PICK OF THE WEEK: Vouna’s great self-titled debut record mixes black waves with sonic beauty

Photo by Veleda Thorsson

What would it be like to be the final living person on Earth, all alone, with no one to reach out to for comfort, help, affection, etc.? One on side, it could be an amazing experience having the expanse of the globe in which to operate with no one to bother you, oppress you, harass you. At the same time, it would be an existence on loneliness, with you never having a chance to see and feel another person.

Vouna is the project of Yianna Bekris, who also has made her impact on other bands including Vradiazei, Eigenlicht, and Sadhaka and is delivering her self-titled debut album on Artemesia Records, the label run by members of Wolves in the Throne Room. That creative union makes a lot of sense, as Bekris’ music basks in the Pacific Northwest waters, though in a completely different way. There definitely are strains of black metal infused in the music, as well as funeral doom, shoegaze, and even 4AD-style murk rock, making for an atmospheric, dreamy ambiance that gets inside your bloodstream. On top of the storming melodies and chaos comes Bekris’ astonishing, emotion-rich singing that grabs your attention and refuses to let go on this artistic vision of someone becoming the world’s final living being. Over the course of these five songs, Bekris (while she handles all instrumentation and singing on the record, the full version of the band contains Lord Hoelzel on drums, Autumn Kassel on synth, Caitlin Fate on lead guitar, and Marrow handling bass and backing vocals) creates a document that’s a noteworthy new addition to extreme music, one that should be fascinating to follow into the future.

“A Place to Rest” opens the record with Bekris singing a capella, “Rain on the ground,” as the song slowly comes to life as guitars charge, her singing soars, and a swarm of sound develops a foundation. Synth glaze is heavy, mixing with acoustics before fading out. “Cattle” starts dramatically as keys whir and guitars take off, leading to plucked strings adding more texture and a flood of synth hailing. The track is woodsy and emotional, calming for a stretch before fog wafts over, keys rise to the surface, and the track surrounds you like a swarm, leaving you with eternal buzz. “Last Dream” emerges from the unconscious state, as the vocals float ghostlike, with rustic acoustics and impassioned singing merging to form a greater whole. That leads into a mist of sounds, as guitars drip and stretch, pushing to its final destination.

“Drowning City” is the second-longest track, clocking in at 7:06, with guitars chiming, Bekris’ voice echoing, and the track feeling like a folkish journey to take in your mind. Just then, the pace is shredded, as the song and all of its elements flood the scene, Bekris’ singing compels your heart to swell, and soft flutes breeze into the background like a draft in a dark room. Organs arrive and twist up in acoustics, with the singing rumbling in chests, keys raining down relentlessly, and a doomy and gothy final moments bringing shadows. Closer “You Took Me” runs 8:26 and is a highlight, the classic best-for-last trick, as the song bathes in mesmerizing keys and layers of ice before the guitars cut in. Bekris’ singing goes to new heights, even feeling a little bluesy during the verses, while the music gushes pain, and spacey synth frosts everything over. Dark synth pumps away, almost like a funeral march, while the track pounds in calculated fashion before disappearing mysteriously into mid-air.

Likely none of us ever will have to experiencer utter solitude like we can imagine on Vouna’s stunning debut record, but this gives a look into that fantastical scene, where there’s no one left but you. The music on this record, and Bekris’ immense talent, make this a really noteworthy release, one that could be the start of a really special project. This is art that combines savagery and beauty in a way few others have dared, and it’s utterly breathtaking to behold.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.artemisia-store.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://artemisiarecords.com/

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Black metal forces combine in Arête to infuse atmosphere and chaos on earth-tilting ‘Hymnal’

For anyone who’s ever read a handful of stories on this site, you’ve likely figured out that we like music that makes us want to go into the forest immediately and take in the environment. A few weekends ago, a bunch of us went into the Monongahela National Forest (no Duck Newton sighting, sadly) for a weekend to be amid the trees and waterfalls in order to unwind from the things that haunt us every day. The only mistake was having no fitting music in my ears.

A band that definitely would have made for an ideal soundtrack is Arête, a group made up of members of other noted artists such as Twilight Fauna, Slaves BC, Deafest, and Evergreen Refuge—Paul Ravenwood (guitars, vocals, flute, percussion), Dylan Rupe (guitar, bass, percussion, vocals), Chase (guitar, piano, vocals), and Josh Thieler (drums). Their style of black metal instantly conjures feelings and thoughts of the outdoors, especially around now when the trees look utterly amazing. Weird to say in November, but hey, nothing to worry about environmentally! Anyway, crunching over sticks and leaves, working your way through the damp forest, these six cuts arrive is an ideal time, just when temperatures are going to begin to dip in much of the United States, when black metal sounds its very best. This is a rich, rewarding experience, a record that’ll be in rotation here regularly for the next several months as we await the ice and snow.

“Breathe the Pond” starts, fittingly, with water trickling, setting serenity, while whistles call in the distance, and a synth bed arrives. The drums then awaken, while the growls erupt almost in whisper-like fashion, sneaking beneath the chaos. Sorrowful melodies lap before the song erupts, with a gazey sheen glowing before calm returns, bringing with it acoustic guitars and a plucked banjo, bringing a last gasp of rustic air before a burst that flows to the finish. “A Plague From the Green Tongue” has guitars bursting and growls heating up, as a scathing path is blazed, with the track toggling between power and woodsy serenity. Of course, the calm times never last long, as the beast tears through the other side, going off and crushing what’s in front of it, eventually melting into the icy streams deep in the forest. Out of that emerges a doomy riff, as the band lets loose a final gust of thrashing, with infernal growls leading them off into the night. “Hymnal” is a quick acoustic cut that is led by acoustic picking and atmospheric energy that cools the air in front of you.

“Edifice” has icy keys dropping before growls slither and the track comes to full life. The fiery passages still find their way into frigid zones, with the track finally reaching the shore from the land, as guitar waves lap over top. Then the power returns, as riffs catapult and swirl in the air, letting off gasps of glory before dissolving into acoustics and coming to rest amid elegant folk tones and warbled speaking. “You Hear Me” is delicate at the start, building its way toward the metallic eruption, as growls hiss and the pace storms. Riffs slice though as the fires build, heading into head-swimming ambiance before the guitars rekindle their fury. The leads sting, while a huge deluge of emotion knocks you over, devastating and quaking the earth before we’re back into the bubbling stream, washing out into the heart of the woods. “Of Endings” is an instrumental closer that is immersed in murk and steely acoustics, with a lonely whistle calling, and winter seemingly waking from its slumber.

Records and bands that conjure certain feelings about seasons always are welcome around here, and whether or not they intended to do this, Arête nail the late autumn/early winter vibe on “Hymnals.” It has that chilled, forestal air that shocks your face when first walking outdoors and also fills your lungs with a sensation that locks your chest but doesn’t freeze it in place. Now that the nights arrive sooner and the sun consistently changes late afternoon skies into burnt oranges and purples, this record should be an excellent companion for paying tribute to those parts of nature no one can ever kill.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.fearandthevoid.com/shop

For more on the label, go here: https://thefearandthevoidrecordings.bandcamp.com/

Meat Mead Metal: Best of October

It’s been a really nice autumn here this week on the East Coast, where an entire season is pretty much boiled down to one week. The trees just turned colors a few days ago, and now the leaves are dying and falling to the ground. Eh, it could be worse. Hey, October was a killer month for metal, and after I thought September couldn’t have been more insane, October delivered a killer slew of new releases that remain in heavy rotation. And again, there was so much diversity, from filthy death meta,l to doom, to atmospheric and more traditional black metal, to a true one-man band, to a band that pulled back their extreme sound and delved deeper into their home country’s roots. All good stuff below, so listen and weep that autumn is already over.

Ævangelist continue to destroy inhibition, add further chaos on brain-melting ‘…Temple of Omega’

When describing heavy metal bands and records, writers too often fall into the same ways of conveying what they’re hearing. This moron writer is included in that. I don’t know how many times I’ve described something as nightmarish, but each time I do, I try to make sure that term actually applies. Today, that descriptor never has held as much weight as it does now.

“Matricide in the Temple of Omega” is the new offering from black metal/death metal beast Ævangelist, who have given us plenty of torment and fear over the years. The duo of Matron Thorn (guitars, bass, drums, noise) and Ascaris (vocals, lyrics, cello, sax) tear into the most vulnerable areas of your psyche and deliver a formless void of horrors that never allows you to feel even remotely comfortable. Over these six tracks and nearly 62 minutes, the band takes you into a, yes, nightmarish world that feels foreign to your own and brings with it violence, off-setting melodies, stabs in the dark, and bloodshed that’s created in torturous ways that are inventive even to the most depraved and sickened minds. If you’re new to this band, it’s probably going to take some time to sort through all these layers and make sense of this, not that it’s something even the most tenured of listeners can even do with any regularity. That’s all part of the fun, by the way.

“Divination” is a quick minute-long intro cut that’s immersed in a noise haze and bizarre transmissions before we head into 10-minute “Æon Death Knell” that tears open and immediately has you going for the panic button. Ascaris’s growls are frightening on so many levels, as she works to disarm you and deliver her hideous message. Warbled singing is marred by noise, while the guitars mar and punish, and noise hangs ominously like a cloud. The song then goes for the throat, wailing and burning, as terrifying growls twist your mind, and tornadic riffs roll on and repeat, adding to the psychosis. The fever keeps increasing in degrees, while the track scorches, slows into a sludge, and bleeds out in agony. “Omen of the Barren Womb” runs 13:18 and lets confusion reign right from the start. Guitars charge and chug, as chaos storms and saturates the ground, with Ascaris’ growls adding to the pain and sending you into a vortex of misery. Noise spreads its campaign of sorrow, causing your head to swim through blade-filled waters before the track mercilessly fades into sounds.

“The Sonance of Eternal Discord” runs 11:12, and it greets you with unexpected warmth and a long introductory transition before the pace begins to swelter and spread, picking up heat as it moves along. Ascaris’ growls peel away at the flesh, with pained singing sliding behind the scenes before the pace settles, the track soaks in a sound bath, and everything slowly expires. “Serpentine as Lustful Nightmare is the second-shortest track at 7:52, and it makes the room spin violently from the start, with the playing blistering and shredding bone, while the riffs unload and add even more dizziness for your already wobbling brain. Wild cries jar the senses, while the riffs pummel, and everything ends abruptly. Closer “Ascending Into the Pantheon” is the longest track, running 18:32 and beginning with guitars awakening and an eerie sense floating off into space. The growls are buried in filth, while hypnosis returns with even greater impact, while riffs trudge, and the pace speeds ahead. Things then get warped cosmically, with rubbery melodies and alien-like static, as a strange voice emerges, delivering a chilling message. It feels like a statement is being conveyed from dimensions beyond, as the music darkens and provides a ghastly vehicle for this message to take the track to its final resting place.

With every new Ævangelist that comes around, it’s another opportunity to expose yourself to some of the most deranged metal there is in any form. “Matricide in the Temple of Omega” delivers terror and madness like no other bands, and this display is one that’ll jar you to your core. This is the stuff of mental damage, the thing that creeps into your head at night and makes you awake screaming, covered in sweat.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

Baring Teeth increase violence content, infuse added brutality into deadly ‘Transitive Savagery’

Photo by Sheryl Anaya

One of the things that always shocks me about watching any MMA fight isn’t the technique or the strategies. It’s the amount of punishment one person can take without giving up. I have a hard enough time dealing with minor amounts of pain than dealing with a constant barrage of violence directed toward making me give up or lose consciousness.

I thought about that repeatedly while taking on “Transitive Savagery,” the new third record from Dallas-based death wranglers Baring Teeth. This is the band’s first release with Translation Loss after spending time with Willowtip for their first two albums, and holy shit, did their new label ever get delivered a record that looks to wreck the listener’s life. This seven-track effort is a smothering monster from the start, and as this thing goes on, it traps you in a ground-and-pound and bloodies your face, showing zero relent. And this is a death metal record, not a real fight, so that unforgiving barrage should be welcome, even though it could lay waste to your hearing if you’re not careful. The band—Scott Addison (bass, vocals), Andrew Hawkins (guitar, vocals), Jason Roe (drums)—still has its penchant for technical wizardry, but they ignite their more violent tendencies to make their most destructive, punishing record yet, one that’ll leave you with blackened eyes.

“Quiescent Mass” is a quick opener, a 1:33-long hammer attack with forceful growls and bludgeoning intent, steamrolling right into “Abstracted Mine” and its tricky, dizzy pace. Guitars zip and loop as the track turns punishing, with the feeling of delirium sinking into your veins. The vocals chew up bones, while the pace gets zany but also brutal, with riffs keeping you off balance, piano dripping in, and the track bleeding out and right into “Perikaryon.” Guitars rip out guts, while the vocals land serious blows, and a strange haze spreads overhead. The guitars chug as we enter into shredding hell, with outright savagery afoot, and the track bashing you into unconsciousness. “Aqueous” is the longest cut, clocking in at 8:42, and it starts with noises floating, guitars hanging in the air, and the track slowly meting out its horrors. The tempo is slithering and disorienting, while the track stings and gives off the sense of intoxication, with everything blurring out into a sound pocket.

The title track starts clobbering right away, with the riffs drilling into your teeth, noise spiraling away, and strange guitars adding to the confusion. That leads the song down a destructive path, with blows raining down and leading its victim a bloody mess. “Vertiginous Noise” unloads thrashy guitars, a bizarre pace that’ll have your head spinning, and some jazzy bass work to add a little class to the joint. The vocals then scorch your flesh, as the band ups the ante of brutality, led by the guitar work just going off. The band shoots into some outright weirdness before chaos ensues all over again, and the track is beaten into a fine powder that blows off into the night. Closer “Impressions Left Behind” has the guitars going nuts at the front end before calm sets in, and the bass creeps into the picture and stomps your injured digits. Voices warble in echoes, while the intensity begins to build, making this thrashier as it goes. The guitars dizzy while the vocals scrape, and from there, the melodies entangle dangerously, with the final roars bursting everything into flames.

The assault you experience on “Transitive Savagery” is almost too much to take and will have you questioning your own ability to withstand punishment. Baring Teeth make a strong statement on this third record that they are bloody serious and more than willing to dish out however much devastation they think you deserve. This is a malevolent turning point for the band, going from one that delivers technical mastery to one that’ll take your head off.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TranslationLossRecords/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Evoken unfurl dark WWI revenge story packed with punishment on ‘Hypnagogia’

Photo by Jenny Panic

Imagine happening upon an old book, one that, once you begin to turn the pages, sounds like a journal kept by a World War I soldier, one who was hurt and suffering and seemed on the verge of death. You notice that as you make your way through, you begin to feel weak, pained, as if you had been through a war yourself. The pain is unimaginable, and you have no idea from where it came.

That terrifying scenario is the basis behind “Hypnagogia,” the excellent new record from Jersey-based doom metal stalwarts Evoken, their first new platter in six long years. This one is a concept piece, one that finds a WWI soldier on the brink of death but who makes a deal with a demigod that anyone who finds and reads his journal are doomed to face the same fate as he. Yeah, it’s a fantastical scenario, but we’ve been digging pretty deep into horror movies the past few weeks around here (it being the season and all), and this story sounds like something in which we’d immerse ourselves with a dark, strong beer with the lights out. As for the music itself, the band hasn’t lost their knack for slow, torturous, elegant doom metal that demands your utmost attention and rewards you handsomely. The band—vocalist/guitarist John Paradiso, guitarist Chris Molinari, bassist David Wagner, keyboard player Don Zaros, and drummer Vince Verkay—spread their horrors over eight tracks and 60 minutes on a record that’ll keep your bones chilled well into the winter.

“The Fear After” starts the record, a 9:21-long masher that starts in a synth haze before opening gloriously, albeit darkly, with growls slithering and strings leaving a heavy glaze. Dark speaking spills the plot’s beginning, as keys drain, guitars chug, and great cries echo into the night. That turns toward anguish, with the growls paying off the pain, and the track paving the way toward “Valorous Consternation.” Here, the opening buzzes before guitars soar, and murky synth helps add a heavy cloud coverage. Growls crumble as the song tucks itself under cold waters, as speaking warbles, and then the track is shredded. The song begins to crush, while Paradiso howls, “To be the window into thy soul!” as riffs drizzle and then tangle before falling away. “Schadenfreude” is chilled and dark at the start, with Paradiso’s creaking speaking, gothy ambiance, and some damp chilliness. Synth drains as the song goes on a slow, tortured path, though sophisticated guitars glimmer for a while before they’re swallowed by infernal growls. Guitars bleed amid militaristic drumming before everything fades into mercy.

“Too Feign Ebullience” is the second-longest song by eight seconds, clocking in at 10:03, and an instant roar works its way toward rushing waters and a frosty synth scape. An echoing dialog feels like a message in a dream, as the track sprawls and keys boil to give off some steam. Strings then arrive and sweep, while growls erupt, and the track comes to a devastating end. The title cut is an instrumental piece that starts with keys stretching before everything comes to life, gushing with emotional, heart-wrenching melodies. “Ceremony of Bleeding” has clean guitars and haunting keys at its front end, with growls arriving, and Paradiso wailing, “My soul, only a memory.” Cleaning singing then takes over, adding even more drama to the track, before guitars stretch out and sting, a charge is ignited, and utter savagery slams the door closed. “Hypnopompic” is another instrumental cut that has guitars charring, synth burning off, and the track gently easing to its finish before mammoth finale, “The Weald of Perished Men,” stretching over 10:11. We start slowly, as mournful speaking strikes and a sorrowful burst of melody brings a jolt. The power builds as the song goes on, as the band drubs away at you, and the guitars gash. “Please let me die,” Paradiso calls, “Let me go,” as synth washes over the song in waves, a strong buzz builds, and the pain and agony of the main character and all of his victims bleed into mystery.

Evoken find new ways to spread their darkness on their sixth record “Hypnagogia” and weave that into this historical horror tale that would make for a spellbinding film. The band’s shadowy, funereal doom continues to get richer and more refined, as they’re one of the finest groups in all of doom and have been for a long time. This record lures you into the tale with their powerful pull and leaves you psychologically impacted. But lucky for you, it’s only a morbid tale. As far as you know.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com

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

Myopic’s self-titled debut has progressive, enthralling edges that leave psychological scars

Photo by Ben Price

Metal’s amazing survival through the years has a lot to do with the sound’s willingness to change and adapt. It’s always nice to have the proteins-and-potatoes-style of bands that keep things traditional, but it’s been fascinating to hear groups that aren’t satisfied with the norm and push the boundaries as far as they’ll go without breaking.

Washington, D.C., progressive metal band Myopic are delivering their first full-length, a self-titled affair, and it shows an incredible amount of growth both for the band and for extreme music as a whole. Sure, it sounds odd to say a band on their first record have progressed, but it’s not like this is their first rodeo. The band has two EPs and a split (with the mighty Torrid Husk) and have displayed their force in the live setting, so this first album is more the culmination of the efforts that have preceded it. These eight songs spread over a generous 55 minutes are adventurous and exciting, a mix of death metal and sludgy doom, with the band showing their musical dexterity over the bulk of the album. It’s technically dazzling, but not in the robotic sense, as the band—guitarist/vocalist Sean Simmons, bassist/vocalist Nick Leonard, drummer Michael Brown—inject heart and soul into the music, ensuring their work is splashed with humanity.

“Intro” is a strange start, a quick instrumental intro that lets noise bleed and stream rise before working into “Earth’s Mantle” that has a proggy bend right off the bat. The bass plods, as the song has an airy crunch, and clean calls sit behind the violence. The intensity ramps up as the melodies charge, and the band sets a daring path they follow with gusto. Harsh growls rip, as the melodies rivet, and as the track reaches its end, the playing spills into noise. “Onward” strikes and trudges, with the growls intertwining with clean singing and the riffs roaring. Growls attack anew, as the track charges, noise emerges, and the track blisters to a close. “Husk of a Man” lights things up, with the bass rollicking, and proggy strangeness making its presence known. There are parts of this song that remind me of vintage Voivod, with strange singing, rubbery playing, and even some strains that feel Floydian. The pace rumbles, the synth cloud thickens, and it all ends in a sound surge.

“In Exile” is a 12:55-long pounder, the longest track on here, and it starts aggressively, with guitars lighting up, and the drums awakening. Riffs start to charge as the pace gets started, and the music begins to float into the air. Singing pushes through before the track gets uglier and growls emerge. The band spirals into a long section of playing where they stretch their creativity, later getting moody before the speed ignites, gets gritty, and roars spill over a panicked pace. “Pillars of Time” is slow driving as it starts. Rumbling with scathing growls pours into a vile, horrifying stretch, though the chorus lightens up and brings a spirited sense to the din. Guitars take over as soloing bubbles, with the track disappearing in a swarm of noise and chirps. “Swallowing Depths” is aggressive at the start, with guitars circling and smothering power being applied. The track gets adventurous, temporarily calming down before the guitars take over, growls rain down, and the punishment fades into ghostly apparitions. “Resting Place” closes the album with sorrowful guitars spreading and a shadowy tempo opening up, making way for horrifying growls and a steamrolling chaos. The track continues to gain steam, gets psychedelic, and then kicks back into the madness, carving straight to the heart, and bowing out in distortion.

It may have taken some time and effort for Myopic to get their first record out into the world, but we now have their self-titled affair in our grasp, and it was well worth the wait. These guys mix musical ingenuity and brutality as well as anyone, and this record is a smasher from beginning to end. Records and bands like these are what’s going to keep metal a vital force well into the future.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/myopic

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords/