PICK OF THE WEEK: Shining’s dark, polarizing black metal grows even bigger with ‘IX: Everyone…’

Ester SegarraThere are those forces in metal that grate, divide us, force us to call each other no-nothing assholes on social media. And then there are uniters, the ones who have universal acclaim and appeal and seem to be on the list of everyone’s favorite artists. Today, we will discuss something that’s definitely the former.

Many opinions exists on Niklas Kvarforth, the man who has long helmed the Swedish black metal band Shining and who people other vehemently hate or wholeheartedly embrace. There seems to be no in-between, and a provoker like Kvarforth probably would not have it any other way. His project explores many dark territories of human personalities and psyches, and the word “suicidal” often has been labeled to his dark art. As for me, I’ve always been an ardent fan of Shining, even through the band’s many twisted and artistic turns, and each new record I’ve anticipated greatly to see just where he would go next and what new wounds he’d open. His latest “IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is another scathing, challenging document that’s bound to be polarizing.

Shining coverWhile Kvarforth is the driving force behind Shining (no one can deny his oceans of charisma and total recognizable vocal delivery) and has been ever since the band’s arrival nearly two decades ago, he’s not alone in this mission. Along with him on this ninth helping are guitarists Peter Huss and Euge Valovirta; bassist Christian Latrsson; and drummer Rainer Tuomikanto, and on “IX,” they turn in a record that shows the Shining borders still are expanding, even if raw, striking black metal remains the capitol city. Kvarforth keeps pushing his voice and hasn’t been merely a growler for a long time. The band’s sounds range from black metal to death to prog to folk in spots, and this six-track, nearly 40-minute mauler is one that’ll damage your senses and also leave you with a dank feeling when it’s over.

Opener “Den Påtvingade Tvåsamheten” is an interesting instrumental piece that starts with eerie noises and scraping static, before a doom-infested riff kicks and a prog-fueled path begins to get carved. Some calm sets in before the drama ramps up again, and then we’re right into “Vilja & Dröm” that rips right out of a corner. Kvarforth grunts and howls his way through this cut, with dark melodies washing over and enhancing his characteristically rolled R’s. The pace gets gritty and dirty as it goes on, with wild shrieks erupting, rustic acoustic passages adding texture to the horror, and guitars piercing and drawing blood. “Framtidsutsikter” changes the pace a bit and also sets the stage for the second half of the record. Acoustic riffs roll out, with Kvarforth crooning thornily instead of growling, and the overall mood can be described, quite simply, as stormy. The guitars hit a reflective high, letting you think the band is giving you a moment to stretch your mind, but the ugliness returns before all is said and done. The music gets cataclysmic, and the fierce vocals match the musical intensity.

“Människotankens Vägglösa Rum” has a crunchy, thrashy start, with the vocals throaty as hell and the tempo taking a straight-forward black metal direction. Kvarforth goes off the rails at one point, delivering hammering shrieks and droned warbling, often within the same minute, and all of that chaos settles down and lets folk waters take over. The band then lights back up, taking on a vibe that reminds of middle-era Opeth, with the final minute blistering before it fades. “Inga Broar Kvar Att Bränna” opens clean and dreary, like a foggy morning rain shower, and even when some of the edges get rough, the spine of this thing stays contemplative and dreamy for the most part. The band even sets up a portion that’s dashed with some European-style folk, with the singing sounding strange and on edge, almost like Kvarforth is having a meltdown. Closer “Besök Från I(ho)nom” has a trickling first few minutes, continuing the mesmerizing sections of the record that preceded it, but it’s not long until crushing growling, furious playing, and oddly jazzy bass playing take over. From this point until the end, things go up and down hills, blazing with a fury one moment, heading into pockets of warmth the next, and finally fading out into the night.

Shining always has been a favorite in these parts, and “IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is bound to be another that topples some people’s worlds while irritating others. Kvarforth always has been a unique, uncompromising musician who isn’t afraid to push buttons and cause distaste in people’s mouths. It’s that and his blunt style that endear him to as many (if not more) as those who reject him, and as long as Shining remain this sharp and daring, their music always is going to be worth experiencing for all its dark glory.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/shiningofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here: http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Aelter lets Green travel into dusty, Western-style noir on fourth album ‘IV: Love Eternal’

AelterI am always pleasantly surprised when I meet and talk to metal listeners who I’ve either know for a long time or who I met through the site and get a scope for just how wide-ranging people’s musical tastes are. It never fails that if I post something on Facebook or Instagram about music entirely not metal, more often than not, those I met specifically because of metal instantly chime in with praise for whatever artist it happens to be. We’re hardly closed-minded.

Because of that, it’s never surprising when noted metal artists break out of their customary zone, or at least the realm for which they’re best known, and create entirely different sounds. We’ve heard that from the members of Neurosis, YOB’s Mike Scheidt, and Windhand’s Dorthea Cottrell, and we’ve certainly experienced that with Wolvserpent’s Blake Green. Now, Green is known to offshoot from that project into other decidedly metal (or mostly) realms with his other ventures, one we talked about last week in Il’ithil, but what he’s created over the long haul under the Aelter banner is something entirely different.

Aelter coverOver the course of four full-length records now, Green has done quite a bit of exploring with Aelter. While not metallic at its core, it certainly can pull in your more adventurous listener who doesn’t mind taking cinematic whirlwinds through space and time. This project has allowed Green to go into folk, slowcore, Western noir, and psychedelic noise, with each record providing something varied. His latest “IV: Love Eternal” finds him traveling dusty roadways, trancing out heavily, and creating a world in which reaching out and exploring the dark corners of every room becomes recommended activity. It’s an album that grows more infectious with each listen and again proves just how versatile an artist Green really is. Not that the fact ever was in doubt.

An “Intro” cut washes into the picture and instantly gives the proceedings an otherworldly sensation, with a dusty Western breeze kicking up, and a weird, warbly transmission leading into “Death Eternal” that feels like it originates in a space opera staged in the middle of a desert planet. There is strange droning and whirring surrounding Blake’s devastated alien singing, and that grabs a hold and never lets go through the course of the album. “The regret and the longing,” Blake laments, as the song hits a haunting haze and steam rises along with the final remnants of the cut. The title track feels damaged and like it’s tossing tumbleweeds over the terrain, with Green noting in his smeary, ghostlike voice, “The desert is speaking.” The whole thing puts a feeling of chilled isolation into your veins, as dark, foggy playing stands at the forefront, while slurring melodies and slide guitars slip into the background and put a heavy blanket over the whole thing.

“Life Eternal” has a similar feel as the other two songs before it, in that it carries on the same spirit. The vocals are quivery and strike me as damaged, with louder guitars looming in the background and charges sparking up over the mire. The track becomes sootier and darker about midway through, with the guitar work leading the way, a steely and spacey state of mind settling, and a few more explosions before the song finally settles into its place. Closer “Hope Eternal” is the longest cut at 11:43, and despite its title, it also sounds the bleakest. The passage is bookended by airy chimes, synth that rises like a vapor, and a sense of traveling through the atmosphere. But in between, guitars begin to churn and burn, with the vocals sounding more forceful and edgier and strong lead melody lines stretching over top. The track is moody and dark as it grows, with the vocals taking on a phantom role, the synth rising back up with force, and the energy ready to dissipate back into the clouds from where it came.

No matter the project or where his head is at during any particular moment, Green is an artist who always has something substantive to say, both musically and philosophically. Aelter has been one of those living, breathing beings Green has created, and “Love Eternal” is another thought-provoking entry into that project’s collection. This is an album that doesn’t really have a right mood or environment when it best fits. You just have to be ready to give yourself up to these sounds, and you’ll be transported right into the dark no matter the season, time, or place.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aelter/1533437623600911

To buy the album, go here: http://pesanta.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.f-consortium.com/

Lustre’s dream world expands to more atmospheric heights on four-movement opus ‘Blossom’

Lustre_photoLush, beautiful imagery is not something totally foreign to metal landscapes anymore. To say that what we consider and embrace in this style of music’s multiple sub-genres is expansive might be a bit of an understatement. But I think it speaks to many listeners’ diversity and ability to absorb and enjoy many types of sounds.

With bands such as Les Discrets and Alcest adding more sensitive, atmospheric tones to metal’s landscapes, more color, air-flushed arrangements have become common. Another band that has changed the way we see and hear metal is Lustre, the one-man project that is the brainchild of Nachtzeit who has been making mind-expanding, fantasy-level music ever since the project’s formation in 2008. While skating along the outer edges of black metal, Lustre’s sound has grown more organically soothing and image-conjuring as time has gone on. This band’s music really isn’t here to light your heathen heart ablaze and have you seeing fire raging in your own eyes. Instead, it is designed to capture you and take you somewhere you never dreamed, where your imagination can take flight. Along the way, the music has it barbs and waves of power, but that’s more one element of a larger picture rather than the overall point.

Lustre - BLOSSOM - ArtworkLustre is back in our stratosphere with “Blossom,” the project’s fifth record to date and one of its most adventurous yet. The four movements that stretch over 33 minutes are as calming and tranquil as anything Nachtzeit has created so far, but fret not if you think you’ve been abandoned. Far-off roars and displays of energy do color in some of the corners and satisfy any urge you have to feel something metallic. But again, that’s not the point to this record or any of Lustre’s efforts, and you’re far better off letting go of any expectations and floating off into the clouds with this music.

“Part 1″ of the piece begins with some New Age-style trickling, setting you at a sense of mystical wonder before some power bursts in. The melody traipses over the length of the cut, tying it all together, and wild cries can be heard in the background, washed out by the surrounding sounds. The keys glimmer like the soundtrack to a fantasy film, with spacey voices swirling through that feel hypnotic, as well as a finish that concludes in the air. “Part 2″ begins in that same expansive space, eventually gushing open and delivering lush melodies. Vocals coloring the background emerge, with the overall spine of the song enrapturing and a doom fury falling to the ground. But it’s not doom in a sooty sense; more of in a darkening thunderstorm feel. The track hits a trancey high, with all elements smooshing together and eventually bringing this giant vision to an end.

“Part 3″ spill in with watery keyboards and gazey power that feels like sunbeams cutting through a thick morning fog. A similar melody that snakes through the rest of the album shows its face in a varied form, with the music glimmering and shining brightly amid the murk. The vocals feel more feral than they do elsewhere, giving this a call-of-the-wild aura, and later calm permeates, with steady drumming driving, the dramatic tension giving way, and the back end of the song releasing you slowly. The final section “Part 4″ feels solemn and mildly stormy at the start, with an orchestral sense to it all, synth waves wafting overhead and covering the area like a thick blanket, and the song eventually letting go of its grip. You might find yourself staring at the sky as you watch this whole orb of sound float away and out of your dream world.

Nachtzeit’s dimensions continue to expand with every record, and “Blossom” is no exception. Lustre’s universe doesn’t look like many other metal artists’ nor does it intend to, and it’s great having this project alive and continually adding to our dreamscapes. Everyone needs an escape now and again, and Lustre provides the perfect pathway for that journey.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lustresweden

To buy the album, go here: http://www.nordvis.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nordvis.com/

Vermörd make hellish impact, unleash black and death metal on ‘Dawn of the Black Harvest’

VermordLast year, a big deal was made when Unlocking the Truth, a young metal band, was signed to a multi-million dollar deal by a major record label. One read of the story howled “publicity stunt” to me, and now a year or so later, there’s hardly anything coming out of that camp other than carefully planned interviews and them wanting out of the deal.

I’m not knocking the band. Obviously they have talent, and they’re kids. Who doesn’t want to sign a huge record deal at that age and make money? It just felt all icky seeing these kids exposed, and it seemed the only real reason they were made a huge media deal is because they’re kids who can play instruments well. That brings me to Vermörd, a blackened death metal band out of Maryland whose members range in age from 16-19. And they fucking rip. Hard. For real. They play a brand of metal that harkens back to the early ’90s, when they weren’t even alive, and they play with such a passion and intensity, it’s stunning to hear them. And here’s the thing: It really doesn’t matter how young they are. Their debut “Dawn of the Black Harvest” would be good no matter how old they are because it’s intense as hell. It’s a great sounding, amazingly well-executed record, and the fact that they’re so young is more a side note. Young musicians made this, sure, but the important thing is they crush skulls!

Vermord coverThe band itself is comprised of vocalist Zach Thomsen, whose ability to toggle between black scream and death grunt is astounding; guitarists Brad Weddle and Yianni Papaeracleous; bassist Alec Klimm; and drummer Zak Kempler. The guys dig deep into sounds made a part of metal’s DNA by bands such as Emperor, Dissection, Mayhem, Decapitated, and groups of that ilk, and they do it with incredible savagery. I recall Noel from Grimoire, who smartly signed up this band and is releasing “Black Harvest” digitally and on CD and cassette, sending me their Soundcloud files early in the year to get a taste of this record, and I instantly was blown away. Hearing the whole record, that promise I heard at the turn of 2015 is fully paid off on this great collection.

“Disciples of Shakhburz” opens this six-track, 21-minute scorcher as a sort of introduction piece, a synth-led instrumental that chills with its dark orchestration and whets your appetite for the carnage ahead. That starts to pay off heavily on “Plagued Eyes From the Scrolls of Xafmirtas” that is built on huge riffs, decimating drums, and an ultra-black atmosphere delivered steadily by the fierce shrieks that erupt from Thomsen’s throat. There are some great melodies among the absolute bloodshed, and at points, the band gallops heavily, as if they have no other mission but destruction. The song even has an uptick toward the end, as the guitars reach a boiling point, and the band drives this thing to delirium. “Ophite Cultus Satanas” rips open, with the guitars setting everything ablaze and the vocals switching from demonic to acid reflux coarse. The bass has a bigger presence here, cutting its steely way, and the final moments are dressed in grim fury. Killer cut.

“Encrimsoned Baptism” has guitars sprawling all over, leaning into classic death and thrash and making a gigantic explosion. In fact, some of the music here dips into prog, in the deadliest possible manner, and the cymbals take a particularly rough beating. The song later simmers in pure death metal hell, with sections going for the throat and the vocals dripping with ill intent and conviction. “Derodidymus” is a smasher and the song wisely chosen as the first one to be shared with the Internet at large. It is massive in scope and so violently played, with the lead guitars generating suffocating smoke and the pace sounding unforgiving. But just when you think the song couldn’t possibly have another gear, the band proves you wrong, unleashing a swaggering, Earth-decimating burst that might have you throwing furniture all over your living room. When that moment hits, and you’ll know it, it’s all rules tossed out the window. Closer “Dark Harvest” is the curveball of the group with moodier, cleaner tones worked into the mix, a feeling of sorrow permeating. Yet the vocals remaining as vile and animalistic as ever. It’s a nice change of pace, proof the band has more tricks up their sleeve that they’ll reveal when the time is right. It’s a really strong finisher, with the guitars sounding great once again, and as the thing reaches its final resting place, it rises up to deliver one more blast, just for good measure. What an awesome finish.

Yeah, it’s impressive Vermörd’s members are so young and already this good. But that’s not the reason “Dawn of the Black Harvest” is such a toppling effort. No, it’s because of the music and the band’s performance. If in a few years this band doesn’t have a higher profile and isn’t recording for a major metal indie label (no offense to Grimoire, who we love!), then someone isn’t paying attention. This very well could be metal’s future here bleeding all over the underground and creating music this powerful on their first damn recording. Pay attention to Vermörd, because soon they’ll be the real deal dominating what sprawls out of metal scribes mouths, your truly included.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Verm%C3%B6rd/135254779916681

To buy the album, go here: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/dawn-of-the-black-harvest

For more on the label go here: http://www.grimoirerecords.com/

Do Swedes Tribulation live up to massive hype machine powering new ‘The Children of the Night’?

TribulationEvery year, we are greeted with a spate of metal releases that seem universally praised and are pre-ordained as one of the current 12 months’ best. You know the ones: Song premieres at every site you visit, millions of scribes chiming in to sing the band’s praises, the relentless press cycle reiterating said viewpoints. Hey, Meat Mead Metal often plays a part of those giant choruses.

Today, we have one of the year’s most anticipated new metal releases by a band that’s been seen as one of the up-and-coming leaders of the future. I was absolutely floored by Tribulation’s last record “The Formulas of Death,” that was unleashed in 2013. It was when that record arrived and was absorbed that the incredible promise this band holds became clear. Here was a record that took death and black metal into entirely different terrain (as like-minded groups such as Morbus Chron and Execration also did), and it had an imagination and creativity you just don’t get from every band. This record has stuck with me ever since and gets regular rotation in my ears, so quite obviously, the arrival of their new, third album “The Children of the Night” had me overly excited and counting down the days until the new music was in my possession.

Tribulation coverI try to steer clear of album reviews of things I haven’t written about yet, but seeing preview stories isn’t something from which you really can’t shield yourself. The effusive praise for this Swedish band—bassist/vocalist Johannes Andersson, guitarists Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten, and drummer Jakob Ljungberg—and this new album is impossible to avoid. There have been more than a few calls for album of the year, and the response to the advance singles people have heard has been overly positive. I’m not purposely trying to go against the grain at all, but the record isn’t resonating with me like it is so many others. I like the music. It’s a very well-played, smartly written document, and it’s catchy as hell. I’m just not feeling it moving my mind and soul like their previous work did, and the direction they take here doesn’t make me excited. They have pulled away from the death and black terrain and are more of a retro-sounding outfit with gruff vocals. There are a lot of bands playing the same type of music as Tribulation now, so for me, they’ve left the stratosphere of special and have come back to Earth. Instead of this being a mind-blowing, year-altering release, it’s just a really good album. Not that that’s a bad thing.

The album does get off to an excellent start with “Strange Gateways Beckon,” packed with infectious guitar melodies you won’t soon shake, a fine vocal performance from Andersson, and a death rock feel that reeks of promise. “Melancholia” also has its strong points, veering down the Mercyful Fate/In Solitude path (to mix old and new examples), with a bit of a punk rock bend as well. The keys glimmer, the guitars drive, and this also is a pretty fine track. “In the Dreams of the Dead” has a blurry, clean open before the power kicks in, vocals are delivered as raspy growls, and a dreamy atmosphere sits behind the track, giving off a pretty cool fog. This also is one of the many examples where the band bites on old Maiden-style riffs, which they do pretty well. “Winds” is calculated and stormy, with proggy keys zapping and noises whirring in the dark. It’s not a bad song, but it also isn’t one of their standout cuts. “Sjalaflykt” is an instrumental number that trickles in ominously and eventually gains steam, with eerie, haunting melodies, and a nighttime psychedelic aura that sends chills.

The second half of the record begins with “The Motherhood of God” that has made it rounds on various sites and blogs, and it’s one of the strongest cuts on this album. The riffs sting, the vocals are catchy and a serious strong point, and it’s them putting their best classic metal foot forward, showing just how strong this band can be. But it’s a slow descent from that point, as the last four songs sound fine and aren’t bad at all, but they don’t elevate the album. “Strains of Horror” again has a vintage touch to it, which sounds good but doesn’t set the band apart. The vocals are whispery and creepy in spots, with nicely textured guitars and some cold piano notes filling in at the end. “Holy Libations” has a neat, jazzy open, with well-time guitar lines slipping in and dramatic melodies bursting. There’s actually a killer hook to this one on the chorus, but it kind of gets buried underneath everything so doesn’t really get to show its swagger. It’s a shame because, if that part was featured more prominently, it really raises this one. “Cauda Pavonis” is a brief, almost whimsically dark interlude that sets the stage for 7:04 closer “Music From the Other,” which takes a slow-driving, evil journey. This one hammers and pounds, with gurgly vocals, slurry lead guitars, and a cosmic feel coloring in the last minutes of the song, ending the record on a pretty positive note.

It probably sounds weird to say I’m disappointed with a record I actually enjoy, but to me, Tribulation doesn’t really pay off their enormous potential on this album. I really wish the band would have continued to explore the outer reaches of death and black metal instead of evening out their sound and treading similar paths other bands before them already have. Their work before “The Children of the Night” really set them apart from the pack, but this record pulls them back toward normality. Obviously I’m in the minority in that viewpoint, but I see this record as a chance the band could have taken to establish their greatness instead of falling short of the mark. I really wanted to walk away absolutely blown away by this album, but instead I hear a record that isn’t a slam dunk to make my Top 40 of 2015.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Tribulationofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Crowhurst’s noisy evolution into doom pays weird dividends on new record

CrowhurstThere is plenty of good heavy music out there, enough to fill this site five days a week. There are countless new releases every week, which gives me plenty to remain occupied and often leaves me scrambling to shoehorn everything in, only increasing my stress level even more than it already is. And mine is naturally set at freak out.

But despite having a lot of good new music entering my brain and damaging my hearing each week, there aren’t always special records I know for certain will stick with me and influence me far into the year. But you know those when you hear them, and one of them for me is Crowhurst’s stunning, time-forced-still new record that is practically impossible to describe. Yet I will use my words to give that task my best shot. This band certainly has metal at its base, the doom variant if we need to be more granular, but they branch out to so many different levels. There is noise, post-rock, black metal, shoegaze, you name it, and all is pulled off with remarkable effectiveness. And it’s not just meandering between sounds. Generally the band sets a tone, and from there, they organically go exploring, taking you all sorts of places you’d never expect. If you’re a fan of bands as varied as ISIS, Neurosis, Swans, Atriarch, Shining, and groups of that ilk, you need to get with this.

Crowhurst coverNoise freak/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jay Gambit has helmed this project from the start, beginning as more of an experimentally inspired group that took on collaborators and put out a shit ton of content. Seriously, peruse the Crowhurst Bandcamp page, and you’ll find enough content to keep you busy for a week. The music and scope has grown exponentially over time, leading us to where we are today. For this record, Gambit is joined by guitarists Brian Reis and Johan Curie; bassist Spencer Wessels; and drummer Eric Soth to create not only a formidable live act, but one that knows how to demolish castle walls from inside the studio. The band worked with Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Wreck & Reference) on this killer, and they’re putting this bastard out on all kind of formats, including freaking 8-track.

“Penumbra” starts the record and gives you a bit of a hint as to what’s ahead. This instrumental cut has thick bass, buzzing guitar lines, and scratchy noise, and it runs right into “A Precipice of Stone,” a track that basically bursts open like a storm cloud. The music is harsh but also dashed with watercolors, as Gambit’s voice unleashes a sense of panic that arrests the senses. From the pits of atmospheric sludge, the band then dives right into a bruising black metal-style assault, with guitars reaching out for contract and anguished cries pounding home the drama. “Judgement” trickles in clean and cold, giving it a deathrock personality, but then terrifying howls and warm, gazey guitars create the thick, impenetrable force field, and the feeling that you’re watching everything burning down is hard to shake. The band plays with the pace a bit, smearing the last section of the song with soot, and pained cries send this thing on its way. “It Is the Mercy” is the heart-stopper of the bunch, with Gambit stretching out his dark, dreary singing voice, making it feel like you’re buried underneath a million tons of gothic ash. But the pace then quickens, the approach gets more aggressive, and some of the most forceful growling on the record trips you up and begins to devour. The drums crash, the music crescendos along with the vocals, and the final moment drench you like a chilly, damp spring rain.

“Black Oceans” begins with gazey guitars and doom clouds, heavy and dark mauling, and vocals that pierce. Weird wails and melodies cause your mind to twist and turn, creating a vortex of strangeness that claims you and refuses to release its grip. That sense remains in place until just a couple of minutes remain, and the bottom drops out (unloading tons of cinders on your path). The band finds an altogether new level of devastation, with noises squalling, fires blazing, and all forces coming together to create a terrible thunder. “Languorous Void” explodes, with the band reaching into their doom-infested bag of death metal tricks, feeling a bit like Unearthly Trance. There is misery and violence, an onslaught of drubbing, and a finish that works to deliver as many heavy blows as it can before it fades away. Closer “Luna Falsata” is the longest of them all and is a real treat, as Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) lends his deranged, psychologically savaged voice to the track. The passage feels like it originates in the middle of a solar storm, with noises coating the senses with electricity, and Robinson’s voice getting an otherworldly, alien effect. The track feels like the end is here. Robinson appears to be delivering a final eulogy for mankind, with misery at a high point and a foreboding aura stretching out and infecting. As the song reaches its final resting place, so does Robinson’s psyche, as he has a total breakdown as the sounds around him also fold in on themselves, creating a sort of black hole that tears everything apart.

Crowhurst have made an incredible transformation over the years, and their new record—almost like a new beginning—is one of those special albums I cited earlier that do not come along all the time. What’s even more exciting than the music on these seven tracks is to think of where the band will be when their next record comes to pass. That’s something on which we can only guess, and I’d imagine even in the darkest, most ambitious sections of his mind, Gambit doesn’t know either. That way, it’ll be fun for all of us as this band shapeshifts into new future forms.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/crowhurstnoise

To buy the album (CD, digital), go here: http://crowhurst.bandcamp.com/

On vinyl, go here: http://ivoryantler.bigcartel.com/products

On eight-track (for real!), go here: http://wavescrashingpianochords.bigcartel.com/

Horrifying dream sequences unfurl on captivating debut Akhlys record ‘The Dreaming I’

AkhlysI have a really poor time remembering my dreams, an issue that has plagued me my entire life. I can remember maybe a handful of lucid dreams over the course of my existence, and none really stand out as anything profound or out of the ordinary that it deserves repeating or analysis.

My wife wakes up and winds up remembering tons of things, and although she gets bad ones now and then, she seems to go on these journeys that I wish I could find myself taking each night. Naas Alcameth, one of the minds behind the brilliant black metal band Nightbringer, apparently takes that even further, claiming periods of vivid dreaming filled with voices and shadows from beyond this plane and seemingly experiencing something far different than just his mind telling him stories. With that in mind, Alcameth (along with drummer Ain) gave birth to his new project Akhlys (meaning a gateway upon gateways) so he can open up his horrific visions for the world to see and translate them into his dark, spellbinding black metal. The style can be considered kind of a relative to Nightbringer, but there are plenty of differences between the two. That’ll be clear with one listen.

Akhlys coverThe project’s first piece of imagery is called “The Dreaming I” and is a five-track passageway to the beyond. It’s terrifying and surreal in a way words can’t really justify, and the only way to fully understand what’s at hand is to go into the portal yourself and see where the mind takes you. In fact, the information that accompanies the press details describe the tracks as five tunnels, and it really can’t be stated any better than that. You enter into each section, go into unlit territories you can’t see or predict, and see where you come out on the other side. It’s harrowing, but it’s a trip you’ll be happy you took, even if it scars you.

“Breath and Levitation” is the first curtain opened, and at 9:01, it’s a pretty grueling confrontation. It’s weird and mystical at the start, almost like the scene is unfurling before you, and then it tears open with swirling guitars and fits of madness. The vocals are vicious and full of anguish, with a storming feel permeating the atmosphere and a great crash that suddenly stops on a dime only to reopen into a savage, mystifying pace that rushes to the finish. “Tide of Oneiring Darkness” slips into a space haze, with winds whipping up and leading into gurgling growls and a calculated pace. The trip feels like a dark, rainy nightmare, complete with animalistic shrieks and blistering chaos. “Consummation” is the longest passage at 16:52, and it takes time to stretch out and breathe a bit. Clouds of sound settle over, threatening violence, and a few minutes later, that’s exactly what arrives. The guitars feel warped and deranged, like you’re seeing a scene in front of you a conscious version of yourself never could comprehend. The bulk of the track feels like a smothering, suffocating hell, with melody intertwined into the seas of blood, hypnotic blasts stymying you and keeping the eyes rolling into the back of your head, and an arresting closing sequence that sounds almost liturgical, in the darkest way possible.

“The Dreaming Eye” is no slouch either at 10:07, with the ill intent bubbling and simmering beneath the surface, threatening to break out and burn you. From out of the fog comes a dynamic explosion of power, with mean and tortured vocals mangling your nerve endings, a black assault raining down and making the path in front of you slick and muddy, and damaged playing aiming to see that mental harm has been done. The back end goes from dreamy and misty to psychologically harmful, sounding fearsome once again and eventually bleeding out. The closer “Into the Indigo Abyss” is an instrumental path that goes a tick over four minutes and is packed with misery-inducing ambiance. The music might make it feel like you’re losing the battle with your consciousness, and then you’re on a full-speed plummet right into the deepest caverns of hell, where you will remain forever. Or at least until you wake up.

Alcameth creates a strange, suffocating world on “The Dreaming I,” and considering dreaming seems to be an integral part of his existence, it’s easy to imagine this only being the first chapter in Akhlys’ excursions. This is a record that’s best suited for when you plan to leave the physical plane for whatever sleep or meditation brings you, when you’re most ready to confront the dark forces lurking in the rarely examined reaches of your mind.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Akhlys/1512419082356682?fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/