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Austin Terror Fest has announced their full lineup for 2019! Lighting Bolt, Pig Destroyer, Goatwhore, TR/ST (Canada), Alcest (France), Panopticon, Bongzilla, Bongripper, Church of Misery (Japan), Full of Hell, Dalek, Black Cobra, Street Sects, Unearthly Trance, Dorthia Cottrell, Machine Girl, Pyrrhon, Genocide Pact, Dreadnought, Crowhurst, Echo Beds, Temple Of Angels, Mountain Of Smoke, Terminator 2, Deep Cross, and Taverner. Austin Terror Fest (ATF) takes place Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9 in Austin, Texas, Three-day GA badges are on sale now for $150 through ATF’s Official Facebook Event page, below.
Let’s be honest – for all its talk of “extremes”, Metal is largely a pretty conservative genre. Few bands experiment beyond the controlled combination of rigorously defined subgenres, and even those who do truly push the boundaries are normally content to do so only once. Ehnahre – formed with the stated intention of creating the most horrible and perverse music imaginable – have been a dedicated exception to this rule from the beginning, to the extent that they frequently don’t sound like a Metal band at all. Continue reading
What exactly is going on in New York? The city has a long musical history, of course, but in recent years it seems to have become a focus point for challenging, original and distinctive Heavy Metal. We’re not talking about some forced “scene” with three or four decent bands setting the tone for a horde of bland followers, either – though Psalm Zero share a certain spirit with their neighbours in Pyrrhon, Krallice and Artificial Brain, musically they’re as distinctive as those bands are from each other.
Not that the music on Stranger To Violence (Profound Lore) is especially easy to describe. The label blurb makes much of their Pop influence, but this is hardly the chorus-heavy cheese-fest that word may suggest – the song-writing somehow marries catchiness to a genuine sense of unease and strangeness. The Metal elements shouldn’t be overlooked, either – the use of synths often calls to mind the darker side of eighties Pop, but just when you think you’ve got them in a box they’ll shift to a surging bombast that has more in common with Emperor than Depeche Mode. The extremely sparse use of harsh vocals in the most aggressive sections create a real sense of dislocation, too, hitting with an impact that they lack in music which uses them more regularly. It’s Pop Metal, but nothing like any other band that’s been given that name before.
If the music is hard to describe, the aesthetic behind it is no less so. The artwork suggests urban dystopia, and though that is certainly present on tracks like ‘Real Rain’ and ‘Stolen By Night’, there’s also an undercurrent of dark fantasy and strangeness to it that can’t be described easily. It’s frequently as uplifting as it is sinister, as dark as it is catchy.
In a genre with so many offshoots and sub-types that it seems as though every possibility has been thoroughly explored, Psalm Zero have genuinely succeeded in carving their own little niche – and it’s a strange, fascinating little place indeed.
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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.
Sometimes a band shifts out from under you when your back is turned. The last time I really paid attention to Krallice – on their 2009 second album Dimensional Bleedthrough (Profound Lore) – they played a style of modern, distinctly un-necro Black Metal characterised by vast, otherworldly ambience and broken, alien riffing; fiercely technical, but also rooted firmly in atmospherics and the desire to transport the listener somewhere different.
Six years later, they’ve somehow managed to shift sideways while remaining broadly in the same place. The basic components of their sound – yelped vocals, broken dissonant riffs and rapid-fire picking – are still recognisable, but used to achieve a very different effect. The transcendent, other-worldly qualities of their first two albums has been replaced by something much more mundane and earthly. Their musical links to Black Metal (always somewhat controversial among the panda-faced orthodox) are now almost completely absent, their song-writing now rooted more firmly in Noisecore, or whatever it calls itself these days. Fellow New Yorkers Pyrrhon come to mind on several occasions, but the comparison is not a favourable one – where Pyrrhon rage and howl and storm against the urban madness of modern culture, Krallice don’t seem to conjure any emotional response beyond Look How Many Different Notes I Can Play.
At its best Ygg Hurr (Independent) can coalesce into something that combines both technical complexity and savage groove, but more often than not it collapses into a swarm of dissonant riffing with very little behind it. The vocals, perfectly effective when Krallice were searching the stars for alien worlds, also seem ill-suited to the bands more compact, technical style. Where someone like Doug Moore takes his voice on a trip every bit as convoluted and challenging as the music, Krallice’s vocals just screech along regardless of what’s happening around them.
Though in every meaningful way a hugely impressive achievement, Ygg Hurr feels like a triumph of technicality over character, a band who left behind who they used to be and haven’t yet decided who they’re going to be next. The playing is, of course, absolutely beyond fault, and those seeking technicality and virtuosity for its own sake will definitely find something worth listening to, but anyone else will find it hard to shake the feeling of a wasted opportunity.
From the rather clever play on words of their name, through to the arty if thoroughly disgusting cover, there is something overtly cerebral about Cardiff technicians Intensive Square. There’s a claustrophobic intensity from the outset of debut album Anything That Moves (Black Bow); complex drum patterns leading the way for some crunching, chaotic riffs and Chris Haughey’s dry scour. A febrile sound initially in keeping with the intelligent violence of Dillinger Escape Plan or Pyrrhon, twisting rhythms create grooves and craters as deep as the earth’s core whilst syncopated flickers leave your body convulsing with an involuntary joy.
The howling leads of opener ‘The Long Man’ are accompanied in the atonal melody stakes by the enigmatically-named Barnes’ wailing sax which, far from having you running for the hills, actually augments the power and further peaks the curiosity. The Cancer Bats-meets-Jazz of the ensuing ‘Ends’ possesses a brooding, building coda which heightens the tension; whilst the viciously switching, jerking grooves of ‘Me Vs the Cables’ and ‘Rhino Fight’ will leave those of us with knee problems in utter agony. The perfect timing of the band’s time switches and staccato rhythms enhance rather than frustrate: ‘…Fight’ slowing then quickening on a sixpence, the ferocious battery and squealing sax fully invoking the fear and drama of the titanic struggle the title suggests.
The blend of hostility and progressive sensibilities brings djent kings Meshuggah to mind but there’s a more organic quality here, a natural flow which harnesses that pulsating power, letting the invention run on an extending leash rather than wholly unfettered. The strange lead patterns in the stuttering savagery of ‘Gastric Emptying’ seem completely apt. The Death/Sludge template of ‘Vegetarians’, meanwhile, its ingredients warping and morphing in attempts to break free, still snaps back to the controlling structure; Haughey’s bellow letting blood over the exhausted body of the track.
The swerving riffs of the crushing, pummelling closer ‘King’, like Grind slowed to a virtual standstill, is as nerve-wrecking as anything I’ve heard this year. Indeed, the only thing that’s utterly untethered here is the rampant verve, the vivacity coursing through this bruising, intricate set.
Quite simply this is a huge shot in the arm for progressive, extreme metal and one of the most vital releases of recent years.
I’ve got a confession to make – I’ve never really understood EPs in Metal. On paper I can see the value of a short, sample-length exploration of a band’s sound, but Metal is such a grandiose, overblown and thoroughly unsubtle discipline that it seems to demand nothing less than albums to sprawl across. Double albums. Surely forcing any band who aren’t Slayer to record less than thirty minutes of material is restricting their creativity and turning them into a boy-band?
Following up their 2014’s staggering Mother Of Virtues (Relapse) – which, in a just world, would have topped a lot more Album Of The Year lists than it did – Growth Without End (Handshake Inc.) develops their distinctive blend of abstract Death Metal, Starkweather-style Hardcore and early Dillinger Escape Plan by sharpening it down to a razor-sharp point.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Growth Without End is how it seems to squeeze all the depth and scope of Mother Of Virtues into a fraction of the running time. It lasts for under twenty minutes, but leaves you feeling like you’ve endured an album’s worth of beating. It’s as if – crude journalistic analogy alert – they’ve trimmed all of the fat from their compositions, leaving behind exactly what they need to make their point and not a second of indulgence. The economy and directness of the best Grind married to Pyrrhon’s range of influences and moods to make one of the most simultaneously focused and diverse Metal records you’ll hear this year.
Last year, vocalist Doug Moore went to lengths to discuss why the band should not be described as “freeform”, and though it was intended as a compliment to the band’s unpredictable and unconventional song-structures, Growth Without End can help you to understand why – there is not a moment on here that is not utterly deliberate and precise, rehearsed to the point of almost inhuman tightness.
Pyrrhon are – with absolutely no hyperbole – one of the most exciting Extreme Metal bands in the world right now, and Growth Without End is both the perfect next step for their existing fans and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.
Genuinely recommended without reservation.
You can say what you like about Niklas Kvarforth, and many quite justifiably and quite rightly do, and his Shining project, now on their ninth release IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends (Season Of Mist), but he has managed to keep his music from sounding like everyone else, and actually doing something with his darkened black metal act that few others do, creating a sound and atmosphere that doesn’t just ape his predecessor, and that varies from album to album while still being identifiable. The actual success rate in terms of quality of output is a bit more hit and miss (with the common reasoning being that it is the odd numbered albums that are worth bothering with, while the even numbered releases can fail to deliver).
With the intent of Shining to cause discomfort and pain to others, and with IX being described as an album to inspire feelings and reflections of revenge and retribution, the music to hand is surprisingly (disappointingly?) safe; there are certainly no challenging moments that the likes of Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord inspire, or horrific atmospheres akin to a Pyrrhon or Portal in full flow (accepting they are megalodons swimming in a very different pool).
With most of the compositions uncurling to around 7 minutes in length, the blueprint here is one that steps outside traditional Black Metal trappings and away from the cold, depressive harshness of their previous works. Opener ‘Vilja & Dröm’ kicks off with a belligerent chugging groove, and the album flits from modern aggressive Black Metal, like Dimmu Borgir minus the symphonics and theatrics, to cleaner, more Gothic moments as, much like Watain did on The Wild Hunt (Century Media), IX brings a Fields of the Nephilim swathe to the proceedings and a cowboy Western kiss to ‘Inga Broar Kvar Att Bränna’ in particular.
In terms of where IX sits in the Kvarforth canon, it’s fair to say it doesn’t rival V: Halmstad as the go to and defining release of his career, but is more of a worthwhile investment of your time than the limp Klagospalmer (both Osmose). Much like a lot of the music on display, though, it sits comfortably in the middle. If its intention is to unnerve and distress, the protagonist does much more of that away from the music, than he does with it.