This edition of Sounds of the Underground features musical gems from Winterlore, In Mourning, Release The Long Ships and Muscle And Marrow.
Some good music for lesser weather.
Winterlore – Winterlore
The cover of this second Winterlore record immediately speaks to the afficionado of dark fantasy/history with its gloomy depiction of a moonlit landscape. It says a lot about the sound of these Utah residents and their mystical black metal. The debut of the band came out in 2013, so it was high time for something more. With members of Ered Wethrin, Malignant Inception and many more, its clear that the band draws inspiration from various styles within the genre to create a perfectly balanced sound of their own on this record. Inspired by early Drudkh, Angantyr and Satanic Warmaster, you know what you’re in for! Back to the old underground.
Blending the right elements of oldschool black metal, this band sounds grim like you used to love them. Black, eerie guitar riffs create a static pattern that batters on forever, while the vocalist barks his dark incantations. Taking clear inspiration from their Northern predecessors, the band focusses on similar themes and cultural components. The sound is hardly full of variation, but leaves room for atmospheric guitar parts. Repetitive, droning patterns with a melancholic feel get the listener in a trance. Fascinating is the chanting on the end of the title track and in fact also the closer for the album. It’s almost Viking chanting, in a Wardruna style, which evokes powerful imagery surrounding that cover photo. Though stylisticly a bit retro, Winterlore has released an album that brings all the good from the old favorites in a fresh coat of paint.
Muscle and Marrow – Love
It’s a peculiar thing how certain records end up in the black metal category on bandcamp, but for this album I do get it. Muscle and Marrow is an experimental duo, creating music that tugs at the heart strings. On This record the songs are trying to express the complexity of love, but not in the cheesy way we all know and hate. It’s much deeper than that. In this interview with Noisey, singer and guitarist Kira Clark talks about her influences for this record. The sound she produces with drummer Keith McGraw has been dubbed doom-folk, but if you like to call it doompop, experimental music or electronics, it’s all good.
If I have to clarify what this sounds like, I have to mention Chelsea Wolfe and (though many might disagree with me) Björk due to the free form of the music. In a way you can also not pass up on the chance to mention Courtney Love, who is a big inspiration for this album apparently and in some ways her influence can be felt in the music. The tunes feel very ambient, but the vocals are weary and expressive. It creates a feeling of darkness, almost gothy. The shimmering music and haunting vocals express an exhaustion almost, which is very convincing and giving the record a strenght that is hard to really put to words. It convinces you of truly complex feelings that drain you when even trying to comprehend them. Whispered or screamed, Clark is a vocalist with a powerful range and at the core of this record for sure. The rest is just framework. I’m struggling to write down what I hear, it reminds me of the description in ‘Lord of the Rings’ of the ringwraiths, who are stretched thin, almost ghost-like by their greed and the lifeforce eaten away by that one ring… that’s how the music of Muscle and Marrow sounds.
In Mourning – Afterglow
These Swedes know a thing or two about creating haunting tunes that find their way somewhwere in between goth and doom with a tinge of symphonic added. It’s no My Dying Bride, but in a sense that is not such a far shot from what these gentelmen produce on their fourth full lenght in their 16 year existence ‘Afterglow’. Maybe if you add a little Moonspell to that mix you do get the sound of In Mourning. The band from Falun has started moving in a more melodic death direction for a while now, which can be heard on their new album as well. With two original members in their, the core sound of contemplative and intelligent music with a classic hint is obviously maintained on this new outing. I enjoyed listening to this.
The band is hugely melodic, full of majestic arches that depict an autumn landscape of ever dying life. The tracks are notably long and not always leaving the impact you’d be hoping for, but on a track like ‘Ashen Crown’ the band is unleashed. A torrent of minor tunes is launched at the listener, conveying grief and torment in an intricate and beautiful manner. The riffing is pulling at you with grand, sweeping movements and a wide array of tones and layers. I can’t say that the vocals are all that convincing and distinct on every track, but the right approach is taken everywhere with grunts or clean contemplative vocals. It’s the guitars that take the reigns on the tunes with a fierce bit of bass and drums (in the capable hands of
Daniel Liljekvist, former drummer of Katatonia). The song sink down and then rise up again, higher and higher. Sometimes it’s just swooning and subtle, like the intro of the wonderful ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’. Though In Mourning is not giving the gothic doom the kick in the arse it so sorely needs, it’s bringing out all those elements that make it such a beloved genre.
What draw my attention to this record in the first place was partly the bandname, Release The Long Ships, which reminded me of that stupid Unleashed song. The band is in fact Ferenc Kapiller, a one man musical wonder of multi-instrumental prowess and a knack for the mysterious. Perhaps known for his artwork for post-BM band Nullingroots from the United States, the Hungarian has released a wonderful record with ‘Holocene’. The musician set to work with nothing more than a guitar and a computer back in 2011 and has wrought some brilliant stuff this far. At home in Szombathel he creates simple but imaginative songs and I truly adore them.
Another point of interest for me was a song titled ‘Tesla and Tunguska’. I had heard a song earlier with Tunguska in the title by the T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society. The melancholy and the wide stretched feel of the sound feel similar. The mysterious Tunguska-event, an explosion thought to have been a meteor, has been linked to Tesla by obscure theories. It’s a reworking of an Erudite Stoner song. Kapiller translates this to minimalistic music, with a lot of background distortion and noise on moments when it needs to swell to bigger proportions. The trickling guitar sound is a prevailing element on this album, evoking imagery of fantasy landscapes and deep forests. The kind you don’t see anywhere anymore, but maybe in Hungary a part lingers. The music is layered and laced with emotion, this is not something to listen to anywhere else than at home or on a walk in nature. It has a taste of ambient, the flow of postrock and the organic vibe of folk. It really is worth your time.