Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sólstafir's Köld


This album came out in 2009 but I just discovered it a few months ago.  I've been listening to it a lot recently.  My mother tells me frequently, "don't you listen to loud music, you'll destroy your hearing."  I know she's right, but some albums are just styled in such a way, and are so good, they have to be blasted.  Sólstafir's Köld is one of those albums.  I don't mind listening to it at a volume that makes my ears throb.  It's just that good.  To listen to it any other way would detract from the experience too much.

Listening to Aðalbjörn Tryggvason scream "Í dögun birtist þu" at the top of his lungs is like watching Lisbeth Salander throw the leather suit in the dumpster. 

AT DAWN YOU WILL APPEAR.


Just when there's a little bit of hope, it vanishes in an instance. 

This is simply one of the best albums ever, and I would say Sólstafir's best hands down. Sólstafir draws its influences from all over the place, and the result is a very avant-garde, unusual sound.  I swear at times when  Aðalbjörn Tryggvason screams he sounds like a raspier Billy Idol. It's the soft parts of the album, and the way the melodies are carried over from soft to hard and hard to soft, that make it so damn good, in addition to its styling and unconventional fusion of genres.  See all of "Köld," especially the 4:20 - 6:45 part and the subsequent part that reverts back to metal.  The music is sometimes joyous, but always haunting.  "World Void of Souls" is extremely haunting, non unlike something Trent Reznor & company might write, with hummed vocal melodies and an eerie ambient riff playing throughout about a 10-minute span after an eerie sound sample concludes of a man muttering this:

I woke up at 9:30 thinking I had already missed the daylight
But it won’t be here for another two hours.
It doesn’t matter, I’ll probably sleep through it anyway.
I drift through my days like a zombie,
Looking for reflections of her in the grayness of it all.
The daylight only lasts for a couple of hours,
So I haven’t seen any colors for a couple of weeks.
It doesn’t matter, I’ve always been into bleakness.
Even my dreams are in black and white.
But maybe that is just because so are the photos of her,
The last evidence that she, happiness, really did exist.


The emotions stream in this album.  This is perfect music to listen to over a frozen, desolate landscape, maybe as the sun rises.  Sólsafir is from Iceland; I suppose they've always drawn influence from their unique and isolated environment.  There's a craving of old, better days - better times in life that have passed and aren't coming back. This is especially the tone in "Necrologue" and “World Void of Souls," where the listener feels as if they're sitting around a campfire in the dead of night while a stranger recalls the beauty in the midst of all the colorless, black and white days that seamlessly blend together.    

Iceland has one of the best music environments of any country out there.  Maybe it's because of its isolation.  Maybe it's because it's located just a few miles outside the Arctic Circle.  I know bands - the best bands - draw from their natural environments when writing music, and usually their finished products reflect that. Sometimes it might even be accidental.  Sometimes we are impacted in ways, and by things, we don't understand.  And sometimes we're not even aware of it.  What most Icelandic bands probably are conscious of is the fact that Iceland has a small population, and that countries with small populations, especially isolated countries with small populations, of which Iceland is a prime example, are often ideal places for cross-fertilization.
Iceland has more bands per capita than any other country in the world.  All these bands and musicians know one another, or at least know of one another.  They are influenced by one another.  This results in unusual music fusions.  Icelanders also suffer from "small nation complex."  "Per capita" is probably one of the most commonly used phrases in Iceland.  This accompanied with its nasty history of being a colony to a larger, richer nation probably perpetuates a cultural sense of self-consciousness that also finds its way into the fabric of Icelandic music. 

Wherever Sólstafir's feelings are coming from, those feelings are in their music.  They echo loud and clear.  And whatever their influences are, be it black metal or death metal or Sigur Rós, they go from writing radio friendly pop songs to prolonged raw, texturized, instrumental passages that are quite deep, gripping and emotionally exhausting.  




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Epta Astera's Semper Reformanda (EP)


This is the best Christian recording since Virgin Black's Requiem: Mezzo Forte.  


I don't say that lightly. 

Nor do I particularly like using religion as an adjective for a type of music, since it in no way describes sound.  In the same way that geography doesn't describe sound, but still we see bands throwing "Chilean" or "Balkan" in front of their genres trying as best they can to be more descriptive (and failing).  Finding good "Christian" music is so rare though nowadays it almost needs to be emphasized when something good comes along.   

This music takes influences from Gregorian chant, folk, post-rock and atmospheric post-black metal.  The architecture isn't predictable and tempos vary throughout, changing suddenly and sporadically from quite slow/doomy to aggressive and uptempo (the black metal tempo isn't really a footing).  There are all kinds of instruments on this album, and I don't know what most of them are, but what is really proven here with these instruments is that folk can be worked into about any type of music without sounding gimmicky if done right.  Unfortunately, most bands don't do it right. And the result is... well… gimmicky.

Epta Astera and Falls of Rauros and Skagos and bands of the like are, unfortunately, the exceptions.     

Nevertheless, that makes this avant-garde stuff, when it comes along, all the more sweet.  Ornate and bombastic baroque that even Bach might've found tempestuous. It's a pity these Eastern themes don't show up in music more often.            






To quote Epta Astera's blog, "Black Metal and the Reformation":


Black metal is about individualism. Often times it comes dressed up in vestments of paganism or satanism or misanthropy, but at its core it’s about the freedom of the individual in the face of society (NSBM notwithstanding); a rejection of external norms and authority in pursuit of internal vision.


Black metal's philosophy couldn't be stated more clearly and explicitly. It's important to remember, too.  It's important for black metal bands and listeners not to become a drove - a drove of opposition opposing other droves; that shouldn't be the imprint left by the black metal culture. Rather, it should be a conduit for consciousness, self-examination and internal vision.         

The works of Epta Astera are available for free download here:

http://eptaastera.com/music/


Support the avant-garde and the free expression of music without the limiting effects of coercive institutions. 


 

Friday, December 28, 2012

OM's Adviatic Songs


Adviatic Songs
more or less picks up where God is Good left off. This is truly inspirational music. OM is another one of the Giant Squid's or Bloodiest's or SORNE's of the world... the music is just so different it's hard to put into words. Those familiar with OM know their music is classified as "Middle Eastern psychedelic doom metal," or something like that. It's similar in structure to "Tibetan and Byzantine chant," as Wikipedia points out (I'm not familiar with those genres of music so I can't confirm, but it sounds correct enough). "Om" is the Hindi symbol known for the natural vibration of the universe. OM is a very religious inspired band. They've written music that touches on religious and spiritual themes from Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, and in the past they've explored the similarities between these religions. And here we have a picture of John the Baptist himself on the cover of the album - an important figure in many different faiths, especially Christianity - so it seems OM is still using interwoven themes, and on this record they seem to be predominantly Christian and Islamic. The lyrics... I'm going to try to dissect some of them (and the song titles), but they're so oblique they're borderline incomprehensible, kind of like Saturnalia Temple's lyrics except with religious connotations instead of occultist.


"Addis" is in Hindi, and not even in Sanskrit, but in the Pinyin equivalent of Sanskrit (I don't know what the name is for it in Hindi), so we'll skip over this track. I'll just say it opens with clean female chanting and we start to hear Indian tabla drums.


"State of Non-Return" seems to start at the beginning with Adam & Eve's expulsion from Eden which represents the start of man’s journey outside utopia and his induction into knowledge:

Light trickles through the adjunct worlds, the soul galleon prevails
Liberates in wisdom, to complete state of negation
The five roads subsumed by grace emancipates from dream


"Gethsemane" is the name of the garden in Jerusalem which is said in the gospels to be where Jesus and all his disciples (except Judas) spent their final hours before the Crucifixion. It was here where Jesus sweated drops of blood, and came to terms with his fate in conversation with God:

Nocodemus awaits in vigil weeping
The Arahat rising and the healing ghost descends
Lamentations cease enter rarefied light prevails

Nicodemus being the pharisee that showed favor to Jesus.  I'm unsure of the total lyrical relevance to the song title, but Lamentations cease enter rarefied light prevails seems to represent the lifting of anguish off the shoulders of Jesus by God. Jesus did after all pray to God to spare him of the suffering.


"Sinai" is of course where Moses was given the ten commandments. The lyrics from "Echoes," on Paramaecium's last album, read:
As I climb the long pathway of repentance, towards the peak of Sinai in the still dark hours of the morn, I yearn for the daylight which will tame my hesitations.

This more or less summarizes what comes to my mind when I think of Sinai. The mountain represents the end of trepidation, and the enlightenment to come.

Walk Melchizidek shrine descender
At Lebanon - priest ascending
And back toward Lebanon priest ascending

Melchizidek being the king during the Abraham narrative in the Book of Genesis. He must have climbed Sinai.


I don't have a clue what the lyrics in "Haqq-al-yaqin" mean, but I do know when you throw the song title into Google Translate it comes out as "the reality of certainty," which is the third degree of the classical Yaqeen Sufi doctrine. It's a three level hierarchy of human identity, like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but identity: scholars, gnostics, and lovers. With the most latter being the most important. The Yaqeen (تيقب) phase of Suffism (صفي), and yes I actually typed those in on an Arabic keyboard using my mad Arabic skills, is an ascetic sect of Islam in which one can, as the head of the Shadhiliyah brotherhood basically said, "purify himself from inner filth by excluding his inner being from everyone but God and travel into the presence of the divine." In this phase - the last phase - the liberation cycle is finished. And the reality of certainty is where experience becomes the object of certainty. Knowledge is transferred into experience and vice versa, and it becomes revelatory to the one experiencing it.


As for the sound, I mentioned it's inspirational. That's kind of a disservice. It's hypnotic (in a different way than Black Math Horseman and Giant Squid and bands like that), embellishing, blissful, and transcendental. The use of cellos, flutes and tamburas have become integral parts of OM's sound. There are mantra-like incantations. The bass tone is unlike any other I've ever heard. There are moments on every great album that stand out... moments of not just greatness, but distinguished greatness. The cello/violin outro in "State of Non-Return" is that moment on this album, and one of 2012's finest moments. I can't recommend this album enough, just damn. Listen to it. This band truly brings spirituality to music, and if you let it his album will do absolutely incredible things for you.






Originally written for my 2012 End-of-Year List on MetalSetLists.com

Friday, October 5, 2012

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Concert Review

Godspeed You! Black Emperor on Thursday, October 4, 2012 at Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC


After listening to F# A# Infinity on vinyl and looking over some faulty schematics to a ruined machine at my cousin's apartment I was in a GY!BE mood. We ate at a pub across the street from Cat's Cradle at the same time the band did. Efrim, Sophie and co. walked in while we were having a nice talk about measuring the worth of science. They ate at a booth adjacent to us and out of eyesight though, and we didn't bother them on the way out.

I bought the 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! LP as soon as we walked in the venue, as the merch guy told us it was probable they'd sell out before the show finished. Other merch they had included 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! and "God's pee" t-shirts. I talked to some UNC kids, met up with some friends, sat through a monotonous opening band's set, then hung out for about thirty more minutes (at least, probably more like forty-five) while Godspeed set up, and then Hope Drone started and one by one the members came out on stage.


"Hope" started flashing on the projection screen in scratchy font, like it always does.  


My good friend standing beside me said, "it's an Obama ad."
"Hope" flashing was followed by images of trains, dead bodies, decayed buildings, etc.  


Lineup in attendance:


David Bryant

Efrim Menuck
Mike Moya
Sophie Trudeau
Thierry Amar
Mauro Pezzente
Aidan Girt
Tim Herzog (of NC's Black Skies)


Setlist:


1. Hope Drone

2. Mladic
3. "Murray Ostril" ...They Don't Sleep Anymore on the Beach
4. Monheim
[a shit ton of new stuff I didn't recognize and long drone interludes, some of which easily could have been "Their Helicopters' Sing" and "Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable"]
8. The Sad Mafioso


There were at least three songs in between Monheim and The Sad Mafioso, none of which were on any of their albums, along with a ton of drone material. They're calling one song "Behemoth" on setlist.fm but I don't even know what that is so I'm not putting it in this set. They played for about two and a half hours.


A lot of that new stuff, according to my cousin who's a music guru, was atonal and used eastern scales (which I could never pick up by ear). There was one song in between all the droning that was really good - it seemed like a typical Godspeed song that built up over fifteen or so minutes and reached a massive climax. Of course when the Murray Ostril recording came on, and when Efrim played the opening notes to A Sad Mafioso, the crowd went wild. Cat's Cradle was sold out. Godspeed has become more popular probably than they ever wanted to be.


After the show Efrim was outside the venue talking to some folks and my cousin and I went and asked him what kind of literature he was inspired by. The only answer we got was "The Savage Detectives" by Roberto Bolano.



Slow moving trains and blueprints of drilling rigs
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Overmars' Born Again


Born Again
is the 2007 follow up release to 2005's Affliction, Endocrine…Vertigo, and very different in structure. It's one massive track at 39:26 in length.

Envision a girl - the same one personified in Affliction, Endocrine…Vertigo who easily could have met her maker in the depths below. Only envision she didn't meet her maker and she's returned for another bout of possibly life-terminating exaltations. She's seeking adrenaline to prevent depression; balancing apprehension with ecstasy. This time she's free climbing a mountain - a cliff - and coming to a point where she can climb no further (what a mountain climber would refer to as a "crux"). It's a difficult place in the climb, where the climber, typically solo, must perform a set of moves in dynamic motion to move forward or grab a hold of what would otherwise be out of reach. The lyrics in the song are the thoughts running through the climber's head as she comes to terms with her situation and the possible fate that awaits her. I’m close to dying a thousand times, but this time I allowed myself to cry…. If she stays where she is her only possible fate is death. Or, she could confront her fears and continue to climb, and possibly save herself.

Arms in a cross, ready to absorb the shock.
I just know I can’t go lower.
There is no under.
Just me, myself and I.
And the will to stay or to climb.

Or… the lyrics could be symbolizing an unborn child's attempt to escape from the womb. Playing disturbing footage of stillbirths, among other things, on makeshift projection screens made of bed sheets at their live shows, Overmars has a strange fascination with parturition. In addition to an exhilarating stint of free climbing, the lyrics also describe metaphoric birth, which makes the footage relevant.

Seeing the plague’s face taking shape doesn’t scare me anymore.
Seeing the plague coming out of my wounds liberates me.
Listen to the screams coming out of my wounds, free from the plague.
Listen to the screams coming out of the hole, holding the sound of joy and pleasure.
Listen to my screams announcing the birth of a new man.


The light is brighter from the dark. The latter is likely the band's intended meaning, but that's the beautiful thing about lyrics. You can interpret them as you wish. Avoiding sudden antenatal death syndrome, is a child born? Or has a mountain climber tamed her trepidations and transcended to start life anew in what could be interpreted as essentially a bizarre allegory?

The profuseness of exuberant emotion flowing from the vocal performance of Mrs. Marion (whose last name we don't know) is perhaps, for its brief seven minute duration, unparalleled by any other female vocalist in metal. It might not even be correct to call it "singing," but it's sure passionate. The hate, the anger, the agitation emanates from her and spews forth as if she's actually a subject in the situation she's portraying. Her cleans are downright scary. This isn't music you want to play in a car on a date (I know from experience). The first time listener's reaction to sitting though the beginning ten minutes of this track is typically one of pure horror. Oddly, the climax comes near the beginning of the song instead of the end.

The first fifteen minutes are the best of the track. Eerie electronic noises, growled and soaring vocals, and thick pounding riffs form a sound that's distinct and easily recognizable as Overmars'. As the track progresses it drones, and the despair becomes almost overwhelming. Of all the songs in this band's brief discography, this one is the heaviest. It's unabridged doom. It's one of the heaviest albums ever recorded, competing with the likes of Electric Wizard's Dopethrone, SunO)))'s ØØ Void, Godflesh's Streetcleaner, and EyeHateGod's Dopestick. Born Again is a giant monolith of crushing doom and relentless noise.

Walls of sound flatten listeners, who might be begging for death before the end. Or hemorrhaging one.



Originally written as a review for Sputnik Music:
http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/52223/Overmars-Born-Again/

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Overmars' Affliction, Endocrine... Vertigo


There are certain phases, stages, and events in a metal listener's journey that will manage to forever fixate themselves deep in his mind... that he will remember for the rest of his life. The first time he was introduced to metal. The first time he heard his favorite band. The first time he heard his favorite album. Certain songs. Times he heard certain songs with certain people and shared a special moment with them. Certain songs or albums or bands he looked to for guidance, inspiration, or motivation during times when he had nowhere else to look. Times he was introduced to a new genre that hadn't before manifested itself in his mind, because he was completely unaware it even existed.


For me, this is the album that altered the standards by which I evaluate metal. It's the metal album that makes all the others slightly worse.


Why is that? To be honest, it's hard to put into words. This album doesn't scream musicianship. There are no really impressive solos on it. The drumming isn't overly impressive (but it is experimental). It's not technical. At first listen, in fact, thoughts are more along the lines of "what the hell am I listening to?," "this sounds like garbage," and "why would I listen to the rest of this album?" At least that's what I thought when I first listened to Obsolete. Granted, that was a few years ago, before I became really familiar with doom and sludge. But I still feel that to some extent. Every time I start the album a part of me wonders what it is about it that makes me want to continue listening to it. I also know that since I realized what a truly special record this is, I've held all other records in comparison to it. Hoping they'll be as unique, as diverse, as avant garde as this one. A few years later I've been tearing through metal albums left and right, and I haven't found one half as any of those things as this one.


Maybe it's the unorthodoxy. The non conventional - utterly non conventional - free approach Overmars takes towards crafting its songs. Maybe it's the fact that when "This is Rape" starts I swear I hear a doom breakdown (is that even possible?). Maybe it's the combination of influences and the diversity of soundscapes. Down-tuned sludge mixed with hardcore, post-metal, and industrial. But the real reason is, simply, this album is the most creepy, disturbing, impenetrable, oppressive work of art I've ever heard. The only other album that rivals it in that regard is Dragged Into Sunlight's Hatred For Mankind. It evokes feelings in me I can't even describe. "Obsolete" and "This is Rape" are barrages of oppressive musical assault that stomp your ****ing face in with a size 12 steel-toed boot. They're not without their twinges of down time, though. Such as the 4:50 mark in "This is Rape." The oppression momentarily subsides but something even more unsettling takes its place. A simple guitar melody, mid-tempo drumming and some electronic/industrial effects. It's not even depressing, it's just… strange, unsettling, something Trent Reznor would come up with. And that continues on until around 7:17, when a dirty distorted bass comes back in, balls-to-the-wall sludge resumes, and a sound sample becomes audible in the background which is impossible to really make out. And then, just when you're starting to feel that this terrible record is going to be nothing but pure ugliness and filth...


Destroy all dreamers who dream of the same thing more than once...

A most unexpected twist and alteration in sound. Suddenly all heaviness vanishes and what becomes audible is a gorgeous soft interlude with clean vocals that puts your mind at rest after the trauma of the first two tracks. "Destroy All Dreamers pt. I" leads perfectly into "Deux Measures de Solitude," which starts off softly with a catchy guitar hook and slowly, over the course of four or so minutes, builds through repetition and subtle additions into another heavy crushing assault. And voilá!, we're back to where "This is Rape" left off.


But the next track is truly one of the shining moments on this record. "Büccolision / (bis) The Mistaken One pt. II (Geography is Just a Symptom)" is one of the most scary, horrific, distressing songs ever. It's not sludge. It's not hardcore. It's not anything. It starts out with a slow piano passage, then we hear some slow sporadic guitar strumming, then a heavy distorted bass chord. The foundation for the entire song is piano. Overmars' contrasting of the beautiful with the dark is an exercise of expertise… they take what's traditionally considered a beautiful instrument and play it under a horrific display of chanting and screaming. A long ritualistic-like chant is spoken in French while - what sounds like - a helpless victim being the unfortunate subject in some horrific experiment or ritual is tortured and screams pleading cries of agony. The chanting and the screaming are just dubbed over each other. The chant is actually in French.


Standing in the shadow of this obtuse-angled mirror's reflection
Harvesting the seeds of our prettiest hangman, young girls in the prime of life galore
In our dreams of languor and love, on our lips, softly without the torturous sensation of filthiness
Optic through the hole where the iris huddles
Stares at its victim with heartbroken eyes, drunk with the stale smell of an undesirable strangeness
Of exocrine glands and unhealthy exudations
Which cherishes it aloud and carries it in its womb


The "vocalist," playing the part of the poor girl, who could easily be pictured as a victim tied to a stake in some sort of hellish ritual, is utterly convincing. Perhaps inspired by thoughts of being cut, stabbed and raped (or worse), the atmosphere her performance gives this song is unmatched on this album. This track personifies utter desperation, hopelessness, and depravity. The piano continues throughout, there are occasional distorted guitar chords, a rare strum of a distorted bass, and whatever else that isn't easily recognizable. It reaches a heart-pounding climax and it's assumed she's finally been finished off by her tormentor, bringing an end to her suffering. And then, it all fades out, and into...


Destroy all dreamers who don’t fondly kiss his lips and don’t embrace him...

"A Spermwhale's Quest" features Marion, the lead female vocalist, in what seems to be a song about drowning. Be what the writers intended as it may, imagery consists of a girl who has immersed herself underwater, and in doing so has found herself a little too deep, and possibly "gazing into the eyes of the reaper." Pressure is the only thing down here, reminding me how my strength is relative. There is no sound down here except for my heartbeat, pounding in my head. Static noise is used in this track throughout. The lyrics on this album are all around fantastic. As are all three vocalists. The vocals have incredible range - the prolonged death growls, the clean mid-ranged, the soft murmurs, and those that can't be described (like on "Destroy All Dreamers pt. II" and "From Love to Exhausting - the Story of This Intangible Thing Between Us"). There are recordings/sound samples thrown in randomly further back in the mix. You might find yourself realizing there's a woman screaming after she's already been at it twenty seconds. There's so much to listen for and concentrate on... it's that kind of record.


Destroy all dreamers who forget he holds us in his arms every morning...

The "Destroy All Dreamers" tracks (there are five of them throughout) are the most well executed interludes I've heard on any album that features interludes and makes them prominent. They don't detract from the album. They don't cost it momentum. They give some air to what could have been a very suffocating and linear record. Reminiscent of a handful of post-rock bands, albeit darker, they're the beauty in Overmars' continuous effort to balance the beauty and the ugliness. They also provide a running theme - something to come back to. Something for the listener to fasten onto and gain familiarity with. They are all simple, repetitive guitar melodies with soft soothing vocals - sometimes dual vocals. According to the band, the lyrics in these five tracks are a call against apathy. To dream is beautiful, but to live our dreams is much more beautiful. Stop dreaming, start acting, and let's re-appropriate our lives. And they use a metaphor to illustrate this with baby birds. Daily blood tastes so sweet in our awaken mouths. Even though technically birds don't have lips or arms, and both parent birds raise their young, the idea is that a father bird takes care of his offspring, and they should be thankful for that, because they wouldn't survive without him. He makes them strong and prepares them for the harsh world they'll eventually be cast into. It's a message not to be apathetic. Show gratitude and thankfulness to the people who take care of you. Don't take it for granted. These five songs are a gorgeous conveyance of that. And they're just as critical a component to this record as the long, violent, inundating onslaughts of doom.

"En Memoire des Faibles qui Ont Survecu a Darwin" and "From Love to Exhausting - The Story of This Intangible Thing Between Us" are respectively 13:01 and 9:24 in length, and monoliths of post-metal sludgy doomy goodness. As mentioned, there's nothing technical and nothing groundbreaking about these sludgefests. But they are Overmars' own. They are dense and difficult to digest, especially the former. "En Memoire des Faibles qui Ont Survecu a Darwin" is a heavy, chugging, crushing, overwhelming composition of magnificent artistic doom. At almost no point though is the chugging without some sense of melody. There are some very tasty riffs, and memorable bass lines here, and never underestimate Overmars' ability to spin things around and alter dynamics in a split second.

This album is dynamic not only in sound but in structure. It's diverse, and it's likely a lot of parts were improvisations. Overmars is experimental in nature. Attention is solicited until the end; you never know what you're going to be listening to next. Ideas are in abundance. This album shouldn't be recommend to those lacking familiarity with extreme metal, and specifically, sludge and doom. It's an exhausting experience, and immediately nearly indigestible. But with time, patience - a lot of patience - and willingness to let it grow on you, this can become one of the finest albums you've ever heard.


HIGHLIGHTS: "This is Rape," "Buccolision / (bis) The Mistaken One pt. II (Geography is Just a Symptom)," "A Spermwhale's Quest," "En Memoire des Faibles qui Ont Survecu a Darwin"




Originally written as a review for Sputnik Music:
http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/52200/Overmars-Affliction%2C-Endocrine...Vertigo/

Friday, September 28, 2012

Starkweather/Overmars (Split LP)


Firstly, this brief review is solely catered to Overmars' portion of the split. I'm mostly unfamiliar with Starkweather, but from what I've heard I'm not a fan, so I feel it most fair to write about the band here that I've grown to know and love - Overmars.

I was gleeful when I finally learned last year that Overmars was set to release new material. It had been four years since Born Again was released, and no real news in-between then and 2011 surfaced regarding plans about the band's future, new material, etc… their status was unknown and I assumed indefinite hiatus.

Then news of this split surfaced, which would entail 15-16 minutes of new Overmars material…

Overmars has written some of the neatest stuff in the doom metal department I've ever heard. Affliction, Endocrine…Vertigo in 2005 and Born Again in 2007, the latter being their last release save a for-the-most-part inconsequential split with Icos and a ten-minute EP they put out in 2008 on a 7" offering a different recording of "Büccolision" and a follow-up track.

The two tracks here by Overmars include "Solitary/Following the Sperm Whale (Once Again)" and "Last Sail Sinking," both of which, to my great delight, pick up right where Affliction left off. It's typical weird, experimental, avant-garde, doom/sludge Overmars. "Last Sail Sinking" features vocals from the brilliant female vocalist we heard in Born Again (Marion, also of Abronzious). I read prior to this release that she was no longer with the band but she's sure enough featured in this split. "Solitary/Following the Sperm Whale (Once Again)" begins with a somewhat unsettling sound sample. We hear a gentlemen uttering something undecipherable and some other noises and whistling along with it, along with a gentle guitar melody, then we hear a poor girl let out a shrill scream before everything goes quiet. Then the doom begins. It's quite crushing, and unmistakably Overmars'. The vocals are deep, harsh screams and growls. If there was such a thing as "doomcore," Overmars would have to be at the genre's forefront. The hardcore and post-metal influences are all in this, and it really brings out what sludge can be like with outside influences.

Dynamics are a critical element of Overmars' sound. Hard to soft, soft to hard. Soft melodic guitar tunes followed by heavy oppressive rifts. The only recognizable lyrics: "Sail and sink, on the altar of conviction, sail and sink, embracing an illusion, sail and sink, for the sake of salvation, waiting for death, something's running inside your veins," all sung by Marion, who has one of the most captivating voices and unique style of singing of any female vocalist I've heard in metal.

A full-length of this caliber material would be a 5-star record.



Starkweather/Overmars (Split LP) spinning 

HIGHLIGHTS: "Solitary - Following The Sperm Whale (Once Again)," "Last Sail Sinking"


*UPDATE: I just learned Overmars' two tracks were actually recorded years ago, probably between 2005 and 2007.  And it looks as though the band has either broken up, or stopped playing, indefinitely.  According to The Record Connection. 



Originally written as a review for Sputnik Music: 

InThyFlesh's Claustrophobia


Lechery Maledictions and Grieving Adjures to the Concerns of Flesh
is a very mediocre album. This, on the other hand… this trio came a long way in three years. This kind of album is what fuels my desire to search the entirety of the underground for new music, because when I stumble upon a release like this it makes me realize I obviously haven't heard all that's out there. This release needs to be discovered, listened to, and brought to people's attention. For every hundred or so poor to mediocre underground black metal releases, a discovery like this makes all the time and patience worth it.


I will be the first to admit this record isn't for everyone. The instruments are detuned and the production isn't what everyone's looking for, but at the same time this was not recorded on a tape player in a basement somewhere. It's actually fairly clear and crisp compared to a lot of stuff you can come by on Nykta, Parasite Curse, and the like. The explanation given is that Claustrophobia comprises “50 minutes of grim melodies and harsh violence in a conceptual album about decadence and debauchery." The album cover is very grim and dark, but the music itself really isn't as dark as the artwork or explanation might lead you to believe.


"Da Nossa Carne" starts the album off with aggression and a beautiful melody before harsh, angry, passionate, screaming vocals come in and compliment the sound perfectly. They're not too suppressed in the mix. Rather, the instrumentation and the vocals compliment one another beautifully. The vocals are more hate-filled than the instruments, but they're in Portuguese, so if you're willing to go through the trouble of translation you can discover for yourself that the lyrics follow the same theme as Lechery Maledictions and Grieving Adjures to the Concerns of Flesh: sexual perversion. Translations never run through clearly, but among other things we can say for sure subject matters include bright and cheerful things such as misfortune, piss, lust, "taking the flesh of girls," inbreeding, vomit and saliva, momentum, and throbbing pain. For the first two tracks at least.


The beginning of "Alvoroço De Antecipação" is one of the slowest parts of the album, and quite melancholic compared to most of it, but it picks up and becomes frantic soon enough. The vocals are frantic throughout the album, almost desperate. The drum work is also sporadically frantic. The guitar work is very crafted and deliberate. There are a lot of hooky guitar parts and riffs, like around the 5:40 mark of the aforementioned song. Also, "Sôfrego Desencontro," one of the standout tracks on the album, has perhaps the most memorable riff (certainly the most memorable intro riff), which disappears and reappears throughout the track. Tempo meanders and ambient parts are scattered here and there (especially on the ten-minute "Hasteado Ao Infortúnio"), bringing moments of softness to relieve us momentarily of raw fury. Often it's easy to equate the torturous screams and fast-paced guitar and drum work with imagery of dystopia. Crumbling buildings, broken windows, and children walking the streets wearing gas masks.




Claustrophobia is a very impressive, well crafted, raw black metal album. I'll be looking forward to this band's future releases for sure.


Originally written as a review for Sputnik Music:
http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/52166/InThyFlesh-Claustrophobia/

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ordog's Remorse


In Hungarian mythology, Ördög is a demonic creature that personifies the dark and evil aspects of the world, much like what Satan personifies in the Christian world. And that's definitely what Ordog (the band) tries to personify with their music. Ordog's biggest influence is life itself, as insignificant as it is. Aleksi Martikainen, Ordog's lead vocalist, said "my biggest influences are my own dark and twisted mind, and memories full of distress and misfortune." I think its safe to say misanthropy plays a critical role in Ordog's songwriting process, and is an integral part of their music.

Ordog hails from Finland - a cesspool for awesome music.

This is Ordog's third release. Crow and the Storm in 2006, and Life is too Short for Learning to Live in 2008 are its two predecessors. This is by far their longest release to date; at one hour and nine minutes in length, it beats their next longest release by twenty-three minutes.

In 2011 Mournful Congregation's The Book Of Kings had its brilliant moments, but overall I couldn't help dreading the enormous assemblies that laid before me, especially the title track. Ordog's Remorse doesn't have that problem, even though it's an enormous assembly itself, and because there's not that feeling of dread I feel it's a better album as a whole. There are a few select parts of The Book of Kings that will just knock you dead, but there was also a lot of "meh" on it as well. This record, while still containing a certain amount of "meh" (as almost any doom record will), is chock-full of deep riffs and rich atmosphere. There are many more minutes of material I'll be listening to over and over in the future on this record. It would certainly be out of place to call this symphonic doom, but there are keyboards and pianos present. Keyboards appear on "Shadowland" and "Boneyard Horizon" (which have two of the most memorable keyboard parts), not to play any prominent melody or anything, but to just put a floor on the atmosphere. A memorable piano part is played on "Betrayed," throughout the last half of the song. These things are never the sole focus of attention, or even the primary focus of attention, but they add a really nice, uncommon, layer to Ordog's doom. Contrasted with the slow, heavy riffing, it makes for some really emotional doom in a really unusual way.



The eerie keyboards and the hellish atmosphere will cause listeners to lose grasp on the world around them and drift into a much darker place. "Boneyard Horizon" embodies absolute loss of hope and positivity. The weight of pain, suffering, depression, and remorse seeps into the psyche and leaves the listener devoid of anything that might have once been uplifting.

"Meant to be an End" provides some relief with its soft melodies and brief piano passages, but only for 2:57 before it fades out and brings an end to this seventy minute pillar of remorse and despair. 

 

Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on MetalSetLists.com and as a review for Sputnik Music:
http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/52150/Ordog-Remorse/

Saturnalia Temple's Aion of Drakon


"I do not claim to make good music. I do claim to make occult or dark magical music, much of it owing to the fact that this is my everyday dedication, just like some people watch TV every day (and if you're Gene Simmons there may be great songs also in that). Someone who is not into occultism or magical initiation at all could still possibly capture something of that nature, but then it would be coincidental, or aimed for entertainment. Nothing wrong with that. But I'm not trying to entertain an audience. To say that an audience is necessary for an artist is to me only true if you're coming from a superficial perspective where you only create to reach out to people and to gain something in return. If one has an occult, magical initiatory attitude, music, once created takes on an immanent nature and is in itself a great reward."

--Tommy Eriksson, Saturnalia Temple


Between Saturnalia Temple's Aion of Drakon, Black Oath's The Third Aeon, Bloodiest's Descent, and Loss' Despond, 2011 was ripe with debuts in the doom department. None more auratic than this one.


Saturnalia Temple is very occultist, which is manifest in both their lyrics and sound (if that's possible). If occultism could have an embodiment in sound, this would be it. They immediately remind you of Electric Wizard. Next they remind you of Black Sabbath. Now take those two influences and mix it with 70's psychedelic rock and you have an incredibly unique brand of stoner-doom. The riffs are fairly simple and they're played over and over, which might normally be a bad thing except these riffs are thick, fuzzy, and reminiscent of Tony Iommi's Sabbath-style riffs; they burn themselves into your mind. The drug-induced vocalist (which has to be the case... if Tommy Eriksson's not on drugs he's an even more brilliant vocalist than you'd originally think), who sounds surprisingly similar to Geddy Lee at times, is just incredible - the vocals complete the hypnotic/psychedelic/druggy sound of this album. Tommy's also a member of the Swedish magical order 'Dragon Rouge' and an occult writer. He published "Mörk Magi" in Swedish, released through Ouroboros Produktion in 1998, which presented the initiation path on the tree of knowledge, also known as Kliffot, and other subjects closely related to the dark draconian current. Simply, he's more than just a vocalist, he's a writer and a lyricist as well.


At times Aion of Drakon sounds like it's in slow-motion. Other times, like in "Fall," around the 4:19 mark, you get a decently fast psychedelic guitar solo that's just mind-numbingly effective. The psychedelic effects are scattered throughout the album and they allow the lengthy tracks to get some air. Saturnalia Temple takes a very free attitude towards songs. The music doesn't depend on technicality or dynamics or song structures, but rather heavy textured guitar sounds and atmosphere. The production is beautiful, the album is layered beautifully, and the result conveys ultimately exactly what it's supposed to - hypnotic, mesmerizing doom that echoes and invokes ancient magical powers from long forgotten places. "God is Two" and "Sitra Ahra Ruled Solitary Before the Creation" were inspired by the Qliphotic Qabalah (embodiment of evil in Jewish Mysticism). There's some serious thought and knowledge behind the music here, which just makes it all the better. When asked in an interview: "of all the written (and musical) knowledge from the past that has been lost, how much of it can be rediscovered? Can modern discoveries on the creation of the universe, scientific or otherwise, be reconciled with the old creation stories? How can we look into the Devil’s Eye again?," Saturnalia Temple responds "it is quite intriguing that the oldest creation story, the Indian, begins with a universal sound AUM (OM), and String Theory also talks about a sound vibration in creation. In Sanskrit this AUM is the sound of Creation, the sound of Destruction is HA. Quite suitable also in view of modern western language. Ha!"


For fans of Kyuss, Sleep, Electric Wizard, Back Sabbath, or even Om, this should come highly recommended. This was THE stoner doom/occultist album of 2011. It's a total mesmerizer.



Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on MetalSetLists.com and as a review for Sputnik Music:

http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/52134/Saturnalia-Temple-Aion-of-Drakon/