NEW MUSIC FRIDAY: February 28th New Music Releases

 

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Inter Arma – Sulphur English

Despite third album Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records) establishing Virginian quintet Inter Arma as one of the World’s premier exponents of Harsh Progressive Metal, it’s nevertheless arguable as to whether or not the band remains in the shadow of 2014’s staggering opus The Cavern (Relapse Records). Fourth full-length Sulphur English (also Relapse), surely their most brutal yet, will lay such doubts to rest. Continue reading

Sataray – Nocturnum

One-person Seattle outfit Sataray is the brainchild of Katarina E. and purports to be a dark, ritualistic experience. Ploughing a live furrow over the last few years with her Performance Art-style shows, Nocturnum (Scry Recordings) is the first long-player from this enigmatic artist. Continue reading

Ævangelist – Matricide In The Temple Of Omega

The incredible productivity of transatlantic duo Ævangelist – six albums and a host of EPs littering its eight-year existence – is matched only by the nerve-shredding nature of the music. The Blackened Death chaos mirrors the evil and pestilence rife in today’s inhumane, technical age, and this is further reflected in latest album Matricide in the Temple of Omega (I, Voidhanger Records). Continue reading

Grave Upheaval – Untitled (II)

There’s an element of mystery surrounding Australian duo Grave Upheaval, enhanced by the sparing title of this sophomore album (the second time they’ve left an album untitled, but let’s go with II, (Nuclear War Now!) and its similarly named tracks. It’s reinforced by a guttural, terrifying sound evident right from opener ‘I’: a Funeral crawl through a barren, infested wasteland, with a harsh ambiance and dry, feral growls leading into a pacy, Death-infused barrage. Yet despite the furious onslaught of blast beats, the blood-curdling vocal scour and rumbling background fuzz retain the omen of apocalypse. Continue reading

Gnaw Their Tongues and Dragged Into Sunlight – NV

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Let’s be honest – collaborations in Metal almost never work. The point is surely to create something which combines elements of both bands into something both distinctive and familiar, but in practice it normally ends up as either a crude patchwork or simply a retread of whichever band has the most distinctive style.

Gnaw Their Tongues and Dragged Into Sunlight are in many ways the perfect combination of bands for this kind of collaboration – not only because of their shared theme and atmosphere, but because both bands occupy a shifting sonic territory whose boundaries are regularly reformed. GTT have long been in the habit of altering the exact balance of Noise and Black Metal between albums, whereas DIS’ two non-collaborative albums both explore notably different styles and tones. As a result, it’s not easy to identify exactly what each party has contributed to NV (Prosthetic) – this is very much its own thing, not a crude combination of the two.

Which is not to say that this is their surprise Polka album. The five tracks on NV explore the mixture of Black Metal, harsh Noise and grim Sludge/Doom that you’d expect from these two names, and it’s a genuinely effective mixture. It may be GTT mastermind Mories’ hand that keeps the balance on the atmospheric and sinister rather than outright brutal, and Dragged Into Sunlight may have written the crusty Black Metal riffs that slither out of the shadows throughout, but the elements unite into a genuinely effective whole. It may initially seem surprising that the Noise elements are relatively subtly played, often used to accentuate and highlight the Metal rather than entomb them in the style of Aevangelist, but both bands understand the value of not over-egging the pudding all the time.

Whether judged as a collaboration between two artists with similar aesthetic goals or as an album in its own right, NV is an unrestrained success, and – alongside Gnaw Their Tongues’ own Abyss Of Longing Throats (Crucial Blast) – one of the more interesting albums in this style that you’re likely to hear in 2015.

 

8.5/10

 

RICHIE HR

Myrkur – M

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Those who caught last year’s startling eponymous EP from Danish priestess Myrkur will surely be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of début album M (both Relapse). The bewitching amalgam of aesthetics and frozen agonies decorating that EP is, it seems, the template here also: the tremendously affecting medieval harmonies and instrumentation of opener ‘Skøgen Skulle Dø’ gradually fired by a solitary scream and tremolo underpin, while the drop into the eerie coda is both stirring and unnerving.

The early stages of the album show a progression from that début, thanks in no small part to the production skills of Ulver’s Garm, and a host of guest musicians including Teloch and Christopher Amott. The tuba and piano marking ‘Hævnen’ are incredibly effective, whilst truly powerful roars and explosions of sound are balanced by winsome intonations. The lead guitar of ‘Onde Børn’ is augmented by apt pedalwork, giving it an ethereal quality which deafens the down-mixed, trad metal-style riff and blastbeats. As subtleties threaten to engulf, harsh strings produce a delightfully jagged, edgy coda for an almost perfect unity twixt the two poles.

Vocals are at times both exquisite and euphoric: the spellbinding ‘Vølvens Spådom’ a siren’s call, the blend of ecstasy and mourning given staggering might by a reverberating riff. The marching, resonant drums of ‘Jeg Er Guden…’, meanwhile, are enhanced by chiming bells and delightful switches from languid inflections to coruscating rasps. Indeed it occasionally feels as if the Black elements of Myrkur’s sound are something of a supporting cast: the heartbreaking beauty of the Tori Amos-esque ‘Nordlys’ and closer ‘Norn’, plus the lamenting ‘Bissan Lull’ sticking in the mind longer than the nonetheless effective ‘Mordet’ with its blend of Black and NWOBHM rhythms.

There remains enough hostility on offer to keep our extremists intrigued: ‘Skaði’ in particular, with truly chaotic, fearful passages akin to Aevangelist infesting its haunting body, leaves the bones nicely chilled. That something special is at work here cannot be ignored, and M is further proof that this talented, inventive lady is set to confound, attract, entrance and unite disparate factions for years to come.

 

7.5/10

 

PAUL QUINN

Khost – Corrosive Shroud

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The West Midlands of England has yet another grimy, hooded secret. One as cacophonous and electrifying as Birmingham duo Khost, however, surely cannot be suppressed much longer. Second album Corrosive Shroud (Cold Spring) begins with the sample-driven Industrial swell that defines their sound: a sonic barrage, delivered at an oft-crushingly slow pace, yet fed by walls of the most pulverising low-end chords you’re ever likely to experience.

With the band’s trademark, sampled Eastern chants giving a melodic yet eerie edge, opener ‘Avici’ forces Moby’s Play-era sound into a blender with the clashing steel of Godflesh and the unbearable might of Sunn O))). The howling roars of ‘Revelations Vultures Jackals Wolves’ are initially dwarfed by this unfathomable weight; the horror of their hatred and pain, however, remains undimmed and unmasked, whilst metallic clangs and mashing beats create a cauldron of boiling intensity.

The squalling chaos of début album Copper Lock Hell (Cold Spring) is somewhat replaced here by a more cohesive structure, yet no power is lost, instead being augmented by that heightened Asian influence which lends a unique and emotive diversion. Resonant strikes, when delivered, provide a terrifying alarm call: the slow, steadily pounding sticks of ‘Black Rope Hell’, for example, enter a brief period of quiet in the most invasive fashion whilst filthy, throbbing feedback is suddenly unleashed from the silence, crumpling one’s body. This segues into the magnificent ‘A Shadow On The Wound’, like a sludgy Aevangelist, the salve of those haunting wails a hypnotic contrast, yet as complementary as salt with chocolate. Here is the inexplicable magnetism of Khost – the ability to weave seamlessly the most offensive, deafening, programmed fear with moments of ethereal beauty, creating an experience as captivating as it is nerve-shredding. It’s during those involuntary tics of anticipation, the body often compelled to assume the foetal position for comfort, that one realises how stirring the sound is; an outpouring of emotion and energy, a stretched depiction of a primal scream, essential whilst undoubtedly polarising opinion.

The almost-tribal ‘VMIH’, its surrounding noise less of a contribution than before, exhibits the importance of the participation of rhythm, be it artificially or manually produced. Showing the willingness to incorporate other styles, the last two tracks are remixes of the opening salvo: the former heavily beat-led and mesmeric; the latter a more unsettling encounter awash with deep bass notes, that native intonation falling into oscillating effects and roar-strewn narrative, completing the creation of three songs from one. It’s pure art, invention with a purpose, brutal and occasionally unfathomable yet all the more natural for it.

Brimming with moments of great meaning such as the mournful Shoegaze and pensive poetics infiltrating ‘Inversion’; the exploding violence and skewing electricity of ‘Red Spot’; and the pulsating waves and crashing horror of ‘Bystander’; this is a startling, spellbinding piece of work. Having given us Sabbath, Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Anaal Nathrakh, Birmingham – and Khost – has just provided Metal’s latest evolution.  

 

9.0/10

 

PAUL QUINN

Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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In every musical movement, the leaders are the ones who bring their own twist, their own innovation, to the collective sound. Since Portal’s cross-over from novelty clock-head band to serious underground phenomenon, the number of bands following them into abstract Noise-damaged eldritch Death Metal have steadily increased until it constitutes a genuine – if deeply underground – trend. We’re still at the point where even the orthodox followers can still deliver a genuine impact, but the big hitters are already identifiable as the ones with their own distinctive contribution to the formula; Portal, of course, with their ferocious creativity and nightmarish song structures; Aevangelist with their super-dense wall of Noise overload and Impetuous Ritual with their underpants. With their let’s-have-fun-with-syllables third album Antikatastaseis (Profound Lore), British one-piece Abyssal step firmly up to join the top tier.

Having mastered their thick, oppressive brand of Murky Death Metal over two previous albums, Abyssal’s grand bid for innovation here is to mix it up with a hefty dose of what I’ll grudgingly call “post-rock” – the expansive, contemplative sound-scaping (another grudgingly used term) that’s been an increasing part of Metal’s musical landscape since Neurosis.  On paper it sounds hackneyed and forced, and the first listen may not do much to dispel that impression – the more post-heavy passages sound surprisingly conventional, almost twee, to ears prepared for eldritch cacophony, and the transition between them and the more typically murky passages seem a little abrupt – but give it time and it develops into something genuinely distinctive and unsettling.

The key to Antikatastaseis’ success is probably that Abyssal haven’t softened the attack of their Death Metal elements in any way – they’re still as cavernous and oppressive as anything on Novit Enim Dominus… (Independent) – but they have put them in a different context. Whirlwinds of chaotic Death Metal are dragged and distorted into unexpected, atmospheric shapes that would almost be beautiful if they weren’t so ugly. Passages of genuine harmony collapse into sudden, jarring violence, or fade into chilling ambient drones. At times the effect calls to mind Black Metal bands like Fen or Winterfylleth, but with their bucolic pastoralism replaced with nightmarish horror. This isn’t Portal-lite  – though it may have the potential to cross over to a wider audience than some of their peers – it’s the work of a band who are putting their inspirations into a new and distinctive form, just like all innovators.

The temptation to make a joke about Antikatastaseis being as hard to listen to as it is to say is pretty hard to resist, but they deserve better.  It’s also not true – once you’ve adjusted to the combination of elements, it’s a surprisingly intuitive and engaging sound that develops with each listen. Whatever you think of the current state of spooky abstract Death Metal, Abyssal have simultaneously appointed themselves to the top tiers of the scene, and created an album with the potential to draw in fans from outside it.

 

9.0/10

Abyssal. Too kvlt for Social Media.

 

RICHIE HR

Outre – Ghost Chants

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The recording of a debut album is a pressurizing and difficult task under any circumstance; the first chance to make a mark on the world and put your presence on the radar. In the case of Polish Black metallers Outre the whole process became all the more complex with the sudden departure of vocalist Andrezej Nowak right at the beginning of recording, resulting in session vocalist Stawrogin being hastily brought in. Surely a testament of this band’s fortitude as they have come out of it with an exceptionally impressive debut in the form of Ghost Chants ( Third Eye Temple).

Despite expectations to follow in the footsteps of homegrown peers such as Behemoth, Outre have chosen to distance themselves from the more melodic and accessible takes on Black metal and have gone down the rabbit hole of the more progressive and challenging strains of the likes of Aevangelist and Deathspell Omega.

Split into seven “Chant” track parts, things proceed in an ominous and gradually building fashion on ‘Departure’, using an atmospheric slow build and eerie chanting vocals to build tension, before the following ‘Shadow’ explodes into view. Rather than sticking to all out pace, Ghost Chants veers between full throttle speed to an unsettling crawl, accompanied by an equally diverse and suited vocal range which shows Stawrogin, as a perfect and hopefully continued acquisition.

In the experimental and innovation stakes it may not have quite the same aurora of evolution and mystique as some of its peers, such as the aforementioned Deathspell Omega, but Ghost Chants is a debut which shows a commendable level of chemistry and fluidity, that of a much more experienced unit. It may not be a game changer in the genre but with their debut, Outre should firmly make a mark on the radar, one that only shows signs of growing more over time.

One of the most formidable debut’s you will hear all year.

 

8.0/10

Outre on Facebook

 

CHRIS TIPPELL