Under the Surface – Underground Talent Spotlight

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Another month, another batch of unsigned and undiscovered bands from around the world. Our international trek for all things heavy has us starting in Manchester, England and then skipping over to France of all places for some black metal. We then move further North to Finland and Sweden before hopping south again to beautiful Berlin, Germany. Bring on forth the noise.

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With a sound that would seem more at home in Jacksonville Florida, XII Boar call jolly old England home. It’s only fitting as England has produced artists of every styling ranging from grindcore to trip-hop, so why not some southern/stoner rock? And the great news is that XII Boar’s full length debut, Pitworthy, delivers the goods. Please know that this is not a reinvention of heavy rock by any of stretch of the imagination, but then again who can really pull that off today? However what is worth admiring here is the attention to detail. XII Boar is a power trio so bassist Adam “Bad Dog” Thomas isn’t buried in the mix while guitarist Tommy Hardrocks wails actually soulful solos on tracks like ‘Sharpshooter’ and ‘Pitworthy.’ There is a liveliness in XII Boar’s songwriting that isn’t prevalent in many of their American counterparts (cough, Wilson, cough). This sounds like they’re enjoying what they do as opposed to just going through the motions.

8.0/10

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Next comes some of that nice real grim black metal from France. Les Limbes Pourpres / Mehxôhorr – Les IV Dimensions Cosmogoniques split EP from Fhoi Myore and Wyrms respectively is a no frills return to Norway’s major cultural export. And it certainly is a throwback down to harsh atmosphere and scant production values. So much so that the oppressive aura gets in the way of drummer Bress’ fancy stickwork as it sounds like he recorded his parts a room away from the microphones. Both Fhoi Myore’s contributions to the EP run a bit long at 12 and 9 minutes respectively, but you can’t deny that there’s enough riffs and ideas there to fill their own EP. Wyrms make sure to get their licks in with songs like ‘Wohrnnakx, Le Vide et La Matière’ (best of the EP) and ‘Yôehrhrr, La Conscience et La Mort.’ Working with shorter song lengths they turn every song into whirlwinds of violence and dynamics. Very impressive all around.

9.0/10

King of None s t EP cover

Going back to the stoner and hard rock stylings, Finland’s King of None go for a sound similar to XII Boar but lack the energy of their British counterparts. There are some truly inspired ideas on this self-titled EP, but the songwriting chops aren’t quite there yet. With the exception of nifty solos of ‘Highway Drivin’’ and ‘Queen Bee’ there’s nothing that stands out to distinguish these songs from bleeding into each other. ‘Red Dwarf’ deserves some credit as the best song here with it’s spaced out The Sword riffs. Closer ‘Deathrattle’ has one or two worthy licks, but just wanders around too long to get where it’s going. The ingredients are there, but it lacks execution.

5.0/10

Colossus SWE The Breathing World

You ever notice that the Swedes are almost too good when it comes to metal? Stockholm’s Colossus 2nd LP, The Breathing World, only reaffirms that Sweden loves to rub in the world’s face how dominant they are in every aspect and subgenre of metal. For only being their sophomore full length these dudes have a very strong understanding of light and shade dynamics. Songs like ‘Fuga Mundi’ and ‘Yehi Aour/Wanderers’ make it apparent that young Swedish musicians have learned much from the mighty sounds of The Ocean and Gojira. They can also ratchet it up and conjure up some of that melodic death magic that their home country is known for on ‘Darkling Root.’ Hey, Sweden, how about you stop being the Ivan Drago of the extreme music world? You can tone down for awesomeness just a little bit.

9.0/10

Alice In The Cities Of the Lines LP 2015

Now we wrap things up by moving away from the volume and really turning up the ambiance. Here we have Of the Lines, the debut LP from Berlin’s Alice in the Cities who describe themselves as an act that plays “instrumental compositions for imaginary film scores.” And it’s not the bombast we’ve come to expect from the prevalent film composers currently occupying the Hollywood landscape. Stark minimalism is at play here and its music that encourages closing your eyes and imagining the world weary scenes. When opener ‘Odessa’ slows down it becomes something that wouldn’t be out of place on the 28 Days Later score. ‘Jaffa’ ends up sounding like the final piece of music in the world’s most dour road film. But while its somber tone takes center stage it doesn’t completely awash the record. It’s about finding beauty in even the most harsh of environments.

8.0/10

HANSEL LOPEZ