Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 04/20/17
And just like that, a third of the year is almost up. Wait. Dammit. Get on this Highland, Moonbow, Craven Idol, Dynfari, Ophiuchi, Trial, Imber Luminis, Damnations Day, and Former Worlds
An up-and-coming American-Armenian black metal troupé, Highland plays a very traditional, icy kind of norsecore. Their riffs are sharp and songs pleasant to the ear. Everything is easy to listen to, though the record carries a certain rawness that is to be expected for the style. The thing is, while memorable, these songs aren’t especially remarkable. It’s an independently released debut, so I’d hate to put Highland down too much, but the memorability here isn’t the kind that makes you hum the riffs on a toilet when you realize you forgot your beer, it just means there aren’t utterly forgettable sections. Loyal to the Nightsky has a quality not too many ([black] metal) albums have, it truly sounds like the band had fun playing and making it. For that I wish Highland comes to better things in their future career. For now, they’ve made a good album that does need a dash of… something. —Karhu.
Lying somewhere between stoner and Southern Rock, Moonbow‘s War Bear is for the hard-drinkin’, hard-fightin’, hard-tobacco-spittin’ music connoisseur. Featuring former BMX legend (and Survivor cast member) Matt Bischoff and Steve Earle from Afghan Whigs on drums, Moonbow specialize in down-home hard rock with some sweet metal licks thrown in for good measure. War Bear is the album for people who can’t wait for new Fu Manchu or have had their fill of Zakk Wylde squealies. The album really shines with the inclusion of old-timey Appalachian grooves and fiddle accompaniments. Grab your moonshine jug (jug must have a minimum of three X’s on it), hop into your rusty pickup, and ride off into the sunset with Moonbow. RIYL: Fu Manchu, Hank 3, Black Label Society —365.
Craven Idol were first introduced to most of us through Simon Pheonix‘s primer in his criminally deft Crossing the Thrashold series. If you missed that piece you can check it out quickly here, thrash your genitalia off, and then fast forward 4 years to the UK band’s new album The Shackles of Mammon. As expected, this is 45 minutes of unadulterated blackened thrash metal of the highest pedigree. While Craven Idol do not necessarily offer anything that is not outwardly present in frontman Vrath‘s other main band Scythian, they do maintain a more consistent level of ferocity that is perhaps not possible to achieve in the context of the latter band’s grandiose scope. The album’s central theme focuses on the inherent greed of humans, and the manner in which rationalisation manifests through religion. Lovers of traditional black/thrash will be all over this, and you should be too. FFO: Destroyer 666, Scythian, Bathory. —Lacertilian.
Despite the psychology textbook reading over ethereal sounds, Dynfari somehow move past the cheesiness of the opening (and interludes) and deliver some quality atmospheric black metal. I obviously can’t understand a minute of the Icelandic lyrics, but it’s obvious that they want them to be decipherable by being high in the mix and (possibly overly) enunciated. I am particularly fond of the exultant Alcest-like passages that border on shoegaze, but less fond of the slowing down for the vocal passages and the final song that would be good if it was half as long. There are a lot of folk and progressive sensibilities here too, which is different from the recent Icelandic BM outpouring. The concept of this album is an interesting one. It mixes the lamentations of a 20th Icelandic poet with the modern fantasy writings of Patrick Rothfuss on the mind’s ability to cope with pain. It’s an ambitious concept, and as far as I can tell, it mostly succeeds. —Joaquin.
Ophiuchi – Bifurcaria Bifurcata
Independent | April 10th, 2017
A few listens later, and I still have no idea what to think about Ophiuchi, a one-man project from South Africa. It’s experimental, to say the least, but in a very listenable way. It’s never annoying or abrasive, despite its meandering melodies and in-the-gutter bass tone. The vocals wouldn’t be out of place on a black metal record, but the rest of its sound is not on that spectrum. There are some hints of Tool worship that pop up here and there, but is not in the vicinity of the Tool-clone pyramid. Amid the tiny but frequent interludes are beastly doom riffs and frantic tribal drumming that I can’t get enough of. Also, at the end of the titular track, you get an awesome piano piece that sounds like it is straight from the Westworld soundtrack. Anyone who doesn’t mind a little weirdness should get on this immediately. —Joaquin.
Two years ago, a certain Toilet Someone (I think it was R. Thor) brought to my attention a very cool, relatively unknown dark and un-cheesy power metal band from Sweden named Trial. Vessel was a really solid album, so I had high hopes when I heard its follow up was in the works. And Motherless delivers a great slice of melodic, riffy goodness. The last three tracks in particular; “Birth”/”Embodiment”/”Rebirth”, make up a 23-minute epic that goes everywhere from grandiose, minor chord driven harmonies to subdued acoustic sections, almost always evoking darker feelings. So if you’re a fan of power metal for the lactose intolerant, get on this. —Moshito.
Imber Luminis’ third full-length finds the band discarding a good portion of the debut’s straight-up DSBM and Imber Aeternus’ post stylings, without completely abandoning either, adding elements from here and there – while taking you on an existential journey into the center of La Nausée. Apart from the melancholic stylings, only D’s anguished howls are truly keeping in line with the band’s depressed past. Although spoken word and clean vocals are heard on some tracks, “Nothing Matters“, “The Withering And The Wake“, such stylings are sparse, leaving a cruel shadow over the record – despite largely being a very melodic record. A shadow enforced by doomier portions appearing here and there. Conceptually, the record is indeed inspired by existentialism via Jean-Paul Sartre and the aforementioned novel, from which Nausea derives its title. While Antoine Roquentin’s depression and discontent with the world that has pushed him to insanity is fairly well contained within the music, but not perhaps, any further than such a melancholic and despaired record would – as such the inspiration would seem more lyrical than musical, and without a sheet of lyrics at hand, the concept remains to me a curio rather than an additional point of interest. —Karhu.
Dark. Midtempo. Melodic. If you’re still with me, you will most definitely enjoy Damnations Day’s latest outing, A World Awakens. The love children of Kamelot and Katatonia, these nine songs are best enjoyed by bellowing along to the choruses on an oppressively rainy day. Crunchy guitars layered alongside violins and an overall feeling of sadness is what you will get upon pressing play. The lyrics are on par too; they aren’t quite DSBM (because they’re tasteful), but I don’t think this album will cheer you up unless you like listening to sadboi things when you’re feeling bad like I do. Or maybe it will, check out “The Witness” here to find out. —Moshito.
From the wonderful metropolitan of Minneapolis, Minnesota comes post-doomers Former Worlds. Consisting of former and current members of Earthrise, In the Company of Serpents, and ToH faves Maeth, Former Worlds brings us their 1-song debut EP Photos of Eve IX-XVI. Doing a one-song album can be risky. Doing a song-song album as your debut is down-right reckless, but Former Worlds manages to succeed with flying colors. This sci-fi-inspired song twists, turns, and mutates seamlessly without ever losing intensity or purpose. Sludge, shoegaze, and even drone make appearances, so there is a little something for everyone…as long as everyone wants to feel grimy and slimy. RIYL: Made Out of Babies, Kylesa, Buzzoven —365.
Hey you. Yeah YOU. Want to contribute to mini-reviews? Find an album you’ve dug (or not) that preferably hasn’t been reviewed on the blog yet and has been released recently (within the last few months, or year if you’re so inclined), write around 100-120 coherent words about it and send it to toiletminis[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Please include the album’s release date, title, label, a link to the band’s facebook (if they have one), another one to their bandcamp (or any other place to listen to/buy the album if they don’t have one) and any other information/links that you think are relevant and want to include.
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