The development and progression from Jake Oni’s 2016 debut, the tech metal minded Ironshore to second offering Loathing Light is something quite notable. Always technically proficient, Oni has made the most of his exposure to a host of successful musical others (for one, he worked with Mark Morton on the latter’s solo record), and their class has rubbed off. That isn’t to say that ONI is reliant on the guest interventions and mentorship and guidance of others, more to say that the eponymous mastermind has become the proverbial sponge, moving on his ability to write engaging, memorable metal tunes, with the emphasis on energy, and setting a series of barbed aural traps to ensnare both the willing victims and the unwitting.
Like the slow walk around the empty, dark house at the start of A.N.Other horror film (it’ll be in Gary Alcock’s collection x666) the brooding, bruising opening minute of ‘All’ is an ominous introduction that lulls into a false sense of security, peeling things back before the swinging axe of a looping guitar-crush lands to decapitate.
A rapidly growing name in the death metal underground, Italian label Everlasting Spew focus on old school, brutal, dissonant and doom death – placing them so firmly within Richard Benton’s circle of interest that he wonders if they escaped from his head. What shines through their roster and gives them a higher than average hit-rate is their obvious love of and devotion to death metal, with social media posts revealing the label’s owners as excitable fans of the genre themselves. In addition, with Assumption’s long awaited second full length due out this month, he couldn’t resist the temptation to explore some personal favourites from the label’s roster.
Emma Ruth Rundle – Orpheus Looking Back (Sargent House)
On the back of 2021’s exceptional Engine of Hell release, melancholic song-writer extraordinaire Emma Ruth Rundle cannot resist but cast one last longing look over her shoulder at the material prepared, written, and relating to that period, which included the break-up of a significant relationship – the subject of her previous, delicate, powerful full-length.
Consisting of three songs, each different in sound and style that didn’t completely fit with the dynamic of Engine…, Orpheus Looking Back nonetheless brings beauty in its wistful minimalism. ‘Gilded Cage’ is a strummed acoustic piece, ‘Pump Organ Song’ a spontaneous creation during the recording sessions on, well, a pump organ, while ‘St. Non’ is a breathy, guitar / vocal reflection.
While the format is less immersive than the previous full-length, Orpheus… is further example of Rundle’s class as a song-writer and ability to transfer emotion to bare music.
7 / 10
Emily Jane White – Alluvion (Talitres)
Taking a fuller approach to production, singer-songwriter Emily Jane White is reflecting on loss, grief and the impact of recent events on Alluvion, her downbeat and reflective sixth album.
Coaxing a gothic beauty to the underlying synths and minimal instrumentation, there is something of a gentle electro-pop feel to tracks like ‘Show Me The War’ and ‘The Hands Above Me’, a song that introduces subtle guitar peals and swells, and a hint of folk and shoegaze – as does the cello-backed ‘I Spent The Years Frozen’. ‘Mute Swan’ mixes in a repetitive eighties synth refrain with a comforting and underplayed vocal, and the standout track ‘Heresy’ is an ominous and effective duet with Darkher, with sparse chants recalling elements of Chelsea Wolfe.
There is plenty of scope in this reflective offering, as White’s intimate and open tones sit softly over the lush arrangements of multi-instrumentalist Anton Patzner and offer not just escape but hope amongst the darkness of our current situations.
7 / 10
Eight Bells – Legacy of Ruin (Prophecy Productions)
Patience is indeed a virtue, and good things doth verily come to those who are prepared to take their time dwelling in anticipation. It may be six years (and an overhaul of the supporting cast) since the last Eight Bells release, but the progressive, introspective vehicle of Melynda Jackson (guitars, vocals) is all the better for it. The addition of Cormorant’s Matt Solis works as a perfect counterfoil, either with harsh blackened backing vocals, or when chanting in unison with Jackson’s haunting, melancholic intonations. Solis also pops up in the spaces with as some interesting meandering bass runs, working intuitively with the atmospheres that Jackson creates.
This request for patience bears out in the individual tracks, too. Opener ‘Destroyer’ walks us through hints of progressive metal, psych, sludgy tones and touches of blackened cascades, before using a sparse guitar refrain to take us home and into the doomier, eleven-minute sprawl of ‘The Well’. Dynamically as a whole, this is further played out with the mid-album conjoined dreamy pair of ‘Torpid Dreamer’ and ‘Nadir’ combining and paying off; the former dark and doomed, with the latter bringing us through a moment of reflection to peace with its integrated dual vocals, at times reminiscent of a heavier Fleet Foxes – a feeling which is continued into ‘The Crone’, before the blackened elements of the Portland natives arsenal are unleashed.
And all of this is with the hulking presence of standout track, and album closer, ‘Premonition’ still to come; a summation of all the previous parts. Tremolo refrains scythe under a merging of howls and chants, before things settle, breathe and expand into a stately, melancholic close to moody, yet welcoming album.
8 / 10
Hangman’s Chair – A Loner (Nuclear Blast)
Tags and sub-genres, when misapplied, can be quite detrimental at times to bands. Not only are they misleading and mis-set expectations but can lead to people who would embrace and celebrate an act missing out on something that would be a perfect addition to their collection. France’s Hangman’s Chair have been labelled as Stoner and / or Doom (which in itself has a couple of different applications), yet there is nothing Desert or Weed-based here, as their sixth album A Loner continues the evolution and progression of their sound, and is a gorgeously reflective album of downbeat, shimmering Downer alternative rock, laced with moments of shoegaze.
Where there is anything sludgy, it is in some of the Stephen Carpenter / Deftones style looping, rolling low-slung supporting guitar moments, such as on ‘Cold and Distant’, a track that demonstrates Hangman’s Chair have a neat line in understated chorus, too, as does ‘Second Wind’. Moreover songs such as with the aptly titled ‘Supreme’, underline a Type O Negative influence that runs throughout, building in Life of Agony melodies and moments. Cédric Toufouti deals in layered vocals and lines of harmonies to support a voice that sits perfectly floating on top of the cinematic music, at times (‘Who Wants To Die Old’) reminiscent of Kristoffer Rygg.
Atmospheric and considered, the pairing of ‘Pariah & The Plague’ – a beautiful, layered non-vocal piece of music with tinkling guitar effects and brooding electronics – and the melancholy title track sum up the strengths of this unsung album.
When looking at Mortuary Drape’s latest EP, the thing that immediately draws one’s attention is the cover of Mercyful Fate’s ‘Nightmare Be Thy Name.’ In addition to being the only cover to show up on one of Drape’s proper studio releases, it’s a deep cut from one of Fate’s more overlooked efforts. Thankfully it’s ultimately a solid rendition; the obligatory King Diamond falsetto emulations make it an inherent outlier, but the added grit and ominous guitar acrobatics ensure it isn’t out of step with the EP’s original tracks.
Say what you like about Slipknot / Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor, whose ubiquity and happiness to share his thoughts on any and every subject put before him may well have contributed to his divisive standing, his love of music and willingness to represent the full spectrum of his tastes in his output is to be admired. And, while relentless touring may have previously restrained the recorded output, making the most of the opportunity to spend more time in the studio, the past couple of years have seen a rawkier debut solo record, and this sister piece.
There is so much going on in the underground worlds of Black and Death Metal, be it brutal, kvlt, heavy, introspective, or just generally interesting. Last year saw a raft of stellar releases, and the trend is set to continue at the onset of new year. Both genres seem to be experiencing a renaissance at the same time, and the result is genuinely exciting for underground Extreme Metal, with everything from standouts in each genre to amazing crossover projects. In our second underground spotlight of 2019, we here at Ghost Cult we have highlighted a few releases you should definitely have your eye on as we head through the winter months. Continue reading →