Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: La Torture Des Ténèbres – Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods

Label: Independent
Origin: Canada
Band: La Torture Des Ténèbres

The first time I played this record by Canadian group La Torture Des Ténèbres, I was baffled. I turned it off after a few songs. Maybe it was not entirely what I expected when I read the tag ‘raw black metal’, but the sound makes much more sense if you look a bit deeper. This band creates something that lies between black metal and dense ambient sounds, thus evoking the sound of the city, of urban chaos.

La Torture Des Ténèbres has been around for a while and is the creation of Jessica Kinney. ‘Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods’ is the third album under this name and actually the third album in one year (2016). That makes this a rather productive act.

From peculiar intro ‘Column Of Astrological Memories’ onwards, you get into a weird sort of Sky Captain of Tomorrow -like story telling of past and future intertwined. The intro lets you hear samples, music and conversations, which launches into ‘The Great Escape From Capricorn’. A mesmerizing swirling chaos of music, ambient and noise, that holds hidden at the core vocals and lyrics that speak of a doomed world.

Civilization offers us but one choice. Conform to the collective architecture or perish beneath the weight of aeons.

The music is pretty much the unleashing of torrents of sound. ‘Descending Through Autumn Fields’ is a maddening flow, that somewhere coalesces into a melancholic melody. Surrounding is maddening howls. freakish barks and an overwhelming display of noise. The album is all the way like that, furthermore it never relents for a moment. A harsh experience for the listener, but one that has beauty hidden within. La Torture Des Ténèbres is definitely not for the casual listener I suppose. I t leaves you staring into the abyss, while waiting for the world to fall apart.

A roaring climax comes with the two parts of ‘Into The Metropolitan Abyss’. Two movements of despair and concrete madness. What a powerful record, especially relevant today.

Underground Sounds: Jute Gyte – The Sparrow

Label: Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records
Band: Jute Gyte
Origin: United States

I’ve written before about the music of Jute Gyte, which I wrongly wrote as Jute Gryte at the time. The fascinating thing about Jute Gyte is that the music made by Adam Kalbach, the sole member, is highly experimental. He makes listeners  aware of a whole distinct musical movement that apparently exists. A movement exploring music’s unknown.

The result of that is often that the music of Jute Gyte is very much an acquired taste. It listens as an oddity for the listener thanks to complexity, wealth of uncommon sounds and droning core. ‘The Sparrow’ is the latest release by the, dare I say, avant-garde musician with a knack for the extreme. With just two songs, this is one hell of a ride.

The start of ‘The Sparrow’ should have been called ‘The Bees’, since that is the feeling of the song. A buzzing, droning festival of intensity hits the listener. Dissonant and almost on a pitch that simply annoys the hell out of you, the track soon reaches the point where roaring vocals disturb the droning. After a few minutes we vind a break, where just eerie sounds fill the sonic void left behind. After minutes of slithering sounds, a more tumultuous, cascading sound develops. Just under twenty minutes, the track hardly gets dull or unsurprising in its intensity.

As soon as you start putting Jute Gyte in the noise category, you realise that there is always a structure. Structure that is hard to determine because it is so different to what you know. ‘Monadanom’ is the second track with an almost equal length. Lacking the ferocious passages of the former, this track is a continuing drone fest of atonal, disjunctured passages launched into the distance. At some parts it sounds soothing and melancholic, in others it’s simply uncomfortable. But that is what the music of Jute Gyte does, it will force its presence upon you as a listener. That is what makes it so brilliant.

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

Underground Sounds: Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Label: Southern Lord Records
Origin: United States
Band: Power Trip

I’m perfectly aware that Power Trip does not need one of my Stranger Aeons reviews to get them some attention, but ever since hearing this band, I had to pen a bit about them. Why? Have you heard  ‘Nightmare Logic’? A master piece of crossover thrash that seems to come to us now as a relic of the eighties, right when its needed.

This album is the second full length from this band, which has been around since 2008 and hails from Dallas, Texas. There’s definitely a flavor of hardcore to their sound, hence the notion of crossover, but they are also battle ready and heavy enough to carry a tune at a death metal show. In fact, I have to think of Bolt Thrower now and then, listening to these upstarts play. They do nothing really new, but like Skeletonwitch and maybe Iron Reagan they bring back some simple, primitive thrashing to the forefront in an era when we need these sounds.

This record moves about and groves in all directions. Live the band actually is even more entertaining, with a high energy performance befitting of a bunch of rabid dogs playing thrash metal. The casual vibe of the guitar play, the fun that just displays in the tunes, it makes this band so incredibly catchy and entertaining to hear. At the right moments, they add elements like gang shouts to make it even more awesome. But just listen to that ballzy intro of ‘Soul Sacrifice’, which is a tune for raised fists and feet stomping.

The pace is frantic, the energy high and boundless on a track like ‘Firing Squad’. I really thought that thrash was dead, but this band has awoken the genre from its slumbers. This makes me want to jump around and beat stuff. Not in a violent way though, this music is just so brimming with vitality, with contained and directed fury, that you need to move your feet to it. The rabid screams and shouts of Riley Gale, the riffs like razorblades and the awesome artwork, it all makes sense.

This is one of the coolest records out there, I’m sure.

Underground Sounds: Cyaxares – House of the Cosmic Waters

Label: Independent
Origin: Iraq
Band: Cyaxares

Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is a musical prodigy, working in one of the most unlikely places of the world on some eclectic and brilliant death metal. Cyaxares, his main solo project, is a band from Sulaymaniyah in the north of Iraq (Kurdistan). Just recently he came out with ‘House of the Cosmic Waters’.

It’s the second album by Mir Shamal, who also sings in Iraqi metal band Dark Phantom. In 2014 he debuted with the album ‘Whores of Babylon’. I had the pleasure to do an interview with this highly motivated musician, who manages to really set himself apart in this current day metal scene with home produced, tight death metal with oriental flavors.

This album sounds even more harmonic, bringing the two worlds together in beautiful unity. The oriental patterns are tangible to the ear. The folkish parts, that give the music it’s inexplicable mystery work in absolute harmony with the razorsharp riffing and the brusk grunted vocals. For opener ‘Luna’ we have a vocalista joining on clean vocals next to those of Mir Shamal. Nawa Mikhaeils’ singing is a bit of an acquired taste, but these passionate vocals are part of the tradition. The songs leave some space for slow, meandering passages. This lets the music breathe a little.

The music has plenty of melody and atmosphere to it, for example on the title track. Lyrically Cyaxares has always been a bit ambigious, due to the attempt at relating elder days to the current day world. Exquisite chanting and traditional passages make the music even more rich and grand. These are woven into their texture to create such great story telling music. I love this album and I can’t imagine for the life of me why no label has snatched this up yet. For one, it’s very melodic and captivating, secondly it has this great mysterious air to it. Overall the lyrics are wonderfully poetic and beautiful. Clearly these are the work of many hours and a lot of patience. Even the riffing on the brutal parts finds its own distinct heavyness, elegant and finely sculpted.

Mir Shamal is a ‘wünderkind’ in the metal scene, having found metal music all the way in Iraq. He created this by himself and that is no small feat. A great record for sure.

Underground Sounds: Grima – Tales of the Enchanted Woods

Label: Naturmacht Productions
Band: Grima
Origin: Russia

With their debut album ‘Devotion To Lord’ the band Grima definitely left an impression. Lord was not anything Christian though, it was nature in its full glory that this atmospheric black metal band worships. Now they return with their second full length ‘Tales of the Enchanted Woods’. I’d like to point out that I recommended their record as the best of the year this far for 2016 in the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, the daily Roadburn zine.

The studio project by Morbius and Vilhelm hails from Krasnoyarsk, which is in the heart of Siberia. Krasnoyarsk is not a hovel in the snow, but a city with almost a million inhabitants. The city was a  center for the gulags and even in Tsarist times was a place where dissenters were sent to. It says a lot about the sort of place this must be, though there’s little to go on regarding Grima.

To start with this album, maybe start with the cover that immediately offers  a particularly fairy tale like design and folkloristic vibe. The album kicks of with the grand ‘The Sentry Peak’, which really works as a brief intro to the album, lining up the second song ‘The Moon and its Shadows’, which is a pleasure to behold. Atmospheric and powerful, this record fits right into the Norse nature-loving movement of the black metal genre.

The sound is tempered, let go only in minimal waves when most effective. The build-up reminds me a bit of Downfall of Nur, one of my favorite bands. It sounds like there’s even an accordeon present, but it’s probably the synths. Those help with the fairy-tale/eastern vibe of the record, giving a moment of respite and evoking images of strange towns with hospitable folk playing music around the fire.

The band really knows how to be theatrical, without sounding cheesy. The synths are everywhere to add to the overal experience, to paint the sound in many colors. The vocals are varied two, which gives you the feeling that this band is much bigger than just the two members. Noteworthy is the track ‘Never Get Off The Trail’, where we hear a deep shoegaze influence and even some postrocky soundscaping on the following ‘The Grief’. As a listener, it is as if the song bares its essence to you. It shows it’s inner magical stream of music. Excellent black metal enriched with a sense of the magical and unknown of the forest.

Grima succeeds in probably making one of the most amazing black metal albums of the year, but also a journey into nature where the true beauty of an untamed land shines through. The balanced production and the rich sonic textures offer a much bigger production than you’d imagine. I sincerely hope this album gets the recognition it deserves. It shouldn’t be lumped into the ‘archaic folk’ metal  category, much like other great music from Russia. This seems to receive little interest from the western press. This album embodies the magic that black metal music always has had for me. It embraces nature in the way only a specific branch of the genre does. A joy to listen to, while true to the genre.

 

Looking For An Answer – Dios Carne

Label: Willowtip Records
Band: Looking For An Answer
Origin: Spain

Looking For An Answer still gives you headaches

Many people will look at you with a baffled expression if you say you like grindcore. Well, it’s something special I suppose and not everyone will understand or like it. That goes for most of the stuff I write about on this blog, it’s weird music. So now I’m going to write about one of my favorite grindcore bands.f

The first time I experience a grindcore show I just didn’t know what to do with it, untill a Mike Alexander van Putrescence explained it to me. One of the first bands I enjoyed then was Looking For an Answer. This Spanish band produces some highly political grindcore with a sharp edge and has been doing so since 1999. ‘Dios Carne’ is their latest effort.

‘Dios Carne’ is a rolling, thundering keg of fury, unleashed in 14 typical short bursts of hatred. Opener ‘Deflagración’ is the longest track of the album, clocking right at 4 minutes and 17 seconds. The doom and gloom intro sets the tone for the world view the band wishes to convey on their fourth full length. The songs actually have a bit of a sludge element worked into them. Slow and steady, sticky and heavy, those are terms that aptly describe the music of Looking For An Answer.

That heavy swampy sound is a particular element on this album, the muddled sound represent the drag of society, its futile, complexities and horrors. Looking For An Answer makes that tangible in the chasm of despair that their record sounds like. Ofcourse, there’s also the blistering, all destroying grindcore tracks. Setting fire to the world on ‘Apoteosis’ or the creeping ‘Demiurgo’, the sound of war is here.

Grindcore is still very relevant when we adress the atrocities of our world. Looking For An Answer offers the answer to what that should sound like.

Underground Sounds: Slegest – Vidsyn

Label: Dark Essence Records
Band: Slegest
Origin: Norway

Slegest

I found out about Slegest, thanks to the Cult Never Dies: The Megazine book by Dayal Patterson. I read about the multi-instrumentalist Stig Ese Eliassen, who played in Vreid before. He now does Slegest, combinging ’70’s hardrock, thrash and black metal into a unique sound.

Like many people making extreme music, Eliassen is a guy with a history. A person with conflict and a need to expres that. This is where Slegest is born from and now growing into an entity that hopefully will play live soon. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but the sound had a universal quality to it I think. The album was received well so time to share it with the world.

Dirty black’n’roll from Norway

The cover is immediatelly different, catching the attention without being anything special. Then there’s the opening riff of ‘I fortida sitt lyss’. Catchy, driven and timeless, this is music that alway works. A little like the crustpunk albums of Darkthrone, catchy bit dirty. It’s an interesting contrast, the catchy music with the gritty vocals. That gives it a dark edge and a real rock’n’roll feel. It’s got that underground edge, but also a great mix and production. Slegest doesn’t rely on grimy distortion to cover up anything, it’s a band that really knows how to deliver a great tune.

Specially on a gloomy track like ‘komfortabelt nommen midtvekes’ the formula of Slegest works. With a wicked grin, you listen to the chugging riffwork, the playful guitar loops and the trollish (yes, I used that word) vocals. This record is great stuff to listen to in the car, the clean production, the energy, it all falls into place. Would this record benefit from clean vocals? I think it would lose it’s dark shine without, I enjoy the punky, raw but still slick sound. It really fits into the tradition somewhere between Skambankt and Abbath.

I love this album by Slegest, the dirty Norwegian biker sound should appeal to a broad audience. If Speedfest was still around, this is a band that should play there. This album totally rocks.

Underground Sounds: Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial

Label: Bindrune/Nordvis
Origin: United States
Band: Falls of Rauros

The band Falls of Rauros has a lot going for them. Firstly, their name is  a Tolkien reference, which always resonates with me. Secondly, their music rates as black/folk metal on various sites (though you can disagree on the terminology, I think it covers their sound well). Also they’re politically charged, citing anarchism as a theme.

This all would not even be necessary, for the Appalachian folk wink in their sound puts them on par with Panopticon and do I love that band. This is the fourth album by the group from Portland in the States, following ‘Believe In No Coming Shore’ from 2014. Artwise, the band takes a move away from their more nature depicting covers with something a bit more fantastic. Also good to have some new material, after all the re-releases ofcourse.

On opener ‘White Granite’,  you immediately hear the combination of beautiful melodies, maybe almost a bit of stadium rock, with scorching vocals. The constantly walk the thin line between beauty and grimness, somehow very akin to nature in that sense. This is not a bad thing though, because the band completely in a natural way finds their path through the different sounds and builds layers upon layers of riffs and expressions to create their specific brand of black metal. There’s  a densely emotional side to songs like ‘Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains’, something truly soothing.

Album highlight is, I think, the track ‘Arrow & Kiln’. It shows Falls on their more heavy end. More massive and cohesive than the rest of the album and therefor in 12 minutes being the song that exemplifies the album. It contains all the strong sides of the band in one go. Great stuff!

On final track ‘Impermanence Streakt Through Marble’ the band completely lets go of the black metal and trickling folky tunes, acoustic play and shoegazy meanderings lead the song forward. When the music gets some more weight after two minutes, this still feels like a beautiful postrock tune, evoking a certain sadness. Vocals come on a bit later, but for me those were not even needed (though they do give the song some body).

Underground Sounds: Pillorian – Obsidian Arc

Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede
Band: Pillorian
Origin: United States

On Roadburn this year, Pillorian was well impressive. The sound of the group is densely atmospheric, but also heavy and very much something that grabs you as a listener. The group from Portland, Oregon in the States is ofcourse the group of John Haughm, who we know from Agalloch.

Haughm gathered some experienced musicians to form Pillorian after Agalloch split. Members have gained experience in groups like BanewreakerUada and Maestus. Soundwise, the group goes in similar directions as Agalloch, but just darker and more heavy in my opinion. The complex poetry in lyrics and titles is still there though.

On opener ‘By the Light of a Black Sun’ the ingredients are immediately employed. An epic intro, with a majestic intro leads us to a song that feels a lot like the bombastic, iconoclastic sound of the great Primordial. From those big, moving intro’s, the songs move towards a frantic, high-paced black metal sound with rapid barked vocals, creating a sharp sound. There’s an urgency to the sound of Pillorian that is very noticable. The voic drags you into a narrow tunnel of sound for a moment, only to throw you out into the big chorus again.

The production is rather clean, so every aspect of the music is audible. It allows the listener to hear the tight and merciless precision of the band, not a blanket of distortion. ‘Forged Iron Crucible’ moves to a more traditional sound, but really all the effort again is in the build up, the dense atmosphere and grandeur of the music. That is the absolute strength of Pillorian, to really get the listener to immerse and be touched by the profundity and heaviness of their expressions. A bit of clean vocals would not have been amiss here, to create even more of that feeling.

Pillorian is a band that delivers black metal in a majestic manner. Everything is well balanced, polished and tells a story if the listener is willing to hear it. John Haughm is a creator of beauty, even when that beauty is grim and bleak. That is what makes Pillorian so good.

Underground Sounds: V.A. – Drums in the Deep

Label: Bad Omen Records
Band: Wretch, CC Company, Satan’s Satyrs, Wytch Hazel, Spell, The Tower, Asomvel, Flight
Origin: United Kingdom

Using classic imagery from the original Lord of the Rings films (yes, you muggle, there’s an original film with cutting edge animations in its time), the label Bad Omen Records from London presents some of its finest cuts and slices of doom metal to the peoples. A sampler then, with special attention for Wretch.

Bad Omen Records is a small label, with a particular taste for things heavy and classic. Their roster doesn’t focus on much extreme metal but sticks to the more traditional formats, which I think works perfectly fine, It gives an identity and core to the label, which is in this day and age nice and recognizable for fans. Go here for your doom, folks!

Opening up is an exclusive track by Wretch, titled ‘Sweet Revenge’.  The song sounds as if something wicked this way is coming, something just outside the door threatening the listener. The voice of Karl Simon sounds like mixture of Ozzy and Lemmy, evil and seductive. CC Company follow with a supertight, 80’s vibe track. Th rhythm is like a tense cord, with mildly raw vocals by the Swedes. Catchy as hell, this tune! Not sure if ‘World Domination’ will achieve its goal, the sound is a bit dated, but lovable nonetheless. Following that we have Satan’s Satyrs from Virginia, with fuzzy distortion and demented vocals. An change from the tight tracks before, but very welcome.

Wytch Hazel is a surprising next one, with their self titled track. It reminds me of Iron Maiden in the Blaze Bailey days (around Virtual XI). Mellow, clean sung and quite endearing to the listener. You almost want to go back when the biting vocals of Wretch follow this track on ‘Running out of Days’. A really big stadium sound can be heared when the tune ‘Dark Desires’ by Spell is unleashed. Again, Maiden… Saxon.. it has that typical NWOBHM feel to it. The vocals even feel like they’re from that era, though a bit too slick for my tastes. The same goes for the exclusive Wytch Hazel track ‘Surrender’ that follows and Flight‘s ‘Escape’, though its some mellow listening. and quite energetic stuff.

Ansomvel from England plays some sleazy, agressive heavy metal the way you know and love. ‘Shoot Ya Down’ is not a complex track, but a show of force with a Venom/Motörhead-like bite to it. Good stuff! Swedish The Tower follows with a ripping track titled ‘Wounds’. A solid boogie tune with some strict but strangely fitting vocals. There’s a solidity in the flow of the song, which I love and that peculiar vocalist really completes it.

This cool collection ends with ‘Die Screaming’ by Satan’s Satyrs. Screams of despair over a slowly progressing track, that sounds as if it is sliding down into a pit of despair. Wow, just wow this stuff. Bad Omen really wove together a collection that ignites the imagination with an oldschool feel, exactly what you’d take from the cover. Drums from the deep!