Category Archives: Review

Sounds of Elsewhere: Facthedral’s Hall

As a label, Facthedral’s Hall has been around for more than 20 years, releasing bold music, adventurous and innovative. That is a long time of unleashing limited batches of music into the world.

The beauty of this label is, apart from it being independent, it’s wonderfull open-mindedness. Music that is dark seems to be the only binding factor, apart from mesmerizing quality and a sense of enchantment. From pummeling death metal to otherworldly ambient, industrial and electronics, it’s all there.

That makes Facthedrall’s Hall, also a mailorder and event organizer, a label for listeners who are bold. Listeners who like sounds that are different, transformative and exotic. That’s why I decided to explore a number of releases from the label here.

Ingodeme – Endless

Ingodeme

Meandering beats, laser sounds and a seemingly incongruent arsenal of sonic collage elements assault you. The odd whistle suddenly grips with intent, a repetition that creates an anchor point in the swamps of sound as the whole of the music starts throbbing forward. Slowly, but surely, this drags you into the sound as it becomes more and more hypnotic and part of your own bio-rhythm. I love how all the layers of sound come together. It’s endlessness captured in a good 18 minutes with two tracks, titled ‘Endless’ and ‘Endless 2’. I know nothing about the artist. I don’t know if I need to. But I know that this is an experience.

Archenterum – “​.​.​.​ainsi fut Abîme”

Archentarum
Archentarum

And maybe this switch is slightly too absurd, but I jump into the technical sound of Archenterum. A black metal act from Avignon. Or death metal. You can pick which you find most fitting, but I hear the cold industrial sounds of Woest in this band. Yet, Archeterum likes to stick to a steady pace, a bone dry rhythm without much deviation and fierce intensity that never really relents. There’s, at times, a little ritualistic aspect to the thundering riffage, which I do enjoy. For example, ‘No Light’. A catchy song in my book. What this record does most of the time though is blast you with repetition. It overwhelmingly drags you along in its surging sound full of foreboding tones. Noteworthy in that, and its somber melodies is ‘Vortex of Death’, which is a high-paced slide into the abyss, where disparaging synth sounds bewilder the listener even further. Archeterum is an entity of its own, creating a claustrophobic unnerving sound. It’s highly recommended.

Chalung-Gra – Mostaferi

The term deep industrial ambient may not immediately summon a clear sound to mind, but it does actually deliver quite some upheaval. I can’t help it, but to me, it’s like I hear the roaring dinosaur toys of my childhood as nightmarish screams throughout the soundscape ‘Somes Pieces for Destruction’. This may sound funny, but actually provides a sound that is frighteningly apocalyptic. Distant thunder, collapsing buildings, these are the end-times. Is Chalung-Gra providing a wildly dystopian soundtrack? I think so indeed, but it is wholly captivating and deeply immersive. The dark drones on ‘Trminal’ make it seem like there’s nothing left on this planet and after some time I have to retreat, just to recuperate for a while after this excellent record.

Facthedral’s Hall – 20 Years Of Improbable Music

This sampler might be a collection of music, but it listens like a mixtape. Opening with the hooky electronics from SomniaK on ‘Tears of Fish’, you instantly get into the groove of the recording. You’re taken on a journey of samples, tribal beats, crackling electronics and unholy ambient with Sizzle, Pi Cab Alter and Anti. From heartbeat throbbing baselines to wonky, warbled effects with some dungeon synthy explorations in between, the music is highly engaging. Particularly I enjoy the industrial soundscapes of Minitel, though the strange, doomy synths of deathrow77 stick in your ear for a while too I must say. But then again, Silent Tower will pound it out of you with their harsh electronics.

Strange closer though, by Death Power, who deliver some miaowing followed by some raw as fuck thrash metal. I mean, everything is just pure fury. It would appear that this is contrasting with the electronics-heavy music mostly released by Facthedral’s Hall, yet it is not so. The label focuses on a certain vibe, a feeling, that is hard to really put your finger on. They do it quite well.

Underground Sounds: Meslamtaea – Niets en Niemandal

Label: Heidens Hart
Band: Meslamtaea
Origin: Netherlands
Some more bubblings from the Dutch black metal sewers here with the new release by Meslamtaea. Out on Heidens Hart records, this is the second release by the band, who have gone through a mild transformation in between their two releases. ‘Niets en Niemandal’ seems to hint at the destruction humankind is wreaking upon this world. Perhaps as urgent as ever for a band that is drawn towards the past.
The duo both play in Asgrauw and have done a split with that band, but also two with legendary Dutch black metallers Cultus. All in all, that makes it easy to place them in the right corner between forward-thinking and essentialist black metal under this banner. And that’s pretty much what you get on this record.
Spoken-word, thunderous preaching opens up ‘Neonschemering’, which ads that post-apocalyptic vibe to some traditional themes. The firebrand vocals are as doomy and gloomy as well, summoning the dark. Yet a little more mellow is also an option on ‘Weer een dag’. Overall there’s a nostalgia, a yearning, that is captured in the sound of Meslamtaea. The tremolo riffing just stick to that minor note and even though it’s played fast, it creates a languid feeling.
At times the riffing really takes a slow, clingy vibe, like on ‘Leegte’. The reverberation feels like a thick summer air, where you can almost feel like you move through mud. Loss, confusion, it’s all there. ‘Verlaten Stad’ is another notable tune, thanks to its thick, layered riffing. But it also has some simple music, almost melancholic Americana going as an intermission. For some strange reason, that works extremely well for me. It then fills, swells and becomes again the song that it was. It’s beautiful.
The strange ‘Vervreemdingszone’ is then the outro, taking us out of the song with strange, dissonant sounds. It leaves you a bit confused. But I think, in a good way.

Underground Sounds: Mystifier – Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia

Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Band: Mystifier
Origin: Brazil

Mystifier is one of the originals, one of the first bands to play what we now call black metal in their very own, distinct way. All the way in Brazil nonetheless, a country known for its vibrant extreme metal scene. Never shy to voice their opinions, the band took an anti-right stance in their early days and not much has changed in any part of their approach, ethically and musically.

For the last 18 years, however, Mystifier was quiet on the creative front. A box set and compilation were released, but their fifth full length took a long time to make. ‘Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia’ is finally here and offers those who love traditional black/death metal a tasty slice. Under the guidance of founding member Beelzeebubth, the band is going to war again. I saw them play in Tilburg, they were awesome! I have to mention Paolo Girardi, the legendary album cover producer. He made a piece that captures the cavernous, occult nature of the album very well.

The opening title track has something very remarkable to mention and that’s guest vocals from Proscriptor McGovern from Absu and Jim Mutilator from Rotting Christ. The second has not done much music in… forever. It leads to a dark invocation, with slow music and a fantastic vocal interplay. ‘Weighing Heart Symphony’ stays in the mumbling, ceremonial vibe, but also blasts some waves of tremolo guitar work in between the theatric interactions in the dark cave of Mystifier’s music. Melodic parts bounce off the walls with a lot of reverb as rackety vocals resound. I love how the vocals create this weird atmosphere and otherworldliness. Take ‘ Witching Lycanthropic Moon’, where the unearthly rasps and ambient sounds make you feel to have landed in an evil world, with a gibbering moon.

There’s definitely a sense of barbarism to the record, where the drums, bass, and guitars are purposely pronounced. At times, they hardly seem to work together in weaving the songs and go in their own ways. As the vocals and bass go into a doomy break on ‘Six Towers of Belial’s Path’,  drums are like an anxious reminder of speed and intensity just there. But that’s exactly what works so well for Mystifier, their approach to black metal is almost tribal, expressionistic and I would argue a kind of storytelling. Rarely do they simply blast you with riffs, but heavy metal licks spruce up the flavor of the whole instead. The pace may be slow on tracks such as ‘Demoler Las Torres Del Cielo’, the explosive force of demonic winds is just one breath away it seems as the band launches into brief salvo’s throughout the song.

As the album comes to a close, you get pummeled around the head by  ‘Al Nakba (666 Days of War)’. Sure, there’s a tasty guitar lick, but most is repetitive violence. The title shares some political engagement with the Palestinian cause, but it’s also a damn good track. Similarly, the feisty ‘Chiesa Dei Bambini Molesta’ is a piece of force and that means the album ends on a high note. Let these Brazilians not take too long for their next offering!

Underground Sounds: Grey Aura – 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd

Label: Tartarus Records
Band: Grey Aura
Origin: Netherlands

Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.

Other references we read about in the bio are Rimbaud, Bataille, and Kandinsky. The record is also filled with field recordings and spoken word dialogues, done by professional voice actors. These complex efforts towards the narrative of the record are particularly noteworthy and grant Grey Aura an aura of the artistic and complex, which is reflected in their expressive live shows (which I enjoyed witnessing during the 2019 Roadburn festival).
The intro is a dialogue, spoken in terse, serious tones before we launch into ‘De onnoemelijke verleidelijkheid van de bezwijkende deugd’. The vocals of Wijlakker are something to experience, as they rip asunder any black metal cliché. He screams, bellows and then hoarsely speaks as a man lost to the listener as odd rhythms and sounds enter the song and transfigure it into something completely different.
Grey Aura doesn’t shun stepping far over their genre boundaries, as done on ‘Parijs is een portaal’.  Mild Spanish guitar and a jazzy, fresh rhythm evoke the vibe of the Parisian nights. We even get some polka rhythm on ‘De Drenkeling’ a moment later, while the lyrics take the overhand in telling us the story,  which you can find on the Bandcamp page in a more elaborate form. This grand canvas behind the record is what makes it all stick together, even if you don’t know about it. That is the absolute strength of this record in my opinion. It’s internal coherence and consistent delivery of surprising tunes. As you hit ‘Sierlijke Schaduwmond’ little remains, but gentle jazzy music and spoken poetry. Captivating, mesmerizing and enthralling the listener with occasional screams of fury and anguish.
The play ends with ‘De Drenkeling’, a spiraling song of despair, ending in a rigorous march with a fatalistic edge. Marching into the sea, into doom. What will follow?

Underground Sounds: Pa Vesh En – Church of Bones

Label: Iron Bonehead Records
Band: Pa Vesh En
Origin: Belarus

Pa Vesh En has been remarkably busy in 2018, releasing a demo, an EP and a split record. Now the mysterious entity adds the full-length ‘Church of Bones’ to the mix, which is a dark and lugubrious record full of unholy black metal in the darkest form.

Hailing from Belarus is a fact that simply adds to the charm and aura of darkness surrounding this grim sounding act. The title is an obvious reference to the Ossuary, the underground places filled with bones and remnants of the deceased. Something that today fills us with horror and dread, but what once was simply a practical solution to an issue of space.

The lo-fi recording style makes the sound a gurgling, swampy mess of dark and disgusting consistency. Its miserable expression is very much the forming aspect of the art that is ‘The Wilderness of Cursed Souls’. Mad ramblings, pitiful utterings and gibbering wails fill the air as the song unfolds into a wall of sound. Eerie, high notes soar through the clouds of distortion, linking up the sound of Pa Vesh En with the DSBM experience. At times this falls into pure ramblings, like during the messy ‘A Funeral Procession’, but that is part of the expression.
You are almost forced to up the volume, as the hazy sound veritably obscures the nuances and horror of the music on ‘La Vaise Macabra’. This shapes a sound that becomes more and more ambient black metal orientated, molding into a shapeless mass at times. Yet, this record is sticky in its own persistent way and nothing really escapes the wrath of Pa Vesh En on this dark release. Make sure to check it out.

Underground Sounds: Woest – Le Grouffe

Label: Independent
Band: Woest
Origin: France

You’d think the mood would be sunnier on the Côte d’Azur in France, but Woest is a band which sounds particularly dark. Hailing from Marseille, the trio, takes their honey from the likes of Mysticum, Blacklodge and Aborym. Yet they sound like their very own type of beast on latest release ‘Le Grouffe’. That translates as ‘The Abyss’ by the way.

Woest has been around since 2016 and has been quite prolific with two released this far. Both sound dense and oppressive, but definitely strong. Their main pitfall might be that they sing in French, yet by supplying English lyrics they kind of tackle that issue and judging by this release, that should be no issue. It’s an absolute killer record, unique sounding and particularly distinctive in this day and age.

The intro ‘Éveil’ is a peculiar reminder of the Mayhem classic as this martial ambient track. It shows a little of what direction Woest has turned to on their new album. And that is a direction that is more industrial, more direct and punishing as is instantly clear on title track ‘Le Gouffre’. The drumming is crushing, pneumatic and reminds me a bit of the Mysticum live shows. Absolutely terrific, as are the joint chants.

Yet, songs like ‘Ô vide éternel’ also have that hatchet, militant sound of the later Satyricon. Threatening, but not in a figurative sense. It’s close, in your face in all intensity. At the same time, there’s so much happening. It’s an exciting narrative on ‘À la gloire de l’immonde’ with interactive vocals, intensifying rhythms and an overall sense of grandeur. The computerized drums have to be something you can get behind though, it has to be said. If you’re a sucker for the traditional bashing, you’ll likely enjoy ‘Spasme de haine’ slightly less. We move onwards to the ‘Tous restera carbone’ and ‘Vagues de Styx’, which carry a steady pace and even mellow sound due to the synths. The vocals are ghoulish, but very in opposition to the haggard emulation of a string section. his is hardly extreme, yet it’s a singular point of rest in an otherwise intense album.

Woest does something remarkable in a stale scene with ‘Le Grouffe’. You should probably listen to it.

Underground Sounds: Crimson Throne – Of Void and Solitude

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: Crimson Throne
Origin: United Kingdom
Crimson Throne revolves around Dan Thornton, also known from Abhorrent Decimation, The HAARP Machine, and Novena. At least, that’s the info I can find, but currently, there is a full live band touring and playing a load of shows. This is the first full length by the band, and it’s one well worth your time.

Previously, Crimson Throne released an EP focused on Hegelian philosophy and history, but on ‘Of Void and Solitude’, we focus on human suffering and, as the title may suggest, the futility of it all. This is done by setting of a freight train of intensity down a hillside, rolling towards inevitable doom with harsh, fierce black metal.

When Crimson Throne comes on, they come on big with a bombastic introduction before we just barrel into ‘Dalit Lineage’ with mid-pace riffing with what sounds like pressed guitar sounds. There’s a certain narrowness to the sound of Crimson Throne, which helps the vocals to really come through. The ghoulish, grated howls are of a particular kind, which many a vocalist will envy. It also leaves room for the atmospheric keyboards, as heard on ‘Indignant Slumber’. After this, we enter a brief interlude before the oncoming storm of side B.
‘Scattered’ builds up gradually, but then pours out the misery like a dam cracking open with vitriolic, dissonant melodies and instrumentation. The blast beats rumble onwards as the inhuman retching and squealing resound. This is, strangely, one of the more attractive sides of Crimson Throne. One of the major appeals of bands like Mayhem or even Bethlehem, is the uncanny, utterly terrifying vocal skills of their frontmen/frontwomen. And that’s exactly what you get on ‘Sightless Remnants’. Abyssal torment.
On ‘Ekur Calls’, you get more of a feeling that you’re listening to an expanded instrumental track, but the vocals are there. Yet should they be? This song feels great without the snarls and barks int he distance, but neither is it diminished much by them. But by the time ‘Ironsides’ comes around, I realize I’ve been battered relentlessly, with an album that could also have been 2 tracks less.

Underground Sounds: Our Survival Depends On Us – Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men

Label: Ván Records
Band: Our Survival Depends On Us
Origin: Austria

Honestly, one of the most bewildering live acts I’ve seen in recent years must have been Our Survival Depends On Us. It’s a concept, an art, and the simplistic name barely makes you suspect what awaits you on stage in a pandemonium of taxidermy blood and pagan mystery. Though that last is maybe perspective from my end, or simply allegorical as it is on their latest record ‘Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men’.

The group from Salzburg has released 4 full lengths, all with titles that undermine the hit potential due to their length and complexity. There is a light connection to Austrian black metal heroes Belphegor and many members played in Soulsearch before, which had a penchant for the medieval stories. The sound of Our Survival Depends On Us is unlike any other and well worth listening to.
‘Galahad’ sets the tone with a sonorous lament, that slowly opens up with somber tones and acoustic guitars. The band leans heavily on the folkloristic vibe of classic doom metal here, also in the vocals style, yet the music is much more atmospheric with keys and strings meandering in and out. It makes for a wonderful opener that needs a long time to get to some distorted riffing. You don’t miss that. But when it comes in, it is strong and forceful.
There’s always an apocalyptic edge to the music of Our Survival Depends On Us, something threatening. Yet even though the complexities in the lyrics, the band remains accessible, also on ‘Gold and Silver’ with its catchy guitar solos of ripping guitars. The low levels of distortion in the music really make every little bit count and that’s brilliantly employed.
We move forward with ‘Song of the Lower Classes’, which starts with samples, field sounds, and ambient tunes. The song has a hypnotic vibe with the clangy guitar sounds, that simply bewitch you. Mournfully, the words come to you as if they are a drag, carrying the world’s weariness along. “Down, down we go, we are so very very low…”. It is so powerful, it almost hurts. ‘Sky Burial’ meditates upon the topic of its title in a sonic journey that feels completely psychedelic and harrowing. It feels like a shoegaze-like track until it unleashes itself in a transcendental journey to the skies as the body dissolves. The summit of a sublime album.

Forbidden realms and forgotten places: the sound of out there

There are many places in this wide world. Some are hidden, some forbidden and some are lost in time. Music can take you there and this collection is a little tribute to that magical journey, but also a showcase for some great tunes about forbidden realms and forgotten places.

John Levy – Tibetan & Bhutanese Instrumentals and Folk Music

Origin: Tibet/Bhutan
Label: Sub Rosa Records

John Levy is a London ethnomusicologist who explores the musical materials found in the far and remote areas of Tibet and Bhutan (and many more. He explores the almost Delta Blues-like sound of Go-Te Do-Pe (immediately on the first track, by Tashi Laso). From lute and fiddle to the rattling percussions of Tibetan monks, the music takes you to a place beyond, with a meditative feeling through repetition and soft, rounded sounds. I particularly enjoy the singing by Trinlem of Tongsa, who with a slightly nasal sound, brings you to a soaring height with her singular voice. This is a collection of sounds, that take you on a journey to a sense of calm and tranquility. I don’t know exactly how (or why), but it has something to do with the repetition, the ease, and intonation and timbre of the music. For that, this collection is absolutely marvelous. I can’t get enough of the chanting, drumming and droning. Exquisite.

Rhian Sheehan – A Quiet Divide

Origin: New Zealand
Label: Loop Records

To see a composer score big with an album is an unlikely event, but Rhian Sheehan managed it. The New Zealand musician created ‘A Quiet Divide’, which is a wonderful piece of music. The cinematic qualities of this record are quite outstanding, making it substantially captivating for the listener. It takes you over the land, in that bird view perspective familiar from the epic movies as the gentle sounds evolve, grow and rescind into milder territories. At one point the music swells to major, warm proportions, while a moment later the pace goes slow again. From trickling piano to soaring synths and strings, Rhian Sheehan takes you there as the songs gently swoop over and under the clouds in a high-over way, with green fields below. It’s perfection.

Old Tower – Stellary Wisdom

Origin: Netherlands
Label: Tour de Garde

There are some undoubted masters in the genre of dungeon synth at work and if there are any rockstars (apart from Mortiis), Old Tower must be one of those. The vaporous sound of his synths, combined with crips and clear melodies, is a rarity in balance and composure, with minimal shifts and deftly statuesque delivery. The sound of Old Tower is one of melancholy and abandonement. Well, as if everyone has left the place a long time ago and all that is left is this empty, vast space with dust settling and gentle synths rolling over the place. While the gentle steps of the instruments barely disturb the dust, you traverse these halls in deep silence and deep thought. It’s music to get lost in, to take you to different realms to traverse in toughts with some absolute tranquility.

Gaetir The Mountainkeeper – Norðr

Origin: Serbia
Label: Prometheus Studio

The north has beckoned for many artists and Gaetir the Mountainkeeper is no different. The journeys his music tells of (knowingly I speak of a he, but I have no idea) are those from the ancient mysteries from the Edda. The travels of Odin, across the far and wide realms of fire and ice. This means a feeling of lengthy travel, which is captured in the dense, droning ambient and nordic mysticism of ‘Norðr’, which is delivered as 6 parts in one hour long track. At times it is really the wind blowing, the swelling drones and icy hails, but then the drums come in and take me to the Paleowolf-like sound of tribal doom. It’s a record, taking you on that heroic quest where you face the most desolate and threatening aspects of nature. This, makes it a grand experience to indulge in as you mentally traverse the great north.

Andrew DR Abbott – Live On Daisy Hill

Origin: United Kingdom
Label: Bloxham Tapes

The north of England may now have you think of chavs on street cornersrun-down down industrialism and a place where ‘Britain First’ is a popular slogan. But that’s not the only side of it, as Andrew DR Abbott explores with his baritone playing on this record ‘Live on Daisy Hill’. The former mill towns and cities have a character of their own and a simple beauty. Quaint, would be the word that springs to mind with the mild, folky tunes by Andrew DR Abbott, that feel like an origin story for the Appalachian folk medleys from across the ocean. A little Nick Drake here and there perhaps, as the tones gently caress the inner ear, like ‘Whatsandwell’. Americana, but then Britticana, with more Fairport Convention and less Johnny Cash. It’s weaving patterns remind you even more so where it comes from and what shaped its sound, making this a remarkable journey to a forgotten harmony.

Tallawit Timbouctou – Takamba Whatsapp EP 2018

Origin: Mali
Label: none

Agali Ag Amoumine’s WhatsApp cassette 2018 captures the cassette culture of the desert music in this new age of digital accessibility. Played traditionally on a teheredent and calabash, it captures the traditionally popular music and was send by Whatsapp from Timbuktu to Portland. The recording may be lo-fi, but captures the haunting repetition of the sahel sounds, as the lyrics are chanted over the clapping sounds in one rough cut. It is odd, as this tradition means the recording has an introduction and shout-outs throughout the recording, delivering a very special experience of a time past for the listener in an age of fast traveling media. Listening to it is immersive, as you have to focus. Best listened to on a cell phone, it says in the description, and this is very true as that is the means which allowed this recording to be made, send and uploaded on the same day for your listening pleasure. So indulge yourself, and venture into the desert with the twangy, scrappy, scrapy sounds of this distinct, bluesy music for a while. You’ll not regret it.

Underground Sounds: Wrang – Domstad Swart Metael

Band: Wrang
Label: Tour de Garde
Origin: Netherlands

With this album, Wrang is dedicating the music to their home city of Utrecht. It’s also known as the Domstad and as you can see, that’s what the title refers to. This is their first full-length, titled ‘ Domstad Swart Metael’. Truth be told, it’s quite the remarkable display of Dutch black metal!

Members from the group have also been active in Weltschmerz, Grafjammer, Nevel and Iron Harvest, but of course many, many more. Their debut full length is only five tracks, but what a pummeling force of violence it contains.

Well, let’s destroy everything today with a wry smile on our faces, right? Wrang launches into the anthemic title track with gusto. ‘Domstad Swart Metael’ is an 8-minute show of force with an overwhelming opening and visceral patterns, all interwoven in violence. The music is particularly tight, with here and there some surprising chanting passages by the Utrecht black metallers. Singer Galgenvot is particularly present throughout the record, but on ‘Propaganda der Afvalligen’ we also hear some kick-ass guitar riffs with a bit of a classic heavy metal vibe coming on.

Regardless, the band sticks to doom and gloom, with heavy sizzling passages, like that fire and brimstone intro of ‘Stormend naar de Nietigheid’. It’s a song full of capturing melodies and darkness, delivered very meticulously once more. The driven pace is whipping the song up in a frantic bit of violence, but how good is that? The song builds to its rabid crescendo and then it simply falls apart. It’s only a prelude to the violent upheaval that is the final tune of the album. This record firmly establishes Wrang as one of the slickest and bad-ass black metal bands from the Netherlands, and that’s saying something!