Fans of the legendary Doom outfit Woods of Ypres (RIP David Gold) are aware of bands’ legacy in the North American Doom Metal scene. Former WoY members Joel Violette and Rae Amitay (Immortal Bird) have carried on a kinship through their work together in Thrawsunblat. More of a doom and Dark Folk side-project, it is their link to to the past and boldness to move forward which courses through fourth album IV: Great Brunswick Forest (Ignifera Records). Continue reading
Thrawsunblat initially started as a side-project of Wood of Ypres members Joel Violette and later, David Gold. Thrawsunblat became the Joel Violette’s main project since the passing of Gold and the end of Woods. Sadly, until being asked to review this I’d not heard anything by them, something which was rectified very quickly after hearing this.
Metachthonia (Ignifera Records/Broken Limbs) is their latest album and is released on Ignifera records. The title Metachthonia is Greek for “the age after that of the earth” and this concept album addresses that which we are yearning for and has been taken away in the modern world. Describing the style of the new album as ‘folkened black metal’ the anticipation is that Metachthonia shifts from their folk sound to a much blacker sound.
Opening track ‘Fires that Light the Earth’ begins sombrely with cello courtesy of Raphael Weinroth-Browne, before being joined by the guitar and drums which begin a short-lived lament but then branches into blackened blasting drums from Rae Amitay (Immortal Bird) and the bass of Brendan Hayter (Obsidian Tongue) and the tone for the album is set, and it is considerably blacker.
The folk elements and blackened parts juxtapose well, and give a better balance to their sound than before: emphasised by an ebb and flow to the track. The more subdued folk elements provide beauty and the enhanced blackened elements combining with excellent production which gives it an immediacy and a very satisfying sound.
Whilst very much a different band from Woods of Ypres, their enhanced blackened style creates sections where the similarities in tonality and pacing are very difficult to ignore. This can mean that if already familiar with woods it can take a few listens before appreciating Thrawsunblat in their own right. Those few listens however, are truly worth it as this album is incredibly well-crafted and a wonderful listen.
They display a much more palpable sense of optimism and rebirth in their work, which is further emphasised by the organic feel of the folk elements woven throughout. A yearning to what has been lost in the modern era and the desire for its return. The feeling being similar to seeing nature reclaiming abandoned places, that sense that no matter what the natural world can and will survive humans be damned.
Ultimately, Metachthonia is a fantastic album from opener ‘Fires that Light the Earth’ right up until the phenomenal final track ‘In Mist We Walk’, highly recommended!
Even in this musically idiosyncratic world of genres, sub-genres, tribes, sub-tribes and singleton geniuses, the desire for Finnish psychedelic folk rock may not have been top of your musical shopping list. You should change that forthwith now that Hexvessel’s third album, the striking When We Are Death (Century Media), has arrived for our collective delectation.
Four years ago, their second album, No Holier Temple was a curious and often compelling blend of Woods of Ypres inspired atmospherics, Opeth tinged acoustics and an obvious and deep-seated love of drug influenced 60s and 70s rock, particularly that made by Mr. Jim Morrison and his partners in crime in The Doors.
No Holier Temple was about the trip and the mood; it was inviting and beguiling. By contrast, When We Are Death initially appears as a straightforward folk rock record. Before you jump to a logical conclusion that they have thrown the baby out with the Finnish bathwater, hold your psychedelic horses. The band’s love of psychedelia remains resolutely intact: when you have songs called Drugged Up On the Universe and Mushroom Spirit Doors it is fairly self-evident how the band spend part of their leisure time but there is also a much more deliberate attention to song structure and that oft-ignored discipline of the tune in distinct evidence here. Have a listen, for example to the sparky, keyboard soaked friskiness of When I Am Dead or the smoky jazz backdrop of the reflective and melancholic Mirror Boy and you’ll immediately understand what I’m getting at.
At the heart of this collective endeavour is the vocal prowess of British born Mat McNerney who has a fragility and emotional heft to his voice that does three things particularly well. First: it brings an authenticity to the songs that cuts through with striking immediacy. Second: as narrator, his range is never overbearing nor irritating. Third: he does the best Jim Morrison you’ve heard in ages. Oh and, yes, this is the same Mat from Beastmilk, by the way.
Hexvessel are an intoxicating proposition. They are not, repeat, not, a heavy metal band. Not in the stereotypical sense of the phrase anyway.However, Hexvessel share some of the same qualities and attitude that underscores the metal aesthetic. This is a record is a record of charm and wit and invention. It is a record that is warm and inviting and, being released in the depths of winter, you cannot say any fairer than that. So we won’t.
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Everything about Buried (Shelsmusic/I.Corrupt), the debut full-length from Texan trio Brother/Ghost, shook me to the core before I’d even heard it; some websites even likening their sound to Folk and Country rock. The song titles were stark enough to make me wonder, and the reality here is indeed very different.
The initial strains see Death in Vegas-style atmospherics blend with the catchy melodies of 90s Indie-pop outfit New Radicals, slowed by a brick on the turntable and oft decorated with crushing riffs and pummeling drums, as with opener ‘Satan’. The real magnetism in these early stages, however, is the harrowing melancholy of the lyrics and the delivery of co-vocalist Colby Faulkner James; the maudlin tunefulness counteracting the tortuously slow execution. ‘Cripple’s utterly depressing tale is delivered from the back of a giant snail by James’s mellifluous tones, beautiful yet heartbreaking, the harshness increasing with the building riff and roared coda.
The ensuing ‘Causeway’ is a similar story; a painfully sad trawl through a melodic lament, James’s voice and the teardrops of a Fender Rhodes dripped like barbed honey into the soul. Exemplifying some of the most delicate Doom music of recent times, ‘Freedom’s twisty bass riff snakes through a jangling lead and strange drum pattern, the slight lift in pace only mildly alleviating the bitter misery disguised by those deceptively spiteful vocals: sometimes hushed and calm, occasionally soaring like a wounded eagle, once breaking with raw emotion.
Despite the overriding disconsolation, this is a strangely uplifting sound…until the invitation to wrist-slitting that is ‘Pendulum’. When co-vocalist W.S. Dowdy’s throat reaches for doleful bass notes, you’ll realise just how the spirit of David Gold courses through this album. Incredibly, more honest, gut-wrenching emotion bleeds from ten seconds of this track than any effort from the late, legendary Woods of Ypres mainman; the chopping, swinging riff embodying the title, the closing momentum a staggeringly affecting slowness. Closer ‘Blackdog’, meanwhile, is initially layered with lush synths which cheapen the tired, almost inebriated voice. The ensuing swell, however, is the aural depiction of depression with riffs squirming through oscillating sound effects and lyrics such as “Toothless mouths full of doom and god” fully depicting the near-apathetic despair underpinning the whole set.
It’s a curious affair this, blending easy listening with pulverising power and the most emotionally disturbing sadness; bewitching, bitter, traumatic yet compelling, and well worth the many listens it will take to control your brain. Those of us who have experienced this level of darkness will either find it too painful to reach the end of this captivating offering, or fully wallow in its exquisite tragedy.