It has been thirty years since drummer / vocalist Jonas Renske and Anders “Blackheim” Nyström began a musical journey that would see them evolve from a studio-only project exploring their darker musical tastes to becoming one of the most respected purveyors of melancholic and post-Gothic music; always evolving with each album, embracing Gothic and progressive metal, and always distinctively Katatonia.
Nearly twenty years into this twenty first century of ours, and retro is once again the chicest tone in town. Fuzzed, bluesy guitars, seventies licks and threads, and an aching earnestness for a sound of yesteryear is where the coolest of cats are chilling. And down such alleyways we find Belgian quartet Black Mirrors and their impressive full length debut Look Into The Black Mirror (Napalm).Continue reading
Thirty-five years, and now fourteen albums, of railing against the establishment and providing regular, biting social commentary and Spear of Destiny mainstay Kirk Brandon could have been forgiven for dialling it down on Tontine, a fan-funded album released on Brandon’s own Eastersnow imprint, and just appeasing the masses with re-recordings, or watered down versions, of hits of yesteryear. Instead, the lack of giving a fuck that comes with such longevity and belligerence of vision fuels an interesting and diversely poetic selection of tracks. Continue reading
Black Salvation bequeaths to the world their newest opus Uncertainty Is Bliss (Relapse) and black light owners, black eyeliner wearers, and foppish goths rejoice. It’s a heady mixture of Siouxsie and the Banshees, X, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Uncertainty is Bliss is loud and bombastic and is meant to be played on 11. Continue reading
The Ghost Cult album round-up is back in town for your vulgar delectation, with our penultimate selection of 2017 taking you down amongst the silt, with a selection of Sludge, Doom and post-Metal antidotes to any festive cheeriness that may be unsettling your disgusted souls…Continue reading
Ghost Cult rounds up those albums which didn’t receive the full review treatment, for your vulgar delectation…Continue reading
One short drumfill. That’s all it takes to bring you back into the Death Rocking world of Mat McNerney (aka Khvost) before Motherblood (Century Media) launches into an uptempo angular, jangly Joy Division-inspired shuffle, and the smile spreads across the lips.Continue reading
And now the end is near, and so we face 2015’s final curtain, and once more the Ghost Cult army got together to vote for their favourites. The results? More than 20 writers pitched and voted on over 220 albums ranging from indie pop to the most horrific savage tentacle laden death metal showing the depth, breadth of the official Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2015.
The votes have been cast, the dust has settled… let the countdown commence…
“Despite what you may have heard, The Ark Work is neither the ultimate transformation of stupid music into art nor the final betrayal of Metal’s values by the poser hordes. It is, however, one of the boldest, most distinctive and utterly unflinching Metal albums you’ll hear all year”
“A startling, spellbinding piece of work. Having given us Sabbath, Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Anaal Nathrakh, Birmingham – and Khost – has just provided Metal’s latest evolution.”
“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.”
47. Rivers of Nihil – ‘Monarchy’ (Metal Blade)
“Rather than fifty minutes of a constant snare and uninspiring distorted low tuned guitars, Rivers of Nihil have really focused on expanding, adding more atmosphere and a dynamic to keep a hold.”
“Now that they can’t be pigeonholed to djent or the “Sumerian sound” it leaves Periphery open to be viewed for what they truly are, a brilliant metal band. ”
45. Publicist UK – ‘Forgive Yourself’ (Relapse)
“When I cranked this album on my laptop the last thing I expected was the musical equivalent of Joy Division on a collision course with Cave In, but what a lovely wreck it turned out to be.”
“Complete with Gorod’s signature Bossa Nova-infused jazzy riffs and complex arrangements, A Maze of Recycled Creeds stands not only as Gorod’s crowning achievement, but also that of 2015.”
‘Monotony Fields’ adds a touch of light to the overwhelming darkness of Funeral Doom yet, far from trivialising it, only increases its power to move and intrigue. This is as refreshing as it is heartfelt and affecting.”
42. Bell Witch – ‘Four Phantoms’ (Profound Lore)
“Bell Witch continue to confound, enthral, terrify and move in equal measure; and in creating a second album of such weight and emotion prove themselves peerless.”
“Armed with 12 new ditties toasting humanity’s self-destruction, the new Slayer album is a complex one. Overall Repentless is an enjoyable, fierce album that sounds essentially like a Slayer album should.”
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 Bird it 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.
An Autumn For Crippled Children have a very credible reputation, one of almost unreserved critical acclaim gained over the four albums that precede The Long Goodbye (Wicker Man), four albums that have established the Dutch post-black metal band as able to combine prolificacy and class in rare measure, and a band whose raison d’etre is in the beautifully dark and melancholic.
And release seven (in six years, for they have also produced two EPs) will continue that reputation, and starts by snapping the head of the listener to attention with a deformed upbeat Death Rock opening trio that fuse goth-punk, black metal jangle and profound Cascadian melodies. Like a permeating disease, the white noise of distortion sits like an ethereal fog atop the bleak atmospheric music playing beneath its influence, as the dance beneath slows from the Death Rock four-step of the first three songs to a statuesque stall of reflection which subdues the mood.
Whether that is the right play or not depends on whether you’re prepared to accept The Long Goodbye for what it is, rather than what you thought it was going to do, or indeed what you wanted it to do. After the unexpected and pleasing opening, the expected combination of black metal shuffle and despondent atmospheres takes over from ‘When Night Leaves Again’.
Taking it for how it plays out, The Long Goodbye proceeds to unveil post-Black Metal dejection, with songs like ‘Endless Skies’ that segue from gentle mood pieces into evocative and epic movements, before recalling some of the simple touches that impressed from the outset towards the tail, with ‘Gleam’ an expansive story splashed with flickers of Americana that explodes , contradictorily, into an uplifting yet sad beauty in the manner of a Deafheaven.
As mentioned at the outset, An Autumn For Crippled Children have a strong reputation that they’ve cultivated and maintained at every step of their existence. The Long Goodbye will only serve to enhance that standing, with the exploration of death rock, alongside their usual despondency and delicate post-Black metal, adding a welcome vibrancy and impetus.