Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 09/14/17
Minis! Fresh baked Minis!Hot off the press and headed for your head holes. Dip your brain in some Runespell, Oculus, Majora, Big|Brave, Lascar, Falaise, Threshold, Sxuperion, Leprous and Crimfall.
Y’all probably know what to expect when a black metal record starts off with the sound of wind blowing. You’re not exactly in for avant-garde music here; the one-man project from Australia pretty much ticks all the boxes. But I’ll be damned if they’re not ticked thoroughly. The preview track leans a tad more on the melancholic side, but Runespell is never entirely succumbing to wintery depression – often enough, the riffs exude an air of defiantly marching on in the face of an adversary. This duality is best exemplified in the second track, “Bloodlust & Vengeance”. The following interlude then provides an adequate if forgettable breather before the record launches into the Bathory-esque rager “Heaven in Blood”. After two more solid tracks and an outro, the ride is over. The more seasoned (read: jaded) among you might point out that there’s nothing new here and chalk it up to my plebdom when I say that while it does seem familiar, I can’t pinpoint who it sounds like, resulting in the feeling that I’m listening to some lost little gem from the 90s that should have been big but wasn’t. The album knows exactly what it wants to do, and steadfastly marches to its goal. – Hans.
Oculus traverse less traditional territory than Runespell in the course of their debut, sounding more like contemporary European black metal we’ve heard coming out of Poland or perhaps France. They do have an equally good idea of where they’re going with this though, creating a dense atmosphere that I can’t help but describe as ritualistic. The buzzword isn’t doing them a disservice; singer Kozeljnik proclaims the lyrics in a gruff, commanding voice, and riffs like the one around the three minute mark of the preview track frequently create swirling, hypnotic maelstroms that have me catatonically rocking back and forth. These are the moments I love. I usually stop just short of mumbling incantations, however, as unexpected tempo shifts somewhat kill the mood at times. On the other hand, they’re the one thing creating variance throughout the six monumental tracks, since the aforementioned determination leads The Apsotate of Light down a somewhat narrow corridor. In other words, if “Salt for the Healer” isn’t doing anything for you, don’t expect a revelation from the rest of the record. Still, there’s some solid atmosphere and awesome moments here. – Hans.
It’s not really Majora’s fault that I have basically run out of ways to talk about instrumental progressive metal, but either way, I am going to make it simple for you. If you like the genre, you will like this EP, if you don’t, you probably won’t. It has my seal of approval. There’s so much of this kinda stuff coming from Australia, and it’s mostly good! Keep it coming dudes. Also, the music video they put out is super high quality, even though I can’t really figure out the plot. – Joaquin.
Looking for a doom version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor? Probably not, but Big|Brave is actually doing a pretty great job of pulling it off. Hell, they even brought in a contrabass player from the band on a few songs. The vocals are in the Julie Christmas ballpark and fit really well with the stop-go nature of the music. It’s really a nice work of experimental tone-building, as it really pushes you into its intended mood. The intensity varies quite a bit, but rarely the speed, so it can get a little monotonous and sometimes you’re just itching for something to happen, but it’s consistency really drives home the apocalyptic qualities. It’s an album that knew what it wanted to accomplish and did just that. It may not appeal to the masses, but I like it. – Joaquin.
This Chilean band is sort of like a counterpoint to Mesarthim, in that it is still some kind of space/gaze black metal with unintelligible lyrics, but this one is on the depressed end of the spectrum. Sometimes brief moments of melodic sunshine pop up and make it sound like Alcest, which is nice. There’s a pleasant fuzzy wall of sound that gives you a bunch of choices on what to focus on since it’s hard to really take it all in at once. They do an excellent job of varying intensity and throwing surprising melodies your way, but at the same time, once you hear two songs, you pretty much know how the other two are going to go. – Joaquin.
For those of you itching for another hit of that sweet, sweet blackgaze, Italy’s Falaise is your supplier. (Just go around back, knock thrice and tell them “Frank” sent you.) With one eye fixed on its navel and the other on its shoes, My Endless Immensity is dreamy and ethereal and sad in a soothing way–or soothing in a sad way. Even the exclusively harsh vocals and occasional outbursts of percussive aggression do nothing to detract from the overriding atmosphere of bittersweet self-searching. This is music for staring at waves, communicating telepathically with trees, waiting out the cruel summer in your bedroom. Motion to rebrand blackgaze as pink metal. Not as an insult; rather because most of this shit makes me feel like a young girl who is coerced into babysitting her shitty infant brother and spends the night wishing the Goblin King would come take him away. FFO: Sleeping Peonies, An Autumn for Crippled Children, Happy Days – Richter.
Threshold are a band I’ve followed for some time, so I was excited to hear they had a new album out soon… until I heard that they had booted awesome vocalist Damian Wilson in circumstances that can best be described as “meh”. Nevertheless I decided to give this 82 minute double concept album a shot and… I really don’t know how to feel about Legends of the Shires yet. What’s most apparent this time around is that there’s been a conscious effort to craft less traditionally-structured songs, and while that could be an interesting proposition, most of the cuts here just don’t have the immediate and hard-hitting/catchy effect that the great For the Journey did. And Glynn Morgan does a very good vocal job, but it doesn’t help the album any that I can literally hear Damian singing a lot of these melodies in my head. It’s almost as if Wilson recorded them in the first place, weird. At any rate, I really like the album’s sound and hope it grows on me. – Lime Moshito.
First active way back in 2003, one-man project Sxuperion (however that’s pronounced; I’m going with “Shoe-perion”) has been delivering space-inspired blackened death metal steadily since 2011. This new EP finishes the “Cosmic Corridors” series that has been spanning the project’s three full-lengths, and as with the other releases, there’s a concept about space travel behind it. Blast beats and cavernous vocals abound, and the often relentlessly fast, repetitive riffs come off monolithic and mighty. Amidst this, room is made for some melodic leads (particularly in the first two tracks) and drawn-out, sometimes droning ambient passages, making for a sufficiently dense, space-y atmosphere. Sxuperion makes it no secret that these are leftover songs and ideas from the other releases – and it’s very noticeable. If my description of the music seems rushed, that’s because there’s just not a whole lot of material here. Mere sketches of songs are somehow cobbled together with little regard for hiding the seams. Individual parts end abruptly, longer songs fade out and back in at random, and the last track seems mixed at a different volume. Sxuperion was cleaning out his workbench here, and while the results are far from bad, it leaves me thoroughly unsatisfied, bordering on confused. I’d say it does an okay job as a teaser for his past work (and hopefully his future work, as I wouldn’t mind the droning ambient parts taking on a bigger role in this kind of music). – Hans.
Malina gives me the same feeling that Once More ‘Round the Sun and Magma gave me years ago: abandonment. Norway’s rock band Leprous (we can safely take the descriptor “progressive” out of their title) are headed for super-stardom with this easily-digestible release that lacks anything resembling musical complexity or surprise. Song after song follows the simple verse-chorus structure that’s been an albatross around the neck of popular music for decades, with not a single interesting bridge or exciting detour in the overall flow of the album. Predictability and catchiness are now the name of the game for Leprous, and this is where I give my goodbye to the band. Enjoy success fellas, and don’t let the cries of “but they used to be so good” worry you — that small fan base will be replaced by a huge mass of new fans and coverage by Rolling Stone and Spin magazine. – Pomegranate McNulty.
Ah, Crimfall – at the turn of the decade they released two albums that combined the Turisas and Ensiferum schools of folk metal with bountiful orchestral arrangements. What further set the band refusing to use the easiest/cheesiest “folk” sounds and/or intruments apart from the rest was their prominent use of beauty and the beast vocals. All of this is still present after six years, only they’re even more cinematic in the scope of arrangements than before. This is not only a good thing. What is however, is the production – regardless of whether a choir and a string-quartet or merely a lone violin are painting over the guitar that never settles for just chugging underneath like in too many heavily orchestrated bands. Though nothing like the groove-riffs of The Writ of Sword, the bass still rumbles audibly ‘neath the fairly thin tremolo lines and succint power chords and overall, Amain sounds fantastic for it’s budget and scope. Back to the bad things, after the first song proper “The Last of Stands“, a highlight which even manages to add old Rhapsody-like choruses, the album ceases to flow and restarts with the mini-epoch “Ten Winters Apart”, each part of which seems to start it all over again. This is soundtrack-esque metal and it suffers from it – Crimfall’s obsession with cinematic scope and monumental compositions leaves Amain with an awkward feeling of a musical tapestry. Yet even with it’s flaws the songs are rich, effective and the record sounds good. If Jari Mäenpää didn’t have his head six miles up his colon, he might be doing something like this. – Karhu.
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