A début EP can be a very worthwhile investment for a new band, indeed. A chance to introduce the world to their sound and style, without having to commit to (or wait until you’ve written) a full albums worth of material; a chance to not just test the water, but begin to feel out what really works and what doesn’t within a band’s prospective oeuvre. And in the case of Godthrymm, boasting a cast of talented beasts a-plenty, they’ve more than made the most of the opportunity to plant their dark and melancholic flag. Continue reading
Much darker in tone than its ethereal predecessor (both Century Media), The Banished Heart is no less beautiful in its execution. Where Winter would often soar, this record looks inward and deals much more heavily with personal, introspective feelings of heartbreak and loss. Continue reading
Of all the grandchildren of heavy metal subgenres, one of the most precocious and still burgeoning is atmospheric black metal. As my colleague Richie HR noted in his recent new column for Ghost Cult, it seems that even the most mainstream bands are reaching for opportunities to expand their sonic palettes to include the more unconventional, and extreme styles. However, time and time again we return to the underground to seek greatness, from those who follow their own path, and eschew typical glory. One of those bands is Fen. Continue reading
Oceans of Slumber’s new album Winter (Century Media) is sort of frustrating. Frustrating like “Wow I’m really enjoying this song” and then one of the novice inconsistencies comes in and I’m punching my fridge repeatedly.
Don’t let me get off on the wrong foot here as there is much talent to be extracted from this young Houston band. For starters they have a vocalist in Cammie Gilbert who can sing. And by sing I don’t mean the metalcore melodic chorus sandwiched between barking verses. Like she can actually fucking sing. Guitarists Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary cleverly find the link between Sabbath doom and Michael Amott shred. Seems like a no brainer, right? Possible album of the month?
Not quite yet. Winter’s title track its follow up ‘Devout’ (and ‘…This Road’) serve as the cover letter to this pretty good resume. They highlight Gilbert’s vocals and pull from various strains of extreme metal and form them into a cohesive and satisfying musical package. ‘Night in White Satin’ comes close to recreating this alchemy, but the repeated hook begins to feel like deadweight. And then what precedes that is my biggest issue with Winter. Interludes.
Never thought I’d ever bring up interludes as a point of contention in a review, but counting outro track ‘Grace,’ there are five of them on Winter. While interludes is a musical trend that many a modern band resorts to (looking at you Between the Buried and Me), by going to that well so often we lose about 10 minutes of quality time with Oceans of Slumber. That’s a shame considering that the band has such a great understanding of light and shade dynamics, so there really isn’t a need for interludes. Speaking of dynamics check out ‘Apologue,’ if you to see what Oceans of Slumber sound like when they leave the melody at home. It’s shockingly heavy.
So not quite album of the month, but they’ve got the tools and with a little roadwork, Oceans of Slumber’s next could be album of the year.
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Goatsnake will be unveiling details of their first full length in fifteen years entitled Black Age Blues, out June 2, 2015 via Southern Lord.
Black Age Blues is an instant classic, with each one of the nine songs an anthem, and each of the four members of Goatsnake in top form. Everything is magnified; Pete Stahl‘s vocals have never sounded so good, the rhythm section comprised of Greg Rogers on drums and Scott Renner on bass are the driving force on each track, and Greg Anderson‘s riffs are heavier than ever before.
Appearing on the album intro to “Another River To Cross” is acoustic guitar courtesy of David Pajo (Slint, Aerial M, Papa M), the track also containing previously released recordings from Goatsnake’s “The River.” Piano is played by Mathias Schneeberger and Petra Haden contributes violin and vocals. Another welcome addition to the album, across multiple tracks, are brilliant backing vocals by Dem Preacher‘s Daughters: Wendy Moten, Gale Mayes and Andrea Merrit.
Black Age Blues Track Listing:
01. Another River To Cross
02. Elevated Man
03. Coffee & Whiskey
04. Black Age Blues
05. House Of The Moon
06. Jimi’s Gone
08. Grandpa Jones
09. A Killing Blues
Mar 21: Gypsy Lounge – Austin, TX SXSW (Day show)
Mar 21: Yellow Jackets Social Club – Austin, TX SXSW (Night Show)
May 02: Pappy & Harriets – Joshua Tree/Pioneertown, CA
May 24: Maryland Deathfest – Baltimore, MD (w/ Amorphis, Anaal Nathrakh, Inverloch, Neurosis, Winter, more)
May 30: Temples Festival – Bristol (UK)
Jun 01: De Kreun – Kortrijk (BE)
Jun 02: Melkweg – Amsterdam, NL
Jun 03: SO36 – Berlin, DE
Jun 04: Freakvalley Festival – Siegen, DE
Jun 07: AN Club – Athens, GR
Jun 20: Crucialfest – Salt Lake City, UT
It is during the fourth track, the abrasive ‘Of Stillness & Solitude’, a misnomer of a song-title if ever there was one, that you truly, madly, deeply get Downfall of Gaia. The Isis roiling builds into a chaotic clashing juxtaposition of rusted, raging black metal, vocal shrieks pained with frustration and defeat, and a draining feeling of epic repression immerses as the despotic union of sludge, post-metal and black metal, with a steady jarring relentlessness, wraps the consciousness.
Suspension of disbelief may have originated in the cinematic world, but it adequately applies to many albums – albums that act or behave as a soundtrack, or soundscape (vomits in mouth), if you will. With albums, it’s that creating of an atmosphere, that complete absorption into the feeling the band are creating, where you accept their alternate reality. The more cerebral will do this, guiding you on an aural journey. Cult of Luna excels at it. Early Burzum damned near perfected it. But take it from the hands of the Master Builders and put it in the paws of the less adept you get moments, like at the outset of ‘Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes’, where apposite styles are forced together, when the brooding introduction hits cataclysmic rage in a ungainly segue, where it snaps you out of that false reality. It’s not contrast; it’s a cluster-fuck, as if a surgeon were to reattach a severed finger with a staple gun and gaffa tape.
If there’s a thin line between love and hate, there’s an even thinner one between tense and ominous and, well, boring and jarring, and it’s a line Aeon Unveils The Throne of Decay (Metal Blade) tramples up and down. It has the composite parts. It has the bleakness of Winter, the discordance and pervading opacity of Neurosis and the abrasiveness of Krallice. It has the mood bits, it has the caustic futile wrath, but it doesn’t always know how to put it together and keep it together. But when it works, when ‘Excavated’’s harrowing 8 minutes bleeds on you, Downfall of Gaia nail all the nuances of unsettling, bleak music and it is beautifully horrible. I get the attempts at contrast, I get the pervading mood of hopelessness, but I also get a lot of cut and paste, of not quite knowing how to blend it all together. There’s a lot to recommend about Downfall of Gaia, but this is not their masterpiece. Not yet.
As any fool who follows the metal scene can tell you, there’s one hell of a lot of albums out there to listen to. New bands are emerging at an unprecedented rate, the old guard you thought long-dead are reforming quicker than you can say “Greatest Hits Tour” and bands that really should just lay down and die are instead locked into a seemingly never-ending cycle of record/tour/record, regardless of whether their fans have had enough. Grave Digger, Illdisposed and Paganizer have released forty albums between them. Does anyone own any of them? Thought not…
So, what about the bands who released just one full-length before disappearing into obscurity? What impact have these single-figured artists had on our beloved scene? The answer is quite a bit. More than quite a bit, in fact… With that in mind Ghost Cult is proud to present the fifteen essential albums by bands that only gave us one opportunity to hear their wares.
Read on and see if you agree.
Repulsion – Horrified (Necrosis, 1989)
Once regarded as the fastest band in the world, along with being one of the innovators of grindcore along with Napalm Death and Terrorizer, Flint, Michigan trio Repulsion released Horrified in 1989 to a largely unsuspecting public. Its light-speed, hideously ugly legacy has endured to this day, with the band still headlining festival stages on the strength of this one 29-minute recording. Featuring some of the most frantic, caustic riffage ever captured, along with suitably sickening lyrics and of course, that iconic goofy zombie on the front cover, Horrified is an extreme metal classic that you will never get tired of spinning. If you don’t lose your shit when the riff to ‘Black Breath’ begins you probably aren’t human.
Carnage – Dark Recollections (Necrosis, 1990)
When you think of Swedish Death Metal the obvious names that spring to mind are Entombed, At the Gates and Dismember, but there is one often overlooked act whose contribution to the genre is utterly essential. They were Carnage, five spotty oiks from Stockholm whose sole release Dark Recollections was perhaps the purest embodiment of the Sunlight sound that all bands of the genre strived for; buzzsaw guitars, twisted melodies and indecipherable barked lyrics concerning violence and death. Given the whiff of grindcore that imbued the recording it was unsurprising that guitarist Mike Amott soon jumped ship to join Carcass while the rest of the band merged with the remnants of Dismember. However, the spirit of Dark Recollections was absorbed into that band, a more than fitting legacy for an album of such macabre excellence.
Winter – Into Darkness (Future Shock, 1990)
Picture if you will, planet Earth devastated by a nuclear holocaust; a grey, rotting visage of sunless skies, obliterated cityscapes and blasted landscapes. Now imagine that some malign sorcery has resurrected the corpses of Celtic Frost to be this ruined world’s own house band, playing endlessly on only for the benefit of the endless piles of corpses that stretch to the blackened horizon. This is what Into Darkness by New York trio Winter sounds like. Arguably one of the most miserable, lifeless recordings of all time, this is a tortuous forty-six minute crawl through wretchedness via the medium of lethargic doom riffs, clattering percussion and gruff, indifferent vocals. You’re not meant to enjoy it and it’s no surprise Winter only managed one EP after committing this monstrosity to tape.
God Macabre – The Winterlong (M.B.R., 1993)
Another Swedish death metal act that lasted all too briefly, that isn’t to say that Vålberg’s God Macabre didn’t have the talent, as anyone who has spent time with the short but sick The Winterlong will enthusiastically tell you. Far more morose and bitter sounding than most death metal albums that were being released at that time, their sole release may have only lasted twenty-seven minutes but the songs on offer had ‘timeless’ stamped all over them, blending catchy yet savage riffs with mournful melodies and an innate disgust and horror at life. Recently re-issued with the band reforming last year, now is the time for those unacquainted with this forgotten classic to recognise one of the most important bands in death metal, in Sweden or anywhere.
Disincarnate – Dreams of the Carrion Kind (Roadrunner, 1993)
With death metal already beginning to show signs of creative stagnation in 1993, it took the twisted vision of one of the genre’s most talented and well-travelled soldiers to show that all was not lost and that where there was death there was life. Enter James Murphy, who after stints in Death and Obituary decided to take the lead, which he did with the utterly brilliant Dreams of the Carrion Kind under the Disincarnate name. If you thought Death had started to sacrifice songwriting in favour of technicality, found Obituary a tad dull and Suffocation a bit too over the top then your prayers were answered, for Murphy somehow managed to filter all the plus points and none of the weaknesses from those aforementioned bands into one of the darkest, endlessly fascinating and still inherently listenable Death Metal albums of all time. Their split was a tragedy that often comes with an excess of talent but news that the band has reformed is a hopeful sign that more people will soon become aware of Dreams of the Carrion Kind and the brilliance of James Murphy.