Blue Pills and more...
Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom.
Bliss, the debut EP from Swedish/American/French rockers Blue Pills is a riot of hard psych and blues-soaked riffs, heaving bass and percussion, and the powerful vocals of Elin Larsson. Formed in late 2011, and including ex-members of Radio Moscow, Blue Pills’s first EP explodes with a concentrated blast of combustible retrospective rock—think Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Cream and Sweden’s own ‘70s acid-rock overlords, November. Scrappy opener “Bliss” is a howling wah-wah and reverb frolic. “Astralplane” is a grinding blues tempest—with distortion-capped soloing bringing the hard rock grit, and Larsson’s voice bringing the fevered passion. “Devil Man” kicks off with isolated bellowing from Larsson, before dropping into an aggressive stomp as the band follows through with a razor-edged jam. Final track “Little Sun” begins with a gentile intro before roaring out on a scorching, echo-filled solo. That’s it: 15-minutes of raw, instinctual hard rock, dosed with proto-metal and that visceral, deft instrumentation that Sweden-based retro rockers do so very well. As a taster of what’s to come on the band’s full-length debut, the rowdy songwriting is striking, drenched in the energy and ambience of loose ‘70s gutter and hard rock. However, the key here is Larsson’s soulful, often rough-edged voice. Whether she’s howling like a Banshee, susurrus and poignant, or just rip-roaring with intoxicating blues—her vocals seal the authenticity. A hundred percent proof and proudly vintage.—CH
Since retiring the devastating Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend has managed to free himself from all expectations and limitations—a rare accomplishment for a musician in this day and age. His latest creation, Epicloud, is the fifth record released under the banner of The Devin Townsend Project in four years. Epicloud brings together the individual sounds explored on the previous four album series, and because of this sonic amalgamation, each song comes bearing its own distinct personality: “Effervescent” is a memorable jingle that precedes the stunning pop-metal of “True North”; “Lucky Animals” and “Liberation” are both addictive, hook-heavy tunes—the former sounding quite theatrical; “Where We Belong” and “Divine” takes us down the reflective Ghost route; while the metallic side of Townsend’s brain is triggered on “Kingdom”, “Grace”, and “More”—Anneke van Giersbergen’s vocals adding wonders to the layered bombast of these songs, as well as the massive album peak “Hold On”—a positive anthem that climbs poignant heights. As the finale “Angel” floats away it is evident that this record contains more musical ideas than most musicians could muster in a life-time. Epicloud has been expertly conceived and is another magnificent addition to the intimidating discography of one of the most prolific, progressive musicians the world has ever heard.—DB
UK-based doom/death quartet Indesinence isn’t the most prolific band, Vessels of Light and Decay being its first full-length album in six years, only its second since forming in 2001. Still, quality over quantity every time, and Vessels of Light and Decay is a phenomenally resonant and heavy release (no surprise to find it’s recorded/mixed by doom icon Greg Chandler from Esoteric—who also provides guest vocals—and mastered by James Plotkin). Indesinence’s interfusion of death metal’s guttural, pulverizing brutality with heartbreaking sepulture doom calls to mind formative UK doom acts such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, but the band is not mimicking the past. Epic-length tracks are the norm, Indesinence having a staggering amount of woe to convey, and while the death/doom elements may be familiar, the band’s ability to arrange and communicate its morbid tales with such emotive forcefulness puts them on a par with highly-respected gloom merchants, and label-mates, Evoken. “Paradigms”, “Vanished is the Haze” and “Fade (Further Beyond)” are extraordinary. Indesinence paints mournful, expressive portraits; each song explores different, though correspondingly cloud-covered scenery, with downtempo crawls and brooding riffs transforming into blistering chapel fires. The rhythmic pacing of Vessels of Light and Decay is flawless, and best evidenced on the remarkable closer “Unveiled”, where the band’s gut-wrenching gracefulness is most fully illuminated. Vessels of Light and Decay is simply one of the most eloquent and powerful albums from the death/doom realm in 2012.—CH
With their 2007 debut—A Fragile Hope—Devil Sold His Soul arrived on the British metal scene already fully formed: combining sky-scanning post-rock with post-hardcore inspired by the likes of Deftones, Will Haven and Glassjaw, amongst others. It was close to the sound that Devil Sold His Soul band members explored during their previous project, Mahumodo, with Mehdi Safa of *shels. However, Devil Sold His Soul magnified what Mahumodo hinted at with greater emphasis on weighty incremental builds and devastating crescendos, as well as the addition of Ed Gibbs on vocals—who initially partnered versatile clean vocals with a blackened screech which transformed into a ruthless roar on their brilliant sophomore album Blessed and Cursed. Empire of Light is their third full-length album, and not for one moment does it betray the quality of their past output. If anything Empire of Light is probably more forceful than what has preceded it—the band foregoing the exhausting build-ups that can sometimes drain the life out of this kind of music. Instead Devil Sold His Soul focus on instrumental interplay that effortlessly cradles and releases tension—its impact paralyzing the listener in the same way as Envy’s Insomniac Doze—with Gibbs giving his most emotive performance to date.—DB
Led by the deeply enigmatic Vindsval, French avant-garde black metal trio Blut Aus Nord operates in an eccentric and adventurous sphere entirely of its own making. The band’s latest album, 777: Cosmosophy, completes a trilogy begun with excellent releases in 2011—777: Sect(s) and 777: The Desanctification. Entirely befitting the band’s idiosyncrasy, 777: Cosmosophy contains the wholly unexpected—the final part of the trilogy being the band’s most serene and mysterious work yet. Windswept, corrosive songs make up the album, with dissonant industrial churns reminiscent of the band’s 2006 album, MoRT, being far more prevalent than skin-flaying metal. Spoken word and cleanly sung vocals on “Epitome XV” and “Epitome XVI” combine with elements of shoegaze, electronica, drone and post-punk, while “Epitome XVII” is, of all things, positively upbeat. 777: Cosmosophy is inventive and compelling, its overturning of expectations affirming Blut Aus Nord’s uncompromising artistic vision. The album has a prog-worthy sense of sumptuousness and reaches into black metal for its weight, but it’s in its layers of sound—where atmospheres are compacted and instruments warped—that Blut Aus Nord excels. The band has truly transcended orthodoxy here; the riffs are inky and diabolic but similarly accessible to the beautifully firmamental post-black-metal of fellow French artist Alcest. The 777 trilogy has ended on a serener but no less ambitious or compelling note. 777: Cosmosophy is an enrapturing and elaborate final act, an important reminder that black metal’s aesthetic now permeates far and wide—ever encroaching and forever indomitable.—CH