Band: Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean
Origin: United States
Chained To The Bottom of the Ocean is a rather new band and the I haven’t found any names connected to the group. The band plays something that could be fit in between crushing doom/sludge and hardcore, with a righteous streak of poison running through its veins.
‘Send every God and King to the Gallows,’ reads their powerful tagline on Bandcamp. This forceful statement probably says a lot about the group from Massachusets in the United States. Their name is derived from a Thou song and the album is titled ‘Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress’. Abandon all hope.
The abyss opens up, when ‘Confusion Hath Fuck His Masterpiece’ crashes down and wrecks the party. All-consuming vitriol is spewed out by the sludge monster that appears, with devastating hits on drum and bass alike, that open up the caverns from which the vocals emerge. What a fucking hellish trip this record is from the get-go with the almost 9-minute track of utter destruction.
As the music settles into a regular pace, the screams keep coming at what feels like random intervals, bellowing defiance at anything or anyone. The words deal with destruction and a nihilistic worldview, yet the fury suggests hope is not lost. The riffs keep their crushing force coming and never cease to be full on, right in your face in their vigorous delivery on tracks like ‘Four Cubits and a Span’. Yet, the words offer complex lyrics, with meaning and direction in a sonic swamp of despair with hardcore muscularity. That combination is what makes the band stand out and a really cool sounding entity.
Label: Pink Tank Records
Marijannah is a project that features members from Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult. As their bio says, two of the hardest touring bands from the island nation Singapore. As it often is, these gents had an itch to do something different. That is, to play stoner/doom, which they do surprisingly well and now on their first record ‘Till Marijannah’.
The band started out in 2016 and it being a side-project, took its time to really get going with their heavy, psychedelic sound and release a record. Sounding rather classical and hazy, this band definitely harks back to the retro-doom sound you hear coming up on and off. Think of bands like The Sword and maybe even a bit of that St. Vitus or Goatsnake vibe. It’s helluvalot catchy.
The foundation of the sound Marijannah offers is a rock-melting buzz of bass and drums, that never lets up. A solid stoner bass on which to build the tunes so to say, like the classics. The lyrics are steeped in horror influences with an occult flavor on opener ‘1974’ and the following ‘Snakecharmer’. It’s really comfortable music to sink into and just ride its waves as you listen to their spaced out sounds. I have to point out the cover, with an interesting color pattern. Definitely does its job too.
Powerful repetition shapes the track ‘Bride of Mine’, which even harks a bit to the sound of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats with its snarling, whiny sound that just clings to you. The snide sound of the track is pretty catchy. ‘All Hallows End’ is the strange big rock anthem on this record. It stands out like a sore thumb, which is exactly what makes it so interesting. The emotional vocals and the ooh and aah backing makes for a pleasant outro, with creepy lyrics of course.
The charm of Marijannah is that they don’t do anything overly complex. It’s pretty straight forward stuff, but with a tinge of their very own mystery. Looking forward to seeing this live.
Back in 2016 Ulvesang created a splash with their northern influenced folk tunes. Their self-titled record was an absolute joy to listen to. The Canadian group takes their influence from the more atmospheric and folkish black metal bands, condensing it into mournful, but clean, clear folk music. This is the same path they still walk on ‘The Hunt’, their latest endeavor.
I was surprised this band was not signed. Although it clearly is not an easy genre to sell, their music was so good and cinematic, that it must be attractive. Luckily, so thought the good people at Nordvis. This album offers the narrative of a hunt, the awareness, effort and also consciousness that is part of the killing for your personal needs. It’s imaginary and powerful, subtle and measured.
A ritual chanting opens the hunt, with ambient sounds taking you to a different place. Tranquil, wavery folk music follows and flows naturally, with mellow sounds and finger-picking guitar play. The drums give a mild bombast to the songs, taking them back to that primitive aspect inherent to the music of Ulvesang. Chanting becomes more mellow and almost Clerical throughout ‘The Dance’, which lacks the urgency the theme suggests up till the point where the guitars become a bit riffier.
One of my favorites is the title track, which meanders and dances in its simple yet beautiful way. The bass line is played with precision and a gentle touch, reminiscent of the galloping run over the wild planes of yesteryear. That is how a song like ‘The Gloom’ really feels like that remniscent moment you experience, while sitting next to a campfire in the gloomy night. When the mists surround you and time fades for just a moment. That is the absolute magic Ulvesang offers.
Label: Elusive Sound
Russian band Trna have not made things easy for themselves and after their well-received ‘Lose Yourself To find Peace’, they’ve adopted the genre indication blackgaze. A style indicator usually associated with those bands black metallers are eager to avoid. Nonetheless, it seems fitting in the navel-gazing haze that is Trna to use this term.
‘Earthcult’ is a more verdant record, that takes you into the splendor of nature. Not sure if that’s intended, yet it is the effect the music has on me. It is the third release from the Saint-Petersburg trio in a relatively short period of time and like the previous ones it is well worth to give a listen.
The blast beats immediately call you to attention as the record opens with the title track. A brief burst of brutality soon melts away in the lush realm of the dense atmosphere, like that of a great forest. The black metal elements are there, but soaring above is an almost ethereal melody, more akin to postrock bands in both energy and soothing beauty. The music truly flows, even more so on the rhythm driven ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’, which is a great track to just ride along with.
What I find most peculiar and fascinating about Trna, is how they blend that postrock feeling with black metal ferocity, to create something truly strong and condensed. As an everflowing stream, their music rolls ever onward, like a river through the forests, in violent turmoil but with a natural harmony on ‘The Heart of Time’. On ‘Thaw’, the band truly opens the floodgates and I feel like I’m listening to Amusement Parks on Fire or Red Sparowes. A magnificent outpouring that touches the heart through the ear. Trna have truly moved on to greatness on this record.
Label: Grandad Records
Origin: United Kingdom
Underdark is a gritty sounding band from Nottingham, who combine screamo and black metal. Their message seems to be both in the Forgotten Realms and anti-fascist, with a name referring to the dark under-realms of evil dark-elves. The Britons have one EP to their name and plenty of shows on the calendar.
Antre hails from the same parts, and you can find the bands Bandcamp page here. These guys, likewise, have one EP out. Both groups add one song to this split, with pretty bad-ass cover art that I find, makes the record more appealing instantly.
Whether it’s a nod to Mortiis or not, ‘The Smell of Autumn’ by Underdark has an environmental take on the topic of rain and the unique scent it leaves in the air. The hazy riff sounds lazy, it hangs in the air as the omnipresent smell the autumn brings, with its lingering haze. Thudding drums keep the focus on the sharp guitar play, thanks to the dulled sound, as the atmospheric black metal progresses slowly. When it does pick up the pace, it somehow feels muffled, distant and reminds the listener of the distance between the self and the natural realm. One we slowly destroy with our human inventions.
Antre takes a more melodic approach, bringing down vast waves of sound, that surge over the listener. The sound is pleasant, yet remains strong and comes on in full force during this track. The vocals are uttered in a foul, harsh bark, which makes them mildly hard to make out, but then again isn’t that a regular feature in the genre? In a constant onslaught, the band hammers down on the listener. Never relenting with a harrowing beauty to their sound.
A small taste of a new breed of bands. Make sure to check them out for more endeavors.
Band: A Cunning Man
This duo of metallers hails from Scotland, where they formed the project A Cunning Man. This is their second EP after the futuristic looking debut. It shows a hint of fantasy-themes in the nifty artwork and all-over atmosphere of the work, titled ‘To Heal A Broken Body’.
Ged Cartwright and Theo Le Derf bring some very different perspectives together in their music, which sounds unique and different from the very start onwards. Thanks to the particular musical expression, they stand out and will definitely not appeal to any listening ear in a positive manner. Something the duo is probably well aware of.
What stands out instantly is the build-up of the songs, which is almost cinematic in its singular grandeur and focussed approach. The music really seems a bit cut and pasty at times, all to provide a frame for the vocals of Cartwright on ‘ Lemegeton & The Leaden Saviour’. The vocal style is more or less proggy with a clear pronunciation of the words that I can only really compare to early Marillion.
Every track refers to ancient books of esoteric wisdom and magic, and so does the second title ‘Picatrix & The Calcine Alchemist’. Noteworthy are the audio samples, where we hear a lady speak words in a thick Scottish accent. The songs have a grand build-up and remarkable charm to them. Even though some of the music feels a bit to contrived, it works in the end in an intense and overwhelming manner. We close off with the sweeping, majestic ‘Abramelin & The Silver Hand’, which sticks to lyrics that play with the title themes, but builds it into something harder to grasp, difficult to really comprehend and grab.
I have to say I really enjoyed this record, regardless of its strange sound and nature. The delivery is powerful and genuine, and the songs are well composed and layered. A pretty odd, but surprising listen.
Label: Seasons of Mist
Into the vast east with Drudkh
I have little understanding for the way many Ukrainian bands seem to be disregarded. Drudkh is amongst those that are often shunned, due to alleged politics. It is true that Roman Saenko, the brain behind the band, was once a part of Hate Forest. A band now considered problematic in certain circles. But perhaps, metal should not care about that kind of circles anyways? I don’t have the answer to that, but I can tell you that this record is great.
Drudkh may be one of the best atmospheric black metal bands in the world and would be lauded for that if not for these politics. That means they technically are according to me. This is the eleventh album by the band from Ukraine in their existence and production remains high and qualitative as ever on this fine record. Notable is the cover, that shows an urban environment and not the traditional type of art the band uses. It perhaps embodies a slight shift in its course, but it’s definitely not to the detriment of the music.
The opening riff grabs the listener instantly. The dark melancholy, weary expression and torment in the vocals all pull at the heartstrings instantly. It hits where it hurts, right in the heart. ‘Накрита неба бурим дахом…’ clocks about 10 minutes of music that defies words. Ever stood in the cold wind, at precisely the moment when the cold breaks through your warm coat? That shiver is where the piercing voice, the swooping guitars and rattling drums come from.
The sharp guitars lace the songs, particularly on a track like ‘Vechirniy Smerk Okutuye Kimnaty…’, where meandering melodies take the listener along on the path Drudkh walks. Most remarkable to me is always how the flow really keeps you into it. Listening to the band is like taking one of those theme park rides, where you are constantly filled with wonder and awe as your ride takes you from section to section. When the vocals come in, the flow opens and gives space for the words to be uttered clearly (though in guttural vocals obviously), before closing once again. The final track resounds strongly. ‘Bilyavyi Den’ Vtomyvsya I prytykh…’ feels like a continuous progression to the summit, the peak of the album.
A mighty endeavor by Drudkh. An amazing band.
Label: Wolfspell Records
Karelia is a fascinating part of the world for me and hearing bands from there, it always evokes a certain imagery. This goes as well for Is, who hail from these northern realms. They captivate their homeland in atmospheric black metal on the album ‘Into My Own’
Is revolves around the sole member and creative mind behind the project, named Nøkken (a reference to a mythic water spirit). In the four year existence of the band, he has produced an immense load of music in various formats. Always the theme revolves around life in the far north, nature and all that it embodies, since that is the magic of Karelian life.
Slowly the music oozes out, with big, lurching movements and a minor melancholy in the guitar arches. Immediately, clouds block the sun as Is delivers their atmospheric black/death. Guttural vocals come up as if rising from the Karelian bogs. On ‘Into My Own’ you really hear the different sides of the band. A clean guitar part, soaring and speaking in its own distinct voice, yet clashes with the heavy battery of blast beat drums and roaring vocals. The guitar-play in an intermezzo even has a bit of jazzy groove to it, which makes these guys so interesting, because at the same time they throw in these eerie synths. Full on contrast, that seems to be the thing for Is.
‘All that is Gold’ takes us into the Opeth realms, with the intro full of feeling. The guitar really becomes the sentimental instrument in the work of Is, where the rhythm section and vocals offer sheer brutality, with again grooving riffs that almost hark to Pantera if the endings were less stiff. But there’s the peculiarity about their sound, it’s very accessible. It flows quite casually, due to an excellent production and now hooked corners to it. Yet you could at some times even lump it into the post-black metal corner, if it wasn’t for the blunt beating of the drums and concrete-grinding roars of the vocals, who take it back to a rougher corner.
Is holds a very own regal beauty, and that’s why you should listen to their music.
Label: Shaytan Productions
Some metal is created in corners of the world that seem much more surreal than hell. Akvan is one of those acts. Though Iran apparently has a certain tolerance when it comes to metal (read this article for example), Akvan remains an oddity in the strict country, particularly due to the content of his music, which is strongly anti-Islam. Contrary to the Norwegian teenagers, the price for iconoclasm is a lot higher in his home country.
Akvan started his quest of provocative musicianship in 2015 under the moniker Dominus Vizaresa (as artist name). He’s been extremely prolific in his output and that eventually led to his signing with Shaytan Productions, where the music is released right next to Al-Namrood. A fitting label for an artist that defies normal definitions with music that really makes for something special on ‘Forgotten Glory’.
The intro of ‘Path to Chaos’ instantly takes you to a different place. As the odd radio-samples come in, the pace picks up and the intensity really makes your heart beat faster as the drums rattle and the rambling instruments clang. The vocals cut right down to your bone marrow with a jagged, piercing quality. It’s the use of the setar and tar, that really creates the otherworldly spirit of Akvan. Its primitive fury is evident on ‘King Ov Kings’, with the vocals that must be derived from the ghastly and cruel djinn’s that roam in these realms.
I love how there are these samples and folkish parts interwoven in the structure of the album. It helps to create that magnificent atmosphere of the Orient, while never becoming gimmicky. Akvan pulls of what most artists fearfully steer clear of in that sense on tracks like ‘Realm ov Fire’, not shirking to really ride the mood and implement it into the black metal parts of the songs too.
I could go through this album track by track, but it would be better if you give it a spin yourself. Akvan truly opens the gates to a different world with black metal that embraces a raw and unpolished sound, while completely giving a very own flavor to it. It works through in the bareness of the sound, the rough distortion, and color in the atmospheric elements in the sound. Just let a song like ‘Legacy’ truly drag you along for a moment. Experience how the rooftops look different and even the sky has an aura of elsewhere. To a forgotten past, but not that of a Viking boat and northern gods, but a land which past has been clouded by recent history and wrong perceptions. I would love to learn more from Akvan.
Label: Black Mara Records
Band: Astral & Shit
Astral & Shit is not a band name I recommend if you want to make it big, but for an underground ambient project, it works to get the interest peaked and look a bit odd in the big mass of releases. This is their latest release on one of my favorite ambient labels, titled ‘Divo’.
The act in fact only contains one member, namely Ivan Gomzikov, who hails from Nevyansk, a town north of Yekaterinenburg deep into mother Russia. Astral & Shit is extremely productive and releases records by the month it almost seems.
The record opens with ‘Riphean Mountains’, which opens up like the sun going under over a rocky facade. First gently cresting the edges, before becoming fully removed from your vision. Then every sound intensifies, with the nightly sounds and rumblings of the earth around you. Repetitive chirps accompany the droning sounds produced by Gomzikov, enhancing the nightly aura. But the drones keep swelling. The concept of the album revolves around an alien entity, that once came out of the earth. That is Divo, dangerous, but mostly not understood by us.
The drones turn very heavy at times, almost taking up the whole of what you hear, for example on ‘Polota Crossing’, where it simply seems to surge and pulsate as crackling or breaking sounds fill up the sonic gaps. It’s powerful, looming, but most of all fully submerging the listener. It’s the sound of nature, the silent droning you only hear when you are really, really quiet yourself for a moment. That’s the beauty of it.