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.
Crossing genre lines as if they don’t exist, They Don’t Sleep Anymore is an intensely personal album. The latest Clouds Collide release pulls from post-black metal, post-rock, post-hardcore, post-punk, and shoegaze, They Don’t Sleep Anymore is – as that collection of reference points may imply – a sprawling, spacious, emotionally-laden album that isn’t too often musically heavy, but certainly is emotionally. As with previous Clouds Collide releases, it draws heavily from sole member Chris Pandolfo’s personal life; in this instance, dealing with a longing for the past, finding your sense of self in the present, and how you cope with that as you move forward in to the future. Whilst this could have easily made for an album that is difficult to listen to, instead They Don’t Sleep Anymore is remarkably cathartic, with its universal themes and gorgeous music granting it a surprising accessibility.
It always helps when an ambitious record has a conceptual framework to draw from; it helps keep the art grounded, and ensure it stays “on track”, rather than running riot with enthusiasm and losing its sense of identity and direction. In Circles grounds itself in the concept of Inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the time that This Sun No More have spent on the album has paid dividends. The thematic framework suits their emotionally crushing blend of post-rock and post-metal well, and helps ensure that, no more how expansive and bold the music gets, it always returns to a central place.
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!
In many ways, post-rock, ambient, and drone music have a lot in common. All three genres seek, through different methods, to wrap the listener up in a cocoon of sounds, enveloping them in sounds either warm or starkly oppressive, taking their consciousness away to somewhere else. It’s a task that Ten succeed at on new album The Fog Bank. Though nominally an ambient group, there’s a lot of arresting melodies here that mean that tag doesn’t quite fit perfectly; but the overall effect of the music makes it accurate enough. Full of warm drones, blissful melodic lines and an aching sense of beauty, The Fog Bank is a record to sink in to late at night.
One of the real tests of instrumental music is its ability to convey narrative. Stripped of lyrics, and the natural focal point of a vocalist, the importance of the music actually putting across something concrete and captivating either comes to the fore; or, in the case of ambient music, is all-but disregarded. With Ceremony in the Stillness, the latest album from A-Sun Amissa, that challenge is not only embraced, but met in superb style. The combination of doom-drone influenced auras, post-rock soundscapes, and haunting dark ambience is loaded with emotion, and moves with a sense of story-telling that is too rare in instrumental music. Most records of this style hint at the idea of having a running theme; but on Ceremony in the Stillness, that sense of narrative is impossible to ignore.
There are a lot of contradictions at play during the duration of minus. The new album from Krakow is dense and heavy, filled with that kind of musical and emotional weight that is so important in post-metal being a success. Yet there’s also a kind of grace to it, with moments of deftness contrasting strongly with the moments of skull-crushing heaviness. There’s even moments of outright rock’n’roll swagger, including a solo from Phil Campbell (yes, he of Motorhead). And yet somehow it all comes together in style, bringing together so many different styles and sounds into a remarkably cohesive whole, that is as filled with emotional bloodletting as it is moments of sheer riff-based pleasure.
“Man plans and god laughs”; so goes the old saying. There are things that will happen to all of us that we have no control over, and that will come upon us with no warning, upending the order of our lives and leaving us to do what we can to pick up the pieces and carry on. Aside from the everyday practicalities of coping with a major loss or change, there is the emotional aspect too, which is where From a Father’s Son comes in. When his father was diagnosed with an advanced cancer that would soon take his life, Jimmy Sisco created the Anchorhold project to document that time and his memories. As you’d expect, it’s an emotional journey, and hugely heart-felt, with an intensely personal – yet universal – heart.
It shouldn’t have been this way. Sure, I expected that the second album by British band Rope would be an album full of emotional power; the kind of record that can kindle to life emotions you thought were long-lost to the faded memories of youth. But what I didn’t expect Come Closer Now to do was hit in ways that speak of emotional vulnerability in so profoundly adult, mature ways; to come across like a record made by people who have worked shitty jobs, gone through genuine heart-break and loss, and come through it all with their sense of self both reinforced and adjusted. Somewhere between Self Defense Family, Slint, and Jawbox, Come Closer Now is the album that will speak to your 30-something self in ways that you didn’t think were still possible.
That Level Plane Records is no more is nothing short of a tragedy. Between 1997 and 2009, the label released some of the best underground punk, hardcore, screamo, metal, and everything in-between. Originally set up simply so Greg Drudy had an address to put on the back of the first Saetia 7″, the impact and influence the label would go on to have upon the underground scene was huge. Some of these records have been re-issued by other labels – with special praise being given to The Archivist label for getting so many on Bandcamp – but some might require searching on Discogs or eBay.
As such, limiting this list down to only five releases has been rather painful. There’s so many I wanted to include – so many records of superb quality, so many that meant so much to me, and still do – but there’s a reason this series is called Five of the Best, not Twenty of the Best. So, here we go. Feel free to tell me what I missed or what your favourite records from this excellent label are. Enjoy!