ALBUM REVIEW: Hail Spirit Noir – Eden in Reverse

When Greek innovators Hail Spirit Noir spewed forth in recorded anger eight years ago it was with tones of the Aegean gracing a strange brew of Blackened Prog Metal. Fourth long-player Eden in Reverse (Agonia Records) sees the completion of a gradual metamorphosis into total Prog, with the absorption of the band’s live musicians transforming the unit into a sextet. Continue reading

Laster – Het Wassen Oog

Black Metal has become such a multi-faceted entity with insane levels of creativity, particularly in recent years with bands pushing extremities and dynamics to all new limits. Amongst a fast-growing Dutch scene, the trio of Laster have been a shining beacon of mesmeric and near absurdist songcraft. An unshackled approach that has hit an even greater peak of greatness on latest effort Het Wassen Oog (Prophecy Productions). Continue reading

Legendary Songwriter Scott Walker, Dead at Age 76

It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Scott Walker. He was 76 years old. No cause of death has been announced at this time. He is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner Beverly. Walker’s label 4 AD posted a remembrance you can read below. Over a fifty-plus year career, Scott carved out a niche as a deft, and powerful songwriter, and artists from across the music spectrum, both popular and avant-garde artists. We send out sympathies to Scott’s family, friends and fans at this time. Continue reading

The Body / Krieg – Split

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A collaborative effort between two or more bands is not an unheard of concept, especially within our world’s more avant garde entities, from the sublime – Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – to the not so good (Metallica and Lou Reed just to open a can of worms). Experimental extremists The Body are certainly no strangers to such work, with their previous collaborations with the likes of Thou and this release with black metallers Krieg (At A Loss).

The first thing to note is how dissonant and visceral this release is. As with their previous joint works, The Body choose to bolster the white rage intensity of Krieg, building on a distinctly metal record with their dark traits. Rather than the more distinctive black metal blast beats however, this is much more electronic based, programmed beats, high pitched frequencies and feedback and a bulldozing pace, albeit with Neill Jameson’s piercing growls and shrieks on top.

This clash of raw black metal and the mechanized and programmed beats match up so well in what is an equally horrifying, dizzying and hypnotic effort, while Jameson’s vocals add an even weightier punch of pure terror as this conveys the absolute epitome of dismay and filth.

This is extreme metal crawling to its warped and perverse limits, dragging it kicking and screaming to the future.

 

8.0/10

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

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Kevin Hufnagel – Kleines Biest

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While not exactly a household name even in underground Metal, Kevin Hufnagel’s CV covers an impressive range of some of the more interesting and experimental bands and albums in modern Metal. His time in Dysrhythmia, Gorguts and Vaura shows a creative, ambitious player who’s not prepared to settle in one place for too long – so it’s hardly surprising that his new solo album leaves behind even the flexible restrictions of those bands to engage entirely with his own creativity.

The music on Kleines Biest (self-released) is a little outside Ghost Cult’s usual comfort zone in terms of labels and references, but if pushed I’d describe it as a kind of abstract composition, drawing on elements of Noise, Dark Ambient and other electronic forms, alongside occasional uses of Hufnagel’s guitar. The eleven tracks are instrumental, and each focus on a particular style or atmospheric theme, covering a broad range from sinister to reflective. There are aspects of Hufnagel’s compositional approach that are suggestive of Scott Walker’s post-Tilt (Fontana) work, but without Walker’s voice and skewed “song-writing”, it takes on more of a background role.

At its best, Kleines Biest is genuinely both daring and engaging collection of tracks from a musician who has clearly set out to challenge himself. Perhaps the most successful parts – certainly from the perspective of most Ghost Cult readers – come when Hufnagel brings his guitar to the compositions, employing abstract, atmospheric riffing that highlights how the trappings of Metal can be used to achieve unconventional results. Like a lot of “background” music, however, it can sometimes slip into meaningless abstraction and hollow sounds – at its worst, Kleines Biest is little more than more adventurous lift music, and the album perhaps outstays its welcome at times, especially during the more ambient or contemplative sections.

A largely successful experiment in stepping beyond the boundaries of Metal, then, for a musician who has spent his career pushing and testing those boundaries, but most people reading this are likely to prefer his work within the more structured format of a band.

 

6.0/10

 

RICHIE HR

Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers

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All too often bands are saddled with the ‘Progressive’ tag simply by sharing musical qualities with those few truly evolutionary bedrocks of our musical realm, without actually delivering anything unique or revolutionary whatsoever. Thank fuck for the likes of Barren Earth who are at least trying to offer something new, with their hybrid sound which shows signs of pushing a few boundaries and moving the band into a territory of their own.

Now on a leading label in the form of Century Media, these melancholy merchants have upped their game even further with On Lonely Towers, truly showcasing their diversity in sound. With gloom ridden doom metal at its foundation, this also encompasses 70’s progressive rock’s adventurous side and a contrasting death metal ferocity; perfectly veering from extremity and pace through a moody crawl, with even hints of a more folk-like, colourful atmosphere in part.

Jon Aldara’s vocals are a true highlight and prove the band’s real trump card; at times giving a particularly expressive harsh growl, before pitching to a dark, Scott Walker like croon; all immersed in sincerity and unbridled emotion. Impressively despite this sheer range going on, everything flows and fits superbly, never feeling forced or out of place, but wholesome.

The prog tag is too often afforded to those who merely ape rather than set new ground; but it is bands like Barren Earth that hold the candle to forward thinking and keep it burning. Whilst not being an entirely radical departure from the status quo for some it adopts the mantra against the tried and tested, and, even more startling, even hints at further ambition to come. A band that have never really grabbed the headlines but have always been a formidable presence; and with On Lonely Towers they have shown themselves as surely one of prog metal’s brightest lights.

 

9.0/10

Barren Earth on Facebook

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

Voices – London

 

Born from the ashes of much missed extremists Akercoke, Voices have proven a near ever present on the UK live scene in the last couple of years, yet upholding a sense of enigma and intrigue. Musically they prove all the more abrasive than most, through sheer venom, their unpredictable nature and their uncompromising boldness; a boldness that sees them take on a concept album on their second outing, and a sprawling metropolis of one at that.

London (Candlelight) follows an anti-hero like figure through the dark underground of this nation’s capital, a cold and grim tale within the dissonant and complex City, exploring his mental state, his sexual craving and his ultimate isolation. Far from being a story based on pure fantasy and whimsy, the overall setting and feel to proceedings is so organic and could easily have been a true account. Various spoken word interludes increase the almost cinematic experience as they interchange from male narrator and the news reader delivery of the female, one that paints a vivid picture of London’s dark side as often seen in the media.

Conceptually this is a mammoth prospect and it is perfectly matched sonically in both mood and diversity. Beginning with pure melancholy with the acoustic opener ‘Suicide Note’ is a surprising start which lulls you in before ‘Music For The Recently Bereaved’ quite simply erupts in a white, fist flying, rage. Like the urban jungle of its namesake, each turn proves capricious as dynamics quickly change, paces slow and quicken again in a breath as it simultaneously terrifies and hypnotizes. Vocally this shows a huge plethora of styles beyond most of their black/death metal peers, veering from both guttural and shrill growls and screeches, to an eerie, Scott Walker like croon.

The roots of the majority of this unit may have history together in Akercocke (David Gray, Sam Loynes and Peter Benjamin all previous members) but this is still a new band in some sense of infancy yet with an already formidable reputation and artistic vision. London is a tremendous feat which not only surpasses expectations, but buries them deep underground, and album that sees Voices as not only one of the UK’s but the world’s most forward thinking and captivating extreme acts, and should be seen as a benchmark release.

Huge in scope and style, but pulled off with astonishing effect.

 

9.0/10

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

Sunn O))) and Scott Walker to Release Album in September

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Kings of drone and doom Sunn O))) and experimental musician Scott Walker recently announced a collaborative album that has been dubbed Soused. It comes out on September 22nd from Southern Lord

Four years in the making from the seed of an idea to a full release, the album is sure to continue a banner year for Sunn O))), who released an collaborative EP with Ulver earlier in the year. Recorded in London in early 2014 and produced by Scott Walker and long-time ally Peter Walsh with the assistance of musical director Mark Warman, Soused is a 5-track, 50-minute record.

Tracks:

Brando

Herod 2014

Bull

Fetish

Lullaby

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Photo by Phil Laslett

 

From Southern Lord’s press release on their website:

With a career spanning more than five decades, Scott Walker’s cult status remains as significant as ever before. Experiencing mega-stardom as part of The Walker Brothers before carving out a career as a solo crooner who released a quartet of peerless self-titled LPs that painted rich vignettes of life in the late 60s, Scott went through what felt like a massive U-turn by recording a collection of masterfully challenging albums: Climate Of Hunter (1984), Tilt (1996), The Drift (2006) and Bish Bosch (2013). While there’s some truth to this artistic arc, the actual picture is a lot more complex, with his knack for introducing the disturbingly counter-intuitive and the uncanny into his songwriting dating back to the likes of ‘The Plague’ (1967) and ‘It’s Raining Today’ (1969).

Centred around the core duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, Sunn O))) have been at the heart of underground and experimental metal since they began in Los Angeles back in 1998, broadening in range to increasingly encompass avant-garde and jazz dynamics to their dark music. Anderson runs Southern Lord (Sunn O)))’s usual label home), whilst O’Malley is involved in a remarkable web of projects as a musician, designer, and label head of Ideologic Organ. They appear alongside extended Sunn O))) member Tos Nieuwenhuizen on this recording.”

 

Scott Walker

 

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