Where Wasps Now Nest – David Porter and Gareth Nash of Ageless Oblivion

AO Photo by John See

Ageless Oblivion, photo credit John See

After their triumphant set at Bloodstock 2015, Ghost Cult grabbed Ageless Oblivion’s David Porter and Gareth Nash for a few words about the show itself, the festival, plans for the near future and the new sound in death metal. Oh, and why camping is shit.

The significance of Bloodstock Festival as the biggest genuine metal festival in the UK by some margin, cannot be understated, but despite it’s growth it has never lost track of those in the underground and the cutting edge, truly giving a bit of everything for everyone.

With their festival debut early Saturday afternoon on the Sophie Stage, London based Ageless Oblivion are representative of this notion as they bludgeon the packed tent with their brand of death metal which is thought provoking, and even quite prog, but is still as vicious as the swarms of wasps on site (well, almost).  Catching up with the band afterwards and guitarists David Porter and Gareth Nash both seem very happy.

With Bloodstock in its 10th year, many of the UK’s younger metal bands have more than likely been a part of the festivals audience at some stage, and Ageless Oblivion are no different with Gareth stating he has been coming since 2008.

“It’s awesome to be able to play here,” Nash opines, “especially on the Sophie Stage. I just like the atmosphere here, good bands, just a lot of good times to be had.”

David Porter continues: “Bast were amazing. They are good friends of ours and live, everytime we see them, like when we toured with them back in November they were kick ass then, and they are fucking amazing now.”

Nash: “I checked out Enslaved, we watched Hang The Bastard, Conan…”

Porter: “I think one highlight for me was Raging Speedhorn. When I was 14 they were my band, they were the ones that introduced me to the heavier stuff. Through them I discovered the likes of Iron Monkey, Charger, Will Haven, and then I ended up getting in to death metal, so to see them live again after so long was, for me, quite a lot of fun.”

Gareth Nash https://www.facebook.com/agelessoblivion

Not that festival life is all sunshine and roses for Porter… “I will say this, I think camping is one of the most overrated things in life. I don’t know, if you enjoy going to bed in a fridge and waking up in a fucking oven, being dirty and dehydrated for four days then that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to what they like.” 

With the lineup changes that saw drummer Rich Wilshire out and Noah See join the fold, and now Bloodstock under their belt, it seems things are once again settled. Having the salivating prospect of touring with New Zealand’s underground heroes Ulcerate (alongside Bell Witch) on the horizon clearly excites both of them.

Porter explains how it came about, with a huge grin. “That was a surprise actually. I opened up the band inbox one day and there was an email from Jamie Saint Merat (drummer and founding member of Ulcerate) just saying “We are touring the UK in November, do you fancy joining it?”

And we were like “What?! OK!” Ulcerate for me are a big influence, and Bell Witch as well are just filth, so looking forward to seeing them as well.”

With one of the most tantalizing tour lineups of the tail end of the year, it also highlights a seemingly growing trend in death metal; bands that focus on creating haunting, nauseating atmospherics along with sheer heaviness. Ageless Oblivion are definitely a part of, and share aesthetics with, that group. “I think there is a bit of a movement going on now. There are a lot of death metal bands that create that absolute dread, that complete oppressive, super dark sound. It’s amazing we get put in the same bracket as the likes of Gorguts and Ulcerate,” Porter enthues “but I think the trick is that we just want to create an atmosphere. We play death metal but we are influenced by the likes of Cult Of Luna, Neurosis and on the death metal side Decapitated and Nile.

11889672_949449901774096_3866595974473986637_n

“We want to create that feeling like when you watch Neurosis live and they are all encompassing. You cannot ignore them, they have that atmosphere and that’s what we are trying to achieve but through a death metal format.”

The upcoming Ulcerate tour also represents a new thing for Ageless Oblivion; a tour where they don’t stick out like a sore thumb, unlike in the past. “This is our problem – we don’t fit in. We can tour with a bunch of fucking, full on death metal bands and some nights you play a show and people love it, other nights they are waiting for that traditional death metal sound which just doesn’t happen with us.

“On the reverse when we tour with Bast we are playing to a lot of doom fans, so when we do the death metal bits it gets lost on people. But again I think that’s one of our strengths, we don’t fit in; it means we are doing something a bit different.”

In fact it is pretty clear how unique a place Ageless Oblivion take on the UK extreme metal scene that they can take such tours with the likes of Bast to straight up death metal bands like Dyscarnate, Hate Eternal and Aeon in their time. Penthos is a prime example of where they take death metal to different, hypnotic and terrifying realms, and is a groundwork that Nash states they are working on further on the under progress third album. “I think by the time this will come out, Penthos would have been out a couple of years so people would have been able to digest that enough to expect something a little but different, and just from the ideas we’ve got. It will be a lot heavier and more diverse and vile.”

 

WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL

Albert Mudrian – Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore (Reissue)

choosing-death-revised-and-expanded

Released twelve years ago, Albert Mudrian’s anthology of Death Metal has stood the test of time; an engaging read taking you on a loose zig-zag through the birth and, um, death of Death Metal. Unveiled through the eyes of its’ progenitors, there is method to the tale that begins in England, moves to Tampa, takes in Entombed and Scandinavia and reserves a special mention for the oft overlooked Dutch input of Gorefest and Pestilence.

Undertaking a task as complicated as trying to find the true source of the Nile (Karl Sanders – badoom tish!), Mudrian begins his tale by trying to uncover the birth of what became known as Death Metal, settling on Napalm Death and their 1985 era hybrid (Siege meets Discharge meets Celtic Frost) of hardcore punk, thrash and a desire to be harder, faster, sicker than everyone else. The book then focuses on the influence of their Scum release (Earache) on other vital artists, like Morbid Angel (via Pete Sandoval, then in Terrorizer) and the incestuous, small nature of the scene where, due to tape trading and pen palling, most of Death Metal’s predominant protagonists all knew and inspired each other.

As the tales unfurl, you find yourself swept up and wanting to revisiting all the classic albums that are mentioned – Possessed ‘s Seven Churches (Combat), Pestilence Consvming Impvlse (Roadrunner), Massacre From Beyond (the story of Massacre’s signing to Earache being another fun aside revealed in the book) and Master Master (Displeased) forming part of my own soundtrack while reading.

The re-issue picks things up as the roots of recovery were just sprouting through the top soil at the tail end of the 90’s, highlighting the rise of a new DM general in Nile. After touching on the diversification of Death Metal of this millennium, including the mind-sucking brilliance of Portal and their focus on eldritch, dark atmospheres, Mudrian covers the popularity of technical Death Metal (a section that introduced me to Necrophagist and Obscura as you can’t help but be enthused to check all the recommends as you go) over the last decade. The tome now concludes by covering the return to the scene of the apex predators with Carcass, At The Gates, Death (DTA) and others reforming to reap the benefits of their respective legacies and the rewards of the now lucrative and high profile festival market, and to satisfy an urge that, in the case of Bill Steer, they didn’t even know they had. If you read the original, the added content is an agreeable appendix.

Peppered with short anecdotes, but above all an informative and enjoyable potted history of Death Metal, all imparted with the enthusiastic love that a doting parent has for a child, Choosing Death is an affectionate, if whistlestop, walk through of the story of Death Metal to date. In the authors’ own words, he is “Just  a fan. Just like you.” He just happens to be a damn good writer who has written The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore. And updated it.

Buy the book here:

 

8.5/10 

STEVE TOVEY

Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

Abyssal-Antikatastaseis

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

Ad Nauseam – Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est

1901405_823817954348787_1685402421134867168_n

One of the best things about being an… ahem… “mature” Metal fan is finally being over all that anti-trend nonsense. If you’re still on the more idealistic side of twenty-five you might want to skip to the next paragraph, but the cold fact is that Extreme Metal is as vulnerable to fashion as any other kind of Pop music (it’s okay, they’ve already stopped reading), with the same references cropping up in rotation until the trend moves on.

Adorned with underground-cool pencil cover art, Ad Nauseam’s debut album can be explained entirely in terms of names with a lot of cool weight in Metal right now. Combining the dissonant, abstract thundering of Gorguts, Ulcerate’s near-ambient Death Metal soundscapes, the flailing freak-outs of Deathspell Omega and a touch of Portal’s nightmarish otherworldliness, on paper Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est (Lavadome Productions) reads like an essay on “How To Write A Cool Death Metal Album In 2015”.  It is also a perfect demonstration of why none of that stuff matters and Metal fans should finally stop caring about whether something is trendy or not, because it is not only a genuinely excellent album, but a truly distinctive one.

There is a genuine sense of both depth and individual voice on the album which raises it above the vast majority of its peers. Refusing to restrict themselves to a single territory, Ad Nauseam are equally comfortable with savage violence, abstract experimentation and doom-laden dissonance, yet never sound as though they’ve lost a sense of what they’re doing.  Yes, it’s possible to identify the bits that sound like Gorguts or DSO, but as a whole they mesh together into something entirely itself.

Ad Nauseam have come out of nowhere with some of the most over-used references in modern underground Metal, and used them to assemble what will almost certainly be one of the best Death Metal albums of the year. If you didn’t think there was any space left in your collection for another album that sounds like this, you were objectively wrong. Fill that space immediately.

 

9.0/10

Ad Nauseam on Facebook

 

RICHIE HR

Malthusian – Below the Hengiform EP

11037333_809260495793737_1190863182421341402_n

A side project of Mourning Beloveth, Abaddon Incarnate and Altar of Plagues members, only a demo has previously emerged in the three years of Malthusian‘s existence. A support slot on the recent Primordial UK tour raised a few surprised heads in appreciation, and this downright dank, evil EP, Below the Hengiform (Invictus) enhances that growing reputation.

Coated in a production dripping with rotting tendrils and assorted filth, a crushing Doom-like weight yields to a more technical, less chaos-infested version of infernal Portland duo Aevangelist, and when a production is deliberately engineered to augment the sound I’m all for it,

The rasping screams of opener ‘The Gasless Billows’ lead into an eerie, Blackened-Doom corridor of fear before the blastbeats and subdued, skewed riffs emit increased energy, yet remain utterly devoid of hope. The fetid atmospheres of the dark, possessed ‘Slouching Equinox’, it’s crashing roars subterranean, are positively rancid and reek of decaying life; the cavernous roar near unintelligible yet the mid-paced bridges, whilst steeped in swampwater, display elements of Classic Metal and the disgusting filth the crashing coda washes the ears in is as delicious as it is diseased. The full cacophony is utterly monstrous and, while the Doomy mid-section does occasionally feel a little empty, the omen of horror remains and is borne out by a chilling, screaming coda.

The weight of those riffs and pounding drums in closer ‘Forms Become Vapor’ is nauseating, yet not enough to prevent a return to Aevangelist’s swerving riffs and harrowing choruses. It’s a finale that continues the blend of twisted horror and monolithic power this band, with all its experience, seems destined to purvey to perfection.

 

8.0/10

Malthusian on Facebook

 

PAUL QUINN

The Official Ghost Cult Writers Albums of the Year Top 50: 40-31

The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 continues. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.

In our second installment we bring you albums 40 through to 31

 

jfac-new-album-cover-400x40040. JOB FOR A COWBOY – Sun Eater (Metal Blade) 

“Evolution from deathcore to a more compact, yet technical, death metal…  complex and melodic structures accompany a diversified approach” DIOGO FERREIRA 7/10 Full review here

 

 

download

 

39. AGELESS OBLIVION – Pethos (Siege of Amida / Century Media)

Marrying both technical and atmospheric forms of Death Metal, Ageless Oblivion create their own brand of chilling yet punishing aggression, presented in a show of impressive progression.

 

 

 

 

Killer-Be-Killed-Killer-Be-Killed-400x40038. KILLER BE KILLED – Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast)

“Cavalera, Puciato, Sanders, and Elitch put their stamp on this recording, making a memorable, political-flavored, heavy album that certainly lives up to the hype” KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 8.5/10 Full review here

 

 

Aevangelist-WrithesInTheMurkLarge-400x400

 

37. AEVANGELIST – Writhes In The Murk (Debemur Morti)

“If you’re able to get past the initial disorientation and look inside, you’ll find an album that follows its own perverse ambition flawlessly, with not a shred of compromise, dilution or failure” RICHIE HR 10/10 Full review here

 

 

 

code0100-400x400

36. FEN – Carrion Skies (Code666)

“Fen are the rawer, rockier, more achingly human cousin to Tombs’ Neurosis-driven thunder, and among the richest and most emotionally expressive Metal albums of 2014” RICHIE HR 9/10 Full review here

 

 

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280-400x400

 

35. JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer of Souls (Epic/Columbia)

“Judas Priest has released a retrospective that nods to their career, recalling everything that has made them genuine legends of our metal world, Redeemer Of Souls has a beautifully warm and classic Priest feel”. STEVE TOVEY 8.5/10 Full review here

 

 

CW_418_lowRes-630x63034. COFFINWORM – IV.I.VIII (Profound Lore)

The phrase “Doom” doesn’t do justice to the ugly, polluted, measured sludgy bludgeon of IV.I.VIII; a beautifully horrible record of nihilistic malevolence, that dissolves doom, death, black and sludge in its fetid path.

 

 

 

trap-them-blissfucker-400x40033. TRAP THEM – Blissfucker (Prosthetic)

“My advice? If you have never listened to Trap Them, get on this bandwagon before these guys run you over with it”. TIM LEDIN 8/10 Full review here

 

 

yaitw_album32. YOUNG AND IN THE WAY – When Life Comes To Death (Deathwish Inc)

The hardest of hardcore punk fused with the blackest of Darkthrone’s black metal offspring, creating a crusty hell in aural format.

 

 

against-me-transgender-dysphoria-blues31. AGAINST ME! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)

The gutsy pop-punk outfit release a cathartic biographical concept album of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s experiences for their sixth album.

 

 

 

Ghost Cult ‘Albums Of The Year’ 50-41 here

Compiled by Steve Tovey

AEvangelist – Writhes In The Murk

Aevangelist-WrithesInTheMurkLarge

 

All reviewers know, in their secret hearts, that grading albums is an arbitrary process, and that the wider the scale the more subjective the judgement will be. Fans will argue and bicker over whether a given album is a 7.5 or an 8, somehow not realising that these are simply forced formalisations of a personal judgement, a qualitative emotional response squeezed into a quantitative shape. Every so often, however, an album comes along that by its sheer enormity, its absolute refusal to be pinned down so crudely, forces anyone hearing it to confront the essential meaninglessness of their numbers.

AEvangelist have only been around since 2011, and have already released three full-length albums, two EPs and a split, during which they have developed their sinister Death Metal into a genuinely unique style.  The blending of Extreme Metal with Dark Ambient/Electronic Noise is nothing new – indeed, my role at Ghost Cult seems to be chasing the multiple products of this relationship and hitting them with a big stick – but bands have disagreed over how to approach it: Portal borrow the composition and layering approach of Noise artists to turn their Death Metal into a dense, chaotic swamp, whereas Grave Upheaval strip their Metal down to its barest skeleton, casting aside all ostentation until nothing is left but fetid Dark Ambient drones. AEvangelist’s approach – more maximalist, and initially quite overwhelming – is to simply PLAY EVERYTHING AT ONCE. At times it seems like there are two AEvangelists – the claustrophobic, shrieking Ambient Noise artist and the cavernous, meandering Death Metal band – and neither is prepared to give the other a moment to themselves, both bands playing their music on top of, alongside and writhing between the notes of the other.

Each subsequent album has taken this approach a little far, and Writhes In The Murk (Debemur Morti) reveals it in its most excessive, most intoxicating, most entirely singular form yet, and on the first few listens it can almost impossible to pick anything out at all.  Riffs are buried in noise and static, atmospheric passages are interrupted by monotonous, rumbling-drainpipe vocals, the whole thing could easily be dismissed as an exercise in extremity for its own sake, an example of why musicians set themselves boundaries to work in – many people will doubtless stop listening with that impression in mind, and it’s hard to say that they’re wrong to do so. Persevere, though (and it IS perseverance – this album will make you work for everything it has to give) and a structure starts to emerge from the mire, an alien, shifting but nevertheless consistent logic that reveals Writhes In The Murk as a true album rather than a collection of disparate noises. The key to unlocking its shape lies in the pairing of ambient instrumental ‘Disquiet’ and the heaving, chaotic shambles that is ‘Aelixir’ – all saxophones and flailing, smoky tendrils of broken Jazz – at the centre, with a trio of more conventional (by this band’s standards) Death Metal songs at either side.

Grading music in numbers is, as explained already, a useful lie – painting the veneer of objectivity onto a subjective process that works right up until someone like AEvangelist comes along with an album so utterly, undeniably itself that only the very bottom or the very top of the marking scale could possibly make any sense at all. Writhes In The Murk is not the perfect album (imagining for a moment that such a thing could ever exist), and a lot of people are going to hate it for perfectly valid reasons. However, if you’re able to get past the initial disorientation and look inside, you’ll find an album that follows its own perverse ambition flawlessly, with not a shred of compromise, dilution or failure.

 

10.0/10

AEvangelist on Facebook

 

RICHIE HR

Shroud of the Heretic – Revelations in Alchemy

a2473249218_10

 

Portland, Oregon dosen’t seem to garner many headlines referring to a depressing, culturally-impoverished existence. One of America’s most environmentally-conscious places, it’s also largely liberal and not particularly a hotbed of unemployment. So quite why this ‘Beervana’ appears to be giving rise to some of the most disturbing and affecting sounds emanating from the New Country in recent years is something of a mystery.

Leaning to the chaotic death end of the market, this debut album from new sons Shroud of the Heretic gives all of what it says on the tin. Abject horror blends with brooding portent, Thom Gunn‘s vocal a wheezy scour buried low in the mix. There’s much of the blackened death of city brethren Aevangelist here, the frantic lead wailings and frosted riffs clashing with violent background ambience, the howlings of souls in limbo evocative of a Bosch masterpiece. Particularly with opener ‘The Arrival’ however, this is tempered by slower passages evoking the desolation of impending doom, leaving a skewed amalgam of tortured darkness. ‘Chaotic Astral Ascension’ reflects its title: a slamming mess of discord and malevolence, gradually falling to a sudden funereal sequence depicting the peace of the rise. The blastbeat-dictated lift from the murk of ‘Illuminism’ is a prime example of timing and effect, whilst the spearing riff feeding the gloom of the title track falls to a sudden, wakening bass and this, with Gunn’s initial emanations building to the pummelling drums, is nerve-twitchingly terrifying.

The problem here is the growing familiarity. When the monstrous Portal first sallied forth it was with a cacophony containing such levels of fear as had not previously been encountered, an immediacy which left the listener needing the loo and a cushion to hide behind. Aevangelist exacerbated this horror but that impact is lessening with each new attempt at emulation and, despite Revelations in Alchemy (Blood Harvest) being delightfully terrible throughout, those experienced in the sound will grimace knowingly. The odd time change will satisfy the ‘noise is everything’ merchants but, to create lasting flavour and identity, something more memorable is required. These guys are definitely capable: let’s ‘ave it.

6.5 / 10

Shroud of the Heretic on Facebook

PAUL QUINN