Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Music: Australasia, Sleestak, Incinerated Divinity

Today's batch of reviews examines a few releases that tread outside the realms of black metal and noise on which I so often focus. Instead, here's an offering of some great new bands playing other enjoyable forms of music.

Australasia- "Sin4tr4" Digital EP (Self-Released/Golden Morning Sounds)
Australasia is starting things off today with a stunning display of instrumental post-rock brilliance. Let's make things clear from the start here: post-anything can be a dirty phrase, but don't let the thousands of Explosions in the Sky clones prevent you from examining this release. These guys draw influence from the intense pace and tremolo picking of more traditional black metal, throw in the urgency of well crafted hardcore, and blend it all into a deceptively pretty package. This is probably one of the most accessible albums I've featured, yet I find myself frequently revisiting it, captivated by the delicate beauty Australasia has managed to carve out of such dark inspirations. This release appears to only be available digitally, but they've got a new release entitled "Vertebra" coming out in the near future on Immortal Frost Productions.

Sleestak- "Book of Hours" CD (Self-Released)
Not so sure you'd like to be lifted up by your music? Then perhaps getting low with the psychedelic sludge created by Sleestak will suit your needs. Unlike most sludge-related music referenced here, this muddy madness touches more on the early 70's hard rock and heavy metal with occasional nods to modern doom. This isn't a filth-fest, it's just slow, heavy, and a really good time. Organs follow bluesy guitars as you are invited into decadence and indulgence by the band's seductively smooth jams.  My personal favorite tune, "Lone Wolf," feels like the smoky aftermath of a battlefield as viewed from the sole survivor. There are only six tracks streaming on the bandcamp, but obtaining this album gets you an extra four bonus tracks, including two demos from 2004, a live track, and the instrumental backing track for "Lone Wolf," all of which double the length of the album. Needless to say, I recommend purchasing this, so hop on it and support these talented doomsters.

Incinerated Divinity- "Incinerated Divinity" Digital EP (Self-Released)
I'm leaving this release last since I'm attaching the whole album as a stream here, and boy is this ever worth hearing. While I'm rarely into tech death these days, their merciless assault is both enjoyable and mosh-worthy. Vocals howl out from some sort of timeless void while the band seamlessly integrates groove heavy passages into their breakneck death metal madness. Even on my tinny little laptop speakers, the production shows through so nicely, with bass actually distinguishing itself from the guitars. On a proper sound system, this album is absolutely crushing. For a band with only a couple shows beneath their belts, these guys are rapidly preparing themselves for death metal domination. Musicality and aggression are both cranked to 100% while presenting something both familiar and new all at once. Download this EP for free and buy a shirt from their store to show them how much you appreciate the free tunes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New from Temple of Torturous: Fyrnask and Vom Fetisch Der Unbeirrtheit

Temple of Torturous has graced Black Metal & Brews once this year already with a couple of the most pleasantly surprising releases I'd received, so when I heard there would be more, I knew I had to check these out. Once again, these groups are almost entirely new to me (although I'd heard the name Fyrnask thrown around a bit) so it's been enjoyable coming into this review with virgin ears, so to speak. Let's not waste any time here, as these albums are already up for pre-order. Time to read the reviews and decide if these are for you.

From the beginning of Fyrnask's newest offering, "Eldir Nott," there is an uncanny sense of coldness. Not necessarily in the grim, pure icy evil black metal sense. Instead, I feel the beauty and slight darkness of seeing my breath at night and watching snow slowly take over my surroundings. The production on this album gives the right amount of clarity to Fyrnask's elegantly layered atmospheric black metal while still allowing it to retain its edges. Nothing is cleaned up into oblivion, instead it's nicely presented so that I can hear what I'm trying to hear. As the intro fades into the first "proper" song, "Vigil," the coldness becomes something of a heavy blanket. Still, this music doesn't feel evil so much as it feels passionate, perhaps even deeply spiritual or personal to the artist. The songs flow as almost a seamless piece rather than as a collection of independent songs, allowing for me to fully immerse myself in the dark and fantastic landscape created by Fyrnask's music. It's sometimes suffocating, sometimes tranquil, but it's constantly captivating. If you've ever wanted to go into a snow-covered forest at night and meditate upon your darkest personal demons until the sunrise comes to thaw you from the chilling intensity of your own uneasiness, this might make the perfect soundtrack. This brilliant album is already one of my top releases of the year, and it's unlikely that something will come along to challenge it. Snag this on 2xLP (black or splatter) or CD formats while they last.

Removing oneself from the meditative personal journey of Fyrnask is quite easy when Vom Fetisch Der Unbeirrtheit's jagged and cerebral electronic-heavy black metal assault on "Vertilger" starts with things cranked to eleven. For an album obsessed with the concept of decomposition, it's appropriate that things feel like a series of synapses misfiring. I'm not musically inclined enough to comment on time signature, but VFdU clearly enjoys toying with stop-start dynamics and sporadic drumming that will keep even the most math-oriented listeners on their toes. The vocals are often throaty and painful on this album, and the music is maddening in a way that even makes me feel uncomfortable at times. Conventions such as genre and form are thrown aside to create something truly depraved and unsettling, perhaps this would be a dance party for the sickest of souls, but I find it hard to do much more than simply keep up with the music. I often indicate that an album is challenging, but this album will challenge even those in search of difficult music, which to me is a good thing, but I can easily see this being intimidating to folks who like their metal to be predictable or familiar. Frequently I find songs disintegrating into electronic mush with little regard for length or anything else that most artists use to create boundaries. The album's centerpiece is even a sparse and glitchy industrial piece that feels like it could be at home equally well on a power electronics album as in the midst of this black madness. Normally a release with such little restraint would feel like a forced experiment in excess, but it seems that VFdU is constantly in control of this psychotic acid trip of an album, and the brief moments of overwhelming sound are so well integrated that I can and do find it to be worth visiting. Even if you're not that brave with your musical choices, this is a great example of how to properly generate chaos in your music without allowing your songs to become bloated and masturbatory. Grab this CD (with or without a patch) and lose yourself for a while. Sometimes losing your mind is the sanest thing you can do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New releases from Acephale Winter Productions

Followers of my site know that I've been documenting Acephale Winter Productions since its birth. I'm happy to see they're becoming more productive in both scope of bands as well as frequency of releases. Since they've had an active summer, I feel it's time for us to examine a few of their current releases for the benefit of all my readers.

Infera Bruo- "Desolate Unknown"
Starting off the batch of newer releases is the new tape from Infera Bruo, a group whose members have all put serious time in with other bands such as Trap Them, Bothildir, Pillory, and Cul de Sac. Knowing the diverse backgrounds of the members, it's no surprise that "Desolate Unknown" both adheres to and reaches beyond the standards of black metal, all while delivering an enjoyable package. The assault begins immediately, and the band rarely lets things slow down unless it's to lead the listener into a false sense of security. The instruments work equally well when they're smothering the listener or when they're creating just enough negative space to generate tension. The vocals, too, are just as suitable when they're rasping and howling as they are when they're delivering slightly cleaner passages. It's refreshing to hear clean vocals delivered in the middle of the madness, as many bands seem to only feel comfortable singing with clarity when the music mellows out. Additionally, breaking up the lengthy songs on this album are a couple of segue tracks that are just unsettling enough to make me crave the security of black metal song structures.  My personal favorite track is "Oblivion," which gallops in with relatively familiar feeling black metal aesthetic, but is so masterfully executed that the many twists and turns feel just like revisiting a favorite roller coaster--full of chaos but it still leaves me feeling safe and pleased with the overall outcome. From start to finish, the way these guys manipulate the boundaries of genre, time, and tradition is impressive and the songs are memorable to boot. Snag this tape while you can, it's likely to be one of the year's biggest sleeper albums.

Die Entweihung- "The Cage"
Die Entweihung is the solo project of an Israeli musician who proves that even regions not known for having a particularly prominent metal community can generate talented artists. This album is apparently his sixth(!) and it certainly sounds like the work of a determined and ambitious musician. The production is slightly more cleaned up than Infera Bruo's, yet the music still hits pretty heavily. Synths are dominant sources of melody on this album, and while some of the synth voices become a bit cheesy, they work nicely to accent the guitar melodies without overpowering them. While the first track might make the album seem a bit more like a traditional heavy metal album with little black metal elements, the rest of the album delivers a bludgeoning yet melodic approach to black metal that resembles little else I've heard before. Tracks like "Where's That Life?" showcase Die Entweihung's style quite nicely, with solid riffs and some excellent changes of pace thrown in. The only real critique I'd like to raise is that I can see the vocals being an issue for some listeners. I can't tell if they're manipulated or just heavily layered, but they initially threw me off track. Still, the songwriting is strong enough to carry this release onward, with lengthy tracks really allowing the space to show off without it feeling bloated or self-indulgent. Closing the album is a bonus cover of Summoning's "Lugburz," which is enjoyable, although I'll admit to only being mildly familiar with Summoning's material. Snag this if you're into epic songwriting and tunes that feel like journeys.

Synsophony- "Karmic Existence"
Following the two cassette releases is Acephale Winter's second digital release, Synsophony's twenty-three minute offering of blackened drone. While this might normally imply single-note dirges with maximum haze, this is a relatively bare release. The album's beginning sounds like the low breathing of a terrifying, massive beast in slumber. Subtle notes pulse and echo in an empty room with little light. A few minutes in, the beeping of some machine makes its way in, possibly an EEG or other medical device. The ominous pulses do not disappear, instead the sounds converge and overlap until they flow together in unison. It's rare that listening to music actually makes me anxious, but as the album reaches the six-minute mark, that's exactly what I feel. Anxiety gives way to horror as the beep becomes static and the low rumble becomes an oppressive bellowing drone and Synsophony takes the listener into the depths of madness. Reality collapses in on itself, like an overwhelming experience with psychedelics or the actual end of the universe, leaving a sparse drone after a minute or two of pure fear. The humming evil in the distance lingers, observing the listener as they wait for the next assault. In case it isn't obvious, this album is so visual in nature that it's just begging for a physical release. I've got a decent sound system here at home through which I've enjoyed this album, but I can just imagine how intense it would be to have this beauty on vinyl with full art, notes, and so on. Albums this desolate rarely make their way into my periphery until they're long out of print, so I'm going to urge you all to download this with a small donation so that this might one day become a physical release.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Music: Welter In Thy Blood, Waves Crashing Piano Chords & Tanner Garza, and A Void In Coma,

Today we're going to delve into some albums that embody the coldness, anxiety, and horror that I love so much. If you're looking for some music to really saturate your environment with darkness, this post is for you.

Welter In Thy Blood- "Todestrieb" digipack CD (Dusktone)
Welter In Thy Blood's newest offering, "Todestrieb" approaches slowly, like the onset of old age and the weakness that accompanies it.  A low frequency static rumbles across the desolation of an empty wasteland as the band readies itself to deliver an ominous offering of slow and bleak industrialized doom. In many ways, the miserable territory covered here reminds me of the slower moments of Blut Aus Nord's "Work Which Transforms God," with layers of guitar collapsing in on themselves in a way that is just melodic enough to retain the attention of even skeptical listeners. Vocals howl in and around the song like icy winds, but seldom come to the forefront, which further darkens the atmosphere. While I've grown a bit skeptical of bands with nearly indecipherable logos, I'm really glad I gave this one a listen, as it's been something of an obsession for me for the past couple weeks.  The label's based out of Italy, but it's worth the cost of shipping. Grab a copy here.

Waves Crashing Piano Chords & Tanner Garza- "de Sade" CS (Forever Escaping Boredom)
This collaborative effort from two very different noise-based artists creates a chilling environment in which gently humming tape loops set an ethereal yet eerie backdrop for high-pitched feedback and chaos. For the uninitiated, Garza (also a member of the legendary Black Leather Jesus) is the loop mastermind, while WCPC brings the feedback-heavy assault. When vocals appear, they seem to mock and challenge the listener, before becoming part of the manipulated sounds that torment the mind of the listener. This is neither as soothing as Garza's solo material nor is it as abrasive as WCPC's typical chaos, making it a great release for folks who are familiar with either artist or for people simply looking for a good sampler of two of the more prolific noise artists around right now. Get this limited tape from Forever Escaping Boredom by ordering through the bandcamp link above.

A Void in Coma- "A Primal Obsession with the Cosmos" (Self-Released)
A Void in Coma are a new group to me, having never crossed my periphery until the band themselves contacted me. I'm glad they did. Their hypnotic, droning approach to ambient black metal works nicely. While they cite influences in the shoegaze genre, there's little to no presence of the highly overdone "blackgaze" sound. Instead, the music is meditative, clear, and can easily be listened to without digging through tremolo-picked guitar, although there is a heavy haze that adds to the mood. Vocals are delivered as chants, harsher traditional black metal vocals, and even occasional depraved howls, which presents a very enjoyable balance. While this album is not currently available for purchase in any physical formats, the band has plans to repress this demo and it is presently available as a download by clicking the link to the album itself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Late Summer/Fall releases from Gilead Media

Well folks, it should come as no surprise that with a massive batch of new releases from Gilead Media making their way to light, it's time for me to review them and share them with you. Aside from being one of the few labels I regularly feature with bands who are "well known," they're also one of the most consistently daring labels I've encountered, taking chances on unconventional artists only to watch them excel time after time. With this in mind, it's little surprise that these new releases are both daring and enriching for me as a listener.

For the sake of organization, I'll share them in order of catalog number. Relic 46 is Hexer's debut LP, and while this is a fresh face to me, I instantly see why this band belongs alongside such heavyweights as Thou, False, and Ash Borer. While the band's logo and album cover initially had me guessing this might be a thrash release, I'm delighted that things instantly open up with some of the most fuzz-drenched, riffy black metal (albeit with some thrash influence thrown in for good measure) I've heard in a while. While I love an intricate journey, sometimes a headbanging good time is all that's needed, and Hexer delivers in full force. That's not to say that this is a simplistic mosh-fest though, as the pace and structure changes on a dime, with the band hurtling ahead at full-speed into new territory at every chance. Even when the band slows things down to a marching pace, I can practically envision buildings crumbling and explosions surrounding the band as they methodically churn out their apocalyptic black madness. While many bands these days seem intent on hiding behind distortion and density of sound, Hexer has adopted the aesthetic subtly, using it as a jagged accent to their music instead of a mask to compensate for lack of musicianship like so many other groups have been known to do. If you're into facemelting grimness, this one will be up for sale soon enough, so keep an eye on Gilead's webstore.

Next up is Relic 50, the second release from Colin Marston's project Indricothere, which is appropriately titled "II." In all honesty, I have not enjoyed everything Marston related, so with slight anxiety but as much of an open mind as I can have, I approached this album. From the opening drum assault, I was surprised. While the music is as technically sound as one would expect from a member of projects like Krallice, Behold...The Arctopus, and Gorguts, this is more listenable than I had anticipated. Alternating between valiant, aggressive, and majestic, Indricothere practically pummels the beauty out of potentially hideous structures with it's machine-gun drumming and relentless guitars chiseling away at the listener. Once the assault has created enough open space, the guitars are free to explore the space, taking the listener on a journey that seems to weave in and out of some unknown dimension. Indeed, on songs like "VII" or the drifting ambiance of "XI," I find myself actually feeling relaxed amid the sheer expansive nature of sound. It's hard to explain, but for some reason this release is so fast, so chaotic, that the only response it leaves me with is to simply relax and let it take me along whatever route it sees fit. If you're looking for some solid instrumental wizardry and have an interdimensional journey in mind, you should preorder a copy of "II" and get ready to travel into the deepest recesses of your own brain.

While the order of these items was dictated by catalog number, it's only fitting that this post closes out with the "biggest" feeling release of the three, the new album from Northless, "World Keeps Sinking," which is a split release between Gilead Media and Halo of Flies. While I tend not to like hardcore and sludge hybrids, I can tell that Northless are on top of their game for the genre. Riffs swell up in an absolutely crushing fashion, which I love, but at times the song structures are a bit uninteresting to me. That's not to say that this is in any way a dull or "bad" release, but sometimes things feel a bit cleaner than my tastes generally lean. I'm also a bit less than sold on the vocalist's style, but again, I realize this is a matter of taste rather than quality. Where this album does excel is in its instrumental passages and its capacity to shape the songs in unpredictable directions at times. I'm always into a good surprise, and this album does deliver enough of those to keep me interested. Fans of slightly more chaotic hardcore or more polished sludge releases will definitely gravitate towards this, and this album is a clear indicator as to Northless' current popularity. Perhaps with a few more listens, even this curmudgeon will be won over.

The new LPs from Indricothere and Northless are available at a discounted price when purchased together, and Hexer's LP will be available for purchase when Gilead has copies on hand. Pairing these new releases with some excellent new distro updates (including Blut Aus Nord LPs that I'm swooning over) means we're all about to be a few dollars lighter in the pocket. Get these soon, as I anticipate each of them will be successful enough to sell out rather quickly.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New transmissions from Male Activity

Some of my more regular readers (or perhaps just my noise enthusiasts out there) will remember the surprisingly positive words I wrote about Male Activity's first three releases earlier this year. As the year's progressed, I feel it's about time to check in with the label and showcase some of their current output. Some of these albums are from familiar faces, and others are newcomers who are ready to challenge the ears of the masses. Enough with my rambling, let's get to the music.

Starting off this batch of newer releases is MA:005, "Flux Emission," the first CDr release from label mainstay wet nurse. Somewhat of a departure from the brand of noise crafted on prior releases, there seem to be guitars (or a synthesized version of them) in this release and the songs here follow somewhat structured patterns. Influences from post-punk and harsher forms of noise creep in and out without wholly altering the sound so much as they leave their small mark. This does not, however, deter from the intensity of the atmosphere here nor does it remove this from the overall genre of death industrial. Instead, this album switches between melancholy industrial dirges and static landscapes of pure loneliness and frustration. As this album is a reflection on anxiety as well as the human condition, I find it appropriate that in many ways this feels like the release with the most clarity and human input in wet nurse's catalog to date. This one's limited to thirty copies, so hop on it quickly. It's already halfway sold out.

MA:006 sees B.P.'s debut as a solo entity, "Maybe there's a tranquil eden behind the murk." Fans of the label might notice that B.P. is the mastermind behind Gashkadin and is also involved in the ethereal gloom of Bedroom Suite. In a way that hybridizes his two other approaches to sound, this release creaks in with low frequencies that ooze depression, and it takes hold with a sadness that exists outside of verbal understanding. Faded photographs of unloved household objects fill the booklet that accompanies this album, paired with lyrics to songs with titles like "chest sores," "dirty mattress," and "flesh chamber." To call this album a downer would be an understatement, but to simply view this as gloomy rumbling noise would be unfair. The static around the edges sometimes creeps in to turn sadness to terror, as carefully led onward by this masterful noise artist. As I listen, I feel a great loneliness, but it's enjoyable to the same effect as a truly frightening horror film; it's a masochistic joy. This tape is limited to a generous fifty copies, but that doesn't mean it's going to stick around forever. Grab this while you can.

MA:007 is the self-titled debut of doomy noisemakers Mukherjee. While the name's more than a mouthful, the music is some of the most ominous stuff I've heard in a while. Rather than crafting swirling static or electronic noise, this is thunderous droning of the earth's shifting as viewed through timelapse photography. While some electronic loops seem to be make their way into the fold at times, much of these sounds feel like they were created live in some sort of filthy basement. Harsh noise obsessives need not worry though, as the final track creates enough distorted sound manipulation horror to satisfy even fans of the most depraved sounds. I'd be lying if I said I'm not confused by some of this, but it's an intriguing sort of confusion akin to morbid curiosity, not the sort of confusion that makes me want to put it away. Forty copies of this cassette are available but I expect it to sell relatively quickly once people catch wind of this group.

So, loyal readers, you know what to do. Grab a few tapes from this label, help 'em continue doing what they're clearly so good at doing. MA:008 is already out as well, but I have yet to listen. It's a Wet Nurse cassette limited to 20 copies for a mere $2.50, so jump on that one if you're already paying a visit

Friday, August 9, 2013

New music from Fragile Branch

As I've been making posts in threes from time to time, I figure that now is as good a time as any to introduce my readers and friends to the young and promising Fragile Branch. The label already has a few releases out and seems determined to keep as busy as possible, with a full distro, custom button orders, and shirt and patch printing in addition to upcoming releases. Label head Andy was kind enough to send me a few cassettes for consideration, which I'm happy to share with all of you.

Starting things off is Maugrim's "Nothing, Bare." This cassette is firmly planted in the depressive black metal genre, but keeps it fresh and pleasant. While nods to some of the classics are clearly here, I don't feel like this is a stale homage so much as a true enthusiast creating something bleak and crushing. If the pained shrieks and somber melodies don't already direct you towards a darker place, the lyrics will surely make the artist's intentions clear. Many tracks on this album either beg for death or reflect on it in some way, and the music tends to meander along, pensive as the listener will surely be when focusing on such topics. By the time the album has ended, there is a sense of peace and bliss, a relief from the chaos within which the album often resides.

Next up is Lifelorn with "Katalis Sebuah Obsesi." Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this artist creates a dense yet peaceful style of black metal that calls to mind efforts from groups like Lustre or earlier Jesu. While there is certainly a sense of darkness that often comes with the genre's overall aesthetic, I feel as though the catharsis here is greater than the misery. As an instrumental effort, I feel this album opens up enough space for the listener to imprint their own personal meaning without the artist's vision losing its clarity. There is beauty, and there is discomfort. This tape works best when each layer of the music is allowed to build up rather than all being presented at once--hearing the individual pieces as they grow towards a single entity is quite satisfying. While I try not to pick favorites, this one is uncommonly good and comes with the highest of recommendations.

Rounding out the initial batch of Fragile Branch's releases is Filsufatia's "Buried Beneath & Forgotten." Displaying a noticeably cleaner production than the other two releases and also hailing from Malaysia, this is perhaps the middle ground between the other two groups presented in this review. The album opens with simple yet effective piano that is quickly joined by a full band's worth of instruments, crafting an elegant and reflective atmosphere. Much like Lifelorn, this release is purely instrumental, but it leans towards sorrow more than catharsis. Funereal keyboard melodies are often accompanied by distorted guitars as this one-man project builds atmosphere with precision and purpose.

Each of these fantastic tapes can be purchased in either a regular or special edition (which comes with more than just the patches I've pictured with my tapes) by visiting Fragile Branch's webstore. There is already a new lathe cut from Maugrim in stock and the label is planning their first LP release, Wanderlust's debut entitled "Monolithes entre ruines." I see great promise in this young label's selections and it's obvious that the stream of new music won't slow down any time soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Evil Twin Brewing- Lil' B Imperial Porter

This beer serves as an appropriate way for me to get back to my old hobby of reviewing tasty new beers. It's been a while simply because I've been short on funds and beer isn't cheap. That said, Evil Twin Brewing has been on my "must try" list for quite a while now, and I'm a sucker for beers that pay tribute to musicians, even if they aren't familiar to me. I know Lil' B is a popular rapper, but that's about the beginning and the end of it. Regardless, I decided to snag this brew as a good imperial porter is always welcome in my stomach.

Lil' B (the beer) pours a nice dark brown with a thin, tan head. The nose is relatively subtle and malty, although each sip displays heavy toffee and caramel flavors, with a thinner presence than the darkness would imply. The beer's eleven and a half percent alcohol content is well masked by the sweetness and richness of the flavors, but it can obviously be felt. I'm not sure if this beer is available in a larger bottle, but I probably wouldn't want any more than this drink offers, as it would surely overwhelm both my palate and my alcohol tolerance. While I know almost nothing about the musician with whom this beer shares its name, I'm all for anybody who inspires such a delicious drink. Grab a bottle if you can find it, it's worth getting.

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Music: Ak'chamel, Countess, Throne of Malediction

Ak'chamel- Thrower of Sickness Cassette (Self-Released/Halloween Quest Records)
Ak'chamel is an entity which spends a great amount of time in the realm of black metal, yet doesn't exist wholly within it. Instead, Ak'chamel produces blown out drones, sound collages of horror, and eerie samples that are accompanied by a muddy layer of fuzzed-into-oblivion black metal, all while remaining anonymous in outfits like the one presented above. Pairing all this with psychedelic leanings and spacey effects that may have come from a Hawkwind album makes for an experience that is enjoyable as a fan of black metal but also as a fan of bizarre ambiance. If you dig bands that toy with atmosphere and throw the rule book out the window, this album was made for you. Think of things like the murkier and more ethereal LLN groups or even the psychedelic madness of The Mausoleums. Currently only available as a free download, expect a cassette edition from Halloween Quest Records in the near future.

Countess- Sermons of the Infidel CD (Self-Released)
Countess stands as one of the cleaner recordings I've heard lately, following roots in a more traditional form of heavy metal while taking them down a darker path. This one-man band creates deceptively simple riffs over which stronger melodies are layered. The vocals are clearly human, snarled out with a vicious attitude, rather than the demonic shrieks of many newer bands. The evil intent drips from every line, clearly drawing inspiration from first wave black metal without simply mimicking the style of the originators. My only criticism here would be that the drumming is either programmed or done in the simplest fashion possible, but it still sets an appropriate foundation for some incredibly catchy and enjoyable metal that stands outside of time and trends. Snag this album from the artist's bandcamp page as linked above and check out his extensive back catalog while you're there.

Throne of Malediction- Out of Darkness, Comes Light (Torn Flesh Records/No Remorse Records)
Throne of Malediction grace this post with another set of sounds that rarely appears on this site, yet it's masterfully done and makes for a welcome addition. Elegant harpsichord sounds open the album with ominous spoken word, leading into an album of heavy metal which draws influences from both aggressive black metal and gloomy key-heavy doom without firmly planting itself in either. Vocals vary widely, with harsh male vocals of the black metal ilk often trading with soothing presence of gently sung female vocals that stop just short of reaching "operatic" levels. The balance of dark and light is clearly Throne of Malediction's focus, as album title and sound both demonstrate, and the balance is well kept. The album is just adventurous enough to create a unique experience, but familiar enough to keep a listener satisfied from start to finish, with a few surprise guest spots along the way. Obtain this album for free download by clicking the album's title in the header of this section and get your gloom on, or make a commitment to the darkness by purchasing from No Remorse Records.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gethsemane - "S/T"

Gethsemane’s brand of black metal is not unlike that of Amputator or Revenge in that it seethes chaos, dismantling the listener through noise-laden guitars backed by relentless blastbeats and suffering, subdued vocals. The demo begins ominously enough with picked strings and static before setting off on a destructive path that doesn’t yield until it’s over. And while the all-out assault approach certainly works in Gethsemane’s favor, I’d argue that it’s also the demo’s biggest drawback. Amidst the swirling violence I find myself periodically uninterested, the music no longer the focal point of my attention as much as background noise. The moments wherein Gethsemane restrain the tempo, however, are my favorite parts of the demo as it showcases something more than just cacophony, which, to clarify, I’m all for when it’s done well.

 When they slow down, they generate a necrotic atmosphere that slows the blade they otherwise wield maniacally, luring the listener into a false reprieve that soon gives way to pandemonium, tried and true. Overall, I’d certainly recommend giving Gethsemane a listen as they have all the elements necessary to create something truly rewarding. You can also purchase their tape directly from the band through their Bandcamp page should you enjoy what you hear.

Review contributed by Julio Espin

Teratism- "La Bas" 12" MLP (Negativity Records)

(image from Nuclear War Now! Productions)

Today's review takes us to a band that made an early impression on me when I first began seriously delving into the USBM community. A friend lent me a compilation CD entitled Destroyers From The Western Skies, which included greats such as Xasthur, Krieg, and Cobalt, as well as a track from Teratism, which certainly caught my attention as one of the album's standouts. Here I sit, years later, spinning their newest release, La Bas, feeling just as impressed and thrilled as I did when I first heard them. The occult attack is as strong as ever, and these four tracks are some of the most aggressive new black metal I've heard.

The album opens thick and ugly with "Gospel of the Heliophobe" with distorted choirs giving way to bestial madness of the most intense variety. For those who feel I often feature bands that aren't raw or evil enough, here you go. This is probably one of the filthiest black metal albums of the year, yet it doesn't sacrifice the dark majesty of the genre. Vocals are blown out and churning in all the right ways, and the guitars keep it bleak and ferocious without succumbing to simplified or dull riffs. This album's assault rarely relents, and it only seems to do so to add to the horror of the atmosphere. Many bands surround themselves with occult imagery or namedrop Satan any chance they can get, but few are actually convincing. Teratism are vicious and merciless in both music and lyrics, which is refreshing in a genre so full of showboating with minimal effort to back it up. This album closes up with a ritualistic and melancholy cover of "Come to the Sabbat" by Black Widow, a group who are new to me but are clearly worth my attention, as Teratism has dedicated this album to them. Due to its short length and consistent quality, this album certainly begs for repeated spins and has already worked its way into regular rotation in my home.

The album is currently available from Negativity Records's webstore, and comes loaded with extras to top off this demonic masterpiece. The record comes on black and white "splatter" vinyl and is accompanied by a 12-page booklet with lyrics and illustrations as well as a poster with some of the most awesome art I've seen in a while, courtesy of the legendary Mark Riddick. This is well worth the price of admission, and collectors should take note.  As I said, if you feel things have been a bit soft on here lately, don't pass on this one.