Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vilipend - Inamorata (2012)

Full Length, No List Records / A389 Recordings
August 16th, 2012

Genre: Hardcore/Metalcore
Region: Canada

This is another review originally written for Cvlt Nation. I held off on posting it here but I see some links have surfaced on the net elsewhere, so I'm getting this up here now.

Inamorata, the first full length from Toronto's rising hardcore act Vilipend, is quite the wrecking ball of blazing discordance.

I've reviewed a few of Vilipend's EPs not too long ago at the band's request, and I've seen them a few times since then; including a few nights ago at Titan's Burn release show. I filmed their set in which they played quite a few tracks from this very record. Some I heard for the first time and others I've definitely heard prior, but now that I have the new record in my hands and have given it a good dose of spins I can definitely recommend grabbing this sharp shard of hardcore for yourself. It's a sign that the old styles of metalcore and hardcore from the '90's like Rorschach still survives and is driven by just as much passion, without an injection of black metal (not that it would be a negative, it's just nice to see).

The title of this record should give you a hint as to at least one main theme of the record — whether it's a reference to a past lover or being used ironically/metaphorically, in thinly veiled spite or all of the above. Chris' despondent snarls spewing the subjects of betrayal, hatred cowardice once again translate very well feelings of destitution and frustration; rolling between vicious rasps and warped semi-clean slurs.

These topics are not unfamiliar but they are universally relatable, strongly written and performed, and he's supported in his vocal duties by Derek and Mike at various points in many tracks as well. Coupled with Adam's catchy splattering of percussion, and the coarse rumble of Mike's bass supporting Derek's dissonant, furious guitar attack this all makes for a twisted and bitter voyage into chaotic hardcore the band can stand proud by.

Out of the gate Inamorata presents the angst and anger nicely with "To Impede The Healing Process", noisy with tumbling drums and loads of distortion as Chris unfurls the vitriol within. Scraping rhythms and acrid presence fills this song and the next, "Cutting Heartstrings [Erosion]" which has some mean percussion in the opening seconds and a clean finish. Some tracks sound straight forward and punkish at first like "The Last Stand of the Hopeless Romantic", beginning with a bouncy assault (almost upbeat) before descending into dark slams and bent dissonance — emerging with a chorus of shouts, wicked and loud as well as a short final riff that closes the track nicely.

"The Thin Red Line Between Salvation and Damnation" is an example of the band slowing things down beautifully as it opens with a hypnotizing drum beat, the satisfying clang of cymbals, gradual feedback and Mike's steady plucking providing ample quakes. While maintaining the pace, Derek kicks in with a sluggish slam and slow sustained bends which will have you swaying. Chris brings intoxicated moaning and snarls over top and a moment for Mike opens up to conjure a great slithering solo bass line. What I love about the way this track ends is how it so easily, after some angular processions, drags you into the next track "Farewell, Cruel Girl [Apnea]" which immediately turns the speed up a few notches, and has one of the best opening riffs ever. It's so simple but such a seriously addicting moment and I only wish it repeated once more at some point in the song.

These two may be my favorites. They're almost symbiotic, containing some of those mesmerizing bends, choppy chugging and a repeated clean section that tangles with a distorted set of chops while Chris rails onward. The [Apnea] tag on the tail of this track brings some quiet reflection before they tear onward: a solemn and melodic acoustic instrumental that might throw you at first after the devastating assault that proceeded it.

That's the only break you'll get here though, as the guys plow ahead with "Self Low Thing" and "Great White Nothing", two more sonic batterings before the final entry. I heard the second track here for the first time live last week and it was heavy and spellbinding on stage, so hearing it laid down here you can believe that it retains just as much weight. Jumpy and jarring with a truly massive uncoiling riff near the end as Chris's vocals become heavily distorted it's no wonder they got this up and streaming first to showcase the record.

There's only one area of this album which contains a little more technical flair outside of the writhing, and this is found on the final moments of "Meant To Be"; performed by another local musician Luke Roberts. It works well with core elements of the track which is the longest one on Inamorata. It crawls at first, enclosed in a sorrow filled atmosphere but eventually opens up the tempo with that satisfying twangy rhythm and booming bass lines, hitting some very catchy moments midway through. The hook lyric "It was meant to be nothing at all!" begins to cycle endlessly towards the finale and it grabs your attention like a vice grip. It stops for a moment, then the slams, bends and kicks rotate around this lyric when suddenly that aforementioned solo punches through the caustic haze. It's a great solo, harmonized at the end without needless wank. The hook comes back for a moment before a slow fade with bass up front.

Inamorata can definitely be counted as a triumph for the band while leaving room to progress and expand, keeping the old school and tasty cacophony alive and vibrant. All of their outputs have been powerful but this one tops them undoubtedly.

Yes, this is some excellent hardcore you should definitely check out and support. If you're looking for a copy it's up for preorder on baby blue vinyl on A389 Recordings, and I believe the cd copies are distributed by No List Records; the band currently has copies so if you see them you can get a one from them. I assume they'll eventually be available at the band's merch site too so keep an eye out!

DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)
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Thenn - Threshing the Golden Fields (2012)

EP, Self-released / Independent
August 1st, 2012

Genre: Blackened Crust/Black Metal
Region: USA

Here's a submission by an Indiana band called Thenn. I'm trying to get through the pile, and I think this is an excellent place to start.

What I think would best describe Thenn's style is the reverse of Young and In The Way. Where YAITW take a sprinkle of black metal and delicately lace their crusty hardcore with it, Thenn stand on a thick foundation of old school black metal ala Darkthrone and inject some crust into thrashy dark nest they've made.

With a sickly rasp the vocalist sprays cryptic cult messages, it's a very ugly and gnarled howl that perfectly fits the tangled instrumentals underneath. The guitar and drumming is very reminiscent of older iterations of black metal with fast, crunchy tremolo riffs and abrasive, foul percussion. The bass has a fair presence as well which is always nice to hear.

This group kind of takes Barghest's approach as they breath new life into the style. When the crust emerges it's subtle and more akin to YAITW's V. Eternal Depression style: occasional cold passages between the writhing, but they are few and leave the black metal unscathed the majority of the EP.

There's five short tracks to ingest here, and they're all quite chaotic and hazy. "Abscesses of Light" starts things off with straight up stormy black metal riffs, with very little indication of their crusty influences except for a more hardcore tempo chunk near the end. Following up is "Bathing in Cold Autumn" which continues with the same fervor but with a slight tainting of hardcore when a slower powerchord emerges amongst the tremolos.

"Vigils" has more indications of it's crust leanings with both the intro riff which has that familiar tempo, laced with a muddy film, as well as the final push of the song being more galloping, winding upward. It's a sorrowful build. With the next track "They Are Given to the Inviting Earth" we dive deep into the blackened abyss once again with only one tail section that brings the crust to the fore, slowly crushing the permafrost beneath their trampling hooves.

Threshing the Golden Fields, the closer, is the closest thing to YAITW's style on the record but still manages to carve it's own path. Feedback is briefly introduced before a full on onslaught of ripping black metal, only to end abruptly as a frostbitten passage rises, simple and slow. The croaking of the vocals chimes in as the drumming becomes more and more amorous. The right channel guitar is introduced, but not long after we return to black metal territory, slithering in the muck for the final riff.

I like what they've done here. It surprised me: instead of blindly following the newer crop of blackened hardcore groups Thenn have taken a more purified path, carefully adding elements of crust or hardcore to bolster the grim black metal they've conjured. It's tempting to do no doubt considering it's the next most attractive wave after the new old school death metal and atmospheric black metal waves.

I suggest you guys check it out, especially if you want something that doesn't "bastardize" the "sacred genre" by skirting most black metal ingredients and resting on hardcore foundations.  I myself don't care for one over the other, as long as it's done well. And Thenn have made a great effort to do so here. I'm pretty sure if you're a fan of YAITW, Black Monolith, Hexis, Torch Runner or Void Forger you'll enjoy this a lot.

Thenn have graciously put this up for free download on their bandcamp page below, so head over there and have a taste.

DOWNLOAD (Bandcamp)

Dephosphorus - Night Sky Transform (2012)

Full Length, 7 Degrees Records
August 20th, 2012

Genre: Grindcore/Death Metal/Hardcore/Black Metal/Astrogrind
Region: Greece

Dephosphorus have returned with their first full record. I've been listening to Night Sky Transform for a little while now, but even when I had only heard the first two tracks at the beginning of this year I knew it was going to be something ferocious and formidable.

Now that I physically have it and have spun it an ungodly number of times even before it was in my grasp I can confidently say that this is my #2 record of the year at this point, and until I hear the new Tesa it'll have to be something of considerable heft to move it from that spot. If you're wondering what #1 is then you haven't been paying attention.

I do admit that the first few times I listened through Night Sky Transform it did not hit me as hard as Axiom. I didn't think it was bad, it's just that I was a little concerned that they couldn't follow themselves. But I had faith and returned to it repeatedly, and at some point it hit me just as hard as their first release. That alone is impressive enough. Being able to top such a devastating opener to their library is something I was concerned would not happen even though I trust in their creativity, skill and dedication.

Night Sky Transform is 10 tracks (exactly 31 minutes) of swirling blackened grindcore that is easily the best in it's still ambiguous genre this year and a worthy follow up to their EP. What's notable about the length here is it never ceases to impress and never wears on you; most grind and hardcore records that reach or pass the half hour mark can become tedious and repetitious but this is far from what you experience here. Of course this is much more than pure grind or hardcore to say the least — Dephosphorus perpetually elude categorization.

Almost every track hovers around 3 minutes in length but they're so packed full of exciting, gripping elements that you're often surprised at how quickly they seem to progress. You'll feel compelled to return to them in order to catch something you missed before. And yet it's nothing overly complex at all. It's not flashy or self-indulgent. That's not to say the skill level isn't impressive — surely it is on all fronts. And it's all extremely tight and hasn't dropped one bit from their debut. The important thing here is a completely smooth transition between all the various styles they've mixed, channeled through rich and very pleasing riffs Thanos conjures, wonderfully harsh vocal work from Panos, and Nikos' percussion that is searingly fast and tastefully busy.

At first the production seems coarse compared to Axiom which felt very cold and clean, but by the second track you settle into it comfortably as it brings the rough, muddied texture of the guitar and the force of the drums into a new level of dynamism. It does not smother anything — Panos' voice is not drowned, Nikos' blasts do not burry Thanos' mighty guitar work. Lyrically we see that the cosmological-spiritual themes glimpsed in Axiom are preserved and expanded upon, sometimes ceremonial in form, with (what I think are) subtle dystopian undertones taken to a celestial level in some songs.

Dephosphorus pour untold quantities of passion and intensity into this record. Fierce cosmic radiation seeps into each song as they retain their signature style, a unique atmosphere draping all songs, while on a few occasions they slow down and experiment ever so slightly with the strong formula they've established.

Examples of this can be heard in "The Fermi Paradox" which at the start could almost be confused with something Neurosis might have created: slow martial or ceremonial drumming, eerie twinkling atmospherics and minimalistic, bendy swelling grooves; as well as a switch for the first time to clean droned vocals to heighten the ritualistic feeling of astral projection through the dominating blackened chaos. Panos' vocals are fairly varied on this record and just as terrifying. Desperate and agonized on the higher register and when he dips low they are an unearthly growl

"Unconscious Excursion" is another instance where things are slowed down for a time with thick sustained chords and once again clean moans. It's a very hypnotic sway that is created, which is carried into a slightly faster paced second half where we return to some of that wonderful and tasty hardcore groove found throughout the record (accompanied by a short and howling solo). You can see this kind of formula work it's way into the middle of the following track "Aurora" as well, continuing to the end. It gives variance between the rusted cacophony that tears through the coldest reaches of space, without dropping the power.

What I love about everything they've released so far is that they manage to capture the heaving weight of sludge at various points but never actually settle on it, so you don't actually encounter or experience it in it's pure form but taste the influence in a new, dark manifestation. This is kind of captured in it's more distilled forms in the aforementioned tracks, but in almost every song you catch glimpses of it, alongside the death metal and black metal which stains the grinding hardcore.

I have to say that while I could easily say everything recorded hear impresses me (as it all does) which makes it hard to choose favorite tracks, I will say the first four songs are my favorites. "Uncharted" and "Cold Omen were wise choices to show off before Night Sky Transform was released, as well as being great openers to have back-to-back. Both have a very similar vibe and formula, sounding like a brief transition from where Axiom left off to the full earth shattering impact of this record.

Each riff in these openers is so addicting and well crafted, smoothly slipping into one another and leading to a dissonant and heavy dirge at the end; injecting the black metal with some sludge ooze to great effect. These ending caps have some lovely drumming to compliment the just as impressive guitar and vocal work. "Cold Omen" especially has some hurricane-force percussion. Both are captivating seemingly aided by the unceasing pressure of surrounding celestial bodies

"Starless" follows them with a more bouncy and mid-paced section on guitar while the drumming continues to awe, and when you hit that section at the 50 second mark it becomes truly spellbinding; shortly afterwards assaulting you with that blinding haste they channel so well. And then we hit the title track, decidedly more on the genuine hardcore side than blackened grind (on the outset at least) with flurries of discord added to the powerchords. You can still feel the astral atmosphere lurking within each moment however. By the time you're halfway in a slow gratifying oscillation lulls you, signalling they haven't dropped their approach at all, before a return to the previous thread.

From this point on we see Dephosphorus shape their formula continuously into deeply satisfying and intense new configurations without straying too far from their transcendental, darkened, angular atmospherics. It's remarkable how they can transfigure their style and keep it fresh without losing the force behind it.

We see it in tracks like "The Astral Putch I" which starts off jarring before jumping effortlessly between grindcore with a definite black metal structure shortly after the intro, and then again near the end where a riff appears that reeks of evil; tremolo angularity feeds into chords of the same style. "The Astral Putch II" is split from the first by "Identifying The Encapsulator" — which is jumpy vortex of riffs — and is far different from part one. Slower at first, breathing deep and shining with a brooding cold patina, before jumping into more technical territory. It then shifts into a sharp blackened cascade shortly after, urgent and ominous; suddenly we're back in the hardcore gear as Panos shrieks his last words.

And then as if to prove my earlier point we sink into "Stargazing & Violence". A distinct death metal overtone is cloaking the opening minute, close to the old school on both the drums and guitars. Just as you're settling into it we're greeted with a delicious groove and before you're finished enjoying it an escalating scheme of chords appears as Panos calmly and clearly speaks with it. The black metal enters and Nikos blasts us while Panos screeches — and one final return to a more hardcore flavor. *

The final three tracks that close this record also appeared on their split with Wake released a few months back, and if you read my review of that record then you already know what my impression of them was at that point. The shortest tracks on the record and still being fairly different from each other in spite of your expectations of them being a burst of speed to close the record. "Unit" is certainly a scorching meteor, but both "The Final Computronium" and "The Cosmologist" have some nice slower sections crush you with. Sure they're executed with a disturbing urgency but amongst the oppressive speed is breathing room, making the blistering pace all the more satisfying. *

Why would you even hesitate to listen to this? This is an album of undeniable strength and creativity, something that blends genres so effortlessly and smoothly it can please practically anyone with working ears who can appreciate great underground music. A pleasure to listen to, Night Sky Transform is a huge accomplishment for these Greek grinders and that's saying a lot when you consider their debut Axiom was one of the best pieces of grind-esque metal in the last decade this side of GridLink and A Scanner Darkly.

Listen to it loud and conjure an astral storm.

No download link this time even though it's out there. Dephosphorus deserve your money, so go to bandcamp and download it for a measly $5 as it's easily worth more than that. Stream it and hear for yourself I do not lie. Or you can go to 7 Degrees Records and send them an email to pick this up in vinyl form with some beautiful artwork. I just got my copy and it's well worth the cash.

DOWNLOAD / BUY (Bandcamp)

EDIT: A mistake on my part everyone. Apparently the advanced copy I had included the tracks from the Wake split and the Great Falls split, and now that I've spun the vinyl and been contacted/informed I'm aware of this. So I've struck the last two paragraphs of the review dealing with those aspects and amended the length. Just be aware of this when reading this and checking out the album, those four tracks are found on separate releases. *

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mare - Mare (2004)

EP, Hydra Head Records
October 5th, 2004

Genre: Atmospheric Sludge/Doom Metal
Region: Canada

I'm perpetually behind on this years great releases at this point, but I promise I'll get to them soon. The new Ash Borer, Dephosphorus, Bereft, The Howling Wind, Protestant, Morigon, Swans, Evoken, Torch Runner, Panopticon, A Forest of Stars, Old Man Gloom, etc. Not that it matters really with the thousands of other great blogs out there tackling them in a responsible and timely manner — the top of the list obviously being Forever Cursed and The Living Doorway. So get your ass over there and show some love.

However I'm gonna use up a few posts to repost and properly review some of my favorite records (most likely 3) in between catching up on all that so bare with me. I started writing for Cvlt Nation last month (joining my friend Haxan from Forever Cursed) and I recently had the pleasure of writing an article about Mare's reunion shows here in Toronto. I also slipped in a review of their only release which is one of my favorite records of all time, and I wanted to post it here with a link to the record.

I posted this record when I first joined Equivoke but said very little about it — the link is down now and instead of just updating that I wanted to start fresh. So if you want you can head over and check out the full article about the live shows in their entirety, but below is just the review of the record and their performance last week (edited so it will make sense in the context of this blog). I would hope more people know about this than I'm inclined to a assume, but it never hurts to spread the magic and get others into such a great record.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
(Originally published at Cvlt Nation)

This past Thursday and Friday I and many others were blessed enough to be witness to several Toronto reunion shows of the legendary sludge three-piece Mare. I attended two of them, there was nothing that was going to keep me from seeing such a rare and visceral performance, and the supporting local bands Titan, Gates, White Ribs and Godstopper helped make the night even more special.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer / Griefer - We Hate You / Dancho Danchev Suck My Dick (2010)

Split, Deterrent Records

Genre: Noise/Industrial/Death Industrial/Power Electronics
Region: USA

Hope you're not tired of noise yet — I'll get to some more recent and palatable releases soon. I meant to get this split posted here like a year ago and I don't know if any other blogs have it up out there. Two excellent noise inducers of very different styles.

As always Blue Sabbath Black Cheer unleash a shuddering heap of droning noise in one 14 minute track titled We Hate You. This was actually my introduction to this duo and it is genuinely impressive. It starts off as a coarse cannonade of bassy, rumbling ambiance and slowly snowballs into a grotesque tower of howling static complete with those absolutely ferocious vocals I love so much, basking in malice, pain and animosity (as the title suggests).

When they appear it's by far the best part of the track. They're accompanied by some kind of reverberating and obviously massive bell tone at points which add so much to their force An intense squall is stimulated by the final half with successive muffled explosions and knocks.

It molds a destitute landscape in the best way, becoming oppressively loud near the end. A huge atmosphere, a perfect build up to unfettered cruelty, and a disturbing decline as the harsh howls subside is what awaits all listeners.

Griefer's side is composed of 4 tracks of varying sonic malfeasance through power electronics. There are some exceptional and blunt lyrics buried under fierce processing, perfectly translating computer and network deviancy and themes of digital tyranny and brutality.

"Criminal Aggregators" starts us of well expressing the dismal character of financial an stock industries in the most blunt and aggressive manner possible, with a percussive force like that of a wrecking ball fading in and out. The sharp cycling rusted squeal and the warbled buzz serving as a base for the deeply distorted and digitized vocals. "SMS Ransomware" reads like computer prompts and code in lyrical form decoding the reality of SMS services and the implications for network security. A sharp buzzing with intermittent dips into crumpled metallic scrapes and knocks, spiraling upwards with pained frequencies; they are climbing relentlessly.

"Dancho Danchev", the subject of this split and the third track, uses this cyber threat analyst as a target with one of the more chilling lines on this record:
"you take care of yourself 
because it would be terrible 
if something were to happen to you."

A muffled rumbling and then growing bit-distorted signals rise more and more as the words are distant, masked and shaky. Rough booms enter eventually and from here it grows. This one is ominous and disturbing and by far the most entrancing, and the lyrics definitely feel the most direct and personal. "SS8 Interceptor" is the final track, once again reading like an windows error message for the first half, but far more clear, focusing on a specific cyber intelligence and security company. Spiking warbled sirens and a hypnotic buzz to blanket them are the core elements with only slight aberrations.

A great noisy and ugly split. Both artists lay down impressive material here. Head over to Deterrent Industries or Absurd Exposition to get a copy of this split in limited marble brown vinyl format.

DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer - Untitled (2012)

Full Length, Equation Records / Dead Accent Records
August 3rd, 2012

Genre: Noise/Industrial/Death Industrial/Power Electronics
Region: USA

This is the last piece of material from the releases enclosed on "The Boundary Between The Living And The Deceased Dissolved"; a set of rare and unreleased tracks in the Blue Sabbath Black Cheer catalogue. Not being as familiar with his various releases as I would like I cannot tell you when these were recorded, however it is quite a compilation of vile sounds to ingest.

There's a great deal of variance in terms of arrangement and intensity to be found on this album. Despite this the atmosphere never strays far from a violent hellstorm. It is truly a string of monstrous sonic eruptions, the essence of destruction laid down in harsh and unforgiving terms, never lacking in structure but always creative and surprising. Track lengths run from 4 minutes at their shortest to one 11 minute conjuration of spellbinding horror and everything in between; even on the more lengthy track it never loses you which is a testament to this acts ability and talent in such a niche genre.

Out of the gate I was immediately impressed by "The Sense of Violence", one wonders just how much you can do with harsh noise but Blue Sabbath Black Cheer prove continuously that it can be as engaging and creative as any other style. The sharp shrieks of metal on metal and roars of ferocity merge with metallic clangs, high pitch noise and muffled booms to create a jarring and haunted grind in this opener. Feedback and a rotating static grows before the iron clangs come back for a brief section of gritty silence, split open by feral roars. An industrial landscape being ruined by some unearthly evil.

"Man Is The Bastard" follows, and the last moments of the first track bleed into it with a crash; overwhelming radio static beneath. This track is only slightly shorter and certainly no less oppressive. The groan of machinery rumbles forth with purpose, as hollowed howls clash with urgent wailing sirens — it creates what one may hear in a hurricane ignited by the flames of an exploding volcano as it passes over you, fading into the distance horizon.

It's certainly a rarity when a quiet moment appears, really there's only varying levels of controlled chaos and bleak loudness. "Demise" displays this well with a fading silence overtaken by shifting distorted frequencies, a stinging high-pitched digital cry fades and returns as those demonic vocals go from low to a frightening high — all the more distorted as they rise. You almost think silence will return but it never does as that whine comes back, pulsing and shaking as it gets louder amongst the background noise.

Then it ends abruptly as a segue into the hypnotic muffled booms of the first "Untitled" song. This album just continues to impress.

Quiet at first but the noise soaks it up as those dulled impacts continue to rotate. This is an industrial goliath that builds over the 11 minutes you're immersed in it. Again the distinct wail of metal scraped on metal returns, circling a cosmic drain as more elements are sucked into it to grow the chaos. It feels ancient, rhythmic, powerful. Nightmarish sounds from some tortured extra-dimensional entity pulse in and out of the fray. This repeats for the entire track as some elements fade and grow in volume until about the 7 minute mark when the booms disappear, replaced by electric crackles, hums and scratching all shifting in pitch and intensity. It becomes a deafening whirlwind before releasing, transforming into a static-laced quiet, and it is captivating the entire time.

Again the last track bleeds into the next. "Disgusting Body" carries a similar mesmerizing rhythm in it as well, replacing crushing industrial blows for a repeating alarm carried by more unholy bellows. It's less chaotic, more simple then the previous track and yet still jarring while showing a slight change in direction, staying fresh but no less intimidating. It only changes the formula right at the end as the alarm is slowed way down.

With a startling quake we are welcomed to "No Escape... You'll Still Die" — a buzz and successive, concussive slams under a suffocated growl. Grotesque static bursts in between the crushing blows and a frightening demonic howl wavers between the right and left channel.

The title is absolutely appropriate as this track conjures an image of a very violent, unfathomably powerful, rudely awakened cosmic force ravaging planets creating a piercing, harsh frequency as it inhales. You have no chance to escape it. When you're swallowed the rumbles of the outside environment become drowned and the hums of the inner-workings deaden your senses, ever increasing in volume — then it passes, leaving only a faint whirring chime in its wake.

A track like "Song For The Dead" literally sounds like an absurdly twisted emergency siren on some enormous marine vessel being overtaken by biblical sea creature. The constant cycling noise and whine grows at an agonizing pace with tortured shrieks bubbling to the surface more and more, only to slowly fade as that vessel sinks into the abyss.

The second "Untitled" track (closing the album) is an example of the BSBC formula at it's most quiet, breaching that silence with spectral croaks and moans as echoing stomps and a low reverberating hum grows steadily. These far off impacts in the background, and the intermittent knocking sound like the earth being pummeled by howitzers in the distance as you're huddled in a haunted bunker. It's on the edge of being ambient.

This is a compilation of forgotten sounds that is worth listening to. It plays as one whole song of mechanical, cruel, unstoppable collapse of empyrean might brought on by unknowable forces.

Truly a wicked journey that must be heard. I can definitely recommend this one. While this cd comes with the aforementioned package available for a limited time on Equation Records (also available over at Aquarius Records), you can also find a copy of this compilation on its own over at Dead Accents if you're only interested in this unreleased material.

DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer - The Boundary Between The Living And The Deceased Dissolved (2012)

Full Length, Equation Records
July, 2012

Genre: Noise/Industrial/Death Industrial/Power Electronics
Region: USA

Time to review and share a genre I'm not very familiar with but have an increasing interest in. Take my opinions with a grain of salt even more so here as I have a very small frame of reference for this style. This is a two-in-one review of cult noise sorcerer Blue Sabbath Black Cheer's new material from a live show on a 12" LP and a dedication on a 7" EP. The bundle came with these two as well as a bonus CD of unreleased material (and much more) which I will put up after this post separately sometime soon.

The focus here is primarily on the 12".

My first exposure to Blue Sabbath Black Cheer was actually a late one, that being his split with Victoria, BC's death industrial act Griefer and while both sides of the split are excellent it was BSBC's side that blew me away. Since then I've heard the Endless Blockade and a few others but not in heavy rotation; I suspect this will change.

This LP contains a 20 minute session performed live last Halloween. From the very few noise acts I've seen live it seems that while the recordings are always harrowing and cold, the performance has been something even more powerful if done right. Griefer's set when I saw it summer 2011 was stunning, even more so than his "Brute Force" album (which is marvelous), and much like his BSBC's live sets obviously bring the already oppressive undulating wall of catastrophic noise to another level. This record is evidence of that.

I would imagine it is a little more difficult to bring the atmosphere of such a style performed live and set it to physical form than it is with others, but I'd say it was absolutely done right with this one. You can barely tell it was a live ritual. It's crystal clear, and the atmosphere is thick.

The track is unsettling right from the start with deafening crashes of I would guess is a cymbal or gong with a slow, rising bass hum between the echoes. The slow start will fool you into believing this will be an ambient journey but you'll soon realize it's the complete opposite.

It feels like it was performed in some primeval sunken chamber or dungeon. It's such a slow and eerie build, with what sounds like an approaching storm or avalanche; the faint howling of wind, rumbling and eventually a prolonged moan or roar. There's something I really admire about his style of noise and that is it's literally creepy how the atmosphere expands so gradually, growing so loud at points it's nightmarish.

When vocals do emerge they're absolutely inhuman, you would absolutely believe this was some kind of paranormal or demonic entity. They take over from the halfway point onward and spike in and out, pained and heavily distorted, from the cycling, reverberating cymbals and cataclysmic crackling quakes.

At this point if you haven't shit your pants and passed out you feel like climbing out of your own skin to escape the hellish, harsh onslaught of sonic death. But it just keeps coming, growing more disturbing as horn-like noises shift pitch and drone in intimidating fashion. The sounds of possession collapse onward until they die suddenly, and all that remains is the sudden, startling smashes heard in the opening.

This record is terrifying. A soundtrack to the apocalypse. Best enjoyed in the dark with a good set of headphones. Do not listen if you have a weak heart.

After a taste of the main course, we move now to a short desert in the form of a 7" titled Destruction Dedicated To The Cherry Point which is "inspired and dedicated to The Cherry Point", another harsh noise artist (one I have not heard). It is immediately obvious that this is a far different creature than the LP, presenting a thick, muffled wall of harsh noise that drones for it's entire length, almost never wavering from this pattern. It's simple, direct and very short, and there's not much I can even say about it — I feel far more out of my comfort zone with this than the 12".

Despite the fact I'm far from a noise enthusiast at this point in my listening habits I know when I hear something great, and I can absolutely say that the LP is totally worth checking out and definitely worth buying; especially if you want to to be horrified in the most pleasurable manner possible. It has encouraged me to seek out more of BSBC's work. The EP while much more simple is an added bonus with all the other goodies that come with the full record. If you want this excellent package of merch and sounds you can storm Equation Records (or Aquarius Records) to get a copy. It comes with a bunch of excellent Blue Sabbath Black Cheer swag (all listed on their site).They're limited to 235 copies so act fast.

The Boundary Between The Living And The Deceased Dissolved 12" LP:

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Destruction Dedicated To The Cherry Point 7" EP:

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Northless / Light Bearer - Split (2012)

Split, Halo of Flies
March, 2012

Genre: Sludge/Atmospheric Sludge/Post-Metal
Region: USA / UK

Inresurrection already did a review of Light Bearer's side of this great split not long ago, but now that the full record has been out for a few months and I've had time to run through it I'm gonna review both sides. And it's a great combination of bands for a split I must say.

Northless contributes two big tracks in their inimitable, bone breaking style. Admittedly they're not as impressive as Clandestine Abuse for me but they remain gigantic. "Tears From Crime" is the opener of their side with it's mid-paced lumbering, a pulverizing song that has dropped some of the noticeable dissonance from their full length for the most part. It's still a loud and debilitating boulder of sound from beginning to end in spite of being more straight forward, and slows a notch down in the last quarter of the song with intermittent bouncy strings of notes punctuating the massive powerchords.

Once you hit the next track "For As Long As You Walk The Earth Your Blood Will Reek Of Failure" which is a few minutes longer, the hardcore pacing comes back for the beginning — as does some of their previously mentioned epic scraping angularity once the track slows down. It swings back between ripping hardcore-ish sections and sluggish creeping, writhing marches. Nearing the end after a melodic build the song grinds down slowly bringing the doom right to the front with an evil sheen, and settles into a nice groove.

Light Bearer as most people know emerged from the ashes of the great Fall of Efrafa, and their debut record Lapsus was a great slab of post-metal. Personally I felt that it did not reach the captivating level that any of Fall of Efrafa's records did, and meandered a little more than meeting satisfying climaxes. Their side of this split titled "Celestium Apocrypha: Book of Watchers" though is a huge step up in my opinion, does absolutely everything right and is the highlight of this record. The strength displayed in Fall of Efrafa is back here — I may have to return to Lapsus to see if my opinion has changed.

The 22 minutes drift by with a deeply satisfying atmosphere, and reaches soaring peaks that will put you into a dream-like state. The first half (minus the ominous, noisy intro soundscape) slowly mounts with steady percussion before bursting wide open with excellent, simple lurching and chugging guitar and bass riffs that cycle back on themselves in a strong, very murky ditch of sludge. A familiar harsh raspy growl surfaces occasionally in a smooth rhythm with the rest of the instruments.

The build is phenomenal with some carefully used effects to punch it up a little, then a quiet valley of cleans confronts you after the bigger riffs dissipate about 10 minutes in. This section is quite something, buffered by cycling synths or samples, and a bit of clean singing. It's dark and cold at first (reminding me of moments in Fall of Efrafa's "Inle") — breaking at one point for some brief bigger, distorted riffs — but once you enter the final third of the track the smooth bass lines lull you, and shimmering post-metal clasps itself to your brain creating an ethereal wave of light that rises continuously right to the final fade.

Highly recommended split this one. If you're a fan of either band you'll enjoy this. Halo of Flies has this record up for sale now so go get it. You can also hear each side of the split streaming here and here; and Light Bearer put up their side for download as well.

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Northless - Clandestine Abuse (2011)

Full Length, Gilead Media
March 8th, 2011

Genre: Sludge
Region: USA

Yet another record I should've gotten to far too long ago. I'm not fucking around when I say it definitely should've been on my 2011 year end list (easily in the top 10), and I have only myself to blame for not getting to it before the year was out. After fully absorbing it I'm here to tell you this is a beastly album and you should not pass on it as I so foolishly did.

Clandestine Abuse is another brilliant record from Gilead Media, and the first full record Northless have released after a string of EPs and splits. I've read a few reviews comparing this to early Mastodon, one where it was said the song-writing wasn't as strong nor the riffs as interesting; I completely disagree. It is actually the complete opposite. What Northless have achieved on this album is nothing short of amazing. Clandestine Abuse is loaded with passion and great song composition. Comparisons to Mastodon are unwarranted in my opinion, but then again I'm not a fan of theirs. It is a truly daunting hunk of groove-filled, oddly dissonant atmospheric sludge unlike others in the genre.

In fact there aren't much sludge acts I can think of that manage to place dissonant metallic chords expertly amongst bludgeoning slabs of sludge and make it work so well, while managing to keep the dirges unfathomably heavy and keeping a strong direction all at once. It's complex in a deceiving way as the album seems simple on first listen but as you progress through it you notice the shifts in tempo, subtly atmospheric arrangements in riffs. The droning angularity is what I must stress once again. It came as a major surprise to me as I thought I was in for straight sludge but there's much more here.

It is undeniable that the members of Northless are very creative. The guitars have a warm, crunchy tone, the drumming is thick doing well to prop up both the fast and slow aspects of each track, while the bass will crack concrete; a truly menacing growl. The production pumps it all up nicely making the record sound all the more behemoth.

There's a bit of hardcore sprinkled in there too, not only in the vocal style which is a pissed off yell that would fit very well among any choice of crusty hardcore act. It;s aggressive and harsh, not deep but just clear enough to hear the lyrics with a little bit of certainty. His style suits the tone of this record perfectly, and contrasts with the down-tuned rumble found throughout the songs. The only time the vocals move from this style is in the final track "Storm" (where he's far more clean) which is also the only semi-melodic area on this dark and angry trek — at least in the beginning, in the end the relentless hammering sludge riffs takeover and close the record in a very satisfying manner.

The pacing also shows off this hardcore influence. It's occasionally leans on the fast end of things, breaking at just the right moments to wallow in a dark set of doomy riffs before running headlong again. This is shown off well in tracks like the aforementioned "Storm" or "Dead Ends" (the shortest track) which starts slow and quickly morphs into something that wouldn't be out of place on a blackened hardcore record, but with far more doom draped over it.

Regardless of the pace all tracks maintain a crushing and slow gait with spikes of discordance such as "Not Made for Existence", which features some powerful guitar work compelling headbanging as if it were a spell set upon you. It's desperate tangled whines are beautiful, and the desperate build of sludge grooves in the middle before the pick slides are so tasty.

The opener "Flesh & Ghosts", akin to a battering of sledge hammers on your chest from beginning to end, is something monumental. Starting slow and progressing further into that twisted hardcore flair, it envelops you in a crusted, ugly cloak by the middle of the track. Dipping and bending as the low end carves deep fissures in the earth, the swaying crawl that some of the later riffs present to you is overpowering. This record has far too many excellent riffs to speak of and still swallows you with a huge atmosphere.

It's rare when you'll hit a clean spot, but when you do like in "Damnation" or near the end of the bass-heavy "Sundowner" it's so brief, still loud and furious. This track is another thunderous onslaught that contains piles of addictive sections. Or midway through "Empty Home" where the twang of the cleans builds a devastating groove which is followed up on by the heavy bass plucks, soon to plunge into a set of titanic distorted riffs. A rusted and mangled beauty is created. The title track has one of these short cleans, a track which starts with a rumble and then an immediate dose of angularity before tumbling into massive slams; and suddenly a quicker clean section before returning to the rough rolling riffs.

I don't think there's a weak spot on this record. It's addicting, wicked and different from the usual styles in the doom and sludge arena while retaining a smothering atmosphere all it's own. Clandestine Abuse is 55 minutes long but due to the fantastic writing ability showcased here it's never boring, never taxing, always enjoyable and will keep your attention. They switch things up just enough but the style is retained in its purest form.

Get this record guys. Support Northless because whatever they come up with next will surely be impressive. I saw them at the Gilead Media fest and their set really opened my eyes. I have much regret for not spinning this more but I'll be making up for it without a doubt.

Clandestine Abuse is also up for streaming on Glead Media's bandcamp page and can be purchased in reddish-orange vinyl form at the webshop as well. I highly recommend shoving more money at Gilead Media.

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