The brainchild of guitarist/vocalist/everything-ist Andrew Lee, US death metal mob Ripped To Shreds has been tearing up the Californian underground scene since 2016 and shows no sign of slowing down with its third full-length studio release 劇變 (Jubian) (Relapse Records). Originally created as a solo project to increase the visibility of American-born-Chinese in extreme metal, the band now acts as a four-piece and flies that flag with just as much pride as before but to a larger audience.
The first thing that strikes you about Images At Twilightis how much they sound like fellow Norwegian Black Metallers Dimmu Borgir. But Dimmu when they were younger, hungrier and an altogether different, far scarier proposition than they are these days.
Formed in 2011 by vocalist Andre Aaslie, the band’s début Kings (Indie Recordings) is an ambitious album, full of speed, aggression, and orchestral atmospherics. When things move fast, they move really fast but there are usually moments of perfectly timed, much-needed respite just around the corner. While it might be all very well and good for some Black Metal acts to play unrelentingly fast, a band like Images At Twilight need those little interludes to let the music breathe, even if most of the time they merely serve as a platform from which to launch their next ferocious sonic attack.
There are times, however, when things don’t balance quite as evenly as they could. Some songs suffer from sounding a little too busy in parts, the keyboards becoming a little too intrusive during some of the quieter moments. This doesn’t happen too often though, and is a pretty minor quibble in an otherwise very well thought out and put together album. The orchestral sections give the record a very cinematic atmosphere, most notably on the instrumental ‘Created To Destroy’ which could very easily have been lifted from the soundtrack to one of the Lord of the Rings movies, and fifteen minute epic ‘Kaizanbar’ where the band manage to showcase every facet of their sound perfectly, without it ever feeling tiresome or cluttered.
The production sounds great, stark and bare when necessary, like it could have been produced in the early-mid nineties, but also rich and clear enough to enable the symphonic elements to sit alongside the vicious guitars and hyperspeed blastbeats without sounding cheap or hollow.
Although Images At Twilight may not be the most innovative band on the scene, they have still managed to create an album which will not only appeal to those who miss the halcyon days of early Dimmu Borgir and Bal Sagoth but to those more contemporary minded Black Metal fans who prefer a stronger production and slightly more progressive elements to their music.
Cacophonous Records has announced they have relaunched their label, and that their first new signing are UK brutal death metal upstarts The King Is Blind. The band is releasing their debut full-length album next month entitled Our Father. This is the follow-up to their acclaimed EP The Deficiencies of Man (Mordgrimm) released in 2014 and has seen the band perform such high-profile gigs as Damnation Festival and Bloodstock Open Air.
Neil Harding, label head of Cacophonous, which famously launched the careers of Cradle of Filth and Bal-Sagoth in 1990s, comments about the signing of The King Is Blind
“Listening to TKIB was like stepping back into the halcyon days of the death metal scene. When the opportunity arose to relaunch Cacophonous they were the first band I thought of in terms of a release; they’re angry, visceral and brutal, everything you’d want in a death metal band”
The King Is blind recently streamed their new single, ‘Fragility Becomes Wrath’:
The band has booked a record release show at Camden’s Black Heart venue, on 31 of January. Support on the bill will come from Obscene Entity and Shrines.
At this point, what do you really have to say about Sigh? After being approached in 1990 by Euronymous to be the only Japanese band on his Deathlike Silences Productions label, they proceeded to spend twenty five years releasing experimental, varied, frequently genuinely eccentric albums that have now spelled out their name almost three times. With the exception of 2005’s Gallows Gallery (Candlelight) – which they’ve since admitted wasn’t really recorded with banned WWII sonic weaponry – “Black Metal” in some form has always been part of their sound, but the exact style has often changed wildly between albums.
This time around, the guiding theme seems to be a combination of rawness, progressiveness and symphonic majesty that calls to mind Venom playing Yes songs with Bal-Sagoth’s keyboardist, and works an awful lot better than you might be expecting from that description. The core of the album is a raw, savage but rocking “Black” Metal built on simple catchy riffs and Mirai’s always recognisable acid rasp, but one of the things that makes Sigh so successful is that they don’t simply litter their Metal core with extraneous garnish as so many of their “experimental” peers are content to do. Electronics, progressive and symphonic arrangements and even Pop song-writing is woven meaningfully into the tracks, creating an album which is both sinisterly understated and gloriously savage. In the context of their previous albums, the best comparison would be the band from Scorn Defeat (DSP) playing the songs from Gallows Gallery, but once again they have created something new.
I suspect that this review is largely unnecessary – by this point most listeners have already decided whether Sigh are any of their business or not, and if they are you’ll be listening to this album whatever I say. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid them until now, however, Graveward(Candlelight) is a strong, distinctive album with its own character and some genuinely excellent songwriting and works well as both an introduction to one of the most genuinely interesting metal bands of the last twenty years and an album in its own right.
Underground metal is often a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” playground. Fall in line, play it safe and fail to stand out from the crowd but avoid the slings and arrows, or produce something distinctive and open yourself up for criticism if it doesn’t quite come off (and sometimes, even if it does).Continue reading →