Dutch An Autumn for Crippled Children build new levels of emotion on ‘The Long Goodbye’

An Autumn for Crippled ChildrenThere has been a nice wave of metal lately seemingly designed to make us feel all the feelings. And, of course, a lot of that gets rejected by metal folk because we have frozen hearts and do not experience things such as sadness, frustration, and depression. Right? Yeah. Some people are a little too tough guy for their own good.

Anyway, if you’re not one who gets your bullet belt all twisted at the mere mention of a band such as Deafheaven, Alcest, Lantlos, or Amesoeurs, then you’ll be thrilled to know that mysterious Dutch band An Autumn for Crippled Children have returned with another helping of wholly emotional, feeling-infused black metal that could make anyone vulnerable cry and thrash the head at the same time. “The Long Goodbye” is the band’s first record since 2013’s toppling “Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love” and is their fifth serving overall. It’s as darkly colorful as it is heavy, with the band mixing in elements of indie rock along with their fire-breathing metallic tendencies. If you’ve been on board with the band over the long haul, you’ll know what to expect. That’s not a bad thing, really, because the band has a formula that works, and they don’t try to be anything they aren’t.

An Autumn for Crippled Children coverAs noted, we don’t know much about the figures behind this music. There are three members—MXM on vocals, guitars, and keyboards; TXT on bass and keyboards; and CXC on drums—who all have been on board since the band’s 2010 debut record “Lost,” and any effort to try to cultivate any more facts will leave you in a corner. By who cares who they are, really? Their quest for secrecy should be embraced and it never feels like it’s done to drum up publicity. They’ve done their thing well for a long time, existing in something of a vacuum, and “The Long Goodbye” proves they’re very much still onto a good thing that keeps on giving to its audience.

The title cut opens the record, infusing charged-up melodies, deep, harsh shrieks, and colorful, brutal playing into the formula. Keys later drip into the picture to add depth, while the back end darkens even more, the track blows wide open, and the final moments gush with power. “Converging Towards the Light” feels murky and foggy at the start, with a black metal-style assault eventually running roughshod. There also is a psychedelic sheen to all of this, as the song changes colors before our eyes, from bright hues to pure darkness. “A New Form of Stillness” doesn’t sound very fittingly named the way it speeds with intensity from the gates. The vocals are savage and bristle above the thick wall of sound, created with guitar lines that bleed emotion, airy passages that let atmospherics play a role, and more vocals that sound like they were squeezed from MXM’s heart. “Only Skin” has a cold, science lab feel to it, as the icy melodies chill your blood and the expression of darkness wells to flood level. This song sometimes feels like the Cure and Xasthur doing battle, reveling in hopelessness and finding ways to express that in both beauty and horror. “When Night Leaves Again” has some breezy work that might make it feel like a cool evening, but then things get punchy, as the tempos pick up, the ugliness finds a ravaging new level, and the vocals sound pained and in agony. Every element blazes brightly on this song, which could have you covering your eyes to quell your sensitivity.

“She’s Drawing Mountains” begins in clean waters, with synth rising up like a cloud and obscuring your vision and the track eventually tearing open when you least expect it. The vocals are savage and forceful, with the band following suit, allowing everything to ease up for just a moment before it explodes anew. “Endless Skies” has some programmed beats making things feel chilled out to start, but as you may have guessed, the serenity doesn’t last for long. Guitars begin their rampage, with melodies cascading, layers of glimmering sound floating, and the band finding another level of emotional expression. “Gleam” feels a little poppy when it opens up, something to get you going and moving before the eruption strikes. Everything here is spewed at you, mesmerizing you with sound and cutting you apart with penetrating growls. Closer “The Sleep of Rust” begins a little slower, with the tempo feeling calculating and moody, the track getting heavier all of a sudden, and then things returning to the stratosphere. We eventually rush back to heavier sections, letting the band agitate the fires one more time before it dissolves into a section that gives off a nostalgic, late-night feel, where you coast off into the ether.

An Autumn for Crippled Children keep building their cauldron of sadness and emotion, and this fifth record is as good as anything else in their catalog. Just because it’s not fire-breathing ferocity doesn’t strip it of its impact, and this record can devastate you as much as anything. “The Long Goodbye” is another strong building block on this band’s dark journey.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/aafcc2009

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

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

Dorthia Cottrell’s self-titled debut record blends haunting Americana with doom’s roots

unnamed(2)There are many great voices in the world of metal, so many that when I hear people with zero knowledge of the genre act like everyone vocalizes like Cookie Monster, it pisses me off. Case in point? Listen to Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell weave her magic on the band’s great records and tell me that she isn’t one of the best voices you’ve ever heard. Witness her live and the opinion should double.

So today, we’re lucky to have Cottrell’s debut solo record to talk about, and damn, if this isn’t a great one. Now, make no mistake, this isn’t a metal-centric album. Not at all. Instead, Cottrell travels dusty, winding folk and country roads, piercing at your heart with her honesty and heartbreak, and leaving you never feeling the same way again. In fact, I was playing the record in the car with my wife, and she said that her voice “makes me want to cry.” That’s in a good way, because the voice dug so deep down within her and affected her emotionally, that’s all she could think to do. Cottrell’s husky, smoky singing can do that to you, and you get to hear and see a totally different side to her on this excellent album.

Cottrell coverCottrell is the latest in a long line of metal musicians who have exposed their love for the roots of music and for those singer-songwriters who wore their hearts on their sleeves, bleeding for all to see. Artists including YOB’s Mike Scheidt, USX’s Nate Hall, and Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till have gone down these same paths and created music markedly different from the bands for which they’re known. Like those artists, Cottrell’s efforts are genuine and come from a real place. It’s not to tack onto some movement. She has spoken of how this style of music is prominent among her family members and that gatherings often spin into long musical sessions. Some of the songs on this album have spanned a decade in the making, so this record has been brewing for some time. Hearing the results is cathartic and moving, a visit with a truly great musician who not only makes the metal world a better place but who has so much more to share with many different styles of music.

Cottrell heads down a dark path right away with “Cemetery Song,” as the acoustics haunt, the track feels both sultry and doomy, and she calls, “This is where forever dies,” instantly chilling your blood. “Gold” is an absolute gem, with vocal melodies that will stick in your head for days on end. The guitars slur and slide, with the piece feeling shadowy and noiry, and Cottrell repeatedly warns, “I know where you’ve been.” “Oak Grove” follows a similar line musically, with the guitars quivering and weeping, the vocals threatening and teasing, and Cottrell wondering, “Are you going to forgive or make me pay?” “Orphan Bird” simmers right away, with the singing stretching out a little further, feeling deliberate in its delivery, and sitars et situated to give the song a far-off, mystical feel. “Vessel” is a bit more atmospheric, with acoustic strums setting the tone and Cottrell’s vocals picking up intensity as the track goes on.

“Maybe It’s True” is the longest of the group at 6:34, and it’s a vulnerable, bleeding thing that will swallow you whole. The melody feels lullaby-style, with the guitars swirling methodically and the words sounding profoundly sad. “Maybe I’ll never be that take-home kind of girl,” Cottrell admits, as the music around her settles into dark, somber corners. “Moth” reminds me a bit, in tone anyway, of Alice in Chains’ old acoustic recordings, with the song buzzing forward, a sense of dread rising, and the atmosphere settling above your head like a storm cloud. “Kneeler” has a heavy country folk feel, with Cottrell gazing at the ominous gallows pole, weaving in some of the record’s most painful moments, delivered by some of her best singing on the album. Next is a strong, pretty faithful take on Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake,” which feels like a fitting tribute to the original artist. “Perennial” goes back to old country roads, ones covered in snow and frost, making like a track that would sound ideally delivered in a smoky cabin, with the fireplace embers glowing. Closer “Song for You” is a stripped-down take on the Graham Parsons classic, which she turns into a naked, vulnerable number that hammers you with emotion sadness. She takes this song and makes it her very own, transforming it into something that could tuck you into bed at night as you do what you can to escape the day’s lingering ghosts.

It’s impossible to walk away from this record unaffected emotionally. Cottrell’s blood is smeared all over the workings of these 11 cuts, and her raw intensity is something to behold. There’s never been any question as to whether Cottrell is a great singer, one in the best in all the metal world. This album only cements her power, proves her meddle, and establishes her as one of modern music’s most gifted, rewarding artists. Those equally moved by both doom and Americana are likely to burst over this thing, and hopefully it’s only Cottrell’s first in a long series of collections that scour her soul for whatever scars she cares to reveal.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.forcefieldrecords.org/

For more on the album, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Siberian doom explorers Below the Sun set dial for the cosmos on ‘Envoy’

Below the SunVast desolation is a concept that totally frightens me. Thinking about the cosmos and the far-reaching expanse it holds is enough to intimidate anyone. How much is out there, what worlds remain unexplored by humans, what kinds of technology exists on other planets that we can’t even comprehend? It’s mind blowing, astonishing, and quite humbling.

But a journey to those far-off places likely won’t be relegated to science-fiction in the future. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in one of our reincarnations we might be the people to stretch beyond the Earth and reach out to beings not yet encountered. It’s a subject broached by mighty Siberian quintet Below the Sun on their incredible new record “Envoy.” It imagines a future trip on Voyager I out of our solar system and into the sea of stars and other worlds, where no one from this planet has a hope to even explore in this lifetime. But why hold that back from preventing our dreams, where we can wonder just what humankind is capable of accomplishing and just where we might measure up on the universal food chain. We might end up not liking what we find out. Then again, this world could use a dose of reality every now and again.

Below the Sun coverThis band is a secretive union, whose identities take a backseat to their artistic endeavors. Having first performed together in the middle of a Russian forest to create a one-off funeral doom piece, the band has morphed from there from a kernel of an idea to a full-blown band. Their music easily engulfs you, ranging from doom to funeral bleakness to sludge to post-metal, and the journey you take with them over these six songs could take your breath away. The tracks often feel ceremonial, like you’re watching an idea or a concept experience birth, maturation through life, and an ultimate end, where the mileposts can be counted upon final reflection. The music is moving and monstrous, and like the universe itself, it’s sometimes so daunting that all you can do is let it wash over you.

The record is front-loaded with beefy, longer tracks, the first being 11:09 “Outward the Sky,” which enters into serenity before it blows apart with black chaos and gut-wrenching growls. It plays with tempo quite a bit, pummeling you one moment, easing you into clouds and breeze the next, and in the middle of all of this, a strange, ghostly transmission comes in that really makes you feel like you’re leaving the Earth. Sorrowful guitars arrive, the vocals go for the throat, and everything ends chugging in mud. “Cries of Dying Stars” could make your hairs stand up with its chilling, trickling introduction, and then it soars into a soulful section of melody, with the band continually adding layers of drama. The back end feels like a journey deep into the stars, working past the Milky Way and into beyond. “Alone” runs 10:26, quietly setting a mood and letting whispers establish the tone. The song then gets sludgy and ugly, with guitars stinging, the atmosphere boiling heavily, and growls spilling over, with cries of, “Alone!” toppling everything and injecting a true sense of isolation.

Monster “Drift in Deep Space” goes 15:27 and is the centerpiece of the record. Heavy drone rises at the dawn, with guitars sparking, lurching, and spilling over the land. This track harkens back heavily to the band’s funeral doom past, as it levels you slowly but heavily, setting a mournful, anguish-filled sentiment. The growls stretch longer than they do elsewhere, as the cosmic pot gets hotter and angrier, the guitar work sprawls out over the night sky, and the tempo starts pounding relentlessly like an engine that’s just heating up. The final two tracks are instrumental cuts, with the first, “Breath of Univerce” feeling like it’s set up to bring you down emotionally from what you just heard. The song hangs in the air, the approach feels alien, and your head is likely going to be floating as closer “The Earth” arrives. There, guitars burst with life, the melodies surge and shake you to your core, and some real grit makes its presence known, dashing any sense of beauty with a streak of blood. Things start bashing with severity, making it seem like you’re in for a crash landing, but then things even out, chirps and buzzes enter your headspace, and everything washes away. Wow. What an intense, amazing trip that was.

Below the Sun have the might and majesty to go a long way, and “Envoy” should signal the first major step in their sojourn. Like the ideas put forth on the record, the band sounds ready to break past their earthly surroundings to see how far and wide they can expand their reach. Their potential is limitless, and they should have major appeal to anyone who wants to strap into the spaceship cockpit and soar past worlds you only dreamed existed before. You’re sure to have a unique experience and feel every ounce of this band’s pure strength.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://templeoftorturous.com/shop/

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

Metallic mind-benders Sannhet create bendy, destructive new journey on riveting ‘Revisionist’

SannhetI’ve mentioned this many times in the past, but we do have an obsession for putting labels on our metal and trying to argue whether something does or does not fall under that gigantic umbrella. The arguments usually get stupid, and so much of that effort never focuses on whether the music at hand is, you know, good.

I say this because we take another visit with instrumental band Sannhet, whose new record “Revisionist” is about to drop and who, once again, have come up with a document that leaves us totally dizzy and cloudy headed. The trio have been making strange, compelling sounds for five years now, with their excellent 2013 debut “The Flood” being released by Sacrament (of well noted and loved NYC venue St. Vitus) and entering the world to wide embraces. Yeah, it was a whirling dervish of insanity, and it was hard to put your finger on just what that sound was supposed to be. But no doubt it was heavy and exciting, and it sure as shit deserves inclusion into the metal world. Now, with their second album upon us, it’s time to once again have those annoying conversations about where these guys fit. Doesn’t matter. As long as people acknowledge the awesomeness of this nine-track journey, you can call it what you want and classify it as whatever. I’m too busy enjoying it.

Sannhet coverThis band—guitarist/sound looper John Refano, bassist/visual artist AJ Annunziata, and drummer/sampler Christopher Todd—now call the challenging, always interesting Flenser Records home, and Sannhet’s music continues to develop and warp in the best possible way. They can thrash you and bash you, taking you into stormy black metal servings and doom-laden terrain, but they also can ease it out, get atmospheric, and even go zooming through the stars. It might not be skullduggery from open to close, but it’s a damn bumpy ride the more adventurer of listeners should enjoy thoroughly.

The title track kicks off the record, a rumbling, spacey thing that hits a boil early and heads right into the midst of moody fog. The sounds continue to develop and fold, eventually landing in a pocket of mist. “Lost Crown” follows, breaking up any semblance of calm with disruptive drumming, static-fed guitar lines, and a melody that bursts wide open and darkens the scene. All elements keep piling on top of each other, with thrashy sections adding grit and the whole thing going out on a blistering note. “Enemy Victorian” is a little chilling at the start, like you’re on your way to a horror scene, but then guitars sweep in, feeling a little surfy at times. The track then takes on a wintry ride, enabling you to see your breath in front of your face as you follow the path. “You Thy_” has an aggressive start, with melody intertwining into the fury and the rhythm tapping at your head and nerve endings. But clouds re-emerge and fresh air flushes into the scene, letting you stand in the gust of wind.

“Striking Forward” lets loose some random notes that float in the air before the band heads into murkier territory, where it might be tough to see a hand in front of your face. The guitars hum and then bristle, with emotion striking a high point, and the militaristic drums inject some structure into what’s a slurry environment. “Atrium” starts with a voice sample that leads into the guitars striking you to attention and the melody soaring away. The track can make you feel numb in spots, but it also is damn riveting. “Empty Harbor” has a lonely feel, like a single soul standing on an early morning shore before a journey the figure must make itself. Sounds ring out, with the ambiance feeling solemn, but the ending picks up and catches fire. “Mint Divine” has a voice sample snaking through the structure, feeling like a hallucinatory vision, rising and falling and always leaving you wondering where you are. Closer “False Pass” has a quivering, ghostly voice sending transmission in the background, offering nautical information, before the thing tears open and starts pummeling. The melodies are strong but also frosty, generating smoke from a growing fire, getting punchy and a little proggy, and slipping into a furious display. That lets them get their last, hammering shots in before everything submits to corrosion.

There are plenty of bands out there doing the instrumental thing and going on all kinds of explorations, but no band does it quite like Sannhet. They have their own way, their trademark style, and a reckless abandon that makes “Revisionist” such a thrilling ride. The more they shapeshift into a different beast, the more chaos we have to look forward to as they soar into the future.

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

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

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

NYC’s weird Imperial Triumphant warp minds, incinerate wills on devastating new ‘Abyssal Gods’

Imperial TriumphantWell, hey, mid-week and the motivation and energy are on their low end. That is expected, as we drag toward the weekend and a temporary solace, but for now, let’s talk about something that should keep us awake and, dare I say, utterly terrified until then.

NYC’s Imperial Triumphant have struck back with another album of jarring, experimental, codeine cough syrup-laced black metal on their furious and baffling new record “Abyssal Gods.” This album can lull you into a dream-state haze and split the side of your head open the very next minute, and they are practically the dictionary definition of the word “unpredictable.” These 10 tracks go from astonishingly brutal to feeling like something out a fever-induced nightmare, to something elegant and classy, but in a way that feels like someone was murdered and you’ve stumbled on the path of said destruction. This second album from this crew is a serious escalation in trauma, and it’s bound to leave you feeling uncomfortable and terribly uneasy.

Imperial Triumphant coverThe fellows behind this band you’ll know from other places, with Ilya Ezrin on guitars, vocals, and orchestration; Alex Cohen (Epistasis, Pyrrhon, Malignancy) and Kenny Grohowksi on drums; and Erik Malave (Pyrrhon) on bass. Joining them on this massive, mesmerizing document are a bevy of other musicians who add their talents, including Bloody Panda’s arresting and captivating vocalist Yoshiko Ohara, who help makes the warped, terrifying “Krokodil” reaches even greater heights of deranged wonder. This record sounds like one that could be played fittingly in a castle entertainment hall or a dank dungeon, where thirsty rats roam looking for an evening meal.

“From Palaces of the Hive” begins the crazed assault, with synth sheets raining down, chaotic horns bursting forth, and the pace going nuts with the vocals sounding monstrous. The attack continues until it finally fades and leads into the title cut. That song lurches hard, jarring up the contents of your stomach, with the melodies feeling woozy and terrifying. “Dead Heaven” is jammed with weirdness, with the guitars charging forward, the vocals registering as a gurgly growl, and the song getting warped in a million different ways. There are spooky group howls, with the music hitting a tear that’s practically cartoon-like in its fury. The last moments then crush and mash you into the dirt. Instrumental “Celestial War Rape” follows, with nightmarish choral arrangements and sparks of true horror preparing you for “Opposing Holiness” that staggers out of the gates like a mad man with a sharp, rusty weapon. The song is thrashy and vicious, making its point and getting out while you’re completely disoriented.

The aforementioned “Krokodil” is up next, and it begins with two minutes of damage that slowly builds its intensity. The music hangs in the air like a cloud of stinging insects, with a pace that is beyond messed up and vocals sung entirely in Russian (with Ohara one of the voices with the biggest impact). The song makes your head feel odd, but when it’s over, you’ll know you’ve been on one hell of an adventure. “Twins” trudges and pounds, with destructive madness spilling out and you left feeling like you’ve been drugged and left for dead. The pace plays around, slowing down and speeding up, and the track ends on a thrashy march. “Vatican Lust” is another instrumental that pits its roots into a cloud of tornadic noise, ambiance, and ominous bell ringing, and then it’s into “Black Psychedelia,” which is a bit of a misleading name. You’re not headed deep into space; you’re bound for the graveyard. The track situates itself in filthy doom, with the growling sounding menacing, the tempo feeling beastly, and great soloing erupting. In fact, if anything, this is the most conventional track on the record, yet it would be the oddball on any other band’s album. It flat out destroys at the end, with a weird transmission taking it out and into the instrumental finale “Metropolis.” This sounds like something from the “BioShock” soundtrack, with weird fuzz filling the room, eloquent old piano dripping, and the song feeling kind of jazzy, like a classy final salute as you’re lowered into oblivion.

You’re definitely not going to have a run-of-the-mill experience taking on “Abyssal Gods.” It’s furious and fascinating, always twisting and turning itself into a brand new beast. Imperial Triumphant have succeeded in injecting a sense of unseen danger into their work, and you’re going to be on the edge of your seat as you’re moved by the drama and kept alert in case you need to run for your life.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.auralwebstore.com/shop/index.php

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

Catching up: Mastery offer dark terror; Negura Bunget hit the woods; Pelican mount the cliff

Mastery coverIt’s been pretty damn busy in our world the past few weeks, as life sometimes get in the way of the operations. So, yeah, we’re a little behind. But today’s as good a time as any to get on the record about a few releases that have been burning up our ears lately, so we can officially clear our schedule.

First one up is one of the most deranged, relentless things that has been featured on this site in quite some time. Well, I guess since last time we talked about this band three years ago (for a split effort with Palace of Worms). One-man terror striker Mastery finally dropped a first official full-length effort in “Valis.” It’s five tracks of audio torment and living hell, and while that might seem to be a description that gets attached to metal albums far too frequently, you can take it to the bank on this one. The band is the sick brainchild of San Francisco-based Ephemeral Domignostika (Pale Chalice, Asubha), and he sounds like he’s trying to embody the darkest depths of hell in these songs. You’re going to have your face bashed over and over against the ground, and you won’t get up until you’re sufficiently bleeding.

The record is bookended by two mangling epics, the first being “V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L.” that runs 17:53 of unforgiving, unmerciful trauma. It opens with strings stinging as if they’re contained in a tornado of angry hornets, and then things start crushing heavily. Domignostika’s vocals are bizarre (think Fortress Crookedjaw of WOLD), and my non-metal-listening wife said they reminded her of Skeletor. Fair point, and certainly not a negative, as Domignostika sounds unhinged and full of chaos, as the music sprays all over the map, never feeling like it’s on a single straight path and always meandering into different zones you never see coming. There’s a quick section that calms down, where acoustics blow in and the clouds clear, but then it’s back into the storm, where only terror exists.

“A.S.H.V.E.S.S.E.L.” is a quick, serene interlude that is trancey and strange, and that leads into “L.O.R.E.S.E.E.K.E.R.” that erupts into black metal fury. The shrieks are wild and animalistic, while the guitars get blurry and slurry and the assault comes on full throttle. The music keeps biting away at your nerves, driving you as close to insanity as possible, and later the riffs stretch out, the winds grow darker, and eventually the madness fades away. “I.L.L.S.E.E.K.E.R.” is another interlude that bridges to the conclusion, with cosmic blips and frosty energy. The 12:39 finale “S.T.A.R.S.E.E.K.E.R.” is vicious and warped right off the bat, and like the mammoth opener, it never lets you catch your breath. This track is total violence, with thrashing black metal fires raging, the approach feeling maniacal and unplanned, and you feeling psychologically battered once it’s all over. This is not a record your average metal listener will be able to handle. This is seriously mind-altering shit, and it’s a black metal record that will permanently burn a hole in your soul.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Mastery/64687

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

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

Negura Bunget coverIt’s been five years since we’ve heard from Romanian atmospheric black metal band Negura Bunget as far as full-length efforts are concerned, but they’ve finally returned with “Tau,” their seventh record. Much has changed with the band over the years, from their sound growing more rustic to them shedding band members, but they remain a strong, captivating unit capable of making you want to take a long sojourn into the forest to help you reconnect with nature.

The band’s new record runs eight tracks and about 50 minutes, and varies in intensity and sound. For example, riveting opener “Nametenie” goes from acoustic flourishes and woodsy whistles to growly, grisly carnage, to psychedelic, panic-inducing theremin passages that’ll have you seeing ghosts. Yet something like “Curgerea muntelui” has a “Game of Thrones” style foggy opening, folk-flushed trudging, and a path that’ll make you think you’re on your way to an overnight camp out in front a legion of cookfires. Then there’s “Împodobeala timpului” that has a weirdly dancey setting, in the foresty type of way, with female vocals sweeping in, heavier thunder rocking the ground, and a really interesting atmosphere that feels like the sky is about the tear open. Granted, this record takes a little while to warm up, and it took me a couple of listens to really feel comfortable. But now that I do, it’s something I’ll be going back to very often in the future.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.negurabunget.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theconnextion.com/prophecy/prophecy_index.cfm?

Or here: http://en.prophecy.de/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/lupus-lounge/

Pelican coverTwo years ago, we got the most recent studio effort from Chicago instrumental warriors Pelican, that being the excellent “Forever Becoming.” One of the standout tracks on the album is “The Cliff,” and apparently the band also sees that as a key track as it’s the name of their new EP, where the song gets all kinds of new treatment. Now, a four-track EP where three of the tracks are the same song might not seem enticing to some. But you have to hear the music to understand why this is a really rewarding idea and why you definitely need this thing in your Pelican collection.

The first version is a notable one, because it features vocals for only the second time in the band’s history, provided by from Allen Epley (The Life & Times, Shiner), who also sang on “Final Breath” from 2009’s “What We All Come to Need.” Here, he dresses the song with his dark singing that makes you wonder if the song is supposed to be romantic or darkly obsessive (or a combo of the two). It’s a really interesting twist on the song, and you might have a hard time shaking it. The other two versions are remixes, one by Justin Broadrick, who stretches out the run time by adding plenty of echo, industrial sparks, and dark energy. He also keeps it an instrumental piece. Aaron Harris and Bryant C. Meyer (ISIS, Palms) treat the vocal version, washing out the singing and making it feel psychedelically detached, while adding a great deal of meaty power. Closer “The Wait” is a reflective, serene cut with moody guitars and strong emotion, making me hungry for whatever the band dreams up next. This is a pretty interesting treat that hopefully paves the way for Pelican’s next full-length.

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

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

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

Viking metal legends Enslaved deliver their strongest record in a decade with great ‘In Times’

EnslavedLong-running, legendary bands run a serious risk by staying around so long and continuously offering up new material. See, having so much success can split your followers into different camps, mostly those who prefer the earlier stuff and those who lean toward the later material. My tongue’s in cheek here. It’s great that a band can have a half-century run of legitimate relevance, people’s silly objections be damned.

The great Nordic Viking metal standard bearers Enslaved have fallen into that category. Their earlier stuff—records such as “Frost” and “Eld”—swung closer to the heathen-style black metal of the second wave, coming in gnarly and ugly for the most part, even if it also was flush with a lot of native melody. As time has passed and the band progressed in their ways, they’ve gotten less brutal and brainier, evidenced by their most recent albums “Axioma Ethica Odini” and 2012’s “RIITIIR.” Now, with their 13th record “In Times” washing up on our shores, people should know what to expect from these guys: black metal, atmospheric prog passages, long songs, and tradeoff between gurgly growling and spacious singing. Yeah, it’ not break-neck savagery the entire time, but Enslaved know what they’re doing. They pack a serious wallop live, and I really have enjoyed their work in the last decade as much as their early stuff. Oh, so I guess that makes me a member of the third camp who can appreciate all eras of the band.

Enslaved - In Times - Artwork“In Times” actually is my favorite of all the Enslaved records from the past decade. They really hit on something with these six songs that run about 53 minutes total, and they manage to weave a lot of memorable moments into what’s going on here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this record from my first listen to my most recent, where I took my notes, and it’s impressive what Enslaved still are accomplishing in 2015. Yeah, you’re going to have people who eschew this because it’s not pure black metal, but whatever. It’s a damn good listen, and I really love the thing. As for the band’s integral parts, surely you know the two long-standing warriors Grutle Kjellson (bass/growled vocals) and Ivar Bjornson (guitars, keyboards), as well as punishing guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, drummer Cato Bekkevold, and keyboard/mellotron/clean vocalist Hebrand Larsen, who added a serious element of melodic depth to Enslaved’s sound when he joined in 2004.

The record opens with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” which ignites from the start with a black metal-style assault, gurgling growling, and raucous grit. That spills into a dreamy melodic section, where the pace remains steady but more texture is added with clean singing and keyboards. “In the nighttime, I can hear you dream,” Larsen sings, only to have Kjellson growl those same words when the song swings back to darkness again. The song catches fire, twisting and turning as Enslaved are wont to do, with the track getting a blistering end. “Building With Fire” is arguably the strongest track on the record, opening with flames crackling, funeral bells ringing, and the music heading into dreamland. The thing fires up over the chorus, with Kjellson howling the song’s title with conviction, only to have things go back to serenity again. This pattern continues throughout, with melody always heading back to the eye of the storm, and the song ends rather suddenly, as flames chew the last moments. “One Thousand Years of Rain” has acoustic and electric guitars co-mingling and giving the start a rustic feel before it blows open into a rage, with the vocals absolutely mangling you. The carnage and power are apparent, with calls of, “The sun is dying,” spilling into the mix. The band then hits on a very Viking-centric pocket of melody, feeling like a festive beer hall chant, which leads into a final burst of energy that takes the track to its finish.

“Nauthir Bleeding” is one of the more melodic, serene cuts on the record, as the thing opens in cloudy skies, soaring over mountains and letting you see the layout of the land. The singing is breezy and spacious, with the growls acting more as a complement than a main element, though we do get some sections of gruffness and fury. It’s a pretty different sounding song, even for modern-day Enslaved. The title cut follows, thrashing heavily right away and leading into a crushing assault. Singing does enter the picture to counter the growls, with Larsen wailing, “Across the ocean of time,” as the band then leans into a ’70s-style prog section. There even is a pocket of vocal harmonizing, like they’re some sort of deranged Beach Boys, before we’re back to violence and a feeling that a major, bloody battle has been won. Closer “Daylight” is an interesting conclusion, as it delves toward ballad territory at times. Not in a weak, hyper-sensitive way, but just more in feel and scope. It has its slower moments, but those always are filled in with passion and great singing, as well as soloing that feels like it was pulled in from the cosmos. It also has its tougher spots, with chugging guitars, growls that sound coated in phlegm, and a dramatic, passionate finish that’s the perfect final salvo for this adventure.

“In Times” is a fantastic effort from this long-standing institution, and Enslaved sound inspired and bursting with life. These cuts have everything you could want, from grisly to gorgeous sounds, punishment and emotional depth. When all is said and done for Enslaved, I’m not sure where this record will fall in the pecking order, but I’d certainly put it closer to the top half. It’s their best work in a decade that has contained some pretty strong work from this band.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.enslaved.no/

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