PICK OF THE WEEK: Atramentus’ frigid touch on funeral doom blasts blizzard-borne ‘Stygian’

Sitting here in almost-middle August, a day when it’s a legitimate 92,000 degrees outside, it’s really hard to even think about winter, a season I’m sometimes convinced doesn’t really exist here on the East Coast anymore since it never really comes. But arrive it will, in whatever form it takes this year, and who knows, it might even snow a few times so that I can use the bag of rock salt I bought last year.

A much closer glimpse into the coldest season of the year is closer to you than you think in the form of “Stygian,” the stunning debut record from Quebecois funeral doom unit Atramentus. As much as we love that style of the sub-genre over here, it’s not like it’s easy to produce, as a lot of bands try their hands and fail, forgetting that you must weave in something memorable while you’re playing S-L-O-W-L-Y. Atramentus didn’t leave this part behind, as on this three-track, 45-minute ops they pack the thing with majesty, drama, and cold darkness, following the tale of a nameless knight granted immortality through the gift of God’s sword, only to watch the world die all around him, leaving him to wander, unable to perish, in a world of cold and unforgiving blizzards. The band—vocalist/guitarist Phil Tougas, guitarist Claude Leduc, bassist Antoine Daigneault, keyboardist/dark element conjurer François Bilodeau, drummer Xavier Berthiaume—ply their trades in other groups such as Chthe’ilist, Funebrarum, and Gevurah, though the madness in which they indulge here is different than what they achieved elsewhere.

“Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)” opens the record and runs a healthy 16:28, starting with keys chiming and Tougas’ lurching growls boiling over. Guitars drain into a freezing funereal pace as glorious leads flood with light, while deep croons slither into another section of bubbling growls, and keys glimmer and cause you to shield your eyes. The pace slowly melts into a cloudy storm that dominates the horizon as the growls scrape, and blood drains from your face. Synth winds blow as strange words are spoken in the distance, letting the drums pound into “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds),” a bridging ambient piece where sounds shuffle and float into darkness. Keys create a wall of sound while voices quiver, and the dark ambiance leads us to our final chapter.

“Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)” ends the album, a 23:17-long finale that feels like it drips in slowly from the atmosphere, as Tougas’ voice creaks, and strangeness is in the air. Guitars give off a classic psyche haze while deep growls shove along, meeting with an elegant, alien ambiance that takes over, ushering in moody guitars and beams of light that caress the frosty terrain. The pace floats slowly into a mystical fog, bathing in synth and gothy tidings, opening the door for the growls to live again. It feels like the track is going to succumb to the ice, but then then the tempo is shredded, the drums crush, and a speedy fury forges ahead, burying the track in a fiery grave that later is extinguished by wintry winds.

It might be swelteringly hot where a lot of us live right now, but Atramentus’ incredible debut offering “Stygian” might help you get lost in an icy world of never-ending torment that’s at least different from the one in which you’re trapped. On top of that, this is top-shelf epic funeral doom, the type that really doesn’t come along that often, so you embrace it while you can. This record was highly anticipated over here, and every moment of this three-track opus totally delivers.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/atramentus

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Drainbow’s manic inventiveness, indescribable metallic storming color fiery ‘The Tower of Flints’

Nicholas Sarcophagus

It’s not often I start off one of these things and I don’t really know what to say. Today it’s not because the content isn’t rich enough. It sure as shit is. In fact, there’s so much here, and it is so involved that there’s no real way for me to be concise or cohesive without falling into some weird turn that won’t make any sense and will require me to rewrite the intro a ton of times. Where am I going with this?

OK, Drainbow is helmed by creator/composer Nicholas Sarcophagus who currently resides in Austin, Texas, and whose imagination is so insanely off the charts, it’s what led me to have no real way to set up this record properly. That record is his debut full-length offering “The Tower of Flints,” a seven-track effort released last Friday on Bandcamp and that has twisted my brains into knots ever since then. You can get lost in the events of each song if you follow along with the manic, completely alluring lyrics, and musically, it moves all over the metallic spectrum in such a delightfully chaotic way, you won’t even realize how frightened you’ve become. It’s truly an album that is impossible to set up for someone new to the experience, so you’re better off locking that person up (with their consent, of course) with the music to see what happens. It’s a tremendous adventure, one that should be the enemy of my anxiety but somehow isn’t.

“Funeral for an Imaginary Rabbit” gets this insane beast off to a fitting start with manic laughing that’s met with a synth haze and Sarcophagus’ tremendous singing which is stirring, as he calls, “Do you have any final words before the last handful of dirt?” Guitars fire up as the synth barrels in, feeling like a horror house that rips back into the weirdness as keys zap, and the track races to the end. “Lair of the Night Gaunt” feels eerie as the singing swelters, and the growls churn. The bass work is just awesome as the guitars liquify, and savagery is mixed with mysticism. Guitars go insane as the pace is zany as hell, and the track comes to ambitious end. “The Inevitable Tautology of Defeat” pokes open as fierce growls rip off flesh, and proggy strangeness stomps through. “Dust off your halo, plastic crown of thorns, your eyes are pained,” he calls as the guitars speed along, and wills are crushed. Leads heat up as the soloing slathers, and growls rumble to the abrupt end.

“Fourth Rider” has a cold, cosmic vibe before the guts are kicked in, and the guitars slide and soar, feeling like filthy noir where everyone dies. There’s a strong southern rock rumble that’s tasty as fuck, leading toward 7:59-long “The Death Owl in the Tower of Flints” that starts with birds chirping and the guitars welling in a channel. A poetic recitation opens the tale as the song takes on a jazzy vibe, giving off some Steely Dan smoke, which is a huge plus. The song starts to destroy with cool singing, breezy terror, and a tremendous prog burst that leans into frantic madness. “This is my hour, the hour of my reincarnation,” Sarcophagus calls, barking and snarling as the guitars and synth blaze, and a second recitation brings everything to its end. “Callipygian Hunger” is the longest song, running 11:17 and beginning with keys dripping in and the string glazing, with Sarcophagus deeply singing, “Each night as I lay dreaming down, I dream of offerings on the burial mound.” The pace goes nuts and even takes on some black metal majesty while the pace shifts to more theatrical, and prog-fueled humidity coats your face with heat. Warbled singing and shimmering keys combine as leads bustle and melt, guitars spit fire, and the track works into the stars. “Worm Invasion” is a bonus cut and man alive, is it gross. It’s insanity wall to wall as death growls and smoldering guitars pace the fury, and Sarcophagus shouts, “Wash your hands, motherfucker,” a piece of advice as old as time. Everything is utterly disruptive before the track comes to a neck-jerking end.

I cannot put into human words just how goddamn crazy “The Tower of Flints” really is, yet another spellbinding building block for Sarcophagus and his Drainbow project. This is a record that, if you’re easily pushed to anxiety by music that eats away at your psyche, this might push you over the edge for good. If you’re down with a blood-soaked, parasite-infested journey that’s relentless and insanely fun from front to back, you’re not going to find anything quite like this record and band.

For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://drainbow1.bandcamp.com/

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.

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

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

Or here: https://entropicrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/unyielding-unseeing

For more on the label, go here: http://www.amor-fati-productions.de/

And here: https://entropicrecordings.bandcamp.com/

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://krallice.bandcamp.com/album/mass-cathexis

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

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/primitive-man-immersion

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

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://jasonmolina.ffm.to/eight-gates

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

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.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (international): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.willowtip.com/bands/details/nug.aspx

For more on the label, go here: https://www.willowtip.com/home.aspx

PICK OF THE WEEK: Draghkar mash mangling creativity into death on ‘At the Crossroads of Infinity’

We’re staring another Friday in the face, and remember when this used to be a fun stretch of 24 hours where you could escape the daily madness of the week and stretch out your experiences by doing fun shit in order to appease your aching brain? Yeah, the good times. We can’t really do that in the same way, so excuse me while the tension mounts.

I don’t have anything in this second graph that’s going to make you feel any better about that, but we do have the debut record from Draghkar to discuss, and that should at least make you look forward to having this in your hands. Anyway, “At the Crossroads of Infinity” is a smasher of a record, a six-track, 35-minute burst that’s perfectly portioned and will leave you mangled and torn. And that’s not so bad because how are you really feeling these past 6 months? The band—vocalist Daniel Butler, guitarists Brandon Corsair and K.S. Kuciemba, bassist Camron Fisher, drummer Phil Segitho—is comprised of groups such as Acephalix, Vastum, Drawn and Quartered, Plague Bearer, Grave Spirit, and a ton more, and they’ve previously offered up a couple splits, an EP, and other smaller releases before finally landing on this beast of a debut record that pays off all of the deadly promised they showed along the way.

“The First Death” opens up with guitars catching fire and the pace galloping, while Butler’s barked wails blast you like shrapnel. The track keeps getting uglier all while taking on more melody, and the leads bubble up as the growls scrape flesh raw. The soloing bursts in and sends lasers, while clean warbling ices brains, and a smashing barrage takes the song to its finish. “Beyond Despair, the Dawn of Rebirth” has a huge start with powerful leads and a charging pace, with Butler scowling away, his growls taking on filth and blood. The guitar work is super catchy, even amid such violence, while growls rip back in, and the track hammers closed. “An Erosion of the Eternal Soul” runs 8:07 and begins in the midst of a doomy haze where the leads slowly thaw the ice, and then the playing surges with raw growls and mashing intent. A moody pall spreads over the song as classic metal guitar work flows, with the soloing going for throats. Thunderous leads usher in a heavy lava flow, vile growls punish, and the playing gallops and lays waste to all.

“Seeking Oblivion” has eerie clean chants, a Butler trait for sure, before doomy drapes drop, and the guitars sprawl, crushing wills. The playing begins to thrash hard as the growls punish, and the leads swelter. Everything aims toward insanity as the track ends in glorious devastation. “Pursued by Black Forms” enters in a fray of madness, slamming away with a tremendous fury as the vocals look to destroy souls. The leads bleed fire as they race melodically, while the bass bubbles with cosmic weirdness, and the gates crash down hard. The title cut closes the album, the other 8:07-long track. This starts mystically as twin guitars join in the murk, and things progress in a calculated pace. Then the aggravation hits as the band slips into something that resembles Maiden trudging through death metal terrain while the bass is proggy as hell, and the vocals slam home the dagger. The leads boil before reigniting as the track lurches into ominous glory, growls scar, and strange chants bleed into a synth mist that carries off into the night.

Draghkar’s crushing debut “At the Crossroads of Infinity” is one of those albums that drops just when you need a boost or your ass kicked or both. It definitely plays in the deep end of death metal but with creative bursts and prog secrets that make the thing uglier and more infectious. Everyone in this band has a lot of other shit going on, but hopefully this is just the first burst from a band that sounds like they could give a lot of modern death bands a run for their money.

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

To buy the album, go here:  https://tinyurl.com/y8u5j6q2

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

Von Till peels back his musical approach, creates scenic scapes on ‘No Wilderness Deep Enough’

Photo by Bobby Cochran

There’s no telling where inspiration is going to hit you, which is why I used to keep a notebook by my bed at night in case I had a strange dream or thought I figured was going to be important at some point. It actually worked until I stopped doing that. Nonetheless, there are plenty of ways for the creative bug to bite, and you never know when that’s going to be.

For Steve Von Till, it was while visiting his wife’s childhood home in Germany that the seeds to his new solo album “No Wilderness Deep Enough” were planted, and over time, he started to put together ambient-style soundscapes he initially figured would be instrumental pieces until friend/engineer Randall Dunn suggested he apply his trademark gruff vocals to the pieces. Naturally, it worked, and what resulted was a record very different from Von Till’s previous efforts as there is no guitar at all, with the tracks being built with synth, strings, and French horn. The title itself has ridiculous depth, especially when considering the world in which we live, and Von Till (Neurosis, Harvestman, etc.) reached into the idea of maintaining one’s existence both alone and around others and how those things can be accomplished during such turbulent times. Von Till also is releasing a collection of his poetry called No Wilderness Deep Enough and Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics that you can find at the shop link below.

“Dreams of Trees” begins with lush synth washing over and Von Till’s voice piercing the calm. “Still now, you voices, let us rest,” he urges as the track quivers, feeling wintry along the way.  Keys drip as noise crashes around, layering in echo as strings moan, and the track leaks away. “The Old Straight Track” has noise rising and Von Till’s voice sliding alongside pastoral organs that produce smoke. “We have the sea,” he urges, digging deep, “And we’ll always have the sky,” as the atmosphere thickens, horns call out from the distance, and the track ends in regality. “Indifferent Eyes” has synth sparks that jolt your system, while Von Till calls, “Reach for the infinite deep,” a message he repeats throughout the song. The playing moves toward the horizon while the noise strips away, with the strings leaving a glaze. “The emptiness swallows us all,” he admits while the music slips into moody cold, soaring toward the end.

“Trail the Silent Hours” arrives from outer space as Von Till’s singing scrapes along the earth, and it feels like the night is settling in. “Stand there as an oak, holding ground,” he urges, “Seek shelter from surrender, but don’t give in,” as the track slips into dark pockets. “Shadows on the Run” is the longest track, running 7:19, and it arrives with sweeping strings and visions of a burning house, while Von Till’s singing mixes in with pulsating synth. “Searching high and low for something to behold,” he sings while electro jolts enter your blood. Strings thicken while haunting echoes convey the mood, swimming off into the distance. “Wild Iron” runs 7:02 and brings darkening piano, a calming pace, and synth wormholes that let your mind wander. Dreamy progressions fill your head with clouds as the calls resonate, mesmerizing and numbing, with the synth tunneling into the unknown.

Von Till found a way to do something completely different from the four solo records that precede “No Wilderness Deep Enough,” a collection that’s warm, cosmic, and utterly human. The musical journey he took on this record is no surprise for a musician constantly pushing boundaries, but even this collection can throw a long-time listener for a loop. And that’s a good thing. It’s a wonderful surprise from a thoughtful player who found a way to open yet another chapter of his creativity.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.vontill.org/

To buy the album, go here: https://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/artists/steve-von-till/?

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