PICK OF THE WEEK: Oranssi Pazuzu shove their psyche black metal into the cosmos on ‘Värähtelijä’

Photo by Pauliina Lindell

Photo by Pauliina Lindell

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the idea of where ones goes when one dies. Being brought up Catholic, I was told of heaven and hell and all of that, but for some reason, my mind always wandered further than that. I always imagined what it would be like to be a soul floating through space for all of eternity. I guess I still kind of think about that.

Finnish metal sprawlers Oranssi Pazuzu apparently had some of those same ideas in mind when creating their new record “Värähtelijä.” This fourth LP from the band, their first since 2013’s world-toppling “Valonielu,” takes the band’s psychedelic black visions even further, pushing them into galaxies well past our own, where we can see stars and visions we never have before. Of course, that experience will take place in your mind, where anything is possible, so no matter where you travel on this seven-track, 70-minute record, it’s sure to be an experience like no other you’ve had before.

Oranssi PazuzuOranssi Pazuzu have been haunting minds for nearly a decade now, having carved out four full-length efforts in that time and become one of the most forward-thinking bands in all of metal. Its members–guitarist/vocalist Jun-His, guitarist Moit, bassist Ontto, keyboard/organ/effects master Evill, drummer Korjak–really work past just the black metal spectrum here, pulling in doom, Krautrock, heavy psychedelics, and elements of post-rock. It’s not that these shades weren’t a part of the band’s music before. It’s just that they have a heavier hand here and really make this a fascinating piece of work. It’s really impressive and immersive hearing how they mix so many parts together to come up with something so well blended and riveting.

Our journey begins on “Saturaatio” that spreads mesmerizing weirdness across the universe before it starts to unleash its psychedelic strangeness. Over the 11:58 running time, cosmic blasts tear open places for lights to shine through, and the creaky growling swells behind, as organs spill down and the guitars go into trippy atmosphere. Later the song gets grittier, as it twists and prods, calms into a circle of drumming, and lets swirling stardust take it to its end. “Lahja” keeps the mind trip going over the bustling drums and the entrancing melodies. As the hypnosis builds, growls stretch and bubble, and deranged guitars mix into everything, keeping the pattern moving and circling, which might lead you toward a thousand-yard stare. “Värähtelijä” is intoxicating from the start, with the vocals humming, the elements building, and the track feeling like it’s swimming through a dream. The growls bubble under the surface, while the guitars begin snaking through the piece, and the tempo again mystifies. There is some torment and tangling as the song winds to a close, and it swirls through the sky and into “Hypnotisoitu viharukous.” That cut lets off steam, while it gets more raucous as it goes speeding up and colliding into howled vocals and keys that zap all over the place. Wild cries are belted out, with codeine syrup-drizzled guitars making you numb and settling you into the temporary calm. From there, a final eruption strikes, while sounds woosh and pummel, and the track slowly dissipates.

“Vasemman käden hierarkia” is the longest cut here at 17:39, and it starts off amid sci-fi bubbles hazy guitars, and shimmering psyche thunder. Weird, spacey synth swings in, with noises shooting like lasers, keys blaring, and black metal-style guitars adding a level of darkness to it all. The track then explodes, with a rage ripping through the piece before an extended section with the band unloading alien transmissions. Vocals later lurch in again, as the track plays with tempos, shrieks dash your body, and the piece ends in a pit of fire and corrosion. “Havuluu” has a playful, jazzy start, as the song plods along and jangles. Growls merge into the track, while guitars dizzy and drive the strange pace, and a pocket of chants arrive and chill the flesh. The track then goes on a mind warp, with the growls creating havoc and spiraling melodies putting a cap on everything. Closer “Valveavaruus” runs 10:38 and starts in a noise swarm. We head down a claustrophobic, galactic path, as the vocals warble over top, and it all merges into a dose of serenity. Surfy guitars situate themselves and tease your mind, while ominous clouds emerge and completely enrapture. In the final moments, the keys are pumped and stymie, all of the noises pulsate, and the track heads back to weird worlds to haunt other inhabitants.

Oranssi Pazuzu continue to morph from their original state and push boundaries, and because of that, they’re one of the most interesting and exciting bands in metal. They may use the cosmos as a base, but they never float anywhere too long, as there is an entire universe for them to explore. “Värähtelijä” is an adventurous triumph for the band, a challenge to the rest of the metal to get on their level. If they dare try.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

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

Temple of Gnosis’ utterly odd storytelling, abrasive sounds swirl on ‘De Secretis Naturae…’

temple-of-gnosis-promo-photo_(1)There are records that are not meant to be digested and understood first time around. To be challenged is a good thing, and having to spend time to have music relate to you can be a satisfying experience. For example, I had a really hard time getting into Faith No More’s “Angel Dust” when it first landed. But weeks later after much exploration, it transformed my tastes.

I’m not suggesting this record is on the same par as “Angel Dust,” but “De Secretis Naturae Alchymica,” the debut from one-man project Temple of Gnosis, certainly falls into the category of records that need some time. To put it bluntly, it is really bizarre. I can see people having no patience for this thing and rejecting it mere minutes into its run. I have a pretty open mind when it comes to metal, and I had to take some time to figure out exactly what I just heard. I’m still trying to figure out a way to convey just what it is you get on this seven-track, 46-minute collection. I guess we’ll work our way through that. So, even as strange as this record is, I could tell from the first time through that there was something here for sure. The more I listened, and the further I delved into this record, the more I enjoyed what I was hearing and was intrigued by the chaos.

Temple of Gnosis coverAs noted, this band is a single-artist effort courtesy of H.M.T., who hails from Belgrade and got this project off the ground last year. Debut EP “Mysterivm Magnvm” was delivered in limited number not long afterward, and it was merely a precursor to what would meet us on “De Secretis Naturae Alchymica.” The music here is dark and foreboding, and the vocals are some of the strangest parts. Sometimes they are spoken, but in a way that sounds like it’s setting the stage for a videogame or a movie. They are creaky and dramatic, always pushing the plot forward. At other times, there are savage growls that work their way into the mix of smeary doom, death, and black metal that he swirls to his command and uses to mystify. And confuse.

“Unto the Earth” is one that feels like the stage-setter for an apocalyptic game, with dark synth wafting in, and the alien-like dialog beginning to plan the seeds. Talk of philosophers and witches are afoot, while spacey weirdness settles in and sends you on your way to “Serpetnivm.” There, the doom drapes drop, while organs swell and the drums begin to decimate. The vocals turn to cavernous growls, feeling chilling and inhuman, while later they warble while the music sends cosmic charges. Dialog returns, while we head back into doom horror, chants and oddness swell, and a long synth passage takes us out. “Sol Katharsis” again feels like something that originates in deep space, with haunting organs pouring down, and a thick doom fire begins to burn and generate thick black smoke. Blistering power and noisy ambiance mix together, and a beastly, yet liturgical, final few minutes let the song settle into dust.

“Tree of Life” opens amid a storm, with birds chirping and an elegantly doomy passage unfurling. There’s a strange groove to the melody here, as well as a ghostly chilliness before the guitars warm up and begin bustling. The growls bubble underneath with abrasive guitars creating wounds and monstrous howls caving in your chest. Then the pace turns, the storming re-emerges, and the creaky dialog tells the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge. The tale never has sounded so scary. “Discipvli H.Trismegistvs” is another slab of dark doom, with warped speaking, searing growls, and bells chiming, seeming to hint at bad things ahead. The track plods along, as dialog that sounds delivered by a death god spreads, and the track grinds to an end. “The Twelve Keys” has bells sounding, with a cloud of murky sound hovering over, and buzzing dialog cutting paths. The song has a rather glacial pace, scraping across the earth while guitars burn, voices swirl, and the track fades into the dark. Closing instrumental “Absolvtio” is almost like a launching off to push the record and Temple of Gnosis back into the clouds, with a haze your head can swim in and the final moments trickling off into the ether.

I’m curious to hear the reaction to “De Secretis Naturae Alchymica,” as it should vary wildly. I can see people running for cover and reacting with baffled confusion. But I really like this thing, and as strange and off-putting as it may seem on the surface, it contains a lot of mystery and substance underneath. Curiosities such as Temple of Gnosis are a great thing, and I’m super curious to hear what H.M.T. dreams up next.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://eshop.atmf.net/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.atmf.net/

Nordic assault unit Totem Skin pour emotion and fiery playing into new mauler ‘Weltschmerz’

totem skinIs it too much to ask that more music that comes down the pike be filled with, you know, feelings? I know life isn’t devoid of that type of thing. But for a site that bases its enjoyment of music almost entirely on feeling, it’s a joy to find something that feels like the people behind it felt the exact same way about what they were creating.

If someone were to tell me that Norway’s Totem Skin literally bled for their art, I would not be surprised. Their amalgamation of metallic hardcore, classic screamo, and fiery ambition is on full display with their crushing second record “Weltschmerz.” At times, they sound like a band that could fit alongside legends such as Converge but also have the same furor of Young and in the Way and Trap Them, making for a volcanic experience for the entire family. Oh, and I mentioned feelings. This thing is erupting with them as the band– dual vocalists Glenn Zettersten and Henrik Dahlqvist, guitarist Christoffer Öster, drummer Sebastian Engström, bassist Johan Wiberg–bear their hearts, which are gushing with plasma and bound to smear you with every last ounce of their sweat and tears. It’s a hell of a collection, a worthy follow-up to debut “Still Waters Run Deep,” and hopefully it captures the minds and spirits of even more people.

Totem skin cover“Always Ire” hints at calm when it begins, as clean notes trickle, but then the blazes are lit, and off they go. The track hits total fury, with wild howls, heavy bursts of emotion, and later some gazey guitars work that glistens over top. The final moments rain down hard, with manic vocals leading into “Longing Leans and Beckons” that has a super upbeat melody and then begins to churn away. The shrieks and wails again display force, while melodic guitars slip in, the pace marches hard, and another explosion strikes before the track subsides. “Reckless Recluse” chars right off the bat, with throaty, death-like growls exploding and the band hitting a thrashy high. Later, the pot simmers and lets off steam, while the vocals continue their assault as a strange, baffling fog settles in and chokes away. “The Mouth of Man” unleashes melodies, tearing into your flesh and going into full throttle. The chorus is riotous and could be a huge highlight live, while the back half of the song goes back and forth from pulling you out of the waves to driving you back in, face-first.

“Pretend” comes to life like a lava flow threatening whatever’s in its wake, and then it ignites. Our dual vocalists trade barbs back and forth, with forceful singing intertwining with the monstrous growls. A melodic front nears, something at which they are so good, and then everything just spills over, like wildlings over the wall. The mauling just keeps coming at a fever pace until the final notes fade and then bleed into “Distant Visitant.” Here, the drums crash down, guitars spiral out of control and spew poison, and the band unloads a ton of bricks that hit and crush everything. Closer “I De Blindas Rike Är Den Enögde Kung” is the longest track at  8:46, with a steely start that takes some time to develop, and once it does, it heads right into the dark mist where no one possibly could know what lurks. The bulk of the song is mesmerizing and numbing before the chugging hits and the guitars get sinewy. The vocals finally arrive about seven minutes in, adding a cathartic blow that unravels savagery and madness that mix with all of the blinding colors and drive the album into a closing wall of static.

Totem Skin’s power and  passion are not to be denied, and their work on “Weltschmerz” smolders from beginning to end. They aren’t just here to pile up style points, though they can do that as well, but instead want you to experience the same things they are. It’s a rousing success of a record that can inject some fire and energy into a heavy music world that surely can use it.

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

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

Or here: http://store.deathwishinc.com/category/PROTAGONIST.html

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Psyche dreams on High Priest of Saturn’s minds with hazy ‘Son of Earth and Sky’

HPoSDriving home from work near dusk, I tend to bask in the oranges and purples that splash the horizon, as the sun tucks itself in for the day. That always get my imagination going as I gaze off into the distance (you know, at red lights) and think about the beyond. When that time of day comes later during the summer, my sky worship often is accompanied by an adult beverage (not in the car at this point!) to numb me as I appreciate what’s in front of me.

Every time I have listened to “Son of Earth and Sky,” the second record from Nordic psyche dreamers High Priest of Saturn, it’s made me think of that exact time of of the day. Funny enough, for all of my visits with the album, I haven’t ingested it at that time. I guess I need to fix that. The band’s mix of scorching psych, doom, and vintage rock reminds of artists such as Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, and Witchcraft, and the five songs that spread over this record easily can grab your daydreams and pull you toward the sun and stars for a journey that will push the boundaries of your mind. I get lost in these songs every time I hear them, and their healthy blend of magic from the past informed by the present and future is utterly intoxicating.

HPOS coverHigh Priest of Saturn have been around about a half decade now, debuting in 2013 with their great self-titled debut, a 4-track, 41-minute album that only hinted at what was ahead for them. On this new record, the band–Merethe Heggset (vocals, guitar, bass, organ), Martin Sivertsen (guitars), Andreas Hagen (drums, guitars), Ole Kristian Malmedal (organ, Fender Rhodes piano)–the band pushes its ambition even further into the stratosphere. Everyone sounds in perfect harmony with one another, and not just in the musical sense, that these songs do an amazing job building into creations that go in places you don’t expect when they start.

“Aeolian Winds” is your 10:34 opener, with a heavy doom storm hanging overhead, and the first mind-altering waves of organs bleeding heavily. Heggset’s bewitching singing is a little washed out, giving it a numbing feel, and as it buzzes along, it gets hazier and mystifying. Later, we head into space, with a trippy section pushing in, the playing really catching fire, and the smoking display stretching to the finish. “Ages Move the Earth” has a strong opening, with guitars rumbling, and the melodies encircling. Organs form a fog that hovers over everything, while Heggset’s singing feels hushed yet powerful, pushing the tale along. The playing conjures the sense of an incense-like smear as the song rolls along, and the final minutes are made up of an electric, high-powered jam session.

The 8:41-long title cut moves quietly at first, feeling like a cool trip through the heart of nighttime. Keys drizzle like honey over the track, with the song taking on a Pink Floyd vibe, especially when it comes to Heggset’s singing and phrasing. The guitars fire up and spread a bluesy haze, with the organs glimmering along with them, and the band pushing harder and unleashing heat. Heggset’s singing re-enters the scene toward the end, and the band lets the piece slow to a closing crawl. “The Warming Moon” bristles as it opens, with fuzzy doom and singing that reaches for the clouds. Then all of a sudden, the pace bursts and the band starts trucking heavier than ever before. The organs char, every elements hits its groove, and the cauldron’s boil slowly fades out. Instrumental closer “The Flood of Waters” starts easily, with a cooling effect, and as the track goes, it builds intensity. The guitars starts to sizzle alongside the steaming organs, and their mesmerizing formula provides one final mind-twisting jolt before they head off into the night.

High Priest of Saturn are building toward their creative apex, and “Son of Earth and Sky” is an enthralling step toward their ultimate destiny. The band is on fire here, though they do a great job tempering the embers until they need to rage in full. This is a record perfect for when the daylight begins to yawn, the sky changes faces, and you’re ready to think about what lies beyond the horizons.

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

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

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

Derna bubbles to surface again as his Ritual Chamber conjures furious noise on ‘Obscurations’

Ritual ChamberPunishment and misery remain crucial tenets of death metal. Sure, inspiration points and directions have diverted the style of metal further away from these points every year, and there really isn’t anything wrong with that. But the uglier and more miserable the better when it comes to death, a style of music that never should make you feel good inside.

Dario Derna has forgotten more than most people know about death metal, having been a major part of this style of music for a quarter of a century. From his work with Drawn and Quartered, Evoken (who, granted, fall more into the doom spectrum), Vetus Obscurum, and his other solo project Krohm, Derna (also known as Numinas) has done his share to spread the darkness in underground death metal and to make sure it keeps breathing pestilence. Now he’s back with a new project Ritual Chamber that is one of his most twisted, devastating projects yet and pushes him back to the forefront of those who are making the darkest sounds known to mankind. On this band’s debut “Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim),” Derna digs deep into his darkest corners and creates nine terrifying, fire-breathing songs that will help you find the murkiest, most disturbed regions of your soul and pour mounds of salt into any existing wounds.

Ritual Chamber Cover“Into the Collective Coffin” starts the album immersed in strange noises, torturous grunts, and eventually smudgy doom that opens the door and lets in the horrors. The album trucks like a funeral march with bells chiming, growls unloaded, and an abrasive grimness that spreads over the tail end of the song and has the track swirling out. “The Eternal Eye” also spills doom riffs, and the pace is charred heavily, with the chaos boiling and setting off dizzying waves. The track comes to a premature halt before the bottom drops out and the pace starts defacing again. The growls are menacing, and it feels like the song is melting in the face of the sun. “Beings of Entropy” grinds skin, with gurgly growls surfacing and the hellish riffs eclipsing your oxygen supply. Later, guitars burst with life and start to sear, with the vocals causing bruising, the guitars chewing, and the drums being bashed massively. “The Aphotic Dead” simmers in blood before it starts clobbering and the pace smothers. Parts of this reminds of Portal as it slithers underneath the surface, rolling in the soot as the melodies leave you disoriented and in the throes of madness. “A Parasitic Universe” has a morbid, mournful start like being ensconced in a cold dream. Weirdness prevails before the song starts pulverizing, with lurching growls scraping, the pot boiling, and, later, all of the elements exploding. The fury is spewed like lava, with unforgiving smashing bringing the song to a pummeling end.

“Toward Malignant Bliss” stymies from its start, creating a cloud of mystery and terror that blasts into the churning riffs. The leads catch fire, while the growls sound throaty and mean, the assault punishes mightily, and each end of the song explodes with force. “The Grasp of the Host” unleashes blazing guitars right from the start, with riffs raining down and a total bludgeoning heading toward you and your safety. The drums rattle hard, while the vocals crawl through the dirt, and the final moments come crashing down like a hundred tons of bricks. “Void Indoctrination” has riffs falling and saturating the ground, with melodies sweltering. There is a dizzying death pace that gets uglier and more intense as it goes on, and the soloing cuts out of there and blinds the vision. A strange prog cloud lowers itself over the scene, and from there, the track slowly trickles away. Closer “As Dust and the Animal” is the longest song at 10:03, and it begins to thaw and drip over the first minutes. From there it gets nasty, with the pace kicking up and laying waste, but then things disappear into an ambient fog and come out the other side in a death-ridden march. The soloing ramps up, with the monstrous growls churning again, and the song drilling aggressively. Organs spill in to add a chilling atmosphere, and the track then dissolves into the same guttural torture that opened the record, leaving you in a foul pit of disgust.

Derna sounds as vicious and malicious as he ever has on Ritual Chamber, and hopefully this collection is a breath of new life for him as he tackles this new venture. This record is absolutely suffocating and furious, a dose of true death that hopefully will jerk heads in his direction and batter listeners’ ears. Every ounce of this album is oppressive and scathing, proving that even after 25 years at it, Derna’s fire is nowhere near being extinguished.

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

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

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

Begrime Exemious expose true tyranny of warfare and power on ‘The Enslavement Conquest’

Begrime_Exemious_Live_PhotoI purposely have tried to stay out of watching the presidential debates this year and last. I get why people watch them, as they can be fascinating theater, but I can’t stomach them. I try to keep politics away from this site as much as I can, but the fact that we still have a party that warmongers as much as it attempts to “care about what keep really want and need” just gnaws at me, and it’s hard for me to carry on a conversation about it that doesn’t dissolve into curse words.

Something that has been a pretty traditional topic when it comes to metal has been war. It’s been all over the place, from the bands that came up in the cold war (Metallica, Voivod, Nuclear Assault), to the ones that have dotted the scene ever since. Yes, there are those that glorify the actions (we have a war metal sub-genre!), be it for real or for show, but there still are those out there that serve as a rallying cry of warning as to what these campaigns of death really stand for. One of those is Canadian death unit Begrime Exemious, and their latest record “The Enslavement Conquest” drums up yet another middle finger in the direction of those who drag people into these situations, never have to face the death and destruction themselves, and seemingly do so just to maintain a stranglehold on those in lesser situations. You know. For the greater good.

Begrime coverBegrime Exemious have been plying their devastating trade a little over a decade now, unleashing their brand of ruthless aggression onto the world over the course of two previous full-lengths (their debut “Impending Funeral of Man” in 2010 and 2012’s “Visions of the Scourge”) and well as a slew of EPs and other smaller releases. On “The Enslavement Conquest,” the band–guitarist/vocalist D. Orthner (Falsehood, Daydreaming), guitarist F. Thibaudeau (Falsehood, Narkotta), bassist A. Rintoul (formerly of Reliquary) and drummer L. Norland (formerly of A.M.S.G. and Weapon)–unleash a record in the classic vein of death metal. The tracks flow surprisingly well, the brutality is in your face, and the guitar soloing goes all over the place, ripping you into space and back, as you return with only bruises. It’s a damn good record, and it’s one of the better death metal releases of this young year.

The record opens with “Cradled in Our Hands” as guitars charge up, harsh growls belt you, and the band hits a nasty groove in which they sit and dole out punishment. The guitars absolutely wail, while the drums are beaten severely, and it maintains its hellish pace and slams into “Overpowered (Under Siege)” and its throaty, thrashing power. This cut is like a flurry of fists and elbows to your temple rendering you a bloody mess. Shrieks and growls meld into one terrifying mix, and the guitar work blazes all over this thing, adding some texture to the blazing. “Transcendence” has charging riffs and raw vocals at the forefront, cutting in through massive chugging, an assault that keeps erupting, and speedy ugliness that does damage right down to the final second. “Rat Amongst the Herd” is crunchy and fiery right away, blending Slayer-style riffs into the panic, with soloing burning a hole into everything, and vicious growls spewing venom. “Conscription Woes” begins with a rather tempered pace before it hits full throttle. The vocals are spat out, while the guitar playing is wah-heavy, adding an element of psychosis into this terror.

“Subconscious Nemesis” has a really interesting, mind-numbing start, and it even veers into prog a little bit. The guitars explore the space, while the vocals blast and mete out horrifying rage, putting bloody prints on what’s otherwise a different shade of creativity from the band. The final minutes are humid and hang in the air, always threatening to open anew and bring more damage. “Noose for a Monarch” not only bites from its title, it also brings woe and demolition that’s trudging and violent. No punches are held as the band unleashes a blinding attack full of anger, urgency, and the will to strike out at the world’s mightiest symbols. A stellar cover of Incantation’s “Impending Diabolical Conquest” follows, a track that feels right at home in the middle of this material as it pays homage to and adds a new level of grime to the classic band’s work. “Crusade Towards Self-Devolution” kicks back into thrashy territory as this song is savage and chock full of aggression. The soloing churns and opens more wounds, while the band settles into a smashing, smoking pace that keeps the hammers and their intended victims falling. Closer “When the Vulture Leaves” fades in from a pocket of chaos, launching in full later with wild cries and shrieks, riffs reigning, and the band chewing up the ground with their march. As it continues, it conjures a disorienting fog in which the song enters, with soloing cutting through the murk and the intensity finally fading into hellish oblivion.         

We’ll have war as long as humans are operating things, and we’ll need to rely on bands such as Begrime Exemious to roll their knowing eyes and expose what’s really at heart. Will it change the world? Are you fucking kidding? Have you seen this place? But it’s good to know there are those out there whose art flies in the face of the power regime. Lies and corruption were born to be exposed, and this band is only more than happy to oblige.

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

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

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

Frozen Ocean’s atmosphere-rich black metal cuts with emotion on EP ‘The Prowess of Dormition’

Frozen OceanYou’re pretty busy, right? Lots of work to do. In the middle of another long, demanding week where it feels like things never will come to an end. We’ve all been there, Ace, and it’s not like you’re the only one with a bunch of things to do. In fact, your whining is so inane, Russian multi-instrumentalist Vaarwell is laughing at you somewhere in the wilderness.

See, with his amazing Frozen Ocean project, the man has managed to release 11 full-length efforts since 2011. Yeah. In five years, he has put out more albums than some bands do in a lifespan, and his creative clip has been so prolific, he managed to get five of those records out in 2011 alone. What’s that again about your workload? The last album Vaarwell (also of Smothered Bowels, Goatpsalm) put out under this banner was last year’s “Prills of Remembrance,” and he’s now following that with a stunning new EP “The Prowess of Dormition” that arrives via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings. While there is plenty of Frozen Ocean material out there for consumption, the band isn’t really a household name even in the most underground of homes, but perhaps this four-track gem can help change that. Oh, and if you like riffs, you’ll be pretty happy.

Frozen Ocean EPWe get started on “No Blizzard,” a track that begins with a spacious, gothic feel and later opens up like a storm cloud. The melodies are energetic and thick, while the growls are filled with montrous intent, and the track sprawls and surges. Murky synth finds its way in, and then the tempo starts to push even harder. The song gets shimmery and icy, the riffs rise again,and the track has a nice, strong ending. “Once Aglow” bursts right away, with power blowing down the doors and a folkish-style atmosphere dressing the song in new shades. The growls are raspy, while the waves of playing lap over you, carrying you underneath. The bulk of the song has an epic emotional push, with cold keys dripping, new explosions coming out of the haze, and a gigantic final minute that reveals its strength before fading.

“Det Siste Snøfallet” is up next, an instrumental number that lets the guitars charge forth, the playing unleash tons of devastation (both physical and psychological), and the tempo keep building and twisting. The song’s might keeps generating momentum and new layers, rolling with a  cause right up to its sudden, abrupt conclusion that rips your breath away. The closing title cut pounds and swelters as it establishes itself, carrying through like a buzzsaw on its way to seize and punish you. Synth arrives again, as the song heads into cleaner territory, but then the pace crunches again as it sinks into melodies that are downright regal. As the song makes its way to its end, it splashes in all of the EP’s finest elements, from the chilling synth, to the fiery riffs, to the caterwaul of genuine human emotion that comprises this music’s giant black heart.   

If this is your first exposure to Frozen Ocean, then you have a hell of a lot of history to learn. There is plenty to sift through in the band’s back catalog, which should provide hours of fun on a lonely weekend when darkness is your only friend. “The Prowess of Dormition” is a pretty great stopgap on the way to the next album, and it hopefully will expose this man’s enormous talents to a wider, hungrier audience.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.frozen-ocean.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://apocalypticwitchcraft.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://apocalypticwitchcraft.co.uk/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Triumvir Foul transfer hedonism, chaos, and fury into hell-breathing debut

Triumvir FoulFury and filth are alive and well on this Friday, the end of another week of frustration and anguish for so many people. Bathing in the fire of chaos and madness might seem just the right thing to do right now, although certainly that should be taken metaphorically. Don’t bathe yourself in fire. That really isn’t a very good idea.

All joking aside, it’s an ideal time to absorb music that is awash in fury, and the debut record from Pacific Northwest-based black and death metal tyrants Triumvir Foul should more than answer the bell if you need to be in the center of audio violence. The album actually has been out since December on CD and digital form, so likely there are some of you who already have basked in the band’s terrifying ways. But Blood Harvest is stepping up with the vinyl version of the record, so those of us who swear by the needle and turntable can play this thing in our own inner sanctums, where the terror can destroy us mentally. The music here is filthy and relentless, and the band maintains that pace with hardly any hesitation or mercy through these nine tracks and nearly 42 minutes.

Triumvir Foul coverTriumvir Foul only have been around since 2013, pouring their terrifying campaign into last year’s “An Oath of Blood and Fire” demo, and now this self-titled album. Comprised of members of Ash Borer, Shrine of the Serpent, and Serum Dreg among others, this trio—guitarist/vocalist Ad Infinitum, bassist/vocalist Absque, drummer Cedentibus—battles heavily, weaving in their hedonistic ways, and touching upon corruption, depravity, human weakness, serpent worship, and elements of cabalisticism. Their anger and disgust are tangible on these songs, and their penchant for spiritual warfare is obvious just from hearing the music. This isn’t safe territory for anyone. It’s a war zone, and anyone who enters is going to take one hell of a beating, at least psychologically.

“Labyrinthine – The Blood Serpent Unwinds” begins the record with noises pulsating, chilling chants, howls spilling viciously, and a pounding, mauling pace unwinding and starting the mission. It’s not long before the track turns to manic violence, with the playing scarring, the vocals feeling like a nightmare, and the entire thing boiling with sinister intent. Toward the end, the guitars go off in a tornado, and then it’s on to “Profanation (of the Wicked)” that erupts right away. The song is abrasive, and the growls are wild, with a punchy assault leasing the way and bringing down the proverbial walls. “Pathways to Decay” starts smudgy and doomy, and then the riffs tear open and begin opening wounds. The track is situated in speed and insanity, with the vocals gurgling, the riffs dominating, and a thrashy path being carved through force. “Hedonistic Prayer – the Abhorrent Depths of Perversion” sounds pretty much how its title indicates. It lets off steam and burns in a mid-tempo blaze, while riffs reach over top and strangle, and the animalistic growls and fire-breathing guitars scorch. “The Vomit of the Three Serpents (Ušumgallu, Bašmu, Mušmaḫḫū)” brings our mythical multi-headed creature into the mix, and the band responds in kind with crushing drums, a pace that’s nasty, and blinding demolition doing the most amount of damage possible. The guitars sprawl and twist the brain, while the song’s title is wailed out in pain as the track sizzles out in noise.

“Endless Spiritual Violence” starts in a total eruption, like a volcano spewing smoke, lava, and death all over the place. The band trashes hard, though they hit on a weird groove later in the song, and then the guitars go insane, with the final moments dealing a delirious assault. “Banished to Silence and Slavery” marches hard, like an ancient army stomping and ravaging the land on their way to their next victims. There are pockets of doom, with bizarre melodies trickling over the mass, while the riffs flood to the surface and take up with the disorienting, damaging drums. “Carnal Spectre” stomps like a beast right out of the gates, with the riffs joining to create a tidal wave of power and the vocals coming off as vicious and dangerous. The song is a constant pounding that has no interest in letting up, with the guitars coming across meaty and sinewy, and the final moments of the song boiling in an absolute rage. Closer “Tower of Bašmu – The Corruption of Flesh and Spirit” conjures a mythical serpent and does so in a flood of stabbing noise and punishing blows. The growls are beastly and spray smoke, with slower, muddier areas arriving as the song progresses, and the band hitting on a cataclysmic high that pushes the cut to its peak. The howls are unhinged, the playing drops layers of soot, and the track eventually bleeds away, allowing your first clean breath in nearly an hour.

When this record comes to an end, you’ll know you’ve been through a battle. Triumvir Foul seem to be hell-bent on taking their inner chaos and spreading it across their art not only to help anyone who agrees with them align, but also to set a definite call for war. This music is punishing and smothering, not worried about style points, and ready to rip flesh and bone with its teeth. It’s a devastating record that compromises your soul and lets all of its bile and blood flow in excess.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bloodharvest.se/

Magrudergrind finally return following six-year absence on vitriolic, violent new platter ‘II’

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Absence makes the heart grow … confused? Or not. It’s not uncommon for a band to go away for a while after putting out a record. But stay away too long, and people who followed might start to wonder where you’re hiding out or if you’re ever going to surface again.

That thought definitely crossed my mind over D.C.-based grind/powerviolence menaces Magrudergrind, who haven’t come up with a full-length effort since 2009’s cataclysmic self-titled display (released by Willowtip). It’s not like they’re been totally absent, as they did that 2010, Scion-backed EP “Crusher” that weirdly pissed people off. They also inexplicably showed up on an episode of “Veep,” one that made me sit up and nearly scare the shit out of my wife by yelling/asking, “Is that Magrudergrind?!” Sure enough. But for the most part, the past half-decade has found the band making nary a new sound until now with the arrival of their new record “II.”

magrudergrind coverToday, Magrudergrind are ensconced on Relapse, a home that makes almost too much sense, and they’ve got with them a 15-track record that blisters by before you even know what hit you, proving that they may not have been totally prolific as of late, but they haven’t forgotten how to rip off a face. Produced by Kurt Ballou, the band–vocalist Avi Kulawy, guitarist R.J. Ober, drummer Casey Moore–sound as if they never left, going absolutely apeshit on these songs that should give the staggering grind genre a kick right in the balls.

These 15 songs blow by in an absolute fury, so there’s not a lot of time to wax poetic. And we shouldn’t anyway, right? OK, opener “Imperium In Imperio” rips the lid off, with vocals piercing and the speed chugging right into “Divine Dictation,” where noise boils and squalls, and the band hits a nasty, thrashy groove. “The Opportunist” picks up from there, with a blistering pace dressed with vicious vocals and unforgiving pounding, barreling into “Relentless Hatred” and its mucky, sludgy presence. Deep growls mix with razor-sharp screams, with the pace leaving everything in its dust. “Sacrificial Hire” is on fire right away, with crazed vocals, the drums demolishing, and a hardcore feel settling in at the end. “War for Resources” slams by, shocking and leaving bleeding wounds, and then it’s into the record’s epic “Black Banner,” a 3:26 masher that is super crunchy with gravel vocals. The assault is totally furious here, with the track beating you about the head and torso before disappearing behind a cloud of smoke.

“Hara-Kiri” is devastating and doom-laced, a track that takes turns dizzying you and making you suffocate in the mud. “State Affairs” is a guttural burst, with the band playing circles around you and driving into “Regressive Agenda,” a cut that thrashes and pummels with its playing and the wild yowls at the end. “Incinerate State” has gurgled cries, guitars wailing and leaving a syrupy film, and a slowly smashing finish that hammers home the exclamation point. “Unit 731” has noise wafting and stinging, doom smudging up the scene, and then a ferocious explosion of forces that comes out of nowhere and powders bones. “Icaro” has a heavy punk feel, more shrieked vocals that meet up with raspy shouts, and a blasting finish. “Husayni-Handschar” is pelted with gruff yells and speedy guitars, generating a cyclone of energy that pulls into closer “Pharmacide” that punches you right in the stupid mouth. Chaos reigns here, while the noise boils, the vocals go for the throat, and the track, and this virulent record, comes to an end.

Yeah, there was nothing wrong with missing Magrudergrind hard, and it sort of feels like all is right in the world again with them back in operation. “II” should tide over anyone who was getting pissy that they hadn’t gotten new music from the band, and this sounds like the soundtrack to the overthrow of every shitty asshole in this country only out for themselves. Nothing is safe again, as it always should have been.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

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

Mesmerizing Hemelbestormer stretch creativity across the cosmos on first album ‘Aether’

HemelbestormerPeople coming up with radical, exciting new ideas is something that should be welcome in today’s society. So many people do things the exact same way that art, and life in general, has a tendency to feel overly processed and predictable, making things a little dull. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way, and for some people, it isn’t.

One band that seems to be lashing out against the idea of complacency is putting that very idea in their band name. Hemelbestormer is a Dutch word that means someone with revolutionary ideas, a person with a plan that might be deemed a little crazy but that also refuses to do things to conventional, accepted way. This band, made up of players who have made their mark all over the world, spread that ideal on their expansive, massive debut record “Aether,” coming your way via Debemur Morti. The four-piece beast is an instrumental union and spreads their power over four tracks that run more than an hour long and take you on a massive ride.

Hemelbestormer coverComprised of guitarists Jo Driesmans and Filip Dupont (formerly of Gorath, Horas, etc.), bassist Kevin Hensels, and drummer Frederik Cosemans (Death Penalty, Serpentcult), this band constructs a moody, dreamy, often heavy journey through post-metal, sludge and doom that encompasses you. You have to take on this thing from front to back (I know we say that a lot) in order to get the optimal experience. If you need a breather when it’s done, you won’t be alone. It’s a nice, steep bit to digest all at once, and when the record was over, I needed some time before going any to something else. It’s pretty filling.

“After Us the Flood” is the 15:38-long opener, beginning with a push of noises and whispers and later choral chants. The track then gets sludgy and heavy, with layers building and folding, pushing down on the foundation, before it calms and takes on a nautical sense. The track lets cooler waters trickle, continuing that sense of serenity before the bottom drops out again and the heaviness returns. Mashing playing, melodic infusion, and mechanical swirls blast into the mud and push the song into outer space. “Starless” is the shortest cut at 12:16, opening with chilly winds and later heavy chugs. The song charges ahead while it spins its wheels in the tar, with some of the sounds glistening while also leveling added force. The final minutes trade off between dark and light, with the piece slowly fading away.

“The Purging” emerges from there, a 12:34 piece that charges up and send jolts of sound that make me think of gazing into a starry night sky. The melodies snake through the piece, giving the song an episodic feel before it fades out of its first stand and settles into silence. Chants rise out of that, quietly at first, and a gazey section downpours and soaks everything. The playing is mesmerizing, and later come heavier waves, cosmic mauling, and the song slowly dissipating. Closer “On Desolate Plains” goes a hefty 19:07, and at times, it does feel like it stretches a little too long. The song has a doomy, stormy start, with strange noises calling, the walls crumbling down, and the music trudging along. The band hits long stretches of playing that feel like they drone on a bit, though that doesn’t derail the song or anything. In fact, sometimes the composition gets dreamy and dizzying when getting lost in these pockets, which can be fun, and the final moments of the cut slug slowly and sizzle out in noise.

Hemelbestormer definitely have their own means for carrying out their sounds, and these ideas drive the band through “Aether.” Making a compelling statement on a lengthy instrumental album must not be an easy thing to do, but for the most part, this band makes it work. It will be interesting to hear how Hemelbestormer develop as their journey goes on and on what kind of missions they go from here:

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/