Posts Tagged ‘epic’

InsideOut Music – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s been a lot of beefing and bitching about ‘authentic’ indie bands and labels in circulation of late, particularly about bands who have been blasted into the collective conscious seemingly overnight and questions being asked of their ‘indie’ credibility.’ The sceptics question, ‘how can a band go from nowhere, not even a handful of local gigs, to emerging, fully-formed on a national level? Surely there must be finance and machinations behind the scenes?’ Every story is different, of course: Benefits have truly emerged – against the odds – by sheer hard work and grass-roots support via word-of-mouth promotion. The Lovely Eggs have done it 100% DIY, but it’s taken forever for them to achieve the cult status they now have that means they can sell out 50-capacity venues. Wet Leg got snapped up by a large-scale independent label early on, because it happens, just as historically bands would send a demo to a major label and get signed for big money by some A&R dude seeking to be the one who discovered the next big thing (but for every five hundred bands signed, only a handful would even release a single before being dropped). And so it was that Royal Blood weren’t quite the from-the—bottom grafters they may seem, and even Arctic Monkeys weren’t purely word of mouth viral in their ascendency, despite their legend. But is it fair to begrudge bands reaching the audience they deserve? So many great bands have failed to make an impression simply because they’ve not had the backing or exposure required to puh them up to the next echelon.

And what of labels being acquired by majors? Is that selling out? Not necessarily: it depends on the deal, and more than an independent brewery being bought up necessarily means its beer will be brewed under license elsewhere and become more supermarket piss. So InsideOut may be owned by Sony, but they’re seemingly left to do what they do as a channel for all things prog, while benefiting from major-label funding and distribution, which is a win for all concerned.

It’s highly unlikely that Sony would have picked up and given a home to the debut album from Chinese purveyors of progressive metal, OU. Not because it isn’t any good – it is – it’s just a long way from being overtly commercial, and all the better for it, of course.

One of the reasons it’s so far from having mass appeal is because it’s simply too ‘different’. ‘Travel’, the first song of the eight, has many elements of electropop and the darker side of 80s chart rock, but the vocals are bombastic, soaring, everything all at once, incorporating the quirkiness of Bjork with choral stylings and flying at times completely over the top, and the song’s unpredictable structure sees the segments shop and change in a blink. You need hooks to get on the radio, not oddball noodling shit like ‘Farewell’, where Lunn Wu sounds like she’s possessed by the spirit of Billy MacKenzie fronting Evanescence covering Captain Beefheart in a technical metal style. Or a drum ‘n’ bass take on Yes’ back catalogue. Or something. Point is, there’s a hell of a lot happening either all at once or in rapid succession, and it’s a lot to take in, and sometimes it’s too much.

It’s very much the kind of prog that blends math rock and jazz to froth up something that’s busy, to the point of being dizzying. There are some decent tunes and pleasant melodies in the mix here – but they’re in the mix with whirling chaos and some kind of cerebral explosion.

When they do slow things down and bring down the manifold layers of hyperactivity, as they do in the altogether gentler and magnificently mystical mid-album interlude, ‘Ghost’, they reveal a real knack for atmosphere and ethereality. Haunting and evocative, it’s a magnificent piece. In contrast, ‘Euphoria’ begins as a pleasant, rippling piano-led piece that quickly evolves into what sounds like about three songs all playing at once, which is difficult to assimilate.

The musicianship is outstanding, but it sometimes feels as if they’re trying too hard to showcase their technical prowess, and just because you have ideas doesn’t mean you should play them all at once. It’s good, but it’s busy, and the twangy slap bass on ‘Prejudice’ is a little flimsy in the face of the full-on crunch of ‘Light’.

One is indisputably well-realised, both in terms of composition and production. But despite it seemingly being too much in parts, some of it leaves you yearning for more.

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Electric Valley Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

In my recent review of the new album from St Michael front, I commented on German humour – in a positive way, I should add. So it was with a certain relief that I noted that BongBongBeerWizards hail from Dortmund. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shit name for a band irrespective of where they’re from. I genuinely thought that Doom/Drone/Sludge Metal had run its course in terms of daft names and gone over the border some time ago, and that Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (now MWWB, presumably because they realised the name was daft rather than that they believed it was an obstacle to commercial success) had had the final word in name-generator style absurdity. And they ought to have. But then these buggers turn up with an even stupider name. But at least we can reasonably assume they know it’s a fucking stupid name and are pissing themselves over it.

BBBW may well be hampering their potential audience reach – I’ll admit, I did think twice about bothering to listen – but that would have very much been my loss, because Amprire is an instant classic as a storming example of the genre. With just three tracks and a running time of almost fifty minutes, it’s Sunn O))), it’s Earth, it’s Sleep and it’s Bong in a tectonic collision – more of a slow melt than anything likely to cause earthquakes and mudslides. That said, there are tempo changes galore on the twenty-three minute ‘Choirs & Masses’, a megalithic beast that’s got the lot: heavily reverbed vocals and choral ceremonials that echo from cavernous depths of despair while the guitars churn and growl all around, thick with dripping distortion. At times it’s a raging thrust of riffery, at others it’s a gut-churning crawl, or an ominous organ note that hovers indefinitely, and there are many changes to hold the attention over its epic duration.

‘Unison’ raises an even denser, thicker guitar-driven tempest that’s so thick and sludgy it’s suffocating, and when the vocals are absent, churns into full-on Sunn O))) territory with the gnarly guitar obliteration.

It’s hard to really say that there’s a real arc or progression on an album like this: it may be more of a case of will or projection, but I suppose whether it’s real or an illusion, the end result is the same from a listening perspective, and the perception is that things become more focused and ultimately heavier and denser over the duration of the album. And as an album, Ampire is a beast: epic, ambitious, and for the most part, the changes are well-timed if not always smooth – some of the transitions feel a little bit like stopping one riff and starting another – but it hangs together overall, and it maintains and even increases the weight right to the crushing end. Overall, it’s an admirably solid album. Still an awful band name, though.

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Wardruna are releasing an official music video for the streamed live performance of ‘Fehu’. Einar Selvik says, “Fehu is a song inspired by ancient runic poetry. The word itself refers to cattle/livestock and wealth and the song discusses the duality of wealthiness. "Fehu" was originally released on the album Runaljod – Yggdrasil in 2013. It has been a permanent song in our live-set ever since the release and thus, it feels great to finally release a live version of the song.”

The release date of Kvitravn: First Flight of the White Raven has been moved to 10th June. A statement from Einar is as follows; "Due to a very unfortunate production issue, we are forced to move the release date of First Flight Of The White Raven in all of its formats to June 10th. On a more positive note and due to popular demand, we will make the DVD available as a standalone item and offer the concert as VOD (Video-On-Demand) through our World and US online-shops." He continues, "the DVD presale starts April 22nd along with a new digital single and video from the upcoming release. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and we are grateful for your understanding."

Watch ‘Fehu’ here:

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Photo Credit: M12 Kultur

Swiss trailblazers E-L-R have revealed the final video single ‘Opiate the Sun’ for a track taken from the doomgaze trio’s sophomore full-length Vexier, which has been slated for release on March 11. Please find all album details below.
The enigmatic video clip for the tense and explosive track ‘Opiate the Sun’ is available to watch here:

E-L-R comment: “We wrote ‘Opiate The Sun’ as the last song for Vexier and so far it is the most psychedelic single taken from our new album”, writes the Swiss trio. “As the title suggests, this piece is a tribute to the sun and its majestic radiance. We meant to musically dazzle the listener into a gracious daze with the interplay between the two parallel elements water and air.”

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Photo by Ramon Lehmann

Eight Bells have revealed the dark melancholic video single ‘The Well’ taken from their forthcoming new album Legacy of Ruin, which is scheduled for release on February 25, 2022.

The avant-garde doom project from Portland, Oregon conceived by guitarist and singer Melynda Jackson has previously revealed cover art, tracklist, and further details of their new full-length. Watch the video here:

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“This song’s story is particularly personal for me”, explains singer and guitarist Melynda Jackson. “It explores the emotions and fears of pastoral ‘salt of the earth types’ looking over the land that no longer yields a good harvest as a metaphor describing their lives. Mourning the bountiful past and coming to realize that they themselves are responsible for a bleak future. Melynda Amann, who was a member during the writing of this track, is also singing with us, while  Andrea Morgan adds haunting ambience with his violin.”

With their third album, the Portland metal experimentalists have sharpened their songwriting approach to create a soundtrack for the end of the world. Legacy of Ruin again features the trio’s trademark haunting vocal harmonies along with sometimes blistering, and sometimes impressionistic guitar riffing to create heady atmospheres of dark and light. 

The result of Eight Bells’ musical exploration is an emotional and insistent odyssey that transcends genre and imbues contemporary metal with 19th-century Victorian ghostliness, cinematic soundscapes in combination with female and male vocal harmonies perfectly fitting the album’s lyrical story. "Legacy of Ruin" focuses on themes of the human condition, natural destruction, death, regret, loss, malice, and retribution.

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Pic: Cody Keto

Darkness treads light as a feather. The voice of despair gently wafts through the air. Delicate pain wrapped in radiant beauty pierces the heart slowly yet without hesitation. The sinister yet beguiling images that DARKHER aka Jayn Maiven paints with her ethereal vocals, guitars, and added strings conjure iridescent cinematic scenes in which it becomes hard to tell whether there lies beauty in darkness or if it is the other way around.

With her sophomore full-length "The Buried Storm", the guitarist, composer, lyricist, and producer has clearly succeeded to even improve the beloved alchemic musical formula that was firmly established on DARKHER’s debut album "Realms" in 2016. Her mostly eerie and at times even outright sinister sonic storytelling comes refined on every level and with sharpened contrasts that reflect the ongoing learning-process of their creator. 

DARKHER were conceived as the sole brainchild and solo-project of Northern English singer and guitarist Jayn Maiven in 2012. The dark and melancholic yet also massively heavy sound on the self-titled debut EP "Darkher" (2013) combined with the distinct vocals of the shy pre-Raphaelite beauty caused an audible buzz – particularly in the doom scene and brought DARKHER a quick record deal, which led to the following EP "The Kingdom Field" (2014) appearing via Prophecy Productions.

Despite not even having an album out, DARKHER were invited to prestigious festivals such as Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands and Prophecy Fest in the Cave of Balve, where the English delivered widely celebrated performances. In 2016, the highly anticipated debut full-length "Realms" was finally released to much praise from critics and fans alike. Press compared DARKHER’s music with a wide range of highly individual acts such as CHELSEA WOLFE, ESBEN AND THE WITCH, SÓLSTAFIR, LOREENA MCKENNITT, and PORTISHEAD.

In the meantime, Jayn’s long-time drummer Christopher Smith, who already contributed to earlier releases, live shows, and again on "The Buried Storm" has been added as permanent member to the line-up of DARKHER.

"The Buried Storm" gives shape to the darkness lurking at the edge of consciousness, hidden from plain sight but patiently biding its time to strike out at the heart. DARKHER have delivered another frightening masterpiece that easily transcends musical boundaries with its broad appeal to friends of dark sounds regardless of genre. "The Buried Storm" captivates its listeners with deceptive sweetness – only to bind them tightly within a thorn-spiked nocturnal beauty forevermore.

Watch ‘Lowly Weep’ here:

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Image: Kathryn Pogue

Southern Lord (CD/DL) | Pomperipossa Records (LP – Europe) – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps the last thing one would expect to find being released on Southern Lord is a live jazz album. The label is, after all, home to much to the rawest, loudest, harshest metal and hardcore punk, not to mention, of course, the doom drone legends that are Sunn O))). But then, if Anna von Hausswolff seems like something of a roster misfit, it’s fair to say that her catalogue doesn’t conform to any obvious jazz tropes either.

The performance, from 2018, as the notes advise, features six fan-favourites from the two beloved albums; The Miraculous and Dead Magic, with the backing of a full band including additional vocals from her sister / cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff, and it’s ‘The Truth, The Glow, The Fall’ from Dead Magic, which opens the set in mesmerizingly hypnotic style. Against widescreen drones and rumbles, von Hausswolff’s vocal soar and swoop operatically. It’s a powerful and compelling start which paves the way for the grandiose expanse of creeping fear that is ‘Pomperipossa’ from The Miraculous.

‘The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra’ slows to a crawl with a Swans-like dirge centred around a simple, trudging repetition of bass and drum, and it’s here that things really take a turn for the heavy and the intensity builds. This rendition reminds me of the epic take on ‘Your Salvation’ by Foetus on the Male live album, grinding away at a single chord and hammering it into the ground before blossoming into something jaw-droppingly magnificent, and there simply are no words.

From hereon in, things only become more intense, more spectacular, with the brooding atmospheric ‘Ugly and Vengeful’ stretching out to almost twenty minutes, and leads the listener through an epic journey through a succession of sonic terrains. It’s a clear centrepiece within a set of vast sonic and emotional scale. It’s far, far beyond the domains of jazz, and even beyond the domain of ‘mere’ music: this is transportation and transcendental, taking you beyond the physical world and out of your own space to one beyond imagination. What’s perhaps most impressive is that this is all live; there’s no studio tweaking or trickery, but musicians conjuring pure aural alchemy in real-time.

After the delicate respite of ‘Källans återuppståndelse’, the fifteen-minute ‘Come Wander With Me Deliverance’ brings a suitably epic finale. The backing may be sparse at first, but the understated, almost wispy drones place von Hausswolff spectacular vocals to the fore. Then, when the drums and megalithic guitars crash in, they really do bring the weight. Yet the vocals remain the dominant force, and it builds – and builds, and builds – to a monumental crescendo. To have actually been there! The recording does a superb job of conveying just how gargantuan that finish would have been, and while there truly is no substitute for being in close proximity to a band working together, witnessing that connection and intuition as it flickers like electricity across the stage, and nothing can touch the experience of hearing, and feeling, music at gig volume as it vibrates the bones, Live at Montreux Jazz Festival comes very, very close.

We’re days into January, but it’s unlikely there’ll be a better live album this year.

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Unique in the modern industrial-electro scene, iVardensphere began as the ambition of Canadian musician Scott Fox to fuse heavy electronics with his love of percussion from all over the world. Since releasing his debut album in 2009, his group has at times been a solo endeavour and at others a fully fledged collaborative effort, but it has always been about his desire to combine sound design with crushing rhythms while utilising his ever-evolving production skills.

Over the course of four further records, Fox and his cohorts have built a diverse and fluid catalogue on which monolithic sounding analogue synths and industrial groove-based instrumental experiments have shared space with exotic tribal drum rhythms and deep, textured ambience.

Fox now presents ‘Ragemaker’, the first single and title track of a brand new album that will be released in early February 2022. A stunning extended video for the track also incorporates his next single, ‘The Shattering Queen’ (out in mid-January), which brings the total duration of the clip to almost ten minutes.

Complex and layered, the ‘Ragemaker’ album weaves electronics with haunting vocals, orchestral crescendos and often complex rhythms, creating hymns to totemic gods of war and rebirth and to ancient goddesses of harvest and hunt, including the tragic mythos of the aforementioned Shattering Queen.
Traditional percussion from all corners of the globe, including Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani and more are deftly interwoven with all manner of sourced sounds. Hammers, anvils, slamming doors and even the sound of a waste bin being kicked are sampled and folded into the overall sonic mélange. The result is an immersive and cinematic masterpiece that is the latest evolutionary step for iVardensphere, although it is equally suited to be the score to a post-apocalyptic movie.

‘Ragemaker’ may invite comparison to soundtracks such as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ by Junkie XL, ‘Midsommar’ by Bobby Krlic (The Haxan Cloak), or even the dramatic escalations of Hans Zimmer, but it can also be seen as a more driven and rhythmic slant on the wave of Nordic artists currently exploring ancient ancestral music, including Einar Selvik of Wardruna, ambient-folk musician Danheim and experimental folk outfit Heilung.

Watch the epic video here:

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7th December 2021

Crimson Brûlée emerged in 2019 as an offshoot of guitar-driven goths The Witch-Kings, after a difference of opinion over the incorporation of synths. No diss to The Witch-Kings, but Tragica presents a magnificent sound.

It’s a pretty awkward band name and so-so title for a great album, but there is context, at least for the latter, in that the EP is delivered in homage to the band’s original bassist, Johan, who passed away in early 2021.

He would likely have been proud. With Tragica Crimson Brûlée really nail their position as a top-notch goth act. It’s billed as an EP, but comes with a stack of remixes which bulks it uo to nine tracks, which is effectively an album or two EPs.

‘I Came Back to You’ is a strong opener, combining trad goth with the sound and feel of early Psychedelic Furs, packing minor chords and an insistent beat in the verses, that burst into something wonderful in the choruses. Light explodes and it feels redemptive. It could easily be a Talk Talk Talk outtake. The intro to ‘Nothing Dies Forever’ invites comparisons to She Wants Revenge: it’s dramatic, bold, bombastic, synth-led but driven by some meaty guitars, and absolutely fucking epic, and never lets up for its five-minute duration.

It’s the strolling bass that dominates ‘Restrained’, which is anything but in terms of its epicness. All bar one of the songs are over the five-minute mark, but ‘Where the Tarantulaa Roam’, extending beyond the six-minute mark, is an absolute beast, and one that calls to mind Susperia, only with swirling backing vocals reminiscent of All About Eve’s Julianne Reagan. With the synths backed off but sweeping all around, the mix is immense.

‘Why I Wear Black’ is more guitars, more SWR-like. Yet for all the references, this feels fresh and innovative: this is not an album that deals in tropes and the lyrics are personal and genuine rather than contrived.

It’s a really, really strong suite of songs, The remixes are pretty good, to be fair, but non-essential.

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By Norse – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hildring is the second album by Wardruna vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella with musicians Dei Farne. It’s been a long time in the making, with ‘Taag’ dropping as a single back in the summer of 2020. But what is time when the world is off its keel and the world is spinning at a different pace, one so rapid we’ve lost touch with our innermost selves? Lindy-Fay Hella and Dei Farne connect with a past world, a time before technology: not necessarily a more primitive time, but a time in which there was a closer connection to earth and nature, and also to the inner self, the core spirit.

‘Hildring’ is the Norwegian word for mirage, and it’s fitting, for despite the solid, tribal percussion that dominates the sound, paired with solid, chunky basslines, the remaining musical elements are fleeting, flitting, mellifluous, transient, impossible to grasp a firm hold of.

That isn’t to say the album is all airy atmosphere and no substance: quite the opposite, in fact, there’s a sturdiness and density to the richly layered compositions, and it’s a very fine balance of the seemingly separate elements, namely the solid, and the ethereal and airy. The drumming is immense, ribcage-rattling, rousing. There is a wonderfully rich, earthy quality to Hildring. In keeping with Wardruna’s quest to explore Norse cultural and esoteric traditions by delving into ancient history and mythology, so in this collaborative project Lindy-Fay Hella continues that focus. The sound is modern, but the album is deeply evocative as echoes of the ancient resonate forward through every note, and you feel the aura of generations past around your being as you listen. It resonates in ways beyond expression, beyond lived experience. It’s deep, and it’s powerful, and strikes a resonant chord from the off with the percussion-led title track, where soaring vocals and a driving bass melt together amidst spacious waves of sound, and it sets the bar and the form.

In something of a shift from the overarching style, ‘Insect’ feels rather more overtly electronic, with skittering glow-worm flickers flitting hither and thither, but it’s still packing a rare emotional intensity.

‘Compositionally, ‘Briising’ is minimal; drums, bass, sweeping, droning synth, and incidental cymbals accompany a balanced, inwardly-focused vocal performance. There’s a menacing, growling vocal that is again otherworldly, and if not scary, then unsettling. ‘I return to fire’, he repeats in a dark, gravelled monotone.

‘Taag’ goes big on the expansive sound, and it’s sweeping, immense, immersive. It’s bordering on the grandiosity of post-rock, and propelled by urgent drumming. Elsewhere, the sparse, looping synth of the appropriately-titled ‘Otherworld’ is relentless and resonant.

Throughout, Lindy-Fay’s vocals are outstanding, and the album showcases her remarkable vocal dexterity. Often light and airy and floating and soaring above all layers of human perception, Hildring is magical, mystical, beautiful, majestic, and powerful. There, I managed to not to use ‘epic’!

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