Ghost Cult’s dive beneath the crust into the dirty, disgusting and sub-underground is back, as Richie HR returns with a round-up most fetid for your vulgar delectation…
It’s happened again. Every time I declare that the wind really has gone out of the sails of dissonant/abstract/you-know-the-weird-one Death Metal, someone releases an album that proves me wrong again.
This time it’s Ingurgitating Oblivion, whose third album Vision Wallows In Symphonies Of Light (Willowtip) sees them cross the divide between someone-to-watch and someone-to-follow. Mixing Death Metal with “artier” ambitions is nothing new, but they’ve taken it further than anyone before them, blending dazzling, acrobatic Death Metal with ambient passages, delicate guitar picking and elements that fall firmly outside of my Metal knuckle-dragger’s musical lexicon. It would be easy for music like this to sound patchy and disparate, but IO have succeeded in mixing the different elements so smoothly that they’ve created something genuinely new – with all murkiness replaced by a strange kind of savage beauty, the only thing they have in common with Portal is that this music is recognisable as Death Metal while also falling outside its normal boundaries [9.0/10]
Ingurgitating Oblivion are definitely leading the Weird Death Metal charge right now, but John Frum isn’t far behind them. With a deceptively harmless name and members of Dillinger Escape Plan and John Zorn’s band, the artiness and technicality of A Stirring In The Noos (Relapse) is not a surprise, but you may not be expecting just how savage it is. The core of their sound is a brutal, primitive Death Metal with traces of Grind and Sludge that loses none of its power for being mixed with rapid time-changes, ambitious compositions and occasional ambient passages. At a time when sounding like Gorguts is so common that it’s become dull, John Frum honour the Canadians’ legacy of creating music which is both strange, artistically accomplished and violent without simply copying their sound. [9.0/10]
Not that Death Metal always has to be abstract and ambitious to kick your teeth in, of course Suffering Hour’s In Passing Ascension (Blood Harvest) takes a more orthodox approach, but incorporates dissonant, string-bending riffs that often sound like a more straight-forward, aggressive Portal. [7.0/10] New Zealand’s Vesicant take an even more straight-forward approach on Shadows Of Cleansing Iron (Iron Bonehead), blasting out savage Black/Death Metal in the style of Blasphemy. Not exactly uncommon at the moment, especially on Iron Bonehead, but Vesicant understand the limitations of their chosen style and play it to its strengths, never outstaying their welcome or getting distracted from the violence. [7.0/10]
If even Vesicant are a bit too fancy for you, then Witch Vomit have chosen a name that lets you know exactly what they are. With not a second wasted on anything but kicking your teeth in, A Scream From The Tomb Below (Memento Mori) is an entertainingly unpretentious blast of crypt-lurking Proper Death Metal that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. Shamelessly generic and unambitious, but self-aware enough to realise that that doesn’t have to be a bad thing [6.0/10]. Exactly what Reverorum ib Mallacht are doing on Ter Agios Numini (The Ajna Offensive) is considerably less clear, but at least intriguing for it. They occupy an awkward point where abstract Death Metal and Dark Ambient start to melt into each other, with the riffs and recognisable guitar sounds being the first casualty. The core of their sound is a fairly orthodox set of drones and ambient sounds that might be effective by themselves, but are often overshadowed by the frantic blast-beating and dry-throat growls that are laid on top of it.
It’s an engaging idea on paper, and there are certainly moments when it works, but the two elements too frequently have no audible relationship with each other, and the two long main tracks lack real focus, often feeling like the band are simply throwing in whatever sounds they can think of to keep the run-time up. An interesting album rather than a good one, Ter Agios Numini is worth a listen for anyone who enjoys both Dark Ambient and Death Metal, but ultimately fails to present either genre at their best. [5.0/10]
Finally, Les Chants du Hasard’s self-titled debut (I, Voidhanger) falls outside our normal remit of “dissonant” or ugly music, but deserves its place for its unusual take on familiar tropes. Building on the legacy of choral experimentalists Elend, sole member Hasard has tried to take Black Metal’s interest in orchestral music to its conclusion, creating what is essentially neo-classical music with a Metal vocalist. He faces the same challenge that Metal bands dabbling in the symphonic have always faced – a full orchestra is firmly outside I, Voidhanger’s budget – but aside from some parpy moments has largely side-stepped it with a sound that does what it needs to do. The music – though firmly outside most Metal fans frames of reference – is interesting and effective, and side-steps the obvious trap of simply transcribing Black Metal riffs for synth-violin, while thought has been given to how the vocals – which could have been reduced to simple screaming over the top – interact with the music. A true hybrid, Les Chants du Hasard is probably destined to remain something of a niche curiousity to both genres its straddles, but what could so easily have been a crude gimmick is instead a genuinely engaging piece of music. [7.0/10]