Posts Tagged ‘Doom’

Southern Lord – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Twenty years is a long time. But that’s how long it’s been since Iceburn last graced us with new material. The shifting collective, primarily operative between 1990 and 2001 reconvened in 2007, with this current lineup again at the core.

As the band’s bio summarises, ‘The band’s initial output slowly evolved from hardcore and metal to free improvisation and noise. The 10 year arc saw the band following their own path and becoming more and more obscure as they got deeper into unknown musical worlds. By 2000 the cycle seemed complete and Iceburn did their final tour in Europe 2001. In 2007 this early core crew reunited to play a local anniversary show focused on the earliest material. Every few years since they would get together for another ‘reunion’ until that word became more of a joke, it was clear the band was back, getting together every week, and working on new material.’

And here it is: two truly megalithic tracks, each spanning the best part of twenty minutes, and packing them densely with some hard-hitting, churning, trudging, sludgy riffs.

This is some heavy, doomy, din: the riffs are Sabbath as filtered via Melvins, and let’s face it – Sabbath may have invented heavy metal, but it was Melvins who reinvented it with that gnarly, stoner twist and all the sludge.

It’s about halfway through the eighteen-minute ‘Healing the Ouroburous’ that things take a bit of a crazy turn. The lead riffing steps up to next-level flamboyant and I’m starting to think ‘this is maybe a bit much’. It’s not just that it’s technical, it’s just a bit fretwanky, even a bit Thin Lizzy, like ‘Whisky in the Jar’ jammed for fifteen minutes at a gig with three local support bands for a minor-league headliner – but then they pull it back and we’re returned to slow, lumbering territory. If there’s a brief burst where it sounds a bit Alice In Chains, it’s forgivable, because within the obvious genre framework, Iceburn bring in so much to expand the limits of convention, and it’s refreshing, especially from a band with so much history. It would have been so easy for them to just turn out a brace of droning riff beasts where not a lot happens, and no doubt they would have been lauded for their return to form and their place in the underground canon, but… well bollocks to that. Then there are the vocal – shifting between a low growl and some quite melodic moments, but all kept low in the mix.

‘Dahlia Rides the Firebird’ is another absolute bloody behemoth, a collision of Earth and Melvins, and a real slow-burner that takes suspense to a point near the limit. It takes three minutes before it even begins to take form, and then lumbers like some giant Cretaceous riff-lizard – one with big, swinging riff knackers at that. Yes, this has some swagger, and it builds, and it builds… The monster crunching riff that crashes in to punch hard in the last five minutes more than justifies the wait. When it lands, it’s absolutely fucking colossal.

Asclepius is a statement, and one which informs us that Iceburn are forward-facing and aren’t looking to recreate the past or retread old ground just to please people. And that in itself should please enough people, because this is so, so solid.

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Year of No Light have shared the harrowing new video for ‘Réalgar’, written and directed by Corentin Schieb, Mathias Averty & Célia Le Goaziou. The track, described by the band as, ‘a mineral dive in the interzone, a journey between several realities and a confrontation with our inner demons’, is taken from their new album “Consolamentum” set for release via Pelagic Records on 2nd July. Watch the video now:

Pelagic Records are releasing not only their new album “Consolamentum” but also a wooden box set, to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary, containing their entire discography of 5 studio albums, several split EPs, and the collaboration with Belgian composer Dirk Serries from the ‘Live At Roadburn’ recordings, on 12 vinyl records.

YEAR OF NO LIGHT’s lengthy, sprawling compositions of towering walls of guitars and sombre synths irradiate a sense of dire solemnity and spiritual gravity, and couldn’t be a more fitting soundtrack for such grim medieval scenarios. But there is also the element of absolution, regeneration, elevation, transcendence in the face of death. Consolamentum is dense, rich and lush and yet somehow feels starved and deprived.

It comes as no surprise that ever since the beginning of their career, the band have had an obsession for the fall of man and salvation through darkness. The term “consolamentum” describes the sacrament, the initiation ritual of the Catharic Church, which thrived in Southern Europe in the 12th – 14th century – a ritual that brought eternal austereness and immersion in the Holy Spirit.

“There’s a thread running through all of our albums”, says the band, collectively “an exploration of the sensitive world that obeys a certain telos, first fantasized ("Nord") and reverberated ("Ausserwelt"), then declaimed as a warning ("Tocsin"). The deeper we dig, the more the motifs we have to unveil appear to us. Yes, it’s a bit gnostic. This album is invoked after the Tocsin, it’s the epiphany of the Fall”.

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Nadja reveal another track "Starres" from their forthcoming album Luminous Rot, which shall be released on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August. Luminous Rot pre-orders are live from today, and info can be found on the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe store and via Bandcamp.

About the track and video Nadja comments, "Starres is about both inner- and outerspace, a conflation of the internal neural-network of the human brain with the external cosmos, and how the act of observation might alter those, both from the viewpoint of the observer and the one observed. The video attempts to replicate something of that feeling of cognitive dissonance in the observer, taking a mundane image of houses and warping them, both through reflective filming and digital effects."

Watch the video here:

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(image by by Janina Gallert)

Magnetic Eye Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This is my first encounter with Swedish psychedelic doom-riffers Domkraft, and it must be something to do with the power of three, given that this is the third single from the forthcoming third single by the trio.

And when a band puts out a nine-minute track as a single, you get a sense of where they’re coming from. This clearly isn’t a band going for radio play here, the no-compromise approach of a lack of an edit demonstrating a solid anti-commercial aesthetic. But then, how would you do justice to an absolute epic like this by cutting it down to three, four, or even five minutes?

No, you need to hear – and feel – the full thing, from end to end. Build? Yeah, you, might say it builds. After a couple of minutes or so that are a welter of guitars and a monster wall of riffage, it really takes off, before it simmers down into a lumbering, soaring expansiveness that’s even vaguely proggy. No criticism, but a sense that certain parts don’t quite deliver on the threat of the band’s bio or commentary on the single. If anything, this is very much for the better, because ‘Audiodome’ is so much more, and transitions between passages of varying tempo and weight to outstanding effect. Around the right-minute mark, they really slam in with some eight, and it thunders hard.

It feels less like a single than an album condensed into a single track. Epic is indeed the word.

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BIG | BRAVE share a video for "Of This Ilk" – taken from their forthcoming album VITAL arriving on CD and Digital formats this Friday via Southern Lord, and with LP to follow in Summer. Pre-orders are now live and available via the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe, Bandcamp and Evil Greed.

About the new song and video, which originally premiered via Roadburn Festival’s digital edition, Roadburn Redux, vocalist Robin Wattie comments, "This video and song is an ode to those that understand this all too well, all too deeply. There is a silent form of suffering that most do not share. It is a private shame that is very public. The percentage of the global population that take these painstaking, costly efforts in whitening, or rather more aptly, bleaching their skin is higher than a lot would understand, let alone, would ever consider. There is a billion dollar industry in injectables and cream-like products containing harsh and even life-threatening chemicals to lighten, clarify, and whiten one’s skin. This video is an ode to my younger self, and to all the other children, teens and adults of the past, present and future that have used bleach in every way possible, that withdrew from the sun, used clothespins on their nose, scraped their skin raw, buying every product available, in trying every means they can think of to achieve this exclusive coveted lightness, whiteness."

Watch the video here:

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Canadian trio BIG | BRAVE return bolder, heavier, and more intense than ever on Vital. But when to start?

I seem to recall an essay by William Burroughs which contained the advice for writers that narrative had to be visual in order to work – meaning that writing about a ‘indescribable monster’ just wouldn’t cut it: readers need to be able to visualise the monster in order for it to be scary. Writing about music may be a slightly different discipline, but the challenge is always to convey not only what the music sounds like – the objective bit – but how and why it makes you feel the way it does – the subjective, critical bit. After all, you’re not a music critic without providing any critique. And yet the first – and for some time, only – word that comes to mind to ‘describe’ the experience of listening to Vital is ‘overwhelming’.

The crushing power chords crash in after just a matter of seconds on the first mammoth track, ‘Abating the Incarnation of Matter’. But it’s the jolting, juddering stop / start percussion that hits so hard that really dominates. There’s so much space – and time – between each beat, that it feels as if time is hanging in suspension, and you catch your breath and hold it, waiting, on tenterhooks. And it’s this, the sound of a tectonic collision, juxtaposed with Robin Wattie’s commanding yet incredibly delicate, fragile vocal that makes it such an intriguing and powerful experience. As the song progresses, the anguished calling becomes a ragged, hoarse-throated holler and you feel the emotion tearing at her vocal chords, ‘dissolving each layer until there is little matter left’.

The yawning throb of feedback that fills the first minute and a half of single ‘Half Life’ sounds like a jet preparing for takeoff. And when it stops, it’s the hush that’s deafening and uncomfortable. The lyrics are actually an excerpt from the 2018 essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee. And when the music ends, leaving nothing but Watties’s acapella vocal, they’ve never sounded more stark and intense. Once you become adjusted to noise, there is little more shocking to the system than its absence. And so it is in life: we’ve become accustomed to traffic, to bustle, to busy shops and offices, to streaming media – and when it stops, we struggle to know what to do.

And so it is that the dynamics of Vital are so integral to its impact. ‘Wilted, Still and All…’ is different again. The album’s shortest track is still of a dense tonality and substantial volume but manifests as a billowing cloud of grumbling ambience, and it provides a certain respite ahead of the punishing ‘Of This Ilk’ – nine and a half minutes of slow, deliberate, and absolutely brutal punishment, a bludgeoning assault on a part with Cop-­era Swans. The drums and bass operate as one, a skull-crushing slab of abrasion that hits like battering ram, while the guitars provide texture as strains of feedback howl and whine. The false ending halfway through only accentuates the force ahead of the extended crescendo which follows. It’s the repetition that really batters the brain, though: bludgeoning away at the same chord for what feels like an eternity is somehow both torturous and comforting. The third and final movement is rather more tranquil, but nevertheless always carries the threat of another wave of noise, which doesn’t arrive until the title track, a nine-minute finale that grinds out a dolorous drone, a crawling dirge where a single chord and crashing beat rings out, echoes and decays for what feels like an eternity.

‘Timeless’ is a word that’s so often used and misused in describing music, but with Vital, I mean it to be understood rather more literally, in that time stalls and everything – time, perception, and the world itself – hangs, frozen in suspension. While listening to Vital, nothing exists outside this moment, and everything is sucked into the vacuum of its making. You can barely breathe or swallow, and for the time it’s playing, there is nothing else but this.

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ant-zen – 18th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Dotla finds ‘accidental one-man project’ kojoohar reunited with purveyors of experimental hip-hop ködzid goo to deliver a follow-up to their 2019 collaborative EP, ‘Дотла’.

The blurb promises ‘heavy lyrics spiked with solemn images and numerous literary references’; and a work of ‘dark, dystopic angst pop with deep aesthetic lyrics and unrelenting vocals… delivered in a blank monotone.’

Now, I’ve long maintained that how and why we respond the way we do to certain music is subconscious, subliminal, psychologically or even genetically embedded. I’ve never found myself able to connect with disco or funk, but music that’s chillingly bleak and inhuman resonates to my very core. And shit, is this bleak and inhuman.

My inability to even vaguely comprehend the actual lyrics is completely immaterial: the characteristically hard-edged Slavic consonants lend themselves perfectly to that detached, monotone delivery, in a similar way to that in which Germanic languages do, and that harshness is much of the appeal of bands like DAF and X-Mal Deutschland (bit not Rammstein, because they always sound like a parody of that Germanic strain of industrial to my ears. I’m not saying I need my Industrial to be po-faced, far from it, but one should be able to take serious music seriously – and kojoohar × ködzid goo are seriously serious, in the best possible way).

Dotla is all the monotone, all the monochrome, thudding industrial beats hammer slow and hard through murky sonic wastelands. It’s unforgiving, relentless: there’s not much light or variation in mood here, and that’s the beauty of it: this is not an album designed to entertain. By the fourth track, the mangled droning trudge of ‘burelom’, you already feel the walls closing in and the light growing dim.

Whereas there’s a popular perception that the heaviest, most oppressive music exists within the domain of metal, electronic music at its darkest, sparsest and most monotonous is, if anything, more intensely claustrophobic.

The production on dotla is also a factor: there’s a lot of low end, rumbling, droney bass, but more than that, there’s a lot of murk. Dotla applies the values of black metal to industrial hip-hop. The drums and vocals are muffled, and there’s, a thick haze that hangs over the whole thing, and cumulatively, it’s almost suffocating. There’s no space or air between the instruments or the notes: everything condenses to form a thick, noxious cloud and a sound so thick and impenetrable it’s nigh on impossible to penetrate and separate the component parts.

The result is like the suction or air from the lungs, the endless battering of blunt objects, and the slow, wading through sludge trudge of ‘typh’ is exemplary. It’s not pleasurable – in fact it slowly grinds the life out of you – but successfully articulates in sonic from every last ounce of the life-sapping oppression of the drudgery of corporate conditioning and governmental oppression, of life. ‘plot’ is the sound of defeat, of self-loathing, of emptiness, of dehumanisation. Feel the pain. Immerse yourself in it. You deserve it.

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Panurus Productions – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Bunker is pitched as ‘A heavy shelling from the York based two-piece’ and the drum and bass – and no, certainly not drum ‘n’ bass – duo offer up a monster that, despite having only seven tracks, runs to almost an hour in duration.

On a personal level, there’s a certain degree of pride here: for so many years, York sat under the shadow of Shed 7, as if they were the only band the city had ever produced. And while in terms of commercial success, there’s a certain truth to that, the dreary indie landfill merchants’ success eclipsed everything else – although again, for some years, everything else seemed to consist of largely acoustic blues, which is great for background on a night down the pub, but ultimately, variety is the spice of life, and the last decade has seen York’s diversity thrive – thanks in no small part to supportive venues giving truly alternative acts a platform. And the more diversity is showcased, the more breeds. And so, out of this melting pot emerged PAK40, mining a seam of stoner / doom, but with a keenly experimental edge that really set them apart.

This is all explored in full here, and it bulldozes in on a cascade of feedback that emerges into a lumbering riff on the deep psych grind of ‘Sausage Roll’, the first of three tracks which originally appeared on the ‘Crusts’ demo release a couple of years ago. When they take it down a notch, there’s a certain swagger to the strolling bassline, a subtle jazz swing to the percussion – nothing fancy, just a bit of groove. There are vocals and other details echoing away low in the mix, and it’s quite spacious and trippy. And when the distortion kicks back in, it’s fat and dirty.

‘Rain’ spreads out sedately over a whopping ten minutes, taking its time wandering an almost blues-tinged modern psychedelic territory (off the cuff references to Desert Mountain Tribe and Ghold come to mind) before bringing the weight. It’s a slow-burning, meandering effort that holds back more than it gives until the final couple of minutes.

When they do ‘proper’ vocal songs, as on ‘Hollow Man’, said vocals are all but buried by the grumbling, buzzing bass, and a shedload of reverb. And when they do shift from strolling psych to unleashing the riffs proper, they really do grind ‘em out. ‘U-96’ goers more post-punk minimal, but packs a massive kick at the end.

The heavy afterburn of ‘Pyramid’ is scorching, but it’s almost inevitable that the fourteen-minute ‘Elephant’ should be the album’s centrepiece, and it looms like a monolith in every sense, and encapsulates the entirety of PAK40’s sound and scope in one truly epic composition. It does low and slow, a crawling, stealthy intro taking its time and taking its time and taking its time, through a gradual build, with real suspense and atmosphere developing.. and when the riff crashes in – fuck yes, does it crash in, hard and heavy.

Closing off with the title track, a mere seven minute jaunt, they really step up the volume and it’s some weighty drone that drifts like a pea-souper fog from the speakers as they go full Sunn O))). And it’s absolutely glorious. These are the kind of crushing power chords you can simply bask in as they fill every inch of your being. It’s immense and borders on transcendental. You don’t just hear it, but you feel it.

Bunker feels like a full summary of the band’s range and vision, and it’s both accomplished and exciting, and creates a real anticipation of more to come.

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Invada Records – 29th January 2021

On the strength of a brace of tumultuous single releases, anticipation for Divide and Dissolve’s upcoming album was pretty hot. And with Gas Lit, they’re positively on fire.

With the aim ‘to undermine and destroy the white supremacist colonial framework and to fight for Indigenous Sovereignty, Black and Indigenous Liberation, Water, Earth, and Indigenous land given back’ Divide and Dissolve wear their difference from so much of the scene with pride: they certainly don’t look like your average doom duo. But then, nor do they sound like it either.

They may only be two in number, but Takiaya Reed (saxophone, guitar, live effects/ (Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and Sylvie Nehill (drums, live effects/ (Māori) incorporate an array of unconventional instrumental elements into their immense sound, most notably saxophone. But it certainly doesn’t really lighten the tone with some groovy jazz notes, or even some wilder free-jazz, either.

Granted, the opening bars of the first track, ‘Oblique’ are gentle, soothing, orchestral and with hints of neoclassical or soundtrack music even, but it’s simply a lure before the barrelling drone of low, overdriven guitars so distorted as to melt into a drone, propelled by a frenzy of thunderously heavy percussion. And in the background, brass so mournful as to sound sadder and more lonely than a solitary burial in the middle of the Sahara. It’s a bleak and desolate sound, and one that’s utterly compelling.

‘Prove It’ is pure density, a heavy drone guitar with a sound that’s thick and grainy flows like a mudslide. The blank monotone spoken word vocal on ‘Did You Have Something to Do With It?’ is detached, and disconnected as it speaks of dark thoughts and actions against a sparse, minimal backdrop. It’s eerie and ominous, and sounds more like a segment lifted from a documentary about a serial killer – and in the context of the album, it serves as an unsettling interlude, which provides brief respite sonically only to exchange the aural terror with something sociopathic and equally disturbing.

Seven-and-a-half-minute single cut ‘Denial’ hammers in hard with a yawning drone of guitar that sounds more like a churning earthwork, the drum beats like detonations, before tapering away to leave a haunting scene, the serpentine scales full of an ancient ant elusive mysticism. But it becomes increasingly scratchy and more decayed… and then ‘Far From Ideal’ bulldozes in, obliterating everything in its wake, before things get even heavier, darker, and murkier with the trudging sludge of ‘It’s Really Complicated’.

‘Mental Gymnastics’ is another short piece, and another one which evokes distant lands in ancient times, unknowable wisdom lost in the sands of time, before single release ‘We Are Really Worried About You’, grinds its way to the end on a tsunami of a riff, and it leaves you breathless.

It’s clear that Divide and Dissolve really grasp the power of dynamics, but also have a unique way of rendering those dynamics, not just in terms off the all-important volume changes, but in how they explore mood. More than this, they transcend conventions and standard doom tropes and incorporate myriad stylistic and cultural elements, and so do astoundingly naturally. For all the weight, there’s a bold majesty about Gas Lit that may be difficult to pinpoint but which permeates its very fabric. And for all of these reasons, Gas Lit feels different – and hits so incredibly hard.

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Multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve share the video for “Prove It”, originally released as a stand alone single in 2019, and appearing on their forthcoming album Gas Lit (Invada, 29th Jan).

The visual expression of Divide and Dissolve’s message has varied across each of their music videos to date (revisit “We Are Really Worried About You” and “Denial”) but the intention of the music remains unchanged: to undermine and destroy the white supremacist colonial framework and to fight for Indigenous Sovereignty, Black and Indigenous Liberation, Water, Earth, and Indigenous land given back.

About this latest single, Divide and Dissolve explains, “Prove It – calls into question the need to prove you experienced something. If someone wasn’t there to witness it, it still happened and may have caused harm. Colonial power structures, power dynamics, and societal expectations rely on Black, Indigenous, and people of colour being Gas Lit and denying our experiences, because the predominant white supremacist narrative demands us to. When a tree falls in the forest, it has fallen. Prove It is about the acceptance of experiences of pain without expectation.”

Watch ‘Prove It’ here:

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