Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

7th September – Pelagic Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The absence of a question mark renders the album’s title a statement rather than a question. But there are no questions about Årabrot: 17 years and a substantial catalogue into their career, the Norwegian noise-rock act are still noisy, challenging, and kicking ass. But according to the blurb accompanying the release, ‘there is more than noise rock to Årabrot’s formula. “I’m interested in feelings, either the very silent or the extremely noisy”, band leader Kjetil Nernes comments. “I don’t care about what’s in between, the middle of the road isn’t my thing. The bible fits really well with that. I’m using it thematically all of the time.”

But mostly it’s noisy, and that’s a good thing. That said, Who Do You Love is very much an album of extremes – which is only fitting of a record that references transgressive French poet Comte de Lautréamont in its opening song, which crashes in with a heavy psych-hued riff – but the guitars are dominant and angular throughout. It’s loud, and it’s insistent. The guitars are choppy, the vocals whooping, sneery, and bathed in reverb and flange. It’s kinda punky, but equally kinda post punk, and kinda no-wave noisy.

With chunky, punky riffs carved out against solid rhythms that are by turn loping, square and stop/start, plus shouty vocals throughout the course of the album – ‘Warning’ is exemplary: Who Do You Love brings the attack in spadesful – but then again, it’s an album with textures, layers. ‘Sons and Daughters’ is a spacious country / shoegaze hybrid that’s both beautiful and captivating.

‘Pygmalion’ marks a real shift, it’s ethereal humming drones fittering like butterflies, while the sinewy ‘Simmerman’ is different again, a howling, roaring country rock stomp replete with anguished vocals that run ragged and pull Biblical anguish over devils and pain from the depths. It’s bold, theatrical, immense, but more importantly, it’s got a gut pull that’s emotionally engaging in its snarling delivery. Elsewhere ‘Look Daggers’ plunges deeper and darker still, meshing together the heavy grey nihilism and insistent throb of Killing Joke with a thicker, more metal delivery and hints of latter-day Swans in its insistent, throbbing groove that’s demolished in a roaring rage. ‘A Sacrifice’ begin with a heavy trudge, and the stop/start riffage, coupled with the blank monotone vocals – heavily treated – call to mind Foetus – before the buzzsaw riff breaks in after a couple of minutes.

Closer ‘Uniform of a Killer’ is all about the ebb and flow, the surge and fall, the climax and drop, not to mention all the drama. It again calls to mind later-day Swans, as well as pacing in hints of Bauhaus and myriad others, but compresses 15-minute builds to a minute or so, the track lasting only six and a half minutes. Never mind the length, check the density! ‘Uniform of a Killer’ certainly packs the density, and the intensity, too.

Who Do You Love is a BIG album. Not so much in duration (although it’s big enough) but in every other sense. It has depth, it has range. It has force. It has intensity, and it has tunes. Really, you couldn’t ask for more.

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Årabrot – Who Do You Love

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Nottingham metallers Deathflux recently released the new video for their latest single ‘Consume’, whipped up by Very Metal Art’s Andy Pilkington. You can check it here:

Formed in early 2016, Deathflux is the brain child of Nottingham guitarist Tom Clarke. Having spent several years playing up and down the UK and abroad in previous outfits, Clarke formed Deathflux in an attempt to expand his sonic palette. Recruiting members of his earlier outfit, death metal mob Cacodaemonic and progressive metallers Akarusa Yami, Clarke got to work laying the ground work for the band’s debut album, Execrated.

A bold departure for all involved, Deathflux shows off a visceral double vocal approach, with vocalists Adam Jones and Patrick MacDonald violently barking over chunky riffs, intricate drum work and elastic solos. Tracks like ‘Transcend’ see the two engaging in a brutal sparring contest. Meanwhile, Clarke and second guitarist Tom Else play off each other effortlessly, with fluid trade offs between high speed guitar histrionics, creating a flattening wall of aural violence.

With a number of dates already under their belts, including a blistering debut show at Nottingham’s Rock City, and more on the boil, the band are keen take their blistering assault to crowds around the world. With a belting debut and the live skills to back it up, Deathflux are a band to get invested in.

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Season Of Mist – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t know what’s more exciting about the proposition of Loved – whether it’s the introduction of ‘decidedly more extreme tone and presence of death and black metal’ into KEN Mode’s palate, or the fact it’s been produced by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Cave In, Daughters), who has, we’re told, a ‘vision of noise and girth’.

It’s got to be the girth.

And add all this to their existing sources – ‘the desperate noise and industrial sonics of the 80’s and 90’s’ and you’ve got a truly lethal cocktail.

Lead single ‘Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should’ sets the tone, a squall of feedback prefacing a deluge of thunderous bass and drums and shouted vocals. The Unsane parallels are immediately apparent. This isn’t just intense, but claustrophobic: less black than steely grey, hard, and with a matt sheen.

A heavy bass trudge and guitar that’s more geared toward texture than tune evoke the spirit of Godflesh and early Swans on ‘The Illusion of Dignity’. However, the braying sax owes more to another Justin Broadrick-related project, the industrial avant-jazz brutality of GOD. It hits hard, both sonically and sentimentally.

And that sentiment is the motivation to produce an album that responds to the fucked-up ties in which we find ourselves, while also revelling in the absurdity of it all. Because the only sane response to such madness as Trump and Brexit and social media and the dominance of global corporations is insanity – to adopt an antic disposition, to appropriate from Shakespeare. In the postmodern climate, an appropriation is appropriate, although Loved lifts more in terms of spirit than anything concrete.

Jesse Mathewson (guitar / vocals) sets out the purpose: “We wanted tones that bash and cut, and for you to feel that desperate part of yourself clawing for a way out. And then, just when things are at their most bleak, you start to focus on what’s actually being said, and you’ll see the humour in absolutely everything that is transpiring before you.”

In surveying the scene that is the socio-political landscape, the humour is pretty bleak – more grim irony and a gallows grimace than a belly laugh. But it is funny in the sense that you couldn’t make any of this shit up. Loved is also pretty bleak and also full-on and brutal. It grinds and points relentlessly, churning guitars carving angularity and discord. And the bass… it hits the guts. Hard.

The tempo and tone don’t alter all that much over the course of the album’s nine tracks (‘This is a Love Test’ notwithstanding, that is – its spacious intro with strolling bass and wandering sax create an eerie calm): like any album by Unsane, it’s a work to simply let pummel you furiously, channelling the fury of US hardcore and beefing it up to industrial strength. And yes, fury is the key: this is the sound of the fury. And while the majority of the songs are fairly short, sharp shots of adrenaline injected with a large dose of acidic bile, the album closes with the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘No Gentle Art’. It goes for the slow build, scratching away, quiet but chugging away on the low end. In that sense, it’s a bit Shellac… and when it breaks out into an explosive cacophony of distortion and braying brass… it’s a bit crazy. And by the end, I’m more than ready to kill everyone. Now.

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Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

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Baptists have shared the mid-paced rock-stomper ‘Victim Service’, which is taken from their third album Beacon Of Faith, out through Southern Lord on 25th May.

Beacon Of Faith broadly follows the same trajectory as the album’s predecessors, Bushcraft (2013) and Bloodmines (2014) – combining raw adrenaline-fuelled emotion, venomous vocal delivery, gigantic guitar sound, and a visceral rhythmic propulsion – a sonic manifestation of desolate rage, bolstered by a palpable sense of urgency.

Beacon Of Faith is densely-packed yet Baptists’ sound is far from claustrophobic, there is melody amongst the dissonance, as the band more deeply explore the noise rock vistas that have always underpinned their sound.  
Lyrics are drawn from their direct experience of a broken society and general discontentment with everyday life. A multitude of issues are in the firing line, from the Canadian court system, issues surrounding substance abuse, mental health, and how the more fortunate “tend to dismiss people who have been dealt a less-fortunate hand” – as guitarist Danny also reflects.

Listen to ‘Victim Service’ here:

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Baptists - Beacon

Sacred Bones – 8th June 2018

I’m accustomed to feeling tense and anxietised. It’s more or less my default setting. The insomnia. The 4am sweats, the nocturnal panic attacks that feel like asphyxiation. There are peaks and troughs, of course, although I often find that immersing myself in music that probably ought to add to my unsettlement has something of a neutralising effect. After a few wavering weeks, during which I discovered that Naproxen isn’t the painkiller for me right now, experiencing shortness of breath, accelerated heartbeat and heightened anxiety being the most pronounced of the side-effects. None of this was especially conducive to writing, and even listening to music was proving to be less enjoyable than usual. The prospect of facing my inbox was more than I could reasonably bare most days. A week after my last dose, I’m feeling the calmest and most overtly ‘normal’ I’ve felt in a fair while. If this is perhaps excessive disclosure, it’s a question of context. However objectively I want to operate as a reviewer, listening to music as a ‘job’ inevitably entails an element of the personal. There’s simply no escaping this. Any response to art necessarily involves a subconscious and emotional element. A critic is a person, not a machine: we don’t critique and opine with algorithms.

Sifting through the scores of emails, I’m cheered to find a fair few releases to get excited about. Where to start? Well, this seems like a reasonable opener…

That Uniform and The Body should come together – or perhaps collide, screaming head-on into one another – is a logical, if terrifying idea. It’s pitched as ‘a collaboration that pushes both bands far beyond their roots in industrial music and metal – creating an immersive listening experience that truly transcends genre’. And I suppose it does. The Body have long pushed far beyond the confines of metal, and have forged a career that thrives on collaboration – or, put another way, a career that extracts new levels of nastiness by channelling carnage through other acts.

It’s a messy, murky sonic miasma that seeps from the speakers: a cacophony of impenetrable shrieking – like some mass acid-bath or people trapped in a burning room as the flames seer their flesh – tears through a thick aural sludge that’s heavy on bass and light on production polish.

A nervous drum machine pumps frantically, as though in the throes of a panic attack, beneath a mess of noise on ‘The Curse of Eternal Life’. The vocals are distorted, dalek-like, and there’s more screaming in the background, and with everything buzzing and whirring away, it’s impossible to know what the fuck’s going on, let alone if there’s any kind of attempt at a tune in there. It’s like listening to the Dr Mix and the Remix album played on a shit stereo through next door’s wall.

There are crushing guitar chords and crashing beats on the slow grind of ‘Come and See’, evoking the essence of early Swans or Godflesh, but with Michael Berdan’s sneering vocal style, there’s an overtly punk aspect to the pulverizing industrial trudge. It may be one of the most structured compositions on the album – in that there are actual chord sequences audible through the sonic smog – but it’s still hard going. But then, it’s no accident: neither act is renowned for its accessibility or ease of listening. And when two acts as uncompromising as Uniform and The Body meet, and there’s still no compromise, then the sum is instantly an exponential amplification of uncompromising. It was always going to hurt: it was simply a question of how much. And it’s nothing short of punishing.

When they do turn things down a bit, back off the guitars, and tweak musical motifs from the electronic setup instead of extraneous noise, there are hints of melody – and even grace – these emerge through the fog on ‘In My Skin’, and in context, it’s almost soothing. In any other context, though, maybe not so much. It’s like saying that Prurient are soothing in comparison to Whitehouse.

Mental Wounds Not Healing is – to use a term all too often tossed about in reference to anything a bit raw or intense – visceral. Listening to the album, I realise I’m grinding my teeth, chewing my lip and gnawing at the inside of my check. I’m clenching my jaw, tightly. My shoulders are hunched. Mental Wounds Not Healing isn’t just intense: it makes me feel tense. The density and lack of separation makes for a sound where everything congeals into an oppressive morass. The production – such as it is – only emphasises the claustrophobic sensation; being unable to distinguish one sound from another elicits a broiling frustration, and a certain paranoia, as you wonder if maybe there’s something wrong with the speakers or your hearing. It’s not pleasant, and the seven songs – none of which run past the five-minute mark – make for an endurance test. And yet for all that, it’s a powerful experience. It’s no wonder the wounds aren’t healing: this is the soundtrack to scratching and scraping at the scabs, picking away until the blood seeps once more. Insofar as any psychological damage foes, this isn’t going to help, but it’s fair reflection of various tortured states.

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30th April 2018

James Wells

Execrate – ˈɛksɪkreɪt/verb

verb: execrate; 3rd person present: execrates; past tense: execrated; past participle: execrated; gerund or present participle: execrating

1.feel or express great loathing for.

synonyms: revile, denounce, decry, condemn, vilify;

2. archaic curse; swear.

Nottingham-based Deathflux, formed a couple of years ago around guitarist Tom Clarke, articulate deep and unbridled loathing through their highly technical but relentlessly fierce brand of metal. They may curse too, but the snarled lyrics are only partially audible.

To set their agenda clearly from the outset, the album’s first song is called ‘Bludgeon’. And it does, the stop/start guitars shudder against drums like machine gun fire to forge a blast(beat) or grindy abrasion.

Lead single ‘Transcend’ (all of the tracks have one-word titles, adding to the stark and brutal effect) is representative of the albums 7 tracks: the drumming is so fast the effect is more akin to the rattle of a knitting machine than distinct and separate beats registering to mark time. The guitars – with several octaves of strings – are a blurred blizzard of fretwork, while the vocals epitomise guttural nihilism. It’s about conveying sentiment and raw emotion than actual lyrics. Where actual lyrics are audible, they’re venting violent threats like ‘break your face now!’

There are some wild guitar solos laid over the churning riffs, and there’s no let up in the seething fury that radiates from every note.

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Execrated Artwork - Lo Res 1