Friday, 17 January 2014

Culted - Oblique To All Paths

I tried to review this album without mentioning the Culted's geographically fascinating backstory, but the disconnect between the members (Three of whom reside in the remote Canadian prairies while vocalist Daniel Jansson lives in Gothenburg, Sweden. They have never met.) had such an impact on my interpretation of the album that I felt compelled to bring it up. Throughout the entirety of Oblique To All Paths I was unable to shake the feeling that Jansson's voice was like some terrible long-lost recorded artifact, and that the musicians had been tasked with writing an appropriately unsettling piece of music to accompany it, when in fact their recording process is quite the opposite way around.


Both the instruments and vocals are swathed in layers of effects; the guitars can occasionally sound like the scraping of long-ossified bone on cracked concrete, the drums hit with all the impact of anti-materiel rounds fired into the hull of a rusted tanker, and the vocals sound like the last transmission of a man slowly bleeding to death in the middle of a frozen tundra. It is an unremittingly bleak collection of sounds, expertly fused to create an unpleasant but wholly immersive experience.

I would be genuinely surprised if anyone is able to listen through this whole album without needing to take a break more than a couple of times. Sombre piano jabs lead into 'Illuminati' which actually possesses something vaguely resembling traditional song structure, there's a riff and everything! It may be accompanied by more of Jansson's feral, cybernetic howls, but it's a riff nonetheless. However the following track, 'Intoxicant Immuration', contains no such concessions to structure; it's more akin to floating facedown in the slowly pooled blood of a thousand bathtub suicides.

With Oblique To All Paths, a title taken from a quote from occultist Austin Osman Spare, Culted fulfil their intention to "explore an artistic or philosophical path regardless of societal expectations". Whilst filtering elements of doom, black metal, industrial, noise and much more into their musical output, Culted sound completely unlike any other band. Follow down their dark path at your peril...

Read my full unedited review at Echoes And Dust...

Culted on Facebook | Bandcamp

Saturday, 4 January 2014

UPYR - Altars / Tunnels

As far as I am aware, Upyr are the first metal band from Bulgaria that I've ever listened to, and judging by the bleakness of their demo Altars / Tunnels it must be a fucking horrible place to live. Seriously, despite doom becoming the most prevalent genre of metal to arise in the past few years, very few new releases sound as genuinely miserable as this.


Opening with a spot of string-strangling feedback, 'Altars of Necrotic Karma' soon unveils its malicious intent when the skull-rattling drums and doomed-to-death riff kicks in. The mix unfortunately leaves the drums sounding a little too echo-y and out of sync with the rest of the band, but seeing as this is their first demo recording, it's a small fault that can be forgiven.
A fast-paced midsection allows the band to drag things out of doom territory for a short while before the tempo comes crashing back down again, making the slower sections seem all the more devastating. It's clear that the musicians in the band have a grasp of dynamic songwriting that is often all too lacking in the doom genre, whilst vocalist Brodnik has a great range, switching between death growls and blackened shrieks. If UPYR are able to develop the depth of ideas heard in this first track alone, their debut full-length is going to be something truly special.

Second track 'Into the Tunnels of My Sleep' begins with sparse, mournful guitar before unfurling into a monstrously bleak slab of funeral doom. Here Brodnik's vocals are akin to the almost drawled delivery of Scott Kelly, before he dredges up a truly harrowing bellow to accompany the crushing atmosphere of the music. As much as I hate to just endlessly focus on the vocals, there's another section in this track where you would swear that they managed to rope in Jeff Walker to lend his foul rasp, it's such an uncannily accurate piece of Carcass karaoke. The interplay between guitarists Spasm and Tymnokryw is excellent, especially towards the end of the track, when one of them takes the opportunity to rip out a solo that flows perfectly alongside the main riff. It's one of this chill-up-your-spine moments. So damn good.


'Hymn to Pan' opens with some pretty, plaintive guitar, a stark contrast to the oppressive heaviness of the previous track. It's a welcome variation, though you can't help but wonder how long this peace can last? It turns out that the majority of the track is in this vein, but the overall vibe is one of unease, constantly wondering when the calm will end and the storm will descend.

Final track 'Welcome to the Ritual' is exclusive to the cassette release, and is an early rehearsal recording. The blown-out drum sound of the earlier tracks is thankfully replaced by a much more organic sound here, while the music is a heady mix of hypnotic passages and lurching, stop-start riffage. It sounds completely different from the previous tracks, which rather than making the demo sounding messy or unfocused, is an excellent indicator that UPYR simply have more ideas than they know what to do with. If they continue to crank out such interesting, varied tracks on future releases, they could well become Bulgaria's premier exponents of all things heavy.



You can pick up a copy of this demo on cassette via Serpent Eve Records which I highly recommend you do as it's one of the best demos I've heard in a long time.

UPYR on Facebook | Bandcamp

Friday, 3 January 2014

Fleshpress - Tearing Skyholes

Finland's Fleshpress may take their name from a Grief song, but it's clear from the opening moments of 'Washer', the first track of their 8th release Tearing Skyholes, that this is a mere vestigial influence by this point.
During the opening minutes of this track they're more akin to mid-to-late period Earth, replete with bright, clean tones and glacial pace, but things soon take a turn for the harsher with an abrasive noise-rock rhythm and the addition of vocalist Marko's repellant bark.


The absolutely monumental closing track 'Each Eye Holes The Sky' begins with layers of corrosive guitar and pounding drums, increasingly building the tension of the track to the point where it becomes almost unbearable, the layers of guitar interweaving and overlapping before the track finally coalesces into a recognisable rhythm. Revolting, orc-like grunted vocals babble maliciously just beneath the surface, while the band seemingly abandon the momentum they spent so long building in favour of short guitar breaks with an almost western vibe.


This is another perfect example of what Fleshpress do so well on Tearing Skyholes; they establish a solid rhythmic base which they then use to veer off on wild exploratory tangents, without ever becoming convoluted or boring. Yes, there's a fair bit of fretboard fuckery, but never at the expense of interesting riffs. The track deteriorates further with each repetition until the riff is so distended and warped that it's barely recognisable from the track's beginnings, before dissipating into corrosive feedback, the equivalent of the slow death of rusting machinery.

Read my full review of this release over at Echoes And Dust...

Fleshpress on Facebook | Bandcamp

Servants Of The Mist - Suicide Sex Pact

With Suicide Sex Pact, Tampa’s Servants Of The Mist have released a half hour of devastating doom that’s just as fatal as its title.


First track 'Absence' opens with a slurred sample of creepy Christian classic ‘Jesus Loves Me‘, also recently used by dearly-departed UK doom fiends Ishmael on their track ‘Buried With Fingers Crossed’; whether it’s being sung by a children’s choir or a drunken depressive, the effect is just as chilling. Why do those weak enough to need the Christian crutch take comfort from lines like "Little ones to him belong – they are weak, but he is strong"?
I will never grasp the complicit surrender of self to a fictional character just to give people an excuse for their pathetic, weak-minded actions. That docile servitude, indoctrinated since birth as the sampled song proves, has been exploited to nefarious ends for millenia by now, and is still given free reign to continue. Baffling.

The sample draws to a close, replaced by the piercing feedback that has been a genre staple ever since a group of New Orleans miscreants first started to Hate God back in the late ’80s. Guttural growls over distortion and feedback is not a new formula by any means, but the Servants choke the life out of it regardless. What sets them apart is that they sound truly miserable, and by the time the track lumbers to an end you’ll have felt every damn ounce of their weight upon your shoulders. I think that depressive atmosphere is what attracts me to this particular strain of heavy; there’s no better soundtrack to wallowing in your bad decisions, and realising that life is a disappointment.


With this release, Servants Of The Mist may not be reinventing the wheel, but they do give it a few more screeching spins on its rusted axle. Highly recommended if you like your doom despondent, and your samples unsettling.

Read my full review of this release over at The Sleeping Shaman...

Lazarus Blackstar / Black Shape Of Nexus split

I've been a fan of Bradford's bleakest, Lazarus Blackstar, ever since stumbling upon their debut album Revelations many years back. Their maniacal fusion of sludge and noise on that release absolutely sickened me, since at the time I hadn't even heard Eyehategod or Unsane yet, and I guess you could say that Lazarus Blackstar were one of my gateways into the uglier side of heavy music.
It's been with great interest that I've followed them from their earlier material with Paul Catten's demented howl, through to last year's excellent Hymns For The Cursed with new vocalist Mik Hell's fearsome growls.

When they released a split 12" with Glasgow's Headless Kross earlier this year, featuring guest vocals from none other than Alicia Morgan (of NYC legends 13), they really established themselves as one of Britain's foulest exponents of gut-churning doom.

This latest slab of filth, a split 12" with Mannheim's Black Shape Of Nexus via Alerta Antifascista Records, will hopefully turn more people on to both of these excellent bands, and have the current crop of weak UK 'doom' bands cowering behind their Dopesmoker reissues. I'm looking at you, Black Bong Goat Witch Whateverthefuck.


Black Shape Of Nexus begin their side with the monumental 'Honor Found In Delay', a not-so-subtle nod to Neurosis, who are obviously a big influence here. The slow build of the riff is soon joined by vocalist Malte Seidel's hoarse bellow, which coincidentally reminds me in some places of former Blackstar vocalist Paul Catten. Around the halfway point of the track, things switch up to a ominous, bass-heavy rumble, strains of feedback weaving throughout. There's not much in the way of variation, but the sheer propulsive power of the track is perhaps their sole intention. Who needs variety when you've got sheer driving force?

Their second contribution, 'Always And Only', is another sterling example of bass-led riffage, Stefan Kuhn's prowling groove locking the whole thing down. For a band with 6 members, they all sound remarkably focused on creating a solid, unified rhythm, instead of veering off indulging each member's individual whims. Though I've never made it to Mannheim, I have spent a lot of time in industrial Germany, and BSon really do produce a fitting soundtrack to the endless sprawl of purely practical architecture, miles and miles of red brick and steelworks... their sound is as lean and effective as German engineering itself.


Lazarus Blackstar open with 'Command And Control', the guitars of Lee Baines and Izak Gloom possessing a slightly more mournful edge than usual, and Mik Hell's growl even lower and more demented than ever. This track is probably the most out-and-out 'doom' thing they've recorded so far, it has that perfect degree of despair set to a sound heavier than the weight of 6ft of gravedirt on a casket lid.

Closing out their side with 'Whispering Through Broken Teeth', a track just as nasty and unpleasant as it's title, which doesn't so much have riffs as it has audio maelstroms, sucking you down into the murky depths below. Again they eschew the sludgier, more noise-oriented material of their beginnings, in favour of a tar-black strain of doom, even incorporating the sound of a mellotron, and chanted, semi-clean vocals. If this stylistic shift is more than just idle experimentation, and further material in this vein is handled as excellently as it is here, I'm so goddamn excited to hear more from them in the coming year. Here's to hopelessness.

Black Shape Of Nexus on Facebook | Bandcamp
Lazarus Blackstar on Facebook | Reverbnation

This review originally appeared at The Sleeping Shaman.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Deviated Instinct / Summon The Crows split

Towards the end of the last decade the return of the likes of crust punk originators Amebix and Deviated Instinct was certainly unexpected, downright unthinkable to those who were there the first time around, but when you take into consideration the context for their respective reformations it makes perfect sense.

Their music first soundtracked the anger and frustrations of a generation over two decades earlier who were disillusioned with Tories, wars they didn't vote for, widespread unemployment among the youth... it's almost 2014 and look where we are. Nothing ever fucking changes.

Deviated Instinct's sole contribution to this split, the appropriately monickered 'End Times', is a ferocious four-minute exercise in filth. Founding members Leggo and Mid have definitely been keeping tabs on the genre they helped define, incorporating many of the contemporary characteristics of what crust has evolved into; the abrasive guitar and almost death-like vocals make this sound far more relevant than the endless young bands ripping off the Portland-via-Tennessee-circa-2000 sound.

They share this split with a band who clearly take influence from their forebears, Norway's Summon The Crows. Contributing two tracks of crust in a similar vein, they more than match Deviated Instinct for all-out aggression and raw tone.

Originally released by Nakkeskudd Plater, this vital split 7" has recently seen a re-press by Disiplin Media. Don't hesitate to pick it up, as it's putrid proof that crust is alive and well and just as angry as ever.

Deviated Instinct on Facebook | Bandcamp
Summon The Crows on Facebook | Bandcamp

Friday, 27 December 2013

Temples Nights: A New UK Festival Worthy Of Worship

With such a vast array of festivals catering to connoisseurs of all things slow, fast, noisey, experimental and just plain heavy running all through the year, and all over the world, it's a great time to be a music fan. There's a veritable embarrassment of riches on offer for those who like it heavy, from internationally-renowned event such as Maryland Death Fest and Roadburn, to consistently excellent UK events like Damnation and All Tomorrow's Parties.
But this year one event has stood out from the pack.

Temples is the name on everyone's lips when talking about the 2014 festival circuit. From the instant intrigue upon hearing of the pedigree of the promoter, to the rabid proclamations of devotion upon the announcement of that first headliner, there has been a near-constant buzz among music fans from all over the UK and beyond, with ticket sales reported from many far-flung corners of the world.

As creator, director, promoter... well, basically the man behind Temples,
Bristol-based DIY promoter Francis Mace has thrown all his experience into this massive undertaking. His hard work and dedication have clearly paid off, as the festival boasts three of the biggest names in modern metal; psycho-delic doom miscreants Electric Wizard, post-metal pioneers Neurosis and Maryland groove machine Clutch, as well as a whole host of other top-shelf bands, covering everything from d-beat to doom. Don't just take my word for it, look at the list of already confirmed bands: 


With yet more acts to be announced, and the excitement over Temples Festival already building to a frenzy, I spoke to Francis about that incredible lineup, Bristol becoming the new home of heavy, and more...

Read the interview over at The Sleeping Shaman



The inaugural edition of Temples Festival is set to take place in Bristol's Motion venue between Friday the 2nd and Sunday the 4th of May next year.

Weekend Tickets are on sale now from www.templesfestival.co.uk while Day Tickets are available exclusively through www.bristolticketshop.co.uk & www.gigantic.com.

http://www.templesfestival.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/TemplesFestival
http://twitter.com/templesfestival

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Thou: A Beginner's Guide

With the forthcoming release of Heathen, the 4th full-length release from Baton Rouge's Thou, it has recently come to my attention that some people may not be as excited as they should be for this release.

Most people came to Thou through their critically-acclaimed album Summit in 2010, but anyone who digs a little deeper than that sprawling, experimental masterpiece will discover a multi-faceted band who deliver scathing commentary on a variety of modern socio-political issues, filtered through the vocabulary and imagery of the past, set to a horrifying soundtrack that uses sludge metal as it's base, but has ever-expanding tendrils into post-rock, hardcore, and more unusual sounds like wind instruments and spoken word.

This constant reinvention and consistently high quality have made them a band worthy of tracking down every release they've put out, which I have done my best to do. This is far from my full collection, it's just most of it has been in storage for the past couple of years:


  



As a primer on why I love this band so much, I've put together a short list of my favourite Thou tracks. There really is no excuse for not giving this band a shot, seeing as their ENTIRE discography is available for free download via their website: get right-click-save-as-ing over at http://noladiy.org/thou.html.


Smoke Pigs (taken from Thrive And Decay / various labels / 2008)
Beginning with a sample taken from the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter (in itself an excellent popcorn commentary on some of America's fundamental flaws, don't be turned off by the words 'Mark Wahlberg movie'), with the crack of a gunshot through the head of greed and injustice the track kicks off. It's an absolutely apoplectic exploration of the dichotomy that not All Cops Are Bastards, but that the idea of policing others in itself is flawed and dangerous.

Any track that contains the lyrics "I don't want to hear about  racial profiling, broken bones, or prison rape; or another unarmed kid filled from head to toe with fifty government-issued bullets" has got to be worth a listen over the endless 'weed and satan' bollocks this genre is better known for.



Burning Black Coals And Dark Memories (taken from Peasant / Level Plane Records / 2008)
With plaintive post-rock chimes, this track lulls you into a false sense of security before screeching vocals and howling feedback drag it into darker territory. Pretty bleak stuff considering it takes it's title from an Eddie Vedder lyric from the Into The Wild soundtrack.

This live clip from a couple of years ago also best demonstrates the sheer fucking intensity of vocalist Brian Funck, roaring wild-eyed into the mic like a politically-aware goblin. When I saw them play this track in the 007 in Prague last summer, I was actually scared. No other song inspires chills up my spine like this does...

 

I Was Ignored And Judged And Cast Down (taken from Tyrant / One Eye Records (reissue via Southern Lord / 2007)
The halfway point of this song, when the absolutely heart-aching melodies intertwine with the foul vocals and distortion, is one of my favourite moments in music ever, I sometimes play through this whole album just to make the payoff of this moment even more worthwhile. When it comes, I hope you'll hear why.

 

The Work Ethic Myth (taken from Peasant / Level Plane Records / 2008)
Musically this is one of their less adventurous songs, but the lyrics alone speak for this themselves, and should resonate with anyone who feels trapped in this broken society:

We have paved the roads that have led to our own oppression. Fear of the unknown, of rejection, has put brutes and villains in power.
The fetters that restrict our arms and throats were cast by our own hands, just as we have set our own guards at the door.
We drag boulders a thousand leagues to erect their palaces. We have established a system of education that celebrates sacrifice and creates generations of slaves.

Hold hands in a ritual of deception.
Hold hands in a ritual of desolation.
Hold hands in a ritual of self destruction.

We are the accomplice class: footstools for our masters, spineless bastards all.



Into The Void (taken from Through The Empires Of Eternal Void / Vendetta Records / 2009)
This heavy as absolute fucking fuck version of one of Sabbath's best tracks is dragged howling into the 21st century, proving that both their words and their tones are as relevant as ever.

This may not be one of their own compositions, but the sound of the bass alone completely transforms this track; I guarantee that with headphones on and the volume up, you will actually begin to feel your teeth dislodge when it gets to that bit. You'll hear what I mean soon enough...


There are dozens of other tracks I could share and gush about, I could genuinely discuss this band for hours if given the chance, but hopefully this selection will justify the hype, and convert a few others to a band who put most of the unimaginative low-n-slow crowd to shame.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Coltsblood / Crypt Lurker split tape

I don't know what it is about Liverpool at the moment, but between the bastard sludge of Iron Witch, Corrupt Moral Altar's strain of absolutely apoplectic grind, and the breakout success of caveman battle doomers Conan, there must be something foul polluting the Mersey. In addition to the aforementioned bands, Liverpool has recently spat forth two more of the nastiest groups currently going in UK Doom; Coltsblood and Crypt Lurker.


These two heathen clans have convened to record a limited-edition split cassette which was first available on their Winter MMXIII tour, and any remaining copies will be available from each band afterwards.

Coltsblood open their side with 'Consumption', a continuation on the ideas heard on their Beyond The Lake Of Madness demo. While the tracks on the demo had a tendency to wander aimlessly, if still threateningly, the (relatively) concise 9 minute running time of this track flays away any excess down to the bare bones. Opening with the discordant clanging of strings, soon joined by the cacophonous clatter of drums, they ensnare the listener in the murkiest of aural mires before proceeding to drown them in guitarist Jemma's painfully overdriven tones. When vocalist/bassist John Paul McNulty's subhuman rumble of a voice joins the fray, the feeling of total, inescapable despair is complete.

The other track on their side is a cover of my favourite Celtic Frost track, 'Procreation (Of the Wicked)'. Thankfully they choose not to just record a note-for-note rendering, instead imbuing their take on the track with a bristling malevolence that Tom G Warrior himself might cower in fear of. The raw recording quality distorts everything to the point of being almost unlistenable; it's so loud that it's a wonder any of them were able to tell what the other was playing at all. Befitting a cover of the band who started this whole thing, it sounds appropriately primal, and more cavernous and terrifying than 99% of black metal bands.


Crypt Lurker's side also contains one original and one cover: their own 'Behold! A Black Pestilence Dwells Within This Cyclopean Tomb' and a cover of Beherit's 'The Gate Of Nanna'. Their own track follows on perfectly from their tourmates' side, another 10 minute solid slab of raw blackened doom that will drag you down further into the endless chasm that Coltsblood cracked open. Whichever of the Lurkers it is who abuses the microphone has the kind of feral roar that reverberates around your skull, an entirely unpleasant sound that nonetheless gets stuck in your head even more than the intracranial fragmentation of a hollowpoint bullet.

I'm not kvlt enough to have heard the original by Beherit, but Crypt Lurker deliver an absolutely scum-ridden recording of 'Gates Of Nanna', all ultra-distortion and clipped blastbeats. To those that know the track, it's probably marginally more recognisable than Coltsblood's Celtic Frost cover, but no less terrifying or crushing.

Coltsblood on Facebook | Bandcamp
Crypt Lurker on Facebook | Bandcamp