1. // Grief Symposium : In The Absence Of Light (Church Road Records)
Grief Symposium are one of the latest in a long line of emerging talented bands from the heavier end of the ever impressive Church Road Records roster, and they dropped their debut LP … In The Absence Of Light in January. Comprising of various former members of bands including Entwined, The King Is Blind and Extreme Noise Terror, the record is certainly no run of the mill debut and has been crafted by a group of musicians who know how to structure a song, with plenty of variety in both pace and tone while also clearly having perfected the art of writing an intoxicating riff! Their influences clearly blend early Doom and Death Metal, with hints of a Blackened nature and Industrial sounds in places. And there are plenty of experimental surprises including an 18 minute Synth-Drone album closer.
The intricate arrangement is highlighted on opener ‘Among Dead Gods’, a nihilistic slice of old-school 90’s Peaceville Records influenced Doom. The song switches half way through and heightens the pace with blast-beats and a Black Metal influence, before dropping into a calming melodic spoken word section (early Anathema anyone!?) and finally heading back into a whirlwind of cacophony. There is an early Floridian Death Metal vibe with monolithic vocals on ‘Temple Of Decay’, and on ‘In The Shadow Of The Sleeping Monarch’ Grief Symposium create a a grand epic journey beginning with a sampled intro talking about the nature and mercy of God, over a gentle strumming guitar. This then drops into crunching Doom with exquisite guitar work, twisting and turning its way through all manner of hypnotic riffs, before closing out with a mellow piano led classical finale.
2. // Downfall Of Gaia : Silhouettes Of Disgust (Metal Blade Records)
Downfall Of Gaia have a fine reputation amongst the current wave of innovative Post-Black Metal bands, and the German four-piece have amassed an impressive catalogue of music released over the 15 years since their inception in 2008. Founding guitarist Peter Wolff returns to the band after a hiatus for sixth album Silhouettes Of Disgust, released March 17th on Metal Blade Records, and it is a record that is up there with their finest work. A captivating collection of music spread over eight tracks, which flows perfectly from start to finish as the pace and a blend of styles chop and change throughout. Providing blistering Black Metal infused with a heavy dose of Crust-Punk, and then alluring atmospheric drops providing beautiful moments of clarity.
The album kicks off with ‘Existence Of Awe’ and fast hypnotic tremolo guitar picking with short sharp passionate vocal blasts. This then switches into a pulsating Crust rhythm, before reverting back to the furious Blackened sound with some incredible phrenetic drumming from Michael Kadnar. This is Post-Black Metal of the upmost quality with the pattern repeating and working perfectly on songs including ‘The Whir Of Flies’ and ‘Unredeemable’, where again the percussive work is so important in creating the subtle changes in mood that Downfall Of Gaia deliver. On ‘While Bloodsprings Become Rivers’, guitar leads take on an almost ethereal synth like quality, with the song also providing a long mellow outro that pulls you deep into a dreamlike state. While ‘Eyes To Burning Skies’ slow-burn builds with a calming notion, before the track unexpectedly smacks you in the face with the harshest Black Metal on the record.
3. // Oak : Disintegrate (Season Of Mist)
Disintegrate is the second release from Death-Doom duo Oak, which dropped in February and is a side project from vocalist and guitarist Guilherme Henriques of Portuguese Black – Post Metal heavyweights Gaerea. The frontman has teamed up with his former bandmate and drummer Pedro Soares, to once again revisit their idea which first spawned during writing sessions for Gaerea’s debut record Unsettling Whispers in 2018. And in a creatively brave move, Disintegrate is one sprawling 45 minute opus, demanding the undivided attention of the listener and in return providing one hell of a ride.
Naturally and as you would expect, there is variety throughout their ever engaging journey, first easing the listener in with the preverbal calm before the storm, as a soft intro takes its time to build up to the first blast of distorted discord. The vocals of Henriques are earth shatteringly guttural, while the sluggish pulsating music weaves through your subconscious, drawing you in with a captivating quality that meanders from blasts of utter disarray, to calming moments of melodic respite and back again. A captivating and grand concept, that Oak have absolutely nailed.
4. // Stömb : Massive Disturbed Meta Art (Klonosphere Records)
Stömb are a largely instrumental, progressive and highly experimental Metal band, who hail from Paris and have been purveying their obscure brand of futuristic and metallic riffs since 2012. Released March 17th on Klonosphere Records, Massive Disturbed Meta Art is their third LP and takes their sound to the next level on a concept based around a spiritual journey of the mind, and reaching a higher state of consciousness through a ridiculously impressive execution of sound. Album intro ‘The Realm Of Delirium’ is the only track with vocals on, and has an ethereal quality before contrasting the light and the dark, as it breaks into a filthy DJent style riff reminiscent of Meshuggah or Animals As Leaders at their most chaotic.
This theme continues throughout with the music poly-rhythmic and often machine gun like in places. But Stómb can mix it up as they show on ‘Kaleidoscope’, with its Dub-Step style intro of Electronica and creaking atmospherics. Building with subtle piano leads and synth soundscapes, before eventually exploding into life with a manic saxophone, into something powerfully captivating. While ‘The Extantrasy’ showcases an intriguing blend of Metal and Electro with a futuristic and Sci-Fi flavour. Massive Disturbed Meta Art quite exhilaratingly continues down this path with plenty of Sci-Fi effects throughout and some distinct horror vibes on ‘In The Eye Of Aghemahra’, before eventually closing with the calmer down-tempo of ‘Transcendence’ .
5. Hellripper : Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (Peaceville Records)
Second album on the mighty Peaceville Records from the one man Scottish hellfire that is Hellripper. James McBain has been releasing music under the moniker since 2017, building somewhat of a cult following with his individual style of Blackened – Thrash Metal. And on Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags which dropped mid-February, he has created arguably his finest work yet, with a progressive maturity in song writing, production and execution. Hellripper proudly wears the influences of classic Metal on his sleeve and rips through eight tracks at a furious pace which never dips in quality.
There are plenty of tasty Speed and Thrash Metal riffs throughout with tracks such as ‘The Nuckalavee’ and ‘The Cursed Crown’, while McBain’s vocal style certainly has something of Dani from Cradle Of Filth about it. The lyrics are pure fantastical over the top Metal, with a hint of humour prominent on ‘Poison Womb (The Curse Of The Witch)’. And often when the pace is dropped there is the galloping feel of a classic 80’s era Maiden in the music, providing a real melting pot of traditional Metals finest sounds.
6. // Big/Brave : Nature Morte (Thrill Jockey)
Big/Brave are a Canadian three-piece who encompass the more experimental side of Post-Rock and Metal, showing flashes of intense distorted cacophony, while often focusing on a lighter note with meandering melodic sections that have a drone like quality. Released at the end of February, Nature Morte is their fifth record and their fourth on Thrill Jockey, and provides yet another beautiful and soulful experience, with moments of abrasive energy and avant-garde Doom. All the while focusing heavily on the lush and melancholic vocals of singer and guitarist Robin Wattie.
Opening with a pounding percussive bass heavy rhythm on ‘Carvers, Farriers And Knaves’ with cutting guitars, the song builds and eventually explodes with shimmering highs. There is a tortured sounding quality to Wattie’s voice, which blends the sound of Björk, Beth Gibbons of Portishead and Chelsea Wolfe. ‘The One Who Bornes A Weary Load’ is Big/Brave at their heaviest with stabbing jarring guitars and a clattering of drums, before dropping into a calming melody. Elsewhere ‘My Hope Renders Me A Fool’ begins with a slow ponderous riff soaked in distortion, while ‘The Fable Of Subjugation’ is pure and mellow with soft guitars, before slowly building to a phrenetic and clattering crescendo.
Words By Abstrakt_Soul
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