Category Archives: Review

Klabautamann - Smaragd

Underground Sounds: Klabautamann – Smaragd

Label: Zeitgeister Music
Origin: Germany
Band: Klabautamann

Sail the unknown with Klabautamann

It’s a peculiar entity, this Klabautamann, who deliver some wonderful music with their fifth full length, titled ‘Smaragd’. The German group enlisted Costin Chorineau for the artwork, which looks as if it was inspired by the similar looking cover of Helms Alee’s ‘Sleepwalking Sailors’. There’s not much similarity in the music, though both albums allow you to just dream away in distinct manners.

Klabautamann blends black metal with elements of folk and quite a bit of postrock. Klabautamann refers to a specific type of goblin that causes shipwrecks. The nautical theme is not overly present in their work though, but the focus on nature is. The band is a two piece, with Florian Toyka (Valborg) and Tim Steffens (Skarab). So both are not strangers to the weird and experimental we could say. This project definitely has a progressive flavor.

Pecularly, Klabautamann can sound a bit Pink Floydish at times. For example on ‘In My Shadow’, where a passage feels like the trickling, playful tease of one of those tunes. That shortly shifts back to blast beats and growls though. Massive archs and thunderous rhythms hit the listener like waves. The music is filled with tiny details and as a result of this the band doesn’t need to be loud. Their loudness is in the gentle flow of the organ, the muffled drum hits. All ready to erupt in violent blasts at any time.

But there’s some doom and gloom in their music too. Check out the song ‘The Murderers’, withits creeping, death metal vibe, which morphs into cascading, clean sounding doom riffs. It’s remarkable how these guys never need the pure volume and distortion to be loud. Klabautamann is all about atmosphere. The songs slowly unfold, while all those details work the listeners imagination. It makes for a record that is a daunting listen, yet so worth your time to check it out.

Underground Sounds: Green Druid – Ashen Blood

Label: Independent
Origin: USA
Band: Green Druid

Doom Against The World

Green Druid is more than just some music, it’s an expression of its times and a way to deal with the world for the members involved. I like that sentiment, even more so because it produces some excellent traditional doom music by this Denver, Colorado group. The band seems to be most amazed themselves by their output.

In 2015 Green Druid releases an EP with some interesting artwork, which would not have really promised the music you’ll find on this amazing release with great artwork. Brad Smalling at Evergroove Studio did a great job in making this record sound as solid as it does now.

Three slabs of songs, clocking a good 30 minutes in total take you along for a ride with some excellent riffing and heavy hitting drums. Opener ‘Pale Blood Sky’ comes on slowly with the toiling, massive riffs. The vocals for amoment seem to not live up to the expectations, but as soon as they catch on to the harmony of the guitars it all melts together in its crestfallen, bleak unity. For almost ten minutes you ride those waves. The sound grabs you with force and does not allow you to tame it.

You can taste the stoner roots in the full, hazy sound of the band and comparisons to the mighty Trouble are therefor not so strange, though I’d add the great Cathedral to that mix. ‘Agoraphobia’ picks up on that thread, but the vocals here sound even more desolate and tormented at times. The slow progression and sheer heaviness of the sound is intoxicating. Green Druid might not be doing completely new things on their debut, but what they deliver is very, very well made.

Crushing riffs take you to the end of ‘Dead Tree’, the final track of the album. The track also had some more gentle passages, but never losing that looming threat in the sound. I think this band might be one you’ll hear about more in the future.

Underground Sounds: Emyn Muil – Elenion Ancalima

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Emyn Muil
Origin: Italy

Dreaming of Tolkien

Some people take their Tokien fandom to extreme lengths. Emyn Muil from Cassano delle Murge is one of those bands.  The band is an epic black metal project of Saverio Giove (Valtyr, Ymir). As you probably guessed, the sound is very close to the masters of this sort of music Summoning. This is the second full length by the Italian artist and it is a grandiose spectacle indeed.

It took four years after ‘Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga’ for ‘Elenion Ancalima’ to manifest itself. The album theme is accordingly a particular section of the Silmarillion book, titled Akallabeth. Sometimes the story is published in Lord of the Rings books. The story tells of the lost land of Númenor, a Tolkienesque version of the Atlantis myth.

The lyrics seem to come straight from that piece of literature and the music really is Summoning worship at its best. Finding a spot somewhere between black metal and dungeon synth, Emyn Muil is a dreamy, intoxicating experience that easily entices its listeners to travel to strange lands. The right mixture of eerie synths (including pipes and flutes), bombastic drums and proclaiming spoken word, immediately takes you in on ‘Under A Silvered Star’. The black metal part is really restricted to a few passages, like on ‘The Lay of Númenorë’. In fact, the synths really take the upper hand in this 14-minute epic and the guitars only serve to give a bit of menacing tang to the song. Therefore it’s actually quite easy listening.

The record is more a strange soundtrack with storytelling. Listening to ‘Ar-Pharazôn’, it feels like you’re watching a grandiose spectacle in your mind. An element of remorse seeps into the sound, it’s the grandeur of ruin that is described in this song. The hubris of Icarus, of a King that wanted too much. This is the absolute magic that Emyn Muil evokes with this music, without ever overdoing it. Emyn Muil either moves you, or it bores you I suppose. You probably feel equally passionate about Dungeon synth in that case or similarly disinterested. In all honesty, I think that Emyn Muil is a beautiful project, particularly for the fans of fantasy and film. Providing that you are one of those, this is the record for you.

Underground Sound: Slaegt – Domus Mysterium

Label: Ván Records
Band: Slaegt
Origin: Denmark

German elegance meets Northern Darkness

And with some great, folkish riffs you’re immediately captured by these Danes. Slaegt caught some mild controversy on social media with their peculiar cover design. Any PR is good PR, right? Funnily enough, the symbol is a combination of a 4 times the same symbol from Astrid Lindgren’s book ‘Brothers Lionheart’. It’s the symbol of the tyrant Tengil and the band has made it their own. The group feels a connection to the story, the opposing of said tyrant. Hence the symbol.

For the Danish group, this is their second full length after 2015’s ‘Ildsvanger’. The sound of the band has clearly shifted from the black metal sound to a blend with a heavy metal flavor. Unlike bands such as Rebel Wizard, the sound of Slaegt moves in a much more regal direction. It is as if their music connects the epic German sound with Northern black metal on this record.

The guitarwork is often very clean, so you can hear how the riffs weave the pattern of some kick ass songs. Slaegt sounds vital, urgent and surprisingly catchy at times. Sure, the vocals are of the barked, ferocious sort, but you get both worlds here. At times the band sounds pretty much like a black metal band, with the thick waves of atmospheric minor tones. Those lingering bits of darkness, tremolo guitar play and drum battery you hear for example on ‘Egovore’. Still the mix is slightly different, which leaves  a lot of space for some melodic passages.

I just have to highlight some songs for you, because those illuminate the splendid formula of these Danish musicians best. ‘The Tower’ is definitely one of their coolest songs; weeping guitars, a foreboding bit of play to rival Metallica and Opeth. There’s nothing showy about it though, no weird complexities. Just great metal music.

On ‘Burning Feathers’ we have an omnious piano intermezzo. It holds up the atmosphere, without trying too hard. Maybe my favorite track is the final one (the title track). The galloping rhythm, the fierce singing and the oh so catchy guitar lines. And it lasts almost 14 minutes. The speed dwindles a bit later in the song, for some of those screaming guitar parts, that remind you of classic heavy metal. This album is just a joy to listen to really.

Underground Sounds: Romowe Rikoito – Namawār

Label: Dangus
Band: Romowe Rikoito
Origin: Lithuania, Old-Prussia

Forgotten words, forgotten places

I’ve penned something about this band before. I was intrigued by their approach of a forgotten language, the dedication and bravery in trying to put these ancient pieces back together and reinvoke a culture. The group Romowe Rikoito has done five albums this far. I’ve not managed to grab a hold of those first two, but it is on the third where they immerse themselves in the forgotten world of the Prussians.

Let me give you a little background, since Prussia often makes people think of Germany. Prussia was a Baltic nation though, but washed away by German immigrants from the 14th century onwards. The language disappeared in the last century. A people forgotten so to say. Brave revivalists put new life in the language. Romowe Rikoito is instrumental to this effect. We can actually call this modern Prussian.

The gentle opener is ‘T T T’, with the soft voice of Alwārmija resounding warmly over the trickling tones. Main man Glabis Niktorius has a certain bite to his voice, a particular tang when he pronounces the words in this ancient tongue with conviction and resolve. The music of Romowe Rikoito is like a gently trickling brook in a hidden grove somewhere in the ancient lands of the Prussians. Gentle bells and other metallic instruments play a pleasant song for the weary wanderer.

On songs like ‘Rōma[nā]wa’ we hear the percussion work its magic, weaving a song without ever really hitting a melody. It creates the feeling of ambient, of something natural in harmony with the universe. The music holds on to something meditative, something ritualistic that soothes the mind when listening to it. It’s melancholy is also hard to miss on songs like ‘Waīstis waistā’. Even the voice of Niktorius has an element of desire to it, an almost gasping hunger for life of the forgotten ways of the Prussians.

This album tells you secrets, it whispers in forgotten tongues and takes you away to a different place. I really recommend you listen to this closely, because it is one amazing record.

 

Underground Sounds: Veldes – The Bitterness Prophecy

Label: Independent
Band: Veldes
Origin: Slovenia

With ‘Ember Breather’, Veldes released one of the most haunting and grand black metal albums I’ve heard in recent times. Just last April the group, which is Tilen Šimon, came with a new record titled ‘The Bitterness Prophecy’. Where the last record was autumn, this is the winter.

Veldes is quite a productive band with a specific aesthetic, which I really like. The minimalism in the compositions offers something very comprehensive and easy going for the listener. Not everyone seems to enjoy this evenly much, but I think it creates a particular sound that may not be as dense and hectic but carries a straight forward feeling and emotion with it.

The album is not one with short, bursting songs, but long epics full of swooping passages and high peaks. There’s a tranquility to it, as there is to the forest in the winter times. The music simply soars, while the rhythm section drives the sound ever onward with fierce, but controlled drums. There are languid passages, to really dream away with. There is a lot of beauty here with beautiful melodies and a warm melancholy.

I particularly love ‘Seeking The Land Beyond’, as it is the perennial quest for most listeners of this music style. To escape into a different realm for even the briefest of times. Veldes takes you there. ‘Ancient Remedy’ is the shortest track on the album, but then again it is an instrumental break of peaceful piano music before we launch into ‘Hollow Antlers’. Now there’s a ferocious climax to a great record with a big finale of hard hitting drums and warm guitar parts. The drums sometimes sound a bit lifeless I have to say, but the overall effect stands tall.

 

 

Rimruna

Underground Sounds: Rimruna – Der Hatz Entronnen

Label: Naturmacht Productions
Band: Rimruna
Origin: Germany

Rimruna hails from Berlin and its two members are also active under the name Drangskapur. Rimruna has been active as a project since 2011 and this album is the second full length for the duo. The last one came out back in 2014. The title ‘Der Hatz Entronnen’ translates as ‘Escaped from hate’.

The music of Rimruna fits well into the German tradition of folk-flavored, atmospheric black metal. Thematically the band appears to have a particular fascination for the winter season. Much effort goes into the lyrics for this band it would seem. They are written in German, which might be a bit of work for you, but totally worth it. Being part of the Naturmacht stable, this group fits right in with their sound.

The dark folkloric sound is as dark cloud gathering and following you. Strong, galloping rhythms and drum rolls hit home, while the guitars seem to produce a thin but compelling sound of swooping dissonance. The gnarly vocals are as bent and twisted as old tree trunks sticking out from the snow, with the particular bite the language allows for.

The sound holds a clarity, which gives it a direct and melodic feel. On the other hand, it also makes particularly the rhythm section sound pretty raw and aggressive on a track like ‘Tor der Zeit’, where the melodies meander past, while the drums assault the hearing. That contradiction in sound is one of the great alluring powers of Rimruna, who truly drag the listener in all directions and often sound close to some of the blackgaze bands of these days. The sound is harrowing, but filled with melancholic melodies that take the listener along.

Still, the sound is rooted in raw black metal and that is what you get mostly. The tremolo guitar play on a song like ‘In Ewigkeit Versunken’ takes nothing away from that, but just makes the story and flow of the album so much more captivating and pleasant. This certainly is a good bit of music!

Underground Sounds: Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Keziah Lilith Medea (Chapter X)

Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Band: Unaussprechlichen Kulten
Origin: Chile

Lovecraft worshipping death metal from Chile

Lovecraft’s work is alive and well in the hands of multiple obsessed bands (as you can read in my Lovecraft collection part 1, part 2 and part 3). Unaussprechlichen Kulten has been stoking that fire for for almost 20 years. They’ve taken their name from one of the fictional forbidden books in the Lovecraft Mythos and have held to the theme.

On this record, which is not their tenth album (in fact it’s the fourth), the band moves towards the New England stories of witchcraft and connections to more sinister, older forms of evil. That makes for some great material for the ferocious death metal this band creates. They take particular inspiration from the female characters or entities depicted in those stories. As the band says:

“This Chapter is inspired by women, the persecution against them by the Holy Office Sacred Congregation (The Inquisition), their essential role in the myth and legend, their place at the witches’ Sabbath, and the profound fear they spread – and still do – in mankind under the concept of Witch.”

So I use that full statement, because I appreciate it. It is hard to really get that from the ferocious, but regal sounding death metal these Chileans produce. There’s a steady flow to their sound, that reminds me of Bolt Thrower (though their sound is way too foreboding and filled with stop-go moments). The vocals of Joseph Curwen (yeah, that’s another Lovecraft reference) are the kind that feel like scraping the coarse bottom of a dirty puddle. It’s all quite intense.

The guitarwork is constantly peaking, screaming and crying on tracks like ‘Sacrificio Infanticida’. There’s no moment of peace for the listener to Unaussprechlichen Kulten, it’s an onslaught of brutality and mighty guitar work. Sometimes the band uses parts that are pretty classic sounding, but in a polished, controlled manner. Actually everything done by these gents sounds controlled, but there’s a constant threat of them blowing the lid off and creating complete cosmic havoc. Opener ‘Unholy Abjuration of Faith’ is a good example. The track feels like oldschool death metal, in all its glory.

In general I think the band sticks to what it knows. They can easily be placed in a more conservative corner. The sound is more or less like that of Immolation, Morbid Angel and their ilk. Heavy and filled with musical excesses, they embrace the extreme. The result is a solid record, that clocks just under 40 minutes. What a trip it is.

 

Underground Sounds: La Torture Des Ténèbres – Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods

Label: Independent
Origin: Canada
Band: La Torture Des Ténèbres

The first time I played this record by Canadian group La Torture Des Ténèbres, I was baffled. I turned it off after a few songs. Maybe it was not entirely what I expected when I read the tag ‘raw black metal’, but the sound makes much more sense if you look a bit deeper. This band creates something that lies between black metal and dense ambient sounds, thus evoking the sound of the city, of urban chaos.

La Torture Des Ténèbres has been around for a while and is the creation of Jessica Kinney. ‘Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods’ is the third album under this name and actually the third album in one year (2016). That makes this a rather productive act.

From peculiar intro ‘Column Of Astrological Memories’ onwards, you get into a weird sort of Sky Captain of Tomorrow -like story telling of past and future intertwined. The intro lets you hear samples, music and conversations, which launches into ‘The Great Escape From Capricorn’. A mesmerizing swirling chaos of music, ambient and noise, that holds hidden at the core vocals and lyrics that speak of a doomed world.

Civilization offers us but one choice. Conform to the collective architecture or perish beneath the weight of aeons.

The music is pretty much the unleashing of torrents of sound. ‘Descending Through Autumn Fields’ is a maddening flow, that somewhere coalesces into a melancholic melody. Surrounding is maddening howls. freakish barks and an overwhelming display of noise. The album is all the way like that, furthermore it never relents for a moment. A harsh experience for the listener, but one that has beauty hidden within. La Torture Des Ténèbres is definitely not for the casual listener I suppose. I t leaves you staring into the abyss, while waiting for the world to fall apart.

A roaring climax comes with the two parts of ‘Into The Metropolitan Abyss’. Two movements of despair and concrete madness. What a powerful record, especially relevant today.

Underground Sounds: Jute Gyte – The Sparrow

Label: Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records
Band: Jute Gyte
Origin: United States

I’ve written before about the music of Jute Gyte, which I wrongly wrote as Jute Gryte at the time. The fascinating thing about Jute Gyte is that the music made by Adam Kalbach, the sole member, is highly experimental. He makes listeners  aware of a whole distinct musical movement that apparently exists. A movement exploring music’s unknown.

The result of that is often that the music of Jute Gyte is very much an acquired taste. It listens as an oddity for the listener thanks to complexity, wealth of uncommon sounds and droning core. ‘The Sparrow’ is the latest release by the, dare I say, avant-garde musician with a knack for the extreme. With just two songs, this is one hell of a ride.

The start of ‘The Sparrow’ should have been called ‘The Bees’, since that is the feeling of the song. A buzzing, droning festival of intensity hits the listener. Dissonant and almost on a pitch that simply annoys the hell out of you, the track soon reaches the point where roaring vocals disturb the droning. After a few minutes we vind a break, where just eerie sounds fill the sonic void left behind. After minutes of slithering sounds, a more tumultuous, cascading sound develops. Just under twenty minutes, the track hardly gets dull or unsurprising in its intensity.

As soon as you start putting Jute Gyte in the noise category, you realise that there is always a structure. Structure that is hard to determine because it is so different to what you know. ‘Monadanom’ is the second track with an almost equal length. Lacking the ferocious passages of the former, this track is a continuing drone fest of atonal, disjunctured passages launched into the distance. At some parts it sounds soothing and melancholic, in others it’s simply uncomfortable. But that is what the music of Jute Gyte does, it will force its presence upon you as a listener. That is what makes it so brilliant.