Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Zaum – Eidolon

Label: I Hate
Band: Zaum
Origin: Canada

I saw Zaum play once in an obscure basement in Tilburg. The air was choking thanks to an uncanny cigarette smell and the location was ill fitted for the band that was playing. Still, Zaum was convincing and crushing thanks to their transcendental doom sound, that just takes you to another place.

Where previous album ‘Oracles’ spoke of places like the Red Sea and Parthia, also showing a desert landscape and a foreboding city on a cliff near the sea, this one takes us further into the middle-east (though the cover made me think of Maya/Inca society). The cover is a tell tale sign with Zaum where they may take you on their hypnotic journey. The title ‘Eidolon’ refers to an apparition of a spirit like being, something you’ll find in the Djinn haunted Assyria plenty

Still, their oriental favors are clear from the title ‘Influence of the Magi’. Magi traditionally refers to Zoroastrianism, but the lyrics make clear we are now in Assyria. After an almost religious chanting, the voices shift to more unearthly sounds. Everything becomes more foreboding, even before that first, threatening riff is layed down. It takes a while for the chanting to be substituted by crushing, slowly cascading riffs and hypnotic vocals. 21 minutes both tracks last, but they are epic journeys, that make you hallucinate slightly, tripping through the mysterious past.

There’s those oriental themes in the music, also thanks to the use of a sitar. That helps with the atmosphere, which is layed down thickly on ‘The Enlightenment’. The song is, as I sort of wanted to say earlier, a transcendental experience of mysterious atmosphere and tones and a playful expression with rare bursts of guitar work. Zaum brings the listener into a trance on this majestic track. When the band really hits it off, it is monumental. Crushing drums and that typical heavy, solid experience. Though I loved their previous record, this really takes the cake. I can listen to this forever.

 

Underground Sounds: Mrako-Su – Путь В Белое

Label: Black Mara
Band: Mrako-Su
Origin: Russia

Black Mara is a Russian label from Novosibirsk that has been releasing great records for a while now. The genre they fit into is dark ambient and Mrako-Su is their latest production. An ambient record that takes us far from the daily life that we embrace in our modern society.

Behind Mrako-Su is an entity known as Twilight or The Twilight (translation may not be perfect). A sjamanic explorer who retreats far into the forest on ‘Путь В Белое’. Inspiration is drawn from Chinese flute music to funeral doom metal , the music is a blend of strange, dreamy sounds.

The tones that you hear on the opening track are bells in the wind, blaring drones and unearthly vocals. This is the sounds you hear in the night, when you magnify your senses and fully embrace your surroundings. It’s the mind working on full energy in the darkest part of the forest, creating a forceful experience for the listener.

But the sound can also be harrowing and rather unpleasant, like the sharp sounds on ‘Чёрная Зима’, which is like standing next to a horrible machine. There’s a lot of dissonant, eerie sounds on the record, that seems to traverse from song to song to darker realms than before. The endless repetition puts the listener in a trance that doesn’t easily subside.

All in all this record has a more grimmer approach to the sjamanistic experience. Screeching sounds, buzzing drones and an almost unearthly experience await you. This makes sense, looking at the description with the record. It’s an escapist record, mournful about the loss of human nature and thus trying to cling on to it by recording it. It’s a record that will move the listener and maybe help you look at the green world differently and with more respect.

Underground Sounds: Sangre de Muerdago – Os Segredos da Raposa Vermella

Label:Neuropa Records/Música Máxica
Band: Sangre De Muerdago
Origin: Spain

When I read of the origin of this band, I had to look it up. Though I’ve heard of Gallicia, I never really knew where it was. Now, it is that strange corner of Spain north of Portugal, where legends roam. It’s a land that is green and filled with rivers, haunted by myths and legends and very ancient. No wonder that this band speaks about that.

Sangre De Muerdago is a forest folk group, as they describe it. Which means that their inspiration is nature and the little stories derived from it. The words are in Gallician, which is closer to Portuguese and the music is traditional and in its own way ancient and primitive. Primitive I would normally use for rough, unsophisticated music, but in this case I mean something different, I mean its voice, its timbre and all over harmonious, natural vibe.

Oh, and they like Motörhead. This album tells a story of a fox, which you can find out about all by yourselves. The music is a swirling collaboration of acoustic instruments, that weave together this story. It tells of old tales, the forests and hills, of men gathered around the fire or under the moon to make music (and women, obviously). The thrumming of the bodhran and the continuous flow of the hurdy-gurdy are excellend instruments to create the atmosphere of a forlorn age. Continuously pumping out sounds, while a bouzouki is played and other traditional elements come to play.

The record is a mixture of traditionals from Galicia and Bretagne. Also the work of folk band Milladoiro is used, for example the swooning ‘Agullas de Agarimo’, with its harder tones and dancable energy. Different is the fragile ‘An Dro’, which meanders through an eerie forest in the early morning, when the lush green is still moist and awakening. It’s music that takes you away from the concrete jungle, to a place more simple and easy. It may just be a small taste of the Gallician group Sangre De Muerdago, but offers a wide array of folkish enjoyment.

Underground Sounds: Martröð – Transmutation of Wounds

Label: Fallen Empire Records, Terratur Possessions
Band: Martröð
Origin: Iceland, United States, France, Italy

So, as a fan of the genre, I have to get in on Martröð. I think it’s a great record. Not phenomenal, but definitely great, if only for the way this has come together and how the result combines the strenghths of the partaking artists. But it is always tricky finding that right blend. For example, I really like baklava and fish & chips, but chucking it together might not work out as great as you think. There might be a secret combination, but finding it is hard, even more so with five artists.

So we take Wrest (Leviathan) and A.P. (Chaos Moon, Krieg) and add Thorns from Italy (Blut Aus Nord) and H.V Lyngdal (Wormlust), D.G.(Misþyrming) from Iceland. Finally MkM from France (Antaeus) takes on the vocals. The full resumé of these gentlemen I’ll leave out, it’ll take too much. The trick is how to put all of that together, over distances nonetheles, without starting to sound ‘a bit like everything’. Well, in that respect I have no answers, just that they did it wonderfully.

So what you get feels a lot like a cooking experiment, where everything is put in a big cauldron, where it starts to swirl around into a chaotic stream of dissonant noise and unholy sounds. ‘Draumleiðsla’ opens with blaring horns and a lot of strange bells, alerting the listener that something wicked this way comes. The track unfolds as a nightmarish, spiralling descent with bellowing vocals guiding you in your downward swirl. All obliterating chaos.

‘Draumleysa’ feels more static, more straight forward, instead of circular. The heavy drums suggest a marching beat, while the guitars create eery arches above on higher tones. With an enthrancing rhythm, this is one hellish track to go down with, mainly thanks to the irregular drums, that pound as hard as you could imagine. Mostly it’s just layer upon layer of intense heavy blackness and that is just awesome.

Martröð brings everything you expect on ‘Transmutation of Wounds’ and that is slightly disappointing. Such a collection of talented artists together, should not just do what is expected, but create something overwhelming. If this project continuous to record, I’m absolutely certain that this will be what it’ll do, the parts fit nicely together we now know, so let’s see how far it can go.

Underground Sounds: Furia – Guido

Label: Pagan Records
Band: Furia
Origin: Poland

Yes, it’s named after me! No, just kidding. Furia recorded this EP around 320 meters in debt, underground, in its entirety in a mine named ‘Guido’, hence the name of the record. Furia is a mysterious band with little information available, who literelly went underground to make music on this record.

Furia is part of a small Polish collective of artists, named ‘Let The World Burn’. Other bands like Massemord, FDS and Cssabia seem to be attached to it, but it’s never really clear what happens behind closed doors so to say with these collectives. This project is known to be the inventors of ‘nekrofolk’, which is a vague term until you listen to the music they make, It’ll all make sense then.

In a way the record is divided in two parts, one contains the songs ‘1’ and ‘2’, and is called ‘Stara Polska księżycowa’, which I think translates to ‘Old Polish Moon’. Stomping folk music with a cold, morbid sound is indeed a fitting description for the sound of Furia, but the atmosphere and spoken elements betray much more on the second track. Slow but full of purpose the tracks progress with rhythms you wouldn’t expect and sing-a-long elements even. It would almost be jolly.

‘Ubrdy część pierwsza’ is the title of part two, but I haven’t been able to translate it properly. But the strange opening of ‘320 w 2’ is already telling for the atmosphere, because it’s like going down the elevator shaft into the debts. Probably that is actually what we are hearing. It’s a short intermezzo, before ‘Hahary’ takes it’s time to build up, slowly and in a way that makes you wonder where this is all going. A groaning voice murmurs over the minimal music, which is almost a bit jazzy. It then starts building up, with a reverb to create a sonic tunnel effect. I guess you could call it kraut rock almost, there’s little growth, just repetition.

‘Łączka’is even stranger, and reminds me most of Tunng’s folktronica. A lumpy rhythm with those softly spoken words in a deep voice for a good couple of minutes, before the song swells with screaming guitars, but the rhythm never fades. It’s a foreboding trodding track, with little black metal traces remaining. You could indeed call them progressive in their interesting play with the sound. Closing track is ‘Lew Albinos’, which has some ripping guitar tones to take it away. I reminds me a bit of that slow paced Urfaust sound, but without the maddening shrieks. It feels like the slow procession of the miners through the tunnels, grim, bleak and dark with nothing but darkness awaiting.

Furia delivers excellence on this record, which was recorded live. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

Underground Sounds: Ugniavijas – Ten, kur krisim

Label: Dangus
Band: Ugniavijas
Origin: Lithuania

In the wide fields of Lithuania an ancient people once lived, who were known by many tribe names. The Yotvingians, Aukstaitians, Skalvians, Curonians and the warrior tribe of the Samogitians dwelt in these ancient lands. Being the last part of Europe to be Christened in 1413 finally, by their Grand Duke Vytautas, the nation has a devout dedication to Christianity, but somehow it’s never fully Christian.

For centuries Lithuanians have gone to the forests, building their crosses and little altars in semblance of the Christian figures. Still the altars and holy places remained and recently the old ways have reemerged in a way that is surprisingly big and up to date. Perhaps the pillars of the ancient tradition are just so clear that it isn’t hard to bring them to this day and age. Music is a huge part of that and Ugniavijas brings that to life in a way that feels authentic and sort of hauntingly fitting.

Though they claim to sing war songs, as shown by their previous record ‘Karo Dainos’ (War Songs), they don’t sound brutal or so, but like beautiful harmonies of male vocal singing. ‘Ten, kur krisim’ (Where we will fall) is a captivating journey through the ages. The uncanny tone and unusual timbre keeps you listening to songs like ‘Kai aš jojau ant vainos’, where the language itself determines the sound. The chanting is flat, tribal and focussed on the rhythm.

Boisterous singing is th emain part, but traditional instruements fill up the sound to a complete experience. Bagpipes and the well known kanklės are very present, but also more of those hypnotic instruments like the lumzdelis. It oozes into a mystical experience of bold men braving the field of battle against those that try to take what is dearest to them. Home, hearth and gods.

Though the words are difficult to understand, this is the sort of music that is typical for the old Balts. Emotional, full of vigor and with a sense of fatality. None lives forever, but the harmonie of life, the bravery, it makes sacrifices a noble thing and that is what you can find in the music.

Underground Sounds: Eternal Champion – The Armor of Ire

Label: No Remorse Records
Band: Eternal Champion
Origin: United States

This American high fantasy inspired band brings back the loincloth wearing, sword wielding hero of old fantasy books, with a woman with big assets clutching his leg. Yes, there’s definitely a reminder on the cover of this new album by Eternal Champion, that reminds you of times when fantasy was mcuh simpler.

The direct inspiration for the bandname is the fantasy of Michael Moorcock, with an entity named the Eternal Champion living through time and ages in the multiverse. It’s the archetype for epic fantasy and its therefor not surprising to hear music akin to Manowar and Sabaton on this debut by the band from Austin ‘The Armor of Ire’.

The sound is akin to a mixture of the pulsing doom riffs you’ll hear in some of the classic heavy metal bands and the soaring, clear articulated vocals of power metal. It’s a specific niche in which Eternal Warrior finds itself, but opener ‘I Am The Hammer’ is made of that legendary stuff you want from a band like this. Catchy, muscular and strong the song immediately takes you into the realm of Eternal Warrior.

Everything sounds like it is from another time and era in heavy metal. The sharp bitten vocals of Jason Tarpey are to me the most typical, offering a mixture between Fish and Joey Dimachio and Eric Adams. The band seems to take the background to the epic vocals, with little story telling through the guitars. They mostly offer the driven sound, that gives it that feel of grandeur.

I’m not putting the name Fish in there without reason, the versatility of the vocals really creates that unique atmosphere that makes me instantly love this band. The track ‘Invoker’ is the best example of that I think, totally expressing what I love about the voice of Tarpey. There’s an upsite to the static natur of the music. Many people who play Dungeons & Dragons or other games featuring high fantasy, may be looking for exactly this record as their soundtrack to glory. It’s repetitive nature in the music makes it great material. On the other hand, it allows the part of the story teller, the bard for their vocalist.

You just got to love this album. If you don’t you’ve never truly understood the charm of sword wielding, muscular macho men, dragons and having women clutching at your legs. To Battle!

Underground Sounds: Kylver – The Island

Label: independent
Band: Kylver
Origin: United Kingdom

These gentlemen from Newcastle in the United Kingdom are not just musicians, they are storytellers with a clear affinity to the works of H.P. Lovecraft if I’m not deceived by what I read about ‘The Island’. This is the second album from the Geordies (if you can use that still to refer to normal people as well) and well worth your time. Time to listen to Kylver.

The four piece has a story to tell about sailers who get lost on sea, ending up in a different realm where an ancient race dwells. The confrontation is crushing the human minds, which are not accustomed to the awesomeness of such vast knowledge and wisdom and the sole survivor begs to be released. This is a wild concept, not unakin to some of the dream-sagas of Lovecraft, but brought to you in an instrumental rock/doom/stoner way.

The sound of Kylver is progressive and explorative, combining elements of the stoner/doom sound with more playful elements, like keyboards to create these meandering passages and paint the vistas of the story. The threatening tone that you often hear, specially on albums with a nautical theme it seems, remind me of artists like Ahab. It feels like a typical stylistic direction, where the vibe of the ocean is put into the music.

The album is a continuous progression, where the progressive elements create debt and coloring to the sound. Sometimes sounding haunting and omnious, like the (almost) 10 minute epic ‘Monolith’, but other times picking up the right timbre and emotions for the section of the story the band wishes to adress. What’s most impressive is the cohesion of the tracks and the whole album. Never do your feel like you’re listening to separate songs. Though it is not very common, they could have released ‘The Island’ as a 40 minute track and it would be awesome (but tricky for the hopefully soon to be released vinyl).

The closer ‘The Great Race’ is an almost teasing, slightly remorseful tune with thunderous drums, where the proggy qualities of the band really shine for a bit, in the way the dense atmosphere is put down. This record is an experience. Did I mention the wonderful artwork? Because I should, it’s great.

Underground Sounds: Virvum – Illuminance

Label: Independent
Band: Virvum
Country: Switzerland

“A journey to a place where timelessness reigns and nature blooms in strangest colours; A heavenly place far beyond comprehensible perception.” is the description that Virvum gives on their bandcamp for their recently unleashed album ‘Illuminance’. I can see where that statement is coming from to be honest, it makes sense if you listen to this brand new record.

The Swiss band finds its origins in the band Grofból it seems, who played deathcore (or probably death metal if you’d ask them now). There’s definitely something from that taken along to the sound of progressive death that the band has embraced. Drawing inspiration from bands like FallelujaAt The Gates and Chimera, it’s no wonder that the sound is technical and ear friendly all in one.

Hooked, proggy opening riffs unleash the album upon or hearing organs with a vigorous energy. Dazzling guitarmanship is clearly present in the ranks of this Swiss group, who deliver their tracks with outstanding precision. The battering drums speak of agressiona and fury, but also create a sense of grandeur combined with the tremolo guitar play at times, for example on ‘Ad Rigorem’.

I’m sure that the more frantic prog lover will eat up this album, but I have some reservations about the end mix result. The rhythm section seems to have gotten the shorter end of the stick here, having been condensed so much that little feel is left of them. The guitars sound extremely polished, which fits the sound, but takes away the organic feel described in the bio a bit.

All in all this is a powerful debut by a DIY band, which makes it all the better that they’re getting their music out there and heard. I’m eager to see in what direction they develop, but I expect these guys to find their sound soon enough.

Underground Sounds: Melopœia – Tolkien’s Ainulindalë

Label: –
Band: Melopœia
Origin: Canada

There’s so much geek going on here, that I probably have to start with a lot of definitions here and some I will struggle with.
Melopœia makes Xenharmonic, Tolkien-Inspired Black Metal by using scriptophony. Let me start with the easy stuff…

Ainulindalë: Ainulindalë is the first part of the Silmarillion, the creation myth of Middle-Earth, the world where Tolkiens stories take place. In the book it’s shaped by a symphony of interwoven themes. It’s quite beautiful.
Scriptophony: Basically it means translating script to music, so the wizz behind this project assigned every letter to a tone and thus let the words of the story shape the music. It’s weird, but cool.
Xenharmonic/Microtonal: This part baffles me, but I guess you can say that its music that uses different scales and intervals to create songs. In a way it’s just ignoring the conventional tones and scales. But please, look to wikipedia for more.

So, who is this madman responsible for this project? That would be Dave Tremblay (Dinosaurs Are Not Gone!, VodAwaken The Ghosts and many more). Brian Leong does the vocal parts of the record. What you get is a wild ride of music that makes little to no sense the first time around. The sound is frantic, confusing and highly irregular, but also dense and complex to the ears. Sometimes it´s a burst of black metal like riffing and threatening tones, but other moments the music is trickling minimal. Stopping and starting on completely surprising moments, it´s not a calm experience, but a crazy trip.

It was never ment to be enjoyed by the listener, but still this record fascinates me. If you´d like to learn more, maybe check out this article by Dave himself concerning the project. There are interesting connections to groups like Botanist and Jute Gyte, both active in the black metal realm, but completely on their own terms. The mutating, radical approach to music definitely fits in with the genre itself I think.

So why would you listen to this record, if it´s so tricky and difficult? Well, I’ve spoken to many people who started reading The Silmarillion and got stuck in fact in the Ainulindalë. It’s a shame, because the book offers so much great stories, but I get that this part is difficult. In a way this album translates that to actual music, to an experience akin to the chapter. Understanding the effort behind both may help readers appreciate it more for its beautiful writing and complexity, which goes as well for the music. Sure, sometimes its closing in on noise, but there’s beauty as well. So all in all, not unlike the harmonious song of the Valar and Eru.