Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Amenra - Live (2012)

Live, ConSouling Sounds
October 2nd, 2012

Genre: Atmospheric Sludge
Region: Belgium

It's coming up on the release date for Mass V, which is up for preorder right now from Soul Slayer and Neurot Recordings. Until then we have a live record of theirs.

Eight tracks in total from four different rituals from 2007 to 2010, each show recorded and mixed by different people. The first three (De Dodenakker—Nemelendelle, Your Shapeless Pain, Aorte—Ritual) are from the visceral live show on 23.10.09 in Belgium which were captured and released on their infamous dvd, as well as their four part 7" split series. 

"Your Shapeless Pain" is easily one of my favorite Amenra songs, and hearing it altered and slowed down slightly live makes it even more powerful. "Ritual" includes guest musicians from Oathbreaker (Caro on vocals, Gilles on guitar, Kristoffer on bass, Thomas on percussion) who they've toured with often and are fantastic musicians; Caro's vocals are great especially in the context of this song. A little different from her style in Oathbreaker.

The extension of this track is wonderful — as Colin is hoisted up on the chains and members of Oathbreaker are slowly added to the stage, creating a thick layer of spellbinding chugging and pounding drums, to the final moment when Caro screams Colin's lines: "Chains encircle my broken wrists — but we can get out of them now!" Deeply cathartic.

I've already given my appraisal of the dvd and the songs on it in a previous Amenra related post (on the re-press of Mass III-II and the various splits), so I shouldn't need to say much. They're much more impacting with the footage mind you, but the weight is still clearly represented regardless.

The switch in the first track, just when the final throes of De Dodenakker begin to ramp up to those crushing riffs, to the final hypnotic riff in Nemelendelle is a great touch. The two tracks melt together seamlessly, replacing one set of excellent riffs for another.

The next three tracks (Thurifer, Silver Needle Golden Nail, Razoreater) are from a 2010 show in the Netherlands. Track s7 (Nemelendelle) is from a 2007 show in Belgium, and track 8 (Am Kreuz) is from a 2009 show yet again in Belgium. The performances here do not disappoint, and are a great selection of tracks from their best albums. Especially Thurifer, Razoreater and Am Kreuz. Hearing Nemelendelle in full as opposed to the spliced version in the first track is great as well.

I'm a fan of anything Amenra as you probably know already, so what should I say about this? The bass feels a little underrepresented in the mix on the first three tracks but I don't have many other complaints. The track list is excellent and the additions to songs here and there make things more interesting too. Colin's vocal style is probably my favorite at this point in time, and he loses none of his tortured and agonized tone live; if anything these qualities are heightened.

I've still yet to see Amenra live but this coupled with the dvd is all I have to experience until the day comes I can witness one of their rituals.

Definitely a good representation of their art in live form. I suggest you guys grab this one if you're a fan of their work. You can get a copy from Soul Slayer's store and at ConSouling Sounds, its packaging is as lovely as the sounds within. It looks like stock is running out so grab it quick if you want one.

DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flourishing - Intersubjectivity (2012)

EP, The Path Less Traveled Records
November 13, 2012

Genre: Technical Death Metal
Region: USA

I enjoyed The Sum of All Fossils a ton, but it didn't make my top 20 last year for a few reasons. While Flourishing play a style of haunting, complex death metal I enjoy to no end, the full length felt a little disjointed and unfocused, and it didn't pull me in. There were a few tracks I really liked (By Which We're Cemented, A Thimble's Worth, In Vivid Monochrome), and others that felt a little arduous. Their Gorguts-y tone was tasty, just barely skirting worship, but it never stuck with me.

Make no mistake. It was definitely one of the best releases in death metal last year, and it was far from being a record I didn't like, but there were a lot of others in both death metal and various other genres that held me longer and crushed me flatter. I honestly haven't given it too many repeat listens despite the quality and potential being self-evident.

With the release of Intersubjectivity, I'm compelled to make a more serious effort however.

What this new EP from New York's Flourishing shows is perfect progression, improved writing, structure, and a clear vision. Flourishing have created something truly impressive here and have dived into their true potential. They've been complex and beautifully chaotic from the start but on Intersubjectivity these qualities have been refined, honed to a viciously sharp edge while moving in a slightly different direction on several fronts.

In one aspect Flourishing seemed to have distanced themselves from some of heavy influence of Gorguts and mix what's left of it with Ulcerate (TDOA in particular) and possibly some of the sounds that drive Deathspell Omega or Mitochondrion; yet again miraculously sidesteping simple worship and carve a very distinct, disturbing sound from these influences.

This shift in style is immediately obvious from the first of the three tracks, "A Living Sundial", where (after the orchestral static in the opening seconds) I instantly recognize another change from their previous work which supersedes the one I just mentioned: the bass. The low end presence on Intersubjectivity is now a key ingredient to their sound, ringing and droning like a bell in a steeple and bringing a whole new flavor to this new dissonant path they're skulking down.

While admittedly the bass wasn't exactly nonexistent in The Sum of All Fossils (as evidenced in "By Which We're Cemented" for instance), the pace and intensity of that record relegated the instrument to a more traditional position found in technical death metal. Sure you could make it out more so than in other records, but it didn't stand out or color the sound in any big way.

That has changed entirely here. I don't know if it's due to the production or a new impetus on the bassists part, or a group decision, but the change is powerful.

Instead of trying to keep up with the other instruments in speed like other tech death acts, or being relegated to a muffled patter on more "occult" records, the bass work stands as a foundational and eerie pillar in the music. The first track is magnetic in this respect. The bass lines here were what stuck out the most, not because they were technically impressive but because of their rich addition to the dissonant atmosphere created alongside the sharp discord of the guitars, pummeling percussion, and terrifying hoarse barks from the vocalist.

They thunder and moan with deep resonance even when keeping a higher pace with the drums, and when things begin to creep they ache in a way that can only be described as harrowing. Thick and strong, building up the track after it's fallen quiet. All the while, on the guitar end the chords are struck violently when the slow down comes, and when things are fast paced they bend and writhe between howling single-note solos; invoking cold fear. On occasion things will be tremolo picked but this is never solely relied upon to force whirling intensity.

This bass-heavy emphasis instantly differentiates Floruishing from a more atmospheric death metal act like Ulcerate, where the bass is fairly lost among the chaos, essentially adding nothing to the music. On Intersubjectivity the potential for the instrument to create a frigid atmosphere is realized in ways not often heard outside sludge or doom; certainly a rarity in death metal. And it achieves this without burying the other instruments. This contrast isn't even taking into account the other aspects that set them apart from bands in the same orbit.

Another difference here is song length and pacing. With only three tracks, two of them are over seven minutes in length, providing space to concoct a layered, dynamic journey that has time to unravel fully to great effect. And even with the shortest track the refined approach they've taken here makes an impact, paced slower and brooding in darkness.

A Living Sundial is probably the best track here (or at least my favorite) with some truly ear-shearing dissonance and spellbinding rhythms imbibed with restrained technical prowess. "The Petrifaction Lottery" and "Intersubjectivity" are nothing to sneer at though. Both retain the undulating presence of the bass, with slithering, reverberating discordant riffs that grab you and don't release until the record ends. 

On the former, the flavor feels more occult to me just in the tone of the opening riffs and shuddering bass notes, as the vocalist shreds his throat over top the slowly swirling chaos. Again, the solo that appears is not flashy which is perfect — it's shrill, obscene and smothering followed by creepy high pitched harmonic notes, and a short tumultuous series of wavering, intense tremolo lines. The bass continues to hold the one riff from the beginning throughout most of the track, uttering total doom and providing a rigid backbone for the whole track.

The self-titled track follows a similar path as the first, with some more creative and haunting bass work opening the track, and then weaving within the twangs of strings, which scrape and bellow like enormous ships colliding amongst stormy ocean waters. The swells of feedback and reverb between the halts and builds adds greatly to the lumbering weight this track, and in several moments I hear something akin sped-up "Clouded" by Gorguts tones before the middle point of this track.

The tail end brings echoing notes that hang and drip into the oceanic atmosphere, forming rings that waft outward as a steady bass riff circles beneath. Except for a few brief breaks of silence, the drums thrust quickly through the majority of the track, becoming more martial near the end with some quick kick blasts in between.

I could not recommend this more. The evidence clearly shows that Flourishing are approaching new and unexplored ferocious depths of what technical, atmospheric, dissonant death metal can achieve outside of the "occult" sphere of influence while containing some of it's oppressive majesty. Intersubjectivity is impressive, hypnotic and worthy of your attention.

Please be so kind as to toss them the measly $2.50 they are asking for on The Path Less Traveled Records' bandcamp page to download this record. And if you didn't know yet, The Sum of All Fossils is being pressed to vinyl and up for preorder at Australopithecus Records as I write this — so grab a copy of that if you so wish.

DOWNLOAD (Bandcamp)