The question of whether Botanist are black metal shouldn’t matter. Their unique take on metal most definitely fits into the “post” part of post-black metal, featuring as it does no guitars and with the distinctive sound of the hammered dulcimer instead taking centre stage. Botanist’s core sound is well established by now, and Ecosystem is unlikely to win over anyone who has previously not enjoyed their music; but it also represents a distinctive growth of Botanist, both sonically and conceptually. Written by the band’s current live line-up rather than solely by main member Otrebor, the sound of the Verdant Realm continues to grow, with Ecosystem presenting a new frontier in the self-styled realm of green metal.
Initial impressions of The Age of Entitlement aren’t great. Surely UK thrash veterans Acid Reign deserve better artwork than that? Especially considering that it’s been 29 years since their last album. But then, they do have form in that regard, with the cover for Obnoxious being, well, pretty damn obnoxious. And besides, we should all know better than to judge a record by its cover. With this in mind, The Age of Entitlement presents an interesting conundrum. Given how long they’ve been away, and that only vocalist H remains from Acid Reign’s original line-up, how does the new material fare?
We’re probably all familiar with the phrase and concept that “grind is protest” – a rallying cry for a genre that, in general, stands against mainstream society and the troubles it causes for us all. Yet sometimes, grind isn’t just protest; it’s also an expression of love and celebration of life. Such is the case with Strange, Beautiful and Fast, the aptly named solo album from Takafumi Matsubara. The guitarist (formerly of Gridlink, Hayaino Daisuki, and many more) has assembled what can only be described as an absolute dream of guests for this record, which celebrates the power of grind to bring people together, and Unholy Grave drummer Hee Chung, who sadly passed away in 2015). It’s an absolute whirlwind, and a stunning record that does grind – and Hee Chung’s memory – proud.
The previous release by A-Sun Amissa, Ceremony in the Stillness, was praised within these pages for its approach to song-writing; for the way it conveyed narrative without relying on conventional structures or lyrics. It was a superb release from one of experimental music’s most exciting collectives; which means that expectations are high for follow-up For Burdened and Bright Light. The new album takes a different approach to the previous record, being composed of two songs, each one twenty-plus minutes in length, that are as heavy in atmosphere as would be expected; but there’s something even more creative and fearless than normal here. The sense of boundaries being pushed is present throughout, with a broader sonic palette than before, whilst still maintaining an emotional edge and sense of structure.
Drone is often considered a genre lacking in melody; where the atmospheres and textures rule supreme, and change comes at a glacial pace. Whilst this is certainly true for much of the genre – especially its bigger names – Practicing Loss by Feast of the Epiphany presents a strong counter-argument. Though drone is a chief component of the album, especially in overall effect as much as sound, that’s not all there is to the album. There’s also a lot of folk and psychedelic rock here too, all filtered through an avant-garde mindset similar to that which gave birth to Kraut rock, that makes Practicing Loss an absorbing, yet challenging album. It is filled with complex music that takes time to unlock, yet it is constantly encouraging the listener on, wanting them to revel in what it offers.
As August comes to a close, it would be easy to be down-hearted. After all, the UK has just witnessed an almost unprecedented political power-grab by the Tory government; the tales of abuse emerging from the video game industry about sexual harassment are wide-raging and rage-inducing; and the planet continues to literally burn. So instead, let’s try and focus on some good music. This month, short reviews cover the furious blackened hardcore of Geist’s Swarming Season; queer anti-fascist industrial noise from Scoff with Dreamsequence; DOEM’s almost dark ambient take on post-metal on The Fly & The Nail; UK black metal courtesy of Deadwood Lake and Immortalised in Death; and Void Curse by Acid Witch who bring the thrash.
Oh and I also released some more music of my own today. Enjoy!
As a general rule, technical death metal is not an easy genre to love. Most bands playing it seem to want to demonstrate sheer technical mastery more than they do a knack for writing riffs; and when they do write something resembling conventional riffs, it’s rare for these to coalesce into a song with a sense of movement and flow. Gorguts can probably take most of the blame for this; Obscura was the kind of dizzying, genre-defying (and defining) work that did all of the above, but did so in such a way that it won listeners over. Throw in the cult-like appreciation for Portal, and the appeal of tech-death becomes a bit more clear. The latest band to take on the challenge thrown down by these bands are French trio Chaos Motion, and what they achieve with Psychological Spasms Cacophony is, well… it is A Lot, in every sense of the phrase.