Cape of Bats – Violent Occultism


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Having stolen the best band name a gothic metal vampire act had never thought to use yet, Cape Of Bats have spent the last six years belching out a slew of independent releases and splits; fully espousing a DIY ethic and ethos before arriving at Violent Occultism (Broken Limbs), their debut full-length, a thirty-six minute speedball chaser of blackened punk.

On first impression, Violent Occultism is like being forced to endure a series of particularly noxious bottom burps in a small enclosed space, caught, every two minutes, in the ever-regurgitating waves of the putridity. At first it’s hilarious and more than a little impressive, but it doesn’t take many occasions before the joke, unlike the air, begins to wear a little thin and things turn a little stale.

But just when you feel you need a change of scenery and to get some cleaner air in your lungs, Cape of Bats drop another air biscuit of horrid proportions, but this time including some surprising flavours such as the Kveltertak-getting-done-over-with-studded-maces-in-the-car-park ‘Ultimate Evil’, or ‘Follow Me (To Death)’ with its early second wave of Black Metal riffs and atmosphere; the former followed up with the 37 second punk-blast of ‘Blue Hands’ as if to get things back on track, and the latter by the manic start of ‘Buckets of Blood’.

Cape of Bats deal in sloppy, aggressive raw music with black metal, crust and loose thrash permeating their riffs. Add in Francis Kano’s deranged yelps and throat-rips, Cassidy McGinlay’s drumming switching from D-beats to gakked out surf rock grooves, Matthew Geary’s B-movie carnivalesque keys sporadically appearing and some speed metal frantic soloing and Cape of Bats prove an uncompromising and coarse outfit who are particularly effective when they flirt with the more black metal side of their arsenal, and songs like ‘Damned To Sands’ and ‘Grand Evocation Of War’.

Cape of Bats take raw to other side of the lathe, sinking their filed teeth into still breathing vermin carcasses and expectorating abrasive, unrefined, spiky stabs of punky black metal. A fucking mess of chaos and feral as all hell, nonetheless, there’s something worthwhile in their uncultured savagery.

 

6.5/10

STEVE TOVEY


Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess


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When you see bands described as “genre-defining” or “indescribable”, the usual outcome is that they’ve got the odd weird bit, or they’ve bolted some styles together that are strange bed-fellows, yet when that gaze of Sauron is brought to bear on Immortal Birdit holds truer than most, as Empress/Abscess (Broken Limbs/Manatee Rampage) builds on the promise of their self-released debut EP Akrasia, and sees them moulding their ideas into more focused, while concurrently increasingly divergent from each other, beings.

The brainchild of Rae Amitay, who has relinquished duel duties to focus purely on vocals with Garry Naples picking up the varied tempos from behind the drumkit, and guitarist Evan Berry,Immortal Bird take influence from all manner of fuels including sludge flecked crusty punk (‘Neoplastic’) controlled melodic black(ened) metal (‘Saprophyte’ and ‘To A Watery Grave’) and Scandinavian death rock (‘Sycophant’), while opening their scarred arms to embrace mid-tempo discordant jangles, djent shudders and thrashing, all supporting Amitay’s envenomed snarl and captured in a granite encased production courtesy of Pete Grossman (Veil of Maya, Weekend Nachos) and mixed by Colin Marston (yes, he of Krallice); the pair finding the requisite abrasiveness of tone, so that each note is clear, defined and scouring your inner ear like sandpaper on rough bark.

All this is clasped together by an impressive force of personality that allows the entity to be Immortal Bird all at the same time, yet, like an ethereal membrane holding together a writhing mass of hungry, angry bacteria (should said bacteria be sentient), listening to Empress/Abscess means being subjected to a complicated relationship as the brain seeks to strengthen its hold on the music within, to find hooks and make sense, to strengthen its ability to contain the multitude of collisions that ultimately lead to breaches, and a feeling of the parts, actually, being greater than the whole… as a collective organism, it just doesn’t quite all work, regardless of the potency of each of the contained pieces.

There is plenty to enrich within this thirty minute explosion of anger, sorrow and frictional metallic exploration, and immortality has to begin somewhere. With the open minded and progressive, musically dissonant talents needed to nurture the host already in situ, once this ornithological wonder fully spreads its wings in years to come, it will display a most vitriolic and impressive plumage. The chick just needs time to grow.

 

7.0/10

STEVE TOVEY


Nightslug – Loathe


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Metal, especially Extreme Metal, can be somewhat… single-minded. It doesn’t need to be a bad thing – this unsubtle devotion to conjuring a particular mood or emotion has led to some of the most beloved classics of the genre – but sometimes a can be so focussed on their goal that they forget to include anything else.

Nightslug are horrible. Being horrible is what they do. It’s all they do. Sewage thick guitars, crude, ugly riffs, tortured vocals and bursts of feedback-laden noise create a genuinely unpleasant atmosphere, but it’s not clear what they really want to do with that atmosphere once they have it. Riffs churn endlessly with no clear aim in sight, tension is built and not effectively released, and tracks run into another with no real sense of purpose. One of the biggest traps in playing this kind of Sludge or slow Doom is the very fine line between hypnotic and boring – and it’s a trap that Nightslug never really release themselves from.

Part of the problem with Loathe (Broken Limbs/Dry Cough/Lost Pilgrims) is that in the last few years a number of bands – Keeper, Primitive Man and Indian amongst them – have been pushing the envelope on music which is both disgusting and interesting. Abstract compositions and elements of psychedelia and Electronic Noise have taken sludge metal into disturbing, engaging new territories – but Nightslug just want to keep playing big horrible riffs all day and croaking. I can imagine them going down well live in the right context, but on record there’s just not enough to distinguish them from a large number of other bands who’ve done the same thing.

If you’ve been reading this and wondering what I’m complaining about, then it’s probably worth giving Loathe a shot. Nightslug achieve exactly what they set out to, and they’re certainly garnering positive reviews elsewhere for doing so, but if your expectations of disgusting, slow music have been raised by recent releases from more adventurous bands, you’re likely to find Loathe disappointing in its lack of ambition.

 

5.0/10

Nightslug on Facebook

RICHIE HR


Occult 45 – Human Abhorrence


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Seven tracks on a 7”?! It is, of course, Grindcore, and a brutal pummel it is too. Human Abhorrence (Broken Limbs), the latest release from Philadelphia quartet Occult 45, shows very little let-up in its procession of psychotic battery; and perfectly displays the “hell is other people” ideology to which their Facebook page, in a blunt yet entertaining fashion, would have you believe they ascribe.

There are variations in sound here, however, perfectly exhibited in the frequent switches of direction and slight groove conclusion of the early ‘Tyranny Stomp’. Opening and closing tracks ‘Plaster Saint’ and ‘Death With Dignity’ evince the Doom-inflected, Hardcore-Death pounding of Xibalba, the latter track’s venomous bass and lead coda a glorious finale. This feel is assisted by the ferocious bark of John Hauser, bearing striking similarities to the Californians’ frontman Nate Robelledo and absolutely throat-ripping in the high velocity sections such as those of ‘PPFO’, which slows to a delightfully spooky, buzzing, 50s B-movie-guitar line groove. It’s a joyous carve-up, dictated by the near-perfect timing of breakdowns led by the technical savagery of drummer Jay Dost. His rolls and fills at the head of ‘Succubi’ highlight the complex fluctuations: dropping from a frenetic battery to a gloomy pensiveness and back again, all the while retaining phenomenal power.

Despite the aural violence and barely-controlled explosions of energy it’s often tough to remain enthralled by the unflinching ire of the genre; some special souls contravene the norm to follow the Napalm Death / Pig Destroyer route of showing enough invention to hold the attention. This is one to possibly add to that canon, being a varied and largely exciting offering, and suggesting that there’s plenty more to look forward to from this nasty little corner of Pennsylvania.

7.5/10

Occult 45 on Facebook

PAUL QUINN


Mortals / Repellers – Mortals / Repellers


Brooklyn trio Mortals garnered much-deserved attention with the visceral Sludge of last year’s second full-length Cursed to See the Future (Relapse Records), and hot on its heels comes the dark horror of their single-track contribution to this ‘split’ with Philly nasties Repellers (Broken Limbs). Led in by the sound of a rabid werewolf coming in for the kill and terrifying the shit out of the listener, ’10 Years of Filth’ is nevertheless a cleaner sound than one would imagine, but that and the quickened, Occult Doom-style pace still fails to lift the omen of the terrifying vocal scour.

There’s a melodic, NWOBHM sound to the riff at times, yet, when the defiling power of Caryn Havlik’s drums kicks in at the two-third mark, the resonance is electrifying. With leadwork and closing riffs possessing elements of Blackened Punk, this is a pulverising yet complex and occasionally emotional rollercoaster which further enhances the ladies’ collective reputation.

Every aspect of the Low End seems present in the sound of Crusty trio Repellers: from the morose, ‘spaghetti western’ feel of the intro to opener ‘Descend’, through the rampaging Stoner-Death intensity of its riff and rhythms, to the downright filthy croak which is as evil as it gets and the most hoarse rasp you’ll hear this side of hell’s frozen wastes. At times the speed of ‘Descend’ clean rips by, the band right on the edge of keeping time, the scything riff and pounding drums of the coda vicious and seething. A sinister opening to ‘From Jericho to Ai’ sees a terrifying, ponderous pace given a fulminating power by flashing, savage breaks and the expiring roars of the track’s second half. The initial melancholy of ‘False Solace’, rising to the band’s more familiar Blackened Thrash crush, closes an intriguing, mauling set with a paradoxical twist of emotion.

An interesting tussle then, full of twists and turns. Overall the spoils must go to Mortals, but their lesser-known partners offer up plenty of atmospheric brutality and many talking points.

7.0/10

Mortals on Facebook

Repellers on Facebook

PAUL QUINN


Wolvhammer/Krieg – Split 7”


 

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Hailz to Broken Limbs for putting out this split release! Krieg hail not from the frozen vasts of Finland or Norway, as their sound may suggest, but Somers Point, New Jersey, though they’re just about as evil as allowable. Since 1995, Krieg has just not given a damn, only being concerned with bringing forth musical gloom, dispensing with the usual occultist/Satanic rhetoric. ‘Eternal Victim’ does just what a band called Krieg should, and creates atmospheres both slow and doomy and warlike. The alternations of tempos, and the use of blistering rawness coupled with a sense of melody, hearkens to Finland’s notorious Satanic Warmaster, and that’s certainly no bad thing. Those looking for a good headbang section will get plenty, as Darkthrone’s early days definitely left their impression on this crew.

 

2008 brought us Minneapolis’ Wolvhammer, and being more modern, are unsurprisingly in league with the blackened sludge/crust end of the cauldron, bringing to mind acts like nearby Chicagoans Welkin Dusk, with the dirgey sludge influence of Japan’s Coffins. “Slaves To The Grime” struts with a swaggering rock-tempo verse like a wolf slathered in petrol, and also boasts whirlwind tremolo picking sections like an avalanche sending ice daggers. The vocals are a pure stormy howl, of which any fan of the genre will find at least palatable. Think Lightning Swords Of Death but with less cosmic echo. Again, the production is raw-ish, but it is used to benefit the aura rather than create static for kvlt sake. If anything, you could say this is quite ‘well-produced’, but that’s because you can even hear the rumbling of what appear to be some low-end frequencies. Shocking?

 

While this may seem a glowing review, bear in mind that both Krieg and Wolvhammer are certainly not re-inventing the formulæ they play; rather, they have done well in their arts, but it’s been done, is being done, and will continue to be done as long as people like it. But that being said, a worthwhile release, with slight favour going to the Krieg side, as I feel it’s just more… well… krieg. USBM in all its glorious despair has a light of hope.

 

Krieg NImperial

 

Wolvhammer band photos

8.0/10

 

Wolvhammer on Facebook

Krieg on Facebook

Broken Limbs on Facebook

 

SEAN PIERRE-ANTOINE