100% Support: Philosophowl Edition
Today, Bandcamp will once again waive their percentage of proceeds, so that 100% of the money goes directly to the artists. Join me and Theo-Bomb as we highlight some releases that deserve your sweet, sweet cash money.
BIG|BRAVE – Vital
Released April 23, 2021
I’ll start with the most recent release: BIG|BRAVE’s Vital. This Canadian trio has been at it since 2014, with three full-lengths, including 2019’s fantastic A Gaze Among Them, and an EP. Vital, out earlier this month on Southern Lord, is an emotive follow-up to A Gaze. Like the song itself, the video for “Half Breed” is minimalist and dank:
Each song on Vital slowly unfurls in post-sludge glory. The vocals here are rawer and more vulnerable than on A Gaze Among Them, giving this record an armor-piercingly confrontational quality. It’s fitting that BIG|BRAVE have opened for fellow Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor—like their peers, they excel at inducing goosebumps. The title track will tear your heart out. A hell of a record for headphones in the dark.
Bandit – Warsaw
Released December 30, 2018
This little grindcore record is like jumping through plate glass and rolling in the shards. Across 7 1/2 punishing minutes, Philly’s Bandit chronicles despair, abuse, and the Holocaust with whatever the opposite of flinching is. They pack an entire divorce’s worth of emotions into literally 7 seconds. I mean, just have a look at the lyrics to culminating track “Czestawova”:
On His death bed I asked him what the
germans were like
“There was nothing worth remembering”
Two weeks later
He was gone.
The record ends with a crackly recording of a Polish folk song about a ne’er-do-well drunk boy. Like, fuck. I dunno what else to tell you. Get after it.
Los Males del Mundo – Descent Towards Death
Released February 26, 2021
Operating in a similar mode to bands like Gaerea, this Argentine two-piece has built a devastating edifice of black metal in Descent Towards Death. Opener “Falling into Nothing” picks up in full around 3:15, and vocalist/drummer Dany Tee of Acathexis never lets up afterward. Both his vocal and rhythmic range impress here, as does guitarist Cristian Yans. A full-bodied, virtuosic banger of an album.
Névoa – Towards Belief
Released November 27, 2020
This was my undisputed AOTY 2020, which I discovered thanks to Spear last November. Its textures are enthralling. 6 months on from its release, I still have Towards Belief on heavy rotation. Whether it’s the noir rock of “Ember Motion” or the steady post-black burn of “With Devotional Pace,” each song is a journey. Like Altar of Plagues by way of Keith Jarrett, Névoa’s jazziness is so smoothly integrated (something I miss in White Ward) and subtle (something I miss in Rivers of Nihil) that it works with the more extreme components to create an original sonic palette that is by turns warm and violent. Mixed by wizard James Plotkin and featuring saxophonist Julius Gabriel and trumpeter Arve Henriksen, this was, in my opinion, the most slept-on album of last year. My only wish is there were more music like it. Their earlier work, such as 2016’s Re Un, is more straightforwardly metal, but no less excellent in its craftsmanship.
Electrobonus – Lorn and Loraine James
Released July 3, 2020
When I’m not listening to metal, I often enjoy the bleep-bloop branches of the musical tree. Two artists I highly recommend checking out this fine Bandcamp Friday are Lorn and Loraine James. American producer Lorn has been generously showering the world with hunted-by-an-alien albums since I started listening to his music with 2010’s Nothing Else. Try his most recent EP, The Map, for a sample. Less dark but no less intricate is Loraine James, with 15 releases in 5 years that digs into every crevice between IDM and UK bass. Check out Hmm before Reflection drops in June. As a bonus, both artists are largely PWYW.
Feradur – Parakosm
Released April 30, 2021
I enjoy a cheeseburger like I enjoy my melodeath: sans synth, and without 15 packets of Splenda poured on top (to taste). Feradur is a young band in a field that’s been crowded since Insomnium cured my sleeping disorder, but Parakosm stands out through its variety and layered songwriting. In under 30 minutes, the band dabbles in burly melodicism (think Heartwork-era Carcass), C H U G Gs that have deathcore bands frantically extending their ranges (“Host of the Nightmare”), and post-metal soundscapes; it even makes time to stop at the grave of At the Gates to pay respects to the pedalpoint riff (RIP 1990-Slaughter of the Soul).
The record comes wrapped in Jens Bogren’s trademark glossy production (the epitome of the “modern” metal sound); this could be a curse for a less talented band, leaving songs bloated and hollow—like Nergal’s forehead. Instead, the band worked three guitars into the mix, gave every member room to breathe, and still managed to create massive, dramatic moments that blow cobwebs from the genre.
Herzel – Le Dernier Rempart
Released March 19, 2021
There’s an énergie joyeuse radiating from Herzel’s debut LP; from the folk-tinged melodies to the piercing falsettos, there’s hardly any “danger” to be found. In fact, the greatest danger is to the walls in my vicinity—when the swaggering trad riffs start in “Maîtres de l’Océan,” it takes a conscious effort not to burst through the nearest drywall like the Koolaid Man(owar). Even the comparatively aggressive tracks (“La Flamme”, “L’Ultime Combat”) call to mind the pageantry of knighthood rather than the din of a battlefield. Imagine a medieval Motörhead, gangs of squires swilling small beers, tanned hide jackets sewn with the sigils of their favorite bards.
Le Dernier Rempart forms these images organically, without the crutch of gimmickry. Beyond a brief sample of waves and creaking boats, the atmosphere (whether bucolic or bombastic) stems solely from the arrangements and bare-bones production. Quite the feat amongst the chest-beating, loincloth legions. Bonus points to the artwork for not having a scantily-clad, subservient damsel kneeling in front of a throne or something.
Terminalist – The Great Acceleration
Released May 7, 2021
Are you tired of lying awake at night, stargazing, wondering what it would be like if Vektor didn’t shelter domestic abusers? If you didn’t need a Hubble-sized lens to scan a band’s history on M-A for “sunwheels?” Aim the telescope towards Terminalist. Fresh from the stellar nursery (with a demo and a few singles since 2019), the band already dwarves the songwriting capabilities of their thrash peers. The lead singles, “Relentless Alteration” and “Terminal Dispatch,” launch the album with bursts of tight, melodic riffing and clever genre diversions (see the doomy breakdown at the conclusion of “Terminal Dispatch”.) At this point, everything looked like all systems “GO!” *guitar solo*.
When I saw that several of the remaining tracks approached the 10-minute mark, I feared for the worst—music this intense usually packs only enough oxygen for a short spacewalk, eventually asphyxiating in a vacuum of ideas. The band’s myriad influences, ranging from black (hole) metal to the frenetic tech of Revocation, ensures that life support systems remain functional throughout the LP’s maiden voyage.