Label: An Out Recordings Band: Thou/Ragana Origin: United States
I would much rather debate music than politics, but when it comes to the progressive message this may be the most punch-packing-package deal you can get. Ragana and Thou combine their strength for an exceptional split, titled ‘Let Our Names Be Forgotten’.
Thou from Baton Rouge has been prolific since 2005 with a long string of top-notch releases and a clearly voiced message. Their latest full-length ‘Magus’ has landed them a show at Roadburn even as a next highlight. Ragana is a genre-crushing duo from Oakland, who have dubbed their music witch doom. Combining the best of ethereal vocals and mystery with crushing core elements, they’re a force.
The opener ‘Inviolate’ opens with sensitivity and slow passages. It’s almost hauntingly beautiful, which makes the launch into screams even more powerful and hard-hitting on this short exertion by Ragana. The band has a penchant for a sort of witchcore or witch doom, full of seductively beautiful music and harrowing bursts to contrast. I’m making up that term as I go, but it also refers to the Baltic origin of the name. That aspect returns on ‘The Void’, with vocals that have that desperate tone you hear in the work of Chelsea Wolfe and the like. The doomy riffing, the totured screams, it goes to the marrow of your bones with Ragana, as if clawing towards ‘The Sun’. A particular spin on the classic, most slowly progressing doom legends. It’s magnificent.
But Thou is no lesser force obviously, and ‘The Fool Who Thought He was King’ is an instant demonstration of that. Vitriolic screamed vocals over crunchy doom, with that right level of distortion and melodic mournfulness. A dirge-like texture, that weaves onwards as the voice snaps at the listener. The song than starts unwinding into a wavery, post-rock track, that drags the listener along as everything seems to slow down into a sticky, pulling motion. ‘Death to the King and all His Loyal subjects’ closes the record, with a threatening, ominous note. It’s a gritty, drudging tune that drags you down and down with it. We definitely end on a great not here with Thou. Excellent.
Label: Vacant Fulfillment Band: Warren Schoenbright Origin: United Kingdom
Inspired by the Egremont region in Cumbria, Warren Schoenbright created an exceptional record after a residency at the Florence Art Centre, situated on a defunct Haematite mine. It captures the environment, the depressive mood of an industrial site fallen out of use, leaving its remnants behind. This is captured on the record ‘Excavations’.
The band is three-piece, consisting of Daniel McClennan on drums, Alex Virji on bass and vocals, and Iker Ormazabal Martínez on Guitar. While they create drone/noise, their music is quite easy to listen to. Imagine something in between 5F-55 and Godflesh, and you kind of have it. Add the human nihilism to a sort of found organic sound in the industrial decay, and there we have Warren Schoenbright.
The album opens with minimal sounds and a more ambient like atmosphere, up until the droning sound swells and unleashes in a torrentuous, sludgy mass of guitars. A massive, industrial water slide, that is both heavy and hypnotic, disgusting and harmonious at the same time. No wonder that the group collaborated earlier with Caina on their ‘Christ Clad in White Phosphorous’ album to add a heavy foundation of urban despair of nauseating, gritty firmness. Exactly that is what they bring to this release too.
The album only contains one, ongoing track, so it is like being caught in the worst and most grim water slide you could ever imagine. The clanging sounds of metal, the pulsating beats of machinery and the constrictive nature of the music emulate the work that once took place on the location that served as inspiration for this record. For just under 25 minutes, you are stuck, completely held in thrall by the beating, surging rhythm, and darkness of Excavations.
Label: Seasons of Mist Band: Erdve Origin: Lithuania
If your band prompts a discussion on whether or not what you make is metal, then that probably means you’re interesting. Erdve from Lithuania is definitely a band that would prompt your interest if sludgy, dark mayhem is something you’re into. As it happens, I am and the record ‘Vaitojimas’, released in 2018, deserves all the attention it can get.
This is, in fact, the first release by the band, who were fortunate to be taken straight out of the demo pile onto a release. Members of the group have previously been active in acts like Nyksta, SraigésEfektas, and Spirale.
It needs to be said, that Erdve truly adheres to the blackened sludge movement that seems to stick to whatever vestiges of the metal scene are still standing in 2018 and they run with it. Their sound is thick with atmosphere from the atonal riffing, creating a vast amount of space and a sense of something big happening on the opening title track. ‘Isnara’ attempts a little nuance with long, repetitive passages that really don’t do much more than keeping the vibe coming along with the sludgy riffing. The vocals are a furious hardcore bark and never really deviate from that sound. At some point though, things get slightly repetitive.
That sound is what the band persists with on ‘Prievarta’, where the vocals are really the only big stand-out factor for the group. The sound just keeps up its bludgeoning ferocity and hardcore anger throughout. while never releasing their catchy clarity. That requires clarification, but suffice to say that the distorted riffing and thundering rhythm section are always easily distinguishable thanks to excellent production. I have to make special mention of the track ‘Apvertkis’, which really starts with a more grungy mood and vibe. It’s much more melancholic and lacks the aggression of the further record. That makes it exceptionally captivating.
We end the album on a high note, with ‘Atraja’. A rugged, bitter and vitriolic track of pure grim-sounding sludge, masterfully crafted and captivating from start to end. Erdve has really established a name for themselves with this release and I can’t wait for more of this Lithuanian piece of violence.
Label: Metal Blade Band: Downfall Of Gaia Origin: Germany
The German Downfall Of Gaia is definitely a unique sound in the sludge/hardcore world. I like placing them in that genre-corner, because they remind me a lot of Converge, Altar Of Plagues and their ilk with the intense, bleak sound they produce. The band has concocted a very own mixture of styles nd it’s a highly effective one at that.
Thought he comparison of previous bands seems obvious, there’s definitely more to the band than that. Isis can be heard in the sludge elements, which are thick and spiced up with those wavery guitar parts. Then there’s a more rough around the edges crust element akin to Amebix and Discharge. All that leaves you as a band completely free to go in whatever direction you feel like. That is what the band does on ‘Atrophy’.
The howling vocals are really bringing that Converge comparison to life on opener ‘Brood’. Thunderous rhythms are combined with melodic guitar, completely disconnected from the ferocity going on with the vocals and rhythm section. The way the band manages to create music that is pleasant to listen to, while maintaining that raw edge is definitely part of why Downfall Of Gaia should be much bigger. The appeal of their sound is just very broad. The bestial bark of Dominik Goncalves dos Reis just works fine with the sweet riffs on ‘Woe’. There’s almost a bit of postrock there, with the warmth-evoking guitar work.
Building up tension is another postrock element the band has fully embraced. On ‘Ephemerol’ the tranquility of the guitar play and its sudden vibrant harmony with the rhythm section is part of that, of creating that tension so necessary for this music to really work. Always there’s a slight raw edge, in this case a distorted buzz around the edges of the guitar tones. Another majestic track unfolds, after which we get a short intermission that is as dreamy as music by the xx.
A highlight of the album is the soaring guitar work on the titlesong. The vocals appear from a cavernous underground, distant and muffled. As the album deals with themes of dead and life, you can feel the continuous contrast in the sound with opposing elements. Stretched guitar tones create some sort of blaring black metal static as melodious guitar play trickles into your ears. One feels close and warm, the other far away and cold.
Atrophy as a whole is a vitalist, contrasting and energetic record, where humble acoustics go hand in hand with black metal majesty. It’s agressive but never abrasive, furious but never losing control. If this was football, this would be total-metal by Downfall Of Gaia.
Some heavy stuff from the underground this time with Vails, Merlin, Wilt and Plebeian Grandstand. There’s so much stuff coming out of the woodwork that simply sounds amazing, how to keep up?
Well, I particularly liked these four.
Vails – Fuckpuncher When Planets Collide
If you name your album ‘Fuckpuncher’, you probably don’t play music full of gentle and soft elements. You probably do something that feels fucking hard and punching. That pretty much would sum up the sound of Vails. The band hails from London and is a two piece, that produces a punked up, bristling version of sludge without much further decoration. Owen Street batters his bass and provides the singing and Matthew Ham is slaughtering his drum kit to provide a rumbling backdrop for the whole experience. The necessary effects do the rest.
The sound is one full of grit, distorted and with barely contained violence. It’s not the creeping kind of sludge, but the battering, angry sort that propels itself forward on its rhythm based barrage. ‘Fuckpuncher’ is a raw record that reminds me a bit of Crowbar meats Eyehategod with the intensity of Whores. It definitely has some swagger in its bass riffing, for example on opener ‘Klabautermann’. The sound is sleazy and full of biting, heavy distortion, which only adds to the ferocious charm of this duo. This is one to play in your car for sure. On the title track there’s even a feeling of grandeur in the build-up. Great stuff by these Britons.
Merlin – Electric Children PRC Music
No wizardry on this crackling bit of doom, but clear voiced heavy wah wah doom that speaks of death, doom and gloom. The band from Wrinngarth takes doom from the 70’s and merges it with current day heavy psych. Their intent? To melt minds and enslave people… oh well, that last might not be part of it, but they really want to bring back the epic riffing. Their influences therefor range from Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats to Hawkind and Sabbath. Oh and there’s a lot of fuzz going on there as well. Enjoy the ride into the darkness.
Listening ot ‘Electric Children’, you are overwhelmed by the towering vocals that are more akin to the early doom greats than you’d imagine possible. Even the timbre of the recording feels dusty and canned, but also that fuzzy guitar play feels like its Blue Cheer at work underneath it all. The Americans keep the sound light, accesible, but oh so much fun to listen to. The languid vocals, the eerie buzzing guitars, the primitive sound. It all seems a bit much calculated, but the band from Kansas pulls it off with flair. Lots of solo’s, lots of messy sounding bluesy grooves, it’s all good with these electric children.
To say that the Canadian group Wilt makes music that is monolithic in its slow, brimming reverie is an understatement to the art of the band. Their sound is considered to be atmospheric black metal, but traces of the most mind-melting doom (bordering on the funeral kind) is definitely present on their record. It’s the first full lenght for the Manitoba five piece. The record came out in november 2015, but I feel that I have to share its brilliance here.
Slow, drudging music soars around, filling the wide void that the band embraces. The slow is combinated with a blistering drummer, that creates an underlying tension in the shimmering sound of the Canadians. The lurching vocals are cracking, heaving with frustration and grief in a profound and convincing manner. Though that is mainly what describes the title track and opener ‘Illusion of Hope’, on ‘The Elder’ the drums take over and a much faster, pummeling vibe overtakes the whole song. Sure, this record does get a bit monotonous at some point for sure, but let it embrace you and it’s a great experience.
Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows Throatruiner Records
There are still those that push the black metal genre forwards and Frenchies Plebeian Grandstand do just that. You might link them to the Deathspell Omega’s of this world, but the band is not related. Thematically the band is taking a totally different approach to the genre, creating something much more tangible and realistic. It’s also interesting to know that the band has been around for 11 years and therefor I’m amazed to not have noticed them before. Alas, it’s the way the world works and now I have and have been blown away by their record.
Ever been hit in the head at a show, when everything suddenly seems to go faster, while you go slower? It’s sort of like that when Plebeian Grandstand launches into their savage, lo-fi bursts of fury. Short assaults are followed by brief, uncouth moments that feel like there’s something wrong or perverse about the music. That unsettling effect is tangible from the first track onwards, but stays with you the whole album. The hooky, mesmerizing sound of these guys remins you that not every band labelling themselves as avantgarde (or being labeled as, potato and all) has seen a modernist novel once, some actually are unfathomably complex and strange. So, don’t take my word for it, but listen to the blistering assault of their record yourself. It’s free, treat yourself.
Sludgy doom from India? Yeah, that’s right and it’s as dirty as that fecal pool in Slumdog Millionaire and heavy as fuck. I asked bass player Abhishek Michael and guitar player Namit some questions about their music, India, getting recognition and future plans.
This year the band released their debut album titled ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’, filled with riffs and grooves that would not be misplaced on a Sleep album. This is one of those bands that should be playing Roadburn in the near future. Not recommended for Bollywood fans. This interview was originally published on 3rd-Eye Magazine.
Hey! Can you please kindly introduce yourself and your band? (Have you guys been active in any other bands you’d like to mention or doing any side projects?)
Michael: Ahoy! I’m Abhishek Michael, and I play bass, Deepak’s behind the kit, Namit’s on guitars and we’re all on vocal duties.
I joined Shepherd in 2012, after Muneeb had left, and Dee asked me if I wanted to come jam with them. I still remember Dee asking me if I wanted to play bass, back when they started off in 2011, but back then I didn’t think I could commit to it, as I was playing bass for Inner Sanctum. But, when he asked me again in 2012, I decided to give it a shot. I had always wanted to play this style of music and I felt like I needed to a change from Sanctum as well.
I used to play with a thrash/death band called Inner Sanctum till about a few months back, which was awesome fun too. We released an album earlier this year as well. It’s been a great year for me musically, haha.
Dee also plays with stoner doom heavyweights Bevar Sea, who also released a belter of an album last year. Definitely a shit ton of good music coming out of the subcontinent I must say.
Namit: Sup! This is Namit, and I play guitars and share vocal duties with the rest of the band. Shepherd has pretty much been the only band I’ve seriously been involved in.
How did Shepherd get started?
Michael: Shepherd started out as a bunch of dudes wanting to play some heavy, ballsy, rock n roll. Basically music we enjoyed listening to ourselves. We’re all into different styles of music, but everything slow, heavy and dirty, brings us together. The band started off with Dee and Namit jamming together, and back then the sound was a lot different, it still was Shepherd, and you can hear that from the early demos, but compared to what the album sounds like, it’s really matured over the years.
Namit: Always wanted to be a part of a band that writes the kind of music we do, but there wasn’t that vibe with any drummers in college – in fact there were no drummers at all in the neighborhood. There were quite a few guitar mates with whom I shared the same taste in music – more than anything else that resulted in me filling in on the drums for a quite a stretch.
I had met Deepak a couple of times and had an understanding that if he ever was in Bangalore we should try to do something – the weird acoustic riffy jams that had been recorded and sent over interested him as well. It was really after college, when Deepak moved to Bangalore that we decided it was time to take shit to whole new level. Our initial jams were productive in terms of riff content, on the fly tempo changes indicated good understanding and willingness to adapt – hence we thought that basing the band around an improvisational jam based structure would be a good place to start.
Why are you called Shepherd?
Michael: From what I hear, a fungus had something to do with that. Crooks in hand, we’re just here to lead the sheeple towards the opium mist.
Namit: It was during a trip to Kodaikanal, where we were lazing around amidst nature and discussing band names. In the distance, there was a dude trying to herd a flock of sheep. Out of all the names that we floated around, Shepherd sounded cool and it stuck.
What is it like to be a sludge/doom band from India, what kind of scene is there to step into?
Michael: Not much of a scene here actually, and if you’re talking specifically sludge/doom, then it’s even smaller. That being said, I think we’ve got this whole exotic factor going, since we’re a sludge band from India. So that probably helps with getting out to an international audience. There aren’t that many gigs here either, we probably play once a month if we’re lucky.
When we started out, I guess Bever Sea were the only other band, that I can think of, that were doing something similar. There have been others who’ve popped up and disappeared just as quickly though. It’s growing slowly though, you see newer bands in the genre slowly popping up, which is a good thing. I guess people realize that there is an audience for this style of music here.
Namit: In a way, it’s good to be doing something that not a lot of people are into. There’s no scene so to speak of and gigs are hard to come by. It is tough trying to survive as a musician in India – especially if you it’s against your principles to sell your soul to the devil of Bollywood.
In the past couple of years there have been more bands that worship the riff – Dirge, Witchdoctor, Grim Mage, Primitiv has elements of stoner doom. Existing stalwarts of doom – Bevar Sea, Djinn and Miskatonic keeping gigging and releasing new stuff consistently.
If you’re a new band, there would always be a show or two to get you started and it would mostly depend and how you would take it from there.
Since most people’s frame of reference of India includes little more than ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, can you tell a bit about your personal background and how you got into heavy music?
Michael: Apart from enjoying the occasional dip in the fecal pool around the corner, we all love the heavier forms of music, and that’s probably what draws us together. All of us are pretty much from what we call middle class India, we’ve grown up in an urban environment, and have had access to tapes and cd’s and we were lucky enough to be part of the generation that witnessed the internet boom. I think without the internet I wouldn’t have really got into heavier forms of music. My brother did play with a progressive rock band while I was growing up, so I had access to a lot of his music collection. I had an uncle who had a nice collection of classic rock tapes, which also played a part in me getting into the music I’m currently into. For me it’s been a musical evolution ever since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed music, and it’s a big part of my life.
Namit: I think it was the sight of bands in music videos doing cool stuff with instruments, and just the raw energy that made you want to jump and destroy shit, that attracted me to the music in the first place. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the power of generating music through your own fingers, and hence in a way expressing that fucking rage, is way more authentic and skillful than that artificial pop, Bollywood shit that was being aired when I was growing up – it made me stare in awe at the rack of guitars and drums in any musical store and that was pretty what I wanted to do. Black Album, Number of the Beast were the first few albums that blew my head out of water and really just wanted to play and try to reach the levels at which my idols could. Couple of years in a local music school back home was just an insane learning and mind opening experience – listening to stories from my school teachers – Miles, Giles and Axel about bands like G’nR, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Slayer, Van Halen, Metallica, Jaco Pastorius, etc. was the kind of fodder I’m glad I fed on.
What is happening music wise in India?
Michael: Well, there’s a lot happening. There’s obviously a ton of crap floating around, but we do have some interesting music coming out of here. I guess there are small pockets of good music, similar to everywhere else in the world.
We’ve caught onto the whole EDM boom as well. You can always see what the masses in India are listening to based on what Bollywood goes with, which is our mainstream. Right now it’s a ton of EDM, everything sounds like they just took a turd of a sample from some shitty DJ/producer. But then again, to most people who really listen to and enjoy music, we always are looking for something that you can really connect with and not just LCD radio friendly tunes.
If you look close enough you always find something interesting. I don’t think there are that many artists who are reinventing the wheel or anything, but they are still making good enjoyable music. We’ve got our fair share of good metal, rock, pop, electro and even hipster tunes, haha
Namit: Apart from Bollywood getting mutated and brainwashed by the likes of Yo Yo Honey Singh and the whole disco swag party DJJJ club mentality jing bang, (the stuff of ‘60s and ‘70s is pretty decent), you can find good bands from all genres if you tried to look for it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a guy who is itching to check out new bands in India, but by the looks of it there are people trying to keep it real and do what they love doing. You could try to say that the blame lies with the apathetic attitude about people – who want new bands and killer gigs but don’t buy your shirts, cd’s, shit and don’t go to gigs. I’d like to blame, if I may, the naysayers that ceaselessly try to put their opinions in a relevant light, crib on social media for pointing out these maybe distorted facts about the scene. Everyone should know what they sign up for, because complaining is not good for your health.
Where do you get your inspiration from, both music wise as well as for lyrics and themes?
Michael: Well, it’s hard to pinpoint specific influences, but I guess everything influences us, from living in India to what’s going on in the rest of the world and the different music we all listen to. With the music, we don’t have any fixed way of writing. We just jam, and see where it takes us. Someone might bring in a riff and we take it from there, or we just jam. That’s what’s worked for us so far.
With the lyrical themes, it’s basically whoever is handling the vocals, would decide the theme and write the lyrics. Dee and Namit have handled pretty much all the vocals on the album, and have written the lyrics for all their parts. We all are really happy with the way the vocals turned out, and with 3 of us singing, we got to experiment a bit.
Namit: Some of it is personal experience, and the way you convey that could be down to how you’ve been influenced by and relate to the material of your choice. It’s tough to know when you’d feel inspired. When you do, it’s kind of rare, but you’re able to get a decent amount of work done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping at it, and over time one fine day everything might just fall into place from your perspective- in terms of the words, the idea or the visuals you want to convey, the brevity of the structure and rhyme. Looking back, most of the lyrics I’ve written are shit and could be better – maybe it was the pressure of just finishing it as soon as we could, but writing lyrics is not something I look forward to. Working on vocal melodies is way more interesting!
How has the reception of Shepherd been this far? Are there things you’ve found particularly interesting?
Michael: The reception has been great! We didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. For a band from India to get the amount of international press we did, was pretty impressive. We’ve managed to make a lot of year end lists, which is really good publicity for us. The rest of the world usually never knows bands coming out of India, so it’s a good feeling having your music get out to a lot more people. Hopefully we can get the music out to more people outside India with a tour in the near future.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the whole stoner/sludge community is how supportive everyone is of each other. Bands are always helping out other bands, and the zines and blogs are all very supportive of new bands.
Namit: Getting signed onto Helmet Lady records was sick! Didn’t expect the kind of reception we’ve had so far, but it’s motivating to hear the stuff being said – that helps in us wanting to put in the effort to make a really good next record.
The passion with which people work and care for about the underground has really caught me by surprise.
Let’s talk about Stereolithic Riffalocalypse, what was the writing and recording process like?
Michael: Well the album was written quite a while back, and we’ve been playing most of these songs live for a couple of years now. Most of the music evolved from jams, which later turned into completed tracks.
When we decided to record back in 2013, we pretty much had everything ready before we went into the studio. We started tracking around October, in 2013, and we got done with the drums, bass and guitars pretty quick, and tweaked the songs a bit here and there. But then, we had to part ways with the vocalist. So basically, we had a bunch of instrumentals with us, with no vocalist.
I still remember we were trying to figure out what to do, and whether we should try and find a vocalist. We ended up doing all the vocals ourselves, and over the course of the year we sat down and figured out lyrics and vocals for the whole album. It’s funny, but I remember Dee saying something like “Fuck it, let’s just do the vocals ourselves” which I thought was a joke at the time, since none of us had any real singing experience. But I have to say, that we were all really impressed with the way the vocals turned out on the album, and it seems like a lot of people enjoyed them too.
Namit: The first time I heard Dee belt out the vocals, I was taken aback by how well he could sing and how much better the songs were starting to sound. Yeah, writing the vocals, and then learning to play the riffs and sing at the same time, was insane amounts of fun.
How did you get in touch with Brad Boatright to work on your album? And what was it like?
Michael: We decided to work with Rahul Ranganath, a live/studio engineer from Bangalore for the mix, but we were looking around to find someone who we could work with for the master. Brad was definitely one of the choices all of us thought would really work well for us, not to mention he’s practically worked with every band from the scene and put out some brilliant records. So we got in touch with him and he was quite excited to work with us as well. It was really easy to work with him, and the guy knows what he’s doing. We talked a bit about what we were looking for and the bands we liked, and basically the albums he had worked on that we liked the production on. When we heard the first master, we knew we had gone with the right guy, and we really happy with how it turned out. So everything was done pretty quickly, we did a few runs and we were set.
Namit: Brad is just super quick and super professional with his stuff. Not to mention the initial runs that came out couldn’t have sounded better.
Apparently, I understood from some other reviews, some people feel offended by the song titles ‘ Black Cock Of Armageddon’ and ‘Turdspeaker’. Did this surprise you and do you wish to say something more about these songs?
Michael: Haha! Yeah, honestly we didn’t think about that, but then again, if people want to get offended, they will. Someone is always going to be offended, even if you write a song about magical ponies. So no, we don’t really have anything to say about them, if people were offended by it, fuck that, they can move along. We’re not going to go about tip toeing around everything, just because someone is going to be offended.
Namit: HAHAHAHA! Good for them! 😀
What future plans does Shepherd have?
Michael: As of now, get back to writing some new material, which we’ve already started with. It’s a bit nerve racking since there’s a lot of pressure now to put out a really good album. Haha!
Apart from that, we’re looking to tour Europe at some point and play a few festivals. Also the vinyl of the album will be out soon, there has been a delay because it’s quite hard getting vinyl’s out now with all the delays in production. So look out for that!
Namit: Can’t wait to jam and write some stuff with the guys, because basically there’s a ton of riffs and semi-structured songs / ideas that are in there. Need to take a massive dump, and let it all out.
If you had to describe Shepherd as a dish, what would it be and why?
Michael: Haha, this is a hard one. I’m not quite sure actually. But maybe a spicy taco/burrito? It’s got a lot of different textures, it’s meaty and spicy, and it could give you the shits too.
Namit: Shepherd’s Pie? It’s a good thing to have when you wake and bake, but just like the dish it could get boring after a week or so…
Please use this space for any further things you’d like to share.
Well, people can follow our ramblings and updates on our facebook page
Records! From The Underground! This time The Black Heart Rebellion, Clandestine Blaze, The Lion’s Daughter and Batushka.
The Black Heart Rebellion – People, when you see the smoke, do not think it is fields they’re burning 9000 Records
Anything from the Church of Ra is worth your listening attention, and so is this bit of music from Ghent, Belgium. This is no laughing matter, this is serious, this is artistic sound that should not be played in the background but one should be immersed in. It’s the third album of the band and it denotes another change and growth of the ensemble. Is it metal? I don’t know. If it is, it’s a stripped down version that is approaching the corner of martial folk street with ritual doom on the Amenra bus I’d say, from the calm roads of eastern meditation.
This is one of those records you’ll come back to. It’s calming rhythms, the threatening vocals and the mild music combine into a mystical experience, for example on the track ‘Om Benza Satto Hung’. This is more a spiritual quest in the deep parts of India with a dark spirit looming over you. Chimes and primitive drums can be heard, guiding the ritualistic nature of the song. A song like ‘Near To Fire For Bricks’ takes on a whole different feel, with its gloomy atmosphere and at the same time seductive sound. The voice is commanding and rigid, in contrast to the free sounds that make up the music. It’s pretty hard to describe, but it is a trip to hear this album. This is one of the missing gems in my year lists from 2015.
Clandestine Blaze – New Golgotha Rising Northern Heritage Records
New noise from the wicked mind of Mikko Aspa, known from his wide range of endeavours outside of black metal. The man is famous for his fetish magazine and porn series that he is doing and his interest in the subject in other musical projects. Clandestine Blaze is dark, gritty and black metal the way it used to be. It’s album number eight from the Finnish master and it has a promising cover with a rising skull with crosses on them, like mount Golgotha.
The production is lo-fi, gritty and distorted. There’s no attempt at speed, Aspa remains very close to the atmosphere of original black metal bands with powerfull vocals and a never ending torrent of hazy guitar parts. There’s no real sonic extravaganza going on, just a drudging rhythm, the bark of Aspa and dark and foul lyrics, like on ‘Fractured Skull’. The typical BM riff and drum roll is ever present, making it all sound raw, fuzzed out and monochrome. It’s black metal at its raw and pure core, reason enough to check this out.
Batushka – Litourgiya Witching Hour Productions
These Polish blasphemers have been in my playing routine for a couple of weeks now, but I can not ignore them any longer as an essential mention in the Sounds of the Underground series. The band from unknown parts of Poland has released one single and this album and further all information is unknown. Mentioned on their metal archives page is that they are in fact from famous bands. So that’s how much is known. It would explain the extravagant beauty of this record.
The most impressive element in the music is the Gregorian chanting with deep baritone voices, which gives it both a liturgical as well as a notably eastern-European vibe. In a way the album reminds me of Ghost, but then the full on, no breaks, no god, no fear version of that band. The dense sounding black metal is illuminated by the chanting, giving it an ethereal, compelling sound that is full and warming. That might also have something to do with the neat production, that seems to flatten the sound somehow. It’s not enough to hamper its forceful appearance though. This brings blackened doom to its logical conclusion without trying to be either retro or progressive.
The Lion’s Daughter – Existence is Horror Season of Mist
With a name like that you probably would expect something else than the onslaught of sound that awaits you on this record. It’s the second full lenght of these Missouri natives, who somehow manage to mix up a potent blend of black metal, sludge, grindcore and more that will knock you of your seat. Seriously, combine Converge, Neurosis and Goatwhore and you may approach what these gents deliver in a sweltering, dirty package of violence.
The lead is really on the vocals, to which the whole guitar parts seem to cling like hot tarmac. Melodic riffs illuminate the grimy bass lines, that are accompanied by guttural barks filled with despair. In a way the band manages to capture a similar feeling as Primitive Man, with an obvious dislike to human kind. There’s an uncanny ferocity in the sound of the band, which allows or pushes them to use brutality over anything else. Only the guitar parts are left standing to give some sort of beauty to the tracks, where there really is none. There is no rest for the listener, no respite, just an oncoming slaughter of sound. Don’t doubt the musicianship though, its what makes the band so frightning, the purposefulness of every hook and riff.
This installment of Sounds of the Underground features Dragged Into Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues, Revolted Masses, Dopethrone and Deathmøle. Enjoy these awesome tunes!
Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V. Prosthetic Records
Ok, this is a collaboration that should shake you up from any lethargic status, you may have gotten yourself into when it comes to exciting music. These are two of the most amazing acts in the black metal/drone/experimental niche/corner of the musical spectrum and they do something together? Awesome! The Dutch Gnaw Their Tongues is known for atmospheric pieces, horrific soundscapes and subtlety, where their Brittish partners in crime excel in harrowing, overwhelming black metal. The product is rather staggering in ferocity. Intense and filled with industrial black metal and atmospheric elements to keep things exciting.
The record opens with a sample, which is something that keeps returning. Building site sounds work their way into the music rather quickly. The sound is harsh, the vocals tortured and no rest is given to the listener in the onslaught of sound the band produces. Demonic screams are uttered, above highly distorted guitars and pummeling drums. The songs deal with madness and murder, with the thing just beyond that lurks. It’s beautifully horrible, this record with five songs of the utmost urgency. The songs hit home like a baseball bat to the gut, with swirling patterns and a grizzled feel. This is one hell of an album.
Revolted Masses – Age Of Descent Inverse Records
Having formed in 2008, the band Revolted Masses blends thrash and death into a potent mix, enlightened by oriental elements. The band actually hails from Greece, which explains the guest appearances on the album (Fotiss Benardo, Septic Flesh). The band has a sound that is blistering, full of fury and well polished. This is the first effort of the Athenians since their last record in 2013. The overal theme of the band is political, as can be seen by their red star bandlogo already.
The music is specially good if you are looking for your clean sounding, high energetic melodeath. It’s not as smooth all the time. Though sounding very produced and technical, there are still passages of mere battering, furious assaults of barked vocals, ripping drums and guitars. Unrelenting, the band plays forth, setting up the vibe of standing in the middle of a revolutionairy battle field. Now, for me personally this is not something I’d readily listen to normally… But, this band sounds tight and catchy, it’s the right mixture of groove and brutal to latch on and enjoy the ride. Good work!
Deathmøle – Present Peregrine Self released
Yes, I’ve been surfing the bandcamps and found this gem of weird post-metal with the most odd drum drone stuck to the inside of my head now. The bio reads: ‘Deathmøle is a fictional band that makes actual music. It is all done by Jeph Jacques.’. Jeph Jacques mostly occupies himself with a the most long running webcomic I have yet to find, which is quite fun if you’re a mixture of music geek and nerd with a lot of life questions, like myself I suppose. Then he also makes some music now and then, which is fairly pleasant.
There’s a tranquility to the clean sound of the post-metal produced by Deathmøle. The thunderous bass sounds like it’s not entirely natural, but in a genre where attaining organic vibes is the cool thing, it’s kind of refreshing to hear a sound that really does have a techy vibe to it. Five tracks, no bullshit, just energetic and fun music that makes you want to pound your fist. I like it!
Dopethrone – Hochelaga Totem Cat Records
Do you like your slugdy, dope addled doom with a particular mix of dirty and fat? Because that’s what you get with the blokes from Dopethrone. These Canadians have sound that is like mudslides, massively, gradually moving forwards and making all sorts of dirty, soppy sounds. The band proclaims to be from the meanest ghetto of Montréal, and definitely aims to sound that way. Heavy, oppressive and dark, which are some words one would definitely use to describe the sound of these guys.
The riff is master of every song. Lingering, dark and slow but mostly superheavy. The vocals are more like screams, barks of rabid dogs in dirty alleys, but I guess that is what the band intends to sound like. Add some elements of black, stoner and crust to the mix and you get this dirty cocktail that is too awesome to miss out on with tracks like ‘Scum Fuck Blues’. A dirty, dragging tune that actually has a bluesy streak to it. I personally dig opener ‘Sludgekicker’, but that may be too much Sleep for you. If you want it real slow and dirty, pick ‘Bullets’. A man, just take the whole damn album, because it’s awesome.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
Another session of delving into the underground, with Bong, Deuil, Wiegedood and Suðri. Great releases and great fun listening to them. I’m always eager to hear more new things ofcourse.
Bong – We Are, We Were And We Will Have Been
A new album from the arch-stoners Bong. Drugged out, stretched out like lukewarm tar and always so hypnotic, this album is not a shift of pace in any way for the Britons. Basically the albums opens with a drone, that seems to go to infinity and beyond. For seven minutes it’s just that with a minor bit of percussion going on. Suddenly a dark voice launches itself, proclaiming dark words, like a high priest of an occult, old ceremony. This ends a couple of minutes later, leaving you to drift of on that same drone for the rest of opening track ‘Time Regained’.
‘Find Your Gods’ starts with a spoken word element, but from there on it slowly rund away in a long, reverberating drone that takes you to far of places. Hypnotic and transcendent, this record is definitely a work of art from the masters of its kind. I have to admit that I’m impressed with this band and I might be willing to check some more of their stuff later on. Later… I ‘m comin back to earth now for a bit.
Suðri – Reise
Ukrainian DSBM that sounds a bit Burzumesque, well I’m going to give that a spin. I know nothing of this band, just that this came out yesterday. Turns out this is a Ukrainian label with a Chilean band, a one man project. That is surprising, because from the whole aura of this release, you expect it to be continental stuff. The opener ‘Die Reise’ is one of those minimal, quasi-acoustic dreamy tracks that prompted me to use the Burzum reference. That slow, atmospheric feel remains throughout the four track record, but its always nice to find that Burzum inspiration again with bands playing this niche sound.
The depressed element becomes clear rather quickly with ‘Ashes and Solitude’, a seven minute lasting drag with barked vocals that convey the despair. The creeping tone is that of a desperate, malformed being clawing at the light. Wafting riffs are like a cold rain. ‘Im Regen’ utilizes the piano for its intro, creating the ambiance suited for this kind of muic. It’s surprising how powerful these elemetns are on a record like this, the acoustic part. ‘An Endless Journey’ wraps it up with tha typical barrage of layered, tremolo guitar and the hoarse vocals. An impressive record, using the interplay between two very different sounds with succes.
Deuil – Shock/Deny…
Only two songs, but for some bands that is more than enough to convey the message. These Belgians from Liegè combine doom, sludge, drone and stoner to a potent brew of fucking sonic magma. Screeched vocals, landslide riffs chugged out and a constant feeling of discomfort is what ‘Shock’ opens with. Blast beats keep slapping you in the face later in the song, while the guitars are crying out in despair. Around the seven minute mark, the sound gets lighter, warmer as if the sun gets a moment to illuminate the blackness, reminding you more of post-rock. Then the door shuts and dark, looming riffs fall like curtains. From there on its a dark way down.
‘Deny’ is the frenzied twin brother of the opening track. Furious riffs and pummeling drums create a more black metal atmosphere on this track with continuous blast beats and atmospheric density. Eerie tones fill the air and the band drudges on in their typical way to construct a big song with some, epic passages. A whispering female voice enters the fray, speaking mysticly over the churning bass lines. The song slowly fades out with only buzzing and then only whispering. A great record for those who love the dirty, dark Roadburn sound.
Wiegedood – De Doden hebben het Goed
Yeah, that name means ‘crib death’, the word for parents finding their child in the crib deceased, after being apparently healthy. It’s a cruel and sad thing, but also a great name for a black metal band. These Belgians from Ghent picked it up and made some intriguing music on their debut ‘The Dead are doing well’ (losely translated). The opener ‘Svanesang’ (Swan Song) is a burst of flurried riffing and tremolo guitarplay, that seems to shift between minor and major at some points, leaving behind a trail of ice and fire.
The 13 minute epic dwindles down for a minute, but then ‘Kwaad Bloed’ (Evil blood) launches again, with those particular sunny passages and the screamed vocals (which are very tight btw). This song sinks away in a swamp of distortion and guitar picking notes, gently ending the suffering. There the slow-paced, gloomy title track starts, with an eerie, meandering riff soaring high above. Super fast tremolo gives it that gloomy feel. Its doom pace makes this a slow descent into hell, depicted by the creeping rhythm section. Final track ‘Onder Gaan’ (going under) picks up the blistering riffing and majestic sound again.