Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Moving shop...

Blogger and I have had our differences of late and with that in mind, I've moved everything to Wordpress and even bought a sweet shiny new domain name too. I give you along with a new design to accompany the new direction I'm taking the blog in (as I discussed a few posts ago). This old blog will remain here as a static page for those that might stumble upon me and my ramblings but eventually this thing will be deleted. There are still some kinks to be ironed out on the new website but please check it out and maybe leave a little feedback.

As always - cheers!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black metal daze

Black metal is in a state of ludicrously good health right now. 2013 and 2012 respectively churned out a slew of albums from the orthodox old school through to the genre-benders. Whether it’s Sodb or Castevet or Skagos or Wodensthrone, a particularly encouraging scene is painted here. It’s now February and a few weeks into the 2014, this scene is becoming all the more dramatic, especially after the release of Woods of Desolation’s left turn album, As The Stars and Nemorensis’ murky jaunt Lady In The Lake.

Ireland’s own Eternal Helcaraxe are a band that have unfortunately stayed quiet since the release of 2012’s absolutely stunning album, Against All Odds. The band has been making mention of new material and recording on Facebook for the last few months, alluding to a split record in the works. Now the band has uploaded their first music video for the new track ‘Flames in the Darkness’, available through Elemental Nightmares.

What immediately jumps out about this tune is its brevity, at just three minutes, tightening up the assault, which makes it a far cry from the likes of ‘Invictus’ or ‘To Whatever End’. The terse nature of the tracks sees the band exploring an altogether more fiery and aggressive sound, almost as if they’ve intentionally set a time limit and have to ram every idea into the space provided. Normally this sounds like it’s setting up for a disaster but not in the case of ‘Flames in the Darkness’.

If anything, the blazing riffs and familiar barking vocals lay out a salvo for future work. At least one can speculate that and anticipate that more new music from Eternal Helcaraxe isn’t too far off in the distance.

Vyrju are an exciting prospect that has just emerged from the murky depths of late. Based out of Norway but with an international flavour in their personnel, Vyrju play grandiose and gorgeously melodic black metal that isn’t short on frostbitten sorrow and grief, straddling a similar line that bands like Austere did. In fact, Tim Yatras of Austere notoriety is involved in the project. The Aussie lays down some vocals on the band’s forthcoming debut release.

For now, the Vyrju has a track entitled ‘The Residue of Life’ streaming online. It immediately grabs the listener with a glorious (and shamelessly hooky) riff that sets the tone to supreme effect but quickly descends into classic BM territory. The mix of vocals is a mainstay in this track, second only to the lead riff. Harsh bellows and high-pitched shrieks trade blows to start before brief, but soaring, clean vocals come bounding, presumably Yatras but at least sounding very much like him.

Wildernessking are thought fondly of around these parts. South Africa’s finest black metal export released The Writing of Gods in the Sand in 2012 to a rapturous response across the board. Their rich melodies worked a treat next to more orthodox song structures, especially on sublime tracks like ‘ River’. Despite releasing a follow up EP in the interim, the band has remained rather quiet until now with the release of another new EP offering in the shape of The Devil Within. It’s streaming in full here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

New Crown of Cerberus tape beckons

Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing M. Chami, better known under the pseudonym of Crown of Cerberus, though also Koufar. We discussed everything from the ambient project’s beginning to his latest release at the time, the utterly sublime With Arms Extended to the Heavens, an equally harrowing and beautiful piece of electronic music. He also touched on a number of releases he was working on at the time, one of which was his next tape Her Everlasting Strength, the final piece of his Strength triptych.

The cassette is being releases by noise and power electronics label, TerrorIt and is limited to 100 copies. The only taste we have thus far is the short two minute clip streaming below, which suggests Chami is continuing on his path of gorgeous and hypnotic light synths with this new release. The striking artwork was once again handled by Si Clark and you can check out the full spread for the release now over at his blog.

Personally, I’m really looking to hearing this new release soon but for now, I’ll just sate my appetite and eagerly wait on news of his next record, Gardens of Nocturne, a collaborative release with Nyodene D. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Thus Far

The first month of 2014 hasn’t even come to an end, but we’ve already been flooded with records and new music that are setting the tone for the year ahead. In what will be a regular column of sorts, here we take a look at some new releases that have just landed on our collective laps all from different corners.

2014 is already looking well for black metal with a couple of high profile releases on the way in the coming months. Not so much on the radar is Idaho-based label Sol y Nieve, who are releasing the Nemorensis album The Lady in the Lake, an adventurous 27 minute excursion into the murky abyss.

First we’re enveloped by swelling drones that grow in intensity and frankly, is anything but black metal but this creeping wall of sound is laying out its cards as eerie chanted hymns start emerging from the fog. As the minutes trudge on and the atmosphere grows tenser, Nemorensis eventually morphs into a familiar beast, where piercing lead guitars begin rupturing this droning ambience and soon lo-fi juddering raw black metal takes control.

The vocals are buried deep in the mix, sounding like a tortured soul in the depths beneath a mire of frosty guitars and waves of noise. The guitars remain the focal point but it’s around the 13 minute mark that Nemorensis start throwing some spanners into the works with more meandering synths washing over the wretched howls that start dying away into the cloudy murk once again.

Gentle tribal-like drums now return us to the hypnotic vibes of Lady in the Lake’s opening moments, but with an altogether more tranquil vibe. The now all-too familiar guitars and vocals start blossoming again but in a decidedly slower and more reserved fashion, recalling some of the most beautiful depressive BM.

Lady in the Lake is an album of defined sections and chapters. It could have been separated into three tracks but Nemorensis have opted for one complete suite, which doesn’t hamper its end result and is still best enjoyed as one whole piece – one of the first really exciting black metal releases of 2014.

Finland’s stoner metallers Altar of Betelgeuze just recently dropped their first album, Darkness Sustains the Silence through Memento Mori. With an official release date of January 1st, the band seemed eager to hit the ground running with this first long player. They’re an unfamiliar name broadly speaking and with this album, they’ve made a valiant effort that deserves a few hat tips in their direction but the record falls down in the area of quality control.

Clocking in at an hour and bustling with heaving slabs of sludged-out doom, Altar of Betelgeuze have made their influences and intentions quite clear. First track proper ‘A World Without End’ certainly makes for a promising start but the band often recoil back to trusty tools. Hefty riffs from the Sleep, Electric Wizard et al academies rule the roost on this one with the vocals swaying between upbeat melodic yells to guttural deathly growls. On paper it all sounds great and at certain moments it is, see ‘The Spiral of Decay’, and if AOB trimmed some of the fatty tracks off this LP, it could have really been onto something but it rather becomes a slog after the midway point, especially when the 17 minute title track closer comes bounding in.

Moving on...

Australia’s death metal credentials hardly needs verifying these days with Portal, Grave Upheaval and StarGazer all in tow, turning some more ears to Australia’s underground along with their established black metal and black-thrash scenes (Gospel of the Horns, anyone?). Abysmal Sounds are offering up the new record from New South Wales’ Innsmouth, Consumed By Elder Sign.

They are a band clearly infatuated with all things old school (and Lovecraft too it would seem). Where the likes of Portal and StarGazer take their respective paths through murky, experimental terrain, Innsmouth opt for a clearer, straight-forward approach with no messing about, which is both to their benefit and detriment.

The former because Innsmouth stay focused on the task at hand, delivering crunching mid-tempo DM with nods towards their elders. The latter because the album can become samey at times, never straying too far from the bone covered path that adorns the album cover.

That said, ‘Dead In The Water’, the record’s opener lays down an almighty gauntlet to begin with hooky riffs to complement the caustic barking vocals. The guitars are a definite focal point for this band, really drawing attention more so than the vocals, like the punishing ‘Five Branches Against Doom’. Overall, it’s a solid release from these Aussies for what is their debut full-length. 

Gnaw Their Tongues, the black metal/noise project of Dutchman Mories, has made a career for himself out of all things weird and making listeners uncomfortable, see Spit At Me and Wreak Havoc on My Flesh or All The Dread Magnificence of Perversity for prime evidence. He’s also begun having a penchant for collaborative projects, releasing a short one-off track last year with Dragged Into Sunlight. Now he has joined up with Belgium’s vile sludge band Alkerdeel for the brief, but no less striking, record Dyodyo Asema.

It's just 20 minutes long, and one track, but this all that Alkerdeel and Gnaw Their Tongues need to envelope the listener in a world of mysterious darkness. Both respective entities have black metal strains in their blood but neither are explicitly BM, rather using the element as one more layer on deeply uncomfortable sounds. This certainly manifests itself on Dyodyo Asema with creeping electronics, agitated guitars and miasmic vocals.

This collaboration isn’t for the faint of heart and definitely won’t win over anyone that hasn’t been previously taken by the horror of Gnaw Their Tongues but for the initiated it’s business as usual and business is grim.

Finally, Abbotoir were the first Irish band to release something this year, with Reclaim, a hefty one track accompaniment to last year’s impressive MCMXV album. The Belfast funeral doom trio had been threatening to release something special for some time and MCMXV was just that with two deathly tales near thirty minutes each. Reclaim, with its track ‘Descension’, more or less picks up where that release left off and feels like a leftover cut that didn’t make it onto the album but was too good, and too long, to leave to waste. Stream the track in full below as Abbotoir are one band definitely worth keeping an eye on this year.

Other reviews recently published:
Alcest - Shelter
Benighted - Carnivore Sublime
Hexis - Abalam
Culted - Oblique To All Paths
Lvcifyre - Svn Eater

Friday, January 24, 2014

The state of The Grind That Annoys

All 2.3 of you have probably noticed that The Grind That Annoys hasn’t exactly been a hive of activity over the last few months, save for the end-of-year list making extravaganza that took place in December. I mentioned early last year that posting would slow down and the era of daily posts was long gone. But I haven’t kept up to speed with posting on here as much as I would like, mostly because in that time I travelled for a couple of months and have since been busy with a lot of work. Enough excuses though.

My initial plan reined things into three posts or so a week but I have decided to take The Grind That Annoys in a new direction, one that complements the writing I do elsewhere on Metal Ireland or CVLT Nation and what have you.

This will consist of longer pieces covering multiple bands and news, hopefully going more in depth, opposed to the old hey-look-at-this-band-here’s-some-shit-about-their-new-track-they-have-streaming-on-Metal-Sucks posts. Maybe there will be the odd shorter new posts, where suitable.

With that in mind, there will only be a handful of posts every month. I’m also interested in doing more interviews here as well as “exclusive” streams, if anyone’s interested. Though I’ll usually put most of my music writing efforts into the other sites I write for… y’know, where someone might actually read them. Comment below if you’re interested in doing something here with me but chances are if you’re reading this here now then you know how to contact me anyway.

Expect a post in the next few days and a possible re-design in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hexis - Abalam

If you listened to Hexis’ demo tape released in 2011, you heard the sound of new band laying out their plans quite clearly with totally harsh and dissonant hardcore injected with the rawest of black metal. 

Granted, French blackened hardcore outfit Celeste had beaten them to the punch but the Danish band had their own identity to a point, despite the obvious similarities. Since the fierce demo was released, Hexis have released a number of EPs, splits and re-recordings as well as plenty of touring, where gigs consist of eye searing strobe lighting. Now, they finally have an LP to their name in the shape of Abalam.

Most tellingly is that Hexis have abandoned about 80 or 90% of their hardcore tendencies and while this is anything but an orthodox or traditional black metal album, it’s much closer to the BM side of their scale.

With that said, the album is still ridden with the band’s trademarks and is immediately identifiable as Hexis. The band’s song titles have always been in Latin and given off this distinctly religious feel, though not necessarily an anti-religious vibe, more like the soundtracking of an exorcism, with Abalam referring to an occult demon.

Maintaining a great deal of the band’s grit, they’ve also opted for a (very slightly) cleaner production job that allows the songs a little more room to breathe. As a result, it somewhat lacks the claustrophobic feel and altogether more caustic and cacophonous sound that their earlier material had. Abalam certainly isn’t glossy or sterile in its production but it isn’t as unrelenting and unforgiving as we would expect.

With all that said, Hexis have gone a little more ambitious in the song writing, which is a major evolution you will notice on Abalam. Typically the band’s previous records have been brief and even live sets have been a mere 20 minutes.

Abalam clocks in at 35 minutes, short by most standards but with a band like Hexis it’s a bit of an endurance test and there are a few fatty tracks could have done with the chop. But for a debut full-length, Abalam is solid enough and, if anything, encouraging when it comes to new material in the future.