Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: lcbrt – Incarnatie

Label: self-released
Artist: lcbrt
Origin: the Netherlands

Dutch black metal has started exploring the more recent cultural realms for inspiration and this is not without its benefits. lcbrt is the most recent of these acts, combining experimental black metal with the work and concepts of Dutch poet Lucebert.

Sole member Evio is also active in Morvigor from the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands. With this act, he creates death-black metal. Also appearing on this record is the voice of the poet himself, who did a lot of recordings during his lifetime of his complex and bewildering works.

Raw black metal hammers on, much in the lo-fi veins of early Burzum, intermixed with samples of poetry. The dulled, flat spoken words resonate with the static riffing and metallic twang delivered by lcbrt. He simply picks up a riff and goes with it. Sometimes fast and bashful, at other times soothing and layered. As these parts continue, there are some tempo changes, but not too much. It just works, it delivers a straight-up piece of art with dissonant and confusing black metal.

As the main track ‘i t/mv’ lasts almost 15 minutes, the second song on this record only takes a little chunk of your time. ‘Incarnatie’ continues in the peculiar vibe and sound, that is lcbrt. It’s harrowing, cold and unpleasant, yet offering a warm bath to sink into at the same time with its haggard sound and feisty riffing. The ploinky outro is particularly enjoyable. Yet, at the same time, the guitars are sharp and almost cut your hearing. That is part of the delivery and particular concept behind the act. Curious to see where this moves from here.

Underground Sounds: Iskandr – Euprosopon

Label: Haeresis Noviomagi
Band: Iskandr
Origin: The Netherlands

Iskandr is one of the odd ones out in the Dutch black metal scene and on ‘Euprosopon’ they’ve made the next step in complexity, atmosphere, and mystique. The album deals with the topic of the impossibility of an ideal man and the value of strife and heroism in an age of loss. They aim for medieval symbolism on this record, that stands as a timeless piece of art.

Iskandr is a project by Omar K., who is also active in Galg, Lubbert Das, Solar Temple, and Turia. With this project, he explores more strange themes. The name itself is an eastern variation on that of Alexander the Great, which might explain some of that. This is the second album under this moniker.

The record opens much as a ritual, with slow, eerie passages and gentle prayer bells. Chanting emerges from the sides. Are we moving towards Clannad here? The guitars slowly turn dissonant, so I may be wrong as ‘Vlakte’ suddenly lunges into full speed with a remarkably melodic bit of riffing. There’s a subtlety to the sound, to the wavery riffing and the oft barely audible chants, woven into the texture of the songs Sure, there’s a working towards the summit of the song with violent turmoil and energy, but it is ever done with brute force, but smooth technical play. Much the same applies to ‘Regnum’, which contains some more mystique aspects and warm, upbeat sections. The vocals are commanding, but never full of venom, which is remarkably pleasant. I have to point out the Spanish guitar in the end as absolutely exquisite.

‘Verban’ is truly regal in its delivery. A slow-flowing tune, with grand movements and scapes, that lures you in effortlessly. The rattling drums emerge but sound as if covered by a blanket of atmospheric guitar play, dulling their crunch and submerging it into the overall shape of the song. Yet it is ‘Herlwalt’ that takes up that mysterious ending of ‘Regnum’ and weaves an oriental tune around it for close to 15 minutes, with an air of utter mystery and bewilderment for the listener. It is as if the band is taking you to a completely different place, with some truly abyssal black metal as an intermezzo of an obscure, religious meet. As if all fades, bewilderment remains.
Iskandr solidly establishes their name as a surprising obscure black metal band, paving their own way in the field with rich and atmospheric sounds, well worth checking out. ‘Eurposopon’ is a masterpiece in my book.

Underground Sounds: A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes

Label: Prophecy Productions
Band: A Forest of Stars
Origin: United Kingdom

A Forest of Stars has been wielding their very own style of black metal for years. Inspired by a mixture of the Victorian age, steampunk-ish aesthetics and the gloom of old spooky tales, they’ve been paving a singular path through the scene. What bands would be on par with them soundwise? Maybe concept-wise Arcturus? Anyways, they have a new record titled ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes’.

The group, which I’ve seen play the Little Devil in Tilburg with their large numbers, is a grand ensemble of musicians, all working to create a little bit of magic. They’ve been around since 2017 and this record is their fifth. The album tells a story, that is as bleak as the cover would make you expect. It’s mesmerizing, messy and different, but also captivating and creative. So let’s sink our teeth in that one now.

This album takes a moment to get into because it doesn’t really offer you the typical ‘handholds’. The soaring violin and keys are the overly present ‘Precipice Pirouette’, which is the first track of the record. The vocalist shouts and rants like a disgruntled noble, with stature yet fearful poignancy. Perhaps it is interesting to note that members also collaborate in other set-ups, like The Water Witch and Hryre, which probably explains how all comes together so well in the well composed and recorded music.

Yet the record is filled with notable songs that sound more folky, mysterious or even slightly industrial. ‘Premature Invocation’ is one of those, that I can hardly place, except when I compare it to Hail Spirit Noir with that woozy sound. My favorite track though is ‘Taken by the Sea’. The ethereal vocals opening the song are ones that cause a shiver to go down your spine. The weariness, the longing, it simply could not get better than this.

As the record comes to a close with ‘Decomposed Deity Dance Hall’, a macabre type of humor and wordplay, it is clear how exceptional A Forest of Stars actually is. Not just in their direction, but also in their wonderful sound as thudding blast beats and gentle whistles wave us away.

From the mountains to beyond the wall of sleep

It’s music that sometimes helps to take you away from the dull, mundane affairs that fill our daily lives. We don’t all get to be sassy Instagram models, parading the luxurious holiday places or the exceptional bits of nature, some of us just need to join the daily drag. So do I.

These are tunes that take me to those places though, to the magical bits of nature that I can only dream about most of the time, the vast mountains and deep forests through synths, ambient and other forms of music. Follow the path, sometimes it’s overgrown and hard to find, but it’s there and leading far from the regular throng of people that stick to their Netflix and literary thriller reads.

Kaya North – Tribal Mountain

Origin: France
Label: The Eagle Stone Collective

There’s hardly a more awe-inspiring image to present than a sheer face of rock. The pillars on this cover, truly captivate me and so does the mild drone that sets on as I launch this release by Caleb R.K. Williams. Under the name Kaya North, Williams is releasing a  project of improv music, next to the solo work, Eagle Stone, Old Green Mountain, Uktena Kult and Cosmic Canyon (and probably a dozen other). All projects of ambient, nature-inspired. This record just offers the drones with little ripples, like the tiny holds and nooks you’ll find in the rock. It’s booming, with the odd sound of a circling bird of prey resounding through the booming tunes. There’s a tension in the sound, that you recognize when you’ve ever climbed a rock face with little between you than the rope, a next clip a meter or three ahead and your trembling fingers. It’s a feeling you can barely describe, but you can capture it in sound it turns out.

Black Hill & Silent Forest – Tales of the Night Forest

Origin: Hungary
Label:  Self-released

The artwork by Kapiller Ferenc is easily confused by me for that of Costin Chioreanu. It depicts nature as something idyllic, something almost perfectly outlined in the green, vibrant and natural colors he uses. It’s perfect over by this release of Black Hill & Silent Forest. A duo of projects that mash into the postrocky storytelling on ‘Tales of the Night Forest’. Like a gentle, babbling brook the guitars flow by. The lack of drums help to diminish any ostentatious flourish in the music, keeping the flow tranquil and soft. From the elusive ‘The gathering of deer’ to the melancholy of ‘An old owl calling’, the album keeps you in a state of flux, just as a witness to the beauty and pleasant harmony of the forest. An absolute pleasure to dwell within the tunes of Black Hill & Silent Forest for a while, no matter the pressure you’re currently feeling.

Kalmankantaja – Tuulikannel

Origin: Finland
Label:  Illuminandi Service

Kalmankantaja translates as ‘death bearer’ and is a black metal band from Finland, who uses a lot of synth and atmosphere in his music. An odd including perhaps in this aural traverse, but his easy flow makes his work as immersive to me as the others, so I gladly sidestep tot the shimmering stream of black metal that opens ‘Tuulikannel’ with ‘Aarnihauta’, a track that will last up to 14 minutes. The progression on both tracks is slow, with the occasional guttural scream emerging from the murky mists of the forests the sound appears to emulate. On the second track, we encounter a melancholic dirge, that repeats and meanders onward for minutes. Even when the music swells to a more rocking sound, there’s always that hint of continuity and an endless stream moving forward on ‘Tuulikannel’. The vocals sound hateful, but this is merely a crust to the deep greyness of the music. Which is wonderful…

Sun Through Eyelids – Glacial Iridescence

Origin: New Zealand
Label: ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ

But let us step back into nature with Sun Through Eyelids. A deep ambient act, consisting of Tom Necklen and Meghan Wood. On ‘Glacial Iridescence’ they take you to an eerie polar landscape or an Alpine glacier, where they freely explore sounds and let nature offer its healing magic to the listener on the drony tunes of ‘Shelter of the Taiga’ or ‘Subarctic Oasis’. Booming sounds, with reverb attached to its edges, gets complemented with distant music and cold keys, maybe with a mouth harp here and there? It sounds like the buzzing of an insect as astral waves wash over you. Yet as you stick with the sound, your blood seems to thrum in your veins and your ears feel like they are in the middle of the sound instead of simply receiving it. An almost transcendental experience looms, with the sound of water, birds and nature, all acting in harmony and pure majesty together, not needing humanity one bit for its perennial cycle and balance.

Oneiromancer/MAW – Oneiromancer/MAW

Origin: USA
Label: A Moment of Clarity Records/Orb Weaver Collective

Oneiromancery is a form of divination based on dreams, which is quite an apt name for the act that provides the first side of this record. Titled ‘Dukkha’, it’s a slow waxing and waning of tumultuous drones and odd chanting, which feels as if it gets lost in the sounds of the wind. The droning keeps intensifying, forming a wall that drowns you in it, drowns the noise in your head and takes you to a place of tranquility. A valuable experience, when you’re caught up in thinking instead of doing. Subtle melodies weave through, but not at regular speeds but briefly rising from the noise and sinking again. ‘Naljor’ by MAW then just slithers by mostly, in near silence, with far-removed sounds, but ending in what feels like a guitar wall. A mystical experience, all in all, this release.

Underground Sounds: Ride for Revenge – Sinking the Song

Label: Independent
Band: Ride For Revenge
Origin: United States

Ride For Revenge appears to have been around forever and are part of that dirties, grittiest segment of the Finnish black metal realms. Their sound is almost atrocious, disgusting and profoundly evil and that is particularly enjoyable from this band. Even the artwork resonates with its origins, with a red logo and black and white artwork.

The band has been out there since 2001 and the members seem to be in a ton of other acts. At the core of the group we find Harald Mentor, who has been riding the wave of hatred since the start as founder and also plays in Flooded Church of Asmodeus, Militaris-tic (in which bass player J. Pervertor is also active), and Uskonrauha. Drummer Harri Kuokkanen notably also plays in Hooded Menace and Horse Lattitudes, some excellent bands in my humble opinion.

Initially, you might think you’re listening to one of the rawest, unpolished demo recordings ever, originating from some basement, a tape recorder and a bunch of mildly untalented musicians. You may be on to something there because that is consistently the sound Ride For Revenge produces. Gritty, slow and muddy black metal, full of demented growls and rickety rhythms, that almost sound too simple to be considered fitting. Gnarly guitars welcome you from the first track, as the band drags itself onward.

Band leader Harald Mentor has a voice, that sounds barely human, which proves effective. Joined by the solid slabs of unpolished black metal, Ride for Revenge barrages onward on ‘The One and Same and All’ and never comes to a halt without the grinding squeaks and squeals of guitars being vigorously tormented. Lumbering rhythms make it sound as if there’s glue or slime attached to the skins, as the next dissonant guitar line is spun out on ‘Sinking The Song’. What a trip this record is, much like driving your car with only 3 wheels, barely any gas, no front window and 50 miles to go.

Underground Sounds: xGADDAVÍRx & AAIIEENN

Label: Independent
Band: xGADDAVÍRx & AAIIEENN
Origin: Iceland

There are two great things about bands from Iceland. One is their incessant hunger to create and innovate, the second is their refusal to be confined in narrow-cast genres. I am hardly surprised, therefore, that straight edge hardcore wreckers xGADDAVÍRx team up with electronics artist AAIIEENN.

AAIIEENN hails from Grundarfjörður and produces electronics that are raw and straight-forward, yet weirdly captivating. Cooperating Akranes band xGADDAVÍRx is a fascinating clash of two styles that still works pretty well since, I quite dig this release and am eager to share it with you here.

xGADDAVÍRx is a violent eruption of Icelandic proportions. Bottled up rage and fury is what they deliver after the distorted, electro-intro of ‘Freki Karlinn’. Simmering riffing brings the song on, after which a galloping pace takes over as the band races onward to oblivion with a catchy tune and energetic pace. Vocals are furiously spat out. Man, this grips me. That actually makes the follow-up ambient grooves of AAIIEENN so weird. One minute of flowing water and tranquility, following directly on the violence has a particular contradictory effect on the listener.

We switch back to the Icelandic hardcore punkers, with ‘Kominn með Nóg’. This song sounds like they’re chopping wood, with constant strikes of a hatched. The rattling base is a prominent element in the grooving sound, but it’s that drum that keeps knocking you to the head with force. Some high-intensity riffing comes in as well, to add a taste of fire to the whole expression on a galloping pace. After a brief break, we go to the real beatdown part. This band is so hard, you got to love it. We close the split with another AAIIEENN track, namely ‘Hypersurface’, which is a Nintendo-beat dance tune, featuring hardcore vocals roaring over it. A bit like Enter Shikari when they were at their must awesome. Sweet beat too.

Underground Sounds: Neamh-Mharbh – Neamh-Mharbh

Label: self-released
Band: Neamh-Mharbh
Origin: Ireland

From the far Galway, Ireland, comes the act Neamh-Mharbh, who play a distinctly dark and gloomy bit of atmospheric black metal. It seems the west of the green island has a particular knack for the utterly dark and haunting you’d say.

Little is known about the band, and the only connective point I’ve found is the mention of Ben Merlin Wilkinson from the UK-based Where The Crows Gather as a guest vocalist on ‘Excursion of Cathrain’, linking the band to a wider UK black metal movement keen on the atmosphere.

The sound that greets you on ‘Genesis’ is unlikely described as atmospheric black metal. Yet, the band might actually more approach a sort of churning funeral doom with its slow, leveled drones. Deep, guttural vocals resound from the bowels of the earth. We do move more towards that black metal barrage on ‘The Terror of the Revenant’, though the sound never gets a flowing motion to it and sticks to the simmering and seething sound, offering a blood-curdling sense of doom.

As in a three-step rocket, it’s the track ‘Excursion of Cathrain’ that goes full on in its ascending riffing and tumultuous drumming. A fierce grasp to the heavens in full vigor and vitality. The record takes a turn on ‘A Grave of Thorns’, where a folkish, tribal tune slowly unfolds. A sense of serenity comes over the listener, as the slow, throbbing wavers like a fog over the hillsides. It’s a simple sort of beauty, hard to dismiss. The vast atmosphere comes to a close with ‘Remission’, which may be the best song of the album yet.

This record was a surprise, as the cover left me a bit puzzled. Yet, this record is a remarkable piece of heavy, captivating atmosphere that tells you something of its origins.

 

 

Underground Sounds: Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope

Label: Holy Roar
Artist: Svalbard
Origin: United Kingdom

The fourpiece Svalbard has been around for a bit. Named after the frozen, Norwegian island far up north, the band plays what can be best described as post-metal or post-hardcore, yet their whole concept seems to resonate with the wavering spirit of the punk and hardcore community as they brazenly touch upon the topics of this time and age on ‘It’s Hard to Have Hope’.

This is the second full length by the English group, who originate from Bristol. Their sound is a rich tapestry of black metal, hardcore and some crust and post influences, which creates something that is full of vitality, but also complex and layered in its own right.

Have you ever worked as an ‘Unpaid Intern’? Because Svalbard has you anthem now. Furious screams and ascending melodies with a deep-rooted frustration behind them launch at you with ferocity. Pretty much sticking to that, the song ‘Revenge Porn’ is as visceral and essential as the opener, with lyrics that are as straightforward and direct as you can get. The beauty is that there is no accusation, no closed statement, but open questions and ideas conveyed in the song. In that lies its very power.

Let’s not forget that hardcore traditionally is hardline opinions and Svalbard in that sense makes you think. You don’t need to be idealistically aligned with the band to gain some wisdom from their songs. On ‘Feminazi’ the position is slightly more forceful, while the music takes on a more melodic an driven sound. Yet, there’s so much explanation and context given, this is a musical dialogue with any opponent. It puts the record in a very different light for me, which demands respect.  The feel of their sound is much like More Than Life and Touché Amoré to me. Full of feeling and excitingly melodic, a great piece of music to really get your heart beating a bit faster and gain some purpose.

The energy is infectious, while the passion is almost tangible on this record. It defines the relevance of hardcore, even today in a world that doesn’t seem to hold its breath for 2 seconds, whatever comes their way. Svalbard nails it.

 

Underground Sounds: Ifernach – IV. Gaqtaqaiaq

Label: Nekrart Productions
Band: Ifernach
Origin: Canada

Our ancestry is often a source of pride our base of how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, it can be a cause of strive, of clashing entities. It would seem that this is at the base of what has become Ifernach. A band that looks to consolidate the Celtic and Mi’kmaq heritage in fierce black metal on this EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’.

Ifernach has released a series of records and though it is a solo project by Finian Patraic, has also been playing some bold live shows where knife-wielding and bloodletting appear to be a big part. Also interested in the style of corpse paint, which appears to evoke images of the native cultures of the land emulated in the music.

After a classical sounding intro, which sets the mood in bombastic tones, we move to ‘Extinction’. An eerie song with melancholic, twangy guitars and gritty, primitive sounding black metal. The vocals are also snapping, biting and raw, conveying the lyrics in French. The sound is eerie, strangely dissonant as if it comes from a different realm. In a way, it does of course. The punky beat meats intricate melodies on ‘Coeur boréal et païen’, creating an enigmatic track.

The guitar mesmerizes me constantly on this record, by invoking a kind of magic. It’s the alienness of the music, the strange different vibe it creates that sets Ifernach so apart. Yet, mostly what you hear is the sound of rebellion on a tune like ‘Elle Danse Avec La Mort’. Repetitive riffing, grooving bass and a thick palette of grimy, grinning anger, here you go. It hardly compares to the gnashing ‘Un Matin Fénien’, with a true menace to the riff.

We end the record with a traditional jam, yet even this sound ghostly and distant. It’s just out of touch with our reality, somewhere lurking in the wild. That is the spirit, captured by Ifernach.

Underground Sounds: Warden – Krochtenmagii

Label: Skyggeraich Productions
Artist: Warden
Origin: the Netherlands

Warden is an act I found under dungeon synth, but his/her music is much more connected to ambient and drone music. Sure, there is a certain mysticism to his work that invokes images of the realms of our imagination, but also something very earthy and desolate clings to the notes on ‘Krochtenmagii’.

This is the third record by Warden, released in the same number of years. The production is not as high as with some dungeon synth artists, which is probably a clear cause for the high quality and narrative experience the music offers. Let’s delve in.

The image of mountains of the cover perhaps captures the droning wind and sonorous booming that opens the album. Is surges on till the next movement engages, with more soothing, harmonious sounds and the flow of water casually in the background. Then swelling it grows into a wall of sound and as the story with the music tells, time is by that point utterly lost.

By the 20-minute mark, you’ve reached a state of calm, that only the emptiness of nature can evoke. Sure, it’s an inhospitable place that Warden has taken you to, but it’s also filled with peace. In the very last movement though, we enter the realm of the dungeon synth. The wind and water are gone, yet an earthy, cavernous feel remains. After moments in this safety, the music slowly fades after what seems like a lonely journey through the wild.