Friday, May 31, 2013

Molten reviews: Aosoth, Cough/Windhand

The following two reviews were intended for publication in Molten Magazine but haven't seen the light of day. Enjoy them here.

Aosoth - IV: Arrow In Heart
Is there anything else we can say about French black metal? Our Gallic friends have graced us with many an enthralling black metal record over the last few years, whether it’s Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega or Peste Noire, or hell, you could include Alcest in that list, given Neige’s musical background.

Aosoth, from Paris, are a band that have been skulking in the shadows for a number of years, releasing intriguing records of doom-imbued black metal, like their III: Violence & Variation opus in 2011.

IV: Arrow In Heart is the band’s next endeavour that’s every bit as ambitious as before. Clocking in at 56 minutes, the Frenchmen shove in a great deal of atmosphere and equal measures of bludgeoning with this record. In the past, they’ve successfully meshed the trudge of death/doom with caustic mid-paced black metal to degrees of excellence, and even added moments of searing velocity for good measure.

While Aosoth’s music is one that can be quite challenging to sit through, it is often a challenge more than accepted, but with IV: Arrow In Heart, the band fall a little short of truly upping the ante like before. Still jamming in as many of their trademarks as possible, one couldn’t call this record anything less than genuine and ruthless but it doesn’t quite set ablaze like we know the band are capable of and can be a slog to get through from start to finish.

Regardless, mediocre Aosoth is still nothing to turn your nose up at and IV: Arrow In Heart has its stellar moments to make up for it too like the brooding and equally unforgiving ‘Under Nails and Fingertips’. It’s not a triumph but certainly not a failure.

Cough / Windhand – Reflection of the Negative
Usually there are one or two things in common between bands that drive them to doing a split record together. Generally, it’s occupying the same musical vein, or maybe it’s a similar aesthetic or even just being from the same town. What’s interesting about the Relapse Records released split, Reflection of the Negative, is that it combines all of these traits from Cough and Windhand but the two bands easily create their own unique identities at the same time. 

Both hailing from Richmond, Virginia and both from the doom metal school of thought, albeit from different pockets, Reflection of the Negative is a split that just makes sense in every way.

Cough are more versed in devastating sickly doom, with a 19 minute slow paced dirge that makes up their side of this record. ‘Athame’ is crawling howl of caustic sludged-out doom, with the pollution of Noothgrush and Thou.

Windhand meanwhile are more au fait with the sounds of traditional doom, with wailing eerie vocals from Dorthia Cottrell, which are her most ethereal yet, and the trudging riffs are lovingly plucked from the Iommi playbook and glossed with some modernity for good measure. Where Cough are more concerned with despair, Windhand provide the hypnotism.

Two bands and three tracks make up this release. Perhaps the bands’ respective albums are better introductions to their music, and while a little inessential this split is still quality doom of different shades.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Woe - Withdrawal

Finally, it seems like Woe are gathering momentum. The once lone-man black metal project has slowly but surely blossomed into a fully-fledged band since the release of their attention grabbing second album, Quietly, Undramatically. Once just the solo band of guitarist/vocalist Christ Grigg, the album turned enough heads to bring the band to where they are now – signed with Candlelight and with three other full-time members.

As a result, Withdrawal feels much more like a band. While still helmed very much so by Grigg, Woe sounds more alive on this album than they ever did before. Still essentially a black metal band, the album sees them open the flood barriers a little to allow a sense and influence of crusty hardcore to seep in.

These hardcore flourishes manifest themselves in different guises throughout the album, whether it’s in the vocals, guitars or drums. Often a furiously tremolo picked, and typically black metal, riff will be complemented by coarse vocals a la Tomas Lindberg when with Disfear meanwhile ‘All Bridges Burned’s agonising vocals and juddering drums borrow vaguely from the sludge-core school of thought.

It’s impressive to see a band pull this merger off so seamlessly and make it feel natural, avoiding any pastiche. Blackened hardcore bands have become ten a penny and harder and harder to find something worth your while. The big difference here is that Woe’s craft is black metal momentarily informed by hardcore. Not the other way around. This is still very much a black metal record.

The searing tremolo riffs and frosty vocals of ‘This Is the End of the Story’ are more than evidence of this, making it clear what Woe’s priorities are first and foremost. Despite the harshness of the album, its production still shimmers with a grandiose and sprawling studio job that gives each of the band’s layers the room to unfurl, like ‘Song of My Undoing’s affecting clean vocals. Meanwhile, ‘Exhausted’ is a song laden with devastating emotional intent and fervour, drawing somewhat from the poignant melodic gears of Winterfylleth or Fen.

Withdrawal appears to be the true arrival of Woe, where they realise much of their potential that had been festering under the surface for a while now.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Slidhr - Deluge

Slidhr is an enigma, one shrouded in mystery and mysticism. The Irish black metal entity has made a conscious effort to maintain anonymity, recoiling into the dim corners of reclusiveness and letting the music speak for itself, as the old saying goes.

Slidhr has spent the best part of five years crafting Deluge, their first full-length record, something that firmly places Slidhr in the modern black metal consciousness. Previous efforts, most notably Ex Nihilio, a split release with fellow countrymen Rebirth of Nefast, were hailed as some of the finest BM to emerge from this small island and in the time since its release and the arrival of Deluge, black metal in Ireland is enjoying something of a renaissance, from Sodb to Fuil na Seanchoille.

Released through BM mainstay label, Debemur Morti, Slidhr couldn’t have chosen a better partner to unleash this album that can simply be called their “moment”. Deluge is an utter triumph, not only for Irish black metal but also as a shining example of supreme black metal in the year 2013.

This is an album that flatters shamelessly with all the elements of orthodox black metal while also crafting an image, sound and atmosphere entirely to itself. This is encapsulated by the record’s production job. There is nothing lo-fi or kvlt about it. This sounds vast and sprawling with large glorious halls for Slidhr to unfurl their sonic majesty and peel away each layer, revealing a new and intriguing facet to their black metal. Make no mistake though, this studio job may be clean and precise but by no means sterile.

Deluge sounds invigorating but also tormented, from the pained, agonising vocals that are soaked into every track to the simply pummelling drumming that is counteracted by winding, meandering guitars, which conjure the mesmeric atmosphere. There are brief moments on this record that recall the hypnotic flavours of Blut Aus Nord’s The Work Which Transforms God, while treading grounds of more traditional BM song structure. ‘Symbols Obscuring’ is a near-perfect example of Slidhr lulling you into a dream-like state with pulsating riffs, only for the doom intro of ‘Rejoin The Dirt’ swiftly followed by blasts to wake you once again.

‘Rejoin The Dirt’ can lay claim to being one of the album’s finest moments, marking its midpoint with a crushing and heart-stopping crescendo that fearlessly utilises judicial levels of melody with some of Deluge’s most unnerving and imposing vocals yet. It’s quite emblematic of the whole album in that there is so much to take in with each passage.

‘Death of the Second Sun’, a track released many months ago, is where Slidhr unveil yet another aspect of their being with a gloriously hook-laden riff that’s at odds with the album’s black metal core but never once sounds disjointed as it then plunges us back into familiar territory

Familiar territory is where Slidhr end the album with ‘Rays Like Blades’, a juddering hail of melody-infused black metal, coalescing all the album’s virtues into a stunning end note.

Deluge isn’t an album that lives up to its name, as this is glimmering jewel in black metal’s crown, one that’s captivating and engrossing from the first riffs through to its dying moments and surely to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue for some time.

New reviews of The Ocean and Pest

Once again, it’s time for a quick round-up of reviews. Have a look below and check back later for a special album review on the blog.

The Ocean released their new studio Pelgial, a concept record exploring the depths of the earth’s oceans. It’s another lofty concept to accompany the expansive music on hand. Click HERE for the review now.

Meanwhile, Swedish black metal band Pest have a new record hitting shelves soon entitled The Crowning Horror. There have been many disparate BM records released in 2013 thus far so how does this old school beast hold up? Click HERE for the review on Metal Ireland.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory & Injury

(Originally written for Molten Magazine but scrapped)

If something is truly creative, it’s meant to rattle cages and in the case of Teethed Glory and Injury, make you feel uneasy. Ireland’s Altar of Plagues are a band that have ventured outside of any and all comfort zones, and while still retaining a black metal flair in the past, couldn’t be called a black metal band anymore. Now with this third album, they’ve left any notion of comfort zones far off in the rear-view mirror. 

Guitarist and band architect James Kelly piqued interests with an interview several months back stating Pig Destroyer and many electronic artists were the key influences for this record and black metal much less so. This couldn’t ring any more true.

The tracks are shorter, there are nine in total, and the band push the envelope on what intensity, savagery and barbarity can be with Teethed Glory and Injury.

Altar of Plagues have always had a heavy and vicious side to them but with 2011’s Mammal, they explored some airier realms, which worked to supreme effect. This album is much more succinct and terse and with the band infusing more ideas than ever before.

The harsh and sometimes discordant electronics that are at play on this album are the key to its multi-layered sound. A song like ‘Burnt Year’ is characterised by manic drums, painful and agonised vocals that are almost reminiscent of Wreck & Reference and all the while a hail of uncomfortable electronics sizzles under the surface. Teethed Glory and Injury is an album that has a threat coming from all angles.

‘Twelve Was Ruin’ explores droning elements with ceremonial clean vocals chanted alongside that are simply intoxicating meanwhile album closer ‘Reflection Pulse Remains’ is a daring end with pulsating tremolo guitars that actually sound quite subdued and hypnotic opposed to the usual blazing tremolo riffs of black metal, strangely conjuring an evocative, dramatic and outright stunning conclusion to an album that has dragged us through the dirt and stones and never let up for a moment’s grace.

Teethed Glory and Injury is nearly unrecognisable as Altar of Plagues. It’s a brave record but one that’s equally reckless; simply not caring for the repercussions of their actions, which is what makes it so bold in the first place.

Where Teethed Glory and Injury will take its place in history remains to be seen, but it will surely be 2013’s most divisive record. This is for certain, it will also be the most discussed album of the year, picked apart by advocates and critics equally, trying to wrap their heads around it and we may never fully comprehend it and that’s the beautiful part.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dragged Into Sunlight interview

Following on from yesterday's Altar of Plagues interview, today we have an interview with Liverpool's mysterious blackened doom outfit Dragged Into Sunlight discussing last year's stellar album, Widowmaker, their forthcoming collaboration with Gnaw Their Tongues as well as a new album. Check it out HERE on CVLT Nation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

James Kelly, Altar of Plagues interview

There has been a series of delays in getting this interview online however my chat with Altar of Plagues' James Kelly is finally here on the Molten Magazine website. He chats about the swerve they have taken with their new album Teethed Glory and Injury and its implications. Click HERE to read.

Also, a full review of Teethed Glory and Injury will be online later this weekend.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kayo Dot post Hubardo trailer

13 minute trailers are the right way to do it! Kayo Dot will shortly be releasing their most ambitious work yet, according to Toby Driver, in the shape of a double album Hubardo. Today, he posted a lengthy trailer of the tracks that will feature on the expansive record.

There are flourishes of maudlin of the Well to be heard in here next to the frantic jazzy passages inspired by King Crimson and the ilk, all the while heavier and more abstract and visceral tones poke through that are reminiscent of last year’s Gamma Knife album. All pointing towards another triumph for avant-garde metal’s brightest light.

Listen to the trailer below and check out the pre-order information HERE

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Ocean - Pelagial

The Ocean are, without doubt, one of the brightest bastions in an otherwise dark land. The world of post metal is a heavily populated one and with Isis now in the history books and Neurosis… well, they exist on their own plane where no one can really be compared to them… there’s a slew of bands all bandying around monolithic sludge riffs imbued with post rock. Often times the results are stunning, and have been of late, just look at the latest records from Light Bearer and Cult of Luna. Fortunately for The Ocean, they can happily maintain their place amongst this modern elite of post metal.

Three years ago the German band enjoyed something of a rejuvenation after a more than rocky period. After 2007’s majestic double album Precambrian, the band leader, founder and guitarist Robin Staps found most of his line-up vacating the once vibrant collective of musicians that, at times, touched on double figures. Beginning a process of rebuilding from the rubble up, Staps assembled the band’s now sturdiest line-up for 2010’s dual album releases of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric.

Frankly, the end results were superb and catapulted The Ocean to new levels so well deserved. Staps has always explored lofty ideas and the double header of records examined the roots of modern Christian belief systems, the ideas of Renaissance philosophers and astronomers and meshed it all together into a manifesto of sorts that sought to deconstruct the grip of religion on everyday lives and espouse many atheist notions. Ambitious indeed, but the quality of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric points to mission accomplished.

Such scholarly concepts need a follow-up and that has come in the shape of Pelagial, an album where The Ocean live up to their name, exploring each of the five depths of the ocean – epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathyalpelagic, abyssopelagic, and hadopelagic – beginning at the water’s surface and going deeper and deeper and with it, heavier and more abstruse. Thus is the concept and one couldn’t really be surprised by its depth (pun intended) conceptually and indeed emotionally.

Presented as one 53 minute piece of music, Pelagial exists in two forms – with vocals and instrumental, with both forms together in the one package. It’s the former though with Loic Rossetti that truly deserves admiration. And praise the seas for it, as sickness left him incapable of performing vocal duties for a number of months, which is why the band went on to record an instrumental record initially, only for the vocalist to recover and place his versatile lungs over these expansive passages.

Expansive is just the word for this record, much like all of The Ocean’s records. The skull crushing heaviness and sludgy riffs are all in tow while ambient melodies and post rock crescendos are never too far around the corner, all complemented by lush string arrangements and pianos.

‘Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety’ sees the band recoiling into their more melody driven arsenal with mostly clean vocals and an unashamedly towering chorus that shows Rossetti is an incredibly underappreciated vocalist. He’s one of the most rounded vocalists in metal today, fearlessly moving between swooning croons and dirty bellows and barks that are a sound to behold.

And while, this album is laden with beautiful moments throughout, it is still a devastatingly heavy one, just take the hammering riffs of closer ‘Bethnic: The Origin of Our Wishes’ for example. It’s a voyage in every sense of the word, but you wouldn’t expect anything else from The Ocean. The depths of this record’s waters are vast and worthy of great exploration, so much so you’ll easily get lost and be glad to stay there.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Latest reviews: Skagos, The Amenta, Aborym

Here’s another quick round-up of the latest new reviews that were posted online recently.

 Over on Metal Ireland, there’s a look at the new Skagos LP Anarchic, definitely one of 2013’s most anticipated left of field BM records, at least from this perspective anyway. It’s the follow-up to Ast, so it has weighty shoes to fill. Click HERE for the full review now.

Following that, there’s two new reviews online over at the new re-designed Ghost Cult website, namely new records from Australian industrial tinged death metallers The Amenta and also Aborym, both bands traverse industrial metal plains, but both seem to fall a little short of igniting another truly interesting with their new long players. Hit the links above to read more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pics from Despise You

Last weekend, I went to see Despise You here in Toronto, which was killer. To be honest, I thought they’d be one of those bands I’d just never get to see for a few reasons, namely because they don’t exactly tour Europe every year now, do they? Lo and behold, I checked through some tumblr stuff a few weeks ago by chance and saw that they were doing some Canadian dates just two weeks after I arrive, so lucky me. There were some really cool bands playing on the bill with them too that I’ll get into later, they deserve their own post each but for now here’s some terrible photos I took with a crappy digital camera in between the madness. Special mention needs to be made of the venue too – Soybomb. It’s a BYOB spot where the ‘stage’ is a quarter pipe skating ramp, it’s definitely one of the coolest venues I’ve ever been in, hopefully I’ll be checking out more shows there in the future.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Phil Anselmo interview - Housecore Horror Fest and the new Down EP

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to interview Phil Anselmo, which was quite the honour. There aren’t any introductions needed, let’s be honest but the topic of conversation was the Housecore Horror Film Festival, which he has co-founded but Phil also touches on the state of modern horror films and of course the next Down EP. Check it out HERE on CVLT Nation.

The return of Leafblade - new label, new album

You would be forgiven for not knowing who Leafblade are. It’s a folk-laden prog rock side project from Anathema’s Daniel Cavanagh that included members of Antimatter. They released one album, Beyond, Beyond, a few years ago while Anathema were on downtime and then sort of shuffled off into the background somewhere. Now, Daniel has revived the project with a new record, The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh, signed with Kscope and has Anathema’s new keyboardist Daniel Cardoso by his side.

Kscope released the details of the new album today along with a new song entitled ‘Bethlehem’, which is a lush and verdant eight minute hymn that utilises some more electric guitars to complement the usually acoustic-led arrangements.

Stream the song below now and read Daniel’s take on the record HERE.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Refraction post new EP online

Refraction have posted their new EP, Helixian, online for a name your price download. The short 20 minute effort, which features four tracks, is the follow-up to 2011’s stunning self-titled album.

What really stands out most about Helixian is the inclusion of vocals, though it’s important to point out that they are minimal and this is still a largely instrumental record. ‘(T)hymine’ comes with a guttural sludgy vocal, while closing track ‘(G)uanine’ hits a compelling climax with a terse but agonising and piercing vocal that’s almost black metal-esque, an intriguing foil to the serene and ebullient riffs that characterise this EP. Helixian definitely marks an interesting step-up from the self-titled.

So that’s this mini review of sorts out of the way. Listen to the EP below or download it HERE.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Live review: Nails, Xibalba, Early Graves, Burning Love in Toronto

I'm in Toronto (more on that later), but here's a review of Monday night's show from Nails in Sneaky Dee's along with Xibalba, Early Graves and Burning Love on the Terrorizer site. Check it out HERE. More posts coming soon.