Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Emptiness – Not For Music

Label: Seasons of Mist
Band: Emptiness
Origin: Belgium

It’s not my habit to pick out just any black metal band and truth be told, I have been struggling to write about this record for a while. Emptiness is not your average black metal band and their music is quite something else, specially on their latest feat of strength ‘Not For Music’.

I saw them play live at Eindhoven Metal Meeting,  so I knew I was in for something different with this album. Featuring members of Enthroned, ProPain and drone-bient act Ashtoreth, you have some eclectic flavors mixed in your bowl. The result balances ambiance and darkness. A dish full of flavor you might say, this spectacular album. Combinging postrock, black metal and something akin to goth into a dark but accessible pool of intriguing and wonderful music.

Inhale deep and dive into the music, which opens with eerie synths with a peculiar nineties vibe. ‘Meat Heart’ takes its time to get going, but does so with a dark tapestry of processed electronics and a calmly booming drum. The whispered voice is a bit remniscent of the goth rock scene. The voice combines with the synth waves wafting through, which is also peculiar. It works very well though. The musicians build up tension and a oppressive atmosphere. There may even be a bit of nostalgia woven in there (the synths are Burzum-esque, the  dull drum evokes images of shady eighties video clip settings). The languid tones, the continuous tension and gruff, deep vocals are perhaps not your average brutality, but it does do the job of captivating listeners.

It’s peculiar how the band simply drags you along into their soundscapes. It takes you to where only the vocals offer you that true darkness. The patterns in the music may be a lot like black metal, but it is as if every bit of void between the riffs has been filled with sonic clay to create a thick, condensed series of melodic slabs. What comes close to the feel of this music is the last Katatonia album, although that’s more organic than the urban despair of Emptiness. Everything about the album triest to get you on edge, like that eerie opening riff of ‘Your Skin Won’t  Hide You’. The music really stays in the shoegaze/ambient spheres. It doesn’t need to move to any agressive riffing. This is so peculiar regarding their live sound, which is much more metal. On record these guys make you feel like you’re doing something secret, something sinister.

The album gets really dark dark on the atonal flurry of sound of the song ‘Let it fall’, bringing the album to its logical conclusion. Trust me, black metal has still not finished infesting other genres and combining into great materials. Emptiness delivers one hell of a record here!

Underground Sounds: Bantha Rider – S/T

Label: Vintage Records
Band: Bantha Rider
Origin: Poland

Do you remember that glorious cover of ‘Dopesmoker’ by Sleep? The procession through the desert? Amazing artwork, is it not? Now… don’t those guys look like the sand people from Star Wars? You get where I’m going, because Bantha Rider clearly takes inspiration from the Star Wars universe (where a Bantha is a beast of burden) and the reknowned stoner kings.

This group doesn’t hail from a desert region though, but from Poland. The country seems to have a fair share of wacky stoner bands on offer. I’ve previously enjoyed the work of Spaceslug for example, which is one of the most puzzling names in the extreme metal scene. But it’s good stuff and that goes for Bantha Rider too.

‘Sandcrawler’ opens this instrumental journey with a bass heavy trajectory of glowing, sandy hills. There’s the bleakness of endless sand captivated in the music. Repetitive, captivating riffs guide the music through the waste land that makes up the home of the sand people. The bumpy ride on a Bantha must sound pretty much the way this tune does.

‘Uta tuta Solo (Greedo’s Funeral)’ just continuous on the same trod. A dry, unpolished sound is mostly the result of the production, but that actually works in favor of the band in this cace. On ‘Jawa Juice’ we get some spaced out sound, where apparently the juice is causing some ruckus it seems. Soaring, floating guitar work seems to incoherently roll forward, without much of the tightness  we heard before. It’s a cool moment of lingering in the sonic haze.

Closer of the EP is the stomping ‘Sarlacc’s Pit’. A furious assault of thunderous drumming and growling guitars. It’s the feisty stomping sound to send the listener of. The sand people raise their sticks above their heads and shout it out in victory!

Underground Sounds: Fiave – Dall’alto Di Una Roccia

Label: Self released
Band: Fiave
Origin: Italy

Fiave has spun a remarkable story on this atmospheric black metal album, which deals with the plague in the 1630’s, which wiped out large parts of the Italian countryside. This album deals with that concept, as the Italian town Irone is completely wiped away except for one man.

Standing on a rock (as the title says) he as a guardian of the dead proclaims his last wishes and finally finishes his own life. It’s a grim enough story and it is tangible in the art work. A huddled group of faceless people on a snowy hill side. There’s a sense of despair, with one figure standing apart in a different robe.

There’s definitely something local to this record, something closely related to its locale. A gentle guitar plays on the intro song of tree minutes, while the sound of scuffling feed through the thick packed snow sounds. Dark and cold seems to fill the room in the mean time as the setting takes hold. A bombastic sound reverberates from the speakers, when ‘E Il Custode Accoglieva Con Sè Cenere E Morti’ kicks in. While the song initially opens fiercely, the song tones down rather rapidly to a more midpaced, mournful tone. The sound is still very full and powerful, with odd chanting filling up little gaps in its aural assault.

The guitars are somewhat lower tuned, creating more room for the vocals to find a space for sincere, fierce expression.  After spoken parts the song melts into another short intermission. There’s a sense of fatalism to the music, it all leads to the unavoidable death of all. In that sense the record really follows its narrative delivery. At times the music can be really primitive sounding, like the drum intro on ‘Delle Parole Restava Il Silenzio’. The chanting actually reminds me a bit of Amenra. The Belgian band also tends to put that religious experience into the music. So do the Italians. Thanks to a great story and an overal appreciation of the way music can tell all that, this is a rather great album. It’s highly entertaining and perhaps a bit loose in its delivery, but well enough to enjoy the languid passages and drama that unfolds.

Underground Sounds: Fief – II

Label: –
Band: Fief
Origin: United States

Dungeon synth is a genre with a spectacular variety, but sometimes you find true gems that stand apart even it this genre. Fief dropped two records in 2016, which both are completely out of this world. For lovers of fantasy and dreamy realms, this is the right soundtrack.

Whether you’re a dungeon crawling role player or an obsessive high fantasy reader or even an oldschool gamer, this should fit right in there. The simple, synthy sounds are playful, merry and have the natural feeling of a soundtrack. Oh, a bit of history. A fief used to be the word for the reward vassals would reap from serving their lord. It could com ein the shape of land or peasants. The fiefdom would be the vassals realm.

So that explains why this sounds so much like medieval music. You picture yourself on a sunny day in the village or the forest, with bright, twinkly sounds. A harpsichord is ever present in there and it just feels so close to a folky ensemble playing a jam, that it becomes so tangible. The charm is that it is still different, not natural, which is the feeling I get in my D&D games. There’s a construction taking place, of cold, ancient walls, overgrown ruins and peaceful cottages.

For Fief the playground is not the dungeon and the looming threat, it’s the blissful spring in the village. The sound is well composed and balanced, not just a guy jamming on a keyboard. It seems that the force behind Fief knows his music and manages to create tunes that keep you listening, while holding to the continuity of soundtracks (for example, I tink of the old Lord of the Rings RPG on the SNES or the Zelda games).

Fief makes colorful, lively music that I completely adore. Check it out for yourself! (also listen to I) it’s pretty too. For Fief there are no dungeon walls, just the sunny forest.

 

 

 

Underground Sounds: Forest of Trys – Frostburn

Label: –
Band: Forest of Trys
Origin: Lithuania

There’s  a joke in the name, because Trys just sounds like trees. The profile picture on bandcamp is a fat cat and you might start having doubts about the seriousness of Forest of Trys . Still the sound of the band is not one for light jokes and fun, but a grim affair indeed.

Forest of Trys only has one member listed on Metal Archives, namely Šmėkla. Another fact is that the band hails from Kaunas and did release a full lenght earlier in 2016, titled ‘Architect’.

‘Stars I’ is the opener, which starts with hazy, distorted noisy black metal. It feels like an industrial haze with the lecherous sound of Fat White Family somewhere hidden in the sonic fog (no clue how I take that from it). Then suddenly it merges into an old carnival tune, not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack by David Lynch. It all sounds just a bit of and wrong, which makes the vibe more slightly unnerving. Guided by martial drumming, the song moves back to the noisey dissonance. Shattering sampling and icy beats follow for the next part of the track, creating a noisy template of assault.

A more gritty sound can be heard on ‘Stars II’, where we seem to move away even further from the noisy black metal sound. Groaning noise pulsates in the air, while string elements create a semblance of style and class in sharp contrast to the colossal noise. Again, such a peculiar sound, but the final song, surprisingly titled ‘Starts III’ really takes the cake. Grim, desolate and full of industrial elements, it consists of more effects and samples of people speaking in an order that feels completely random. Pulsating, humming, squeeking the sont thunders on, with a seemingly random drum pattern offering a semblance of steadiness in the sound.

The record is an almost nightmarish trip. This is a peculiar album, with only black metal as a spirit present. Lithuania seems to have some interesting musicians out there. This record would go down well with noiseheads and experimental listeners too. Nice stuff!

Underground Sounds: Tuurngait – Untitled

Label: –
Band: Tuurngait
Origin: Lithuania

Tuurngait is a new band from Lithuania, that has just released their debut. Not that much else is known about the group from Vilnius, apart from the fact that they certainly don’t sound as if they come in peace. They did show up at the release show of the last Luctus album, so they might have been around for longer than I can see now.

This EP is noteworthy short with just 3 songs and an intro. It’s the bare minimum relaly for an EP, but the band does not disappoint soundwise on this. They’ve also admitted to be very antireligious. The blackened element in their sound gives them a bit of Behemoth, the grandeur I would say, though not as pronounced as the Poles do it.

Dissonant tones anounce the start of the nameless debut. It’s a jangling sound that forms the introduction, creating a moment of anticipation for when ‘Open Sanctum’ unleashes with some thick groovy riffs and powerful, guttural vocals. A bit of effect over the singing makes it sound as if it comes from really deep. A rolling, thunderous bit of death metal, the way you like and love it. Roaring vocals and thick slabs of guitar, hell yeah.

The opening of ‘Crave For The Vultures’ reminds me a little of Debauchery. A roaring, wild assault of battle lusty death metal once more is unleashed by the Lithuanians. It’s a thick, sla of sound that the band delivers, with some guitar weeping through the sonic mass. It just happens that Tuurngait does all of this pretty good. Final song ‘With Fire’ is another full on track, fitting in the more modern death metal tradition. It’s a shame that Tuurngait is such an unknown, mysterious phenomenon now. I would be keen to hear a full album by this energetic new group. Good stuff!

Underground sounds: Draugsól – Volaða Land

Label: Signal Rex
Band: Draugsól
Origin: Iceland

Iceland’s young black metal scene keeps producing diamonts. I think that Draugsól is just the next one in line with their excellent debut ‘Volaða Land’. It translates as something like ‘land of misery’, which is a fitting titled for a black metal band that seems to have a sound inspired by the Nidrosian style in black metal. But hey, that’s probably painting them with too broad strokes.

This group is ofcourse not a collective of unknown figures, but are also active in Mannveira, In Crucem Agere and Cult of Lilith. So all in all, close to the tight knit Icelandic scene with a bit of death metal thrown into it. Like most band in that scene, there’s a definite identity to their sound. A rawness and untamed element that immediately stands out when you listen to them.

The sound of the title track immediately sets up something epic, working as an intro with powerful voices and muscular drum rolls. Howls and dissonant guitars fill the air and let their squeel merge into ‘Formæling’. The deep, guttural vocals and the cascading riffs are immediately affirming the chest pumping epic direction the sound is going in. The cascading riffs are remniscent of other northern battle metal bands, maybe even a bit of Keep Of Kalessin with the straight forward, clean riffing. The overall clean production really helps the band carry their sound to an epic status, instead of becoming a more bestial sounding band.

No, there’s an honest grandeur to the sound of this band.  Mainly thanks to the arches of the guitar, that is often let free to soar and roam the land. Implementing some nature sounds also works in favor of their overall experience, like the falling water on ‘Bót Eður Viðsjá Við illu Aðkasti’. As a listener you can detect some Enslaved in the sound here. The stretched out parts with intentse tremolo riffing, the shifts and build-up in the song, even the gurgly vocals feel like they connect there. It feels as if Draugsól has a tendency to be slightly more progressive.  At other moments they really stick to the traditional aspects, but there’s definitely a different groove to this band.

I have to add some Behemoth to that, because the band certainly knows how to bring it big. Somewhere in between all that they deliver a fierce debut and I hope these guys will be around for a bit.

 

Underground Sounds: Veldes – Ember Breather

Label: Razed Soul Productions/Pest Productions
Band: Veldes
Origin: Slovenia

One could argue that autumn is not the worst time of the year, but on ‘Ember Breather’ one might start changing ones opinion. This is the second full lenght of Veldes from Bled. A project manned by Tilen Šimon, who’s been active in NephrolithWintersoul and more. Veldes is also the word from medieval times for the vastness of the landscape in the region where the music originates from. Roots run deep as we know.

What attracted me to the record are the clean passages, the mournful tone and a sort of olschool feeling to the sound. You can feel the nature inspiration in the way the sound wanders of, the acoustic elements and warmth of the sound. The contrast between that warmth and the icy high-pitched screams is rather big, which is a specialty for Veldes. I get the comparison to Drudkh, but there’s also something of Agalloch I suppose.

What I particularly like in the sound of Veldes is the contrast between those clean sounds and the harsh, gnarly drums and vocals. It gives a much more hooked and scharp sound to the band, without taking away the massive atmosphere that is created. The sense of forlorn times and grief remains intact for the listener. Those themes are very present in the song titles as well and the fading art work on the record cover. It all falls into place with the long piano pieces, like on ‘To Ruins Of Throneless Realm’. A slow progressing piece with laborously toiling guitars and some tremolo play. The drums are barely needed to keep the flow of sound going.

When you find that calm in the flow of the music, there’s always that shriek to wake you up again and arouse you from the slumbering trees. When it comes to this type of music, Veldes is in its own remote valley.

 

Underground Sounds: Cober Ord – Le Revers du Soleil

Label: Nomos Dei
Band: Cober Ord
Origin: France

The dark holds many shapes, even the other side of the sun might be dark if this album is any indication. The French duo Cober Ord take inspiration from something deeper than nature. Something more primordial than the earths shaping, which you find in an underlying rhythm and timbre.

The duo embraces the spiritual idea of animism. This means that certain objects and beings possess distinctive spiritual qualities. That is something they try to put into their sound, which is stripped of human elements in a way. It’s the forgotten caves, the underground rivers and the unknown corners of the world. Think ambient, but also just sounds, field recording meets drone. All of that and more by Ynn (vocals, noise and sounds, known from Habsyll) and Yn (percussion, known from Stille Volk and Ihan).

The dark, meandering drone reminds me of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Is it a drone or an organic sound, because it feels alive and puts up the hair on the back of my neck. It’s a part of the 17 minute opening (and title track), which gradually leads you to the deepest parts of the world, where only inhuman sounds occur. Towards the end, bestial roars interrupt the drone. In the dark with nowhere to go, this is not what I’d call a pleasant moment of the record. Droning, doomy and with sounds that make you feel slightly queesy and unnerved, the sound meanders on. The vocals are modified and mutated to unearthly entities, but all still is part of a rhythmic, natural sounding progression.

That changes when the percussion takes the forefront on ‘Forêt V Cathédrale Glas I’. It feels like you’ve ended up in a different place, an underworld furnace, where mad rhythmic hammering is resounding. It’s a hellish racket, but almost industrial sounding and strangely magical as well. The vocals indicate other creatures from more mythical sources, working their instruments here in a devilish symphony with pumping bellows and clanging of anvils. Guttural barks resound over this rhythm.

It’s amazing how strongly this music plays on the imagination. It’s like a black metal paradise, but what makes it so unnerving is how real the sounds are, how every peep and squeek is audible, as if they’ve really went down into the darkness to make recordings of an unknown danger. But there’s a beautiful harmony to the sound as well, it’s always rhythmic, organic and flowing forwards unstoppably. It’s an aural journey that resets your thinking in a profound way.

This is magical, hauting and a bit creepy, but such a wonderful effort. I really recommend locking yourself up in the dark and listening to Cober Ord. Maybe in a dark forest, to experience the otherness. Well worth it.

 

 

 

Underground Sounds: Velnezers – Pēdējā Saule

Label: Beverina Productions
Band: Velnezers
Origin: Latvia

Velnezers is the creation of Roberts Blūms, a Latvian musician who did everything on the first demo and album, but now the group is continuing as a four piece band. Bringing full weaponry to the table that means on their second full length ‘Pēdējā Saule’, which translates as ‘last sun’. An interesting endeavour of violent black metal.

The band has a very down to earth approach to it. So much that I’d call their sound earthy as well. The songs are rather straight forward, but with an ethnic element of rolling up your sleeves and getting in on it. The cover speaks of some sort of pastoral sound, perhaps inspired by the wintery countryside, but this is not what you get with Velnezers. The band name might be derived from a Wagars track, but I’m not certain about this.

There’s something typical about the sound of Velnezers, from the vocals (in Latvian) you can see that the language shapes the way it fits in with the music. Something I find typical about many Baltic bands. The riffing is often not too complex, but much more expressive and tasty. The track ‘Raganu Medības’is a nice bit of thrashy black metal, with rolling sound and threatening effect. Jumping from the thrashing passages, straight into the blast beat-tremolo roll, it shows how easily the band shits sound. It’s a sound that is feisty, furious and energising, but always with that darkened edge, which makes them so accesible.

Though the band stays pretty close to a rough sounding black metal band, there’s definitely a good rock’n’roll vibe going on. The clear production helps the musicians articulate their sound clearly and cohesively, without becoming the static broth you often hear. Still it sticks close to the ghoulish original Mayhem sound with the bombastic power of Behemoth at times. The clear sound helps in creating space for that vibe. The clear atmosphere never gets lost in a pile of guitar distortion. Both influences can be heard on ‘Meži Deg, Dūmi Kūp I’.  On the other hand, you can detect some death/sludge influences on ‘Svētīts Tiek Mirstīgais’.

Stranger even then, to suddenly hear a mellow, acoustic track. The vocals on ‘Meži Deg, Dūmi Kūp II’ sound distant, far removed from everything. The song flows forward like a calm river with repetitive waves and singing. It is a unusual song for a black metal album, but like most bands from the Baltics, there’s something eclectic to the sound of Velnezers. This song swells up to a gloomy expression of despair, ending with some mere piano tones. The title track closes of with some big riffs. This is a great record, if you can get past the Latvian language vocals. Enjoy!