Paysage d’Hiver’s wintry world continues spellbinding power with plasma-freezing ‘Geister’

Photo by Hannes Bar

I’m sure the saying “Winter Is Coming” still stirs emotions from people who invested so much time and energy into the whole “Game of Thrones” world, though that feeling might be negative considering the disappointing thud of the final two seasons and the fact that the world is never getting those final books. It’s OK. Just let it sink in. But for black metal, that saying can mean something entirely different.

For long-running project Paysage d’Hiver, it simply means the world sole creator Wintherr birthed almost two decades ago remains alive, and new stories are set to be told, which they are on the band’s second full-length effort “Geister,” which translates to “ghosts.” OK, so yes, it’s technically the second official album after last year’s debut “Im Wald,” but Wintherr has 10 full-length demos to his credit and a slew of split releases, so it’s a stretch to call this the second, but from an official standpoint, that’s what it is. What we find here are 11 tracks spread over 70 minutes, each song constructed similarly with an opening that is awash in sound and screams and a finish that swims in ambiance. The record feels more like an 11-movement story where the riffs maintain some similarity that streaks through the production, making everything here feel tied together, almost like when the music finishes, you expect it to restart and create a giant, undying circle. It’s another astonishing piece of work that’ll arrest you heart and mind, leaving you frozen to your core.

“Schattä” opens with shriek strikes and winds whipping before the track begins to batter. Impenetrable thrashing and fury reigning combine as the vocals strangle, melody surges, and the pounding continues to make dents until noise takes over and washes into “Bluet” that unloads with a fiery gust and muscular riffs as the vocals scuff metal. The playing feels imperial as the band drives through wintry violence, while the shrieks eat away at muscle, icy backing thickens, and the track bows out to the night and merges with “Wüetig” that unloads with a hammering pace. The track unloads lumber and savage vocals as things get weightier, rampaging through great riffs that feel stitched with what came before them. The menace only increases as the playing envelopes and pummels before disappearing into smoke and toward “Undä” that delivers more spellbinding riffs and a sinister attitude. The track takes on a darker vibe as the shrieks continue to dump chaos eating away and rushing through, passing through a strange aura and into “Äschä” where the vocals attack and mar. The pain rivets and rampages through your body as the pressure continues to mount, and snows falls in blankets, and the snarling vocals feel like they’re creeping up behind you for a final attack, melting into sound.

“Wärzä” soaks in racket and lurching growls as the riffs crumble and smudge, and a strange miasma encircles you and makes the room spin out of control. Synth freezes as fiery vocals rip through your mind while things turn sickeningly hypnotic, crushing and dissolving into the winds. “Anders” delivers isolated shrieks and riffs racing, as the track feels utterly devastating. Speedy jabs and slaughtering playing unite as your bones are squeezed into paste, your brain is scrambled, and the tempo dashes like mad, bleeding out and into “Schtampfä” that unloads gurgles and massive shrieks, while the playing increases the intensity. The drums plaster as the guitars create a tornado effect, increasing barometric pressure, flooding and stammering out into noise and into the jaws of “Gruusig” that launches and rubs as nasty guitars have their way, and shrieks scrape into your flesh. The drums rip holes in the universe, noises rush, and the playing stampedes into oblivion, coming out the other side into “Schuurig” as a quivering voice emerges, and then the riffs land blows. That pace feels familiar and another slice of DNA from the overall story, bringing a wintry rush and eventually a doomy haze that only serves to darken your mood. The playing churns as the vocals sound terrifying, mashing amid chaos that drains out toward 10:09-long closer “Geischtr” that is a largely ambient final chapter. The track is built on noises rustling and stretching, blurred shrieks sitting behind the storm, and a strange stab that slips into the murk and disappears into a frigid vortex.

Wintherr’s bizarre and storied journey into the most frigid of worlds takes another violent twist on “Geister,” a record that’s sure to attract even more ears after last year’s “Im Wald” finally seemed to garner the attention Paysage d’Hiver always deserved. It’s getting warmer in many places in the Western Hemisphere, but no matter the temperature outside, your bones and blood will freeze in place by the time this record is over. This is another breathtaking chapter from one of black metal’s most prolific and focused projects, and this is bound to have zealots worshipping at its icy altar.

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BIG | BRAVE unleash into gender, race, protest issues with blunt minimalism on captivating ‘Vital’

We’re living in a strange time, and that doesn’t necessarily just mean the pandemic that has overtaken our lives. There seem to be more important conversations happening within our society whether that’s over class structure, people’s sexuality and identities, what justice really means and who it impacts, and other matters such as these. As a white cis male, I can’t really say what kind of progress we’ve made, because my life is not personally impacted, though many of my friends’ plights are.

I mention this because we have “Vital,” the amazing new record from minimalist doom power trio BIG | BRAVE to discuss, and like the records the band made that preceded this one, there is a lot to unravel, and this piece won’t be able to untangle all of it. On this album, the band tackles issues including gender and race, how other people’s behaviors impact us and the rest of society, and the matter of protest that we’ve seen occur so much the past 12 months especially. The band—guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball, drummer Tasy Hudson—continue their pattern of plodding, stabbing, urgent doom that gets into your system and rewires you. I love this band and have for many years, and every time out, they come up with something that maintains their overall DNA but pushes things into new areas and sections of shadows.  

“ABATING THE INCARNATION OF MATTER” punches in with moody melody and Wattie’s yelped cries as she jabs, “A weighted thought swallowed whole, blindly a harrowing inhale, ceding to this disease.” The place slithers and keeps landing punches as a fog rises and spreads, and the momentum halts for a moment before the door is kicked in again. The vocals rip back in as Wattie hits with shrieks, the drums are bashed, and the vibe disappears into the night. “HALF BREED” is built on a section from an Alexander Chee essay from the book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, as Wattie calls out, “Pattern for the history of half-breeds hidden in every culture; historically we are allowed neither the privileges of the ruling class nor the community of those who are ruled,” though that’s stretched out over time. The pacing is start-stop clubbing as Wattie’s singing pushes higher, sounds burn, and noises bubble amid hammer strikes. The band keeps lacing with energy, pushing into your bloodstream as things quiet, and Wattie calls, “The pattern of…” recalling the start of the words she eloquently and emotionally called back earlier.

“WITED. STILL AND ALL…” is a shorter track that has Wattie’s voice hovering and sounds whirring as clouds gather. The music slowly spreads, leaving ghostly tracks behind, eventually slipping into the atmosphere. “OF THIS ILK” smashes in, with the vocals digging under your nails and the playing slowly battering, eating away at your psyche. The track maintains a similar vibe to what preceded it as the playing weighs on you but also stimulates, the forces collide and cause great clashing, and a wave of silence washes over fast before the playing agitates all over, the low end rumbles, and the track fades out into silence. “VITAL” is the closer and opens in noise hum while the seismic shift moves, and Wattie’s vocals emerges through the mist. The pace hulks as hammer shots echo, sounds ease and then crush, and the senses are utterly blasted. The guitars continue to push, the drumming just smashes, and blood surges, eventually giving way to the void.

The lyrical content that’s behind the music on “Vital” is so crucially important right now, and really it should always have been. BIG | BRAVE confidently and emotionally navigate these waters on these five tracks, and reading the words, minimalist as they may be, should leave a gaping hole in your heart and mind. This is one powerhouse of a band not just musically but with the messages they impart to every person who makes the wise choice to listen to their music.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Bewitcher jolt with hellish glory, black metal style on ‘Cursed Be Thy Kingdom’

Breaking news: Heavy metal bands are super into the devil and will figure out whatever creative (or not-so-creative) ways to inject the dark overlord into their music, cover art, merch, you name it. This has been the case since the genre started, it remains that way now, and it will until this music form dies and descends straight into hell.

That whole thing whips up again with “Cursed Be Thy Kingdom,” the new record from Portland, Ore., blasters Bewitcher, who should find a larger audience now that they’re aligned with giants Century Media. That’s a mutual benefit, really, as the label gets a fresh, fiery new band to add to their roster, and the band can entrance their audience with their rock and roll-based black metal that, yes, very much digs in its hooves for Satan himself. Don’t’ be mistaken: This isn’t a religious homage by any means. Instead, it’s a blistering explosion into heathenistic fun that simmers in both traditional and cataclysmic waters. The band—vocalist/guitarist M. Von Bewitcher, bassist A. Magus, drummer A. Hunter—injects a ton of attitude, charisma, and fire to their third record, which so happens to be their best sounding so far and one that should raise their profile, especially once shows are back.   

“Ashe” is a quick instrumental intro track built with dusty acoustics and a Western vibe, welling up and blowing its way into “Death Returns…” that explodes with churning riffs and metallic power. “He’s coming for your soul,” Von Bewitcher warns as the band hits the gas pedal and injects you with a giant dose of hellish fun. “Satanic Magick Attack” unleashes a killer riff and classic metal power, pummeling you and smashing you with a great chorus. “He’s coming for your soul,” Von Bewitcher pokes as the tempo is furious and jabbing, the chorus whips back in for another go, and everything ends in a pit of fire. “Electric Phantoms” lets the drums loose and envelops you as the speed ignites and sends the song roaring toward the stars. A total ’80s-style solo completely melts while the tempo remains rough and rowdy, and the track keeps its intensity right to the bloody end. “Mystifier (White Night City)” has utterly killer riffs and Von Bewitcher howling, “It’ll be a hot time in the town tonight.” Great guitar work unloads as the pace suddenly changes and warps, soloing kills, and the track ends in total annihilation.

The title track has a huge opening as the guitars lunge, the vocals fire up, and an array of blows are set to kill. The leads fire up as the track blazes melodically, Von Bewitcher’s words imagine chariots clashing in heaven, and everything comes to a destructive end. “Valley of the Ravens” chugs as it achieves a mystical vibe as the vocals warp over top. The visions of witches burning is woven into the story as Von Bewitcher wails, “What a lovely day for an execution.” Cool soloing arrives and gets aggressive in a hurry while the chorus rounds back for a final blow, leaving you heaving on the ground. “Metal Burner” counts off as things immediately get into the fray, blasting your body 50 feet into the air. “Your soul is lost in the space between the stars,” Von Bewitcher calls as the guitars go off, and the track grinds your face in the dirt. “The Widow’s Blade” opens in chants as the first punches are thrown, and the tempo opens up. Raspy howls pelt at your flesh as the guitars gush with colors, and fluid soloing leaves you blinded. The chorus, for which this band has a huge knack, lashes back at the end as Von Bewitcher howls, “By the edge of a bloody widow’s blade!” leaving you flattened. “Sign of the Wolf” closes the album, starting with a vigorous launch and landing heavy blows. The vocals are grimy and forceful as the leads catch fire, and the low end chugs. “It’s alright, I can’t turn back now,” Von Bewitcher vows as the final moments explode, burying you in a pile of your own piss and filth.

Bewitcher’s devilish, rock-smeared black metal manages to get a few notches catchier on “Cursed Be Thy Kingdom,” a record that’s likely to garner them the most attention of their great run simply due to the weight of their new label. What bands like Tribulation (and in my ears fail) to capture, Bewitcher grabs with a stranglehold and hammers to conform to its will. This is great sounding, fun, and hellishly destructive, an album that should catapult Bewitcher into more people’s brains.

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Meat Mead Metal gets mostly excited about Wrestlemania 37

Last Wrestlemania isn’t canon. Not to me. It was right at the start of the pandemic, and holding a show at a giant stadium, even though it was outdoors, was a horrible idea at the time. So, it was instead held on two nights at the antiseptic and utterly silent WWE Performance Center, and it wasn’t even live. Did we really need to have a Wrestlemania on a closed set? It wasn’t the same. It didn’t feel right.

This year is different as the event will be held at Raymond James Stadium in fucking Tampa, Florida, a state where there are no goddamn rules, virus be damned. It’ll be populated a little bit more than February’s Super Bowl, and while it’s still a scary idea, it at least should feel like Wrestlemania this year. That might be the one thing carrying this dead-ass show over the finish line, as the booking for the promotion as a whole drives further and further toward hell, and not a thing on this show feels special or huge. But again, they have the benefit of a real crowd, people who will be excited to return to a sense of normalcy, and the huge pageantry that is this show. It’s over two nights again, which is smart since 7 hours is way too long a night in the midst of a pandemic. So, let’s take a look at what’s on tap. By the way, we’ll start doing more of these for the bigger AEW and New Japan shows. After all, this is a metal site posing as a wrestling site.

Night 1

Bad Bunny/Damien Priest vs Miz/John Morrison: I get the allure of Bad Bunny, and credit due, he’s taken this seriously and hasn’t acted like a celebrity above this all. I just don’t really care, but I’m not the audience they’re after with this. I am hoping this can be a launching point for Damien Priest, a guy who has all the intangibles WWE looks for (he’s really big!) and should be in a main event role by next year at this time. Plus, he really found himself in NXT. Not holding my breath, as WWE booking is not reliable.  

Braun Strowman vs Shane McMahon (Steel Cage match): Ugh. Every show needs a toilet match, and this is it for night one. Awful storytelling, Shane McMahon again overexposed and turning purple before our eyes, Braun getting a fucking train whistle effect when he runs slowly around the ring to shoulder block dudes. Whatever. I’m done with both of these dudes.   

Women’s four-way for a tag team title shot on night 2: This match pits the Riott Squad vs Naomi and Lana vs Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose vs Natalia Neidhart and Tamina for the right to face Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax for the Women’s Tag Team titles on Sunday. WWE has done a piss-poor job building any of these teams at all, so it feels like it has no excitement. Maybe they add Bayley and Charlotte Flair as a team.

Cesaro vs Seth Rollins: Rollins’ terrible savior gimmick aside, that dude can go, and so can Cesaro, who was long been underused in WWE. There is no other finish that makes sense than Cesaro winning if they really are serious about him this time. But I’m not getting all excited about that because there’s a pile of bodies WWE built up and did nothing with. This should be really good in the ring, though.

The New Day vs AJ Styles and Omos (Raw Tag Team title match): This is a big test for Omos in his first match on the main roster. After his work last Monday on Raw, he didn’t look very promising at all, but you never know. Luckily, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Styles all are excellent wrestlers, and their work should let Omos just have spots to be a monster and not get exposed.

Sasha Banks vs Bianca Belair (Smackdown Women’s title match): This is a huge match for Belair, one of the few NXT talents in the past few years who got brought up and used mostly well. This seems early for her to win the title, but her losing on this huge stage also is not a great idea unless they have a strong long-term plan for her. Go ahead and laugh. Banks is fucking great, Belair is an excellent athlete, and I’m really looking forward to this one. There is a chance it could headline night one.

Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley (WWE Heavyweight title match): Shoving 6 months of story into 6 weeks, Lashley just recently won the title after McIntyre lost in in February to the goddamn Miz, who went on to lose it to Lashley. This seemed too early for Lashley to lose even after his group the Hurt Business (it included MVP, Cedric Alexander, and Shelton Benjamin) was dissolved for seemingly no good reason. The idea likely is to crown McIntyre in front of a crowd, which was the plan for last year, so I assume he wins the championship here.

Night 2

The Fiend vs Randy Orton: FUUUUUUUUUCK this shit. Night 2 toilet match. Toilet match for the world and for life. Don’t care. Won’t ever care. I just want the Fiend to go away forever.

Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn: Owens and Zayn are longtime friends who have always wanted to do a Mania match together. Zayn has been going on with this conspiracy theory character, which is one of the few stories that plays off current events. He has been amazingly entertaining in this role, and Owens is great as the babyface who knows how delusional the heel is being and wants to beat sense into him. I’d love to see them reunite afterward and form a tag team.

Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Winner of night one match (Women’s Tag Team title match): There’s zero reason for a title change here unless there’s a mystery fifth entrant the night before and if that team is Charlotte and Bayley.

Riddle vs Sheamus (U.S. title match): Well, they sure wasted no time making Riddle a goof. Based on his out-of-ring issues, it’s likely what he deserves. Sheamus has been on a nice run lately, having really good, hard-hitting matches. Not sure where this one goes. I can see Sheamus getting the belt as a thank you for his recent work. It makes more sense to keep it on Riddle to build him up. Again, WWE is awful at momentum, so Riddle likely loses and slips further into the land of the lost.

Big E vs Apollo Crews (Intercontinental title match): So, like, Crews suddenly has an accent. He turned heel and embraced his Nigerian warrior heritage, which apparently, yes, comes with a fake accent and a fucking spear. Stop letting 70-year-old white men book. Big E is getting his first real singles run, and this feud with Crews over the IC title has been his first big one. Also, this is a Nigerian drum fight now, which I have no what that means. I wonder if WWE even knows what the fuck this is going to be. This should be a solid match, though.  

Asuka vs Rhea Ripley (Raw Women’s title match): That non-canon Wrestlemania last year? Yeah. Ripley lost her NXT Women’s title to Charlotte Flair at that show, inexplicably. She has new life now as a Raw regular, and Asuka is just one of the best there is. She’s not had as ton of great opponents during her title run as of late, so Ripley should change all of that, and she’s a really good worker who is still young and is only going to get better. It also feels early for Ripley to win, but her losing another Mania match makes no sense, and Asuka doesn’t need the title. Unless the plan is for Asuka to face a returning Becky Lynch…

Roman Reigns vs Edge vs Daniel Bryan (WWE Universal title match): You’ve seen the memes I’m sure of inserting Bryan into every Mania main event as well as numerous life events. More strange storytelling as they managed to take Edge, who has a great built-in story as a man battling back after his career ended prematurely a decade ago, fighting through another serious injury, and finally on the cusp of regaining to being a champion, and now he’s a heel. Uh. OK. WWE never does well when they’re handed an easy story. Reigns has been so, so great as the Head of the Table along with Paul Heyman, and it also seems a little early to take the title from him. Problem is you have no one built up to face him after Mania. Edge or Bryan win and spend the next few months defending against each other and Reigns.

Also, your hosts are Titus O’Neill (a great man who has done amazing community work and is an asset to this company) and Hulk Hogan (a lifelong piece of shit). Do with that what you will.

Crypts of Despair lay waste to mind, body, unleash devastating death on ‘All Light Swallowed’

I’m sure it sounds ridiculous to say that hearing music can leave you with physical punishment, a gimmick I like to lean on a lot, but I think you know what I mean when I say it. Hearing something so heavy and devastating makes me imagine the music being transformed into an attacking force, one with only the worst of intentions for its audience.

“All Light Swallowed,” the second record from Lithuanian beasts Crypts of Despair, falls right in line with that manner of thinking. Yes, it’s a death metal record first and foremost, but it isn’t your run-of-the-mill album that’s just leaning on riffs and horrifying growls. This music sounds vicious and the result of four people—guitarist/vocalist Dovydas Auglys, guitarist Benas Juskus, bassist/vocalist Simonas Jurkevicius, drummer Henri Mall—seemingly possessed and making their way toward you with bloodlust in mind. The dual vocals from Auglys and Jurkevicius add even more sinister intent, as their growl/shriek tradeoff is absolutely terrifying. And, of course, they along with rest of the band wreck you with their unhinged playing that, yeah, feels like it’s going to leave you physically maimed.  

“Being – Erased” gets off to a blinding start as a monstrous burst rushes through, and the dual vocals of guttural growls and banshees shrieks make for a formidable team. The leads tangle as slurry hell punishes, the playing spirals into devastation, and the track ends in fiery damage. “Anguished Exhale” unloads a furious assault and some proggy bass work, quaking the earth along with it. The band pounds away in ungodly fashion, a strange hypnosis spreads, and hellish blasts rip through your chest and your bones. “Choked By the Void” begins clean before things turn to smashing chaos, piling on and hitting you with blasts. Vicious growls well as a mystical fury spills into the scene, the track feels strange and deadly, and it finally gives way and lets you breathe. “Condemned to Life” is thick and animalistic as the shrieks and growls do battle, and it feels like you’re being aggressively smothered. The pace bashes ridiculously hard, the growls engorge, and everything ends in clobbering fashion.

“Synergy of Suffering” has growls erupting and the shrieks trading off as the pace feels like it’s designed to torture. Clean tones drip amid the carnage as things get slow but ridiculously heavy, mythical strangeness enters your bloodstream, and the growls leave you mostly scorched. “The Great End” hisses from its nest as the drums blast, and the vocals melt flesh. Brutal death is unleashed as double kick drums rumble, causing the pace to get even more battering. A brief halt lets the track bleed back in, deep growls strike, and the track is scorched into a pile of dust. “Disgust” mashes right away, though clean lines float amid the brutality. The guitars send heat as the drums destroy all over again, the guitars spill and steam, and the force rises and strangles before finally relenting. “Excruciating Weight” arrives in a cloud of hovering guitars, with raspy cries and tortured growls landing hard. The playing continues to bludgeon as the heat makes you shield your face, completely taking you to task before everything rushes off into the night. “Bleak View” ends the record with horrified screams and a doomy feel as dissonance and dark light bleed. Menacing storm clouds hang over and threaten as the instrumental track slithers along and into an endless cavern.

These Lithuanian beasts in Crypts of Despair spared no mental expense creating a record that feels like your head is being blown off in a fire storm, leaving your lifeless body a blackened shell. “All Light Swallowed” is such a perfect name for this record because that’s exactly how it feels, like life is being violently pulled from you. This is a relentless, merciless slab of death metal that feels like it’s ravaging you flesh and bone, refusing to give in until you’re fully consumed.

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Canadian destroyers Intonate add ample pressure to molten death on brutal ‘Severed Within’

Over the weekend, I got to see “Godzilla vs Kong” in a real theater, socially distanced with some friends in a hall we rented. I didn’t give a single fuck about any plot because, PLOT?! No, I wanted to see two legendary titans fight it out on a gigantic movie screen as all the amazing, wonderful stupidity played out before me. Then, after the movie ended, I realized I knew the ideal soundtrack for the film.

Canadian pounders Intonate are ready to unleash their second record “Severed Within,” and it dawned on me that the five behemoth tracks on this record would be perfect to hear as these two monsters destroyed a city as they brawled over everything. Their style of technical death metal falls more along the lines of, say, Ulcerate, in that it’s spectacularly, brilliantly played, but it does remember to level you under its might. The band—vocalist/guitarist Nicola Nucciarone, guitarist Ulysses Fiorito, bassist Jean-Philippe Matte, drummer Dominic Nucciarone—is locked and nightmarishly focused on this 40-minute beast, a record that is so satisfyingly heavy, you’ll smile through the pain.

“Sever” rips into your chest right away, just crushing with the atmosphere trying to eek its way in. Gruff vocals smear as the power becomes insurmountable early, though the acoustic strains underneath the chaos makes it feel like some delicacy is possible. Things begin to hammer all over again, the growls kill, and the track ends in a pile of rubble. “Within” punches away with beastly vocals and thunderous guitars working you up into a lather. The drums pulverize while the playing feels like it’s toying with you, being cagey as hell and stomping guts. Deep lurching growls boil, cosmic noise spreads throughout the universe, and the roars crush as the song comes to a ferocious finish.

“Yearn” runs 9:43, the longest track on the record, and it unloads in a monstrous burst that feels like a ton of bricks being poured on top of you. Pressure builds as the savagery continues, wailing away as the humidity builds, and the soloing soars, feeling slightly mournful along the way. The playing continues to cake mud in the gears as the underneath simmers in doom, growls rip sanity apart, and the track rumbles into oblivion. “Wander” has winds whipping as the guitars awaken, and then the band drills, with the growls getting even more vicious as the guitars turn moodier. The bass snarls as the playing gets tricky and warping, pounding away until it catches fire and burns off. “Prolong” ends the record, a 9:36-long smasher beginning with the guitars churning and leaving your head spinning. The bass thickens and lurches while the playing hammers away, with a noise cloud collecting over everything. Moments feel like a fever dream before things come unglued, every single muscle is torn apart, and dissonant hell collects, churning until it’s swallowed by silence.

Intonate might lean toward the more technical side of death metal, but it’s never at the expense of the heart of the music on “Severed Within.” This record feels like a physical challenge, and even at just five tracks, it’s one hell of a workout. The entire experience is like what it might be like after you were trapped under a slag pile, finding breathing nearly impossible as you slowly black out forever.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Soothsayer lay waste to planet foes, open hell on massive ‘Echoes of the Earth’

Frustration and anger always have been intertwined with heavy metal because so much of the music contains these elements, and just as much can be used to release frustrations baked into your psyche. It’s one of those ways that helps you realize you’re not alone in feeling like your patience is boiling into a pile of filth, and being able to ID with those elements in the music can feel cathartic.

One trip through “Echoes of the Earth,” the debut long player from Irish crushers Soothsayer, feels like a pit of despair and aggravation front to back, but their music has a focus for that anger, and it’s something in which many of us can relate. Basically, we’ve been told for quite some time now about the destructive toll we are having on the Earth, and so many people (many of them in positions of power) refuse to acknowledge this and even ridicule others who care about the well-being of the place we live. Just typing that is enough to make my blood boil, but the band—vocalist/soundscape artist Líam Hughes, guitarists Con Doyle and Marc O’Grady, bassist Pavol Rosa, drummer Sean Breen—translate those feelings into music that feels like it’s trying to combine with the planet itself to forcibly remove its would-be destroyers. This is staggeringly heavy and powerful, a record that feels like it’s aiming to leave you devastated from the inside out.  

“Fringe” starts the record as a sort of extended instrumental intro, setting the stage for what comes after. Loud wails and strange chants warm up as sung lines slur, and this detached dream heads toward “Outer Fringe” that drips into the picture before mauling you like a bear. Growls and shouts hammer as the pace kicks up, collecting mud as thunderous fury is released. The low end just snarls while the playing stomps heavily, the intensity multiplies, and chants return, making your head swim in the cosmos. “War of the Doves” starts cleanly before shouts wrestle you down, and the bass gets thick and unloads. A synth scape rises and mesmerizes, adding some chill to the fury, while the playing hammers and loosens teeth, and vicious hell boils over before finally being sucked back to sea.

“Cities of Smoke” has guitars trickling into the scene before the growls begin to lurch, and a cold atmosphere makes you shiver in your shoes. The growls crush as the playing picks up, some clean playing adds a different tributary, and forceful yells add to a rather volatile finish. “Six of Nothing” immerses itself in psychedelic colors and a crunchy, catchy pace, with gruff growls making their force known as the track gets heavier. Blows are landed as the rage explodes, guitars burn heavily, and the pace continues to add pressure even as cleaner vocals bring colder winds. Melodies flood as the shrieks jab back, disappearing into a pocket of echo as the track bows out. “True North” ends the album, a 12:09 killer that starts with guitars coming to life and the growls punishing, even as humidity thickens. The track comes unglued as the band splatters you, and noise becomes a bigger factor, adding to the immense heat that’s suddenly becoming a factor. The track hazes, voices murmur, and a weird transmission picks up and lurches toward chilling ambiance, finally ending as it sinks into the cosmos.

It’s sad so many metal bands have had to remind us that nature is going to come back and exact revenge on us all for how we have treated our home, something Soothsayer splatter all over “Echoes of the Earth,” their massive debut full-length display. The fury, panic, and disgust are all over this thing, continually here to remind you that we are to blame for this fiery tomb, and it might be too late to act at all. This is all too real, too current, and too terrifying to handle, and the fact that deniers live among us adds an even thicker level of anger and resentment that you can practically taste.

For more on the band, go here:

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Labored Breath delve deep into end-of-life trauma, anxiety with psyche-ravaging debut ‘Dyspnea’

No one likes to think about death, or at least I don’t think most people do who are at least in decent health. But it’s a process that faces us all, and we don’t know how or when we’re going to go. But it’s a part of life that is ingrained in us all, and no matter what faces us, the anxiety can be overwhelming if we spend too much time dwelling on this conclusion.

We’re not going to shy away from this today as we have “Dyspnea,” the new record from Labored Breath, a one-man black metal project helmed by artist JK. The project’s name and the title of the record itself refer to the process of struggling for breath when a human is reaching the end of life, the struggle to survive, and the realization than the end is near. It’s doubly heavy considering the COVID pandemic as this is one of the traits of the disease, which might cause for some uncomfortable listening for those who have been impacted (it’s gave me some uncomfortable moments, if we’re being honest). The music itself is brutal, yet atmospheric black metal, as JK acknowledges influences from both the French and Icelandic scene that he used to help inform his own style. It makes for a stunning, sometimes disorienting, always devastating experience that’ll stick with you and warp your mind.

“Hypoesthesia” opens the record amid eerie strangeness before the track erupts, and a black metal tornado touches down and sends shit flying. Everything here is combustible as the atmosphere chokes, and the playing simmers in madness, contending with wild howls and strange auras. Further detonations add to the destruction, vicious shrieks hammer, and the track ends in strange echo. “Agnosia” is stirring from the start as shrieks explode, and the fury is utterly storming, with the pace lurching dangerously. The tempo envelopes as speaking crawls down your spine, and the tempo crushes and squeezes blood from your flesh. The track then dissolves into ambiance, leaving your head swimming as everything floats into deep space.

“Serpent Womb” is a quick interlude with noises stinging and echoes teasing, reminding a little of Altar of Plagues, and then we’re on to “Belie” that gusts and crushes from the start. Growls collect and massacre, later turning to shrieks, while the drums destroy, and the playing eats at your brain. Shouts jab amid fiery madness as chants usher you deeper into hell before a gushing storm takes you against your will, drowning you out in warped chaos. “Pathogenesis” caps off the album, trudging and stamping through mud as a full-force assault rolls out. Shrieks melt flesh as the playing flattens whatever’s in front of it, and a brief halt leads way for a blazing reignition that ups the ante on complete violence. Shrieks spit fire, the ferocity peaks, and suddenly everything disappears into quiet echo, fading into the void.

There’s a lot of uncomfortable content with which to grapple on “Dyspnea,” not only because the concepts are scary but also because so many of us are surrounded by death right now. But JK’s intent as Labored Breath isn’t to make you feel calm or chilled or relieved. It’s to make you confront this inevitability, think about it, sink yourself in it and see how you’re impacted on the other side. You’re either going to feel unprecedented anxiety or perhaps you’ll confront one of the most frightening realities in all of our lives and come out hardened.   

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here: