Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DMD highlights from 2016 Part Two: Mountain… Metal and Punk

Welcome to our second instalment of the Desert Mountain Dust picks from 2016, in this phase of our sonic journey we embark on the perilous ascent up the Metal Mountain
(and a brief venture across to Punk Island as well!)

Here lies some of my favourite releases from 2016, this time it's all about Metal, Punk and the various sub genres they have spawned.

Modern Metal
Gojira - Magma
In 20 years, Gojira have gone from absolute obscurity to cult following, ending up at their rightful place amongst Metal’s vanguard. Arguably France’s biggest heavy metal export to date, since their debut in 2001 ‘Terra Incognita’ they’ve shocked and amazed listeners worldwide with their technical, brutal dosage of eco-metal.

This time around on symbolic album number six, the band bring a few changes to their musical table, reining in the harsher vocals in exchange for more cleans as well as less dazzling technical work,  focussing more on songwriting and hooks that stick with you long after the record has finished. But rest assured much of the signature Gojira sound hasn’t been lost in this maturing process.

‘Magma’ was recorded at a difficult time for the Duplantier brothers, who suffered the loss of their mother, which can be read from much of the album’s lyrics to ‘The Shooting Star’ and the closing acoustic lamentations of ‘Liberation’.

‘Stranded’ is a real stomper while the short instrumental ‘Yellow Stone’ has many grunge overtones, and is just one of many new steps for the band. As previously stated, the band’s trademark hard edged riffing and experimental melodies are still present and can be heard loud and clear on the title track and ‘Pray’.

For me, Track 2 ‘Silvera’ is the standout track, aided by a catchy guitar line and Joe Duplantier’s esoteric words that speak of “when you change yourself you change the world” making it one of the record’s more obvious throwbacks to their previous work.

I should also add that at the time of writing, the top 5 tracks on the band’s Spotify page are all from Magma, which definitely says a lot. In closing, Magma simply isn't a good enough reason to abandon Gojira, the band are in a period of transformation, and I have no doubts that their next record will feature many more changes.

Listen / Download here:

Progressive Rock
Opeth - Sorceress
‘Sorceress’ is the third instalment since 10th album ‘Heritage’ where the band much to the horror of a portion of their hardcore fanbase, ditched the death growls and took the plunge down a new musical path.

I’m not trying to divide people, but to me it doesn’t feel like such a radical change. I mean it’s never been a secret that Åkerfeldt and co worship at the prog altar while incorporating a wild range of styles (Blues, Classical, Folk, and Jazz) into their sprawling sound.

With that in mind, plenty of the band’s trademark moves still remain, like the soaring guitar solos on ‘The Wilde Flowers’ and ‘A Fleeting Glance’ (which also features a beautifully saturated organ tone) as well as the ever strong Folk presence in ‘Will O The Wisp’ and the record’s bookend tracks.

Although the band are trying to contain the chaos a bit more than on previous releases, the mischievous spirit of time signature changes and chin stroking musical breaks can still be heard on ‘Strange Brew’.

‘Chrysalis’ features trade offs between guitar and keyboard that feel almost like a jam between Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord, while ‘The Seventh Sojourn’ sounds like an unreleased track from their 2003 album ‘Damnation’. Meanwhile, the warmth of the guitar tone when the heavier riffs kick in on the title track and ‘Era’ cannot be understated.

In conclusion, ‘Sorceress’ feels like the most natural continuation of the group’s new found sound, and the most accessible yet from the new Opeth. 

Listen / Download here:

Katatonia- The Fall Of Hearts
Katatonia is a name I am always hearing thrown around but have never given the band a proper listen, I finally decided to check out their latest effort. They’ve been around about as long as their fellow Swedes Opeth, and frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt even performed vocals on their second album 'Brave Murder Day' after singer Jonas Renkse was taken ill.

On 'The Fall of Hearts' the band set out to calm rather than crush, which is fine by me because keeping the heavier material in short supply does give the riffs greater impact which can be heard on tracks like 'Takeover'  'Decima' and 'The Night Subscriber' all while Renkse’s vocals shine through wonderfully. 'Serien' also boasts some beautiful lead guitar and a bold ambient section.

Lyrically throughout the record Jonas Renkse seems to be exorcising some personal demons of his own which are highlighted with the aid of acoustic guitars and cleaner sections on 'Old Heart Falls' and ‘Pale Flag’.

Moving in a more metallic direction, closing track 'Passer' offers up some hyper shred and blinding drum fills amongst weeping keyboards that help bring the record to it's conclusion
Primarily a gentle listen, but the band can still surprise with some weightier sections. 

The album flows well, with none of the transitions sounding too unnatural, and the mood changes with ease from catharsis to profound sadness, all while never falling prey to prog by numbers. I think I can safely say I will definitely be checking out the rest of Katatonia’s discography.

Listen / Download here:

Progressive Metal
Dysrhythmia - The Veil of Control
Formed in ’98 by drummer Jeff Eber and prolific solo guitarist Kevin Hufnagel then later joined by bassist/producer Colin Marston (Behold The Arctopus/Krallice) in 2004, both Hufnagel and Marston would later join the new Gorguts lineup for 2013 comeback LP ‘Colored Sands’ and this year’s EP ‘Pleiades Dust’ (which is also on this list). 

The instrumental power trio harnesses the most avant-garde elements of progressive rock and jazz crossbreeding them with metal to create incredibly intricate and beautiful sounds. But be warned, this is not a record you will have all worked out by the time it’s over.

‘The Veil of Control’ is a fast changing musical landscape, on the first few spins I found it difficult to keep up with, the lack of hooks and vocals might also make others head for the door, so it goes without saying that sticking with it may take patience and a number of listens to unlock it’s full potential, but once you've cracked it’s code the rewards are endless. 

The build up on 'Internal/Eternal' is still a highlight for me, while the blast beats on 'Black Memory' hint at Death Metal but also throws in the sort of glassy chords you'd hear on an Allan Holdsworth album, as always Dysrhythmia sound determined not to set up camp in one territory. The three and a half minutes on closing track 'When whens end' remain some of the most atmospheric on the album.

Everyone in the band are maestros of their instruments and are on top of their game, the material on here showcases their abilities well as a collective rather than separately through endless self-indulgent solos. 

The record is mixed well with enough space for each member to be heard without difficulty plus the ‘live production’ has a real rawness to it that I would argue has definitely been lost in the more computerised mixes of the Djent/New School of Prog Metal bands.

As delightful as it is mind-boggling, whether you’re suffering from recycled Tech Metal fatigue or looking for technical ecstasy, a large dose of Dysrhythmia might just hold the key for you.

Listen / Download here:

Mathcore/Math Metal
Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation
The news that the highly influential, boundary destroying Dillinger were to finally call it a day was truly shattering, but then again with many of the members busy with side projects it's better to bow out in style rather than continue to flog a dead horse. 

Dissociation isn't the the sound of a band breaking up, it's the sound of a group of five people coming together to blow us all away one last time.

Greg Puciato's inhuman vocals are the starring role for the most part, especially on opener ‘Limerent Death’ where they become more and more insane as the song speeds up like a malfunctioning carousel. Next up, the anthemic chorus of ‘Symptom of Terminal Illness’ is destined to be screamed back at the band on their final tour dates.

'Wanting Not So Much As To' comes with stabbing accents, ludicrous guitar leads and punky sections harking back to the player's earliest influences, then goes into a Faith No More inspired spoken word passage, while ‘Fugue’ is peppered with the type of electronics that appeared on such past albums as ‘Ire Works'.

My favourite track ’Low Feels Blvd’ starts off with the mad drum rhythms the band are so well known for, and morphs into a real film score (complete with dramatic horns and amazing jazz guitar). Before you know it, the frantic intensity returns and the song goes out with a shower of guitar feedback. I can imagine Mike Patton crying tears of joy when he listens to this one.

Feeling like a jazzier '43% Burnt' both ‘Honey Suckle’ and 'Manufacturing Discontent' seem to be the perfect combination of the band's more melodic material and their spastic math origins.

But the final curtain comes too soon, and the grand finale that is 'Dissociation' sweeps in with evocative strings that turn to electronic industrial beats, the strings return with cymbal heavy drum hits, finally left with nothing but Puciato’s voice repeating the mantra 'Finding a way to die alone'.
Their swansong will be remembered as one of their best.

The band have already set out on their farewell tour, so if they are coming to your area this is your last chance to see one of the best live bands to ever walk the earth.

Listen / Download here:

Car Bomb - Meta
The Long Island, New York quartet define themselves as Mathcore or Math Metal, but had they formed in 2010 instead of 2000 then we’d probably be calling them Djent.

I am not a huge fan of Djent, from time to time I can find enjoyment in a handful of the bands the sub genre has spawned, but find too much of the rest to be watered down. But whether I or anyone else likes it or not, the movement has ushered in some groundbreaking bands and brought metal to a huge new audience,  inspiring those kids to pick up a guitar (with more than 6 strings), upped their interest in music theory and gotten them involved in production and gear.

Now Car Bomb are anything but watered down, instead they leave out the mixer and drink straight from the bottle like Jon Belushi in Animal House. The riffs on show here are of a highly vigorous polyrhythmic calibre but remain intent on carrying on the experimentality rather than becoming one of thousands of mimic bands that clog up our social media everywhere.

The Meshuggah influence is the most noticeable, plus vocalist Michael Dafferner does share plenty of characteristics with frontman Jens Kidman. That is because like Meshuggah, Car Bomb are keen on pushing their sound, dissecting it and re-assembling it in a way that the final result has so many twists and turns the experience is overwhelming. 

Prior to writing this I’d never even heard of Car Bomb but was completely blown away and will definitely be checking out more of their work. Here is a delicious slice of Math Metal that harks back to the days before the Djent dam burst and tries for uniqueness rather than similarity. Try listening to this back to back with 'The Violent Sleep of Reason' for maximum effect.

Listen / Download here

Neurosis Fires within Fires
Since transitioning from Hardcore Punk to Post-Metal pioneers with their 1992 classic third strike 'Souls at Zero' Bay Area legends Neurosis have remained one of the most influential acts in memory. But will their eleventh album re-affirm their status or write them off as dinosaurs in an overcrowded genre?  

'Bending Light' 'A Shadow Memory' and 'Fire is the End Lesson' are all great examples of the brain battering sludge, ethereal effects and spacious softer zones that Neurosis are so well known for.
But 'Broken Ground' is where the real money is at, after opening with an intro comparable to Metallica's Damage Inc, and becoming a front row seat at Steven Von Till's poetry reading, the track brings out the kind of heavy post metal guitar work that inspired a previous generation and will continue to inspire long after they're gone.

'Reach' continues with similar guitar effects, and over the course of 10 minutes builds up to a lurching final riff, which cuts out abruptly making for an unexpected exit. Despite being their shortest album since 'The Word as Law' Neurosis still manage to accomplish more in 40 minutes than most bands could in 80.

Listen / Download here:

Russian Circles - Guidance
Formed in 2004, Chicago's Instrumental post rock/metal trio Russian Circles are a name in the hearts of post music fans everywhere. Ever since second album ‘Station’ when ex Botch bassist Brian Cook joined their ranks, the group have been on a constant upward trajectory. 

5 years and 3 records later, they return with another highly impactful musical journey that once again secures their place amongst the elites of the genre.

Listen / Download here:

Oathbreaker - Rheia 
Belgium quartet Oathbreaker are one difficult band to categorise, they flirt with DSBM, Blackgaze, Post Metal, and Hardcore but refuse commitment to just one of these areas. However this isn't a hindrance, making their musical scope larger and allowing a crossover to as many possible listeners.

After three strong and dynamic openers, acoustic number 'Stay Here / Accroche-Moi' brings things down but 'Needles In Your Skin' returns to Black Metal business. There's also an ambient track ('I'm Sorry This Is') which helps break up the speed freakery and heaviness. Final track 'Begeerte' is a soft ending to a heart wrenching record.

You'll hear no forced torment in the notes of vocalist Caro Tanghe who is either singing sweetly like an angel or screaming her face off like a demon on '10:56' and 'Second Son of R.’ The band back her up with broken glass riffing and pounding drums. ‘Rheia’ is a highly intense and diverse emotional roller coaster that will no doubt catapult Oathbreaker into the stratosphere.

Listen / Download here:

Bossk- Audio Noir
Once upon a time they were the UK’s brightest hopes in post metal, but the group decided to break up in 2008 (only 3 years after forming). Persuaded to re-unite in 2012 after being offered a live session with the BBC at Maida Vale, another 4 years on and their first full length record ‘Audio Noir’ was released in April 2016 via Converge frontman Jacob Banana’s label Deathwish inc.

Audio Noir marks 10 years since Bossk first graced us with their presence and they’re recognisable, although this time it’s being broadcast through an older and wiser quintet.

As is crucial for any self respecting post-metal outifit, a good balance of dynamics are the key to success and Bossk are seasoned pros at this. ‘Atom Smasher’ is awash with 90’s stoner rock grooves and the riff on ‘Kobe’ comes across like a prog version of CKY.

The more tranquil side to the band’s sound isn’t just littered with soft guitar and bass motifs: ‘Relancer’ features a watery sounding organ, ‘Nadir’ has piano and strings in abundance. By the time the epic 10 minute closing track ‘The Reverie I’ has reached it’s ultimate point, you’re almost guaranteed to have tears of joy flowing from the eyes of long time Bossk fans. 

Audio Noir feels like Bossk never left, and but also serves as a glorious introduction to the band if you didn’t catch them first time round. Either way, rejoice that the legends hath returned! 

Listen / Download here:

Conjurer - I
Most people credit the West Midlands as being the birth place of Heavy Metal, boasting such influential groups as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Godflesh and Napalm Death. 

Unleashed on respected UK indie label Holy Roar (which has seen releases from Bongripper, Employed to Serve, Kayo Dot, Mine, Rolo Tomassi, and Svalbard to name a few) Conjurer have created an class act debut and certainly have a decent shot at joining the greats.

Not overly technical, but utilising a twin vocalist attack and superbly crafted riffs, the Conjurer lads opt for a more straightforward approach which pays off in spades. 

Beginning with an intro that sounds like a lost track off ‘Burn My Eyes’ the quartet launch into the ultra heaviness of ‘Behold The Swine’ with punchy riffs and the kind of clean section that Mastodon would approve of. There’s also a bone crushing breakdown which  becomes a fast paced Tech-Death workout, the riffs turn more emotional then briefly ugly once again before leave behind a bed of screaming feedback.

The feedback carries over and before you know what’s hit you ‘Scorn’ kicks down the door. It’s another beast of a song which I can definitely see setting the mosh pit alight. Out of nowhere the song becomes pure pandemonium, with terrifying dissonant guitars matched with monstrous vocals cueing up another savage breakdown where the notes sound off like gunshots.

‘A Chasm Forged In Dread And Disarray’ is the best example of Conjurer’s approach to dynamics, as they delve into some tension filled clean sections the guitars are kept in check by some powerhouse drumming.

My favourite track on this EP has to be ‘Frail’. The band show off their melodic side with an acoustic intro before an enormous Funeral Doom riff decimates all in it’s path. But they’re not prepared to let up on the heaviness just yet, and they race into a searing Black Metal section which turns into sludge-filled guitar harmonies with a few dirty blues licks. The final hits make for an excellent ender.

I am honestly having a difficult time pigeonholing the band with this release, for the most part you could define Conjurer as Sludgey Post-Metal but they also jump from Groove Metal to Funeral Doom to Black Metal with ease while still retaining their crushing heaviness. The 26 minutes fly by and you’re left with one of the most exciting and promising groups to make their recorded debut in 2016. 

Listen / Download here:

Doom Metal
Momo Mahou - Demo
Back in December 2016, Momo Mahou (peach magic) dropped their debut 2 track demo combining heavy Doom with some heavier lyrical themes. ‘Who Are You?’ denounces how society views the roles of Men and Women, with a sludgey guitar riff a dragging drum beat, plus some well done death growls.

Carried by a droning, pounder of a riff, ‘Man Baby’ opens with the kind of fuzzing bass and amp feedback you’d expect to hear on an Electric Wizard record (minus the sound of someone taking a huge bong hit then lapsing into fits of coughing). Lyrically, the song exposes the backwards ideals of Lad culture.

It’s not at all common to hear a Doom project bringing up such issues but this will help Momo Mahou stand out from the crowd. For me, this first release from MM was an exciting listen and I hope to hear more from the project in 2017!

Listen / Download here:

Progressive Death / Thrash
Vektor-Terminal Redux 
While mainly being a thrash band, for 14 years Arizona’s Vektor have showed time and time again that they are about more than downing a six pack of Heineken and doing the toxic waltz.

‘Terminal Redux’ (which took 5 years to complete) is the third album under the Vektor banner and it was certainly worth the wait. Their most ambitious release yet, TR is the musical soundtrack to a sci-fi story about an astronaut discovering the key to immortality and using it for himself in order to gain vast financial and political power. Eventually he makes himself mortal once more after suffering an existential crisis.

Vektor's are a cross between the 90’s Progressive/Technical Death Metal elders of Atheist, Death, and Pestilence interbred with the Thrashers from the golden age e.g. Slayer, Metallica, Testament and the groups from that era that pushed the Thrash sound further such as Coroner and Voivod.

Vektor are definitely a group I can get behind, because they sound like they want to firmly make their mark on both metal sub genres rather than become yet another clichéd parody band dressed in tight jeans and white hi-tops.

Some riffs are so fast they’d get a speeding ticket and many of the more technical parts change direction on a dime. There’s a few slower movements on ‘Collapse’ and even a choir on opener ‘Charging The Void’. Insane drumming along with David DiSanto’s high pitched devilish shrieks and superb lead guitar, if Vektor is still an untapped source for you, then Terminal Redux is the perfect initiation.

At first I thought that the length of the album was the one thing holding it back from being an instant classic, but considering the fact that 3/4 of the group recently made the decision to leave, we still have plenty of Vektor (over 70 minutes in fact) to enjoy while the future of the band is still being considered. 

I for one hope that DiSanto chooses to continue with his Metallic manifesto, because Thrash so desperately needs bands like Vektor if it’s ever to survive.

Listen / Download here:

Technical Death Metal
Unfathomable Ruination - Finitude
London Death Metal drunkards Unfathomable Ruination aren’t just another Brutal Death band with an unreadable (or in this case unfathomable) logo. They've been laying waste to venues around the UK and Europe since 2010, and even performed inside a steel box as part of an exhibition by Portuguese artist Joao Onofre back in 2014:


Finally back with a follow up to their 2012 debut ‘Misshapen Congenital Entropy’ released once again through US Gore-fest label Sevared Records. 

'Finitude' means the limitation of human relationships, emotions, mind and body, and some might hate to admit it, but Death Metal can be quite limiting to work within. But Unfathomable Ruination sound like they are hellbent on tearing down the genre's borders and and moving them far beyond the horizon.

No one is letting the side down here, Drummer Doug Anderson is an absolute tornado behind the drum kit, he can blast with the best of 'em and he's got fills for days, bassist Federico Benini gets a sweet solo on ‘Nihilistic Theroem’ and has a prominent role on the intro to 'Abdication of Servitude'.
Daniel Herrera and Ross Piazza bring plenty of Tomb of the Mutilated guitar squeals, and all-out shred ('The Ephemeral Equation' is a great example of their fantastic leads) all while Ben Wright’s low gutturals orchestrate this dance of death.

Tracks like 'Thy Venomous Coils' and 'Pervasive Despoilment' show that UR know when and how to pay tribute to their influences rather than recycle the riffs of their idols. My Favourite track has to be ‘Neutraliser' because the guitar melody has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it.

The record is stuffed to bursting with seamless transitions like on 'The Pestilential Affinity' and various Ambient intros (composed by Benjamin Ellis) also help give the songs a real darkness. The best of these appear on closing track 'Forge of Finitude' which begins as a slow death march, evolving into one last inferno of guitar riffs with furious drumming, laid to rest with a punishing breakdown and eerie chords to fade.

'Finitude' shows that Unfathomable Ruination are capable of hanging with the likes of those on the Summer Slaughter without even breaking a sweat, so you can rest assured that UK Death Metal is in more than capable hands (and feet). 

Listen / Download here:

Obscura - Akroasis
The German Technical Death Metal kings have finally released the album they’ve always been threatening to.

Founders of the modern scene, and a revolving door of ex Necrophagist and Pestilence members, Obscura are back with a new lineup, virtuous new guitarist Rafael Trujillo and highly talented drummer Sebastian Lanser. 

Many have cited Steffen Cumberer's vocals as a marmite commodity, but this time around his gravelly rasp balances well with the use of vocoder on 'The Seven Suns' and 'The Monist' which embellish the patchwork rather than taint it.

A massive amount of Death and Cynic worship is going on here, but Obscura have never been ones to keep their influences a secret, plus there's some absolutely sublime guitar and fretless bass to be heard, but the slower solos never lack depth or soul.

The album's masterpiece is classically infused epilogue ‘Weltseele’ firmly cements this as the best record Obscura have yet done, allowing them to stay true to their Death Metal roots while reaching for the furthest stars.

Listen / Download here

Gorguts -  Pleiades Dust
Taking the sounds of 'Colored Sands' to nosebleed inducing new heights, Gorguts are back with another exceptionally dynamic and cinematic Death Metal record, this time in the form of a 33 minute one song EP. I would also like to thank the band for sharing my review on their Facebook page. Read my full review here

VIRVUM - Illuminance
Since independently releasing their debut ‘Illuminance’ back in September 2016, the Swiss Progressive / Technical Death Metal quartet have scooped up a rabid online following and are in high demand to play local sweatboxes worldwide.

It's easy to see that Virvum are fans of Decrepit Birth as the band use a similar musical approach, leaving out the bass-heavy brutality and allowing the guitars more time higher up the fretboard, shooting out superbly phrased hooks with immense staying power (my personal favourites are on the title track). 

But the guitar parts would be nothing without the drummer’s thunderous foundation, expert level Bass work (performed by De Profundis/Splintered Soul bassist Arran McSporran) and vocals that never show hints of fatigue.

The band sound determined to break out of the Death Metal realm, there’s riffs that are bordering on blackgaze (Tentacles of the Sun) and plenty of prog elements afoot (II: A Final Warning Shine: Ascension and Trespassing) so that could be evidence of a potential future crossover to be had.

For many just getting into Tech Death, this record is a real eye opener with such astounding virtuosity at play, but there’s still much value here for long time Death Metal fans who don’t mind a lack of low end or a clearer production. 

It appears that Virvum’s future could be a bright one, and I would advise anyone curious to join the party around their newly laid bonfire.

Listen / Download here:

Ulcerate-Shrines of Paralysis
In this genre the emotion does tend to get lost when piling on the technical complexities, but New Zealand’s finest Technical Death Metal merchants have no such trouble on their fifth album ‘Shrines of Paralysis’. 

Like you may have just read me gushing about Virvum, Ulcerate also approach their art with a high level of craftsmanship, and they too are all about storytelling, except Ulcerate don’t do happy endings. Their production is delightfully dingy as if their practice space and recording studio has been left untouched for years, leaving everything from the mixing desk to the drum kit covered in thick layers of dust.

Even with the vocals staying gruff the whole time, there’s plenty of variety to be had. The slower, angsty riffs mix well with the speedy sections, and the dark murky sound pools that appear throughout the record cook up quite an atmosphere. Take the plunge and listen in awe as this misanthropic Death Metal world unfolds.

Listen / Download here:

Blackened Death Metal
Veilburner - The Obscene Rite
‘The Obscene Rite’ is the Third effort from the Pennsylvanian Experimental Blackened Death Metallers, and experimental is the key word here since the duo gleefully throw everything they’ve got at you.

Apart from well screamed/sung vocals, furious technical Black/Death Metal riffing and an impressive display behind the drum kit, the band’s sound includes snippets of: Dark Electronics and Industrial, Science fiction soundtrack keyboards (that remind me a lot of Nocturnus at times) and Alien sounding vocals.

Maybe the only track that could be defined as ‘normal’ (since it has the least distracting amount of things going on) is the intermission ‘Masquerade Macabre’ which has some striking organ, duelling guitars, acoustic pickings, and buried underneath that there’s field recordings of thunder and cassette like surface noise.

I can imagine for some people this album simply has way too much going on and is a bit difficult to digest, plus the length of the record doesn’t help either. But if you have a lust for adventure, you’d be mad not to buy yourself a ticket on ‘The Obscene Rite’.

Listen / purchase

Black Metal / Blackgaze
Kiss They Goat - Ego Fum Papa 
This debut from Vicious Raw Canadian Black Metal trio is a marriage of blazing speed with slow, depressive atmospherics. Ego Fum Papa is a brilliant first demo that left me wanting to hear more from Kiss Thy Goat!

Listen / Download here

Tomhet - Nightmares in Damask 
Canadian Black Metal entity Tomhet opts for yet another new approach to his sound, you can read a full review here

Black Hate - Through the Darkness
In 11 years the Mexican 4 piece have put out 2 EPs, numerous splits and now with their fourth full length, which is my first time hearing them. Don’t let the name fool you, ‘Through the Darkness’ is full of atmospheric instrumentation, brutal vocals, spell binding drumming and masterful guitars.

This record held my attention because I just had to see where the band would take me, so if you like your Black Metal a bit more flavourful then you need to give ‘Through the Darkness’ a try.
also try: Los Tres Mundos (2012)

Listen / download here:

Sun Worship - Pale Dawn
With an old school sound, Berlin’s Sun Worship dish out premium Atmospheric Black Metal. In a constant state of full steam ahead but never getting burnt out, their music is extremely empowering resulting in a meditative experience.

The vocals have a robotic tone which I really like because it’s not something you hear often, I can’t get enough of the sizzling leads that sit atop the almost permanently blasting drums that help me achieve an trance-like state. 

It’s not all about speed though, ‘Lichtenberg Figures’ drops down a few gears, building up to a dramatic ending while ‘Naiad’ is full of threatening sounding dissonant brays. 

With the shortest track at 7 minutes, it’s clear that Sun Worship are not fans of quick fixes, and I can see the repetitive riffing being too much for some folks but hey, they’re the ones truly missing out here. ‘Pale Dawn’ is a must listen for anyone who enjoys being carried away by a glory bound Black Metal horde.

Listen / Download here:
If you have a penchant for Black Metal based in Germany, check out an Interview with Leipzig’s own Atmospheric BM crew Antlers, plus a review of their 2015 album ‘A Gaze Into The Abyss’ here

Deathspell Omega - The Synarchy Of Molten Bones 
One of Gorguts founder Luc Lemay’s favourite bands, the mysterious French Black Metal trio return with their sixth album, despite clocking in at just under half an hour they haven’t lost any of their impacting theatrics, twisted riffs or technical outbursts.

At times the group are raging like a hurricane (Famished for Breath) and at others clashing guitars together in a discordant harmony like on the title track. There’s epic passages (Onward where Most with Ravin I May meet) and parts that feel like they have more in common with Jazz than Black Metal (Internecine Iatrogenesis).

From the opening clangs to the epic horns that close the record’s fourth track, ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bones’ is another slab of proof that Deathspell Omega are one of the chosen few to save Black Metal from stagnation.

Listen / Download here:

Lord Sun - Suncatcher
Suncatcher’ is the debut of Blackened Drone gazers Lord Sun, the same people behind Post Black Metal group ‘Crescent Days’.

After a dreamy Ambient opener ‘Beneath the Sunwaves’ the group come in with ‘Defeated by Sunlight’ a shoegaze-scape that seems to stretch out as far as the eye can see. Track two ‘Suncatcher’ begins sounding like a version of cynic who grew up listening to shoegaze instead of jazz and metal, which is then drowned out by washes of high gain guitar and reverberating drums, plus the raw passion in the vocals doesn't go (s)unheard.

But epic closing track ‘Spectre’ is where the real magic is at, which begins with more of a melancholic touch then transforms into a positive sound force as soon as the distorted fuzz underneath dies out. The drums re-enter, adorned with a catchy guitar melody before dropping out again for a slightly darker mid section. Looped ambient residue builds until a dramatic hit sounds off like an ancient clock striking the hour. The drums return once again, exploding at a point where the harsh and clean vocals intertwine over a haze of guitar.

Finally as the drums pick up speed, the duo disappear over the horizon giving us an abrupt but satisfying ending. In conclusion, ‘Suncatcher’ is one beautiful racket, and it’s enlightening aura is undeniably infectious. A promising debut from a group that I can’t wait to hear more from!

Listen / Download here:
Also check out:
Crescent Days 'Violetten Blüten' 

The Avant-Garde
The Body-No One Deserves Happiness
Experimental duo The Body have been together for nearly two decades now, and in that time they’ve left their mark firmly on the experimental scene, becoming the fix craved by music fans the world over who needed something equal qualities limitless and nightmarish.

It might look good on paper when a band mixes in electronics, pop, noise, and Doomy Sludge Metal but there will always be an inexhaustible supply of doubters who are convinced that the whole thing will fall apart and be a complete mess.

Surprisingly, Chip King’s screeching vocals and the poppy pipes of Maralie Armstrong compliment each other well. On her own, Armstrong’s smooth voice is the guiding light for much of the record and the music feels built around her instead of the opposite.

The horns and electronics aren’t overused, while the ever present distorted guitar is warm and purring rather than roaring and threatening. Noise is used as the foundation of tracks rather than a background tool or an engulfing force on ‘The Fall and The Guilt’. 

In conclusion, ’No One Deserves Happiness’ feels like a transitional record for the duo, but at this stage the pop elements are still outnumbered by the metal, and noise. It may not be as terrifying as 2014’s ‘I Shall Die Here’ but it’s still further proof that The Body are leading the charge in the modern day experimental onslaught.

Listen / Download here:
Also try: The Body with Full of Hell ‘One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache’ (2016)

The genre police’s worst nightmare, legendary Norwegian experimentalists Ulver began life in 1993 as a black metal band, but they’ve been in a constant state of metamorphosis ever since putting out ‘Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ on their own ‘Jester Records’ imprint.

The band are well known for their material resembling explorative avant-garde film soundtracks, and ATGCLVLSSCAP is another smash box office hit at the cinema of imagination!
The album’s contents, 12 mind-blowing enhanced extractions of live improvisations from a 2014 European tour are, in classic Ulver style, anything but predictable.

The first three tracks are all shining examples of Ulver’s musical prowess and innovation, whether it’s the drone filled ‘England’s Hidden’ the determined pacing of ‘Glammer Hammer’ (which feels like this film’s opening credits) or the esoteric ‘Moody Six’. My personal favourite track is ‘Cromagnosis’ where the band embark on a glory bound march, ending up in a catchy Black Sabbath Master of Reality/Volume 4 era groove that gets faster and faster until you’re left with nothing but an exhale of synth that continues into darker trip ‘The Spirits That Lend Strength Are Invisible’.

Desert/Dawn ventures into more New Age territory, and there’s Jazzy tinges on ‘D-Day Drone’ while ‘Gold Beach’ sounds like it was purloined straight from Brian Eno’s hard drive. ‘Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen)’ is one of the only songs to include vocals, and vocalist Jørn H. Sværen doesn’t disappoint, while the tremolo picked guitar notes shine out like stars. 

Ballad track ‘Ecclesiastes (A Vernal Catnap)’ continues that mood with liberating piano followed by operatic vocals and emotive strings of final track ‘Solaris’ allow for the last credits of this imaginary film to roll.

ATGCLVLSSCAP is a blinding reminder that Ulver's creative juices are yet to experience drought.

Listen / Download here:

Grindcore / Powerviolence 
NAILS ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’
The group resemble the extremest parts of Hardcore Punk, Death Metal, D-Beat, Grindcore and Powerviolence. The Californian three piece (appearing as a quartet for live shows) established themselves as an unrelenting force of musical nature that breathed new life into the darkest ends of the Punk and Metal spectrums.

Sonically engineered with Kurt Ballou’s unmistakable signature production tone (the Scott Burns of the 2000s) right off the bat this album has all the aggressive power to not only move mountains but smash them into a thousand pieces. 

Honestly there’s too many highlights to even begin to note, ‘Life is a Death Sentence’ made me recall the song Scum by Napalm Death and the ending of ‘Violence is Forever’ features the kind of Guitar torture that Slayer made famous. 

Frontman Todd Jones is practically foaming at the mouth while bassist John Gianelli isn’t just stuck in the low end, a lot of the time he’s mirroring Jones’ speedy guitar neck laps, especially on ‘Savage Intolerance’. Drummer Taylor Young keeps his department tight and leak free with his impeccable blasting and fills, becoming some kind of hybrid of Dave Lombardo and Richard Hoak.

As is the traditional of every NAILS record (so far) the closing track is the longest, and ‘They Come Crawling Back’ is of a destructive pedigree until the final punching riff fades out.

Some might call it elitism, maybe even scene bullying but this album is a solid steel Kalashnikov aimed straight at bands like Atilla et all, and in closing I say there can be no doubt that ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ will be hailed as a classic to be discussed in the same excited tones as Beneath the Remains, Reign in Blood and From Enslavement to Obliteration for years to come.

Also Check Out: Nails / Full of Hell split

Wormrot - Voices
A decade has passed since the trio came together who would later be the band to put Singapore Grind on the map. Now they’ve returned with their third release ‘Voices’ but compared to it’s 2 older brothers, there are melodic  passages like on ‘Compassion is Dead’ and closing track ‘Outworn’ and even some Black Metal leanings (‘Oblivious Mess’). 

This can hardly come as a surprise though, because some maturing was bound to occur in the years since ‘Dirge’ came out.  In the grind scheme of things, their sound is all the more enriched because of these small changes so worry not, Wormrot are still alive and decaying!
Listen / download here:

ACxDC - The Oracles of Death EP
After announcing they were to split, Los Angeles Grindcore/Powerviolence four piece ACxDC completed a successful tour of Asia some final European and US shows and are here with one last EP which comes in the form of a compilation containing songs from various splits and tour tapes released between 2015 and 2016.

(You can listen separately to the various releases on bandcamp or in full via a youtube video  provided below)

The band still sound as pissed off as ever, and more venomous than an army of vipers. 'Heretics' is full of the religion bashing that only Antichrist Demoncore do so well and the shorter songs like 'Shoot First' and 'Science Ist Krieg' help keep the energy fresh.

'D.I.O' does a great job of addressing pointless bickering in the music scene and calls out bands who are too afraid to put the hard work in. On much of the material here, ACxDC mix together fiery speed with slow, stompy sections and a few tracks that end/begin with some weird noises/effects which are pretty cool.

'Prometheus' has more of a D-Beat vibe to it then jumps into a slower sludgey part, after that it erupts into blast beats and muddy riffing. Closing track 'Acedia' starts out slow with Sergio screaming his lungs out, then the band collide with some fast blast beats that turn into technical fills, then back to one final sluggish stroll and it's all over.

It's a shame the band are hanging up the grind jacket, but 'Oracles of Death' makes damn sure that the mirror showing the ugly face of our society remains held high.

Listen / Download here:

DEAF KIDS - Configuração do Lamento
Active since 2012, the São Paulo three piece are die hard crust punks with a flair for the eclectic. Like many of their past releases ‘Configuração do Lamento’ brings both these influences together in a beautiful collision.

Side A begins with a shot of noise and a nod to the early Godflesh sound, with a drum machine precise beat, deep heavy bass, echo soaked vocals and wailing guitar. There’s the kind of tribal drums Sepultura are famous for, plenty of frantically played guitar riffs and again the echoic vocals which at times tend to bury themselves in feedback. Another cool surprise was a grinding harsh noise wall mixed with a hail of cymbal hits for maximum noise.

Side B opens with punky guitar riffing, but just when you think you’re getting locked into the groove, the whole thing becomes a mad glitch. Next up, a short percussion set with traditional instruments and light touches of effects. Closing track ‘Distopia Permanente’ springs into life with a crust beat while the vocal echo has built into a cacophonous sound tomb that becomes a flange-filled roar, finally a weird robotic voice lets out a few words in the noise storm before being cut off.  

This is an interesting ending because the last ebbs of noise on Side B can be heard right at the beginning of Side A (Pink Floyd - The Wall style) making the record itself a never ending cycle.
A group certainly on the rise, Deaf Kids offer up an audio experience that has to be heard to be believed. 

Listen / Download here:

Pale Hands - The Human Cost of Building A Better Machine
After their 2015 debut EP ‘No Hope No Life’, the Santa Barbara Metallic Hardcore 4 piece followed up with a compilation Featuring 2 live songs in December of 2015 on the No Hope No Life tour, 3 brand new tracks and a cover of Police Bastard by D-beat titans Doom.

First track 'I Can't Escape' features warped guitars and a layer of noise by guitarist Daniel’s noisemaking alter ego ‘Hermit’ and NONE (INSEKTOID) which become more prominent when the band go into a Converge style breakdown, mixing with the guitar feedback like cereal and milk.

Next up is 'Burning Hate' which kicks things up a gear, the track also has the kind of middle section Neurosis would cook up, a swaying riff that once again becomes overwhelmed by feedback and glitchy noise. This is followed by a ripping cover of ‘Police Bastard’ before launching into the 2 tracks that were recorded on the No Hope No Life tour back in December 2015.

On the dissonant 'The Devil In You' Drummer Steven Hendricks keeps things simple but effective and Vocalist Jorden sounds utterly demonic, coming across here like Lars Göran Petrov after too many cigarettes. The more Old School Death Metal 'Take Control' is full of jagged riffing and from the bass break to the closing bars it's pure headbanger's delight, and is once again completely engulfed by noise.

But final track 'Palehands Megaritual' is the diamond in the rough here, beginning with an exhale of human noise then a loud rush of distortion and drums which becomes a beautiful New Age Ambient loop that could easily appear on Sounds of the Dawn. 

Despite the first half of this release being well produced I have to say that the live tracks win overall due to their rawer nature, capturing Pale Hands in their natural habitat. I do get the feeling that Pale Hands are still finding their sound (although dubbing them Neocrust at this stage wouldn't be incorrect) but they've got buckets of potential and are more than happy to experiment.

In conclusion, ‘The Human Cost….. only increases my hunger for more Pale Hands music and whether you’re a noise freak, a metalhead, or a crusty punk, Pale Hands are a worthy investment of your time and ones to watch out for in the future, so keep your Pale Fingers crossed for a full length soon! 

Click here to read an interview with PH guitarist / noise maker Daniel Cornejo

Listen / Download here:

Gendo Ikari - Unit 1
Sounding like the bastard sons of Pig Destroyer and The Dillinger Escape Plan with vocals that would make Glenn Benton hide behind the sofa, Gendo Ikari are an inhumane force of Mathy Death Grind from Glasgow, UK. The band have the approval of Arif from Wormrot which is incredible considering so far they’ve only released one EP.

With no samples and no bullshit the group get straight to the point with chameleonic riffage and destructive drumming.  One of the things I love about this release is that the guitars spend a considerable amount in the higher registers like on ‘Categorised’ and 'Epitome' which both feature Caluclating Infinity inspired fills.

With 'The Protocol' things get a little more moshy, then before you know it you're on the closing (and longest) track ‘Politics’ that has some of the best riffs on the EPAfter 9 minutes of having your head kicked in you feel like the cover photo. Let's hope that 2017 brings us an album from Gendo Ikari so that they take over the grind underworld.

Listen / Download here:
physicals available here

Ground - Squalor
Ground are a Grinding Powerviolence quartet from New Jersey. 
They've been serving up their unwashed sounds since 2013, and 'Squalor' could well be their 'Crush Kill Destroy'. The 4 piece include a good range of low Death Metal vocals and shouty backing vocals along with some pristine drumming and merciless riffing. As well as Hardcore, Powerviolence and Grind, there's some Beatdown which doesn't get tiresome.

First track 'Immanent Justice' establishes the record’s state of urgency and ‘Nothing Civilized’ describes a day of the dead type scenario.

'Cause Lost' smacks at those oblivious to racism and stands up for women's rights to access abortion and their vocalist even briefly goes into a Mike Muir style meltdown, ending with an unexpected R and B sample. '3029' is a cool little instrumental that loads up thrashy number 'Crisis Of Conscience' nicely, which is followed by 'Grind Hard: With a Vengeance' reminding me of a Grind version of Municipal Waste.

Longest track 'Spoil' starts off in the usual Ground fashion but goes into a meaty breakdown with a spacey section where feedbacking guitars scream away, bringing back the beatdown for one last time before the final note fades, leaving the band finish to things off with some Madball and Mortician covers. 'Squalor' is a strict lesson in vitriol to all the sloppy ten a penny bands out there, all hail the Groundcore!

Listen / Download here:

Trash - self titled
Like Nails, this band also hail from Southern California city Oxnard, so we can safely assume that there’s definitely something in the water in that area of the US causing a significant percentage of the population to form cool bands.

Opening suitably with the recording of a garbage truck pulling up on the street, then a quick drum beat intro before hurtling into the EP’s title track (and the band’s calling card) which in less than 2 minutes manages to sum up what is wrong with our world, a strong beginner for sure. 

Feedback is carried over into ‘Darkness’ where a murky guitar groove and thumping drums are bound to get fists in the air, towards the end it all goes into a half time beat, ending things on a dazed note.

Boner’s vocals on ‘Bird Eater’ remind me a little of Barney Gumble from the Simpsons which adds a level of hilarity to the record, next up ‘Riffs In My Sleep’ is a glimpse into the writing of Trash’s material before closing with a well done cover of ‘nothing’ by Negative Approach. 

Although their sound is dirty and proud, this group are anything but actual Trash to be thrown away and forgotten. The 12 minute EP is a punk-tastic listen but it’s still got plenty of doom laden sections and an air of ugliness to it.  Above all else, ‘Trash’ is some good dirty fun, so dive inside and get mucky!

Available physically on cassettes via GLH records and Grey Matter Productions 
The Tape’s B side features a bonus live set on Doom Corporation Radio Show

Listen / Download here:

Mommy - ‘Songs About Children’
It’s safe to say that NYC punk trio Mommy are still relatively new, they put out a demo back in March 2015, and an EP followed 7 months later. 

Captured in the rawest possible fashion and operating sole use of heavily distorted bass, punchy drums and screeching vocals, the band’s sound is a real gut punch and not unlimited by their minimalist approach.  If you hadn’t already guessed because of the name, the lyrics (those that I can work out anyway) seem to reflect the singer’s tortured childhood memories.

The group’s debut full length ‘Songs about Children’ released on Brooklyn based label Toxic State Records is a disturbing experience. From the creepy sample that kicks things off, it becomes apparent that Mommy aren’t a happy let-the-good-times-roll kind of band.

The primitive feel of the instruments helps to carry the hate-filled vocals which turn into ear stabbing feedback for the noise fans on ‘Learning In The Bathroom’. The distorted bass lines (particularly on ‘No More Father’ and ‘How to Act at Funerals’) remind me of Klaus Flouride’s four string work but on steroids, while the Drum kit gets such a pummelling that it sounds like it could fall apart at any second.

On ending track ‘A Jealous Boy/Mommy’ the band collide together over an entrancing repeated riff and possessed sounding vocals, later adding a layer of mangled noise that slows down to a final squawk of amplifier/microphone feedback that concludes with another poignant sample.

‘Songs About Children’ is the most solid evidence yet that Mommy have enough potential to go far beyond the point where so many other bands fall by the wayside.

Listen / Download here:

Code Blue - Punks In The Streets (A World We Never Made)
If you go to enough shows you’re bound to see them. Gathered outside the venue  smoking roll-ups, drinking cheap beer, covered in tattoos, piercings and band patches. Having the time of their lives and not giving two shits what you or the rest of this wretched world thinks of them.

Formed in 2009 and playing gigs in and around the London area, UK punx Code Blue released their self-titled EP in 2012. On hiatus since 2013, they reunited in October 2016 with debut album 'Punks In The Streets'.

It’s an action packed, no nonsense punk presentation brimming with great storytelling: ‘I Don’t Have a Car’ comically documents the woes of life in a touring band without an automobile and ‘My Bonnie’ isn’t too far from the kind of punk ballad that Social Distortion and The Undertones would pen. 

The spoken word on ‘Track Seven’ gives a break from the power chords and briefly lets us inside the mind of vocalist/drummer Jack Lewis who has a bright future in Hip-Hop while ‘Closed Circuit’ angrily lashes out at the privacy invasion of state surveillance.

‘Get In The Pit’ will transport you to a packed, sweaty venue and also features a pair of jamming solos from bassist Tom Alcoran and guitarist Nathan Fitzpatrick. ‘SW8’ is a feel-good punk call to arms and it’s catchy, bellowed chorus goes out to anyone who remembers what it’s like to be young. 
‘Punks In The Streets’ is riddled with an energy that commands you to down your pint, get down the front and pogo till you drop!

Listen / Download here:

Here's my personal favourites from A World We Never Made:

Split with Herida Profunda (Crusty Grind) and Hellbastard (Crust Punk/Crossover Thrash pioneers)

‘Fuck Off And Thrash’ by Noise Complaint (Hardcore Thrashing Punk)

‘7 Inches Of Disappointment’ by Greed Force (D-Beat Anarcho Punk)

‘Disanthropy’ by Disfortune (Blackened Grinding D-beat)

Thanks for reading!

Check out the 'Desert' list here

No comments:

Post a Comment