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

Gnaw - Horrible Chamber

New York extreme noise terrorists Gnaw feature such disparate luminaries as Khanate's Alan Dubin and acclaimed sound designer Jun Mizumachi, so when their debut recording This Face stuck sharp aural objects into everyone's ears a few years back, no-one was really too surprised at how unpleasant an experience it was. With their follow up album Horrible Chamber, released via Seventh Rule, they're back like a recurring nightmare.
Even if you think you know what to expect, nothing can prepare you for what lurks within...

Opener 'Humming' is comprised of some of the most unpleasant sounds imaginable; atonal piano, monolithic mechanical crashes, harsh industrial noise, and Alan Dubin's voice. Yes, that's the sort of company his piercing shriek deserves. His vocal style could loosely be described as the midnight rantings of an entire psychiatric ward filtered through a single acid-gargling larynx. It is not an enjoyable sound.

Even when they take things into more 'traditional' territory on 'Of Embers', there is still an abrasiveness that almost all modern heavy bands lack. Well, it's not that they lack it, it's just that Gnaw sound genuinely dangerous compared to the endless parade of staid metal bands fucking around in forests with makeup, or mistaking 'slow and unimaginative' for 'atmospheric'. When was the last time you feared for your life on a nature hike, or felt threatened by some stoner showing off how loud his Orange cabs are?
Gnaw are the sound of urban decay and the horrors wrought by humanity.

'Worm' writhes just as slimily as it's namesake, while 'Widowkeeper' is even more unsettling for the fact it is mostly whispers and noises so faint you'd swear they were audio hallucinations. Not for the first time you may question the toll this album is taking on your mental state. When almost halfway through the colossal cymbal crashes and buzz of distortion arrives, you'll be thankful just to be hearing anything you can define as 'definitely not my slowly crumbling psyche'.
The remainder of the track lurches wildly around like the heroin slaves on the 3am bus out of whatever dark city you live in. A pretty apt analogy, as just like in that scenario, you'll be drawing your knees up and cringing into your seat praying that the track doesn't notice that you're there.

When the sparse guitar introduces 'This Horrible Chamber', the fact it has something approaching tuneful quality is suspicious. Gnaw are lulling you into a final false sense of security, so you have time to brace yourself for whatever lurks within the chamber. The sense of unease builds and builds until it's almost unbearable. You'll beg before the end, to be put out of your misery, however, over the 12-minute running time, it feels like that misery is destined to be interminable. Howls and moans, dissonant creaks, ghostly echoes, feral feedback, all expelled with the intensity of grindcore, but far more punishing than that genre could ever hope to be.

Horrible Chamber is an experience I have no desire to repeat any time soon. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Stalk these maniacs on Facebook, and visit Seventh Rule to pick up a copy of the album.

This review originally appeared at Echoes And Dust, head over there to read the full unedited version...

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Malthusian interview

My first band interview, conducted with Ireland's black/death heathens Malthusian, is up now over at Echoes and Dust. An excert follows, but you should read the full unedited version at the original site. Thoughtful responses from a thought-provoking band.

(((o))): The idea of Malthusian catastrophes being a catch-all term for the destruction of vast swathes of the human race via war, famine and disease is fertile material for subject matter within extreme music, and it has obviously inspired your choice of band name. In the two centuries since it's publication, the original ideas put forth by Malthus in An Essay On The Principles Of Population have been misinterpreted, co-opted, and disparaged by many.

Are the ideas put forth in the original text something that you all have a similar viewpoint of as a collective, or does it inspire debate and dissent among the ranks? How does Malthusianism, free of any modern political agenda, inform your lyrical content, if at all?

Malthusian: We are more concerned with artistic expression than presenting any sort of formal political agenda. Malthus's theory of human population being regulated through epidemic, war, natural disasters, crop failure and such struck a chord with us and gave us a starting point in terms of lyrical inspiration. That said, we have not and will not be restricting ourselves to such matters. The name simply captured the feeling that we were developing with the music, it sounded intriguing and a little bit different to the normal Death Metal band names you see everywhere. We are not interested in toeing the line or worrying about other people's notions of what a DM band should conform to.

(((o))): Coming from diverse acts such as On Pain Of Death, Altar Of Plagues, Wreck Of The Hesperus and Mourning Beloveth, what led you all to get together to create an arguably even more sickening noise than all your other bands?

Malthusian: The constant need to express ourselves through dark, unpleasant music was all the motivation we needed.

Malthusian's MMXIII demo tape (limited to 300 copies) is available to order now from Invictus Productions.

Harm Wülf - There's Honey In The Soil So We Wait For The Till

In recent years there has been a glut of material released by members of various heavy music scenes who venture forth as solo artists, taking things back to basics with intimate acoustic material. The likes of Mike Scheidt, Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, Nate Hall and even the mighty Wino have released albums of acoustic tracks that hold just as much weight and gravitas as the genre they're better known for.

While Harm Wülf, the alter-ego of Blacklisted frontman George Hirsch, may come from a completely different scene, his contribution with There's Honey In The Soil So We Wait For The Till is just as heavy and just as haunting as the long list of doomed troubadours. That this album doesn't contain the seemingly obligatory Townes Van Zandt cover is evidence enough that Harm Wülf is a vastly different proposition than most releases of this ilk.

Opening with the stripped-back strum of 'Oldfur', it's clear that Hirsch is writing from within a vastly different sphere of influence than most of his acoustic contemporaries. The cadence and flow of the music has an almost neofolk quality, while Hirsch's voice is slightly buried in the mix. This may be a more intimate recording than his work as a hardcore frontman, but he's still keeping his cards close to his chest here, his words just indecipherable enough to retain an air of mystery.

Closing with the album's title track, which begins with finger-picked guitar and the keening wail of a singing saw, it reminds me of The Black Heart Procession's sparser output; it has that same mournful quality. The martial drums used sporadically throughout serve to both unsettle the listener and to hold them rapt, and when the track erupts in the driving rhythm of pounding drums, you'll be utterly swept away by the drama of it all. When it all comes crashing down before returning to the opening guitar motif, and ending with a sample from Where The Wild Things Are, there's a sense that you've just been told a story, that there's an underlying theme to this album. With a few more listens, you may just put together all the pieces of the tale.

As Harm Wülf, George Hirsch has cast himself as the protagonist in a fascinating musical story, and in doing so has created an intimate record full of haunting moments that you'll find yourself returning to again and again in an effort to reap what he has so beautifully sown.

Read my full review at The Sleeping Shaman...

Noothgrush / Coffins split LP

This review originally appeared on Echoes And Dust.

When I caught both Noothgrush and Coffins at the inaugural Heavy Days In Doom Town fest in Copenhagen last year, I almost couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Given that Oakland's Noothgrush had been split up for more than a decade, and that Tokyo's Coffins were from, well, Tokyo, I felt especially lucky just to have gotten the chance to see each of them. I never thought it would happen. That both bands completely decimated the crowd with their respective sets was tantamount to their sheer crushing weight; the power of the riff is constrained by neither time nor distance.

When I got talking to Noothgrush guitarist Russ Kent a few days later before their show in Hamburg, he mentioned that Uchino from Coffins had suggested the idea of both bands embarking on a Japanese tour together.
That was 18 months ago, and only now are both that tour and the resultant split record happening. I guess taking things agonisingly slow isn't something that only applies to their music.

Noothgrush don't fuck around on their side, their first track 'Humandemic' immediately capturing the sound of Sabbath's Paranoid record, with Russ' SG-through-a-Laney tone complimenting Chiyo Nukaga's trademark gigantic cymbal crashes perfectly. So well do they emulate the doomed vibe of their musical forefathers, that when Dino Sommese (you know, of Dystopia, Asunder, Ghoul, every other fucking band) spews his bile-scorched vocals over everything, it almost seems like a shame to pollute the pure '70s atmosphere. That is until you remember that this is the return of Noothgrush, one of the most disgusting, and disgusted, sludge bands to have been dragged into existence in the '90s. They were just as angry about the era they were living in then, and Dino's hateful howl reminds you that rage has not dimmed one iota; this is miserable music for miserable times.

Their second contribution to the record is a re-recording of their classic track 'Jundland Wastes', which has been floating around in various recorded forms ever since their 1995 Kashyyyk demo. The quality of this recording, even the clarity of the sample playing throughout the intro, is sure to cement this as the definitive version. The mid-track lull allows Gary Niederhoff's malevolently crawling bass to detach from the main riff for a couple of bars, before everything coalesces again and the band drag themselves through the eponymous wastes towards the end of the track. Never mind Tusken Raiders; Noothgrush are the scariest thing to ever inhabit the deserts of Tattooine.

They close out their side with the 9-minute 'Thoth', a tribute to beloved Bay Area DJ Cy Thoth, who passed away this year. Beginning with looped samples of Thoth himself before Chiyo's drums herald the arrival of a monstrous riff, it's classic Noothgrush, even down to Russ' full-fretboard pickscrapes.
The track meanders madly, with further samples of Cy Thoth thrown in throughout, Dino's absolutely ferocious vocals providing sharp contrast to his spoken word psychedelic ramblings.

When the track, and Noothgrush's side, ends with a recording of a laughing Thoth warning everyone to "watch out for cannibal attacks! Everyone is suspect!", it's clear even to those unaware of his work that he was a true original who will be much missed by his community. Thankfully, the heavy music community can welcome one of it's own true originals back to the fold.

It's good to have you back, Noothgrush.

I'll admit it, compared to new Noothgrush material, anything else was going to pale in comparison, but thankfully they share this split with one of my favourite bands of recent years. Given that Coffins have actually covered Noothgrush in the past, on their excellent tribute EP Sewage Sludgecore Treatment, they know exactly how much grime they need to apply to their already putrid death-doom. The first track of their side, 'Drown In Revelation', is able to match the other side for both filth and fury.

Slowly fading in, the ominous approach of the drums soon joined by prowling bass, while the feedback builds and builds, until with an "UGH!" they launch into one of those deadly riffs that Uchino seems to have an endless supply of in his arsenal. Given that this is something like their eighth release in just the last couple of years, they manage to maintain a ridiculously high quality level with all their recordings, with their recent full-length The Fleshland already being one of my favourite releases this year. Around two-thirds of the way through the track, the band kick things up a gear into full-on death-doom mode, the lurching, stuttering riff backed up with punishing double-kick drums, before slowing everything down to a doomed crawl. When they return to that monstrous main riff again, if you're not in full-on headbanging-and-invisible-oranges mode, there's something wrong with you.

'The Wretched Path' continues in that same vile vein, with the influence of Celtic Frost clearly heard in the faster passages of this track. I never though I'd say this, but this track near enough fucking bounces along at points, it's so uptempo. However, don't mistake that for upbeat, I'm sure that whatever Uchino is growling here, the words themselves are foul enough to offset any remotely 'good time' vibe.

I may be biased as I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this record ever since I learned that it might one day become even a possibility, but the half hour of misanthropic sludge and deadly doom on offer across both sides of this LP confirm that it's one of the heaviest releases to be unleashed this year. Ignore at your peril, and prepare to abandon all hope.

You can stream, and buy both digital and vinyl versions of this split via Southern Lord.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Vastum - Patricidal Lust

With Patricidal Lust, San Francisco's Vastum eschew the done-to-death (if you'll pardon the pun) tropes that so many modern death metal bands are content to endlessly recycle, in favour of delivering a far more horrifying, disquieting record than any other band has dared to release. The subject matter on offer here will perturb even the most hardened fan of a genre that often seems stale and exhausted.

Featuring members of Bay Area heretics Acephalix, as well as the prolific, seemingly ubiquitous Leila Abdul-Rauf of Amber Asylum and Hammers Of Misfortune, Vastum have come to pollute your consciousness with six sickening tales of sexual abuse, abominable deviance, and mental anguish. A far more perverse proposition than its predecessor Carnal Law, it's sure to be the most uncomfortable listening experience you'll have this year.

Patricidal Lust is available now on CD and LP via 20 Buck Spin. Head over to their site and pick one up! You can also stream the album and read an excellent interview with the band at Invisible Oranges.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Malthusian - MMXIII

Anyone who is even vaguely aware of the writing of Thomas Robert Malthus will immediately recognise the significance of the monicker Ireland's Malthusian have bestowed upon themselves. In simple terms, the primary tenet of Malthusianism is the knowledge that the Earth's population growth far outstrips the increase in resources required to sustain it. As such, the population must be reduced by factors such as war, famine and disease; that suffering and death is necessary to sustain the human race at even a basic level of subsistence.

From this, it can be construed that these factors, known as Malthusian catastrophes, are the base inspiration for all those who espouse misanthropy and the stated desire for the infliction of suffering; pretty much most death/black/doom metal, in other words. The three tracks of skull-scraping racket contained on Malthusian's MMXIII perfectly embody these principles in horrifying aural form.

With a ghastly hiss, the ominous opening of 'Wraith//Plague Spore' seethes its way from the speakers. The keen, atonal edge of the guitar winding serpent-like through the cacophony of percussion, while the vile vocals escape like gas from a bloated corpse. The sepulchral atmosphere of this opening section soon becomes a shuddering death rattle, all blastbeats and churning guitar.
The unintelligible invocations barely audible over the thunderous din of the music, which writhes between black, death and doom metal with horrifying ease, are spewed forth by each member of the band, each throat possessing a different demonic timbre.

With MMXIII, Malthusian are a howl of rage against a sickening species in dire need of a cull.

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

Friday, 1 November 2013

Corrupt Moral Altar - Whiskey Sierra 7"

Corrupt Moral Altar are bad for me. The last time I saw them play I ended up spending every last penny I had on shit beer, staggering around Glasgow city centre 'til 3am in search of something deep-fried before giving a couple of them drunken directions back to where they were meant to be crashing that night. Considering it was only around the corner from my own flat, I'm reasonably sure it took far longer than it should have.
Like I said, they're bad for me.

That said, when a band plays the kind of utterly fucking manky racket that can be heard on their Whiskey Sierra 7", what do you expect?

Kicking straight into the title track, the riff immediately grabs you in a headlock, before the drums proceed to knock your skull in. It's total cacophony, never relenting for a second. Even the breakdown about halfway through offers no breathing room, inflected with blastbeats and shrieking vocals as it is. Closing out with a sludge tempo stomp, they keep up the intensity right to the end, before launching into the blistering 'Lord'.

Drummer Tom Dring lays down a not-quite-d-beat rhythm that the rest of the guys make some downright vile noise over the top of. Every time I hear this track, the "WOO!" a few seconds in has me cracking up. It's like Refused, if they had any fucking balls on them that is. The first half of the track is a start-stop staccato stagger, before they lower the dose and take the whole thing down to a doomy crawl.
The atmosphere of the latter half of track is totally different to the rest of their output, and is a great example of where they could take things when they get around to recording a full-length record.
Whether they're playing fast or slow, either way it ain't fucking pretty.

The last two tracks are songs that could originally be found on their Luciferian Deathcult EP, as well as their Needle Drugs demo. I'm pretty sure these are the recordings from the Needle Drugs session.
Either way, these songs are just as raw as the two newer tracks, Chris Reese's vocals sounding particularly scathing on 'Politics Is A Bargain Between Beggars', and the abrasive groove of 'You Don't Have To Go To Clown College' demonstrating just why so many folk toss around Iron Monkey comparisons when talking about CMA.
That comparison may be apt, but it doesn't quite convey just how fucking furious this band are in their own right. The swaying breakdown that closes out the record will provide the perfect soundtrack to my own wasted movements when I see them live again in a couple of weeks.

Pray for my liver.

Whiskey Sierra is available for free download off their bandcamp, and you can pick the actual 7" up from the band's bigcartel. I recommend doing that because it's available with a variety of mental t-shirt designs for a total fucking bargain price. Go grab one!

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