Plebeian Grandstand – Rien ne suffit (Debemur Morti)
Plebeian Grandstand has always been a pioneering act. In the early ’10s, the act from Toulouse had an intriguing vision of merging black metal with hardcore and its various subcomponents. With this concept as their launchpad Plebeian Grandstand truly soared to creative heights. Their first two full-length records, How Hate Is Hard to Define and Lowgazers, found them relishing this hybrid state. Soon, further elements would be introduced to the band’s core. Noise and industrial ideas, ambient leanings would lead to Plebeian Grandstand’s finest hour in False Highs, True Lows. A difficult record to follow, but their Debemur Morti debut is up to the task.
Rien ne suffit sees Plebeian Grandstand dive deeper into the abyss, uncovering all its hidden treasures. On the entry-level, the mathcore-infused malice still rages on. With a heavily blackened perspective, it provides the appropriate gear. Explosive and unpredictable, it makes the switches of “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant” sharper and more poignant. From there on, Plebeian Grandstand open up different pathways. Dropping the pace, they can at times appear post-metallic with a majestic grandeur about them in the likes of “Angle Mort” and “Espoir nuit naufrage”. But then again, they can push further into the extreme and unleash a grind onslaught in “Tropisme” and “Part maudite”. Still, what is key is the surrounding elements. The electronic backdrops make the grind passages that much more potent. The blackened kaleidoscope provides the mathcore self with a more deranged quality.
Speaking about the black metal side, Plebeian Grandstand also explore this more deeply. Here, it is the application of noise that ties in perfectly with dissonance. What awaits in “Masse Critique” is complete chaos. A vortex of fuzz and noise, meeting head-on with a blackened fury. It is the dissonance sowed by Ved Buens Ende that guides the way. Eerie in the final part of “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant”, majestic in closer “Aube” and then furious and unyielding in “Angle Mort” and “”Rien n’y fait”. It is the main force used to deliver the overwhelming pressure of Rien ne suffit.
Yet, where Plebeian Grandstand have truly grown is in their narratives. They have been building towards this point, but Rien ne suffit is spectacular on how it has been crafted. “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant” is a perfect example of this ability, the track swirling through a myriad of different modes, showcasing a rich sonic tapestry. From black metal to hardcore, from ambient to death industrial and everything that can be found in between. And still, the flow is fluid and uninterrupted, naturally moving from one part to the next. This is what makes Rien ne suffit Plebeian Grandstand’s crowning achievement. – Spyros Stasis
Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell (Sargent House)
Emma Ruth Rundle has explored the various facades of rock music. Working with Red Sparowes and Marriages, she navigated the post-rock and alternative realms. Collaborating with Thou in last year’s excellent May Our Chambers Be Full, she dipped into the sludge domain. Yet, it is her solo endeavors that truly make her stand out. The folk inclinations of her work, stemming from the singer/songwriter lineage, are able to create a strong, emotive response. Record after record, Rundle has amassed an excellent discography with Some Heavy Ocean, Marked for Death, and On Dark Horses all being testaments to her incredible songwriting prowess. The return now with Engine of Hell sees Rundle take an interesting turn.
This is the most minimal work that Rundle has released through her solo project. Engine of Hell strips down the singer/songwriter concept to its raw, basic ingredients. A voice, a guitar, and a piano. That is all that Rundle needs and she takes full advantage of them. The minimal layout of opener “Return” sees the emotion rise, the piano lines beautifully complementing Rundle’s vocal delivery. Sentiments rotate and change in a dreamlike fashion, the subtle serenity of the opener giving way to the sorrowful perspective of “Body”. It makes this work radiate with a beautifully vulnerable presence, one that Rundle has no problem exposing.
This is a cue from the great singer/songwriter legends of the past. The names of Nick Drake and Townes Van Zandt easily come to mind. This becomes incredibly apparent when the piano resides and the guitar resumes its centric position. “Blooms of Oblivion” uses this direct and engaging pace, slowly mesmerizing you. And of course, what capitalizes on this exquisite scenery is Rundle’s lyrical depth. There are moments of true darkness, such as with “Body” detailing stories of loss. And there is also the pressure of keeping it all together and trying not to reveal one’s inner state, beautifully narrated in “Razor’s Edge” as Rundle sings “Play it down, Magdalena no one Knows that you’ve come undone looking down the mirror at the demon that I have become”. Or the constant personal struggle, brilliantly put forth in “Citadel”, with Rundle singing “There’s a destroyer in my blood, who’s handed down and waits, for me, I have no air, I cannot breathe with the destroyer in my blood”.
Rundle seeks to return to a point of origin with Engine of Hell. In stripping down the structures, using minimal instrumentation and a less-is-more production, she has achieved exactly that. Everything is out in the open, as in works of folk legends of old. And while it might not be the most innovative pathway to take, it is a necessary one. – Spyros Stasis
Sijjin – Sumerian Promises (Sepulchral Voice)
From the late 2000s until the late 2010s, Necros Christos was a pivotal force in the extreme underground scene. Caught in the revival typhoon of cult black/death, the act from Germany charted its own path. Deeply ritualistic and taking on doom elements, Necros Christos unleashed a plethora of exquisite works. The inevitable end came in 2018 with triple record Domedon Doxomedon, leaving a big gap in the extreme metal scene. This is the space that Sijjin tries to fill, albeit in a slightly different manner. The presence of Necros Christos’ drummer Ivan Hernandez and iconic vocalist/bassist Mors Dalos Ra does promise a lot. And to aid them is Extinction guitarist Ekaitz Garmedia, tilting the whole endeavor towards a death/thrash dimension.
This is a battling ground, and Sijjin are the champions of the arena. The thrash metal spirit is front and center, defining everything from the progression to the groove and feel of Sumerian Promises. For the most part, Sijjin’s debut album has a single gear and that is turned up to eleven. The early days’ schizoid spirit of Slayer lives on, “Daemon Blessex” oozing with the satanic thrash twists. The tension is palpable, the record spinning out of control with the over-the-top guitar solos in “Dagger of a Thousand Deaths”, “Those Who Wait to Enter” and “Unchain the Ghost”. Everything brings to mind the early proto-death metal, and proto-black metal days, as Mors Dalos Ra spits malice with utter conviction. It is this passion and angst that elevates Sumerian Promises. The sense of purpose is undeniable as “Darkness in Saqqara” and “Angel of the Eastern Gate” keep hammering on.
While the sonic palette of Sijjin differs from Necros Christos, there is a sense of continuity. Necros Christos reveled in a dark, primordial sense. It was an aspect that gave a sense of majesty to their black/death spirit. Here, this primal essence lives on. But Sijjin channel it towards an animalistic and polemic direction. The heavier groove of “Those Who Wait to Enter” and “Condemned By Primal Contract” feel like war anthems, leading to absolute belligerence in “Outer Chambers of Entity”. It is the final touch that completes the old-school recipe for Sijjin, making Sumerian Promises an enticing start. – Spyros Stasis
Stormkeep – Tales of Othertime (Ván Records)
The primary reason why Stormkeep’s unholy concoction of old school black metal and dungeon synth works is because the band—featuring several notable musicians from Denver, Colorado’s black/death metal scenes—don’t take themselves seriously. Even though Stormkeep approach their music with great effort and attention to detail—the album is played and produced splendidly—they also choose to acknowledge and emphasize the humorous and camp sides of black metal, which is all for the better. Shrouded in absolutely steamrolling melodic and symphonic black metal, they growl of wizards and magic, then fall into labyrinths of dungeon synth that teeter between earnest emotion and subversive over the top sentimentality. It’s all purposely cheesy and self-aware, yet utterly awesome. – Antonio Poscic