VIII – Decathexis

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The PR notes accompanying Decathexis (Third-I Rex), the second album from Cagliari firebrands VIII, advise comparisons with Extreme experimentalists Deathspell Omega and Manes. The reality, however, is a progressive aural violence full of invention.

Opener ‘Symptom’s early exchanges see a stripped down, Blackened underpin, quirky in its structure and graced by WLKN’s snarled growl, suddenly tempered by maudlin drops which lend themselves to a Shoegaze feel. That Manes comparison manifests itself with a Jazzy sax, which introduces a dream-like sequence: a piano-led ambience; a street walk followed by a nightmarish descent through rapid atonal chords, Freeform pace changes and hostile growls, with those ivories beginning the road to a sample-laden coda in hair-raising fashion.

The early stages of the ensuing ‘Diagnosis’ beautifully blend an emotional, atmospheric Doom with more of that wistful saxophone and the kind of Deathly, downward spirals perfected by the likes of Pyrrhon. A meander through eerie gentleness is followed by a rampant, horrific explosion, the throat morphing from growl to Blackened rasp in a terrifying escalation of anger. This is the depiction of a war zone yet, replete with a subtle piano centrepiece, the apocalyptic, heartbreaking aftermath of battle is gloriously displayed also.

There’s a Blues-Punk edge to the bludgeon of closer ‘Prognosis’ which lends a more traditional edge but the experimentation is still evident: the sparing, neurotic riffs given a tremolo effect; the atmospheric blast of classical acoustic; the brief, gradual drop once again full of melancholy and portent. It’s WLKN’s voice which again provides the savagery, especially in the tolling, Avant-garde atonality of the second movement: his screams and whispers demonical in accompanying the hydraulic Industria and Marco Porcu’s staggering stickwork.

This constant movement through disparate fundamentals can lead to ‘Prognosis’ occasionally feeling a touch difficult to engage with, its cosmic yet serene finale an ineffectual end to the urgency of the previous 45 minutes. The whole is nevertheless an absorbing tour de force, its manic nature running in perfect tandem with a moving ambience to incite all manner of emotion. By no means an easy listen, Decathexis is nevertheless a hugely rewarding journey.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN

Orthodox – Axis

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Those who are already aware of the strange vagaries of Sevillan heavyweights Orthodox may not be surprised to hear that ‘Suyo es el rostro de la muerte…’, the opening track from fifth album Axis (Alone Records), is layered with husky, mellow horns and a squealing saxophone. Despite Marco Serrato’s hulking yet dextrous bass notes and the careering, joyously expressive rhythms of Borja Diaz, the impression given by this and the bookending horns and strings of closer ‘Y a ella le sera revelado’ is of a Progressive soundtrack to a 70s US cop show, harking back more to second album Amanecer en Puerta Oscura than the Doom fest of 2011’s Baal (both Alone Records).

Having parted with long-time guitarist Ricardo Jiménez last year, this is the first album from the band as a duo, the remaining members seemingly free to indulge their panoply of influences whilst retaining that low-end core. ‘Axis / Equinox’ flings around trumpets, flutes, a sawed violin and atonal piano in a freeform chaos before allowing Serrato to intone over a quelled cacophony, while the rhythmic bass of ‘¡lo, Sabacio, lo lo!’ is graced by delightfully soaring African percussion and choruses.

Single ‘Crown For A Mole’ and the brutal ‘Canìcula’ sees the resonant boom of the band’s more sinister material return to its fullest, albeit enlivened by those syncopated structures. The mournful opening to the fearful ‘Medea’, meanwhile, is laden with Spaghetti Western-style high notes and the odd piano flurry: the subsequent crashing lead effects and cymbals haunting the slow, quaking, pummelling rhythm for what is arguably the most stirring ten minutes in Orthodox’s history. Here Serrato’s unique, warbling bellow is chilling; the roared “There’s nothing there…” ripping the soul from the body while retaining its curious melody.

It is the rhythm department, however, which produces much of the magic of Axis: blending a crushing claustrophobia with those proud Jazz influences, it is often overlooked yet it is the lynchpin of the band’s sound. The portentous groove of ‘Portum Sirenes’, for example, is dictated by bass notes that plough through the solar plexus and warp agonisingly around the loins, whilst pounding drums create mighty patterns for the hypnotic, tuneful flurries to dance through.

The whole, a meld of all manner of naturally rhythmic styles with elements of bright light and a heavy, heady horror, is the dazzling result of perfect alchemy. This most ambitiously unifying project yet is also Orthodox’s greatest statement, and affirms its status as one of the most vital bands from any genre of music.

 

9.0/10

 

PAUL QUINN

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Orthodox – Dead Neanderthals – Lake of Snakes: Live At Islington Mill, Salford (UK)

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From what is effectively a rehearsal room within the confines of a relic to the greatest yet most environmentally destructive age of Man, it’s fitting that ultimate innovation continues unabated.

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Lake of Snakes. Photo Credit: Paul Quinn

On a night made for the sax fiends among us promoter Dave McLean kicked us off with his funky Hardcore outfit Lake of Snakes: a staggering baritone enlivening a heavy groove, the sexy, minimalist ‘Machismo Lament’ the highlight of tracks graced by the harsh rhyming of Dave’s twin Lewis. This was extreme Jazz-metal at its tightest, from a fascinating and current ‘crossover’ band that deserve to be huge.

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Dead Neanderthals Photo Credit: Paul Quinn

The sax genius that is Colin Webster took stage left for Dead Neanderthals, the Anglo-Dutch ‘Heavy jazz’ improvisation unit that, basically, defied description. The trio performed their single-track Prime (Gaffer) opus: a constantly squalling barrage of Freeform sound, Webster’s lowing baritone setting the riff while his fellow squealer Otto Kokke screamed with squalling acrimony alongside Rene Aquarius’ frenetic yet pulsating drums. Easy listening this wasn’t, but its vitality and relevance couldn’t be disputed, and to witness the phenomenal Aquarius perform in such close proximity was an utter privilege.

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Orthodox. Photo Credit: Paul Quinn

Climaxing what is arguably the most intimate, insouciant gig I’ve ever seen, Sevilla’s finest leisurely pummelled this happy studio. It’s debatable whether Orthodox is the main draw tonight but the fulmination of Marco Serrato’s buzzing, earthshaking bass and Borja Diaz’ brutalising stickwork complemented the former’s unusual yet sonorous, oscillating vocal perfectly. Gone is the stage presence of former years, replaced by occasionally mystical soundscapes and profound, understated yet ground-moving adventurous melancholy. ‘Canicula’ was a snaking, rattling, cosied journey of Low-End freedom: Serrato’s warped, tuneful bass notes eliciting brutal pounding from his compatriot, joyously welcomed by the small yet increasingly devoted throng. ’Portum Sirenes’ was positively soul-dissecting: Marco’s warbles plumbing the soul whilst bass and drums slowly, steadily, eviscerated the collective internal organs; the build to the multi-faceted, pulverising crescendo unfathomable.

If there’s a greater expression of deep music, of emotive crush, than Orthodox are today, I’ve yet to experience it. And there’s bloody two of them. Where in God’s name were you all?!

 

 

PAUL QUINN

Big | Brave – Au De La

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More than an odd Melvins comparison has been levelled at Montreal trio Big|Brave and indeed, the riffs within second full-length Au De La (Southern Lord) possess the squealing, throaty exhalations of Grunge. There is, however, a whole other weirdness going on here, which you might expect from a band just coming off a tour with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Not least the trend-bucking omission of a bassist from the ranks…

Vocalist Robin Wattie is Björk as a native witch-woman, intoning melodiously then yelping like a possessed shaman whilst managing to retain that harmony. Those riffs, meanwhile, purveyed by Wattie and fellow guitarist Mathieu Ball, carry a Drone-like pace: squalling and whining on the pregnant-with-tension ‘Do.No.Harm.Do.No.Wrong…’, yet groaning under the monstrous feedback of ‘Look at How the World Has Made a Change’. The muscle-tightening edge is maintained by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard’s tribal resonance, powerfully leading each track to a crescendo of noise in an understated yet marked fashion.

Here, however, instantaneous drops to silence raise the hackles as much as the violent explosions of agony. Staccato opener ‘On the By and By and Thereon’ seemingly comes to a premature conclusion before kicking on again into a terrifying sequence of double-hammers. The sampled undercurrent of ‘And as the Waters Go’, meanwhile, is initially pierced by a single crash of rhythm guitar, Wattie’s steadily building vocal growing from a high incantation into a demented wail, the whole continually punctuated by brief zephyrs of calm which pounce upon the listener and chill the soul. Flashes of atonal lead and a pulsing coda bring to mind Sonic Youth on zopiclone, truly bewitching stuff that shreds the nerves while attempting to kiss them better.

The early, soft Psychedelia of closer ‘(re)Collection Part II’ gives way to Wattie’s languid howls, the subsequent near-unbearable intensity of moaning leads and rhythmic drums running through an a Capella Punk centrepiece to a Freeform frenzy and a delightful, Shoegaze finale. An exercise in barely-controlled expression, this is a fascinating album – at times stunning, at others beguiling, but always compelling – and one that ensures Big|Brave will force their way into your memory.  

 

7.5/10

 

PAUL QUINN