Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 01/20/17
Ugh, Fridays. And Thursdays. And Wednesdays. And all the days. Today though, dive ear-first into Tragic Cause, Ekpyrosis, Ashenspire, Absent in Body, Exhausted Prayer, Burials, Wrath of Echoes, Ambivalence, Science of Sleep and Cross Vault.
Various Artists – Oration MMXVI
Oration Live Festival Compilation | February 20th, 2017
Unless you’re one of the elite 1% who can afford to travel the world on a whim and visit places like Iceland to witness ridiculously stacked metal festivals, you probably missed out on being able to attend the inaugural Oration Festival held in Iceland last year. And honestly, with a lineup like this, I’m not quite sure anyone truly deserves to witness such events in person. With the likes of Sinmara, Misþyrming, Svartidauði, Wormlust, Malthusian, Shrine of Insanabilis, Abominor, Mannveira, and many more all contributing a track each to this compilation, you’re certainly getting a potent dose of some of the most unique black and death metal bands of the past few years. The tracks have been given a studio mix/master, and sound pretty fucking excellent without sacrificing any of the live atmosphere. Featuring 12 tracks, of which only two clock in under 5 minutes, this is the best value you’ll get short of hijacking a flight to Reykjavik. — Lacertilian.
Mix old-school thrash with a hardcore attitude and death metal vocals and what do you get? You get No Restraint by Tragic Cause. This German three-piece chugs and rips through their 9 songs with a pissed-off rage sure to please the bullet-belt crowd and the mosh shorts crowd. There is no reinventing the wheel with No Restrain, but that’s not the band’s goal. The music is simple, fast, and to-the-point. If you don’t like it, Tragic Cause doesn’t care. They just want to knock you over and take your lunch money. RIYL: Sepultura, Jungle Rot, Coldworker — 365.
It’s hard to believe that Asphyxiating Devotion is just a debut album. These nine tracks of bone-sawing, blood-gurgling death metal belie the young band’s relative inexperience, instead sounding like a macabre love letter to all the perverse derivations of this most violent of metal genres. It’s difficult to pigeonhole this album into one particular flavor of death metal, and that’s what makes it so special. You have riffs that sting with a distinctly Swedish sharpness, grooves that stomp your tongue with a characteristically Floridian pungency, and pinched squeals and strained growls that leave a bitter aftertaste rarely found outside the French technical scene. It’s an unwholesome blend, but it makes this new concoction all the more addicting. Do not miss this if you worship death. — W.
The world of metal is a relentless, entropic force that expands, contracts, collapses, and spirals into disarray. Quite a ways down that spiral we find Ashenspire, spinning off into the void with every middle finger firing back at us. Their new album Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary angrily laments the dark deeds of British imperialism in a style that utterly resists classification. Instrumentally you might call this progressive and experimental black metal, with flourishes of art music that recalls ages past. Rest assured, however, that the band will take a hard left turn off of whatever tag you might put on it, all while remaining brilliantly engaging through long song structures. Vocally, however, they boldly plows into almost unexplored territory. Vocalist Alasdair Dunn occasionally sings in a full, sonorous mid-range. Most of the time, however, he’s bellowing passionately in a part-singing/part-speaking/part-spewing hybrid. The emotional weight of the musical exploration and the intense, declamatory vocal style drives the subject matter home, theatrically putting mankind’s cruelty center stage while the narrator has gone completely mad, gesticulating wildly behind a podium he’s already torn apart as if to tell us that all hope is lost. — Stockhausen.
The Abyss Stares Back #5 is a single 20 minute track featuring Scott Kelly of Neurosis. The track is a deft blending of shoegaze-like textures, industrial drones, and steady grooves. The steady drums and low-end riffs mixed with Kelly’s distinctive voice creates a hypnotic effect on the listener. There is some real beauty in the atmospheric moments of the song that make the 20 minutes not feel like a daunting task. Just when you are at your most content, the song kicks back in and shakes you from your slumber. The Abyss Stares Back #5 is best listened to in your quiet, reflective moments where you can struggle with your inner thoughts. RIYL: Gnaw Their Tongues, Dragged into Sunlight, A Forest of Stars — 365.
We premiered a track from Exhausted Prayer late last year, and now the split with Burials has arrived in full! The Burials half of the split is just solid weird death metal. It’s prog-ish in the way the guitar dances around with little care for tradition, but the deep growling vocals keep it brutal. The drummer never keeps the same beat for long and his blasting variations are a thing to behold. The split then seamlessly transitions into Exhausted Prayer, who are a little bit less weird and a little more blackened, but the pairing is clearly perfect. When they get to their top speed (like at the end of “Garden”) you can do nothing but whisper “shiiiiiiit” so you can show your appreciation while also not alerting your coworkers. The melodic hooks are strong and reminiscent of Uada-type black metal. You know, the good stuff. — Joaquin.
Do you like Swallow the Sun? good, because Wrath of Echoes sure does. The booming melancholia of Swallow the Sun is in full effect for the Quebeckers. Featuring members of Doom’s Day and Daedalean Complex, strained guitars, whispers mixed with tortured grows, and gentle keys on A Fading Bloodline and gently rock the listener into an utter depression. There is an odd, yet comforting beauty through A Fading Bloodline that keeps the darkness at bay without completely banishing it. If there’s one draw back, it’s that the album only contains 5 songs. Regardless, the dark melodies and sad sounds are pervasive throughout and will leave an impression upon any listener. RIYL: Swallow the Sun, November’s Doom, feeling bad — 365.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Ambivalence, given the combination of their name, album title, and cover art, but I was pleasantly surprised by Hyena’s Breath. A lot of smaller modern-style death metal bands are one-trick ponies with extremely homogeneous and bland, but that’s not the case here. The variety among songs is very welcome, with the band employing speed, heaviness, and groove in equal measure. There’s nothing particularly exemplary about Hyena’s Breath– it’s all pretty straightforward and could have used some guitar solos in my opinion- but it is a brief and enjoyable death metal outing that’s good for a few spins. — Spear.
While the name may initially bring forth thoughts of a doom-drenched Sabbath-worship band, Germany’s Science of Sleep specializes in brutal deathcore. Their album Hellmouth plays like a covert interrogation scene at a military black site. A cold, dank concrete room with only a single, bare light bulb accurately reflects the unrelenting assault that Hellmouth conveys. Endless chugs, rapid-fire double bass, and mic-in-the-throat vocals pound the listener into submission. The only thing missing is Jack Bauer yelling and running around trying to stop a bomb. Hellmouth is for those that already like the genre as it doesn’t break any new ground. To be fair, that doesn’t seem to be Science of Sleep’s intention. They just want to hurt you real bad. RIYL: Suicide Silence, Thy Art Is Murder, Carnifex — 365.
“Epic doom” isn’t a term you hear often, at least not without someone spouting a puff of wacky tobacky smoke in your direction, but Cross Vault‘s Miles to Take is most certainly epic. This German quintet have crafted a wondrous journey of classical doom metal in just the span of two songs. Touches of classical and folk metal swell the the surface, giving the songs a sense of adventure and meaning. The mournful guitars create a beautiful atmosphere that perfectly compliments the soaring vocals, giving Miles to Take a sound the borders almost on a slower version of sognametal. Grab your sword and set out on a quest that will define who you are, all in the name of Cross Vault: RIYL: Tiamat, Candlemass, Lake of Tears — 365.
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