GGGOLDDD – This Shame Should Not Be Mine (Artoffact)
There’s a rising number of musicians, like Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter, who have used music as a way of empowering themselves and working through the trauma of sexual abuse. More than just a weaponization of sound, music becomes a haven and a safe space, where heavy things can be expressed in earnest. On This Shame Should Not Be Mine, GGGOLDDD’s frontwoman Melina Eva deals with her own damage, inflicted decades ago, but that still feels as fresh as on the day it happened.
Unlike Lingua Ignota’s heavy metaphors and religious symbolism, This Shame is an album closer to Tori Amos’s “Me and a Gun”, almost documentaristic in the way that it conveys its concept explicitly and directly, and is made all the more powerful because of it. Throughout most of the 10 songs, Eva’s voice is at the front and unprocessed, bluntly narrating her story, feelings, and thoughts, accompanied by an at times rocking, at others insidiously simmering instrumental background that feels as if projected from her emotions. Repeating synths, humming frequencies, stringent, nervous tremolos, and bouts of harsher noise are all there to support her and allow her to move forward.
The album’s biographical nature, reflections, and intense build-ups remind of BIG|BRAVE’s recent releases. We’re immersed in Eva’s story as it unfolded and still unfolds. “You let me in,” she sings before roaring the same words on “Strawberry Supper” until “Spring” makes everything come crashing down. “I wanna shower till my skin comes off,” she growls. “I didn’t think I would be this quiet,” she folds. And as the album progresses, fragility and self-blame first become spiteful resolve, then calm as she finds a distanced, Laurie Anderson-like vocodored inflection: “this is not on me, it’s on you.” While not metal in the slightest, this is easily the heaviest album of the month. – Antonio Poscic
Helms Alee – Keep This Be the Way (Sargent House)
When Helms Alee first appeared through the ranks of Hydrahead back in 2008 it was clear that they were ahead of the curve. Featuring Ben Verellen, of the underappreciated post-hardcore act Harkonen, alongside Dana James and Hozoji Mattheson-Margullis, Helms Alee unleashed Night Terror. It was a strange experience then, sludge and post-hardcore combining with noise rock. And despite its raw and, dare I say, slightly clumsy presence, there was so much promise. And through the years, Helms Alee have delivered on that promise, digging deeper into their sonic juxtaposition. And now they reach a new peak with Keep This Be The Way.
For the most part, Helms Alee presented their vision in a stripped-down fashion. There was an immediacy, a live feeling that defined works like Stillicide and Noctiluca. That aspect made their sludge appear fiercer, the heavy riffs raining down upon you. And it also gave a further edge to the noise rock applications. These are both components running through Helms Alee’s veins. “Tripping Up the Stairs” sees the weight and off-kilter presence merge. On the more melodic edge, they still offer pure bliss with the grand chorus of closer “Gut for Brains”. But, what the studio manipulations of Keep This Be The Way have accomplished is a deeper experience. Effects and sound design augment this trip, starting off from the hypnotic realm of “See Sights Smell Smells”. Mesmerizing and mystical, the repetitive drum patterns clash against the rich backdrop. It feels as if a pearl of lost wisdom rises through the circular motif, inevitably becoming uncontrollable through the saxophone introduction. “Mouth Thinker” and “Three Cheeks to the Wind” further explore this dimension, the first with a most welcomed softness while the latter through a raging wall of distortion.
This boost in psychedelia gives Helms Alee a fresh retort. It elevates the vision, seeing moments where the sludge self is projected through an acid lens, with the title track drawing from the spirit of Spacemen3. It ends up being a spectacular ride through the cosmos, at times harsh and unnerving, but then soothing and beautiful. “How Party Do You Heart” sees the latter, the dreamlike quality crafting an elegant piece, while “Big Louise” aims for a more open and expressive hit. So, it is not so much that the recipe has changed for Helms Alee. The act has found a different way to present their vision, and it shines as brightly as ever. – Spyros Stasis
Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme (Profound Lore)
Philippe Boucher is one of the great drummers of this generation. Mostly known for his work in the death metal genre, be it with cult obsessors Chthe’ilist or technical masters Beyond Creation, Boucher has displayed an abundance of creativity. Yet, his interests expand beyond the death metal structures and into the black metal cosmos. While he has explored this space with his solo project Décombres, it is Incandescence that offer a more complete investigation. With Boucher on drums, guitars, and bass, Incandescence are complete with vocalist Louis-Paul Gauvreau and are about to unleash their fourth full-length Le Coeur De L’Homme.
In many ways, Incandescence is an act that relishes the past glory days. The initial impact from Le Coeur De L’Homme speaks of an allure for the atmospheric, and an inclination towards the epic. The opener “Avilissement” immediately sets the tone, the serene clean parts signaling the calm before the storm. From there on small additions can go a long way. Clean parts, and acoustic guitars elevate the storytelling, giving it a narrative presence. But, it is the grandeur that does it, and here Incandescence do their best to awaken moments of glory. “Tréfonds Macabres” and “Avide de Cris” create this sense of majestic misery, their lead work perfectly placed to create this towering manifestation. And while this attitude does reminisce on Blood Fire Death era Bathory, Incandescence never lose their grasp on the black metal aggression. “La Spirale de l’échec” showcases that gear, their black metal turning cold and bitter for a full-on assault. It is a more stripped-down, less pompous take on Emperor’s vision. With the complex structuring and layering shining in moments like “Désacralisation Des Moeurs”. And a bit of additional theatricality takes things even further with the pensive lead work of “Écroulement vers L’abîme”.
While this is not a new recipe, there are still aspects that see Incandescence strive for something more. The death metal spirit lives on, and it is incorporated in a very tasteful manner. The deep growls of “Avilissement” display this attribute, but for the most part, it is the drumming that really does it. Boucher is able to incorporate many of the death metal blastbeats within the black metal structures, without losing focus on Incandescence’s epic vision. And they are even able to maintain this while throwing into the mix aspects of technical death metal. “La Descente” is a perfect example of this blend, the furious black metal sense merges with the brutal death metal presence for something quite unique. And while Le Coeur De L’Homme is an excellent listen just for its epic presence, it is these moments of extra garnishment that reveal a wealth of further potential. – Spyros Stasis
Lifvsleda – Sepulkral Dedikation (NoEvDia)
Lifvsleda was founded in 2019 by a legend of the Swedish black metal scene. Mikael Österberg has been known under the Nattfursth moniker, wreaking havoc with Sorhin throughout the ‘90s. And while Sorhin are by all accounts dormant, the thought of a follow-up to their excellent 2000 release Apokalypsens ängel feeling like a distant dream, Lifvsleda is very much alive and kicking. With their debut record De Besegrade Lifvet, planting the initial seeds of bitter black metal, they now return with their sophomore album, Sepulkral Dedikation.
Österberg has always relished the orthodoxy of the black metal genre. This is dark music, and it should radiate with an ominous and hellish sentiment. “Djefvulen” sets the soundscapes ablaze with its raging stampede, while “Hädankallad” continues with the bitter and unyielding onslaught. Their black metal howls, radiating with a sense of dread and doom. It is something that becomes even more impressive when the mid-tempo pacing of “Dödspredikanten” comes along. And yet, there is a methodology that Österberg has derived from the days of Sorhin, and from many of the scene’s contemporaries. Orthodoxy does not require relinquishing melody or ambiance. And it is within that intersection that Lifvsleda thrive.
There is a deep understanding with regard to the need for immediacy. And it is the melodic inclinations that become a pivotal force in Sepulkral Dedikation. ”Lifvspänn” sees this mode, the melodic notions merging with their discordant counterparts for a majestic result. It is something that leads to moments of epic grandeur, where the mid-tempo gear of Lifvsleda truly shines. “Djefvulen” and “Evigheten” see the progression take on a fierce presence, steadily unfolding through heavy riffs and damned narratives. With a final serving of atmospheric flourishes, be it clean parts or an acoustic presence in “Likbälet”, it is this wider scope that makes Sepulkral Dedikation feel so complete. In many ways, Österberg has managed to traverse melody and ambiance without leaving behind eeriness and brutality. And aided greatly by the album’s excellent production, Lifvsleda have delivered an excellent specimen of black metal potency. – Spyros Stasis
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