Posts Tagged ‘Heavy’

Ipecac Recordings – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Dälek emerged in the late 90s when hip-hop was transforming in all directions. But while the Wu-Tang Clan and their offshoot projects had a level of dynamism and radicalism about them, it’s no understatement that Dälek shattered through their achievements, and if there was any debate about that, then Precipice really should settle it. It’s felt like we’ve been teetering on the edge of a precipice for a long time, and that pre-millennium tension has, over time, proven justified as the entire world careers into some kind of end-of-days chaos. If this sounds like some hysterical end-of-days paranoia panic, you’re probably not paying attention. The pandemic was just a sideshow, a distraction from global tension, climate change… Trump, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war stepped up to levels not seen since the 80s… Are we still at the edge of the precipice, or have we just tipped – or powered, full-throttle – over it? I’m too dazed and bewildered to know, but Dälek have provided a soundtrack that conveys the sense of confusion and dislocation brought on by uncertainty and tension.

‘Lest We Forget’ is a mid-shade, mid-tempo swell of ambience that swirls around densely before ‘Boycott’ hits hard and heavy. Christ, that booming bass! That eddying noise that drones and warps! The beats! Man, the fucking beats! They’re heavy alright, and there’s no let up on ‘Decimation (Dis Nation)’.

If so much mainstream contemporary hip-hop has been overtly commercial, with Precipice, Dälek remind that hip-hop’s origins were a voice of protest, of antagonism toward the mainstream, against the government, against oppression, against suppression. N.W.A were telling it like it is with ‘Fuck Tha Police’, and fuck shit, nothing has changed thirty-four years later.

Dälek are a whole lot more subtle and less up-front and in your face in their antagonism, but they’re no less aggrieved, and no less political. This means that their impact is just as powerful, albeit in different ways, and sonically, Dälek are devastating. There’s a physicality to their music, and where the lyrics aren’t necessarily so prominent, the weight of the beats, the density of the bass and the murk of the midrange combine to create a force like colliding with a wall of breeze blocks.

‘The Harbingers’ slows things down, and it’s dark, stark, the atmosphere desperate, desolate, while ‘Devotion (when I cry the wind disappears)’ feels almost uplifting as the synths soar and their subtle, sonorous sounds swoop upwards before the seven-minute ‘A Heretic’s Inheritance’ crashes in, hard, cyclical, heavy, an urgent throbbing riff marking the intro amidst a maelstrom of scratching feedback and extraneous noise. It throbs and thrums, and this isn’t hip-hop like you get on the radio, it’s not the shit—hop of the mainstream beloved by the masses. No, this is fucking brutal, and it kicks and punches hard, repeatedly, leaving you winded, breathless, gurgling., while MC dälek repeats the mantra ‘I hold myself to high standards / I don’t give a fuck if the gods are angry’. No doubt that applies to the gods of capital. Fuck them.

The title track is weightier still, and it’s positively skull-crushing, and it goes to show that it doesn’t have to be metal to be heavy, and the final track, ‘Incite’ is stark, tense, and gloomy, rounding off an album that packs a lot of weight and tension. It’s hard to place exactly how it feels as an experience, and how it sits, musically. Precipice is the sound of dislocation, of alienation. It’s real life.

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Two albums in and London’s Grave Lines, purveyors of ‘heavy gloom’ have already carved a unique niche in the myriad spheres of heavy music. Their first album Welcome To Nothing set the tone for their distinct take on doom metal, which was broadened even further with album two Fed Into The Nihilist Engine. An epic feast of hard ‘n’ heavy riffs coupled with brooding sadness interspersed with thoughtful transcendent moments of introspection.

Never a band to rely solely on trotting out those ‘doom metal’ tropes, the band began to weave in gothic and experimental elements into their music, to delve deeper into the dark shadows of the psyche.

Now with their third album Communion Grave Lines continue their exploration into the ugliness of the human condition, at the same time becoming a band that truly defies any pigeonhole.

Continuing to hone and evolve their collective vision and aided by the masterful production of Andy Hawkins at The Nave Studios, Communion sees Grave Lines creep further into the various corners of their sound.

In a nutshell Communion is a violent descent of bile-soaked intensity spiralling between filth laden swagger, and fragile mournful lament. The album delves into the internal aloneness of existence and the failings of the human connection.

Owing as much to Bauhaus and Killing Joke as it does to Black Sabbath or Neurosis, there are moments of gut wrenching doomed up heaviness and bellowing noise rock, contrasting with ambient gothic passages and a thoughtful melancholy, to a create a powerful new chapter in their ceaseless journey through the gloom. Listen to first single ‘Carcini’ now:

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Neurot Recordings – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something about Neurot: as a label, it certainly has a distinct ‘house style’, and if it does seem to be predominantly in the vein of Neurosis, then Ufomammut’s latest offering, Fenice,  is simultaneously definitive and a departure, in that it’s clearly metal in persuasion, and given to long, slow, and expansive workouts, with the majority of the album’s six pieces running (well) past the seven-minute mark. It’s delicately-paced, too: it’s not all a crawl, but the crescendos land a fair way apart and the build-ups are long and deliberate.

Opener ‘Duat’ is an absolute monster, clocking in past ten and a half minutes, and beginning with ominous dark ambience and slow to a crawl electronics, before a surging techno bass grind cuts through and pulses away. It’s three and a half minutes before the guitars pile in, and when they do, everything comes together to forge a piledriving industrial blast: for a moment, I’m reminded of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March of the Pigs’, but then things switch again with a tempo change, slowing to a lumbering thud. It builds from there, and the final minute hits that sweet spot of pulverizing riffery that is pure joy. Ufomammut may be a ‘doom’ band by designation, but this is some of the most dynamic progressive metal you’ll hear.

Having set the bar so high so early, the challenge is, can they sustain it? ‘Kepherer’ is a dank, semi-ambient interlude that provides some much-needed breathing space. ‘Psychostasia’ starts off gently, but again, builds into a really slugger, the riff hard and repetitive, the vocals half-buried amidst overdrive and reverb, and it’s so, so exhilarating.

It takes an eternity of a slow, nagging cyclical motif, rich in chorus and reverb, before ‘Metamprphoenix’ breaks, and segues immediately into the throbbing behemoth that is ‘Pyramind’, where things do, finally, hit all-out doom grind with the heaviest, most crushing power chords. The bass goes so low that it practically burrows underground, while the guitars soar skyward. Closer ‘Empyros’ is the album’s shortest track, and it’s three minutes of punishing guitars that pick up precisely where ‘Pyramind’ leaves off and just drives and drives and drives, churning, hard, heavy.

If you’re seeking instant gratification, Fenice isn’t the album you want, but that doesn’t mean that it by any means feels drawn-out or like there’s much waiting involved: despite the lengthy songs, and the slow-builds, the textures and atmospheres are remarkable. I have a friend who loves his slow-burning metal and math-rock, but hates Amenra because he finds them insufferably tedious. Personally, I’m a fan, but I get the impatience, and it is largely around this kind of slow, earthy metal where time stalls and aeons pass between events, and the builds take several lifetimes to come to any kind of fruition – but this most certainly isn’t an issue for Ufomammut on Fenice. The compositions twist and turn and continue to not only hold the attention but to tug at the senses, keeping the listener on edge, poised, tense, expectant. And they always deliver on those expectations.

There is a clear and definitely trajectory here, too, building over the last three pieces to a point where the riffs are dominant – megalithic grinds that hit hard. Fenice makes you feel a broad range of things: boredom or disappointment aren’t among them. It does require some work, but it’s amply rewarded.

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1st April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Details of this eponymous EP release from Leeds-based The Reflecting Skin are sparse. It’s only since the advent of social media and the ubiquity of the Internet that we’ve come to expect to know everything about an act and its releases – the who played what, the lyrics, the inspiration for and meaning of songs, who their musical influences are, favourite films, etc., etc. And why do we need to know? What actual benefit does it serve, and to whom?

What matters is that this is seriously harsh and heavy. A grinding chord booms, overloading the speakers by way of a welcome with ‘Ceramic Rash’. It’s slow, doomy, dirty and dark, and devoid of percussion, crawls like larva. The vocals are half-buries and swathed in so much reverb as to sound like they’ve coming from the bottom of a well – a well the shaft of which goes down, not to the water table, but the very pits of hell.

It stops abruptly, and it straight into the crashing thud of ‘Limb Off’, which finds The Reflecting Skin go full band and full-throttle gnarly hardcore nastiness. The production is authentically primitive – it’s so dirty, so rough and raw, with the feel of a Walkman recording, and playback with fluff-encrusted tape heads, but this isn’t an impedance, because it simply sounds right. If it slots right in along the mid 80s hardcore vintage, it’s equally very much contemporary Leeds underground / DIY. It’s not slick by any stretch, even the track editing sees each one cut and the next begin, but this is very much integral to the appeal and the form of genre – and it’s totally nonstop no-fi brutal racketing, punching in your face.

I’ve no idea what the title is about, but ‘IMA-IW-BF’ is so distorted it hurts: a raw, raging rehearsal tape from a damp basement or clungy garage, it’s a descending chord sequence that grinds and growls, like a half-pace Melvins trudge but with raw-throated roars for vocals… while ‘Split Wires’ clocks in at a half a minute and just quite simply the sound off punishment at a hundred miles an hour. They really do save the gnarliest noisiest shit for last, though: the six-and-a-half-minute ‘Nocturnal Cough’ is built around the nastiest, most gut0churning bass imaginable. It makes your stomach lurch to the point you want to puke, and it’s propelled by thumping drums that threaten to burst your eardrums.

It would be a stretch to describe The Reflecting Skin as a fun or enjoyable listen, because, quite simply, it hurts. But as ultra-heavy and uncompromisingly brutal releases go, it’s an absolute beast.

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Covering multiple works in a single review feels like a major short-changing exercise, and I feel I should apologise to the artists involved in advance. It kind of depersonalises and maybe even cheapens the coverage, and I remember how I felt when the book version of my PhD thesis finally received a review, only to find that it was in an article alongside three other books. It may have been a paragraph of praise, but nevertheless, it was a solitary paragraph in a long article. Nine years of work, 90,000 words and 300 printed pages given a one-paragraph thumbs up… meh. But still, better than a thumbs-down or no paragraph.

A decade on, it’s still not settled with me, and I always try to do better. But sometimes, bundling makes sense and feels justified and this is one of those times.

Having spent many a virtual column inch in recent years bemoaning how Record Store day has made a deep descent from being an event that served to raise awareness of independent record shops to another cash-in for major labels cranking out shitty reissues on limited colour vinyl to wring yet more funds from completists while at the same time driving some of the most shameful scalping activity anywhere on line, it’s a relief to find something positive about RSD 2022.

That something comes of course from an independent label in the form of Southern Lord, who, as a sidenote, had commendably stuck to producing outstanding vinyl releases regardless of trends, fashions, popularity, or Record Store Day, and, admirably have continued to release whatever the hell they please, with a catalogue that’s an equal balance of cult hardcore punk re-releases and cutting-edge works of crushing weight that perpetually push the parameters of metal, with recent releases from Neon Christ and Big | Brave highlighting the polarities of the label’s interests.

This pair of RSD releases exemplify this span to perfection, and while admittedly one is a reissue, the other very much is not – and as such, they represent the label’s standard release scheduling. As the press releases outline, ‘The Catatonics were one of NYC and Syracuse’s pioneering hardcore punk bands…While the band’s seminal Hunted Down EP has remained one of the most highly sought-after releases of the genre, the heightening collector’s price made this 7” inaccessible to most people. Southern Lord has now elected to re-release this EP as a 12”, with bonus tracks.” And, meanwhile, Forest Nocturne is ‘the first full length solo venture of Greg Anderson, under the moniker of The Lord. Inspired by the great horror film composers of the 70s and 80s, Anderson turns his back on the riff worship of Goatsnake or SUNN O))) and instead creates a truly unsettling atmosphere heavy with tension, offset by 90s Scandinavian death metal’.

The Catatonics release certainly gives value for money: the original 1984 7” released on Anorexic Nympho Records featured five tracks: this reissue features a whopping eighteen. Following the bonus intro cut if ‘Descending in E’, the original EP accounts for tracks two to six, while the rest is an almost exhaustive gathering of compilation tracks, early demos and live recordings, all remastered from original tapes. Only two of the eighteen songs run beyond three minutes, with most clocking in under two, and this is rough and ready, ball-busting full-throttle, relentless fury, nonstop-pounding hardcore at its rawest and most furious, and the live cuts are particularly raw and brutal, making this a unique and comprehensive document of another underground band’s short but high-impact career.

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The Lord’s debut is a very different proposition: it’s clearly contemporary for a start, although it’s steeped in vintage metal stylings, and driven by an understated and simple but gut-churning bass that digs tunnels beneath your ordinary lives. Forest Nocturne is an album that twists and turns, and more significantly, gnaws like rodents, and like woodworm, at the smooth, flat planes of sonic normal. I say ‘normal’, as if that’s a thing – but The Lord conjure vast aural expanses, broad vistas that invite the listener to bask in the rich density, before tearing it to pieces.

A slow, swelling church organ droned doomily on ‘Church of Hermann’, a piece which is truly awe-inspiring. This is an instrumental album that definitely marks a departure for Anderson and feels more like early Earth than Sunn O))). Then again, it’s doesn’t really sound or feel like either.

Thick swells of strings that build into brooding, megalithic waves, define the power of this instrumental work. ‘Forest Wake’ starts with the wail of a siren, and brings bulldozing bass and power chords wrapped in gut-punching clouds of distortion. Those clouds dissipate for a time, and the atmosphere looms large and heavy as things unfurl, but take a moment to breathe and there’s nothing to see here other than smoke and that absence… It grinds, and it absolutely fucking kills, going full Sunn O))) drone doom on ‘Old Growth’. Forest Nocturne is hard and harrowing, immense, epic, beautiful, and yet at the same time devastating. The last track, ‘Triumph of the Oak’ is a new shade of heavy, an angering mess of thrashing chords that crashes down so, so hard.

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Finally, thanks to Southern Lord, there are releases that are actually worth getting up and queuing for at the weekend.

As Italian masters of heavy psychedelia Ufomammut prepare to release their ninth full-length album, Fenice, through Neurot Recordings in early May, they have just shared a video for ‘Pyramind’.

For more than two decades, Ufomammut has combined the heaviness and majesty of dynamic riff worship with a nuanced understanding of psychedelic tradition and history in music, creating a cosmic, futuristic, and technicolour sound destined for absolute immersion. Fenice, “phoenix” in Italian, represents endless rebirth and the ability to start again after everything seems doomed. The album is the first recording with new drummer Levre joining Poia and Urlo, marking a new chapter in the band’s history and unveiling a more intimate, free sound for the group.

The second single from Fenice, ‘Pyramind’ is delivered through a visualiser filmed in a scenic rural setting in Italy. Guitarist Poia reveals, “To choose a single track from Fenice isn’t easy, because the songs are long and linked together, and the flow results are incomplete. But we think that ‘Pyramind’ represents in a very clear way Ufomammut’s two-souls attitude: the heaviness melted down with psychedelia.”

Watch the video here:

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LIVE DATES:

07.05.22 – Alessandria (IT), Laboratorio Sociale – Album release party
14.05.22 – Mezzago (IT), Bloom
24.05.22 – Vienna (AT), Arena
25.05.22 – Karlsruhe (DE), Dudefest
26.05.22 – Bremen (DE), Tower
27.05.22 – Ghent (BE), Dunk!festival
28.05.22 – Groningen (NL), Vera
29.05.22 – Berlin (DE), Desertfest
30.05.22 – Dresden (DE), Chemiefabrik
31.05.22 – Salzburg (AT), Rockhouse
10.06.22 – Munich (DE), 17 Years Sound of Liberation Festival
11.06.22 – Piacenza (IT), Desert Fox Festival
24.06.22 – Wiesbaden (DE), 17 Years Sound of Liberation – Official Festival Warmup
26.06.22 – Clisson (FR), Hellfest
18.08.22 – Pescara (IT), Frantic Festival

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Photo by Francesca De Franceschi Manzoni.

Jonestown, Texas-based proto-metal/heavy psych bringers PETH have shared ‘Abolish the Overseer’ single off their upcoming debut, Merchant of Death, which is set for release on 27 May 2022 via Electric Valley Records (digital and vinyl – multiple variants) and The Cosmic Peddler (vinyl – US Editions).

According to PETH: “‘Abolish The Overseer’ is a new age proto-metal song dedicated to the trashing of any form of oppression in modern society.”

Listen here:

Central Texas is well known for its underground heavy rock ‘n’ roll from the late ‘60s,’70s, and ‘80s: — a series of sounds different than any other place on earth have been originated and evolved from here time and time again. Fast forward some 50 years later and there are still the same hell-raisin, beer-drinking, guitar-slinging rock ‘n’ cowboys makin some noise in the Lone Star! Hence, it’s no surprise that in the 21st century, a band like PETH come along and start making some big ‘70s Texas noise!

Born in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, these four native Texans have been doing all the maniacal and lawless exploits with a wild mix of early ‘70s proto-metal and heavy psych/occult rock soundscapes matched to that of early Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Medusa, Venom, Blue Cheer, Pentagram, ZZ Top, and the likes. Conjuring evil guitarmonies (what they call guitar harmonies), explosive trucking bass and drum section, and two knock-out vocalists, PETH truly help preserve the spirit of Texas’s old way of life while helping usher in this new era of rock ‘n’ roll for generations to follow.

PETH’s debut LP, Merchant of Death, is a hidden gem of the ‘70s/’80s metal invasion, but got discovered in the 21st century. The album in part brings menacing aggressions, in part brings breathtaking rhythms, but steers clear of the modern, lustrous sonic aesthetics. Roll out the red carpet for Merchant of Death and revel in the wilderness.

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On May 6th Italian alchemists and power trio Ufomammut return with their ninth studio album, Fenice via Neurot Recordings and Supernatural Cat, but not as we’ve heard them before, now “more intimate, more free.”

For over 20 years, the band has combined the heaviness and majesty of dynamic riff worship with a nuanced understanding of psychedelic tradition and history in music, creating a cosmic, futuristic, and technicolor sound destined for absolute immersion.

Fenice (meaning Phoenix in Italian) symbolically represents endless rebirth and the ability to start again after everything seems doomed. The album is the first recording with new drummer Levre, and truly marks a new chapter in Ufomammut history.

“I think we lost our spontaneity, album after album,” says Urlo. “We tried to make more complicated songs and albums, but I think at some point we just ended up repeating ourselves. With Fenice, we were ready to start from zero, we had no past anymore – so we just wanted to be reborn and rise from the ashes..”

Whilst the band are well-known for their psychedelic travels into the far reaches of the cosmos, Fenice is a much more introspective listening experience. Fenice was conceived as a single concept track, divided in six facets of this inward-facing focus. Sonic experimentations abound in the exploration of this central theme; synths and experimental vocal effects are featured more prominently than ever before as the band push themselves ever further into the uncharted territory of their very identity.

Check out the video for ‘Psychostasia’ here:

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Cruel Nature Records – 11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This is something that the CD or digital release simply cannot really do justice to as a full, multi-faceted, multi-sensory experience: the split LP. And while I’m more of a fan of vinyl and cassette, this most certainly does the job: you have to turn the thing over. It is truly an album of two halves. In this case, half Benbow, and half Strssy. And while some split releases simply stick two artists back to back – and there’s nothing wrong with that – Benbow and Strssy have history.

As the biographical notes detail, they first met ‘in a basement café in Lausanne, Switzerland just before the first sliced loaf was presented at the World’s Fair. Benbow had just finished a tour of the Alps with wandering trapeze troupe, NORMAL MAN while Strssy had taken a well-earned sabbatical from conjoined mime act, DIET PILLS. Over the following years they exchanged correspondence and encouragement as they independently began making experimental electronic music’. This split release, then, is pitched as ‘a celebration of this journey’.

Benbow’s eight cuts make for a hell of a journey in their own right. The tone is far from celebratory: it’s dark, claustrophobic, driven by dense beats and even denser atmosphere. Short, fragmentary snippets that straddle the space between sketched ideas and something more fully realised, all bar two are under three minutes in duration, but pack in a lot. Broadly, Benbow explores the tropes of minimalist, dark-hip hop, with thwacking solid beats and phat bass that gnaws at the gut with simple repetitive motifs or only three of four notes. It’s kinda heavy, and the effect is cumulative.

‘Slowly’ grinds, chugs, and churns away, the bass thick and gnarly amidst a swirl of reverberating synth oscillations that emulate the nagging call of a siren toward the end. Benbow’s final track, ‘Two’ marks quite a shift, with strings galore and an altogether lighter mood.

Strssy similarly trades in contrasts and juxtapositions. ‘Off a Watering Can’ starts out gentle, but when the beat kicks in, it’s pretty bloody heavy, and the mood changes significantly. It’s no longer chillout, ambience, but dense and tense, and layers of noise build exponentially to incorporate shrill whistles of modular synth abuse. ‘Deep Interior’ is all the twitch and bleep against dank, rumbling caverns of sound and then, from nowhere, it’s more rapid and relentless wails like a misfiring smoke alarm, only with a squeaky toy embedded in the circuitry. On a bad day, I’d likely find this seriously fucking annoying, but in a balanced and objective mood, it’s possible to give kudos to the way in which Strssy incorporates dance elements into a more freeform approach to electronic music which also incorporates industrial and ambient leanings. ‘Bath Night’ is a thumping industrial melting pot that’s more like drowning slowly than floating serenely, while ‘A Beautiful Brown Catalogue’ is all about the bowels with its booming bass frequencies, plus additional wild trumpet action. It’s got that late 80s wax Trax! vibe, but with a more experimental twist, and it pinches the brain.

Paired, Benbow and Strssy make for a formidable duo, a tag-team of hard-hitting genre-splicing, slow-groove bashing behemoths.

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