Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Ancestral Vision- Akītu

Label: Mospharic Recordings
Band: Ancestral Vision
Origin: Italy

Ancestral Vision is a one-man project by Warrior. On his activity list, you can also find acts like  Peridexion Tree, and Stige, but his roots seem to be in crust/blackened hardcore. This is a solo project and it is coincidentally the debut record, titled ‘Akītu’.
The album title refers to the Mesopotamian new years’ celebration, where the poetic texts, derived from the ‘Enûma Eliš’, would be read. That would be the creation myth from these ancient lands. Musically, Ancestral Wisdom combines black/death metal with noise, industrial and drones, to paint a harrowing sound.

Abyssal murmurings emerge on the opening track ‘Erēbu’, where a crunching riff and primitive, almost industrial drum beat create a strangely subterranean atmosphere as the backdrop for the almost religious chant. When the sound swells, the darkness permeates everything. The atmosphere is dense and earthy, yet offers a glimpse into an otherworldly realm that inspires the band in their efforts. You simply drown into their music, bit by bit, through the hypnotic songs.

The industrial aspect of their sound is strangely effective. Hooky rhythms feel like a machine and have a calming effect. I hardly can make out the words though, but since my Babylonian/Akkadian is not really fresh at this time, that is probably not so much an issue. The idea itself though provokes thoughts and makes the noise element of Ancestral Vision’s music strangely inappropriate. Yet, it works. Titles like ‘Tiāmat’ and ‘Marduk’ obviously spark the imagination, due to their metal ánd myth connotation.
Crushing death metal, hammering beats and grim, forgotten words. Great for a record!

Underground Sounds: Spleen XXX – ‘Poems of Charles Baudelaire’

Label: Nomosdei
Band: Spleen XXX
Origin: France

Some labels instantly convey a sense of wonder and Nomosdei is one of them. Otherworldly sounds, uncommon music, regardless of trends, and fashion. Their recent release of Spleen XXX is a great example. Did you ever imagine the poetry of Baudelaire set to chilling post-punk music? I didn’t, but it makes a ton of sense.

The French band has dabbled with some themes and directions, but for this they’ve they’ve embraced the abject in art on ‘Poems of Charles Baudelaire’. The wanderer through the storms of the modern world, the delirium of these times and despair of the hopelessness it brings. Cold beats, cold hards, magical words. Let’s go. If you are keen to read the poetry of Baudelaire along with the tracks, find it here.

Notable is that the band has chosen to deliver their lyrics in English, instead of the original French poetry. It adds to the post-punk vibe the cold, distorted beats already display on opener ‘The Possessed’. The neurotic riffing keeps buzzing around your head as the repetition captures the listener. Slowly the sound swells on a track like ‘Spleen’, towards a more grandiose and rise of hope, but soon falls back on the solid bass lines and beats. After the intensity of those tracks, ‘The Hair’ offers seething lust, a yearnful idolation under the flat surface of the song.

It’s not too hard to see the connection of the Spleen XXX sound to that of their main progenitor, which is Joy Division. Maybe there’s a bit more of that goth swagger of The Sisters of Mercy in there. The hard-hitting beats, twangy, polished guitars and monotonous vocals always hit the spot. My favorite Baudelaire poem would have to be ‘A Carcass’, which is a sung in a gibbering tone (with a peculiar pronunciation). It guides the listener to the end of an intriguing record, that may or may not be your thing. I’m at the end of it still in doubt if I feel the full richness of the poetry in the coldness of the sound.

Underground Sounds: World Untouched By Mankind – The Forests Are Old With Grief

Label: Pacific Threnodies
Artist: World Untouched By Mankind
Origin: United States
It sounds like a surprisingly pleasant promise, the name of this project. World Untouched By Mankind, that could be an imagined place where humanity simply never dwelt, but also relates to places in the deep of the forest where we simply haven’t found anything to reap. That is the ambiance and feeling presented on this release by creative entity Night.
The hazy music by this artist meets the particular sounds of the nascent dungeon synth genre. Other projects of the artist include Procer Veneficus, ambient black metal, Murk Rider, Hooded Archer and Startrhall. The record ‘The Forests Are Old With Grief’ was recorded at the same time as ‘Of Starfire and Blackshadows Crawling’ by the Procer Veneficus project and has lain dormant until now, but no longer.

The most uncanny tunes resound when the title track opens with cold synths. This is an instant reconnecting moment with the original synth albums by Burzum. You may have all sorts opinions about that, but when it comes to catching an atmosphere, that maybe some of the best stuff. Yet, World Untouched By Mankind, chooses a more soaring, continuous flow-of-sound approach as intermission moments. More or less stripping the last vestiges of black metal away, Night has arrived at the pure sound of the most praised dungeon synth artists. Bare and boldly stated, without ever really needing to be understood, evoking the natural mysteries.

Where the initial tunes may feel very foresty, it feels like submerging in underwater tunnels on ‘Cold Caverns of Time’. Cold, synth drones and a dazed, warped feeling captures the listener as the dark tunes flow forward. The mesmerizing tones take you so far away from everything familiar and earthy, which is a vastly unknown pleasure for most in this time and age.

Underground Sounds: Grafjammer – Schalm & Schabauw

Label: Independent/Black Tapes
Band: Grafjammer
Origin: The Netherlands

Grafjammer has been hanging around Dutch graveyards and shady parts of harbors for a long while now, but only this year we can receive their second full length. The record, titled ‘Shalm & Schabauw’, contains primitive, violent black metal. The way you love it.

The band has members active in a variety of acts. From Wrang and Wesenwille to Kutschurft, it’s extreme all over. The group sticks to Dutch folklore and nautical themes in their music, which feels as vital as ever on this latest musical endeavor.

Oh yes, this record opens with the pounding punky beat you would be hoping for on an old-fashioned, raw black metal album. Tremolo riffs that immediately predict danger, violent vocals that spit venom. Grafjammer is the real thing, with their wonky, primitive sound on opener ‘Het Rottende Schompes’. The band can go to greater depths though, with the true visceral depravity displayed on ‘Drijvende Doodskist’, with vocals that sound truly demented.

With ‘Hijs het Lijk’, the band moves towards the more thunderous, almost doomy side of their sound. Still greatly enhanced by gritty sound and buzzsaw guitars, the song takes a slow pace full of rattling and noise. The lyrics rely on Dutch culture and tradition but bends and twist it to display a rotten core at the center of this. The results are grim and apocalyptic. If you manage to envision some paintings from the classic Dutch school, with Grafjammer playing, everything will turn to ashes.

Underground Sounds: Golden Dawn Arkestra – The Children of the Sun

Label: Nine Mile Records
Artist: Golden Dawn Arkestra
Origin: USA or space?

Though the name of the band will already ring enough bells, the Golden Dawn Arkestra has managed to shroud itself in mystery. Bandleader Topaz McGarrigle, acting as Zapot Mgwana, is heralded on the band’s Facebook page as the lost son of Sun Ra himself. The rest is equally disputable, but hey… Who’s counting?

It is in that jazzy, funky tradition that the Golden Dawn Arkestra flows on ‘The Children of the Sun’. A record that is as out of this world as their live shows and as captivating as the revolting of the planets. This is the third record by the body-moving group from the United States… or Nigeria… or outer space.

The record opens with a sound that mixes surf with indie rock it would seem, driven guitars and a buzzing bass. Wacky synths create that spacy feeling. A lot of reverb and hazy passages follow and it’s easy to simply drift off and nod away to the tunes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra. A track like ‘Tropicalismo’ has a bit of a muzak vibe going on and you feel right in a fancy hotel in sunnier places. A definite highlight is the title track ‘Children of the Sun’.  A funky, groovy display, with the horns and twirly keys. Nicely catchy, the song just goes on and on it seems.

‘The Ocean’ gives you a nice underwater experience following this, which is great too. Slowly flowing, floating and free of any pressure. Luckily, you wake up to the dancey dance tunes of funky and fresh sounding ‘Cosmic Dancer’. The horns are quite present here once more, with a classic minimal approach to the sound. Nothing woolly, even the harmonious vocals are nicely close-knit and tight. Often the music sounds like a runaway James Bond soundtrack from the seventies, with a sort of fuzzy warmth to the tunes.

A record that is psychedelic, funky and most magical. Enjoy it, it’s out of this world.

Forest Sounds: Stworz/Alne – Warńija

Label: Werewolf Promotion
Band: Stworz/Alne
Origin: Poland

This collaboration is particular since it is not really clear where the split between Stworz and Alne is actually split. The voice of one lends cadence to the song of the other and vice versa, creating a mesmerizingly beautiful Slavonic folk album that sounds just right with the sun up in the sky these days.

Stworz has been around since 2007 and revolves around W., who also plays in  Kres, Prav and Wędrujący Wiatr. The band has done songs for various heathen circle compilations and produced a fair share of music, gradually moving to a more folky sound, throughout the years. Alne is also a Polish folk act, with metal ties, that has been around for years. Together they created this album, with vocals provided by Alne’s Anna Malarz (ex-Thy Worshiper).

From the first listen onwards, it is clear that this is not just 2 records thrown together. This is a cooperative piece of folk, in honor of the land of Warńija. An ancient part in northern Poland, bordering old Prussia. Warm waves of acoustic riffs are like the reeds in the wind. The pleasant vocals add a flavor to the repetition, which is typical for ancient folk songs, that usually were sung during work. Ambient sounds and flutes enrich the music, to give it the natural feel. At times, this can create an intensity with the spoken word passages and inherent drama of the music, like on ‘Pieśń Warmianki’. Songs that meander like the river, ever so beautifully.

The songs by Alne are only four, but most notable is the dramatic vocal style of Anne Malarz on ‘Warmińska Noc’. It’s disrupting the tranquility evoked on the earlier songs, but with a powerful, melancholy attached to it. The classic, more grand storytelling continuous on this side of the record with ‘Tęsknota’ and shows a different side of the regional tradition and experience on this all over fascinatingly pleasant record. The words in the traditional language have a power to convey the magid, even if you don’t understand one iota of it.

Underground Sounds: Spectral Wound – Infernal Decadence

Label: Vendetta Records
Band: Spectral Wound
Origin: Canada

Meet the second album of Spectral Wound, which just oozes darkness with a cover that captures a bit of the gloom of dungeon synth it seems. The well-defined aesthetic is definitely a quality for this Canadian group of black metallers on their second full length, titled ‘Infernal Decadence’.

Featuring members of bands like Profane Order and To The Cliffs, it appears that there is plenty of experience in the ranks of this atmospheric company. Little info though… What is clear, is that the group sticks to aesthetic classics in the black metal. Vague imagery, gothic fonts and black and white covers, but that’s not where the conservative nature of the music ends.

‘Woods from Which the Spirits Once so Loudly Howled’ is the sonic equivalent of an ice cold shower that suddenly opens up above you. Pitch-black, earthy and heavy the blasting black metal. The voice is snappy and given space in the mix, which is excellent. No rest, no remorse, just furious black metal that batters you like hail as a scintillating guitar line creates the minor semblance of a melody.

By the time you reach ‘Feral Gates of Flesh’, you are probably gasping for air in this continuous onslaught of tremolo guitar repetition and rattling blast beats. Yet, the melody takes on more interesting shapes and big movements that even bring in some rocking parts on ‘La nuit froide de l’oubli’. The best way to describe their sound, to me, is absolutist. Their overpowering gestures are all pervasive and grand, like those of a dark tyrant. The screeches are horrendously good, which makes this an album to cherish in all its unholy fervor.

Underground Sounds: Nishaiar – Igewanda

Label: Self-released
Band: Nishaiar
Origin: Ethiopia

One has to be skeptical when dealing with bands that claim to hail from strange realms such as Ethiopia. Not that its impossible, you’ll be hard pressed to find any confirming information on any metal bands in the African country with its rich history. Nishaiar claims to hail from there though and this is their next record, titled ‘Igewanda’.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to dispense with finding the truth (Ghost Bath anyone?) as any interview requests are unanswered by this group clearly embracing the mystique and astral wisdom they convey in every utterance. The band has released 3 full length releases and one EP this far, all with radiant, ascending black metal full of wonder and amazement. That, in itself, fascinates the listener enough.

After a tribal intro, we fall into the fullness of warm ambient and keys, that forms the bass of Nishaiar’s sound. Wind instruments and a lot of electronics bring experience to life on the title track, which is as subtle and slithering as the fog of an early morning. The guitars drop in with a crunch, solidly clasped in the droning sounds. At times the music feels almost inorganic, but a sonic stream with a drumming so rhythmic and concentrated on ‘Nayan’ seems almost to be computer-generated.

Nishaiar gives a new shape to what we call ambient black metal, with music that mostly just drifts along on the astral waves the band claims to ride. Densely atmospheric, the music captures the imagination with the tribal sounds on ‘Menigedi’. At times it is probably hard to really call this sound black metal, but the way Nishaiar immerses the listener in their feverish dream music is uncanny. An experience like no other in the current black metal landscape almost.

Underground Sounds: Striborg – Blackwave

Label: Independent
Artist: Striborg
Origin: Australia

Black metal artists have always had a knack for pushing the envelope. Though some stay in their cave and spit out furious raw sounds forever, Sin Nanna has decided to depart and enter the realms of electronics with depressed black metal outfit Striborg. Obviously, this has been to an unkind reception at times, but ‘Blackwave’ is a great, atmospheric record in its own right and worth a try for those who love the vibe of the Tasmanian artists work.

Striborg has released an impressive array of records throughout the years, but the man behind the project seems to believe a new direction is needed. Understandable, as this was not even his only project. At times he even dabbled with other projects, like gritty death metal outlet Cromlech or the one-off Sun O))) participation of Pentemple. Striborg has steadily been his main outfit, after growing out of Kathaaria, which started in 1994. That’s a long line of darkness…

Eerie synthwave with harrowing vocals, urge the listener onwards, through the dense halls of a futuristic construction or spaceship. The music is cold, but oriental influences give it some body and enhance the otherworldly experience of ‘Trapped in a Void of the Nightgrass Repetitive, droning melodies, with odd effects that enhance the futuristic feel of the music. Diving deep into the niche of synthwave, Striborg is going into the unknown here.

It’s during tracks like ‘Making The World Cold’, that the atmospheric black metal influence really shines through again. The guitars are condensed in a singular melody line, compressed and bent into an electronic vibe, but the drums are ase Burzumesque as it gets. That shifts slightly on the track ‘All Alone in A Room Filled With Souls’, which feels… dare I say? Dancy actually, with the electroclash vibe of the early synth music with a steady, thudding drum.

We close of with a harrowing, horror tune, titled ‘Penance Stare’. A creepy outro, that leaves you cold. In other words, great stuff! With ‘Blackwave’, Striborg reaches a new level of depth in the feeling and emotion of the string of great works. Definitely leaving the purists far behind, it challenges genre definitions, but grips listeners.

Underground Sounds: Ramchat – Nepočaria!

Label: Independent
Band: Ramchat
Origin: Slovakia

This album oozes eastern-European storytelling, with its typical cover artwork. Ramchat hails from Slovakia and probably doesn’t like Christianity much, judging by the burning clergy on the cover of ‘Nepočaria!’. This is the third full-length by the pagan black metallers in fact, and it stings.

The band has been around since 2013 and seems to be made up out of members from previous entities like Protest and Lunatic Gods. Both bands are still around and some members still perform in there. Hirax is the core member of the project and shaper of its pagan, Slavic direction.

The record starts with a punch on ‘Tak si spomeň’. Powerfull riffing, and then suddenly that rolling launch with barked vocals and a fat drum line. The vocals switch between a burly grunt and venomous snarl. A female vocalist chants in a fashion we find in many ethnic metal bands that borrow from the eastern folk tradition. But it works and touches the listener instantly with a yearning for the past. With a good dose of death metal influences, the record plows onwards on ‘SiloSlabosť’ with some crisp riffing and a thundering rhythm section. You might want to kick stuff.

There’s something grand in a song like ‘Už nebudeme otroci’, with the big melodies. Rising in force, the song works its magic relentlessly. You find the sound flow through with rattling drums and lust for battle. Musically, Ramchat invigorates with their strong and hefty sound, sometimes approaching some pretty brutal parts on ‘KrajoZem’. Notable song on this record is the closer ‘
Postoj chvílu! (cover by ŽiariSlav)’, with its thin whistle sounds, folk instruments and the singing with some typical hope and positivity as found in many post-Soviet tunes from the east. It’s hard to pinpoint that style, but it’s the music that stirs something in the listener that feels very profound.

A thoroughly enjoyable album, fully in Slovakian of course. Recommended listening!