PICK OF THE WEEK: Cult of Luna, Julie Christmas meld massive powers together on ‘Mariner’

Photo by Pär Olofsson

Photo by Pär Olofsson0

Metal traditionally doesn’t lend itself very often to the duet. Yeah, there have been cases here and there, be it Ozzy and Lita Ford or Lemmy and Doro Pesch, but for the most part, this is an area left to other genres, while most metal bands and artists look to forge their stories as a single unit.

That said, Swedish post-metal outfit Cult of Luna and Brooklyn-based wailer Julie Christmas are taking the duet concept and blowing it into the stratosphere. They laugh at your one song where forces come together and craft an entire record together on the stunning new “Mariner.” Over five tracks and about 50 minutes, the two sides come together and inform these songs from their own narratives, their own points of view that meld for the overall greater concept, that being rising above this living space and expanding into the cosmos for the greatest journey ever. This doesn’t mean getting into a rocket ship. This means the body as vessel, and mind and spirit as guide, and a foray that would break most humans. But most people are not Cult of Luna and Christmas.

Mariner coverAs for Cult of Luna, this is the band’s eighth record overall (if you want to consider this part of their full-length canon and not a one-off collaborative effort) and their follow-up to 2013’s industrial landscape tale “Vertikal.” For nearly 20 years now, the band has made some of the most thought-provoking, atmospheric sounds in all of metal, and while so many have tried to ride their coattails, they remain a special, wholly identifiable entity. As for Christmas, she fronted greats bands such as Battle of Mice and Made of Babies, and six years ago (holy hell, it’s been that long?!), she gave us her debut full-length “The Bad Wife” that was absolutely captivating and volatile at the same time. These two sides together might not seem a natural mix on the surface, but put them together, and magic happens.

“A Greater Call” opens the record, an 8:19 start that lets noise bustle, calm and psyche colors blend in, and a gazey crash that erupts with Cult of Luna vocalist Johannes Persson launching into vicious roars, with Christmas’ soulful/scary singing sweltering behind everything. Much of the assault is mid-paced and telegraphs its punches before spilling into the cosmos. From there, the track bursts open, with sounds gushing and the track wrenching back to dual singing. “Chevron” runs 8:54, with a thick bassline pushing in, and Christmas sounding more sinister and dangerous. She shrieks and howls emotionally, with the song progressing volcanically, fiery playing spitting intensity, and later a psychedelic calm brushing in and cooling the skin. Christmas delivers a few last words, driving the end of the song into your heart. “The Wreck of the S.S. Needle” is one of the most fascinating songs on the record and one that swallowed me whole. Drone reaches out like a long cloud, while the elements threaten combustion. Once they erupt, Christmas is in the pocket of madness, howling away, reaching for your veins, and always finding a new gear of fire. The body of the song plays with dynamics, rising with force around one turn, bringing serenity after another. “Put me down where I can see you run,” Christmas repeats over and over, as the song spirals into the night and a deep fog.

“Approaching Transition” runs 12:59, and as far as I can discern, is the only track that doesn’t involve Christmas. Here, noise glazes, while heavy, dark synthesizers and an alien environment come into focus, especially with the vocals. The track is steeped in slow-driving sorrow, a shadowy beast lurking in the beyond, getting soaked by the drizzling, chilling rain. There are moments that have a Pink Floyd feel to them, but also curves that are dressed with furious tempos and smothering roars that bruise. The massive closer “Cygnus” spreads over 14:50 and also basks in cosmic lore, with Christmas’ singing leading in, and the melodies quivering. Persson’s growls then scrape, with proggy keys arriving and Christmas’ performance feeling like a blistering confessional that fills your chest with anxiety. “Open your mind, let air rush in,” she calls, just before a massive burst where she and Persson just go off, igniting everything with their power.  Her voice hypnotically loops on forever it seems, intertwining in the mission catching ablaze, each element burning off, and the end of your heart-swelling journey spiraling toward its end.

OK, so this might not be traditional duet material as we’ve come to understand it, but Cult of Luna and Christmas make incredible music together and align their visions expertly on “Mariner.” This record unfolds anew with every listen and is bound to be one of the most unique offerings of the entire calendar year. No one is to know if their paths will cross again creatively, but for this space in time, they prove enough weight and intensity to shake planets.

For more on the Cult of Luna, go here: http://www.cultofluna.com/

For more on Julie Christmas, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Julie-Christmas-141649579195453/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.indierecordings.no/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.indierecordings.no/

Warped death maulers Geryon return from parts unknown with ‘The Wound and The Bow’

Photo by Nicholas Palmirotto

Photo by Nicholas Palmirotto

There are plenty of bands that have a hard enough time making competent music with a full slate of members. It’s not easy out there, everyone. So you have to really admire those artists who don’t need a full array of fellow musicians in order to make really compelling art.

Take, for example, Geryon, who we’re discussing today since their new record “The Wound and the Bow” is just about on our doorsteps (or mailboxes if you were super cool and preordered this thing). This band, that relies on just bass, drums, and vocals, still manages to find ways to make twisting, bizarre death metal that you’d think would come off more bare bones than it does but instead sounds like a space lab of sound exploration. Their second album is one that, while it isn’t packed with various players coming at you with all sorts of musical elements, still can leave you baffled and with quite a bruising.

Geryon coverOf course, Geryon are in the mighty and capable hands of bassist/vocalist Nicholas McMaster and drummer Lev Weinstein, both members of the unstoppable Krallice, as well as other bands such as Sallah, Bloody Panda, and Anicon. Much of what they play here registers most closely to what the two do together in Krallice, and they build off the foundation they built on their 2013 self-titled debut and push it even further into black weirdness.

“Silent Command” is the first track out of the gates, blistering and bubbling, with the deep roaring ripping out and into a space fury. The playing baffles and disorients, with rubbery bass snaking through the murk and a drubbing pounding leaving bruises. “Dawn” fires up viciously, with sinewy thrashing leading the way, and a thick stretch of chaos robbing you of oxygen. The vocals are grisly, and the aggressive play matches their intensity, leading toward a pulsating finish that bleeds into “Lys,” which unfurls with buzzing activity. The bass bubbles underneath the track, with slurry stretches in some spots, ruthless aggression in others. The melody gets a little over the top, which suits this song, and noise and sonic bangs carry out the track. “Skein” is shredded right away, with melodies playing tricks on your mind, the bass babbling, and the song trudging hard. Desperate cries rise and race into the night, with a haze of sound blowing in and sizzling away.

“Legion” runs a beefy 8:14, crushing from the start and carrying that fury into crushed drums and sleek basslines. The song staggers you, drubbing and rupturing blood vessels, as the pace rollicks heavily. Gruff, harsh wails pelt the skin, and just when the track seems ready to cool off, the pace explodes again, and the vicious growls sound like they’re threatening you personally. The title track also is disarming but also pretty strange, with the body of the song taking on more of a rock-style tempo, folding over itself again and again. Grim cries and another noise bath leads to the 9:38 finale “Dioscuri” that takes some time to get moving, instead letting the juices grow to a boil. It’s not long before they’re clobbering you, with a nice dose of weirdness to force you to tilt your head in confusion, and the band heading off on a long sojourn the flows seemingly endlessly. They round back to violence again before all’s said and done, with the guys sprawling and sludging before driving to an abrupt end.

Geryon have been blowing our minds for years now (did we mention their face-melting set at Gilead Fest 2014?), and they pile on even more trauma on “The Wound and the Bow.” The approach isn’t conventional, their style can twist faces into confusion, and they prove it doesn’t necessarily take an army of people to make mind-altering death metal. It just takes two musicians with the skill and tenacity of McMaster and Weinstein to blow away all of the fools and pretenders.

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

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

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

Tombs reshuffle the deck again with lineup additions, doom-fed blackness on ‘All Empires Fall’

TombsBands that constantly change their colors are not all that common. It seems that many bands get comfortable in their ways of being and settle themselves in those areas for the long haul. Nothing wrong with that. It makes for consistency. But bands that always change things up are pretty damn fun, too.

Ever since they got started nearly a decade ago, Tombs have done their part to keep things interesting and their audience guessing. It’s weird in a way, because you always know Tombs when you hear them, but each time out, they add different shades to their overall output. That’s one of the things that has kept Tombs so vital and exciting, and it pumps a hell of a lot of vitality into their great new EP “All Empires Fall.” The band really seemed to hit their stride on 2014’s “Savage Gold,” but further lineup changes and additions, as well as stretching out even further beyond their borders, makes for what could be the most exciting era of Tombs to date.

Tombs coverOut front of the band is Mike Hill, who has been there since the beginning and is the band’s unquestioned voice and heart. His gritty growls, wild wails, and dreary clean vocals give the band their trademark DNA, and he’s one of the most refreshing and ever-changing figures in metal. As this band is wont to do, there have been plenty of personnel shifts since “Savage Gold,” with only bassist Ben Brand as a holdover. The most interesting addition is synth/noisemaker/second vocalist Fade Kainer, himself a member of the awesome Batillus, who adds a whole new dimension to the band. Also part of the fold are guitarist Evan Void (Hivelords, Sadgiqacea) and drummer Charlie Schmid (Vaura), who also add thunderous elements to this band and hint at a cataclysmic future.

“The World Is Made of Fire” is a quick instrumental opener and one that gives you a huge hint of what’s in store. Murky sci-fi keys sweep in and glimmer, letting thick clouds roll over, and out of that comes thundering riffs that beat the hell out of you. That paves the way for “Obsidian” that opens with pure black metal strains raining down, as well as vocals that smear together guttural growls and ear-piercing shrieks. There is a storming chorus that creates one of the most memorable sections in Tombs history, and the pace manages to find another gear as the track blasts toward its finish. “Last Days of Sunlight” has a mystical ambiance and a deathrock feel, with Hill going for warbly clean vocals that remind of Tom Warrior. The song is dark and dreary and leaves black streams in its wake. “Deceiver” is another massive destroyer, with a thick, chugging pace, vocals scraping, and as savage-sounding chorus that means business. Soloing rips out at the end, with spacious noise flooding up, and a clubbing finish that bruises you. Closer “V” begins with a gust of furnace-powered noise before it splits open. Hill again goes with his darker clean voice, with black metal melodies dripping and cascading over the chorus, harsh wails pounding, “Fall into the great divide!” and vicious guitars emerging and sending everything into chaos.

If this is a new start for Tombs, then I’m absolutely pumped. There was nothing wrong with Tombs in any of their forms, and I’ve loved everything they’ve ever put out. But they’re onto something on “All Empires Fall.” This feels like a strong, furious vision the band has been seeking since they got started. Way more of this, please.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Mamiffer push toward connection with loss on haunting ‘The World Unseen’

MamifferWe’ve all dealt with loss in one way or another. Whether that was the passing of a loved one, employment being taken away, or a devastating defeat, something at one time or another has impacted us greatly and left us wondering about ourselves. It’s not the easiest or most comfortable time, yet the event is not without something that could result in positive personal or psychological value.

How one copes with or reacts to loss can determine how the event ultimately affects the rest of your existence. That’s the driving theme of “The World Unseen,” the great new album from Mamiffer that just might be the gentlest Pick of the Week to date. But that’s just from the way the music feels, as the thematic material packs a massive punch and can have you reeling. But no worries, as there are plenty of places to land and collect yourself before taking another huge step into this adventure. Over these eight tracks, the band–Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner–expand what they describe as a “conceptual and liminal document of numinous connection through an experience with loss.” And here’s the thing: Even if you go into this record with no clue what is packed deep within the music, you’re bound to have an emotional experience. It’s impossible not to do so with Mamiffer’s music, but this one especially sweeps you away and onto other planes for exploration.

PrintMamiffer was first born nearly a decade ago as an outlet for Coloccia after her band Everloving Lightningheart dissolved. She began to work with Turner (you know him from ISIS, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, etc.), and they released their debut “Hirror Enniffer” in 2008. They followed that with “Mare Decendrii” in 2011 and “Statu Nascend” two years ago, and they also have collaborated with artists including House of Low Culture and Pyramids. Mamiffer certainly are no strangers to ambitious, heady material, but what they lay out on “The World Unseen” takes them, and as a result, the listener, further than ever before. Prepare to be affected.

“By the Light of My Body” is a short cut that starts the record with sounds settling, a haze spreading itself, and a dreamy sequence that leads into “Flower of the Field II.” There, pianos drip, Coloccia’s vocals set up softly, pushing the song on its way, and noise rises and pulsates. “It’s time I let you go away,” Coloccia calls, as she’s backed by a spacey sequence that makes your brain cells simmer in static. “13 Burning Stars” lives up to its name nicely, with Coloccia’s voice working its way over some more agitated noise. Winds begin to whip up, while ghostly melodies reach the height of their haunting powers and send the track into the stars. “Mara” opens with psychedelic keys, strings stinging and lingering, and the vocals taking on some New Age power. The melodies are lovely and infectious, and the song takes on a woodsy ambiance as it closes.

Three-movement “Domestication of the Ewe” follows, a nearly 27-minute section that makes up the heart of the record. The first part, which runs 10:03, starts with a long stretch of drone that melts into cosmic bubbling. This portion feels otherworldly, like you’re floating among foreign bodies, and static and noise combine to give this portion a sharper edge. The track starts to sprawl and bleed, ringing out and burning into the second part. Pianos bleed in, and the strings (courtesy of Eyvind Kang) cry out with the interference wailing. Guitars warm up and buzz, and angelic sounds spread over into the third, and final, movement. Choral chants emerge, and Geneviève Beaulieu (Menace Ruine) and Joe Preston (Thrones) join their voices with Coloccia’s as a ceremonial feel takes over. The singing blending together causes hypnosis, while harsher sounds start clawing and noise shines as the triptych reaches its end point. Closer “Parthenogenesis” is the perfect last step, a song that is infused with space noise whooshing, heavenly vocals reinforcing the elements of spiritual and psychological connection with what has been lost, and the track disappearing into the fog.

Mamiffer have been a personal favorite of mine for a long time, a band that’s great for winding down from the chaos, balancing out of the heavy stuff normally in my ears, and helping me reconnect. “The World Unseen” pokes at subject matter that’s not always comfortable and perhaps can make you fret, but it always closes the circle emotionally. This is another amazing piece of work from a band that never fails to keep your heart pounding in your chest and your mind soaring.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Mamiffer-110768695615501/

To buy the album, go here: https://sigerecords.merchtable.com/?no_redirect=true

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

Graves at Sea finally land with debut full-length, the hulking, smothering ‘The Curse That Is’

Graves at Sea (Orion Landau)There’s no timing on how long it takes a band to put out a debut record from the moment they form. Who knows what can happen after forces get together? In fact, sometimes bands rush the creative process and commit music before they’re really ready. So what’s better? Creating art too quickly or taking a long time?

There’s probably no real answer. But if Graves at Sea are to be taken as a an example, maybe waiting for ages to put out a first record isn’t a bad idea at all. Of course, their path is much different than many other groups, and their time making smaller releases and perfecting their live performances were good ways to make their way to “The Curse That Is.” This, their first record, is a total mammoth. A total of 76 minutes spread over eight songs provide ample demolition, almost as if they’ve pent up all the anger and carnage they carried since forming in 2002 and poured it into this first voyage. Their smudgy, doom-ridden playing doesn’t necessarily go for the jugular. They toy with you, punish you, smother you, and make you pay for everything, leaving you a heaping mess on the floor, writhing from the pain. This isn’t a fast knockout. You’re going the distance and paying for every moment.

GRaves at Sea coverSo 14 years after Graves at Sea first formed, they’ve finally reached this destination. The band started when vocalist Nathan Misterek and guitarist Nick Phit joined together with bassist Roger Williams and drummer Steve Klatz, who has since passed, and got moving with their “Documents of Grief” demo and later a split effort with Asunder. After that, the band went through some reshuffling, eventually splitting up in 2008 and coming back together in 2013. Now, Misterek and Phit are joined by bassist Jeff McGarrity and drummer Bryan Sours, and before this new record, they offered up an EP, as well as a split with Sourvein. But it all comes down to “The Curse That Is,” a great payoff to nearly a decade and a half of morphing and developing, and a collection that proves the filthy reputation they built is well deserved.

The title track opens this monster, running 11:15 and setting off a swaggering riff that begins the display. The vocals are grisly, with howls of, “Eat of my body, drink of my blood!” and the bulk of the tempo is smudgy and smothering. Growls and shrieks intermingle, and the final minutes are dizzying and massive. “Dead Eyes” is muddy and bludgeoning from the start, hitting a doomy pace at the front end of its 11:09 run and working to exact punishment and pain. Wails of, “I stand transfixed to depart this reality!” blister you, and the band stampedes forward, stomping over and over again, and even a brief dose of acoustics and atmosphere can’t clear the thick smoke. “Tempest” unleashes more hell, with heavy mashing and strange sounds bubbling underneath. The vocals begin to scrape, and the guitar work sounds like an homage to Matt Pike, with a hard, abrasive finish. “The Ashes Made Her Beautiful” is gargantuan at 15:16, the longest cut on the record. Acoustics open the song in serenity before burly riffs explode and cavernous growls strike. Strings rise up, as the emotion floods the gates and the track bleeds on. The song slips into sadness and desperation, as the track keeps smothering, the music pours chaos, and the band channels the darker, more dangerous shades of Black Sabbath.

“This Mental Sentence” is a shorter one at just 5 minutes, and it wastes no time getting started. The assault is molten, while the band punches away, meteing out their violence alongside a disarmingly colorful melody line swimming through. “Waco 177” follows, a 9:22 trudger that revisits the people slain during a massacre at a restaurant in Texas in 2015 during a meeting of biker groups, an incident many attributed to government officials’ overreach and overreaction that resulted in the slaughter. Nine people were killed, 18 were injured, and 177 were arrested, hence the song title. “Waco 177, shots ring out and bodies fall/Waco 177, a massacre under Texas law,” is howled with conviction, as the band surrounds this bloody tale with heavy riffs, creepy organs, and a heaping dose of ugliness. “Luna Lupus Venator” is something of a cooldown, a 2:54 instrumental built with acoustic guitars, strings, and rustic melodies that provide a dose of calm but also a foreboding sense of danger. That arrives on the vitriolic closer “Minimum Slave,” a cut that unloads with a sinister riff, crushing rhythms, and gurgling growls that spit blood. As the band strikes out about the common worker being mistreated and disrespected over this 14:20 crusher, they solidify their points with ugly mauling, drubbing growls, and massive chugging that bruises skin. As the song and record wind down, the band unleashes woe-packed devastation, and a feedback storm floods everything and drags you into a never ending noise vortex.

So maybe it took Graves at Sea 14 years to finally drop this cement-heavy slab in our laps, but now it’s here, and it’s a crusher. They leave no stone unturned, zero bruises salved, and nothing but fury and torment in their wake. It would be cool if they didn’t wait another decade and a half to get us another bloody helping of what they do best, but at least we have “The Curse That Is” to keep us beaten and sore for the foreseeable future.

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

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

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

Metallic adventurers Heiress get emotional, devastating on killer new record ‘Made Wrong’

HeiressLook, heaviness is great. This site celebrates tons of things that are heavy and monstrous, but at some point, that can all sound like a steady wave of noise. Being heavy and interesting is a totally different thing altogether, and bands that can do both are ones that we treasure for sure.

Heiress is one of those, a band that can blister you with power but has way more tricks up their sleeves than that. Over three records now, their latest being the piledriving “Made Wrong,” the band melded a ton of different sounds together, from metal to doom to post-rock. That’s not even a completely accurate amalgamation of everything they moosh into their recipe, and it seems that whatever moves them, and whatever sounds make the most sense, are worked into their art’s DNA. As a result, Heiress sound fresh, alive, and, yes, interesting in an era when those elements are anything but guaranteed.

Heiress coverHeiress got going about a decade ago, dedicating themselves to mixing genres and scrambling brains since they got their machine rolling. Out front of the band is John Pettibone (he joined in 2008), who you may know from Himsa and Undertow and whose monstrous voice blasts over these seven tracks, packing them with grisly emotion. Along him are guitarists Wes Reed and Mark Holcomb, bassist Jerad Shealey, and drummer Justin Martinez, and on this strong third record, they keep your brain going, your skin bruising, and you wondering where exactly it is they’re going to go next. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s wonderfully unpredictable.

The record opens with “Clearing,” the shortest track on the album but an effective one nonetheless. Off-balanced guitars give off a hazy fog, while Pettibone’s deep growls make their first seismic marks, and the song begins to punish. As the track goes on, every element gets more vicious, leaving the song to sizzle away. “Remains” begins with moody guitars and spoken verses that set the tone before the earth begins to quake. Vicious vocals tear into the mix, while punishing riffs clobber, and the spoken lines on the opening verses turn to howls as things progress. The band chugs and thrashes, with monstrous yells leading the way toward a gut-punching finish. “Lasts” has cold guitars trickling before the riffs start cutting away. The intensity picks up in a huge way, with Pettibone’s growls wrenching, and the music getting uglier. Calm sets in temporarily before things hit a boil again. The track reignites with slurry, sludging guitars, devastating cries, and the song pulsating away. “Skinning” runs 7:11 and leads into a noise glaze that’s thick and disorienting. The howls rip out, as the tones get moody, and the dark pace leads Pettibone to demand, “Clear the way!” There are seismic shifts in tempo, vocals that feel like they can lacerate skin, and guitars that hit a nasty swagger toward the track’s end.

The title cut follows, and it unleashes some calculated mashing that does bruising. There are reflective moments that trickle in, while the vocals scathe, and emotional guitar work wells up and overwhelms. There is nasty, bluesy guitar work that bubbles up, the band layering in interesting new elements, and everything gets situated in the muck. “Cruel Calm” unleashes the drums that blister in their assault, and they pave the way for grimy, abrasive guitars. The vocals absolutely smother, and even when some cleaner playing enters the fray, you can’t really get that burnt scent out of your nostrils. The song later turns colorful and even more expressive, with the lead guitar work taking command, and the final moments ending in a shimmer. The amazing closer “Endure” runs 8:55, and it’s the heartfelt centerpoint of a record full of human trial and tribulation. Mostly a slower, but no less heavy, affair, the atmosphere floods the room, with the vocals a mere whisper, and the track bleeding along. Clouds keep bursting as the track goes on, with heavy, gazey guitar work shining beams of energy, the vocals exuding passion, and the band unloading some final sentiments before the track slowly bleeds away.

Heiress’ run has been a strong, riveting one, and their work on “Made Wrong” keeps their fury in a really intriguing package. Their refusal to follow other bands’ paths is refreshing and exciting, and the fact that they pretty much stand on their own is awfully refreshing. These guys might jokingly describe themselves as “older Seattle gentlemen making loud beard metal,” and we fully embrace that, but they’ve got a whole lot more going on underneath the surface.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.mylenesheath.com/pg/sheath-items-only

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

Moonsorrow’s folk-led Pagan metal bursts with rustic energy on charging new ‘Jumalten aika’

MoonsorrowSpring has arrived here in North America, and while it might be snowing and blustery as I write this, it won’t be long until every day is warm, nature explodes, and sojourns into the woods are incredible adventures once again. I thought about that a lot as I threw myself into new music by Moonsorrow, their first album in a half decade.

I’m generally not a major listener to Euro folk-infused metal, not that I harbor any ill will toward it. It just generally isn’t my cup of tea, but there definitely are major exceptions such as Finnish dreamers Moonsorrow. On “Jumalten aika,” the band’s new, seventh album, they offer up more material that feels like it’ll settle perfectly during day-long trips into nature, with green and animal life swelling the experience. You practically can imagine the sticks and leaves crackling under your feet during these five tracks, as they spread their Pagan wonders over 67 fresh minutes of material. We last heard from the band in 2011 on “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa,” and since then they’ve signed to Century Media and have a nice, giant company behind this massive new effort.

Moonsorrow coverMoonsorrow have been captivating minds for the past two decades now, having formed in 1995 and started their mission of unearthing folklore, tales of war and death, and many other dark subjects. Their initial full-length arrived in 2001 on “Suden uni” (it translates to “Wolf’s Dream), and from that point, they remained on a steady clip, releasing four more records with regularity through 2007. “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa” arrived after a four-year layoff, and now “Jumalten aika” (translated means “Age of Gods”) makes it their second album in the past nine years. Nonetheless, Moonsorrow remain on top of their game, as the band–Ville Sorvali (bass, lead vocals), Henri Sorvali (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Mitja Harvilahti (guitars, vocals), Markus Eurén (keyboards), Janne Perttilä (guitars, vocals), Marko Tarvonen (drums, vocals)–proves on this record that is rustic, heavy, and ridiculously glorious when it needs to be.

The title track begins the record, a 12:43 smasher that starts calmly enough with winds and whistles but then ignites with folkish black metal. The synth pours amazing melody onto this marcher, while majestic and savage playing spills blood and teases your nostrils with the aromas of cook fires kicked over in battle. The back end of the song lights up with rage, while the surging melody takes over and leads the song into chaos. “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa” simmers in group vocal harmonies before the song ignites and heavy riffs do their damage. The 15:20-long track has many peaks and valleys, and while quite epic in length, is exciting and exhilarating its entire run. There are fast, heavy parts that feel downright rowdy, but then on the next trail, whistles team up and make the song feel like a hero’s welcome soundtrack for a “Lord of the Rings” character. Late in the song, group chants team up with charging playing, and a calm after the storm rises and lets the track trickle away. “Suden tunti” is the shortest track of the bunch at 7:06, and it begins with a super-heavy, black metal-fed riff that crushes, followed by creaky growls, a folk storm arriving, and the tempo then switching to more atmospheric. Many voices call out during this one, including female vocals that add a sense of beauty, and then the whole thing disappears into the mist.

The final two cuts make up more than a half hour of this record, beginning with 15:55-long “Mimisbrunn” that sets in with acoustic guitars, waters babbling, and and a cool sense of serenity taking hold. It’s short lived. Anguish and punishment are around the next corner as the band unloads with emotional, gut-wrenching vocals, sheets of synth, and a tempo that surges hard. Calm returns momentarily before the band launches into heavy thrashing balanced with a murky serving of keys, wild howls that sound primal, and a final eruption of power that opens up old wounds that had since congealed. The 16-minute closer “Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)” wastes no time getting going, as a massive riff attacks right away, strong melodies take hold, and an infusion of heathen life bursts into this thing. Keys bleed in and enrapture, while the song rushes monstrously, with creaked growls and almost regal melodies adding layers. The cries continue to be harsh and delivered from the gut, while a huge deluge of pounding and thrashing makes up the final moments of the song, with the band leaving you heaving on the ground as fires crackle around you.  

Moonsorrow reign as one of the frontrunners of the Pagan metal movement is unquestioned, and they keep creating powerful material two decades into their run. This record would sound perfect climbing huge hills in the spring, or even imagining yourself dueling with invading villages as you look to keep your land clean. This is great escape music, the type of stuff that can help you dream of adventure while clashing and crushing skulls in your mind.

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

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

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


The Body, Full of Hell team for nightmarish terror experience on fiery ‘One Day You Will Ache…’

The Body FOHI swear it was just last week that we were talking about how some metal and extreme music albums have the power to soothe and calm. Well, today we’re going in the total opposite direction as we have something that should chew your nerves and bring you to the brink of panic.

A union of doom duo The Body and noise-drenched grinders Full of Hell makes all the sense in the world, and on their new collaborative effort “One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache” (not sure this is a “Doll Parts” reference, but I think it’s a safe guess), the two units combine forces to create some of the most menacing, hellish noise you ever will hear. I know that’s hyperbolic. It’s also true as fuck. The eight songs these two bands have created (well, one’s a cover, but you’ll never recognize it) are massively heavy, terrifying, and are not for those who are susceptible to major doses of anxiety. Like me! Yeah, a full trip with this thing isn’t easy, and while it may be better on the brain to take this in small doses, the whole journey is worth experiencing whole.

We just visited with The Body last week with their new full-length “No One Deserves Happiness,” and as they are wont to do, they just have material bursting at the seams. This isn’t their first go-around with another band, as they’ve done similar releases with Thou, Krieg, and Vampilla, and it’s never anything less than astonishing to hear how well they adapt to their collaborators and always find new ways to punish you. As for Full of Hell, they also are no strangers to working with other artists, as per their stunning record with Merzbow, and they’ve been carving t quite the following for themselves as a crushing live act and as one of the most promising newer noise and metallic artists going.

The title track greets you with pitchforks blazing, as noise settles in, drums and beats mix and clash, and Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker lets loose with animalistic growls and shrieks. The track reaches a boil really early, with The Body’s Chip King’s inhuman gasps situated behind, an ominous feel rising, and the back end of the track melting into goo. “Fleshworks” has voices warbling, drums rounding up, and Chrissy Wolpert infusing beauty into total confusion. Voice effects on the howls make this terror seem oddly dreamy, and each inch of this spins your mind. “The Butcher” is a stunning, smothering cover of the Leonard Cohen song, with their take coming off like a death-noise-drenched murder ballad. Desperation, pain, and blood are splashed everywhere, as the bands do damage that’ll change your view of the song forever. “Gehorwilt” is absolute demolition, a blinding assault you never see coming and can’t avoid. Voices swirl in the air, while King’s raid siren howls sink in their teeth, and Walker’s growls deliver blunt death blows that mix with the slurry, disgusting bass and the total brain fuck of sound.

“World of Hope and No Pain” is a mere 40-second blast, but they make every move count, with both voices raising your blood pressure, and the rest of the players laying waste to any semblance of order. “Himmel and Holle” is complete madness from the start. Shrieks rain down, dropping a bloody mix over the death growls that accompany them. Noise spits and glazes, while relentless insanity devastates, sounding like one war is spread on top of another, with the body count rising. Every bit of this is chaos, and it only allows you a breath when the sounds subside. “Bottled Um” scrapes along, doing its worst in a calculated manner so you’re forced to feel every stab. Walker’s monstrous approach teams with King’s insanity, as the band hits an odd groove that’s almost catchy. But then it’s back into the mouth of hell and right into the closer “The Little Death.” There, the picture rips open, with Walker taking the first shots, and King following him by peeling the paint off the walls with his cries. The bands pound away hard, with reckless abandon, almost as if they’re trying to do harm to themselves. Mauling and splattering, chewing and gouging, both bands make their final blasts right through your chest cavity, as their din of death bleeds away.

The Body and Full of Hell make for a pretty perfect union, and their devastating collaboration on “One Day You Will Ache Like I Act ” lives up to expectations but also blasts them into bloody bits. This is not-for-the-faint-of-heart stuff, a record that warps minds, induces panic, and squeezes your patience. If, once this is over, you’re curled in a ball and rocking yourself back and forth for comfort, that just means you got it. Nice work, friend.

For more on The Body, go here: https://www.facebook.com/thebodyband/

For more on Full of Hell, go here: http://fullofhell.com/

To buy the album, go here: neurotrecordings.merchtable.com

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


PICK OF THE WEEK: Cobalt’s back from the ashes, devastate like never before on ‘Slow Forever’

CobaltThere are bands that really need no introduction and whose reputations precede them. Whether that’s for good or bad. Cobalt is kind of a mix of the two. They are well known for delivering emotional, savage, raw opuses, which they’ve managed to do for the past decade. Yet for the past two years, a darker pall came over the band for entirely different reasons.

Cobalt have two amazing documents to their resume, that being their 2007 sophomore effort “Eater of Birds” and 2009’s Hemingway- and Hunter S. Thompson-inspired “Gin,” my absolute favorite album of that year. In fact, it’s an album that’s had utmost importance to me ever since it arrived, and it is one of those stranded-on-a-desert-island choices for music I’d demand to have with me. The band even briefly toured, hitting up 2013’s Maryland Deathfest for an unforgettable set, and taking a short jaunt after that. Yet, trouble was brewing underneath. It was announced vocalist Phil McSorley would drop out of the band, leaving multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder on his own. Then he was back, and new material was in the works. Then, in the winter of 2014, McSorley went on a senseless, hate-filled tirade making him a pariah or hero in the metal world, depending on where you stand, and some time later, Wunder told the world he could not work with McSorley anymore, and once again, he was gone from the fold.

Cobalt coverThat move, quite obviously, was a good one. But it did pose the question of who would take over on vocals. For all of McSorley’s problems and ridiculous behavior online, he was the perfect mouthpiece for Cobalt. His hatred and rage were apparent and tangible in the band’s music, and it wasn’t like he was some kind of interchangeable part. It was going to take someone with just as dark and deranged an outlook to match Wunder’s musical intensity, and it turns out that man is former Lord Mantis member Charlie Fell. It’s not like Fell was without his scars, though he’s taken time to explain the matters publicly, but his demeanor and approach seemed perfect to send Cobalt into its new era. And with the arrival of “Slow Forever,” the long-awaited new double-album, it’s abundantly clear he was the right choice. He adds a different level of danger to the band, a vulnerability, and an unhinged humanity. He shrieks and rages, though when it’s time to pull back, he does capably. As for Wunder, well, his prowess has been well known, and he crafts some amazing, captivating, genre-smashing songs here that breathe fresh new life into this unstoppable machine that is Cobalt.

“Hunt the Buffalo” opens the record with an Americana-style buzz, stretching and kicking up dust until the track opens in earnest. Fell’s vocals join the fray for the first time, sounding maniacal and on edge, yet at the same time methodical. “I am not a man, I am just a dog,” Fell howls as the track delivers equal parts savagery and poetic torment, all disappearing all of a sudden. “Animal Law” provides a quick breather right away, and all-acoustic instrumental track that’s hypnotic and barrels into “Ruiner” that punches and bruises right away. The vocals are furious, while the music changes tempos at will, sometimes simmering at mid-tempo, blowing down the doors in other spots. Wunder keeps adding new elements musically, the guitars slurring, feedback warming over, while Fell is a beast, mostly shrieking with terrifying strength. As the song winds down, melodies bubble up, sounding like a passage that followed Cobalt from their back catalog, and a relentless barrage of pounding ends the track. “Beast Whip” is a total killer, the first song they allowed the public to hear, and it’s for good reason. It has an opening that reminds of the “Eater of Birds” title cut, with a merciless build that pushes the blood into your head. Fell is in full command. ramping up the violence as the song makes it way through, and with each twist of sweltering riffs, sped-up tempos, and path changes, the vicious message remains sturdy and breathing down your neck. The rhythmic spine of the song remains solid, while they get in a few more good stops before the track gasps its last. “King Rust” also has a dusty start, as a long, calculated build takes place before it rips the fuck open. The vocals smear soot everywhere, with Fell repeating, “Hoisting myself out of myself,” as the guitars cut across, and later the song bursts anew. “Can I resist?” Fell wonders aloud, as the guitars charge up and scorch, with Fell realizing, “I resist.” “Breathe” is another short instrumental that has a folk/country feel to it and later lifts a fog over everything.

“Cold Breaker” unleashes a burly bassline, with the song striking hard, crunching and overwhelming, as Fell takes his horrific shots. The song hits an interesting groove, letting you feel the filth, and the vocals actually get more monstrous than before. The music matches the anxiety of the howls, and melodic bursts provide the first hint of anything remotely approachable by the uneducated. “Elephant Graveyard” takes some time to really set its hooks. Steely guitars and heavy stomps accompany Fell, as he chokes, “Giant fingers applying the pressure.” The track speeds up and gets nasty, with vocals patterns repeating to dizzy, and the tempo chugging along. The back end of the track lights the fires again before everything sizzles out. “Final Will” also has a heavy bass stampede out front, with the song obliterating the senses, and vicious growls laying in the bruises. Later on, a militaristic drum line sets up, feeling like it’s warning of an oncoming storm, and then the violence bursts anew and takes the track to the ending fires. “Iconoclast” revisits Hemingway, with clips from his Nobel Prize speech laced into the instrumental piece. As the song glows in its embers, Hemingway’s line, “He will endure or be forgotten, a line he addressed to all writers but can apply to any creator, plays on loop. The title track follows, feeling like classic Cobalt musically as its gets on its way, with an ominous cloud hanging overhead, and Fell howling, “Skin to skeleton,” over and over again.There are bursts of speed, unquestionable mystery, and finally a thick fog of sound that drags the track, and seemingly the album, to its resting place. That’s when hidden track “Siege” arrives in a storm of static, crushing guitars, and desperate howls from Fell, giving the record a finish that feels like planets colliding.

Drama and upheaval be damned, there is no stopping Cobalt. Wunder is at the top of his game once again, stretching beyond black metal and letting some dustier influences bleed into the work. Fell is the right voice at the right time, and “Slow Forever” is a triumphant return that re-establishes this band as one of the most important and forceful in all of metal. There are bands that operate outside the spectrum of everything else that’s going on, and Cobalt is one of them. They’ve established their own world that’s far too dangerous for anyone else to inhabit.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/COBALT-109020659128531

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.com/slowforever/

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

The Body’s damaged attempt at creating a pop album is warped, apocalyptic on burnt ‘No One…’

Photo by Angela Owens

Photo by Angela Owens

The idea of a pop album probably makes most people reading this site shudder with horror. And why not, as most of them are synthetic, plasticy, soulless, and not worth the material on which it’s printed. But that isn’t the case the whole way around, as there are plenty of great pop stars past and current who make legitimate impacts on our lives.

Now doom duo The Body are trying their beastly hands at making a pop album. Uh, sort of. Their latest effort “No One Deserves Happiness,” their fifth full-length recording, is their stab at a synth pop album. “Their stab” being the operative words. You’re not going to hear these songs blaring out of cars this summer, and the kids, wherever it is they go, aren’t going to be jamming these cuts. If they are, and you witness them, hug them very tightly and offer to adopt them. They might have a fighting chance. These 10 tracks might be driving toward pop terrain in the mind of the two members of The Body–guitarist/vocalist Chip King, drummer Lee Buford–and the songs certainly have a far different bend than what they’ve created in the past. This is a new way to absorb how artists attempt and articulate pop music, and though it might not fit into that container, there is a beauty and strange curve to their creations.

The Body coverThe Body haven’t been treading the same waters for a long time now. With their multiple collaborations (they have a terrifying one upcoming with Full of Hell) and their dabbling with noise and electronic elements (not to mention their partnership with Haxan Cloak), this band has been twisting and morphing for years now. They’ve also, in the past, aligned with The Assembly of Light Choir, whose Chrissy Wolpert is a major contributor to this record, making them one of the more unpredictable bands in all of heavy music. Maralie Armstrong (of Humanbeast) also is a significant contributor, singing on two tracks. This record continues that strange development, and while they label this their pop album, devotees of the band don’t have to worry that they’ve gone soft. In reality, it’s the total opposite.

“Wanderings” begins the record, with Wolpert singing over static beats, with dying horns kicking in, everything trembling, and then the power rupturing. King wails from behind, with doomy chaos lapping up and the track grinding to a close. “Shelter of Illusory” has primitive drumming clashing with beats, crazed howls that shred the skin, and an electronic storm that Armstrong joins with calls of, “Church bells ring,” making your blood chill. “For You” goes face-first into the mouth of death, as noise smothers, growls and shrieks combine for one terrible force, and the track feels like an absolute bludgeoning. “Hallow/Hollow” mauls with a calculated pace, with guitar haze enveloping, the tortured vocals erupting, and doom horns bring fire and decimation. Wolpert then joins in to add a dreaminess to utter demise. Haunting, angelic choral calls bring the song to its sooty ending. “Two Snakes” has synth pulsing, with guitars smothering, a charred melody sliding over everything, and sunburnt playing making your face feel dry. The growling and singing mix, as a shimmer of keys pulls the track to a simmering end.

“Adameh” delves right back into furious noise, with guitars boiling and Armstrong’s singing coming from deep within her soul, as if she’s belting this out in front of the darkest faith congregation imaginable. “Starving Deserter” has guitars flowing like hot wax, horns bringing doom clouds, and horrific shrieks raining down. Bells chime, as the chorus rises up, pounds in their message, and slides along tornadic fury that pours on the desperation and panic. “The Fall and the Guilt” brings quiet piano, Wolpert sounding solemn, and lovely, yet ominous, singing that reminds a bit of Tori Amos. A long section of deep ambience stretches in and pushes into the album’s longest track “Prescience” that runs 7:23. There, a chilling reading breaks the silence, with the song churning hard, the choral voices glimmering, and the track stretching itself over a long pathway. The intensity and emotion build with the song, with pained wails pelting, a deep sense of mourning weighing down, and the heaviness and hell finally landing. Savagery and mental torment are what follow, and those elements keeping poking until the finale “The Myth Arc” slips in. Noise mars the vision, with Wolpert calling, “Say my name, I will find you,” letting in a feeling of vulnerability and hope. The sounds burn around it, smoke rises as if to bring the end, and a final choral stand represents the song’s final breaths.

Whether you want to deem this apocalyptic pop, doom hell, metallic bloodletting, or a combo of all of those, there’s no denying the power and fascination behind “No One Deserves Happiness.” King and Buford always find new ways to be terrifying and strange, and they’ve been making some of the most inventive creations in all of metal. So here it is, the pop album you never saw coming, one that’ll devastate every fiber of your being.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products

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