PICK OF THE WEEK: Nihill’s black campaign of terror takes noisy, devastating turn on ‘Verderf’

Photo from Roadburn.com

Photo from Roadburn.com

That saying “seeing is believing” apparently goes a long way when it comes to Dutch black metal nightmares Nihill. I’ve never witnessed the band live, I’m sad to say, but reports I’ve read about them from some very reliable sources are they are a band that must be experienced in the flesh in order to be fully absorbed. I look forward to that day with great thirst.

Until then, the band’s incredible studio albums are all I really have to go on, and they’ve been some of the most warped, intense, and vicious recordings the genre has produced the last decade. I get the sense that had they been a part of the Second Wave bands, they might have been one of the ones revered the most. Their original trilogy of records was brought to the States courtesy of Hydra Head Records, and the reason I indulged in the band in the first place is because I trusted that label’s tastes and figured if they saw promise, there must be something there. Was that ever an understatement? Over the course of debut “Krach,” follow-up “Grond,” and series finale “Verdonkermaan,” the band established itself as one of the scariest, most unique bands in all of black metal, a breath of pestilent air among a scene that could benefit from a true sense of danger and malice.

GD30OB2-N.cdrNihill have returned, seeing to it that our December is as black as possible, with their crushing fourth record “Verderf,” a mind fuck of an adventure that’ll peel the paint off your walls and color your nightmares with sights unseen and unimagined before. The eight-track, nearly 55-minute opus is pure Nihill, but it also has them upping the fury and bizarre nature of their creations. It’s an album that might take some time to set in and really infect your bloodstream, but once it does, you’re finished. Even I, a longtime Nihill fan, had to take a few trips with the record before it made its true character and intentions known to me, and I have since offered my submission to its force. It’s noisy, sometimes violently monotonous, and always bubbling with crazed terror, and what this band—vocalist Michiel Eikenaar, guitarist/drummer V., and bassist Jelle Agema—accomplish here are ear worms headed straight to your brain to warp you forever.

Opener “Ghoul” is a quick instrumental cut that’s sort of like the band opening the tightly squeezed jar lid on their world of horrors. Noises shriek and pierce the senses, sounds build like a storm, and you feel like you’re being sucked into a vortex on your way to “Carrion Eaters.” The ominous guitars, the relentless pounding, and vocals that sound like they’re being spit along with black blood and tar greet you. The whole damn thing pulsates in your ears, shaking your mind to its core, and they just keep building layer upon layer of filth to this thing until it swelters and tortures you to its end. “Kolos” runs 8:36, and its damaged, slurry guitar work lets you know right away that things are not normal. The vocals sound like a furious wind of moans at times, with Eikenaar howling, “Sow the seeds of heresies!” likes it’s an outright command and not a suggestion. The sounds swirl in air, causing an entrancing scene from which you cannot escape, and the machine-like churning and burning stay in their lane and rub your face into the dirt over and over again. “Wielding the Scythe” rages open, with monstrous growls assaulting you and riffs bending like sheet metal but refusing to break. If anything, they’re twisted into a new, sicker form, with melodies rising up like a swarm, riffs feeling meaty and troubling, and the crazed vocals joining with all of those elements and eventually succumbing to a noise haze.

“Spiritum” screams opens and then sludges away on a slow-driving pace designed to exact punishment in doses. Some of the lead lines feel stabbing and sulfuric, with the madman vocals stretching over top everything to give the track an extra dose of terror. Guitars buzz hard, the melodies sicken, and the band refuses to leave their path, instead staying the course and burning everything behind them. “Morbus” crashes open and starts on its campaign of absolute tyranny. The vocals are more like yelled diatribes, as if Eikenaar is on a pulpit directing his darkness to the masses, while the band clubs relentlessly and sometimes weirdly. Feedback sizzles and rings out, chunky sections emerge that should get your blood flowing and you right in line with the band’s agenda, and the final push of charred carnage at the end is a last chance to offer your flesh to them. “Engorged” changes the pace and face entirely. It’s a 10:43-long noise sermon, with pockets of chaos making like an electrical storm and the vocals coming off like hellish rants and stream-of-consciousness threats. Often times, the track seems like a dream, one from which you are roused not into consciousness, but into a different level of sleep you didn’t know existed. Try as you might, you won’t awaken until your mind is given permission. Closer “Ossuarium” revisits with razor-sharp guitars, chest-caving drums, and devious growls that sound monstrous. This is one of the more conventional (for Nihill, that is) songs on the record, but it’s still a pretty strange beating you take and a song that’s head and shoulders above what most other black metal bands are pumping out these days. It’s a track that keeps lacing you until it mercilessly bleeds out into the night sky.

Nihill’s legacy may be short, but it’s true. They’re the actual embodiment of horror, a band that should make your skin crawl. In fact, if they don’t, you might be doing this wrong. “Verderf” is another in a line of punishing, penetrating, and outright damaging records from this beast of a band, and if this is your first foray with Nihill, prepare to be damaged beyond belief. You might not hear black metal the same way again, and apparently if you witness them live as part of their congregation, you’ll never feel the same way about the darkness ever again.

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

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: http://burningworldrecords.com/


Full of Hell, Merzbow come together to join noise worlds on destructive collaboration

Full of Hell

Full of Hell

Maniacal chaos meeting impenetrable sound in the middle of a cosmic battle field with no boundaries and only space between the forces sounds both terrifying and completely exhilarating. Which forces come on top? Who has the gears necessary to dominate their opponent and beat them into submission? Ever scarier: What if they join together and exact their carnage on the rest of the world.

That latter scenario is what we get with the unholy union of hardcore/grind/sludge/noise warriors Full of Hell and Japanese experimentalist and uber-collaborator Masami “Merzbow” Akita. On the surface, their meeting could be catastrophic. They don’t seem like beasts that should mix together, but we’re also talking about two sides with terrifying open minds and the means to make some of the most fascinating sounds in extreme music. And it turns out on their collaborative album together–Merzbow gave Full of Hell a collection of sound for them to do with what they wish–is a fire burning hard and furiously during its running time. It’s also an interesting lesson in contrasts as, if you buy the CD version of the collection, you get the 11 tracks that are more FoH-driven and a second disc “Sister Faun” that’s more floating in Merzbow’s bizarre world. (The always reliable A389 is handling the vinyl.)

Merzbow (Photo by Jenny Akita)

Merzbow (Photo by Jenny Akita)

It’s not like Full of Hell–a four-headed crusher consisting of vocalist Dylan, guitarist Spencer, bassist Brandon, and drummer Dave–needed more madness to add to their cauldron. Their live shows already are becoming a thing of legend, and their stock continues to rise as more people take notice of their hellacious sound and total devotion to the bloodshed. Merzbow is known the world over for his insane, bafflingly expansive catalog of material as well as prior collaborations with artists as varied as Boris, Sunn 0))), Melt-Banana, and that’s just lazily scratching the surface. His place in noise culture was more than secure before this record with Full of Hell, and after it, the album proves just how far the man’s work can stretch, fit, and make something even more explosive.

Full MerzbowThe main disc is actually the shorter of the two, with Full of Hell raging through 11 cuts in 24 minutes, which really is no surprise. The first three songs blaze by in about two minutes total, with “Burst of Synapse” getting things started with dizzying intensity; “Gordian Knot” blistering all over the place and letting the noise unfurl; and “Humming Miter” running headlong into piercing shrieks and growls, weird guitar parts, and pure detonation. “Blue Litmus” runs a little over two minutes, with maniacal growls spilling forth, guitars spiraling all over, sludgy bruising making the scene more savage, and bizarre sounds stabbing and leading toward “Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloodied and Terrible,” a strange noise feast that bristles, with vocals buried in the din and every element boiling blood. “Thrum in the Deep” dumps more muddy riffs into the mix, with guitars smearing soot, the growls coming from the depths of Dylan’s intestines, and every element rumbling hard, every bit of noise scorching.

“Shattered Knife” has messy guitar leads that are ugly and satisfying, thick bass that blasts down walls, and short blasts of death that make the most of the 53 seconds. “Mute” is an even quicker gust at half a minute, containing deranged shrieks and a thick wall of fury, which leads into one of the two mammoths of the record “High Fells,” that rolls for a bloody 4:30. The sounds sting your ears, with feedback flooding and threatening, some strange clean singing giving the track a dose of strangeness, and bizarre, skronked horns emerging at the end, giving off the sense of permanent damage. “Ludjet Av Gud” goes 5:43, and it’s even more horrific, with what sounds like an oppressive furnace belching heat and the voices coming off as more monstrous than ever before. The track lurches and gurgles, with growls swimming deep underneath all the elements, guitars grinding, and relentless pounding that bleeds into finale “Fawn Heads and Unjoy.” This gives the band a last gasp to get all of the aggravation out of their system as they assault with tricky guitars, horns bursting again, and a death grind that comes to an immediate end.

The “Sister Faun” disc has fewer songs that run longer, with five tracks stretching over 36 tense minutes. As noted, this is the section that is more obviously Merzbow-inspired, and it’s a mind-melter from the start, with “Ergot” rising up on a prayer and electronic noises clashing with one another. Guitars wine and moan and eventually sound like a dying engine. “Merzdrone” is fairly self-explanatory, with beats drubbing, hypnotic swirling making your mind trip, and a bed of terror causing panic to invade your cells. “Aphid” has growls sinking in the depths, with laser-like sounds squealing, noises pulsating and shredding, and animalistic outbursts dressing the thing in an extra layer of volatility. The song has moments that are absolutely terrifying. “Crumbling Ore” is the shortest cut on the disc by a second at 4:09, with strings droning out and sludgy pounding emerging, pushing into siren-like wails. The last track “Litany of Desire” runs a beefy 13:46, and the cut is built on an oppressive loop that stretches through the duration. Along the way, that spine picks up added bits of strange noise and fiery hammering, and eventually is dissolves into a slow drawling passage that sounds like it’s dying alive, coming to a sleepwalking, out-of-body finish.

Clearly Full of Hell are on their way up in the world, and their relentless touring (they’re in my town nearly a handful of times in late 2014/early 2015) are keeping them a well-oiled, dangerous machine. A tour with Merzbow would be an event to behold and would probably blow minds of noise fans everywhere. As for Merzbow, what more really needs to be said? His resume and his work here speak for themselves. This collaborative is as furious as it is interesting, and even when you’re being pummeled with decibels, there remain a few empty pockets for you to dream as well. This is a really scathing union, one that hopefully has more to it than just this one collection.

For more on Full of Hell, go here: http://fullofhell.com/

For more on Merzbow, go here: http://merzbow.net/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

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

Lotus Thief’s debut ‘Rervm’ is packed with space rock magic, message that endures the ages

Lotus ThiefPutting on a record and having an experience you don’t anticipate and don’t know initially how to process can be an enthralling thing. With so many things today sounding so similar and records seeming to bleed into one another no matter the style, a record making your hairs stand on end and drink in every detail is a godsend.

I already had heavy interest in the debut from Lotus Thief, a creative union of Otrebor and Bezaelith, both of Botanist who we’ve covered extensively on these pages, and both admirable and riveting musicians. Botanist already stands out as one of the most unique projects in all of metal and extreme music, and that made delving into this album something that held a ton of mystery. They couldn’t possibly replicate–or even try–Botanist’s style. That world borne out of Otrebor’s bizarre brain was its own thing, and sure Lotus Thief would go somewhere different. And that’s exactly what happens on their debut “Rervm,” but even I couldn’t have figured out where these two would take this thing. Turns out, they got into the starship and pointed it toward the cosmos, finding yet another level to make imaginative music.

Lotus Thief coverThis also is one huge-sounding, ambitious document. There are times when the music is so big and bold, it could inject a sense of intelligence and bravado back into arena rock. But that doesn’t mean the thing’s built on big dumb riffs. It’s not at all. It’s just such an explosive sounding display, with elements of space rock, doom, pure metal, and ambiance, a giant room is the only thing that could house these sounds. Bezaelith’s singing also is a huge element that makes this thing work, as she unfurls her passionate, emotion-packed voice and isn’t afraid to get right inside your head. The words and the album itself is a modern retelling of “De Rerum Natura” (“On the Nature of Things”), a work of 1st Century poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus. Bezaelith says she takes inspiration from the text for many reasons. She’s moved by how the ideals expressed by Lucretius remain relevant centuries later, and she has seen that awakening in some of her students as they realize that there is wisdom in old texts that apply to our lives today.

“Lucretius goes further than just pro-science, or atomism,” she points out. “He talks about psychology, of how humans can fall prey to their own fears, of how arranged marriages can stagnate a person, and of the importance of learning over all things: that human beings’ cardinal purpose is to learn.  If anything, it was a comfort to me to know that someone back then was saying stuff like this.  So I wrote an album to re-amplify it.” She says she sees Lotus Thief as a vehicle of empowerment through knowledge, that humanity can make things better for themselves by learning and knowing. Each cut takes the listener through all six books of the poet’s work, and that journey is still speaking to us 2,000 years later.

“Aeternvm” opens with a thick, cold draft, and that blends into some progressive heaviness and chilled out, atmospheric playing. A thick bassline drives through and makes a beeline for the heart, with Bezaelith letting her vocals soar, conjuring dark, riveting drama. Otrebor’s drums explode, as they’re joined by spacey synthesizers that make the track feel like they’re coming from another world, and the psyche-heavy, alien feel later pulls you back into nature, with birds chirping away. “Miseras” is a mammoth at 8:58, and it lets noise set up and build its spirit while guitars chase and buzz away. Again, the singing is tremendous and spirited, really grabbing at you, and the band’s bursts take you into the fog, back out into the chaos, and into dark again. There are awesome, crushing riffs that are washed in the band’s weirdness, and the vocals float like a ghost at times, haunting and shaking you at the same time. At the back end, sounds simmer, keys drip, and what sounds like a heart-rate monitor stretches to a flatline. “Discere Credas” has synth spread all over it like a glaze, but guitars rush in and disrupt the sense of calm. Strong and heartfelt melodies dress the bulk of this, with Bezaelith wailing with all her heart, and again, we go back into the stars and ride through terrain most humans never have visited, even if it’s just mentally. This is a great ride that should get your emotions flying.

“Lvx” begins with heavy bass rollicking, more synth fog, and dreamy guitar work that add texture to the more gentle setting. Bezaelith’s vocals once again shine, as you might imagine watching comets and space junk rocket past you as you indulge in this song. The cut has a true majesty to it, with the bright colors becoming more apparent and the tempo sparking blazes that could light up the night sky. The song eventually gets punchy and progressive as it winds down, as keys help accentuate the quiet sections, and an ambient passage arrives that’s complete with explosions that sound like worlds being blown apart. “Discordia” opens with pure aggression, as drums are beaten with a savagery, the guitars glow and rage, and hissed vocals ride underneath everything, giving it a sinister feel. There is psychic splatter in every corner, guitars blasting out of shadows when you least expect them, and an energy that is undeniable. Synth smears all over, the guitars chug hard, and the fireworks eventually dissipate into a collection of sounds that feel like a dream including random voices, laughs, and applause. Closer “Mortalis” gets off to a great outburst, with more scary sounding vocals that sound like they’re delivered by a serpent, destructive madness, and noises jabbing with ferocity. This is a final chance for the band to boil the drama and let it bubble over, with the guitars rising to a new level of power, the vocals are just awesome and pummeling, and the melodies reach their dynamic climax before slipping away and allowing final gasps of synth take the track to its final resting place.

This album is cinematic, sonically gigantic, and a true inspiration for those of us who love when a record transports us somewhere unexpected. “Rervm” does that every time you visit, and hopefully this is just the start of things for Lotus Thief. I can’t get over how much fun I have listening to this thing, and the fact that it’s based in so much more than sound makes the music something you can examine over and over and always come away with new ideas and ways to improve the section of Earth you inhabit.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

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

Nordic death group Execration push genre boundaries, dare to dream with ‘Morbid Dimensions’

ExecrationIt’s been a pretty good year for death metal that pushes the boundaries of creativity. Yeah, it’ great when bands adhere to the OSDM formulas, but when you can add some new twists and turns to the sound, that’s just as good. You don’t have to look much further than Morbus Chron and Horrendous to find examples from this calendar year.

Now, with 2014 crawling toward its conclusion, we have a great late-year entry to throw into the mix of death bands who want to shape the genre the way they see fit. Execration, the decade-standing maulers from Norway, offer their fair share of head-scratching, body-crushing death on their new record “Morbid Dimensions,” their first in three years and debut release for the always reliable Hells Headbangers. I’ve been lamenting this a lot lately when reviewing what’s been a strong crop of late-year albums, but I hope this doesn’t get lost in the shuffle because of its December arrival. It’s a damn fun, riveting record, and there are so many twists and turns during its nine tracks and 60 minutes that you have to keep your head on a swivel in order to anticipate the next attack.

Execration coverThe members of Execration pretty much have remained intact since their 2004 launch. On guitars and vocals you have Jorgen Maristuen and Chris Johansen, on drums is Cato Syversrud, and on bass is Jonas Helgemo, the only guy not in it from the beginning, though he’s been a member since 2006 and has appeared on all of their full-lengths. This record really is a step up for them, though there’s nothing to complain about with their previous efforts “Syndicate of Lethargy” and “Odes of the Occult.” Instead, the praise for where they are now is based on how they’ve stepped up their sound, improved their strange magic, and have become one of the most interesting death metal bands in the world.

“Cosmic Mausoleum” is the first cut, and it has an echo-laden, doom-infested beginning, with a cold trickling sense to the guitars. It opens up, with grisly vocals, mean and riveting guitar work, and a tempo that keeps building and getting deadlier. Speed begins to rule, with tenacity brimming and the soloing sounding razor sharp and inspired. “Ritual Hypnosis” is punchy as hell, with gravelly growls, leads that boil and give off steam, and drums just clobbering. There are some bizarre, ghostly transmission in the center of the track, and the ending brings all the explosive elements back to the front. “Doppelgängers” is both spacious and clobbering, demonstrating some of their branched-out thinking, with the guitars setting up a fit of pure hypnosis. The growls are deadly as always, with doom re-emerging and howls of, “We enter the portal of hell!” reminding you that danger surrounds. The title cut rumbles and gallops hard, almost as if they’re riding a NWOBHM wave briefly, and later some black metal melody makes its way into the picture to darken the scene. The playing gets tricky and smoky, feeling like Krallice at points, and the cut ends in punishment and savagery. “Tribulation Shackles” is a monster at 8:23, with strong riffs leading the way and the death growls feeling alien and detached. The guitars are flushed with air and atmosphere, but then the axe falls again, crushing anew with dark noises taking the song to its conclusion.

“Vestiges” is built on eerie leads, gruff vocals, and a chugging tempo that injects new heaviness into the picture. The lead work is mind altering, giving hints of some of Iron Maiden’s more mystical moments, and the vocals absolutely crush your will to live. It’s just devastating. “Ancient Tongue” is all over the map in a good way, with melodies encircling and suffocating, the rhythm section just obliterating, and another foray into black metal’s circles that makes this such a blistering lesson. “Miasmal Sabbath” has a fitting title, as there are sections that sound like Black Sabbath worship, which is always a good thing. The track drives slow and hard, with a horror house soundtrack sense bleeding forth from every pore. Much of the noise hangs in the air like a ghoul, with the final moments putting on the last punishing touches. Closer “Funeral Possession” brings the fire to a raging point, with scary, flesh-crawling melodies rolling in, cool riffs making this chunky and bruising, and weird progressions keeping everything interesting. The fury is raw, as are the vocals, and the power gets kicked into high gear, as the band takes a last chance to show their inventive playing, their gory hunger, and their penchant for destruction. Fittingly, the final sound you hear is a gut-wrenching grunt that cracks you across the face and ensures that your eyes are wide open.

Execration are in a really good place 10 years into their run, and “Morbid Dimensions” is their new high-water mark. Every second of this thing is compelling and engaging, and it’s awesome hearing the guys putting a new spin on their interpretation of death metal instead of just treading the same sections of water. This is a band on the rise, one that’ll benefit greatly from their association with Hells Headbangers, and should be looked at as a group forging a blazing new path to tomorrow.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop-hellsheadbangers.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Primordial’s ‘Where Greater Men…’ bursts with fire-breathing conviction

PrimordialThere are iconic voices that have made their mark throughout heavy metal history and that can be name-dropped easily when rattling them off the top of one’s head. Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, and Geoff Tate are some of those who drove metal to where it is today and are instantly recognizable when you hear them.

We don’t have a whole lot of those voices today, as sounds have homogenized, the amount of artists has grown out of control, and the art of actual signing in metal has gone by the wayside. But one singer stands out among today’s sea of voices, that being Alan “A.A. Nemtheanga” Averill, frontman for Primordial. Maybe I’m going to sound over the top here, but he is one of the greatest voices of our time, a man who injects power, anger, tenacity, rebellion, and sorrow into every one of his lines, and he’s never uttered a word that wasn’t packed to the gills with meaning. Yes, he’s also lent his voice to other bands such as Blood Revolt, Twilight of the Gods, and Dread Sovereign, but in Primordial is where he sounds most at home. The band is back with their excellent new record “Where Greater Men Have Fallen,” another collection that unearths violent history, casts arrows at the forces of society that hold us back and persecute us, and leads the way with raised swords and torches ablaze. They are Ireland’s greatest musical import. And they would never force their way onto your iPhones.

Inlaysheet.epsThe new record, their eighth and first since 2011’s wrenching “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hands,” is awash in both Primordial’s most recent sounds but also reaches back to their earlier days, when they were more of a black metal band. A lot of that thorniness lies in Averill’s vocals that show harshness on a couple of songs he hasn’t displayed here in a while. The rest of the band–guitarists Ciaran MacUiliam and Michael O’Floinn, bassist Pol MacAmlaigh, and drummer Simon O’ Laoghaire–also are at their best, providing color, texture, animosity, and metallic glory to supplement Averill’s heritage-laden, war-torn tales that make you realize that while others often forget their history, these guys never do and never will. It’s in their blood.

The title track is the opening opus, and what a rousing welcome it is. The music gets warmed up, like a fire catching wind, and once Averill howls, “Go!” it’s off with hammers away. The singing and lyrics grip, especially when Averill demands, “Pray for mercy for release,” as the rest of the band drums up a backing as boisterous as the words. The band does an expert job building toward the finale, and Averill delivers a time-wearied message of, “You will always bury your sons,” digging back into that adage of never learning from history. The next two cuts offer a bit of a pullback, though they’re both intense in their own ways. “Babel’s Tower” is a calculated, cold-blooded cut, with the guitars churning, sorrowful vocals soaring, and the whole thing dripping in black drama. “Come the Flood” has guitars raining down like needles, with Averill taking on the role of storyteller, recounting “1,000 years of rain” while he stalks and unleashes foreboding messages. “Wash the blood from these lands,” he urges, as acoustics guitars rise up and add a rustic feel to what’s otherwise a gory tale. “The Seed of Tyrants” is one of those aforementioned callbacks to their earlier days, as you’re jarred awake by the shouted accusation of, “Traitor!” as the band delves into black metal stylings and some of the grislier music they’ve offered up in years. The music is hammering and vicious, the vocals flood with violent intent, and just when you’re in the midst of chaos, the track releases suddenly.

“Ghosts of Charnel House” is kicked open with punishing drums and a devious groove that thrashes away and lets the guys get loose. The riffs are spacious and atmospheric, a nice touch from the band, and there is melody just flooding everywhere. Averill sings heartily with a touch of gruffness to his voice, though he bellows mightily in spots, and for the most part this is a more reflective track. “The Alchemist’s Head” has a clean, cold open before vicious growls and waves of menace take over. Things feel ominous, with a touch of storminess dressing the music, and the bulk of this thing is like being trapped on a boat out at sea, with gusty winds and rains threatening your very survival. The abrupt end is the only thing that makes you feel remotely safe. “Born to Night” continues that sense of danger on the waters, with thunder and waves crashing, and the long, involved intro sets the scene. Of course, the things bursts open, with tremendous, meaty riffs leading the way, and Averill spitting, “You gaze into the abyss, and it gazes back at you.” Once again, he’s luring you into his bleak tales, with the band creating a backing that is just as compelling as the words coming from our minstrel. Closer “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun” has a lush acoustic intro, with the drums joining to kick up dust and the melodies sounding downright kingly. As expected, the emotion is gushing from the guys, as Averill pokes tradition and pays homage to his surroundings, wailing, “Who would pray to anything but the mountains?” The guitars weep in spots, glow over the din in other places, and the song winds to a deliberate end, letting the music and the words geminate and hopefully take root in your mind and heart.

Primordial remain one of the most important bands in all of metal, and they also are one of the most battle tested and honest. These guys will never mail one in, because it’s just not in their DNA. As a result, “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” is another record bursting with passion, emotion, and conviction, and if you wanted to argue it’s one of the best of their entire run, you won’t get an argument out of me. We need more bands like this, more singers like Averill. If we got them, the metal world would be a much better place.

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

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

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

The Flight of Sleipnir’s ‘V.’ is a cosmic, psychedelic explosion that’s their best album to date

SleipnirHearing a band you’ve long followed make leaps-and-bounds progressions on a record is one of the most exciting experiences in all of music consumption. We had a case earlier this year with the great Morbus Chron, whose second record “Sweven” was a game changer not just for them but for all of death metal. There’s a reason that’s still played regularly in my house nearly a year after its release.

Now comes “V.” the new full-length from the Flight of Sleipnir, the unclassifiable Colorado-based duo who have been making compelling records since their 2009 debut “Algin + Berkanan.” They flew relatively low under the radar on the small yet steady Eyes Like Snow label, putting out some of the most mesmerizing arrays of black metal, doom, and folk anywhere. The fact that Napalm Records swooped in and grabbed these guys for their epic fifth record is proof that hard work and great craftsmanship indeed still pay off, and they responded to what would be their newfound expanded audience with a record that redefines what these guys can do and ups the ante for every band going in metal. They retain their heaviness and savagery, but on “V.,” they inject more vocal melodies and an enhanced psychedelic experimentation to make their sound more full bodied and dynamic.

Sleipnir coverThe Flight of Sleipnir, who take their name from Odin’s great eight-legged steed, are but two men. Clayton Cushman handles guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals, while David Csicsely contributes drums, guitars, and vocals. These guys have played together in other bands including Archeronian Dirge and Throcult, and it’s clear their union in this band is growing stronger and more imaginative by the day. This is another record that, sadly, isn’t getting the adulation it deserves because of its late-year release. But make no mistake, any writer worth his or her salt will have this album at least in consideration for best-of-2014 honors, if they don’t have it affixed high atop their list. It’s that good, that mind-altering, and you’ll be making a massive mistake ignoring this incredible epic.

“Headwinds” is the first gush of air that greets you, floating in on clean, spacious melodies that are delicate and folk-led, making you feel like you’re traveling on foot in the middle of a forest somewhere. Lush vocal harmonies seep in, and then the power ignites, with shrieks spreading over the cascading instrumentation, and the drama thickening and enthralling. The guitars get gazey, the energy crushes like a tidal wave, and the harshness mixes with beauty to make for a heavily textured package. “Sidereal Course” has a great psychedelic opening, one that’ll get inside you and make your blood rush to your head. There is breezy singing that matches the ambiance nicely, with atmospheric guitar lines leading the way. Naturally, the song explodes, heads into the cosmos for inspiration, and has a pummeling ending that spills right into “The Casting” that clobbers right away. There are amazing, enthralling progressions during this one, with the vocals sounding both grisly and majestic. There are warm folk underpinnings that add deeper colors and a conclusion that is flushed with cold oxygen. “Nothing Stands Obscured” is utterly gorgeous at the start, with the spacey melodies and soft vocals making it perfect fodder for night sky staring and dreamy exploration. Eventually the bottom drops out, as destructive riffs and fierce growls blast into the scene and ignite great fires. The tempo keeps switching back and forth, leading you through tumult and calm, and once it ends on a blazing note, you’ll have no doubt you’ve been on an exhausting journey.

“Gullveig” has a super tripped-out start that’s like nothing else in their arsenal and might make you wonder if you weren’t slipped some mysterious medication. Along with mid-tempo guitars strumming come these lava-bubbling lines that are absolutely infectious. Yeah, it gets gritty eventually, as you know it will, giving you as chance to thrash about, but it always goes back into those intense, bubbling early sections that make this track stand out from the rest. Great imagination, and a track that gets better every time I hear it. “Archaic Rites” is a haunting one, with slow drumming leading into the body of the cut and lush female vocals sitting behind the smoke to add a different element of beauty. Raw and grimy guitar work darkens the scene for a while, though you eventually get back into fresh air with flutes lending a gentle hand and keyboards wooshing in to thicken the fog. Sure, that calm eventually disintegrates, and the climax is built with battle horns that sound like they’re signaling the beginning of a climactic battle. That leads to album finale “Beacon of Black Horizon,” a cut that is blistering beyond belief in its opening minutes, stomping and kicking up dirt like the beginning of that intense war. The vocals are thorny and fearsome, with both dealing penetrating blows, but that’s all before pulling back and letting slower, soaring melodies take shape. This is quite a trip, this 11:26-long epic, twisting and turning, churning and burning, and letting intense colors bleed out and stain the ground. The howl of, “Return to the hall of your fathers!” is dressed in both triumph and tragedy, as you’re not sure if that arrival is on this plane or the next, and the cut has a rustic, yet noisy finish that slams an exclamation point at the end of this album like a battle axe being sunk into the earth. Just breath-taking and exciting stuff here.

The Flight of Sleipnir’s incredible progression from their meek beginnings to where they are now has been a pleasure to experience. “V.” is their ultimate statement so far, the best and most realized work of their careers, a document that deserves to be fully absorbed and praised on high. Hopefully the record doesn’t trickle away with 2014, a lost gem that had an unfortunate release date. This is one of the most creative, infectious records of the year, and you’ll be committing a sin against metal if you don’t seek out “V.” and explore every crevice.

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

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

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

Unsacred, Vorde deliver their opposing perspectives on black metal with late-year releases



I know I’ve whined relentlessly about this, but man alive, there has been a ton of really good music released late in 2014. Maybe it’s a rib on all of us writers who love to be the first ones to register our best-of lists in like, you know, late October. Even I find that annoying, which is why I don’t publish mine until late December. I don’t care if you’re first.

Waiting to consume everything means you give every record and every band an equal chance, and there are two damn good black metal records coming out late in the year that I wonder if they’ll get a proper shake from national magazines and bloggers. I’m not saying they’re certain to make the list here at Meat Mead Metal, but at least everyone involved with these two blistering records will know they got a fair chance. These albums also should please black metal fans with expanded palates for the genre, as the two bands we’ll discuss today could not be more different from each other sonically. Both deliver the fire, and they should heat you up as the nights grow cold and you need something to thaw your heathen heart.

Unsacred coverUp first are Richmond, Va., pounders Unsacred, whose new release “False Light” comes your way via the always reliable Forcefield Records. Their sound is raw and vicious, with their mission being igniting the coals, pouring an unnecessary amount of lighter fluid on it, and daring any moron with no sense to get near it. There’s some crust and doom in their sound as well, but for the most part, it’s straight-ahead, rip-through-your-body violence that flat out demolishes. The band—bassist/vocalist Hunter McCarthy, guitarist Miguel Falcon, drummer Scott Bartly—considers this seven-track, 22-minute mauler a full-length, but if you want to consider it an EP, then who cares? They’ll be too busy stomping your guts in to mind for even a second.

The title track kicks off this crazed piece of chaos, ripping open with noise and harsh vocals, complete musical detonation, and a dizzying groove that could leave you maimed. Pretty damn good start to this thing, but there’s no time to breathe as they blast into “Idle,” a song with great riffs, strong melodies lurking behind the blaze, and growls that sound like they’re out for your blood. The band stomps forward with an unforgiving pace, continuing the beating right up to the bitter end of the track. “Plague” changes things up a bit, with a thick drone setting the stage and some doomy moments rising like a fog. But raw growls explode, with the band hitting on a pitch-black groove, and even some spacious guitar work adds oxygen to what’s otherwise a total demolition. “Erode” lives up to its name right away, with feedback eating away and the band launching into a raw, charging tempo treated with demonic-style shrieking vocals. The guitars take on a punk feel, and the drums burst, with the tortured wail of, “Why won’t this just end?” indicating its creators could use some mercy too.

“Void II” unleashes more inventive riffs before they slip into a thrashy section that’s violent and disruptive. The song blasts open, with a fluid black metal-fed melody leading the charge, tricky guitar parts keeping things confusing, and the track hitting on mind-altering tempo shifts that should jar your body around. “Sun” lets the drums spiral and confound, with noise leading toward chunky riffs, and even some sludgy terrain encountered, with McCarthy’s shouts of, “I woke up to a fire burning,” that are sobering in their delivery. Closer “Cage” warns, “Give up! The end is near!” as the band pours on apocalyptic madness, relentless speed, and a vicious sense of hopelessness that brings this smasher to a close. This is volatile, crushing black metal that’s played with no frills and no concern given over who they hurt along the way.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/unsacredva?ref=br_tf

To buy the album (out Dec. 9), go here: http://shop.forcefieldrecords.org/

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

Vorde coverOn the other end of the spectrum come NYC beasts Vorde, one of the strangest sounding, psychologically messed up bands in all of black metal. There’s nothing expected about this band, certainly nothing predictable in their DNA, and when they stretch their mangy black wings, there’s nothing but fright to behold. These mysterious, faceless ghouls (made up of members of Fell Voices, Ruin Lust, and Anchorites) make dizzying, ferocious sounds, and the vocals really stand out as the strangest element on their self-titled first release (a joint release by Psychic Violence and Fallen Empire). They sound like they’re emanating from the throat of an alien priest hosting a séance, and if you’re looking for sing-along lines and things to yell back live, you’ll be searching for a long time. Meanwhile, the band will be lurking behind you to capture you and force feed you their occult messages.

The oddness begins with the “Intro,” a brief, chilling track that leads into “Hatewave,” a song that begins on an aggressive, bloody note, with the voice wailing as if in the midst of a trance and the band sitting in the background building a wall of fury. The vocals remain creaky and blood-curdling, and the destruction keeps piling up until the song finally comes to its finish. “Transformation of the Vessel” is the shortest full track at 4:20, with weird vocal transmissions again taking the spotlight and the music absolutely blaring in the most oppressive manner possible. There are dark, sinister melodies that snake into the track, the guitars get tangled and hypnotic, and the warbled final words leave you with a sense of mystery and fear. “Blood Moon” runs 9:06 and begins on a trickling deathrock note. Moaned howls lead into the music opening up and eventually lurching growls make this song feel inhuman and unsettling. The composition sounds like it is trying to raise long-dead spirits, and once those ghouls return, the band finishes you off with carefully meted-out horror.

“Crown of Black Flame” is a 10:33-long behemoth, the lengthiest track on the album and in many ways, the most deadly. The dreary guitars that adorn the first part remind a bit of Xasthur’s deeper cuts, the ones where you feel like your own demise might be welcome. The music is snarled and strange, and mysterious vocals arrive just before the thing blows open and gets both powerful and heavy. The vocals turn to desperate, almost like pained cries that will not be soothed, the guitars make ghostly, charnel winds, and a cosmic frigidity ends this one and leads directly into 8:50 closer “Funeral Vortex.” That track is forceful, melodic, and deadly, with an alien temperament to the vocals, of course, and lots of tempo changeups to keep you alert. About halfway through, things get really ugly and vicious, and even the vocals take on more of a deathy feel, with the music starting to cascade like dying stars meeting Earth. Things even reach into gothic, New Wave territories before sinking into the darkest, dampest reaches of land. This is a scary, disarming experience like no other metal band can provide. Approach with caution, because once you submit, you’re never coming back.

For more on the band, go here: https://soundcloud.com/vorde

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

Or here: http://bandcamp.fallenempirerecords.com/album/vorde

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

And here: http://www.fallenempirerecords.com

These are two tremendous late-year additions to the black metal canon, with the only crime either committed is putting music out there beyond the point when many people are still paying attention. Both Unsacred and Vorde are the real deal, each working on building scary altars on their respective ends of black metal’s killing floors and standing as two of the genre’s most promising newer acts.