Falls of Rauros rumble toward prog journey, flex black metal muscle on ‘Vigilance Perennial’

People and things change over time. At least they should. How boring would it be to remain in the same spot doing the exact same thing over and over again until you die? Pushing beyond one’s personal boundaries can be a rewarding decision, and it can transform what you do into something altogether different.

I’m not sure that was the thinking going in when Falls of Rauros recorded their stunning fourth record “Vigilance Perennial,” but they certainly didn’t have an interest in running in place. Before you get worried, Falls of Rauros remain the same atmospheric, woodsy black metal band they’ve been all along. You haven’t been abandoned. But on this record, you get a deeper, richer band, one that digs into their wells of creativity and found some new elements to bring to the table. The band—Jordan, Eva, Ray, and Aaron—spreads further into progressive waters, and very excitingly so. This record is heavy and punishing, sure, but it’s also exhilarating. This music flows beyond black metal’s walls and rushes into plenty of other regions, expanding their reach and strengthening their base. This is the most surprising record of their run so far and one that proves Falls of Rauros won’t be held back.

The atmosphere of this record is apparent on opener “White Granite,” where the music begins flowing easily, hinting at serenity, before the track rips open, and feral howls punish. The prog-fueled energy pushes its way through, while guitars gush and glow, and vicious vocals add thorniness to the proceedings. The path goes cold, while guitars stretch their way across the void, and tremendous texture is added to the piece. This 10:11 cut wraps up with vocals wrenching and a burst of life shoving in before meandering out. “Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes” starts with gentle echoes and pianos dripping, as delicate waters trickle before the hammer drops. The growls wrench, while melodies add more light, and the cries and growls meet up with further forays into progressive paths. The soloing that creeps in is warm and gushing, though wild shrieks punch in, the drama rises, and everything ends in synth wash. “Warm Quiet Centuries of Rain” is a quick interlude piece with reflective guitars and wintry folk melodies that ice the blood.

“Arrow and Kiln” is the longest track at 12:03, and it has a spirited start flush with tremendous melodies that sweep up your heart. Abrasive vocals scrape, while the playing destroys with great purpose before the tempo cools off. A foggy synth bed settles on the ground, while acoustics slip in and flow toward a prog-bested section highlighted by some tremendous guitar work. The tempo glows and causes you to shield your eyes, as synth blankets once again, and the track fades out delicately. Closer “Impermanence Streakt Through Marble” has clean guitars leading into the scene, while the music swirls, and one of the record’s most memorable guitar runs takes place. Howls explode, the guitars bleed warmth, and violence and magic intertwine and crash land. The song then hits a stretch of wild storming, as all the sounds rush together, firing over and over until all elements crescendo and fade.

Over the past 12 years, Falls of Rauros have been one of the most exciting bands in the USBM scene, and that climbs onto an even higher level on “Vigilance Perennial.” They could have remained in their comfort zone and continued making the same brand of black metal they have all along, and no one would have batted an eye. But that’s not good enough for this band, as Falls of Rauros have continued to push borders and create whatever it is that’s in their rustic hearts.

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

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

Or here: https://www.nordvis.com/new_products

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

And here: https://www.nordvis.com/

Staring into the endless chasm, German doom crushers Morast infect senses on ‘Ancestral Void’

Nice weather and the sun shining through the windows can’t always wipe away the feeling of utter desolation. It doesn’t wipe away the darkness or the depression, and it doesn’t make one feel any less like falling deep into a void, hoping never to return. Not to start this thing totally in the negative or anything.

Morast’s debut full-length “Ancestral Void” is a misery-inducing collection of six songs that wallows in the darkest depths and only push to the surface the ugliest, most ferocious sounds. This German horde of doom/death peddlers have no use for mercy or sugar-coating their message on these six songs. Instead, they stand right over the abyss, describing the horrors beyond and forcing you to wallow in the hopelessness. The band—vocalist F., guitarist J., bassist R, and drummer L—level you with a huge serving of doom that is served alongside helpings of death and black metal, making their sound hard to classify exactly and impossible from which to escape. Before this effort, the band has demo and a split effort with Ultha (containing Bathory covers!), but this is their first full foray into the world, and it’s goddamn terrifying.

“Crescent” opens the record with spacious doom crunch, menacing growls, and a punishing pace that begins the bruising. The track simmers and gives off steam, with the violence hovering in place and the final minutes brutalizing. “Forlorn” has guitars burning and monstrous growls, as the riffs bring pain and scorn. The vocals unleash torment, as the guitars bubble up and add more muscle to the piece, and a filthy, miserable attitude is smeared all over the final moments of the track. “Sakkryfyced” has guitars swimming as the pace heads into a slow grind that is devastating. The band unleashes ugly decimation, though melodies exist in the muck, offering something of a bright light amid the chaos. The pace continues to destroy, with everything bleeding out in madness.

“Compulsion” lets the bass hulk around like a beast, as the vocals wrench, and strange melodies sicken the mind. The majority of the song is grim and harsh, as the vocals act like they’re telling a blood-soaked story that offers no peace. “Loss” sprawls slowly, though heavily, and slowly grunted words mix with riffs that pour gasoline on the fire. The tempo is ridiculously slow, but always deadly, as the back end is smeared out in noise. The closing title cut dumps chunky riffs into the mix, as the music drones and takes on a Triptykon-style vibe. The tempo broils the senses, as F wails, “Standing at the void of no return!” The vocals then go to moaned singing, dripping in misery, as the band unloads the final assault, chugging away until all is snuffed out.

Morast’s nastiness and hellish horrors are delivered in abundance on “Ancestral Void,” and it’s a really eye-opening first record from this band. It’s not always easy to navigate the sea of darkness when it comes to bands reeking in morbidity, but Morast manage to rise above that flood and grab the beacon. They are unsettling and mind-numbing, perfect music for when you want to loosen your grip and fall into nothingness forever.

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

To buy the album, or for more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

Luminous Vault take hypnotic journeys into death and inner struggle on fiery ‘Charismata’

People don’t tend to like dwelling on uncomfortable things. Just witness our pop culture. It’s one feel-good, throw-away thing after another without an ounce of genuine pain, discomfort, or sadness to it. It’s a gigantic, fake, sugar-shocked smile devoid of any real substance because no one ever hurts. If they did, they might not buy the products!

NYC-based black metal duo Luminous Vault is here to put a change to all of that. So, maybe they won’t penetrate the overall populace, the people who really need a wake-up call. But they’re here to deliver a trance-inducing exploration of and journey into death, rebirth, and the struggle within for those who don’t mind dwelling in discomfort. On their new thunderous new EP “Charismata,” the band—guitarist/vocalist Mario Diaz de Leon (noted solo artist whose also known for Oneirogen), bassist Samuel Smith (Artificial Brain)—put you through an industrial-tinged assault that should have your head spinning within seconds. That the contents inside your head will come perilously close to spilling out should not be a concern, because you’ll be at the eye of a vortex looking to suck you into forever. These four songs are heavy, hypnotic, and outright devastating, adding another killer building block on top of the foundation they laid on 2015’s EP “Communion,” pushing their obelisk toward the heavens.

The collection starts with “Birthblood,” as noise and trudging playing knock down the goddamn door and charge inside. Guitars rain down, as de Leon’s vicious howls make first impact. Eerie melodies pile on each other, while guitars spiral, the low end gets muddy as hell, and murky strangeness begins bleeding heavily, as noise and feedback stretch and fade out. “Kyrious” is ominous right from the start, with calculated beats and grisly vocals tearing down any sense of comfort. “You will sacrifice yourself unto the plague!” de Leon howls, as the track takes another twist toward the bizarre, continuing the band’s mission to contort any hint of normalcy.

The title cut is hypnotic and a force of nature, leaving you desperately grabbing for something solid to support your balance. It’s of no use as the band pushes the monstrous assault into overdrive, with the maniacal vocals drawing blood and piercing noise carving away at your ear drums and dragging you all the way to the finish line. Closer “Tower” is the longest song at 11:28, starting with strangeness flooding the senses and guitars burning and leaving thick black smoke behind. If there’s such thing as funeral death metal, this is right down that decrepit alley, as guitars chew away, and abrasive vocals push the pace toward total audio violence. Industrial-style beats and a clubbing bass thicken the waters, while the charge hits a high point, pulls back its force, and bleeds out with the back end of rumbling noise.

Though it’s a smaller serving in form of an EP, Luminous Vault pour enough chaos and punishment into “Charismata” than many bands put into something twice as long. These songs grip your hand and pull you into the madness, with you having no choice but go along as you can’t fight the beast. You’ll be forced to confront darkness, morbidity, and your own demise, but once you’re done, nothing will fucking scare you ever again.

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

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

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

Death metal lifers Memoriam pay respects to lost comrades with war-torn debut ‘For the Fallen’

To be in the presence of death metal royalty is not a thing to take lightly. Especially at a time when metal’s legends are beginning to fall in front of us or at least are seeing their power drained, we must grasp when our leaders are strong and still delivering vital content to push the movement forward.

Bolt Thrower’s demise last year was a major blow to death metal, as they were one of the purest forms of the sound. Their loss left a major gap, and they are absolutely not replaceable. That said, the silver lining in all of this is that the band Memoriam rose in its wake, a group that’s here the continue the path BT and others blazed, as well as to pay homage to those who have moved on to a different plane. Led by unmistakable vocalist Karl Willetts, who howled in front of BT for years, the band also includes heavy hitters including former BT drummer Andrew Whale, bassist Frank Healy (Benediction, Sacrilege), and guitarist Scott Fairfax (who is a live contributor to Benediction). This union initially formed to pay respects to late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, but they ended up coming up with some really punishing original material. That’s now yours to have on their thunderous debut “For the Fallen,” an eight-track, 43-minute monster that does everyone’s roots, as well as all of death metal, a tremendous amount of honor.

Opening track “Memoriam” is more like an introductory piece, as the death machine begins to crunch, and Willetts’ barks enter toward the end, pushing everything to “War Rages On,” a track that’ll make most people feel right at home. Howls of “war!” spiral in as the song gets going, with punch and crunch making an early statement, and Willetts’ wails, which are a little nastier than his Bolt Thrower work, delivering blows. The track is pure brutality, which is just what we expect. “Reduced to Zero” drives a little slower but just as hard. “The prophecy foretold, the end is near,” Willetts warns as the track takes on a mashing, decimating pace, leaving a smoking pile of rubbish in its wake. “Corrupted System” is fast and damn-near punk-like, as Willetts screams, “The walls are closing in!” as riffs pile up and punish the ground below it. The relentlessness never gives way, as things just get more furious as we go, with Willetts repeatedly yelling, “Corrupted system!” as a way-too-sobering, we-can-see-you accusation.

“Flatline” is one of the longest cuts at 7:45, and it gets going with guitars churning and the heat making itself oppressive. Gruff growls and razor-sharp riffs tear through the flesh, as the band mixes some thrashy goodness and even some very BT-like guitar work into the fray. The final minutes raise the stakes again, as the song devastates and then flatlines. “Surrounded By Death” sounds like what its title indicates, as savagery and blazing lead guitar work create havoc. The pace is animalistic, and while the beating ends quickly, it is unforgivingly doled out. “Resistance” is another hefty serving of crunch, with the pace tempered a little more but still offering total fury. Willetts growls are throaty and fierce, with the song coming to a piledriving finish. Closer “Last Words” is heavy but also emotional. Paying respects to those who have fallen along the way, the band delivers a hammering display, with Willetts letting his heart bleed with, “As I face the end, my heart to you I send.” While gushing with sadness and tribute, the band still manages a way to keep their war-torn agenda rich and fulfilled as they see their comrades to their graves before pushing out for another mission.

While we continue to mourn Bolt Thrower, having Memoriam isn’t just a next-best thing. It’s a damn solid, smothering band that keeps the ravages of war in its path but also looks back and raises battle flags for everyone who became a part of their story along the way. Death metal isn’t exactly terrain for feel-good stories, but Memoriam certainly fits that. “For the Fallen” is a record that should put a smile on your face while you’re being destroyed by their music.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Twilight Fauna push deeper into rustic folk on rousing ‘The Year the Stars Fell’

How many albums or how many songs do you hear each year that give you a glimpse into the creator’s homeland and the traditions held within. Not many, right? And that’s OK. Not every band is resigned to bringing their homeland or territory into their sounds (well, at least if they’re not European), and often what we get is devoid of the strains of where one calls their dwelling.

That’s beginning to shift a bit when it comes to American metal, and Twilight Fauna is one of the bands helping make that so. Long helmed by Johnson City, Tenn.’s own Paul Ravenwood, his band’s music has rounded more toward the Appalachian sounds in recent year. The band’s latest album, the excellent “The Year the Stars Fell,” continues along those dusty, foot traffic-battered roads, giving you a deep breath of air from where he grew up and formed into the person he is today. These six tracks are his most dedicated yet to bluegrass and traditional folk sounds, that meld with his misty, shadowy black metal ideally. Yes, a natural comparison will be (and has been) made to Panopticon, which makes a lot of sense, but these two projects are very different from each other. Ravenwood (who is joined by drummer Josh Thieler of Pittsburgh mashers Slaves B.C.) mars his black metal with cosmos and blankets of sound, often forcing you to listen closely for his animalistic calls and melodic progressions that crawl deep underneath the earth.

“The Ghosts We Leave Behind” starts with plucked banjos and a storm picking up on the horizon. The track is rough and rustic, feeling like it could have emanated by a lost soul in an abandoned field at night. The spirits keep floating over, haunting, and leading toward “Falling Portraits,” a song we premiered last week. Here, black metal fuzz rises up and scorches, as washed-out growls and rumbling drums lead the way. The melodies intertwine and twist through the darkness, with thunder overwhelming as the track heads back into folkish waters. Acoustic guitars and banjos meet, as clean singing from Ravenwood returns, and the rusty sentiments disappear into the night. “Light Over Mountains” is another crusher, though bluegrass elements crawl through the first minutes before the fire catches and lights up the night sky. Harsh growls and ferocity spill, maintaining the intensity, but it, too, has its end point, where it gives way for calm. Whistles call out and solemnity peaks before the crushing re-engages and bursts toward the ending.

“Across the Blueridge” is part of a traditional made famous by Doc Watson, and it’s the rawest track on the album. The singing creaks and cracks, giving it more of a human feel, like Ravenwood is more concerned with the message he’s delivering than the package in which it arrives. “A Thinning Veil” is kicked into gear by the drum work, as we head into a noise-marred demolition, with melody snaking through chaotic madness. Serenity rears its head, with clean guitars and echoed singing, but then everything blows up. The music lays waste to the senses, while the vocals peel away at the flesh. Closer “10 Starless Nights” begins quietly and delicately, as the first minutes trickle into a field of shoegaze, and then the tide turns. The vocals hiss and punish, while the music kicks up dirt and leaves divots in the ground behind it. Coldness enters the air, chilling your flesh, before the music slips into the background and back into the forest whence it came.

Twilight Fauna is using traditional sounds etched from Ravenwood’s home territory and mixing it with the darkest of metallic styles and coming out with something his own. “The Year the Stars Fell” is a dramatic twist in the band’s journey and should provide plenty of fodder for listeners who simply want to lie on the ground and stare at the night sky. Rustic and rousing as this is, it’s a record that could help you make closer ties to the artist’s roots and perhaps even see if they connect to your own.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://twilightfauna.bandcamp.com/album/the-year-the-stars-fell

Braveyoung’s shadow-plagued darkness pours itself into pool of emotion on ‘Misery and Pride’

Feeling somber and overwhelmed isn’t always the greatest way to spend your time. But we don’t really have a choice when those darker clouds situate themselves above our heads, so what really can you do other than absorb the morbidity? I happen to think it’s healthy to let yourself fall victim and feel those emotions, because it hardens us and perhaps helps us cope a little better next time.

I keep thinking about that while absorbing “Misery and Pride,” the new long player from Portland, Ore., trio Braveyoung. Their music always captures the imagination from the first second, but this collection of seven songs is something different entirely. Their normal contemplative, storm-on-the-horizon compositions remain intact. But this time around, it feels like a classical ambient piece smeared with blood and tears, one that pulls at your heart and drives you into the rain. I can see this being a record that also could bring calm and solemnity to someone trying to escape the day and spill themselves into a distracting side activity. But I can’t shake the pain and the longing, the sorrow and the pain. This also feels like a bit of a rebirth for the band—brothers Zac and Isaac Jones, along with Mike Rich—whose last LP was 2011’s “We Are Lonely Animals,” as they’re re-emerging after a series of digital-only EPs that set the path. What you’ll hear here is full bodied and draining, leaving you a mess of liquid and flesh.

“Wonderful” starts the album by spilling in slowly, dreamily, as keys swirl in the atmosphere. The music keeps spreading and bending, getting blurry and even sleepy, as strings open and sting. The texture shifts, as drama builds before everything fades. “You Pigs Should Find a God to Love” is a short one, with pianos dripping and quiet, sad sounds mixing in with static, moving toward 10:43-long “Blue Beyond the Hill” that sounds ominous at the outset. The pace keeps danger in mind, as strings sweep and move into gazey territory. The playing quivers, as sorrow folds even more heavily into the mix, making your heart heavier and muddier, as the song flows away. “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go” runs 7:55 and lets chilling piano plink onto the ground, with strings serving more power and the foundation swelling with morose feelings. Doom-ridden horns blow, as the feeling of loss permeates the scene, with music pumping in deliberately, getting louder and more agitated before dissipating.

“Such a Worm As I” also is a shorter one, with sounds pulsating and delicate melodies pulling themselves over like a blanket. The music gets thornier, and then everything moves toward “I Lay in Dust Life’s Glory Dead” that open and lets keys gush lightly, with spacious strings stretching the atmosphere, and the song suddenly leaking to its conclusion. Closer “The Good King Will Punish You” is dark and threatening as it gets under way, with string and keys again making for shadowy allies, and thick cloud coverage blocking the sun. The song swoons in murkiness, and that feeling stretches and plugs every hole of light struggling through, giving way just as the tension builds all over again.

Braveyoung lure you into their possession and refuse to relinquish control until you submit yourself to “Misery and Pride.” It’s a record that could knock you on your ass due to its pure outpouring of emotions and the impact in which it lands. It can be a passageway for addressing the darkness at your center and helping you find a way out of that pit of despair. Or it’s just going to shove you in deeper.

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

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

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

Fen dig up roots while pushing universe of black metal with riveting mammoth opus ‘Winter’

At first, this week seemed like a terribly unfitting time to have a visit with winter. February was unseasonably warm around here, so much so that trees and plants started to bloom. But before we knew it, the coldness returned with a vengeance, and winter has us in its sights this week as it prepares to lay waste to the East Coast of the United States.

So, it turns out the timing was perfect to visit with “Winter,” the stunning new record from English black metal band Fen, who are one of the most ambitious and thought-provoking bands in the sub-genre. Seeing that this is the English three piece’s fifth record, the band—bassist/vocalist Grungyn, guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, drummer Havenless—decided to go back and dig up their roots that initially fed this great machine. At the same time, they also have branched out their sound even more, incorporating prog, doom, and atmospheric shoegaze into their sound, creating a greater, fuller Fen. That transformation backward and forward is very apparent on these five songs and generous 75 minutes in run time, easily their beefiest release to date. If you’ve been along for the ride since 2009’s “The Malediction Fields” or just caught on with 2014’s “Carrion Skies,” you’re bound to enjoy and overindulge in this journey that just bursts at the seams with goodness.

The mammoth “I (Pathway)” starts the record, a 17:08 epic that begins in the midst of cold guitars, gazey melodies, and the call of, “All will fall,” sung almost solemnly. From there, the pace picks up, as roars explode, and the band heads into grisly, yet proggy, terrain. Later, strains of elegant playing stream down, while black metal chaos rips from that, with wrenching growls scathing before the song trickles out in a dose of calm. “II (Penance)” jars you right away as it tears away at the senses. Harsh growls and compelling playing light the way, while a prog-fueled bassline bubbles, and a dose of crunch ends up in watery strangeness. Out of that, the cut explodes again, with odd voices warbling, the rhythms pulsating, and the track burning away with intensity. “III (Fear)” has the bass flowing into a hazy atmosphere, letting the song set its temperature and slowly build itself. Once the track unloads, harsh wails and constantly changing tempos greet you and push you in multiple directions. As the cut progresses, the band crushes hard, the song washes over what it destroyed, and a hugely melodic ending sends final sparks flying.

“IV (Interment)” runs a hefty 14:52, and it starts cleanly, almost beautifully, as if serenity is about to stretch itself. Hulking charging then emerges, with vocals that soar over the din, and then growls and punishment meet and tear things apart. The track has times where it’s both airy and vicious, with the call of, “I have nothing left to give,” hitting home and swelling your chest. From there, the drums decimate, destruction explodes, and the cut comes to a calculated finish. “V (Death)” is another monster at 12:41, and it’s flooded into from “IV,” leaving it simmering in a sound bath before all is blown to bits. The playing is as strong as anything else on the record, as a tidal wave of emotion surges and becomes the dominant trait. Some gothy parts are mixed into the stew, while melodic steam, further adventures into prog, and a conversion from savagery into beauty is smeared over the song’s back end. Closer “VI (Sight)” has a soothing beginning, with a synth cloud hovering overhead, sax notes drifting, and the song fully blooming about halfway through. Clean singing and thorny growling mix together, as strains of death metal rear their ugly head. The final moments of the song do nothing to soothe any wounds, as the intensity and barbaric fury leave a litany of gashes and blood streaks.

Winter may be ready to loosen its grip on us at some point, but Fen are making sure that frigidity lasts a little longer with this massive record. “Winter” is recommended to be a full-album experience, which asks a sacrifice of your time, but that journey’s ultimately worth it. Fen’s world keeps expanding by leaps and bounds, resulting in a spoil of riches for anyone who consumes their music.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.code666.net/