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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Is this thing on?

Oof. I guess there are a lot fewer cobwebs here than I envisioned.

Sometimes a vacation feels like a nice idea. Then one day you realize that it doesn't feel like a "nice break" anymore, it's just another normal. Sometimes that feeling makes you want to go home.

Black Metal & Brews was always about passion and music. Not me. Not having a fancy ".com" website (although I do miss the stuff I uploaded there and wish I had the foresight to remove it before the URL's registration ended). New things will arrive here shortly. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

NEW WEBSITE

Attention dear readers. It is with great joy that I announce the creation of my new Black Metal & Brews homepage. The site already has a few new posts and will eventually host the entire archive from this old blogspot URL.

If you have had my page bookmarked, please change your bookmark to http://blackmetalandbrews.com so that you don't miss out on any of the music, drinks, and other exciting new things I'll be sharing in the near future. This website has (to date) received over 60,000 views at this URL, for which I'm quite grateful. Let's hope the next one can reach that number in half the time. Thanks for all the support. Let's reconvene elsewhere. Cheers!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Yellow Eyes- "The Desert Mourns" EP (SIbir Records/Dead Section)


Readers who have been following for any amount of time should know I've been big on New York black metal group Yellow Eyes since the beginning of my writing career (if you could call a blog a career). In just a few short years, these guys have gone from being a band with a promising demo to being the sort of hot commodity who makes year end lists on sites with hundreds of times the visitor count of my little blog. I've even seen copies of their debut demo going for offensively high prices on discogs, which is a sign of their current popularity, although I'd love to see the band getting that kind of cash instead of folks who bought a tape and never even listened to it. In other words, I love Yellow Eyes and it's incredible to me that they've become such a buzz band. This hype would typically be hard to live up to, but this band delivers time after time. Today we're taking a look at their brand new 12" EP, The Desert Mourns.

With only one song on each side, this album plays at 45RPM, which is a rarity in my collection, but makes this a real collectible gem. These two songs see Yellow Eyes demonstrating a sound that is truly their own yet instantly welcoming even for those not previously initiated with this skilled young act. Vibrant and bright guitars that cut through the mix with a clarity uncommon in black metal will grab your attention almost immediately after following the band's trademark introductory ambiance. If the band's energy doesn't come through your sound system with the passion and fury of a live performance, then I can only assume your ears or heart aren't in the right place, because this is a gripping, if not unnecessarily brief, demonstration of Yellow Eyes' mastery of the genre and true potential. The drumming is expressive without hogging the spotlight and the vocals are almost scientifically engineered to hit the right degree of presence for this kind of music. There is a sense of confidence that this album displays that, while other releases hinted at, is finally coming to the foreground here. I think the band has always had material like this in them yet perhaps did not have the reputation or experience necessary to share it properly. This isn't really even ambitious so much as it is another step in this already challenging band's continuous path towards dominance of the metal underground. Another thing to make note of is the lyrical expansion. While Yellow Eyes' career started with rather bleak, depressing lyrics fixated on self-loathing, misery, and generally unpleasant themes, they've adapted the position of storytellers rather than miserable black metal dudes. While I'm a fan of both, the growth and maturity of the band has clearly expanded in every aspect of their complete package, which delights me. As an aside, if you're a geek like me, you'll love how intense this gets if you play it at 33RPM instead of 45. You'll have to try it for yourself when you grab a copy.

Back of shirt. Front has Yellow Eyes logo.
This album is available on its own in versions unique to both the US and EU, as well as in a bundle with a shirt commissioned for this particular album. I'm honestly surprised this didn't sell out in its first day or two, but that doesn't mean you should wait long if you want to have a shot at owning a copy. Also, yes, I'm still unable to embed from bandcamp for some awful reason. Here's a youtube sample of the title track. Once my official site goes up soon I'll be able to embed properly again. Thanks for the patience, dear readers.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lvcifyre- "Svn Eater" CD/LP (Dark Descent)


Greetings readers. Thanks for being patient with my slight delay in reviews. Today we're visiting an album that's only been out for a couple days and has already been causing quite a stir in the general metal media. I tend to try to steer clear of releases that are receiving larger amounts of coverage, but this one impressed me enough to warrant sharing with my readers. With a name like Lvcifyre, I would normally be slightly hesitant about the music, as the whole business of substituting "v' for "u" is typically an indication of campy junk, but even my first listen yielded great interest. It's evident these guys are dead serious and focused on cultivating a truly evil atmosphere, not just playing with Satanism for laughs.


While Svn Eater lurches in slowly with a nearly five-minute long buildup on opener "Night Seas Sorcery," the rest of the album's nearly fifty minutes passes quickly with very few moments of relief. While the lyrical and visual aesthetic of the album is clearly rooted in black metal's symbolism, this is very much an efficient and precise exercise in death metal perfection. Guitars swirl and roar in lower frequencies, yet don't tread into the more subterranean horror that's so popular now. Instead, this is a modern take on the classic aggression of early 90's acts, relentless and full of great riffs. In fact, the mix is crystal clear without treading into slick or obnoxious territory. Everything is crisp and balanced, exactly as it should be, with just enough variety and nuance to keep things from being a simple rehash of a genre overplayed. Copies of this album are officially on sale from Dark Descent now, so grab it on the format of your choice while it's available.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Benefit for Stephen Petrus: "When one has nothing left make ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them"


This post was initially going to be a review of a brand new compilation, but I've decided that due to the timeliness of matters, it's most important for me to simply put this out for the world to experience without going into great depth. Why? Because when this album is a compilation set to benefit Stephen Petrus, a member of the noise community whose house burnt down on January 8th. The public might view extreme musicians as groups of unsavory people, but I can't think of too many examples of such a large community coming together like this to help one of its own in other musical genres. So, instead of spending lengthy paragraphs telling you how the appropriately titled "Recovery From Flames" from Marc Benner is one of my standout tracks or how great it is to be introduced to Petrus' own music with the killer tune "Scarlet Apocalypse I" from his project Lithopædion, I'm simply using this space to encourage you to purchase this compilation and help this fellow reclaim a small part of his life and rebuild the rest. The music is generally on the ambient side of noise, with few tracks straying into harsher territory, making this a rather listenable compilation even for newcomers to the genre. In fact, with 28 tracks occupying about three hours' time, this one's a perfect introduction to some stellar noise artists. It's currently going for ten bucks but will soon be raised to fifteen for optimal benefit for Mr. Petrus, so hop on it now. Still, if you can afford to pay more than the minimum, I urge you to do so. The bandcamp player has been refusing to work on my page, for which I apologize. Click any of the links above to visit this compilation and hear the tunes.

Synsophony- "Rabbit Hole" (Self-Released)


Readers, you may remember how I gushed about Synsophony's debut, Karmic Existence, some time ago. Today I'm pleased to share another release from these black drone madmen, Rabbit Hole. Like their first album, this digital release is one track of expansive confusion, chaos, and anxiety. While it's not necessarily something I recommend before your morning coffee, it's a great experience for those of us who like to test our boundaries.

Unlike the lingering horror of Karmic Existence, Rabbit Hole starts at a peak of sorts, slowly crumbling as the listener descends slowly. The obvious nod to Lewis Carroll in the title conjures, again, thoughts of the onset of a psychedelic experience of some sort, but far darker than anything you'd find depicted in a story for families. With only thirteen minutes to do its damage, Rabbit Hole is far more of a meandering journey through and past uncomfortable sounds than it is a death sentence. One can occasionally hear chatter in the distance, as if observers to one's descent are nearby, yet are nowhere to be seen through the oppressive haze created by Synsophony. No peaceful closure is presented, yet one feels slightly more resolution here, despite the lack of beauty given.

Rabbit Hole is currently available as a pay what you like download from Synsophony's bandcamp page, but will see release as a cassette from Acephale Winter Productions later in 2014, along with a bonus remix.