In the first of an irregular feature for people with irregular music tastes, Ghost Cult plunges into the chaotic cyclone of abstract, dissonant and frankly horrible sub-underground Metal, Noise and Ambient.Continue reading
Sometimes music is for dancing to, for laughing to and for loving to. And sometimes music is an art form, a means to expressing something subconscious, so deep down, and utterly fundamental to the human soul that expressing them with mere words only serves to highlight the inadequacy of language over art. Such is the case with the Jennifer Christensen and Twilight Fauna’s two track split on Red River Family. The two tracks are joined together neither by style nor genre, but as a means express the inexpressible, to express the inevitable, when dancing, laughter and love ultimately fail us all.Continue reading
Saturday 7th November sees Leeds University host the 12th annual Damnation festival, one of the largest one-day Metal events in Europe and with, arguably, this year’s 27 bands providing its most potent bill ever. Swedish MeloDeath pioneers At The Gates lead the event but, with Irish Black / Trad legends Primordial, Belgian tortured ‘Posties’ AmenRa, Oakland power-Stoners High on Fire and Doom heroes 40 Watt Sun in accompaniment among other giants of the extreme scene, there is no shortage of serious competition.
Festival team member and Press Officer Becky Laverty is suitably enthusiastic about the event, which will be opened by UK outfits Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster and The King Is Blind. “It was great to nab At The Gates as our headliners, they’re an awesome outfit. But we’re incredibly happy with the rest of the line-up too: there are some cracking bands, each of which will be bringing something unique to this year’s table. Japanese Post-instrumentalists Mono, for example, couldn’t be more different from, say, High on Fire: yet both are perfect fits for us. We pride ourselves on having both up-and-coming bands as well as big names, so we’re confident of delivering another eclectic and exciting day.”
Capacity has been reduced after criticism was levelled with regard to much overcrowding during 2014’s tenth anniversary show. Becky confirms: “We listen to the feedback we get after each event, and always take it on board, so it made sense to respond this way when people complained. We can’t perfectly predict how many will want to watch each band – although we do give a lot of thought into every band’s slot on the bill – so we removed some of the pressure this year. Hopefully this should mean no more queues to get into any of the rooms, and a bit more room to move around unhindered throughout the day.”
Savannah Sludgers Black Tusk were scheduled to play, but recently had to pull out. Fortunately some high-quality help was at hand. “Unfortunately Black Tusk had to cancel their present tour plans entirely” Becky explains. “We shuffled things around as a result, and we think Brighton crushers Sea Bastard are total heroes for stepping into the gap. Such is the nature of the business: delays and cancellations do happen. Our fingers are firmly crossed that we’ve got that out of the way, and it’ll be all plain sailing from here!”
With so many fantastic bands over four stages, it must be hell to avoid catastrophic clashes, though largely these seem to have been negotiated this year. “We put a lot of time and energy into getting the line-up right. Gavin McInally, Paul Farrington and I go back and forth for weeks to try and create a timetable that does justice to all of the bands, but also to the fans who will have a jam-packed schedule on the day. We can’t keep everyone happy of course, but we certainly try our best.”
That’s a colossal understatement for one of the smallest, hardest-working festival teams around right now. At the time of writing, tickets are still available for what promises to be as intense an event as ever. £36 for 27 bands?
You know what to do…
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
Okay, I’m going to do it… after six albums as Author & Punisher, everyone who’s remotely interested in how Tristan Shone makes his music already knows, and constantly bringing it up is starting to seem like an accusation of gimmickry. It’s time, I think, to get over the methods and focus on the music.
Which makes it extremely fortunate that there’s so much on Melk En Honing (Housecore) to talk about. “Industrial” is probably one of the least reliable genre labels in music, having been used to describe anything from Throbbing Gristle to Rob Zombie, but here it works as an adjective, describing the bleak mechanised quality of Shone’s distinctive, powerful Doom. The core of A&P’s sound is built around vast, mechanised drones overlaid with precise beats and machine sounds, but the intent behind the song-writing is recognisably Doom.
Words like “bleak”, “suffocating” and “dehumanising” come easily to mind when listening to Melk En Honing – and they are certainly deserved – but those qualities are not what make Author & Punisher really special – it’s the surprising moments of hope that shine through. Extreme Metal has never had a shortage of bands who generate a hateful or negative atmosphere, but Shone finds himself in the rare group of artists such as Neurosis who infuse their music with genuine human emotion. Shone’s versatile vocals are a significant part of this, shifting from anguished howls and commanding barks to plaintive, weary clean singing as the music requires. There’s a human heart inside this cyborg, and it wants more than simply to crush.
Melk En Honing is perhaps likely to be one of the most quietly distinctive Metal albums of the year, simultaneously mechanised and surprisingly human, and is unmistakably the work of a man with a fiercely independent vision that extends far beyond his unorthodox methods and deep into the music itself.
Want some happy music? You know the sort that makes you want to stand up, shout and throw your cares away? The sort that makes sense with beer in hand and shouting along to every chorus…? Then steer well clear of Hateful Abandon as happiness is not a vibe you are going to get from their dystopian vision of a civilisation rotten to the core, its maggot-ridden corpse exposed through musical and lyrical expression. The two-piece from Bristol have carved out something of a cult following with music verging on Killing Joke and Burzum downing fistfuls of barbituates and their latest release Liars/Bastards (Candlelight) is packed with cadaver-ridden angst at the state of 21st Century humanity, all kicking off with the agonised shouts and military drumming of ‘Maze of Bastards’. Its downbeat electronics echoes the sludge of some bands but reaches further through tone and arrangement.
It’s not easy to pick a highlight form Liars/Bastards as it is such an agonised expression of where we have reached in our species evolution. The deceptively upbeat opening of ‘Culprit’ serves to lull the listener into another tale of terror and elsewhere ‘The Test’ opens with a quotation from 1984 that serves to introduce a swirl of keyboards and precision drumming.
Despite their bleak outlook on the world Hateful Abandon declare that they are “not a political band” saying that “we are not preaching to anybody, we merely hold a mirror up to the world. We deal in truth not trickery.” But on ‘There Will Never Be Peace’ there is both their declared penchant for reflecting the world, but it is close to a political statement; a musical single finger thrust at those who would send sons of mothers off to die.
A fair summary of the band, and this album, is on the 10-minute plus closer ‘December’. This where they express themselves, producing an almost epic take on industrial metal and electronica in its purest form with Swine’s drum lines providing a subtle underscore that ensures the keys and vocals don’t disappear up their own ass, something that they stray close to on other tracks.
Vice Martyr and Swine may not want to be anyone’s rock heroes, but there is a distinct feeling that to progress they are going to have to stretch their sound a little further. That this release clocks in at less than 45 minutes suggests that either they have much more to come, or their material takes an inordinate amount of time to emerge.
Either way – this is an “enjoyable” experience in the sense that its’ very bleakness is a cathartic listen; confirming what we know about the world, and with the hope that this form of art can really inspire action in some future time. A good album, if not a great one, it is nevertheless intriguing.
If you ever need reminding how insular Metal has become, and how incomprehensible it can seem from the outside, tell a non-Metal friend that “Suicidal Black Metal” is an acknowledged sub-genre term and see how they respond.
Pestilential Shadows play the kind of slow, “atmospheric” Black Metal that trades aggression and chaos in for bleakness and stark melody. Long, meandering compositions based around sinister riffing and mournful shrieked vocals, Ephemeral’s (Séance Records) seven tracks offer no surprises but accomplish what they set out for with aplomb. This is music than can become dull and repetitive quickly, but Pestilential Shadows have a solid grasp of bleak melody which keeps their songs engaging and memorable – the soloing in particular is quite beautiful at times, and their riffs are genuinely catchy in the way that Black Metal bands often fail to be.
The biggest drawback to Ephemeral is the same as that of many of other Extreme Metal records – that there’s little to really set it apart from the other albums in its genre. With a defined, formalised style and such a narrow emotional range, it’s inevitable that there’s little to distinguish Pestilential Shadows from their peers. Without fresh ideas or a blurring of genre-boundaries only high quality could cause them to stand apart, and though they’re competent to a fault they’re not quite good enough for that. As lazy a journalistic cop-out as this is, Ephemeral is ultimately one of those if-you-like-this-kind-of-thing, this-is-the-kind-of-thing-you’ll-like albums – a worthy listen for anyone already sold on this very specific style, but not good enough to draw attention beyond its automatic fan-base.
It is during the fourth track, the abrasive ‘Of Stillness & Solitude’, a misnomer of a song-title if ever there was one, that you truly, madly, deeply get Downfall of Gaia. The Isis roiling builds into a chaotic clashing juxtaposition of rusted, raging black metal, vocal shrieks pained with frustration and defeat, and a draining feeling of epic repression immerses as the despotic union of sludge, post-metal and black metal, with a steady jarring relentlessness, wraps the consciousness.
Suspension of disbelief may have originated in the cinematic world, but it adequately applies to many albums – albums that act or behave as a soundtrack, or soundscape (vomits in mouth), if you will. With albums, it’s that creating of an atmosphere, that complete absorption into the feeling the band are creating, where you accept their alternate reality. The more cerebral will do this, guiding you on an aural journey. Cult of Luna excels at it. Early Burzum damned near perfected it. But take it from the hands of the Master Builders and put it in the paws of the less adept you get moments, like at the outset of ‘Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes’, where apposite styles are forced together, when the brooding introduction hits cataclysmic rage in a ungainly segue, where it snaps you out of that false reality. It’s not contrast; it’s a cluster-fuck, as if a surgeon were to reattach a severed finger with a staple gun and gaffa tape.
If there’s a thin line between love and hate, there’s an even thinner one between tense and ominous and, well, boring and jarring, and it’s a line Aeon Unveils The Throne of Decay (Metal Blade) tramples up and down. It has the composite parts. It has the bleakness of Winter, the discordance and pervading opacity of Neurosis and the abrasiveness of Krallice. It has the mood bits, it has the caustic futile wrath, but it doesn’t always know how to put it together and keep it together. But when it works, when ‘Excavated’’s harrowing 8 minutes bleeds on you, Downfall of Gaia nail all the nuances of unsettling, bleak music and it is beautifully horrible. I get the attempts at contrast, I get the pervading mood of hopelessness, but I also get a lot of cut and paste, of not quite knowing how to blend it all together. There’s a lot to recommend about Downfall of Gaia, but this is not their masterpiece. Not yet.
Departing in 2008, it’s been six years of silence from Graves in Sea, and a massive nine since we have been treated to a release. This year, however, they return with two, a split with Sourvein and their EP This Place is Poison (Eolian).
Opening the EP with standard distorted doom riffing, it holds little hint of monstrous tracks that await the listener. The band really begins to stand out when the vocals kick in. Although they use the usual growls, it’s mixed up with a high blackened rasping that really captures the sounds of torment. This is nowhere more evident than in opening track ‘This Place is Poison’, where the vocals take the song from sludgy riffing and make it deliciously filthy in its delivery.
The second half of the EP consists solely of Sabbath covers, a bold move by a band that has returned with so little original material. Unlike so many covers though these are no simple rehashes of the old songs and seem to breathe new life into tracks, infusing their own personal style into the sound. ‘Orchid’ is transformed into a slow dirge methodically marching onwards, the acoustic passages slowed and simplified till they teeter on the edge of recognition. The song is dripping in a melancholy that is not achieved by the original, a haunting passage that leads us through to the closing track ‘Lord of this World’. Dropping into a fuzzed wall of tone, it is a mix of stoner groove infused with a hefty dose of Graves at Sea’s bleak sludged out noise that gives the track a truly satisfying depth.
Despite all the years away, the band has pulled together an impressive EP. Coming in at a mere twenty minutes long, they are teasing us with yet another small taster of what they are capable of. The record appears to be as poisonous as the place though and I quickly found it hard to pull this one off my record player. It really is true to the lyrics of the opening track, “you can check out anytime, but you can never leave”.