Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New music: Dodenkrocht, Cold Crypt, Sacramence/Golden Milk

Dodenkrocht- "Misery Chords" EP (Self-Released)
This EP is probably the most appropriate album I could be sharing in time for Halloween. Before you decide it's a collection of spooky sounds and cheap gimmicks, let me explain. The funereal vastness provided by Dodenkrocht on these three original compositions (and closing Manes cover) is majestic and so inherently visual that I can almost imagine an entire short scene for each tune. The pace of their second-wave inspired black metal is moderate at its fastest, which works nicely as this album is full of notes that ring out and howls that trail away into the darkness. If this wasn't recorded in a foggy forest clearing in the dead of night, I'd be none the wiser. The atmosphere is dense and the musicianship is solid. Even when the guitars are sped up, the drumming maintains a steady and hypnotic pace that really cements the ominous nature of Dodenkrocht's music. While this was my introduction to this project, I'm keeping an eye on these guys for future releases and you should do the same.

Cold Crypt- "Darkest Symphonies" CD (Self-Released)
These guys were kind enough to send me a copy of their CD all the way across the pond. Fortunately for me, it's good enough to feature even if I'd had to hunt it own myself. Working with roots in black metal, Cold Crypt frequently deconstructs the musical paradigms of the genre to bare bones only to craft new sounds with them. Hazy guitars and murky production create an almost electronic fuzz, with some tracks creeping into icy pulsing synth-heavy horror soundtracks. Some groups's names are quite telling, and Cold Crypt is absolutely one of them. Eerie without becoming campy, this album frequently treads into territory more often found on power electronics releases than traditional black metal albums, which is refreshing. Samples and sonic trickery fit in comfortably besides scathing metal assaults and cold minimal synth tracks. Absolutely worth a listen. Obtain a copy from the artist if you're located in Europe or from Badgod Music here in the USA.

Sacramence/Golden Milk- Split Cassette (Born Dead Records)
In a year when Raspberry Bulbs' newest album is making its way into massive mainstream success (well deserved, I might add), one might expect offerings falling into "noisy blackened punk" territory to suffer in quality, perhaps as trendhoppers.  I'm pleased to say this tape delivers the goods wholly and sincerely. Sacramence is the solo project of S. Jordan and submits two songs of blown out filth to start things off. Sacramence claims to deal with themes of nihilism and animal rights, which sounds awesome to me, but I can't pull a single word from the murk here. Opener "Revered Filth" starts off pretty slow and textured, with distortion building into an almost psychedelic bliss until chaotic drumming and distant howls break through at a frantic gallop. The second tune, "Decrepit Obedience" is much slower and more ominous, slowly shifting around and through itself in the most haunting way. Golden Milk follows with three compositions all thematically linked as separate parts of the same song, entitled "Through Force and Intolerance." These three songs are even more warped and fuzzy than Sacramence's portion of the split, yet are stripped of the hazy layering and are instead a focused and aggressive assault upon the listener. The pace varies but it's pretty straight-up, which I completely respect. This is currently available as a free download if you visit Sacramence on bandcamp and will be available from Born Dead Records' webstore as a cassette sometime soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Narwhal Imperial Stout (2013 Ed.)

Hey readers. Perhaps you feel my beer reviews have been a bit repetitive. I know they've felt a bit redundant to me. I'm a metal connoisseur but a relative amateur in the world of beer. That said, it's silly of me to repeat the same basic set of terms for these reviews while I'm going all over the place with my music reviews. A good brewer has just as much artistic integrity and passion as any musician, so I'm going to try to spice my beer reviews up a bit in honor of the fine folks who have committed themselves to their craft.

Narwhal strikes me as a great beer to use for a renewed attempt at writing great reviews, because it's a fantastic take on one of my favorite styles of beer. The aroma's rich and textured, with multiple accents playing off each other. There aren't any peculiar or groundbreaking changes on the typical imperial stout formula, but this is a very well made beer in that it's a full experience. The liquid is thinner and the flavor is smoother than I would have anticipated, making for a surprisingly easy sipping dark beer despite its heavy nose and ten percent alcohol content. Grab a four-pack of this at your favorite beer retailer--it's Sierra Nevada so it should be pretty widely available.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vlk- "Unknown Totems" CD-r (Self-Released)

Vlk is a new project from Chicago, committed to a pensive and textured brand of black metal. Their debut EP offering, "Unknown Totems," is a brief yet wholly engaging album which has managed to surprise and impress me from the very start. I really appreciate the intricate and human feeling of the live drums on this release, as it contributes to the swells and dips in the mood that Vlk creates in these short bursts of musical chaos. In fact, the humanity of this release is where it really excels. Everything feels like it was created with real instruments, by real people. While that should often be an expected standard in extreme music, the increasing ease with which one can access digital approximations of real sound has grown greatly. It's nice to see such a raw and impassioned release from a younger band. Vlk has indicated intentions of a cassette release in the near future, which I feel will perfectly capture the urgency of this music. While very little information is publicly available about Vlk, their facebook page lists an interest in agronomy, which tells me that they have either a scientific leaning or an interest in living in greater harmony with the earth. Also of interest is their decision to close this EP with a cover of "Echelons" by For Against. While I often feel it's ill advised to include covers on early releases while still developing a reputation, it's nice to see a black metal band exploring outside of the greater boundaries of heavy metal right from the start. If anything, this indicates that Vlk probably has some interesting expansion in mind for future releases.

"Unknown Totems" comes beautifully packaged in a handmade slipcase with a Vlk button and vinyl sticker. These are individually numbered out of thirty and only six remain, so I urge my readers to grab this as quickly as possible. If you're a spot late or not interested in CDs, it's also available for download at the price you see fit so there's no real reason not to give it a listen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New from Malignant Records: The Vomit Arsonist, Phelios, and Aderlating

Since my last "batch" post was decidedly rooted in black metal, I feel it's time to balance it with some fantastic death industrial, dark ambient, and generally horrific music with roots in the electronic rather than metal genres. I recently received a batch of CDs from Malignant Records and these three in particular stood out for me, although it'd be folly to dismiss the rest of this label's impressive catalog. Seriously, take a look--it's stunning. Honestly, there's a chance I might feature more Malignant releases soon, as these have pretty much been in constant rotation over here for the past few weeks.

The Vomit Arsonist- "An Occasion For Death" CD
Of the albums I received, The Vomit Arsonist was instantly a curiosity for me. While the name is slightly curious to me (does he set vomit on fire? is his vomit made of fire?), this album is as serious as it gets. The mechanical percussion sets a fantastic dirge pace for the depressing synth-laden drones, churning static, and violent yelling that make up the meat of this album. It's both somber and terrifying--perfect for dimly lit rooms and long nights of self-loathing. Suicide, or death as a whole, is an easy theme to prey upon for darker music, yet The Vomit Arsonist captures this heavy subject matter in a respectable and convincing light rather than simply throwing out something vaguely negative. There is a true sense of despair and ugliness here that really inspires my faith in death industrial and power electronics as truly expressive forms of music rather than simple ways of shocking people with machinery. The passionate violence here sticks with me long after it's finished, leaving a dull emptiness in its wake. Order a copy here.

Phelios- "Gates of Atlantis" CD
I will admit to already being quite fond of Phelios before receiving this CD, but this album further cements Phelios' role as a talented dark ambient visionary. As its name might suggest, this is a rather subterranean voyage, with rhythms that feel more organic and ancient than byproducts of modern electronic music. The majority of this album feels like a living, breathing thing, almost some ancient force lying dormant. Despite the relatively dark subject matter presented here, there is a euphoric sense of satisfaction to the smoky and ominous atmosphere here, perhaps as a celebration of fear and the unknown. The tension and foreboding on this album serve as a soundtrack to an inner film of both majesty and horror. Whether falling through endless depths of space or boring straight to the core of the earth, this is an ever-expanding experience that grows with each listen. I could put this one on and listen on repeat for days. "Gates of Atlantis" is easily one of my favorite electronic albums to come out this year and cannot be recommended highly enough. Grab a copy and you'll understand.

Aderlating- "Gospel of the Burning Idols" CD
As one of the many projects of Gnaw Their Tongues mastermind Mories, it's safe to say that Aderlating's music is and has always been on the scarier side of the musical spectrum, but "Gospel of the Burning Idols" has taken my understanding of Mories' dark ambitions and given it new depth. This is easily the most unsettling work I've heard from Aderlating, with occasional feedback bursts and startling live percussion illuminating an otherwise ashen landscape of bleak droning death industrial and adding to the anxiety-inducing nature of the music. It's hard to tell if the sparse vocals are whispered or shrieked and simply buried, but they're just one more piece of this horrifying slab of noise. To truly put the intensity of this album into words is a rather daunting challenge, as I have been fortunate enough in my life not to encounter death or torture, but this truly feels like the sounds of a panicked ending to one's life. Absolutely horrific, loosely structured, this album is worth the time for any who are brave enough to endure these challenges. Buy it here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Music: Smorg, Astral Rebirth, Being

Smorg- "A Morbid Chapter" CDr (Self-Released)
Have you, dear readers, ever wished for the maddened howls of LLN-inspired black metal to be fused with the punkier side of grindcore? Smorg sees an absence of this in the overall metal community and is filling this void. The rawness of this demo only adds to the fabulously murky sound these guys have crafted. While the songs are aggressive and the vocals are as inhuman as it gets, there are occasional melodic leads that are well integrated, allowing for even less adventurous listeners to become assimilated as Smorg grows to engulf the weak. The CD-r the band sent me is about as DIY and simple as it gets. My laptop even refuses to play it (although other devices of mine seem to have no issue--thanks computer), perhaps because it can't handle the intensity of Smorg's assault. With songs like "Spilling Imperial Blood" being both addictive and vicious, it's safe to say these guys deserve a listen. They just released a split with Cold Crypt on Depressive Illusions, so snag a copy of that if you enjoy what you hear.

Astral Rebirth- "Surrendered to the Black Immensity" CD (Winterglow Records)
Immensity is as apt a term as any to describe the majestic black atmospheres Astral Rebirth creates on this beast of an album. I've had the promo email sitting in my inbox for four months, and like the fool I am, I've listened many times and neglected to review it. This hazy brand of ambient black metal is perfect for rainy days, contemplation, and even winding down in the evening. That's not to say that Astral Rebirth makes mellow music, but it embodies heavy grey days and clear starry nights. On a deeper level, the name and the atmosphere here make it clear that this music comes from a place of deep focus and possibly self-reflection. I'm not able to speak to the themes on this release, but these songs capture a vastness and timelessness that I can't quite place. It appears that copies are sold out from the label, although I'd keep an eye out, as I'm sure more will emerge.

Being- "II: Nyx" (Super-Void)
If Astral Rebirth isn't cosmic enough for your liking, Being's most recent release will surely capture the right state for you. Easily the cleanest recording featured in this post, "II: Nyx" is a two-track affair of cosmic melancholy. Opener "Hypnos" has a purposefully repetitive vocal melody, driving a sense of great emptiness in over the course of many minutes while the music spirals from somber to chaotic. Closer "Ex Nihilo" is decidedly more planted in progressive metal territory, yet doesn't lean towards needless noodling. There are absolutely no harsh vocals on this album, which might not suit all fans of extreme music but works quite nicely here, with a clean presence that is firm yet almost ghostly in its wavering nature. The bleakness of the music and the solemn determination of the vocals work together to create an elegant and multifaceted album. While just under twenty minutes in length, "II: Nyx" feels fully realized and lacks little. Download it from the Super-Void/Being bandcamp.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Aosoth- "IV: An Arrow In Heart" (Agonia Records)

Greetings readers. Most of you are probably surprised to see such a high profile release here, but after owning it for the past couple of months, I realize it would be absolutely unjust if this album didn't receive some kind of coverage here on Black Metal & Brews. Given that this landmark album is still available in multiple formats, I feel it's my duty to urge you folks to give it a listen and purchase it if you see fit.

If you aren't already familiar with this absolute monster of an album or the band behind it, here's your opportunity. Aosoth is a French black metal group who puts out some of the most discordant, chaotic black metal I've heard in a while. After a performance at this year's Maryland Death Fest and some pretty decent promotion behind this album, it's likely you've at least heard the name. With multiple releases under their belt and hype that they can actually back, it's likely that we're only going to hear more from and about this band in the near future. "IV: An Arrow In Heart" is easily one of the most addictive albums I've heard this year, although I find describing it quite challenging. The entire album feels like it's a transmission from a distant and horrible land, wholly isolated in time and space. Elements both futuristic and archaic weave throughout each other in some kind of unholy symbiosis, with tribal pulses echoing across a severely irradiated wasteland. Pretty much everything I love about black metal is present to some degree here. The guitars are filthy and often chase themselves in circles. The vocals are throaty and depraved, just on the far side of intelligible. The production is jagged and dense but none of the crucial elements of Aosoth's sound are obscured in the process. The lyric insert in the record is written entirely in Braille, an interesting touch for an already challenging album. I'm sure somebody has gone through the effort to decode them, but I have yet to find the words. If anything, I enjoy the mystery the band has created. I feel like less observant listeners might look to similarly minded bands and just throw out names, but there's a frightening sincerity to this album that is often lacking in releases that inspire such dread and I can't find a true peer for this sound. With songs so beautifully overwhelming, repeated listens continually yield layer upon layer of filth and fury. In short, this album is both instantly enjoyable and still has room to grow after multiple experiences. It's rare that an album holds my interest to such a degree, but Aosoth has done just that with "IV: An Arrow In Heart" and I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome.

Visit the Agonia Records Webstore to grab this on CD, traditional black vinyl, or limited transparent royal blue vinyl. If you're in the United States, you can try to order copies of the standard gatefold vinyl from Fallen Empire while they're still in. Listen to an edited version of the album's title track below:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Southern Tier Brewing Company's Plum Noir Imperial Porter.

Hey folks. It's been a while since I've shared a good drink on here, and what better beer than one I've had sitting in my fridge for nearly five months? When I saw Southern Tier's Plum Noir in the store, I knew I had to have it. However, I also made the mistake of putting it on a pedestal and refusing to drink it until circumstances made for the perfect moment. What I should have been doing was including this in my semi-regular drinking routine.

The beer pours as dark as the "Noir" in the name would imply, with a frothy head that parts way just enough to allow for a decent sip. The nose is surprisingly floral for such a dark beer, and the sweetness of the plums does little to detract from its bitterness, but instead broadens the overall experience. Given that plums are a fruit with such a deep flavor, it's nice to see them getting attention here. There's also the slight coffee note that commonly accompanies darker porters. It works perfectly here. There's a light fizziness that's barely present but just noticeable enough on the tip of my tongue, and there's just an overall pleasant balance to the whole thing. Southern Tier's Blackwater Series is proving to be consistent and fantastic and just experimental enough to intrigue without confusing the palate. While it definitely might be appealing to a niche audience, it's worth trying for any passionate drinkers.