Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Music 5/29/13: Schrei Aus Stein, Gnashing of Teeth, Twilight Fauna

Schrei Aus Stein- Philosophie CS (Self-Released)
This album from one of the members of BM&B approved group Curseworship is one of the more haunting pieces of black metal I've heard lately. Existing almost exclusively in the space between conventional black metal structures and free-form black noise, the ever-shifting nature of this music keeps it flowing nicely without feeling repetitive. The music is nebulous and ethereal and feels like it was created in some sort of other universe. After two solid original tracks, Schrei Aus Stein includes a sweet Velvet Cacoon cover as a digital bonus track. Buy the tape by clicking on the album title or find it for download on soundcloud.

Gnashing of Teeth- Demo MMXII CDr (Self-Released)
If you've visited this blog before, there's a chance you might be familiar with the black noise madness of Gnashing of Teeth. Aside from curating his own music blog, this man apparently has the time and capacity to make some of the most repulsive music I've heard. This is definitely one of those "if you could call it music" scenarios, which is something I've grown to love. While Gnashing of Teeth will always be an acquired taste, I'll be one of the happy few, sipping on delicious beer while filling the room with high quality black noise. There's definitely an expansion of sound from the split with Enbilulugugal to this release. It's slightly more musical here, but there are still layers of fuzz and filth to either "get past" or wallow in, depending on your attitude towards noise. My recommendation? Just immerse yourself in the void. You'll come out stronger.

Twilight Fauna- Grief CD/CS (Depressive Illusions)
Twilight Fauna is an Appalachian black metal project consisting almost exclusively of just one member who goes by the name Ravenwood. Ravenwood uses this project to convey both murky, dense black metal sadness alongside subtle acoustic passages that provide adequate space for reflection. It's an essential balance when going through such bleak territory, and Twilight Fauna seems to specialize in balance. Each instrument is still easily discerned despite the sheer density of sound and each song is enjoyable in spite of (or perhaps because of) the dissonance and chaos contained within. The depression here seems timeless rather than self-indulgent. Many bands who deal with melancholy seem to be wallowing in it, while this feels more like a portrayal of an ancient, earthy sadness. This album will certainly lower your spirits, but is worth a listen regardless. Purchase a CD directly from the band or a cassette from the label.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New tunes 5/22/13: Deathcult, Deuil, The Infernal Sea

Deathcult- The Test of Time CS (Caligari Records)
Deathcult is a one-man thrashy death metal band from Chicago who plays with the intensity of a full band. The album is loaded with eerily catchy leads and galloping riffs that are perfectly tailored for headbanging. The vocals at times remind me of the legendary Don Tardy from Obituary, so expect a really throaty attack. One hundred copies of this tape are available here, which is the debut of both band and record label. The label is rooted here in my current home of Tampa, FL and seems set to release more quality stuff in the very near future. With addictive songs like "Mutant Generation" and "Hail the Antichrist," this will be a hit at your next party.

Deuil- Acceptance/Rebuild CDr (Self-Released)
Deuil are one of those bands that totally caught me off guard. I've been receiving many emails from bands seeking review, (which is why I'm now doing these abbreviated posts in the first place--to catch up), and these guys instantly stood out. The album begins with a rather peculiar yet intriguing vocal drone that leads into filthy sludge that reminds me of the ferocity of groups like Amenra or Fall of Efrafa, with all the dynamics, peaks, and valleys you'd hope to find. These Belgian maniacs absolutely crush from start to finish with this album, which you can either download for the price you'd like or purchase on a beautifully packaged and screen-printed CDr. It's limited to 50 copies, so I'd hop on it quickly.

The Infernal Sea- Call of the Augur CD (Self-Released)
The Infernal Sea are probably the only band in this post that fit into the black metal spectrum, but they are vicious enough to cover all three slots in blackened fury. These guys have a very precise and well-executed brand of black metal that is not exclusively rooted in any one subcategory of metal. Drums are aggressive and perfectly placed, the vocals are truly ravenous, and the guitar tone is rooted in classic black metal while the riffs tend to meander through whatever territory The Infernal Sea deems necessary. It's solid, aggressive, and instantly memorable black metal with strong elements of death metal that never quite overpower the darker side of the music. Purchase a download from their bandcamp or do the right thing and order the actual CD for your collection.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Buried- "The Only Promise" (Loaded Sound Records)

Today we're taking a trip through some territory that could be considered unsettling by many, with the debut release from Loaded Sound Records, Buried's horrifying black drone offering entitled "The Only Promise." This double-sided cassette features the same three songs on each side, each an untitled piece of that contribute's to the album's greater focus on the theme of imminent death and how each human being chooses how to deal or not deal with this unifying experience.

With knowledge of the album's theme in mind, it's hard not to notice how each sonic aspect of the album rotates back towards our dwindling time on this planet. The guitars stretch out in ever-expanding riffs that rumble onward while the first number of minutes of this album almost entirely lack percussion save for a single hi-hat strike that serves as the ticking of our collective clock. Vocals are sparse and hidden deep within the mix, but they're downright painful to hear and the lyrics are blunt and hopeless. Anything more flowery or complicated would dilute the intensity and simplicity of the message: everything you will ever do will eventually be rendered irrelevant, as we're all going to cease to be at some point in the relatively near future. The album itself even serves as both the fight against and the surrender to death, which I find is rather unique and makes this album just as much of a rite of passage as it is a meditation on this generally uncomfortable topic. While things speed up a bit at the end, it only feels like the last attempts to evade an already sealed fate. I can't say I feel any easier about my own demise after listening to this album, but I do feel that this album is a safe place to visit when I need to feel a connection to music that addresses such a concern. If you like your doom to be agonizingly slow and blackened to the point of absorbing all light, you need to give this tape a listen.

Copies are available from the band's merch store as well as the  Loaded Sound shop, where they've also got a sweet Buried shirt design, nifty cassette-worshiping beanies, and an even niftier Satan-worshiping tote bag. This may be the first Loaded Sound release, but I already know I can expect quality to come from this label in the future. Keep an eye on their website for more updates.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dunnock- "A Forest of Shattered Promise" CS (Acephale Winter Productions)

A couple months ago I received an email from a new record label named Acephale Winter Productions. I've started receiving more emails from labels and bands and have been a lot pickier than I used to be, but these guys instantly had my attention when I learned they were from my beloved bay area of California. I was especially pleased when I realized that their first release, a tape from new black metal artist Dunnock, was actually quite good. As I often do when a band strikes my fancy, I ordered a physical copy so that I could really get the full experience, and it's quite pleasing to say the least.

The album opens with the sound of pouring rain. It's appropriate transitional music for entering such a reflective and isolated space. The light piano and shimmering sounds that lead into the album are slightly misleading, but provide a helpful moment of comfort as the second track approaches with a cold, remorseless assault. There is a huge sense of detachment here, as cleaner backing passages complement the denser and more blackened foreground in what feels like a struggle of duality. Many bands attempt to switch between harsh and beautiful sections, yet few successfully combine the two into a properly integrated sound. I really appreciate the rawness and filthiness of the guitar and vocals as it blends with lighter ambient tones. The clear textural nods to the denser side of shoegaze are apparent, but the music never falls into the stagnant sea of "blackgaze" territory. Eerie samples fill the few quiet moments with an even greater sense of dread, leading the music's thickness to become some sort of furious buzzing barrier that protects the listener from the real dangers that await in the silence, as documented in the chilling "She Was Cold." Overall, this album fits into one of my favorite little pockets of black metal, where the music is equally soothing and unsettling at the same time. Depending on my personal state of mind when listening to this, I find the experience can change vastly, which is an enjoyable characteristic for me. While I singled out one particular song as a recommendation, this album is best listened to as one complete journey for the full experience.

This album can be purchased through the Acephale Winter bandcamp page, which is where I found the lovely images I've used for this review. I do own a copy, but their photography trumps mine easily. If you're not sure you're ready for a full-on purchase just yet, feel free to download it and mull it over for a while. I promise this one will grow on you once you give it proper focus and attention. Additionally, the label plans on releasing a cassette from Tolkien-inspired dark ambient project Ringbearer within the next week, so keep an eye out as things continue to develop.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Recent drinks: Mother's Day Edition

As with each post I make, these are a few delicious drinks I enjoyed over the course of this past week. Today, however, I decided to focus on beers that reminded me of my mom. My mother has made her living as a gardener for most of her adult life, and while she isn't exactly a drinker, I decided to pick some delicious beers that featured fruits, flowers, and herbs in the mix. Since I live across the country from her, this post functions as both a guide to some unique beers and a tribute to the woman who raised me to be unafraid of my own eccentricities. She's also responsible for introducing me to the first heavy metal song I can recall hearing, so all of this might well be her "fault." Thanks mom. Here's to you!

He'brew Rejewvenator 2013 (Shmaltz)
As is always the case with new He'Brew drinks, this beer had my interest the second I knew it existed. Being sold as a Dubbel Doppel,this beer follows in He'Bew's bold tradition of playing with unconventional flavors and mixes in delicious new ways. Utilizing dates and figs as primary flavors in this strange brew proves to be a surprising success, although I'm also picking up a hint of pomegranate in addition to the subtle yet tantalizing bits of date. Overall the beer is on the thinner side of the dark spectrum, with a pretty evenly balanced blend of malt and hops, making for a beer every bit as adventurous as any other He'Brew beer, but slightly more awesome than many others from these guys. Definitely recommended.

MoM Hefeweizen (Rogue)
Between the name of this beer and the theme of this post, this tasty little treat was a necessity. This is pretty much a standard hefeweizen but it's been brewed with rose petals, which definitely play into the smoothness of the drink. Their flavor doesn't really stand out as a dominant taste, but I'm not sure if I would want my beer to have too heavy of a rose flavor. The balance is nice and subtle, which made it quite a pleasant experience. This is solid, pleasant easy drinking, especially on a beautiful Spring day spent on a porch or in the garden.

Bison Organic Honey Basil (Bison)
In keeping with today's gardening theme, this beer was another necessity. It only came into my radar within the past week and the timing couldn't have been more opportune. This one was enjoyed on a beautiful sunny afternoon in my own back yard. The honey and basil flavors don't overwhelm this amber ale, but the notes of spice absolutely play into the overall experience, with sweetness staying subtle but absolutely contributing to the great nose on this beer. This one's a highly refreshing experience if you're into herb or spice-based beers, but might not appeal to more casual drinkers looking for a sweet drink that the honey in the title might imply.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Human Form- "Earthen Urn" (Self-Released)

Released on January 10th of this year, In Human Form's "Earthen Urn" is probably the first truly great album of this year. This release and group were recommended to me from a musician friend whose taste I respect and trust greatly, and with the obvious nod to Death in their name I had to give them a listen. I was quite pleased. In Human Form (hereafter referred to as IHF) craft a progressive, urgent, and well-put together blend of aggressive black metal with songs that often pass the ten minute mark yet never feel like they've overstayed their welcome. While some of my readership may not often have the desire to hear more intricate approaches to black metal, this group maintains a lo-fi and pure aesthetic while allowing their music to spiral out of control.

The album opens with the pace-setting "Cognitive Reconnaissance" which runs the gamut from epic black metal to (appropriately enough) Schuldiner-worshiping solos to punk-inspired minimalism all within one track. I've always been a fan of albums that take me for a journey, so it's great to see that IHF manage to do that successfully within each of the six songs on this album. Another thing that really makes IHF stand out to me is their thorough and planned approach to writing lyrics. It's a small thing to many, but as someone who has sung in bands myself, I feel it's crucial to try to make the lyrical direction unique and special. There are a few places on this album where I feel like strings creep into the music, although the only band member description listed that might cover it is "samples," so I'm curious to learn the nature of these sounds, as I feel they lend themselves quite nicely to the bleak melodies they accompany. A personal favorite moment of mine on this album (if for no reason other than how intriguing and strange it is) is the instrumental dark ambient passage "Prisms of Now." As IHF are hardly a noise-based act, I'm curious to know more about this song and how its influences may creep into the background of the other songs. On an album where aggressive riffing with piercing howls is just as commonplace and natural as a soothing saxophone interlude, it's really hard to label or define IHF, and that is the band's greatest strength. Everything feels natural, yet nothing is predictable. If only most bands this ambitious could pull it off so well.

Copies of this ferocious and involved album are apparently available for purchase from the band through email/their facebook (link above) or you can purchase a download from their bandcamp page. While this one isn't available for free, it's definitely worth the price of admission. Whether you're a music geek looking for technically sound music or just a fan of diverse and bizarre black metal, you'll be quite pleased with this album.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Host: A Brief Profile

Now that my college semester is over, I have the time to focus on things that help me relax. Luckily for all of us, listening to new music and sharing it with the masses is pretty much my favorite thing to do. To get things started in a proper fashion, here's a brief profile of ritual noise artist, Host along with a download link or two for your enjoyment and enrichment. This artist directly contacted me a few months ago and my scatterbrained nature during my semester prevented me from giving a proper review, although I'd enjoyed the album he initially sent. Apparently my constant delays due to school and personal life worked out nicely for my readers, as he's since released an experimental track of sorts and has another album coming out in the very near future.

Host's first release with which I am acquainted, "Implant," is a journey of some sort, perhaps into and through the singularity. The futuristic beauty and horror that play with each other sound like the perfect soundtrack for a sci-fi film of technological advances gone wrong. Disconcerting drones buzz alongside chirping, somewhat tonal electronic textures with minimal to no percussion yet the music definitely does have its own structure. I'm always into a bit of melody or tonality making its way into noise and ambient structures, and Host does a great job of integrating accessible sounds into noisy soundscapes, creating a fantastic atmosphere. This album had my full attention and appreciation within the first minute, and I imagine it'll do the same for most of my readers who have appreciated my noise-related posts in the past. If you're still hesitant to hop on the noise/electronic train, this might actually be a pretty good starting point due to the genre-straddling nature of this release. Grab this one as a free download from Host's bandcamp page to start your journey into one of our many possible futures.

Following the crumbling beauty of "Implant" is Host's current experiment, "Evolution." This song is going to be hard to explain, as everybody has their own wholly unique experience. "Evolution" uses samples from Host's upcoming release, "Null Pointer," and combines them with random number generation, live financial, meteorological, and social data in order to manipulate the sound and alter the experience for every listener. I will admit to only perusing this potentially endless experiment once so far, although I do plan on visiting with it again. My personal experience is that of an endless series of pistons, churning ever onward with mechanical precision. It's dark, relentless, and I love it. Experience it for yourself and be sure to bookmark the page for your own future excursions. This might be the future of music, so don't be surprised if other artists start doing things like this soon.

After immersing myself in "Evolution" for about ten minutes, I feel prepared to present and review Host's impending release, "Null Pointer." Following the apparent trend of growing in size, intensity, and scope, this album's three tracks each pass the ten-minute mark and shed much of the electronic tonality in favor of cavernous low-frequency drones. Even the tiniest of sounds echoes into a seemingly infinite void. True to the album's title, it seems that everything converges somewhere immeasurably distant, with everything fading into a dull hum that never fully reaches a resolution. The mechanical churning I described in "Evolution" surfaces here as intermittent static, swelling to fill empty space left as each previous noise falls farther from audible levels. This album is more experiential than musical, which is not to say that it can't be listened to for the sake of listening, but the massive amount of detail and texture here make this ideal material for a session with headphones in a darkened room. As the last crackle of static fades into oblivion, we are left with nothing but ever-lengthening echoes for the final minute or two, giving a rare moment of peaceful closure that leads to a contemplative silence that I find most appropriate after such an experience.

It should go without saying that Host is an artist to watch in months to come, as this project has already released a handful of solid releases and seems prepared to continue putting out new noise at a considerable pace. "Null Pointer" will be released on the 27th of May, which gives us just under three weeks to prepare. As the music continues to change form and approach with each release, I can only imagine that whatever comes next will be equally engaging and rewarding to dedicated noise fans and casual listeners of drone alike.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Recent drinks 5/5/13

I know this post's a bit delayed, but with finals week I was drinking a bit less than usual. Now that I'm on the eve of my last final of the semester, things are finally returning to full swing. I'm about to raise a glass here in my own home, but first here's a recap of some drinks I've enjoyed in the past couple weeks.

Stone Smoked Porter (Stone Brewing Company)
For the uninitiated, Stone is not a brewery known for their subtlety. The fact that this beer doesn't pour straight out of the bottle breathing fire is surprising, yet that's not to say that this drink isn't intense. Indeed, with a creamy smokiness more akin to actual wood smoke than the barbecue type of flavor that many other smoked porters carry, this beer is not for the novice drinker. What you'll find here is a dense, delicious, and frothy beer that you can sip slowly on a long night spent in quiet reflection or in the company of good friends. Regardless of the setting, this is definitely one of the better smoked porters out there, period. Grab a bottle and treat yourself properly.

Camp Braggot Ghost Stories (Cigar City/B. Nektar Meadery)
To call this collaborative brew "interesting" or "creative" would be doing it a disservice. The beer pours far darker than I would have anticipated, with an almost fruity nose and a full foamy head. The marshmallow characteristic that is so often associated with this beer is absolutely present, but less so than I had expected. Instead, this is a well-rounded, albeit very sweet, dark and delicious beer. The honey flavor is strong, but not so strong that I would advise non-mead drinkers away from it. Instead, view this as an intriguing and successful experiment in the art of brewing. I'd be delighted to see this one again, although knowing Cigar City's affinity for limited run beers, I doubt it will be any time soon.

Xingu Black Beer
Xingu seems to be a one-beer kinda brewery, so no need to list who makes it. This one caught my eye because my semester's ending and I seem to desire things that are foreign or otherwise "exotic" right now. Clearly my subconscious wants a vacation. With this in mind, I thought to myself that I'd never had a Brazilian beer before. Now I have. It's surprisingly smooth for being a darker beer, yet it's not too light on the palate either. If I wanted something I could sip on for hours, I'd go for this. It's dark without being unpleasant on a hot day.

Dragonhead Stout (Orkney)
This one was purchased based on the label and the fact that I haven't had many Scottish beers. I mean, I love stouts, and it's got a warship or something on it. The beer doesn't disappoint either. It's thick and heavy as crude oil yet the 4%ABV means you can sit with a couple of them in a row without it knocking you out. A really good stout for the times when you might want a smooth yet heavy drink that sits in your stomach like a small meal.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fell Voices- "Regnum Saturni" 2xLP (Gilead Media/Antithetic)

With this post, I return from a lengthy period without writing. It's been about a week, and I've chosen a monster of an album to mark my return to this blog. With Regnum Saturni, Fell Voices have done many things that defied everything I have come to expect, yet have somehow exceeded and surpassed my hopes regardless. I've listened to this album many times and I'm still not sure how to even describe what they've done here. This album has many identities, each of them holding an equal importance and sonic appeal, and to call them all out individually and list them would detract from the beautiful place of balance they've created as an entity. Instead of trying to commit words to something that is both formless and calculated all at once, I've decided to write my review as the band recorded their album: entirely live. I'm about to start listening to the album again, and I'll describe my experience as it progresses

The album opens with "Flesh and Bone," the shortest of the three songs on this album at a mere 17:48. It hums in with some sort of soothing droning instrument that I can't identify. Accordion? Melodica? Synthesizer? I'm not too sure, but it's going to pop up a lot through the course of this album and it definitely sets the mood nicely. The pulsing of the drone is hypnotic yet it builds a certain musical tension as the listener waits for the onslaught to come. After a couple minutes the black metal breaks through, howling onward and upward like a storm of some sort. Vocals are almost entirely buried, serving as another abrasive texture in the ferocity. The first couple of minutes are almost utterly relentless. Just when the listener thinks that this might be the new norm, the song drops just enough for one to discern individual components just as easily as the greater musical piece. The thing that grips me the most is the balance between motion and stillness. The droning quality of the music is a constant, yet the song moves forward at an incredibly rapid rate. The album's cover is almost identical to the images of the hurricane at Saturn's north pole that have recently surfaced, perhaps this is indicative of the musical quality (and would make sense with the album's title). The eye of a hurricane might be calm and constant, yet the winds are wild and unforgiving. So it is with Fell Voices, a balance between calmness and punishing fury. Amusingly enough, many of the riffs spiral in and out of the song in a similar fashion to their peers in Ash Borer's latest album, although instead of Ash Borer's cold restraint, Fell Voices has set fire to everything around them and the arctic guitar patterns are the few glimpses of solace amidst the madness. Around the fifteen minute mark, the song loses control of itself, spiraling ever upward into an explosion that leaves us with the same drone that spawned the album, making way for "Emergence."

By this point I realize the drone is the only moment of forgiveness that the listener will receive. When the metallic aggression returns, it's with less of the misguided fury, forsaking blown out noise for a more direct and precise assault. This is probably my favorite on the album, although I could hardly recommend separating any section of this album from the others. There's a triumphant feeling here that just really strikes my fancy. Around 8 minutes in, the song has hit its pace and if you're not following intently, you're really missing out. Things lock into the most perfect groove and the density of the chaos surrounding this jam just adds to the overall sensation of being a direct part of this rather than a disconnected listener. I'm currently listening to this during a thunderstorm and it's pretty much the most awesome soundtrack. A little over halfway through the song, some of the density clears and you actually get a really good idea of what's going on between all the chaos, and it's truly beautiful. The riffing and frantic pace never slow, yet elements of shimmering, high-pitched melody creep in just long enough to feedback into a return to aggression. If nothing else, this song presents one of the finest displays of mastery over atmosphere I've witnessed all year. The song's peak hits sixteen to eighteen minutes in and the subsequent denoument fades away in a truly gripping fashion, droning into oblivion with wretched voices shrieking out of the void.

As "Dawn" snakes into my consciousness, I'm both frightened and excited. This album does require a degree of endurance from its listener, but the reward is well worth it. Much like the two songs before it, this tune runs you through pretty much any imaginable territory while managing to throw out a few surprises. As the sonic density rises for the listener to meet with the final challenge, there is a calmness and brilliance that resonates throughout each shimmering cymbal crash and each rhythmic riff. This song is the culmination of more than forty minutes of tension. By the time you've made it to the hollow rattling that signals the journey's end, there's a sense of accomplishment, peace, and also a slight sense of loss. Fell Voices' sonic shifting continues to delight me and I'm really happy to have had the honor of reviewing this album. You can obtain this colossal album from either of the labels that co-released it, Gilead Media or Antithetic Records. It's a double LP with an etched D-side and there's even a limited edition shirt available. This isn't just a recommended listen, it's going to be one of the year's strongest albums. Grab it and catch these guys live if you have any opportunity to do so.