witchcraft” has a psychedelic feel and some really strong guitar work, and Jess makes references to “an angel by my side.” Up next is the record’s centerpiece and, in my opinion, the most impressive song on the collection. “Sulfur Giants” is an epic, starting gently with pianos and mysticism, but then the song blows open, with NWOBHM fire, incredible energy, and Jess’ most powerful hooks on the entire album. When she cries, “Oh, I wish I’d never been born,” you genuinely feel her sorrow and frustration. “Ghost Riders” brings things back to a more traditional setting, with sun-drenched guitars, cool keys, and a doom/prog rock pace that drives you through the whole cut. “13th Breath of the Zodiac” is truly witchy and melodic, and it could be a radio hit if it got some airplay, while “The Devil (in G-minor)” is a total curveball. The song has Western American style, like it was dreamt up after a bar fight, and at times they resemble the band Murder By Death. It all wraps with the second epic “Come Crimson Death,” an amazing, huge power ballad that wrings every last drop of their souls on the ground, with heart-wrenching vocals, a kitchen-sink assault of everything the band does well, and melodies that just stick to you. It’s a fantastic finish to a startling album.

Jess and the Ancient Ones may just seem like the latest addition to the current wave of occult-friendly bands, but they’re so much more than that. They transcend the darkness and creepiness the other bands boast with a charm and accessibility the other groups don’t have in this amount. This is a highly recommended album, one you may find yourself having a tough time putting back on the shelf.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.jessandtheancientones.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/shoppe/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/

Hunter’s Ground, Unsacred mangle metal influences on exciting new efforts

Hunter’s Ground

I can appreciate someone with diverse musical interests because I like to think I have those myself. I am pretty open to listening to just about any form of metal out there, and my record collection runs the gamut of musical styles. I mean, there’s no mainstream pop or anything, but I have some things in regular rotation that someone who runs a site such as this ordinarily wouldn’t be expected to own.

Same goes for record labels. I like ones that, even if they specialize in metal, can branch out those interests and cast a wide net. Relapse may have made its name with death metal and grindcore, but they have all kinds of bands now, from the awesome trad metal of Christian Mistress to the evil, menacing blackened death of Weapon. Profound Lore long has been known to include anything they deem to have deep artistic merit in the extreme music world. Flenser tends to do some really interesting things, and even Southern Lord has been able to step back from their drone and doom past to breathe new life into underground hardcore that’s gone pretty much unnoticed by the rest of the world. Variety keeps things fresh and exciting not only for the label but for the listener.

Broken Limbs, in a short amount of time as a label, also has been really receptive to all styles of metal. When I get their promos, I’m typically intrigued off the bat because I don’t know what kind of discovery they possibly could have made since last time I heard from them. And even if not every effort or band matches my personal tastes, I’ve never been bored by anything they released. In fact, two of their offerings — the much-discussed debut EP by Vattnet Viskar and the upcoming stunner by Oak Pantheon — make up some of my favorite music I’ve heard this year. Seriously, wait until you hear the new Oak Pantheon. Mind-blowing experience. I appreciate the lengths they go to shed a light on bands that other labels might not take a chance on, and as a result, they’ve given meaningful opportunities to very worthy bands to have their music heard.

We now have two more records from Broken Limbs that deserve examination, and as you probably expect from what I’ve written so far, neither release resembles the other. Yet, I easily could see how each band could cross over into the other’s audiences to a degree without ruffling too many feathers.

We’ll start with Hunter’s Ground, a Virginia band with a stranglehold on atmospheric black metal that sounds like it came right out of the woods. Well, that’s because it did, as the band used a generator to record their debut “No God But the Wild” in guitarist/vocalist Paul Waggener’s woods-based house, a setting that brought them great inspiration. Anyone into bands such as Wodensthrone, Celestial, and even early Immortal (especially vocally) can find a lot to like on this record, and it does an excellent job capturing the majesty of nature and a primitive expression of black metal that so few bands seem to truly capture these days. It’s a rough, raw album that the band completed in a little under a 24-hour cycle due to the limited power of the generator, and perhaps that short window was key to capturing such an explosive performance.

The record’s a mere 32 minutes long, but they make effective use of that time, weaving six tracks into the production that give a great indication of what this band does well.  “No God” kicks off with the gritty, epic “A Storm of Crows,” a song that’s both aggressive and thought-provoking , with Waggener howling the song title over and over as the tracks expires. “Their Hands Were Stained With Her Dripping Blood” is primal and emotional, with gruff vocals, spirited guitar work, and a surging undercurrent. “And Fed Their Flesh to the Vultures” has a blistering, crushing opening, and it’s one of the most violent songs on here, both musically and lyrically. It’s my favorite track on the record and never ceases to make my fists clench. “Speaking in the Tongues of Trees” changes the pace, as calm washes over, dissonant guitars ring out, clean calls and chants bleed in, and a relatively dreamy sequence is achieved. The final two cuts are the longest adventures, each lasting more than seven minutes with the title track boasting crunch and infectiousness, while closer “The Fireless Winter” is off kilter, with plenty of tempo shifts, thick atmosphere, and some thrashing chugging to keep things meaty and bruising.

Hunter’s Ground are raw and real, honest and heartfelt, and they appear to have a great future ahead of them. Time should only make this band stronger, and their next album really could be something to behold. Until then, “No God” is a solid step toward greatness.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/huntersgroundofficial


Also from Virginia, Unsacred also have a knack for black metal passages, but they pack just as much crusty hardcore thunder into what they do to make things interesting. Their amalgamation of these sounds makes for an unpredictable package, where the only thing that’s certain is you’ll be met with punishment and volume, full of power and passion. But unlike many hardcore bands, this stuff isn’t attitudinal and swaggering, doesn’t boast, and instead helps the band come off as human, not meat-headed humanoid. They remind me of a group off Deathwish, who have a giant roster of like-minded artists.

The band’s new EP “Three Sisters” is quite the disruptive little display. It’s but four songs long, but when it’s over, you’ll definitely have felt its impact. “I Carry the Weight Alone” has a black metal meltdown as it opens, feeling gloomy and doomy, but then the whole things blows up, and we’re off to the races, with a galloping tempo and raspy shouts. “Lethe” also is a throat mangler, but it has a lot of air wooshing through it and also sports some sleek guitar lines that would make the Nordic metal bands a little jealous. “Abatement, Loss, and Regret (Three Sisters)” is the shortest song of the bunch, managing to find time to be thorny and calm. Closer “Torch Circle” is the opposite, as it’s the longest song of the group at 7:30, and it allows the band to really branch out, lets notes and passages stretch out, and sets the stage for some really meaningful, cathartic playing. It’s a hell of a song and an indication of just what this band is capable of doing.

Honestly, I don’t get all that excited about straight-up hardcore (I grew up a metal kid), but when bands like Unsacred screw with the formula, that’s when I get on board. Like Hunter’s Ground, the band’s best days should be ahead of them, but they’re definitely working on something noteworthy here. This is one of the few hardcore-based bands I’d make a point to see live, and hopefully I don’t get punched in the face in the process. Wouldn’t be the first time.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/unsacredva

To buy either album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/