Zozobra resurface (finally) with sludgy, fittingly titled collection ‘Savage Masters’

zozobra
Getting visits from old friends can be fun, or they can be awkward. You either find you have a ton of things to talk about and miles of space to pull together, or you realize why you lost touch in the first place and don’t really feel any connection with the meeting. Either conclusion goes a long way toward informing you of how that relationship will exist in the future.

Same goes for music when you hear back from a band that hasn’t come up with any new material in a long time. It can be a strange situation as well because you have to decide if that band’s new music has a place in your world or if it doesn’t meet the needs you have in this day, in this form of human you have become, to make you feel what their early material did. Again, it can be as awkward and seeing an old friend, but you don’t have that personal interaction where you either embrace the current state of the relationship or you let it go forever. It saves you the tears, quite honestly.

zozobra coverWhen I got the promo for the new release from Zozobra, the creation of Cave In’s Caleb Scofield, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the idea of having new music from the band. I like their first two full-lengths “Harmonic Tremor” and “Birds of Prey” just fine and listen to them when I’m in the mood for what they offer, but I was beginning to believe those collections could be the only things I’d have from the band. Now, five years after “Prey” dropped we get this new six-song, 15-minute release “Savage Masters” that gets right to the point and wastes no time leaving the surroundings in a burning heap. As worried as I was that my current musical atmosphere might not embrace a band I haven’t heard from in half a decade dissolved immediately and I wondered why the fuck I overthink this stuff so much. Just plug in and go, and that’s exactly what I did with this head crusher.

Scofield is joined by other members of Cave In on this record, namely guitarist Adam McGrath and drummer J.R. Conners, and the music is sludgy, pulverizing, uncompromisingly heavy, and seemingly ripped from the heart of a raging furnace looking to incinerate everything in its path. Yeah, it’s a collection of songs that are properly labeled by the album title, and it goes to show Scofield is just as hungry and punishing an artist as ever before.

The record kicks off with “The Cruelist Punishment,” a deep-dish serving of sludge and goo and muddy sheets of noise that are designed to overwhelm you and leave you with deep bruising and internal bleeding. “Venom Hell” has a rock and roll-style melody line that snakes through it, almost as if it’s taking some notes from the more fun aspects of Venom, and the throaty screams and cool guitar work make this one of the best songs on this collection. “Deathless” has a D-beat feel and is fast and in your face, with raucous rhythms and shrieky vocals that sound prepared to peel your face off. “Black Holes” opens with some thick bass lines before it ignites. There are howled lines about “the virus, the poison liquid” that don’t sound too friendly, and the groove-infested, bluesy guitar work is there to make the infection a little dirtier. “A Chorus of War” is a weird one, with guitars that sound digitized and a personality that’s alien and claustrophobic, but it’s also filthy and trippy. Closer “Born in a Blaze” lets the record burn off righteously, with fiery playing, grimy noise interference, and a tempo that breeds physical and psychological violence.

So yeah, it’s great to have Zozobra back, and after spending more time with “Savage Masters,” I’ve gone back and revisited their past work as well. This band needs to come back for visits more often because clearly they have a lot to offer the extreme metal world and its fans, and they do this style of metal as well as anyone. But if it takes them five more years to come up with something this good, I’ll guess we’ll just have to bide our time. Clearly the wait will be worth it.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://brutalpandarecords.com/shop/

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

Black metal cosmic explorers Chasma return with stunning ‘Codex Constellatia’

chasma
It’s weird to me how some bands explode and become sensations on the internet and in extreme metal magazines, and some don’t seem to catch on. It’s not like there’s criteria written up for these things, and it’s just that people with the power to persuade catch on to some bands, while other groups that deserve it don’t seem to catch fire.

I thought about this when considering the new record from Chasma, the atmospheric black metal trio out of Portland, Oregon, who blew me away on their debut full-length effort “Declarations of the Grand Artificer,” released by both Moribund Records (CD version) and the Mylene Sheath (vinyl). My first thorough listen to that record was while I was at an auto dealership getting 100 things checked on my car, so I was pissed off and annoyed and didn’t feel like relaxing or meditating. Yet I put on my headphones and indulged in “Declarations,” and it made an hour go by like nothing, so instantly I was hooked on this band and this record, and I still listen to a lot two years later.

codex constellatiaWith the release of “Codex Constellatia,” the band’s sophomore effort, we not only get a return from Chasma, one that might finally turn the tide of public opinion toward this awesome band, but we also have our first Moribund release of 2013. Not sure what happened there, but that label hadn’t put out anything new since the last Canis Duris album in November, but they follow that up explosively with this effort. As for Chasma, they’re still making terrifying noises that sound like they were inspired by some great cataclysm in space. They remain heavy and pulverizingly melodic, and they intersperse little bits of dialog samples here and there to maintain a mood. Yeah, that’s been done a million times before, but they keep it to a minimum and use the pieces to full effectiveness.

Chasma’s lineup remains intact from their debut, as Ryan Whyte handles bass and vocals, Aaron Schomaker is on drums and vocals, and Brandon Gordon is responsible for the mountains of guitars you’ll hear on this record that sound massive, but not obtrusively so. The songs move along poetically and seamlessly, and much like their debut, you can get caught up and lost in these songs and find yourself on the other side of this 44-minute album wondering where time went.

“Burning Shapeless” opens with a clean melody line and some eeriness, then some noise drone slips in, and the intensity slowly ramps up. A ferocious assault breaks out, though it’s cut a bit by atmosphere, and the shrieking vocals are fully of intensity and blackness. It’s a strong opener that is a sign of promise for what’s ahead. “Solarsin” has a dark, dreary intro, and the tempo stays murky and mysterious as it moves along. Interestingly, they choose some fairly violent, disturbing quotes form the 2009 film “The Road,” one of the last movies I ever thought would be incorporated into a black metal song, but it really works well. “Forbidden Symmetry” follows and is an instrumental interlude that is weirdly cosmic and makes you feel like you’re floating into a wormhole.

“Wormwood Horizon,” the longest cut at 11:51, also is situated in slow-melting guitars and whirry oddness, and the noise slips into shoegaze thunder and a flood of sound. There are noisy sizzles and some clean passages weaved into the song, and toward the end a really bright melody comes into the scene and adds some positive color. It feels like black metal terror interpreted through an ISIS filter. Suddenly, things don’t seem as horrific, even if that’s just the personality of the music telling you that. Closer “Reflections” is, well, reflective as it opens, making it sound like the album might expire on a contemplative note, but then it explodes with fiery shrieks and metallic panic. Yes, there are some moments that are calmer than others and let you have a breath now and again, but eventually the doors get blown off again, and moody punishment takes you to the end of the road. If you find at the end of this thing you floated away now and again and did some mental exploration, you’re not alone.

Chasma should be a bigger deal and should get far more mention than they do, but maybe this record will fix all of that. “Codex Constellatia” is a strong sophomore effort from this trio that never eases up on the drama or the fireworks. This is a band you want to check out right now if you’re behind the curve so that once everyone else catches up, you can ask where the fuck they’ve been all this time.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/chasmablack?ref=ts&fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://www.moribundcult.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?

For more on the album, go here: http://www.moribundcult.com/

Shrouded death metal terrorists Abyssal unleash unsettling hell on pair of albums

Abyssal band 1
Unconventional weirdness and terror always go over really well on this site, when done right, and really, don’t we have enough death metal bands that don’t strike a bit of panic or fright in your system? We’re on overload, and trust me, from the backlog of dull, weapon-less death metal marring my inbox, running into something truly horrific is a great gift.

It’s even better when you get a double dose of madness from the same band, which is what we have with Abyssal, a demonically warped death metal band out of the UK that is shrouded with mystery and encrusted in soil-rich doom. One could point to bands such as Portal or Paroxsihzem  for like-minded comparisons, but those aren’t 100 percent accurate. Finding an online presence for this band isn’t all that easy, that is if you’re seeking pertinent information such as who is in the band and matters such as those, but as we’ve said countless times, a band removing itself from easy access and public consumption of all of their personal data is refreshing and, in a way, a manner of making them more frightening. They’re faceless.

As noted, there is extra Abyssal chaos for you to consume, as we have two records from the band to discuss. One of the records came out in 2012 originally, but is being re-released via Hellthrasher Productions to get their sickness a little deeper into the world. The other, their latest platter, also was put out by the band but eventually picked up by Profound Lore, who are putting the album into circulation via limited release. Both records are more than worth the money, and while it might feel like a bit of an overdose on a band you might not yet be familiar with, it really won’t feel that way. Each record, while having similar fucked up philosophies, show different approaches by the band and stand apart from each other sonically.

denouementHellthrasher is offering up the band’s debut “Denouement” on CD/LP, and it is the more melodic record of the two. It’s not over the top or anything, and you won’t confuse it with power metal, but there certainly are shades of color lighter than absolute death and doom. At six tracks and 50 minutes long, it is an involved listen that requires your attention to detail and willingness to go on their macabre trip, but if you like death metal nasty and sooty, but also with a sense of morose adventure, you should like this album just fine.

Most of the songs on “Denouement” are in the 8-11-minute range, and only one is shorter than five minutes. Abyssal make expert use of that time and put together a captivating, colorful album that rips open with “The Moss Upon Our Knees” that’s packed with murky, urgent guitars, damaged melodies, odd-colored corners, and a slope that lets you slide right into “Celestial Dictatorship.” That song is full of blasts, mangled violence, strange pockets of dissonant noise, and piercing shrieks that makes the closing stretch of hymnal chants all that more unsettling and bizarre. “Deus Vault” is chunky and thrashy, with mean and infernal growls, some progressive moments (not in the dorky way, of course) and penetrating noise; “Detritivore” throws a curveball at one point with a melody line that’s damn near rock and roll-based, but it’s surrounded by unholy chaos and gurgly growls. “When Paradigms Supplant Gods” begins with angelic drone but takes trips into post-metal gazing, bizarre, eerie guitar experimentation, and a strangely catchy finish, while 11:17-long closer “Swansong of a Dying Race” lives up to its name, with funeral-ready keys, slurry guitar work, some aggressive mashing, and finally a folk-like, woodsy conclusion that shows yet another side to the band.

novitProfound Lore is handling the small run of the band’s latest record “Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius,” a title that basically means “kill them all and let God sort it out.” That’s more the Americanized version of the saying, but you’ll definitely get the sense of total extermination and stride toward Armageddon the music seems to hint toward. It’s also the heavier, more suffocating of the two records, and the melody that reared its head on “Denouement” is snuffed out and suffocated entirely. It’s pure death through and through with no chance of catching a last gasp. You’ll be burnt to a crisp.

There are 11 tracks on “Novit enim” but that’s a little misleading since there are three interludes and a few shorter songs, namely Portal-esque “The Headless Serpent” and warped, scornful “A Sheath of Deceit.” “The Tongue of the Demagogue” is the first full track on the record, and it’s a crusher, with dizzying demolition and utterly devastating vocals, setting the scene for the hell ahead of you. “Under the Wretched Sun of Hattin” has the nausea-inducing fury of their debut album, but with an extra turn toward intensity and terror. “A Malthusian Epoch” has a bizarre intro that melts into molten, deformed rivers of noise that flow toward a hellish, storming final few minutes. “As Paupers Safeguard Magnates” practically defies logic that death metal this charnel and scarring is permitted to exist, and the deep, menacing growls remind you that you’re neck-deep in danger. “Created Sick; Commanded to Be Well” is a 10-minute instrumental that forces you on a gut-squishing ride upside down, forcing your chin to bang off rocks and trees as it immerses you in ambient fog and doom ugliness; and punishing closer “The Last King” finishes you off just right, with fucked-up noise and guitars and furious growls that rip the curtains down and light them on fire.

This is a lot of material to handle from one band, and neither record is an easy listen if you don’t have a taste for challenging, difficult music. These are two slabs of quality, true death metal that could permanently damage your psyche, and might even renew your faith in extreme music that someone out there still gets it. Abyssal are a hellish bright spot in a bloated world, and their campaign should only grow more painful from here.

For more on the band, go here: http://abyssal-home.bandcamp.com/

To buy “Denouement,” go here: http://hellthrasher.com/shop/

To buy “Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius,” go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on Hellthrasher, go here: http://www.hellthrasher.com

For more on Profound Lore, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Batillus enter industrial age, stay buried in doom chaos on great ‘Concrete Sustain’

Batillus
Hearing a young band grow and morph as their time together goes on can be one of the most exciting things about listening to music. At the same time, it also can be one of the most frustrating, depending on where you stand and how the band progresses. Not all change is good, remember.

For example, I recently got a promo from a band whose last album was a revelation to me and was one of my favorite records of that particular calendar year. The new one could not have been a bigger disappointment to me. They went from a band I eagerly wanted to follow into the future to one that I don’t care what they do from here. It took that much wind out of my sails. I am being secretive because the album isn’t out until late April and I haven’t written a review yet. And I hold out hope that maybe my opinion changes, though after multiple listens, my distaste is actually growing.

Batillus coverOn the other hand is Batillus, whose “Furnace” was one of my favorite records of 2011 and who became one of my go-to bands in the process. That means they’re on pretty constant rotation in my ears. Anyhow, when word of their new record “Concrete Sustain” came down, my enthusiasm and excitement were through the roof because there would be new music from a band I’ve very much come to love. Then that moment arrived when I finally got to hear their second full-length, and immediately I didn’t know what to do with it. It was so markedly different from “Furnace” that it seemed like a completely different band had created it. It was bizarre and a little unsettling. What was this? Where was the fantastic, thought-provoking, sludging doom band that had blown me away? Turns out, it was still there.

“Concrete Sustain” was not an easy first listen for me. Or second. Or third. In fact, I don’t even know what visit with this record was the one that opened my eyes, but I did finally awaken, like I had been ripped from my bed by a thunder clap in the night. The sound on this record is heavily industrially influenced. If you think back to early-day Ministry and even Nine Inch Nails when hearing this, you likely won’t be alone. Now, it’s not entirely that route as they still are firmly entrenched in the doom camp as well, but when those two continents of sounds meet, it’s devastating. And if you’re like me and it doesn’t totally feel right at first, give it time. My guess is it’ll sink in over time and eventually overpower you like it did to me.

The lineup remains intact from “Furnace,” that being guitarist Greg Peterson, bassist Willi Stabneau, drummer Geoff Summers, and vocalist/effects specialist Fade Kainer, who has, hands down, the largest influence on this record of any of the members. Actually, Summers’ drumming and some of the interesting stuff he does here behind the kit would be second, but Kainer’s work installing the dusty industrial drapery and effecting, mutating, and digitally twisting his vocals really stand out as major factors in what makes Batillus so different–and so fresh–on “Concrete Sustain.”

The record opens with an utter piledriver in “Concrete,” complete with stuttered drum beats that cut through the piece and keep you alert, sludgy, chopped riffing, squeals, and Kainer’s devastating, monstrous vocals that practically roar in your face. This is mean and crushing stuff. From there, it’s on to “Cast,” where the industrial bruising and sense of brutality via factory come into play. The melody line, especially the bass, proves infectious, and Kainer again hauls off with his approach, but in a way where he sounds authoritative, not out of control. Another great track. “Beset” changes things up a bit, with slurry guitars, a hint of grunge, manically deep growling, and a nasty darkness-laden finish that makes this the truest example of doom metal on the whole record. It slithers like a river of mud.

“Mirrors” has a slow, slurry start, but eventually mechanical interference and blips kick in, giving it a robot makeover, and warm keys trickle in to offer some comfort. Then they rip the rug right out from under you and pound on your senses again. “Rust” starts with a thick bassline and a deep serving of muck before it evolves into a loopy guitar line that sounds cartoonish. Not in a bad way. In a total devolution into lunacy kind of way. The tempo feels more like hard rock, though it has its killer moments, and Kainer makes his presence felt both through keys, effects, and his mammoth yelp. Closer “Thorns,” the longest track at 8:52, will blow your mind. It’s awash in gothic haze, like Sisters of Mercy, Kainer unleashes a deep, clean bellow encased in misery (though he shrieks along with himself through much of this), and the band delves into deathrock mode, showing a side to themselves I didn’t realize existed. It’s an astonishing display, one that shows just how deep these guys are as musicians.

This is a ridiculously huge step ahead for these guys, who probably could have kept producing the same type of stuff they did on “Furnace” to much acclaim. But that obviously wouldn’t have made them happy, so they followed their dark muse and created another scorching masterpiece, one that sounds like nothing they’ve created before. Batillus are one of metal’s most exciting, creative bands, and no one could possibly imagine what terrain they’ll explore next.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.seventhrule.com/

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

High Priest of Saturn conjure traditional doom, psychedelic fog with debut record

high priest of saturn band
When one thinks of heavy metal and rock that originates from Norway, many people probably will think of the murderous black metal scene of the early ’90s and the subsequent bands that came from that land ever since. And probably Vikings. Would you be willing to amend that thinking to add smoking, trippy psychedelic rock?

Not that the land is devoid of that kind of thing, but it’s not all that common that a band like High Priest of Saturn comes into the night and sets up their canopy of mind alteration. Their self-titled debut album, out on Svart, might make you think more of the late ’60s and early ’70s than right here and now, and probably would have been right at home on the Rise Above label, where this type of music seems to flourish. But Svart’s done really well with this type of music, too, as Jess and the Ancient Ones stand as a good example, and they snapped up this band following their 2011 demo. Added to High Priest of Saturn’s witchy, ritual-setting sound is a heaping help of classic doom that mixes in perfectly and gives the band’s music an extra punch.

high priest of saturn coverThis album would be a great choice if you plan to spend the evening indoors, with little to no lights, trying to even out your senses after a busy week. You can add any number of mind-soothing substances to the mix and find that these four songs (combined they last over 40 minutes) are what you need to help you float away and sort out all the little things. Yes, there are dark, foreboding moments as well, as one should expect from any band that mixes doom into their work, but for the most part, that’s just there to help you see ghosts and demons, not be swept up by them. Make sense? It will if you spend time with the music.

This cauldron of Sleep-worships-Black Sabbath-mingles-with-Coven bubbling is made by only three people, though their sound sounds thick, massive, and of a doom army. Merethe Heggset handles bass and vocals, and her voice is a dark, deep, trickling presence throughout these songs. She doesn’t overpower at all, and she isn’t trying to be something that rises above the music, but instead she lets her voice blend in with everything else going on, acting as both a storyteller and another instrument in the compositions. Martin Sivertsen handles guitar work, while Andreas Hagen is on drums but also tosses in some of his own guitar prowess. Together, these three pair a formidable trio whose debut is a strong slab of psyche doom but also holds promise for more adventurous times ahead.

“Protean Towers,” a song that originally appeared on their 2011 EP and is re-done here, opens the record with simmering stoner guitar, infernal organs, and a deliberate pace that can keep you both enthralled and drowsy (in a good way). Heggset’s echoey vocals finally make their presence felt, and they add a ghostly presence to the song, while Sivertsen picks up with fiery, bluesy lead guitar work that slips into a cloud of smoke. Some channeled crunch brings the song to a close. “Kraken Mare” is up next and is pretty menacing overall. The vocals float above the whole thing like a bottle cap on a beer head, and more charged-up guitar work and druggy melodies keep this thing chilled out but also on fire.

“Crawling King Snake,” the other song that originally appeared on their demo, also gets some new musical threads, with more evil blues guitar excursions, and sweltering organs that sound like they’re summoning undesirable souls from the underworld in an effort to take over the earth. The music is fluid and expressive, and Heggset’s role, again, is to act as a spirit in the night leading the masses to their ultimate demise. Closer “On Mayda Insula” is the longest cut on the record at nearly 13 minutes, and it sounds like it was boiled in a pot and inspired by magick. It has a strong 1960s doom rock feeling, like it originated with the genre itself, and the song ignites early and slowly burns through its running time. It’s great for hanging back, searching your soul for answers, and getting closer to your own personal darkness. It’s good to do that sometimes.

High Priest of Saturn are giving Norway a whole new personality when it comes to heavy rock and doom, and that’s a great thing. Their debut is really strong effort that grows more infectious with each listen, and they seem like a band that has room to grow into their musical personality. All the parts are there, and I’m curious to see where they go from here.

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

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

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

Bizarre Spanish death crew Wormed finally back with futuristic ‘Exodromos’

wormed band
There’s something nice about having a little alone time, where you can just be by yourself, collect your thoughts, not worry about people around you bothering you with their annoying problems. But what if that alone time was permanent, and you never had to worry about another living thing ever again? Not so psyched, are you? Oh, maybe you are.

Anyway, that whole idea of being the last living being in an entire cosmos is one of the main plot points behind “Exodromos,” the new album from Spanish sci-fi death metal squadron Wormed, who haven’t released a new full-length since 2003’s mind-melting “Planisphaerium,” originally pushed into the world by Japanese label Macabre Momentos and eventually released domestically by Willowtip (Hammerheart in Europe), the purveyor of technical savagery. This new album is a prequel to that 2003 record and tells the story of Krighsu, the last human remaining in the cosmos and his chaotic visions and scientific ambitions. All of this is occurring after the known universe is sucked into a wormhole in a multi-vectorial reionization (their words, not mine) and Krighsu is left to travel through the xenoverses to repopulate the place with human seed. Problem is, Krighsu is not exactly the type of human you think he is.

wormed albumOK, that’s a lot to absorb and accept, and while the story is fairly complicated and multi-layered, you don’t have to follow every plot point to get into this record. In fact, it’s damn near impossible to even follow along lyrically to this story because the vocals are wonderfully indecipherable and barely human. But we’ve come to expect that from Phlegeton, one of the weirdest, most alien-like vocalists in all of death metal. What comes out of his mouth sounds like it was created on a black world light years away, and even if you’re not into that style of vocals (and, honestly, I usually am not), you can’t help but hang onto every one of his creaked, warbled words and squealed transmissions. He is not of this world.

The rest of the band is technically astonishing as always. They’ve long been revered for their incredible musical prowess, and though they lay on their technique and wizardry fairly thick, you don’t lose the heart of the music. Perhaps it helps that the band’s songs are fairly short–these 10 songs combined clock in at just 33 minutes–so they don’t go overboard and always remember to keep you in the loop of the track. But they still find ways to dazzle and baffle you. The rest of this bizarre army, by the way, consists of guitarists Migueloud and J. Oliver, bassist Guillemouth, and drummer Riky, and their work on this second full-length surely will take the steam out of any impatience you had that it took a decade to get a new Wormed album. It was worth the wait.

Album opener “Nucleon” gives you a huge reintroduction to the band if you need one, or it turns you upside down and swishes your guts around if you don’t know what to expect. Extraterrestrial vocals, mathy trickery, and blistering death meets you head on, and before you know how to react, it’s on to “The Nonlocality Trilemma,” a mouthful of a song title and a belchy fit of madness that gets warm colors from the guitars. “Tautochrone” is a pit of fire, with the drums absolutely demolished, especially the poor snares that get beaten beyond recognition. “Solar Neutrinos” has an opening that makes you feel like you’re floating in a cosmic sea, and then weird noises erupt, melodies slip in and envelop you, and you feel like you’re being slowly into a black hole. “Multivectorial Reionization” takes things from there and reignites the violence, with mucky thrashing and more lizard squeals.

“Spacetime Ekleipsis Vorticity” is fast, dangerously so, and completely mind altering, but you have no time to recover because “Darkflow Quadrivium” is waiting, though it’s there to warp what preceded it. The pace is a bit more mid-tempo, but that’s because it’s needs to be so that the prog-style melodies and strange warbling can have a logical place to set up and further freak you out. “Stellar Depopulation” has machine gun drumming, dizzying riffs, and unforgiving punishment, capped off by Phlegeton’s vocal strangeness. “Techkinox Wormhole” has delirious lead guitar lines and a cartoon-like appeal, like it could be playing while your body hilarious suffocates and is destroyed in space. Closer “Xenoverse Discharger” is mostly instrumental, though vocals do rip through eventually, and the track is the perfect to cap off a sci-fi plot with as odd and claustrophobic a storyline as you’re going to find.

Wormed are ideal for fans who love technical prowess but still like their music to have a soul, as well as those who dig alien storylines and futuristic destruction and subsequent possibilities floating in their mindspace. This is an astonishingly well played album, but also an expertly paced one. Wormed don’t overstay their welcome and give you just enough to satisfy that decade-long wait for a new record. Hopefully the wait is not so long before we get another chapter in their intergalactic adventures.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.wormed.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/home.aspx

And here: http://www.hammerheart.com/

Drone-doom supergroup Ensemble Pearl make thick, black sounds on debut album

enseble pearl
Collaborations can be a weird thing because sometimes you get exactly what you expect, and sometimes the results are totally unpredictable. There is good and bad in both types of results, and really what matters is how the music sounds and how it affects you.

I had some grandiose ideas of what Ensemble Pearl might sound like before encountering their self-titled debut album, being that important members of Sunn 0))), Boris, and Ghost (the Japanese version … not the Swedes in the robes) comprise the lineup, and they all have very similar and very different approaches to doom, drone, and other realms of dark noise. Would this be a battle of wills, where all the things these artists do so well battle against each other for supremacy? Would one style rule out, with the rest following? Would they do something entirely unexpected and come up with a sound no one could have expected from this band? The answer to all of these is no.

DC544_gatefold_OUT_201112 FIX3The sum of all these parts actually kind of blend together on this album. No one comes out as an undisputed leader, and while you can hear parts of every artist’s work coming alive here, these traits act as teammates, helping make the entire picture into something coherent and exhilarating. Despite no curveballs being tossed and no crazy weird bends and jerks present, the album is enjoyable for its flow, its sound, and its personality. It just sounds like a perfect mix of all of these artists, and devotees of any of these bands whose members are involved should find plenty to like.

Now, about those players. You have the mighty Stephen O’Malley of Sunn 0))), whose fog and doom leadership is here to lend a hand through the murk. You also have Atsuo, drummer, leader, and sometimes singer for Boris, and Michio Kurihara, who plays with Boris but is better known for his work with Ghost. Finally there is Bill Herzog, who plays with acts such as Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, who fits in nobly and frighteningly, adding more black chaos to the storm. Together they enter the fog a formidable unit, and they come out the other side mightier yet charred.

“Ghost Parade” is your murky, shadowy opener, a track that unfurls slowly and with a certain purpose, and in the midst of this slithering chaos are powerful gong strikes, abrasive guitar work, and noise squalls that cut through any sense of calm. “Painting on a Corpse” you may have heard online already, and it opens with simmering keys that lead into deliberately paced drumming, a deathrock feel behind the wall of sound, and trippy, psychedelic pockets that sound like Kurihara exercising his demonic will. “Wray” is dreary and dreamy, with more quiet than you might expect and a tone that will make you want to stare at the sky and slip away.

Then the epics slip into the hallway and begin to envelop you. “Island Epiphany” is 12:45 long of smoking, sweltering drone and doom heaviness, sometimes boiling over and threatening your well-being, other times giving way to spiritual weirdness and dusty melodies similar to those we get from modern-day Earth. “Giant” is 10:16, and its main trait is a noise rush that sounds like an airplane engine ramping into gear and winding down, giving you the sense that you’re soaring one minute, getting ready to fall face first into the crust of the Earth from 20,000 feet in the air the next. There is plenty of psychedelic drone and mystical transmissions throughout the song, and it really gets into your head and makes you explore your surroundings, both mentally and physically. Closer “Sexy Angle” is 19:50 and really doesn’t feel half that long. Drums begin a ricochet and stay in pace through the whole song, forming a spine the other sounds are allowed to wrap around. Bent notes, surfy guitars, noise whines, and feedback interference makes up the rest of the picture and color in the spaces. It’s a rock-solid, steadily paced piece that’s a perfect ending to a thoroughly satisfying record.

I’m not sure if this band will stick around for the long haul or if this ends up being a short collaboration, but whatever the case, this self-titled debut is worth the time and money. It’s mesmerizing, chilling, dark, and monstrous, and it’s possible it’ll relax you and soothe you at the same time. This sounded like a promising project from the time it was announced, and the record delivers on every bit of that excitement. Here’s hoping there is more to come.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.dragcity.com/artists/ensemble-pearl

To buy the album, go here: http://www.dragcity.com/products/ensemble-pearl

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

Thrawsunblat pay homage to life journey and death with thrilling new ‘Wanderer’

thrawsunblat
We’re all on a sort of journey here on Earth, be that literally or figuratively, and we all face many trials and tribulations to get to the places we’re headed, be that a pinpointed destination or some sort of goal we’ve set out to achieve. Nothing’s always easy on that path, but those who are determined manage to find a way.

That concept is embodied in the new album from Thrawsunblat, the Canadian-based band that clearly approached “II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings” with great ambition and heart. You don’t even need to dig into the conceptual material to know that because you can hear it in the band’s performance, but when you dig into what they’ve written about it gives you an altogether new level of awareness of what this group is thinking about. It’s also a record that, for me, I liked initially, but upon repeated visits, the layers started to explode, and the beauty and epic majesty of this record revealed itself to me, and now I can’t get these songs out of my head. That, of course, is a great thing.

“II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings” is a concept piece, based on Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and “The Hero’s Journey,” both works deal with the concept of monomyth. Basically, it’s about a person’s journey into the world and that person finding in front of him or her a chance to experience a supernatural wonder. There are many obstacles along the way that must be overcome, but once the person survives, they are given a great gift. The person then must decide whether to remain in the supernatural world or return to a normal plane of existence, where the boon must be used to make the world a better place. Those concepts are applied to the band examining their own heritage, their existence in North America, and how some of the themes from the monomyth also are faced in everyday life, albeit not on the same type of spiritual level away from this plane. In other words, it’s a very deep, very personal album that’ll sink deep within you if you let it.

tblat

The band is made up of Joel Violette, former guitarist for Woods of Ypres, who handles the same duties here, as well as primary songwriter and vocalist. Joining him are bassist Brendan Hayter and drummer Rae Amitay (who played with Mares of Thrace and also currently is drumming for Castle on their tours), who were supposed to make up the Woods live lineup following the release of last year’s excellent “Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light” before David Gold’s passing. Ah, and there you go. Right there marks a journey these musicians have been through together, the realms of darkness they encountered, and their ability to return with what the experienced to make them better musicians and Thrawsunblat a more powerful unit. They’re making the metal realm a better place.

The 12-track, hour-long record begins quite interestingly, with piano work that sounds like it could emanate from a Wild West saloon before it blows up into a rousing folk metal jaunt that’s melodic, heavy, and pretty damn fun. That takes us to “Once Fireveined,” probably my favorite track on the record, as strong melodic death melodies similar to Amon Amarth erupt, scintillating lead lines carry the song on its back, and one hell of a rousing chorus gets your blood pumping and fists waving. It’s a killer track. “We, the Torchbearers” is another great one with some of most spirited singing on the record and lyrics that sound like they pay homage to the past and remind those who are to come that one day responsibilities with be theirs. “We all must carry the torch,” Violette reminds, sometimes whispering, sometimes bellowing. “Goose River (Mourner’s March)” turns the tides, as the song feels like a pirate folk anthem mixed with Jethro Tull and would be an awesome one to hear when throwing back a few pints. “Bones in the Undertow” has moments where it’s calling back to classic Iron Maiden, with infectious power metal, fluid soloing, and more great, anthemic singing.

“Wanderer of Saplings” has an epic intro that should grasp the air from your chest, and then it’s on to more glory and more homage to the band’s surroundings and the lands where they were raised. “Maritime Shores” is similar in vein to “Goose River,” though you can toss the Decemberists in as a comparison (don’t roll your eyes … they have some bloody fucking songs), and it’s enriched by strings and woodsy atmosphere. “View of a Million Trees” is the heaviest cut on the record, as it bursts into a black metal fury, with savage shrieks, sweltering guitars, and skull-blasting drums. “Borea “Pyre of a Thousand Pines)” follows that track up with more black metal savagery and punishing drums, though eventually the vocals even out and give you some chances to sing along. “Elegy Across Silence” is a pipe organ-led instrumental that feels spiritual and pulled from the winds of ages ago. “Song of the Nihilist” is edgy and thorny, but it also has its moments of melody and drama. Closer “I  Am the Viator” is a tremendous final chapter, pulling together a lot of the elements from other parts of the record such as more folk-infused wonder, power metal fire, and heartfelt vocals that maintain their intensity until the song–and record–fades out.

Thrawsunblat have made a record that should make people pay attention, both listeners and critics. They have an understanding for writing emotional, catchy songs, using hooks, and finding ways to make each song interesting and memorable, from the first cut to the last. This is a rock solid effort that really should be out on a major indie metal label, and maybe that’ll happen yet if the band wants that. Either way, Thrawsunblat are ready to do some amazing things, and they prove that over and over again on this powerful album.

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

Or here: https://www.facebook.com/thrawsunblat

To buy the album, go here: http://thrawsunblat.bandcamp.com/

Inter Arma’s ‘Sky Burial’ expands their sound and may even swell their audience

inter arma
A band’s right to change should not be questioned, even if the results of the alterations are not quality. That’s happened so many times, it is impossible to document all of it here, and in the past we have tried. But the point remains that a band unsatisfied with their own status quo has the right to change that if they see fit.

That cryptic opening is my way of preparing you for what you’ll hear when tackling “Sky Burial,” the second full-length from Inter Arma, and their first release for Relapse. If you’ve heavily immersed yourself in their first record “Sundown,” their EP “Destroyer,” or any of their split releases, you might not be totally prepared for what greets you on the sophomore album. The band has changed, and their sound has been stretched and shaded with different colors, so the all-out aggression and punishment you might have anticipated isn’t what you’re going to get. Now, is that a good thing? Depends on where you’re sitting, and if you don’t like it, it’s not like you’re wrong. If you do enjoy what you hear on “Sky Burial,” then you’re likely to take many return trips with this mind eraser and visit all its dark corners.

inter arma coverThere is an increased attention to atmospherics and psychedelic wash outs on these eight songs, and while they still drop the hammer many, many times, meaning their penchant for auditory violence remains, you’re bound to end up staring and gazing more often than not, getting caught up in the glorious smog and fog emanating from this record. Personally, I love what they do here, and the changes have made Inter Arma an even more interesting band to me. I’m a big fan of their earlier catalog as well, don’t get me wrong, but this metamorphosis into the band’s current headspace is something that connects with me and makes me wonder just how far these guys can go exploring the outer reaches of space. I’m pretty damn curious to find out.

The Richmond, Va., quintet was the latest Forcefield Records band to sign on with Relapse until the label smartly picked up Windhand (of which drummer T.J. Childers is a live member), and the bulk of the group is comprised of members of black metal horde Bastard Sapling, including vocalist Mike Paparo and guitarists Trey Daulton and Steven Russell. Bass player Joe Kerkes rounds out a lineup (Miley Allred contributes standup bass and Theremin) that sounds like it is getting a better sense of what they want to be, what they want to sound like, and how to accomplish it. “Sky Burial” isn’t a perfect record by any means (the sequencing is really weird) and certainly there is more room for exploration, but it’s also a stunning document that is one of the most adventurous and surprising releases of a year not even a quarter over. The album has been on constant rotation in my house, in my car, and on my iPod, so there certainly is plenty to examine and digest before achieving full understanding. I’m not even there yet.

“The Survival Fires” gives you a taste of what’s ahead, and while the song is aggressive and pulverizing, there also are cosmic flourishes and weirdness, especially with the trippy manner of the vocals. Alongside the tyranny come watery, smeary tones that give the song an aura of weirdness. Next comes the 14-minute, two-part “The Long Road Home” (expanded from the “Destroyer” EP) that takes things in an entirely different direction. The first portion is largely acoustic based and syrupy, with some Western-style slide guitar, and that melody builds on the second part, bit by bit, level by level until the thing overflows with psychedelic wonder that might make some think of classic Pink Floyd mixed with Allman Bros. It’s an emotional caterwaul, with excellent instrumental interplay, and just when you think you can slip into dreamland, the thing ignites into black metal terror in the final three minutes, ripping things to shreds.

“Destroyer” also is a carryover from their 2012 EP of the same name, though it’s expanded and intellectually fucked up, with slow pounding, echoey vocals, monstrous drubbing, and doom scorching in a smoking pit. It’s a totally new way of approaching the track. “’sblood” is the most direct cut on here and one of the shortest that’s not an instrumental. Echo-laded, affected drums kick the song into high gear, and really, Childers’ work is the standpoint element of this song. He hits hard, also finds a groove, and acts as the blood and bones of this track. “Westward” is treated with a long introduction before the song hits a punchy sludge pocket, dissolves into noise-drenched screams, and a sense of evil blues as the track reaches its conclusion. It’s also the one example of where some trimming could have been done to make this song a little meaner. “Love Absolute” is another instrumental that’s delicate yet spooky, and it sets the way for the monstrous 13-minute title track closer that revisits many of the same musical themes from earlier in the album and sets it all ablaze.

It’ll be interesting to hear the reaction to “Sky Burial” and if the band is embraced by metal scribes like I think they will. This album feels like the dawning of one of the future’s more important metal bands, and the more Inter Arma shape and shift, the more intriguing I think their music will become. This feels like an album that might take some time to settle in for some people, but once it does, the fervor should grow by the minute.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

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

Imperium Dekadenz show signs of thaw, new life on great ‘Meadows of Nostalgia’

imperium band
It’s weird what music makes you think about sometimes. Actually, often times music makes me feel nothing anymore, which is sad, but when I find a band or an album that really clicks with me, the mental images that get created often surprise me.

For example, Germany’s Imperium Dekadenz often make me think of winter time, of huge snow storms blanketing the land, of no escape from the ice and chill coming any time soon, and of me just wanting to sit in the house, under a blanket, with a dark porter in my hand. Seeing as that I love winter and that sounds like the perfect day, the band’s music always gave me comfort and filled me with a sense of wonder over nature. They also have become a go-to band for me every time winter strikes and I need something to get me through the day.

imperium dekadenz coverSo it came as a surprise when the band’s new record “Meadows of Nostalgia” reached me, and the first things that came to my mind were not frosty winds and squalls. Instead, it felt like a thawing was taking place, that long frozen streams were trickling with life again, that forest floors were thick and spongy having absorbed a season’s worth of snow, and that signs of warmth were indicating gentler breezes were around the bend. Their cascading black metal remains as intact as ever before, mind you, and there’s as thunderous a feel as ever to the band’s work, but what it conjures in the mind and spirit was altogether different for me. And considering we’re on spring’s door, this record could not have come at a better time.

Imperium Dekadenz is, and always has been, a two-man operation with Horaz handling vocals, guitars, and keyboards, and Vespasian taking on drums, guitars, bass, and keys. Live, they are joined by other musicians to bring their rich, deep sound to life, but since their formation in 2004 and over the course of four records now (the last was 2010’s magnificent “Procella Vadens”), this pair has been responsible for everything. If you’re not familiar with the band and are into the woodsier, more atmospheric ends of the black metal world, do track down Imperium Dekadenz and their new record, because it’s another fine addition to their canon and one that hasn’t even peaked with me yet as far as me overindulging in these sounds. The band is emotional, expertly expressive, and wonderfully pulverizing when the need arises, and they remain one of the world’s most inexplicably under-the-radar, underrated bands. Let’s change that.

It’s an Imperium Dekadenz record, so we’re starting off with a mood-setting instrumental, the lush and serene “Durch das Tor,” and then it’s right into the head-rushing “Brigobannis,” a song with epic guitar work, adventurous passages, emotional yet tuneful screaming, and a flood of sound that is the trademark of any ID song. “Aue der Nostalgie” follows with harsher vocals and a more aggressive approach overall, and as the piece builds, it’s easy to imagine soaring to mountainous heights and preparing for a land battle to determine the fate of humankind. “Ave Danuvi” begins with an eerie, sinister feel, but that turns into woodsy spiritualism and clean, chant-like vocals that give the song some hazy shades and colors. Then “Memoria” slips in as an acoustic-based interlude.

“Aura Silvae” just explodes out of the gates, with grisly, menacing growls, and violent black metal mixed with atmospheric wonder, giving listeners the best of the harsh and textural. “Der Unweg”  is, musically, the most interesting song on here, with a neat melody line snaking underneath the base of the track, some imaginative, dreamscape guitar work over top, and a sense of majesty and solemnity, two things that don’t sound like they should go together but do. “Striga” is doomy and mournful, thorny at times, and filled with dark guitar work and an ambiance that could put a chill up your spine. Closer “Tranen des Bacchus” ups the ante even more from the violence felt earlier in the album, as the vocals are screechier and more direct, the guitar is dark and threatening, and the emotion poured into the music is thick, smoky, and perfect for leading you out into the night, away from these tales.

Imperium Dekadenz really should be more well-known than they are, as they have a streak now of putting out great records that can affect you deep inside. You don’t have to speak their native tongue to comprehend their art, and if you give yourself over to their music, the journey will be one that takes you through the forests and into the stars, watching the seasons go from deep freeze to new life.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.imperium-dekadenz.de/

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/