Multinational force Silver Knife smear bloody heart into black metal on ‘Unyielding/Unseeing’

There was a thread going around Twitter last week asking people about mostly harmless opinions people had that would get them turned away from the better part of the metal community. Isn’t there an ocean full of those? Anyway, mine would be that black metal very much is better off having advanced beyond the second wave, and you don’t have to be a satanic priest cosplayer to create it.

There have been plenty of advancements made to black metal in the past three decades, and allowing vulnerable human emotion into the music has made for an interesting tributary away from the sub-genre’s black heart. Another band coming along that path is Silver Knife, a group of musicians comprised of other bands such as Cult of Erinyes, Hypothermia, Laster, and Nusquama and are spread out amongst Belgium, Germany, and France. It’s tough to glean much else about the band other than there are four members who are identified by letter, and Jacob Buczarski of the esteemed Mare Cognitum mastered this collection, their debut “Unyielding/Unseeing.” What you find inside are movements that can be lush and heart-wrenching at one end, destructive at the other, and the themes of alienation and relentless conflict bleed through in the music and into your heart.

“Unyielding” blasts open as a melodic rush with the shrieks buried beneath the waves. The feeling and pace both are dramatic as hell, as a melodic haze works its way in, and the playing hammers away, spilling through your senses. The track wrenches away, punishing gloriously as the riffs plaster, and the song blasts off. “This Numinous Loom” has guitars lighting up the room as the wails move more up front, and hypnotic playing works into pockets of anguish. The playing floods while the ambiance gets a little darker before the mood gets a little calmer, letting cool air in before the guitars sting again and ramp up the pace. The cries rush out, the playing divebombs, and a synth swirls helps the track end in chaos. “Silver & Red” has sharp guitars and daggering cries, churning into pools of melody. The vocals echo in the distance as the bass chunks, the leads glisten with dew, and the track dissolves into buzzing.

“Unseeing” awakens with guitars flowing and synth sliding in as a female voice begins speaking, her words seeming to float in the ether. “Why does the desperate become part of the whole?” she asks as the instrumental burns out and into “Conjuring Traces” that absolutely storms the gates when it gets going. The vocals smear and hiss as the melody gets charging, while the guitars loop around and enter into a moody haze. Another eruption hurtles toward hammering punishment with a great riff unleashing itself and lighting up the sky. The heavy storming is almost impossible to see through as the playing is toppling and finishes you off with a penetrating gust. “Sundown” closes the record, coming in with guitars poking before the lid is torn off. Gut-wrenching shrieks hammer in the nails, destroying your mind before calm takes over for a spell until the fires rage again. Wild cries powder bones as the madness is poured in buckets, mental anguish ruptures wires, and a fiery collision brings the track to a cataclysmic end.

Silver Knife have a stranglehold on emotion on their debut “Unyielding/Unseeing,” and this is a band that has figured into the conversation among others that have figures out how to add bleeding human heart into black metal. This also is a great sounding, exciting collection that hopefully will get some attention, as it packs a ton of promise for a band likely just getting started. This is a hell of a first showing, a record that’ll make you divert your attention from life’s other misery, if only for a little while.

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Mind destroyers Krallice drop another surprise, this time the utterly smashing ‘Mass Cathexis’

You know, at some point, surprises stop being surprises, so listen, Krallice, just own up to it when you have new music, because we already expect this shit. You think we’re gullible as a nation and just fall for anything? Have you examined the state of the United State of America? Oh, wait. Fuck.

OK, I kid. I love Krallice and have since they started killing my means of thinking more than a decade ago, and it was with great joy that I woke up at 5 in the morning last Friday to download their latest opus “Mass Cathexis,” yet another daring, brain-liquifying collection that is legit one of my favorite records they’ve done to date, which is a weighty statement. This band is, and you don’t need me to tell you this, a mammoth of brain-rewiring metal that’s not even really belonging to any sub-genre. The band—bassist/vocalist Nicholas McMaster, guitarists Mick Barr and Colin Marston, drummer, of course, Lev Weinstein—brought back Neurosis’ Dave Edwardson to the fold for this album, and he just mixes right into their DNA. Anyway, fuck it. Let’s talk about this killer record.

“Feed on the Blood of Rats” starts with the guitars fluttering and threatening what’s going on before things start smashing shit, racing toward your mind. Wild yells erupt as the ferocious pace twists muscle, thrashing as the bass bubbles as we’re headed into new delirious fury. The vocals kill as daring, frantic guitar work pushes into the frost. “Set” mashes while hoarse wails scrape and the playing charges, with the bass wrapping like steel cables. Riffs splatter and get tricky as the drums explode, the pace mars, and everything bleeds into “The Wheel”  where the guitars pummel the gas pedal. The music jolts and jabs like it’s eating into your anxiety while the journey tumbles and clobbers, making paste of your brain before it finally burns away. “Aspherance” changes things up a bit as it soaks in a synth bath before a proggy maw opens, and mad screams echo in your head. The guitars stir viciously as the leads boil and send heat, and the speed rages again. Mystical mauling causes your face to tingle as a hypnotic surge sinks in, starting to dissolve into chilling keys.

“The Myth” spills out of the other end as the bass slithers and guitars set the stage, thrashing and leaving bruising. The vocals burst, feeling like a feral roar, as everything pushes into cagey bass playing, chugging and smashing into an abrupt end. The title track bleeds in, shedding a Voivod-style path that acts like an alien menace as Edwardson’s signature snarl pounds away while the threat is realized (by the way, he legit laid down his vocal tracks like two weeks ago). Speedy vocals are spat out while the leads electrify, and there’s even a hardcore feel to the shouts as the music dissolves into time. “The Form” begins mystically, absorbed by the atmosphere before the wails cut away. There’s a gothy feel to some of this, as it feels like it’s ushering in a cold autumn afternoon while proggy zaps cut in and lead toward “The Formed” where guitars blast into body of the cut, enrapturing while your limbs are tied up. Wild shouts and mania combine as the guitars go off the rails, the elements splatter together, and the colors blur into space. Instrumental “All or Nothing” closes the record, starting in a colder pace as the bass flexes, and a bizarre ambiance floats. The track feels like it’s working into a strange dream state, dealing hypnosis that leaves you in an altered state.

It’s stunning that through 13 years and now eight records, Krallice never have repeated themselves or disappeared into silliness considering how goddamn ambitious their music is and has always been. “Mass Cathexis” feels like another baffling phantom that arrived here from the cosmos to show just how far ahead this band is from the rest of the pack. They’re very much appreciated and revered in their time, but Krallice, and records like “Cathexis,” are the texts that bands generations from now will use as inspiration to move their game to the next level.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Primitive Man’s dour outlook brings misery to thunderous fury on ‘Immersion’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

I’m having a harder time each week leaving my house and going out into the world because it’s a constant reminder of people’s selfishness and lack of understanding of the simplest concepts that are designed to accommodate other people, and really this started before the pandemic. It’s only gotten worse now, and my distaste of being around others has only thickened.

That kept picking away at me when taking on Primitive Man’s ungodly pummeling new record “Immersion,” a six-track, 36-minute ride into the worst parts of existence as well as your unmercifully scarred psyche. It’s not like Primitive Man ever have been a go-to band if you’re looking to fill your soul with joy, but with humanity seemingly on an endless descent into shit, it gets harder to conjure positivity in a place devoid of it. This record, their third full-length and first since 2017’s “Caustic,” is a purposeful slide toward embracing the darkness and gazing into the chasm that has created such ill feelings. The band—vocalist/guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy, bassist Jonathan Campos, drummer Joe Linder—treats this madness with some of their heaviest, most relentless playing yet, a record that is almost half the length of their last album but somehow finds a way to leave deeper, more painful wounds both inside and outside of your body and mind.

“The Lifer” opens in a bath of noise lava with McCarthy’s growls corroding muscle, and sludgy hell leading the way. A lurching death march piles into mud as the guitar work continues to throw acid at things, and the pace is completely devastating, slowly pinching your nerves before fading into atmosphere. “Entity” has guitars firing up right away, eating away at your psyche, while noise hovers, and McCarthy’s growls churn. The track burns in place, letting heavy smoke billow while the playing lands heavy blows, storming in chaos that grinds into the dirt. “Menacing” is suitably named as it unloads with the drumming killing and the playing splattering guts. Lumbering growls weigh down your chest and continue to add pressure as the tempo clobbers, and the noise melts metal into liquid. The smashing refuses to relent while the track crawls to the finish line before spacey guitars jolt and release alien gases.

“∞” is an ambient track that would not sound out of place on McCarthy’s Many Blessings project. Sounds sizzle and crash as an onslaught of sound challenges your ears and mental dexterity, eventually fading into muck. “Foul” unleashes ringing noises, brutal riffs, and fearsome growls as McCarthy threatens, “Stay the fuck away from me.” Torture abounds from there with guitars cutting through guts and brief gusts of air being choked out by ominous tones. Sounds swirl into oblivion as the vocals punish the mind, feeling like a bloodletting, with the track slowly crashing to its end. “Consumption” closes the record and brings on stifling fury with the drumming destroying, and feedback hanging like a cloud of hornets. McCarthy’s wails rumble as the band hammers into grinding death, deliberately ripping its way back into the earth.

Existence is miserable with or without the world being in a perpetual state of anxiety over a plague and dealing with the fuckers who think this is political, and “Immersion” is a heavy reminder of that fact. Primitive Man always have reveled in the darker regions of humanity, but with things continually getting worse every day, these six songs won’t really leave you feeling great inside. But that’s the point: Embracing this reality is a way to make us more resilient, to develop harder shells, and to tackle the demons that have been haunting us, unless we choose sweet submission and give into the failure.

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Molina’s spider-bitten charms call out on final posthumous solo collection ‘Eight Gates’

Photo by Christopher Bennett

Jason Molina was a teller of tall tales. Anyone who read his biography Riding With the Ghost by Erin Osmon knew he had a history with telling stories that seemed fairly thin of truth or just lying outright. It was part of his weird charm, and it was as much a part of him as his music and his heartbreaking words, which could find a way to carve into your guts.

Molina passed from complications from alcoholism in 2013, dying alone, though the stories and music still uncovered remain, trickling out over the years since we lost him. The latest is “Eight Gates,” a nine-track collection of songs he recorded when he moved to London, somewhere around 2008 when he claimed to have been a victim of a mysterious poisonous spider bite that apparently baffled his doctors and left him on hantavirus medication. Naturally, there are no records of any doctor’s appointments, so it’s likely just another part of his lore. These songs also mark the last of Molina’s solo material he recorded before he died, so that adds even more gravity to the proceedings. Obviously, this is a metal site, but Molina’s music has seeped its way deep into that scene as well, and the artist’s earliest music was based in heavier sounds. So, he’s right at home with the audience for this site, listeners who are in touch with their own hurt and the way Molina so uniquely revealed his own.

“Whisper Away” starts with birds chirping, an element woven through the entire record, as strings and guitars awaken and Molina calls, “Whisper away your last smile,” as the track churns away, back toward the birds. “Shadow Answers the Wall” has the drums pushing and organs swelling, with Molina wondering, “If I had never believed and everything came into place, would the stars be looking down on me?” The drums rattle and echo in haunted soul while the track buzzes into the familiar chirps. “The Mission’s End” is acoustic with naked vocals, a simple folk tune where Molina urges, “We’re all equal along this path,” as the track bows out. “Old Worry” combines acoustics and organs, as Molina declares, “I took the oath of the wanderer,” another poignant line from a man whose notebooks were full of them. Sounds lightly ricochet, settling into the earth to rest forever.

“She Says” starts with Molina chatting with folks in the studio, quipping, “The perfect take is as long as the person singing is still alive.” The playing feels loose, almost thrown together in an alluring way, reveling in quiet and stillness. “Fire on the Rail” starts with Molina singing a capella, as he pokes, “Fire on the prairie, dawn, who have we failed?” Guitars flow in as the track bleeds slowly, sweeping like a ghost in and out of the room, leaving a draft behind. “Be Told the Truth” blends guitars, keys, and strings, dripping as Molina laments, “How could something be so falling apart?” The song quivers in place while the keys swell, feeling like a hot rainy night in the summer. “Thistle Blue” delivers guitars that seem to hint at trouble as keys surface, and Molina levels, “It’s late I know, but not for strangers.” The keys bubble as Molina’s guilt gets him again as he sings, “A choice at least once in your time whose heartbreak could I not leave behind,” calmly navigating through trouble back into the embrace of birds chirping. “The Crossroad + The Emptiness” is the final cut, and again, Molina is addressing those working near him as he says, “Shut up, this is my record.” The song itself is classic Molina folk as he sits on his Dec. 30th birthday, offering, “I feel the dread as you re-read my palms.” It’s a hush of a song, a track that quietly exists and ends before you really get a read on it.

This record is Jason Molina through and through, though it also is something that feels a little different from a lot of his work. Who knows what the fate these nine “Eight Gates” songs would have met had he lived, but with him retiring to another plane, we have these pieces, skeletal as they may be at times, to try to understand. It’s a welcome collection from a man whose star never got to shine as elegantly as it should have before his troubles came to claim him.

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Chilean destroyers Selbst bleed immersive, charring black metal on molten ‘Relatos de Angustia’

Many of our lives are immersed in chaos right now, the degree to which depends on our personal circumstances and whatever hell is circling around our heads at the moment. While trying to find a way to breathe through that and balance oneself is a healthy way to handle these matters, allowing oneself to align with the darkness and understand it can be as cathartic.

The brand of pandemonium in which Selbst immerse themselves isn’t quite the same thing, but their razor-sharp black metal could be that partner that walks with you into hell. The now Chilean-based group (they planted their initial seeds in Venezuela) fires up their engines on this new, second record “Relatos de Angustia” (translates to “stories of anguish,” which is fitting) and feels like the devastation that might encircle you so that you can align with it. This is a project helmed and created by N, though he has surrounded himself with a full live lineup (in case you’re confused as to why there are four people in the photo above), and the formula has bubbled over with even more danger and muscular, yet flexible playing than displayed on the promising 2017 self-titled debut.

“Praeludium” is an intro-style cut that has guitars awakening and generating heat, setting an ambiance that pays off with “Deafening Wailing of the Desperate Ones” where melody and fury meet. N’s vocals roar while the song continues to gain momentum, charging through the atmosphere, delivering thunderous power, and thrashing heavily until the song reaches its molten end. “The Depths of Selfishness” is scintillating when it starts as the drums mash away, and the vocals torch paths. Tornadic hell causes your stomach contents to splash around as the bass plods, and the assault ends with churning playing and corrosive wails. “Silent Soul Throes” bleeds open before it gains its footing while the bass work hammers, and N’s vocals stretch muscles. There’s a chaotic feel to everything as the track mixes into the fog, the calls let loose, and the soloing catches fire dangerously. That pushes back toward melodic circles, clobbering and turning itself into ash.

“The Weight of Breathing” erupts and is pounding you unmercifully before you even know what hit you. Throaty howls and jolting playing hit the open road, as clean warbling delivers mixes messages behind the scenes. The playing can be hypnotic at times as shrapnel flies and the intensity is raised, bringing another dose of speed on its final stretch. “Sculpting the Dirtiness of Its Existence” has a bit of a different pace when it starts, feeling moody and strange before the fires are agitated again. The vocals crush while the playing stings, bringing on a sorrowful haze that washes over the anguish, even treating some of this with a proggy edge. “Let the Pain Run Through” closes the album and almost immediately has you in its clutches, raining down blows. A progressive storm soaks the ground as synth thickens the rains, and the track enters into deep, black waves. The guitar work explodes and fills the skies while clean calls spread, and a goth-style shadow drops and envelops the world in darkness.

There is so much swirling in the air on Selbst’s second record that it practically demands repeat listens just you can unravel all the details in this thing. The easy way to approach “Relatos de Angustia” is to understand it’s a black metal record that certain knows its history but is making some dramatic sweeps of its own to apply some different DNA. It’ll eat you alive if you let it, or it’ll unveil exciting new waves of black metal if you can handle the unforgiving undercurrent.

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Ukrainian visionaries Nug place focus on personality disorders with sweeping debut ‘Alter Ego’

No one can defeat the mind, especially those suffering from a mental illness. In those battles, the mind is undefeated, and there’s little chance that it’ll ever be fully conquered no matter how much work one puts into the fight. Luckily, we live in a time when these types of disorders are not stigmatized like they used to be, so trying to address them doesn’t make you a pariah.

Ukrainian artists Nug put a very interesting and difficult subject matter at the forefront of their debut record, that being that idea of an alter ego and people’s troubles dealing with such a phenomenon. “Alter Ego”  is an eight-track, 49-minute excursion into the deep, trying to make a space for those who deal with personality disorders and the issues that cloud their lives. The band makes it clear that this music is meant to be a sort of companion along the way,  a force that can take you by the hand and lead you through the darkest of times. Along the way, the band—vocalist/synth player Yura Dubrovskiy, guitarist Vitaliy Rysakov, guitarist/backing vocalist Yurii Popov, bassist Bogdan Kalynets, drummer Jevgen Tarasenko—unloads atmospheric post-metal-style creations that would sound at home alongside Cult of Luna or ISIS in your heart, taking you on a sonic journey that reaches into the sky.

“The Birth/Народження” opens the record in calm but immersive noise where synth swims into the atmosphere and paves the way for “Beast/Звір” that immediately delivers swaggering riffs and smothering fury. Dubrovskiy’s vicious growls dig deep as the playing chugs along, and the gravity fills your chest. A cold weather front pushes through, bringing some calm with it, but then it bursts with new life, scraping ahead and chewing up earth as the track closes in a heavy groove. “Psyche/Душа” has colors rushing as the roars quake the earth, and spacey synth winds itself into the mix, blurring vision. The playing torpedoes into deep sludge as the hammers are dropped, and the track ends in thick mud. “Shores/Береги” lets keys swim in a cosmic woosh as the track begins to clobber, and Dubrovskiy’s vocals wrench your insides. Parts of this feel mystical, like a haze is taking you into hypnosis, and then the body soars through the skies, coming back into gut-wrenching madness, the vocals crying out, and the final blows leaving bruising.

“Eleven/Одинадцять” slowly emerges from the fog before the trudging breaks up rocks, mixing menace with imagination. The howls reach out as the playing crushes, jolting spines even amid some pleasantly breezy synth work. The playing pummels out of that as the devastation disappears into a haze. “Dorian/Доріан” delivers lurching wails and slurry guitar, slowly delivering punishment. Psyche flushes swagger in as the leads explode with power, bursting with blood and sparks as the guitars continue to mash, as sounds hover and the fury spirals out. “Radiance/Сяйво” ushers in keys and stinging bass, setting a mood that slowly picks up and digs into muscle. The track smothers harder later, sending devastation into the stars. Closer “Night Shine/Блиск Ночі” trickles in before it smashes apart, cutting into bone and letting wild wails ricochet. Keys blip as the power crumbles, trudging through the mists, blending into the clouds, and merging with the stars.

The biggest battles we face often take place within our own mind, something that can be both a gift and a detriment, depending on how our brain chemicals filter out. Nug capture a measure of that struggle on “Alter Ego,” a record that certainly can sink into your senses and make you feel different aspects of your own personality. It’s an immersive, powerful record that unveils different layers with each listen.

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