SHORT REVIEWS Metal nostalgia, seasonal depressive escapism, an curious ache for more potent counter culture, and further examination of generally listless art. A few late entries for October-December 2021 and our first crack at January 2022 releases. In terms of January releases not included here, I’ve reserved ~20 albums I want to write longer reviews for which need a closer look and listen. If you find something you love in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to: firstname.lastname@example.org [Only 2022 releases at this point, please.]
|RELEASE DATE:||December 21st, 2021|
Split between Warsaw and southern Poland this experimental atmospheric/post-black metal act (consisting of at least three anonymous members) have exhausted their uniquely psychedelic and inarguably modern shaping of the artform here in 2021 with two somewhat ambitious full-lengths in the space of fourth months. Kły had taken a considerable leap away from the chunky riffing of their 2020 sophomore release ‘Wyrzyny‘ with a steep turn into ‘Chen‘ (2021) in late September and ‘Cienie‘ more-or-less continues this thread. My intuition is that they’d likely pulled these songs from the same session or, at the very least they’d intended to separate the two releases by way of mood and not render or style. The use of synth here suggests well-brewed interest in post-metal atmospherics and electronic rock music applications upon atmospheric black metal but the experience itself is neither shapeless or particularly boundary pushing.
Between these two 2021 full-lengths Kły achieve a sound which is pleasantly impassioned, a certain taste developed both within extreme metal context and outside of the imitative climes of the underground post-black scenery of today which translates to a silken sort of movement, existential in tone but assured in movement. Though it is a standard length at ~38 minutes I’d found the “Over the Mountain”-esque drum roll that kicks off the opening track (“Zbarwi”) felt like it arrived sooner than expected each time, not only because I was well immersed but because I’d wanted this thread to keep going. Of course ‘Chen‘ helps to serve the double album craved in response but, the general ease of ‘Cienie‘ is also to blame.
|LABEL(S):||Zoe Zoe Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 10th, 2021|
Ishtembashtok is the kraut-droning, psychedelia perforated alias of Jeffrey Andréka (ex-Witch Trail) whom has been presenting us with fine lo-fi and often motorik assemblage via cassette tape since 2019. When I listen to this sort of approach I often muse over the perceptible differences between what is an artist’s passion and their diversion, often finding little difference between the two depending on the right angle; Diversion from life’s hellscape versus a passion that adulterates every moment of the day, neither inherently produce particular world tendency and this is fascinating from my perspective. Anyhow, ranting aside… ‘Transylvanian Hangover‘ presents four distinctly different wavelengths, songs which appear organically snatched from inspiration into 5-10 minute pieces which I believe stem from a combination of jammed-out breakthroughs and needled over development of those ideas, never presenting the listener with anxietous creation but instead entirely meditative movements.
|ARTIST:||FIELDS OF MILDEW|
|TITLE:||The Complete Woes|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 3rd, 2021|
Just in time for the peak of seasonal depression’s physical symptom comes this compilation from Fields of Mildew, a melancholic dark folk project which carries the dreary bog and moorland air north of Bremen, Germany into ear. The intent of the artist is specific here in seeking conveyance of the rural 19th/20th century rurality of the Teufelsmoor region and though I’ve no prior knowledge of this area being a fellow raised in the woods and drained wetlands of the Pacific Northwest, I can key into the alienation of these six pieces via intuitive connection. This particular release collects the well-loved ‘A Triad of Incomplete Woes’ (2019) EP with three unreleased songs, all of it gathering into one nicely cohesive album-length experience. As for the music, I would be surprised if this is not the main fellow from Rope Set since his voice, cadence, and compositional hand are quite distinct, though I could be mistaken. Of course from my perspective this makes ‘The Complete Woes‘ an pretty instant CD purchase, not for nepotism but for the absolutely affecting gloom of this release.
|TITLE:||Face the Wrath|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 13th, 2021|
I couldn’t be more surprised that this heavily nostalgic melodic death metal duo out of Linköping, Sweden isn’t already signed to a label like Black Lion but, then again these guys are veterans of the original early-to-mid 90’s movement and perhaps just testing the waters without expectation. ‘Face the Wrath‘ is clearly the product of great focus, a habit seemingly picked up by guitarist, bassist, and drum programmer Joakim Rimhagen circa early 2021 and soon to include vocalist Filip Carlsson (Höst) whom was bassist for Satanic Slaughter on their early 2000’s releases. If you are a fan of A Canorous Quintet and the early scenes built upon ideals presented by bands like Eucharist you’ll find some of that spirited sense of progression and dual guitar finesse here albeit in a more laid back, easy-thrashing presentation. It is difficult to seriously compare formative teenaged works to that of nowadays nostalgic adults but there is the sense that the actual influences here (mid-to-late 80’s thrash, ‘Coma of Souls‘, No Fashion-era melodic black/death) produce a result that logically extends into the early 90’s style of melodic death metal I’d personally grown up with.
With all of this in mind it is the guitar work that sustains these ten 4-5 minute pieces as they present variations upon melodic theme, a key trait of classicist movements which I still find inspiring; This, paired with Carlsson‘s inspired timbre and professional sense of placement within relatively ornate melodies makes for a sublime if not subtly glowing listening experience which appears in waves of tremolo-slung majesty. The apex of this is perhaps the patient stirring of “The Torture Ritual”, a strong showing of how to present relatively simple Wagnerian dramatics without ghastly pop hooks or all of the silliness (chunky groove metal, bad Maiden solos, etc.) that’d come to melodic death metal beyond 1996. I suppose the only major criticism I’ve is aesthetic, wherein the choice of logo/layout need better fit the music; ‘Face the Wrath‘ deserves something more deeply thorned and elaborately detailed for its sigil. An inspired debut that’d wormed into mind quickly.
|TITLE:||Bag skyggernes slør|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 30th, 2021|
‘Bag skyggernes slør‘ is the third full-length from fine artist Simon Garðarsson‘s atmospheric black metal project Í Myrkri whom is now joined by Ildskær bandmate Skóggangr (Genfærd) on vocals. If you are already familiar with this project consider this record an iteration and refinement of the melodic phrasing of ‘Drivende i Dødens Æter‘ (2020), an album that should perk the ears of both those whom enjoy anthemic Quebecois black metal and some of the more recent French and Finnish artists sporting a similarly fluid style. Still cold yet yearning in elaborately set ladders of melodious phrase, the major difference here on this album is atmospheric distance, a radius dampened by crunching of feet on a virgin snowfield. This is achieved with eerie use of ‘Filosofem‘-esque sky-eyed synth/keyboard work and some additional ease presented by the drum patternation. Because the signature and ideals of these two fellowes in Ildskær persist as one of my absolute favorites these past few years, I can’t help but hear Garðarsson‘s touch evolving in tandem, especially when considering the tempo map and the space allowed for atmospherics as larger ‘epics’ are presented. This makes for an instantly appealing waltz to immerse and mystify the mind, and perhaps a record that would’ve made it on my best of 2021 list if I’d waited until January to write it.
|LABEL(S):||Norma Evangelium Diaboli|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 17th, 2021|
Are there deeper regrets to be left behind in 2021 than posting my Best of the Year before reviewing this latest Funeral Mist album? Probably, the extended darkness of the solstice allows for the tally to run-on into the nights longer than most sentences I’d written throughout the year. It won’t necessarily matter in this particular case because ‘Deiform‘ is the sort of album which fills every wound with worming presence, a nagging bone-deep parasitic infection that must be scratched to surface its intensely presented, increasingly theatrical ideas. Its deterioration upon the listener will only increasing in volume over time and to say the least, it has grown upon me quickly. Arioch (Marduk, DomJord) sets the temple aflame from the opening moments, a rousing chorale presenting key serpentine bravado amidst the album’s generally cathedralesque reverberation on “Twilight of the Flesh”; A feat which immediately sets a tone of Abrahamic spiritual depravity. Between this opening piece and the maniac left hand technique of “Apockalyptikon” we once again experience this fellow’s ability to not only put on an inspired show of things via elaborate and seemingly well-practiced vocal runs notable for their varietal expressionism but a greater sense that -this- is the high bar for the times, something ascendant which comes from genius and experience.
So, in this sense ‘Hekatomb‘ was not a fluke hyped by a long-awaited return (it has held up quite well) and ‘Deiform‘ is not plain iteration of its basic ideation. I was so rarely inspired in the twilight of 2021 and it’d taken this sort of electric shock of clearly quite inspired forms to wake up a bit more in late December. The iron age calamity of “In Here” ensures this high level of detail and presentation doesn’t take a dip, working in emergent melodic ideas and again presenting a strong showcase for Arioch as a standout vocalist, knowing many techniques and punctuating each piece with them rather than simply belaboring just a few. What feels most “black metal” besides the Wagnerian grandeur of a few tremolo driven riffs is arguably the drum performance from Lars Broddesson (The Shining Woe, ex-Marduk) whose generally violent, brutish technique has thankfully not been preened over; This feels especially inhumane on the obvious ‘singles’, such as aforementioned opener “Twilight of the Flesh”, and standout spectacle “Children of the Urn” which slides directly into the similar riff-focused tangent of “Hooks of Hunger”.
Passing into the second half of this ~55 minute album feels more like finishing its second third as the final two pieces present their own dialogue separate from the sampled accoutrement of the first portion, the underlying brutality of the mid-section and now the feral epoch of the final 18 minutes. This is where the whole experience becomes whole in statement, which for me had suggested a conquer of propagandization and a step into personal independence and necessary defiance. ‘Deiform‘ did at times appear too magnetic as a charismatically presented and professionally writ experience to suggest a purely scourging, counter-cultural statement but the greater worming beneath the flesh does eventually break through with concerted listening.
|LABEL(S):||Northern Silence Productions|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 29th, 2021|
Melbourne, Australia-based black metal duo Sylvan Awe might initially resemble the post-‘With Hearts Toward None’ spectrum of modern black metal by way of a certain melodic guitar technique and vocal style but these are generally superficial observations, or, facets of the experience which evolve song-over-song as this sophomore full-length plays. Though the Algiz on the cover might scare off some at face value (it is not used for the sake of WWII occult misappropriations here) it is instead used as one of many signets of personal spirituality on a path of recovery and self-improvement herein, representing life and living it best while taking on adversity horns-first. The lyrics are quite direct about this, as ‘Transcend‘ features a personal narrative from vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Stuart Callinan whom you should recognize from traditional heavy metal act Galaxy, dealing with addiction and adversity by always reaching for the biggest, boldest actualization of the self and not becoming lost in the chaotic ruins of civilization today. I focus on the themes of this record for good reason as this mindset amplifies the sort of galloping ‘heavy metal’ nature of ‘Transcend‘ which features some nods to Celt/Germanic melodicism as “Zenith” and “Unbound” begin to pull us away from the sleek Slavic black metal edge presented up front.
The larger progression of style is what’d prompted most repeat listens on my part, and this was especially true once the theme of the album’s lyrics began to reveal. This accumulates into an experience wherein the narrative matches the action in a particularly fine way and we sidestep the esotericism of black metal for a very human sense of personal development. It is a triumph over circumstance and the ‘self’ but also a fine black metal release. What impedes the full listen? Very little, the performances are spot-on and the recording entirely professional to start and I suppose the artwork could be more contextual or immediately representative but the overall package is very fine work with most all tracks presenting a logical and somewhat affecting full listen. I think getting past the “This reminds me of…” statement from fans will be the only real hurdle for a project like this, otherwise this release has stuck with me well enough for the last month or so.
|ARTIST:||SEVEN NINES AND TENS|
|TITLE:||Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 7th, 2022|
Vancouver, British Colombia borne post-metalgaze/atmospheric rock troupe Seven Nines and Tens‘ third album is yet another paradigm shift in terms of style, something like psychedelic post-metal that uses modern progressive rock rhythm to colorize its loose-shouldered shoegazer melodies, yet the personae of the project remains intact. In terms of the band’s career this all makes good sense in context, something like Cloakroom taken to a more illustrative extreme while still managing some popular modern progressive rock feeling; I suppose the only major surprise is that this album is put out on the increasingly adventurous Willowtip Records, a tech-death and grind modernism font taking tasteful chances on unexpected projects these last 2-3 years. Well, I don’t know that this album will land with the tech-death or even avant-grind headspace but in terms of the sludge rock, post-metal, and modern metal spheres out of western Canada these days ‘Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers‘ is remarkably chill, listenable and often inventive within these dreaming-ass sub-genreless climes where post-rock finds a path through the sonic lushness of extreme metal fidelity. As someone who’d listed records from Quicksand and Failure on ‘Best of the Month‘ lists in 2021 and a fellow still obsessed with ‘Immaculada High‘, sure, this is more or less my kind of thing. I just won’t stick with it for long without a big hook or catchier melody to latch onto but I’d found this record a joy to sink into.
|TITLE:||In Chaos Ascend|
|LABEL(S):||Transcending Obscurity Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 7th, 2022|
Not to be confused with the Indiana-based brutal death metal band of the same name, this pure death metal trio hails from Sweden and features a fairly straightforward USDM style circa the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Although these folks have ex-Entrails on their respective resumes their strongest achievements have come in the form of Birdflesh, Skogen and Istapp yet none of these elements of mince-grinding, black/folk, or melodic black metal seep into Necrophagous‘ sound which is arguably more comparable to bands like Divine Empire or Aeon, both of which tout the fundamentals of Florida death metal’s more normative influences and mold it into a polished and groove centric approach. ‘In Chaos Ascend‘ is a fine enough death metal album which features strong production values applied to fairly simple and somewhat dry songcraft. The traditional death metal aspect of Necrophagous‘ approach lands with moderate impact on the more actively thrashed-out pieces such as “Traitors and the Pendulum” but these inspired moments are often touted with equal importance as relatively generic moshable sections. The influence of ‘Covenant‘-era Morbid Angel eventually takes precedence as the album rolls on and this is just alright for my own taste, nothing mind-blowing or particularly inspired but a keen enough listen.
|TITLE:||Beyond Human Concepts|
|LABEL(S):||Vicious Instinct Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 8th, 2022|
Though it might seem like an underhanded compliment to suggest Portuguese death metal band Nihility are sweetly above-average, the seasoned death metal fan familiar with the glut of mid-2000’s death metal after a few ‘legacy’ acts had fallen from grace will understand my appreciation for the sliver of an edge over the status quo found on ‘Beyond Human Concepts‘. I mention that particular era of death metal and its expansion into modernity (via tempered brutality, melodicism, and technical skill) for good reason for the sake of much of what Nihility have done on their first two full-lengths; By exploring that broadened spectrum without ever fully going brutal, tech, or prog and instead leaning into lessons gleaned from proper USDM’s evolutionary reconfiguration within the generational spheres of Scandinavia and Poland ‘Beyond Human Concepts‘ is bound to position itself as a sort of sleeper hit for folks who take some time digest the greater nuance of half hour death metal albums. The conflict in mind begins when considering the value of an entirely tasteful and balanced death metal creation versus one that strikes the mind with a sort of modernist ‘junk food’ slap. In this sense I’ve found Nihility‘s somewhat average handicraft increasingly profound yet hard to find any reason for personal fandom, the blockage being some sense of personal style be it aesthetic or musical. The experience blazes by with a few luminous moments as some very strong hints of their greater melodic development shine through but the band never lands any serious punches or any truly distinctive moments that suggest a signature worth latching onto. Though it doesn’t stand out to me, there is some considerable musical value to the death metal completionist whom carries no particular nostalgia for 90’s death metal.
|RELEASE DATE:||January 5th, 2022|
This first instrumental demonstration from Ohio-based musician Troy Reynolds‘ Atlantean Sorrow beyond an somewhat stillborn notion in the early 2010’s psychically recreates the unsure fate of death metal in the late 90’s wherein the thousand-armed feral melodicism available to then populist black metal had obliterated the clear path forward unto brutality. Consider albums like Eternal Dirge‘s ‘Khaos Magick’ and quasi-Nocturnus‘ ‘Ethereal Tomb’ for some context but also the artist’s own enriched vision for atmospheric applications of black/death metal that’d still retain some thrash/speed metallic value. What development we find on ‘2020‘ seems to aim for what I’d consider ‘science fictive wonder’ by way of orchestrations given jogging heavy metal bounds and though these catchy 6-7 minute themes lack the menace a vocalist might bring in terms of layering melodicism unto greater depth they are nonetheless catchy pieces. The infectious qualities of pieces like “Space and Time” have somewhat obvious appeal but I’d found myself wanting a central point of focus rather than the jammed ditty quality of the keyboard/guitar driven sentience revealed otherwise. If he can present a vocal actor capable of forming these melodic ideas into multi-tiered heavy metal presentation I think this sound has some considerable appeal, perhaps finding a thread not far from something like Tenebrarum‘s ‘Alta Magia‘ (or the first Argentum record, for that matter), though there is some potential for repeating the mistakes of the early 2000’s black metal-lite circus if the luminant atmospheric black metal aspect provided by the synth/keyboard voicing is taken to a too-logical extreme.
|LABEL(S):||Gates of Hell Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 14th, 2022|
I am not one to take early 80’s Maiden-isms lightly and this self-titled debut from Vancouver, British Colombia-based quartet Maule sports this particular spirit in droves to start as they proceed to (somewhat logically) incorporate mid-80’s German speed/power metal surges into their sound. The anthemic snarl of early Running Wild keeps the energy up on songs like “Summoner” and the brilliantly intense “Red Sonja” but ‘Maule‘ largely reaches this point relying upon strong dual guitar compositions rather than the limited expression of vocalist/guitarist Jakob Weel‘s voice which I’d equate with Tony Dolan fronted Venom circa ’89-’93 or so; If you like post-NWOBHM classics such as ‘The Waste Lands’ as much as I do this’ll be a decent enough performance but I’d wanted something more narrative and involved in this case. As “Father Time” stumbles in well deep into Side B I’d more-or-less found their tank was beyond half empty in terms of songcraft but there’ll be no denying the sudden peak of standout “March of the Dead” and its familiar yet effective main riff progression in reveal. Maule haven’t really kicked my ass here on this debut but I couldn’t think of a more worthy starting point for a traditional heavy metal band whom are inarguably capable of carrying a tune and inspiring with some true metal spirit.
|TITLE:||Mortal Ones Scream in Horror|
|LABEL(S):||Caligari Records / Goat Throne Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 3rd, 2021|
Filth! Haalbauer are a moldering death metal Hell-invoking trio by way of… Molde, Norway who’ve put their own spin upon ‘Retribution For the Dead’-era Autopsy and the celebrated kin beyond on this debut EP. I’m not going to consider a ~21 minute tape a full-length but man, this thing is fantastically scrubbed over with basement grime and belching-from-the-grave intrigue that I’d found myself listening for hours on end. Fans of Morbific, early Undergang whom desire something slightly more prone to brutal fits of slapping blasts (see: Blood‘s ‘O Agios Pethane‘) will eat this one up quick. If that whole “caveman” death thing can die and the garage crushing youths of today continue to put out records like this there’ll be some substantial generational hope for death metal’s purposeful devolution yet. I’m not fawning over crusty sound design here, either, these guys have riffs and serious groove in hand that are entirely worthy beyond the face value dumb-crunch of today.
|TITLE:||The Damaged Organ|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 21st, 2022|
Shoegazing celestially-flung melancholy-lite, subtly motorik movements and an expectedly surrealistic approach provide the aura of the self-aware alien on this second album from Leipzig, Germany-based neo-psychedelic krautrock duo AUA. ‘The Damaged Organ‘ is brief yet satisfyingly introspective in its full listen, musing over the nowadays human condition in a disembodied state, taking great concern for place and purpose while presenting soft electro-rock movements that build in scope over the course of the ~30 minute run of the album. Heady and somewhat involved as its listlessness presentation is to start there is some great ease and warmth in the reveal of ‘The Damaged Organ’ that renders it far more repeatable than a lot of modern experimental psychedelic rock. Were the album any longer I think I’d likely have found the vocals a bit repetitive in terms of the performance but this is thankfully at least somewhat different than the previous album so that it feels like iteration of said choices. Not the most memorable record of January but worthwhile for anyone looking for a decent surge of kosmische-affected rock.
|TITLE:||Bennies, Booze and R&R 1981 [Archival]|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 22nd, 2021|
From the early archives of John Westhaver (The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol, Decade of Dreams) comes a crass circa late 70’s/early 80’s punk rock n’ roll act of release. A reasonable summation of the era’s proto-hardcore punk action in the spirit of garage punk and sleazy hard rock of the era Angered Wrecks were at the very least a light deconstruction of The Stooges-set parameters for adrenaline rock at the time, I dunno if I’d place them right next to an album like ‘L.A.M.F’ or the most jostled peaks of Television‘s debut but the rhythms explored here are already very much in the tradition of garage rock’s trashier, drugged and free-wheeling lineage. ‘Bennies, Booze and R&R 1981‘ is one of few surviving archived recordings of the quartet whom were based out Fredericton, New Brunswick where the project sort of lived and died with the flop house that’d sustained ’em. As the recording proceeds elements of early 80’s heavy metal and heavier psychedelic rock (see: “Fairies Wear Boots” finale) begin to shine through the up front kicking of songs like, eh, “Fuck You” and “I Need Lunch” that characterize the full listen to start. Well, it doesn’t aim for sophistication or precision throughout but the bumbling hooks of “Stepping Stone” and swinging rock candor of “You Drive Me Nervous” suggest a band, and an era, of big personality and exciting physical rhythms. For an old tape recorded from a mic strapped to the ceiling these are nicely restored and virtually peak and static free.
|ARTIST:||BLACK HOLES ARE CANNIBALS|
|LABEL(S):||Cardinal Fuzz / Acid Test|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 21st, 2022|
Newcastle Upon Tyne, England-based experimental psychedelia collective Black Holes Are Cannibals comes by impetus of musician Chris Watson (Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska, Infinity Mirror Records) in conjure of a year’s worth of anguished energetic shamanic psychedelic dronecraft. Though we’ve gotten a grip of limited run tapes from the band in the past, most of which seem to be tape deck recorded jammed performances, ‘Surfacer‘ is particularly focused as an experience with intent and appears to be a statement rather than pure vibe excretion. Two ~20 minute pieces are featured here and the title track is a fine showcase of what I’d consider the analog textural psych-rocked organische mode of Black Holes Are Cannibals given its darkest, most sweat-lodge’d slow-burning peak, rising into a flurry of wailing guitars, patiently anchored rhythms and harried far-distant growls. While the time-released nature of the title track is one great exhale ’til tracers and death begin to threaten Side B‘s “No Title” is more immediately tumultuous with more exaggerated vocal inflections and run-on strings of reverb melted guitars, this feels like the statement of the full listen but, of course one of chaotic realization. As an experience I believe anyone who has had to vomit out poison to intensify their vision, there is a sickness released here that is ultimately satisfying and, surprisingly illustrative enough to warrant repeat listens.
|LABEL(S):||Dark Essence Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 8th, 2021|
Still luminant after their brilliant third full-length, ‘Electric Temple‘, released this year Norse psychedelic stoner/doom metal trip Superlynx celebrate the coming of the wintry solstice with this digital only EP, which offers a set of brilliant cover songs and two originals. The ‘right’ way to do a covers release, at least in my mind, is to present not only influence in terms of style but to generate the mood, or in the case of psychedelia the “vibe”, which shows some serious inheritance that’d inspire the transformative artist. I don’t know if ‘Solstice’ intended to be such a statement but the selections herein do indicate both practical and emotional connection with heavy metal and hard rock pieces that’d believably set within Superlynx‘ deadly chilled psychedelic doom-rock motions. Saint Vitus‘ “Born Too Late” is a proposition I’d never turn down, perhaps one of the most honest and suffocating records traditional doom metal has to offer and these fellowes have tapped into the anguished movement and fuzzed-over listlessness of the piece to some great effect, the EP has an instant highlight from the get-go.
Nirvana is quite a loaded proposition, though, especially “Something in the Way”; A song that’d conveyed the low of depression to a generation of today’s idiots only to be disturbingly commercialized into post-rock movie soundtrack form (see: The Batman) and losing all meaning. Superlynx do well by this song by leaving it alone, increasing the tempo enough that it isn’t a complete burnout without losing the simple presentation/cadence of the original. “Nature Boy” is perhaps the song here to turn heads, or, at least get some knowing nods from folks familiar with the significance of Eden Ahbez‘ brief touchstone upon popular music via Nat King Cole and the ‘proto-hippie’ influence the songwriter’s exposure granted upon rock music of the 50’s and early 60’s. It is a well-covered piece and this version is just alright in psych-doom form, nothing too sentimental or elaborate with a nice grinding fuzz-centric sound and a slick solo nearby. “Reorbit”, the first of two originals here does a fine job of conveying the detached mood achieved on ‘Electric Temple‘ and “Cosmic Wave” presents a slightly more active drum circular confrontation to round things out. A fine EP to generate some curiosity for folks who’d missed the album and a good example of a covers release presented with some care and purposeful conveyance of taste.
|TITLE:||I’m Gonna Love You ‘Til the End of Time|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 29th, 2021|
Wasted Cathedral aka Saskatchewan, Canada-based musician Christopher Laramee (The Switching Yard, Shooting Guns) describes this project as “incidental music, improvised soundscapes created in passing moments, like musical snapshots.” and while this is perfectly apt as a bigger picture this does mean that you’ve either showed up for the sake of being a fan of the artist or some of the interesting niche explored along the way. This particular album explores downtempo electronica, lo-fi ambiance with varietal beats and what I’d generally consider your local record shop’s version of elevator music (a compliment on my part, mind you). ‘I’m Gonna Love You ‘Til the End of Time‘ strikes me as music for shared spaces, that which adds color to the lightest tension of co-habitation with easygoing beats but still provides some alluring darkness (see: “The Great Minnesota Train Wreck”) for the edgier corner-gloomers. I don’t know that the full listen is all that cohesive, and of course this isn’t the intent, but I will say that teach idea here is given the exact right amount of ear time to develop in mind without overstaying its moment. The obvious picks here are the most immersive, eh, longest pieces with “Alan Parsons Stairway”, “Realistic Beat” and fantastic closer “Trees” presenting ethereal ‘scapes to uplift and zone out within. As a document of myriad passing ideas pouring from an artist the whole of this record is remarkably listenable.
|LABEL(S):||Cardinal Fuzz, Flower Room Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 21st, 2022|
As far as I know this self-titled debut from this southern Maine-based psychedelic garage rock trio saw limited cassette release in 2020 via Flower Room and now thankfully gets some broader exposure remastered here on vinyl. Instantly catchy and a wee bit subversive as any good garage psych band of traditional study should be, ‘Witches Broom‘ is a tightly performed jangler and a bop-heavy experience that’ll quickly feel familiar for its straight hooks and fairly light rock n’ roll excesses, something like a nowadays The Fugs filtered through fuzz rock’s multi-tiered prism of nostalgia. For a ~21 minute record it all hits the ear quick and hard like a fine live set in a spray-painted garage without belaboring the ear-crisping lo-fi quality of the recording. My favorite parts of this record are a bit more involved instrumentally speaking, the honking stomp of “Night Wish” and “Know” particularly pulling a few more stops than some of the simpler 2-3 minute jams otherwise. The freakout that is “Watching” doesn’t serve the most exciting closure upon back-to-back spins of the album but I appreciate that they’ve gone for this sort of loose-shouldered fuzz-strangling moment, it adds a lot of character to what might’ve been a precocious record otherwise.
|LABEL(S):||Centripetal Force / Cardinal Fuzz|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 10th, 2021|
California-based psychedelic space-rocking quintet White Manna have quite successfully blurred the lines for modern psychedelic rock ease since (what I’d consider) their breakthrough ‘Bleeding Eyes‘ back in 2017 and I’ve been an engaged fan since. ‘First Welcome‘ speaks to their collective ability to retain coherent, thoughtful presentation within the limitless notion of neo-psychedelia today by way of slurred and somewhat folkish guitar progressions to start, eventually diving in head-first with the rumble of “His Head a Crown”. If we can consider this sort of record both experiential and potentially utilitarian for the listener those first three pieces are the, “Hey, chill…” for the inebriated escapist and the increasing rouse unto Side B provides a thread of enduring dream-like interest. “Lions of Fire” is perhaps the best song to approach if you’re just not getting the appeal of a band like White Manna, a piece which presents some space rock appeal that soon washes away into jammed ambiance. For what its worth, I think this is one of the better outcomes of an influential band producing a record during peak/initial COVID-19 restrictions. If I’d gotten this record a few months earlier it’d have been up there on my favorites of the year, or, it is now.
|TITLE:||Cry of the Dying World|
|RELEASE DATE:||December 10th, 2021|
San Diego, California-based musician Max Hoffman‘s vision of brutally distorted funeral death/doom illustration gets a nigh complete overhaul here on their debut full-length ‘Cry of the Dying World‘ creating sludge metallic sparsity via the complete exodus of electric guitars and the addition of Cessation‘s Adam Gonzalez on drums. The sound design is corruptive, brutal and does a fine job of conveying the collaborative sensation disgust and concern for nowadays human depravity under the rule of corporate governance. This doesn’t necessarily translate into substantive riff or memorable songcraft so much as desolate post-crust/proto-sludge landscapes which are overblown and ragged to a point of delirium within 12-18 minute song formats. So much effort has gone into ensuring the bass guitar tone is a destructive, blurring force upon the experience that the presence of the album suffers to reach the Winter ‘Into Darkness‘ level of punk-affected crush necessary for the release to really sing to the classicist and the modernist alike but, there is no denying the minimalist proto-funeral death/doom ghastliness of the full listen. Give me an inch more Amebix-esque tragedian lilting hoark and far less Bell Witch scoped pondering and I’m there for this idea. A fine debut that stands out for its high ambition grit.
|TITLE:||Insolent Aggression [Remaster]|
|LABEL(S):||High Roller Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 5th, 2021|
Originally a demo CD-R titled ‘Slaves‘ circa 2001 this Italian thrash metal trio would soon become Insane and re-record several of these songs for their post-millennium thrash classic ‘Wait and Pray‘. This remaster of the original CD-R via the maestro Patrick Engel does an incredible job of reviving the purist rawness of the original, an album completely obsessed with Teutonic mid-80’s speed metal brutality and the post-‘Show No Mercy‘ school of evil thrash metal. For someone like me, whom downloaded a shitty 128kbps rip of the CD-R back in 2005 and hasn’t has a better option since this release as ‘Insolent Aggression‘ is a goddamned dream, not only as a collector of thrash but a riff-enjoyer. In fact, I’d almost argue that this’ll become the broadly preferred release among the retro-thrash niche simply because this was a more cruel and direct version of what Insane would produce in 2005. As always with HRR the package itself is a thing of beauty and the album art a thing of absolute majesty. A must-have record if you’re looking for post-90’s thrash metal worth a shit or archiving the best of ‘new school’ nostalgic thrash.
|TITLE:||Wait and Pray|
|LABEL(S):||High Roller Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||November 5th, 2021|
It wouldn’t make sense to remaster and completely repackage Slaves‘ 2001 release without taking another serious pass at ‘Wait and Pray‘, the apex of this Slayer-worshipping Italian thrash metal trios run in the early 2000’s. The ‘Show No Mercy’ faith is a bit more serious here on their second full-length but more importantly these guys could seriously play on this record, particularly the drummer whom uses fills to great effect across the board. Back in 2005 this was the sort of release people scoffed at a bit, likening its style to albums like Exumer‘s also somewhat obvious copping of early Slayer rhythms and presentation but I’ve always argued that more of that is always a good thing if you are truly into thrash/speed metal and not just someone passing through for a certain fix. ‘Wait and Pray’ was reissued a few times since but I believe this is the first remastered version and rest assured they’ve done the timbre of the original great justice on this version, letting the record thrive in its mid-80’s obsessed pit of absolute fireball riffing. For my own taste ‘Insolent Aggression’ is the big deal of the two releases but I’d had to get both since the updated cover art makes this the absolute prime archival copy.
|RELEASE DATE:||January 21st, 2022|
If there is a phenomenon I have any particular nostalgia for this last decade it is the boss-level high production value (yet still having fun) arena of keyboard and squeezebox drenched melodious Scandinavian folk metal, the sublimely exuberant stuff centered around melodies of victorious celebration and well, not too fat from beer-swilling to still swing an axe. Well, anyhow, we’ve gotten recent enough records from Moonsorrow, Finntroll, Thyrfing and others who’ve done it best so there is no major ache sated by a record like ‘Tunturihauta‘, the third full-length from inspired folk metal sextet Verikalpa, but that doesn’t stop it from being a damned good time. The major spark here which inspire comes from keyboardist Jussi Sauvola whose choices of melodic voicing revive a less self-conscious era of this type of music wherein being completely over the top was a challenge and not a tempered standard. Keeping the tempo up, the ‘boards honking and the vikingr charge of it all full of energy landed well upon me and I couldn’t resist the full listen. Undisputed ‘junk food’ music and a damned good time.
|TITLE:||The Carnal Temples [EP]|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 28th, 2022|
Finnish Satanic black metal magisterium Aegrus return in thriving bombast on this second EP beyond their stunning 2019 full-length ‘In Manus Satanas‘, presented with electric energy and prime crystal clarity. With reverence for their previous work the simply read melodic attack now reads even more classicist, not a fully murderous waltz but a rasping-and-stabbing beastly romanticism which unfurls like loosened drapery (via fine guitar work) over a black-painted window. You could accuse much of the Finnish black metal underground for snagging austerity from classic heavy metal and hard rock techniques, especially in presentation of mid-paced movements such as those on “Moonlit Coffinspirit” but it can only help illustrate the scene depicted. That’d be the major takeaway here beyond classicist black metal idealism of the late 90’s, a knack for directing the imagination with a sound that many modernists will find robust yet moderately conservative in expression. The forceful semi-melodic gait of “Flesh and Blood” is the anthem here and the song to cement some strong personal interest in what Aegrus do next.
|ARTIST:||STONE HOUSE ON FIRE|
|TITLE:||Time is a Razor|
|LABEL(S):||Electric Valley Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||January 28th, 2022|
This third full-length from Volta Redonda, Brazil-based heavy psychedelic/blues rock quartet Stone House on Fire finds the band striking stoner/psychedelic rock gold by reaching deeper into the late 60’s/early 70’s heavy blues paradigm for tone, presenting a post-Hendrix levelled-up tension and expounding upon that thread without going full acid rock jam. Their sound isn’t so elaborate a conception as it seems on paper, a bit of new-found thinking applied to the groove of classic heavy psych for a result that is comfortable and pretty damned easy to pick up and enjoy. The main reason this strikes me as something a bit special is this sense of a band who jams together as a passion but writes songs to sustain some sense of purpose, the feeling is viably ‘old school’ in the best way; Beyond that notion they’ve pulled out six engaging songs that are a huge get as a record seemingly designed for prime vinyl purchase and a fully on point jam with no groggy excess one’d expect from this sub-genre niche. One of the best records of January thanks to high re-spin value, though I don’t know if it’ll blow your mind if you’re looking for psych-doom or a truly modern touch.
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