Cult of Luna – The Raging River (Red Creek)
In a way, the most important part of the Swedish sludge and post-metal outfit’s new EP has nothing to do with the music that’s on it. While the forty-minutes long release is excellent, the crucial part of The Raging River is the label on which it is being released on. Namely, Red Creek is the band’s own creation, a new outlet meant to provide “a safe home” for their work, but also envisioned as a way of supporting other artists. During a time in which musicians, as precarious workers, have felt the brunt of the pandemic and its economic fallout, this sort of solidarity and backing becomes crucial, a true conditio sine qua non.
Coming back to the music, The Raging River indeed feels like a “bridge” towards the next phase of the group’s work, as they note in the promo blurb. Like an extended coda to 2019’s superb A Dawn to Fear, the cuts flow between tremolo-backed grooves, sophisticated atmospheric sections carried by streams of soft guitars chords, and outright stunning bouts of post-rock crescendos and their bombastic, crushing conclusions. Amidst this heaviness stands “Inside of a Dream” to whose wistful atmosphere Mark Lanegan lends a helping hand, his voice as rugged as it is emotional, whirled and elevated gently like autumn leaves in the wind. – Antonio Poscic
Culted – Nous (Season of Mist)
Ahead of the curve in today’s Covid world, Culted started off as an online collaboration between Canadian and Swedish members of the extreme metal scene. To this day, Culted has released two full-length albums through Relapse in Below The Thunders of the Upper Deep and Oblique to All Paths, along with a couple of EPs in Of Death and Ritual, and their first work through Season of Mist, Vespertina Synaxis. The common thread running through Culted’s core for more than a decade is an alignment between black metal auras, doom punishments and an industrialized backbone. It is this recipe they uncover again with their third record in Nous.
There is a deep darkness, casting its elusive extensions over Nous, set up in part through a brutal implementation of doom metal aesthetics. The heavy, glacial riffs progressing through the slow pace of “One Last Smoke” fill the space, as the tortured, clean vocal delivery echoes through the bleak passageways. There are times when this attitude reaches a deconstructionist perspective, setting the tempo even lower and aiming for a drone sweet spot, as with the ambient “Opiate the Hounds”. It is something that stands opposite Culted’s usual blackened doom mix, which shines in opener “Lowest Class” and “Maze”. More furious attacks still ensue, as hints of extreme metal applications rear their ugly head in “Lifers”. Yet, it is the moments when Culted exist in an experimental state that really stick with you, as they explore the disfigured distortions of “Black Bird” or the ambient detours of “Crown of Lies” and the seemingly devoid of form “Crush My Soul”. A versatile work that reminds us how much this act has to offer. – Spyros Stasis
Sturle Dagsland – Sturle Dagsland
I’m struggling to remember when an album left me as perplexed and devoid of references to latch onto as Sturle Dagsland’s self-titled debut. Take the opening “Kusanagi,” for example, which explodes with Dagsland singing and screaming and growling in a delirious, vicious scat-style, bustling against a backdrop of broken beats, voices dissolved in ether, and an assortment of sharp yet mellifluous effects. Helped by his brother Sjur, he makes each sound swirl on its own, then sends them dancing down labyrinthine, crossing paths. But zoom out just a bit. Consider the bigger picture. Suddenly, patterns start appearing amidst the madness. Forming a beautiful micro-symphony.
While an all-encompassing style is impossible to pinpoint across the cuts, they retain a common, curiously intimate mood. The only other constant is that there are no constants as Sturle Dagsland’s mercurial voice and accompanying instrumentation keep shaping and reshaping themselves as they see fit. At first, Björk-infected falsettos create a tapestry of textures equally heavenly and hellish, while bits and pieces of Norse Paganism and Sami folk haunt each insidious melody on the dreamy “Tales of Mist” and the beautiful “Waif.”
Then things become hard and brutal. Dagsland sputters Mike Patton-like shrieks of energy like a machine gun, sustains them with industrial grindcore idioms on “Blot,” and groans amidst booming riffs that consume everything on “Frenzy.” Throughout, the song structures are as free and liberated as the aural palette that the brothers employ. And at certain points, Sturle Dagsland starts sounding like a perfected version of Liturgy’s Ark Work – an album that came close but never achieved this level of musical eclecticism, authentic emotions, and superb pop-affinity. – Antonio Poscic
DSKNT – Vacuum Y-Noise Transition (Sentient Ruin)
There is a strong tradition of forward thinking extreme metal bands hailing from Switzerland. In the ‘80s it was Celtic Frost opening the portals towards black metal and gothic, and Coroner traversing the technical, rhythmically apt dimensions of thrash. In the underground, cosmic black metal explorers in Darkspace would rise, and their chthonic counterpart Paysage d’Hiver would take over. In that sense DSKNT are a member of a proud tradition, and their challenging brew of black/death comes in a potent form.
Now releasing their sophomore record Vacuum Y-Noise Transition, DSKNT draw from the bitter flavours of their contemporary extreme metal scene. On one hand, there is the off-kilter black metal. Acidic and bitter, investigating the mystical pathways that visionaries like Deathspell Omega first revealed. Combining the devastating with the eerie in “Transition Ω- [Part II]” sees the heavy, doom-esque beating merge with a Voivod-ian sense of dissonance, while the ambitious and constantly morphing journey that is “Deconvolution Ξ-Ο [Part II]” introduces the vast vision of this act.
Still, due to their death metal affections, DSKNT take on many attributes of the current cult black/death scene, expanding their venomous palette through the guttural stampedes of “Θ-Noise – Phase Shift” and the extravagant brutality and chaotic instinct of “Deconvolution j-Ψ [Part I]”. This shared lineage between the dissonant, reinterpreted black metal form and the chaotic death metal traditions, grants DSKNT with an overwhelming record in Vacuum Y-Noise Transition. – Spyros Stasis