Happy International Workers’ Day! For those of you who have this day as a holiday, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. For those of us in the UK, we have the bank holiday coming. And here at TSNTW, I’m getting back into the swing of things with a series of short reviews. For this installment, we have world-ending black/death metal; speed-laced black-thrash; a furious feminist statement; a wonderful meeting of progressive technicality and black metal horror; and beautiful modern classical. Enjoy!
Lvcifyre – Sacrament
Label: Dark Descent Records
When it’s good, black/death metal should make the listener feel like their world is collapsing; as if the cacophony summoned by the band in question is tearing apart the veil between realities. It’s something that Lvcifyre have long understood, and latest EP Sacrament is further proof of that. Festival line-ups may be full now of bands playing this kind of music, tapping in to the same sort of hell that Incantation first helped unleashed, meaning it takes something special to stand out. The world-ending ferocity of Sacrament ensures it does just that. This is death metal as an invocation to the elder gods, with riffs that twist and coil like serpents; vocals that call to the endless void; and bone-crushing drums. Yet what makes Sacrament work is a sense of contrast; the moments where the band ease off are among the most effective, ensuring that, when they again begin blasting at full speed, no impact is lost. And the closing cover of ‘Morderca’ by Polish thrashers Kat is an unexpected delight.
Hellripper – Black Arts & Alchemy
Label: Reaper Metal Productions
Black-thrash isn’t really a genre that is big on innovation; it’s still pretty much pulling from those initial templates set down by Venom and Bathory, albeit with a heighted sense of ferocity and speed. Hellripper‘s discography up until this point has stayed true to those aspects, and the Black Arts & Alchemy EP shows no signs of that changing. The riffs are drawn from the fastest of 80’s speed metal, the leads are razor-sharp, the vocals a vicious snarl delivering lyrics about goats (‘All Hail The Goat’), Satan (the title track), and anti-Christianity (everything else). It does absolutely nothing to move speed metal or black-thrash forward as a genre, but that’s no the point. Instead, it’s a 12 minute rush of energy, or pure metal joy, revelling in the absurdity of the it. And that Halford-esque scream during ‘Headless Angels’ is fire!
Obiisss – Female Fronted is Not a Genre
Label: Devizes Records
A short blast of fury, Female Fronted is Not a Genre wastes no time making its point. The duo of Holly Johnson (Dark Mother) and Paul Kenny (Fukpig, Mistress, Kroh) are full of fire on the debut EP of Obiisss, with their sound built upon a body of fuzz and punk rock spirit that’s as comparable to the huge riffs of stoner rock as it is the unbridled righteous passion of riot grrrl, with a hefty dose of 90’s alt-rock laced throughout their DNA. The three songs here are catchy, if far too aggressive to ever come close to risking attracting mainstream attention (not a bad thing). The only downside is that the EP is so short – it has me all fired up and desperately wanting more.
Shabti – Trembling and Shorn
Featuring members of Falls of Rauros, Obsidian Tongue, Panopticon’s live band, and Feral, Shabti have a wealth of talent in their ranks, and it shows on Trembling and Shorn. Merging the savagery of black and death metal with the possibilities that are hinted at (but seldom realise) at the more progressive end of the musical spectrum, Trembling and Shorn is exhausting in the best possible way. There’s a touch of the majesty of Blackwater Park-era Opeth laced through songs like ‘Seven Billion Souls’, and the technical prowress on display throughout is incredible; but what’s even more impressive is just how relentless and energising Trembling and Shorn is. Even when it eases off musically, it still feels like an anxiety-induced weight on your chest, waiting for the next moment of release. As this implies, Trembling and Shorn may ask a lot of the listener, but it is more than worth the effort.
astrïd – A Porthole (I)
Label: Gizeh Records
Whether loudly or otherwise, Gizeh Records have been establishing a name for themselves as one of the most diverse, interesting labels out there in the British underground, and A Porthole is further proof as to why. Drawing as much from post-rock as it does modern classical, the latest album from astrïd is heavy with emotion, even if it isn’t musically. Beautiful modern classical passages form the basis of these four songs, with the founation of instruments such as cello, piano, and clarinet being accompanied by stirring post-rock inspired guitar lines. The combination is uplifting, making A Porthole an album that manages to convey a sense of discovery and hope. There is a playfulness to the way the melodies circle and intertwine, and whilst different elements come to the fore and the songs progress, they never dominate; the whole album is a masterclass in restraint. It all makes A Porthole an absolute delight, and an album perfect for losing entire evenings exploring its soundscapes and textures.