Posts Tagged ‘Heavy’

Sacred Bones – 16th June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re the first to admit that this pairing may seem like an unusual one, having first teamed up for a US tour in 2019: as the bio notes, ‘Sure, both bands harness the power of big, blown-out riffs, but Boris’s rock heroics, lysergic sprawl, and monolithic sludge summon a different energy than Uniform’s mechanized bombardments and frenzied assaults.’ But often the most exciting and unexpected results emerge when pairing contrasts rather than sameness. Put two drone bands together, you can predict the outcome will be amplified drone; sludge with sludge equals more sludge, and industrial matched with industrial is unlikely to yield any great surprises. Yes, pairing like with like makes sense, it’s safe, there’s an intuition and interplay that comes from familiarity with the territory and the form, and fans will likely be happy being served a double helping of what they like.

But neither Boris nor Uniform are acts who are overly concerned with appeasement: that isn’t to say they don’t care about their fans, but more that they both trust their fan bases to be broad-minded and accommodating of the idea that creative fulfilment is integral to their existence. Even those more casually acquainted with their respective catalogues will recognise that both Boris and Uniform are driven, not by the desire to entertain, but to follow their creative instincts. The way these manifest musically are very different, but in this context, the parallels become more apparent, and it also becomes easier to understand their mutual appreciation for one another. And neither act is new to the spirit of collaboration, with Boris having have collaborated with the likes of Sunn O))), Merzbow, and Keiji Haino, and Uniform having previously released a blistering collision with The Body back in 2018, as well as remixes with Zombi more recently.

It will be news to no-one that this is big on riffs, that it’s loud and heavy, but this is a collaboration like no other: ordinarily, artists will bring their ‘thing’ to the table, and the songs will represent the meeting in the middle ground. This isn’t so much the case on Bright New Disease: the two acts are given equal billing and play evenly to their strengths and stylistic methodologies: but don’t necessarily play ‘together’ in the conventional sense. But when did either Boris or Uniform do ‘conventional’?

The album’s first track, ‘You are the Beginning’, aired online a few weeks ago, is the perfect combination of the two bands’ individual sounds: hard, heavy, the blistering harsh industrial intensity of Uniform, angular, antagonistic, crackling with the punk-tinged rage of Michael Berden, suddenly melts into a wild blitz of fretwork which paves the way for a monster thrash workout. Even the tone and texture shifts from harsh treble to murky mid-range, and it feels like a song of two halves. Quite unexpectedly, it works. When you weight up the value of any collaboration the question is always ‘is it different from or better than their independent works?’ Bright New Disease throws a curveball in that it’s a yes and a no at the same time, and that’s the genius of it.

The explosive ‘Weaponized Grief’ is a sub-two-minute blast of feedback and fury, and another thing which is notable about Bright New Disease is just how short the songs are. While there are a couple over four minutes and the finale, ‘Not Surprised’ does just creep over five minutes, the majority are significantly shorter, and condense a lot into those brief times, too.

‘No’ goes all-out grindcore / thrash in a two-and-a-half- minute flurry of churning guitars, but at the same time there’s something vaguely Spinal Tap – or Melvins –about its overblown excesses, and this may be a short album, but it’s high impact, and that’s true of much of the album: they slam down riff after riff with relish. ‘Endless Death Agony’ brings together the boldest excess of Boris with the most brutal attacks of Uniform, with a shrieking guitar solo fading out ahead of a most punishing riff with more solo mania blistering and melting on top, before the megalithic slow grind of ‘Not Surprised’ drags its way through the pits of hell.

Apart from the gloomy atmospheric suspense of the intro to ‘The Look is a Flame’ there really isn’t much respite on Bright New Disease. It’s harsh, heavy, relentless, by turns sludgy and slow, or otherwise frantic, frenetic, explosive – and packed with surprises, from the murky ambience of ‘The Sinners of Hell’ to the bubbling electronica of ‘Narcotic Shadow’ that sounds more like DAF collaborating with A-Ha and the straight-up glam pop of ‘A Man from the Earth’. Never could I have anticipated describing anything involving Uniform as ‘glam pop’. But then they kill it hard with ‘Endless Death Agony’, which is some brutal shit. Bright New Disease is everything all at once: it’s often punishing, sometimes spectacularly theatrical, and (almost) always heavy, but it’s smartly realised and expounds the importance of identity as both bands showcase and celebrate theirs in triumphant tandem.



XASTHUR unveil the next sinister single, ‘A Future to Fear II’, taken from the forthcoming double-album Inevitably Dark, which is set up for release on June 23, 2023.
The stylistically highly diverse American outfit instigated by multi-instrumentalist Scott Conner has created a kaleidoscopic double-album that is ranging from acid folk to black metal.

A visualizer of the eerie track ‘A Future to Fear II’ is available here:


There is hardly a more fitting title for the new XASTHUR compositions than "Inevitably Dark". Darkness is the element that holds all the tracks together despite the fact that they are expressed in a multitude of genres, which even includes black metal. This time. Be warned: this album is neither meant as a return to black metal of mastermind Scott Conner, even though he does this time, nor a guarantee that it will happen again next time – although, he might. Maybe.

This monolith of musical darkness that is balefully towering in the shape of a monumental XASTHUR double album has been made from sonic granite. Like the intrusive igneous type of rock, it is coarse-grained, composed from different minerals that have formed from magma erupting to the surface from infernal depths, and has a high content of metal oxides that do not always show at a superficial glance.

Instead of quartz, alkali feldspar, and other types of rock, Conner has used black metal, dark ambient, acid folk, doomgrass, and other genres to express what he has seen and felt, as well as a way to find his own sound or style at a point in time – for example when he was without a steady home and often living in hotels or cars. His insights into the underbelly of the American dream are reflected in the lyrics of "Inevitably Dark", which are there even though there is no singing on the album. Conner is taking a look into the minds of the mentally ill. The puzzle of people that he encountered on the road and that might be homeless because they are ill, or whose minds shattered when they lost their homes.

Documenting what he has heard and seen, Conner recorded all the tracks of "Inevitably Dark" live and by himself, which might make it sound coarse to modern ears, but it is just the grit and stain of unfiltered reality. His way is the old hard way of a live sound and not the fake glitter of a perfectly polished product. XASTHUR are sounding exactly as the mastermind has envisioned his album to be: real.


Xasthur by Lukasz Jaszak

Young God Records – 23rd June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Swans are back – again. This is no surprise: they released – as has become standard form – a limited edition demos CD, Is There Really A Mind? through the website as a fundraiser to pay for the album’s recording and release. All ten of the songs which appeared there have made it to the finished album, but, more often than not, in aa rather different form. Unusually, though, the bare-bones demos didn’t all start life as brief acoustic sketches which expanded to twenty-minute sprawlers exploding with extended crescendos: the shapes of the songs were realised early on, and in several cases, the final versions are actually shorter than the drafts. And while Gira hinted at a seismic shift following the gargantuan blow-out of The Glowing Man, heralding the arrival of a new era with Leaving Meaning – and it’s true that the shape of the band has been very different, not least of all with mainstay Norman Westberg and Thor Harris both stepping back to being contributors rather than a core members, Kristof Hahn remains – Swans remains very much ultimately Gira’s vehicle. And so it is that for all of the changes, The Beggar is clearly very much a Swans album, and sits comfortably in the domain of their body of work.

There does very much seem to be an arc when it comes to Swans releases, rather than any rapid shifts, particularly since their 2010 comeback, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, whereby the songs grew incrementally longer and more sprawling and the crescendos more drawn out, fewer, and further apart. And so it is that The Beggar follows the more minimal sound of Leaving Meaning, and, like its predecessor, it’s a comparatively succinct statement, at least by Swans standards in the last decade – at least, discounting ‘The Beggar Lover (Three)’, an album-length track which is absent from the album, and occupies the majority of disc two on the CD. This track is, in some ways, contentious: does it even belong on the album, or should it have been released as a standalone work? The album minus ‘The Beggar Lover (Three)’ is still an expansive work, but has a certain flow and sense of existing as a cohesive document. And so it feels like there are almost two different albums here:

As the album’s ‘taster’ tune, the twitchy, trippy, eternally-undulating ‘Paradise is Mine’ indicated, Gira’s compositions on The Beggar are constructed around heavy repetition. This is to be expected: it’s been Gira’s style since day one. The first song, ‘The Parasite’, strips right back to nothing around the mid-point to find Gira acappella, imploring ‘come to me, feed on me’ in a menacing low-throated rasp. And as Gira questions ‘is there really a mind?’ in the psychedelic droning loops of ‘Paradise is Mine’ the tension increases and you start to feel dizzy. and perhaps a little nauseous. This pit-of-the-stomach churn is something that Swans have long been masters of, although quite how it manifests has changed over time: back in the days of Filth, Cop, and Greed, it was sheer force. More recently, it was woozy, nagging repetitions that lurch like a boat on a bobbing tide.

‘Los Angeles: City of Death’ returns to the style and form of The Great Annihilator – a three-minutes hard-punching gloom folk song. After the previous incarnation’s ever-longer workouts, it’s an absolute revelation, and a joy to be reminded that despite the work of the last decade or so, Gira can still write tight songs that you can actually get a grip on and really get into. ‘Unforming’ is a soft country drone, which finds Gira crooning cavernously over slide guitar, and it’s reminiscent of some of the more tranquil moments of Children of God.

‘I’m a shithead unforgiven… I’m an insect in your bedclothes…’ Gira drones on the ten-minute title track. For all of the artistic progress and evolution over the decades, Gira is still chained to the tropes of self-loathing and the darkest, most self-destructive introspection, and this is dolorous, doomy, and bleak …and then about four minutes in, the drums crash in and the sound thickens and they plug into one of those nagging grooves that simply immerses you and carries you upwards on a surge of sound. ‘My love for you will never end’, Gira moans, ever the subjugate, before the vocals conclude with an anguished, wordless strangled gargle as the riff kicks back in and swells to a monumental scale seemingly from nowhere.

‘No More of This’ is mellow and almost uplifting, both sonically and in its message – at least until near the end, when Gira reels off a list of farewells, and as much as ‘Ebbing’ seems to be about drowning, it’s a sliver of sunny-sounding psychedelic folk. And then ‘The Memorious’ hits that dizzying swirl of repetition that feels like a kind of torture. It’s hard to really articulate just how there can be music that makes you want to puke because it’s so woozy, wibbly. It’s the sonic equivalent of watching Performance. You don’t need to take a trip to take a trip.

‘The Beggar Lover (Three)’ represents a massive detour that does and doesn’t sit within the flow of the album. It’s either the penultimate track, or an appendix, depending the format of your choice. However you approach it, this is drone on an epic scale. Five minutes into ‘The Beggar Lover (Three)’, which starts out a trickle, with a robotic female spoken word narrative, everything just goes off – mostly drums, but also noise. When this tapers away, we’re left with the sound of sirens, ominous drones, and then after some hypnotic droning, there’s another monster surge, a nagging guitar motif riding atop a thumping beat and heavy swell of drone. It soon crackles into a grand wheeze of electronica, And a detonating wall of noise, and at the end, it all collapses. Around the eighteen-minute mark it really hits a heavy groove and blows you away.

The Beggar is certainly not the kind of heavy of Swans early releases, but it’s still heavy. It may not possess the sledgehammer force of the original. It’s beyond strong.

Once again, Swans have produced an album that’s more than an album, more than anything.



Sacred Bones – 19th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been fourteen years since there was new music from Khanate, the experimental doom outfit featuring members of Sunn O))), OLD, and Blind Idiot God. It’s perhaps not surprising that my social media feeds have been bursting with the news of the surprise arrival of their fifth album on digital platforms ahead of a physical release next month– and because it landed from nowhere overnight, you couldn’t say it was eagerly anticipated, but it’s got a lot of people excited.

As you would expect, given the members’ main projects, and the previous Khanate releases, To Be Cruel is an absolute monster, with just three tracks spanning a full hour. You don’t tune in to Khanate for snappy pop tunes.

The first chord hits like an atomic bomb, blasting from the speakers with such force it’s almost enough to floor you, and rising from the sustain, crackling synth notes, then another sonic detonation that’s so hard and loud it hurts. Many of the tones and tropes of To Be Cruel are heavily redolent of the crushing doom drone of Sunn O))), but as the first piece, ‘Like a Poisoned Dog’ abundantly evidences, Khanate are different. This difference may be less apparent to the casual listener, but the stop/start power chords and skewed, sinewy shards of feedback are cut from a different sonic cloth, and if Sunn O))) are renowned for their indebtedness to Earth, there are elements woven in here which seem to owe more to early Swans, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to speculate on whether the album’s title is some kind of response to Swans’ 2014 album To Be Kind, there is some kind of contextual interface here, in that both acts are pushing parameters within a longform song format.

And then there are the vocals: it’s a good seven minutes before Alan Dubin makes his first contribution: the song takes another swerve, the blistering blast simmers down and as he howls and roars, the feel is a cross between the darkest of mangled metal and brutal hardcore. And his manic screams are powerful and affecting. He sounds troubled, but in a way that conveys the kind of tortured mental suffering that’s common to many: it’s a primal howl of rage ad anguish that we struggle to unleash, and so to hear this is to feel emotions channelled by proxy, and as much as it hurts, it’s a release.

‘It Wants to Fly’ takes it to the next level, presenting almost twenty-two minutes of pain. The guitar is slow, crushing, punishing. What can you say? It hurts. It’s also minimal in arrangement but maximal in volume: this is first-gear BPM, with decimating feedback between the crushing chords. At the same time, it’s doomy and ominous as well as raging, making for a powerful cocktail of weight and raw emotion. There is no question that Khanate bring both.

And so it is that the album’s third and final track, the twenty-minute title track, is twenty minutes of low drone and tortured screaming that sounds like a breakdown captured on tape as Dubin yelps and screams about spiders against a sparse backing of a distant rumble and clanging guitar. ‘Look! In the closet!’ he shrieks in what sounds like abject terror. You dare not look. You don’t even want to hide under the bed: you just want to leave the house. The composition takes its time, it hums and drones, and in time, it hits and it hurts, and in some way you wish you could be Dublin, you want this release to have a channel into the unhinged. But you’re stuck on the outside, an observer to what sounds like either the ultimate catharsis or mental disintegration.

Ground down to nothing beyond and anguished screams and squalling feedback, this is bare bones, the sound of desperation. It isn’t pleasant, and there is simply no room to breathe: this is dark, dense torturous, and it’s exactly what fans have been waiting fourteen years for.



4th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a few months since we last heard from London based industrial/alternative rock duo GLYTSH, who made some waves with their first single releases – and rightly so, because they were absolute bangers: their cover on Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’ on hinted at the original material that was to follow, with both ‘(Hard)core memory’ and ‘SAV@Ge’ kicking serious arse. They’ve been busy in the meantime, landing a live slot supporting Tom Saint in June as part of the publicity for their upcoming debut EP, which ‘V.H.S.’ gives us a flavour of.

‘V.H.S.’ – that’s ‘Vulgar Holy Spirit’ – is pitched as ‘loud, proud and kind of a sombre love song’, which Jennifer Diehl – who now goes by the pseudonym of Luna Blake when she’s in Glytsch mode – expands on as being “about a lost relationship trying to be resurrected… It’s a dark romantic tale 2.0 with a Frankenstein flavour and could be seen as the sequel to our second single – ‘Hard(core) Memory’”.

It’s another slice of savvy songwriting that does so much all at once, starting out like some clean, crisp ‘alternative’ pop – the kind of electro-goth that pretends to be menacing but really isn’t – before going absolutely raging wild, demonic screaming with a barrage of noise exploding white hot and devastating. There’s a really thick swampy low-end and the production is dense and dirty – and it’s a real asset in realising the song’s full impact potential, because it very much accentuates the sense of volume, with the drums being pushed down beneath the speaker shredding guitar… and the guitar is a wall of sheet metal and it’s a riffy as fuck and properly heavy…and yet, somehow, there are glimpses of melody, a keen chorus that breaks out from the demonic rage of the verses, which returns us to the point where we’re forced to consider that there is a keen pop element to their songs. How can it be? And how can it all happen in two and a half minutes?

There’s no time to think or dissect it: it’s hard to take in what’s going on. It’s a blur, a blitzkrieg, an in-out smash-and-grab, fast, furious, violent and so well executed.

In the wake of Nu Metal and Marilyn Manson – who rose in on the tattered mesh coattails of Trent Reznor who brought the kind of niche noisy shit that was the domain of Wax Trax! and strictly underground to a huge global audience and then took it up several notches, aggro stuff has become quite normalised, not to mention predictable – but Glytsch bring something new and unique, and it’s not just that they’re female. They present a new hybrid, and a new level of ferocity that’s absolutely terrifying.

They’re racking up radio plays already, and they’ve got world class quality howling from every pore.



Photo Credit: Ulrich von Trier

Midira Records – 5th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker is one of those artists whose output is almost impossible to keep pace with – but the more remarkable thing is that for all of this hyperproductivity, the standard of work is of an unstinting quality. Recorded between 2020 and 2022, Engenderine – a double CD – lands almost simultaneously with Trio Not Trio, the first in a series of five albums on Gizeh Records, and just as Baker is gearing up for a tour with Nadja, the ‘ambient doom / dreamsludge, / metalgaze’ duo he is one half of.

To pause for breath for a moment, it’s worth stepping back and running through the context of this, which is worth quoting:

‘The neologism ‘engenderine’ comes from Lydia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan, a futuristic/dystopian/cli-fi retelling of the Joan of Arc story, and describes beings partially composed of pure energy capable of manipulating matter who, amongst a largely devolved human population, might be considered post-gender and a new evolutionary step.

‘Other song titles come from phrases and images from Tricia Sullivan’s duology Double Vision and Sound Mind, surrealistic fantasies about the nature of reality and perception and, like The Book of Joan, the possibilities of manipulating those.

‘Musically, the songs on Engenderine began as a series of slowly evolving ambient guitar loops – a bed layer of reality, so to speak – over which were layered bass, drums, and organ parts. These instrumental additions – the trappings of perception, signifiers, metaphorically speaking, our attempts to codify perception – incorporate traditional rock structures and progressions but are stripped down to a sort of somnambulant minimalism that might encourage introspection, a meditative background, uneasy listening, as much as they demand attention.’

It really is extremely uneasy listening. It’s perhaps as well it is, for the larger part, ‘background’, because the two CDs, while only containing eight tracks in all, span almost ninety minutes. We’re not quite in Sunn O))) or latter-day Swans territory, but still…

The first track, ‘Baby Dragon Slaughter’ pitches a long, unchanging organ drone note against a growling doom guitar and stop-start percussion which crashes hard. It’s hypnotic, paralysing, and I can imagine some might toss in a Doors comparison, but that’s only on account of the organ and the slightly trippy vibe, because it’s not only nothing like The Doors, but infinitely better.

If you want comparisons – because pretty much everyone seems to work on the premise that everything sounds like something else and recommendations – mostly algorithmic and based on purchases or streams, depending on the platform, Engenderine sits in the low, slow, doom-drone bracket of Sunn O))) and Earth 2. And this is indeed some ultra-low frequency shit. The first track on Disc 2, ‘Resurrection of the Child Army’ features some melodic, trilling pipe sounds around seven minutes into its nine-and-three-quarter-minutes gloomy, thick humming drone, is something you feel as much as you hear, and it resonates through the intestines and vibrates eternally.

The bass on ‘Calabi Yau Manifestations’ is pure dub, floor-shakingly dense, dark, minimal but quiveringly heavy, and it dominates the erratic drum clatters and rumbling roar of a drone that sounds like a jet engine warming up several miles away. Having experienced jet engines nearby, trust me., this is a good thing, but the rumble is unsettling. And then there’s ‘Dorvay’, which seems to take its cues from The Cure circa Pornography, with its hefty percussion dominating the sound.

Engenderine isn’t an album for a track-by-track, blow-by-blow critique: the tracks melt into one another and it’s an album that needs to be experienced as an album – and in context, that’s a continuous droning hum of murky noise without any clear sense of shape or form.

The second disc feels lower, slower, darker and more difficult: the erratic jazz drum-work on ‘Fear Sculptures’ is difficult to digest and assimilate – but then again, so is Engenderine as a whole. It’s just so much dark and difficult droning to chew on that it leaves you feeling low on energy, sapped, physically and mentally. But this isn’t about entertainment, and artistically, Engenderine is an outstanding exploratory / concept work.



Human Worth – 17th March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

For context, I shall quote from the notes which accompany this release: ‘Old Mayor are Adam Kammerling and Owen Gildersleeve (Modern Technology / Human Worth). They were most active between 2005 – 2009 sharing bills with the likes of Boris, Russian Circles, Heirs, A Storm of Light, Orange Goblin and ASVA. ‘Shelter Ceremony Collapse’ was recorded during a stint in New York in the winter of 2008, where the duo laid down this beastly three track, recorded by Chris Pierce at Technical Ecstasy Studio in New Brunswick. But the recording never saw the light of day, with the duo parting ways soon after.

‘Fifteen years later, on hearing the news that legendary Brighton promoters Tatty Seaside Town, who’d given the band their first shows back in the early years, were calling it a day and putting on a final weekender the duo felt it was the right time to finally come back together. To celebrate they unearthed this EP.’

They certainly achieved a considerable amount during their time active, but left a scant record of it in the form of a critically-lauded eponymous five-track EP, which makes the immensely-belated arrival of this archival recording all the more welcome, and for those unfamiliar with them the first time around (myself included), Shelter Ceremony Collapse provides an outstanding introduction.

There’s an adage about how you treat people when you’re on the way up, and this release and the circumstances surrounding it are very much characteristic of Owen and Human Worth: not only reconvening Old Mayor for a farewell concert, but releasing the EP with a portion of proceeds going to charity speaks for the nature of the people and the operation.

As for the EP itself… While the title has a ring to it as a phrase, while conjuring mental images of crumbling edifices and societal disarray and something vaguely post-apocalyptic (or perhaps I simply have a vivid imagination which steers oof its own accord toward the bleaker, darker prospects), it’s also the titles of the EP’s three songs in the order they appear.

That said ‘Shelter’ is so heavy it almost brings about its own collapse inside the first two of its monstrous six minutes. It’s a slow, dirgy tune that begins delicately with clean, picked guitar, building a misty atmosphere of mist and loam, the resonant timbres of the strings rich and earthy and redolent of Neurosis – and then the distortion and drums pound in, hard and heavy and hit like a tidal wave crashing with full force against the abdomen and knocking the air from the lungs.

Kammerling’s screaming vocals are largely buried beneath the sludgy landslide; he sounds possessed, but is barely audible for the downtuned sludge, and Owen’ hard-hitting drums cut through with thunderous force.

‘Ceremony’ is but an instrumental interlude, a cacophony of shrieks and wails. It may only be a couple of minutes long, but the sounds of tortured souls leave you feeling unsettled and uncomfortable, which is either a bad state or the ideal state to receive the shuddering blast of the crushing ‘Collapse’. It’s properly heavy, snail-paced doom, and it’s potent, powerful stuff.

It would be wonderful to think that the one-off reunion wasn’t a one-off, and that it might spur more performances and perhaps even more new material – but they’ve already spoiled us, and Shelter Ceremony Collapse is the perfect release to expand and confirm their place in the annals.



Ipecac Recordings – 28th April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

As their bio explains most succinctly, ‘Spotlights occupy the space between a push-and-pull of jarring metallic catharsis and sweeping distortion. Even as either side vies for supremacy, neither extreme ever completely tightens its grip, allowing waves of melodic vocals and expressive sonic sorcery to breathe in the middle. This deft balancing act has enabled the trio—husband-and-wife Mario Quintero [guitar, vocals, keys] and Sarah Quintero [bass, vocals] joined by Chris Enriquez [drums]—to carve a singular lane. Armed with an uncanny ability to wield darkness or light, the trio’s fourth full-length offering, Alchemy for the Dead [Ipecac Recordings], finds them exploring something we all face, yet few embrace…’

Expanding on this, Mario explains the album’s overarching theme, which the title alludes to: “One of the major parts of our lives, is the fact we’re all going to die,” he says “Most people are terrified of it, some people learn to look forward to it, and some see it as a way out of their misery. Various cultures view it differently. There isn’t necessarily a story to the album as a whole, but each song deals with the theme of death. It could be fantasy such as bringing a loved one back to life or darker moments like suicide and deep depression.”

It’s a fact that, at least in Western culture, death remains perhaps the last taboo, something of which even the dying tend not to talk about, not properly.

It was back in 2018 that I first encountered Spotlights: their cover of ‘Faith’ by The Cure from their Hanging by Faith EP was an instant grab. This was a band that really ‘got’ the atmospherics of the track and captured the essence of what, for many, myself included, remains as an untouchable trilogy of albums, 17 Seconds, Faith, and Pornography.

Alchemy For The Dead doesn’t sound like any Cure album specifically, but still takes cues in terms of weighty atmosphere. Following a gentle introduction that borders on dark synth pop, it’s not long before the blasting power chords crash in, thick and dark and heavy. And the thick, processed bass on ‘Sunset Burial’ blends with a rippling guitar that’s richly evocative and reminiscent of Oceansise at their best. But when they break into monolithic crescendos of distortion, I’m reminded more of the likes of Amenra, of BIG ¦ BRAVE.

There are some extravagant guitar breaks, but somehow, they’re as forgivable as the more processed prog passages, which in the hands of any other band would likely sound pretentious: Spotlights sound emotionally engaged and sincere without pomp or excessive theatricality: this isn’t something that’s easy to define, not least of all because it’s such a fine line when weighing up musical that’s so reliant on technical proficiency and very much ‘produced’. And the production is very much integral here: the arrangements require this level of separation and clarity. But this is where it’s important to distinguish between production and overproduction, and it’s testament to Mario’s skills at the desk that he’s realised the band’s vision so well. The bass really dominates the sound, which is so thick, rich, and textured, and also explores a broad dynamic range: the quiet passages are delicate, the loud ones as explosive as a detonation at a quarry.

Similarly while the songs tend to stretch beyond the five-minute mark, there’s nothing that feels indulgent or overlong here. ‘Repeat the Silence’ builds on a simple repeated sequence almost reminiscent of Swans’ compositions, but thunders into a bold, grungy chorus that’s more Soundgarden.

The album’s shortest song, the three-and-a-half-minute ‘Ballad in the Mirror’ is also the most overtly commercial, a straight-up quiet/loud grunge blast, and the riffage is colossal.

‘Crawling Towards the Light’ marries monster riffage with Joy Division-esque synths, and somewhere between Movement-era New Order and Smashing Pumpkins, but rendered distinctive by the propulsive drumming which drives the track which builds to a roaring climax.

The seven-minute title track is sparse and suffocating. It has a nostalgic quality that’s hard to define, and it’s perhaps something that’s only likely to punch the gut of nineties teens in this specific way, but it’s understated and emotive, and then the guitars crash in and it’s fucking immense and… well, what a way to conclude an album.

Alchemy For The Dead is a huge work, an album that draws its own parameters and digs new trenches around genre definitions before bulldozing them to the ground with riffs. Complex, detailed, and unique, Alchemy For The Dead is something special.



Austere are back. The Australians return with their third album – and they are as laconic and without any pretensions as when they went into extended hibernation after the release of their sophomore full-length To Lay like Old Ashes in 2009.  

Entitled Corrosion of Hearts, the new tracks stay true to the path that Austere have carved for themselves out of solid black metal bedrock. The multi-layered and harsh yet often dreamlike guitar tapestries woven by Mitchell Keepin are complemented by the emotive drumming of Tim Yatras, who also contributes keyboard splashes and cinematic soundscapes. Both also contribute vocals that cover the full spectrum of their genre and range from throat-ripping growls via desolate screams to clear voices. In the typical manner of these Australians, their songs are still meandering, flowing streams of musical thought of epic proportions.

The sonic heritage of Austere is apparent. Their inspiration derives from the early Norse black metal scene and its depressive offspring, but also stretches further to the gentler and more emotional approach of blackgaze. Despite or maybe even because of the width of the influences, the Australians have found their own answers to the musical paradox inherent in this style, which is both fast and slow, aggressive and melancholic.

On Corrosion of Hearts, Austere ‘s brand of black metal has evolved into a more mature and defined form of expression, which is hardly surprising as both musicians were active in other bands during their hiatus. The duo also took more time to craft their new songs into exactly what they were supposed to sound like than before. With greater experience comes more determination.

As a taster, they’ve unveiled ‘A Ravenous Oblivion’.

Watch ‘A Ravenous Oblivion’ here:



Pic by Stefan_Raduta

Divide and Dissolve’s new and fourth album Systemic examines the systems that intrinsically bind us and calls for a system that facilitates life for everyone. It’s a message that fits with the band’s core intention: to make music that honours their ancestors and Indigenous land, to oppose white supremacy, and to work towards a future of Black and Indigenous liberation.

Saxophonist and guitarist Takiaya Reed comments, “This music is an acknowledgement of the dispossession that occurs due to colonial violence,”  She continues, “The goal of the colonial project is to separate Indigenous people from their culture, their life force, their community and their traditions. The album is in direct opposition to this.”

Like its predecessor Gas Lit, Systemic was produced by Ruban Neilson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and arrives on all formats through Invada on 30th June and is preceded by the lead single/video ‘Blood Quantum’ which calls into question the violent process of verification of Identity.

Watch the video here:



Photo: Yatri Niehaus