Category Archives: Review

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.

Underground Sounds: Murmur Mori – O

Label: Stramonium
Band: Murmur Mori
Origin: Italy

Murmur mori is part of an Italian collective that embodies more than just music. Stramonium seems to aim and various forms of expression and this just happens to be one of them. The collective has released a compilation as well featuring groups like Ashtoreth, Sangre De Muerdago and VRNA in tribute to winter solstice.

It helps to place where this group is coming from with a revivalist attitute towards old traditions and a drive to reimagine them in these turbulent, higly urbanized times. The old forests and mountains, the sacred places in northern Italy are what inspired this record by Mirko Void and Kurio Silva.

The music is mild, slowly trickling down with a gentle hand, but never fading away. The continuity is that of the mountain river and the wind, in which you can hear the gentle song of the vocals. It’s very much like listening to nature and finding that voice. On ‘Nemeton’ we hear eerie ambient, foreboding and mysterious, as are the omnious mountains in the morning light, when the peaks are still covered by the black of night and the sun peeps up in between.

The droning sound has an endlessness to it, which is very fitting with the topics of the music. The upbeat tribalism of ‘Il Legno, il Sasso e la Volpe al Fiume’ in its percussive dance, the gloomy droning of ‘Aquile’, it both embodies the experiences one can have in nature. Never does Murmur mori waste any sounds on filling voids, it’s as complete as the nature they describe. Both the silence and the vibrancy, which can both be seen when not obscured by darkness. The discrepancy between the timbre and flow of closer ‘La Caverna’ in its own way speaks of the many sounds you can identify, the many roads to walk.

The record in its entirety is an exploration, a quest into the heart land of Europe, south of the Alps but flocking to its outskirts. It’s a tangible quest of sound and feeling, much like I feel I’m experiencing. It’s also lovely.

Underground Sounds: Witchthroat Serpent – Sang-Dragon

Label: Deadlight Entertainment/Hellas Records
Band: Witchthroat Serpent
Country: France

I keep underestimating the French heavy music movement and thus I keep finding gems from the country of camembert, baguettes and escargots. Though in a way the scene appears to look inwards, there’s a lot of good to be found there and one of those bands is the stoner/doom company Witchthroat Serpent.

Hailing from the city of Toulouse in the south of the country, the band has been active since 2011 and with ‘Sang-Dragon’ they’ve released their second full length. The trio has roots in bands like Artemisia Absinthium, Sektarism and Darvulia and is no stranger to the sound of doom and gloom.

Doom has been slowly recollecting itself from the murky depths it’s been descending into to find the most heavy, deep and slow possible outings. Back to basics seems to be the road that many bands chose to persue, and so does Witchthroat Serpent. They sound like the early incarnations of doom bands like Witchfinder General and St. Vitus. Heavy, but filled with groove and audible vocals that are somewhere between chanting and proclaiming.

Dark and lamenting is the sound of the band, for example on the bleak ‘Siberian Mist’ or the following ‘Lady Sally’, with quite some bluesy guitar work. The riffing is steady and keeps you nodding along, while the vocals take an occasional burst of screaming to keep things interesting. On ‘Into The Black Wood’ the band reminds me a little of Black Tusk in the way that their sound is urgent, jagged and restless, like the last album the Georgia sludgelords released. Even when the song winds down a bit, there’s an uneasiness in the riffs.

I sincerely enjoy listening to this record, but the downside of it is that though it feels clean and back to the basics, there’s little new things going on. With Witchfinder General we find a band that fits in the long list of retro doom for those who love the Electric Wizards of this world. Is that a bad thing? Time will tell, but for now feel free to bang your head to these French doomsters.

Underground Sounds: Belenos – Kornôg

Label:Northern Silence Productions
Band: Belenos
Origin: France

The Celtic mythology is not the most common topic for heavy metal music, though bands like Eluveitie definitely allowed it to become a part of the folk metal world in a more serious manner. The trick is just to avoid becoming the new party band and sounding too much like Alestorm and Ensiferum. I think that Belenos will not soon succumb to that with their dense and atmospheric pagan metal.

It’s the seventh album by this band of Loïc Cellier, which has been around for 21 years now. The sound is a blend of black metal with folk/pagan elements. The bandname refers to the Celtic deity of the sun Belenos, often mentioned in the Asterix and Obelix comics, if you happen to know those. Because… he might drop the sky on your heads, which is a fitting bridge to starting to tell you how heavy and dense ‘Kornôg’ sounds.

The sound of Belenos is grand, majestic and still holding on to the essential blackened pagan vibe that the band is going for. Still, the manage to tell their story very well thanks to the thick layers of atmospheric guitar riffs. Thet band from Brittany can do the deep guttural passages, while still throwing whirling synths at you, keeping your interest peeked on all fronts.

All blast beats aside, I feel this album does allow you to dream away to ancient days where the Celts roamed these lands. The deep baritone chanting now and then brings that forward a bit like Heidevolk does. Another band that manaes to avoid the cheesy (though sometimes barely). The rabid progressions are sometims a bit odd, catching you unaware, like on ‘E Donder ar mor’. It may be my personal interest, but when listening to ‘Armorika’ I find myself wishing for more clean parts and folk elements. I think its a personal thing.

Belenos does not bore for a second on this epic album, neither do they stray far from their sound. That makes this record so much fun to listen to. It’s raucous fury, but also its beautiful passages take me away on its waves. A grand record for sure, though admittedly an acquired taste.

Underground Sounds: Sol Sistere – Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum

Label: Hammerheart Records/ Graven Earth Records
Band: Sol Sistere
Origin: Chile

Chile always has surprising artists to offer in many genres. The long stretched land on the far coast of South-America (from where I’m sitting) is as diverse in its musical output as must be its climate. Sol Sistere is an exceptionally good atmospheric black metal band from the city of Santiago.

Sol Sistere is releasing their debut with ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum’ and that’s always a good thing. Why? Because new bands have new ideas and interesting sounds. Sol Sistere has their own take on black metal that I’m keen to explore on their new album ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum”.

That new sound is definitely something that the Chilean band offers in their captivating balance between intensity and control. Though at its churning core, the band can be brutal and relentless, like on ‘Relentless Ascension’ with its guttural barks and blast beats, the nuance is its specialty. On the outside tapestries of sound are spun out and landscapes are painted with a sonic brush.

A bit of groove isn’t strange to the band either, who use a nice bass line on ‘Sight of the Oracle’, which soon merges into a flow of unmistakable melancholic beauty. A bit akin to some of the work by Winterfylleth, the vocal work is much more black and abyssal. The combination is majestic and haunting at times, but undeniably black metal. An album full of great atmospheric music

There are some more bands in that direction, creating something beautiful while retaining the essentials of black metal, but Sol Sistere is standing head and shoulders above most. Though there is still a little catchiness missing perhaps, but this is the debut. Who knows what more may come.

Underground Sounds: Trna – Lose Yourself to Find Peace

Label: Elusive Sound
Band: Trna
Origin: Russia

Though they describe themselves as blackgaze, there’s something to say for just calling it postrock. This Russian band has no vocals and creates the soaring, huge soundscapes that you would associate with the genre in its glory days. I’m not sure if that is a period in the past, since there’s still great material out there, but Trna brings it to its origins.

This album is the second one by Saint Petersburg group Trna, which is a Russian three-piece postrock band. The group has been playing live around Eastern Europe and describes itself as a hurricane of emotions, referring to their music. Bass player Anton Galaullin is also active in Show Me A Dinosaur and sludge group Pwyll.

The record kicks of with the almost 20 minute mark breaking ‘Gale’. A fuzzy wall of distortion is raised up gently and through it a dancable rhythm and repetitive riffs soar in a very free falling way. It reminds me a bit of the band Amusement Parks On Fire, on their first album. It is also like standing in a gale, with the distorted guitars soaking you like it happens when you face the wind near sea. Slowly the song becomes more tense, thanks to more intense drumming. Towards the end, the sound becomes indeed like a hurricane, raging about you, only to slowly disappear towards the end.

‘Calm’ offers indeed what it claims to do. The trickling guitars and the slow progression at first create a sense of tranquility, but then the barrage of drums and bass launches, building up to the typical black metal static realm of hyper speed playing, to achieve a more frantic plane of that same tranquility. It becomes a thick, sonic tapestry that somehow retains a calm indeed. Slowly, but with much drama it then stars building down with great heaves to end up with that tranquil silence again.

Underground Sounds: Mesarthim – .- -​.​.​. .​.​. . -. -​.​-​. .

Label: Independent (Bandcamp)
Band: Mesarthim
Origin: Australia

Yeah, the name of this album is weird, but in morse code it might mean something like ‘Absence’. A fitting title for the places where the astral journeys of Mesarthim are taking the band. There is no other like the sound of this Australian band. Mesarthim (Gamma Arietis) is the name of a binary star system in the northern constellation of Aries. The name is of obscure origins.

That last bit is from the band themselves, which is a unit of two unknown Australians. Well, that’s that then. Shrouded in mystery, the band is the next in line next to Darkspace and Mare Cognitum to delve into space metal, continuing the work of Summoning and Agalloch into unearthly realms. This they do well, by letting go of most of the more earthly elements in the music.

The music is therefor hardly grounded in a foundation of heavy concrete rhythm section, but soars freely with synths and vocals that work more as part of the texture than spitting venom at the gods. It’s the sound of majestic nothingness, of floating amongst the stars with riffs that though fast and tight never really urge you in any direction. It’s liberating to listen to this band, who create a completely catchy and enveloping sound that borders on the cheesy but never goes over.  It’s like Darkspace is jamming with Jean Michel Jarre, amazing.

A record to get lost in, with a production that feels like a poofy pillow when you land your head in it. The keys are the most prevalent amidst the woolly production and offer you moments of introspection, to think of the meaning and insignificance of it all. Maybe this is in fact the most nihilist you can get in black metal, where everything just becomes specs of dust… Those thoughts enter my head when the organ sound fades away slowly on ‘…–‘.

The bombast of the synths and layers on layers of sound is a bit overwhelming, maybe a bit too much for some listeners even. It’s as if the band is trying really, really hard to do something completely new and in doing so they probably lose much of their following. But… In a way it expresses best the thing that it wants to express, which is an experience of space, of the sublime and overwhelming category of experience. Something almost impossible to grasp.

Underground Sounds: Sylvaine – Wistful

Label: Season of Mist
Band: Sylvaine
Origin: Norway

Myrkur has opened the floodgates it sometimes seems of more ambient, folk and soundscape oriented dark music, but maybe I’m just imagining that Sylvaine is of the same cut of cloth, but definitely aiming for a more shoegazy sound on her second album ‘Wistful’, which is out on Seasons of Mist.

The term doomgaze has always been a bit peculiar to me, but listening to this album I can see where it comes from and how it fits in with the compositions of the fey-like Norse lady. The artwork also speaks of the musical experience, with a foggy painting of a natural setting. Misty in the early morning light, amidst the trees. Atleast, that is how I picture it.

The sound of Sylvaine is deeply melancholic, regardless if its a single piano playing or a barrage of guitars. The songs build up rather gently, offering a glance into the unknown at first, before rising up and fully overwhelming you as a listener. The dreamy voice of Sylvaine lures you into the mist, into the swampland. Throw in some comparisons, like Sinead O’Connor‘s rendition of ‘The Foggy Dew’ or maybe even Sigur Rós, it is all in there.

photo by Andy Julia – © Sylvaine

Once there, the heavier sounds start. Even wild schrieks can be heard on ‘Earthbound’, never follow the faeries… They’ll lure you to the waters and the wild, but what for?  Interesting fact, on this album the multi-instrumentalist gets help from Stéphane ‘Neige’ Paut (Alcest), which might have a more significant impact than you’d think. Shoegaze is a term that doesn’t fit anymore for music like this, it moves on to something between ambient, black metal and folk with a hint of doom. Doomgaze just feels too hip sounding.

The listener of this album will feel as if lost in the mist, trying to grasp at the essenence of Sylvaine’s music, but never fully reaching it. You feel confused, lost, introspective even and weary by the end. It’s so dense with atmospheric elements that sometimes the fog just too overwhelming. The rare part where you get some direct contact with the vocals, is like a sunray piercing the roof of leaves and illuminating for a brief moment the shining truth, the angelic voice and those moments alone make this album such a mesmerizing experience.

Underground Sounds: MASTER BOOT RECORD – C​:​\​>CHKDSK /F

Label: independent
Band: MASTER BOOT RECORD
Origin: Italy

Somewhere in Rome a rogue computer has started producing or assimilating heavy metal and chiptune music. Yes, all gates are open now, with the arrival of Master Boot Record, which/who dropped 4 records in a short amount of time. I decided to check out ‘C:\>CHKDSK /F’ as a topic for a bit of writing, because it just souned weird.

The occult imagery is blended with DOS-screens and circuit boards, that is pretty cool. Also, MASTER BOOT RECORD has been doing some stuff for a while, covering hit songs like the soundtrack of old DOS games. Think of DOOM, Syndicate and Turrican. I do suppose that some people think this is silly, but if you’ve grown up in that time and age, you know how awesome this record is to me.

So what you get is pretty awesome. Remember how good those game soundtracks, even in midi could be? Everyone can hum along with the Mario and Zelda tune, right? Well, imagine combining that with guitars, bass and drums, to create a driven, electro rock sensation! The typical thing about the game music is that it’s always pushing you forward, it’s energetic and upbeat, so this is one whole record of invigorating music that easily fades to the background, while you engage in the mundane tasks.

On ‘Config.Sys’ there’s even a bit of classical music, played in midi with raw, shredding guitars and then suddenly picking up the synthwave beat. It’s just all there, everything blended to it’s maximum effect of awesome. The superfast riffing, mixed with the midi sound, it just works great. Sure, this is probably one of the most geeky things to enjoy, but the way the record is made is just incredibly catchy and captivating.

I may not know the exact words to describe this record, but it’s the combination of oldschool gaming sensation with the balls to the wall approach of heavy metal and that works like a charm. Enjoy the other records of MASTR BOOT RECORD for free on Bandcamp!