So, being that it's Halloween as this is being published, let's start with the most fitting, Poe-influenced album, and go from there!
Deep In The Ground
This Philadelphia duo has a true personality of its own. Let me share with you a story, trying to not be too partial (I happen to know these guys now), yet still subjective in a situational way.
I have been suffering a major re-injury to the nerve that has contributed greatly to my inability to perform scheduled work. This happens to be why this very 'zine is a quarterly. So, searching for adequate music to aid in my drowning out, killing-of-pain, and/or removing of myself from a severe reality, I attempted to share some extreme brutality with a close internet buddy (as he needed the same, but for more furious reasons). So the likes of Internal Suffering's Kataklysm-ic hyperblast death resembling the aforementioned Canadian legend's Houde-era early work was where we turned. It seemed less brutal than before, and I found myself at a junction of misguidance. This was what neither I, nor my friend needed. I put on this recent release by Ecorche, with their majestic, yet post-ruination, apocalyptic, electronic, gothic-industrial-tinged blackened metal, and found myself washed away.
The artists in Ecorche know how to create another world, in which yours disappears, and theirs is absolute. This is a broken down factory, in a picturesque forest, combining the old ways of classic, gothic imagery, and mankind's destructive finality of industry. Opening with the blackest of the tracks on the disc, blasting with high-gain production and shrill screams, one is soon transported to a less chaotic, but no-less disturbing, upbeat corridor of darkness, where the panic and struggle of fighting for vitality subside, being replaced by hopelessness. Spoken word, samples, and a gothic-industrial tone to both the vocals and way the bass and riffs answer to the programming soon take precedence. But this is no techno in latex, false, dancey industrial I speak of. This is more a hint of the more sinister. This brings to mind Norway's Ancient's best moments colliding with My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult and meeting their new friend (foe?) - an entity dubbed "Ecorche". I say this as these guys aren't the sum of a cross of two mere bands.
The release lets the music flow, and breathe, yet the air is caustic. There is a return to fury (as the opener suggested), but it's a release dominated by powerful, mid-paced shadows and revelations, with sinister snarls and villainous singing collide with mournful spoken-word to a backdrop of broken and still-fighting, jagged technology. The picturesque forest surrounding lingers around the industrialized factory, haunting - almost a memory - until you peer through the shards of glass where once were windows. Forgive my poetic tangent on a review, because I realize I'm here to inform and not make one have to decipher metaphor, but if you listen...you'll see.
In closing, I really don't use a numeric rating system if I can help it. I choose releases to cover in these pages that I want to interest others in. That is, unless it's a god-awful atrocity, in which sometimes I can't help but lash out in journalistic anger. This release is far from that; quite the contrary. If you are a dark person in any way, or even have inclinations to be, "Deep In The Ground" is very worthy of your time. So much for impartiality.
The Child Must Die
Just as been having been praised before in these very pages for their last offering, what is to follow will be much of the same, if not much more. Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus' dark-yet-pleasantly orchestrated take on atmospheric black metal with heavy doses of founder Mika Mage's Finnish heritage in the form of lovingly-injected folk melody is in full force on their latest offering, "The Child Must Die". An immediately permeating infectiousness comes straight out at the listener, nearly-spiritually induced, as if the thoughts and emotions felt during the songwriting process are not only that of the band's, but yours as well. And by "infectious" I don't mean hooks here (not that there's none to be found, so don't get me wrong there), I mean a great desire to keep delving.
It's an album you'll want to keep on for the duration. No tiresome moments even hint at happening, as the tight performances and carefully-chosen melodies and intensity of not only the performers themselves, but the perfectly clear, crisp, and somehow not shiny production delivers this material with a lustful flair. New vocalist Joel Thompson does a fantastic job at venomously and commandingly heralding the rhythmic narration of these seething black metal compositions, which once again hold a darkness, yet not as to come off as pretentiously evil or too fanatically derivative in nature.
Not that I'm one to do song-by-song reviews of the material I cover anyway, but in this case, there really would be a futility to doing so. The album works as an effective arsenal of aspects working together to form a grandiose whole. There's much for traditional black metal fans to latch on to on "The Child Must Die" in the way of tremolo-picked riffs, rabid vocals, and tasteful usage of blasts, double kicks, and rhythms representative of the genre, but variation and finesse that is delivered impressively enough to win over even fans of much rawer material (like myself), as the presentation is close to pristine for this meticulously concocted collection of metal compositions. It just wouldn't sound right any other way.
I'm keeping this review relatively short, as much can be said in carefully-chose grand statements. Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus have achieved a winner here, and one I know I'll continue to listen to often down the line.
Hailing from very close to where yours truly is from (this might make me a bit partial), Arkansas, artsy black metallers Torii bring the cerebral and darkly-engrossing goods on this latest release. The darkness I speak of is well enough in tact to please those "trve" black metal purists, yet the instrumentation and structuring is adventurous and thought-provoking enough to please those with a more progressive palette of tastes. There's a heavy dose of doominess and even spookiness to a good portion of the release, which - to me- tends to work very well, as many bands fall into a bit of boredom-inducing obscurity when attempting this feat. The mood here is absolutely satisfying to these seasoned ears, which I state as enthusiastically as possible. This isn't "hipster black metal" as hard as it seems like it should bring thoughts of this dreaded term. Besides, I never cared if someone would consider a black-tinged band "hipster" or not. To me, all it means is that there is a sort of border-jumping extra content that usually falls within the realm of the atmospheric. On Elabrynth, the "atmosphere" means sounds like streams and spoken word worked in between black-as-pitch notation, instead of heavily reverbed-out distortion or noise like a more militantly "kvlt" band would use to induce inclinations toward that very word.
These differences from the usual second-waver project also work in Torii's favor where others fail. Largely responsible for the retained intensity and prophetically doomed tone is vocalist Eric May, who commandingly leads the proceedings with pure venom, over the obviously impassioned performance of multi-instrumentalist Bill Masino, respectively. While mainly consisting of black metal, the doom is brought in a caustic storm even more when May drops to a low death growl, and just when you think it's formidable enough, he drops even lower, with no signs of pretentiousness. It's actually quite intimidating and nightmarish, even without the usual crutch of overt vocal reverb. Another feat that I find highly impressive and not easy to achieve. And then Torii is back to their artful blackened delivery, with interlaced acoustic and unconventional structuring.
This album is chocked full of what I've already described, and in closing I'll just say that if you are even remotely intrigued by what I've said here, do not hesitate to get this at their generously "name your price" cost on their Bandcamp.
A Mortal's Tear
Being a fan of metal with saccharine melody and symphonics happens to be an area in my taste that is dominated by women. The argument that it's metal for "pansies" or what have you is immediately rebuked by me with statements of the opposite. "So I like having beautiful women sing sweet tunes to me." This counteracts any futile accusations from the style's detractors with implications that the naysayers are backward, and possibly "pansies" themselves if great compositions by that of Nightwish or Epica challenges their manhood.
So, with that out of the way, I'd like to sing some tunes of my own, tunes of praise and awe toward the lovely Infy Snow, a relatively new addition to the bevy of siren-fronted melodic metal bands of this ilk. Not only was I impressed at first listen, but that "manhood" I speak of was pleasantly stimulated (oh, myyy) by the very appealing promo photos and videos (one with lots of CATS, which we all know are awesome and very METAL), along with Infy's sweet and sometimes commanding voice.
The music presented here is not unlike that of more-known (for now) bands like Delain or Edenbridge, yet not as pop-flavored as the former, and with a much more impressive songwriting ability than the latter. The release has a strikingly gorgeous cover, perfectly representing the music contained. All instrumentation is handled by world-class metal musicians providing an apt backdrop to the soaring melodies and poignant lyrics delivered by Infy with passion and professionalism as if she had been doing this for much longer than her newcomer-status would imply. Songwriting and performance on all fronts here were enough to make me, a known representative of usually sicker metallic arts, buy the CD after listening to but a few songs.
I now have yet another impending classic to reach for when I'm in the mood for some lighter metal with the siren-songs I so love when the mood is right for such ear-candy. I guarantee if this is a style that you even visit even seldomly that you'll see what I mean by all this gushing. Give in to your fawning side. This album is worth it.
Absolving The Treacherous
Seeing as how I very recently reviewed Mythrias' last demo, let's get down to this one, shall we? Well, first off, we know already that I was highly impressed by their last offering, especially given that it was a demo. And the fact that they got to my "I dig this!" receptors while playing melodic death metal is a feat in itself. (We all know my tastes by now, and if you don't...well, I prefer death metal to be morbid and steeped in horror, and only seem to enjoy very early Gothenburg melodic death metal if any. It still had balls.)
So, as for this official debut album. I can say it's a great improvement to an already great formula and way of performance. The latter is definitely the greatest improvement, as the band sounds invigorated and, well...*excited* to be themselves. No, this isn't a happy-go-lucky kind of excitement. I mean they proudly execute exactly what they set out to do, which is kick ass like the Gothenburg bands I mentioned earlier. And they do so very well.
Not afraid to pummel as well as show off a little - but not into wanking territory - Absolving The Treacherous is a very welcome break from the habits of this reviewer's usual black metal and horrid/grotesque/ugly tastes. This might be ugly to a non-metal listener, but to a seasoned listener of metal's vast repertoir, it's a glistening gem in a sea of corpses, representing its surroundings enough by its presence, but adding a dose of beauty to the dismal scene. Now don't get me wrong, this has a darkness to it, which is nearly mandatory if something is to be featured in these pages. What I am proudly proclaiming here about these metal warriors is that they sound triumphant. They've won a war with life's horrors, and they aurally paint it into your psyche.
So, if melodic death metal without too much fluff, with an aggressive execution, with great mid-range scream/growls that don't bring to mind the grossly, disgustingly over-saturation of "melodeath" bands that are merely shitty metalcore trying to tag themselves with the prestigious title of "METAL", but embodying metal in all its glory...if all this sounds good to you - give this up-and-coming underground metal band some support!
Ah, "hipster black metal", dubbed so by anti-non-pvrists. Look, I'm a corpsepainted USBM practitioner, and at least 28 year metal veteran (been a fan since around 6 or 7); so my opinion here is going to be enforced, expecting whoever is reading this to take into consideration MY goddamn view of this.
If short-haired and poetically intelligent, while getting quite a bit of album sales, usually from The US or Canada, while showing obvious love for 90s alt-rock in the midst of blast beasts makes one a "hipster" in the oh-so-hard-to-be-accepted-within scene of trve kvlt black metal hordes, then I'm for it. Why? Because I'm for metal's FANS making their own metal concoctions. No, I certainly don't think they are as pure and ultimately METAL as say...Sarcophago or something like that, but does their music warrant a place in a "trve" black metallers discography? If you are talking about THIS guy, YES. I'm "trvly" a black metaller. And the only genres I find it legitimately justified to pick on when it comes to claims of being any kind of metal are "metalcore" and "deathcore" and those 2010s "post hardcore" Hot Topic Disney kids that call themselves metal. Why? Because those bands have a street-trash, gutter rat, sportsy, ghetto, might-as-well-be-nigger*-gangstas vibe; because their feel is the antithesis of what metal stands for. And HUGELY because 90% of these fuckers that claim "metal" don't own one fucking CD that is actually metal. It's a race and competition in peers and trends within their own contemporary scene. They are thieves. Bands like Deafheaven might not be as pvrely black metal as Mayhem. So. Fucking. What. We live in the internet age where people think their own voices are just as important as proven metal legends like Ihsahn, who has been getting hatefully dubbed "hipster" since he grew a beard and opted for glasses instead of contacts. Arrogant people have called bands like Deafheaven or any other alt-flavored bands with black-something included in their sound "hipster black metal". At least hipsters that play some form of metal truly and (in way of being well-informed by collecting their records and peering deeply into them)...ARE metal fans. The people picking on these kinds are also big-headed and big-mouthed enough that they have been calling THE TRUE MAYHEM "gayhem" lately, since they practice self-preservation nowadays so they can continue to make music instead of...well...dying. So it really doesn't make a fuck to me like it all did when this shit began.
These bands also combine vibes that work with metal, not against it. Folk and new age (Myrkur) have been accepted as compatible for a while now, but apparently GIRLS coming from an alternative scene aren't welcome to do so if black metal is in any way involved. Even with Kris Rygg's help. (Apparently he's a "hipster" now, too...forget about his importance and achievements...)*rolls eyes* Grunge and nerdy alt-rock still have basis in rock, hearkening back to the creators of heavy music (Deep Purple, Sabbath, Zep, Priest, etc.) as equally as they play a different genre, which warrants them justified accessibility to go metal a bit, if you ask me. Those kinds aren't the kinds of jocks or street-dwelling rich kids/pussies that would have picked on us longhairs in 1993 (and got their asses kicked in return). AND they don't claim to BE the sole incarnation of what metal is today (like these post-2000s "core" bands DO). These alt rock, grunge, and/or whatever fans showing a love for black metal, to me, provides an interesting and welcome version of heavy music. Deafheaven sounds like Smashing Pumpkins-meets-Krieg, to me. ...or something like that. Soundgarden and Judas Iscariot? You get the picture. Hell, I happen to like Smashing Pumpkins and have heard them practice Judas Priest songs pre-set. They ARE metal fans. So their subgenre in this game of loud stuff is fine by me. And with the trancey, sometimes droney, trem-picked, passionate, as well as dark, world of black metal, it instrumentally makes enough sense to work with quite a few of alternative subgenre nuances. It also LITERALLY works, if analyzed by a songwriter that doesn't only play black metal. (Hint: That's me.)
"New Bermuda" is a moody, dark and light, up and down, extreme metal record, drawing obvious influence from alternative rock. When they go blasty and schreeched, or their version of black metal mode...they do so with skill. This obviously bothers a lot of people. I point and say "haha" like that Simpsons kid, because *half singing* SOMEONE'S TRVENESS IS FEELING THREATENED!!! Seriously. If you know how goddamn metal you are, these short-haired metal fans pulling off black metal in a way that is executed RIGHT for a few moments, only to "wuss out" the next moment...if that bugs you like metalcore JUSTIFIABLY bothers a metal vet like me (see reasoning above) - then you need to check your own cred. And you give too much of a fuck, and - in my view - are LESS METAL.
Yes. Readily accepting this album, as well as the preceding ones, is a metal thing to do. How, you ask? Because. You KNOW the assholes in the metal scene will give you lots of shit for liking it. And it doesn't bug you or make you question yourself.
I must admit, them giving me shit DOES bother me, and I'm wrong for this. I've been listening to metal longer than most of them have been alive. But it bugs me only for and because of them, in that they are co-repping me to people I might end up caring about, and I have a lot of people that just expect me to flat-out HATE this stuff. THAT does bug me. (I'm trying to gain some apathy here...but principals prove to be a big deal to me.) I'm expected to hate it just because I'm supposed to. Well, fuck them and the ones making them think so. "New Bermuda" is a kickass and thought-provoking collection of alternative black metal, or "hipster black metal" if you wanna just use the words and take their negative power away. This album is well-written, precisely performed, and pretty fucking schizo. That doesn't matter to a lot of people. But it does to me. In all the right ways. So, this thing has made it into my 2015 releases that fall within a bracket of favorites for the year. Did my corpsepaint disappear? Yep. It does every other day or so, actually. I am sorry to tell you, I don't live in a spooky mansion, cave, or under a bridge...I don't actually drink real blood, and I'm usually clad in pajamas, since my crazy-ass is legally disabled. But is all this non-metalness due to Deafheaven or any of these other legit metal albums produced by people that elitists won't accept? Hell no. Get over it. Every fucking one of us does something to be "untrve" every fucking day.
As for focusing on the nuances to make this body of words genuinely BE a review...well, they've already been described in my ranting. And all of those aspects make up one fine album.
*Loves black people worth loving. Hates the negative stereotypes of ANY race. "Niggers" are one of those. Just like "white trash" or "elitist fuck". I am none of these. (But I do live in a trailer.)
(Note: In some externally linked content, I am also known as "Skarnek")
(Note: In some externally linked content, I am also known as "Skarnek")