Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

Tenacity Music – 12th May 2017

James Wells

Now into their eleventh year, Sweden’s Voice of Ruin throw down their third full-length. And they don’t mess around. They’ve shared stages with the stage with bands like Hatebreed, Children Of Bodom, The Black Dahlia Murder, Caliban, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Entombed or Sylosis.

I’ll admit that I’m not intimately familiar with all of these bands: any reviewer who makes like they know every touchtone act for every band going is a liar. But I’m more than qualified to report that this is brutal: the first track, ‘Disgust’ starts with the title being spat with howling distain before the barrage of instrumentation blasts in full-throttle, and it sets the tone and the pace nicely. There are fast and furious guitar solos in abundance, but they’re pegged against some seriously dense and dingy rhythm guitar and a powerhouse rhythm section which keeps everything pinned down with a major emphasis on the low-end and the relentless chug.

On ‘Horns’ they throw in some neat post-metal detailings, while ‘I Confess’ has some theatrically gothic overtones. The spiralling technical work which dominates the dense riffery and rage which define Purge And Purify make for an album that has a lot to keep the listener engaged.

Voice Of Ruin – Purge And Purify

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Overdub Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many bands whose instrumentation features an 8-string guitar. Italian quartet Søndag, however, feature two eight-strong guitar players. Not that you should ever judge a band by its strings to guitars ratio. The band I saw to feature a quantity of guitars with additional strings were proggy muso posers who delivered a whole lot of tedious fretwanking but no real tunes – or riffs, for that matter.

On Bright Things, Søndag bring the riffs – and tunes. The vocals may be clean, but the guitars are plenty dirty.

According to the band’s biography, ‘the inspirations come from the need to mix very “low modern rock metal tunings” with something more dated, to form a blend of classical and contemporary rock sounds.’ It actually seems like a fair summary: Bright Things is a rock album, but the metal influences are clearly apparent, woven as they are deftly into the layered sonic cloth of each of the nine songs. The album was recorded and mixed by Riccardo Demarosi, and mastered by Alan Douches, who’s formerly engineered for bands including Converge, Mastodon, Swans, and Dillinger Escape Plan, and their input has been sympathetic to the band’s chunky dynamics.

Opening track ‘Sweet’ begins with an atmospheric build before the guitars drive in. Yes, there’s a technically complex interloping lead guitar that’s heavily processed, but it’s pitched against a dense, gritty riff.

There are hints of Oceansize in the arrangements on ‘Back in Town,’ but there’s nothing proggy about their concise and overtly rock-orientated songs, and the grungy ‘Polite Rebel’ brings a stomping beat to an unrepentantly unreconstituted slab of hard rock. I can’t help but think of Alice in Chains when listening to ‘Wax’. It’s in the harmonies. For the most part, though, Soundgarden and Baroness are perhaps more obvious comparisons.

‘Spitfire’ boasts some sinewy guitars with a searing afterburn, sparking across a tense and low-slung snaking bassline that spits and snarls and registers somewhere around the pelvis.

Expansive and ambitious in sound, but focused and striking an appealing balance between sonic density and melody, Bright Things is far from lightweight or flimsy, but at the same time, it’s accessible and has hooks by the shedload. While they’re yet to make an impression UK, given the touring schedule which has seen them make inroads into mainland Europe, it’s surely a matter of when, rather than if.

 

Søndag – Bright Things

Svart Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Depending on your perspective, drone metal masters Gravetemple are either a(nother) Sunn O))) offshoot, or a supergroup. Comprising Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley and Attila Csihar, the trio have many interconnecting threads, and s Gravetemple, they create something quite different – and arguably more overtly ‘metal’ than any of their other projects.

According to the press release, ‘on Impassable Fears, Gravetemple have refined and diversified their nuanced form of all-consuming, abstract death metal inspired heaviness. The essence of their other-worldly vocal exhortations, the maelstrom of frenetic beats and heavy guitar sounds are ever-present, as is the sheer power of their delivery. Yet Impassable Fears is far from unrelenting, there’s shifting dynamics, revealing an abundance of unexplored sonic detail, across all intersections, deftly balancing minimalist and maximalist sounds with finesse.’

It’s true: there is considerable range in texture and tone, and Impassable Fears is not an hour-long solid wall of excruciating noise. But there is a lot of excruciating noise and punishing volume, and the sonic density of the songs as they’re recorded is optimal for the most part.

Opener ‘Szarka’ begins by melding a strolling, subterranean bassline and blustering beat to a shattering guitar which very quickly goes sludgy, and from thereon rapidly descends into guttural brutality. Shrieking demons flee in terror at the depth of the darkness conjured by the thick, blacker than black guitar noise. Crackling distortion and scraping feedback grate against a rumbling percussive attack on the ten-minute ‘Elavúlt Földbolygó (which translates as ‘World out of Date’). A twisted mess of psychedelic metal dragged from the bowels of the earth, it builds relentlessly, growing ever louder, ever more frantic, and ever more dense over the duration.

The experimental and atmospheric ‘Domino’ offers respite, exploring a throbbing electronic ambient vein to disorientating and unsettling effect, and segues into ‘Áthatolhatatlan Félelmek’, which pulls back on the full-on aural attack, at least during the first minute or so. The track instead proffers forth a sparser, but ultimately more sinister, more subtly atmospheric vision of hell. But eventually, the rolling thunder breaks out, demonic drumming drives a searing scourge of molten guitars and a droning bass that’s so low and so thick it realigns every last inch of the intestinal tract – and then continues to twist malevolent for what feels like a most uncomfortable eternity.

The tranquility of the haunting drift that is ‘Az Örök Végtelen Üresség,’ which closes the album is welcome, but there are darker undercurrents which run through. The final notes are crashing chimes which echo into silence, leaving more of a hanging question mark rather than a resolution or serving the listener with a sense of closure and relief.

 

Gravetemple artwork (by Denis Forkas Kostromitin

Exile On Mainstream – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with a howl of feedback. Of course it does. The sustain continues through the opening power chords: doomy, slow, before it all comes crashing in, trudging tempo and gut-churningly downtuned.

Obelyskkh’s fourth album isn’t so much about surprises, but about continuing – and extending – the trajectory of its predecessors, albeit with a greater emphasis on groove. Not that this is an album you can dance to: it’s very much one to slow headbang to. The press release draws attention to the fact that the album’s title ‘evokes one of H. P. Lovecraft’s iconic poems, providing inspiration for the album’s lyrical content and the artwork for The Providence. Another dimension to the album is illustrated almost perfectly by French revolutionist Victor Hugo: “Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip.” The band lived by this message throughout their uphill battle to complete the record.’

It’s taken them four years, and The Providence feels like four years’ anguish and slog distilled into six immense pieces. The title track, which opens the set, is twelve minutes long. It’s not pretentious, but heavy with portent: this is a vast doomscape of an album, dominated by some colossal guitar riffery, propelled by a juggernaut of a rhythm section.

Things get a bit progressive folk-metal in the middle of ‘Raving Ones,’ but when the riff hits its stride, it’s a throbbing, driving rush. Elsewhere, ‘Northern Lights’ veers toward classic, vintage horror, with a deluge of cataclysmic guitars burning a purgatorial furrow on the scale of the Grand Canyon. And just when the thick distortion threatens to burn out the eardrums, a shift toward upper frequency overload provides the punishing attack needed to complete the abominable mission. The fourteen-minute ‘NYX’ stands as the album’s centrepiece, and is a classic slab of thunderous, sludgy doom metal. Over the course of a succession of passages, it grinds its way to a punishing critical mass, with velocity consumed by density.

Clocking in at under six minutes, ‘Aeons of Iconoclasm’ feels almost throwaway in its brevity. Fear chords weave and waft almost subliminally, and it feels at first like a mere interlude, but then the gates of hell open and every screaming demon ever known tears down from the blackest of skies.

In contrast, the slow, but so, so, dense guitar overload of ‘Marzanna’ feels like a gentle wind-down, although at over nine and a half minutes of roaring thunder and groaning, droning, slowed riffage and mangled vocals that squeeze Sabbath through a Melvins filter it’s hardly some kind of loungecore fluff.

Everything about The Providence is immense. This is heavyweight, it’s doomy metal exactly the way it should be.

 

 

Obelyskkh – The Providence

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m struggling here. I know that people standing texting, Facebooking, taking selfies and shooting videos while dancing is immensely irritating for a band. It’s immensely irritating for other people in the audience, too. But I’m struggling to think of a scenario when it would ever be acceptable to harangue a woman in the front row with the line ‘get off your fucking phone, bitch!’. Or, indeed, to interrupt a lengthy and rousing right-on speech about inclusivity, about how it’s ‘bullshit’ to hate someone for being black or gay, etc., with ‘get your fucking hands in the air, bitches!’ (followed by a head-shaking ‘Shit, women!’). I’ll let that sit for a moment because I’m here for the supports, Raging Speedhorn and local monsters of noise, RSJ.

Arriving at 7:35 for a show with an advertised door time of 7:30, I’m a little surprised to find the place heaving and RSJ half-way through their thunderous set. But I’m able to worm my way to the front as they piledrive their way to the set’s climax, ‘Play it Again, Sam’. Look up ‘intensity’ in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find a picture of RSJ playing live.

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RSJ

Things have been a bit unsettled in camp Speedhorn recently, with Frank Reagan being forced to sit the tour out on doctors’ orders. And so RSJ’s Dan Cook is filling in, and despite playing back to back sets, his energy – and intensity – is unwavering. Cook looks comfortable and the dynamic between the two vocalists is on-point as they go all-out on the confrontation (and occasional off-the-cuff banter) which is integral to their shows. Building the tension by drenching the venue in howling, humming feedback, they erupt onto the stage, John Loughlin opening a bottle of beer with his teeth and spitting the cap to the floor before the band assume their places to commence the set with the customary menacing stare-out.

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Raging Speedhorn

These guys are good: they never fail to build their sets to a point of total frenzy. Slam-dancing breaks out during the second song, ‘Bring Out Your Dead’, but the band goad, harangue, hassle and coerce the audience, with both encouragement and abuse, and it works: the crowd get closer in, and they get moving. ‘Motörhead’ is utterly ball-busting, and Cooke’s menacing presence and lighting-rig climbing antics make for one hell of a show. By the end of their too-short set it’s mayhem.

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Raging Speedhorn

While they’re setting the stage for Skindred, the rammed crowd are getting down to Red Hot Chilli Peppers blaring from the PA. I’ve always detested them, and the funk groove of ‘Suck My Kiss’ epitomises everything I loathe about them. I’m no purist, but some crossovers simply aren’t meant to be, which is primarily the reason I’ve spent the entirety of Skindred’s career avoiding them. The Queen singalong orchestrated by some bozo near the front is beyond embarrassing: isn’t this supposed to be a metal gig? Queen aren’t even rock.

But Skindred’s Benji Webbe harps on endlessly about ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ during their set, which is every bit as vibrant as their reputation would suggest. However – and please, (s)top me if you think that you’ve heard this one before – if Brexit and the advent of Trump (and the success of Oasis, for that matter) tell us anything, it’s that popularity is no measure of artistic merit. The crowd lap it up. No, more than that: they go absolutely fucking ballistic.

I get the deal of being ‘in the moment’ at a live performance. It’s why I live for live music. Even when reviewing, I will, often, forget to take any notes and will return with only a handful of photos because I’ve been enjoying the music, the performance, the atmosphere, soaking it all up and immersing myself in the show from the same perspective as everyone else. I may be a music writer, or critic, but I’m a fan first and foremost. Skindred, I witnessed as a detached spectator. I simply could not get into the moment.

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Skindred

The union jack pegged to the mic stand set me on edge for a start. In the current climate, it’s a divisive symbol. For a band fronted by a big black guy to flout, it’s clearly intended as a signifier or unity and collectivism, of being black and British, but even so. There’s a certain incongruity there, just as there’s an incongruity in a Welsh metal band fronted by a guy sporting a pair of sequinned hammer pants. The trouble is, it’s neither challenging nor funny. It’s therefore not funny when Webbe plays the race card, taunting the audience – being a packed-out crowd who’ve paid £20 to see his band – with ‘black guy on stage… what’s he saying? I don’t understand what he’s saying’. I would say it was insulting and patronising the audience’s intelligence, but they’re all in the moment and aren’t taking a critical stance on this. It’s banter, innit?

Musically, from a detached, distant, and critical perspective, it’s a fucking mess. Based around a metal / reggae crossover more heinous than the funk / metal hell of RHCP, Skindred also drag in elements of hardcore punk, dancehall, jungle, ska, hip hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and they do so clumsily, their sub-RATM stylings, and with endless calls of ‘C’mon! C’mon!’ all ripped into some horrible stew which simmers the bones of House of Pain, Shaggy, and Funkadelic into a stinking, foamy broth.

Amidst the sea of ubiquitous metaller beards, the ratio of XY to XX chromosome is uncommonly high. But this makes the beaming grins and the willingness of the female segment of the audience to buy into and participate in the band’s crudely-executed agenda, laced with sexism and misogyny, all the more perplexing. Sure, the Newport Helicopter – a ritual which entails the majority of the audience, regardless of sex, removing their t-shirts and rotating them above their heads, regardless of the danger to those around them – is pitched as symbolic of unity and empowerment. But when you’ve got Webbe up there yelling ‘get them titties bouncing!’ and so forth, it sounds more like a guy playing the rock star and getting his rocks off by exploiting the crowd than a true moment of collective liberation. And, in context of everything else, it’s deeply unplasant.

RSJ and Raging Speedhorn were ace, though.

Symbol Of Domination – 30th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s title translates as ‘through difficulties to honours’, and this collection of Iberian folk songs, popular in the late 19th and the early 20th century conveys nothing if not the supremacy of strength of character, and a sense of journey, through adversity to triumph in a way which speaks of the resilience of the human spirit, and the human soul.

The album’s accompanying blurb sets the scene: ‘A travel through the rural Spain watered by our ancestors’ sweat and blood, an approach to the magical Spain with its lights and its shadows, and a gaze in to the abyss of the black and tenebrous Spain with the inner cruelty and brutality of human beings. Pieces of memory, tradition, secrets and myths transmitted over the years from generation to generation, around bonfires, while long working days under the sun or during celebrations. Small samples of popular wisdom which, unlike others already entered into the mists of time and have been rescued from our elder memory before their demise.’

Folk music, by its nature, tends to be narrative, but also dramatic and allegorical. While the lyrical content is, admittedly, entirely lost to me, the sentiments conveyed by these ambitious reshapings of traditional compositions remain intact, and, using contemporary rock instrumentation Aegri Somnia succeed in rendering them powerful and moving in an alternative context.

To unravel the workings of this project, which was pieced together over the course of some five years, some biographical detail may be useful: formed by Cristina R. Galván “Lady Carrot” from the Castilian folk music scene and Nightmarer from the avant-garde metal projects As Light Dies and Garth Arum. Aegri Somnia is a folk / dark wave duo from Madrid, Spain.

If it sounds like a curious hybrid, Ad Augusta Per Angusta is proof that it’s one that can work well. It’s loud, dark, metallic. It’s contemporary, but also timeless.

‘Seran’ launches the album with an immense swell of theatricality, huge swathes of post-metal guitar propelled by a spiky drum machine bringing force and layers of drama to the gothic symphony.

‘Señor Platero’ is a beautiful, graceful folk song – played in a full-throttle metal style. The guitars burn, slabs of molten lava over which Galván’s operatic vocal soars s if swooping from the heavens to grace this interzone between the earthly and the ethereal. The loping drums and serpentine vocal of ‘La Niña de la Arena’ is high-tempo and high-power, but features some neatly executed techno-industrial percussion breakdowns. Entirely incongruous with the origins of the material, such features serve to highlight the versatility and absolutely timeless nature of traditional folk music.

Elsewhere, on ‘Charro del Labrador’, the violent, top-end-orientated drum track duels with a chorus-heavy picked guitar line to create a sound that will resonate with anyone who’s heard – and enjoyed – a bootleg containing demos by The Sisters of Mercy from circa 1984. I’m probably writing for myself alone at this point, but this is by no means an album exclusively of interest to old goths. Far from it.

The album’s sound is dominated by big, grainy, up-front guitars with a thick, metallic edge: sometimes almost overbearingly so. That’s by no means a criticism per se: the production values are unusual, in that the guitar sound is as ‘unfiltered’ as it is up-front, a shade messy, and prone to burying everything else in the mix, including the vocals. All of this adds to the potency of Ad Augusta Per Angusta, an album which yields rewards through perseverance. Exactly as the title foretells.

 

Aegri Somnia

The band who brought us ‘Riot Revolt Revolution (Tory Bastard Scum)’, Razor Sharp Death Blizzard, recently unleashed their new video for what their PR describe as ‘the shattering’ “There Will Be Blood”.

Since releasing their first EP “Riot, Revolt, Revolution” themselves in 2015, the band have been busy making a name for themselves on the UK live circuit, with their ferocious shows and politically charged shards of punk hate. In January 2016 the band returned to the studio to work with producer Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios in Scotland to record their thrilling new record; “You Will Burn”. Nine blasts of furious, nihilistic noise that prises its way between The Exploited and Dead Kennedy’s like an unwelcome dinner guest.

Frontman Jamie Clark simply had this to say on the track: “The change is coming, there will be blood, revolution needs to come our governments are playing us for fools. The world is fucked, but we the people can rise above the scum.”

Watch the appropriately metal video to this impressively fierce effort here: