Seemingly coming out of the blue — like the sudden emergence of a horrible memory buried for years — drone doom supergroup Khanate returns with To Be Cruel (released digitally on May 19th and on physical formats on June 30th via Sacred Bones Records) the group’s first album since 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul. Shrouded in secrecy prior to its release, To Be Cruel delivers three tracks and 62 mins of harsh, cold, sparse, experimental sounds fit to ruin any good day.
The word “experimental” is a double-edged sword. For some it classifies anything veering from the typical form people are used to. Thus it renders whatever it is; be it medicine or art, undigestable to safer minds. To others the word conjures a magical playground where truly anything is possible. When foisted upon artists, such as guitarist/vocalist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot) and his solo outlet Zvi, we get the latter. Arriving in 2014 Zvi I challenged the listener to feel a piece of music on Varod’s terms. His new release II: Death Stops Us All (Halfpear Records) is no less of an emotional tug of war for the senses.
Composed of just three pieces, Zvi:II differs from its sister release in some ways.’You’ve Charmed Me, I Will Stay’ begins with a swelling guitar repeated like waves with other instrumentation flowing in. The layers of harmony vocals in the background suck in your attention. While the plucked guitars parts are calming, there is a unease that sets the table for what is to come.
‘Black Leaves’ (featuring Alan Dubin of Khanate and Gnaw on vocals) begins with more unsettling bassy notes. They soon stop and the song takes shape with Varod crooning forlornly at first. Moody strangeness pervades the track with, but never confusing you. Finally, a familiar harrowing shriek from Dubin fades in and out from the mix over and over. Jarring stabbing chords, detuning strings along with underlying keyboards flood in, giving a feeling of sonic vertigo. Ending with a mantra type singing wail, some malicious whispering, and other oddities from beyond, we glide into the final track.
We again meet Varod and his voice to some off-kilter balladry and guitar, with a motif close to the first track. What ‘Whale Bone Cage’ does is beckon you to come down from the anguish and recover. A final strum of an open chord seems to breathe out a phrase….. rest.
A release like this can only come from vision of a person without bounds as a writer. Matching Varod’s work are the talents of engineer Colin Marston (Gorguts/Kralice) and James Plotkin (Khanate) to engineer. The only shame of these releases is they are too brief, and leave you lusting for more.
Blind Idiot God has confirmed an upcoming European tour in April 2016. Dates are posted below. The band features Andy Hawkins on guitar; Tim Wyskida (Khanate, Jodis, Plotkin & Wyskida) on drums; Will Dahl on bass (though founding member Gabe Katz plays bass on the album).
Apr 13: Vera – Groningen (NL) Apr 14: Magasin 4 – Brussels (BE) Apr 18: Sonic Ballroom – Cologne (DE) Apr 19: Bad Bonn – Duedingen (SI) Apr 20: Serraglio – Milan (IT) Apr 21: Freakout Club – Bologna (IT) Apr 24: Cassiopeia – Berlin (DE) Apr 27: Blast – Trondheim (NO) Apr 28: Pokalen – Oslo (NO) Apr 29: Hulen – Bergen (NO) Apr 30: Folken – Stavanger (NO)
Hex Inverter is streaming “The Mission Statement” off of their self titled debut here. The album was recorded by the band’s own Mick Mullin (Intronaut, Woe) and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Palms). The record’s stunning layout and design was created by artist Brian Azer (Sun Kil Moon, Jesu). The band has upcoming tour dates with Kayo Dot and Giant Squid.
01: Led to This Place 02: Even for No One 03: The Mission Statement 04: Bruise 05: Into the Hills 06: Beneath the Weeds 07: Lamb 08: Something It’s Not
HEX INVERTER tour dates: May 20: BAR New Haven – New Haven, CT (w/ Kayo Dot) May 21: The Paper Box – Brooklyn, NY (w/ Kayo Dot) Jun 24: TBA – New Haven, CT Jun 25: Lucky 13 Saloon – Brooklyn, NY (June 24-27 w/ Giant Squid) Jun 26: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA (June 24-27 w/ Giant Squid) Jun 27: Machines with Magnets – Pawtucket, RI
South London bass and drum duo Ghold are streaming their new album Of Ruin, out now via Ritual Productionsin its entirety here. The album was recorded at lss Studio with Dan Miller and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, OLD). The band have an upcoming appearance at Temples Festival, along with an upcoming North American tour supporting Arabrot.
North American Summer Tour w/ ÅRABROT: Jun 24: O’Brien’s Pub – Boston, MA Jun 26: The Depot – York, PA Jun 27: Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH Jun 29: The Burlington – Chicago, IL Jun 30: Fubar – St Louis, MO Jul 01: Jackpot Saloon – Lawrence, KS Jul 02: Hi Dive – Denver, CO Jul 03: Kilby Court – Salt Lake, City, UT Jul 05: The Highline – Seattle, WA Jul 06: The Hindenburg – Vancouver, BC Jul 07: Rotture – Portland, OR Jul 08: Starlight Lounge – Sacramento, CA (w/ Dispirit, Lycus) Jul 09: SF Eagle – San Francisco, CA Jul 12: Lowbrow Palace – El Paso, TX Jul 14: Holy Mountain – Austin, TX (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 15: Siberia – New Orleans, LA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 16: The 529 – Atlanta, GA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 17: Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 18: Strange Matter – Richmond, VA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 19: The Studio, Webster Hall – New York, NY (w/ Pinkish Black)
Abstract is the new brutal. The principal focus of Extreme Metal has always been to make music that sounds as violent or destructive as possible, but over the last couple of years a growing number of bands in different sub-genres have embraced a more subtle approach. Whether it’s Gnaw Their Tongues and their followers blending Black Metal with Noise elements, Blut Aus Nord embracing dissonance or Portal deconstructing familiar Death Metal into something totally other, it’s becoming more common to encounter Extreme Metal which doesn’t so much punch your face as make you doubt its existence.
Primitive Man are one of a current circle of bands – Sea Bastard, Keeper and Indian among their peers – engaged in stripping so-called “Sludge”, that ugly child of Punk and Black Sabbath, of its Blues influences and sense of groove and focussing entirely on its capacity for bleakness and discomfort, and are arguably the leaders in their circle when it comes to abstraction. Home Is Where The Hatred Is (Relapse) continues from their independent debut album Scorn with thirty minutes of abstract rhythms, broken chords and growled vocals that steadfastly refuse to describe anything as uplifting or recognisable as a riff. It’s a thick, genuinely unsettling morass of noise and almost ambient amp abuse, and when they do allow themselves a brief moment of Grind-fuelled violence at the start of Downfall it’s almost a relief – though one that’s rapidly overtaken as the song collapses once again into dissonance and atmospherics. There are similarities to Khanate, of course, in their use of dissonance and unorthodox song structures, but as their name would suggest they seem less artful and refined, more… well… primitive.
It is extremely difficult to criticise HIWTHI, not because it’s without flaws, but because any apparent weaknesses (tracks blurring into another; the lack of satisfying climax; the sense of dislocation and frustration that pervades) are so obviously the result of very deliberate choices by the band. They’re not bugs, to borrow from the clichés of IT, but features. This isn’t the dirty, angry Rock ‘n Roll of Eyehategod or Iron Monkey, and it doesn’t seek to press the same buttons – this is genuinely ugly, unsatisfying, dissonant music from a band who aren’t interested in catharsis or making you rock out.
Blind Idiot God (BIG) will release their new album Before Ever After in early 2015 via Indivisible Music. The record was co-produced by Bill Laswell. The gatefold double-vinyl LP artwork was created by noted artist Seldon Hunt (Neurosis, Earth, Melvins, Sunn).
Blind Idiot God is Andy Hawkins on guitar and Tim Wyskida (Khanate) on drums. Gabe Katz, the band’s original bass player is featured on the album but moving forward Will Dahl is the band’s new bass player live and in the studio. Touring in support of the new album is planned for 2015.
“Moving from the studio to the stage is always great. The music opens up dynamically, both performance wise and sonically. The human ear has a much greater dynamic range than any recorded medium and we excel at taking full advantage of that fact.”
Before Ever After tracklisting 01. Twenty Four Hour Dawn 02. Night Driver 03. Antiquity 04. Earthmover 05. FUB 06. Barrage 07. High and Mighty 08. Voice of the Structure 09. Under the Weight 10. Ramshackle 11. Wheels of Progress 12. Strung 13. Shutdown
Venowl must hate journalists. It’s the only explanation – why else would they put out music simultaneously this compelling and this hard to positively describe, if not to frustrate the people whose job it is to do exactly that. I really want you to know how great Patterns Of Failure (self-released) is, but I have no idea how to put it across in words. Those devious bastards.
Starting with the crudest genre-labels then, the three long tracks on Patterns Of Failure essay an abstract, deconstructed form of Sludge/Doom which borders on outright Noise. Feedback-drenched guitars, drums and piercing shrieked vocals are the core musical building blocks, but how they are deployed is unusual even within their niche genre. Rather than mashed together into a sprawling whole as you might expect, each track follows its own discrete journey from beginning to end, moving through often very intricate shapes while retaining the same punishing tempo and pitch-black tone.
Time, then, for Lazy Journalism trick #2 – comparisons. There are a fair few bands that can be meaningfully name-dropped here, but none are a perfect match; Wormphlegm playing Ehnahre songs, or Grave Upheaval watching snuff movies at Khanate’s house with a crate of ketamine? Sabazius if they squeezed all eleven hours of Descent Of Man into fifty-five minutes?
The very best Noise music, I was told once by a fan of the genre, is that which sounds entirely structured in its chaos – creating the impression not of pure randomness but of an order which is too arcane for the listener to easily engage with, but yet is clearly there. That’s perhaps the greatest quality of Patterns Of Failure, along with the fact that something is always “happening” in the music. It would be too easy for an album like this to sit on its hands recycling empty feedback and looking smug, but there’s a real depth to what Venowl achieve here – a depth which captivates even as it frustrates the ability to describe it.
Quite simply – every other tactic having failed – Patterns Of Failure is one of the most distinctively horrible things you’ll hear all year.