Panopticon, Vestiges create astonishing team for their murky, mighty split effort

12 Jacket (Gatefold - One Pocket) [GDOB2-30CH-001]

If you’ll indulge my horrible obsession with 1980s professional wrestling for a moment, there is an art to putting together a great tag team. Yeah, yeah, it’s all fake and whatnot, but you still have to be able to find two people who can work together, know how to communicate, and be an effective tandem so that they’re fun to watch.

The same can be said for split releases. There are many different purposes for one, whether it’s two like-minded bands working on a singular story, a label wanting to get two of their artists a little more exposure to a wider audience, one band trying to use its name to help another, or just two or more bands wanting to release something together. The best splits, however, combine bands whose work stands next to each other’s effectively without either one of them seeming like they’re in the wrong place. They form a team, even if their music isn’t supposed to be linked otherwise, and experiencing their music becomes an organic affair.

That brings us to the new split from two heavyweights in the atmospheric metal world, that being Vestiges and Panopticon. Just on the surface their union sounded like a logical one, as each project has a sound that works in concert with each other’s, but there are enough differences to separate them. Yet, it wasn’t until hearing this five-track collection (Panopticon contribute three tracks, while Vestiges offer up two helpings of thunder) that I realized just how perfect it was. The album works together so well, and each band’s music flows so logically with the other’s that future collaborations would be totally welcome. This is a really stimulating, crushing collection of songs, and I’ve noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time with this record lately and soaking in everything it has to offer.



Washington, D.C.’s Vestiges get things started on this collection, and the music carries over from a story they’ve been telling since their 2010 debut “The Descent of Man” and into their split with Ghaust, that being mankind’s presence in and destruction of the nature that surrounds it. Never is this theme timelier than it is now, with people trying to claim some of the human-made destruction is a myth and that science is more theory than fact. Vestiges see hope if our actions can be reversed, and even though the band lashes out like they have no hope for the planet, instead they tell of the force of nature reclaiming what’s rightfully hers.

“VII” opens quietly and reflectively, as the song contains chiming guitars and a pocket of noise that sits and simmers but threatens to break. Sure enough, as the song reaches its conclusion, it does burst, with furious, scathing vocals and a bubbling tumult that rolls right into “VIII.” This devastating statement explodes from the moment is starts, with harsh growls, glorious melodies, and an atmospheric approach, letting you breathe in a giant gush of air to replenish your lungs but also knock you for a loop. Eventually the song subsides and trickles, softening the blow ever so temporarily, before it hits its stride again and rages to a finish like the Earth itself punishing us for all the evil that we’ve done over our time here. Both tracks are enthralling pieces, and if you’re new to Vestiges, this makes for an effective, informative introduction to one of metal’s fresh new forces.

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One-man black metal force Panopticon is no stranger to these pages, as we’ve heavily praised releases such as last year’s landmark “Kentucky,” one of the genre’s—hell, music’s– most unique albums of the year, as well as 2011’s excellent “Social Disservices.” Austin Lunn is one of the more thoughtful, creative minds in all of metal, and he’s managed to build a really impressive resume in not all that much time. As one might expect, he continues his heart-crushing musical endeavors here, but without a tried-and-true theme, he lets loose a little more than usual and brings a more sinister energy to the already raw music.

“A Letter” runs a little over nine minutes and is dressed with wild shrieks and screams, some eerily clean guitars behind the murk a la Xasthur, and some truly spirited playing in a way that really isn’t a surprise for someone like Lunn. He always manages to make the most of things and sound like 10 people instead of one guy bringing all of this madness. “Eulogy” is built on a similar-sounding main melody line, but it branches off into dreamy post-rock territory musically. Lunn still howls like a sadist, but the mournful backing gives the song a touch of sadness and pain, which may be implied by the song’s title anyway. Closer “Collapse and Die” is a punishing cover of the Suicide Nation song that is given righteously savage treatment, though it does slip into Americana, calling back to “Kentucky” ever so briefly. It’s a massive song and a killer way to wrap up his selections, and it’s cool to hear Lunn just lighting things on fire.

I hereby name Panopticon and Vestiges the split effort tag team champions of the world. Their shiny gold belts will be in the mail shortly. All joking aside, this is a fantastic musical union and has been an absolute pleasure to hear over and over while preparing to write about it. And trust me, my time with this record won’t be ending any time soon now that my piece on it is published. I’ve long been a supporter of both bands, figured they’d fit together perfectly, and am pleasantly surprised with the results even considering all that. This is a stunning step for both bands, another building block on their way to total domination.

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Black Tusk’s nasty EP ‘Tend No Wounds’ is a sunburnt, hammering return to form

black tusk

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but there are bands made for summer listening. I know we went through this last week with the Shroud Eater review, but it’s not my fault that it happens to be summer and there is some choice music coming that goes really well with a raging backyard barbecue and tons of beers.

This isn’t the first time I’ve said that Black Tusk’s music goes down best when you’re hammered, out in the sun too long, and possibly out back not wearing a shirt (the ladies probably are wearing shirts, though … or maybe they aren’t), and it sounds like their music comes right from that same type of setting. Their Southern-drenched sludge metal is catchy and punishing at the same time, and they seem like the perfect band to hear outdoors, whether they’re physically playing it themselves or it’s coming from your iPod. Just everything about them howls sunstroke.

black tusk epBlack Tusk also happen to be relentless road warriors, as they seem to pop up on half a dozen tours each year that pass through my hometown, so clearly they want to earn things the hard way through grit and work. That’s commendable, and their sound is such that it’s best witnessed live when they can plug in and hammer you with their no-frills, punch-filled, swampy metal. The band certainly has enough material to keep things interesting, with three full-length records under their belts, the last one being 2011’s “Set the Dial,” a decent effort but one that wasn’t quite as strong as 2010’s gargantuan “Taste the Sin,” one of my favorite records of 2010. So it’s been two years since we got a full serving from these guys, so it seemed time for some fresh music from the band, and it has popped up in the form of the new stop-gap EP “Tend No Wounds.”

At six tracks and about 20 minutes, “Tend” is a great appetizer for whatever comes next, and the three guys who comprise this band–guitarist/vocalist Andrew Fidler, bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon, and drummer/vocalist James May–sound hellbent on giving you a good bruising that’ll last all the way until their next full-length is unleashed. In fact, the effort is so direct and crushing that I wonder if Black Tusk wouldn’t be better off putting out more EPs, since they are so good at containing so much fury to a smaller package.

“Tend No Wounds” has a bit of an unexpected start, a buzzing instrumental that teeters ever so closely to black metal freedom, rumbling and barreling its way into “Enemy of Reason.” This track is where the EP sounds like vintage Black Tusk (well, if three years ago can be considered vintage), blowing open with a rousing melody, yowls and growls, and a nasty assault that should get blood pumping live. “The Weak and the Wise” lets the boys show off some of their guitar effects, as they blaze into a riff that sounds like a rocket blowing off exhaust, and their Southern-friend madness sounds rowdy and righteous during this track. “A sight of heaven, a feel of hell!” is howled as the song makes several rounds to come back and beat on you. “Internal/Eternal” is a blast, as the band chugs along a muddy path and grinds your face against the rocks as it goes on. It’s a tasty bit, and even though it has a violent disposition, you’ll still have a lot of fun going along with it. “Truth Untold” kicks off with a crushing splatter of drums, an ominous bassline that snakes along, and charred melodies that feel borne of the sun. “In Days of Woe” is a smashing finisher with a classic metal riff, shouted vocals, and the right amount of skullduggery.

Black Tusk’s new music isn’t terribly different from their other material, which isn’t a bad thing at all. This band has a formula and they have it down pretty good, so there’s no reason to mess with it. They motor you the fuck over and are more than happy to scorch you in your backyard as you take their music in. This EP is a really enjoyable mini-effort that is pretty close in quality to “Taste the Sin” and hopefully is a good indication of the hell they’ll raise have their future.

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Blackened doom dreamers Lesbian put on explosive display on ‘Forestelevision’


We often talk of albums being adventures, consisting of several tracks that, while not necessarily all aligned thematically or philosophically, still can take you somewhere and transport you to a different mind-set. When an album’s over, you should feel like you took a trip somewhere or traveled over huge peaks and valleys on the band’s melodies and creations.

Not every band is able to achieve that with a single album. Often there are lulls that take you out of adventure mode and make you wonder if we’re there yet. There can be filler songs here and there that take away from the greater whole and compel you to hit the next button so you can find a morsel more to your liking. But how about bands that take the daring move of creating an album that consists of just one track? They don’t give you the luxury of sifting ahead to see what future chapters hold, because there aren’t any. You’re here, for better or worse, and you either have taken the entire journey or just shoot off and abort the mission.

lesbian coverMetal’s not exactly flooded with great one-track metal albums, though there are a few good ones. Sleep’s “Jerusalem” (or “Dopesmoker,” as it’s better known), is the holy grail of these types of projects, while other bands such as Agalloch, U.S. Christmas, Meshuggah, and Kayo Dot have come up with pretty strong releases that are comprised of just one song. Now another album has entered the conversation, that being Lesbian’s mammoth, weird, savage “Forestelevision,” a vision that really requires you to pay attention and psyche out along with them for maximum enjoyment. But it’s also an album that, while it all exists in one track, has tons of twist, turns, and changes that it could have been broken up into movements if the band so desired. Yet Lesbian stuck with the one-track idea, and the experience is all the better for it. I’ve listened to this thing countless times now, and each time, I notice different things, see different colors, and get to know it in a way I hadn’t before. It’s really an awesome display of creativity.

Lesbian is a four-piece band that hails from Seattle and formerly recorded for labels such as Important and Holy Mountain, before landing with Translation Loss for “Forestelevision.” The band is comprised of bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous, guitarists Arran McInnis and Daniel La Rochelle, and drummer, Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy, and they’ve been making out-there noises and compositions for nearly a decade now. This record is their most accomplished and ambitious to date, and as you may have figured, their most intense and satisfying to date. It’s their best album by a long shot, and it’s going to take a hell of an effort to top this in the future. Not that Lesbian aren’t totally capable of doing so.

“Forestelevision” opens up with a Sunn 0)))-like drone dirge that rumbles and simmers in place, letting the track take some time before it really starts to rumble. Weird keyboards and gurgly growling erupt, and the track slips into fearsome territory like it’s trying to shake you up early and get inside your head. Funeral doom smoke rises as the band slithers along the path to doom glory, but about 10 minutes into the song, the pace kicks up, melodies start to soar, and a psychedelic wash slides over everything. Guitars slip to a trickle, strings make their presence known, and the song goes into a mesmerizing, Far Eastern-style swell of relaxation and tranquility. But, as you may guess, that serenity is short lived.

Suddenly shrieks and growls blow out of a prog-death-fueled assault that is the most threatening section of the 44-minute song. That storm sticks around for a while, and the dark clouds seem like they’re planning on spending generations above your head. The music keeps trucking along, but eventually it dissipates into a cleaner portion that again hints at prog rock. We keep floating along on that wavelength until about eight minutes remain, when things get a little weird. The song explodes again, but in a way it never has before, with the guys sounding like they’re channeling classic-era Mercyful Fate. The vocals are at a glorious high, the guys thrash away, and the song reaches classic metal glory. The song never dies down again, and the fellows keep the tempo and the fury strong as the song eventually slips away.

It’s not easy to put together a one-song album that’s as exciting and compelling as this one. In fact, because so few bands try it, it’s not easy to pull off, period. But Lesbian do so expertly, making “Forestelevision” one of the year’s most noteworthy releases simply for that reason but also because it’s so damn good. This is an experience you’ll likely want to be part of again and again because it’ll take several sojourns to absorb the whole thing. You can do so with a straight frame of mind, a little iced over, or however you choose, but one way or another, you’re going to have one bizarre, killer time.

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Infera Bruo smash rules, predictability on insane second record ‘Desolate Unknown’

Infera Bruo

Violence and tyranny and chaos all are crucial elements of black metal, and without that true fury, the music can sound a little thin and heartless. But another thing that is needed to make truly memorable metal (or any type of music, really) is creativity. It can’t be all skullduggery.

Creativity is the first thing that popped into my head when taking on “Desolate Unknown,” the new album from Infera Bruo, the black metal heathens from Boston (a city I have since forgiven for their team decimating my Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals) who not only have a firm grip on savagery but who also keep you guessing compositionally. The seven songs on this record are a total blast from start to finish, and from my first visit with the record, I was instantly hooked. It’s an album that could unite those who chew the bones of metal’s underground-dwelling carcass but even those who are into more accessible bands such as Immortal (especially with the guitar work) and Enslaved. Oh, and they inject a good bit of weirdness and prog tendencies, so throw in some Voivod and Gigan.

Infera Bruo coverThe band’s name means “hellish noise” in Esperanto, and that certainly is a fitting description for what they do. They rip your insides out with their thunderstorming melodies, skull-mashing drums, and harsh screams, but I keep coming back to what separates them from the rest. The strange noise and static that spits at you, the spacey weirdness in their programming, the glorious clean vocals that hammer home that prog influence. It all works so ridiculously well together and keeps this record interesting the entire running time. There is no down time. There’s no time to yawn and wander. You’re continuously pulled through twists and turns on this record, and it’s a fascinating little journey.

The band’s members all have their share of musical experiences, some of them vastly different than the metal they play here, and they’re a solid, tight unit. Synth player/programmer Germanicus has been involved with art rock (The Girls) and post-rock experimentation (Cul de Sac) over his storied career, while guitarist/vocalist Galen also plays with hardcore maulers Trap Them (a favorite here at Meat Mead Metal); drummer/vocalist Ardroth plays with death metal unit Shadar Logoth and is the sole member of Bothildir; and bassist/vocalist Neutrino plays with folk-minded black metal unit Encrimson’d. That makes for a lot of ideas coming from many places, and that’s to the benefit of this band.

“Visions of the Inner Eye” is your opener, and you should get an idea right away that you’re in for something completely different. There are hints of early Immortal in this track, and the harsh, throaty vocals give no comfort whatsoever. But the static that slips in, as well as the epic clean vocals, are where the band starts to establish itself as something different and more exciting than the rest. That carries over into “Oblivion,” a damaged, weird, harsh song that burns the black metal rulebook altogether. It sounds like space aliens landing in the middle of a nuclear war, and the band sells the hell out of everything going on here. A brief, wooshy “Segue I” leads into the adventurous epic “Ritual Within,” a 13-minute-plus song that opens curiously with acoustic guitar strains before igniting into a doom-fed flurry of black metal at its most thought-provoking. There are times when the song sounds like early Nachtmystium (speaking of another band disinterested in rules), and through its running time it twists and turns into a new beast every few minutes, from full-on assault to draping clean vocals that sound majestic to strange noise transmissions. Great fucking track.

“Dust of Stars” keeps the intensity on high and pummels you with channeled riffs and more validation of that Voivod comparison. Some of the guitar lines are smeary and sci-fi friendly, the drums do a fine job slapping away at your already-bruised head, and through its 9:26 running time it goes grimy and elegant. The vocals are creaky and evil in spots, monstrous and spacious in others, and the overflow of prog black metal is just a wonder to behold. Another segue cut sets the stage for the mammoth closer “Invoking Collapse,” a 10:39-long punisher that opens with buzzing bass and a bendy melody that seems hellbent on hypnotizing. You get your fair share of bruising and body blows on this one, as well as a commitment to keeping you guessing as the band slips in and out of doom, black metal, and prog sections seamlessly, like they didn’t even have to put any effort into it. My mind’s just blown how well they travel each section of their influences so easily here, how they go from brainy to brawny in the course of a few seconds. It’s a stunning closer, and once the record ends, you might be surprised how quickly these 49 minutes expired.

I absolutely love this record, and as much as I liked their 2011 self-titled debut, “Desolate Unknown” just pushes al the right buttons every step of the way. This band is one of the most exciting units out there in any metal sub-genre, and it would be nice if some label got off their collective asses and signed these guys. Their potential is limitless, and this record is hands down way better than a lot of the stuff I get from major indie metal labels. All hail Infera Bruo, one of the mind-fuckingly intense and ambitious bands out there. Go get this record right now.

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Shroud Eater’s sludgy, doomy power on display on face-crushing EP ‘Dead Ends’


It’s the fourth of July, and we’re not taking the day off. If you’re an American, you’ll be drunk in a yard at some point today, potentially blowing off a hand with a sketchy firecracker, and you’ll want something that can match you drink for drink, bad decision for bad decision.

We’ll also work to keep this a little short today because we don’t want you hurting yourself trying to read a long essay about a band that you should just check out without me rambling at you, so get off your ass and get into some Shroud Eater. You like Kylesa but wish they were a little nastier? You like Mastodon before they wimped out and lost their balls? You like Uzala and pretty much hope nothing changes about them? Same with Jucifer? Then you’ll have time for this Miami-based trio that turns up the sludge power and crust agony to a point that your neighbors will wonder what you’re doing in your backyard once they hear these grimy, powerful, explosive noises (not fireworks).

ShroudEater-DeadEnds-webThe bad is back with “Dead Ends,” a new five-song, 28-minute EP that’s as fun and loose as it is molten and muddy. These three—Jeannie Saiz on guitars/vocals, Janette Valentine on bass and vocals, and Felipe Torres on drums—have been doing their thing quite well since forming in 2009, and they have one full-length to their credit, that being 2011’s “ThunderNoise,” that they self-released. This band’s sound is perfectly suited for warm, humid gatherings, but don’t for a second think that’s because their music is geared toward a meat-head contingent. It totally isn’t, as there are brains and tenacity behind what they do, so to underestimate that would be foolish. No, instead, while you’re watching smoke rising and your mind wandering, know that you’ll be doing so alongside a band that’s going to give you something to think about while you’re baking.

“Cannibals” opens the record with tribal drumming, feedback, and noisy doom that leads the way for the demolition that is “Sudden Plague.” That song lets noise simmer out of control, gruff vocals pepper you with power, and then it settles into a long stretch of power. Saiz and Valentine assault you with the dueling voices, and the rest of the band melts into a power-hungry chug. “Lord of the Sword” has a slow, doomy opening before voices start shouting at you and sludgy mud gets pelted at you from all angles. The song lumbers and melts, and the aggressive vocals should get your attention right away.

“Tempest” sounds like High on Fire going to war with Kylesa (especially with the trade-off vocals), and it’s the darkest song on the record. “The Star and the Serpent” is the stunning closer, and it actually takes a little while to get moving. It treads water its first few minutes, but suddenly it goes into space with clean guitars, a psychedelic polish, and vocals that sound like they were transferred from the cosmos after traveling light years with a message. Really cool finish that shows the band has many tricks up their sleeves.

Shroud Eater keep improving and progressing while maintaining all the savage goodness of their sound. This is a really strong, fun EP that’s heavy where it needs to be, melodic when that’s necessary. And it would make a fine soundtrack to your barbecue efforts today when you try to show your friends and loved ones how high you can get that grill fire going. Sit back and enjoy, but also don’t be afraid to think.

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Lycus’ debut record ‘Tempest’ overflows with devastating depression and anguish


The last decade or so has been a good one for depression. What I mean is, you’re no longer ostracized and beaten down by society if you happen to regularly not feel right and have crippling bouts of sadness and inactivity that you can’t seem to break. It’s not that you’re weak or not worth anything, it’s that your brain has something going on that make you feel fucking miserable.

Along with the wider acceptance of depression and anguish has come bands that do an amazing job expressing the darkness and pain inside of them and have no problem entering what can be a macho, meat-headed world of metal and pouring their sadness out in front of you. Australia’s Mournful Congregation is a wonderful example of this type of sad, lurching doom metal designed to make you feel every ounce of their pain along with them, and Loss practically make you want to call 911 on their behalf just in case they’re feeling a little too much like what they express in their songs.

lycus coverAnother band that’s proving excellent at conveying these brooding feelings is Oakland, California-based quartet Lycus, who already made a mammoth impression on their “Demo MMXI,” a hugely impactful recording that only hinted at what this group was capable of doing. But on their dark, devastating debut album “Tempest,” they take their tumult and sound even further, showing a more fully realized version of the band that’s ready to become a major force in the doom metal world. Their lurching, melodic, trickling doom sounds just right if you need someone to pound at the walls alongside of you, and the three cuts on the record are some of the most promising, eye-opening expressions the sub-genre has seen this side of Pallbearer’s stunning debut. If people are paying attention (that’s no given), then Lycus are going to be celebrated and lauded for this incredible debut album, and this record easily should make more than a handful of year-end lists come wintertime.

Lycus is made up of guitarist/vocalist Jackson, bassist/vocalist Daniel, guitarist Dylan Burton (he’s the newcomer to the band), and drummer/vocalist Trevor Deschryver. Their debut is offered up by 20 Buck Spin, a label that has released its fair share of anguish-charred material, from aforementioned Mournful Congregation to Atriarch to Alaric to Samothrace. The combination seems to make perfect sense, and it feels like a musical marriage that could last well into the future.

The album bubbles open on “Coma Burn,” an 11:38-long slow scorcher that starts with mournful notes that actually remind of Pallbearer. But that association is short lived as the band dips into mucky, grimy doom, complete with bowels-buried growls that sound like they emanate from the deepest woes of humankind. Strings are layered in, and the harsh vocals push their way over the carnage to express emotions some people are too timid to bring to the surface. Before the song ends, there’s a flourish of black metal thunder that rises up and fulfills anyone’s penchant for violence, then it’s off to clean wails and bellowing madness that shake your insides.

“Engravings” is the miniature song, coming in at a paltry 9:37, and its slowly drummed intro leads into simmering feedback and noise, then into tortured singing that sounds half emotive, half graveside confessional covering all of life’s wrong turns. The song reaches a spacious, cavernous doom, letting the band explore the surroundings, but eventually the punishment returns, massive growls pick up where the story left off, and a savage, yet airy atmosphere envelops the dirge.

The closing title track is the monstrous epic of the bunch, clocking in at a massive 20:35, though it never feels nearly that long. It opens with some liquidy guitar work reminiscent of deathrock before strings join the scene and the gory blackness oozes through the surface. The song is both melodic and threatening, hinting that it could go off the rails at any moment, then all of a sudden, it does in such a massive way that it might knock you for a loop. The drums reach a D-beat assault, the rest of the band opens up and reveals their sharpened teeth, and the cut rips through a massive drape of black metal so thick that it’s blinding. Eventually the storming subsides, but heavy rains of sorrow, agony, and panic remain. The closing few minutes of searing drone feel like the perfect way to collect yourself, trudge up the hill in the mud, and hide yourself away for as long as it takes.

Lycus’ debut is a depressive triumph that reaches all those nerves affected when pain and self-loathing are at their worst, and that message comes across not just in the words, but in the music as well. You feel this psychological heaviness weighing down, you never question the motives, and you simply go through this black catharsis with the band because you really have no choice but to participate so you don’t miss out on every drop of sweat and blood. “Tempest” is a monster of a first statement, one that should shake the doom world the fuck awake.

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Kwaidan become one with the storm on ‘Make All of the Hell of Dark Metal Bright’


Fog, doom, and storm clouds have been pretty regular visitors the last week or so in my parts, and in fact, the forecast for the week ahead calls for even more of the same stuff that makes sun-worshipping people kind of sad and awfully annoying to be around. I kind of like these days, especially if they happen to occur while I’m at work and will be confined to a building anyway.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this since I often make connections to the weather and what I’m listening to at a particular time, and you’d be right. For these times I like to immerse myself in dark, moody, shadowy music that mimics the surrounding atmosphere. I don’t need something storming and violent, because it’s not like trees are being uprooted (thankfully). Instead, I want something that makes me imagine being transported along the fog as I stare out at obscured scenes and mist that practically demand something that helps me dream and wonder.

Kwaidan_coverKwaidan is one such band that aligns perfectly with weather like this, and their debut album “Make All of the Hell of Dark Metal Bright” has been an excellent companion. The cover to the album depicts a snowy, frigid scene, either new dawn or dusk, with a single red beacon shining into the sky. It’s a pretty arresting image in its simplicity, and it goes along well with the music contained inside. Yeah, I know we’re half a year or so from snow, but it still works really well. The music is an atmospheric display of ambient melodies, with sparks of black metal, doom, and post-rock, and it really is a collection you need to absorb all at once, front to back. There are no pull-out cuts on this record, and nothing here logically will make an addition to anyone’s random playlists, so by all means, commit yourself to the adventure and you’ll be fuller for it once it unfurls in front of you.

As for the band’s members, some may be familiar to you. André Foisy is a member of the great Locrian, with whom we visited last week, and he’s a huge contributor to Kwaidan along with Mike Weis (Zelienople) and Neil Jenson. The Chicago-based trio may just be on their first long player together, but they already have a cohesion and musical spirituality among themselves that you’d think they’ve been creating music together for ages. The way these six songs seamlessly flow together–especially the opening triptych–suggests they were meant to create these passages together and, despite having commitments elsewhere, could have a rewarding future together.

As noted, the first three songs are stitched together as one and makes for a really enthralling opening that lets you stretch out and get settled as the clouds encircle you. “Evening Bell” is the first third of the mini-journey that’s rich with drone and panic, with noise pulsating and floating outward. Sounds continue to bubble and float, and they make their way into “Gateless Gate,” that has a generous share of tapping, chimes, and otherworldly ambiance. Guitars split off and start to rise up, threatening to take over the scene, but they dissipate and play their part, bleeding into “Ostension.” This track is both calm and volatile, like a breeze pushing through when you can see dark clouds over the horizon, and you’re left to wonder if the storm will strike or pass. The sound builds in intensity, they bend and scrape, and they eventually subside, ensuring your narrow survival.

The second half starts with “The Iceberg and Its Shadow,” a noisy, whirring trickle of space-age wonder, leaving a cold, isolated feel in your soul as you wonder your place in the galaxy. It’s a shorter track, but it makes the most of its lifespan, and it leaves plenty of room for “Space as Support,” that kicks open with tribal drumming, swirling noises, and guitars that thicken and shake. That cut drifts along, pushing you into stardust, and it’s a challenger that’s perfect for helping you contemplate the night. Closer “The Sound of This Bell” is the epic of the collection at 12:14, and while it starts hinting at serenity and inner peace, that comes to an end when sounds begin to boil over, looking for terrain to flood. The guitars bubble and burn, and the power continues to grow and stretch its shadow, finally drawing the sense of danger and your personal journey to an end. It’s a stunning adventure you might not realize lasts as long as it does because it flows so well.

This first trip from Kwaidan is a riveting one that can feel like a murky out-of-body experience at times. These three musicians meld to form a mind-altering unit that embodies that foggy storm stretching over your humid town as you wonder whether to watch or take cover. Their excellent debut should stick with me for a long time, and if you’re into ambiance, drone, and doom, you’ll love to slip into this psychosis over and over again.

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