Odd Circus – Mantha / Arch Nova (Good Idea Music)
“Post-rock, fusion, no wave, noise, experimental, garage rock, psychedelic, sci-fi prog.” The array of genres the trio of Crews Carter, Partin Whitaker, and Graham Robertson use to describe their style might seem a smidgen too eclectic at first. But play Mantha or Arch Nova, the first two EPs in a planned series, and things start to make much more sense. While all these styles feature in Odd Circus’s music in one way or another, the resulting music is exquisitely coherent. As if Snarky Puppy or the Kandinsky Effect were playing during a really bad trip, the music has drive and intent, especially as Robertson’s roaring saxophone licks roll around and punch holes in Carter and Whitaker’s thick rhythmic and textural fabric.
Cobbled together from freely improvised sessions–think of them as structured jams–the music on the two EPs is absolutely delightful. From piece to piece, bouts of metallic jazz insanity, modulated noises, and wacky synths groove around syncopated drum patterns. They paint a paranoid vision of a part supernatural, part palpable post-apocalyptic world. The most delicious nightmare ever. – Antonio Poscic
Pharaoh – The Powers That Be (Cruz del Sur)
While advertised as power metal, Pharaoh are so much more. At least on The Powers That Be, an album that follows several records that became underground darlings and an extended nine-year hiatus. On it, the Philadelphians reach left and right into subgenres adjacent to heavy metal in an effort of piecing together a delightful style. And oh boy, do they succeed. Were you to go in blind, you’d be hard-pressed to discern any rust or lack of chemistry after such a long break. On the contrary, this album feels as fresh and inspired as anything the band recorded in the past.
Case in point, a tasteful proggy section reminiscent of Symphony X introduces the record, with buzzing riffs flickering in all directions and a solid rhythm section framing Tim Aymar’s soaring vocals. Then things shift for the first time. We’re suddenly in Blind Guardian territories with huge harmonized choruses and hooks on “Will We Rise”, only to get blown away by thrashing, grandiose attacks à la Grave Digger or Sabbaton on “Lost in the Waves”. The latter part of the album leaves Europe and lands in America. Here they find bits and pieces of Jag Panzer’s take on power metal within the galloping “When the World Was Mine” and the melodic and catchy but never kitschy “Freedom”. Throughout, there is a somewhat expected Maidenesque flavor in the songwriting and tightness of delivery, yet the album feels like a tasteful homage to heroes, not mimicry. It marks a triumphant return. – Antonio Poscic
Seance Of – The Colour of Magick (Signal Rex)
The project of one Alex Radlinski (aka AR) sprouted from the land down under due to the hiatus and general inactivity of his other project Grave Worship. AR has been so busy with Seance Of that he has already completed three full-length records for the project, and actually The Colour of Magick is the third of these. Well, it appears that this degree of activity suits Seance Of because The Colour of Magick is an intricate work of traditional black metal with a couple of twists.
Overall, this work has a quite nice old-school mentality with Seance Of taking on many of the second black metal wave characteristics but without disregarding what came before. The opening track arrives with the traditional, continuous, and always relentless black metal riffing. At the same time, an archaic quality moves them closer to the first era Bathory. This demonical presence on the one hand and the restrained pacing on the other allow for Seance Of to unfold their multifaceted form fully. Because despite the fervent stance towards tradition, Seance Of undertake many different modes to invoke a plethora of black metal lineages. Dissonant and extravagant, appearing as razor-sharp razors in times, to then only travel back in time reaching a proto-black metal, schizoid thrash approach. And then slither into a semi-atmospheric form, covering the work in pitch-black darkness. It’s a balanced work capable of adding an adventurous twist without leaving the confinements of the genre behind. – Spyros Stasis
Seputus – Phantom Indigo (Willowtip)
Seputus are composed of three of the four members of technical death metal overlords Pyrrhon. Therefore, the first question that arises is: how does Seputus differ from Pyrrhon? Is this project just another outlet for Doug Moore, Erik Malave, and Stephen Schwegler to dazzle us with their ultra brutal, calculated, and virtuosic death metal. Well, in a sense, yes. But, at the same time, Seputus cover a lot of new ground. On the surface level, listening to the trio’s sophomore record, Phantom Indigo, the dissonance and brutality do point to Pyrrhon. However, paying closer attention, Seputus proposes an entirely different vision that is worth exploring.
Elements of Pyrrhon’s tech-death still live here, with “The Forgetting Curve” shines with the pneuma of the recent Abscess Time, while “The Learned Approach” proposes the same Pyrrhonic relentless onslaught. But, even in these moments, there is a certain textural quality that separates Seputus. To understand this, it is necessary to travel into the past. In 2016, Seputus released their debut work Man Does Not Give. Seputus offered a more straightforward approach through their brutal death metal facade due a lot to old-school tech death metal. What was interesting, however, was blackened incorporation adding a dissonant and eerie twist to the compositions. At the time, this felt disparate, forced into co-existence.
Now, five years later, Seputus unite these two worlds stunningly. The blackened approach unfolds through exquisite dissonance and flows through the work, reaching new depths from the start with the opener “The Will To Live”. Cutthroat vocals compliment the guttural screams, while the eerie quality of the lead work seamlessly combines technical prowess with a sickening atmosphere, reaching for an almost psychedelic attribute. Still, the full majesty of Sepetus is unveiled through their long-form investigations. They roam through avant-garde death groove-isms under a blackened guise in “Tautology”. Then there’s the complete deconstructionist that is “Deuterologist” and the havoc of the title track. It all points to an overly ambitious work, and while it is not perfect, it results in a unique offering.
Seputus have managed to find an extraordinary combination of black and death metal, pushed and pulled by their experimental mindset in such a way to create a unique amalgamation. So while Pyrrhon are pushing technical death metal, Seputus are crafting a new vision for a bizarro, avant-garde defined black/death fusion. I am very much looking forward to seeing how they will progress from here. – Spyros Stasis