Spire – Temple of Khronos (Sentient Ruin)
It is all about not staying still, and keep evolving. Australia’s Spire was conceived in the bizarre intersection between ambient music and black metal, a tried and tested recipe that spawned a generation of forward-thinking acts. And while it is undeniable that Spire deeply indulged in combining the raw and aggressive black metal tonality with the bitter aftertaste of dark ambient, they have been moving towards a different paradigm. The lo-fi production of the early demos gave way to an exquisite debut in Entropy. While still retaining their black metal core, Spire moved with gusto towards a darker metallic essence, dripping psychedelia and adding disfigured prog rock motifs amidst the angst and outbreaks.
The return now with Temple of Khronos feels like Spire have reached their pivotal point. There are moments where the black metal dissonance is undeniable, the eerie atmospherics rising through a dark abyss as with the cyclothymic progression of “Hymn II – Tormentor”. Yet, even through these moments there is an almost anthemic quality that Spire awaken, as the vocal delivery cuts through with its unbelievable hooks. Similar is the story with “Hymn III – Harbinger”, albeit instead of the dark anthemic vibe, the black metal explosion reaches an epic, majestically inclined peak.
Having uncovered this excellent combination, Spire further explore it through the slower pace and orchestral experimentations of “Hymn IV – Puissant”. Yet, what really sticks is that through all these Spire sprinkle their ideas with a haze of dissonant and venomous guitar licks, at times reaching for a dark sense of psychedelia coupled with melodic notions or an off-kilter progressive rock take on their blackened identity. No matter the mode they are in, Spire still deliver in volumes making Temple of Khronos their strongest work to date. – Spyros Stasis
StarGazer – Psychic Secretions (Nuclear War Now!)
StarGazer is pure down under royalty. For the origin of the forward thinking black/death act goes back in time to the mid 90s. Formed by two pillars of the Australian extreme metal underground in Damon Good and Denny Blake, known from their works with Mournful Congregation and Cauldron Black Ram among many many more, Stargazer’s raison d’être is to re-establish the connection between an aggressive mentality and extreme metal’s progressive extensions. To this end four excellent works have been released in sparse intervals, highlighting both the brutality but also the extravagant potential of black/death.
With their latest work Psychic Secretions, StarGazer do not intend to alter their tried and trusted recipe. Everything that made their work enticing and interesting is still here. The quasi-melodic presentations of “Lash of the Tytans” and the proto-death a la Possessed lash outs of “Evil Olde Sol” re-establish Stargazer’s connection with the genre’s past. Still, the Aussies dig deeper to explore the concepts of Psychic Secretions. The structures and progression of their work morph through a progressive rock mutation, causing the entire feel of the album to become more obscure and challenging.
The death metallics of “The Occidental Scourge” join in perfect harmony with the virtuoso bass, while the erratic breaks from the majesty of “All Knowing Cold” fully display Stargazer’s versatility. Rounding it all up, the slight touch of a cosmic presence through the clean passages of “Simulacrum” and “Pilgrimage” showcases a more subtle touch, actually reminiscing Death’s Human period, to round up an excellent work in Psychic Secretions. – Spyros Stasis
White Nights – Solanaceae (Iron Bonehead)
In 2020 the mysterious White Nights entity rose from the underground with their debut EP Into The Lap of the Ancient Mother. Released through Iron Bonehead, a label known both for their respect for extreme metallic offerings but also their love for occult and obscure rock nostalgia, White Night’s debut record felt to be balancing between these two sides. The extreme influences were clear, as White Nights bundled together a blackened perspective and a doom-y sense wrapped in a lo-fi production. Yet, beneath the layers of distortion and mayhem a prevalent deathrock sound emerged, aided by a healthy dose of psychedelia. Now, just a year later White Nights continue down this path with their sophomore EP, Solanaceae.
While Into The Lap of the Ancient Mother had one foot in the extreme metal realm and the other in the dark post-punk domain, Solanaceae is much more committed to one of these sides. The extreme metal aspect has subsided substantially, allowing only the presence of a blackened aura to remain. So, instead of the cataclysmic riffing and the blastbeats what awaits here is a hallucinatory, mystical experience traversing through darkwave paths and cosmic realms. “Nightshade Mornings in Bloodred Satin” performs a retro tour de force with its prime post-punk basslines, buried in the mix vocals and spacey effects.
But, White Nights do not stay in the obscure, and they move towards the hallucinogenic as the exquisite effects and laid back tonality of “Cannabaceae III” and the grand, noise rock induced approach of opener “Hallucinogenic Black Cubes”. This is the attribute that elevates Solanaceae as it moves from deathrock and towards a krautrock space, highlighted brilliantly in the peak of this album, the long-form title track and its cosmic implications. Cannot wait to see what these guys can do in a full-length record. – Spyros Stasis