Here we are with the September heavy crop, featuring everything across the board. Different flavors of doom, from the holistic take of the Answer Lies in the Black Void, to the extreme, slow pacing of Scepticism. Black/death configurations are at large once more, with Antideluvian, Lvcifyre, and Defacement releasing stellar works, while more experimental extreme acts dazzle. New Orleans’ Mehenet unleash a stunning album, Sol Kia add a psychedelic twist to the bitterness, and Pa Vesh En continue on their dissonant path. On the fringes, the new works from legendary post-rockers Mono, the industrial blues visions of Buck Gooter, and the surprising collaboration of the Body with BIG|BRAVE stand out. These and much more follow, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis
The Answer Lies in the Black Void – Forlorn (Burning World)
The Answer Lies in the Black Void does not mark the first time that Jason Köhnen and Martina Horvath collaborate. Earlier this year Köhnen’s project Mansur released Minotavrvs. The record saw Köhnen explore the ambient space, moving between abstract electronics and folk instrumentations for an incredible, dark trip. But, with the Answer Lies in the Black Void, Köhnen and Horvath choose a different path, exploring the doom’s gloom in all its metallic glory.
Both Köhnen and Horvath have experience in that domain. Köhnen has been a member of the legendary doom/death entity Celestial Season, while Horvath has collaborated with avant-garde aficionados Thy Catafalque as well as heavy doom act Nuhal. However, given the diversity of projects that both Köhnen and Horvath have worked on, it comes as no surprise that The Answer Lies In The Black Void expands in a number of different directions. Immediately dropping the hammer with opener “Mina”, the duo establish their adoration of the old-school doom metal spirit. Heavy and slow, distorted and atmospheric, it oozes with a Sabbath-ian demeanor that is further explored in “Okkultas”. Here, Horvath’s performance is astounding, fiercely standing amidst the guitars and riffs, drawing all attention to her ethereal and elusive performance. Yet, that is only scratching the surface.
Köhnen’s grasp on doom is uncanny, allowing Forlorn to navigate in free-flowing fashion through different modes. The sludge weight arrives in full monolithic fashion with “Rubicon”. Then the scenery switches towards an electronic inclination; best not forget the DNA of Bong-Ra that runs through this project. The industrial presence of “Moult” results in a martial onslaught, while Köhnen also travels to the Celestial Season past, taking on a doom/death detour. That really shows on the melodic leanings of “For Nevermore” and especially the dreamy guitar work of “Become Undone”.
But, through all that, it is Horvath’s performance that guides the narrative. Appearing like a psalm in “Barren”, becoming a prayer in “Rubicon”, her voice gains momentum and erupts in brilliant fashion. And when the scenery changes, Horvath is able to recalibrate and adapt. Her delivery is a beam of light through the murky illusions of “Moult”, adding a theatrical tonality in “For Nevermore” and awakening the spirit of old, romantic doom/death when standing alongside the brutal vocals of “Curse”. All these make Forlorn an excellent effort from Köhnen and Horvath and one of the stronger doom records of the year. – Spyros Stasis
Antediluvian – The Divine Punishment (Nuclear War Now!)
The march of black/death over the past decade has been unexpected. Spawning from the dark visions of Blasphemy’s proto-extreme metal, the scene has blossomed. It has seen the likes of Revenge and Portal rise to the forefront, followed by an army of deviants. Altarage, Black Curse, Mitochondrion, and Abyssal are just some that this excellent crop has to offer. Following the same recipe is another Canadian band in Antediluvian. Now, Antediluvian have proved in the past that they are very knowledgeable with regards to the inner workings of black/death. Their debut record, Through The Cervix of Hawaah, was a great introduction, followed by an absolute scorcher in λογος. Now, eight long years after λογος, Antediluvian make a return with The Divine Punishment, a record that offers a number of very welcomed surprises.
First things first. The brutality and aggression that have defined the past of Antediluvian are still strong and vibrant with The Divine Punishment. This is not a graceful death metal approach, nor is it based on the eerie black metal progression. No, barbarians have stormed the gates with polemic intentions, and they leave nothing standing in their path, as opener “Obscene Pornography Manifests in the Divine Universal Consciousness” takes over. This is the core mode for Antediluvian, a characteristic that they have assimilated from Revenge’s teachings. The blasting speed and brutal vocalizations in “Tamanic Masturbation Ritual”, and the remnants of λογος in “Sadomaniacal Katabasis (Last Fuck of the Dying)” take no prisoners. The chaos ensues in “The Liar’s Path”, while simple augmentations like the breaking glass sound in closer “Winged Ascent unto the Twelve Runed Solar Anus” further establish the unnerving and disturbing nature of this work.
But, this is where things start to get interesting. Antediluvian appear more ambitious than simply gratifying their primal nature. Sure, this is a caveman mentality, but it arrives with a broader palette and in a very thought-out manner. The duration of the tracks (and the album) have expanded, allowing for moments of further experimentation. The opener sees an introduction ranging from drone and abstract elements, feedback from unknown sources, and cymbals rising from the deep. This is the time before the great flood, and that is now Antediluvian set their atmosphere. Choirs appear in “How the Watchers Granted the Humans Sex Magick”, adding to the track’s depth. Acoustic parts materialize amidst a storm of noise in “Guardians of the Liminal”, and the descent to the dark ambient realm is complete with the industrialized spoken word hell of “White Throne”.
These are augmentations that separate Antediluvian from much of the black/death scene. Another thing to consider is that Antediluvian offer a more pristine production to other fellow acts, with a more defined drum sound and less chaotic presentation. And they also feel comfortable enough to roam in the realm of slight melody. Now, do not expect full-on Iron Maiden-like parts, but some moments act as definite hooks. At a time when the wave of black/death might appear to be reaching a state of saturation, it is great to see that Antediluvian continue to push. While many stick to their guns, rehashing old recipes, the Canadians are unafraid to explore new territories. And hopefully, it is albums such as The Divine Punishment that will lead into the eventual evolution of the scene. – Spyros Stasis
Black Mass – Feast at the Forbidden Tree (Redefining Darkness)
On Feast at the Forbidden Tree, Boston power trio Black Mass play what could simply be described as a mixture of all variations of thrash metal. Styles mesh and alternate within segments of the same cuts, not just between songs. Look no further than the excellent “Unholy Libation” for proof, where an absolutely blazing speed metal freakout follows hot on the heels of a mid-tempo groove.
Elsewhere, they reach for Motörhead’s sense of rawness on the screeching, bumbling “Dead to the World” and offer a taste of Slayer’s unholy aggression on “A.S.H.E.S.”. They punch a hole through groove with pure punk ferocity on “A Path Beyond” and stream down technical and progressive thrash serpentines on “Betrayal” and “Blood Ritual”. While it might sound incoherent on screen, in reality, the band make this kaleidoscope of influences work perfectly, gluing them all together with unfettered energy and a confident poise and making them their own. Bitching stuff. – Antonio Poscic
The Body and BIG|Brave – Leaving None But Small Birds (Thrill Jockey)
The Body have an excellent history of collaborations. Through the years, the extreme/experimental duo has worked alongside kindred artistic spirits. Fellow sludge lords Thou, black metal legends Krieg, industrial fiends Uniform, and powerviolence extremists Full of Hell are just some of their collaborators. Here, the noise/sludge masters meet with intricate post-metal/drone act BIG|BRAVE to venture in an astonishing direction. Given the history of the two bands, their output so far, one might expect an extremely heavy offering from this meeting of minds. However, that is not what one finds in Leaving None But Small Birds.
Martial drumming, industrial soundscapes, and heavy injections of noise are kept at bay for the most part. And in their place, what remains is an ode of nostalgic Americana. Instead of the expected Mad Max scenery, The Body and BIG|BRAVE present a landscape closer to Paris, Texas. From opener “Blackest Crow”, the relaxed progression is flirting with folk inclinations as Robin Wattie’s distinct voice echoes through this deserted world. The violin adds another layer of nostalgia to the already retro take, finely crafting the dreamlike realm. Even in its straightforward presentation, with the likes of “Oh Sinner” and “Once I Had a Sweetheart”, The Body and BIG|BRAVE display exquisite songwriting and establish an otherworldly offering that tends towards the psychedelic.
Yet, the two acts still push further. Without breaking the spell, the folk pathways do mutate through very well-placed noise touches and feedback. The hazy guitars of “Hard Times” are just the start, the feedback roaring in the background and soon after overwhelming the soundscapes. The fuzzy distortion of “Babes in the Woods” is even more powerful, completely diving into sound design mode with its excruciating presence. Yet, what stays from Leaving None But Small Birds is the notion that the Body and BIG|BRAVE do not need much.
Their usual overwhelming presence is not the sole essence of their works. And neither do noise and heavy guitars define their identity. Because at the end of the day, they can write some really fabulous tracks. Just listen to the acoustic “Black Is the Color” as the acoustic guitar and vocals alone convey so much emotion and depth. There truly are layers upon layers to these bands, and they beautifully unfold in Leaving None But Small Birds. – Spyros Stasis