Monday, September 30, 2013

Submission Policy

Many of you have noticed that there are details for submitting to Black Metal & Brews in the "About Black Metal & Brews" tab here on this website. However, as my social media presence has grown, many artists have taken to contacting me via twitter and facebook. While I appreciate the efforts taken in these formats, the sheer volume of requests I receive has grown to a point where I need to set a firmer rule on submissions.

If you do not submit your music to me directly at then there is a good chance I will unintentionally ignore your request. Why? Because that email address is where I go to ensure I'm not forgetting anything. If you're interested in sending physical promo, send an email and I'll reply with mailing information. Thanks for your cooperation in helping me provide the most current and thorough reviews and content.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CAPA- "This is the Dead Land This is Cactus Land" (Self-Released)

CAPA is a group whose music defiantly stands on its own. While it's easy to call them a black metal group, it would be inaccurate to throw a genre at a band whose entire statement of purpose is to remove itself from the norm. That said, "This is the Dead Land, This is Cactus Land," CAPA's first full-length album, borrows many elements from the black metal genre, which it fuses with elements of post-hardcore, traditional ambient (think early 80's Brian Eno), and whatever else the band feels is important at any given moment. This isn't the "kitchen sink" approach that bands like to take when trying to do something new. Instead, CAPA has made a commitment to releasing intelligent, well crafted music that sets itself into a category of quality rather than leaning on any one stylistic concept.

"This is the Dead Land, This is Cactus Land" is the culmination of a trilogy, preceded by their EP "Shallow Towers" and their debut release, "The Road is a Grey Tape" (released on Ivory Antler).  This third chapter details the world's end from the perspective of an individual removed from society, perhaps the last human being alive. Appropriately, the journey through the wastes of the world that was before leads the story's protagonist deeper both into the desolation as well as into his or her own psyche. The pairing of introspection with reflection on humanity's indulgences and the damage caused is both painful and illuminating, and the music contorts itself to fit whatever mood needs to be created. The musical direction seems to be guided more by the lyrical content than any other needs, and works accordingly. The vocals are actually intelligible and hoarse in a way that is more commonly associated with groups in the "post-metal" category (whatever the hell post- anything means anymore) but works quite well for this album's purpose. As with previous releases, CAPA refuses to be limited and seems just as content to allow for three minutes of blissful ambiance as they are creating dizzying tension with entire songs spiraling upward to simply provide a mere moment's release. Whatever terms I could use to describe these songs in regards to actual musical content will inherently fall short.  Instead, this album is a complete piece of artwork, more of an emotional and mental process that the listener must undergo to fully comprehend than a piece of aggressive music meant to be enjoyed as simple ear candy.

The album is now out for digital purchase and streaming via CAPA's bandcamp page. The band is in the process of finding a label and format for physical release in the near future. This post will be update as details arrive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cara Neir- "Portals to a Better, Dead World" LP (Broken Limbs Recordings/Halo of Flies)

It's with great joy that I get to write this review. I started drafting this review in May and have been waiting to unveil it for you guys to enjoy. Cara Neir have long been favorites here at Black Metal & Brews, so having the opportunity to share this album with my readers after a bit of a wait is pretty exciting. In every way possible, this album is an expansion of their previous works. The most notable changes are more growth than an alteration of formula. This material feels bigger and more punishing than anything I've heard from Cara Neir before, with average song lengths continuing to increase and some of the heaviest riffs and vocals they've unleashed to date, but all of these descriptors are essentially meaningless to the uninitiated, so let's get a bit more serious here.

The first thing that needs to be touched on here is Cara Neir's genre, or perhaps the lack thereof. Citing bands as dissimilar as Ulver, Neurosis, and Ceremony is typically a surefire way to have a cluttered nightmare of an album on your hands. Instead, Cara Neir have always been able to send their songs out to the universe with a relentlessly focused vision. Listening to a Cara Neir song is like a musical game of Twister, with one hand on grindcore, another on black metal, and another somehow on the better elements of post-rock, all without lowering itself to terms like "blackgaze" or anything with the phrase "post-" in it. Knowing Cara Neir is a shapeshifting beast doesn't really help a listener know what to expect, but it does allow one to enter with an open mind. Multi-instrumentalist mastermind Garry Brents might be the single musician most frequently featured here on BM&B due to his role in mastering albums by so many other bands I love, so it's really no surprise that the production on this album lends a crushing intensity and edge to the music. The guitars dash around vocalist Chris Francis' straight-up demonic shouts, which have only grown hoarser and more painfully human with each release. To say that this album is a head first assault would be wrong though, as the band masterfully alter pace, shift gears, and pretty much manipulate sound and feeling in any way necessary to craft the most painstaking and tragic sounding songs possible. Longing, loss, and the urgency of our finite lives all come to mind, although I have not yet seen lyrics for these songs. Still, there's a pained beauty to everything here and the song names only add to the atmosphere. There are surprises aplenty throughout the album, but I'd rather encourage you to check it out for yourself than ruin the fun. With a year full of black metal inspired hybrids already featured on this blog, Cara Neir has just released an album that keeps them clearly at the head of the pack.

The album is available in two separate bundled packages from Broken Limbs Recordings (either with a shirt, or Cara Neir's split cassette with crusty madmen Ramlord) or simply by itself from either BLR or Halo of Flies. One hundred copies will be pressed on smoky green vinyl and four hundred will be pressed on traditional black vinyl. Pre-orders are already selling quickly and this album will ship out on October 31st. Order yours now, because I don't think these will last long enough to purchase after the shipping date. Listen to the preview below and then hop on this one.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fragile Branch update: New music from Voidcrawler, Ancst, & Frater Ximenes is Dead

Some of you may notice that this post comes not long after a recent post about a batch of releases from Fragile Branch. Even without consistent quality, a label this prolific would have my full attention, but Fragile Branch's roster remains ambitious and challenging while still having a general focus on high quality black metal and its related subgenres. With three new tapes being released between now and the end of October, it's time to take a good look and prepare ourselves for some new music.

Voidcrawler- "Demo"
This release is one of the few demo albums I've heard recently that actually sounds like a demo. It's not quite a fully realized album, but it is a solid and enjoyable collection of songs that craft a dark fantasy atmosphere full of wolves, wind, and otherworldly beasts. If the totally awesome album cover doesn't instantly sell you, I don't know if I can help you much. The songs themselves are fully formed, and the themes do seem related, but there seems to be a slight change in overall sound quality and balance between a couple of the tracks. It's not an issue so much as something that caught my attention--perhaps the physical cassette is slightly more consistent. While not quite in the vein of many bands that pay homage to Lord of the Rings, the song titles create such vivid imagery that the music tends to play into. I can imagine much of this lo-fi black metal being listened to in a cabin lit only by candles, with demons and ghouls lurking just outside. Clean lead guitar tends to subtly guide the distorted backing tracks on through snowy woodlands and endless valleys. This is a promising debut for this act and the cassette can already be preordered, with tomorrow set as the shipping date.

Ancst- "In Turmoil"
People who keep up with Black Metal & Brews are most likely familiar with Ancst from my recent review of their two-song cassette "The Humane Condition," released earlier this year on Dark Omen Records. "In Turmoil" is the first official US-based release from Ancst and is a collection of their songs from multiple other releases, including "The Humane Condition." Despite the fact that these songs are from separate releases, the urgency and experimentation in Ancst's style allows pretty much any of their tracks to flow nicely with any other. Each of the tracks here stands alone while working with the others. If you're looking for more of the chaotic black metal influenced hardcore/sludge hybrid that Ancst is so good at, this tape is a perfect way to catch a bit of everything from them. This tape will be up for preorder soon with a release date of October 22nd, so keep an eye out. Additionally, Ancst has a pretty promising split with Hiveburner available directly from the band themselves. Ancst's tracks from that split are all on "In Turmoil," but if you're interested in the other half of the split you should check it out.

Frater Ximenes is Dead- "Demo II"
Following two slightly more aggressive and fast-paced releases is this offering of terrifying dark ambient and droning black metal. While this is Frater Ximenes is Dead's second demo, it's the first I've heard from them and it makes for a promising introduction. Warped keys, distant shrieks, and a heavy haze that never quite leaves all make for an unsettling and dark release from this Italian duo. Even by the album's end, the nature sounds that are left behind strike me as the earth reclaiming its territory after some sort of man-made chaos. There's little familiar here, even when drawing parallels to similarly minded artists of the general black noise genre, and I find that to be suitable. This is arguably the strangest release I've reviewed lately, yet my morbid fascination with it grows with each listen. This is going to be released on October 22nd in an edition of 66 copies with a patch. I seriously recommend getting on this. It may not make sense at first, but it grows on the listener with repeated plays.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fury 161- "Purify" mp3 single. Free Download.

Greetings readers. I feel it's safe to assume that most of you aren't familiar with Fury 161, the aggressive death industrial act featuring Corvus of BM&B favorite Project: Void. Fury 161 has chosen today to debut their single, "Purify," a track of crawling industrialized mayhem. Static percussion and depraved vocals clash with glitchy madness surrounding. Not a single instrument is working to create solace in this track, instead the whole thing sounds like a great dying machine trying to envelop as much of its surroundings as possible before it shuts down for the last time. This group has just signed up for an official Facebook page and have announced an upcoming full-length album entitled "Armageddon's Maw" which will be released by Bugs Crawling Out of People. While the world at large may be frightened by such chaos, we devoted few can enjoy this free download while we await the release of Fury 161's debut album.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Xothist- s/t LP (Fallen Empire Records)

Xothist's debut album has been out for a while now, but up until just recently it had only been available on a highly limited cassette from the now defunct Bleak Environment. Thanks to Fallen Empire Records, this album has now seen release on vinyl with a recent remaster and is finally getting the more widespread attention it deserves. As Xothist's sole member is a former member of the indescribable Tollund Men, it's no surprise that the suffocating brand of ambient black metal presented here is unique and highly unorthodox. This album has been a quick seller, so check out my review and then grab a copy quickly, before they vanish entirely.

Each side of this record contains a single track just under twenty-one minutes long, allowing Xothist to slowly craft a dense and precise atmosphere rather than rushing any musical ideas. The heavy electronic elements presented here add a rather uneasy feeling to the music, and the first number of minutes of either side of the record captures the feeling of being hunted down. I'm not sure if Xothist is the predator or if he's conveying his experience as the prey, but it's unsettling regardless. When the electronic tension finally breaks into a cathartic explosion of distorted guitars and vocals, it still feels like there is a smothering element to the music. Everything seems to be either hidden behind a veil of some sort, or perhaps it's even just pushing down heavily on the listener. The feeling of a struggle is apparent in every moment of this recording, whether nearly silent or bursting with energy. The music often pours over at a mid-paced gallop, with electronic chaos exploding in the distance from time to time. While the production allows me to hear most of what's happening, there is an intentional blurring of instruments that creates a more textured and oppressive feeling than many similarly paced black metal albums would attain. When the speed picks up, it still feels pained on an almost cosmic level rather than "evil" as many faster black metal releases seem to strive for. Indeed, Xothist emanates suffering, mechanical disconnection, and universal emptiness far more than evil, hatred, or aggression. While I am not privy to the lyrical content, I'd be quite interested to know what's going on here, as the music is far more compelling and intelligent than the average black metal release.

Copies of this album with patches (pictured immediately above) are in short supply, although regular copies still remain for the time being. If you don't want to be left behind, I recommend making a purchase immediately. It's only $16 and well worth it. As always, Fallen Empire has made this album available as a "pay what you like" download from their bandcamp if you aren't entirely ready for this on vinyl, although I have no idea why you wouldn't want this album in your grubby little hands.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Depravation- "II: MALEDICTVM" LP (Dark Omen Records/Life and Death Records/Sally Records)

Germany hasn't been a place that's often in my periphery for great new metal, yet Dark Omen Records seems to deliver more than a couple surprises. First Ancst, now this multifaceted beast of an album from Depravation, entitled "II: MALEDICTVM." If this is the sound of the German underground, I'm quite excited to delve deeper into this community, because these guys are putting a lot of current American bands to shame.

The album opens with a chant that builds to frenzied laughter, shouting, and general sounds of a wild crowd. In no way does this prepare me as a listener for the chaos that ensues. The opening riff on "Wrath" sounds like something out of the big book of Dissection riffs, which works nicely to contrast with the grinding headbang-ready verses. The hybridization of black metal and hardcore is done to an almost perfectly precise level here, retaining even my attention despite my ever-shrinking interest in hardcore. The vocals are raw, throaty, and painful in all the right ways, the music shakes the listener back and forth. It's almost impossible not to nod your head along or tap your foot while listening to Depravation's music, and this album moves rapidly onward in a way that keeps my attention so well. Anytime something has the potential to overstay its welcome, it disappears. If something is worth repeating a couple times, it shows up again. The structure of the songs is almost mathematically precise in terms of keeping things fresh without sacrificing the chance to enjoy a good riff for a minute. There are few things in this realm that impress me, but Depravation have done so in a way that makes me wish I could hop a plane to catch a crowded, sweaty gig. Fittingly enough, perhaps, this album ends with a certain familiar singing, chanting, and shouting, as if to signal the closure of the carnage, or perhaps inspire the more daring listener to begin again.

Snag a copy of this on vinyl from one of many places in one of many colors. You can get it from Dark Omen Records or Life and Death Records or download it for free from Depravation's bandcamp (or the mediafire link provided by the band, depending on how many free downloads are left). I can't find information on Sally Records, otherwise I'd link to them, so please feel free to help correct this lack of link.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Anagnorisis- "Beyond All Light" CS/CD (Self-Released/Like Young Records)

Anagnorisis initially contacted me a few months ago with a simple "hello" email and a note that they had their music up for free on bandcamp. I listened briefly and enjoyed what I heard and promptly slept on their music like I'm so good at doing. Today I decided to get with it and give them another listen. I'm already on my second play-through of their new album today and I'm disappointed in myself for sitting on such a monstrous album. With that in mind, these fellas get their own entire post so that we can really delve deep here.

Anagnorisis plays an urgent and almost cinematic form of black metal, with twists and turns aplenty but a primary focus on straight-up aggression. Unconventional instruments such as mandolin, violin, and saxophone all make appearances here, but Anagnorisis implements them organically rather than turning the music into a jazz/classical hybrid of black metal as many bands are tempted to do when incorporating such instruments. On tracks like "This Cursed Blood," you can feel the pain that Anagnorisis pours into the music, making the experience more personal and wholly fulfilling. The personality of the music really strengthens the whole atmosphere, removing the need for genre descriptions and instead making an experience that is evocative for the listener. While "symphonic" elements appear from time to time (often a big downer for my tastes personally), they serve to accent such glorious moments that their presence only emphasizes the beauty and melancholy crafted by this vicious machine. The two separate halves of this album (or sides of the tape) do feel like two distinct statements, yet both work together as one unified beast. The production here allows for sufficient clarity to hear the music but does nothing to mess with the raw ferocity these guys generate. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy this album and wish I'd been on my feet to review it sooner.

Luckily for all of us, this album is available in many different ways through their bandcamp. Whether you're looking for an affordable download (only $5 for the whole album), a limited tape, CD, or shirt, you can grab it all. Tapes are available in red and black from the band, and yellow from Like Young Records. Hop on this now, as only 100 tapes exist and these guys are sure to sneak up on the overall metal underground with an album this intense. Previous albums are also still up for free download, so you can collect the whole back catalog pretty easily and catch up with this group.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

High Aura'd/Blood Bright Star Split 7" (Anti-Matter Records)

Today we're examining a new release from two challenging acts who function quite differently from each other, yet have come together to put out this lovely split 7" record. While both were names I'd encountered before, I'd heard little from High Aura'd and only knew Blood Bright Star from their recent split cassette with Obsidian Towers.

High Aura'd holds down the A-side of this split with the track "Remain in Light." (Link goes to NPR feature with the song's video). While hardly an homage to Talking Heads' album of the same name, this song does create a fearful atmosphere that would make anybody wary of the darkness, at least initially. As the song grows from heavy bleak drone into an almost ethereal humming, one can hear the crackle of the world awakening, entering the sunlight. The shifting beauty mesmerizes here and captivates me as a listener. While far shorter in length than I would prefer, High Aura'd manages to achieve in five minutes what many artists take a whole album to create.

Visiting the B-side, we are presented with Blood Bright Star's "Golden Blood Pt. II." I haven't heard part one, but this feels like a song unto itself, with no prior context needed to enjoy it. With a downtempo, minimal song structure, this song is still notably more "busy" than "Remain in Light," yet it feels like a solid accompaniment. In a strange sense, this feels like an odd jam between Portishead and mid-90's Godflesh, with vocals thrown out the window because the music's solid enough not to need them. Dark, urban, yet outside of the normal social boundaries, the song serves as a backing track to mysterious activities of some sort. This release begs for repeat listens due to its brevity, however I'd selfishly like another song from each group so that I can really lose myself in this as an album rather than a teaser.

This limited edition (250 copies) split is currently up for pre-order at the Anti-Matter Records webstore, along with great releases by artists like Gates, Onibaba, and Swamp Witch. Hop on it now, as this split is shipping out this coming week.