Finnish death metal pioneers Convulse return with ugly, infernal album ‘Evil Prevails’

ConvulseIt’s been a pretty great year for metal comebacks, from the glorious new record from the legendary Carcass to the bloody new platter from the reconfigured Broken Hope, who probably won’t go down in the annals as Glen Benton’s favorite band of all time. That actually could end up being a huge compliment in the end.

A little lower on the radar, thanks to an alarming lack of media hype, come Finnish death warriors Convulse, who were one of the ugliest, most potent underground death metal bands of the 1990s thanks to their classic 1991 debut full-length “World Without God” (righteously reissued by Relapse in 2010 with some bonus cuts) and their 1994 follow-up “Reflections.” They were one of the bands blazing a new, hellacious path for death metal’s future, keeping things grisly, heavy, and uncompromising, and because of that, they amassed a cult of fans that relished Convulse’s terrifying creations. But then, following “Reflections,” the band disappeared, never fully capitalizing on their momentum and slipping into the night.

Convulse coverLast year, Convulse started to move in their grave, and their mummified hand finally broke through the soil on January’s return EP “Inner Evil,” a two-track, 12-minute collection that showed not only could Convulse still be a vital force in the death metal world, but they had plenty to offer to a genre that’s been too undercut by beauty and slickly produced, mass-marketed bands. Vocalist/guitarist Ramsi Jämsä returned leading this machine, along with bassist Juha Telenius, and rounding out the modern lineup are new recruits Kristian Kangasniemi (guitars) and Rolle Markos (drums) who do their finest in upholding Convulse’s legend and leading them to their bloody future on their awesome new record “Evil Prevails,” that certainly holds up against their legendary back catalog.

The first track on this record is called “We Kill Our Kind,” which should give you clear sight as to where this record is going both sonically and philosophically, as the band explodes with punchy death metal, gruff, fiery growls, and an outright vicious campaign that gets this new record off on the right, decaying foot. “Unholy War” is raspy, speedy, and muddy, pushing their path toward thick mud and pain, and while the song takes some time to calm down toward the end, with a chilling monologue slipping behind it, it ends with a moody, prog-like sequence that sounds like Opeth at their headiest. “World Downfall” brings speed back into play and is a creaky monster looking for nothing but total destruction. It achieves just that, complete with some scintillating lead guitar work. “God Is Delusion” is a carryover cut from the aforementioned January EP, and it fits right in with its sweeping clean intro that melts into a drum demolition, mean and nasty growling that cares not about bruising feelings, and a doomy, chemically burnt song that could leave bubbling skin and nasty scarring.

The title cut opens the second half of this mauler with guttural intensity, fast and ugly thrashing, and more threatening vocals that sound coated in evil. Once again the guitar work shines, as the soloing hangs in the air like a toxic cloud. “Days Are Dark” brings back more doom sentiment, and there are times where the music even slips near black metal territory. The verses have a tasty touch where Jämsä howls over bass-and-drums-led verses before the full serving of guitars ignite, and the cut actually ends on a classical note, with acoustic guitars plucked and setting a hazy tone. “Reborn in Chaos,” a track that might as well be their 2013 anthem, gallops relentlessly and is one of the more pulverizing cuts among a whole slew of them, while closer “Oceans of Dust” starts with dizzying playing and forceful thrashing. Jämsä’s vocals are throatier and infernal, and the spirit with which this song is played in unquestionably punishing and hellbent on making the band’s mark a permanent one. The song ends in ominous noise, with a  baby wailing in the night, almost as if it knows its fate is not a favorable one. It’s a chilling finish for what is a volcanic record.

We welcome back Convulse, a band that deserves to be hailed as one of death metal’s most important pioneers who surely had a hand in launching a ton of other like-minded bands influenced by their sound. “Evil Prevails” is a stunning, satisfying comeback record that hits all the right spots and should be included in the same breath as Carcass’ new one as an example of the old guard returning with violent intent to show the new bands how it’s truly done. Hopefully this return is a long-term thing, because it seems like Convulse have a lot left in their raging creative furnace to share with the death metal world.

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Ævangelist unleash horrific, suffocating madness with menacing ‘Omen Ex Simulacra’

ÆvangelistWhen thinking of some of the spots of true death and terror in the United States, one is not likely to come up with Illinois and Oregon as their first few answers. There’s just nothing all that dark or warped about either of those places (that I know of) and you wouldn’t expect a hulking black creature to rise up from either of those areas and frighten death metal listeners anew.

But apparently regional location doesn’t play a huge part in what dual-headed death metal squadron Ævangelist have unleashed upon the universe in a very short time together, as their dark incantations are as sooty, bleak, and outright terrifying as any other band out there that also damages people’s psyches with their music. The band’s second record “Omen Ex Simulacra” is upon us now by way of Debemur Morti (their debut “De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis” was released by I, Voidhanger), and it’s a spiraling hellscape of drilling, dissonant death metal, deranged shrieks and howls, and an aura of fear that you just don’t get enough these days from this genre. Following the path bands such as Incantation carved out years back, and making the same type of panic as current groups such as Portal, Paroxsihzem, Abyssous, and Grave Upheaval, you’re to expect a record that’ll leave you scarred and punished mentally and one that’ll make you wonder just where in the cosmos these two pulled such chaos.

Ævangelist coverAs noted, there are two people making this madness, that being Matron Thorn, responsible for all instruments and the thick, poisoned cloud of noise, and Ascaris, who contributes his inhuman, tortured growls, wails, and cries that sound like someone sliding down the path toward damnation with no helping hand within reach. These eight tracks won’t go down easy, and if you have a weak, fragile mental makeup, wanting to be thrust off the deep end so you don’t have to look evil so closely in the face would be an understandable feeling. But if you love to immerse yourself in a cacophony of sorrow and anguish so deep that it makes your chest heave and your blood surge with perverse joy, you might not find a more suitable death metal release this fall. It’s pure horror, or as they choose to call it “new oblivion gospel music.” Bow your heads.

The record opens with “Veils,” a horrifying display that runs more than 12 minutes and might be a good indication of what hell might sound like. The sounds are eerie and monstrous when they stretch themselves over the song, and once the sludgy death erupts, the drums go into full punishment mode. The band ramps things up to a hurricane fury, and it’s impossible to get off the ride to safety. You’re just screwed, they know it, and they keep hammering at you with infernal chaos. “Mirror of Eden” takes the insanity you heard up to this point and shakes it violently, as the shrieks sound inhuman and tortured, and the song spirals into a sick pit of flames. “Hell Synthesis” is thundering and suffocating, with noises zapping over your head and through your body, thunder crackling threateningly, and the vocals reaching muddy new lows. “The Devoured Aeons of Stygian Eternity” opens with a fairly thick doom complexion, with boiling noise, menacing guitar guitar work, dizzy and slurry melodies, and growls that sound buried six feet under ground. The whole thing is suffocating and weird and might make you claustrophobic.

“Prayer for Ascetic Memory” chugs heavily and really unloads on your senses, with blistering riffs and monstrous vocals that complete this song’s mission of total assault. It’s a vicious piece for all of its running time, and it’s one of the heaviest tracks on the album. “Relinquishing Destiny” is the shortest song on the record at 4:37, and it’s made up of guitar shrieks, wild drumming, and gasped growls that sound like Ascaris is heaving his words as painfully as possible. The final two tracks on the album ramp up the experimentation and odd noise making even further, making the last 19 minutes something to truly behold. “Seclusion” rips open with massive drumming, scathing vocals, strange synth scrapes, and an element of horror that might not be physically tangible but that you know is there, hanging over your head. The song concludes with dizzying guitar runs, industrial-style drubbing, and horns raging out of control as if they’re desperately trying to announce Armageddon. Closer “Abysscape,” that clocks in at just under 13 minutes, has spooky trudging and smeary, messy noise. It feels like a mental and physical breakdown going into your ears, as the band slithers along, and growls grow even more frightening. Most of the song is an all-out assault, but the final few minutes find them wiping their canvas with bloody hands, synth laser strikes, more bizarre horns, and a mass of noise that’s thick and suffocating, taking your consciousness along with them into the dark.

Ævangelist’s commitment to charnel morbidity and relentless chaos is evident, and this second record of theirs totally hits that spot that longs for death metal that makes your insides go cold. This alien, scarred platter puts this band in that rare territory of new artists who pay more attention to sonic aesthetics and chilling savagery than they do their own images or commercial accessibility, and those very choices are what help Ævangelist be one of the planet’s most blood-curdling, unsettling bands. You’ve been warned.

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Monolithe close the book on their doom saga with psychedelic funeral opus ‘IV’

Monolithe bandThere are bands that make collections of songs, both interconnected and not, and that probably makes up the bulk of most musical endeavors. Then there are those rare few that see their art as something greater and try to do something larger and more grandiose.

French doom outfit Monolithe are one of those that stand out from the rest of the metal world and even from many of their subgenre contemporaries.Their records are immense journeys, like something Tolkien might dream up if he made devastating metal albums instead of extensive tomes. You don’t sit down and listen to a track or two and then see what’s remaining on the rest of the album. Monolithe’s records ARE songs, and over the course of four full-lengths, the band has come up with singular presentations that sprawl to nearly an hour in length a piece, and they force you to decide if you are in or if you’re out when it comes to their creations, because there is no other situation that’s acceptable. Absorb or go away.

Monolithe coverAfter last year’s destructive and captivating “Monolithe III,” their first for Debemur Morti, we get a new 57-minute serving called “IV” that is another hefty display of drama, damage, and morbidity that should keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. It’s also the final installment of their four-part series, and one of the best ones to date. Yeah, taking on an hour-long song that comprises one record is a crap shoot. It isn’t easy to keep things interesting for that long, and plenty of other bands have tried and failed with this method. But these guys–vocalist Richard Loudin, guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Sylvain Begot, bassist/guitarist Benoit Blin, keyboard player/programmer Sebastien Latour–are more than capable of keeping your blood boiling, and this incredible finale brings their project to a tumultuous end.

The track begins with a burst, with thrashy crunch, guitars that simmer, and a proggy feel, making it seem like you’re aboard a strange spacecraft, seeing the galaxy in a way you never have before. Loudin’s growls begin roiling about three minutes in, and they make their presence felt often on this album. Melodies set up, swirl, mash into new pieces that rise up, and continue to change the color and texture. You get caught up and float away with the thing, emerging and falling with their playing, and about 15 minutes into the track, everything goes clean, and a calm sets in. But it’s temporary, as blistering growls rip through the gut of the thing, and choral swatches from Emma Elvaston pump air and beauty into the madness. She also has a pretty big role and always delivers. About seven minutes later, there are more trickling, clean portions and some airy gushing, and while heaviness returns, this section is more reflective, with pianos cutting in and an infusion at atmosphere changing the tone.

As the track hits the 30-minute mark, the fury returns, as guitars start to gallop and head into a power metal assault. The drums begin to kick up and cause a frenzy of violence, and synthesizers sweep in and add a huge cinematic sense. Then the bottom drops out, and the doom takes permanent hold of the track, providing some of the ugliest, burliest music in Monolithe’s history. The band slips into funeral doom mode, with the riffs getting slower, sludgier, and more morose, while the pained growls follow suit, giving off the sense that all of the air is filled with dread. The 41-minute mark has the band still spilling the lumber in bulk, but there are also are some gothy underpinnings to the track that give it a teary-eyed, rainy effect. The funeral dirge returns, as does the maniacal heaviness, and amid all of that is some Pink Floyd-style psychedelic dreaming, but thats snuffed out by the final minutes of the song, where everything is set on fire, left to burn, and completely overcome by the thick, unforgiving smoke.

Monolithe’s four-part project has grown extensively both in emotion and musical prowess since it started with the first album that dropped in 2003, and it’s been a decade of incredible movement, reimagined and reworked doom, and music served up in a non-traditional but always satisfying way. Hopefully Monolithe continue to create great works beyond this and have new dreams to spread across epic offerings, or maybe they’ll find more conventional ways to enthrall us. Either way, this has been an explosive, breath-taking project to behold, and “IV” offers a titanic finale in a way that would be worthy of a giant, legendary big-screen blockbuster of old when you’d leave a theater stunned, amazed, and totally fulfilled. All hail Monolithe for a story well told.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Mamiffer, Circle combine on haunting, cold ‘Enharmonic Intervals’

MamifferCircle coverWhat do you do when two of the most ambitious, prolific bands in underground music get together for a collaborative project that not only fills in the gaps of the late-year down cycle of music releases but also promises to be one of the most electric, bizarre, and mind-erasing projects of the year? You get out of the way and let them do their thing.

Finnish rockers Circle, who have not met a genre of music in which they’re disinterested in dabbling (except, maybe, hardcore rap), seem to constantly have something new ready to go into circulation. Hell, we’re going to talk about another new album from them in the upcoming weeks, and yes, it totally delivers. They never seem to rest, and their constantly moving frontman Jussi Lehtisalo probably never sleeps due to other musical projects (can we please hail last year’s criminally underappreciated Split Cranium?) as well as his label Ektro Records. On the other hand, Mamiffer have been in fairly high gear as well, touring, putting out their own music and others’ via their label Sigr, and also making noise with like-minded artists such as Locrian and Pyramids. They are comprised of Faith Coloccia (Everlovely Lightningheart) and Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom, Twilight, etc.) and have carved their own niche of atmospheric, woodsy, dreamy doom and ambient rock that is both haunting and lovely. You can imagine how these two groups together might sound like.

Mika Rättö and Aaron Turner

Mika Rättö and Aaron Turner

Well, imagine no longer. The groups joined forces for their new collaborative effort “Enharmonic Intervals,” a seven-track collection recorded in a single day at Keski-Porin Kirkko, a 19th century stone church in Finland, where they two bands explored every crevice of the structure. No wonder these songs sound so liturgical yet chillingly haunting, and the presence of the venue’s Paschen organ adds yet another spacious element to the proceedings.


Faith Coloccia

Oh, but back to what it would be like if these two bands got together. If you’re familiar with each band, or even just one of them, forget what you know about them. There are no grisly riffs, there are minimal doom storms, and very little chaos of any kind, and the attitude is instead reflective and thought provoking. The music lends itself more toward Mamiffer’s side of the spectrum–that’s only sonically and not philosophically–but they and Circle show two groups of artists can work on a project and offer ample room for everyone to create something special and unique. That’s what this record is, and with winter approaching here in North America, this will sound perfectly placed against sheets of falling snow (just look at the cover!).

“Kaksonen I” opens with a cloud of noise drone, squeals, and shrieks that certainly pull open your eyelids, and then vicious howls and shouts, hanging in mid air, rise like a threat. Horns bawl, and a Middle Eastern-style, foggy melody rises up to carry home this song. “Parting of Bodies” does have a dose of menace at the start, with dark rumbling settling in and blackening skies, and Turner’s vicious wails erupt in the background. The song eventually turns toward dissonant, airy melodies, but just as you’re feeling calm the thorns return, ending the track in emotional fright. “Vaso Luna” begins with a cool set of keys and noise that pulsates, while Lehtisalo warbles and chants in tongues in the background, almost as if he’s in a hallucinatory trance. Synth is smeared all over, while proggy progressions break out, and the mood is decidedly dark and weird. “Tumulus” is cloudy and has an attic sci-fi film sense to it, with Coloccia calling wordlessly along with the melodies that give an early morning, dew-soaked feel to it. Psychedelic-rich guitars later introduce themselves, leaving the track in an eerie haze.

“Vessel Full of Worms” sounds gross and unsettling just from its title, and yeah, it’s a little unsettling at times. Horror-style drone starts to gain ground, though it’s balanced out by warm organs and the sense of a spiritual service about to hit its high point. Keys stab here and there, adding an element of drama and suspense, and a spooky sense of dread and terror strikes directly at your heart. “Mätäneminem” is the most bizarre of all of the songs, reminding at times of Scott Walker at his most mentally unhinged. Operatic cries erupt from Mika Rättö, who lets loose and fills the air with his strange, warbling voice, and the keys drizzle a heavy glaze over everything. In fact, the song reminds me of something you might hear over an old Italian vampire movies, which gives a vintage and disgustingly classy feel. It’s really an awesome thing to behold. Closer “Kaksonen 2 (Artemesia)” closes the album in much the same way its adjoined opener starts the piece. Noises splinter and shake, siren-like cries splash across the background, and weird, chant-like vocals lurch and rip open your guts. The whole song feels like a ritual taking place deep in an underground cave, where the incantations are left in the air for its intended spirits to absorb once they find their way to such place of reverence.

While Mamiffer’s and Circle’s members have made plenty of metallic goodness over the years in their many projects, this record is much different than their back catalogs and will find favor among listeners who could use a chance to relax and concentrate amid all the brutality in their lives. This is a fruitful, stunning, true collaboration among artists whose respect for each other is clear by how they play together. They blend into a true whole, making “Enharmonic Intervals” a fantastic mood record and hopefully the first of many partnerships between these two bands.

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Duo Inquisition deliver cosmic blackness on weird ‘Obscure Verses for the Multiverse’

INQUISITION_band_1186_(c)2013Darkness, evil, and space are three elements that are sure to make for a great metal record if they’re used right. If they’re not, then they’re just kind of there as source material that really wasn’t fully understood by the creator. When these elements really strike, you have something special with which you’ll want to spend a lot of time.

Black metal duo Inquisition undoubtedly have given us plenty from the cosmic, darkness and evil realms during their half century together as a band and their numerous full-lengths, mini efforts, and split releases have made them one of the more infamous underground metal acts going and one of the most talked about. Their last record “Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm” (quick! Say that 10 times really fast!) seemed to give the band more traction than they ever had in their run, and the Hells Headbangers-released record and their live works piqued the interest of Season of Mist, who wisely signed the band for their new sixth record. Now comes the band’s heavily anticipated “Obscure Verses for the Multiverse” that won’t feel all that weird for their long-time followers but may take some adjustment for newcomers.

SOM 315LP.inddInquisition ply the two-man thing as well as any metal band ever has, as guitarist/singer Dagon and drummer Incubus are the sole members and make enough thick noise to make up for a full-size group. What they do is massive and churning, and it sounds horrifying and mind blowing all at the same time. Um, but those vocals. Yeah, Dagon’s buzzing growls, that sound very similar to Abbath’s from Immortal, have turned off more than one listener over time, and it does take some getting used to if that’s not your thing. I get why it has kept some people away form the band, but the vocals also set these guys apart, and you definitely know when you’re hearing Inquisition very quickly. How many other bands can truly claim that? Me? I love the vocals.

On this record, the band delves even deeper into cosmology and elements of deep, cold outer space, as well as Satan, darkness overcoming all, stars, planets, chaos, you name it. You might find yourself going for a dictionary or your old science and astronomy books to understand some of the content, or you can just sit back and get drubbed by this warped black madness.

The record begins with “Force of the Floating Tomb,” a blistering yet melodic track that can make you dizzy after a while and features Dagon’s trademark creaky vocals. Some bizarre guitar work slips in, and Dagon pulls the song to its conclusion by howling, “Raise the chalice!” “Darkness Flows Toward Unseen Horizons” has a fairly approachable opening, like if you heard it on the radio you wouldn’t bat an eye. Then it blows up. Explosively fast and pulverizing fury spills in, the guitars match the intensity, and Dagon unleashes a blood-curdling death growl that shows his range. The title cut has surging riffs and some really strong lead guitar work, and you might find that cacophony of noise has left you spinning. “Spiritual Plasma Evocation” is built with groove-heavy drumming at times, flesh-bruising blasts at others, and a devastating assault rips out of the muddy first half of the song that leaves everything in the dust. “Master of the Cosmological Black Cauldron” certain puts images in your head and could make you think of the artwork that would make up old metal album covers (or like the one emblazoned across this one), and it’s a pulverizing track that balances its brutality with slurry guitar work and wholly mesmerizing psychological wooziness.

“Joined By the Dark Matter, Repelled By Dark Energy” also has a melodic, digestible first few minutes, but then things get weird, with bent guitars, gurgly growls, a strange haze that spreads over it all, and odd calls of praise including, “Rise above the cosmic seas.” “Arrivals of Eons After” is fast and blistering from the start, with Dagon sounding as bizarre and alien as ever before, and that paves the way for “Inversion of the Ethereal White Stars,” which is an interesting, head-tilting song that is thrashy and punchy, giving your face and ears a really good beating. “Infinite Interstellar Genocide” is your closer depending on which version of the album you buy, and it’s a total meltdown of riffs, blackness, and melodies. Dagon seems to channel an ancient spirit at one point, slipping into a chilling, strange chant, and the metallic chaos whip into a poisonous frenzy, a smokescreen that seems to have arrived from some far away world. Early versions of the album also come with a re-recorded take on “Where Darkness Is Lord and Death the Beginning,” from their 2007 album “Nefarious Dismal Orations,” and it’s a pretty fun update that isn’t necessarily essential but still kind of cool to have.

Inquisition never have sounded this mighty or darkly weird, and they delivered a mega strong document to take advantage of the larger audience Season of Mist should afford the band. “Obscure Verses for the Multiverse” may not be for every metal fan, because this definitely is a strange sounding band, but for those who get it, this album will provide hours of cosmic enjoyment that’ll warp your mind and cloud you in darkness that you won’t want to emerge from any time soon.

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Cara Neir unleash fiery emotion, metallic sparks on new ‘Portals to a Better, Dead World’

Cara NeirComplaining about the current state of much of the metal scene has become a tireless topic over here, and sorry about all of that, but it’s not likely to change. But considering the feedback I get and that numbers here are growing, perhaps you feel the same way. Too much music sounds the same way, which isn’t good, and there is a lack of spark from so many albums I hear. Where is the passion?

Say what you want about Texas duo Cara Neir, debate what kind of metal they make, figure out if it works for you or not, but don’t question their passion. Holy hell, man, the emotion is overflowing with these two guys, and even if you don’t prefer their style of metal, you can’t deny these guys mean every second, every ounce, and every word. They are explosive, they bubble to the surface with feelings, and it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in their art and let it overtake you. In all honesty, when I heard this band a few years ago, I wasn’t exactly blown away. But through the sheer force of their sound and, yes, how much they convince you they mean this, they won me over, and I’ve been excited about the band ever since.

Cara Neir coverCara Neir–they are vocalist/lyricist Chris Francis and multi-instrumentalist Garry Brents–are back with a tidal wave of a new record called “Portals to a Better, Dead World.” It is brought to you via joint effort by Broken Limbs Recordings (who put out the band’s killer split cassette with Ramlord) and Halo of Flies (who have given us plenty of crushing ferocity by way of Light Bearer, Cloud of Rats, and their share of the pulverizing new Northless document), and it’s a total ripper. The band typically is labeled as U.S. black metal, but honestly, I hear just as much hardcore and post-hardcore in their sound that I’m hesitant to assign them to that sub-genre. But certainly those strains are there, as well as doom and death metal, so let’s just say they do a lot of things really well. More than you can say for most other bands, right?

Opener “Peridot” follows on a post-metal path, with strong melodies, off-kilter playing, and harsh vocals from Francis. The song then slips into a colorful gallop that ends up in post-hardcore terrain, where explosions of sound dash all over. “Closing Doors” keeps thing working into high gear, with charged-up, speedy chaos, bristling guitar lines, wild, howled shrieks, and chugging violence that spills into hardcore territory. It’s punishing and furious in the best possible way. “Red Moon Foreboding” sizzles with noise, the words are spat out, and this is where the band really settles into black metal territory. The track is catchy and sudden, mauling you like a ton of bricks, and the emotional tumult is so thick, it’s impossible not to get caught up in their storming. Following a clean opening, “Dust Collector” ignites, with more post-hardcore fury, wild shrieks, and some of the most creative playing on the record. The song is fast and punishing, and it’s a fitting ending to the first half of the record.

“Forlorn Love (Henry and Karen)” contains all of the fireworks you’d expect from the title alone, and while the molten fury dissipates toward the middle of the song, it eventually returns to hardcore menace and clubbing playing that brings the song to its end. “Exalting the Shadow Proprietor” runs a little over seven minutes and begins with thick cello that casts a shadow over the piece, then melody bursts from the seams, followed by slower, doom-infested darkness. The vocals go from mean growls to bloody shrieks, and the music totally shows off in a fun, even prog-infused way, making the final minutes of the song blistering. Closer “3,380 Pounds” hits the 10-minute mark and also lets the music branch out and reach higher creative heights. The song has atmosphere, jazzy bits, and more prog-friendly playing, while the vocals are menacing and deadly, never for a second letting you let down your guard. The final minutes explore every reach of the darkness, as dialogue from the movie “Melancholia” plays in the background, and album bleeds out on a psychologically damaged, mesmerizing note.

Cara Neir continue to build on what they do well and keep adding new, more exciting elements to their sound. That’s obvious from what you’ll hear on “Portals to a Better, Dead World,” their best record to date and one of the more interesting, emotionally explosive metal releases of the fall. Fans of hardcore, post-hardcore, black metal, and hell, just metal should find something to love about this record, and if you simply have a burning heart inside of you or chaos that needs to come out, you also might find a kindred spirit of an album.

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Theologian teams with female collaborators on chilling ‘Some Things Have to Be Endured’



There are many ways to express distress, dismay, and disillusionment, and who’s to say one means is more important or fitting than another? We talk metal here every day, as I’m sure you know or at least assumed that from the name of this site, but even in that terrain there isn’t one agreed-upon way to pour forth your emotions, fears, and frustrations.

We have, in the past, discussed Theologian, the project of electronic artist Leech who also is mastermind behind Navicon Torture Technologies. What he does here isn’t expressly metal, and one could argue there are few tangible examples of the genre at all. OK, fair enough. But the darkness and terror behind his music, and the blackness that envelops his work, is as heavy and horrific as even the nastiest black metal band, and just because the sound isn’t chock full of devastating riffs, blasts, and death growls, certainly many metal fans can find something to love about Theologian and the harsh arts that are present on the project’s third album “Some Things Have to Be Endured.” It’s not for the faint of heart.

theologian coverJust from the bio that accompanies this eight-track flood of black industrial fury, electronic madness, and darkwave coldness one can put together that the themes of the album are feminine in nature and range from motherhood to magick to addition to obsession to loathing to pain. Nothing on here is easy to hear, and none will just wash over you without some emotional effect, so good luck if you were just seeking some background music. Theologian never will be that thing, and the music that makes up this record is immersive and violent, penetrating and powerful, and the array of female vocalists and contributors Leech arranged for this project help deliver the messages and put a sense of humanity into what often can sound like machine-like noises. They also could haunt and frighten you where you sit.

“Black Cavern Myopia” is the opening, chilling chapter, put together with sharp synth burns and weird, alien-like speaking. Rachel Kozac of Hectate is featured on the song, with some melody pouring out over an otherwise scarred body of stomps and noise-rich squalls. “The Conjoined Deviant Procession” is strange and oppressive musically, dressed with chant-like relays and buzzing madness, featuring Kristen MacArthur of Sewer Goddess. The song is poisonous and hopeless, with pain and anguish lying on the road ahead of you. “Writing Corpus Landscape,” built on source material by Rachel Maloney of Tonikom and the words and vocals from Nikki Telladictorian of Prometheus Burning, feels like a strange opening monologue for an alien assault film, with a cold, detached vocal delivery that could frighten you to death. The icy domination and steely noise crashes never let you feel any ease and add a bloody sense to this anthem of nurture to keep nature on its cycle. “Gore-Stained Ramparts” is all guts, regret, and revenge, with Patricia Benitez of Fetish Drone not only lending her voice to the piece but also contributing to the track’s horrific compositional spine.

“Like Love, Only Real” is outright disturbing lyrically, maybe the darkest journey on this album, which is saying something. Gillian Bowling of Teloahqaal provides the source material, words, and vocals for the piece, and the threatening nature and sense of hopeless despair and psychological control is enough to leave you gasping for deep, anxious breaths. “Grand Guignol” is warbling and sinister, yet the vocals from Christiana Key of Delphic Oracle add an element of beauty, as she relays words adapted from a Theologian Prime piece. It’s very murky and cold, but it also has elements of pop, albeit twisted ones. “Ectothermism” features Melissa C. Kelly and Joan Hacker of Factoria, and the thick, whirring fog that sits over the landscape is impossible to avoid and cuts off your oxygen. The back end of the song gets foggy and ghostly, and the terrifying shrieks that emerge give the track its bloody exclamation point. Closer “Welcome to the Golden Age of Beggars” features words by visual artist Whore Mother Superior as well as additional lyrics and vocals by Shari Vari of Void Vision, and the song balances blackness and stirring melodies. The vocals are pretty and alluring in spots, but that’s surrounded by such damaged madness that positivity and bright colors easily get choked to death, especially on tortured lines such as, “Worship the sensation that no longer exists,” and, “For the agony is deep and heavy in my gut/Pray for an end to your love.”

There are many ways to interpret what the title “Some Things Have To Be Endured” means, and there are bound to be a myriad of reactions to this album in general. That’s also what I meant in the opening about there being so many different ways to express grief, anger, darkness, what have you, and no reaction to this piece is wrong necessarily. Yes, it’s not exactly a textbook metal record, but to dismiss its presence among the noise, experimental, and ambient sections of the genre would be foolish. This is a harrowing, scarred piece of work, one that brings together many points of view and stories, and there’s not a second of this record that won’t impact you profoundly in some manner. You’ll never sleep quite as easily as you did before experiencing this collection nor will you view each human’s struggles the same way again.

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Gnaw’s ‘Horrible Chamber’ is a horrific soundtrack of mental decay and breakdown

gnawHave you ever been in one of those moods or situations where you don’t think you can endure anymore punishment or poor results or bad luck? Where your face is against the wall, and all of the pressure and force of life mashes and suffocates you, sending you into a spiral of panic. Do you often feel that you need someone to understand your explosive psychosis?

Luckily for you, Alan Dubin does. You probably know him from one of his most infamous projects Khanate, one of the most terrifying, deranged bands of the past decade. Now here with Gnaw, he’s able to take his, uh, gift, and smear it over this industrial-spiked doom that might even be more uncomfortable. Dubin’s vocals definitely are not for everyone. They may be for the very few who truly identify with the chaos and filth that char his mind and soul. He sounds like a man on the edge. Meaning the edge of a cliff or the cusp of a potentially violent mental breakdown, and he cannot control the voices spewing from his mouth. You hear his anger, disillusionment, and mental decay without a filter, and it’s a sobering and frightening display.

6_Panel_DigipakThis isn’t to assume Dubin is the only highlight of Gnaw. He is surrounded by a cast that complements his fury and create sounds as corrosive as as his words, and on the band’s second full-length “Horrible Chamber” (perfect title, by the way), they’re at their very finest. The rest of the band is comprised of Carter Thornton (guitars, bass, other sounds), Brian Beatrice (guitars, bass), Jun Mizumachi (electronics), and Eric Neuser (drums, percussion), and they’re a total force to hammer home the damaged psyche swirling in Dubin’s brain. The band mixes abrasive noise, drone, doom, and metallic swagger on seven songs that’ll damage and burn you.

The record opens with “Humming,” a crazed, chillingly bizarre piece where the madness is allowed to erupt early and dramatically. Dubin howls, “Humming inside!” as if he’s providing a running commentary to something churning in his mind that he can’t turn off or quell, and the band supports him with fiery noise and creepy piano. “Of Embers” kicks your ass, with a swaggering bluesy doom mix smooshed with scarred buzzing, and it’s a solid example of how the band knows how to do more than just make strange sounds. “Water Rite” stretches over seven minutes and often feels like a giant factory pumping out clouds of black industrial smoke, and Dubin’s voices is treated with a mechanical effect that makes him sound even more alien than he does otherwise. There are weird stabs of melodic singing at times, bizarre rants, and stuff that reminds of Faith No More’s more molten moments. “Worm” has a tasty, pulverizing thrash riff that holds the track together, and Dubin manages to melt down even further, shrieking, “I’m the worm,” and ranting about insignificance while his doom is on full display.

“Widowkeeper” opens like a face-melting furnace, with noise and trauma, and strange eerie whispering leaves you uneasy, making you vulnerable for when the hammer drops and the song detonates. The track is black and bleak, the noise could leave you as unhinged as Dubin’s words, and the song results in a total mind eraser. “Vulture” is one of the faster songs in Gnaw’s canon, as noise and sludge muddy their path and the bluesy soloing that meets up with the filth gives the song a ballsy feel. Dubin manages to top himself yet again on this one, howling, “If only I could stand,” which could mean a million different things, but you know whatever it is that it isn’t good. Closer “This Horrible Chamber” is 12 minutes of pure audio torture (in a good way), that is full of ambient hiss, strange blips, maniacal sizzling, and Dubin disintegrating, wailing about dreams going unfulfilled, warning listeners that, “This is where you end up,” and begging, “I want out.” It’s slurry and horrific, and it should only leave you feeling darker and more hopeless.

So yeah, sadly I totally relate to what’s going on with “Horrible Chamber,” because it hasn’t been a banner year for me, especially the past few weeks. But I had Gnaw to lean on, and I knew when the record was over that I could rely on this band to provide an escape where I can dump my madness and relate to others who sound like they’re dangling off the edge. Gnaw might annoy some people, make others feel uncomfortable, piss off others. But you’re going to feel something when you hear Gnaw, and you’re going to react. And if you’re like me and want to immerse yourself in every sick sound on this record, you’ll find a document that you’ll feel like is reading and then interpreting what’s in your head.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu deliver psyche-space drama on ‘Valonielu’

oranssiIt’s hard to run into music in any category that is truly unique sounding. So many ideas have surfaced, been tried, and been done to death, that being even somewhat original is not an easy task. So when someone does come along and has a new approach or something you haven’t heard before–or at least in a long while–it makes that band stand out even more.

I’m sure you’ve already heard the hype surrounding Finnish metal squadron Oranssi Pazuzu and their third record “Valonielu,” because it seems every corner of the universe is talking about them. It’s for damn good reason, because this band is doing something neck-jerkingly fresh, as in no other band out there is producing sounds like they are, and I’d expect after this record runs its natural course, the flood of copiers and pretenders will come rushing after them trying to capitalize. But what they followers will lack is the magic this band creates on their albums (2011’s “Kosmonument” was awfully solid as well) and the pure ingenuity in their compositions. They meld death metal, black metal, prog, and a healthy dose of Krautrock in their delicious stew of sounds, and it’s clear from taking a few trips with their new record that their process is wholly organic and not forced just to be different. They’ve found an explosive way to seamlessly blend their various influences.

CDDG4T1-004.pdf“Valonielu” is getting an extra hand in its promotion and worldwide coverage, as it’s being released by Svart in Europe and by 20 Buck Spin in North America. 20 Buck Spin has been no stranger to properly acclaimed records in 2013, as they just put out the amazing new Atlantean Kodex and still have the deranged, mentally damaged Vastum record up their sleeve in November. Exposing this effort to the North American audience not only proves them wise once again when it comes to finding great talent, but it also gives the band a chance to find more ears on this continent to absorb their space-infested, melodic, but damaged metal that feels like a weird, mind-altering experience for most of the journey, but that that brings you back sporting scars and bruises. It’s also just good for your brain.

Five singularly monikered musicians make up the roster of Oranssi Pazuzu, that being vocalist/guitarist Jun-His (formerly of like-minded but decidedly less barbaric Kuolleet Intiaanit), guitarist Moit, keyboard player EviL (responsible for the band’s heavy psychedelic haze), bassist Ontto, and drummer Korjak. Their foray deeper into the cosmos and the farthest reaches of your mind is partially what makes this new record so fascinating and essential to all metal fans with adventurous tastes, but their scathing metallic tendencies that reek of Enslaved and even Darkthrone are what will those of us who need things brutal all the time totally plugged in.

“Vino verso” is an ideal stage setter, as the song wooshes in, guitars gets charged up, and prog weirdness spews forth from the keys. Jun-His’ growls are creaky and savage, and the music around him sounds like it’s getting you ready for a sci-fi-based drama. “Tyhja tempelli” feels creepy and isolated at first, but then spiraling, bent guitar lines slip in, giving the song a late-at-night feel, like you’re outside on a dark road, with your flesh getting colder, your walk seemingly getting longer. The melodies can mess with your head, but they’re also mesmerizing and sticky, making this my favorite track on the record. “Uraanisula” is the first of the record’s two epics, running nearly 12 minutes.The song has a cold, cosmic-style opening that spills into cleanly played doom and then meaty, sinewy riffs. The guitar work is full of atmosphere through the bulk of the song, keyboards bubble to the surface, and the band eventually hits on a thorny prog section that reminds me a lot of classic Voivod. That brings the thrash and punishment to its high point, and Jun-His’ furious vocals are menacing and terrifying.

“Reika maisemassa” lets you have a little breather. It’s an ambient-heavy instrumental that again hints at space exploration, and the plodding drums help lead the song along its path. “Olen aukaissut uuden silman” has a rousing open that’s crushing but also brainy and weird, and this is one of the burlier examples of their black metal tendencies. Some of the melodies remind me of Chris Black’s darker ideas, as the guitars bulk up and melodies surge, leading into its fairly strange ending. Closer “Ympyra on viiva tomussa” is the final epic of the record, ticking in a little over 15 minutes and remaining captivating the entire time. The beginning feels like what you might hear in your head if you were trapped on alien terrain with only yourself as company, as your anxiety and terror match your natural curiosity. Noises scream out and cause abrasions and other damage, while the melodies surge then melt over. Jun-His’ vocals again are nasty and harsh, and he works amid keys zapping from all over, doom-heavy riffs dropping tonnage, and even more intergalactic exploration, which obviously is a huge theme. The violence continues to build as the song reaches its conclusion, and the noise and chaos sizzles and fizzles out at the end, as their little ship disappears from the atmosphere and back into space.

“Valonielu” is just stunning, the most unique metal record you’ll hear all year, and the one that’ll make you do the most imagination inside your head. I defy you not to dream of space missions, of stars exploding, and of bright colors dashing across the night sky when you absorb this album. This collection has intellectual meat for the thinkers, brutality for those who live by heaviness and volume, and the total package for those who want both of those things. Oranssi Pazuzu already are making the most of their expanded audience simply be delivering this record, and it’s up to everyone else to plug in and realize what we’re all so excited about.

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Uzala destroy doom metal’s face on killer second record ‘Tales of Blood and Fire’

uzalaHearing bands grow from record to record can be one of the fun parts of following musicians through their journeys. Where do they go, what do they add, what do they subtract, what do they become? Not that every band has to change the formula every time out, but it sure is more fun when you hear new music from a group and are knocked on your ass by how they’ve grown.

On that note, holy shit, on their sophomore album “Tales of Blood & Fire,” Uzala are damn near unrecognizable from the form they took on their debut album that came out just last year. I mean, the people look the same, but their sound has developed into something so markedly different that they could have put a different band’s name on this five-track new offering and no one would have wondered anything. Had I gotten this record with no band name and no bio attached and just sat down to listen, I’m not sure I ever would have guessed this was Uzala. Now, is that a bad or a good thing? It it an incredibly great thing, because this band went from a scuzzy, messy, charred idea to something way more fully realized and that has the potential to become one of the best bands in the entire doom genre. That might sound hyperbolic–I realize their debut, that I loved, had some divergent opinions–but take on this album and see if I’m not right. It’s astonishing both in development and quality of their music. Uzala are a fucking force.

uzala coverFront and center of this band’s sharp new power is Darcy Nutt, whose vocals have expanded a million fold. She was always a good singer and one of Uzala’s sharpest weapons, but now she’s a superpower. Her range has expanded, as has her gift of expression, and hearing how she has continued to build upon her gift since last record is nothing short of a revelation. She has to be in the discussion when talking who has the most impactful voice in doom metal. The rest of the band also has grown burlier and more muscular, including guitarist Chad Remains and drummer Chuck Watkins (Nutt also plays guitar, so she’s a part of this hellish expansion of sound). Their aproach is massive and suffocating (production by the awesome Tad Doyle), but it also has fresh melodies and a sense of danger wrapped up in adventure that totally ramps up the drama and outright violence. This band is not to be messed with.

Uzala’s refurbished strengths are obvious right away, as “Seven Veils” drops with a doom-infested collection of riffs, then that meets Nutt’s soaring, soulful vocals that do their best to expand the band’s headspace and explore every square inch. The song slithers, boils, and melts down, as Nutt’s wordless melodies carry the song to its conclusion. “Dark Days” opens with seven straight minutes of drone thunder that is as mighty as anything Sunn 0))) contributed to the world of metal, and it keeps building and raging until it hits so hard, you wonder how it could get deadlier. But it does. A psychedelic-style melody slips out of that storm and catapults this track on its smoky second half, with Nutt adding to this slow, dreary killer. “Burned” also has its share of drone fire, but it also feeds on a stoner riff that rides into psyche weirdness and some liquidy, sci-fi-style bubbling. Nutt sounds as tough and menacing as ever on this song, cutting her way across the terrain, and as she weaves in and out of the mist that populates the closing stretch of this song, she also sounds deadly accompanied by the thrashing explosions that close this chapter.

“Countess” is one of Uzala’s most impressive songs to date. Nutt’s vocal melodies are enrapturing, and she takes complete control of the track as its storyteller. The band, meanwhile, is busy building a bluesy, shadowy track that would not sound out of place on the Rise Above label, as it conjures senses of Cathedral, Blood Ceremony, and Electric Wizard. The song punishes you, yet all the while it bristles with glimmering life and slashes through your senses like a white-hot blade. If this song doesn’t turn you on to Uzala’s glory, then perhaps you cannot be saved. Closer “Tenement of the Lost,” the shortest song on the record at 4:17, stomps all over the place, and the vicious, ominous assault is seconded by Nutt’s forceful, swaggering vocals that take on a new level of toughness. It’s a strong conclusion to the band’s best collection yet.

If you were wary of Uzala going into this, don’t ignore this record. Again, I really liked their debut album but can understand how its abrasiveness may have roughed up some people. But “Tales of Blood & Fire” is like their true arrival, an eye-opening experience that trumpets this band’s pure power and will and makes them one of doom metal’s most interesting bands going. Uzala have hit on something special, and they are well equipped to take over the metal landscape, burn what they don’t like, and rule with an iron, spiked fist.

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