Label: Independent Band: Hair of the Dog Origin: Scotland
During Roadburn, you sometimes just wander into a place to see a band you didn’t know before. So I stumbled into Extase. It was very late and little people were there, but the band on stage was bare chested and completely rocking out, pushing out the most glorious hard rock sounds. I was sold at that moment to the charm of Scottish rockers Hair of the Dog. They simply rocked with raw passion.
This is the third full length of the Scottish trio from Edinburgh. Clearly getting more groove and intensity to their sound as they go. I guess the skateboarding connection also has something to do with it, because they are on a roll (pun intended)! The laid back flow and catchiness of the music is great and it is a complete pleasure to hear their tunes.
What I enjoy about Hair of the Dog is that they make essential, bare chested, ballsy rock music. Sure, when the title track launches you immediately detect the stoner and sludge influences. The group reshaped it backward in rock history to the classic hard rock vibe and feel of Led Zeppelin and Mountain. My favorite tune of the Scots is ‘Keeping Watch over the Night’, where singer and guitar player Adam Holt is truly capturing hearts in minds with his passionate delivery and the all over hugeness of the sound. What a trip!
‘Ctrl-Alt-Delete’ takes us in a way different direction. While it holds it’s bluesy progression, the vocals are much more crooning and hold a completely different vibe. It’s remarkable how the threesome makes music that feels simple and direct, but also holds a big stadium vibe. Clean and poppy enough for your mom to enjoy, but rough enough to still make you feel cool while driving. Every note is spun out and used for it’s maximal potential, to create that wall of sound that makes them so strong sounding. For example, on ‘In Death’s Hands’ the music seems to just drift along and the notes just flow out.
On ‘4AM’ the boys show us they have quite a bit of soul as well. On the track they pour out their hearts and even the bass and drums ooze passion and feeling. This band takes it back to its essence and all I can say is that they’re simply amazing. Hair of the Dog makes me want to puff my chest, pump my fists and gently wave a lighter (yes, smartphones then) around, all in the span of one album. That makes them awesome.
Label: Eldritch Lunar Miasma Records/Rat King Records Band: Úir Origin: Scotland/England
The Scottish black metal band Úir has plenty of experience in the ranks. Members of Úlfarr, Barshasketh, Haar and Vostok. Plenty of goodness there then to make a great bit of atmospheric black metal non the intriguing record ‘Tein-Éigin’. Yes, it feels a bit like Elvish or something like that, with its peculiar cover and symbolism.
Úir is a band made up of Scottish and Cumbrian musicians, true northerners so to say. On this album the theme is the passing of seasons in the sense that ancient cultures revered the sun and the moon in its paths like this. The sun as the life giver, the moon as the teller of time. The record travels from the rise of spring to the darkness of winter in four songs. I must say, they’ve done this quite well with an attractive album here.
The album kicks of with some astounding guitar work, which feels like some prog metal actually. The title-track creates a space, with languid, soaring riffs and a crisp clear sound. It’s black metal aspects gradually overwhelm. The sound of sunrays sticks though, even when howling vocals call out in the spacious sound. Though the sound may be very stretched out, there’s also a condensed element to the track and to the general sound of Úir. There’s little in the sense of unnecessary bomast and that makes the music feel more urgent, more direct in its expression to me.
The same feeling sticks with the following ‘Mi na Grianstad’, which deals with the summer solstice. The song clocks over 8 minutes and starts as a full on blasted flow of black metal, but after a few minutes it dwindles down to a gentle part with reverberating guitarplay. I have to put a little Opeth comparsion here, in the way Uír is so completely balanced in their sound. In the final part the vocals take on a more profound role, due to sounding more demented and fierce at one time and the next very much ritualistic. ‘Am Damhair’ refers to oktober, or the season of the deer. It’s a more calm, traditionally progressing atmospheric piece with some clear guitar elements again, creating that right vibe at the right time.
The maddening howls and the torrent of guitarplay are truly the final descent into darkness in winter, as you can hear on the final track ‘Ruiros’. There’s something extremely saddening in the guitar play. The vocals by singer Afallach are truly out of this world on this particular song though. It finishes of a great black metal record.
Black metal has shown many new outings, exploring new sounds and forms of expression. Some come up with strange avant-garde outings, others go in more conservative directions. Adding folk to metal is a risky pick though, but Saor has been pulling it of for quite some time now. It’s a fine line to walk, not to let either side really take over or become a washed down version .
Back in 2014 I wrote a bit about Saor’s previous album, titled ‘Aura’. A real experience with all the good Celtic metal has to offer. Saor is still Andy Marshall on this album, with a bunch of incredible guest musicians. Where ‘Aura’ was a haunting experience of the foggy hills of the Scottish realm, ‘Guardians’ shows a slight change in direction. Marshall was also active in Falloch, but where that project just doesn’t hit me as much, Saor is the truely convincing output of this gentleman. Oh, he also just started Fuath, which you can read about here.
By this I by no means am traying to say that this is a bad turn. On the recently released ‘Guardians’, we hear more of the roots of the band. The folk aspect is more outspoken, more in your face as a listener. By this I don’t mean that the songs are more like jigs, but the instruments have a more pronounced position in the compositions, they’re simply much more identifiable and on their own. This is the instant greeting on title track ‘Guardians’ by proud bagpipes.
Never does the record sound boisterous, but it does have a sense of pride in its warm majestic sounds. ‘The Declaration’ is a praise of liberty and independence, delivered with grace and love for the land. Gentle passages offer respite until the guitars soar once more and rumbling drums offer a heavy under current.
There’s something splendidly sincere about this album, it’s thicktapestries of sound, but most of all the moments where it dresses down and speaks more directly. Often with one instrument taking the voice for a few lines, leaving the music to do the talking. The vocals are sparse but meaningful, but it’s those passages, like the final part of ‘Tears of a Nation’ that really do it for me. Saor is a project made with a lot of love for something Scottish, something pure and maybe even conceptual. This makes the music as direct and pure as that. Lovely.
By now, the band Barshasketh has relocated from the Lord of the Rings-y New Zealand to the similar, but more rainy Scotland. The man behind the band is Andrew Campbell, more well known under his moniker Krigeist. He’s been active as well in bands like Belliciste and Bròn. It actually seems that Campbell has now relocated to the Czech Republic even, but it’s a bit hard to tell. Maybe Belgrade, based on the info on the Belliciste page? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter that much either when we get to the music.
The sound of Barshasketh defies the local anyways, even more so on this new endeavour. To create a full band members were found in Falloch, Haar and Finnish Hautakammio. It allows for an album that will not soon be forgotten. Of that I’m sure. I’d like to point out that there’s some excessively amazing art work in use by Barshasketh, done by Daniel Valencia of Fomeno Design.
There’s a hint of melodic black metal bands like Keep of Kalessin hidden in the music of Barshasketh, thanks to the combination of familiar elements of distortion, tremolo guitar play and feisty blast beats with a thoroughly melodic element and a willingness to create a harrowing type of beauty through sound scapes. This is all woven into the fabric of the album and overridden with the bestial, raw roar of Krigeist himself.
In the music, one often hears that a repetitive static is created. This allows for other elements in the music to paint fantastic realms in the sound, allowing the listener to really sink into it as in an almost meditative state. Even the most furious parts have that calm hidden behind it in the form of melodic lines that gently weave through the ferocity that is Barshasketh. Sometimes the static sound almost feels like doom metal in its slow, foreboding progressions.
It combines the old and the new in the sound, which has excellent production. Interesting fact is that the titles are numbered, which creates the feeling of one piece of art, based in chapters. It works very well to express the long stretch in separate elements. This is an album that will surely appear in some End of Year lists. Great stuff!
I listen to music, so you don’t have to. You can decide if you want to check out what I’ve been checking out by reading what I thought about these sounds. All taken from the underground, these are the sounds for this edition. I will write a new intro text next time.
Saor – Aura
Scotland offers us some great music now and then. It normally does require you to accept the peculiar accent and rugged elements in it. On the front of black metal, I didn’t hear much about the North. If the first connection you make to their black metal sound is Saor, you’re in for a good one, like your first fried candybar. The music feels like the landscape of Scotland, with the subtle folk melodische woven into the fabric of the land as well. Powerful and subtle at the same time, the music offers a timeless journey.
The band describes their music as Celtic metal, which I think does justice to its organic, natural sound. The songs feel like a storybook, the album is like a unity. Focus seems to be a ful immersing in the atmosphere Saor has in mind for their listeners, which works out great in my humble opinion. The departure from the sound they embraced under their previous moniker Àrsaidh seems to have been left behind partly, continuing the whole postrock vibe, but making things more intense and rougher. I’m totally impressed by this, by the way One Man, project. It will blow you away. Andy Marshall, also known from Falloch, did a great job.
Jungle Rot – Terror Regime
So today I learned that the band who’s name I’ve seen around a lot of times is a death metal band. I also learned that Jungle Rot is a nasty disease that yields a lot of gruesome imagery, which I’ve never been too crazy about. Sorry, I’m not into gore and I really can’t help it. This band is frigging brilliant though.
Though called a death metal band, there’s something different going on here. It’s been called death rock in some spots and I guess some comparisons to that rock’n’rolling style of Entombed cannot be discarded. There’s a fun factor to their sound, the band also happens to have been around forever (well since 1994). The clean producation makes this a perfect album to drum along to, slap your air-guitar like it’s ‘yo bitch’ and just bang your head to. It just sounds tight and in my opinion very accesible. I wrote before that I’m reluctant to listen to death metal and I haven’t really found my hook on the style yet. This band is not on Victory Records without reason. Their sound is almost poppy to me, like many of the hip metalcore/deathcore stuff, but simply more real and pure. Enjoyable record taht I would recommend to most metal fans who also need to find a gateway record for DM.
Tryptikon – Melana Chasmata
I love Celtic Frost. I don’t know if it was the amazing titles of their albums (not the stage names, Tom G. Warrior still sounds like it was made for gay porn), or their distinctly oldschool sound with touches of genius distinctive experiment or perhaps just their aura of grandeur. I didn’t like Tryptikon much at first though, but it grows on you and so does Melana Chasmata. I’d love to somehow bash the establishment a little, which is perfectly possible with this record since it somehow doesn’t pack the punch it was intended to have. That doesn’t make it less awesome.
Let’s call it a doom record, translating sludge to the Swiss bands flavour with the old gothic demeanor. Tryptikon never sounds dirty like a damp, grim black metal band. Nor does it feel like the abandoned graveyard where doom bands lurk. It dwells in castles and cathedrals, in grandeur and might with a touch of despair and decay. There is a nobility to the sound of this band that has a lot to to with its frontman. I think that Fischer doesn’t want to shock, but just show the stories he wishes to tell to the fulles. Leaving nothing out, holding nothing back. That is the raw core of the record that delivers its powerful message. So yeah, everything stays a bit mid-pace. Heavy metal is not reshaped, but there’s refinement here.
Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn
I’ve enjoyed listening to Summoning for years, but it has always been on and off. I was amazed to discover bands playing music inspired by Tolkien and making it seem dangerous, exciting and totally new. I reckon I wasn’t ready for the atmospheric black metal at first from these Austrians. Now perhaps I am, but maybe their 2013 album just leaves behind a lot of the danger. It almost seems like a soundtrack when listening to it. Less raw, more atmosphere and synthesizers.
The songs are filled up with the mysterie from Tolkiens ‘Silmarillion’, inspired by the daring of the Mariner Earendil who sailed into the unknown. Some moments its foreboding, others gnashing and grim but always captivating and beautiful. I guess it might sound pretentious to those who are a bit purist about their black metal, but as far as I’m concerned, this album is a masterpiece that combines the best of ambient, atmosphere and black into one mesmerizing whole.
That was all for this time, lets see what else we can pick from the underground next time.