I mentioned last month how excited I was over SubRosa coming to the UK, but that excitement has been matched this month by the announcement of a new Planes Mistaken For Stars record. I honestly never expected it to ever materalise, ever though the band have been playing shows for years since reforming. There’s few bands I hold in higher regard than those guys, so I’m very excited.
But, that’s for the future. For now, we have Bloodshed Remains offering up some hardcore Peace; Austrian D-beat/hardcore/grindcore band Six Score with Lebensräume; metallic French hardcore bruisers Pallass and their Devotion Of Souls; Yūgen from atmospheric black metal act Ashbringer; UK anti-fascist black metal band Dawn Ray’d with A Thorn, A Blight; and the pumelling split between Sea Of Bones and Ramlord. Oof!
Although they have a strong record for this kind of thing, it’s not absurd to suggest that Angels may be the saddest, most downbeat recording either Matt Finney or Maurice De Jong have put their names to. The duo, operating under the It Only Gets Worse moniker, have several records of bleak, depressing, yet beautiful music in their discography, but Angels is perhaps the most affecting of them all. There’s no denying the gorgeous nature of the soundscapes Maurice conjures, but when wedded to Matt’s spoken word sections, it all takes on a much darker tone, dealing with themes of loss, love, and treason.
After spending some time with Triumph Of Gloom, I’m increasingly of the opinion that Rebel Wizard are one of the most exciting bands in the black metal underground. That’s not necessarily because the one-man act take their music in to new, bold, unexplored regions, but it’s more because their brand of Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (or, put another way, mix of heavy, black, and thrash metal) is so energetic, so infectious, so, well, fun that it can’t help but be exciting. It generates a similar thrill to the first time you heard Reign In Blood, or British Steel, or whatever album it was that saw you bitten by the metal bug. If this sounds like high praise, that’s because it is. Triumph Of Gloom is an example of practically all that makes metal good, and it’s hard not to resist its charms.
Let’s make one thing clear: Spill Your Guts are absolutely awesome. Their blend of melodic hardcore and black metal (which is a very different thing from blackened hardcore) is high tempo, full of energy, and absolutely contagious. Listening to Full Blast, their latest EP, it’s almost impossible not to be swept along with its speed and enthusiasm, and the restless feel throughout makes it an utter, well, blast to listen to. Plus, there’s not many bands doing what these guys are, combining black metal with melodic hardcore in a way that means there’s no risk of mistaking them for a bunch of kvlt basement dwellers or whatever. This is hardcore first and foremost, and it’s excellent.
Fittingly for an album with such a title, Mongrel’s Light – the debut album USBM trio Gilded Lily – is a vicious little beast, but not lacking in moments of (relative) beauty. It captures the duality at the heart of modern life, where the imposition of order and the muzzling of our animal spirit often serves to only make such violent, primitive impulses stronger. It is distinctly suburban, with a bleakness that is born of concrete and broken glass rather than tundras and trees. In some ways, it is a quintessential USBM album, twisting the core sound of the genre in ways that are all too human, speaking of a caged, desperate spirit that is fed by the emptiness of much of modern society. But rather than being “just another” USBM album, Mongrel’s Light has a very distinct character, and a very varied sound that elevates it above much of the competition.
I sometimes feel that I often talk about the importance of repetition in music, and how many bands use it as a way of reaching for something hypnotic or transcendent, but without always achieving the desired results. Whilst that’s something I usually mention in a black metal context (probably due to how many bands are still in thrall to Burzum), neofolk act Elk are a great example of a band outside the metal scene using repetition to great effect. The three songs on Wōđanaz are heavy on repetition, cycling through what appear initially to be very basic structures and movements that reveal themselves, in time, to be surprisingly deep. The end result is so captivating and hypnotic, it’s hard not to be impressed. The songs are infused with a real sense of spirituality that, making this EP something that is very powerful and almost profound.
Matt Finney has worked with a lot of artists over the past few years, adding his spoken word passages to dark music to create records that are as unsettling as they are addictive. This latest though, in collaboration with Siavash Amini, may be the bleakest release he has been involved with. With a musical backbone of dark ambient and sparse drone, Familial Rot tells a story of a life collapsing in slow motion, picking out those small details which seem so important in retrospect. It’s incredibly emotional without ever risking becoming over-dramatic, and is perfect music for late-night/early morning introspection, regret, and melancholy.