Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Roadburn 2018: A Primer


If you're one of the 23 people that reads Black Metal & Brews, you probably know well enough by now that I help Roadburn with a couple things. As the leading contender for the title of "Mr. Rogers of the Metal Underground," I'm here to give you some gentle pointers that might not be as apparent in the thrill of preparation. I mean, I get it. It's really exciting going to a festival where there's a million things happening. However, if you overdo it on day one or try to go in three directions at once, you're going to wear yourself out and have a LOT less fun. This is something of a listicle by its very nature, but I'm going to back these things up with information that will hopefully help.

Sometimes your favorite band won't be the band you should see. Hear me out here, because it's been an issue for me in the past. When I attended Roadburn 2016, Neurosis played two nights in a row on the main stage. Neurosis is easily one of my favorite bands in heavy music and yet I opted to ditch on the first night for a show at one of the smaller stages. Why? I realized that I'd be seeing Neurosis the following night and would likely have a chance to see them again somewhere close to home. My chance to see Lugubrum Trio, however, would likely never come again. So I packed in with a small but devoted crowd to watch a band I love a bit less than Neurosis and I don't regret it one bit. I know a lot of people that go to Roadburn and watch a band they've already seen five times. If that's you and it gives you life, then disregard this point. If you're like me, you're going to want to have a new experience, so try to make room for this in your busy schedule for rarities like the Waste of Space Orchestra or Damo Suzuki's collaborations with psych bands.

As a followup to that point, you can't be two places at once, so be sure you're in the place that matters most. This isn't just about sets, mind you. As another really helpful Roadburn prep article pointed out, sometimes this means finding a place you can be seated. I'd give my own health a strong C+ or B- rating and I still find my knees feeling weak by early Saturday at Roadburn. There's a lot of being on your feet, so sometimes it's worth seeing a band from a place where you can have a seat in the middle of a long day. Also, there's a thing some humans need to do sometimes called eating. If you've got a 30 or 45 minute gap between those essential bands, do yourself a favor and catch up with a pal and sit to nibble on something. I realize most of us don't need to be reminded to eat but the frenzy of the festival can turn this into a blind spot for many attendees. Don't be one of them. Stay hydrated and fed and make peace with the fact that you will miss a band you love once or twice. It's okay. You're still having a great time.

Another point I mentioned in the last paragraph that needs further examination is that you should be sure to spend time with friends. If you haven't made any yet, this is the year to do it! I'm sure somebody you've interacted with on social media is there, but if that's not the case, Roadburn's crowd is considerably more sociable and friendly than most other metal festivals. I've made pals at Roadburn by commenting on back patches, by waiting in line for beer, by ordering lunch at the vegan food truck, and by just being as excited about a band as the stranger next to me. I'm pretty shy in most contexts but something about the delight in the air puts me in an outgoing mood. Hopefully you'll find the same is true for you!

Follow the Roadburn social media accounts. I'm not just saying this because I run them, but that's certainly extra incentive. Last year there was a secret last minute set by Misþyrming in Cul de Sac, a venue with a capacity of about 150. An hour before it occurred, we sent out a tweet announcing as much. Suffice to say, those with an eye on our socials packed the venue quickly, leaving others in the dust. Don't be left out. (And no, I don't know of any plans for "secret" goings-on yet, so this isn't a *hinthint* so much as it is a warning on the importance of keeping up).

Attend the Black Metal & Brews talk with Panopticon. Yes I'm plugging my own thing here. What else are you doing on Saturday morning? I'm going to be sitting with members of Panopticon and discussing beer and black metal, since the band's own Austin Lunn is a co-owner of HammerHeart Brewing. Don't fuck up. Join us and come say hi to me.

Don't ignore the side programme. I'm spelling it the European way since I'll be in Europe, after all. My aforementioned talk is part of the side programme, but there's also a bunch of cool art on display at the Full Bleed Exhibition, a ton of album listening parties, and other great talks going on. It gives insight into the culture behind the art we all love and gives you another great chance to get off your feet and give your ears a break, which leads me to my final point.

Invest in a decent set of ear plugs. Sure, it's fun to go in without hearing protection, but four days of twelve-ish hours of loud music will take a toll. Don't be a fool. Be good to your ears so that you can enjoy yourself just as thoroughly at Roadburn 2019.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect- "GVAU"


Dedicated followers of the American black metal underground have surely caught wind of the working of Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect in the past few years. With a slew of releases on cult favorite labels like Perverse Homage, Skjold, and Harvest of Death, the one unifying theme for this enigmatic project's fans is an extreme imbalance in terms of scarcity and supply. On last year's self-released GVAU, which stands for Global Vampyric Assault Unit, Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect reached new heights. However, much of the world didn't get a chance to hear or own this gem of bizarrely captivating raw black metal. Today that changes, with a reissue on cassette from Crown and Throne Ltd.



What makes this collection of songs so appealing is the variation. Sure, there's the trademark mangled buzzsaw guitars and unceasingly spastic drum programming, but there's so much more at hand. Blown out piano leads the way into the opening salvo of "Dismal Grin 666," and interludes "Blood Catharsis" and "Psychic Attack" serve as heavily industrialized pieces of pure atmosphere, with crumbling, almost mechanical percussion highlighting a vast emptiness. It enhances the otherwise grotesque and dizzying pace of things by bringing broader contrast to the greater work at hand. Still, even in the midst of things, this is addictive and hypnotic black metal of the highest order, with brilliant and memorable riffs buried in the midst of dense, complex compositions. The raw production may not suit the less depraved listener, but it's almost impossible to envision songs of this nature working in a cleaner context. As with the identity and lyrical direction of the artist's output, sometimes obscurity lends more weight than allowing the whole of the creation to be seen.

An undisclosed amount of tapes are available for purchase from Crown and Throne Ltd. Don't miss out and be a victim of discogs scalping fiends. This is an artist whose profile will only rise from here.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

House of First Light Showcase (live) & Vilkacis- "Beyond the Mortal Gate"


I feel very fortunate to have lived in many cities with thriving underground communities, but being in Brooklyn has its own unique set of advantages. The black metal, noise, and post-punk scenes here are all top-notch and I've been able to catch some of my favorite artists in rather intimate settings. On March 30th, fate set me up for one of the most stacked bills I've attended outside of weekend-long festivals. Curated by House of First Light, the album release show for affiliated acts Vilkacis and Sanguine Eagle was a glorious marathon of extreme sounds at the Lucky 13 Saloon.

Local noise artist Scant opened the night, with vocal accompaniment from Fizzy, vocalist of the Royal Hounds and one of the most visible members of the House of First Light collective. Scant's been on my personal "must see" list for years now, and it was wonderful to finally see the artist in action. Rather than squealing high-frequency noise or numbing wall, the slowly shifting electronic mass of Scant's approach was more meditative than anything else. It set the stage for a night of boundaries being pushed forward and was well worth the wait.



Winds of Gladsheimr were next, an unannounced treat. It was this project's first live endeavor, with Lam on drums and Eziagalis on guitar on vocals providing a sparse and tortured sound. While all the House of First Light acts shared at least one member on this night (Lam, naturally), this was by far the rawest and most depressive feeling set of the night, yet it was far too brief for these ears. A new split release emerged at the show (unbeknownst to the author of this piece, sadly) so it's clear there's plenty of material the band could've brought forth. One can only hope for more, as it would've been quite welcome.



Sandworm came down from Providence to deliver their incredibly harsh form of punky black metal, and as one of two traveling bands, they quickly proved themselves a worthy addition that added to the night's diversity and appeal. I'd heard and enjoyed their music on bandcamp before after finding them through their split with The Body, but the live experience was stronger than the recordings (which are in no way deficient, mind you). The shrill vocals and bizarre overtones that came out of the guitar made the band sound far fuller and stranger than one would expect, creating a palatable sense of tension and unease that balanced out the breakneck pace of much of the material.


Following this performance was One Thousand Birds from Milwaukee. With established members of the area's noise scene, the band's sort of blackened skramz was a real surprise. A good friend in attendance described them as "midwestern emo with At the Heart of Winter riffs," which is about as appropriate a descriptor as this ugly descendant of Orchid's legacy could earn. The dual vocals split between one microphone, diverging bass and guitar lines, and frantic drumming created a sort of urgency I've missed in a lot of the music I catch live. These guys are rather new to performing out but they're quickly making a name for themselves, so do yourself a favor and check them out before they become another band whose demos sell out before you know they exist.



Finally, the co-headliners began their sets to celebrate the release of new material. Sanguine Eagle filled the room with smoke, leaving only a small collection of candles as the visible portion of their performance. I stood front and center to witness the spectacle and was still entirely incapable of seeing the band as they performed the most hypnotic and valiant set I'd witnessed yet. The Individuation demo may have been an early triumph, but Sanguine Eagle has grown far beyond what their initial potential would've hinted at in a very short time. The monstrous swelling of guitars has reached otherworldly proportions and the band seems to channel something deeper than just a collection of sound. The feeling of their set can't be described, it's something one must be immersed in to understand, with an almost hallucinatory, psychedelic quality.


Closing out the night was Vilkacis, whose performance at Eternal Warfare Fest in 2016 was one of the best things I've ever seen live. Despite taking the stage after midnight, the band blazed its way through five of their most aggressive songs with frontman M. Rekevics (of just about every American black metal band worth a damn in the last decade) appearing possessed and furious, gripped in such a way that even in stillness he conveyed pure energy. Songs like "Sixty Three" grew beyond the confines of their recorded forms and saw the lycanthropic black metal taking full form and roaring through the room. Much of the more nuanced, melodic material of the new LP, Beyond the Mortal Gate, was left aside in favor of lean, aggressive cuts. While the monumental title track of this new record is a personal favorite, it also made perfect sense to let the most forceful songs make their mark live while the longer, more expansive material is left to headphones and personal space.


Indeed, much of what makes the new Vilkacis album stand above its predecessor is the sense of triumph through self-destruction. I've had the privilege of interviewing M. Rekevics a few times as well as chatting with him as an acquaintance and his desire to perfect himself sometimes takes on an all-consuming form. The ouroboric act of self-consumption and betterment seems at the heart here, with Rekevics seeming to fight against some sort of internal shackles that bind him. There is no end goal so much as there is a glorious struggle and pain. For a man so intensely lost in his own art and self, the precision and focus here is crystal clear, making for one of the strongest black metal albums of the year so far.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Vorash- "Asphodel"

It's time to dive back into the occasionally rewarding, eternally challenging habit of dissecting albums for the consumption of others. Bear with me if I'm a bit rusty as I relearn how to use this part of my brain. Today, we're examining Asphodel by Vorash. This came to me by way of Lighten Up Sounds, who carried a few distro copies of this self-released cassette of cosmic black metal from Vorash, the solo project of a member of Seattle-based outfit Blood of Sokar. On the surface, this tape's shifting and swaying feels like the arc of some grand unseen pendulum, yet deeper examination yields horror and beauty that grow over time rather than immediately revealing themselves.

Vorash specializes in a most peculiar fusion of black metal and doom, opting neither towards crushing drudgery nor depressive weight (although the vocal direction may borrow at times from DSBM and this is certainly not uplifting), but rather shirking off all earthly sound entirely and conveying an otherworldly emptiness. Guitars stretch on forever in a vast sense, but rather than stellar beauty, there's a horrendous sense of isolation. While "Depths" hints at what's to come, the full scope of Vorash's sound is presented on "Surface," which sounds like Darkspace giving their best Burning Witch impression from the other side of a static wall, hammer-fisted riffs and reverb-soaked howls all trailing into eternity, often accompanied by dripping, decaying synthesizers and muted but dense percussion.

If this were merely an exercise in space (both sonic and universal, as it were), it would fall flat, but Asphodel's atmosphere is consistent without just sounding like the gaps between riffs. These songs rise and fall and wander off in such unique directions that I find myself engaged well into the tape's second side despite a massive run-time. Copies of this tape are still available from the artist, despite the fact that this came out nearly a year ago. If you're interested in the suffocating sensation of the void in sonic form, you'd be wise to examine this further.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Best LPs of 2017

Whether you've been on board for the past six years or even just six weeks, you probably know that Black Metal & Brews loves music and hates deadlines. We're already two months into 2018 and the internet's already full of rhetoric surrounding albums that are surely going to be impossible to top this year. I've done it before myself and I've been wrong more often than I've been right. Point being, this list is arriving right on time or my own schedule: long after anybody cares to read it but exactly when I find it within myself to share it. I've got forty albums that ruled in some way that I'll be linking alphabetically and ten that are the real premiums, which will be in their own little grouping. I hope I can shine some light on something you haven't heard, or at least I'll validate your superiority by leaving off the things that mattered most to you (although I'm always up for a recommendation if you've got one).

I spent most of 2017 in a sort of "time out" on extreme metal and this list reflects it. Much of it was because 95% of my listening was done via speakers in a workplace environment that wouldn't tolerate loud sounds (I get it) and it had an impact on the selections I made. I'm about to make a career change that will allow me to listen to music in privacy, so expect more of a return to form with my selections in 2018. There's a lot to listen to, so grab a nice drink or bookmark this page to casually visit at your own pace. If something looks unfamiliar, all the more reason to check it out. Enjoy!

Atriarch- Dead as Truth
Azar Swan- Savage Exile
Bootblacks- Fragments
Circle- Terminal
Cormorant- Diaspora
Dead Neanderthals- The Depths
Depeche Mode- Spirit
Drab Majesty- The Demonstration
Emptiness- Not for Music
Evilfeast- Elegies of the Stellar Wind
Expander- Endless Computer
Eye of Nix- Black Somnia
Faceless Entity- In Via Ad Nusquam
Gold- Optimist
Golden Donna- Carousel Hold
Hell- Hell
Internazionale- The Pale and the Colorful
Jon Edifice- Jon Edifice
King Woman- Created in the Image of Suffering
Korean Jade- Exotics
Laster- Ons vrije fatum
Lingua Ignota- All Bitches Die
Lussuria- Standstill
Malokarpatan- Nordkarpatenland
Mastodon- Emperor of Sand
Monarch!- Never Forever
Nemorensis- The Fae Queen
Nidingr- The High Heat Licks Against Heaven
Old Tower- The Rise of the Specter
Planning for Burial- Below the House
Raising Holy Sparks- Search for the Vanished Heaven
Roman Master- Roman Master
The Ruins of Beverast- Exuvia
Sanguine Relic- Bitter Reflection in Luminous Shadows
Snapped Ankles- Come Play the Trees
Spectral Voice- Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
TALSounds- Love Sick
Tchornobog- Tchornobog
Utzalu- The Loins of Repentance
Rick Weaver- The Secular Arm

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2017



Black Cilice- Banished from Time
Black Cilice was covered on Pitchfork a few years ago with the release of Mysteries. For many, this means the band is no longer relevant. For me, it means that serious underground talent need not put on a front or change to suit a perceived timid audience. Black Cilice continues to produce some of the most ripping black metal out there and they're even doing the occasional live gig now. That may be why this is just a bit more easily examined than its predecessors, although it still contains all of the dangerous spirit that the project has long embodied. Fingers firmly crossed that we'll all get to witness the spectacle one day.

Cathode Ray EyesHow We Lost the 21st Century
I discovered Cathode Ray Eyes by accident shortly after the release of How We Lost the 21st Century and this unreal fusion of garage rock, psych and post-punk (with a little bit of a lot of other good stuff) has been a constant listen ever since. 2017 was, for me, the year where garage rock and psych stuff really clicked (hence the Snapped Ankles album up above and the Oh Sees album below) and this was probably the first new release to really hammer it home for me. The newness of this sound means I lack a bit of the vocabulary necessary to explain how the fuzz and reverb all come together to tickle my ears in just the right way, but I'll be damned if this doesn't run circles around a lot of bands out there who are merely treading water.


Fleurety- The White Death
True masters of black metal weirdness have returned! Along with Ved Buens Ende and Arcturus, Fleurety were instrumental in luring me out from my Danny Elfman and John Zorn obsessions and towards the darker side of zany when I was still a teenager. After a collection of odds and ends, I didn't really expect the band to lunge forth with something as cohesive and jarring as The White Death, but I now can't imagine my year really feeling the same without it. No gimmicks or goofs here, just a truly progressive take on black metal without any of the negative context that "prog" and its offshoots may hold for some of us. No limitations of genre can be thrown at this, yet it embodies so much of the freedom and excitement that define black metal to me without losing its precision.



GAS- Narkopop
2017 was the year I first became acquainted with Wolfgang Voigt's long-running project GAS, which released its first album in over sixteen years. Narkopop is pure atmosphere, fusing elements of minimalist techno and ambient with a sensibility more akin to modern classical composition than dancefloor jams. The lush photographs of the forest make perfect sense with this album, which feels far more organic and intuitive than many of its companions in the electronic music world. Ambient music is often a salve for sleep or "background music" yet Narkopop remains intriguing and oddly alluring even at its sparsest moments.


Human Leather- Lazy Karaoke
I saw a lot of rhetoric in 2017 likening Ulver's newest to Depeche Mode, but if anybody wore the crown of 80's pop perfection, it was newcomers Human Leather. The innocence of youth and the pain of loss and betrayal shine through in equal parts on this emotionally rich LP in a way that few bands have managed since "Shake the Disease" was released before the members of Human Leather were even born. I've spent a lot of time talking about this album publicly and in my conversations with friends and the impact still remains. "Ugly Sister" is still the most heartbreaking song I've heard in ages and the entire flow of this album leaves me aching and enthralled. As with any good pop music, this is memorable just as much for its sadness as it is for the hooks.

Integrity- Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume
This came out of nowhere. I've long been on the fence with Integrity, whose music always holds the right energy but hasn't always connected with me on any deeper level. Perhaps I was finally ready, because Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume kicked me in the teeth right out of the gate and hasn't lost an ounce of its vitality over the last several months. These are some of the most downright feral songs in extreme music to come out in 2017 and are more memorable than things of such intensity usually are. Integrity doesn't just have hooks, it has fucking teeth.


(Thee) Oh Sees- Orc
Songs with nods to fantastical beasts, dungeons, and swordplay are all familiar turf for fans of black metal, so to find a band like Oh Sees (recently shorn of their "Thee") playing with such notions in a new genre felt like comfort in a strange new land. I fell deeply in love with Orc on my first listen and have only grown fonder of it (and the band's massive existing catalog) ever since. These songs range from spastic, explosive garage rock to quirky, funky punk and even the massive sprawling space doom of "Drowned Beast" (video above). Fans of the band may find my take on this perhaps a bit weak, but I'm still so blinded by its brilliance that I can't quite place all the elements that make it so enjoyable.



Oxbow- Thin Black Duke
Oxbow's been threatening to release Thin Black Duke since shortly after 2007's Narcotic Story. Few albums are worth such a wait, but thankfully Oxbow didn't give us a Chinese Democracy, they gave us an album of such quality that most bands never release anything like it in their career. Oxbow's already touched that mark a few times, and this offering of noisy rock is alternately cinematic and angular, keeping the listener alert and always attentive. I had the good fortune of catching Oxbow live twice supporting this and these songs are vicious on their own onstage, yet somehow even more haunting on wax. We don't deserve this, but we're all so lucky it exists.

Ulver- The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Ulver is, aside from long-running classics Coil and The Cure, my favorite band. They aren't on my list as a matter of mere favoritism. They're my favorite because they can switch gears and directions a seemingly limitless number of times and remain honest and compelling. The Assassination of Julius Caesar brought together so many beautiful paths the band has walked in such a cohesive way that the end result was simultaneously familiar and entirely new. To call this "pop" would be slightly inaccurate, yet the infectious melodies and singalong sensibility elevate these songs to the highest echelon of rock music happening right now. This is timelessness captured in a moment.


Yellow Eyes- Immersion Trench Reverie
Brooklyn black metallers Yellow Eyes have fully hit their stride. On Sick With Bloom, the band fully realized its best strengths. With Immersion Trench Reverie, they highlighted them and played to them while making the most of their potent rhythm section's capacities. I've been gushing over these guys since 2012 and I feel as though I've run out of good ways to describe what they do. It's simply exhilarating to hear such nimble and evocative guitar work, and Will's voice has never been more tortured sounding than on these songs. My favorite song changes almost daily, but that's only indicative of how unified and forceful this album is. If you want to hear how rawness and potency can be retained in intricate, complex black metal, there is no other band on earth I could recommend as highly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Premiere: Sungod- "Frequence" from the Holodeck Vision One compilation


Since its creation in 2012, Austin, Texas-based label Holodeck Records has been instrumental in supporting many varieties of underground music. As a collective run by members of well respected groups like S U R V I V E and Troller, the primary focus is on music that pushes boundaries and captures the imagination. This Friday, the label will release its first digital compilation, a thirty song collection with everything from coldwave and lush ambient to minimalist takes on psychedelic rock. Whether you're interested in hearing new tunes from heavyweights like Automelodi, Drab Majesty, and Thousand Food Whale Claw, or catching the first glimpse of promising acts like Virgin Pool, Windows1995, and Joey, this collection is essential listening for long-term fans just as much as it is for those who have yet to familiarize themselves with the label's reputation.

Today, Black Metal & Brews has the honor of premiering "Frequence" by Sungod, one of the collection's centerpieces. This group's cosmic sound straddles the territory between classic horror soundtracks and the expansive krautrock sounds of the genre's earliest, most experimental days. It's driving rhythms are paired with sublime synth sounds and crystalline guitar leads that follow a subtle but direct arc from blastoff to the deepest reaches of space. While you listen, peruse the full tracklist below and check out the lineup for Holodeck's impending South by Southwest showcases on March 15th and 17th.




1. Omni Gardens- "Ceiling of the Mind"
2. Michael C Sharp- "Blublocker"
3. Dallas Acid- "The Orgy in San Felipe"
4. Flatliner- "Dream Last Night"
5. Jake Schrock- "Levitation Station"
6. Joey- "Fall for Sport"
7. Automelodi- "Toujours de Jamais"
8. Curved Light- "Endgame Scenario"
9. Michael Stein- "No Standards"
10. pulseCoder- "Hypermuck"
11. Thousand Foot Whale Claw- "There is a Garden"
12. Dust Witch- "Sister Planet"
13. Virgin Pool- "Cloak & Dagger"
14. Future Museums- "Calcite"
15. Sungod- "Frequence"
16. VVV- "Shahmat"
17. Kyle Dixon- "Dat Way"
18. Samantha Glass- "The Proof Inside Your Mind"
19. LACHANE- "Olneyville"
20. Smokey Emery- "Broken Clouds"
21. Dylan Cameron- "Graceless Gods"
22. Norm Chambers- "Crossing Over"
23. Windows1995- "Chills Hill"
24. Single Lash- "Insect Hell"
25. JU4N- "Gauzing"
26. Bill Converse- "OK Karplus"
27. Symbol- "Umasa"
28. Skullcaster- "Crossing the Blood Brain Barrier"
29. Drab Majesty- "Cannibal"
30. Troller- "Rodan"

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2017's Finest: The Odds and Ends

While I've got a really cracking set of long-players to share with you at some point in the near future, I can't properly begin my end of 2017 coverage without acknowledging the stuff I loved the most that falls outside of the album format. Split albums, demos, EPs, and reissues are often vital territory for those of us in underground communities. The "best albums" format simply doesn't make the proper room for these crucial releases. Thankfully, I'm a nerd with a blog and not somebody with a demanding boss to appease, so I can share whatever the hell I want. That's why, before we get distracted by the (very amazing) albums that won me over last year, I want to highlight some real gems that arrived in other forms.

Noteworthy Reissues in 2017


Apokrifna Realnost- Na Rekah Vavilonskih (Annapurna)
Glad this got a reissue because I'd have never heard of it otherwise. Liturgical resonance and industrial collage sensibilities from an era when Current 93 and their peers were delving into many of the same waters. This has serious heart and is well worth a perusal.



Midori Takada- Through the Looking Glass (WRWTFWW/Palto Flats)
If you're anything like me, you've stumbled upon this album on YouTube while just clicking things that are "recommended" or look interesting. Fans of ambient music that didn't notice this or haven't heard it yet are in for a treat. Playful and full of life, this is far more vibrant than the average droning, mellow release. If you've got an imagination, you'll fall in love with it. I haven't picked up a record (yet) but I'm just so glad this is available on a larger scale and out of the realm of discogs obscurity.



Coil- Time Machines (Dais Records)
On the other end of the spectrum from that Midori Takada release is, well, something that is so droning it transcends conventional musical terminology. Again, I don't own this myself (sold out so fast during a poorer spot for me) but I'm glad it's out there again in some way. I'm biased here, but I trust it was very lovingly handled.


Boris Dzaneck- In His Own Words (Danger Records)
Seems this Dutch post-punk group of non-Borises named after some fictional character of their own creation are in good company here as beneficiaries of YouTube's algorithms bringing unsung gems to greater popularity. In His Own Words is delightfully tense and somewhat dance-ready music of the highest order. Glad to see this on vinyl for the first time ever.


Solid Space- Space Museum (Dark Entries)
This is one of my favorite albums by anybody. Ever. Finally got an official release on vinyl with bonus tracks. As with everything before this, it's not in my personal collection yet, but I'm just so damn glad it's out there and not going for hundreds on discogs. Quirky drum-machine driven post-punk and minimal synth from an era when neither of those terms was in circulation.


Secret Stairways- Enchantment of the Ring (Ancient Recollections)
Genres are weird. This is just beautiful and fantastic, although it falls under the general realm of dungeon synth. Peaceful, pure, ambient sounds that truly do feel like a path to somewhere unknown. The tape reissue of this is simple, but it needs little in the way of presentation. The bandcamp download is free, as the artist has passed on, but if you elect to pay they're making donations to animal shelters, his surviving family, and a cemetery in which the musician often wandered when he was alive. Beautiful atmospheres that you deserve to enjoy.


Mortiis- Era One Cassette Box (Children of the Night/Foreign Sounds)
The master himself has made a return to the dark dungeon music he pioneered in the '90s. Before he began doing all these special Era One performances, he worked with Children of the Night to reissue these classics on cassette. This special box is one of the few nostalgia-based purchases I made in 2017 and I have no regrets whatsoever. Bow before the king of dungeon synth. Extremely sold out, but each of the albums can be purchased or streamed directly from the artist's bandcamp. Do it.

Best Splits of 2017

Angelo Harmsworth/Theodore Schafer- Japanese Whisper (Angoisse)
This isn't really conventional music, but I still listened to it a hell of a lot. Field recordings are something of a bizarre obsession of mine and these compositions centered around two separate experiences in Japan are oddly calming to me. Check it out if you're into that sort of thing. I know I am.


Blood Tyrant/Departure Chandelier- (Nuclear War Now!)
I'll be real honest here. I think the Blood Tyrant track is damn good, but I'm a diehard Departure Chandelier fan and they're the reason this even appeared on my radar. Yeah, I know they've only released one demo. It's still a high water mark for nowadays black metal, and I'm totally here for this new output. Hopefully this means we'll finally get a proper LP from these guys. Please?


Altered Form/Sacramence (Everswallower Recordings/Funeral Party Records)
The cool thing about splits is that, in many cases, they allow fans of one artist to find something new and enjoyable. Sacramence has been a fixture in my listening habits since it was a black metal project, but Altered Form is new to these ears. The brilliant, dark synth work offered by both artists here makes this well worth a listen.

Det Svarta Landet/Dantefever- Our Ancient Lore (Self-Released)
Neither Det Svarta Landet nor fellow French dungeon synth and fantasy ambient artist Dantefever are well known yet, but both deserve serious attention. I profiled the former for my first bandcamp feature and have kept an eager eye out for more from the latter. This is alternately serene, playful, and otherworldly. Charming stuff from two fresh faces.


Sinmara/Misthyrming (Terratur Possessions)
In 2017 the buzz surrounding Icelandic black metal quieted down just a bit. I love most of the bands in the community, but sometimes it seems others struggle to take good art seriously if it gets too much attention. Amid the silence of the imaginary hivemind others seem to see, two of the scene's current heavyweights dropped a split that leaves no doubts: this is all teeth and no tongue. Hype, in this case, is warranted.


Whitehorse/Upyr (Vendetta Records)
Whitehorse is a band of many splits. Their work with The Body was the first thing I ever wrote about on this site, although that article is lost to time and expired domains. They continue the tradition of being unnaturally fierce and good at finding like-minded freaks with whom to work on this massive split. I veer far less towards the sludgy these days, but both artists here are so disgusting that I can't help but love this.

Tanner Garza & Funeral Parlor- Dark Days (Aural Canyon)
This album is a collaborative effort rather than a split, but as the editor and author alike, I give myself permission to include it. Tanner Garza's name has been scrawled upon the walls of this website more times than I care to admit, yet he seems to know how to create drone that is interesting and so directly human that I cannot ignore it. This work with fellow depression sufferer Funeral Parlor serves as both Funeral Parlor's final release and as something that explores the nuances of mental health in pure sound. It's not easy or as gentle as the term "ambient" might lead one to believe, but it's one hell of a listen.


Fister/CHRCH (Crown & Throne Limited)
Again, I'm utterly shocked by my own inclusion of TWO doomy sludgy splits here, but this just takes the cake. Fister and CHRCH are both near the top of the heap in the sludge genre these days, and each of these songs is as fine as, if not better than anything either has released to date. I'm not kidding when I say I seldom have the patience for this shit, but I found myself just playing the digital promo on repeat as if it were a full-length. Check it out or live with your regret and guilt.


Best EPs & Demos of 2017

Moray- Temporal Majesty (Lion's Jawbone)
Who knew visual artist Christian Degn was as talented a musician as he is with pencil and paper? Seriously, this shreds in a way that confounds my feeble brain. I don't even have one skill, yet Degn's got talent oozing out in every direction and I'm convinced he's probably going to become a famous filmmaker next. This is an absurdly clever death/black/thrash metal demo from somebody I'd have never expected to drop an album at all. Well worth keeping an eye out.


Weeping Sores- Weeping Sores (Dullest Records)
I know it's an apples and oranges thing, but for as stellar as Pyrrhon's new record is, I was somehow even more impressed by the debut of related project Weeping Sores. This EP (which is nearly album-length anyway) is chock-full of doomy, grotesque death metal that's every bit as ugly as the album cover would make you expect. If these wild men haven't won you over with their other endeavors, this drops some of the tech-y stuff but keeps every ounce of the ferocity.


Solar Temple- Rays of Brilliance (Fallen Empire/Haresis Noviomagi)
How can something so brief capture so much atmosphere and spirit? I don't have an answer, but I have had a serious experience with this. It's hard to tell if this appeals more to the basest parts of human instinct or the most otherworldly, almost spiritual purposes. Perhaps the two are the same. If you have the passion for black metal that I do, you'll understand the importance of this tape.


Heart of Palm- Arecaceae Marina (Aught Void)
The No Coast/No Hope staple Heart of Palm lands firmly as one of my favorite noisy releases of 2017 thanks to its shimmering fragility. The beauty here is as damaged as it is warm, lending unease to otherwise harmonious atmospheres. I envision the now corrupted coastlines of the Hawaii I loved as a child, where the beaches I once frequented have likely long since been converted to private property for hotels and the debauchery of the wealthy. Aught Void never slips on the quality of its releases, but this was the crown jewel of their output last year.

Oranssi Pazuzu- Kevät/Värimirsky (20 Buck Spin)
These Finns are kind of on top of the world right now. Their anything-goes experimental black metal somehow hasn't spawned anything tacky or ill-advised despite their fearless approach. These two new additions to an already top-notch catalog aren't breaking new ground for Oranssi Pazuzu, but maintain their momentum in a brilliant way.


Vanum- Burning Arrow (Psychic Violence)
From my profile of Vanum for Noisey: "The lush works from Realm of Sacrifice are given a worthy companion here in the form of a leaner and more urgent beast. What is left when stripped to a purer core is something more ferocious and classic in sound, yet it still retains the atmospheric qualities and passionate, burning energetic pulse that unites all work created by Vanum's members in their many projects." Total spiritual warfare. You already know what this sounds like.


False- Hunger (Gilead Media)
Minneapolis black metal group False crafts a mean epic, yet on Hunger, the script is flipped. These two rippers aren't even half the length of the average False song yet they still pack all the shifts and thrills that have helped them win over both headphone junkies and live audiences. Brevity isn't always the answer, but it's clear that False can handle more than one approach to the same genre.


Profit Prison- Myra (Hospital Productions)
Profit Prison is proof that you can have it all. Some of the catchiest synthpop/darkwave since that Oppenheimer Analysis reissue a few years back is presented as things open up, but there's also cutting edge dark ambient here through some sort of wizardry. This debut EP is ripe with potential and I can't wait to hear even more.


Winds of Gladsheimr- Harvest (House of First Light)
This is viciously triumphant black metal at its finest. House of First Light has become something of the gold standard for raw black metal in the United States lately and this latest release from Winds of Gladsheimr only strengthens this fact. This isn't about perfection (although it sounds damn great), this is a victory and the exhausted revelry of survivors after the battle.

Spiritual Cramp- Mass Hysteria (REACT! Records)
Ending on the highest note I could pick, intentionally. Spiritual Cramp's vocalist is an old friend of mine, but there's no favoritism here because I hold my friends to a higher standard than strangers, with whom I'm gentle. Bay area hardcore punk veterans come together to create something a bit jerkier, with more soul and swagger and it goes fucking HARD. Vocalist Mike B told me they're really into bands like Blitz and other oi! stuff, but I haven't got the punk credibility to decipher influences, this just feels weird and wild in every way I want. Each of the songs here has its own personality and the lyrics are simple and honest snapshots of real life. If you're into honest rock'n'roll that's as playful as it is punchy, check this out and catch 'em on the road with American Nightmare next month.