Winterfylleth sweep back with trademark atmospheric black metal on ‘The Dark Hereafter’

winterfyllethI’ll avoid the expected and obvious way to say this based on modern pop culture, but the winter months will be here soon in North America. The evenings already are noticeably losing their light as the days go on, and mornings are starting to arrive with a chill in the air. It’s the perfect time for black metal, as well as countless servings of dark beers.

It’s also the ideal setting for the arrival of new music from English black metal band Winterfylleth, whose new record “The Dark Hereafter” is more of the good stuff. The band doesn’t travel too far away from the boot-caked icy trails they’ve walked for years, and anyone who is a fan of their music dating back to the beginning should feel warm and welcome with these five new tracks. If there’s one alteration, most of the songs are a bit shorter and to the point. Also, we’re served about half as many songs as we’ve come to expect on what’s the band’s shortest record to date at a little under 41 minutes. But that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s a succinct, tight record that makes its point and gets out. There’s something to be said for not overfeeding, and you won’t leave this feeling overly full.

winterfylleth-coverWinterfylleth, whose name translates from Old English into Winter Full Moon, which represents the first full moon of October, have been making atmospheric black metal infused with boatloads of melody for nearly a decade now. The band—guitarist/vocalist Chris Naughton, new guitarist Dan Capp, bassist Nick Wallwork, and drummer Simon Lucas—first shook hearts on their excellent 2009 debut “The Ghost of Heritage,” released by Profound Lore. Their 2010 offering “The Mercian Sphere” saw the band move to Candlelight Records, and that was followed by “The Threnody of Triumph” in 2012 and “The Divination of Antiquity” in 2014. Two years later, we’re greeted “The Dark Hereafter,” a record that keeps adding fuel to the band’s English history-centered violence.

The title track opens the record, with the song erupting in a fury immediately, melodies lapping over everything, and the growls rumbling. The track has an epic feel, which is not exactly a surprise for a Winterfylleth song, and from there the darkness overflows before bursting with life on the back end before fading away. “The Pariah’s Path” is treated with thick melodies and swirling playing, with Naughton’s passionate cries pounding inside your chest. The playing is infectious and spirited, with riffs spilling all over the place, a clean calm emerging temporarily, and the band picking up with deep “oh-oh-oh” bellowing as the song disappears into the fog. “Ensigns of Victory” is built on strong riffs as the song launches forward. Melodies sweep everything in its path, while every element cascades gloriously, and the band continues to pound away. Wild cries and hammering riffs combust, as the song comes to its final resting place.

“Green Cathedral” is the longest cut on the record as 13:03, and it is inspired by a concept by author Ben Myers (Turning Blue) that the natural and rural world can be a more spiritually enriching place than any religion. Well, those things sure as shit inspire far less hatred and violence. The track begins with an eerie soundscape spreading as the music turns to a gothy flow. As the song begins to open up with power, acoustics blend into the mix, and the track heads in a mid-paced march. Moody soloing arrives, which the tempo changes up, and synth begins to stretch over like a cloud. As the song reaches its final minutes, it hits into full bore again, with wrenching cries and a solemn reading lingering over the last notes. Closer “Led Astray in the Forest Dark” has drums crumbling, riffs cutting in, and one real surprise in the emergence of clean singing. Naughton’s voice sounds almost liturgical at times, calling, “No one remembers me,” as the electricity blends with acoustic passages, and a lightning storm of soloing arrives and ends the song on a blood-pumping high.

Winterfylleth have been one of the most consistent bands in black metal both in sound and work ethic, hitting back every two years without fail. “The Dark Hereafter” serves to further solidify their catalog and to provide a record that’s a little easier to digest with each listen. Their music is set for seasons like the ones on which we are about to embark, and this record will make a fine companion on freezing days and endlessly darkened nights.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://spinefarm.merchnow.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Doom-smeared black metal violence erupts on Predatory Light’s debut record

predatory-lightAs much as metal has expanded philosophically and musically, there’s still more than enough room for chaos, hatred, and putridity. After all, much of metal works to expose the dark side, the thorny reality that is everyday life, and the ways we can slice through all of that via fire and violence.

That brings us to Predatory Light, whose debut, self-titled record pours on the volcanic ash, the smothering anger, and the gory punishment. Granted, they have more going on in their minds than just blunt assaults, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Their doom-infested servings of black metal will leave you with the feeling that you chewed your way through a coal mine, choking on the ash, begging for water, oxygen, or just a merciful end. The six songs that make up their debut record punish and penetrate your senses, dragging you against your will into the mouth of hell. As noted, we’re not dealing with caveman material lyrically and philosophically either. Predatory Light see this music as a vessel, a way to tear back the mind and flesh and to reincarnate oneself in torment. So you’re challenged and pushed in every aspect of this record, and this band is one to fear.

predatory-light-coverAs noted, this is the initial full-length record under Predatory Light’s belt, but it’s certainly not the first thing they’ve ever dragged to the surface. The band released two demos in 2014, just three years after they formed, and then a year later, they contributed to a fiery split effort with Vorde. The members of this band—guitarist/vocalist L.S., guitarist K, bassist D.F., drummer N.M.—bring with them experience elsewhere burning trails with groups as diverse and smothering as Triumvir Foul, Vanum, Ash Borer, Anhedonist, Drought, and many others, and their work here gives the world another powerful, bloodthirsty band to keep black metal deadly.

“Laughing Wound” begins the record, and there’s a bit of gamesmanship at the front end. Noise and keys gel, making it seem like we’re going to ease into this thing, or that a psychedelic bath possibly awaits. Instead, a smothering doom riff drops, brimming in full Sabbath worship, and then the track tears open. Deep, heaving growls arrive, as the song blisters you, and fires start blazing. The pace gets dizzying, almost as if the sparks of lightheadedness are in your field of vision, with wails about tearing away flesh and souls, and the track huffing away. “Lurid Hand” trudges, while the main guitar line snakes all over the place, feeling oddly playful. Dark growls rumble beneath the din, while the song hits hyper drive, with the drums crushing everything, the tempo blinding your eyes, and a mystical finish that lets the song evaporate into mist. “Path of Unbeing” keeps up with the display of metallic hypnosis, with blunt growls punching holes, and the song driving steadily ahead. The song speeds up suddenly, spilling a sea of animosity, with the playing searing, and the guitars cutting their way through. Infernal howls strike the air and induce horror, while the song comes to a smoking, rumbling end.

“Divine Membrance” simmers in harsh sounds and horrific psychosis, as the guitars blow things apart and riffs begin to bend all over the place. Nasty death-style growls surface, with a spooky pace taking hold and the track then launching into speed. The riffs spill down into a doom sprawl, with the cut dissolving into dust. “Sacrum (Feral Devotion)” has a strange, chilling beginning, with clean guitars whirring and then the claws sinking into the earth. Crazed cries and lurched growls mix together, as the menace hits a sense of urgency but then calms into haunted madness. Then, the gas pedal is glued to the floor, and the track burns off violently. Closer “Born of the Wrong Blood” spins your surroundings, almost to the point of nausea, while gurgling growls and tornadic guitars shake that up even further. The song clobbers heavily, as wild shrieks lace the flesh, howls of, “Speak!” bruise you, and the song fades into a hellish oblivion.

Predatory Light’s journey may have just begun, but the woods are on fire behind them, and they are insistent on incinerating everything in front of them. This self-titled debut is a smoking, sinewy, swaggering record that rubs your face in the dirt until you come up gasping. If more black metal sounded as feral and vile as this, that section of the metal world would be in much better shape.

For more on the band, go here: https://predatorylight.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.invictusproductions.net/shop/

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

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

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

After marking 30 noisy years, Neurosis return with another crushing opus ‘Fires Within Fires’

Photo by Scott Evans

Photo by Scott Evans

We’re not often is the presence of royalty these days when it comes to metal and heavy music. Part of that is there just aren’t many old guard gods left among us, so when we hear from them, it becomes a major event. The other reason is we’re just not creating those types of musicians and bands anymore.

So when you get a new record from one of these bands who are unquestioned standard-bearers, it’s practically time for genuflection and silent reflection. So if you need to do that before taking on “Fires Within Fires,” the 11th record from Neurosis, it is very much understood and expected. This band is arguably the most influential heavy music act of the past 20 years (the band itself just celebrated their third decade together), and their impact is so great, it’s impossible to measure. Remove Neurosis from music history, and you’d see bands just vanish from the planet in some sort of bizarre rapture. Without this band, there are sections of music that likely don’t exist, and any time they reveal new music, it’s something to behold.

“Fires” is one of the band’s shortest records in a long time. At five tracks and 41 minutes**, it almost seems like an EP simply because of who is involved. The band—tp0004c_Double_Gate_Cover_onlyguitarists/vocalists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till; bassist, backing vocalist Dave Edwardson; keyboard player/sound designer Noah Landis; drummer Jason Roeder—convened in conjunction with their shows celebrating their three decades together and started hammering out new sounds and fleshing out these songs. This record, at least to me, didn’t impact me instantly. In fact, I’m still feeling my way through these songs to see how they hit me. At times, the record feels more stripped back than the onslaughts we’ve come to expect from them. It’s not nearly as huge and engulfing as their last record, 2012’s “Honor Found in Decay” and their classic works. It certainly is a good record, but sometimes it doesn’t feel full. Maybe that’s because of its length. Maybe expectations are the cause. But whatever it is, I’m still seeking its full power.

“Bending Light” begins the record with plodding pounding, the guitars taking on a liquidy feel, similar to how they were a couple decades ago, and a long, crawling stretch. Psyche keys wash into the room, and then the bottom tears out, with cries of, “This restless sea is breaking me!” smothering with tumult. Later, refrains of, “Peeling the skin away reveals the heart,” sits in chaos, which simmers until it gives way. “A Shadow Memory” boils amid clean guitars and a calculated pace, before the words are barked out as the pace pulls back. The eruption hits, with more colors poured into the guitars, the impact shaking the room, and the riffs tearing away the pieces of crumbling walls. “Slit the throats of those who light the torches!” is bellowed with conviction as noise leans in and pulls the track to its end.

“Fire Is the Lesson” starts with stirring, slurry guitars that punch deep and jar your brain inside your skull. The rhythms cross your eyes, while Von Till and Kelly trade off howling lines, making for a scary, two-headed beast. A hypnotic acoustic line blends in behind, giving the track an uncomfortable vibe. Later the song spits shrapnel, with the title warbled over and over again, and the final minutes scathing. “Broken Ground” lets sounds hover, spreading dreamland sentiment into Western dust. The song kicks up, with every element threatening, and the growls churn and breath iciness, giving off the ambiance of a cold winter afternoon spent in the wilderness. Further explosions come out of that, but all of that dissolves into psyche clouds. Closer “Reach” is the lengthiest cut at 10:37, with effects spiraling, harmonized singing bleeding emotion, and a shadowy section of land bathing in darkness. Guitars come to life, albeit during a tempo that is numbing and serene, something that feels like it’ll last the length of the song. But you know it’s a red herring, and with minutes remaining, the band crushes you with heavy riffs. Noise zaps at you, as the voices feel like they’re bound to decimate throats, as the cry of, “We will never, ever get to rest!” feeling like it could be the band’s motto and a promise that there is more terrain left to burn in the future.

Neurosis making new, relevant music is a wonderful thing, and they haven’t lost their edge. “Fires Within Fires” doesn’t instantly come off like a classic, and at this point, and I don’t feel it’s in the top half of their best work. But with each Neurosis record comes absorption, and honestly, this would be an easier review to write a year from now instead of with limited listens. Neurosis remain one of heavy music’s greatest peaks, an unattainable high-water mark for every other band. Even a good Neurosis record is better than most, and who know how this thing will grow in the months and years to come?

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

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

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

**There are track listings elsewhere that have this record closer to 60 minutes with longer track times. Are we being Old Man Gloomed here? Just putting that out there.

Dusty gazers True Widow stay on same path, continue to numb brains on rumbling ‘Avvolgere’

Photo by Stephanie Hagemen

Photo by Stephanie Hagemen0

Adhering to a formula or recipe is a fail-safe way not to totally eff something up and/or ruin it completely. Following the instructions and ingredients to the letter might seem like a non-adventurous way to do things, but it also means something that shouldn’t be in your concoction—ketchup in a chocolate cake mix—remains out of the way.

You can say Dallas trio True Widow have perfected their slow-gaze recipe the past few years and have followed it nearly to a fault. The band’s records and music essentially can be anticipated pretty closely, and any steering from the path is done carefully and with plenty of forward thinking and precision. That might sound like a boring way to make rock music, and for some it is, but it works for True Widow. Their fourth record “Avvolgere” treads a similar path as their last album, 2013’s “Circumambulation,” but it does so in a tried-and-true, steady manner where you get the exact fix for need from the band. Granted, True Widow have tested and experimented with what they do, and the period that followed 2011’s “As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth” is where they seem to have perfected their formula. If anything, this new album tightens up those reigns, and the band sounds damn good doing it.

12 Jacket (Gatefold - Two Pocket) [GD30OB2-N]Having done their thing for almost the past decade, True Widow also have carved out a nice following and one of those special slots where they’d sound perfectly sharing a stage with bands from any number of styles—shoegaze, doom, post-rock, you name it. The group—guitarist/vocalist D.H. Phillips, bassist/vocalist Nicole Estill, drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks—are a well-oiled machine over these 10 tracks, keeping the pace rumbling and every now and again shooting out of their comfort zone for some added color. They may not be wildly experimental on “Avvolgere,” but they deliver strong, consistent sounds in a way only they can, numbing your overworked brain in the process.

“Back Shredder” kicks off everything, with noise swimming in the air, riffs chugging, and Phillips taking the lead. The track buzzes along, with the guitars lighting up later, and a strong charge taking you to the end. “Theurgist” has a steely riff and the bassline sliding under the thunder. The track has some thick ’90s-style fuzz, with Phillips posing, “I’ll never know just why you’ve come to me,” as the tempo pushes nicely and gets the blood moving. “F.W.T.S:L.T.M.” is another of the band’s oddly titled songs we’ve come to love. The drums move steadily, with a dreamy, humid pace, as Phillips pokes, “They said I’d never come around, but I bet I come around tonight.” The pace is calculated and simmering, with the song coming to chilled-out end. “The Trapper & the Trapped” has slurry guitars, with Phillips and Estill sharing the vocals. It’s sort of a call-and-response style, with him handling more of the chorus, and all along, the rhythm pelts and the guitars bristle. “O.O.T.P.V” is a cool one, with Phillips quipping, “Sooner or later, I’m gonna get tired,” and later on the chorus he levels, “I try to run away, but I can’t seem to run.” It’s a catchy song, and the chorus will glue itself to your brain.”

“Entheogen” has guitars waking up and pushing the tide, with Phillips speak singing, almost like Tom Petty at his sneeriest. The tempo and feelings are dark and foreboding here, bringing in a different atmosphere to the proceedings. “To All That He Elong” is a bit of a curveball, led by acoustic guitars and Estill cutting through with her singing. As the song goes along, the drums echo and the guitars squeak away. “Sante” is a great cut, one of the best in the band’s history, and again Estill leads the charge. The chorus really hammers hard, feeling a bit like an old Pixies song, with her challenging, “Take me away, take me right now.” “Grey Erasure” lets riffs rise and the drums punch some holes. “Something’s out to get me,” Phillips warns, as the track reflects his paranoia and fear with murky guitars and a crumbling finish. Closer “What Finds Me” is a strong final statement, with Estill sifting through changing emotions and the evolution of what moves her, noting, “As the years go by, I will change my mind.” This is a great last burst, with Estill and Phillips harmonizing and then everything dissolving into cosmic dust.

You always have a pretty good idea what to expect with a True Widow record, and that’s not a bad thing at all. “Avvolgere” is well played, cuts right through you, and should leave your head buzzing as you take on these 10 songs. As long as True Widow keep treading this path, they’ll be a reliable, bruising band always willing to give you a dose of the good stuff only they can make this well.

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

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

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

Dysrhythmia manage to uncover new ways to perplex the senses on sinewy new ‘Veil of Control’

dysrhythmiaA lot of the music I listen to for review here goes through my ears while at work. It’s a nice way to experience the music in a less critical setting since I have bigger matters at hand. But now and again I’ll get to something that scrambles my brain and jumbles my psyche so thoroughly, I either have to give up the other thing I’m doing or stop playing the music entirely.

Honestly, I’ve never had that issue with Dysrhythmia’s music before. But that was before their seventh (seventh?!) full-length “The Veil of Control” arrived to blow that all to hell. Before, I could process their music and their insane, encircling compositions and use them to push me forward. They would become a sort of motivator, for better or worse, and always worked really well to get my brain moving to tackle larger things. But the perplexing, blistering six songs on this record put me on the brink of paranoia. What was my mind doing to me? Why was I so distracted by this music that I had to submit to it blindly and push everything else to the side? It felt like the band was into something different on this record, settling into an area that sits just a bit apart from the rest of their catalog. Oh, and it’s also fucking amazing. I probably should have put that out there sooner.

dysrhythmia-coverThis progressively brutal and confounding trio is comprised of guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (he sticks to a 12-string for this entire record, so imagine the insanity), bassist Colin Marston, and drummer Jeff Eber, and for nearly two decades now, they’ve been blowing minds and making brain connections catch fire and melt. Their music certainly should appeal to those who feast on the virtuoso realms in extreme music and metal (I mean, it’s no accident two-thirds of this band are in Gorguts), but it’s not limited to that audience. The band creates compelling, spiraling melodies, strange sci-fi-style adventures, and songs you have to hear to believe because they can’t really be described. Though I’m going to try like hell to do that below.

The album starts with the title track, and it engulfs the senses right away. Drums erupt as the song takes on a spooky nighttime feel. Prog chilliness sets in, while the soloing sizzles, the pace speeds up and then returns to its normal path, and then frosty thrashing breaks out. The final moments actually have a modern Rush feel to them, which is a nice touch. “Internal_Eternal” has the melodies doing laps around you, with strange, disorienting rhythms, and the guitars swimming through the thick basslines. The track suddenly veers toward space, as everything dissolves into liquid, leaving you on the brink of hypnosis. “Black Memory” rumbles, with the compositions splashing all over, and a zany, nasty fury setting in. The music is fiery and bubbling, with shit going all over the place, and the track eventually finding calm after a series of calculated charges.

“Selective Abstraction” punches and jerks as it begins, with the bass clobbering and a mystical feel spreading over everything. The pace begins to chew up the scene, with sinewy striking, changeups that twist up your guts, and an ending that will leave you wondering what the hell happened. “Severed and Whole” spills right in, with the music flowing like a stream of liquefied steel and the melodies soaking the ground. As the track goes on, it gets weirder and meaner, with the band taking you on a journey with whiplash-inducing turns, the bassline bloodying lips, and the song coming to a charring finish. Closer “When Whens End” is the longest cut at 8:30, and the basslines travel through before clean and distorted guitars join up and wreak havoc. The song trudges hard, hitting on abrasive pockets, but later it slips into dreaminess. But that doesn’t last as the back end of the playing toughens up, the song mashes your senses, and the track ends in a stupefying cloud of dust.

Dysrhythmia will contort and confound for as long as they’re a band, and “The Veil of Control” proves they’re nowhere near exhausting their mania. They’ve managed to push their creativity to new levels of insanity, and if you’re like me, you might find it demands all of your time and energy when it’s unfurling in front of you.

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

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

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

Sumerlands use killer debut to dig into metal’s roots and carry its torch on through the night

Photo by Jaclyn Woollard

Photo by Jaclyn Woollard

Summer and metal are two things that always worked hand in hand for me. Possibly that’s because summer is when I really discovered metal, or at least realized how much I love it. As time has gone on, I’ve associated classic metal bands, and those trying their best to keep up the power in the modern era, with the long, hot days of summer.

It’s really a shame that summer is nearly over here in the States, because one of the year’s best classic-minded metal records is being launched by way of Sumerlands, the new band that aligns a group of well-traveled, experienced veterans for the heaviest of causes. Everything about their self-titled debut record is situated in the sounds of 30 years ago, but never in a way that seems gimmicky. The power and glory are real, and if you sit with the music and let it enter your bloodstream you’ll find yourself being whisked away to a place, even if only in the mind, where you cannot be defeated.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}Out front for Sumerlands is Phil Swanson, who is best known for his work with Hour of 13, another bands that fought for the survival of metal’s roots. He is in amazing voice here and has some of the most recognizable pipes in underground metal. Along with Swanson are guitarist/synth player Arthur Rizk (also a noted producer for bands such as Power Trip, Inquisition, and Pissgrave), guitarist John Powers, bassist Justin de Torre (Magic Circle, Innumerable Forms), and drummer Brad Raub (War Hungry). The band’s music harkens back to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Cirith Ungol, and they’re best absorbed over a summer evening, with plenty of beverages, and you just wanting to be one with the night.

“Seal” rips open the record with some meaty riffs, great, Halford-style singing, and molten soloing that belts out and scorches. The traditional feel is all over the place, with the band galloping from start to finish. “The Guardian” is a killer, and it would have been right at home right at the midnight hour on Headbangers Ball. This one has an Ozzy/Dio vibe to it, with fantastical elements, and Swanson howling, “I’ll never be forsaken, you’ll always be there by my side.” Later, the singing hits a higher pitch, with the guitars meeting up and driving this one into the moonlight. “Timelash” has a nice dose of crunch but also some brainy progginess. The vocals are pulled back some, with Swanson lashing, “We’re all losers in this game of fools,” with the synth fog spread over, bringing darkness. “Blind” has riffs chewing the thing open, with Swanson wondering, “How far can one fall?” with his singing having an extra twinge of shadow to it. The guitars rip out and create havoc, with the end coming abruptly.

“Sumerlands Haunted Forever” begins with clean guitars trickling like a stream before the thing chugs open. Warm soloing is layered like a glaze, seeming like something that could perfectly soundtrack the sunset, while Swanson offers, “All I ever wanted was some peace for you,” as keys blend in and the tempo punches holes. “Spiral Infinite” hits the gas pedal, with the vocals cutting, the sounds echoing, and Swanson declaring, “Time and space go on!” “Lost My Mind” has strong guitar work, a charged-up feel, and the words dripping with anguish. About the idea of losing one’s mental capacity temporarily, Swanson pokes, “So what if it happens one more time?” as the wall of chaos around him starts coming down on you. The closing title track (band track?) is a cool instrumental that wraps up the record nicely. Noise haze and sound zaps meet, accompanied by a swim through the cosmos, slurry guitars, and a weird, hypnotic vibe that ends in footsteps, possibly signaling the arrival in the Sumerlands.

Sumerlands’ debut may be a bit mistimed—though they’ll sound just as great in the autumn—but what are you going to do? Their first album is an excellent slab of classic metal that’ll get your blood pumping and your fists clenching. They serve the majesty of metal quite well, and with music this good, they should be devoted to the cause well into the future.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Lotus Thief’s trip through ages, legendary texts shapes superb ‘Gramarye’

lotus-thief

Photo by Hemali Zaveri

There any number of things that inspire heavy metal records from societal conditions to personal struggles to anger over religious matters. There also have been many cases where other works of art have led to some of the finest metal on record, and it’s easy to see why something one sees or reads could slip into the pores and influence the creative process.

For two records now, Bay Area metal band Lotus Thief has traveled back in time via various texts, and that has led to two unique, stunning opuses, the latest being “Gramarye.” The title itself deals with occult learning primarily through magic, and that title fits perfectly for these five tracks that visit such legendary works as Homer’s Odyssey, the Merseberg Incantations (magic spells written in Old High German), and the ancient Egyptian funerary passage The Book of the Dead, and even Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Lies. The works that inspired these songs stretch back nearly 2,000 years and led to these stimulating, dramatic tracks that all stretch nearly 10 minutes and keep your lungs pumping. It’s a bit of a departure from their Titus Lucretius Carus-molded debut “Rervm” in that it’s more ambitious and pushes their magic all the way to the stars.

lotus-thief-coverThe band is driven by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/composer Bezaelith (who also recently lent her haunting vocals to Palace of Worms’ great “The Ladder” from earlier this year). On this record, she is joined by drummer Otrebor (Botanist) and Iva Toric on synth and vocals, though Bezaelith expects to announce new lineup soon. What they do here under the Lotus Thief banner is entirely different musically and philosophically. Their last record fell more under the space rock banner, so huge and smashing you could imagine it played in large halls. The music on “Gramarye” remains situated in the cosmos, but the music is blends in more atmospheric black metal and doom, a dramatic, riveting collection of music that has the band making great leaps and bounds ahead, proving just how dexterous they really are.

“The Book of the Dead” opens the record as if you’re beginning an adventure through space, as sounds woosh and then the song opens up. The hearty, soulful singing pushes the song, while the pace begins to rip. A nice influx of melodies brings in a cascade of colors. The song reaches a softer pocket, with vocals that sound angelic and delicate, bringing a light breeze. Then we’re back to convulsions, as creaky whispers and a rising tide send the song on its way. “Circe” lets keys simmer, with sci-fi blips poking away, and the ambiance taking you into a strange nighttime sensation out of the mid 1980s. The tempo begins to chug, while the singing hovers in the air, mixing into brainy synth and later a tougher stretch of playing. The guitars reach out and pull a thick blanket over everything, evoking gasping emotions and later trickling blood over piano keys. “The Book of Lies” has a mystical start, with chimes echoing, psychedelic keys lapping over the surface, and doomy riffs bringing the storms. The vocals get harsh for a stretch, adding a sense of grit and balancing the powerful singing that dominates the track. Guitars take to the air but also provide some crunch, with more growls landing and a prog-fueled dream shifting into the clouds.

“Idisi” provokes as it rides out of the gates, while glorious melodies pour forth, and the main riff bubbles. Psyche fires begin to blaze anew, before serenity heaves a gasp, guitars are plucked, and Bezaelith’s voice unleashes its might. Later, the riffs tighten up, while the melodies spread, shifting into space before a push toward the cosmos through rousing wordless singing. Closer “Salem” lets the bass roam, proving beast-like, while a synth gaze drops, and the track takes on more of the space rock vibe of their first album. The song takes on a gazey post-punk feel for a while, but later, the singing bursts and grabs your attention, and every element reverberates. Winds of sound dash through and join up with the chaos, with the sound spiraling in the air, and everything coming to a dramatic, abrupt end.

This spacious, magical record is one that’ll leave you seeing stars and perhaps perusing those ancient texts that inspired Lotus Thief and these great five songs. “Gramarye” is a confident step forward for the band, the further evolution of their sound, one that’s fluent and ever expanding. This record is an adventurous joy to take on, and even after multiple listens, there remain corners to explore and layers of meaning to peel back and devour.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/pre-order-bundles/

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