PICK OF THE WEEK: Black metal industrialists Thralldom back with chaos on ‘Time Will Bend…’

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Photo by DP Demis Photography

There are those times when things seem as bleak as can be, where hope is fleeting, and it feels like it could be any time now before the sun is sucked back into the universe, leaving everything in darkness. In those times, you don’t always want something to bring you out of that state, but rather you’d like to be pushed even further into the void.

For those who feel that way, back come Thralldom from the ashes, with more dark, penetrative music to soundtrack what are turning into hopeless times. A full decade after their massive last full-length “A Shaman Steering a Vessel of Vastness,” the hellish duo returns with their new effort “Time Will Bend Into Horror,” which picks up where they left off and drags them even further into blackness. This digital-only release falls into the late year nicely, as the chill and days with the daylight choked from them are here in abundance. The grinding, industrial-stained black metal Thralldom are well known for hammer away and leave bruises. But they also inject enough cosmic fog into this to make your brain feel like it’s lost on some other level, running away from forces you can’t quite see but definitely can sense. Over the course of six tracks and nearly 28 minutes, Thralldom unroll the black curtain, raise it to block out the sun, and render you a heap, forced to stare right into your own despair.

thralldom-coverHaving Thralldom back in our midst is a sight to behold. The band consisting of vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ryan Lipynsky (who is damn busy these days and has another trick up his sleeve coming soon) and drummer/noise technician Jared Turinsky remains as horrific as ever before. Having been a unit for nearly two decades now, they’ve managed three full-lengths, a few EPs, and some smaller releases, and “Time Will Bend Into Horror” is another strongly alchemic step in their mission. While this recording is a bit on the short side (it’s EP length in time, but certainly not in scope), it has maximum impact and feels like a fire-breathing machine from start to finish.

“Cosmic Chains” begins the record in what sounds like a hissing factory, with a weird noise haze, the feel of drilling machines all around you, and a weird cosmic interference that cuts through that and drives you into “Chronovisions.” There, black melodies and Lipynsky’s deep howls emerge, causing your head to swim underneath waves of panic. The vocals absolutely crush the senses, and even when calm swims in for a spell, it eventually breaks out hard as riffs rain down, and Lipynsky howls, “Chronovisions!” over and over, almost like a rallying cry. “Stars and Graves” is disorienting at the start, with guitars dizzying and penetrating growls ripping holes. Chilling guitars mix with ashen whispers before the song roughs you up again and sends you catapulting into the walls. Strong soloing burns a path, while the rest of the elements spill over and rumble toward the finish.

“The Corpse of the Radar Tower” has a strange, proggy start, driving at a calculated pace and eventually heading into mechanical storms. Strange chants arrive, pushing into trance-like terrain and bringing fright, and then the cut explodes and unleashes razor-sharp guitars. The final minutes bend backward with a fury before coming to a tumultuous end. “Dark Grey Mist” is the longest cut at 7:42, and the floor drops out immediately. Doom clouds arrive immediately, situating themselves in the muck and letting laser beam synth pass. The song bludgeons and smears its enemies, as abrasive sounds and a thick bassline team up before heading into a hypnotic crawl. Lipynski roars heavily over the back end, while the music feels like it’s violently sucked into the cosmos. “Transmission” acts as the perfect bookend with “Cosmic Chains,” bringing the record to a close with cold, damp noise and a ghostly apparition warbling behind the chaos and pulling you into a nightmare for good.

With dark times filled with nauseating pain, it seems the perfect time for Thralldom to be back in our midst with new music. “Time Will Bend Into Horror” certainly soothes the pain of a decade-long wait since their last record, and they sound as vicious and channeled as ever before. Shit’s bound to get really bad before it gets good again, and this punishing new collection will go hand in hand with the cities and world burning.

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

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

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

Gateway to Selfdestruction look at value of existence on fiery debut ‘Death, My Salvation’

The current state of America probably has people here wondering if they want to live or die. That’s an unnecessary way of thinking about things, sexist orange game show hosts running the country or not, but deciding whether it’s worth going forward surely went through some people’s minds. It’s not so far-fetched as to be unbelievable.

German black metal band Gateway to Selfdestruction probably laugh at such situations and the way some teeter off the emotional cliff over things such as politics. On their raw, thunderous debut record “Death, My Salvation,” the band spends eight songs walking the line between life and death and whether survival is something to be relished. As a regular event, not after some giant event that leaves disappointment. The music is oddly melodic and surging for work that carves so dangerously at the psyche, but buried within that are vocals that deliver utter turmoil and heaviness that bring black feelings and sorrow. The group—vocalist Mara, guitarists Mortem and Abryss, bassist Chual, drummer R.K.—set up shop with producer Patrick W. Engel to create a record that’s packed with old death-doom, charring black metal, and even some atmosphere that allows in some much-needed air when you feel like you’re suffocating for real.

gateway-cover_300dpi_cmyk“The Blessing” opens the record with fully bleeding riffs, Mara’s harsh wails that pierce your ear drums, and a wall of strong melodies, which is a recurring element on this record. As we move, the music rushes down, and the vocals wrench like a vice. Mournful playing and dreary, fading final moments rush into “Black Quiet Death,” where clean guitars bubble initially before the thing is ripped apart. The singing brings torment, as Mara wrings emotion from every word, while an oppressive fog slips in before surging heavily toward the gates. “Destroyed Self” unloads black riffs and charred passages, and the creaking vocals whip into insanely catchy melodies, sweeping you into the fury. Static crackles and rises, only to be met with glorious guitar work, a serene passage the cuts through, and the song gushing to the end. “Reset” lets guitars burn, as Mara wails, “Follow me to the end of the night!” The track pours emotion, with dizzying playing altering your mind, wild cries blistering, and the band doing ultimate damage delivered via steamroller.

“Silence” has driving playing, a singular guitar that echoes alone, and a pace that starts driving slowly. From out of that comes maniacal howls from Mara, as she blasts, “It was the end of our life,” and the song then slips into ghostly, gothic territory that washes out in feedback. “Soziopath” has razor-sharp riffs that thrash the flesh, and Mara’s throat-mangling growls pelt you in the center of the chest. The pace then turns eerie and horrific, as the guitars develop thick ice that hold steady over the final minutes of the song. But just before it buries itself, the guitars fire up, and a massive assault drops its ton of bricks. “Rigidity” again has Mara on the hunt, stomping and crunching, while the band lets fluid guitars cascade, leads swell, and the rhythms knock you back and forth. Clean warbling comes out of that, and the final moments are downright haunting. Closer “Mirrors of Despair” is a short, foggy ending, as acoustics blend in, meeting up with crazed wails and reverberations, and the last moments of the song float out like a ghost, leaving behind no trace.

Gateway to Selfdestruction’s first record certainly will chew away at your nerve endings and force you to take the same journey where you evaluate the worth of pushing forward and extending existence. “Death, My Salvation” may not always feel as dark and foreboding as it is on the surface, but digging beneath the skin into the blood and veins exposes this album’s true intent. Spending your dark hours with this thing may not mean life or death for you, but it should challenge you to evaluate what circumstances around you mean and whether they’re worth it in the first place.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/gateway2selfdestruction/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.northern-silence.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.northern-silence.de/

Deathspell Omega surface anew with confounding black metal on ‘Synarchy of Molten Bones’

dso-coverI’ve always been a huge fan of strangeness in any of my entertainment mediums. That goes for books, TV shows, movies, and, quite obviously, metal. If it’s well done and not just there as a forced gesture, nine times out of 10 it’s going to at least pique my interest, and a lot of the bands that I count as some of my favorites have a weird streak going through them.

One of the oddest and most mysterious entities in all black metal is Deathspell Omega, the shadowy, faceless disciples from the void who have stymied art and expression for years. There are a ton of bands—probably too many—who try to imitate the way DsO do their thing, and while some come pretty close to nailing it, none do it the way this French band twists the screws. Like a nightmare falling from the sky with hardly any warning, the band just released its sixth record “The Synarchy of Molten Bones,” their first record since “Paracletus” six long years ago. In true DsO fashion, the record is an absolute mind fuck. It’s their shortest full-length effort to date at four songs and just a bit over 29 minutes, but it’s also one of their strangest and most effective. Their music always find a way to make your guts crawl, and there’s no shortage of bizarre, unsettling tributaries flowing through this record.

Deathspell Omega have done a fine job keeping the band in the shadows, somewhat, over the years, though their faces can be found if you do some quick searches. The group consists of vocalist Mikko Aspa, who has been behind the mic since 2002, as well as guitarist Hasjarl and bassist Khaos, who have been there since their 1998 origin. The band doesn’t make music that’s easy to digest, and taking on their records at a time when the mind is weak could cause panic and discomfort. Then again, I find that’s the best time to listen to DsO as their music floats through a chaotic universe. “Synarchy” continues that path, grinding your mind and weaving in their own philosophies that push metaphysical realms of Satanic theology. To the uninitiated, that means it’s incredibly scary and can make you hear voices threatening and summoning you from beyond.

The record opens with the 6:58 title track, as bells ring out, doom horns seem to indicate Biblical-level catastrophe, and the eventual deluge of trauma spread over the first minutes. The music slithers and scrapes its way, heading toward complete destruction and gurgled growls that feel alien-delivered. The track hits a dizzying vortex, while sheets of synth spread stardust, only to have the music unseal its own wounds and unleash a terrifying finish that tries to stop the heart. “Famished for Breath” splatters itself all over the place, as total madness arrives and leaves you on the brink of psychological collapse. The growls sound threatening, as Aspa wails, “The haughty strides of time thou shall put to a halt, and mangle past and future with ghastly wounds!” The melodies confound as they seem to seep through dimensions, and the track ends with drums thrashing, and the growls pounding monstrously.

“Onward Where Most With Ravin I May Meet” is the longest cut at 10:12, spindling into oblivion before exploding and challenging your every inhibition. The pace warps the brain before it sets into a tricky, confusing terrain that will have your head permanently tilted to the side. Start-stop knifing takes over, as a thick bassline snakes through and brings dark elements along with it. The song eventually slows down, bringing with it the sensation that you’re succumbing to fever, unaware of your surroundings. Gurgled speaking bubbles up, while horns bleat their warnings, and a mystical fury brings the song to an end. The 5:52-long closer “Internecine Iatrogenesis” pours mathy conflict, while black, churning guitars do their damage and rip a hole in time. A massive storm lays waste, while wrenching growls and poisonous filth join forces to choke out any light. The drums plater, doom horns strike their last, and the entire things comes to a crashing, smoking death.

Deathspell Omega remain one of the pillars of modern black metal, and their style is that of the—excuse the cliché—often imitated, never duplicated. “The Synarchy of Molten Bones” is another unsettling chapter of their mission, one that might force you to struggle to get on their mental level, if you’re so inclined. If you’re tackling this is as a mere music event, you’ll be forced to rechannel some of the impulses in your brain and hang on to your psyche if you hope to come out unscarred.

For more on the band or to buy digitally, go here: https://deathspellomega.bandcamp.com/

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Saor’s rustic, Celtic-influenced black metal hits new heights on ‘Guardians’

saorIt used to be that November and December were dead months when it came to strong, important music being released. But things have changed rapidly the past few years, and these months when it used to be a struggle filling a site with content now is the land of overflowing new records that are powerful and worthy of being celebrated with the best work of the entire year.

This year continues that trend. We have great stuff scheduled the rest of the month and into December, and today we’re gifted with one of those releases, that being “Guardians,” the third effort from Saor. The project of sole member Andy Marshall (also of Fuath and formerly of Falloch, among other bands) continues to reach into the battles, history, and heritage of its creator’s Scottish homeland, and his brand of atmospheric Celtic black metal continues to get bigger and more intense as time goes on. This record is another major step in Saor’s impressive run, one that’s spawned two other records that have grown in inspiration and scope. The cover of “Guardians” gives you a gaze into a blue-splashed wilderness that doesn’t tip its hand to the season (it could be late autumn, winter, early spring), and the sounds that greet you on this five-track, 55-minute album essentially paint the same portrait.

saor-guardians-front-coverSaor kicked off a mere three years ago, as Marshall strongly established himself early with the project’s stunning debut record “Roots” in 2013, following that with “Aura” in 2014. There have been a few live shows from a fully staffed band here and there, but essentially this is a studio project that sounds like it’s creating its sounds in some isolated corner of an icy forest. But while Marshall is the driving force behind Saor, he gets a helping hand from some notable musicians on this record including Bryan Hamilton (Cnoc An Tursa) on drums; Meri Tadic (Irij, formerly of Elueviete) on fiddle; John Becker (Austaras) on strings; and Kevin Murphy on bagpipes. Combined, the players here create a massive world that breathes deeply from the Earth’s atmosphere and Marshall’s roots, and “Guardians” is an arresting creation that’s as strong as any other black metal record this year.

The record kicks off with the 11:31 title cut, a track that starts with birds calling, acoustic guitars pouring in, and bagpipes arriving like a fog over the hillside. The song eventually bursts in with power, as Marshall’s thick, ground-chewing growls settle in and drive, and huge melodies sweep you away. Deep strings continue to push the emotional tone, while guitars wash over everything, blasts chew away at you, and the growls scrape the earth. Whistles swing in as rustic winds whip through, and the track surges to its finish. “The Declaration” rumbles open, and tremendous riffs cascade, as the growls roar with power, and strings drizzle passion. The pace is hammering for the first stretch, before cloudy sections push in and bring serenity, and then guitars gust up again. From there, a tidal wave of sound arrives, thrashing your heart, and the track ends up in an ocean of passion that is overwhelming but ultimately fulfilling. “Autumn Rain” goes 11:09, and it’s perfectly titled as it feels like you’re basking in the elements, layers of clothing hugging you. A folky mist pushes through before the track hits a furious deluge that mixes with woodsy elements. Amid the chaos that shows its face, again we visit with traditional Scottish folk elements that immerse themselves in a wall of acoustics. Gigantic roars and growls erupt, powering the song’s last stand of decibolic fury before the track trickles away and fades in a rustic rush and frosty keys that make you yearn for a warming fire.

“Hearth” starts with acoustics and rich ambiance, as the air picks up and pushes through, as Marshall unleashes feral roars. As heavy as this track is for the bulk of its time, it also is very heartfelt, an homage to his homeland that is compounded with strings and even some clean singing. “This is my home, my heart, my soul, my hearth,” he calls, as lush melodies accompany what’s going on here, and quieter strains set in and spread serenity. As the track nears its end, the power kicks in and a huge emotional surge of playing stretches over several rousing minutes until the end. The 11:18 closer “Tears of a Nation” rips open right from the start, with Marshall’s growls exploding, and Celtic-flavored melodies flooding the surroundings. Bagpipes blow again, lighting fires within your soul, while the track destroys again and powders bones. There’s a mournful section that comes out of all of this, dropping a dark shadow. But before it all ends, glorious guitars glow, the song gets another huge infusion of emotion, and everything piles together and brings the record to the incredible close that should have your head rushing and your blood pulsating.

The fact that the metal world keeps giving so late into the year is a gift to behold, and Saor’s “Guardians” is one that should be embraced and absorbed in full for a fully immersive experience. Marshall has built this band and crafted its approach carefully, and in such a short time, he has created one of the more captivating bands in all black metal. As sure as the winter winds will whip every year and bring with it a chill, we can be certain Saor will keep visiting us with imaginative, emotional new adventures that keep the fires within our hearts lit all year long.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.northern-silence.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.northern-silence.de/

Crippled Black Phoenix explode with classic rock fire mixed into destructive horrors on ‘Bronze’

Photo by Zsolt Reti

Photo by Zsolt Reti

We’re apparently living in the era of the depleted attention span. That’s obvious simply driving on the road, with people distracted by any number of things, sometimes leading to crunching car wrecks. The album format never has been less embraced by the masses, and everything seems delivered in tiny bites, lest the larger serving be eclipsed by something tinier.

That’s probably a strange way to talk about “Bronze,” the great new record from Crippled Black Phoenix, but anyone who can’t commit to a larger vision might want to back out slowly. Those who still relish an entire album as if it’s a cinematic experience meant to be drunk and absorbed, then this might be the heavy dose of dark imagination you’ll need to get through the autumn and winter. On this, the band’s sixth studio album, things never have been bigger for the band. We’re talking scope, sound, and inspiration, as this group has expanded their reaches so far, they practically stretch across the universe now. This 10-track, 69-minute adventure is filled with cynicism, anger, disillusion, sadness, and every other emotion that could tug at your heart and mind. Sometimes they’re trying to band the fringe parts of the world together to battle alongside them, and at others, they’re wallowing in the ash. No matter what angle you take, you can’t miss the heavy shadows hanging over this thing.

cbp-coverCrippled Black Phoenix have been at a creative high for about a decade now, delivering five crushing records between 2007 and 2014 (their last full-length is 2014’s “White Light Generator”) and a bunch of smaller releases (their most recent was last year’s eye-opening “New Dark Age,” their first for Season of Mist). The band is fueled by founder and multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves, who along with guitarist/vocalist Daniel Änghede and synth player/sound engineer Mark Furnevall make up the group’s core. Along with them on this record are a slew of musicians including Daisy Chapman (piano); Ben Wilsker (live drummer); Jonas Stålhammar (guitar, hammond, synth); Belinda Kordic (vocals, banshee); Tom Greenway (bass); as well as guests Chrissie Caulfield (violin, harp, fog horn); Arthur Young (piano); Arvid Jonsson (who puts in a tremendous vocal performance on “Turn to Stone”) and Robert Holm (trumpets). That’s quite a team, but when you tackle this record, you’ll hear how each contribution is vital to the record’s massive DNA.

The record is book-ended with quotes from the 1974 film “Dark Star,” with the first coming on instrumental opener “Dead Imperial Bastard,” where synth unfurls and murky sounds send chills. The track moves through cosmic density, into crazed cries, and directly toward “Deviant Burials” that is unsettling at the start. The singing drives the cynicism hard, especially with the call of, “No one will rise on judgment day,” as atmospheric synth rolls in, and the band lights up the Pink Floyd torches, which burn unabashedly throughout the record. “No Fun” is as dour as the title indicates, as the pace is shadowy and dark, with Änghede wondering, “Will I try to fight my way out?” before the song spirals away and ends in a corrosive state. “Rotten Memories” is a pointed and angry cut, a slower song but by no means a tender one. It has the venom of a Thom Yorke diatribe, especially with, as simple as the line sounds, he stabs, “Open your eyes,” almost as if he’s delivering a sobering slap to the entire world. Synth pulsates toward the end, and that bleeds directly into “Champions of Disturbance Pt 1 & 2,” which spends the first half of the song establishing an unsettling soundscape, and at about the 4:15 mark, the vocals soar, the soloing tears into the sky, and Änghede defiantly vows, “When all the kings go up in flames, we will break the spell you’re under.” The final minutes simmer in the madness, with a robotic voice and noise zaps setting into the stars.

“Goodbye Then” opens with cold guitars, as a fog thickens and the singing slips under the surface. The track has a mournful pall over it, as the drums rumble away. “Turn to Stone” runs 7:04, and is one of the most classic rock-steeped songs in the band’s history. Jonsson’s singing is raspy and reminds of John Fogarty in his glory days, while a psyche wash pushes over the song in some spots, and they channel Rush in others. As the song reaches its end, the guitars rinse over everything, and the cut comes to a huge, emotional crescendo. “Scared and Alone” is a tick off nine minutes, and it has steely guitars jarring and Kordic providing her quivery singing. Horns rise, and an apocalyptic haze pokes its head, with the pace spreading sorrow, the song bleeding along, and the power building as Kordic’s voice fades into the corners. “Winning a Losing Battle” is beefy at 9:15, and it feels outright threatening, as Änghede warns, “No escape from the fire,” once again pushing Floydian tones. Midway through, we hit a purposeful lull before wrenching noise floods, emotionally rattling melodies strike, and a psychedelic sweep turns out the lights. The 7:53 closer “We Are the Darkeners” has a huge open, with the urge, “Live to fight another day,” not coming off as surrender, but as a way to survive. Strong guitars and defiant singing locks the purpose into place, while Änghede declares, “We will always be the last to fall,” as the music fades into that “Dark Star” quote, and the dream of “circling the universe forever” sounds like the only way to escape the madness that has become our home.

If you’re disillusioned by what you see around you, and we’re less than a week away from a could-be catastrophic election here in America, “Bronze” will hit really close to home. This isn’t the first time Crippled Black Phoenix have delivered messages a little too sobering for comfort, but this one could be their most poignant, well-timed yet. This is a fascinating, fiery adventure that could make you want to float into space, past the stars, and never want to return.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CBP444/

To buy the album (North America), go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Esben & the Witch prowl close to the edge of danger, chilling uncertainty on ‘Older Terrors’

Photo by William Vandervoort

Photo by William Vandervoort

I grew up on the edge of the woods. Now, as an adult, I would relish such an existence, especially in the winter time, when picturesque walks would be right outside my doorsteps. But growing up, I constantly was unsettled by what lurked in that thick patch of trees, be that mysterious, horrifying, dangerous, or all those things combined.

There’s something about “Older Terrors,” the amazing new record from Esben and the Witch, that takes me back to the times when I’d gaze out my window at night and wonder what threats were staring back. The four tracks here, all epic length, gnaw at your psyche and make you feel that queasy uncertainty that something within arm’s length has the worst of intentions in mind. Throughout this record, hungry wolves lurk, the fright has a very real face, and almost like the forbidden woods in “The Witch,” the entrance into the unknown carries with it something that could cost you your life, or maybe just your psyche. These songs take their time to develop, as they set the stage, carrying you through the murk and showing you the very basis of fear. This may be supernatural or fantastical in essence, but not in a storybook sense. It makes the flesh crawl in a way that makes you consider the unknown and the fact that what you create in your mind might be real.

esben-and-the-witch-coverEsben and the Witch have had a really interesting journey through their career. They started off with indie tastemaker label Matador (who have taken a ton of my money over the years) for their first two records “Violet Cries” and “Wash the Sins Not Only the Face.” Things got interesting once they left that label and released “A New Nature” in 2014, which they saw them get heavier and darker. The band—vocalist/bassist Rachel Davies, guitarist Thomas Fisher, and drummer Daniel Copeman—flirted with post-metal and other heavier sounds, driving them ever so closely to the perimeter of extreme music but staying a mysterious star in orbit. Now, they’ve joined up with Season of Mist for “Older Terrors,” and their thick, foreboding darkness never has been darker.

“Sylvan” is the stunning 13:09-long opener, settling in with a calculated drum beat, shadowy playing, and singing pushing the plot back and forth down the stream and into the darkened woods. The tempo remains the same for the first three quarters of the song, as the track sucks you in and makes you a part of its atmosphere. Later on, the static starts to spill in, while the song and its elements threaten. Gazey power erupts at around the 9:30 mark, flowing over into chaos, with guitars echoing and haunting, the track driving harder, and Davis luring, “Come with me to the place where the walls are weak.” “Marking the Heart of a Serpent” is the shortest cut at 10:22, and it mixes serenity with outright eeriness. The music plods along, as if through a dense fog, with Davies’ singing hypnotizing, and the track finally hitting full blast. The ambiance goes back and forth from dark to light, with Davies wailing, “I am the magnetizer!” as a noisy stomp crushes the earth, and post-punk guitars sprawl all over. Wordless calling chills the cells, while the tempo builds, loud guitars ramp up the intensity, and the whole thing winds up in oppressive grime.

“The Wolf’s Sun” runs 11:14, pushing you right into abrasion, though also letting a huge gust of air into the space. “Lead me through the dark, you fingers clutching my heart,” Davies calls, elevating the passion and emotion of the situation. Thick bass begins bruising, while steam rises, with Davis declaring, “I am rapture!” The back end smashes away, letting shrapnel fly before it powers out. Closer “The Reverist” runs a healthy 11:24, and it slowly comes to life, with guitars rolling and weeping into the darkness. Singing slips in, flowing gently along with the song and making note of “crumbling towers” and “ships on fire.” The doom curtain then drops, as mournful melodies swell as overwhelm, the guitars charge, and a noise onslaught comes on strong. Davies howls as the music matches her desperation, and as the piece winds down, the music settles into the ground as Davies wonders, “I’ve seen the older terrors, will you come with me?”

Esben and the Witch get darker and more dangerous as they go on, almost like those things at the edge of the woods, looking to draw your fears. “Older Terrors” is another tremendous effort from this trio, and their music is getting scarier and more unsettling. They may have awakened some fear deep within me, but the possibility of facing that is quite welcome.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Vinyl resurrection: Gloam mash mesmerizing black metal into its madness with ‘Hex of Nine Heads’

gloamI hate when I miss out on a really great record. It feels unforgivable that someone in my position, with access to just about every metal record issued within a given year, can have something fly so far below my radar, that I don’t pick up on it until much later. Perhaps those are the breaks for having so much content for one person to consume.

Well, with the second day of our look at albums getting new life on vinyl, I can make good on totally missing out on “Hex of Nine Heads,” the hulking, massive first release from black metal crushers Gloam. I’m probably not alone in being behind on this album, as this was limited to 175 cassettes by Caligari Records, but Gilead Media is giving it the presentation it so richly deserves on this double LP pressing. In the press notes for this record, Gilead points out that their game typically isn’t to put out a double-LP version of a record put out on another label, but the power of this thing was just too great to resist. And that’s definitely a wise call. While we hold nothing against the cassette format (I’m listening to one right now!), having this out on vinyl is best for business, as it can truly present the massive power and hypnotic prowess this band, and these songs, possess. This album was pretty much born for this format.

gloam-coverGloam have been doing their thing and entrancing minds for the past six years now, with “Hex,” their first full-length presentation, originally released in 2015. You’re not going to find many debut records this weighted, fully realized, and intricately layered as “Hex,” as the album sounds like the culmination of a bunch of stepping-stone albums to get to this point. So, in fewer words, it’s incredibly impressive. The band—guitarist/vocalist Colby Metzger, guitarist David Uttal-Veroff (also of Jex Thoth), bassist Shane Terry, and drummer Fynn Jones—had but a demo and EP to their name before unleashing “Hex.” The record contains challenging, dense, and captivating epics that trudge and suffocate you with thick layers, and the eight track, 62-minute album might be more easily digested in portions. Not that we recommend that. The journey is the way. But if you’re overwhelmed, you can do bits. You’ll be just as devastated when it’s over.

The “Intro” cut leads you into the void, with harsh winds, ominous guitar tones, and a frosty, snowy ambiance setting the stage and leading you into 14:15 smasher “Where Freezing Winds Forever Blow,” a song that will make you go the distance. The first few minutes feel snow blind, as you reach your way through the outside with nothing but your senses to lead the way. Harsh growls sprawl while the song drubs and grinds in a slow-driving storm. The pace eventually picks up, with the leads burning and the tempo caving your chest cavity. The assault is monstrous, as the gas pedal is slammed to the floor, the soot drips in sheets, and chaos mars the final moments, leading you into a frenzy. “Torrents of Blood” erupts and mars the senses anew, as weird progressions play tricks on you, gruff growls salt wounds, and the guitars spiral out of control. The band presses on, heading a pocket of weirdness and doom-infested winds that help the song bleed out slowly. “Execration Trance” has an atmospheric open before it toughens up with harsh vocals and panic. Dissonant melodies muddy the waters while the riffs crush, the intensity mocks, and the thick humidity fades along with maniacal laughs that seem directed at you.

“The Spectral Wound” gets to you early, as the drums mess with you and leave you thrashed, while the bands heads into a proggy fog and psyche-bent guitar work. The edges of this thing are coated in terror, always leaving you wondering if you’re safe, a feeling that remains with you all the way up to when the track dissolves in noise. “Corporeal Torment” blasts open, landing heavy blows and unleashing harsh shrieks that sicken the soul. The pace stabs and steamrolls, as sounds simmer and growls spread menace. The pace adds a stormy element, one that leaves you with little control of your body, and the track rips ahead unmercifully before wrapping up in a freezing demolition. The 12:36 title cut then enters, as is slowly trickles open, unfurling in the manner it sees fit. That means you’re sitting nervously as the song reveals its hand, which is does with gut-wrenching growls, chilly guitars that bring with it fog, and a bloody pace that pulls you along the cinders in a calculating scrape. Guitars cut through and the song speeds up, but then a thick banner of darkness falls, as black waves crash down upon themselves, and the cut ends in a pained grunt and an oncoming shower. “Outro” allows that rain to pool to dangerous levels, as an acoustic guitar is picked amid a storm that shows no hint of relenting and could lead to everything you know being washed away into darkness.

Hopefully with “Hex of Nine Heads” finally pressed to vinyl with the steady hands of Gilead Media guiding it, more people will have their own awakenings with this cataclysmic record. This is a stunning first effort and surely just the beginning point for what could be one of the most important underground black metal bands over the next half decade or so. The seeds were planted here, and the fact the record’s reach is growing should satisfy and terrify us all. Who knows what’s next?

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

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

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