PICK OF THE WEEK: Mur digs into migration patterns, life cycles on excellent opus ‘Heartworm’

MurPeople change all the time. We are not the same people we were last year at this time because as the days and months pass, our paths get altered. Some of us have life experiences that change us, some people pick up and leave their homes for somewhere else, and others evolve and expand their knowledge or skill sets in order to become fuller people.

Animals also do these things, but their plights are far different from ours. Their patterns of migration are annual excursions they follow, a practical regeneration with the calendar that is made up of progress, loss, and rebirth. We may not migrate as people, but we do have associations with the factors that make up animal migration, so we might be a little closer than we think. These processes are the focal points of the new Mur album “Heartworm,” and its creator Cam Sather digs deep into the land and its patterns on this stunning, amazingly naked record. The songs are raw and honest, having been recorded in an off-the-grid location in pastoral Minnesota powered by solar energy and containing just a wood stove. That setting comes across in ashy colors on this great recording that is likely to stay with you long past this season’s turning.

Mur coverSather (who also performs with Hymnal) started Mur in 2013, releasing a self-titled EP that same year, first tackling more human issues before he moved on to topics dealing with North American ecology with his first full-length “Athabasca” last year. Mur’s sound is rooted in black metal, and it often feels like it originates deep within the soil before finding its way to the surface eventually. He mixes in folk, drone, and experimental elements that all blend nicely within the body of his music. This record, much like subject matter on “Heartworm,” feels like a natural evolution from front to back, so when your trip starts and you work your way through the music, you feel as if you’ve experienced a life cycle.

We start with “Hollow Bones in the Millstone,” where winds whip in and set a chilly tone, and then the doom floor drops, and we’re on our way. Sather’s vocals lurch beneath the surface, with the music slithering slowly. Cold guitars later drizzle, with clean vocals echoing and clean melodies swirling. Later the track bursts, with the tempo hulking, and a dose of smothering chaos ending in serenity. “Cold Mountain” is largely rustic, with rumbling singing and Sather urging, “Oh my brother, show me your blood,” as the track continues along a solemn folk path. “When of Ashen Limbs” rips right open, with strong melodies sweltering and harsh growls bruising flesh. The vicious vocals meet up with mesmerizing tones, with strong soloing ringing out, and the intensity continuing to be fed. Later on, the vocals singe, while every element cascades, and the track fades into noise echo. “Migration Incantation (As Fog, As Gold)” first feeds hefty doom before dissolving into gazey melodies and a pace that continues to gain steam. As the track ruptures, the vocals turn raspy and harsh, with sounds smearing and stampeding, and the emotion wrenching at the heart. The track later turns to a simmer, as clean guitars rise, and the track slowly travels toward its end.

“Wyeth Shroud” is an instrumental that has a steely ambiance before it tears open and unloads jangling playing. The song starts to dust up, while the guitars hit a psychedelic rage, and the track bleeds into “Snakeskin on the Lake” that begins rather gently. The track feels sooty for a while before the thunder is unleashed and the music hits a frantic setting. A Midwestern vibe sweeps across the song, with the song hitting a glorious passage of burning, calming again, before ripping out your heart with its final moments. “Limbless Frozen Monarch” trickles, with acoustics blending into the mix, and the music feeling icy, like a newborn frost. Fuzzy guitars jab, mixing into dizzying doom, with the growls almost hushed and the finish trudging toward closer “Go Beyond the Sea and Still Bring Light to the Underworld (You Overrich Star!)” that totally explodes. The growls gnaw hungrily, with Sather howling, “Light, it quivers in the air, my sighs are growing heavier,” as the streams of music combine in the background and form a singular dark hue. The playing is spirited and fiery, with growls flooding the scene before the last dose of calm arrives. From there, the playing kicks up again, taking a heartfelt, massive jolt as it bleeds out, leaving behind its last tracks.

Sather is truly finding his voice and spirit within Mur’s music, and that’s pretty obvious from what he creates on “Heartworm.” There are a lot of bands employing this type of sound right now, granted, but where Sather and Mur stand out is in what comes from the creator’s heart and is slathered across his music. This is a rewarding, rich collection that can be visited each year when nature, and we ourselves, experience our own rebirth cycles.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://murmn.bandcamp.com/

Or here (CD form, coming soon): http://fragilebranch.com/products

When metal labels do non-metal things: Perturbator, Dälek roaring back to action

Photo by Somnyum

Perturbator photo by Somnyum

It never surprises me when I find out folks from the metal community have musical interests that extend beyond those realms. Here’s the part where silly war brothers everywhere call those people false and any other cool word they can think of. But it’s true, and it’s actually really refreshing to know so many people aren’t just all metal all the time.

That’s why we’ve chosen to branch out a bit more this year and feature music that, while not necessarily metal, certainly can serve a large part of that audience. We continue that today with a look at “The Uncanny Valley,” the astonishing new record from Perturbator and “Asphalt for Eden,” the great new album from Jersey hip-hop crew Dälek. These might not be easy recommendations for a bloodthirsty metal audience, because many of those people are hard to please. But who cares about them? It’s great to have two heavy music labels such as Blood Music and Profound Lore who refuse to set boundaries for themselves and release what they want.

Perturbator coverWe’ll start with Perturbator, brought to you by Blood Music, the purveyors of that insane Emperor box set. This music could sit right up there with you Zombi and John Carpenter records in spirit, though in comparison this album is quite different.  “Asphalt for Eden” feels like an out-of-control night in the 1980s, with substances coursing through the veins, and the passing neon blur street lights. There is excitement and danger at every corner, and Perturbator’s electronics and synth-bathed music makes that time period, while well in the past, feel ultra-futuristic (he does site anime such as “Ghost in the Shell” and “Akira” as influences). Does that make sense? Well, never mind. Put on the music, and you’ll be right on board. As for Perturbator, its creator James Kent has quite the background himself when it comes to metal. He’s been a part of I the Omniscient as a guitarist and currently plays in L’Enfant de la Foret, but he really seems to have found something in himself with Perturbator. He has been releasing music under this banner for a few years now, and he struck a nerve with “Dangerous Days,” released in 2014.

Starting with “Neo Tokyo,” the ride gets going, piling slicing synth onto massive tempo rushes, balanced out by surreal melodies and Far Eastern strings. “Weapons for Children” has chilly synth and even some doom melodies, making for one of the more menacing tracks on the record. “Femme Fatale” (which features Israeli synthwave musician Highway Superstar) feels like it could soundtrack a modern age Miami Vice, with moody sax melting, weird and steam-filled melodies that shoot out into space. “Vanger” has Greta Link adding her voice to this darkly poppy song. There are other guests who lend their skills including Hayley Stewart who contributes her alluring singing to murky, foggy “Sentient,” and labelmates Astronoid put their dreamy strangeness into “Souls at Zero.” “She Moves Like a Knife” is one of the most jarring tracks on here, living up to its jabbing name and melding glimmering, up-tempo synth that freezes the flesh. This might not be the everyone’s liking if you’re all metal all the time, but if you can pour yourself into the late night and early morning hours, you will be entranced.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://www.blood-music.com/store-us/

Or here (rest of world): http://www.blood-music.com/store-eu/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/

Dalek

Dälek

Dälek’s new record is a comeback of sorts. A year ago, MC Dälek decided he wanted to revive the group, getting the blessing of longtime collaborator Oktopus. This time around Dälek (Will Brooks) teams up with DJ rEk on turntables and Mike Manteca on samples and effects to create this seven-track, 38-minute opus. It’s the first full-length from Dälek in seven years, with their last coming on 2009’s “Gutter Tactics.” Here, we get Dälek at its weirdest and most ambitious, with noisy ambiance, doom, and shoegaze bleeding into the mix and making for one head trip of an album. It often feels like My Bloody Valentine or Merzbow fogging up their jarring hip hop, making for a sound really only Dälek have been able to master. Also, Profound Lore got some shit from a few people on social media for this release, which is fucking ridiculous. If you’re paying even a speck of attention, Profound Lore always put out challenging, outside-the-box stuff including Psalm Zero, Helen Money, Vaura, and Worm Ouroboros to mix in with Portal, Cobalt, and their other heavier bands. Dälek makes total sense here. Get over it.

Dalek coverThe first dose of hazy weirdness comes on opener “Shattered,” even as the words are delivered directly, the noises have your head swimming. “You can call me Mr. Brooks, you already know my pen name,” Dälek jabs, as the chorus that keeps revisiting gets jammed into your head. “Guaranteed Struggle” already premiered online, and its full of doomy loops, a wave of dark sound lapping, and Dalek urging, “Look around and watch the whole world crumble.” “Masked Laughter (Nothing’s Left)” is perhaps the most jarring on the whole record, feeling like a psychedelic dream that later turns gazey. The words slur over top, ending with the word “terrorism” muttered on loop to end the track to drone in their message. “Critical” is just a bad-ass song, as is “Control,” one of the angriest cuts on here with Dälek slamming, “They ain’t concerned with the now, just the after/And they got the nerve to ask why we say it’s black lives that matter.” The album ends with somber, agitated “It Just Is,” a fitting way to end a menacing, thought-provoking, nightmarish album that has Dälek flexing their creative muscle again.

Taking a break from metal and sampling what else is out there is healthy for you, trust me. These two records might only be in the metal wheelhouse because of the labels they’re on, but they happen to be collections that are pretty damn good and dark and morbid in their own right. We need more people in heavy music to push boundaries so that they one day disappear, because that’s a way heavy music and metal continues to grow.

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

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

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

Sci-fi thrashers Vektor explore isolation, death, technology on galaxy thriller ‘Terminal Redux’

VektorOne of the great pleasures in life for me is sitting in a giant movie theater and seeing the opening scroll of a new Star Wars play in front of me, unfurling the new plotlines that will enthrall me for the next 2.5 movies. Even when the enthralling didn’t exactly happen (yeah, Eps I-III, natch), watching those yellow words scroll into space at least instilled hope.

I got to thinking about that when reading the plot synopsis of Vektor’s incredibly ambitious new record “Terminal Redux.” If I was lazy (or lazier, let’s say), I’d post that entire block of text here for you to drink in so you could imagine you own Star Wars scroll effect. You can in due time, and I know that’s how I felt about this tale about a lost astronaut near death after having been subject to isolation testing. He discovers a life-rejuvenating molecule within a stellar nebula and returns home to the Cygnus regime to regain his ground and wrest away power from those who damaged him by holding his new life-extending force in his hands to those who would serve him. It’s the stuff from which space operas are made, and “Terminal Redux” definitely is the metal version of that very thing. Seriously, sitting with the lyrics is like reading a novella. The PDF file is 20 pages long! I love it! This 10-cut, 73-minute record is heavy, adventurous, a little zany, and something unlikely to be matched from a conceptual standpoint any time soon.

Vektor coverVektor have been operating over a decade now, first going by the name Locrian and changing that over to their current moniker in 2004. In that time, we’ve only gotten two other full-lengths from the band, those being their 2009 debut “Black Future” and “Outer Isolation” in 2011. That means it’s been five years since we’ve heard from them, and Vektor—guitarist/vocalist David DiSanto, guitarist Erik Nelson, bassist Frank Chin, drummer Blake Anderson—certainly didn’t skimp on the material with this record. It’s a long, demanding album, but it’s an episodic one, with each track logically and sonically building along the way. By the time you wind down to the final two, you’re on the edge of your seat to hear how things end. Along the way, the band mixes traditional thrash, death, and prog seamlessly, as well as more than a few flashy moments where they let their creativity burst.

Our story begins on “Charging the Void,” with the song bursting into hyper drive and the creaky growls telling our tale, lamenting the fate, “A rider on the crest, carry forth or plummet to death.” As the song moves, we get some weird progressions from the band, lead guitars that twist and contort time, and later some breezier melodies and strange group vocals. All of that bleeds away and flows toward “Cygnus Terminal” that starts with guitars pushing through cold winds. That picks up and hits a thrashy pace, with coarse vocals spitting toward its protagonist, “You must have lost your mind/Why don’t we just kill you now and put this all to rest?” Delirious guitars rip out of that, zapping all over and leading toward a thunderous finish. “LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)” has guitars bubbling and ripping open, with the band thrashing hard and the vocals pelting your flesh. There is a speedy, gruff chorus, delirious fun mixed into the track, and closing minutes that feel inspired by Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace” era. “Mountains Above the Sun” is a clean, proggy instrumental that erupts toward the end and collides with “Ultimate Artificer,” where the drums come alive and pummel, and the band starts landing a multitude of punches. The vocals scrape, the soloing goes wild, and the band positively crushes.

“Pteropticon” explores the outer edges at first before the song comes alive. The track is jabbing and massive, trudging by blindingly fast at times. The growls crush, while the guitar work again heads toward proggy territory as the track reaches its final destination. “Psychotropia” sits in a mid-tempo range for a good portion, mashing you back and forth and doing damage in a calculated manner. The guitars go exploring, but then they’re ripped back to the surface, where they grind into the ground. The tempo mangles and bursts, while all the elements just go off, with the rubbery bass feeling particularly damaging. “Pillars of Sand” opens most aggressively, with melody worked into the carnage, and the lead guitars feeling fluid and nasty as the same time. After a brief diversion down a wormhole, the song returns to its front end makeup to wrap things up. We start to see the end of the story coming into focus on 9:22 “Collapse,” a very different type of song with serene melodies and DiSanto going for clean singing, at which he’s quite adept. “Collapse into a great resolve, everything falls,” is a sober admission, as the song heads toward jazzy shimmering and, eventually, an explosion. Shrieks are stretched over the singing, while the guitars get heavier and make their presence felt, and the song ends on a somber note. Closer “Recharging the Void” runs a hefty 13:36, and each moment is vital. The thing begins going off the rails, with the band destroying everything in its wake and DiSanto noting, “We’ve lived beyond our years, and now we hear our calling.” As the song goes on, soulful vocal harmonies are worked into the mix, with the song feeling even more theatrical and the climax right over the next dune. The vocals lash out, group singing heads toward the void, and the band drums up a huge fiery ending apropos of the amazing story that has just spread out before us.

It’s still a few years until the next Star Wars installment, and I’ve given up hope anyone will do anything worthwhile with Dune, so “Terminal Redux” will do just fine filling in the void. This is the record Vektor seems to have been building to all along, and they knock this one way out of the galaxy. This is a challenging, flat-out fun record, and every journey into the cosmos with this is bound to be explosive.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://uswebstore.earache.com/vektor

Or here (Europe) http://webstore.earache.com/vektor

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Germ’s great, personal new record ‘Escape’ deals with mental illness, pain

Photo by Lauren Kate Kennedy-Yatras

Photo by Lauren Kate Kennedy-Yatras

We like to have fun on this site, and by all means, any metal voice that is a million percent serious is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean we don’t tackle real darkness now and again, the personal kind that can live deep within you and can shape and/or damage who we become as people. That’s far more real than any devil or goblin scene, and it can happen to any of us.

Metal hasn’t been afraid to encounter personal darkness and mental illness and what they can do to a person. Often times, having music that approaches those sensitive grounds can help the listener know they are not alone and the artist shed some blood. One artist that has excelled in that territory is Tim Yatras, the man behind depressive black metal project Germ, whose new record “Escape” is about ready to land in our hands. This, Yatras says, is the most personal Germ record to date, as he pours autobiographical details as well as his bouts dealing with mental illness and disillusionment with society into his art. You actually don’t even need to know those basic details when sitting down to listen to this record. You can just feel those emotions bleeding out and into your pores. It’s a heavy, emotional, at times beautiful record that could not have been an easy document to complete.

Germ coverAs for Yatras, this is his third full-length under the Germ banner, with “Wish” arriving in 2012, nearly a decade after starting this project, and “Grief” landing in 2013. Along with Germ, Yatras is known for his work with bands such as Woods of Desolation, Austere, Autumn’s Dawn, Blackened Angel, and a slew more. As for Germ, this isn’t merely another drop in the pool of depressive black metal bands that are welling up. There are elements of New Wave and goth in the mix, which certainly diverts it away from the gathering crowd, and the music often feels so foggy and misty, you might lose your way trying to get to the other side. But the journey trying to find the exit is worth the excursion.

The record begins with introductory track “I” that plinks and has orchestral-style keys, and it sweeps into the title track, where sounds flood and a somber melody rushes through. Yatras’ growls are deep and wrenching, sounding full of woe, as the song bursts with emotion. A cold tempo arrives, letting cool winds blow in, before the original body of the song returns for one last strike before strings help it fade away. “I’ll Give Myself to the Wind” starts with trickling guitars and post-rock overtones, before wrenching growls and hushed singing mix to send the track’s message. The playing explodes with life, with spoken verses stinging amid the shrieking, and the storm hammering before it finally releases its grip. “Under Crimson Skies” has a different feel to it, with Yatras choosing to sing rather than growl, and he does a damn good job of it, adding to the thick murk. Before all is said and done, there is an energetic explosion, with shrieks returning and sheets of synth feeling dreary. The back end has Yatras belting out his words again, with the bustling melodies reigning.

“V,” like the opener, is a brief instrumental that has piano keys dripping and rain pounding the ground, flowing into “The Dead Old Tree” that charges and boils before slipping into a slow-driving assault. The shrieks creak and echo, with the song going serene for a stretch before the hammers are dropped again. Every element cascades like a heavy spring shower, saturating the ground and making the footing questionable at best. “With the Death of a Blossoming Flower” starts with clean guitars before the power arrives, bringing with it a rush of sound and piercing shrieks that sound soaked with desperation. Like many of the songs on here, it’s not tumult the entire way, as the track gets uglier with noisy riffs spitting chaos, and the volume gushing over the last minutes. “Closer” fittingly ends the record, with guitars glimmering, and the melodies racing to the surface. The track and the ambiance here grip, with the book closed on this emotional journey with Yatras noting, “You’re not there, but your perfume still lingers.” A somber way to end such a personal record.

You don’t have to relate with Yatras’ feelings of isolation nor his dark mental experiences that have shaped his life. But if you do, “Escape” is bound to resonate even more deeply because you’ll recognize the mileposts along the way. This is a vulnerable, damaged journey we experience with Germ, and it might cause some of us to take a deeper look into our own lives and understand some of what lurks deep within our hearts and minds.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://www.theconnextion.com/prophecy/prophecy_index.cfm

Or here (rest of the world): http://en.prophecy.de/shop/

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

Rhin’s grime-filled, aggravated noise rock echoes frustration on smothering new ‘Passenger’

RhinHey, so my nerves are all chewed up. It’s just been one of those weeks, right, where pretty much everything went wrong. That snowball started at the top of the hill and picked up steam and doesn’t seem to have any intentions of stopping. That’s causing a little more annoyance than usual.

Because of this, it turned out to be a good week to talk about “Passenger,” the new and third record from West Virginia-based noise trio Rhin. That’s not because the record adds to the annoyance. It doesn’t do that. Instead, it channels all of the things pissing me off, and when I hear these seven aggravated tracks that sound like they’re trying to gnaw on my flesh, it makes me realize my frustrations are normal. These guys, while totally having modern flourishes, sound like they could have done well in the ’90s, when Unsane, the Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and the Rollins Bands were doing some of their best stuff, as they would have fit right alongside them perfectly. The band—bassist/vocalist Dom, guitarist Tuck, and drummer Ben—also have a metallic edge to their noisy emanations, which is perfect for inviting folks from so many different terrains of heavy music to the proceedings. It’s also just an explosively fun record.

GGR SINGLE POCKET JACKET UPDATED 032112Opener “Uncle Tuck” rumbles apart, with noisy punishment wafting and harsh shouts bruising your rib cage. “There’s got to be something out there/There’s got to be something for me,” Dom laments, as the band leads you toward a crushing finish. “Unwell” is fiery and smashing at first, with yowled vocals and the band giving off heat. The track halts momentarily, but then guitars cut in and burst everywhere, while notes shoot out, and a grime-infested tidal wave of playing forces you over. The song gets loud, the vocals slip into a shriek, and a smothering groove sends the track home. “Drag My Feet” has a deliberate pace, hitting really hard, with a cool chorus that sticks with you. The guitars get spacious for a spot, while the band lands on stop-start mashing, and the madness and filth pile up and choke out the track. “Snivlem” is the longest cut at 7:03, and it plods along at first before the noise hits a boil and slowly spills out everywhere. Guitars heat up, getting meaner and heavier, while sounds threaten and the pace suddenly explodes forward.  The riffs burn brighter than ever, as Dom howls, “I am free!”

“Clay” is the second longest track at 6:35, and it unleashes punches right away, with a smothering, chaotic assault bleeding out, and the band going on an extended, drubbing section where they stretch their muscles. Warbly clean singing arrives, with fiery riffs doing further damage and melody sliding behind the smokescreen. “Basement” blows apart, with a blinding array of chugging that catches fire and chokes you with smoke. Later the tempo shifts, with the band slowing down and grinding away, the track devolving into a noise pit, and the swirling churning bleeding out. Closer “Bad Timing” is an entirely different type of thing at first, giving off a stoner pop vibe and feeling like early Jane’s Addiction. Echoey swirls and wild blasts pummel, while filthy howls are unleashed amid sunburnt guitar work. The track is both abrasive and melodic, chugging and chewing flesh as the final moments blister and push out their final doses of torment.

Rhin’s aggressiveness and loose abrasiveness could leave brush burns on your face and chest while also doing a number to your eardrums. “Passenger” is a record that gets underneath your skin and, while poking at your sores, also helps you cope with the chaos flying around your head. This is a pummeling experience in front of you, and it’s best taken when your frustration is at its highest and you want to know that someone else out there understands.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/merch

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

Ancst unleash blackened rage into their crust-filled chaos on devastating new album ‘Moloch’

Ancst_promo_bandDo you remember that old show “When Animals Attack”? Talk about a collection of some of the dumbest humans completely devoid of any sense as to the moment where they’re fucked. Then the assault comes, the cameras catch the horrors, and it is used for entertainment for people at home. Who can blame the animals, really, as they’re just reacting the way they would naturally?

While they may not be animals, the members of German blackened crust band Ancst sound like they’re bloodthirsty beasts on their new album “Moloch,” a face-splitting assault from the word go that feels like a slew of angry creatures coming to assault you. There is no time to breathe, nor room in which to take cover, as Ancst unleash their music unto a potentially unsuspecting audience. Much like the people in those videos. It’s your fault if you get flattened. You are hereby duly warned about the ferocity of this 10-track album, and so any bruises or lacerations you incur from this point are on you.

Ancst coverAncst got their start a half decade ago, having since put out a slew of smaller releases and split efforts that built up their reputation and hellacious sound. “Moloch” is their first record that will be released on a widespread basis, with labels as varied as Halo of Flies, Vendetta, Yehonala Tapes, and D’Kolektif putting out the music in multiple forms and regions. As for the band itself, its mission is an anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-religious endeavor, and for good measure, their Facebook site also adds, “Death to NSBM.” I’m hard pressed to argue against any of that, and after having experienced their vitriolic music, I’m fine with getting out of the way and watching the carnage sure to unfold.

The title track unloads right away, with zero chance to get ready, as the band works into a fury, with melody snaking into the storm. Thunder erupts, black metal strains rain down, and various colors and shades flood to the surface. “Behold Thy Servants” is ultra-charged up, with the melodies riveting and the vocals unleashing harshness. The song rips open into a hardcore-style blast, with undeniable passion infused into the mix. “The Skies of Our Infancy” bursts immediately, with black metal underpinnings rearing their head, and the raucous piece progresses quite fluidly. Sounds cascade, with the vocals reaching an elevated state of cataclysm, and the drums destroy everything. “In Decline” roars dangerously, spilling rage into sheets of melody that make for a rush of sound. The track steamrolls everything, with the guitars swelling to sting and fade. “Strife” brings cold guitars and what sounds like a machine generating fear in the background. The track then begins thrashing madly, with riffs dizzying, jolts of speed mashing, and a metallic-rich assault that’s absolutely destructive.

“Devouring Glass” sounds the way you’d think from its title, with melodic thunder ripping out of the sky and an awesome chorus that devastates. The vocals are smeared with fire, with the band chugging hard behind them before coming to an abrupt end. “Turning Point” has charring riffs and vocals that are more from the death metal terrain. Eventually it cools off and sends breezes, but then it erupts and stampedes toward the gates. “Human Hive” opens with a quote from Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves, who gives a sobering speech relating modern working conditions to slavery. The song hits a melodic high, mixing brutality with catchiness with a scathing message, and the track finishes up a smoking pit of anger. “No More Words” follows the trend of heavy storminess, a sonic burial complete with meaty riffs, vocals crushing, the drums being massacred, and what feels like 1,000 pounds of sound weighing down on you. The record ends with “Lys” and its abrasive guitars, chunky riffs, and vocals lacerating any sense of calm. The music lathers with blood and goes in for its final kill, smashing you with a final does of tumult to send you on your way.

Ancst’s wider introduction to the world comes at a great time, when emotions in the world are high and we need an outlet in which to unleash our energy. “Moloch” is that record, one that galvanizes the chaos within us all and pours it into an experience that’s outright volcanic but also has its heart in the right place. Any of their enemies would be served well to get out of their way, and if you’re behind this tidal force, why not blast forward with them into their titanic future?

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

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

Or here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/shop-webstore/

Or here: http://yehonalatapes.bandcamp.com/merch#_=_

Or here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1c-uhV2G2SqE4Bmj9mpgii7GboNDYA8PWmyFtNY-BzDQ/viewform?c=0&w=1

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

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

And here: http://yehonalatapes.tumblr.com/

And here: http://hereisourblog.tumblr.com/

Toska’s debut EP gets proper widespread infusion into the world to freeze more hearts

Toska EPAs I sit here, it’s near 80 degrees on an April afternoon, which is unseasonably warm, and a wonderful breeze and the scent of grills in the neighborhood is wafting through my office window. It’s pretty damn great, I’m not going to lie, but it makes for weird weather when discussing a band that brings icier elements to their sound and might seem more at home during a blizzard.

Iceland’s Toska very much have a vibe that would seem perfect for the darker winter months when ice and snow snarl everything. In fact, the music that we’re discussing today that comprises their debut EP actually was released independently in December, so it’s not like they’re trying to throw a wrench into our brains. But since then, Bindrune Recordings/Eihwaz Recordings nabbed this beast and are giving it a proper reintroduction into the world on a grander scale.  That’s for good reason. There’s a lot of really great stuff here from this band who, for the time being, are nameless, faceless souls. Their sound is raw and abrasive but also chockful of colorful melodies and undeniable passion. It’s impossible not to get caught up in this massive storm that strikes quickly and drags you all the way to its finish line seven tracks and 23 minutes later.

“From the Starless Nights” opens the record, a quick instrumental that sets the stage with guitars ringing out and tensions rising. The promise pays off with “Night I – Algid Gales” that rips the lid off the collection of chaos and steamrolls forward. Whispered growls, a recurring element on this record, travel underneath the din, as melodies surge hard and the spirited chorus rivets. There is a rush of power that has a nighttime vibe, and that crashes face-first into “Night II – Throbbing Tumulus” and its dizzying riffs. The vocals are smashed underneath everything but certainly have their say, while the band speeds through, with guitars spilling everywhere and a brief pause letting a thrash assault crash out of the other side. The back end of this is blindingly violent, offering no chance for a breath at all.

“Night III – Iced Spectres” has moody guitars spreading darkness, while the assault comes seemingly out of nowhere before taking a turn toward comic keys and a frosty front. Guitars later cut through that, bringing bloodshed to the forefront again, while the vocals char and mar, and the sounds flood all over the place. “Spirits of the Winter Moon” is another instrumental, a quick interlude built with thunder rumbles and strange keyboards, all bleeding toward “Night IV – The Howling Descent” and its spiraling lead guitar work. The song unloads, with the growls lacerating flesh, and even a strange technical flush standing over all of this. Silence take over, with winds whipping through the pause in the attack, but later there is a new eruption, as guitars mangle, and strong melodies create a blinding glimmer. Closer “Night V – Blizzard Tales” sounds like a perfect Immortal song title, but this one goes more thrashy than black metal at first. The band trudges everywhere, with raspy vocals pelting you like ice chunks, and from there the guitars dominate, the song punishes, and you’re left out cold, trying like hell to keep your cells from freezing and turning black.

Toska’s deeper penetration into the world with the wider release of this EP is good both for the band and eager listeners who scour the Earth for new entities that will further ignite the metal passion in their hearts. This band is raucous and gritty for sure, but they also spit fire on a regular basis and can ignite even the frostiest of situations. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, and it’ll be exciting to hear what they can do with a full-length record.

For more on the band (it’s currently blank, but whatever), go here: http://toskabm.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

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

And here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Woman Is the Earth reach new high point on great ‘Torch of Our Final Night’

WITEAs we writers work our way through a calendar year, music here and there pops up and makes us think it’s worthy of year-end praise. Yeah, it’s only April, but that’s already happened a few times this year. It happened again with the record and band we are discussing today, which I had been anticipating pretty heavily.

Woman Is the Earth is not a household name yet on even the underground level. That should change—it better change!—with the release of their amazing fourth record “Torch of Our Final Night,” their most expansive and best album yet. And that’s saying something considering they’ve been making great music for the better part of a decade now. But this one is the proverbial game changer, as much as I detest that saying. It’s WITE bursting out, expanding their thinking, and expressing their inner fire in a way that demands these guys be mentioned as one of the best U.S. black metal bands. I don’t mean just mentioned by jerk internet people like me. I mean by everyone. If you listen to black metal, or even heavy music in general, this band will open your eyes to new horizons, and you’ll never look back again.

WITE coverWITE’s sound certainly can be labeled atmospheric, as the rich melodies cascade over you like a stream and can make you think of adventures in the outdoors. But that’s not necessarily in a forest, like so many bands. This music made me imagine this as a soundtrack for my own adventures later this year, when I take a car ride down the eastern seaboard, through farmland, and eventually to the ocean. Even dark suburban evenings when the sun sets and streaks the horizon in orange. Perhaps that’s a little misplaced from this band’s South Dakota setting, but it’s where my head went. The music is mighty, emotional, obviously informed by the band members’—Jon Martin (drums, vocals), Andy Martin (guitars, bass effects) and Jarrod Hattervig (guitars, vocals)—surroundings, and the perfect medicine for giving your heart and immediate jolt.

The record begins on “Triumph of the Sun” with clean guitars dripping, opening into a spacious sky, and those colors mix into “Brother of Black Smoke” that lets riffs rivet and surge. Harsh wails begin to flood, following along with the energy of the song and things later getting gruff. Calm arrives, as the melodies trickle through, letting other textures bleed over, and then the burst happens, with the song glimmering with life, the guitars leading the way, and an atmospheric deluge splattering. The song gushes over its final minutes before trickling toward its end. “Broken Hands” has guitars burning, harsh growls blistering, and a punchy tempo that’s both oxygen-infusing and mangling. A sequence that boasts a proggy headspace takes over, feeling spacey and warm. A pace that seems to take its time eventually erupts, with leads feeling like they’re becoming sunburnt, and effusive melodies and rustic acoustics driving the track into the stars.

“Sorrow and the Floods” begins punchy as hell, with rich guitars setting the pace, and, like so many other places on this record, the melodies rushing to the surface. A storm front of shades and tension hangs over and pelts the ground, while gritty, harsh howls rain down, and the soloing shimmers. As the track winds down, the playing robs you of your breath and thrashes away. The title cut then arrives amid a flurry of riffs, some cold synth sending chills, and a momentary gasp of air before the song explodes. The vocals are fiery, sending you into a thick fog, while the band unleashes musical ice pellets, feeling cold, yet calm, the perfect setting for a blaze. The guitars bring that, as do the goth-infused keys, and every element, including the monstrous growls, sends you catapulting toward its end. The record concludes with “Lungcrusher,” a track that simmers in an acoustic haze, quietly leading into the body of the song, and shoegazey guitars smear its massive honey sound over everything. You can’t help but swell with the same feelings the band pours into this song, with the tone getting moodier, and the waters continually building. Wordless harmonies push, the chaos blends into chilling synth, and the cut disappears into the night, running off with your heart and soul.

Woman Is the Earth’s true arrival is now, nine years into their run as they deliver the most affecting material they’ve ever written. “Torch of Our Final Night” is what a metal record should be—full of heaviness, passion, heart, and guts. It’s one of the best things to come out in this early year, and our thinking is when the snows return as we’re looking back on 2016, this record’s going to be right up there for discussion about the year’s strongest music.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://initrecords.corecommerce.com/

Or here: http://www.womanistheearthband.com/woman-is-the-earth—store.html

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

Howls of Ebb continue mastery of black strangeness on murky second record ‘Cursus Impasse…’

HoBLots of people who don’t listen to metal easily fall back on the assertion that it’s just a bunch of noise. I can understand that. To the untrained ear, what people are hearing, depending on the band, could be a cacophony of chaos with no discernable jumping-off point and simply a mad sea of wild pandemonium. Of course, for those of us who do listen with regularity, it still can sound that way sometimes.

I say that because we stand face to hideous face with “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows,” the second record from San Francisco-based duo Howls of Ebb (or HoB, as they accept as an alternate name), one of the most perplexing metal albums of this still pretty young year. A mad sea of wild pandemonium, indeed. What HoB unleash on this seven-track, 42-minute demonstration is black metal chaos at its finest. No wall is solid enough to steady yourself, and no blow to the body can be predicted, because hands are coming from so damn many directions. But the record is anything but a bunch of noise. Listen closely and you can hear the sonic tributaries carved into the music, feel the imaginative rhythms they set up, and experience the energy of madness poured into this impressive album.

bookletAs noted, HoB managed to weave all of this with just two members—multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Zee-Luuuvft-Huund (formerly of Ligeia and Nepenthe) and drummer Roteen’ Blisssss. Much like their debut “Vigils of the Third Eye,” the band lets loose all of the dark energies contained within them. But despite the fact that so much is going on here, and the twists and turns are many, they never overdo it. This is barbaric weirdness done just right in that their fire never gets snuffed out by too much terror sitting on the surface. That said, the record still might give you fits of anxiety. By the way, pay attention to the links at the end of the piece, because this record is being put out by multiple labels in different formats.

“The 6th Octopul’th Grin” begins the record immediately, already digging into your brain and challenging your strength. The vocals are spat out, while the guitars chug and then spill into a weirdly robotic haze, with melodies perplexing. As the song goes on, the intensity and insanity build up, stampeding through strangeness and eventually bleeding out. “Cabals of Molder” teases calm at the front end, allowing you to take a misguided breath. Then it’s into the fire, with the song bursting with force and the guitars smothering. There’s a groove to this song that would be catchy if it wasn’t so damn vertigo inducing, and the track then heads into a grimy pit, with growls lacerating and jerky bends being taken at full speed. “Maat Mon’s Fume” sounds like a siren at the start, circling your head and sending you toward a panic. Sinewy bass snakes through, while the growls boil underneath the din, and static-filled, jerky riffs get heavier and more violent as the song swirls toward its ugly finish.

“7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm” is weird and spastic as it starts, with whispery growls sending chills down your spine and the bed of strange sounds confusing your nerve endings. Guttural speaking lurches along, with the song continually getting heavier and mesmerizing melodies lapping up. The guitars later go off and shake your insides, with the back end sprawling out. “Gaunt Vertigo” is an interlude that, while brief, will make you feel like you’re immersed in delirium, and then it’s on to “The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor to Vengeance” that begins with a cool, dark vibe sliding underneath the murky waters. The song starts crushing and pummeling as it goes, with some cool soloing slipping in before everything bursts out of control. A clobbering assault breaks out, one of the most frantic on the album, while the guitars wail out of control, and fierce screeches lead into the song fading away. Closer “The Apocryphalic Wick” has noise pulsating, while chants echo out and surround, and the song finally opens up. Guitars begin another frenzied assault, with the tempo shaking you and forcing your brain to collide with the inside of your skull. The band just mashes your psyche here with their final message, as each element folds into each other, confusion reigns, and a few final growls reach out and gash you as your well-being is forever marred.

Howls of Ebb continue to defy conventional means of making music, and they take another spellbinding step forward on “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows.” Fans of bands such as Portal, Antediluvian, Deathspell Omega, and Impetuous Ritual are sure to become disciples in the House of HoB, and that’s for good reason. This band is a great source of chaotic magic that’ll keep you guessing long after the music you witnessed has passed.

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

To buy the album (CD), go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

Or here (vinyl): http://nwnprod.com/shop/

Or here (cassette): http://caligarirecords.storenvy.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

And here: http://www.nwnprod.com/

And here: http://www.caligarirecords.com/

Savage Master mix ferocity with classic metal riffs and carnage on killer ‘With Whips and Chains’

Photo by Hayley Fawn Hall

Photo by Hayley Fawn Hall

We’ve learned over and over again never to judge a book by its cover or a band by its appearance, but really, sometimes you kind of can. Like, OK, over the weekend I was in a grocery store, and I saw a romance book series called “Amish Millionaire.” I’m pretty sure the decision I made over that book will hold true if I decided the read the thing.

Sometimes you can look at a band and the image they portray and get a good idea of what they’re about before you ever put on a note of their music. That can lead to both good and bad pre-judgements, but hell, many times those thoughts end up being accurate. For example, the first time I ever heard of Savage Master was from a friend of mine who recommended them and sent me right to their Facebook page. Right away I saw this troupe dressed a masked executioners fronted by this woman who looked like she climbed from the scenes of a “Mad Max” movie, and I instantly was on board. Next step was to take on their 2014 debut record “Mask of the Devil” (their images was adopted from the 1960s cult film “Black Sunday”) and I was totally hooked. This band throws vintage metal fire out there like it’s the middle of the 1980s, but they have a modernity to them as well that grounds them in the present. They’re just a bad ass, really fun band that’s just begging for more ears.

Savage Master coverThey should get just that with their crushing second record “With Whips and Chains,” coming to you via the always reliable High Roller Records. The cover alone is a feast for the mind, but once you crash into these 10 tracks, you know you’re on a bonafide heavy metal adventure full of blood, violence, evil, and nasty intent. Out front of these shadowy figures is Stacey Savage, whose voice puts her in absolute command of this band. Plus, she looks like she could kick your ass. I’m kind of afraid of her. Along with her are comrades in darkness Adam Neal (guitars), Larry Myers (guitars), Brandon “BB Gunz” Brown (bass), and Zach Harris (drums), who also bring their own brand of intimidation, as well as their knack for keeping things heavy, ruling, and totally on fire. Seriously, this band is fun as fuck.

“Call of the Master” is sort of an introductory cut, with fires crackling, chants summoning the dark lord emanating, and the first hints of menace spilling in toward “Dark Light of the Moon.” There, guitars charge up, with some meaty riffs tearing into the flesh, and Savage howling, “Every room is like a living tomb!” to ensure you know of the horror that awaits. Soloing explodes, and the band sends you on the speed-ripping turn toward the end of the track and right into killer “With Whips and Chains.” The song has more torture, more evil, and a gang-shouted chorus that’s infectious and blistering, with the lead guitars once again taking charge and the rhythm section doing to heavy hitting. “Death of the Necromancer” has a Judas Priest feel to it musically, with Savage at full command vocally, and twin leads making this song so ridiculously metal you can’t help but pump your fists. “Vengeance Is Steel” rips along, with the band taking their assault to the battlefield and, once again, the chorus injecting you with power. The guitars duel and blaze, while Savage shouts, “The pain that you feel, you know that it’s real!”

“Looking for a Sacrifice” feels like one where Savage has her boot right on your throat, and she wails in your face, leaving you fearing for your life. The riffs are strong, the chorus is simple and effective, and there’s even a bit of a bluesy swagger going on underneath it all. “Satan’s Crown” sounds like it pays homage to another NWOBHM titan in Iron Maiden, with the tempo at full gallop, and Savage delivering raspy, penetrating calls. The band shouts away on the chorus, as the track rollicks and bleeds everywhere. “Burned at the Stake” starts with flames licking and shrieks off in the distance, with the band dialing into searing melodies and massive carnage. “My life for his sake,” Savage shouts, with the rest of band providing a raucous conclusion. “Black Hooves” brings in more hefty riffs, with Savage standing above the fray, unveiling wild shrieks over the chaos, and a thrashier, meaner attitude being unleashed. Closer “Ready to Sin” is smashing from the start, with the band launching into attack mode and the track sounding more like a war anthem. Savage gets in her final shots, as the band surrounds her with soloing that sounds conjured by dark forces and a rumbling energy that lasts all the way until this smothering slab’s final moments.

Savage Master serve the metal gods old and new quite well on ‘With Whips and Chains,” a slab of true heavy metal that should have your cauldrons burning at home. Yeah, they have an outrageous image, but damn it if they don’t measure up in every way possible. They look like a hoard coming to rip apart your town, and their music is their most powerful weapon of all. Run and take cover before Savage Master lop off your puny head.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/savagemaster666

To buy the album, go here: http://www.hrrshop.de/

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