PICK OF THE WEEK: Sumac’s first record ‘The Deal’ packed with crushing fury, fierce pounding

SumacGetting back to basics often is what artists do after a long period of experimentation or doing things outside of their comfort zone. It’s a way of getting back to a primal urge and building off the things that made them creators in the first place. It’s way to go back to square one with plenty of knowledge in your back pocket.

Aaron Turner was a part of one of the most influential bands of the past decade with his work in ISIS (the band, not the terrorist group, you dummies). Their sound was revered, and a whole host of disciple groups popped up in their wake to carry that style forward. But when the band members went their separate ways in 2010, Turner didn’t exactly sit around. He got Old Man Gloom off the ground again and most recently sent Internet folks and writers in a tirade of spite over their “Ape of God” releases. He also continued working with wife Faith Coloccia in Mamiffer, and even teamed up with those crazy Fins in Circle for the supremely awesome and heavily under-appreciated Split Cranium. But now, he’s back with a brand new band Sumac that does seem to return to Turner’s basics and puts him on a similar, albeit grislier, path as ISIS. Profound Lore is releasing their debut album “The Deal,” but if someone had tricked you into thinking Hydra Head had risen from the grave and delivered this mammoth into the world, you easily could be swayed by the sound and weight of this thing. Hell, even the cover art looks like something out of, like, 2002. It’s great, and the music is huge sounding.

12" Glued SleeveTurner isn’t alone on this album, as he’s joined by drummer Nick Yacyshyn (also of hardcore-laced maulers Baptists) and session bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes, Botch) added his work to the project. Most of the material here sounds pretty free form, like the guys went in with a basic skeleton of the songs and just let the lava flow and settle where it may. That gives the album a sense of freedom and organic strength, as they let these cuts develop, breathe, corrode, and burn, and if you fail to get out of the way in time, that’s your fault.

“Spectral Gold” gets the ball rolling in a calculated manner, as the brief instrumental cut opens with a tribal feel, noise spitting outward, volatile simmering you anticipate boiling over, and all of that fading into time. “Thorn in the Lion’s Paw” drops the weight immediately, with slow chugging set to devastate and Turner’s trademark monstrous growl unfurling and leading the way. Melody surges, with the section feeling airy and atmospheric, while tension builds and devours any sense of calm. The riffs shuffle and maul, the drums are beaten to a pulp, and a keyboard haze joins up and creates a wall of interference that is thick and impenetrable. “Hollow King” is a 12:21 beast, with the tempo slowly ramping up, the song beginning to crush heavily, and the vocals ripping out and devastating. There’s a great deal of mashing that could crush your digits, and that slips into muddy horror, sprawling drumming, and a long section of playing that sounds loose, unplanned, and burning off as much energy as they can muster. That leads back into the main body of the song, some spectacular riffs, trance-inducing assaults, and a back end that thrashes over and over, leaving you howling and pleading for mercy.

“Blight’s End Angel” lets guitars rise up and ring out, like a disturbing wake-up call, and from there all the elements simmer and soak in their seasoning before the track bursts with a fury. The growls are animalistic, while the tempo chugs heartily and a massive, clubbing assault on your senses plays out. Noise bends hard, the track keeps building strength and intensity, and everything slips into a reflective state ruptured only by gruff growls. The title cut bristles from the start, with a chunky bit of thrashing, sludgy terrain that catches your shoes, and vocals that disrupt and shakes into a state of undivided attention. The guitars stab with intent, with wailing sounding like it’s buried in the background, while the last portion of the song pushes into woozy, weary melodies. Noise drills hard, with drone spreading out and distributing chaos, and the power getting in a few final blows. Closer “Radiance of Being” is an instrumental outro, with the drone carrying over, somber melodies taking up residence, fuzz multiplying and frying off, and the whole thing fading off into the fog.

I’m an unabashed fan of Turner’s work, no matter the project, but it’s really cool to hear him going back to a sound he helped foster and develop. Sumac feels like a monster that traveled from a decade ago to wage war on today’s sounds, and every moment of “The Deal” pays dividends to those who just want our hearing brutalized and emotions triggered. This band does that very thing over and over, and this is a gargantuan beginning for a promising new project.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

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

Night Demon have stranglehold on classic metal, fire-breathing fun with ‘Curse of the Damned’

Night DemonGo ahead and laugh, but there is a remote possibility that metal takes itself a little too seriously at times. I mean, take a band such as Oozing Wound, who can thrash with the very best of them, and they’re written off by some people because they’re perceived as not being serious. Give me a break. They’re either good or they’re not.

That brings me to Night Demon. Now, I don’t think there are a lot of people pointing their way yet and questioning their motives, but if you absorb their debut long player “Curse of the Damned,” you likely will understand how people might look at them with a tilted head. To hell with those people, by the way, because Night Demon destroys. Feeling like something arriving out of the late 1970s or early 1980s, when there was no such thing as people questioning your motives in metal, these guys come off like the natural progression from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, and Thin Lizzy. This is a good fucking time, a chance to forget all the bullshit going on around you, and surrender to the power of metal. You remember how to do that? We all could use a refresher now and then, and this killer record can help soothe what ails you.

Night Demon coverNight Demon have been kicking around for the past four years or so, and the lineup consists of vocalist/bassist Jarvis Leatherby (whose singing if totally cut out for this type of thing), guitarist Brent Woodward (The Fucking Wrath), and drummer Dustin Squires. The guys delivered their initial EP three years ago first on their own and then with the backing of Shadow Kingdom. Now, they’re really moving up in the world, as Century Media swooped in and signed these guys and are exposing them to the wider audience they deserve. Get ready to get lost in their power.

“Screams in the Night” gets the record off to a great start, with a catchy, riff-heavy track about an ax-wielding executioner, who Leatherby warns is “coming to get you.” The leads are great, there’s an awesome transitional riff toward the end that’ll make you punch tables, and the whole thing comes to a crunchy finish. The title cut sounds like a Scorpions track when it takes off, mainly in the guitar work, and the chorus is one of the finer ones on here, a sequence that’ll get stuck in your head and have you repeating it all day long. The track “Satan” may come off a little cheeky, but it’s an homage to the man downstairs that long-tenured metal warriors are sure to love. “He’s coming for your soul,” Leathersby reminds, as the soloing lights fires, and the whole package packs a damn fun punch. “Full Speed Ahead” is one of the more aggressive cuts here, with a NWOBHM-style assault spilling forth, the words painting scenes of comic book-style violence, and a sense of darkness taking over that gives the track a sense of danger. “The Howling Man” is the longest song at 6:47, and it’s a warning shot to those who don’t take the forces of evil seriously. After fires crackle and thunder sounds, the band hits its groove, with guitars kicking into high gear, the track taking on a classic Maiden feel, and Leatherby vowing, “I won’t let you take this world to hell.” You almost can imagine him standing off the dark forces with torch in hand.

“Heavy Metal Heat” sounds like it jumped into a time machine in 1985, when “Headbangers Ball” would play bands like this front to back, and arrived in modern times, when we could use an anthem of this nature. The guys imagine a Friday night after a shit work week, the need to blow off some steam, and the promise of salvation delivered by heavy metal. It’s a fight song, really, and those who fell off from metal the last few years could try this on and feel like they never left. “Livin’ Dangerous” is a similar style of cut, with AC/DC-style guitar lines driving this forward, the song excelling in its simplicity and power, and the back end taking on a faster tempo that should lift you out of any doldrums. “Mastermind” has a sinister feel, with the bass pushing through the center, and the verses certainly are a lot of fun to behold. The soloing is majestic and punchy, and there’s another feeling of empowerment injected into the song. “Run for Your Life has rowdy guitar work that also gets a little chewy, and the simple, easy-to-sing-back chorus adds even more weight to this one. “Killer” is literally named, as it’s about someone who murders for thrills,  though as this one goes on, the subject matter is poked and told, “Time is up, you’re gonna fry.” It’s as catchy as a song about a murderer possibly can be. The band makes an odd choice with its closer “Save Me Now,” as they held one of the most memorable, infectious tracks for last. Here is where the Thin Lizzy influence really settles in, with strong vocals, a chorus that will never let go and just sticks inside your brain for days on end, and the guys hitting on all cylinders. Like those classic metal cuts were wont to do, the band returns to that chorus and gets everything they can out of it, letting the thing roll over and over until it fades out with the song. What a killer finish.

If you find you lost your way and can’t remember the last time metal truly made you smile because it doesn’t feel like as much of an escape, go a few rounds with Night Demon. “Curse of the Damned” is a catchy, awesomely fun album that will make you want to go out on Friday, roll down the windows, and do something dumb you’ll remember forever. Or at least until the next morning. If this thing can’t lift up your spirits and let you indulge in the power of darkness, you might be a lost cause.

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

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

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

Description-defying Black Cilice creates another horrifying, chilling journey on ‘Mysteries’

12Jacket_3mm_spine_all_sides.inddImagine you’re out at night, alone, with the wind whipping at you and cracking your skin. Except, you feel like someone or something is there with you, and whether that’s as a friend or a foe, you can’t help but notice a second presence. And then your hear an inhuman voice, enough to make your guts turn to liquid and your heart race, as you’re in the vicinity of something awful.

The scenario played over and over in my mind the first visit I had with “Mysteries,” the third full-length record from mysterious one-man Portuguese metal project Black Cilice, and it’s one that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how used to the surroundings I get. On the surface, it might seem like another lo-fi embracing black metal band looking to make the murkiest, most primitive of sounds. But dig deeper, and you’ll find cavernous melodies, entrancing horrors, and a voice designed to terrify you. At least, I think it’s a voice. What sound like vocals on these six songs could be mistaken for a ghoulish wind, a transmission from a long-dead soul that is begging to reach out and express every ounce of its torment. It’s just one chilling element of what, honestly, is a very strange, quite alien-like album that must be heard to be believed or understood, if that’s even possible.

Black Cilice is the product of a nameless musician who has been releasing music since 2009, when the first demo was released. Ever since then, the music has come in waves, with a number of demo and split recordings, and two other full-length records: 2011’s “A Corpse a Temple” and 2013’s “Summoning the Night.” Never has this band been an easy one to approach, and you’re kept at the same arm’s length on “Mysteries,” a record that really could not have been given a more fitting name. After countless listens, I still am trying to fully comprehend what’s going on and what this is all about. Not that I’m complaining.

“To Become” opens the record and immediately lets you know what you’re in for with this album. The sound is furiously drowned out, with an odd buzzing over top that seems to loop through every song, and indecipherable vocals that might as well be beams of static burn through the mix. Melodies build up like an oncoming solar storm that could rip the world’s communications to shreds, and the frost and hellish ice pack so hard, it feels like you’re lost on Hoth. “Into Morbid Trance” runs 7:15 and totally messes you up hard. Damaged riffs chug, and howls sound like they slip into and out of realms. The tempo drubs hard, and disarmingly sleek playing snakes its way through the fog. On “The Truth,” the noises bobs like its rollicking on a dark body of water, and chaos erupts, with scary transmissions swirling and mournful guitar work adding more levels of bleakness. The final moments haunt and moan, and the song eventually just disappears.

“Ceremonial Energy” feels nothing but negative, with searing leads battling with the sound muck, echoey vocals reaching out from the land of the dead, and the pace eventually sludging and trudging its way over you. The song eventually blows apart, with the pace hammering, noise whining, drums being pulverized, and the last remnants of a voice dying off. “A Prayer From Beyond” is fittingly titled, with the guitars stinging, noise splattering all over, and a heavy whirring that could make you feel like you’re locked in a vortex of hopelessness. There is heavy thrashing causing fires underneath, repetitious pounding that could drive you insane, and a thunderous assault that punishes you to the very end. Closer “From the Long Forgotten Past” shakes and disorients you from the start, with howling freezing your senses, a delirious tempo taking hold and upping the danger ante, and guitars that burn and char everything in front of it. Melodies arrive and have their say, doing battle with the sheets and sheets of noise, and it all comes to a stabbing, gushing conclusion.

Black Cilice’s music is for those who want to reach beyond what’s normally expected from a genre and explore the outer reaches where few dare to tread. A lot of bands and artists have tried similar aesthetics as what you’ll hear on “Mysteries,” but this project stands out for the absolute panic it will put into your heart and the detached, out-of-body-experience level of strangeness you will encounter. Yes, it’s early, but I wonder if you’ll hear another black metal album this adventurous and mystifying for the rest of 2015.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-cilice/180165665369041?sk=timeline

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.ironbonehead.de/

Hoest’s musical restlessness returns on Taake’s excellent sixth collection ‘Stidens hus’

TaakeIf one were to make a list of black metal bands that keep their style consistent, by the book, and devoid of any real surprising changes, you’d find yourself compiling one hell of a collection of names. You might even be able to fill an entire book full of culprits, which is funny considering black metal is supposed to be a genre that takes any rulebook and burns it to ash.

One band you could not put on that list is Taake, the one-man killing machine based in Norway and driven by the enigmatic and mysterious Hoest, a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “conventional.” Over the course of six records and two decades as a project, the music has been black metal to its core, but it also added many different colors, styles, and tastes into his madness. The music never has been predictable, sometimes making people turn their heads at what Hoest blends into his formula, but he doesn’t compromise and refuses to put parameters on his artwork. That same thing carries over into his new opus “Stidens hus,” an album released late last year in Europe by Dark Essence and that is seeing a domestic release this year by Candlelight Records.

Taake coverNow, it’s true Hoest has had a past that’s been a little bumpy. There was prison time for an assault charge. There also was, let’s call it “Swastika gate” since we have so many controversial gates going on, where he emerged on stage in Germany with the Nazi symbol painted on his chest. He has since adamantly denied his band has anything to do with Nazi sympathies and that his actions were more to shock than anything. Fine. Benefit of the doubt as it seems to be an isolated incident, and all of that can be put aside while discussing these seven new cuts that should be judged by their musical merit alone. That might seem a little odd considering a certain essay that ran on these pages a couple months back, but I don’t think Taake should be viewed as a band that is truly harmful to anyone and instead should be considered another black metal band that espouses darkness and misanthropy to release those dark elements into the world. OK, well maybe there is one way that Taake is conventional.

Opener “Gamle Norig” gets the proceedings off to a rousing start, with the guitars churning, melody sweeping in like a storm, and the vocals sounding creaky and vicious. The song’s pretty damn catchy, to be honest, and eventually the music goes into space and messes with your headspace. The track really begins to soar, sounding a bit like Rush at points, and the final minute explodes and blazes a path toward “Orm.” There, strong riffs and harsh growls mix together and conjure a sense of dread, with strange, prog-fueled movements, cool guitar leads that lean into textures slides, and gothy, wordless vocal melodies and murky strangeness creating a bizarre atmosphere. “Det fins en Prins” begins with guitar shrieks that pierce the ear drums and riffs that chug and thrash heavily. The song smothers over its 8:03 running time, with fresh, incentive melodies, ferocious growls that rage out of Hoest’s mouth, and boiling and buzzing riffs that push through to its psychedelic conclusion. “Stank” grinds ominously, with relentless pounding and a tempo that gets uglier as it goes on. The tempo breaks into a punk-fueled section that twists into spacious, surfy guitars and then back into the thorns.

“En Sang til Sand om Ildebrand” is an instrumental track that rages open, with melodic bursts sending colors spurting over rock, the bass lurching and slithering, and whispery vocals adding a serious chill to the air. The riffs begin to dominate again, with a frosty atmosphere emerging, more blistering punishment, and a dark, fever-rich adventure coming to a raucous end. “Kongsgaard bestaar” just explodes, with fierce, creaky growling returning, with the melodies going chilling and freezing. There’s a calm that blows in, but that’s temporary as the attack gets back into seeking blood, weird noises shoot in and confuse, and some of the playing actually feels sunburnt and shimmering. Closer “Vinger” opens with simmering riffs that eventually lead into speedy passages, the growls are vicious and devastating, and more punk-led playing shakes you to your core. There are weird sounds stitched in here that are like barnyard noises, but who knows what they really are? The track concludes with scraping growls, wailing melodies, and a finish that slams shut and leaves your hand jammed hard in the door.

Taake remains one of the most interesting, riveting bands in all of black metal, and this a project that truly never repeats itself. “Stidens hus” is another fantastic entry into the Taake canon, and it’s so multi-layered and furious, you’ll probably need several visits in order to absorb it all. Hoest has struck again, making black metal a more unpredictable, exciting place, and no matter what you say or think about this artist, you can’t argue that he defines the rebel spirit that’s supposed to be the heart of this music.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.manicmusiconline.com/

Or here: http://karismarecords.bigcartel.com/

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

Or here: http://www.darkessencerecords.no/

Mysterious Dead in the Manger remain hopeless, devastating on doomy, black new EP ‘Cessation’

Dead in the MangerGrief and human horror sound like great topics for a Monday, when hope and enthusiasm are at their lowest. At least for normal people. I can’t really account for those people who show up at 7 a.m. and are amped beyond belief for life.

So let’s jump head first into the new Dead in the Manger album “Cessation,” a miserable, furious display of six interconnected tracks that will make a lousy day seem completely bleak. They made a tremendous debut in 2013 with the fire-breathing, tumultuous “Transience,” a record that introduced the world to this mysterious band that added new levels of darkness into the metal community. This new entry deepens the disturbing elements they already unleashed and makes them even grimmer. The new songs share similar traits as the ones on their debut as they’re devoid of names other than labeled by parts, and the band still refuses to share their identities. Why unveil parts of this band they don’t see as important, like who they are and what they’ve done? This way, you can dig right into the music and absorb it for what it is with no prejudice or preconceived notions.

Dead in the Manger cover“Part I” begins the record, quite obviously, as the first moments of the song trickle cleanly and give the album an ominous, misleading introduction. The track then opens up into doomy punishment, giving the atmosphere a murky ambiance that feels like it could threaten at any moment. The song veers back and forth, with the tempo slowing down and boiling back up again, and the final seconds spilling melody and fire into “Part II,” which is clubbing and miserable from the start. The band heads into a black metal fury, with raspy growls emerging, melody mixing into the vicious machination, and more doom muddying the waters. There’s another vicious outburst, with the drums crushing bones into powder, the playing dizzying, and slow driving mauling bringing the song to a volcanic end. “Part III” spills noise into the scene, with a dusty industrial feel taking over, and then filthy riffs emerging. The riffs then drizzle down like a blood spray, with the band pounding away and the heaviness smothering faces.

“Part IV” blows open with fast, blistering playing, techy madness that comes out of nowhere and feels oddly fitting, and a tidal wave of destruction. There is cool, inventive guitar work, which makes the brain waves charge, and airy, spastic melodies that ring out hard. “Part V” starts with clean, fuzzy guitars, melodies that roll cleanly, and a weird fog that feels like the kind that emerges during the winter when warmer temperatures and rain start to defeat the ice. There’s a sense all along that something bad is brewing, and when that terror rises up, it’s in the form of vicious grinding and more face-splitting drumming. Closer “Part VI” is the longest at 8:06, but they take zero time to unload. The song explodes with riffs defacing, the assault coming fast and crazily, and the vocals sounding ugly and bloody. The tempo teases calm at times, as the clouds roll in, but they always unleash the fury again, with massive amounts of devastation and the band clubbing you over and over before the record subsides and lets you have a modicum of mercy. But you’re still in severe pain, so it’s not a lot of solace.

Dead in the Manger are well on their way to establishing themselves as one of the most vicious, hopeless (philosophically, that is) bands in the extreme metal arena. They don’t give a damn what they throw into their poisonous stew, as long as it maims and continues to give off a sense that everything they know is horrible and eventually going to destroy. “Cessation” will make you feel worse than you already do today, but look on the bright side: It’s only downhill from here! Right?

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

PICK OF THE WEEK: Abstracter’s smothering sludge doom brings hopelessness on ‘Wound Empire’

AbstracterEver have one of those weeks, or any period of time, where you feel like you are trapped with no hope of escape? One where the stress weighs down like an elephant on your chest, filling you with anxiety and a feeling that the chaos in your head isn’t going away any time soon?

That’s actually been the past couple of weeks for me, and it’s mainly work related as major projects come to a head, burst into flames, and leave us all back at the drawing board. I know there are far worse problems in the world, so let’s toss out the “woe is me” sentiments, but it’s still been complex and, at times, a little disheartening. As anyone who has read this page over a long period of time probably is predicting, yes, I did find some very suitable music for this stretch. I needed stuff that felt like the world exploding, black soot raining down, and there being no hope of escape. Right, I don’t seek out happy, uplifting music when I’m in a trench. I want to hear something that sounds like it’s right down there with me, and Abstracter’s punishing second record “Wound Empire” more than fit the bill. This is four tracks and 42 minutes of pure aggression.

FINAL_ABSTRACTER_jacketThis Oakland-based band piles doom, crust, and sludge on top of each other, building a toxic waste dump of noise that can be oppressive and impossible to navigate your way out of. And that’s been perfect for matching a dark period, one where I needed to hear music that identified with my volatile mental state. The band has been active for the past five years, first heading out into noise-infested waters before the group starting really coming together. Abstracter—vocalist Mattia Alagna, guitarist Robin Kahn, bassist Donovan Kelley, drummer Emad Dajani—recorded this thing last summer, when things were at their brightest and most alive. But you never get the sense they drank in the rays and stretched out. This document is so full of darkness, hopelessness, and ashen fury, that it sounds like it would have to come from one of the darkest times of the year, when many people’s mentality is bleak and eroded. Kind of like right now.

Oh, and heads up: This thing is out on like 19 different formats and labels. What we’re going to do for the buy-here link is send you to the Bandcamp site. They have a link for all of those formats, but we’ll still provide separate links to the labels, all of which you should explore if you haven’t already. We good on that? I guess it doesn’t matter, because that’s what we’re doing.

“Lightless” opens the record, a massive 10:56-long splitter that dumps feedback everywhere and lets penetrating noise ring out. The band slips into slow pummeling that takes its time but smothers you with heaviness, and vicious growls emerge that sound monstrous. The duration of the song is meaty and massive, giving you very little room to breathe, and with a few minutes left, the chaos subsides and lets calm take over. That doesn’t last, as it goes back into such a devastating pattern, you might be compelled to throw a table out of a window. The track eventually bleeds out and spills into “Open Veins,” which has quite the ominous opening. Guitars begin to trickle down, with heavy melodies gaining control and other sections of the music getting mired in muck. There are moody, simmering passages, buzzing lurching that pulls you into the earth, and more sludging kicking up and spewing cinders. The band really starts wailing away with a couple minutes left, and the final moments are positively cataclysmic.

“Cruciform” starts with noise hanging in the air like a death cloud, and the music kicks into a calculating, violent pace. The vocals sound infernally delivered, like if you get too close they could burn the hairs off your face, and strong melodies snake in and out of the thick tributaries of sound. Like all of the songs on this record, there are plenty of tempo shifts, bringing the pace down at times, detonating explosives at others, but no matter what they’re doing, it’s always emotional and true. As the song winds down, Alagna’s vocal hit a savage wail, and the band drives into a smashing finish that bring things to a volcanic end. Closer “Glowing Wounds” begins with things pulled back, the picture allowed to develop, and clean vocals that sound purposely detached and robotic. The first half of the song keeps things even-keeled but still girthy, but the latter portion is where the track get smashing and dangerous. Growls return, sounding like they could shred vocal cords, while the band unleashes spirited, incredibly heavy play that pours added fuel to the fires and even injects some atmosphere in the horrors. The final minute is absolutely blistering, with the guys punishing your wounds, darkening everything around you, and robbing you of any chance you’ll know hope again.

This is a massive, earth-crushing record, with Abstracter stepping out as a band you need to know and respect right now. “Wound Empire” is their most devastating, adulation-deserving to date, and each visit I had with the album, I got sucked in more and more to all of the madness going on inside. This can equal and resonate with any tumult currently going on in your life, and maybe it’ll absorb just a bit of your dark energy as you try to forge ahead on your path, knocking down every annoying barrier in your wake.

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

To buy the album in any format, go here: http://abstracter.bandcamp.com/album/wound-empire

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SentientRuin

And here: http://fragilebranch.com/

And here: http://www.7degrees-records.de/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/hatecof/timeline

And here: http://anout.bandcamp.com/

And, finally, here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/

Scottish post-metal dreamers Falloch regroup, create drama with ‘This Island, Our Funeral’

FallochAs much as people seem to get excited about the holiday season and all the comings and goings of that time, the best part of winter for me is right about now. There aren’t a million things to worry about, the snow falls a little thicker, and you can walk around outside and get that nice gust of freezing air bursting in your lungs. This really is a great time to let everything go.

Some equally adventurous music can help make this time even more rewarding, and one of those records for me since the New Year dawned has been “This Island, Our Funeral,” the second album from Scottish post-metal band Falloch. You won’t find very much aggression and skullduggery on this album, nor on their excellent 2011 debut “Where Distant Spirits Remain,” but that’s by design. Instead of viciousness, these guys revel in rich, gusting atmospherics, riveting melodies, and actual signing, which has become something of a rarity among the bulk of metal bands. Even if this wasn’t what the members had in mind seasonally when they wrote and recorded this record, its dropping in the States right at the heart of winter is ideal, as it soundtracks nature and the whitening of everything wonderfully.

Adobe Photoshop PDFFalloch did go through major changes since the last album, with biggest being former vocalist Andy Marshall moving on and forming his new band Saor, with whom we will visit next week. In his place is Tony Dunn, who also contributes guitar work, and he’s an admirable replacement for a singer whose work was etched deeply in this project, though he still has a little bit further to go before he truly earns the reins of this band. He has time. The rest of the band is comprised of guitarist/keyboard player Scott McLean (along with Marshall, a founding member of the band), and other newcomers since the last album bassist Ben Brown, and drummer Steve Scott. Now a full band bursting at every seam with power, they seem poised to get their future back on track, with this second record a serious step toward achieving their larger goals.

The record gets going with 9:17 “Torradh” that takes some time to get moving, but mostly because it’s setting up an ambiance. It’s initially breezy, with whistles lending a woodsy spirit, and then it opens up and launches strong melodies both musically and vocally. The volume and tempo keep pushing forward, and the band’s passion is evident, finally winding down with glimmering and trickling keys. “For Life” has a blistering start, with the vocals rising up with strength and the guitars going gazey. The track calms, letting acoustics to spill in and bring a rustic feel to the proceedings, and the singing picks up again and carries the track. Great soloing bubbles up, giving the track a glorious, epic feel, and the cut has a heavily textured, colorful finish that bleeds out into the air. “For Uir” has quiet, reflective guitars, wordless melodies, and a ballad-like sense to it, letting them get as melancholic as anywhere else on the record and providing a gasp of fresh air for listeners. “Brahan” then erupts, with some of the most aggressive playing on the album, the vocals delving into fierce growls, and everything blazing. Dunn goes clean again and lets his singing voice take over, with the band exploding with energy behind him. Later they deliver a slow-pounding finish that takes the song to its finish.

Another shorter track follows and paves the way for the two album-closing epics. “-“ is ever so brief, with pulsating noises creating cloud coverage, cosmic winds whipping through, and the brief trip pulling into “I Shall Build the Mountains,” a 10:31 journey. The vocals are a high point of this one, with Dunn sounding confident and in command of the band, and the music taking multiple dips and turns, from calmer, more tranquil tones to bursting, belowing explosions. The bass heads into jazzy, proggy territory at one point, which adds an interesting tone, and the final moments blast open again, with the music chugging hard, the band unloading everything have, and Dunn slipping into a more sing-songy approach. “Sanctuary” runs 12:17, and it’s the one place where it feels the band loads a little too much into a single cut. It certainly has its high points, with more emotional playing, storming pounding that pushes the tempo, and vocals that reach new heights. But it feels a few minutes too long, as the last quarter of the song treads too much water (like a young Thomas Magnum!), robbing the cut of its final fireworks that should leave your blood pumping. Instead, you’re just kind of ready for it to be over. Honestly, it’s a minor quibble on what’s otherwise a pretty solid piece of work.

Falloch have some uneven spots on “This Island, Our Funeral,” but for the most part it’s a rewarding, enthralling experience. Their style of metal is such a fresh gust of air considering most of what I hear these days constantly goes for the jugular, and I’m never going to be upset about a band that takes me on a sonic adventure. It’s great to hear these guys back on track, making strong music, and working toward being a part of metal’s future fabric. I would imagine that whatever they dream up for their next record will be the band’s strongest vision yet, provided they stay together and gel.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/site/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.manicmusiconline.com/

Lord Dying add brains to their sludgy brawn on impressive second record ‘Poisoned Altars’

Lord DyingAnyone angling for a good, savage beating would be wise to spend some time with the record of focus for today. Yeah, no overblown intro or anything, because it isn’t needed. This thing is out to flatten you, so it’s really best if we just start there.

Lord Dying already made a nice impression on their 2013 debut record “Summon the Faithless,” an album that signaled their arrival but also hinted that there could be greater things ahead for the Portland-based doom-sludge quartet. That idea pays off on “Poisoned Altars,” their blistering sophomore record that should find favor among fans of like-minded bands such as High on Fire, Black Tusk, and even Mastodon at their earliest and most savage stages. Added to those elements are penchants to delve into brainy thrash territory, especially with the guitar work that has inventive, unpredictable turns that bands of this ilk often don’t take. That adds new colors to the doom and sludge fields and helps set this band apart from their many peers.

Lord Dying coverLord Dying is comprised of formidable players who go for your guts when they play. Vocalist/guitarist Erik Olson, guitarist Chris Evans, bassist Don Capuano, and drummer Rob Shaffer (who just joined the band last year and who you might know better from his kit work with Dark Castle) may have some creative flashes in their music, but for the most part, they’re not here to dazzle you. They’re here to bury you, piling burly riffs on top of each other, bruising your eardrums with monstrous growls and shouts, and just pounding away at your will. It makes for a really fun record, one that will make you pay a physical toll when all is said and done.

The title track cracks open this beast, with crunchy riffs, throaty growling that commands, and a trudging pace that makes it feel like tires spinning in mud, sending things spewing. There’s a hint of a hook over the chorus, though it’s burly as hell, and shouts of, “Rotting in our bones!” pays off the track’s intent. “The Clearing at the End of the Path” comes in next, chugging heavily and unleashing more furious vocals. The song is crushing and defiant for the most part, but eventually the guitars take an interesting turn toward progressive and thrashy, like early ’90s Megadeth when they were at their apex. The track eventually gets back on the steamrolling rails, with the shouts sounding inspired by hardcore, as Olson wails, “We contemplate escape.” “A Wound Outside of Time” is built on a damn cool riff, as the music is chunky and aggressive, with Olson commanding, “Follow us into the flames.” The guitar soloing is rock solid and charged up, with the hammering continuing up to the very last second. “An Open Sore” is one of the album’s longer cuts at 6:04, and it’s punchy and aggravated right from the start. There are some lines that are roughly sung, with Olson vowing, “I won’t rest until you’re gone,” and visually you get a feel for Apocalypse, celestial bodies compromised, and a fiery, tumultuous scene.

“Offering Pain (And an Open-Minded Center)” also has strong riffs and a thunderous disposition. The vocals are mean and gritty, and some melody bursts out of the muck, soars, and hits glorious highs. But things darken again, bringing the band back to thrashy volatility, spilling again into progressive corners and letting some artistic torches shine. “Suckling at the Teat of the She-Beast” not only is a wonderfully named song, it’s also a battering ram of power, blasting you right in the chest during its opening seconds. The track pushes perilously toward death metal at times, boiling and charging hard, and some exploratory soloing later in the song lets some weird cosmic energy into the room. “(All Hopes of a New Day) … Extinguished” is intricate and jerky, like riding on a wooden roller coaster that hasn’t been inspected in years. You’ll get pushed and pulled all around, with the pace slowing down and speeding up, and the meaty, lumbering riffs causing added bruising. Closer “Darkness Remains” is muddy and filthy, mauling everything in its wake but also showing some sophistication in the guitar work. The lead playing is mind blowing at times, with finger tapped lines blazing forth and the rest of the band serving up damage. The guys practically stand on the gas pedal over this 6:53 track, only letting up once it reaches its final resting place in a bed of poisonous drone.

It’s awesome to hear Lord Dying making leaps and bounds on this new record, and it seems like they’re still feeling their way toward their ultimate goals. “Poisoned Altars” is a hefty step forward, where they pay off that promise shown on their debut and demonstrate their willingness to stand out among a very crowded field of doom and sludge bands. These guys are monsters through and through, and you’ll know that for sure once this eight-cut collection bulldozes you.

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

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

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

Sumokem’s smoke-filled debut EP filled with ancient tragedy, witches and, of course, pot

SumokemIt’s story time, everyone, so gather around. It’s the one about an ancient emperor who is crushed after the loss if his mother, reserved to a life of debilitating ailments, and only has hope of being cured from a witch who lives in the mountains. There is love and tragedy, traveling beyond this realm for fuller enlightenment, and, of course, magical turtles.

What we have here is one of the most elaborate, somewhat ridiculous stories ever told about pot. I know. “Dopesmoker” is pretty out there as well. But really, what stories told my metal musicians aren’t a little bit whacky, and when marijuana is involved in the tale, you can bet things are going to go haywire. But if you read the synopsis of the story told through Sumokem’s EP “The Madness of Lu Shen Ti Vol. 1,” you actually have a really involved, rather interesting tale that, yeah, still is a weird adventure with pot as one of the main heroes. But it also has enough rich characters (including the tortured title role), twists and turns, and mythology to fill a volume of books. We get started on this debut EP, where the plot begins to unfurl. By the time you get through these five songs steeped in traditional doom and psychedelic rambling, not only will you want to learn more about our characters, you’ll want to keep following this promising band wherever it goes next.

PrintThis EP is a pretty sturdy document, and people into bands such as Black Sabbath, Sleep, Hawkwind, or Pallbearer are going to have a blast listening to this thing. Oh, speaking of Pallbearer, Sumokem hail from the same Little Rock, AR, haunts that produced that band, so there’s some bragging rights for that city’s inhabitants. Two dooms bands this good from the same place? Inconceivable! Even scarier is Sumokem—vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jacob Sawrie, guitarist Josh Ingram, bassist Alan Wells, drummer Drew Skarda—only have been a creative unit since 2013, and they’re already this far along artistically.

Our saga begins with “Linger,” a short, acoustic-driven introduction that feels like the book lid crackling open. That paves the way for “The Doctor,” where the doom hammer drops, melody begins burning on high, and Sawrie’s excellent singing erupts. His voice is perfectly suited for this style of epic doom, but he’s got a classic rock bend to his singing, which is likely where the mention of Foreigner in their bio originates. And it fits. The lead guitar work is just tremendous here, as well as on the rest of the record, building the drama and keeping the excitement high, and eventually the song gets chunkier and heavier. The band heads into muddier terrain later in the track, kicking up grime, and the finish clubs you hard. “The Death” is the height of tragedy, with rustic acoustics opening, only to be leveled by swaggering guitar riffs. The playing is churning and tough in spots, paying off the event that changes the emperor forever, with Sawrie wailing about “crying in anguish” and “a life cut short.” As the song reaches its closing sequence, the singing turns to monstrous growls, which adds a proper element of grief and anger, while a psychedelic haze brings the cut to a foggy finish.

“The Emperor” also starts quietly and calmly, as acoustics squeak and tremble. Trippy guitars bubble to the surface, feeling mind altering and numbing, with the singing a deeper register and the tempo taking its time. It’s heavy though, no doubt, and the lead guitars create some real fireworks that are passionate and exciting. The vocals begin to soar and reach for the skies, as the band thrashes harder than anywhere on this record, and soloing adds a sense of power and glory. Growling returns, the pace is mashing and volatile, and the whole thing blazes to a satisfying finish. Closer “Farewell” is an odd one. Acoustics ring out, layering melodies on top of each other and establishing a spacey frame of mind. You keep floating along with this thing, and when it fades out in just three minutes, you can’t help but feel there’s more message to absorb. And there is, as sounds re-emerge a minute later, with strange transmissions, detached growls that could have been lifted from Deathspell Omega’s playbook, and an ambiance that seems to be going for that next plane of awareness, a state we will be in until Sumokem return with the second half of this story.

I’m an absolute sucker for the style of doom Sumokem create, and the fact there is a pretty extensive tale woven into it makes it even more interesting. Their first EP is a damn good one, a collection anyone who has even a cursory interest in the bands mentioned in this piece should explore. “The Madness of Lu Shen Ti Vol. 1” is an introduction to a group in its very early stages who clearly are leaps and bounds ahead of where most bands are on their first recording. The sky isn’t the limit for Sumokem. The cosmos and multiple planes of existence are.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Caïna’s deathly asteroid-collision story colors dark ‘Setter of Unseen Snares’

CainaI am not ashamed to admit I have my fair share of dark moments. It comes from a lifetime of battling anxiety that ranges from crippling to manageable, most times revolving around my health, the health of loved ones, and the fear we could be wiped from the planet at any moment. Those things are always there, and no matter how good things are at any current moment, I keep waiting for the door to slam closed, crushing my fingers in its wake.

From the time I have spent with Caïna’s catalog, I get that same sense form its creator Andrew Curtis-Brignell. He’s no stranger to dark subject matter, the kind that gnaws at your insides and forces you to confront the blacker, more unpleasant aspects of existence. On Caïna’s new album “Setter of Unseen Snares,” Curtis-Brignell tackles a story concept that is the ultimate in hopelessness and lonesomeness: The record focuses on the last surviving family on Earth and their attempt to escape a giant asteroid that’s setting on crushing them. That very idea fills me with dread and worry, because it’s not something that isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But following along with the six tracks on this album, I feel like I can cope because sometimes you have to say fuck it and throw caution to the wind. What else are you going to do? But make no mistake, you’ll take an emotional journey here that will force you confront a future that might be unpleasant.

Caina coverCurtis-Brignell’s work here is his freshest, most varied to date. All along, his music has been morphing, growing, changing, and adapting, and if you followed his career, you’d know this from how each new release has offered something different. This is his first new full-length since 2013’s “Litanies of Abjection,” and his sixth overall. He’s been busy the past couple years though, issuing a number of EP, split, a small releases, but it all builds to this record, an album dripping with passion, heart, and a foreboding sense that at any time, it could all go black.

The record has an incredibly interesting start, as “Introduction” uses dialog from Rust Cohle from the first episode of “True Detective,” lamenting humankind’s role in reproducing and surviving and adhering to a system in which we were given no choice. This is the first instance I have run across of “True Detective” being used to enhance the messages on a record of any type, so, well done. That leads into barn-storming “I Am the Flail of the Lord,” a thunderous, assaulting number that feels like the Earth’s crust already has been penetrated by that cosmic force and is spraying land, rock, and water all over the place. The vocals are roars, an unsettling fury that rips into your soul as he howls, “All life is blasphemy!” The pace settles a bit, and some misleading calm trickles in, but then the song tears open again, with melody bleeding out and a vicious finish. The title cut follows, where Curtis-Brignell is joined on vocals by Michael Ribeiro. The guitars are blurry and chilly at first, but then tumult arises and we’re off to a dash through maniacal chaos and occasional streams of serenity. The vocals are monstrous, the drums are just crushing, and all of this panic eventually dissolves into the air.

“Vowbound” opens with swirling sounds that could dizzy you, with drubbing drums and chugging guitars emerging and taking control. The growls are harsh again, with black metal-style violence and gazey dreaming mixing together to duel with each other. The final moments do quake you, but there’s also a ton of atmosphere packed into this track. “Applicant/Supplicant” is moody at the start before it blows up and rages heavily. “We are the damned!” Curtis-Brignell roars, as the song manages to find a level of catchiness amid all of the fire. Things begin to spiral out of control musically, hinting at the terror present in the story, and the final minutes slip into psychedelic gothiness and clobbering blasts. Closer “Orphan,” which comprises the entire B side of the vinyl release, is one of the most interesting, vulnerable, daring songs of Caïna’s entire history, and it knocked me for a loop first time I heard it. And every time since. Vice Martyr handles the vocals on the front end of the track, sounding a bit like Roger Waters at his most desperate, and Laurence Taylor takes over the more vicious second part. The song runs 15:28, and it’s an amazing final curtain for this story, a song so impressive that it’s going to be tough to find a real rival for it the final 11 months of 2015. The song drips with emotion, sorrow, and desperation, it’s raw and in pain, and when the line, “I’ll never know home,” arrives, you can’t help but feel the abyss of hope, as death comes hurtling toward Earth, about to cancel out the world’s last remaining inhabitants.

What Curtis-Brignell accomplishes with “Setter of Unseen Snares” is extraordinary and a new, enthralling high-water mark for this project’s run. Yeah, the destruction of humanity is a very metal topic, but Curtis-Brignell handles it with a humanity, emotion, and depth most of his contemporaries generally wouldn’t apply to such subject matter. From the chilling open to that cataclysmic closer, it’s an amazing snapshot of staring death in the eyes, knowing your destruction can’t be staved off and that you’ll have to witness and absorb every moment. It’s enough to make your heart bleed to death, or it might be the jolt you need to embrace what’s in front of you now and make the best of it.

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

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

Or here: http://hatecof.bigcartel.com/

Or here: http://skinandbonesrecs.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: https://www.facebook.com/hatecof

And here: https://www.facebook.com/SkinAndBonesRecords