August Roundup: Hinayana, Noumena, Biesy, Goat Vulva & Ruusut
Melodeath, black metal and wack shit.
Hinayana – Death of the Cosmic
Back in 2014, the Austin-based Hinayana charmed the Toilet staff with their home-wrought, melodic death/doom not entirely like a slowed down Insomnium—although there was more to the then one-man project that has since grown to a full band than such simplifications could imply. They released their full-length debut a couple of years back, and have now signed a deal with Napalm Records, the first fruit of which is the Death of the Cosmic ep.
Casey Hurd’s growls are still deeper than usually associated with the genre, and the band’s all the better for it, and while the melodic language still resembles Insomnium et al., the way individual motifs are presented and arranged puts more distance between Hinayana and their apparent influences. Now featuring a full-time keyboardist, the moments when they’re being relegated to creating atmosphere in the background and when they’re taking the foreground are less obviously divided into different sections with the rest of the instrumentation. Nature Ganganbaigal’s posthumous morin khuur (an instrument not entirely different from a jouhikko, a kind of a bowed lyre) appears on “Cold Conception,” bringing additional diversity to the band’s sound and makes it the EP’s most memorable moment.
Diversity is something the band reportedly sought on the EP, looking to make each track represent a different facet of their sound. Mostly it works, with the title track’s bright, uptempo melodies and uses of acoustic guitar (unfortunately squished in the mix), “Cold Conception’s” guest appearance, “Yet Here I Wait” being a calm interlude, the groovier riffs of “In Sacred Delusion” that unfortunately doesn’t get as much out of its guest (and reminiscent of Emerald Forest -era Swallow the Sun) and the closing “Pitch Black Noise”, a doomier take re-recorded from the demo. But rather than fade them to the background, giving room for the band’s own voice, the variety of the material instead highlights the band’s influences one or two at a time, fading the Hinayana instead.
That’s not to say that Death of the Cosmic would reduce the band to a bare reflection of their influences, but it doesn’t rise above their sum either, like Endless and Order Divine did. It’s a fine, new beginning for a band with a new, full line-up and one of the bigger independent metal labels active today behind them, but its conceptual direction is a misstep gambling on the band’s identity.
Goat Vulva – Goatvulva
A short lived side project of the Beherit duo, Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance and Sodomatic Slaughter, Goat Vulva thrived and died at the turn of the ’90s. Or rather, it never really thrived, only coming into fruition as a booze project, it’s mission to play those early, pre-DDtM Beherit riffs fast, drunk and noisy. Though even NHV can’t remember how many demos were made, this compilation draws from 6 of them, none of which were pressed more than 10 or 20 cassette copies of previously, and honestly the existence of Goatvulva seems contrary to purpose.
I won’t lie, some of these demos have been circulating the internet and some of those I’ve played a number of times while drunk and enjoyed. But in the end, they are semi-mindless noise, more tape hiss than riffs, and on a few occasions, more bass or vocal effects than tape hiss. And a lot of porn samples. For 31 songs and about an hour. There’s always going to be a few fans for this kind of material, and the Baphometal demo of 1991 (songs 14-19) could pass for a decent very early Beherit tape, and Capella (the last 11 tracks) has its moments of deranged war metal noises too, especially now that they’ve been remastered.
But mostly it feels like it was created much more for the duo themselves than for any imaginary audience, and that this compilation means there was an inside joke the label fell victim to. Still, I could see myself coming back to this, after a week of hard drinking. You won’t, but I might.
Biesy – Transsatanizm
Stawrogin’s voice served as a focal point on Outre’s Ghost Chants, his voice has stood out on everything Gruzja has put out, and of course, in his own band Odraza. They’re also the first thing to pick up on Biesy‘s sophomore Transsatanizm, as in, they’re no longer there. On their debut, Biesy presented itself as a three-piece exploring separation from reality following the urban concrete life, or something along those tracks. On Transsatanizm, songwriter PR—now Faustyna IHS Moreau—handles everything on their own.
Taking black metal’s inherent theatricality from the pseudo-erotic side of things, adding a sense of self-consciousness and taking it all the way into drag will deter many of black metal’s more conservative fans, especially those to whom words like “rebellion”, “dissent” and “non-conformity” are no more than noise to be regurgitated and repeated mindlessly with a complete lack of understanding as to their meaning, or the underlying irony. And especially any who’ve managed to convince themselves upholding the status quo is in any way rebellious. But of course, aesthetics alone don’t a good album make.
Noc lekkich obyczajów’s mix of black and death metal drew from similar sources as the aforementioned Odraza and Outre did. It was penetrated by a sense of cold nihilism and ambiguous melodies, armed with a few off-kilter riffs but never veered as far into the weird territory and stylistic experiments as Gruzja (with which Faustyna continues to collaborate as well), while remaining emotionally captivating. This musical DNA hasn’t been mutilated along with the membership changes, but it has been spliced, altered and tampered with.
For one, it’s been infused with harsher industrial undertones, overwhelming electronic beats and flagrant use of keyboards, and often the guitars are centered around hypnotic use of chords that wasn’t heard so much on the debut. But there are similarities as well in the clunky rhythms, angular riffs and bleak tones. In a way it’s the perfect sequel to Noc lekkich obyczajów; the urban concrete hell remains as it ever was, but the lives within have become more vibrant than ever, more mechanized than before, and as they live their hideously sincere and wonderfully common loves, it becomes even less certain whether they’ve even left the room. The nihilism has been swept away by psychedelia, but bleakness remains.
Though at first I missed Stawrogin’s commanding, militant presence, I must say I might have come to prefer Faustyna’s higher shrieks and more emotive expression, and it feels the perfect fit to the album’s “Thorns on a bad trip” approach.
Ruusut – Kevätuhri
The electronic indie pop band Ruusut released their sophomore 107 years after the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, after which it is named, to the date. Their debut was an exhilarating fusion of experimental songwriting and bright, crackling beats defying the pop sensibilities with which it played. All of these things are still intact on Kevätuhri, but something feels amiss.
The band’s lyrics are based on a fantasy world created for the group by novelist-lyricist Lauri Levola, but neither the world nor the vision come through all that well. While this was already plaguing the debut, here it’s truncated to a platform for run-of-the-mill relationship songs, only with more abstract and out-there metaphors and if there’s a deeper meaning for the connection between Stravinsky and Ruusut, it remains obscured within lines unsung.
While the group’s songwriting continues to defy the radio platform, the first single “Avaimet avaa ovii” made its way into a commercial on a channel owned by a conglomerate that’s made attempts to monopolize the entire Finnish music industry—owning TV channels, radio stations, festivals, clubs, paper media etc., very readily completely boycotting artists that make an appearance on their competitor’s platforms and so forth. This crack between a band that likes to emphasize their lack of commercial appeal and thinking on interviews, and whose music is so full of abstract expression, working together with a media giant (whose attempts to kill music as an art-form dwarf Daniel Ek) is perhaps not enough to sour me to the band, but has definitely generated more ill will than is perhaps fair, although, it bears noting that none of these people’s livelihoods depend on Ruusut.
But a review should mostly concern the music, and even if extra-musical (if you can actually call them that) reasons didn’t keep me from loving it, Kevätuhri would struggle to stand proud. While giving up some of its former pop sensibilities the group has lost much of their memorability and the endearing slickness that had the power to draw listeners into the world of their compositions. Yet this hasn’t served to make their songs any more abstract, it only highlights the unconventional beats and rhymes when they hit, giving the album a much more fragmented feeling than its predecessor, the void in between two fragments filled with grey, forgettable, bland mass.
Yet there must be some magic in the album, because despite struggling to enjoy the album as much as I did its predecessor, in fact, often struggling to enjoy it front to back, I keep having the impulse to put it on. And thanks to its short length, it remains an impulse I enjoy obeying, if only to fight boredom once more.
Noumena – Anima
Active since 1998, and technically still in its original lineup, though fortified, Noumena has never risen to the frontline of Finnish melodeath. Perhaps as a nod to their relative lack of success abroad, they changed their language to Finnish on 2017’s Myrrys, and Anima does not revert this.
It does, however, revert some of the changes made on Myrrys, namely it’s again a slower effort. There are plenty of the band’s trademark wistful and folksy guitar melodies, Antti Haapaniemi’s deep growl is a bit more discernible than last time around, and besides the kinda awkward performance on the first song proper, “Saatto”, he delivers a crowning performance. He’s countered with the plentiful, clean and sometimes a bit nasal tones of Suvi Uura, who also contributed the fairly scarce piano parts for the record. The two voices often converse rather than divide the songs into clear sections with only one voice speaking, for which endless points are rewarded to them.
But despite their plentiful melodies and the abandonment of the majority of the last record’s Swedish sounds, there’s isn’t much memorable material here. The songs are good, and often I find myself paying attention to a particular motif when it’s playing, but it’s almost impossible to try to recall any moment (besides, maybe, the awkward vocal arrangements of “Saatto”) from Anima afterwards.
In a rare instance, Anima peaks mid-album, where the interplay between acoustic and electronic segments helps “Ajaton” stand apart, and thepreceding “Seula” features the most memorable instrumental and vocal motifs on the record. Unfortunately, while the massive “Totuus,” following the two, has its moments and is fairly successful in building a longer arc, is still much too long at 15 minutes.
Thanks to its balanced and separating mix, Anima is at least a treat to listen to, all the more so considering it’s practically a self-release, Haunted Zoo being operated by the band, but it doesn’t quite manage to overcome its lack of killer material, or its inclusion of filler.