Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcoming New Authors And Asking For Your Demos

First of all, I would like to welcome FaultyClockwork and Nihilistic Rust to The Curse. Faulty already introduced herself, so you know what she is about: Blackened noise-y shit that will never get her a husband and kids. Something tells me neither fact bothers her in the slightest. She has some of the best taste in music that I know, so I have no doubt she will be reviewing some trve kvlt shit for da blog.

Then we have Nihilistic Rust... who I really don't know anything about. Good person(unsure of gender) with great taste in shitty underground hipster metal like me, so that's all I really need to know. Already wrote an excellent Asphyx review, so check it out.

Also, if you are in a band and would like your demo material reviewed, or represent a record label and would like any of our writers to review your upcoming releases, please contact me through the Curse's new e-mail in the upper corner. A Facebook page is also forthcoming, so that should be a total disaster...

I'm really super positive, and I want all you cool underground musicians to like me. So chances are I will give you a good review. The blog has been really positive lately... lots of high scores. I can't help it though, for cynicism and nostalgia have not fried my brain and prevented me from liking anything just yet. Soon I imagine. But not today.


Asphyx - Deathhammer(2012)

Asphyx- Deathhammer

Asphyx's new album, Deathhammer, is like a sledgehammer to the teeth, from the beginning to the end. From its apt cover art, where some heavily wounded and torn bloke unleashes Lovecraftain abominations and spirits to feast on our world, to the final track, that slowly burns you in scorching volcano-spit. Every song simply grabs you by your spine from the front and bashes you in rugged concrete until every bone is shattered and every organ is burst.

As soon as you enter the cruel timewastes, cryptic beasts introduce your face to a skull- splitting mace and a stampede greets every fiber of your being. Fast paced death metal supremacy fucks you into dust. Deathhammer(itallics needed) brings forth thrashy death riffs that maul you into submission, piss on you, and then bury you alive in some doomy moments. And then, you step onto a minefield. An epic sludge dirge that truly shows the opening of this unholy chasm of explosive rancor. A brilliant guitar tone that takes your feeble corpse and places it on the table of a sadistic killer, that slowly disembowels you while peeling off your flesh, with morbidity sparkling in his eyes. His blade eventually turns blunt, and he starts hitting your head with some more fast and typical death-doom madness.

"Der Landser" is another "dirge," remindful of that minefield. The brute stomps on you like a cockroach and then the flood fills every orifice you have with thick, sludgy filth. "We Doom You to Death" is probably the second best song on this album, that heavily reminds me of Last One on Earth. It has one or two basic riffs, but they're executed perfectly along the heavy drums and the raspy vocals. "Vespa Crabro" is a small stop before you face the igneous gem of the album: "As the Magma Mammoth Rises." A behemoth whose skin is made of perdition, his eyes ablaze and his breath fire. Hurling fireballs at your feeble form, it's truly the highlight of the album. It combines all the good stuff of this album; the thrash, the doom, and the death, and together cements it into a colossal beast that burns and annihilates everything with brutality.

In a non-metaphoric way, this album is genius. Combining excellent riffs and licks of Baayens with Bagchus' excellent simplistic (but powerful) drumming, Zuur's dense auricular "basscraft," and of course, Van Drunen's tortured and guttural voice is as memorable as it gets, this album is a death/doom masterpiece. The only flaw in this album is that it gets somewhat repetitive at times, but this is fucking Asphyx. That's part of the charm. It is a brilliant release and if you like your ears getting crushed by sonic artillery, this is your perfect place to be shelled into oblivion.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blood Cult: We Who Walk Behind the Rows (2005)

Hey folks! I'm Faulty, and hopefully you'll be seeing me around from now on. Sharpshooter has been kind enough to offer me blogging privileges, so I'll be throwing down some reviews of music I love, hate or am otherwise indifferent towards. While Sharpshooter tends to review recent releases, I'll be covering plenty of less recent material. I mainly listen to black metal, with some noise, power electronics and death industrial thrown in, so that's what you'll be seeing from me, more or less. To start things off, here's a review of Blood Cult's 2005 debut album, We Who Walk Behind the Rows.

There's been no end to songs about black metal. I've heard “Unholy Black Metal”, “Christraping Black Metal”, “Black Metal ist Krieg” and, of course, “Black Metal”, but “Redneck Black Metal” is something I never expected I'd hear. Illinois' Blood Cult have made it though, and their blend of old school black metal with a Midwestern sensibility and sound takes what could be ridiculous blend and turns it into music that is both unique and excellent. Having been around since '94, it's not surprising that Blood Cult's core sound and often Satanic lyrics are inspired by the second wave Norwegian bands, but there's a twist to it that's evident from the start. The cover looks like the scene of a Satanic sacrifice amidst fields of corn, complete with an ominous looking scarecrow. The title, We Who Walk Behind The Rows, produces imagery of evil cultists, dwelling in the plains, stalking the rows of corn and fertilizing them with the remains of their sacrifices, and the music follows suit.

Blood Cult's sound is a fusion of a filthy take on old school black metal with a Midwestern stew of rock, heavy metal and thrash, with a generous use of solos. Opener “Psychic Vampire” starts with a rock beat and evolves into a groove-laden mid-tempo track with a grungy atmosphere and excellent bass work, complete with a rock guitar solo backed by stoner rock inspired rhythm guitar. “The Morweaqua Coal Mine Disaster” is an old school black metal track, complete with the Gorgoroth inspired trope of having one guitar play the pertinent riff before the rest of the music comes in. The song surprisingly ends with a variation of Chopin's “Funeral March”, which is genuinely touching given the lyrical theme of the song, namely a disaster in a coal mine that left tens of miners dead. “Cheap Guitars” is a catchy as Hell blackened rock song with a thrashy chorus and a wild thrash solo, as well as some background singing for variance at one point and King Diamond inspired falsetto at the end of the track. “We Who Walk Behind the Rows” is another black metal blaster that ends with a rock inspired solo. “Owl” is a slow and brooding track that provides a breather before another intense old school black metal track, “A Cult of Blood”, which sports a dynamic second half centred around an interplay between melody and lead guitar. The tongue-in-cheek “Redneck Black Metal” is a mid-paced, Midwest track complete with cowbell, piano and a blues rock guitar solo that gives way to a more intense heavy metal solo that brings the track to an energetic end. Finally, “Illinoisan Thunder” closes the album with final blast of black metal and thrash soloing. The mix is completed by the aforementioned combination of Satanism and a Children of the Corn-esque Midwestern horror theme (e.g. “the crops are alive and they want you to die”).

While this wild mix could come off as awkward, Blood Cult's unique riffing and their ability to draw all the influences into a concrete whole turns it into an uncanny and interesting mix. Tongue-in-cheek songs like “Cheap Guitars” and “Redneck Black Metal”, and Midwestern themed tracks like “We Who Walk Behind the Rows” and “Illinoisan Thunder” point to why their mix is so effective; they embrace the feel of their home state, rather than aping Norwegian themes of dark nights and freezing forests. The mix is, in essence, completely natural. They are clearly serious about their art, but don't take their art too seriously. In that sense, their attitude is reminiscent of Darkthrone, which is in no way a bad thing. The album is also helped by its short length, which prevents any track or idea from outstaying its welcome. Unfortunately, this is also a downside to the album; it leaves you wanting more, at least another track or two. Still, it's slightly preferable to their sophomore album We Are the Cult of the Plains, which is ever-so-slightly too long.

All in all, We Who Walk Behind the Rows is an incredibly unique album. Its fusion of the sound and Satanic lyrics of old school black metal with themes and stylings drawn from their Midwest upbringing leads to a listening experience you're unlikely to find elsewhere. It won't blow your mind, but it's sure as Hell enjoyable, and any fan of interesting takes on black metal should give it a try.



Doctorshopper- Degenerate Utopia(2012)

Doctorshopper- Degenerate Utopia

Can you believe the quality of the very deep underground scene? The sheer number of awesome demo's and tapes available is staggering. It's almost overwhelming really... maybe this is the feeling all these old-curmudgeon Metalfags have about the early 90's scenes...

Hailing from Los Angeles, Doctorshopper are just more proof that those decrying our modern scene as under-achieving are just cranky old men and thirteen year old's. A dug-fueled rage-er of Eyehategod, His Hero Is Gone and Darkthrone gone too far, Degenerate Utopia packs all the right parts into tight and heavy gutter hymns for the disenfranchised: "Cognitive Fog" blisters with Sludge-y Crust Punk bravado, while "Live Low And Prosper" drops the temperature of the room to "frostbitten" with it's raw moans before a little D-Beat kicks in near the end. Extended sections of feedback is an obvious crutch for transitional composition, but it's hard to find too much fault with the overall songwriting. Degenerate Utopia also hits all the marks lyrically, avoiding played out grimmness in favor of strong social commentary on such tracks as "Affordable Health Act" and "Recreational Emancipation," both of which reflect the hopelessness that many in this generation experience on a daily basis.

I find it difficult to progress beyond this point. Degenerate Utopia doesn't lend itself to paragraphs of explanation: it's brutally honest simplicity and skull-caving guitar tone do much of the talking for the albums twenty nine minute running time. This is not a bad thing, but it makes detailed compositional breakdowns difficult. With so much rage blasting at you from all directions, coming up with a phrase beyond "Hehehehe... evil" seems all but impossible. In the end, it all breaks down to this: Degenerate Utopia is a filthy slab of Blackened Sludge that will appeal to anyone who appreciates Extreme Music, and you should go ahead and get it.

Simplicity is pure fucking bliss.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, February 24, 2012

Muknal- Muknal(2012)

Muknal- Muknal

As though it were some sort of nefarious artifact, cursed by the Ancient Old Ones with a specter of Death, Muknal creates an air of unease. Filtering through your headphones or speakers as though it were made swamp matter, it furiously suffocates the room. Atmospheric is pretty much an understatement here. Muknal's debut EP is as mature and massively evil as it can possibly be, and shows a conceptual strength that so few bands maintain over an album, or even achieve. And to think this is the bands first release sends chills down my spine.

Musically, it is pretty easy to place Muknal; firmly entrenched in the massive Occult Black/Death movement taking over the underground. But one listen to this EP also shows just how much separation Muknal has from the greater pack; it's all here. All of it. Unlike many contemporary releases spawned from this vile pit at the heart of the underground, Muknal hits all the major stylistic high-points, then exceeds them in the following composition. Not since Dead Congregation's Grave of the Archangels have I heard a single album just nail every single thing that makes a genre truly great: the perfect combination of atmosphere, aggression and compositional complexity.

Seems like a lot of praise for a three song EP no? I mean come on: it's not like this sound hasn't be done to death. Impetuous Ritual released the same damn album in 2009 for fuck's sake. Dense, static choked Occult Black/Death is as played out a genre as any in music today. You can't turn around without awkwardly rubbing up against the ass of an Incantation and Portal clone. True enough. Muknal are not treading new ground here. And this is something I can be critical of... when done is an obviously generic and lifeless way.

Muknal is anything but generic or lifeless. It's practically static with sheer electricity. Everything about is so perfectly calibrated: the tortured guttural vocals, the dense guitar tone, the meaty and massive production. The whole thing is done with such masterful attention to detail and genuine attempts at originality. The heavy use of electronic sounds and noise, the perfectly drawn out atmospheric compositions, the true sense of dread and hopelessness... all of it is just brilliantly realized and maximized.

Muknal may not re-invent the Atmospheric Holocaust, but it certainly commit atrocities and forces intense introspection like no other end time's dirge that I have heard. And what's even more impressive is that despite this level of density, there is also something so inviting about the album. This album doesn't leave you feeling breathless and exhausted like so many inhumanly thick and bleak albums. It's a crushing piece of perfect genre crafting that you can listen to again and again. What more can we possibly expect?

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Witch In Her Tomb- Witch In Her Tomb(2012)

Witch In Her Tomb- Witch In Her Tomb

From the bleak, wind blasted forests of Illinois, comes a grim funeral procession; a dirge for the wicked and wild spirits. Witch In Her Tomb’s self titled debut invokes the frost-bitten, Hessian roots of Black Metal’s history with skillful imprecision and gloriously underproduced intensity. Sure, if you have listened to pretty much anything from Darkthrone, Mayhem or Burzum, then Witch In Her Tomb holds no secrets within it’s musty crypts. It speaks to Witch In Her Tomb then that despite the nostalgia, the demo more than stands on it’s own merits, thanks to it’s modernized and Punk-injected edge.

I am not sure you could have a more powerful, static riddled bass sound than the ridiculous low end present on Witch In Her Tomb. Like the death rattle of Cthulu, the bass rumbles with a wet, jagged slice and overpowers much of the instrumentation. That’s not a complaint; “III” would be nothing without the thundering hammer strikes of bass chords. The only thing that can stand up to this Scepter of Suffering in terms of volume are the vocals; monotone perhaps, but dripping with hate and powered by the immolation of the soul no doubt. The guitars and drums have their place in this mad symphony, and play their roles accordingly, though they rarely star in this performance.

The real star here is the songwriting, which blends the classic Norwegian sounds with a sense of progression and modernization. Crust Punk and the early Norwegian Black Metal sound have always been a hop-skip-and-jump from each other, and Witch In Her Tomb further blurs that line, both musically and lyrically. While far more mired in the grim, Witch In Her Tomb reminds me of a more primitive, Mayhem-worshiping Young And In The Way album; tortured, bleak and very, very angry. This anger comes through in the lyrics, as songs deal far more with wrath and rage than Ragnorak or Rites of Summoning.

I would be remiss not to praise this demo not only for the quality, but also it’s distribution. Witch In Her Tomb are showing us the future of Extreme Music distribution, one that includes both profit and accessibility. Witch In Her Tomb is available on tape for a very fair price, so that collectors and hard copy enthusiasts can add to their massive hoard of limited edition content, but also available free of charge as an mp3 download. I shouldn’t have to explain just how wise this move is, and we can all hope that other bands use this model in the future.

And what a glorious and grim future indeed, for Witch In Her Tomb have the kind of sound to make waves in the current scene. Punk-edged Black Metal is big now, but unlike some of their contemporaries, Witch In Her Tomb have a stronger command of the actual Black Metal elements, not merely a layman’s understanding after a few hours of Darkthrone binging. It’s hard not to get excited about this band and their potential, and it has been hard for me to put down this demo. It’s cold, icy fingers are firmly gripped around my throat, and this aural asphyxiation is all I could ask for.


Purchase the Tape or Download the Album at Crippled Sound's Bandcamp

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Abyssal- Denouement(2012)

Abyssal- Denouement

The UK Death Metal scene is as rich with talent and innovation as it has ever been. The country of colonization and Big Ben has never been particularly well known for its expansive Death Metal scene: sure, everybody knows Bolt Thrower and Akercocke, and the well informed can name Benediction, Korpse and Cancer, but in comparison to say Sweden or Florida, the ol' Land of Limey's has never been at the forefront of Death Metal. But these last few years has seen an explosion of new talent in England's Death Metal scene, from Cruciamentum to Spearhead to Grave Miasma. And now Abyssal can be counted as another of these young, up-and-coming acts looking to make waves with their debut album Denouement.

Rich with texture and dissonance, Denouement fits in beautifully with the current trend in Technical Death Metal: using complexity to create dense, Occult atmospheres. Elements of Black and Doom Metal add layers to the listening experience, but Abyssal also toy with some of the more brutal elements of Death Metal throughout Denouement. A consistent guttural growl, sudden bursts of blast beats and palm-muted riffs bring elements to Denouement that other bands in this burgeoning sub-genre lack(often on purpose). Just as we saw Flourishing do on The Sum of All Fossils with Post-Hardcore and Gigan on Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes with Noise and Grindcore, Abyssal bring these Brutal Death Metal elements to the forefront to give Denouement a bit of distinction from the growing number of Ulcerate clones, though one should not expect too many breakdowns or pinch harmonics throughout Denouement(though the breakdown near the beginning of "Detritivore" is hard too miss).

There isn't a whole lot of fault with Denouement, but it never quite breaks through to the next level. The intensity and songwriting can be uneven, with less appealing sections of songs dragged out far too long. In fact, many of the tracks on Denouement could use some self-editing, particularly the final track "Swansong of a Dying Race," which could have used some of it's massive eleven minute run cut away. Bloated songs filled with too many unessecary concepts are the pratfalls of many a new group, and while Abyssal artfully dodge many other mistakes, they trip up in this regard.

Denouement is a brilliant start regardless of these minor mistakes. Abyssal have their own sound, a sound which I can honestly say I have never heard before, other than perhaps early Ulcerate before those New Zelander's dove head first into a sea of formless dissonance. All this band needs is time to develop their sound and their songwriting, and I have no doubt that Abyssal will be one of the bigger acts in progressive Death Metal in the near future.

Rating: 8/10

Abyssal are also among the more progressive bands in their distribution, as Denouement doesn't have any label support. The band are giving the album away through Bandcamp. If you are not familiar with Bandcamp, then this is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with arguably the most important website in independent music today.

Download Denouement Free And Legally From The Band, Via Bandcamp

Friday, February 17, 2012

Plague Widow- Plague Widow(2012)

Plague Widow- Plague Widow

Slathered in suffering and darkness, Plage Widow's self titled debut EP is a powerful conceptual force, because while sounding thoroughly modern and extremely brutal, it is also rich and dense with atmosphere and musical complexity. Spawned from the sunny pits of Sacramento, California(My family is from there, which says something about the cities population...), Plague Widow have given us a small window into the future of Extreme Metal with this brilliant, caustic little noise abortion of an EP, one where the lines between modern brutality and old-school intensity are blurred completely.

Plague Widow is at it's heart a very modern sounding, ultra fast Deathgrind album with a strong Brutal Death Metal influence. From the moment the blistering drums and deep guttural growls of "Womb" kick in, the Circle of Dead Children and Deeds of Flesh influence becomes apparent. But as Plague Widow progresses, we see an attention to detail and atmosphere grow and become more enveloping. These disparate elements begin to twist and contort, forming a vortex of desolation few acts can match. "Void" blisters with elements of Adversarial and Portal, before ending on a breakdown Suffocation wish they could have written, while "Operating the Segmental Apparatus" is mixes in a heavy dose of atmospheric Black Metal between spouts of Deathgrind flame. Smart use of samples and atmospheric noise, like the intro to "Assimilated Subconscious," just adds to the bleak tension and monolithic blackness.

In just over fifteen minutes, Plague Widow delivers more death and Satan than most bands entire discography. One would be hard-pressed to find a more uncompromisingly dark and blasphemous slab of Grindcore and Death Metal than this masterful and dense piece of musical Sadism. Plague Widow have stumbled upon a sound that is as important as it is deadly: one that takes the decayed, evil spirit of the past and infuses it into the powerful, muscular frame of the present. This new creation, this new affront to God and Nature itself, could become unstoppable. For now, this small but bloody atrocity is a more than terrifying harbinger of things to come.

Rating: 9.5/10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Horrendous- The Chills(2012)

Horrendous- The Chills

Devoid of any original concepts or ideas, The Chills is yet another milestone in forgettable(and super hip) throwback Death Metal that is all the rage right now. Hailing from all across the US East Coast, Horrendous could not have picked a better time in Death Metal than right now... especially since they can't go back in time and release this in 1989, where it firmly belongs. Highly dated and inconsistently performed, The Chills feels old and tired right out of the gate, and although it picks up steam near the end, the album never escapes the miasma of "been there, done that, moved on."

Slow, ponderous Thrash beats lead this exhausted march through Death Metal's gloomy history. Horrendous drummer Jamie Knox deserves a medal for putting up with this affront to his ability as a musician. Or perhaps he lacks ability? Hard to say, but the soul crushing boredom he must have endured is worthy of legend. How many Thrash beats can you fit into a single album, and more importantly how do you convince a drummer to play almost nothing but them for an entire album? The Chills is ingloriously mid-paced for much of it's running time, and never reaches that sweet spot of tempo and aggression that makes for the best Death Metal. It just kind of plods from one riff to the next, held together with the bare minimum of connective tissue like so many horribly shredded arms caught in so many grinding gears. It doesn't help that most of the vocal delivery is firmly in the John Tardy school of mentally disabled yelping and grunting. Occasionally the band make use of a perfectly competent guttural growl that sounds powerful and deep, but never long enough.

This of course leaves the guitar and bass work, and in total fairness to The Chills, it is obvious from the beginning that this album was built as a guitar driven one. And at times the guitar work on The Chills is pretty impressive, particularly the solo work. At times channeling the early work of Chuck Schuldiner, the creepy, soaring guitar solos and leads on tracks like "The Somber(Desolate Winds)" and "Fatal Dreams" evoke the proper kind of nostalgia: namely, reflecting on that which was worth reflecting on. I have no problem admitting that for me, Death Metal did not exist until New York and Finland started making it. The early First Wave Death Metal bands from Florida and SwedDeath bands have never played a style of Death Metal that I prescribe to: too Thrash-y, too slow and too devoid of atmosphere. The Chills is firmly planted in this school of Death Metal... for the first half anyway.

The Chills takes a surprising turn when "The Ritual" kicks in. The Entombed and Obituary influence gives way to the crushing rhythms of Asphyx and Rippikoulu. All the postured darkness becomes actual evil, and the lessened presence of Thrash becomes a God-send. Doom infused and full of Hell, "The Ritual" is a massive highlight, and kicks off a much stronger second half of The Chills. It's as if the band realized the first half of the album was little more than toothless genre worship, and unleashed all of their inner hatred into a second half designed to blot out the first tracks as though they never actually existed. Too bad they did.

The Chills is not without charm, particularly with the albums strong second half picking up much of the slack, but it still feels tired and uninspired. A notch above pointless genre rehash like Morbus Chron and Misasmal, but well below the likes of Morbid Flesh or Execration, Horrendous have managed to keep themselves from drowning in a sea of imitators with The Chills. But the sea is rising, and those who cannot swim shall be swallowed up in the deluge. The Chills would not be my choice of flotation device.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Desecravity- Implicit Obedience(2012)

Desecravity- Implict Obedience

Desecravity might just be the best Brutal Death Metal band on Earth right now. Of course that claim requires perspective, as Suffocation and Deeds of Flesh still rule this very brutal roost. What I mean is that in terms of debuts from young, up and coming Brutal Death Metal acts, Implicit Obedience is the best I have heard in a long, long time. Hailing from Japan, which has a fairly vibrant Brutal Death Metal scene, Desecravity pile on all the "brutalness" any fan could possibly ever hope for. They just do it while also having, riffs.

So few Brutal Death Metal bands seem to have them nowadays, it come as a shock. Implicit Obedience has honest-to-God riffs, and is not just a mish-mash of breakdowns, sweeps and pinch harmonics. It has all of those elements no doubt, but tempers the sheer insanity of it all with powerful, brutal guitar riffs that just make all the other insanity that much more satisfying. Compared to sheer stupidity of some of acts in the genre, Desecravity are like a bunch of Asian Motzart's, though I imagine Motzart could never muster a more inhuman guttural growl than Yujiro Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki has some of the most impressive pipes you will find in Death Metal today, and his performance is one of many highlights found through-out Implicit Obedience.

Thoroughly modern sounding, nothing about Implicit Obedience is likely to change die-hard haters opinions on this genre. But for those of us who can appreciate a good breakdown and some serious guitar acrobatics, Implict Obedience delivers on all accounts. The aforementioned guitar acrobatics are met with equally impressive(and modern sounding) bass work and the furious blasting drums(fully triggered) that one comes to expect from the genre. Again, it just comes down to the riffs: those are what set Implicit Obedience apart from contemporary Brutal Death Metal albums. Halfway through "Enthralled in Decimation," the track unleashes one of many head-banging, blistering riffs that do a fantastic job of keeping the "stupid-but-awesome" brutality in check. At times, these riff heavy sections bring to mind Incantation, Immolation and even Bolt Thrower, although they rarely last too long before the weedely-weedely kicks back in like a furious cyclone of virtuosity.

And as a fan of quality Brutal Death Metal, I would not have it any other way. Implicit Obedience is great because it finds that fine line between utter, incomprehensible brutality and competent Death Metal songwriting that so few in the genre ever seem to obtain. But when that sweet spot is hit right between the eyes like it is here, it becomes something pretty fucking awesome. What sweet brutality Desecravity have unleashed on us. Just sit back and be reduced to base atomic particles.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wreck And Reference - Black Cassette (2011)

Note: This review was originally posted at Court In The Act, and any reference made to any facets of a blog is linked to that blog.

Due to technology, this EP (released on cassette – hence the name – through Music Ruins Lives) has been sitting in my inbox unnoticed for several months. For that, I apologize. From the name of the band, one might guess that they played post-something, and you’d be sort of right – the influence which jumps out instantly to me is Jesu, in the shimmering semi-industrial shoegazey sense. Jesu are always better on EPs due to their albums becoming boring over their full duration, and I suppose this is the same.
The aforementioned elements create quite a haunting ambient effect – but despite wholly miserable lyrics, the music is uplifting to some degree; consider the musical form of being haunted by a nice ghost who sings melodically rather than attempting to scare people. However, at times the raw production makes it somewhat difficult to discern individual melodies, particularly when notes used are chromatically close to each other. Although this rawness gives a warm feeling – like that of an LP – overall it probably strays far enough to slightly detract from the music. That said, it’s a cassette release, and therefore one should not expect outstanding production.

A point of particular similarity with Jesu in particular as opposed to many other practitioners of this kind of music is the choice to use something roughly resembling popular structure (verse-chorus-verse or variations thereon), particularly on the pleasing opener ‘All The Ships Have Been Abandoned’. The vocal approach, however, which is integral to the quality of the music, as many of the instrumental patterns are a little uninspired, is more similar to that utilised by SubRosa (although from my guess the vocalist here is male). Unfortunately, for the most part they sound a little frail – and in a way that is more weak than ‘woe is me’, something which is particularly evident when they are brought to the forefront of the music by quieter instrumentation.

Speaking of the instrumentation, the email from the band, as well as the label’s website, informed me that no guitars were used in the creation of this, which they are still calling ‘rock music’ (a tag that I would loosely agree with). To be honest, I really don’t see the point in bringing this to our attention. The timbre of one of the instruments used (presumably one of the synthesisers mentioned) sounds so much like an electric guitar (a matter that the mucky production aids little to clear up) that it may as well be one. I’m not criticizing the use of alternate instruments, more so the particular highlighting of this factor which has so little effect it ultimately amounts to little more than a gimmick.

An unusual, but effective, use is made of the juxtaposition of what, at the end of the day, is inherently catchy music (although one would struggle to call any of the motifs and melodies used strictly ‘poppy’, they lean that way at times) with industrial (we’re talking Throbbing Gristle, not Combichrist here) and noise elements in middle eight sections. This blends smoothly rather than clashes awkwardly as one would expect – a true success on their behalf, and something that’s not really been done before (no, Merzbeat doesn’t count).

There is a fine line to be trod between suffocating emotion and tedium in music, and Wreck And Reference manage to trample haphazardly on both sides of that line with roughly equal proportion. Where their style works, it moves towards ‘stunning’, but there are simply too many sections of the EP where I’m looking at the second hand on the clock to justify too much positivity about the good parts. The same feeling comes from some of the odd diversions they go on in the EP – they’re of decidedly mixed quality, and some leave a jarring effect and hamper the continuity of the individual piece or the EP as a whole.

A good last track on a release is probably more conducive to wishes to listen to it again than any other track – that last impression is a lasting one, and fortunately the closer here, ‘A Lament’, is the standout track. The drones and synths bring a shimmering quality to it, and the vocals come across as sufficiently strained to introduce some real heart-ripping emotion to it. This may be so, but many other sections of the EP go through the mind as though it were a sieve, and although this EP shows promise, and future Wreck And Reference releases could be something indeed, to those with a busy listening schedule it’s definitely one that can be passed on with no harm done.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Charon- Sulfur Seraph(The Archon Principle) (2012)

Charon- Sulfur Seraph(The Archon Principle)

Standing firmly on the precipice of chaotic, Satanic orgy yet never quite diving into the blood and semen, Sulfur Seraph(The Archon Principle) achieves an unbelievable level of intensity and destruction while remaining thought-out and self-controlled. This is a rare feat in Metal today, as bands either ape older acts for their ideas or become so lost in creativity as to lose purpose. Germany's Charon have delivered something truly wicked and evil with this album, yet also something purposeful and driven. The maturity of the song-writing here is incredibly impressive, and without a doubt Sulfur Seraph is the first great album of 2012.

What makes Sulfur Seraph so great is how dense with ideas it is without ever feeling over-wrought or directionless. At just under forty minutes, this album packs more murder and madness per minute than just about any album I have heard. Moving effortlessly from Black Thrash to Bestial Black Metal and Occult Death Metal, Charon wield their ideas like finely crafted blades. Each track flows into the other, creating a thick atmosphere that is surprisingly varied. Charon display the ability to drown you in death ala Incantation, before exploding into a Thrash blitzkrieg that would make Sarcofago proud. Even the vocal attack is varied, coming at your from all directions with vicious shrieks, cavernous gutturals, madden chants, tortured screams and demonic whispers.

Sulfur Seraph provides so much, yet asks so little from the listener, another rarity in today's underground Metal scene were reverb and static rule supreme. The production is appropriately raw, but also even and competent: this was not recorded at the bottom of the ocean. And there is something oddly accessible about this album, despite it's density. At times, Charon bring to mind early Belphegor(although Charon are much Thrashier and more occult) in how they present such brutal and blistering ideas in ways that don't come off as forced or purposely unappealing. Song-writing just doesn't get much better than this.

The year has just barely begun, but already a surefire contender for album of the year has emerged. Sulfur Seraph(The Archon Principle) is one of those rare albums that hits all the marks for greatness. Bestial, brutal, dark, atmospheric, creative, inventive and accessible. The complete package if there ever was one.

Rating: 10/10

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