Tag Archives: underground

Sounds of the Underground #49

Through some numeric fails by myself, this is the last sounds of the underground in the old form with Astronoid, Monoliths, Vukari & Void Omnia. After this, reviews will appear solo, just one band at the time.

Astronoid – Air
Blood Music 

source: bandcamp

Don’t confuse these guy with the heavy stoner/doom band from Sweden, this is a different kind of tune. Self described as a band playing dream thrash, Astronoid hails from Groveland in the United States, near the national parks in California. The group takes their inspiration from atmospheric groups like AlcestWindir and Jesu to create their very own sound. Lofty, open and warm it’s music to immerse in. The art work gives away and predetermines your experience slightly I believe. The air and wind swept rocks give something mountainous and wide to the music. Enough bumbling, lets dig in.

Fast paced with high notes and the occasional lofty bit of blast beats, the band reminds you in a way of Deafheaven with an emo singer on vocals (not in a negative way). Expressive, clean vocals that sound like they could be part of a Yellowcard song. It makes for a strangely accessible bit of music with a continuously soaring, high feeling to it. That actually gives quite some varied tunes, like the minimal start for the gentle intermezzo ‘Violence’, that feels like trickling sound, well dosed and reduced to a minimum to merely support the vocals. The next track offers a full on battery of bombastic music. But it never gets bombastic, it always remains a bit shoegazey, even reminding you of that Angels & Airwaves sound. I know, that might not sound complimentory, but its ment that way still. It’s a magical record, hard to place, but magical anyways.

Monoliths – Monoliths
Dry Cough Records 

source: bandcamp

Monoliths hails from Nothingham, therefor being from the proximity of whatever earth vein is the cause of all the heavy stuff coming from that part of the world. The band myth is that they started playing and the sound that come forth evolved in a most natural manner, it’s just what it is and played with full conviction without a plan and without premeditation. Remarkable fact is that James Plotkin took care of the mastering (known from Khanate and OLD). It says a lot about the qualities and strength of this young band.

To describe the music of these three musicians as monolithic would be the biggest understatement you could make. The collossal riffs are like a force of nature, smashing through everything with its might. Two tracks are presented, of which the first is ‘Perpetual Moon’. A scorching, distortion riddled session of gargantuan guitar work and earth shaking drums. It really is just riffs and pounding, endlessly all the way to the end times. ‘The Omnipresence of Emptiness’ is even more reminiscent of the high and mighty Sleep with its stretched out sound and meanderings. The hypnotic endless repetition is switched to a new speed at just the right time. It’s amazing to see how well the band manages to pull the right stuff out of their big wizard hats to sound menacing and dark. What an overwhelming debut.

Vukari – Divination
Bindrune Recordings

The band Vukari hails from Illinois’ Chicago and has been around for a few years. This is their second full length in their obscure and very own branch of black metal with dense atmospheres. The group likes adressing conceptual issues in their music, which is an interesting and fresh take on the genre. In the ranks we find plenty of musical experience. Most notably drummer Mike DeStefano, who has been working live with Abigail Williams. For the rest it’s a background in all sort of genres like deathcore (I Killed Everyone), thrash (Eternal Vomit) and stoner (Horseburner). All that seems to fade when this band is gathered to make their own sound.

The band plays a sound that can really only be described as what it is. Atmospheric black metal, but the pace is rather intense on most of the songs. There’s some dense postrock inspiration audible in the repetitive sound of these guys, remniscent of the more loud groups as if Russian Circles meets Altar of Plagues or such. At some points when the rolling heavy rhythm section is really being synced with the gruff vocals of Marek Cimochowicz one can almost feel the Isis vibe of heavy post metallic thunder. Peaking is what the band does on ‘Sovereignity Through Extreme Tyranny’, the guttural, decaying vocals and the down pour of melancholic guitar riffing offers a truly majestic experience. Grand and spun out, this song is I think the best representative of Vukaria’s sound, which is deeply atmospheric, warm and as foggy as the cover featuring a man on a boat in the mist. It matches and feels like a complete package. Dream away with this.

Void Omnia – Dying Light
Vendetta Records 

Void Omnia is a relatively young black metal band from Oakland in the United States with ties to various bands, most notably the massive sounding Tombs. Other bands that members have been active in are slightly lesser known Infinite Waste, Apocryphon, Mutilation Rites and many more. Most succesfull one could say,  has been their bass player Justin Ennis who was in Tombs and MR. The bleak sounding band has released their first full length now and its a tough bit of music. I was mostly attracted to it thanks to it’s indecipherable logo, which was a bit different to me. Also the cover with a priest-like figure facing cosmic chaos is intriguing and captivating instantly, speaking to something in the unconscious I suppose, about Elder gods?

The cover is done by Glenn Schonn. It’s that chaotic vision, that allows you to really enter the realm of madness that is the sound of Void Omnia.’Remanence of a Ghost Haunt’ starts of with a rapid pace and blistering guitar work, though the rhythms feel almost folky (though on a different kind of drugs). Screeched vocals and a dense, technical mixture of instruments offers a layered cake of flavors for the listener. It’s sometimes almost Dragonforce like, how the blast beats and relentless speed combine, but then it settles down a bit to speak of mountainous landscapes with an uncanny intensity. The frantic pace of the record and sudden stop-go moments, like on the hatchet like ‘Singularity’ are a bit much and even though the band shows its technical prowess, it’s an exhausting listening experience, but rewarding.

Sounds of the Underground #39

Let’s bring out some new sounds from the underground, with Rive, Book of Sand, Woman is the Earth and Illyria. Check these amazing records out please.

Rive – Sorg
Self released

source: bandcamp

Imagine being in one of the most desolate places on this earth, in a windswept, frozen mining colony on the island of Svalbard. What music would come out of that? Well, now we know with this release by Rive from Norway. I was not convinced that this depresssed black metal band was actually from Svalbard, but Danthor Wildcrow told me that this was the case. The songs were made there, in the far north where only ice and polar bears can be found.

‘Sorg’ is not a complex record, but it speaks of weariness and being alone. It’s an eerie, subtle recording, leaving room for streaks of beauty and sunlight in its otherwise hazy, white sound. The drums sound a bit electronic and they hold a lulling effect, which very well adds to the vast stretched out effect the music seems to evoke. Imagine the early polar travellers, stranded and hoping for the ice to melt. The hopelessness and vast emptiness they must have felt is embrased by the music. The vocals are howls, getting lost in the gale of distorted sound with minimal riff work. This is the soundtrack of the mining colony of Sveagruva, which is only part of the year inhabited. That makes the song melancholic, as must be the temporary residents of the town. It’s a record full of yearning. Perhaps sonically not laced with complexity, but definitely captivating in its raw beauty and picturesque beauty.

Book of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda
Mouthbreather Records

source: Blackmetalandbrews.com

Let me start with the basics, Black metal usually is pretty right wing, but Book of Sand really is on the veganism, feminism, anarchism and other lefty-isms with their words. The band from Minneapolis has been around since 2009 and may be one of those bands you find hard to really say much about. They’ve been out there, splitting opinions in the black metal world for a long time now. The band has had a lot of unorthodox releases, which to the purists is an offence and an outrage. Sole band member dcrf must have an interesting sense of humor. Then there’s this release.

I sometimes find myself puzzled by what black metal can sound like, but this record is like the absolute essence of that sound. Stripped of any nuances, grooves or other luxurious elements, this is rip-roaring raw black metal. It’s that place where guitars are dissonant cuts and sweeps, blending together with the bass into a droning, static unity. The tortured screams are in the thicket of noise, where constant blast beats reign. It’s a bit like the olden days of black metal, so pure and direct. Here and there the instrumental side of Book of Sand can be heared though, how could it not be. This takes you back to the early days of Emperor and their ilk. Which is cool, no?

Woman Is The Earth – Torch of our Final Night
Init Records

source: bandcamp

Well, sometimes you just stumble on the most awesome things. One of those is the band Woman is the Earth form Black Hills in South Dakota, a remote location which apparently fosters a unique atmosphere in sound and words. The band draws their inspiration from  “inspired by the earth being a powerful creator and provider and man being the one who takes from it and returns to it” according to an interview. There is something very ‘gaia’ in their sound for sure, on this fourth full length of the Americans. I had a listen and couldn’t stop doing so for a while.

The tranquility you feel when the record starts is that evoked by gentle guitar play. It’s warming you untill the sound explodes out, like the sun finally climbing over a hill in the early morning and shooting its beams out. Though the fierce vocals are clearly linking this band to the black metal genre, the music is often warm and nearly jubilant during the lovely passages on a track like ‘Brother in Black Smoke’. There’s a lot of borrowed riffs from postrock in the music, which makes it easy comparing these guys to Wildernessking or Wolves in the Throne Room (for obvious, Cascadian reasons). Take also the melancholic guitar play on ‘Broken Hands’. There’s something truly unique about this sound,  every song has its unique embrace. I can not stop listening to this.

Illyria – Illyria
Self Released

source: bandcamp

Every now and then a band is for some reason unsigned. Thus it is with Illyria, the band released a debut that can’t be denied though.  The Australians aim to blend postrock and black metal, which obviously puts them somewhere out there with Alcest, Deafheaven and other post BM bands. The band name of the Perth group might be derived from ancient times, the name Illyria would refer to a region roughly encompassing a part of former Yugoslavia on its coast. Never fully a nation, the concept has intrigued artists through the ages from Shakespeare on to these guys.

The sound of this band therefor lacks a lot of the typical black metal attributes, embracing more that flowing postrock sound in a more upbeat and pleasant form. Listening to this record makes me realize that blackgaze is a thing now, its an undeniably new genre. Devoid of the traditional characteristics, only atmosphere, vocals and the rare passages offer an inkling of its roots. There’s no feeling of hype or trend to the sound of the group, it’s a mesmerizing completeness that their sound attains. The only dischord in the sometimes even classical sounding music may be the vocals, which never seem out of place at all though.

Sounds of the Underground #38

So Underground sounds, I’ve been silent but I need to tell you about Rorcal, Zhrine, Sun Worship and Unru. 

Rorcal – Creon
Lost Pilgrims Recordings

This four track album by Swiss doom masters is by now their number four of the full lenghts. De group from Geneva has a  sound that hits you like a brick in all its glorious majesty. The albumd deals with the tragic death of four greek heroes. The names are the songtitles, written in Greek, which offer a record lasting over 50 minutes. The names are Polynices, Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice. The record was recorded in three days and mixed in Sweden, it’s out on vinyl now (just ordered mine!). Check this out.

The description invites you to immerse yourself in the savage fury and beauty of this album and I think that this is exactly what the record offers. Four turbulent tracks full of blackened sludge/hardcore that feels quite on the bleak side most of the times. Continuous, surging riffs give that typical sludge feel, but the tempestuous blast beats link it to black metal joined by the vocals. The riffs lash down upon the listener, sometimes giving way to those high rising atmospheric moments, while the drums batter on. This would seem to be one hell of a consistently strong record, offering no rest for the listener in the ever dangerous mythical age of Greece. The vocals scream and sear you even further, landing like blows to the face. This record is a black pit of tar, once you fall into it, you’re doomed.

Sun Worship – Pale Dawn
Golden Antenna Records

source: bandcamp

One of my favorite metla bands for suer, these guys from Berlin. A while ago I did conduct an interview with the trio and their hipster black metal approach. I think that whole label is nonsense by the way, rarely will you find a band that so profoundly makes music from the heart that sounds so dark and oppressive. It’s the second full lenght of the band, who played Roadburn last year and are generally pretty awesome. You can read my interview here if you like.  Artwork for this album was once more done by the people of View from the Coffer. It looks pretty cool as we’re used to with these Germans.

I don’t know if the band in some way intended their cover to give a slight reference to the cosmic music of the 70’s krautrock movement. One can detect something like that in their music though, with a lot of repetition an an almost ‘motorik’ beat in the opening track. Maybe its just being highlighted in the music of these guys, who also use a lot of distortion to create this cosmic, cloudy feel of air filled with electricity. This brings me to ‘Lichtenberg Figures’, which is a the name for electric emissions that can be captures.  The use of cymbals evokes that feel, but it all lingers in the wide, melodic play of the band. This is not black metal for a black night, it’s for that starry heavens above us, filling us with wonder. The tremolo guitar play and hoars, far away focals are an expression of facing that. The words echo despair. It’s one hell of a record, do take your time to listen to it.

Unru – Als Tier ist der Mensch Nichts
Monotonstudio Records

source: bandcamp

When you look at this weird collage cover, you may think that this whole record is just some joke gone wrong. I doubt that though, because ‘As Animals mankind is nothing’ is a blistering assault on the eardrums by Bielefeld black metal/crusties Unru. The band has released some surprising demo’s and then came out with this piece of unholy matter. Many fans the band has attracted with their vitriolic sound, but this album kind of tops it all I think. Judging by their facebook pictures, we’ve got another band like Sun Worship here, that has little scene pretense, but probably an artistic statement to offer.

Chaos, that’s where you dwell on ‘Zerfall & Manifest’, with a continuous onslaught of blast beats, wavering guitars and agitated, bestial barks. What might be the typical cascadian riffs, just melts into this distorted blanked of sound. Radid screams add to this grotesque experience. ‘Hēdonḗe’ offers an opening of crushing riffs, that make it sound like some shattered speakers are being tested. Add to that guttural howls through broken microphones’ and you get the illuminating experience this track offers. It’s an abbrasive, punitative ride down on this abbrasive record. With a torturous thred the song marches on.  I don’t know what it is, every time the band seems to produce somehthing that sounds mildly intelligent, a blast of noise has to be woven around it, like ‘Totemiker’. Still a great record though.

Zhrine – Unortheta
Seasons of Mist

source: bandcamp

Iceland offers many natural wonders. It also has a shitload of good black metal bands and Zhrine is just the next kid in town, that’s gonna blow you away with their grand blackened death. On first hearing they might remind you of a mixture of Behemoth and Skepticism, but there’s much more violence to this sound. The band is not a bunch of young dogs, but have already earned their name and are earning it in various others like Naðra, Svartidauði and Ophidian I. The good label is there already. This appears to be bound for glory already after having changed the bandname from Gone Postal to Shrine and now Zhrine.

There’s a majestic side to the dragging sound of Zhrine, but there’s also the bite when they speed up and chase you with overwhelming force into a corner. Brutal with so many subtleties, that’s the cool bit about these guys. You can definitely sense some of the experimental elements on the more straight forward tracks, but it’s the other songs that mesmerize you. Both dissonant and harmonious, imposing and gentle, the record goes in all directions without ever losing its intriuge. Unconventional and progressive, this is one hell of a record to give a spin.


Sounds of the Underground #17

I’m revamping and reinvigorating my sounds of the underground with cool releases in different genres. This time I’m presenting you Oake, Robyn Cage, L’Enfant De La Forêt and Nordic Giants

Oake – Auferstehung

source: deejay.de

I’ve been reading a new magazine and it is exposing me to a lot of new music, that I wasn’t familiar with before. I’ve started listening to Oake, a duo that just happened to stumble upon cold electronics and industrial through a shared passion for the sound. Clinging to their hardcore and metal roots, they created a sound that has an uncanny resemblance to early industrial bands, adding a clear cut clean sound to that vibe.

The result is bleak and atmospheric industrial, leaning towards the experimental with scraping, slow elements but also the vocals of Bathseba Zippora adding an eerie vibe to the songs. The music is made by Eric Goldstein, who’s been around the scene for years. The music is repetitive, but always foreboding, creating a tension that feels like the climax is never far away. Pounding and splashing beats give that cold industrial feel to it that reminds you of  Cocteau Twins and Coil, though the band claims to not have known about these groups. They evoka a mythic feel and organic vibe with their industrial sound, which is helped by the mysterious titles and vocals. A pleasure to listen to.

Robyn Cage – Tales of a Thief

source: robyncage.com

Robyn Cage is a singer-songwriter from Utah, with a  pleasant sound and nice voice. This EP has a thin layer of fantasy weaved in the lyrics, Generally the feeling of the music is mellow and folky. Then again carnavalesque and slightly haunting. This is not an album for singer-songwriter fans, but lovers of stories in song, because that is what Cage is doing on this record. Telling small stories in a theatric manner, showing of her voice at times.

Personally, songs like ‘Theatre Noire’ don’t appeal to me in that. For me ‘The Arsonist & The Thief’ is the nicest song, due to its wordplay. It’s very enjoyable. Somewhere this nice lady reminds me of the stuff I used to listen to, with the playful vibe of Regina Spektor and a dab of Florence and the Machine. Quirky yet never a joke, this is definitely a nice record to listen on your own when you need to relax to some Vaudevillean tunes.

L’enfant De La Forêt – Abraxas

Source: Bancamp

Dark ambient filled with plenty of other influence, Abraxas is a dark entity. I picked this up as a random bandcamp I hit on the search field and this new release seemed to embody a bit of the black metal exterior that I enjoy. Found at the crossroads between industrial, trip hop and noise, this is an interesting find indeed.  The man behind L’enfant Du Forêt is James Kent making this a one man project, which in a way even  surprised me regarding the variety on the record.

I feel the vibe of some old, darker dubstep stuff and mayb a bit of that first the xx record in the laid back, throbbing vibe of the tracks. Ok, I did expect for a moment during the song ‘Pessimist’ to hear Falco start his ‘Jeannie’. The play with the quality is quit interesting in that track, taking it back to a bare sound, before launching into a fuller atmospheric sound with. The atmosphere at time is like that on the Burzum prison albums. That sound of desolation and mystery is quite amazing and captivating. Surprising finisher is ‘The Rope’, a bleak, soundscape twisting doom track with a blackened taste to it.

Nordic Giants – A Séance Of Dark Delusions

Source: bandcamp

When a band can make you taste the Nordic wastelands, they are surely doing something right. It’s  a part of their total art product, combining, film, performance, sound, costumes and vibe to a complete experience and I had never heard of them before. The duo hails from England and has been slowly conquering souls and minds with their amazing postrock albums since 2010. This is the most recent accomplishment, to be streamed on the more popular stations.

Orchestral and big, illed with detail, atmosphere and rising patterns, the vocals are samples that usually convey messages. It adds a layer of intensity, due to the nature of these samples. If they wouldn’t be there, the music still would be beautiful though. When the band does use vocals, they offer a whole new spectrum to the organic sound. Like on ‘Rapture’, which can be considered the peak of the mountain that is this record. Think Sigur Rós, think Explosions in the Sky and add a bit of Sólstafir to that mix and you have this excellent band. So when are they playing nearby? The album is one long journey through wide and spacious lands, haunting, impressive and beautiful. Don’t miss out on it.

Just play! What happened to the Underground?

I’ve been puzzled by this question, what happened to the underground? Is the underground still there in music or how does that whole thing work nowadays?  Ofcourse theres something outside of the mainstream, but the old implication of the underground being what the mainstream should be is long gone.

I’m nothing, I should be everything
Yes, I did just quote Marx. The underground, it used to be the area of hard working bands, hoping to achieve mainstream succes with their unique sound. Perhaps some of them were a bit head strong or just weird, but they all had the same goal in common. That goal would be, becoming big and playing stadiums, you know… the rockstar life. Ofcourse, this still happens, bands playi in tiny, sweaty venues, hoping to be the next name in the charts. It doesn’t matter if you play hiphop or hardcore punk.

Not all bands have that goal in sight though. If you start playing death metal, the days of glory are long past. You are not hoping to achieve succes anywhere outside of your scene. The scene is a closed community, surrounding a genre. It’s become a thing like a niche, a rarity. Musicians realise that too, if they commit to a style, the mainstream is as far away as ever from them. Is that scene still underground? Perhaps, maybe the underground just has accepted it’s never going to become mainstream. The same thing as that a death metal band accepts they’ll probably never draw that punkrock crowd to their shows.

Hipster Girl!
That brings me to the next issue with this story, what is that thing with hipsters. Can something be hipster and still be underground? Not every band that is appreciated by what is considered the hipster crowd, ever really surfaces in the mainstream, but it starts to feel like whatever scene is involved with the hipster scene, ends up being in a transferral zone, between underground and mainstream. Neither accepts this music to the fullest. Look at a band like Deafheaven, from my black metal world. They have become a hipster band, meaning black metal has spat them out. Still, they are stuck in limbo, neither here nor there. When the scene spits you out, you can barely get back in.

A third way or any way
I’m not sure what state the world is in. Do we still do justice to the dense system, by using such generic terms like mainstream or underground? A middle way seems to not really resolve anything, but there’s a clear scene in between that is neither one nor the other. It’s peculiar enough to be called a third way, but it only shows the variety that actually exists and is going in all directions. The new music landscape seems to be one of pluralism, anything goes. It’s the postmodern condition in pop form.

Source: defendingcontending.com/

The mainstream is still, there, but it’s hardly something that plays a part in the deep, dense underground that shows itself in many guises, sometimes even that of mainstream. Maybe the underground never was  something that could be united by any general terms. It seems that nowadays it just happens to be confident where it is, whether its embraced in its scene, the general underground or just in its small, weird hipster niche.

There’s still plenty of sound from the underground.

Sounds of the Underground #6

In this little segment I review sounds of the underground, music you might not find unless you really go dig for it. From Nerdcore hiphop to depressive black metal, I love music. So check it out and maybe check the albums I checked out for you.

HOD – Book of the Worm 

source: Hod bandcamp

Violent, intense riffs open up the new album by black death band HOD on ‘When The Ghouls Feed’. The daring sound of the Texas is definitely not for the feeble listeners and gnaws away at your eardrums. Unrelenting the band slashes and burns through their songs like ‘I Am Destroyer’ and ‘Death Whores’. Musically this is the black coffee I need around 11.30 in the morning when the lunch break begins to sound very attractive and motivation is low.

There’s a specific raucous and energetic feeling to the combination of Death and black metal that comes close to a clean sounding grindcore record, without the attempt to mask bad instrumental prowess by layers and layers of distortion. Not that these guys need that, they sound tight as a chokehold on ‘Beneath the Mountains Of The Scorpion’. What their whole message is eludes me, the titles seem to be pissed off and angry, but also a bit weird. No matter, the record is awesome.

Home is Gone – Triptych

Source: Home Is Gone bandcamp

Nothing like some bleak, minimalist black metal to shake up your day. I’ve enjoyed my listening experiment around 11.30, so I continue by checking out Home Is Gone from New York. The cover alone is amazingly minimalist. Like the three panel painting the title refers to, it has 3 songs of uncompromising metal. Windy distortion and almost blown away screams make up an almost comforting melody. That is however hidden in the mist.

The end result feels very minimal, very little is actually happening apart from the careful weaving of a tapestry of sonic force, that makes up something totally different. I feel it’s as those huge parades where everyone holds up a coloured square to form an image. That’s how the seperate sonic endeavours compile the warm sound that is the end result of this beautiful, but brief record.

MC Frontalot – Question Bedtime

Source: wikipedia

What? No Metal? Yes, it’s time for some nerdcore hiphop with the new release from my favorite MC. Rocking some highly intelligent lyrics, complex rhymes and corky homebrew beats, MC Frontalot has invented the genre and put himself at the forefront of it for years. So we have a quirky list of songs that critisize a lot of things, like disagreeing with your bedtime as an expression of the democratic concept of disagreeing with authority and justice. It’s funny, but there’s always a validity, relating to the real world.

There’s a bit more soul to this record, compared to previous straight up flows it seems. Frontalot always focusses on great rhymes and very, very catchy chorusses. I mean, they are sometimes so wrong that they’re awesome. Some skits are in between, to raise the fun level even further. MC Frontalot makes a lot of fun about himself too. So why would you check out this CD? Well, I love hiphop, I’ve said so before and written about it. I do however, not have a gun or deal drugs, nor do I have a lot of  bitches hanging around. I do play WoW, love Star Trek, enjoy watching hockey, reading books and feeling Irish in the Irish pub. Most importantly, I’m a full on geek who reads science for fun. So I love hiphop that speaks to that. This is just the latest album, where the Front reaches a whole new level of weird.

The Scintilla Project – The Hybrid
I’ve always had a weakness for Saxon and their vocalist Biff Byford. His epic style was always quite an attraction to me. The band he started on the side, inspired by a sci-fi flick titled Scintilla, was interesting to me for that reason. However, it is not really something I’ll advise you to check out. It really was not a good idea.

The old voice of Biff gives everything an epic edge, but the cheesy piano’s and extra singers just make this a drowsy Disney soundtrack with very little balls and power. Let me put it to understandable words. Why did no one like the albums Maiden did with Blaze? Well, this is it. The overproduced sound makes the riffs into ready made candy bars of artificially flavoured goods. Nothing good comes of this record, trust me.

If you don’t like metal, then probably this is your album though. I’m sorry, perhaps for those who really dig the most mellow songs of Therion?