Expansive doom, experimental cellists, cathartic synths, grinding crust, thrashing black metal and more.
Cult Leader – A Patient Man
It’s always exciting when a band can boast multiple strings to their bow, so a new record from Salt Lake City’s Cult Leader is a thrilling proposition. Whilst many bands out there have laid claim to specific subgenres and styles, Cult Leader have stuck their flag in hardcore and from there reached out to stick a foot in a variety of hellish plains, and are as such capable of both clattering blastbeats as well as mournful laments.
As open as the band clearly are to experimentation and variation – whether that means slowing things to a crawl or hitting the sound barrier at full throttle – A Patient Man is, at all times, dominated by bleak atmospheres of either anguish or anger. The latter end of this spectrum comes alongside breakneck speeds and unparalleled intensity, with opener ‘I Am Healed’ setting a bold precedent as it launches straight into frenzied, grinding crust that refuses to settle down. When the band finally do lower the tempos in time for frontman Anthony Lucero to swap out his acidic growls for sorrowful croons, it’s hardly the soothing fulfilment your soul will be imploring you to seek out. Rather, it’s a vulnerable, Nick Cave-esque delve into realms of helplessness.
After ‘A World Of Joy’ finally lurches back into the abyss in its final twenty seconds, a sadistic grin will light up any metal fan’s face, but it’s the epic scope of closer ‘The Broken Right Hand Of God’ that truly steals the show and seals Cult Leader’s fate as future scene frontrunners. Just bear in mind, you might need a touch of Enya to rebalance the scales once that final chord rings out.
A Patient Man is out now on Deathwish Inc. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Randall Dunn – Beloved
Having collaborated with everyone from Sunn O))) to Anna Von Hauswolff, and with production credits on a number of iconic avant-garde releases and film scores, Randall Dunn’s brilliance in the field of production is in no doubt. On Beloved, his cathartic debut solo release, Dunn masterfully weaves a melancholic collage of synaesthetic sound.
From the opening stabs of ‘Amphidronic Point’, Dunn’s extensive work in the atmospheric field pays off. Beloved’s basis is in Blade Runner-esque soundscaping, haunted by the melancholic warbles and piano stabs, floating in and out of prescience. It’s difficult to put Beloved in a box, and that’s one of the great things about it. Dunn’s grasp of atmospheric sound design, combined with a keen ear for melody, leaves the listener entranced as the album’s synth-laden textures, and Tom Waits-on-Xanax vocal tones leave the listener entranced.
Beloved is at once soulful and methodical, the record’s walls of synth portraying Dunn’s signature melding of the artifice and the soul into a cybernetic dreamscape of catharsis.
Beloved is out now on Figureight. Purchase here.
Words: Rich Lowe
OHHMS – Exist
Straddling doom, stoner rock, prog and post-metal, there are a lot of ideas flying around on OHHMS’ second album Exist. Varying in pace and intensity with many a sudden
move between, some of these ideas are executed with the dexterity of the best prog; they shift through time signatures with the craft of Tool or Mastodon, each of the band gets their moment to shine (bonus points for the lead bass), and the harmonised vocals on ‘Subjects’ are fantastic.
Though it occasionally feels like OHHMS are simply moving through every idea they’ve had, it’s also clear that a lot of thought has gone into this album. OHHMS certainly aren’t clocking it in; opening track ‘Subjects’ is almost 23-minutes long and the lyrical focus is on animal rights. Nor are they afflicted by Generic Doom Band Syndrome – they have their own sound, and Paul Waller’s gritty singing (the weak point of a lot of doom) is a real strength in its power and accessibility. For some, Exist‘s disjointed nature won’t add up, but when it works, it can be a varied and exciting listen.
Exist is out now on Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: Gregory Brooks
Ulthar – Cosmovore
Any record that has members of Void Omnia, Extremity and Pandiscordian
Necrogenesis was never going to be a relaxing sing-along for the office party (unless you
work at Astral Noize), and indeed, the debut LP from Ulthar is as confounding, oblique and musically invasive as one could possibly wish. Some real thought has gone into this
experience, and far from being a rehash of their former charges, Cosmovore drapes itself in thrash, outright contrariness, ragged blasting and moss-clogged black metal.
Less celestial than Void Omnia and more cerebral than the corpse-bulldozer of Extremity,
tracks like ‘Infinite Cold Distance’ and ‘Solitarian’ have a rabid, desperate sound that would be daft if they weren’t so committed. There’s so much flesh-rending battery on this record that when the slower sections manifest they’re almost in the way, until the stomping evil of ‘Asymmetric Warfare’ puts that right. Thirteen-and-a-half-minute closer ‘Dunwich Whore’ pulls from all sorts of places, with splinters of Today Is The Day, blackened thrash, straight-up death and blorping synth demolishing any notion of ‘old-school’, and putting this paint-peeling excursion directly onto your shopping list. A banger, as we say in the trade, Cosmovore is a right old ride, more a sound movie than a record. Boss.
Cosmovore is out now on 20 Buck Spin. Purchase here.
Words: John Tron Davidson
Jo Quail – Exsolve
Jo Quail: Cellist extraordinaire! This experimental cellist is quickly making a name for herself with her impressive list of collaborators, having performed and recorded with Mono, Myrkur, Winterfylleth, A-Sun Amissa and more! Of course, she has also wowed audiences touring as a solo musician. Jo Quail’s latest solo album also takes on a collaborative spirit, building up a close working relationship with recorder and producer Chris Fielding (Conan) at Skyhammer Studios, as well as guest guitarists from Winterfylleth and Devilment.
Exsolve is a difficult record to define and put into words. It has been created using layers and loops of cello as showcased in Quail’s jaw-dropping live performances. Each of the three compositions comfortably surpass the ten-minute mark, using space – in all senses of the word – to their advantage. These escalating drones build ominously into wondrous soundscapes reminiscent of classic ’70s Tangerine Dream. The spacey, textured guitars that crop up only emphasise this. Nothing about this record is linear, and it can be hard to immediately define each sound, but that is where the fascination of this record lays. Exsolve is a trip into the unknown, through the stargate, and beyond the cosmic ether. Experimental music fans rejoice!
Exsolve is out now. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Ancst – Abolitionist
Thou don’t have a monopoly on a blistering release schedule, with Berlin-based outfit Ancst maintaining a similar rate out of output. Abolitionist is their fifth release in 2018, and carries on a run of form of furious, politically-charged blackened crust. Whilst most blackened crust suffers from poor production and a musical conservatism, Abolitionist never runs the risk of these issues. Recent albums Celestial and Ghosts Of The Timeless Void both had a heavy modern hardcore aspect to their sound, and the same is true here. Sure, the base components are equal parts Tragedy and Darkthrone, but songs like ‘Self-Cleansing’ and ‘Fallen Archtype’ also have a viciousness and energy that makes the EP feel fresh and exciting.
A Thou comparison is also relevant, though; the bands may not sound anything alike, but both acts have, with their recent releases, carved out a particular niche within their genres, establishing a firm sound and identity that may not deviate wildly from the core of their genres, but still possesses unique spirit and character. Ancst’s spirit is absolutely furious, a barely controlled wildfire of righteous fury, and it’s rarely sounded as thrilling as it does on Abolitionist.
Abolitionist is out now on Lifeforce Records/ Yenohala Tapes. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain
Esben And The Witch – Nowhere
A wise person once said that one should play in a band with one’s friends, otherwise it’s just a job. Esben And The Witch are on the cusp of pushing out their sixth release, and it’s a good thing that they’re pally with each other, because it is not exciting. Opening with the dry-dream of ‘A Desire For Light’, Nowhere is as apt a description for this
record as one could give. The production doesn’t gel properly somehow, with the bass
neither forward enough to be the focus nor far enough back to bolster the sound. This is a shame for many reasons, but principally because it robs these drifting, storm-cloud
compositions of an anchor.
There’s nods to the likes of SubRosa on ‘Golden Purifier’, but Rachel Davies’s falling-Davey Havok pining doesn’t have the grandeur of its contemporaries. A rummage through the band’s back catalogue finds these melodies and keys cropping up over and over again, driving a boring nail into an already lifeless record. It just is, which is not a compliment, and while closer ‘Darkness (I Too Am Here)’ pumps out a baw-hair of hope, it’s not enough. Toothless pony.
Nowhere is out now on Season Of Mist. Purchase here.
Vouna – Vouna
Vouna are the first act to be signed to Wolves In The Throne Room‘s own label Artemisia, here unleashing their debut full-length. This release was recorded entirely by Yianna Bekris, performing vocals, synths and an array of folky instruments, at WITTR’s shared home of Olympia, Washington. It would be safe to assume that WITTR fans will love this, but it would be wrong to assume that Vouna sound exactly like the band that signed them. Granted they share a similar atmosphere, with some blackened elements, but Vouna are a unique beast of their own.
Vouna play with a lot of elements at their disposal, with strong influences of doom, folk and, most remarkably, a throwback to that dungeon synth sound of the ’90s. The doomy synths are equally as expressive as Bekris’ ethereal and otherworldly vocals. This fantastic debut record creates such a chilling and mournful atmosphere, with the synth sounds and funeral paced drums laying somewhere between early My Dying Bride and Burzum‘s Filosofem. This self-titled album is a concise 30 minutes, but feels suitably longer and very much a complete journey, with so many fascinating vintage sounds and details. The perfect soundtrack for drifting away into eternal slumber.
Vouna is out now on Artemisia. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French