Short Reviews | September 14th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our fourth set of September 2022 releases finds us picking up a few big-timer black/death metal records but otherwise exploring the world of Saturnian death cults, electro experimental terrors, gothic rock/metal, Finnish jazz, and the general drone of existential dread — All brilliant windows into inspired worlds from my point of view. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works I come across while still presenting some decent variety here, but it boils down to what sticks or is worth writing about. If you find something you dig in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase. The arts require your support and contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to:

TITLE:Opvs Contra Natvram
LABEL(S):Nuclear Blast Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

Having followed Behemoth‘s discography intently since ‘Pandemonic Incantations‘ I suppose most of what could be said, has been said in terms of their core sound hitting upon a point of critical success circa 2004 with ‘Demigod‘ and somehow sustaining said plateau ’til at least 2014 when ‘The Satanist‘ proved a new angle, a new point of entry for a different generation. Now considered a “legacy” group with legion support the mainstream trappings of this position all appear to detract from the gravitas of where to go with said form of black/death metal confrontation next, it isn’t a natural fit for popular music and at this point they appear to be celebrating said fact within the title of this twelfth full-length.

Frontman Nergal created an empire of gloriously blasphemic extremism off of cold, cleanest production values and obsessive brutality and of course his interests in sonic dynamism and theatric performances have occasionally clashed with the slow to change twitch-hammering of their rhythms. Three albums into this more mystified sense of atmosphere and increasingly economical use of rhythmic tics finds the artist aiming first and foremost at distilling very identity of Behemoth within the song, finding signature moments which’d read as distinctly theirs while also accommodating his increasingly less “brutal” and obsessive ear. A tough bout of re-envision for a band who’ve always been pure spectacle, though never light on messaging. The real test for the musician is perhaps imagining the vocal arrangements in phrase with the major rhythms as performed by two pianos but, eh, well “Versus Christus” shows us that this evolution could still work whereas most of this twelfth album from the band almost dutifully speaks the same language as ‘I Loved You at Your Darkest‘ (2018) albeit more directly, slapping hard at their own brand of defiance with fewest interjections.

If you’re interested in the opinion of someone who has been entirely blindered to everything pertaining to ‘Opvs Contra Natvram‘, no hype or previews (not even a glimpse of Nergal‘s social media), then I suppose I can at least deliver the good news that… absolved from the desperate glamourama of spin, Behemoth‘s music is still wildly entertaining and still best-built for live performances. Despite landing in the realm of headache-core per the mix itself and lacking the “real” intimate space of underground black metal oak of similar ardor, the ambitious vocal arrangements which carry the experience and high impact noise of their hi-fi instrumentation pair unmistakably herein. Years at the pulpit have left Nergal somewhat fearless, eh, both in terms of dominating the moment and playing to the crowd and here we seem to move away from the singular headspace of ‘The Satanist‘ towards something which (again) aims for crowd pleasing sensation, and I mean that literally much in the same way Rotting Christ write records which play best in a festival or larger tour package so does Behemoth at their loudest. As such the catchiest songs are all that’ll stick in mind, “The Deathless Sun” being the most connective chant of all and “Once Upon the Pale Horse” not far behind in terms of rhythmic interest being at an all time high. So, I got into it a bit and had a good time though the final song “Versus Christus” had me wondering why the whole album couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be so bold?

Rating: 7 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

Jazz was something Finland could only have guessed at before the late 1920’s by most accounts, a form of music largely emulated and contorted within certain decided upon framework ’til the 1960’s when more and more classically trained musicians like Eero Koivistoinen became known for incorporating uniquely Finnish musical ideas into the modus beyond a simple overlay upon American structures, a result of his time at Berklee. So, at the very least that’d be your answer to “Who the fuck is this impressive fellow on the saxophone?” but there’ll be no attempt on my part to sum up a discography that stretches from ~1967 ’til today. Instead we can receive ‘Diversity‘ as the fourth release from this particular ensemble since 2015 played in a saxophone and piano directive form of contemporary jazz. Whereas ‘Illusion‘ (2017) was studio warmed, adventurous in its runs and would often leave the listener hanging on its extended lines and rants ‘Diversity‘ feels a bit more ebullient, an early 70’s huff in its lungs which feels observational and illustrative in bouts but always engagingly active. Though the brassy richness of the saxophone is a major focus of the recording I’d appreciated pieces like “Stammer” that’d let the bassist punch out his part of the set, the sort of flicking which’d become a bit more frequent in the second half of the album as the tempo began to sway for a few songs before the train arrives again on closer “Casa De Ferro”. A real joy to discover as a listening experience if you’ve any peripheral interest in Scandinavian jazz, and a fine place to start pecking through Koivistoinen‘s body of work. I’d recommend contrasting the experience with ‘Illusion‘ and jumping way back to ‘Odysseus‘ (1969), if your inclinations are similar as mine.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Gotta Light?
LABEL(S):Prophecy Productions
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

What’d began as a gothic rock side project between the drummer for brutal death metal crew Embedded and the vocalist/guitarist for avant-black metal act Secrets of the Moon eventually became the main gig in the course of about eleven years. ‘Gotta Light?‘ offers a surreal exploration of, and communication with, the soul in transit in terms of lyrics and somewhat average vocals from Phil Jonas who makes up for a struggled out tone with elaborate vocal lines and a strong focus on what I’d consider late 80’s/early 90’s dark rock balladry. With a melodic depth fans of later (or, post-‘Crimson‘) Sentenced will appreciate this record stumbles on through mid-tempo rockers offering the occasional surprise moment or small instrumental breakthrough that keep the listen light but somewhat memorable. It quickly becomes evident that these are fine musicians yet I have to say Jonas‘ vocals are only just passable in terms of carrying a tune, and though charmingly imperfect the real sin here is perhaps lyrics which simply don’t inspire me at all and often drift into less than genuine tropes. That said I’d enjoyed the early 80’s prog rock shred breaks on “Waiting for Ghosts”, the bustling keyboard assisted jog of “Abyss Road”, and the ‘Impurity‘-era New Model Army influenced ride of “They”. By no means is this record a disaster but I’d found myself moving on from it much sooner than expected.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Indie Recordings
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

Norwegian death machine Nordjevel have been inspired and admirably prolific since they’d added drummer Nils Fjellström (The Wretched End, In Battle) and guitarist Destructhor (Myrkskog, ex-Zyklon) to the fold circa 2018 and soon delivered their impressive second full-length ‘Necrogenesis‘ (2019) which I’d reviewed favorably at the time, at least with the concession that it was quite good but perhaps not as merciless, murderous as one might expect. As their interstitial singles/EPs between albums had indicated, they’ve done a much better job of taking the brutal hammer of Dark Funeral and Marduk at thier most punishing pace and making something bigger, meaner and thier own with it. In fact ‘Gnavh​ò​l‘ manages to go completely over the top as they pulverize songs like “Within the Eyes”, reaching a truly impressive point of blackened brutal death-leaden kick as the song returns from its ear-catching dark refrain. It is rare that I am this impressed with the sheer chainsawing rhythms and technical aggression of a black metal record, making the listening experience an absolute joy to crank up and die beneath. The entertainment value here is through the roof for my taste and stands out for their dedication to keeping the guitar work very much square in the black metallic realm, because of this I’d found myself listening to this record many, many times on repeat over the last few weeks and basking in the clobber of it all. Though I’d still like another Myrkskog album at some point I’ve got to say this record more than checks that box in mind and gains some great favor for what Nordjevel are doing these days. A strong contender for inclusion on the best of the month list despite having little to write about it in terms of an actual review.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Holy Amnesia
LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

While I don’t feel its album art is up to a particularly high standard *crosses arms* this second full-length from Hungarian psychedelic folk/experimental drone quartet Pirkan nonetheless convinces with its gorgeously surreal yet engaging trip. They’d pulled me in with cellos, clangorous percussion, and soon had me face-painted in the drum circle of the 20+ minute title track (“Holy Amnesia”) as they constructed the central beat with floor creaks, bagpipe-esque electrified string wails and a communal bassline as anchor. Whatever cult this is, I’m in for at least ~45 minutes or until the shamanic whisper of the vocals begins to grate. The more experimental ‘filler’ pieces tend to entertain most here but between the title track and the vocally driven ~10 minute “Light Resonance” the most extended pieces characterize the front to back listening experience. The woodwinds stood out to me when drenched in studio effects, as did most of the unique use of throat singing, but overall I’d felt this one stops short of greatness around the middle with the first four pieces being the major reason to sit and join in on the experience.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Artoffact Records
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

Ravenna, Italy-based experimental rock duo OvO have been around for two decades and released nine full-lengths thus far yet this’d been the first time I’d sat down with their stuff, perhaps inspired by the drawing of what appears to be my spirit animal on the cover. Anyhow their gig appears to be non-typical as a point of purpose, exploring what dark and droning doomed anti-rock avenues as they see fit and in the case of ‘Ignoto‘ its two pieces (each divided into four movements) present a bare and creeping form of sludge metal veiled by atmospheric vocal whirring and miserable roars. In motion there is a Thorr’s Hammer or Nadja-esque ring to their cruelty but they’ve their own sort of ‘cosmic horror’ experience going on in slow motion as “La Mort Muore” trudges out and marches on. The recording feels immediate, live in studio but with the drums raised a few feet off the ground and buzzing with room noise, all of this lending an urgency to the pieces which occasionally feel improvised, with some anticipation for structure on certain parts of “Distilatti di Tenebre”, and fed through tube of hellish insect noises. I’ll definitely have to catch up with their discography before their next record is out but for now, pure pain and terror easily recommended to noise/doom folks.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Loud Arriver
LABEL(S):Cruz Del Sur Music
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

Haven’t heard jack from beloved vocalist/guitarist Melissa Moore in a decade, having been a bigtime appreciator of Rumpelstiltskin Grinder in the mid-2000’s and a huge fan of her mountainous contributions to ‘Abzu‘. Expectations were wildly high going into this debut and it didn’t help that after teasing the record with a 7″ single in 2018 there’d been a pandemic in between. If you were a fan of Lunar Shadows‘ ‘Wish to Leave‘, Cauldron‘s ‘New Gods‘, and the ever-opalescent glow of Spell you’ll likely appreciate the Vaseline-smeared lens and ethereal hum of the vocals which direct the somewhat theatric treatment of 80’s metal found herein. I’m not the biggest fan of goth-tinged trad metal these days, most of it is so forced, but Sonja make their case with straight up memorable songs and a heavily disillusioned tone. ‘Loud Arriver‘ is not only packed with beautifully detailed heavy metal guitar work but catchy-ass songcraft in general, hitting on the best of NWOTHM’s glammed-up version of traditional heavy rock while still presenting heavy guitar music up front.

The only criticism I’d put forth here is that I’d like to hear the vocal cut through the songs a bit more often, “Daughter of the Morning Star” absolutely gets there as does opener “When the Candle Burns Low…” but a real piercing wail (or more peaking emphasis on certain lines) might’ve climaxed a few of the songs here into bigger events, but that is more than likely the Scorpions fan in me wanting slightly more follow-through. Otherwise I’d found every aspect of the sound design here entirely pro, with high marks for the drumming and especially the snap of the rhythm guitar tone which is just perfect. Easily one of the more standout trad metal records of the year thus far.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Neurot Recordings
RELEASE DATE:September 15th, 2022

The great chill eats the beast, eventually. — Described as psychic warfare, atmospheric dread and I suppose categorically as industrial and/or experimental “noise” PETBRICK is a collaboration between Wayne Adams (Bear Bites Horse studio, Big Lad) and Iggor Cavalera who most will at least know as a founding member of Sepultura. ‘Liminal‘ is their second full-length and most imposing release at this point if we don’t count their brilliant collaboration with Deafkids and a remix record for their debut. Their whole gig is a mix of conceptual distortions of form, function and/or voice with the general feature of each piece centered on beat and melody, though a few exist as purely transitional or what I’d consider successful beat turbulence, such as “Raijin” wherein we’re kept guessing as the ambiance of the piece develops in irregular but fine-finessed motion. Think of the experience as a performative wringing of a sponge but one soaked with years of avant-electro sensations running between their fingers, all of it ear-catching and often excitable in pace and noisome breaks. Interestingly enough the parts I was least hot over (such as the Jacob Bannon spotted “Grind You Dull”) ended up being the heavier bits, likely because I’d so fallen for the more chilled and distant side of things interspersed with confrontational, scraggly electro boosts such as “Chemical Returns”, otherwise I’d felt ending the record with Steve Von Till‘s hymnal reading was a nice touch. It all entertains though it doesn’t necessarily ever reveal a consistent hand outside of the elecktro-modulator heavy pieces and as such I could see ‘Liminal‘ landing as imaginative distraction for some and inspiring to others.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Tonzonen Records
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

Cosmic Ground is a solo project from German electronic musician/keyboardist Dirk Jan Müller who is best known for his work with psychedelic krautrock group Electric Orange. Active since the early 90’s and beyond adept at crafting surreal and often vintage soundscapes Müller‘s craft is appreciably analog and in turn most all of ‘Isolate‘ feels ancient and physical in signature but certainly not of this world. This is particularly notable within the short stretch of “Invade” during the album’s set of scene setting pieces as an out of reach conversation, animal noises, and the occasional plane overhead has the ear curling to hear the approach of our new overlords. From my point of view the album itself is a strong mix of the 70’s freedom of sequences and the more engaging 90’s electro depth, if we can avoid any suggestion of IDM in such a generalization. The three longer ~18 minute pieces (my favorite being “Isolate”) which bulk out the album offer a heady, if not often quite simple Schulze-esque listening experiences which should impress and reward the patient listener. A fine zone to steep within for an hour or so, and a good introduction to the ever-gathering palette of Müller.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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