Alternate Dimensions – A Review of microcosmys and La Torture des Ténèbres’ ‘The Gods Themselves’

Against stupidity… The Gods themselves… Contend in vain?

~

Straight up: I appreciate surprises when it comes to music. I, like I’ll assume many of you, listen to a veritable avalanche of constant new shit that unfortunately often ends up falling on the wrong side of predictable. If something isn’t what I expected it grabs my attention all the more (and if it then proves to actually be good too, we’re onto a glorious winner), so when this split between Ukranian ambient/black metal duo microcosmys and Canadian enigmatic raw black metal entity La Torture des Ténèbres entitled ‘The Gods Themselves‘ proved itself to be packed to the brim with surprises, suffice to say I was more than satisfied in that aspect. But is it any good? Well, as the old adage goes… Let’s find out.

First surprise: As the title may have already tipped you off, the entire split is dedicated to science fiction literature pioneer Isaac Asimov and is thematically tied together by his 1972 novel ‘The Gods Themselves’. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a dazzlingly intricate tale of parallel universes and alien beings, infinite energy, greed and the possible end of humanity. Heady stuff, and a fascinating choice of inspiration for a black metal release. Which brings us to the second surprise: without knowing exactly what form the blackened delights within would take, imagining a sci-fi theme paired with dense, cosmic blasting black metal isn’t too far of a logical leap. But lo; this is not the case, as both artists take far different approaches.

As the first notes of microcosmys (stylised with lower case m) landed pleasurably upon my hearing-centres, the raw tones immediately piqued my curiosity. Turns out their side is a wonderfully adventurous, warped, lo-fi and totally instrumental trip with avant-garde tendencies in a vaguely similar ballpark to artists like Wolok. Each of their three tracks is dedicated to a member of the book’s central family unit of aliens: Odeen, Dua and Tritt, and each posesses it’s own like personality. ‘Odeen‘ is the Rational of the three, a driving force and the most straightforward of the triad. It’s a harder composition that paradoxically also wants to feel, as not least evidenced by the great dysphoric vibe that opens it up. ‘Dua‘ is the Emotional and is also where things start to get a little more out there as artfully placed alien synths create an engaging otherworldly tension, while final piece ‘Tritt‘ is the Parental and is where their science fiction induced mayhem comes to a head in intense and commanding fashion.

Third surprise: I had actually heard La Torture des Ténèbres once before, just not made the connection when I read the name. A one woman black/noise project, sole conduit J. Kinney channeled one of the more soul-burning releases of last year with the dystopian ‘IV- Memoirs of a Machine Girl‘ and she is easily as mesmerising and violent here, if not even more so; her side of this split is comprised of two cuts from her 2016 album ‘Choirs of Emptiness‘ (which in turn is material that predates even her debut album). If you haven’t heard her work before, you really do need to and this is a great place to start: ‘Next Stop, Virgo City‘ wastes no time exploding into a glorious, howling, cacophonic maelstrom of abrasive-yet-melodic immensity close to what I imagine having the life force of the entire universe being forcefully pulled out through your brain must sound like.

We Should Have Left It On The Country Station‘ continues in this fashion, and I’d love to be able to effectively dissect both tracks further but a) I’m still reeling, and b) I honestly don’t think they need to be. Words are ultimately redundant with a sound like this; this is pure primal sensation. You need to push play. It must be experienced. It’s like through hyper-magnifying the simplest cores of human emotions and fears she opens the floodgates on an unimaginable and uncontrollable power; so hopelessly monolithic it could in fact only be of the gods themselves. All you can do is surrender; throw your head back, arms out and allow yourself to be rent asunder as the rapture takes hold.

Last surprise, which by now probably isn’t one at all: Is it good? No… It’s fucking great. Two very underappreciated artists with vastly different approaches and a power all their own, combining to produce something never before seen. A fitting metaphor for both worlds in the novel. Both enjoyable for their own reasons, and both worth your time. I’ll be picking up a copy of this. Hails.

Out today, July 13th, through Xenoglossy Productions/Breathe Plastic Records.

~

Purchase ‘The Gods Themselves‘ on cassette or digital from Xenoglossy Productions here, or from Breathe Plastic Records here.

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Hymns to Death – A Review of Mortum’s ‘Eheieh Chaos’

EHEIEH meaning:

1. I am;

2. I am becoming;

3. The name of God.

~

I’m going to take a shot in the dark here: You like Black Metal, right? You’ve definitely stumbled upon the wrong site if you don’t, but that’s not my point. What exactly do you like about it? When you really strip everything away, the layers that swathe and shape it, what lies at the dark core for you? For me at least and I’m sure for many of you, the USBM duo of Mystic Yautja and Ominous seem to have struck an arrow deep into that perfect core with their project Mortum.

After honing their black art for over ten years, their second full-length ‘Eheieh Chaos’ was originally self released last October but is now seeing an appropriately limited cult release through the great Fólkvangr Records. Comprised of four new tracks and three re-recordings from older summonings you’d be forgiven for expecting some jarring difference in songwriting, but nope; the whole thing flows effortlessly along like the pitch black waters of the styx as it weaves its misanthropic web of mysticism.

But anyway, how does it hit this ‘perfect core’, you ask? I’ll try to explain. The demonic pair open with ‘Scourge of Suffering’, which is one of the aforementioned re-recordings and was originally from their last release, 2015’s ‘Ascending Calamity’. If you’ve heard the original then the steps they’ve taken on this album will become immediately apparent. ‘Ascending Calamity’ was basically a demo quality recording. Aside from the great new introductory section of portentous monasterial chanting, here the sound has been beefed up again in all aspects. The guitars are a lot cleaner, allowing their diabolical tones to ring ever truer. Removing some of the rawness of their last release somewhat paradoxically leaves everything exposed; it bares the heart of the material, and that heart is pure black.

For all the bells and whistles bands or artists throw in, black metal is ultimately about expressing a feeling or an ideal, a power. Mortum nail that power as simply as possible. Just check out the drumming on ‘An Elegaic Hymn to Death’; over the evolution of the composition it only does exactly what is needed, nothing more, nothing less. The guitars aren’t overly complicated and the melodies aren’t either but it’s perfectly effective; just like pronouncing the necessary magickal words of an incantation correctly, all the elements click together in exactly the right way to summon the intended arcane forces.

That may be a half-cocked explanation but hopefully you catch my drift. This isn’t a ‘dazzling’ album. It’s not flashy. These guys aren’t breaking any molds. However, when it boils down to it, this arguably is the mold. They simply know how to make great black fucking metal… And I like it.

Out tomorrow, 29th June, through Fólkvangr Records.

~

Purchase Mortum‘s ‘Eheieh Chaos’ on CD or digital from their Bandcamp here, or on cassette from Fólkvangr Records here.

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Cosmic Spheres – A Review of Craft’s ‘White Noise and Black Metal’

I’ll be honest here: I’ve always been partial to a little bit of (whisper it): black ‘n roll. I mean almost everyone jams a bit of Guns n’ Roses, Kiss, Crüe or whatever else floats your boat when they’re drunk as shit, what’s so bad about a little stomp ‘n groove in the genre we all know and love, right? It cops a lot of hate from purists but hey, even the grimmest of the grim are allowed a little fun once in a while.

And fun is exactly what it seems Sweden’s longstanding black metal misanthropes Craft seem seem to be having lately. Slowly inching further away from trve kvlt with every release, their last album ‘Void’ possibly went down like a dick joke at a funeral depending on how crispy you like your cornflakes and they’re only pushing even further in that direction for fifth album ‘White Noise and Black Metal’.

They’ve always had an element of rock in their mid-paced attack and expertly blended a grimy swagger with genuine darkness and menace. This time around all bets are off and they’re going for it harder than ever before; and with the cleanest sound they’ve ever had, too. The overall tone is also relatively lighter when compared to their older work and there’s nothing so negative as even say, ‘The Dark Surrenders’ to be found.

While this news might have made the colour drain from a few corpse-painted faces, don’t pack it in just yet; they haven’t become the black metal Nickleback. It may not be as primal as ‘Fuck The Universe’ but they still command a great anti-cosmic energy, the blazing riffs they’re known for are still there in glorious abundance, and they retain just the right amount of dirt in their sound to still be viciously effective. The songwriting feels like it’s been kicked back up a notch and around popping up on the latest At The Gates record Nox puts in a solid vocal performance. Session drummer Daniel Moilanen kills it; hell, I even really dig the Zbigniew M. Bielak cover art (which seems an extension of what he had going down on the last Portal release).

What we have here is something that’s not quite “mainstream” yet, but getting there. A slightly more polished version of their intensity and darkness that frequently explodes into cocksure vulgar displays of head-banging power. It’s fucking fun, and you listen to details like the lead connection drop-outs in the rockin’ first half of ‘Undone’ and tell me they aren’t enjoying themselves too.

Despite any misgivings some may have with the evolution and maturation of their sound, this is Craft, doing exactly what they want and ultimately not giving a fuck what you think. Is it the best thing they’ve done? Nah. Will it be your album of the year? Maybe, maybe not. Can you jam the absolute fuck out of it regardless?

Now that’s an undeniable yes.

Pre-orders available now through Season of Mist, releases 22nd June. Hails.

~

Purchase Craft‘s ‘White Noise and Black Metal’ on CD, cassette, vinyl or digitally from Season of Mist here.

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~

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End of Days – A Review of Abstracter’s ‘Cinereous Incarnate’

Definition of CINEREOUS;

1 : gray tinged with black. 2 : resembling or consisting of ashes. (Merriam-Webster)

~

<< Cracks. Blurry cracks. A network like a crazed city map, fading in and out. You blink again to clear some of the fog and see peeling, stained paint. A ceiling. You’re staring at a ceiling. Turning your head ever so slightly, an explosion of pain rockets through your skull. How long have you been out? Days? Weeks? Lay still until the pain subsides. Try again. Success. You push yourself up to a sitting position. >>

US black doom sludge artists ABSTRACTER want to annihilate you. Not just your body, but your mind. Complete and total erasure from existence. Previous albums ‘Wound Empire‘ and ‘Tomb of Feathers‘ have both been top notch studies in the art of destruction and misery, but on upcoming third offering ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ the four-piece paint with an almost unbelievable new palette of utter bleakness.

<< You rub your temples. Eyes open, looking around the room. You’re in the bunker. Shit, what happened? Your mouth is fucking dry. Swallowing is like sandpaper. Water. Must get water. You stand up, legs buckling under you. The lights are dim, but you can see the remnants of supplies all around you. Empty bottles. No water. Gotta make it to the door then. Lurching steps, to the door panel, fingers input the code without thinking. Muscle memory taking over. The door begins to raise… But no light shines into the room. >>

How have they stepped it up? Well, amongst other delights we’ll cover shortly the doomsayers of Kahn, Alagna, Meyer and Gambel have added two more assistants in painting this hellish portrait to their ranks: this release sees further shades of misery contributed by none other than black noise maestro Kevin Gan Yuen of Sutekh Hexen and dark industrialist Kush Arora, aka Only Now.

<< You stand frozen, looking out. What the fuck happened? There is no sky. There are no buildings, only shattered husks. Burnt and twisted frames reaching up like gnarled fingers through the haze. The air… Ash. The air is ash. >>

Their contributions to the already abysmal soundscape offered on previous releases push everything to darker places than ever before. Whereas on past releases squalls of feedback would be used to achieve the haunting ambience (and still are, to greater effect than ever); now miasmic swathes of black noise either blend with Kahn’s soul-tearing riffs and Alagna’s beast-mode vocals (there are times when his vocals literally sound like they’re disintegrating into the black noise, the sound waves somehow deconstructing at an atomic level) or act as almost negative spaces between them, creating vortices that suck all remaining vestiges of life from the world created by the abrasive, harrowing maelstrom.

<< Picking through the rubble, you make your way through the remains of what you once knew. Breathing tastes acrid, the air sulfuric. Your mind races, a jumble, confusion. >>

And create another world they do. That annoying little flow of italic subtext running through this piece is a short story I wrote inspired by ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ while I was listening through it the first couple of times; this is what the album made me feel. Complete submersion into a post-apocalyptic landscape. A world destroyed. This isn’t done one-dimensionally or for mere ‘fantasy entertainment value’, either; it feels deeper and based in reality, like a point is being made and as all good art is apt to inspire in the one experiencing it, you may find yourself asking questions.

<< A sudden sound, up ahead to the left. A slow, faint scraping noise. Through the grey and shadow you can just make out a shape. Closer. It doesn’t know you are there. >>

Questions such as: What caused this? Was it man’s arrogance? Is this our certain future, an environmental doom, unavoidable as we continue along our current trajectory? Or is this the aftermath, once some fat fingers and fatter fucking egos have hit the nuke buttons and doomed us all to shit?

<< You can see it now. A wretched, soot-covered figure that may have once been a woman, hunched and gnawing on the skull of what appears to be a child. You turn and run. >>

Immersed in the inherent agony and horror of both the sonic assault and the harrowing images it conjures, you’re then forced to wonder… Can anything even be done to prevent it?

<< You run endlessly, through wreck and ruin. Thoughts tumble, panicked, a horror kaleidoscope. Lungs burn. Grey haze. Run. Never ending ruin. RUN. >>

Such a contemplative state is a testament to how good this record really is. It’s powerful stuff and we haven’t even touched on the artwork, where Kevin Gan Yuen’s skilled hands once again come into play. I’ve seldom seen cover art that’s a more accurate visual manifestation of the music within and I definitely can’t think of one that would come close to it so far this year. It’s an ultimate combination, I can only imagine what the lyrics are like but I’ll go ahead and assume they complete the picture flawlessly (I’ll find out for sure once my physical copy arrives: lyrics are printed in the booklet).

<< You eventually collapse, heaving, coughing black flecks of blood and ash. inside a hollowed shell. Manic, what the fuck is this? Is this life now? Is this all there is? >>

Admittedly the production is slightly less oppressive than 2016s great split with Dark Circles, but that’s like saying you only hung choking for a minute and a half this time before the beam broke, and really only serves to offer an even clearer view of the devastation. It’s a very different beast than the sludgy ‘Wound Empire’ too; the sludge and crust aspects are still there of course, but whereas that album (and ‘Tomb of Feathers’ before it) flirted with other shades on the colour spectrum and included elements of light and shadow, now everything is far more doomy, black and desolate. The closest they come to any of that earlier flirtation is on opener ‘Nether’, where for a brief moment the mood is almost reflective… But the intensity soon builds to crushing levels, never to return. You know the Leonard Cohen lyric “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”? No light at all gets into this album. This is the album that makes the cracks in everything else.

<< As you lay crumpled against the wall, you begin to hear it. Far off in the distance, a droning, low hum. But harsher, dissonant. It slowly gets louder. >>

Which isn’t to say it’s monotonous or flat. On the contrary; it’s a perfectly laid out album with fantastic dynamics. The opener is relatively uptempo and almost eases you in; first ambient/noise track ‘Cinereous’ is a superb segue that (unlike many atmospheric interludes) actually furthers the narrative of the album with its counterpart ‘Incarnate’, both of which wonderfully bookend the two oblivion-inducing centrepieces before the closing 9 minutes and 35 seconds of ‘Devouring Night’ is both the final crushing of breath from your body and a merciful bullet in your head as you lay helpless on the ground.

<< The drone is closer. Humming, crushing, a screech like infernal feedback howling within. It’s almost… Comforting. But not in a pleasant way. It’s more… Nothing. >>

And those centrepieces, oooft. ‘Ashen Reign’ and ‘Wings of Annihilation’ are easily my favourite tracks on the record, and that’s saying something. Details like the descending tempo section in ‘Ashen Reign’ knock me six feet under. Everything across the entire package seems perfectly placed for maximum destruction and emotive effect; it’s almost like the whole package has been psychologically designed to infiltrate your mind, implanting images of dystopia and withering despair to inflict the deepest wounds possible.

<< It’s all around you. Enveloping you in sound. You can feel it vibrating every atom of your being. All pervading bleakness. The end of everything. Is this bliss? >>

I love albums like that; you can talk all the musicology and technical ability you want but the best albums are ones you feel. You fucking feel this album. It begins at rock bottom, but only burrows down further from there and by the end is a weight on your soul that you’ll never recover from. To be honest it even shits me off that I’ll probably never get to see these guys live, because standing in a room with this carnage going on would be like experiencing a sinkhole opening up in the room and swallowing everything.

<< You look down at your hands and see they have started to disintegrate. Your skin has become the colour of the air, tiny flecks of you breaking off into the wind as you watch. The sound is infecting you, destroying, becoming one. >>

It should be absolutely zero surprise that there’s so much label backing for this album too (it drops on June 8th through Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Vendetta Records, I, Voidhanger Records, Tartarus Records and Daymare Recordings), it deserves every ounce of it. These gentlemen get better with every release and their evolution from the debut into the wretched black form they now inhabit has been astonishing; in ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ they’ve created a stunning, almost immaculate album that leaves you irrevocably changed after you hear it.

<< Thoughts are fading away. You hold up an arm; it’s mostly gone. It doesn’t even hurt. There is no pain. The sound is all. All is nothing. All is destroyed. Parts of you drop off and are gone before they hit the charred earth. You take one last look at this world, or what remains of it… And feel nothing but emptiness. >>

Well, it did for me anyway. For you? Who knows, give it a try. Expect pain. Expect hopelesness. Expect year-end lists. Abase thyself at the rotten throne of ABSTRACTER.

<< The last specks of you float away. The crushing drone fades, softly into the distance. All is as it once was… Desolation. A grotesque monument to failure and decay. >>

The harbingers of oblivion are here.

<< All is silent.

All is gray. >>

~

Purchase Abstracter‘s ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ on cassette, vinyl or digitally from Sentient Ruin Laboratories here or Vendetta Records here, on cassette from Tartarus Records here, on mini-gatefold CD from I, Voidhanger Records here, plus most of the above and Japanese CD digipacks with bonus track and OBI strip from their own Bandcamp here.

Support Abstracter:

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For This Time Only – A Review of 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)’s 一期一会

They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. Well, I am here to tell you: they couldn’t be more fucking wrong. The debut album ‘5772’ from multinational headmelter psychedelic crew 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) was a shining, utterly bizzare bolt from the blue; and now the trio of PBV (Guitars, Bow, Vocals, Effects), NN (Fretless Bass) and KJM – (Drums, Percussion) have flown from various places around the globe to meet up and send another streak of once-in-a-lifetime freak voltage directly into the collective craniums of discerning experimental extreme music consumers.

‘一期一会’ is the title of this new lysergic beast, which translates to “For This Time Only, Never Again” and could equally refer to either the mode of its construction being recorded live in one hit with any additional overdubs dropped in later, or that this band is something quite unlike anything you’ll ever experience or will ever exist again and the fact that you are alive to see it is incredible in itself. In keeping with this theme I’m going to try something a little different and overly self indulgent: a stream of consciousness review as I sit and listen properly to this for the first time. At 1am. I apologise in advance.

Pressing play… Now.

~

– Nice intro. Ominous, yet calming.

– Here we go… Bongos. Of course there are bongos.

– Vocals are mental. Washed out and barely straining through the music, the perfect accompaniment…

– Holy FUCK

– Grinding death diabolical black metal riff slashes through / gone as quickly as it came. Yikes.

– That bassline swimming upwards is great. What the fuck is going on, and they haven’t even let fully rip yet

– Oh, next track… Man, this is mental and soulful all at the same time

– Devilish lounge music?

– This is a freak out. Jazzy, mutant rhythms. The vocals are at odds with everything, yet so perfect

– Drifting away into fucking space. Beautiful, mantra, trancelike. Oranssi Pazuzu vibes

– Next track… Carnage, yet not carnage. They hit some tweaky melodies, getting into weird progressive tech like I want to say Electro Quarterstaff or something, but way more baked and black. Therefore obviously much, much better

– The intricacy in their sound is incredible. Next track, hit me.

– Oh fuck YES. CRUSH

– Christ on a bike, that fucking riff. Slithering and sinister

– Track of the record so far. ‘No Premature Celebrations’ indeed.

– That’s it, everyone pack up and go home. They’ve done it, nothing else needs to be said

– The dissonance. Yes.

– Next track… I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s going to fly off the rails and decapitate several people on the way

– Where am I?

– Those creaks… Were they ambient sound? Or played on instruments? Outstanding.

– Now this is a crescendo. This shit is fucking wild. I think this song is going to make me explode or transcend reality or something. I mean… Fuck off.

– The structure of this album as a whole has been incredible. I wish more bands built these dynamics over the course of a full-length

– Final song… Savage beauty in an alien world. Swirling emotions and shimmering whispers. I swear you could listen to this album twenty times in a row and you’d still be picking out fresh intricacies every time

– ‘No Clinking of Glasses’, spot on. Shit sounds like a dinner party in hell through the second half

– How do you write something like this?

– …It’s over? Hasn’t it only been five minutes or so..? Fucking felt like it. Time to push play again. Goodbye…

Releasing today through Sentient Ruin Laboratories and Annapurna Production.

~

Purchase 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)‘s ‘一期一会’ on cassette, vinyl or digitally from Sentient Ruin Laboratories here, CD digipack from Annapurna Production here, plus all of the above from their own Bandcamp here.

Support 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker):

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Divine Fire – A Review of Precaria, Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering and Dominus Ira’s ‘Metamorphosphoros’

“Metamorphosphoros is a split album dealing with the concept of Theion, the divine fire that burns but never consumes, like the one seen by Moses in the desert when he heard the voice of YHWH. It’s also about the descent to the abyss, and the consequent ascent, in order to attain a state of purification. Something which will ultimately be achieved through death.”

~

So says the I, Voidhanger Records promotional blurb for ‘Metamorphosphoros’, the astounding conceptual split from Mexico’s Precaria, US duo Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering and subterranean Russians Dominus Ira. Now, regular readers may know that well-executed splits are a particular interest of mine; it’s ace of course when singular projects can create a dynamic and flowing album but when two or more artists come together forging a conceptually meshed, stylistically complementary and coherent whole, I find it especially enjoyable. As a result to say my interest level in this split was through the roof would probably be an understatement, but: released on the final hissing breath of March’s death rattle this admittedly landed in my inbox quite some time ago. I’m a bit late to the party here due to a shitty work overload, but I simply couldn’t resist giving it the well-deserved proper review treatment once I’d heard it.

Before belatedly diving in to this glorious occult triptych I also want to quickly acknowledge one glaringly obvious thing too: that is some seriously fucking stunning artwork. Ikonostasis: Artwork of Elijah Tamu has outdone himself creating some great things for Svartidauđi, Lo-Ruhamah and Panegyrist of late and he absolutely knocks it out of the park with an intricate and affecting piece drenched in mysticism and dark symbolism. I know some have given this a chance simply based on the cover alone, so the big question is: does the music itself stack up? Well as the old adage goes… Let’s find out!

Opening this ambitious rite in explosive fashion are Mexican duo Precaria. Something absolutely incredible straight off the bat is the fact that beside the drums, these three opening tracks were supposedly recorded and produced entirely on a phone. Yes, a Samsung Galaxy. Listening to the flames, layers of guitar and building vocals of introductory piece ‘Ritus Primordiales’ as they begin to weave the necessary atmosphere, that fact seems totally unbelievable. Full kudos to main man Hermit Of Tehom for pulling it off in such convincing fashion because when first proper track ‘Ex Abyssia’ kicks in, the whole thing sounds absolutely monstrous with just the right mix of obscurity and power hitting you square in the face as the scorching drums provided by session/live man Opposus Discordia give the impression your skin will be flayed off any second. The fury and fire is unrelenting as the track traverses its intricate, mystical forms; the riffs and compositional twists seemingly designed to carve magic into the very air. All this gets even better with ‘Traficando los Órganos de la Iglesia’ as the intensity and spiritual melodicism reaches an almost biblical magnitude before eventually collapsing into a haunting ambient passage, replete with sorrowful and dramatic female vocals. It’s a lovely moment of respite, but alas, one that does not last; these men do not want you to catch your breath as the frenzied first bars of ‘La Obra Negra Deicidia’ remind you that the ritual is far from complete. Another ripper track, its hypnotic waves of surging fury and roared sermons form the perfect parting shot of Precaria‘s intense opening salvo.

If Precaria were spreading the thematic message by way of an almost delirious religious fervour, then the Cult of DIS take it upon themselves to carry the torch with orthodox bile and black death infused venomous devastation. Rather fittingly seeing as the moniker Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering is apparently intended as “an honest, although admittedly cynical, description of what life fundamentally is“, you can taste the disdain and wretchedness dripping from every pore of their sound. Low death growls, riffs that somehow encapsulate nihilistic brutality and esotericism all in one; this is some great stuff.

Despite their obvious talent for bludgeoning at disorienting speed they also aren’t scared of slowing down either, as the languid and soulful second half of ‘Bliss Inferno / Le Grand Néant’ attests with its dulcet tones. The break almost serves as the album’s centrepiece, calming and providing necessary contrast before what I opine is their greatest contribution, ‘Breath of Immortality’, arrives in menacing fashion. You can definitely hear their influences coursing through the veins of this track but they rise to something much greater; the sinister alchemy and satanic majesty is wonderfully done and there’s a perfectly balanced occult grandiosity to it all. Easily my pick of their three compositions and to top it off, it culminates in the lyrical expression of the very title of the split:

“To wield the knife of non
To carve my name into the heart of God
I breathe, not to inhale life
But to exhale death unto eternal night
Create to negate profanation
Liberation, in the name of…

METAMORPHOSPHOROS.”

And finally, reciting the last words to seal the incantation is Dominus Ira. A one man Russian act who has been at it since 2004, this project’s stock and trade is cold, misanthropic second-wave-worshipping euphoria. Beginning well with ‘Ashes of Your Faith’ and progressing into the all-destroying profane fury of ‘Eerie Subterranean Call’, he may even wield the most potent weapon of all three artists. There’s a lot of variety in the mode of attack on this three-pronged trident of a split but this man in particular goes straight for the darkness, summoning it effortlessly through unhallowed halls, howling from the desolate winter winds. Final rite ‘…Of Coldness’ is nothing less than a knife to the heart, a celebration of decay, dreams, misery and transformation. This IS the conceptual death. I could listen to it for hours and couldn’t think of a better track to close out proceedings.

All in all, ‘Metamorphosphoros’ is a marvelous journey and a mesmerising performance of the dark arts from three very different artists executing parts of a conceptual whole from their own unique viewpoints almost flawlessly. Does it break new ground? Not really. Does it do what it does aim to achieve well? Yes. Sadly, it probably won’t end up getting the attention it deserves because of the first of those questions, but you can certainly give it all of yours regardless. They’ll all be getting much more of mine when I check out the rest of their respective discographies.

Excellent work. Hails.

~

Purchase ‘Metamorphosphoros’ on CD from I, Voidhanger Records here.

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Final Breath – A Review of Twilight’s ‘Trident Death Rattle’

For those who somehow don’t know, Twilight was a collaborative project between some of the biggest names in USBM/great music in general. Counting at various times in their ridiculously talented ranks members of Leviathan, Krieg, Nachtmystium, Xasthur, Draugar, Isis, The Atlas Moth and Sonic Youth, together they created some of the most unique and unsettling black metal you’ll ever hear. I personally jammed the hell out of this project, so I’m extremely pleased that a new EP comprised of songs leftover from the recording sessions of 2012’s ‘III – Beneath Trident’s Tomb’ has arisen from the depths this very day.

Now, if you’ve even paid the slightest bit of attention to USBM in the last five or six years you’ll surely have heard of the absolute shitstorm around one of the members of this project. If you paid a little more attention you’ve probably read various delightful accusations, insults and recountings of woeful happenings between even more of the people involved. But enough keystrokes have been devoted to all that shit and if you really want to drool/jerk off over all the sordid details it’s all over the internet; given that one of said members is now operating the label releasing this and everyone else seems to be at least some vague semblance of cool/polite about it anyway, what really matters for the moment is this: New. Fucking. Twilight.

Well, new/old, but you catch my drift. Being from the same sessions (these are the tracks Blake Judd wrote before they were all pulled from the final album), new EP ‘Trident Death Rattle’ is unmistakably cut from the same deep textured cloth as ‘III’ yet ends up somehow even more experimental in nature.

‘This Road South’ kicks off in a bleak storm but is the most “standard” track of the bunch, a black blaster with great riffs that apparently would have been the opener to the album. Everything sounds ace, Wrest is as great behind the kit as ever and Neill ‘Imperial’ Jameson kills it on vocals, his harrowing howl is still one of the best in the game when he’s on point. Second piece ‘Weathered Flames’ is a raw stomper, probably the weakest of what’s on offer here but solid nevertheless, while the final track ‘No Consequence’ is where it really gets into it and is worth the price of admission alone. Heavy, dismayed, despondent and broken, the sound of a world collapsing in slow motion. You can really feel Thurston Moore‘s additional fingerprints on this track and some banjo even makes an appearance, courtesy of Scott Judd from Tangleweed. Easily the best of the three.

Overall, is it good? Yes. The tracks would have sounded great amongst the others that made the final cut, although for reasons well documented it’s probably understandable they were left off. As it is, the fact that they’re seeing the cold light of day now is good enough and an appropriate footnote for an extraordinary collaboration and event in USBM, the likes of which we may never see again.

Out today through Ascension Monuments Media, who incidentally have also been putting out some killer rarities and reissues from Leviathan, Othendara and Judas Iscariot alongside some well deserved fresh signings like Suicide Forest. Check them out.

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Purchase Twilight‘s ‘Trident Death Rattle’ on CD, vinyl, cassette and digital from Ascension Monuments Media here.

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Your Doom Awaits – A Review of Funerary Descent’s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’

“Funerary Descent is the always present dread.

Funerary Descent is the void of existence.

Funerary Descent is the madness of eternity.”

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Have you ever heard of the “Windlass of Erasmus”? Well, as the tale goes, Saint Erasmus of Formia was a Christian saint and martyr who died back in the heady days of 303 AD. He is venerated as the patron saint of both sailors and abdominal pain. Why abdominal pain? Because his death was allegedly the product of one of history’s cruelest and most harrowing forms of torture.

Ol’ Elmo apparently shuffled off the mortal coil in a particularly horrifying way. Bound on a rack by Romans a neat little incision was made in his abdomen and his intestines separated from his stomach, attached to the windlass and then spooled slowly out of him; winding around the makeshift crank as he writhed in what was sure to be excruciating pain. He died an agonized and protracted death, completely helpless and only able to watch as his guts were removed incrementally and inexorably from his body. Why do I mention this? Because the sheer pain, suffering and sense of doom you would be consumed by in that situation is the closest approximation to the experience created by US duo Funerary Descent‘s despair-filled debut album ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’.

The trauma begins with the portentous sound of a solitary piano in a storm… Before everything then explodes in a grand thunderclap of rain-drenched misery. Opening track ‘It Crawls In The Venomous Hollow’ is ten minutes of the most soul-draining funereal wretchedness you’ll have heard in your life; the guitar tone bitingly morose while each ponderous, echoing drum hit is the sound of seconds ticking by while your life is running out. The riffs scrape past like nails on a blackboard and you can almost feel them sucking the life out of you. The rasping vocals have stepped up; they possess a new savagery and are far more powerful compared to the throatwork on their 2016 demo ‘Winds of Dissonance’. In fact, in my opinion everything about this is a huge step up; more vital, deadlier, blacker.

Something the duo of Dread (also of Vampyric Bvrial) and Blind (ex Serapheum) already did astoundingly well on their last demo was envelop you with their compositions and paint a vivid mental image of the terror; here they’ve not only kept up the standard but somehow managed to hit all new levels of devastating clarity. Visions of cloaked figures move slowly toward you in procession, a horrifying visage as the midnight rain pours on your wracked and broken body. You’re right there, soaked, delirious, frozen in pain and terror; the spool of your intestines growing larger with every passing minute.

Second death rite ‘Sunderance Ov The King’s Manor’ is where the ravens appear, circling and waiting in the shadows to ravage your flesh and pick your corpse until only bones remain. The opening dirge was merely a warm up, now the torturous element of their sound really comes into play. At over thirteen minutes long the track is given ample space and time to be sure its morbid task is done to greatest effect, miasma seeping in and filling every inch of your lungs as the death-knell riffs turn the windlass evermore.

Third passage ‘Eternal War of the Eclipsing Sun’ is where things reach critical mass. Opening with the sounds of a panicked battle, this battle is also your own as you fight for what remains of your slowly fading life. Several tempo changes from a relative canter to a depraved crawl make this the most dynamic track on the album, while the storms remain ever-present, bearing morbid witness to your final, struggling breaths.

And then, mercifully and yet all too soon, it’s over. Titular final piece ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ is an instrumental accompaniment as your spirit, finally freed of its shattered flesh prison, passes almost gratefully into the next plane of existence.

I sometimes find it hard to connect with your typical blackened doom act, but there’s absolutely no danger of that happening here. The misery is simply exquisite. A remarkable debut in which the hellish duo have not only challenged your pain tolerance and capacity for torture, but delivered on the promise of the demo in spades. The same spades wielded by hooded and moonlit figures, digging your shallow grave in a location nobody will ever find, right now.

Available 27th April through the one and only Fólkvangr Records. Limited to 50 copies, pre-orders up now. Your doom awaits.

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Purchase Funerary Descent‘s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ on cassette from Fólkvangr Records here, and keep an eye out for a digital copy soon from their own Bandcamp here.

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Elven Tales – A Review of Dwarrowdelf’s ‘The Sons of Fëanor’

Dwarrowdelf is a one-man studio project from Southampton, UK, walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic black metal.“

Clearly written with a wry sideways smile, the self awareness in that promotional blurb is refreshing. This has all been done before, yes; but Dwarrowdelf‘s debut album ‘The Sons of Fëanor’ proves itself more than a mere emulation or adherence to a proven formula. No, this is this individual’s own personal take on the saturated sub-genre, and you can tell he loves what he does.

Don’t let that little self-deprecating jibe mislead you about the album either. There are no jokes or jolly jaunts found here, this is some serious Tolkien worship and a massive slab of truly superb epic black metal that constantly surprised me throughout every twist and turn of its hour-long journey. Main man Tom O’Dell stated in a previous interview that Michał at Wolfspell Records offered a deal within hours of receiving the record; the only reason I can imagine as to why it took even that long for him to respond is that after hearing the album once, he had to play it through again to believe what his ears were telling him. And then again after that.

Whereas his previous EP ‘Of Darkened Halls’ was moreso centred around the Dwarves of Tolkien’s work, here the focus is squarely on the Elves of ‘The Silmarillion’. Seven songs; seven tales to tell the story of the seven Sons of King Fëanor and their oath to recover his jewels (the ‘Silmarils’). It admittedly has been a long time since I’ve read the source material but it’s clear Mr. O’Dell knows the lore and tells it well with not only a great lyrical interpretation but musically too, being quite adept at composing the perfect emotional sonic accompaniment to each chapter of the Elves’ tragic saga. The darkness in opening chapter ‘Amrod’ is delicate and exquisite, while stirring teaser track ‘Caranthir’ is utterly enthralling and the sorrowful solemnity throughout the subterranean ‘Curufin’ draws you in and contains just the right amount of mystery and wonder. Special mention for the keys in this too, they’re particularly well done and are utilised to enchanting effect.

The vocal performance is solid but in my opinion his cleans are the surprise, restrained and the perfect tone for the material. Guitars are great; this man can riff, and he certainly knows his way around a tune as the songwriting skill on display here is fantastic (check out the killer ‘Amras’ for proof of both of those points).

The only minor qualm I have with this release is unfortunately and often unavoidably a common one for one-man projects: the programmed drum sound. It isn’t bad by any means; I just kinda hope he somehow gets to work with a live drummer one day as his epic compositions deserve much more of a human, earthy feel than the sterility of programmed drums can provide. As it is, it serves only a mild distraction at times and doesn’t overly detract from the listening experience.

Grand in scope and executed to near perfection, Dwarrowdelf has added its unique voice to the throng of epic black metal artists and it’s a voice that rings strong and clear, rising above the multitudes. If you’re at all a fan of folky, epic black metal you’d be doing yourself an injury to not pick this up when it releases on digital/CD through Wolfspell Records on 30th April, and at the very least expect to hear much more from this man in future. Excellent work.

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Pick up teaser track ‘Maedhros’ at name-your-price download from the Dwarrowdelf Bandcamp above, or keep an eye on Wolfspell Records here for CD and Vinyl pre-orders.

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The Sacred and the Profane, Part 2 – A Review of Graveir’s ‘Cenotaph’

And thus, the world was plunged into darkness once more. Picking up where we left off in our interview with frontman Gloom for the first part of our coverage of the Australian wraith’s upcoming new release ‘Cenotaph’, the time has come recite the necessary incantations and take a deeper look at this great release.

A little history for those who missed part one and can’t be bothered clicking back: the embryonic stirrings of Graveir began in 2009 and eventually blossomed over time into the full rotting flower we see today, resplendent in filth. Currently consisting of Pandora on bass (also doing time in the excellent Moon), skinsman XI (ex-Moon, ex-Dead River Runs Dry, ex-Vyrion and more), the twin obscenities of Emaciation (Arms of the Abyss, Defamer, Tower of Fire) and Alone on guitars plus Gloom (ex-The Silenced) tearing his throat to pieces in the name of art, ‘Cenotaph’ is the project’s fourth release overall and follows their superb end-of-year-list -making split with Mar Mortuum from 2017.

If their contribution to that split was superb, they’ve taken things another step further on this EP. As ‘Sanguine Inferno’ bursts to life in sorrowful dissonance and begins to traverse it’s darkened path, you’re struck by the deep melodious bleakness in their sound; throughout the course of the journey it’s as if the songs try to take flight but are weighted down by utter hopelessness. Which is a very good thing, a definite honing of their abilities and focus has taken place here and the EP reaches down into depths no sentient being should ever have to experience.

‘Dyatlov’ draws inspiration from the Dyatlov Pass Incident that occurred in an almost impassable region of Russia’s frozen Ural mountains in 1959. The bodies of nine ski hikers were found scattered and damaged by an “unknown compelling force” whilst apparently attempting to flee their tent (which had been destroyed from the inside), skulls and ribs smashed. One woman had her tongue cut out, some were dressed only in socks and undergarments in the freezing snow. The mystery of what took place that night remains unsolved to this day; and it’s a fitting theme for this track as it surges through the mire, its haunting misery punctuated by violent throes of horror. One of my favourites on the EP and one in which you realise how unusually prominent and integral to their sound the basswork is, as Pandora‘s sinister rumble and dreadful tones add menace and instill a real fear of the unknown. Very welcome and effective here, providing the sinewed muscle to XI‘s winding percussive backbone.

EP centrepiece ‘Whips’ continues in dysphoric form, piling the melancholia on even harder before it then flies into a tempestuous rage. Despite their relatively short run times I find the tracks deceptively epic and expansive in their progression, there’s a depth to each one that reveals itself further and further with each listen. On the latter half of ‘Droit De Seigneur’ Gloom and Emaciation‘s dual vocal assault is utterly terrifying, while Alone‘s guitars sound like that door tucked away in the darkest reaches of your mind that hides and locks away all the unspeakable things has been ripped from its hinges. Both great songs, but they save the best until last: ‘New Gods (Drowning the Sun)’.

It might just be because I’ve spent the most time with this particular track overall, but it fucking kills. The moods it taps into, the true despair and intensity; frontman Gloom said in our interview that it decribes “the building of the new order over the bones of the old, through bloodshed”, which is not only a fitting theme for this piece but also the EP as a whole. Graveir are building a new order for themselves here, perfecting their formula and crushing everything in their path in the process.

It may sound like I’m just blowing hyperbole but I honestly am quite partial to this release. There’s a raw charm to their morose melodic power and a sense of integrity to the sound and songs, you can tell they’ve been crafted with care. The overall production hits me just right and sounds like the audio equivalent of dead things reaching out to consume your flesh. Which will most likely be while you still breathe and remain totally cognizant of what is taking place, but… Not quite yet. No, this is the sound of that fleeting moment in between life and death, when you’re frozen and everything stretches into eternity, forcibly aware of your own fragile mortality and its impending end. Each time you visit this world it pulls you further and further down… And I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic Norot Art cover artwork yet. Just look at it.

A killer EP, one that spells big things for the impious lot. Vinyl and shirt pre-orders available now from the ultimate purveyors of misanthropic art down under, Impure Sounds. Releases on 20th April. Get keen.

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Pre-order ‘Cenotaph’ on vinyl or digital from Impure Sounds here.

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