So, it’s Monday, and that means it’s as good a time as any to get nice and agitated. You probably don’t feel like doing half the things that are in front of you, and the weekend is as far away as any point in the week. Frustrated now?
A good remedy for that goddamn itch that won’t leave you alone is music that sounds like it exists to gnaw on your nerves and piss off those who can’t grasp what it’s all about. That’s where Venowl (][ on guitar, vocals; // on bass, electronics; :: on percussion) come into the scene. If you go online and read people’s reviews and comments about their music, you’d think these guys personally insulted those peoples’ families or stole their dogs. Yes, the music they make certainly isn’t easy to digest, and it can be confusing and insultingly confrontational. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the band’s work, because it is as non-formulaic as it comes, and you never know what’s lurking next. Their songs sound like free-form, open-ended forays into madness that feel like they could last all day long if they so desired. There’s little structure (at least that I can here) or tangible direction, and it just sounds like a flow of aggression that lasts as long as it needs to until the guys don’t feel like killing anyone or themselves anymore. I mean all of that as a huge compliment. I love it.
Luckily for people like me who dig the band’s brand of mind-crushing noise, there are two new split efforts for our consumption. And because we’re focusing on Venowl, let’s not lose sight of the two bands they’re featured with also are killer groups. One of them is killer Dallas unit Cara Neir, who released last year’s tremendous “Portals to a Better, Dead World” and who play an atmospheric, emotionally melodic brand of black metal, punk, and noise. On the other release, Highgate is featured, a sludgy, doomy band whose last full-length landed last year in the form of “Survival” (out on Totalrust Records). Their sound is a little closer to what Venowl do and they also drag you through an epic-length mauler that’ll leave you nice and bruised.
Let’s start with the Venowl/Cara Neir split, yours via Broken Limbs as a limited-run cassette release. Here, Venowl unload “Scour (Parts I and II)” onto you, and it’s a miserable, devastating experience from the word go. Dissonant noise rings out and forms a death cloud, while sickening, nauseating doom bleeds out in full. It feels like everything is burning badly, with a heavy aura of insanity, drone creepiness, and deranged howls and shrieks that sound like that of a mentally disturbed individual. There’s a feeling of anguish and oppressive mental trauma to be heard, with guitar squall hanging in the air, riffs absolutely bludgeoning, and toward the end of the 21:02 track, feedback vibrating and pissing anger, with final shrieks unloading the last traces of torment. Awesome cut. Totally messed up.
Cara Neir are slightly more conventional creators, with three tracks here that are catchy and fiery. “Aeonian Temple” explodes into black metal chaos, with the band pushing hard with tricky playing and interesting melodies that could get your blood bubbling. There even is a classic screamo sense to the music, and it’s one hell of a blast from these guys (vocalist Chris Francis, multi-instrumentalist Garry Brents). “Nights” is a curveball in a sense, with jazzy guitar work, speak singing, and a feeling that Faith No More might have been an influence on this cut. Eventually some gazey guitars burst into the picture to add more texture, and it’s a really cool change of pace. “Pitiful Human Bindings” has a mathy feel at first, but it doesn’t take long for the black metal trappings to push through, wild cries and screams to pierce, and cascading levels of sound to make this beefier. The final moments are nicely spacious, as the song trudges and bruises its way to a finish.
Up next is the release with Highgate, out on Tartarus Records and also limited to 100 cassettes. Here, Venowl stretch out even further with “Vacant Cellar,” a track that runs 34:04 and feels like it’ll keep bleeding forever at points. The opening is dank, like it’s zeroing in on a damp basement somewhere with noises like a blade against vulnerable skin. Doom starts to flood, with wild shrieks and screams expressing emotions most humans never have the misfortune to experience. The track spends its time hammering away, remaining a formless creature, and coming off as quite feral. At around the 10-minute mark, the piece begins to sound like a collection of people wailing and dying, as it descends into mucky hell. About 15 minutes later, it turns into a horror show, with doom churning, the vocals finding new levels of deranged, and the atmosphere aiming to suffocate you in stinking rags. The punishment never relents, with a savage meltdown, a heaping serving of drone, and deafening feedback twisting and smothering until the track finally meets its end. This is exhausting in the best possible manner.
Highgate takes time to set up their scene on the 26:15 “Carved Into Winter.” The band—Steve Porter, Greg Brown, Nate Powell, Shawn Kirst—opens up a cavernous sound, with the feeling of cosmic vastness that meets up with buzzing, steely guitar work that sometimes reminds of Across Tundras at their dustiest. The power then really kicks in, with raspy growls emerging, guitars getting muddier, and the pace feeling a lot more dangerous. The growls keep stretching out, with the band trudging heavily behind, but then things go more melodic and glimmering. But they never lose their edge, as they’re massively heavy no matter what pace they’re setting, and they head right into a pocket of crushing feedback and spacey sizzling. Later, some cleaner guitar work arrives, as the band plods along and keeps their mission deliberate but strong. Finally, their intensity returns, the growls explode anew, and the track tucks itself away, thoroughly satisfied with the way it both pulverized and mesmerized you.
Venowl’s bound to always be a band that annoys and infuriates more people than they convert into followers. They probably relish that idea, because it’s clear their music isn’t here to make you feel good or achieve positivity. But, you know, not all music needs to meet the same goals, a point so many people miss. Venowl are here because they’re supposed to be the way they are, and they’re great at fucking with you. So deal with it. The fact they’ve released some poisonous new music packaged along with great bands such as Cara Neir and Highgate—both way more than worthy of your attention—goes to show their peers agree. Go jump on these limited releases because they sound like nothing else you’ll hear that way, which is a great and horrifying thing.
For more on Venowl, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Venowl
For more on Cara Neir, go here: https://www.facebook.com/caraneir
For more on Highgate, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Highgatedoom
To buy the Venowl/Cara Neir split, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/
To buy the Venowl/Highgate split, go here: http://tartarusrecords.com/album/split-3
For more on Broken Limbs, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/
For more on Tartarus, go here: http://tartarusrecords.com/