Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Trna – Lose Yourself to Find Peace

Label: Elusive Sound
Band: Trna
Origin: Russia

Though they describe themselves as blackgaze, there’s something to say for just calling it postrock. This Russian band has no vocals and creates the soaring, huge soundscapes that you would associate with the genre in its glory days. I’m not sure if that is a period in the past, since there’s still great material out there, but Trna brings it to its origins.

This album is the second one by Saint Petersburg group Trna, which is a Russian three-piece postrock band. The group has been playing live around Eastern Europe and describes itself as a hurricane of emotions, referring to their music. Bass player Anton Galaullin is also active in Show Me A Dinosaur and sludge group Pwyll.

The record kicks of with the almost 20 minute mark breaking ‘Gale’. A fuzzy wall of distortion is raised up gently and through it a dancable rhythm and repetitive riffs soar in a very free falling way. It reminds me a bit of the band Amusement Parks On Fire, on their first album. It is also like standing in a gale, with the distorted guitars soaking you like it happens when you face the wind near sea. Slowly the song becomes more tense, thanks to more intense drumming. Towards the end, the sound becomes indeed like a hurricane, raging about you, only to slowly disappear towards the end.

‘Calm’ offers indeed what it claims to do. The trickling guitars and the slow progression at first create a sense of tranquility, but then the barrage of drums and bass launches, building up to the typical black metal static realm of hyper speed playing, to achieve a more frantic plane of that same tranquility. It becomes a thick, sonic tapestry that somehow retains a calm indeed. Slowly, but with much drama it then stars building down with great heaves to end up with that tranquil silence again.

Underground Sounds: Mesarthim – .- -​.​.​. .​.​. . -. -​.​-​. .

Label: Independent (Bandcamp)
Band: Mesarthim
Origin: Australia

Yeah, the name of this album is weird, but in morse code it might mean something like ‘Absence’. A fitting title for the places where the astral journeys of Mesarthim are taking the band. There is no other like the sound of this Australian band. Mesarthim (Gamma Arietis) is the name of a binary star system in the northern constellation of Aries. The name is of obscure origins.

That last bit is from the band themselves, which is a unit of two unknown Australians. Well, that’s that then. Shrouded in mystery, the band is the next in line next to Darkspace and Mare Cognitum to delve into space metal, continuing the work of Summoning and Agalloch into unearthly realms. This they do well, by letting go of most of the more earthly elements in the music.

The music is therefor hardly grounded in a foundation of heavy concrete rhythm section, but soars freely with synths and vocals that work more as part of the texture than spitting venom at the gods. It’s the sound of majestic nothingness, of floating amongst the stars with riffs that though fast and tight never really urge you in any direction. It’s liberating to listen to this band, who create a completely catchy and enveloping sound that borders on the cheesy but never goes over.  It’s like Darkspace is jamming with Jean Michel Jarre, amazing.

A record to get lost in, with a production that feels like a poofy pillow when you land your head in it. The keys are the most prevalent amidst the woolly production and offer you moments of introspection, to think of the meaning and insignificance of it all. Maybe this is in fact the most nihilist you can get in black metal, where everything just becomes specs of dust… Those thoughts enter my head when the organ sound fades away slowly on ‘…–‘.

The bombast of the synths and layers on layers of sound is a bit overwhelming, maybe a bit too much for some listeners even. It’s as if the band is trying really, really hard to do something completely new and in doing so they probably lose much of their following. But… In a way it expresses best the thing that it wants to express, which is an experience of space, of the sublime and overwhelming category of experience. Something almost impossible to grasp.

Underground Sounds: Sylvaine – Wistful

Label: Season of Mist
Band: Sylvaine
Origin: Norway

Myrkur has opened the floodgates it sometimes seems of more ambient, folk and soundscape oriented dark music, but maybe I’m just imagining that Sylvaine is of the same cut of cloth, but definitely aiming for a more shoegazy sound on her second album ‘Wistful’, which is out on Seasons of Mist.

The term doomgaze has always been a bit peculiar to me, but listening to this album I can see where it comes from and how it fits in with the compositions of the fey-like Norse lady. The artwork also speaks of the musical experience, with a foggy painting of a natural setting. Misty in the early morning light, amidst the trees. Atleast, that is how I picture it.

The sound of Sylvaine is deeply melancholic, regardless if its a single piano playing or a barrage of guitars. The songs build up rather gently, offering a glance into the unknown at first, before rising up and fully overwhelming you as a listener. The dreamy voice of Sylvaine lures you into the mist, into the swampland. Throw in some comparisons, like Sinead O’Connor‘s rendition of ‘The Foggy Dew’ or maybe even Sigur Rós, it is all in there.

photo by Andy Julia – © Sylvaine

Once there, the heavier sounds start. Even wild schrieks can be heard on ‘Earthbound’, never follow the faeries… They’ll lure you to the waters and the wild, but what for?  Interesting fact, on this album the multi-instrumentalist gets help from Stéphane ‘Neige’ Paut (Alcest), which might have a more significant impact than you’d think. Shoegaze is a term that doesn’t fit anymore for music like this, it moves on to something between ambient, black metal and folk with a hint of doom. Doomgaze just feels too hip sounding.

The listener of this album will feel as if lost in the mist, trying to grasp at the essenence of Sylvaine’s music, but never fully reaching it. You feel confused, lost, introspective even and weary by the end. It’s so dense with atmospheric elements that sometimes the fog just too overwhelming. The rare part where you get some direct contact with the vocals, is like a sunray piercing the roof of leaves and illuminating for a brief moment the shining truth, the angelic voice and those moments alone make this album such a mesmerizing experience.

Underground Sounds: MASTER BOOT RECORD – C​:​\​>CHKDSK /F

Label: independent
Band: MASTER BOOT RECORD
Origin: Italy

Somewhere in Rome a rogue computer has started producing or assimilating heavy metal and chiptune music. Yes, all gates are open now, with the arrival of Master Boot Record, which/who dropped 4 records in a short amount of time. I decided to check out ‘C:\>CHKDSK /F’ as a topic for a bit of writing, because it just souned weird.

The occult imagery is blended with DOS-screens and circuit boards, that is pretty cool. Also, MASTER BOOT RECORD has been doing some stuff for a while, covering hit songs like the soundtrack of old DOS games. Think of DOOM, Syndicate and Turrican. I do suppose that some people think this is silly, but if you’ve grown up in that time and age, you know how awesome this record is to me.

So what you get is pretty awesome. Remember how good those game soundtracks, even in midi could be? Everyone can hum along with the Mario and Zelda tune, right? Well, imagine combining that with guitars, bass and drums, to create a driven, electro rock sensation! The typical thing about the game music is that it’s always pushing you forward, it’s energetic and upbeat, so this is one whole record of invigorating music that easily fades to the background, while you engage in the mundane tasks.

On ‘Config.Sys’ there’s even a bit of classical music, played in midi with raw, shredding guitars and then suddenly picking up the synthwave beat. It’s just all there, everything blended to it’s maximum effect of awesome. The superfast riffing, mixed with the midi sound, it just works great. Sure, this is probably one of the most geeky things to enjoy, but the way the record is made is just incredibly catchy and captivating.

I may not know the exact words to describe this record, but it’s the combination of oldschool gaming sensation with the balls to the wall approach of heavy metal and that works like a charm. Enjoy the other records of MASTR BOOT RECORD for free on Bandcamp!

 

Underground Sounds: Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis

Label: Blut & Eisen Productions/ Darkness Shall Rise Productions
Band: Barshasketh
Origin: New Zealand

By now, the band Barshasketh has relocated from the Lord of the Rings-y New Zealand to the similar, but more rainy Scotland. The man behind the band is Andrew Campbell, more well known under his moniker Krigeist. He’s been active as well in bands like Belliciste and Bròn. It actually seems that Campbell has now relocated to the Czech Republic even, but it’s a bit hard to tell. Maybe Belgrade, based on the info on the Belliciste page? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter that much either when we get to the music.

The sound of Barshasketh defies the local anyways, even more so on this new endeavour. To create a full band members were found in FallochHaar and Finnish Hautakammio. It allows for an album that will not soon be forgotten. Of that I’m sure. I’d like to point out that there’s some excessively amazing art work in use by Barshasketh, done by Daniel Valencia of Fomeno Design.

There’s a hint of melodic black metal bands like Keep of Kalessin hidden in the music of Barshasketh, thanks to the combination of familiar elements of distortion, tremolo guitar play and feisty blast beats with a thoroughly melodic element and a willingness to create a harrowing type of beauty through sound scapes. This is all woven into the fabric of the album and overridden with the bestial, raw roar of Krigeist himself.

In the music, one often hears that a repetitive static is created. This allows for other elements in the music to paint fantastic realms in the sound, allowing the listener to really sink into it as in an almost meditative state. Even the most furious parts have that calm hidden behind it in the form of melodic lines that gently weave through the ferocity that is Barshasketh. Sometimes the static sound almost feels like doom metal in its slow, foreboding progressions.

It combines the old and the new in the sound, which has excellent production. Interesting fact is that the titles are numbered, which creates the feeling of one piece of art, based in chapters. It works very well to express the long stretch in separate elements. This is an album that will surely appear in some End of Year lists. Great stuff!

Underground Sounds: Imants Daksis – Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi

Label: Lauska
Band: Imants Daksis
Country: Latvia

I have a profound love for the Baltics. The rugged land, the history, the people and the beautiful culture. Like the culture of the bards in Russia, the Balts have their own style of singer-songwritership that holds close ties to poetry and ethnic culture, but I digress. I’ve been listening to the music of Imants Daksis for years and though the words and language are something I struggle with, I love his unique sound. It feels completely honest, in addition to having an urgency to it that feels very personal.

Think neofolk, maybe even a bit of the martial stuff and we’re getting towards the sound of Imants Daksis. Ethnic instruments are present, the words are abstract and thought provoking. The voice can be shouting, whispering and everything in between. Daksis is a creative sould of 33 years old. He always appears to be exploring and expressing new forms of art.   I don’t know enough about the Latvian music world to say much more.

The title ‘Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi’ translates as Eternal Geographical Travels and on it Daksis is, like Rainis and Dostojevski as he writes he writes. As an artist he is trying to make sense of the world. The jangling, slightly dissonant guitar on opener ‘Ir baigi apjaust, ka esi šeit’ is accompanied by the foreboding vocals of Daksis. Never are they polished completely. They always retain a bit of their natural force and roar. The voice is the main instrument for Daksis and therefor always used in exactly the way its intended. Though the sound is essentially Baltic in origin, in addition one can detect various influences. Therefore the music takes on a universal feel and that fits very well into the concept.

The slow trickling ‘Jūdas dziesma’ deals with the forlorn deserts of the land of Judah and the wars that rage there and the meaningless of it all. It sounds so mellow, but haunting as well and slowly grips you. Sometimes playful, always a bit raw on the edges and never overly complicated. Daksis likes to keep things simple and accesible for the listeners. Personal favorite is probably ‘Rudens sapņi’, where in an almost 9 minutes lasting track all the best features of Daksis’ music pass by. The contained energy and expressive voice are captivating and enthrall the listener.

The great charm of Imants Daksis is not merely the force of the music. It’s the subtleties and poetic aspects of the tunes and words, which are utterly brilliant. It’s never giving more than needed, yet neither less. Dream away to a time before the modern age with this album, you’ll enjoy it.

Underground Sounds: Wretch – Wretch

Label: Bad Omen Records
Band: Wretch
Country: United States

Losing friends is a sad thing and sometimes it can be extremely hard to get over that. When you lose a friend who’s a band member, I can only imagine how much stronger that bond may be. Not to trivialise friendship, but band members share time together like no other. Jason McCash and Karl Simon shared that for a good decade in The Gates of Slumber. McCash left the band in 2013 and soon after passed away following a heroin overdose (according to metal archives).

So this album is catharsis, it’s grief in musical form. Gone are the stories of swords and sorcery, this is about the grim reality. It’s Karl Simon picking up the pieces and continuing down the road of amazing doom metal albums with this new outfit Wretch. The artwork instantly screams that old school doom vibe at you and that’s what you get.

Opener ‘Running Out of Days’  is a tribute to J. McCash and opens with those gargantuan Sabbath riffs, making you instantly get into the groove of this band and (if you like) bang your head to it. There’s something really down to earth to the sound of the band though. It’s not striving for grandeur, but for something real. Slowly the riffs roll by and a thundering rhythm section vigorously fills the void around the vocals of Simon, which are laden with emotion.

There’s something tormented to the way Simon delivers his vocals. After the initial venting on the first two tracks, the following seems to wind down and go into an almost psychedelic, spacy direction. Spiralling guitar parts and dreamy vocals form a much more convincing and warm sound from the group. There’s even an interesting instrumental track, titled ‘Grey Cast Mourning’, that surprises the listener with its gentle nature.

Closing the album, we return to the traditional doom roots. With its iconic cover and great tracks, this is one to stick with you. Hopefully Karl Simon feels like unleashing some more tunes on the world.

Underground Sounds: Black Tomb – s/t

Label: Graven Earth Records/Hellas Records
Band: Black Tomb
Origin: United States

Black Tomb is a rather new doom band that seems to favor a color scheme of black and orange on their outings, which results in an exquisite image. That’s the first thought I had, checking out their stuff.  Little information is available about these guys, who sound like their experience extends beyond this self titled debut.

Self described as New England Doom, the band recalls the sound of something between Hooded Menace, Electric Wizard and Graves At Sea. It’s a bit like a swamp of tar, while the forest is burning brightly orangy around you and everything is turning to shit. I think that captivates the sound of Black Tomb pretty fittingly.

The sound of Black Tomb reminds me a lot as well of Black Tusk, the dirty, gritty fury and the rawness of it all. There’s little subtlety and it’s constantly in your face. These gentlemen lack the surging energy of the latter though, but every riff sounds like if you could touch it, you’d want to wash your hands after. Slow, sticky and oh so pitch black, this is not the record to listen to when you’re already down and depressed. The irony is that the band included knives in the special editions… so yeah.

The tormented vocals, for example on the harrowing ‘Eyes At Midnight’ are a ripping, crushing delivery of screams. It’s bleak and relentless, full of pummeling riffs, that surge like a muddy avalanche. Man, what a debut record. I love this stuff, with its vicious sound and heaviness that may not push the genre forwards, but unites the best bits!

It’s always keeping you on the balls of your feet, ready for anything with the heavy bass and tons of groove and fuzz. There’s a constant anticipation or even threatening note to the music, that never fully erupts but definitely places these guys in the heavy weight category.

Imagine this on a fuzzy tape, playing in the dark. Hell yeah!

Underground Sounds: Allfather – Bless The Earth With Fire

Label: Rotting Throne Records
Band: Allfather
Origin: United Kingdom

If the motto of a band is ‘Beards. Metal. Fuck You’ , you know that this is something you want to play loud for a bit. The omnious reference to a Norse Ragnarok added to that makes it even sound more bad ass and that is pretty much the deal with this debut record by United Kingdom sludge metal brawlers Allfather. Can I add to my vote of sympathy that most of their Facebook timeline is filled with shout outs to other bands? That makes you even more of a cool band to me.

The four piece from Rochester have recorded their album in Son of Suns Studio of Jason Frye and Charlie Creese’s Magpie Studios. The mastering of the first five tracks was done by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (known from Nails, Yob, Sleep etc.), so that’s bound to be good!

Opener ‘Raskolnikov’ shows instantly, that there’s space for the literary and complex with an obvious reference to the work of Dostojevski (Crime and Punishment) with a lyric that demonstrates the shizmatic nature of the protagonist Raskolnikov in a ranted monologue. Surrounding that is the pummeling rhythm section, not unlike some of the Bolt Thrower  tank-track grooves. The vocals sound muddled and boiling up in anger. The whole sound is like an eruption.

If that isn’t enough to already be impressed by the group, you’ll be blown away by Sabbathy riffs and a punch to the jaw on ‘The Bloody Noose’ (wait for that rif for like 4 mins). The sound is not complex or unnecessarily frantic, but just good, groovy doom with an interesting amount of that old fashioned bluesy guitar sounds. Not that the band does anything simplistic, it’s just the sense of knowing what is enough for a good track I think.

A bit of biblical referencing on ‘Death, and Hell Followed With Him’ (Revelations 6:8) is also showing that more thought out element in the music. Clocking an epic 11+ minutes, this is the summit of the album (there’s a bonus track too) where Allfather takes the time to build up properly. There’s always something cathartic to their music and lyrics. Gritty, dirty and full of fat, greasy grooves, the band is like being dragged through the mud and feeling cleaner for it afterwards. And that goes on and on.
Good stuff!

Underground Sounds: Sir Robin & The Longbowmen – S/T

Label: Independent
Band: Sir Robin & The Longbowmen
Origin: Germany

With a beaver on the cover and an obvious reference to Robin Hood in the band name, this group from the German city of Dresden captured my eye instantly. Sir Robin & The Longbowmen is a big band with seven members that likes to play psychedelic music and that they do well.

The band also has a rather big load of humor if you look at their facebook page, where they claim inpspiration from Czech porn and thank Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Costas Cordalis for some dubious contributions. Oh, that and they claim to be the tallest band in Saxony, which might be true.

Musically the sound of the band is rather filmic, oriëntal even on openern ‘Sissi’s Harp’, where the sitar-like sounds meander through hypnotically. That atmosphere sticks to the music, which also includes funky bass loops, frilly samples and a good buit of world music here and there. The sound is not too filled up with all sorts of jambling by the huge band, the sound is condensed into a meaningful and fitting form.

Repetition is one of the key elements of psych music and that is what you hear mostly on the songs, but the vocals vary immensely. From the muttering Spanish on ‘Tramboliko’ to be burly roar on ‘Dead Horse’ with it’s nice 70’s vibe. There is a trace of chamber poppiness in their sound, most notably on ‘I Would Like’, with some sensitive arrangements.

Shimmering slow pop with fluttering instruments is what the band does with little effort, as much as their more dense psychedelic jams. It’s all particularly captivating and enjoyable. Why do I dig this so much? Because the whole record is good, it feels like a whole, a complete record with good, pleasant music. Check them out, you know you want to!