From trippy sludge and avant-garde death metal to laid-back “flower doom”, it’s been a good two weeks of music.
The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.
Working with a more wide-stretching palette than most of their contemporaries, The Body continue to move further and further away from the sludge with which they initially made a name for themselves on new album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer., the omnipresent waves of distortion sometimes the only strand connecting their varied music to the metallic heft of their early work.
This distortion adds a grating quality to even the most serene of moments, such as the smatterings of orchestral strings or the more operatic vocals of Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter on ‘Nothing Stirs’. Taking influence from noise – as they always have – these tracks are often formless, but whilst they morph often enough to hold interest, they all operate with the same goal – creating the most distressing atmosphere possible. It succeeds in this where others would fail simply due to the wealth of influences it seamlessly takes in.
Few bands have this many arrows in their quiver, and each comes tipped with a unique poison, from the pulsating beats and dissonant percussion to the trembling strings and Chip King’s monotonous vocals, which eerily linger on a pitch more reminiscent of a man in pain than one fronting a metal band. His vocals are more like another sample, and as such the band rely on their collaborators (Hayter, Chrissy Wolpert of Assembly Of Light Choir, Ben Eberle of Sandworm, Michael Berdan of Uniform) to put meaning into their lyrics, from the venomous yells of ‘An Urn’ to the uncomfortably tranquil croons of ‘Blessed, Alone’.
The duo have long been known for their monolithic, tar-drenched laments to depression, but as an album that paraphrases Virginia Woolf’s suicide note in its title, I Have Fought Against It… is as exceptionally gloomy as one could expect. In its most distilled form, it’s a harsh combination of noise and electronic music, but there’s much more than that going on here.
I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer. is out now on Thrill Jockey. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
VOR – Depravador
The spirit of sludge rings heavy on the second full-length release from Spanish noisemongers VOR, but whilst their fuzzy brand of slow-paced metal clearly takes inspiration from the discographies of the Melvins, Today Is The Day and even Eyehategod, it also follows these bands’ attitude to creating ground-breaking music, and treads new territory that feels entirely their own.
Depravador is a trippy affair, but not so much a partying, fun-loving trip as one that leaves you curled up in the corner in a pile of your own sick. Deceptively maniacal, it revels in weaving disjointed rhythms into the genre’s usual fondness for groove-ridden riffs, offering a sound that will get your head nodding but also take a toll on your psyche. There’s a rawness to the more adrenaline-fueled moments that conjures punk vibes, but the infernal racket of the music brings it into a much darker realm, which comes to the fore during unsettling samples (see: ‘Why’).
The sound of the 90s underground is unmistakably rife across this album, but VOR elevate this release beyond simple homage, carving out a unique sound capable of offering danceable grooves and distressing atmospheres without needing to resort to anything other than drums, bass and vocals.
Depravador is out May 19th on Third I Rex/Odio Sonoro Records/Nooirax Records/Noizeland Records/T-Shirts FUZZ/Base Record Production/Sacramento Records. Purchase here. For a chance to win a bundle of free stuff from ourselves and Third I Rex, check out our Facebook page.
Words: George Parr
Sect Pig – Crooked Backs
Sect Pig are an anonymous act from origins unknown. Crooked Backs is their third release, consisting of one single seventeen-minute piece of music, though the piece seems to be divided into seven “songs”, broken up with spoken-word samples commenting on castration and sterilisation. Each “song” hits you with a barrage of blastbeats, thin tremolo guitars and lots of screaming, often sounding like there are at least two vocalists trading off a mixture of death metal grunts and black metal inspired rasps. Weird layers of piercing noise seem to creep in and out of the mix across each section.
What we have here is potential for an interesting concept, buried under a mountain of flaws. The performances and writing are barely fleshed out, sounding structureless and meandering. The vocal performances are completely obnoxious, sounding forced and lacking conviction. The addition of noise and sampling doesn’t amount to anything interesting or atmospheric. The biggest problem here is that the mix sounds so rushed and lacks any detail, as if every performance was captured in the first take. Ultimately, Crooked Backs sounds more like a jam in a rehearsal room recorded on an iPhone than something that actually took effort to construct and record.
Crooked Backs is out now on Nuclear War Now! Productions. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Turtle Skull – Turtle Skull
Conjuring the spirit of the 70s without feeling the need to resort to simple repetition of decades-old styles, the self-titled debut release from Sydney’s Turtle Skull deals in what the band call “flower doom”, a psychedelic strain of rock that manages to cram a fair few varied influences in despite the limited scope of a four-track record.
Metal and rock fans looking for something breezy enough to listen to on a summer’s day may have found exactly what they need right here. Turtle Skull may often dish out chilled-out, dreamy jams, but their lethargic, fuzz-laden tracks come close enough to earning the “doom” tag that you won’t feel your metal cred fading as you listen. Truth be told, though, Turtle Skull’s main selling point is its uniquely relaxing and transcendent nature. In fact, the doom side of affairs somehow caters to the tranquillity on display, with the fuzz taking on an ethereal tone to bolster the psych-pop vocals whilst the bluesy rhythms are strung out across warbling guitars that sink into your body and soothe your soul.
Turtle Skull is out now on Art As Catharsis. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Body Void – I Live Inside A Burning House
Bay Area sludge/doom trio Body Void’s take on the genre is not borne out of the usual bong hits and fuzz, but of a fight for physical and mental survival, for the right to break free from prisons both within and without. Trading in crushing sludge metal that is just as likely to break into black metal or crust punk as it is cavernous doom, Body Void’s monolithic songs seem to go by in a fraction of their usual 15-20 minute runtimes, with carefully judged shifts in pace and dynamics adding a captivating edge that makes time almost irrelevant.
Album opener ‘Haunted’ centres itself around the kind of agonised riff-as-ordeal that Grief used to specialise in, but then breaks into a black metal/d-beat denouement that comes across as refreshing as it does violent. Lyrically, I Live Inside a Burning House addresses the living hell of mental illness and the struggle to live as a non-binary person in a world that does everything it can to deny and stamp out those identities. However, the weight of pain that Body Void express is matched by the sheer size and strength of their music. ‘Trauma Creature’ weaponises the sound of Dopethrone-era Electric Wizard, acting as a deflecting mirror for hatred, magnifying and sending it back tenfold.
Addressing either a distant future or a near present where the barriers of oppression have suddenly been broken drown, frontman Will Ryan screams “My voice will follow you / my voice will haunt you / my voice will bury you.” That, if nothing else serves as mission statement for I Live Inside A Burning House. It’s a monument to pain, but also a manual for survival.
I Live Inside A Burning House is out now on Crown And Throne Ltd/Dry Cough Records/Seeing Red Records. Purchase here.
Words: Andrew Day
Oksennus – Kolme Toista
Anyone who has heard Oksennus before will know what to expect from these Finnish oddballs. Whilst they’re unarguably a death metal band with all the conventional tropes, there sound wields an unmistakable proclivity for experimentation that’s initially hard to grasp, but soon convinces you of its merit. Their new album, Kolme Toista, is a single composition divided into three “movements”, each of which lasts precisely thirteen minutes.
Cavernous and often strangely hypnotic despite what is seemingly a purposefully muddy production, Kolme Toista bridges the gap between meat-and-potatoes death metal and the more avant-garde end of the extreme metal spectrum, as happy delving into a simple, brutal riff as it is krautrock-esque sections of psychedelia. Unlike some from the avant-garde side of things, though, here such experimentation serves not as an atmospheric buffer, propelling the riffs into a post-metal-esque reach for the cosmos, but as another layer of intensity, dragging the sound further into the murky depths to create a distressing atmosphere.
Eccentric and esoteric, Oksennus’ strain of experimental death metal proves that it’s possible to pay homage to the genre’s original sound whilst still recognising the need to do something new with it.
Kolme Toista is out now on Nuclear War Now! Productions. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Panegyrist – Hierurgy
The debut album from US black metal act Panegyrist takes in many power and symphonic metal elements, particularly in the clean, operatic vocal delivery from frontman Elijah Tamu. In a strange counterbalance, the guitars play with so much dissonance, creating a positively eerie atmosphere. Album highlight ‘To Quicken Stone’ has a dizzying array of escalating atonal notes, evoking a carnivalesque nightmare. Occasionally the more majestic and symphonic parts of Emperor and Anaal Nathrakh come to mind. Compositionally, the album is full of twists and turns with progressive tendencies.
Sadly, the vocals, whilst certainly capable in a technical sense, do add a lot of cheesiness to the experience, which sometimes offsets the strange and haunting atmosphere. The album is sonically much more exciting instrumentally, and perhaps a harsher, more demented approach to the vocals would have made more sense aesthetically. ‘Ophidian Crucifix’ in particular leans a bit too far into the power metal realm, undoing the balance somewhat. Still, we are left with a very interesting and atmospheric album that ultimately marries black metal and power metal in a notable and intriguing way. Just be warned, you will need a high tolerance of cheese in order to appreciate this album!
Hierurgy is out now on I, Voidhanger Records. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Barst – The Endeavour
Whilst the more narrow-minded metal fan is out there lamenting over not being able to see who the next Metallica could be, the rest of us have been feverishly invested in the ever-growing movement of artists pushing the genre to its limits, or, in the case of Barst, ignoring the concept of genre completely. In truth, you’d be pushing it to claim that The Endeavour is a metal album, but the unmistakable influence of extreme metal is there in the album’s more imposing moments, and will certainly appeal to those who like their guitars loud and their music challenging.
Mind you, it’ll be a while before you get there. At over 42 minutes, it’s roughly eight minutes before the guitars truly make themselves known, helping to build momentum in an opening act that builds suspense only to fade out into ethereal vocals and spacey ambience. This is undoubtedly one of The Endeavour’s strengths – it can’t be second-guessed, making each moment even more thrilling than the last.
Presented as one singular composition split into seven movements, The Endeavour ebbs and flows between its various stages with skill, showing no seams and keeping you guessing as it traverses ambient, electronic, industrial, shoegaze and metal textures.
The Endeavour is out now on Consouling Sounds. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Knelt Rote – Alterity
As metal bands continue to cosy-up to the boundaries of extremity, vehemently striving to conjure something more intense than what’s come before, they begin to flirt with the notion of comprehension. Constantly hanging to that notion by a thread, Knelt Rote’s volatile strain of blackened grind is a thrilling gut-punch that’s never far away from descending into pure radio static, often held together by nothing but pin-point percussion.
Don’t pass this off as mere unbridled heaviness, though, as there’s a nuance to these tracks that becomes all the more apparent upon repeated listens, and each track proves a rich tapestry of infernal heaviness. Perhaps most impressive is the hypnotic quality Alterity boasts, which proves far more captivating than anyone could expect from music so dispassionately hell-bent on tearing through your eardrums and rubbing 40-grit sandpaper against your brain.
Though it was originally released on CD back in February, the LP release is supposedly incoming this month, so keep an eye on Nuclear War Now! Productions for a chance to get this fantastic slab of metallic intensity on vinyl.
Alterity is out now on Nuclear War Now! Productions. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr