PICK OF THE WEEK: Mur push ideas, sounds that champion nature, creativity on ‘Cut the Rivers Vein’

Let’s end the week on something that will get our brains working and our emotions identifying with what’s around us and how it’s a part of our lives. The world surrounding us, humanity, and expanding our brains are things that enrich our lives and are vital to a healthy existence both physically and mentally. I’m not sure if enough people embrace these things as positives to be protected.

There are a lot of thoughts and themes swimming in “Cut the Rivers Vein,” the fourth record from Minnesota-based Mur, the project helmed by Cam Sather. Over the past decade, Mur have created music that demands listener involvement and does not just act as background texture you can have on while you multitask. That’s especially true of “Vein,” a record that leans on themes of Romanticism, the work of William Blake, existentialism, nature, and plenty of others, and you can feel the emotions rushing through these six tracks and 51 minutes. It’s an album that will fill up your heart and mind and make you take stock on what is most important to you and where you can mine wisdom. Sather also uses a variety of sounds ranging from black metal to folk, rich grounds for his creations.

“A Billet of Regret” opens acoustically, giving off a rustic feel as the sound develops, and the track spreads its wings. Sather’s growls then erupt as the pace opens and sludges, stomping and lurching through burnt terrain. Growls lace as the fog rises, guitars waft, and sound rings out inside your head. “O’palesce” dawns with mournful tones and Sather’s singing before the power nudges its way into the picture. Then everything bursts as grisly growls become a major factor, and the playing pummels hard, giving way to a sprawling dream with the drums leaving bones as dust. “Lowered Cloud” runs 11:36 and flows into folkish waters, as Sather calls, “Born under caul, amniotic nightfall, fossilized grain, the river explains,” before thrice singing, “Don’t grieve them.” An electric boost is just over the horizon as the shrieks welt and the pace trucks harder, mixing between harsh cries and clean wails, giving off great energy. The soloing blazes as things take a dark turn, the growls hiss, and the energy increases before things woosh off into space.

The title track also emerges in acoustics, and over the next 11:22, we take a jarring, emotional journey. The vocals heat up as things get dicey, and the playing slowly bludgeons and rams through, moving into doomy waves. Thick growls blister as sunburnt guitars race for the skies, and everything intensifies as the heat increases. Guitars blaze, the tempo flows, and the final minutes submit to the warmth, giving off some of the most exhilarating parts of this entire record. “A Powerful, Uneasy Feeling” enters gently with softer, more vulnerable singing, giving you a moment to breathe before the hammers drop. The vocals scrape agitated skin as the guitar work just goes off, feeling like a flood of lava and chaos that threatens with its emotional climax. “Breach & Bitter” closes the album, a 12:03-long bruiser that slowly moves at first, generating its heat. The vocals carve as the playing hulks along, ripping and mauling, paving the way for black metal-style devastation. The drums erupt as the menace floods, splattering and splurging into doom tar pits. Everything trudges as burly energy becomes more abundant, the leads just strangle, and the final moments bask in the carnage it caused, Sather calling, “Laborious joy! Thick summer stars!”

There’s plenty to mull and absorb on “Cut the Rivers Vein,” and that doesn’t just include the music, which will leave your head swollen as it takes on all these forces. There’s just as much to consider from a lyrical and conceptual standing, which means you’re not getting off easy with Mur’s fourth record if you plan to be an active listener. This is an album that requires repeated visits so you can scan every crevice and valley to make sure there isn’t a morsel of information you might have passed over.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://murmn.bandcamp.com/album/cut-the-rivers-vein

Venom Prison continue bleeding societal, political frustrations on emotionally blasting ‘Erebos’

Photo by Andy Ford

Death metal already is impossibly heavy art because the music is pulverizing, and it can torture the untrained ear. It also can be devastating to someone who is used to the style just due to the sheer weight, especially if you’re witnessing it live. When you add words and philosophies that challenge political and social structures, it makes death metal that much more challenging to behold.

UK death band Venom Prison have, over the course of three full-length albums (one of those was comprised mostly of rerecorded tracks from their two EPs), established themselves as an uncompromising force both musically and lyrically, and they have created some of the more thought-provoking songs in the entire sub-genre the last decade. They now are landing with metal giant Century Media with their new record “Erebos,” one that mostly will feel at home for long-time listeners but also demonstrates an expanded collection of textures and sounds. It’s a sign of growth for the band—vocalist Larissa Stupar, guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, bassist Mike Jefferies, drummer Joe Bills—that continues their explosive and melodic heaviness but also shows you there is more lurking beneath the creative surface than some of us may have expected. Stupar yet again hits back with lyrics that are headier and more vulnerable than almost anything else in death metal, touching on politics, social issues, depression, PTSD, and other topics most don’t have an easy time expressing.

“Born From Chaos” is a quick instrumental opener to get your appetite activated, adding chants and jarring power, flowing into “Judges of the Underworld” that brings melodic death that Venom Prison do so well. Stupar’s howls open wounds as her voice is a muscle flexing as she howls, “Guilty as charged! A childhood of abandonment and desolation, adolescence filled with guns, institutionalization, who is to blame?” There are moments of hardcore bruising, some clean calls later, and a finish that leaves you buried. “Nemesis” lights up immediately with the tempo raging and the vocals bloodying lips, Stupar howling, “I am the damaged one! You deserve all damage done.” Synth also shimmers amid the death blazes that gasp billowing smoke, and the track muscles out, leaving everything flattened. “Comfort of Complicity” opens with warmer guitars before the thorns strike, and more hardcore-style energy gives off pulsating blasts. The pace is surging and violent, a melodic burst adds new colors, and the final moments are dreamy in the manner of glimpsing beauty as the heart of Armageddon. “Pain of Oizys” is a much different style of song for Venom Prison, one that might keep some at arm’s length as it opens in static blips and Stupar going full clean singing, something at which she’s quite powerful. The track goes back and forth from gothy vulnerability and gut-wrenching power, with Stupar wrenching, “This feeling of the constant pressure on my chest, and all I wish for is an end, a way out of this dirty mess, an escape from wishing I was dead.” The track is devastating both musically and lyrically, an impressive display from a band never hesitant to show new shades of themselves.

“Golden Apples of the Hesperides” hums as guitar heat generates in its belly, eventually unraveling into violent hell. The guitars sludge as the mud thickens, making your tracking nearly impossible, and then a prog-style sheen spreads, the vocals taking you on and wrestling you to the ground. “Castigated in Steel and Concrete” open with chilling synth before death sprawls, and the playing pulverizes. Melodic calls rain down behind the fires, though they never soothe, and even a quick drink of calm refuses to quench the violence as the final moments return to hell. “Gorgon Sisters” is ripped from the heart of Greek mythology and smashed into a world that hasn’t come all that far since the tales were written. This is total savagery and justified fury, the vocals shredding flesh, the playing absolutely terrifying. Later, synth brings some cooler air, but that’s extinguished in a hurry with skull-crushing mud and strange echoes, leaving you gasping for air. “Veil of Night” is punchy and humid, taking calculated shots and balancing misery and melody. Stupar spits nails on the verses, later howling, “My love will burn forever,” putting your heart and mind to the test. “Technologies of Death” is the closer, bringing angry guitars streaming and a quaking assault, the vocals going back and forth from serene to smothering. Synth glaze lives alongside heavy grinding as the guitars turn up the heat, and repeated chants dig into your psyche. Fog thickens as the struggles subside, and the final moments lather in the blood and oil spilled and left to collect in our hearts.

Venom Prison have a lot riding on “Erebos,” the first for metal superpower Century Media and one that’ll likely have more attention once it’s released than any of their other albums. Luckily, the band answers the bell over and over, amplifying their melodic and ripping death metal and adding some new elements not heard from the band before now. This is a triumphant, powerful record from a band that’s likely to be one of the main carriers of death metal’s banner over the next decade.

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

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

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

Noisy Milquetoast salt wounds, unleash unkempt metallic punk with rowdy puncher ‘Caterwaul’

Photo by Rich Barker (richbarker.com)

I feel like we run a pretty vast shop here, traveling outside metal’s realms whenever we feel like it and covering as much of the metal spectrum possible, as long as there are no pig squeal vocals. I get people like that shit, but I can’t do it. Sorry. Anyway, we don’t get to punk and hardcore records all that often for reasons, but when we dig into something we really like, we will roll in it with enthusiasm.

That day is here with the arrival of “Caterwaul,” the new one from Indiana punk crushers Milquetoast, and fuck if this isn’t a great time. The fact they align with my politics in a much funnier way than I ever have is a big plus, and their music is rowdy, metallic, and a good time in that way where you know you’d had too much and you’re wobbling dangerously, but you work hard. Who are we really hurting anyway? Anyway, over 10 blistering tracks, the band—guitarist/vocalist Ty Winslow, bassist/vocalist Andy Bowerman, drummer Nick James—threatens you with a stoning death, makes fun of Trump’s stupid wall, gets excited about space, and even embraces the dummies who are fooled by actual fake news. These boys warm my heart, and this record provides violent fun while I’m encased in ice.

“Intro” is here to get things stirring, preparing you for what’s ahead, and that’s headlong into “Dead Inside” that immediately delivers a heavy punk vibe. The track is fast and punchy with shouts of, “You’re dead inside!” over the chorus, flattering you with its mangling end, and then it’s on to “Recognize” that opens with psyche-washed guitars. Riffs jar as the wail of, “Recognition goes a long way,” registers, and noisy, yet catchy playing melts you and deposits you into mud and fuzz. The drums rip alone for a stretch, and then speed ignites as the track punches its way out. “Matapacos” has a dingy basement charm to it as it lights up fast and catchy with a fun chorus. The leads are dirty, a strange edge chills your flesh, and the final blows knock you out. “Stoner Safari” is a fun one that’s plying you with two messages. Thick bass and thrashy playing take center stage as you’re taunted with, “So you want to get stoned? Today’s your lucky day!” They’re not plying you with marijuanas. You’re literally going to die as they keep piling on the threats, giving off a scathing, powerful final gust.

“Step Off” enters with an unexpected bluesy riff and then things tangle, adding attitude and some scorching guitar work to boot. The bass drives as the intensity increases, ending in unruly screams and overall chaos. “Space Force” is a good time and reminds me of something the Coke Dares would have attempted. They build this thing on surf guitars and repeated shouts of, “Space force!” melting into cosmic hell and some good-natured nonsense. One of them howls, “I don’t want to go to Mars!” as the track comes to a rousing finish. “Fake News Blues” won’t make your stupid COVID-denying uncle happy, and good because he’s probably an asshole. “Everything I disagree with is fake news!” is wailed as the band revels in making fun of this lot, jamming their punk-powered assault that reeks of Black Flag as they vow to “form their own bias” from the shitty information clogging people’s brains. “Wall” has more pointed jabs at the Trump crowd that are both hilarious and pissed off, though a late shout of, “I don’t want to eat no motherfucking Applebee’s quesadilla,” sure turns things in a wacky direction. Fuck, dude. Same. “Forgotten Death” ends the record with warbling and wrecking, adding slurry riffs and powerful leads. Noisy fury erupts as the energy buckles, and the final moments ring out in your ears, putting you down after the ample bruising you sustained.

Milquetoast come off as a band that takes their music seriously but not necessarily themselves, which is one of the things that makes “Caterwaul” so refreshing. Even when they’re jabbing at people’s beliefs, you’d have to be a humorless asshole not to at least smirk at it. Otherwise, this album is a blast to hear, likely will be even more alluring if you’re drunk, and has cover art that assuredly will clash will all the other heavy releases, which is another benefit for the band and this turbulent and catchy record.

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

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

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

Black metal travelers Vorga set out on expedition to cosmos on debut ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’

Outer space is both incredibly fascinating and utterly terrifying, and yes, both of those truths can live together in peace. I’ve been obsessed with space since I was a child, often spending nights gazing into the sky, almost assuredly making my parents think something was wrong with me, and maybe there was. But have you ever really thought about its endless vastness? That’s an intimidating thought with which to wrestle.

Heavy metal that is devoted to the cosmos always has allured me, and even stuff that isn’t necessarily created in awe of the great beyond but still gets me in that headspace always will resonate with me. So, when I got the promo for “Striving Toward Oblivion,” the debut full-length from German black metal force Vorga, I dug right into the thing. And I wasn’t disappointed at all as this thing is a rush from moment one, taking you on a sweeping, riff-encrusted ride that never relents on the intensity. The band—vocalist/bassist Спейса, guitarist Atlas, drummer Jervas—drives you into the stars and past alien worlds to places you only can imagine but somehow are able to visit with this eight-track, 45-minute adventure.

“Starless Sky” blasts open as the vocals hammer away, and the spacious aggression has its way with you. Fiery and fierce, the track continues to open deeper portals, chugging and tearing apart the machinations, pummeling and crushing to the end. “Comet” jars as it flies in with the shrieking tearing away, dissonance blasting your nerves. The chorus is as melodic as it is harsh, and things blend into a haze, stomping through the stars. Guitars tangle as the playing bustles, and then it’s on to “Disgust” that tramples heavily as it gets going. The vocals wrench as the band displays stunning power, especially with the drums decimating, and then things take a dark turn. The violence increases as everything comes unglued, blistering and bleeding out into time. “Stars My Destination” unfurls with guitars crunching and a fast, stunning vibe, keeping the pace with what preceded it. The playing levels you as the vocals storm, and the final moments sweep you up and dash you beyond.

“Last Transmission” opens the sonic floodgates as the riffs completely overwhelm, and everything else chews at your muscles. Speed and emotion are in ample supply as things turn mystical and tingly, shrieks rain down, and strange colors dash across the night sky. “Fool’s Paradise” delivers guitars that scuff you up, and the tempo trudges and smashes, feeling corrosive. The drama enters a star glaze as the wails echo and clouds darken, leaving an ominous sheen that explodes with power and fury. “Taken” rushes as the pace caves in your chest cavity, and massive melodies swarm and bring raucous rhythms, the vocals adding a dose of acid. The heaviness reigns as the morbidity increases, bringing weighty growls and moodiness, ending things in a pile of cinder. “Death Manifesting” closes out the record with jarring, catapulting power, feeling fiery and catchy with the vocals adding an extra dose of pressure. The whole thing goes hypnotic, twisting your brain in your skull, adding layers of agony before leaving this plane and blasting off to space.

Vorga have a stranglehold on endless riffs, interstellar melodies, and creations that capture your imagination and take you somewhere beyond. “Striving Toward Oblivion” is an exhilarating experience, making you come back for more journeys inside its own universe that leave you no choice but to expand your own dreams. This is really exciting stuff that should continue to take on a life of its own with subsequent releases.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.8merch.com/

Or here (India): https://tometal.com/store/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Celeste create black metal catharsis for bleak, bloodied world on ‘Assassine(s)’

Darker days are upon us here in the Western hemisphere as coldness spreads its reach across the land, and opportunities for pure light are not as plentiful as other times of the year. That often sends people into a seasonal depression, and on top of that is our current reality in which we can’t seem to escape, making us relive hell over and over.

While not necessarily focused on those topics, French black metal assailants Celeste create music that always seems to align with when things are at their bleakest. Their music identifies with that chaos and frustration we feel and can help flush it out of our systems which they prove again on their great new record “Assassine(s),” their first for Nuclear Blast and sixth overall. The band—vocalist/bassist Johan Girardeau, guitarists Guillaume Rieth and Sébastien Ducotte, drummer Antoine Royer—demonstrate that identification to darkness when they play live as they perform with no lights with the members wearing headlamps that beam red light, the only illumination provided. It makes sense because it enables you to concentrate on the music and lock into a mind frame to confront the pain and misery that have become too much a part of your DNA. This is catharsis through pain.

“Des torrents de coups” lands from the atmosphere with shrieks snarling and vicious, yet spacious playing that seems aimed to do ample damage. Gazey cascading increases the moisture while burly melodies are piled on thick, blasting out with raw emotion. “De tes yeux bleus perlés” is heavy and lumbering as a raucous pace lays waste, and a hardcore-style bludgeoning adds bruising to your collecting wounds. The band scrapes at your psyche as sorrowful, gutting guitars work their black magic, leaving you bleeding in the mud. “Nonchalantes de beauté” delivers a sharp black metal sheen and vocals that grind, going darkly melodic and borderline dreamy. The vocals cut a path into thick soot as the fires spread, and the final blows rob you of consciousness. “Draguée tout au fond” explodes with heaviness as the drums are pulverized, and a chugging pace makes it feel like windmill blows are headed your way. Mournful riffs destroy any hopes you held as the playing rains down and washes away.

“(A)” is a whirring, misty instrumental with heavy synth making your vision blur, then the bass kicks in and thickens the bloody waters. Drums unload as the guitars glaze and sprawl, increasing the lather before bleeding away. “Il a tant rêvé d’elles” opens with the guitars aggravating flames and the raspy howls leaving red welting. The low end smashes physically and psychologically as the playing dices your safety, the guitars soar, and the final moments bask in the destruction it created. “Elle se répète froidement” awakens you with the drums clobbering and the riffs glazing amid torrential devastation. The pace comes unglued with the animalistic vocals ushering in the terror, gut-ripping intensity blows you back, and your senses are ravaged as the track bleeds away. Closer “Le cœur noir charbon” is the longest track here, running 7:19 and starting with guitars chugging and corrosive vocals. Calm and chaos proceed to do battle, with the latter normally coming out on top, and Emily Marks’ voice enters the fray, adding a new texture. The shrieks return and spit nails while the guitars shed flesh and blood, and the track scorches everything, leading to a pillar of smoke billowing toward the heavens.

Celeste’s art continues to grow more violent as time goes on, and “Assassine(s)” continues on the path they began to blaze a decade and a half ago. This band for too long has operated under the radar of so many, but those who have been along for the previous five records knew this storm was coming, and it’s absolutely glorious. Their union with Nuclear Blast should help them find more recognition, and hopefully the newcomers are ready to endure a storm of this savagery and magnitude.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://celeste.bfan.link/assassine-s

For more on the label, go here: https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/label/

Chilean force Chaos Perversion eat away at minds with death ire on ‘Petrified Against Emanation’

Our nightmares have a way of staying inside our heads and eating away at us in the days and weeks after they occur, sometimes making sleep impossible. Those visions that come from stories our brains are telling us can have incredible grips on us, especially if they’re reality based or, even worse, a hellish tornado of visions that seems like endless damnation calling us.

Chilean black/death metal beasts Chaos Perversion create music that feels like it’s the product of your psychosis, the swirling terror you cannot control and that lives in the back of your mind as you try to deal with what you’ve experienced. Their debut EP “Petrified Against Emanation” strikes hard and fast, making it seem like you’re locked inside a scene that can haunt you forever. These six tracks (five of which also were a part of their “Entangled by the Roots of Death” EP in 2019) are massive and entangling, pieces that act as separate entities but also exist expertly as a whole as the band—vocalist Daniel Hermosilla, multi-instrumentalist Flauros U—eats away at your sanity, leaving you to fight to keep your senses intact.

“Intro: Abyss” gets you acclimated to the world that’s unfolding in front of you as noises waft, and eerie sounds bleed toward you, leading into equally bizarre “Absorption Ascension Under the Vampiric Connection” that makes your head spin. The vocals feel sucked from another dimension while a burly attack is under way, one from which you can’t find safety. Riffs spiral and contort as vicious howls weigh down on you, ugly chaos stampedes, and everything disappears into a hovering red cloud. “From the Ominous Funerary Miasma: Initiation by Semitrance & Praxis of the Grotesque” already is a lot to handle just from its title, and it grinds heavily, giving off noxious smoke and death gurgles. The playing feels like it melts into the earth, bringing you into a dream sequence and letting doomy overcast skies dominate, burning itself away. “Petrified Against the Emanation” starts with the drums destroying and a maniacal pace causing insanity, hellish guitars digging into the dirt. The pace slows as the growls incinerate, dropping the pressure directly onto your chest. “Entangled by the Roots of Death” blisters as trauma runs amok, delivering fiery devastation that spreads quickly. The drums are pummeled into the underworld as the vocals take off layers of flesh, then the sounds hiss in their own filth, unloading a ton of soot and misery. “Outro: Awakened at the Slaughterhouse” is a fitting instrumental finish that allows in strangeness and terrifying moans, almost as if the earth is dying from the inside out.

These Chilean beasts in Chaos Perversion expertly take black and death metal and warp it to their vision on “Petrified Against Emanation,” their terrifying second EP. This feels like being locked in a hellish sleep that does nothing but increase the scariest parts of your fever dreams and stick in your subconsciousness like a demonic thorn. Doing battle with this mentally and physically demands you pay a price, and even though it’s a smaller release, it leaves enough damage that you’ll feel the bruising.   

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/chaos-perversion-petrified-against-the-emanation

Or here: https://totaldeathmerch.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: https://www.instagram.com/totaldeathrecs/?hl=en

Death beasts Tormentor Tyrant unleash hellish tale of killing machine with crushing debut EP

We already live in a world where a horrible beast is ravaging humankind, but it just doesn’t look like what many of us have fantasized about for years. The goddamn thing is invisible, and tons of people are pretending like we’re not heavily under fire, but humanity is half clueless. Just imagine if we were facing a physical hell beast with an equal lack of interest in our safety.

Finnish death metal terrors Tormentor Tyrant have sick imaginations and a vicious penchant for the sounds from the formative days, and along with that comes a story of a monster that feeds on our suffering. They start to unfurl that story on their debut EP, a five-track, 17-minute bruiser that feels violent and unforgiving. The band itself—guitarist/vocalist S. Envenom, bassist/vocalist M. Malignant, drummer J. Carnage—adopted their own horrifying monikers and splatter you with filthy, mangling death metal that takes on the mission of its character and feasts upon our fears and anxieties.

The title track begins the record, one of those fun songs where the band, album, and song names are all the same. It’s bludgeoning right away as raspy growls and a bloodthirsty drive head right for your guts. The flow gets deathy and chunky as the band wails the title back at you along with traits that describe the character (savage suffer-lord! maker of agony!), ending as violently as it began. “Eternal Torment” is massive and monstrous as the guitars surge, and the assault continues to amplify the aggression. Skulls are bashed as the scathing vocals turn against you, and the brutality reigns until everything is turned to ash. “Primal Evil” is fast and smashing with a powerful riff leading the charge. Hellacious fury is meted out as guttural cries splash acid on your wounds, then the leads get more intense, leaving you devastated inside and out. “All-Seeing Eye” stampedes out of the gates with a thick bassline melting, and the drums are outright assaulted. The vocals whip through and make your pain even nastier, while the playing smashes blood into the grass. “Galaxy-Wide Terror” ends the record by easing you into the abyss, letting you think about what’s coming for you. Ominous guitars and creaking growls are a formidable pair, and the skies get darker with the doom picking up. But you know the hammer is going to drop, and it does, as the band speeds things up, chars flesh, and caves in the sound, its last drops dripping into hell.

Tormentor Tyrant make a great first impression on their self-titled EP, which seems like the first violent chapter of a horrifying story they’re telling. Yes, evil seeds have been planted and humanity will suffer as the band unfurls the rest of this terror, which we should get on subsequent releases. That should be great fun for any death metal fan who revels in brutality and bloodshed combining.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://everlastingspew.com/search?controller=search&orderby=position&orderway=desc&search_query=TORMENTORTYRANT&submit_search=

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

Nameless Mist return amid frigid pressure with stunning, slicing black metal on riff-plastered ‘II’

It pretty much goes without saying that black metal and the winter go together seamlessly as it’s a relationship that was forged near the beginning of the subgenre’s formation. As I write this, the snow is piling up outside my window, expected to accumulate anywhere from six inches to a foot, and all I can think about are riffs and goblin-style vocals relentlessly ravaging me.

It’s an ideal time, then, for Nameless Mist to return with “II,” the project’s second full-length overall, and their second in less than a year (“I” was released in June). Helmed by sole creator Lauren Straily, she has labeled this band “wintry trans anarchist depressive suicidal black metal” though the music is so rushing and immersive that I felt more enthralled than low. Straily creates a stunning vision here, upping the ante from her debut under this banner that also was really powerful. You can feel the energy and passion building in the music, rolling dangerously downhill and picking up an alarming amount of speed along the way. I can only imagine if we already have two Nameless Mist records this strong, what does the future hold? It’s exciting and intimidating to think about.

“The Drowned God” dawns and basks in soundscapes before a killer riff arrives and takes off heads, with the shrieks tearing into your flesh. Guitars drizzle as anguishing hell spreads itself and creates blackness, and then calm sweeps in for a spell, a synth stream cooling your face. The leads launch anew as mystical might strengthens its grip, the drums hammer, and the guitars blister one last time before ringing out. “The Behemoth” crumbles and clobbers from the start, the vocals wrenching as the earth quakes. Riffs slice through as the storm gets heavier and more oppressive, and the shrieks strike like tiny razors activated in a tornado. Destruction continues to spread as the carnage flows, and a synth shield develops, helping shield your eyes from the cinder spray.

“The Dead Woman” arrives suddenly, punishing thoroughly as the vocals bring menace. Riffs fire up and deliver a dramatic charge, and it feels like fire erupts in your guts as everything penetrates even harder. The playing continues to sprawl and churn as devastating melodies sweep your heart with everything fading into a bed of acoustics. “The Queen of Shadows” is the longest cut at 14:45, and it makes great use of every moment with the playing exploding from the gates and mangling from there. The vocals spike as the pace boils and blends into synth mist, bringing a period of calm that lets you catch your breath. Your blood begins to rush as the vocals return and mount an assault, dragging you through another gasp of serenity and into the next burst that wastes no time coming at you. The vocals destroy and melt the ice encapsulating your limbs, while an emotional caterwaul storms through, ending the track in a pool of noise. “The Murderer” in an instrumental finish built with numbing guitars glistening, giving off a wintry vibe. The steam begins to build as thick fog captures, taking you along with it into the throes of oblivion.

My most recent visit with “II” came as I watched this slowly collecting snowstorm outside my window with Nameless Mist’s music coming as a perfect soundtrack. The leaps and bounds from Straily’s first release under this banner are obvious and impressive, ensuring this record must be acknowledged as a black metal force that has its best days in the future. This is a mesmerizing, intoxicating dose of classic era thunder from a musical standpoint, and it’s an absolute pleasure to behold.  

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

1To buy the album, go here: https://www.folkvangrrecords.com/products/718148-nameless-mist-ii

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: 40 Watt Sun pull back the pressure, deliver heartfelt gaze on ‘Perfect Light’

There is no set way to define heaviness, though typically with the music we cover it means art that is packed with distortion and abrasiveness, along with words that tend to go for the jugular. But that’s not the only means to hit your listeners with weighty material. Cutting through to their hearts and minds and making them feel something that heavily impacts them can be accomplished in more than one way.

That takes us to Patrick Walker and his long-running project 40 Watt Sun, itself a perfect example of a way to deliver art that’s as heavy as a planet, but the sonics won’t damage your hearing. Walker, who also is well regarded for his work in doom metal stalwarts Warning, has been making music under this banner since 2009, and from the start, things went toward the personal and introspective, even delving into romantic and relationship issues often avoided by the metal community since people are afraid of their feelings. Or something. That’s never been an issue for Walker, who always has put all of himself out there, and he does again with new full-length “Perfect Light,” the first 40 Watt Sun record in eight years. On this album, Walker goes more the singer-songwriter route, eschewing the full-band process though including notable contributors including Andrew Prestidge and Roland Scriver (The Osiris Club), Ajit Gill (Vertaal), Lorraine Rath (Amber Asylum/Worm Ouroboros), and pianist/composer Chris Redman. At eight tracks and nearly 68 minutes, this record is a slow burner, one best consumed at night with lights low, a strong drink in your hand as you can reflect along with these songs.

“Reveal” starts heavily acoustic, a folk push that’s just guitar and voice, naked and vulnerable. Walker and a guest vocalist blend perfectly as strings gush over this devotional. “Whatever you want to never reveal, whatever your broken eyes conceal, wherever the shells of lightning lead, wherever you want me, I will be,” he calls and later follows up with, “Oh, Ophelia, I’m strong enough to lift you up,” with the song fading into the horizon. “Behind My Eyes” runs 11:35 and starts with somber guitars and Walker calling, “We are wakening our lives together, we are unmaking everything we’re ashamed of.” The track is hopeful and emotional, dripping into the light, seeking healing and something better. “Meet the measure of my mind, this night won’t define us – it reveals us,” he offers as drums kick in for a jolt, and the track disappears into fog. “Until” is a more full-bodied, full band-style song that buries itself in an electric haze as Walker’s heartfelt singing pushes its way through. The power surges later as chords change and awaken you, sun cracks through the clouds, and an acoustic hum bows and heads into “Colours,” the shortest track at 4:19. It’s a ’70s-brushed, sepia-smeared track with Walker revealing, “You are the last light, you hold the glory, you throw the levels of life before me,” as the guitars delicately fade.

“The Spaces in Between” stretches 9:41 and has keys mixing with guitars and brushed drums, feeling sullen and painfully romantic. “You live in everything I love and everything I’ll never be, you’re traced in everything I touch,” Walker offers as the melodies keep filling you and making your heart challenge your mind. “Tonight, I will not try to harden truth with reasons,” Walker vows as shadows sweep and the guitars trickle, flowing toward the cold night. “Raise Me Up” is 9:47 and is moody and atmospheric, giving off a late summer vibe when the nights are a little cooler. The chorus is somber and will grip you as Walker laments of the flickering lights, “The way they go by reminds me of my pain.” Electrics surge as your cells engorge with warmth and sunbeams, the feelings rapidly increase, and Walker wonders, “Am I strong enough to carry this or too weak to let it go?” as the track burns off. “A Thousand Miles” begin with soft impulses and sympathetic vocals as the guitar work lights the skies. Melodies patter as Walker calls, “And in the sweeping tide of time, with the surging bank of despair, I’d feel the voice of your eyes in the knowing silence.” The guitars continue to trickle as the vibrations pick up, and then the sun sinks into the background, leaving darkness behind. “Closure” fittingly ends the record with acoustic rushes and more hushed singing, feeling like a folk gem from five decades ago. That ghost gets into your bloodstream as Walker sings to his subject, “If you were here to ask me what I now believe, I’d say, ‘Life can never be held but only lived,” a powerful and poignant final stamp.

This is as sensitive and vulnerable as Walker ever has been, though his work through Warning and 40 Watt Sun always consisted of him lying his bleeding heart open for the world to see. But on “Perfect Light,” the music is pulled back and lets Walker’s words and experiences take center stage as he reveals some of his most powerful sentiments in a manner where decibels can’t swallow the impact. This is a gorgeous, moving, human record, something that can find you in any season, in any situation, and live alongside your own life as you experience lights and darks.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/40wattsun

To buy the album, go here: https://40wattsunshop.bigcartel.com/products

Or here: https://svartrecords.com/product/40-watt-sun-perfect-light-album/

Or here: https://cappiorecords.bandcamp.com/

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

Or here: http://www.cappiorecords.com/

Prolific Boris give Wata lead as she weaves tapestries of dreams on psychedelic-rich, numbing ‘W’

Photo by Yoshihiro Mori

I don’t understand how the legendary psyche-doom force Boris does it. I have a hard enough time trying to think of fresh things to say when writing pieces such as these several times a week, and it’s a significantly easier job than writing a record. Not only do Boris remain prolific, they continually make music that challenges them and the listener pretty much every time out.

The Japanese trio is back with their second record during the pandemic, the mind-melting “W,” the follow-up to 2020’s excellent “No.” This marks their 27th album (I’m trusting Wikipedia’s count because that site never has been wrong about anything), and it’s one that exclusively features Wata on vocals, as her voice takes you into a portal into space, letting your imagination run wild. This record features a lot of the sonic hallmarks that have made up other Boris records as the band—rounded out by guitarist/bassist Takeshi and drummer Atsuo—piles doom, drone, space rock, noise, and plenty of other sounds into these nine cuts. Wata’s vocal performance helps these songs advance into the stratosphere, making it one of the band’s most intoxicating records ever.

“I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” starts as the first of many dreamscapes, Wata’s vocals swimming amid wonders and sedation, noises rising and teasing. The song swirls in a haze as squalls scrape, the power spirals, and a sudden jazzy intrusion at the end makes you tilt your head in blissful confusion. “Icelina” is gentle as Wata’s hushed singing works its way over you, glimmering over a canopy of starry sky. Rumbling and guitar zaps stab in, keys flutter, and the track drizzles its last, with each drop landing as frozen pellets. “Drowning by Numbers” is the most attitudinal of all the tracks, and it’s a fun one with Wata counting, “1,2,3,4,5,” as the bass slinks dangerously. The tracks gets more sultry later, a sound machine feels like it breaks and warps, and the music melts into time. “Invitation” is a quick one with drums echoing, the singing vibrating, and the whole vibe making you feel like you’re high as fuck, moving toward “The Fallen,” which is an absolute killer. It starts like a quiet torch ballad, Wata delicately using her voice to set the tone, making it feel like your destination will be pillowy, but it’s a trick. About halfway through, the power detonates, the guitars light up and fill your entire heart, and the tidal waves pull back with you left vulnerable and radiating.

“Beyond Good and Evil” has guitars building and the fog collecting and obscuring, scuffing up everything pristine. A moody darkness thickens like a heavy backdrop as the playing heads into noiry terrain, electric drone cuts through your entire soul, and the guitars pick up and gut, leaving you unsure of your whereabouts. “Old Projector” is the longest track, running 9:43 and just hanging in the air before the dreaming intensifies and takes you hostage. The playing pushes through stars and takes on a fuzz film that keeps layering, giving the song a My Bloody Valentine/Smashing Pumpkin sheen. Wata’s singing keeps your mind in the game as much as it wants to wander into the stratosphere. Sounds fold in as galactic wonder increases, encircling and floating off into planes not yet encountered by humankind. “Jozan” is a mere blip, a washed-out hiccup of slide guitar and echo, and that leads into closer “You Will Know (Ohayo Version)” where the weight of the world comes crashing down. Sludge collects and makes your sledding tougher, the playing floods your eardrums, and walls of psychedelic coating treats your mind and ailing body with colors and visions you never imagined before.

It’s been a long, challenging pandemic for all of us, but Boris have put these times to good use, following up their “No” with this otherworldly “W.” Wata’s performance is intense and sweeping as her voice is such a presence, but she isn’t here to steamroll you. Instead, she takes your hand and leads you through blinding sights and unreal experiences as she and the rest of the band deliver something to soothe your mind and help it find its way toward better things.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://geni.us/BorisW

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