May 2015 Review Round Up

May came and went in a flash. As I write this, I can hardly believe that it’s almost been a full 31 days. A steady stream of good tunes helped the time fly I guess.

Top of the tree is Prurient’s Frozen Niagra Falls. It has been the only release this year (and in a long time) I have listened to every day since receiving it. And I’m going to keep listening to it. The whip-cracks of static, snarls of feedback, and evocative loops are expertly crafted into an album of momentous heft.

Invertebrate takes out the honourable mention in a close contest. Powerviolence is a curious beast sometimes, but Regression/Devolution tries to simplify things by trying to be the most aggressive thing you can listen to. It may well be that, as hostility pours out of every note.

As an aside, I may not do live reviews, but I have to mention the joy that was seeing Opeth again. They are one of metal’s great live acts. They can play anything from their back catalogue to utter perfection. Even technical difficulties don’t stop them from being hugely entertaining.

Feel free to drop by Facebook with comments or feedback.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
(Noise – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12


This. Is. Stunning. I never in my wildest imagination thought I would hear a noise album so immaculate. Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling. Harsh noise, industrial, and ambient are seamlessly interwoven to create enthralling soundscapes that beguile the listener even in spite of their severity. It’s a double album that demands to be experienced. Give it your undivided attention.
Try before you buy: Cocaine Daughter (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/26


I suppose you’re interested in tunes that can reasonably be described as music. Well, you’re out of luck. Or maybe noise is your thing? Nope. Perhaps you’re thinking you should write this off as unlistenable shit? Dead wrong. I’m not exactly sure how Invertebrate crammed so much middle finger into these tracks, but however they did it they made sure to say “FUCK YOU!” to everybody and everything, including your expectations. Best pv in a long time.
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion(Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Alder Glade – Demo II
(Black metal – Australia)
Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14


How good is this band? Two demos in and I’m hard pressed to think of any other up and coming black metal act with this much promise. I’m especially impressed given it’s a one man act. The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal. It’s music for mangroves in nuclear winter. Glad to see they got picked up for physical distribution.
Try before you buy: Obsidian Death (Bandcamp)

Bosse de Nage – All Fours
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/14


It’s a tough album to review. I get the artistic vision. I understand what they trying to convey. The dark eroticism is impossible to miss. And the message is conveyed through excellent musicianship. But in spite of this, I’m still left nonplussed by the whole affair. For me, at least, I found the album to be emotionally sterile. I could take it in, analyse it, and debate its merits, but I couldn’t enjoy it. It’s an album very strong on technical merit, but light on soul.
Try before you buy: Washerwoman (Bandcamp)

Cloak – Succumb
(Bastard metal – United States of America)
Transylvanian Tapes – 2015/03/11


Cloak sounds like it was spawned in some sort of horrible orgy involving the black, death, and doom metals with some dirty punks jumping in on the sleaze. It’s possessed of grimy malevolence that can only come out of combining so many dark elements. To my ears it’s a little bit disjointed, which I suspect is a stylistic choice, but it does make it a difficult listen from time to time. But when it comes together, it’s a crushing nightmare of relentless evil.
Try before you buy: Roman Shower (Bandcamp)

Constant Fear – Dronekill
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Video Disease Records – 2015/02/26


I was stuck in horrendous traffic while I was blasting this, so I was able to get real familiar with it. It was also great for venting the road rage. But it is definitely a hit and miss affair. More hits but not by enough to discount the misses. The hits are distinct bursts of anger with some interesting stylistic flair. The misses are interchangeable blobs of disaffection; pissed off for sure, but in a who gives a shit sort of way. I’ll keep an eye on them though. At their best, they’re brilliant.
Try before you buy: I Will Haunt You Forever (Bandcamp)

Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2015/04/20


Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. Given the state of Ukraine at the moment, it’s probably no great surprise that the music leans away from songs for the forlorn and broken spirit and towards violence, victory, and the toll that both require. They have a mastery of tone that is almost unrivalled in black metal. Each track vigorously grabs the listener and drags them deep into whatever hell the song is crafting.
Try before you buy: Dishonour I (Bandcamp)

Ekranoplan – Ekranoplan
(Crust – Germany)
Narshardaa – 2015/05/08


This gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling deep in my guts that Trap Them gives me. They’re not exactly in the same ballpark, sonically, but they are at least playing the same sport. And by sport I mean ultra-aggressive metallic punk played with the intensity to intimidate and the talent to be memorable. The five songs are a genuine tour-de-force that highlights all that is right with the genre, but retains a diversity that shows that they still have room to grow.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Faith No More – Sol Invictus
(Alternative – United States of America)
Reclamation Records/Ipecac – 2015/05/19


I’m not in the least bit disappointed by this. It’s a damn fine album. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s exactly the sort of album you would expect from Faith No More. I can overlook the lack of surprise, as the album’s eclectic nature allows the listener to truly experience the depth of the band’s talent. In many ways it’s hard to believe that there’s been 18 years between albums. It’s the logical follow on from Album of the Year. Consistency is a fine thing when you’re talented.
Try before you buy: Motherfucker (YouTube)

Feign – Lost to Eternity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/11


Got to be a bit cautious with one man black metal projects. They can be either a testament to clarity of vision or a colossal victory of ego over talent. Fortunately, Lost to Eternity is the former. There’s a coldness and despair conveyed throughout this three track demo that, despite the potential for cliché, remains unique. That is a significant achievement. It’s not a bit of wonder a label has scooped Feign up. The ability to tread new ground here is not to be sneezed at.
Try before you buy: Lost to Eternity (Bandcamp)

G.L.O.S.S. – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Not Normal – 2015/01/16


Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit. Based on their long form title, it should come as no surprise that G.L.O.S.S. play anarchofeminist punk. And it’s a rabble rousing good time too. Five no nonsense tracks loaded with idealogical invective. It’s abundantly clear that they are as well read in feminist theory as they are skilled with their instruments, as each track conveys a strong point punched home by quality musicianship. Good to see on message punk still exists.
Try before you buy: Masculine Artifice (Bandcamp)

The Nepalese Temple Ball – Arbor
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/05/23


Everyone knows the tale of Icarus. Wax wings, too close to sun, grizzly death. Of course you know it. The Nepalese Temple Ball are the Daedalus of doom. They soar, but do it safely and, as a result, are not the memorable force they could be. Sure, Icarus burnt out spectacularly, but you remember him. That’s the problem here, as Arbor is a perfectly fine album for doom enthusiasts, but it doesn’t push the envelope. It could be great, but settles for fine.
Try before you buy: The Axeman (Bandcamp)

Ósserp – Sang i Sutge
(Death metal – Spain)
Kremón Records – 2015/04/28


I listen to much of my reviewable material while I’m driving and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly in a death metal mood when I hit the ignition. Sang i Sutge put me in mood. Violently shoved me into it really. It’s a brutal sounding album without being loaded with slam. It helps that there are dustings of grind throughout, so it maintains an aura of imminent violence. Killer performances by all involved ensure the band successfully cultivates this environment of hostility.
Try before you buy: Bèstia cega (Bandcamp)

Öxxö Xööx – Nämïdäë
(Gothic doom metal – France)
Blood Music – 2015/05/26


As much as this is definitely a gothic doom album, it also owes a great debt to Devin Townsend. The ridiculous pomposity of the album is as over the top as it is oddly endearing. The whole made up language thing is a little bit silly, but it still works. The atmosphere they craft is consistently engaging. The synthesisers and the guitars ebb and flow like surging tides. And they get the interplay between the vocalists just right. It’s completely daft, but totally worth it.
Try before you buy: Därkäë (Bandcamp)

Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm
(Death metal – Serbia)
Self-released – 2015/05/17


I love Jane Dark, but they are on hiatus. A few of the members got together to form Tales from Beyond though. I actually prefer Tales from Beyond. It’s a tight contest, but the whispers of blackened thrash add an extra dimension to their Morbid Angel-esque heaviness. They’re not ground breaking, but you don’t need to be a trailblazer when you’re capable of delivering entertainment with every single track. It’s an album that reminds you why you love death metal.
Try before you buy: Psychosis (Bandcamp)

UFOmammut – Ecate
(Doom metal – Italy)
Neurot Recordings – 2015/03/30


Ecate is all about the fuzziest doom you can possibly comprehend. It’s loaded with that warm, tripped-out feeling that only comes with psychedelics. The riffs are deliciously heavy and the rhythms are thunderous bong rips. It does suffer a little bit from self-indulgence; some movements last fractionally longer than they probably should. Don’t let that put you off too much. The sheer weight of the stoned out jams more than justify the asking price. UFOmammut do heavy so well.
Try before you buy: Chaosecret (YouTube)

Undersmile – Anhedonia
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Black Bow Records – 2015/04/01


This is slow. Unbelievably slow in fact, and yet, it doesn’t qualify as drone nor as funeral doom. It, simply put, is earth shaking doom with a solid love for the breeve. It’s a depressing album. It shares that sense of genuine hurt that SubRosa have, but where they have a certain resinous bongness, Undersmile prefer to slow down as much as they can to truly let the pain set in. I’m pretty sure the entire album has fewer notes than a Slayer solo. It takes skill to make that work.
Try before you buy: Atacama Sunburn (Bandcamp)


April 2015 Review Round Up

I’m way too much of a soft touch. Either that, or I’ve become more discerning somehow, as it’s been pretty well impossible to hate anything this month. Going to chalk it up to good luck at this point.

The album of the month rightfully belongs to Bell Witch. It’s one of those rare albums that should transcend taste. You may not like it low and slow, but you will like Four Phantoms.

Leucrota’s Demo is something to get behind. Throw money at this band. Get them as much exposure as you can. If this is what they’re capable of on a demo, imagine the wrecking ball they could put to wax with enough support.

I’ve decided to retire Om as a basis of comparison. Negură Bunget’s magnum opus is, simply put, such a creative outlier that it will always make other albums in its shadow look weak. People will inevitably listen to Tău, say it’s not as good as Om, and dismiss it. I don’t like that, as it’s certainly better than Vîrstele pămîntului, which was a fine album in and of itself. I honestly doubt that Om will ever be topped by Negură Bunget (or Dordeduh); it’s a masterpiece and, as such, that renders it useless as a tool for critical comparison. I will inevitably retire other similar masterworks in the future, but for now I think I’m just going to bask in the majesty that is Om.

I’d like to give a big shout out State Line Records for sending me the copy of Back From the Land of Nod. I ordered it without noticing that they only shipped to the USA. I may have been a little overwhelmed with Ramallah related excitement. They would have been well within their rights to say no to shipping to Australia and refund me, but they followed through on the order anyway. Super stoked about that.

Hope you enjoy this month’s releases. I know I did. As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. See you next month.

Album of the Month
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
(Funeral doom – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28


Most funeral doomsters create an atmosphere of all encompassing darkness, crushing the listener with an oppressive atmosphere. Bell Witch do it differently. They let the light in. That doesn’t make it any more pleasant. The flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you. It’s one of the grimmest albums I’ve heard. That they achieve all of this with only drum, bass, and vocals is amazing.
Try before you buy: Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever) (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Leucrota – Demo
(Crusty hardcore – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28


I love a demo I can really sink my teeth into and Leucrota’s demo is a big hunk of raw meat just waiting for mastication. The promo tag over at Sentient Ruin describes it as, “completely wretched, botched, cruel and self-mutilating hardcore punk” and it’s impossible to disagree with that assessment. But raw masochism only goes so far. Fortunately, Leucrota have the talent to fill out any of the gaps. It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary. Buy it. Buy it now.
Try before you buy: Systematic Violence (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Wound Empire
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10


I think I may need to create a word for Wound Empire. Misegony. Not misogyny. Misegony. The hatred of the self. That’s exactly what Abstracter have delivered here. They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards. This amplifies doom’s existing penchant for depression into something much darker and more intense. And yet, it doesn’t sound like a down-tuned suicide note. It’s actually captivating in its misery.
Try before you buy: Open Veins (Bandcamp)

Concealed Blade – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/17


Do you like Sick of It All? I love Sick of It All. And it’s clear Concealed Blade do too. They’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating that high impact energy, without nakedly imitating the sound. Short, catchy tracks are brimming with the sort of aggression that you would associate with a band willing to punch on with their fan base. And they do it without ever becoming repetitive. It’s a direct line to the underground that’s guaranteed to get your blood pumping.
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught (Bandcamp)

Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness
(Thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/21


Deathblow have served up a short but intense serve of classic thrash. It’s like the eighties have only just got to Utah, because this would slot in nicely next to Exodus and Testament on a play bill. As you listen to the five tracks, you will definitely pick out their influences, but there is no way it would fair to call them derivative. They have put together a fantastic package of breakneck thrash. It redlines the whole way through. Even slow passages race by. Roaring good stuff.
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness (Bandcamp)

Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega
(Black metal – Norway)
Peaceville Records – 2015/03/16


A Umbra Omega is kind of like the foie gras of black metal; it’s extravagant, but it’s also a little bit indulgent and to make it, the band crammed an unnecessary amount of material into it. The songs shouldn’t have been trimmed back to 3½ minute standards, but I am fairly certain the 10+ minute tracks could have been pared down. They get everything else right on this album. In many ways it’s revelatory, which is why I’m (probably) unfairly harping on about song length.
Try before you buy: Aphelion Void (YouTube)

Hurricane Death – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Castigated Records – 2015/03/08


I like this a lot. The Brisbane grind scene is wonderfully fruitful at the moment and Hurricane Death is a particularly choice morsel. They incorporate enough death metal into their work to add some real edge, but not enough to be called deathgrind. In my mind there’s a certain Napalm Deathness to their sound, which is a big plus in my book. It’s raw and rough, but it manages to be memorable in a way that puts most other grinders to shame.
Try before you buy: Gutter Rat (Bandcamp)

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual – Ugly World Order
(Cybergrind – United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2015/03/31


Grindcore is often symbolised by two struck-through quavers. Ugly World Order lives up to this emblam, because it is a jarring, disorientating experience. Wonderfully so I might add. It’s kind of like a musical equivalent of 2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift; every time you think you get comfortable with what’s happening, KHR throw in some weirdness from left field, bewildering you and yet, somehow, advancing the narative. Odd genius.
Try before you buy: extreme home makeover urban edition turbo hyper fighting (Bandcamp)

Negură Bunget – Tău
(Blackened folk metal – Romania)
Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27


I never tire of the soundscapes that Negru and his cohorts create. The blending of haunting black metal and beautiful folk generates near endless possibilities for emotional discovery. Tău itself is the first part of a trilogy dedicated to Transylvanian heritage. There is a profound but extraordinarily proud sadness to it. The combination of the vocal tone, the blackened guitars, and the traditional instruments is both stark and lush. I await part two with baited breath.
Try before you buy: (Bandcamp)

Perspex Flesh – Ordered Image
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/31


The Golden Age of Hardcore (i.e. the 80s) lives on loud and proud in Perspex Death. The guitar tone, the rhythms, the vocals – it’s all spot on with some of the greats. The vocals are initially jarring, but they quickly become absolutely vital. Reminds me of my initial contact with HR. The melodies are infectious. It’s exactly the sort of music that takes me back to the few basement punk gigs I got along to in my youth. It’s a release of pent up tension that is cathartic and joyous.
Try before you buy: Euthanasia (Bandcamp)

Ramallah/Sinners & Saints – Back From the Land of Nod
(Hardcore – United States of America)
State Line Records/Last Punk Rockers Records – 2015/04/28


Anyone who knew me circa 2007 couldn’t help but know how much of a hard on I had for Ramallah. So I was overjoyed to see them return after a long absence. Getting tracks from Sinners & Saints was a bonus. Truth be told, I feel sort of bad reviewing this. Lind has clearly used this split to exorcise some particularly nasty demons. I miss the fierce political invective, but not so much that I can’t appreciate how devastatingly raw these tracks are.
Try before you buy: Here We Are (Bandcamp)

Torche – Restarter
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/02/24


I challenge you not to like Restarter. If it’s one thing that Torche does well, it’s writing an album that is eminently likeable. Few metal bands do this. They’ve all got agendas and angst and whatnot; Torche just want you smile. It makes them unique. To review this album properly, I have to contextualise it within their canon. It’s a slightly more dour album, but I think that’s a necessary correction after successive albums of gooey thunder pop. It’s still fun.
Try before you buy: Annihilation Affair (YouTube)