We’re at the end of months 2 of lockdown (here in the UK, at least), and it’s getting no easier. When it comes to music though, it’s worth noting that Bandcamp are trying to help by waiving fees on the first Friday of each month for the next few months, to help artists survive. So, here’s a few reviews that might give you new ideas of what to check out, including my current AOTY for Forlesen; melancholic black metal by Graveir; an EP of laid-back synthwave from Jaime Irles; Karnstein offering raw black/death/gothic metal; Koniec Pola taking us on an avant-garde adventure; and Resent bringing some nasty, filthy sludge. Enjoy!
Label: NAHAL Recordings
A vitally important instrument in the development of electronic music, the ondes Martenot is nevertheless something of a curio; their distinctive sound is integral to the growth of sci-fi soundtracks in particular during the 60’s, but high cost (at around 12,000 Euros an instrument) means they would never be a common instrument. As such, it’s little surprise few records have been based around them, even if their use on parts of Radiohead’s Kid A might have brought their existence to the attention of a new generation. Yet that’s just what Christine Ott has done on Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot), with the album played entirely on an ondes Martenot, as the title suggests – the first time the instrument has been the sole presence on an album. It is a haunting, evocative listen, that inherently recalls classic horror and sci-fi soundtracks; but also demonstrates Ott’s own talents as a modern classical composer and musician.
We did it. We made it to pretty much the end of January. It’s felt like this month has gone on for a long, long time, and it’s been a very strong one for new releases. Here’s this month’s pick of short reviews of records either out now or out soon, kicking off with the split between sludge behemoths Body Void and Keeper; experimental metal from Bornwithhair; catchy alt-rock/punk from Lowlives; Plague Weaver‘s sickening death/black metal; Qoheleth continuing to explore new experimental music grounds; and TRAPS, featuring OHHMS members, with an EP of brain-melting prog-metal. Enjoy!
Label: Aural Music
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.
Label: Gizeh Records
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.
Label: Kincsem Records
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.
Extreme metal’s status as outsider music can sometimes be taken for granted. After all, we live in an age where famous celebrities will wear Morbid Angel shirts and think nothing of it; and even in the genre’s early days, Cannibal Corpse were making cameos in mainstream movies. As such, the genre’s potential to be truly transgressive can taken for granted, if it even still exists. But then a band like Cryptae come along with a record like Vestigial, and the capacity for metal to once again seem shocking and challenging is brought into sharp focus. Combining death metal, grind, and an experimental spirit, Vestigial is the sound of metal remembering how to be dangerous to complacent minds and established structures.
This month’s short reviews come a little later in the month than usual, but that’s because so many records I wanted to cover ended up getting full reviews instead; sometimes, that’s just how it goes. That shouldn’t be seen as any kind of slight on these records, though. The Last Martyr‘s modern metal aims for the highest stars; whilst Moloch and Groakwill drag you down to the gutter. Wallowing may tell sci-fi tales, but their music is still very much of this earth; and Death by Fungi offer up some of the finest hardcore to be found not just in India, but anywhere. Finally, Wreck and Reference do what Wreck and Reference do – switch styles, experiment, and offer up something emotionally devastating. Enjoy!
Label: Gizeh Records
Göldi fell is, put simply, the soundtrack to A Very Bad Time. The latest album from Several Wives is one of the most unsettling pieces of dark ambient I have had the (mis)pleasure of hearing in quite some time. Thick with ominous atmosphere and a sense of dread that is never far away, this is the music that plays when you’re alone at night in an unfamiliar house, grappling with demons both real and imaginary; of returning to your childhood home and finding the dimensions being somehow off; of a sense of wrongness that goes beyond the physical. As all this might imply, it’s also a very impressive piece of work, that leaves a long-lasting impression.
If the previous edition of short reviews covered all sorts of different heaviness, this selection is a very different beast. Sure, there’s undeniable heaviness here – particularly on the doom side of things, from Plague of Carcosa – but there’s also energetic, nimble post-hardcore from Pacifist, the exemplary blackgaze of Hidden Mothers, noisy, abrasive post-punk/noise-rock from Hissing Tiles, and sentimental late-night drone/ambient courtesy of High aura’d and Josh Mason. A delightfully varied selection, then – but did you expect anything less?