What a month. What a fucking month. I don’t know what to say that you probably already haven’t heard before. Wash your hands. Keep your distance from others. Stay the fuck inside as much as you can. Look after those less fortunate than yourself. These are such trying times, and they are bringing out the best and worst in us all. I just hope we all get through this, and that what improvements may come, from those in power realising how vulnerable so many citizens in genuinely important jobs are, don’t turn out to be short-term ones.
In the meantime, here are some reviews to help distract you from, well, everything else. There’s lovely guitar-based glitch/drone from Animal Hospital;The Ditch and The Delta delivering colossal riffs from deep within our shared DNA; Feminazgul with an album of the year contender; Hyperion delivering high-energy heavy metal straight from the 80’s; Live Burial bringing death metal that could have come from the Peaceville vaults; and Mystic Priestess‘ punk-infused deathrock. Enjoy!
A collaboration rather than a split, Burning the Black Candles lives up to the haunting, esoteric nature its title hints at. Combining the dark industrial ambient of 1727 with the more overtly melancholic and human aspects of Möbius, this is the sound of secret rituals in forgotten places, offerings given to unknowable forces and a tapping in to a sense of something greater than one’s self. These four long-form pieces combined make for an album of understated power, that is incredibly haunting and with a sense of presence that lingers long after the final sounds have dispered into the aether.
Studies for a Vortex is the soundtrack to a nightmare. Static flickers in and out from your vision, whilst ominous footsteps thud throughout the abandoned factory you find yourself trapped within. The rusted machinery continues to stutter and growl with the remnants of life, menacing in the extreme, whilst something – something – marches relentlessly onwards towards you. The first album from Metadevice is an example of how industrial, dark ambient, and the most ominous side of drone can combine into something truly haunting and powerful, that’s as uncomfortable to listen to as it is captivating.
One of the greatest difficulties in instrumental music is to convey a sense of narative. It’s one task to conjure up a sense of atmosphere; but another entirely to not only maintain said atmosphere across tracks, but to also insert a sense of motion and cohesion that tells a story. Yet that’s exactly what A Map Of the Moon does, with its half hour of dark ambient and drone putting across a tale that’s every bit as unnerving as the music itself is. The first release by Nordhausen can hardly be described as an easy listen in any sense of the phrase; but it is one that as captivating as it is unsettling.
As some of you will know, I’ve been in a bit of a funk recently. The thought of approaching new music – never mind writing about it! – felt like a challenge I did not want. Yet when the promo for Sea of Worry dropped into my inbox, I felt the stirrings of an excitement I had almost forgotten existed. Have a Nice Life have gained a cult following for a reason. Few bands feel so experimental and grounded at the same time, with whatever adventures they embark upon having a solid emotional core. It’s safe to say that expectations for Sea of Worry are high, but does the album leave the listener floundering in the shallows; struggling in its depths; or basking in its waves?
The concept of darkness is one that so many musicians, bands, and artists of all types will try to tap in to, whether it be cartoon Satanism, Lovecraftian cosmic horrors, or something more personal and real. It is that last aspect which both Clawing and Catafalque specialise in, their music speaking of a darkness that is all too human. Musically, both bands draw from different shades of drone, noise, and even (in the case of Catafalque) the more experimental parts of doom metal; but, as striking as the music is, what really makes Memento Mori hit home is its tales of human misery and suffering. As all that will imply, it is far from an easy, yet one that has an oddly cleansing effect; by the end of the tape, it will feel like some sort of demon has been cast out of you, at least temporarily.
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.
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?