Reviews Round-Up 005: A Plethora of Forward-Thinking Extreme Metal

YOB – Our Raw Heart

Whilst looking back over the Oregon trio’s two-decade and counting career (and the embarrassment of riches herein), it is clear that YOB have evolved into that rarest of beasts; a band that boasts as much ingenuity and charisma as they do monumental, skull-flattening heaviness. Indeed, although many remain on their knees and over-awed by the tempestuous sonic sorcery of 2014’s Clearing A Path To AscendOur Raw Heart thrums with the sort of power and conjures the kind of enormity that sees even the greatest of their past moments feebly wither and shrink away.

Erupting into life with the ten-minute ‘Ablaze’, its measured thud greets us with that trademark YOB strain of mesmerising gargantua, albeit imbued with Mike Scheidt’s impressively soulful roar ratcheting up the emotional depth tenfold. Given the frontman’s recent brush with tragedy at the hands of a serious intestinal illness, it is little wonder that the record harnesses a somewhat darker turn than previous outings, spotlighted nowhere better than on the wondrous ‘The Screen’, its staccato riff-work and doom-laden gait akin to a grinding tectonic shift before colliding with an exquisite chorus of life-affirming proportions and bowing out with a pitch black extreme money shot, à la latter-day Celtic Frost.

Elsewhere, the stately crawl of ‘In Reverie’ calls to mind the churning limbs of some Cthulhu-like colossus stirring into life, all slow-motion crescendos and wailing despair, whereas the closing title track uncoils with wave after wave of rich melancholia and cosmic thunder, the band altogether abandoned to the extraordinary heights of their vortex-like vision. Between its gruelling muscularity, glacial pace and emotional potency, Our Raw Heart delivers a statement of such monolithic magnitude that it is difficult to dispute that YOB have turned in the first genuine masterpiece of 2018.

Our Raw Heart is out now on Relapse Records. Purchase here.

Words: Tony Bliss

Astral Noize

Lesser Glow – Ruined

Signed to Pelagic Records with luminaries like Cult Of Luna, Emil Amos and Coilguns, Lesser Glow are in proper company. To put a flag down in the post- world these days requires serious gumption and quality, and their full-length debut Ruined shows this quintet packing real heat from the outset.

Opening with the title-track’s defiant, stall-setting dirge, Ruined has a raw-throated crawl that can’t help but call Swans, Primitive Man and Thou to mind. This racket is Lesser Glow’s own, though – clear though the touchstones might be, their ear for a careful melody amongst such otherwise heaving bludgeoning is a welcome break from the tendencies of the sludgy set to eschew such delicacies. On ‘Vacant Throne’ and ‘Tel Meggido’, we see a band totally unafraid to temper their bilious majesty with cleaner work and genuine space.

With this being a debut and the band having existed for a scant two years, it’s fantastic to hear their wings being spread this wide. There’s a knowing core to Lesser Glow, an acknowledgement that sheer force isn’t enough, and their ability to inject firm clean vocals into an otherwise crippling assembly is a skill not to be discounted. Exciting.

Ruined is out now on Pelagic Records. Purchase here.

Words: John Tron Davidson

Astral Noize

Uniform/The Body – Mental Wounds Not Healing

For a band as prolific as The Body you might expect an inconsistent discography or a diluted sound, however over their seven albums and eight collaborations they’ve managed to reinvent themselves every time. Mental Wounds Not Healing may not sound as grand as this year’s I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer or gnaw at and then regurgitate their sound as their collaborations with Full Of Hell did, but there’s a playfulness that becomes evident on ‘The Curse Of Eternal Life’ from the smudged palettes of The Body and Uniform.

On the surface, both bands might not appear so similar, but it’s when they’re forced together that it dawns on the listener that they both inhabit the same spectrum of misanthropy and self-loathing, just with different approaches. Uniform appear here in the percussion, still with drum machine, which sound like the rattle of a military marching band and the occasional flourish of light in the melodies. Meanwhile, The Body occupy the atmosphere of the album, toxic and smothering like the smoke of a fire in the arid summer air.

Although this collaboration won’t offer fans of either band much different from what they’ve already heard, this album is a fun (in a masochistic sense) experiment into punishing timbres and battery percussion that reminds us that it’s the light from the flames which pierce the smoke.

Mental Wounds Not Healing is out now on Sacred Bones. Purchase here.

Words: Joe-Julian Naitsri

Astral Noize

Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back

So here’s the thing: going into this review, the abiding, overarching hope is that the news will be good. Orange Goblin are, after all, an institution of which the UK scene is rather proud, so it’s no surprise that Astral Noize is keen for The Wolf Bites Back to be a winner.

23 years into their career, Goblin don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Their back catalogue is abundant with solid stoner, doom and desert grooves, and like Fu Manchu, the fans will have a rough idea what they’re in for. Commencing with the totally reasonable ‘Sons Of Salem’, the subsequent tracks run a decent gamut from backed-off Judas Priest-isms (‘The Wolf Bites Back’) to what is essentially The Dukes Of Nothing (‘Suicide Division’).

There’s an oddly settled feel to The Wolf…, the feeling that, after so long paying their dues, Orange Goblin are happy to be who they are and what they’re doing. This is not to be confused with complacency; there’s no phoned-in performances on here, and everything is as it should be.

If there’s one criticism, it’s that some of the lyrics are mince – ‘Renegade’ is pretty painful – but if you’ve been into these tireless troopers since Frequencies From Planet 10, The Wolf Bites Back won’t change that. Acceptable.

The Wolf Bites Back is out now on Candlelight/Spinefarm Records. Purchase here.

Words: John Tron Davidson

Astral Noize

Here Lies Man – You Will Know Nothing

The LA-based Here Lies Man combine lo-fi riffs and intricate rhythms to hypnotic effect on their sophomore release.

Comprising of members from Afrobeat band Antibalas, Here Lies Man have created a sound that relies as much on their rhythm section as it does their fuzz-drenched riffs. Opener ‘Animal Noises’ kicks the album off with a dirty guitar and bass riff that’s complemented by psychedelic keyboards and pulsating drums, setting the pace and tone of what’s to come.

‘Voices At The Window’ slows the pace somewhat and offers a more reflective, but no less powerful, interlude at the album’s midpoint with multi-instrumentalist Marcos Garcia’s guitar-work taking centre stage. Echoes of Cream and Black Sabbath can be heard throughout, especially on the catchy, fuzzed-out groove of ‘Blindness’ and hypnotic lead single ‘Taking The Blame’. And yet despite these nods to late 60s and early 70s psychedelia, Here Lies Man avoid pastiche and have created a sound truly their own. Indeed, it is a testament to their songwriting skills that an album in which vocals take a back seat holds the ability to create such an immediate and memorable listen.

You Will Know Nothing is out now on RidingEasy Records. Purchase here.

Words: Adam Pegg

Astral Noize

Isenordal – Spectral Embrace

Has anyone making top-quality extreme metal ever been truly happy? No. Happiness, as we all know, is for posers. In this context, Isenordal are definitely not posers – as their debut full-length Spectral Embrace proves. Combining folk, black metal, funeral doom and classical symphonic influence, the release conjures dark recollections of funeral doom’s expansive early history in the crawling melancholy that brings to mind originators such as Katatonia or My Dying Bride.

Isenordal’s depressive atmospheres are distinctive. Whilst the folk influence calls to mind the very best in folk metal’s blackened 90s roots, the release never strays into the problematic territories so many folk revivalists seem to – rather perpetrating a video game-esque form of sound design rooted in ethereal melancholy.

If you’re struggling with a depressive episode or to conjure up the energy just to take care of your basic needs like eating, doing your washing and getting up in the fucking morning, Spectral Embrace is the one for you. The release isn’t overbearingly emotional and might not be the answer to your low mood, but through its gently symphonic atmospheres and mournful vocal harmonies, the release may be a salve upon any and all depressive wounds.

Spectral Embrace is out now on Eternal Warfare Records. Purchase here.

Words: Rich Lowe

Astral Noize

Closet Witch – Closet Witch

Every now and again a band comes along that are thoroughly disinterested in staying still. Through a characteristic of grind and especially mathcore, Closet Witch really are giving it the full plums on this, their self-titled full-length.

A quartet that look like wandering into one of their shows might well be your final moments, this Iowan offensive are exactly that. The very instant ‘Blood Orange’ begins, this is pitiless close-quarter combat; all knives and fists, none of this sniping malarkey. Like their contemporaries Cloud Rat, there’s a healthy serving of Discordance Axis in here, but where Closet Witch differ is their deliberate – if occasional – concession to groove. Clearly adept at blasting and with a wicked bass sound, the whole record positively rattles from beginning to end, with flashes of The Locust, The Chariot, and Hedge Fund Trader being liberally sprinkled around.

Make no mistake though, this is Closet Witch’s show. It would be worth getting this release for the trio of ‘Rule By Bacon’/’Spell Of Giddiness’/’Wind Whispers’ alone, but truth be told, if you have even the most cursory, passing interest in extremity, this self-titled record is genuinely thrilling. Properly excellent.

Closet Witch is out now on Halo of Flies. Purchase here.

Words: John Tron Davidson

Astral Noize

Abstracter – Cinerous Incarnate

Oakland’s Abstracter return with Cinereous Incarnate, a gruelling, monolithic album of blackened sludge and doom.

Hailing from the Golden State, Abstracter have offered up something truly dark and immersive for their third full-length album. Opener ‘Nether’ begins with atmospheric feedback before black metal drums are married with gigantic crashing chords, providing a truly epic backdrop for Mattia Alagna’s commanding growl. The majority of the tracks here are over nine-minutes long, and whilst the despairing mood is prevalent throughout, the many changes of pace coupled with the quieter instrumental interludes prevent the album from getting repetitive in tone.

In fact, it is only on repeated listens that the true scale and intricacies of the album reveal themselves. The production certainly helps too, with the band sounding absolutely gargantuan throughout. Album highlight ‘Wings of Annihilation’ is a perfect example of this, alternating between chromatic doom riffing and pounding black metal ferocity to produce a towering, claustrophobic listen.

With Cinereous Incarnate, Abstracter have taken their sound to new, harsher places to produced one of the bleakest and most arresting albums of the year so far.

Cinereous Incarnate is out now on Sentient Ruin, Vendetta Records, I, Voidhanger Records, Tartarus Records and Daymare Recordings. Purchase here.

Words: Adam Pegg

Astral Noize

ASG – Survive Sunrise

Opening the press release to see Baroness listed as one of the “recommended if you like…”, along with cover art that looks suspiciously Baizley-esque (it is, in fact, a Malleus creation) admittedly left us feeling initially cold about Carolina veterans ASG’s latest Relapse Records release. The feeling that you probably already know what this sounds like before you’ve even pressed play is reasonably short-lived, though, and the further into the album you get the more you’ll start enjoying it. It’s unashamedly riff-rock in places, but that makes the heavier – even bordering on spazzy – sections stand-out, preventing it from feeling like the band has played it safe. It’s these moments away from the catchy choruses and 4/4 stoner that leave the biggest impression, and it’s a shame ASG didn’t unshackle themselves further from a tried and tested template.

Survive Sunrise has a natural flow, often shifting tempos and mixing up the vocal style from shoegaze to punk with album highlight ‘Lamb Song’ being the best example. The album is definitely fun to listen to and will undoubtedly grow on you, and with a bit of patience it’ll have you pressing repeat.

Survive Sunrise is out now on Relapse Records. Purchase here.

Words: David Brand

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Kosmogyr – Evternity

Yet another act showing that sharing the same geographical location, though obviously handy, isn’t as essential as one would assume when creating music, transcontinental duo Kosmogyr have reached across six time zones to craft the remarkably accomplished brand of atmospherically heavy black metal that comprises their debut album.

Don’t be fooled by the term atmospheric, though, there’s a vigorous urgency to the proceedings that makes this marketable to even the most narrow-minded of black metal aficionados. But, through forceful leads, razor-sharp riffs and a cascading onslaught of crashing percussion bleeds an aura of the grandiose. Despite a sound as stifling heavy as one would expect from extreme metal, members Xander Cheng, a Shanghai, China native, and Ivan Belcic, who collaborates with Cheng from Prague, Czech Republic, throw away the notion that the genre needs to be ruthless and misanthropic 24/7 with a strangely pretty strain of black metal.

Perhaps most impressive is the fluidness of the album. Instead of dressing up predictable black metal in the odd tranquil interlude or sparse bouts of melody and marketing it as atmospheric, Kosmogyr embrace the genre’s more poignant capabilities throughout, weaving lush melodies into the chaos but also keeping them subtle enough so as to not stray into blackgaze territories.

Evternity is out now. Purchase here.

Words: George Parr


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