Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 09/28/2018
Do you remember the 27th night of September? Well if you don’t, I doubt any of these will help, but you should still listen to them because they’re extra rad: Solar Temple, The Arusha Accord, Asylum, Skullcave, Boss-de-Nage, Attan and Omnium Gatherum.
Comprised of two members of the incestuous Dutch black metal circle that also includes Lubbert Das, Fluisteraars, Turia, and Iskandr, Solar Temple play a mid-fi style that is equally as hypnotising as it is bewildering. With sonorous chants instead of shrieks, the occasional clean, jangly guitar part, and some subtle synthwork, the two songs take you on a half-hour journey to get lost on. Starting out with repetitive, simple song structures, the songs begin to shift and branch out into unexpected avenues before they become annoying, and especially the second track proves nicely versatile. – Hans
When you get a promo where all the PR person says is, “Just fucking listen to it,” you can be pretty well assured that you’re in for something special. I knew nothing about The Arusha Accord before seeing this, but they’ve apparently been around since 2005, and Juracan will be their first album in seven years, so I guess this is kind of a big thing? In any case, I was certainly not disappointed- Juracan is potent mixture of The Dillinger Escape Plan-style mathcore and Protest the Hero instrumental acuity, and it’s way catchier than it has any right to be. It’s also the first in a series of three similarly-styled EP’s, so if you enjoy this, you can expect more not too far down the road. – Spear
Recorded in 1988 and never officialy released untill now, this is an interesting glimpse into the past of the band that would eventually become Unorthodox – even if, like me, you’re unfamiliar with said band. Asylum sway back and forth between tight rock riffing and proggy jam sessions where vocals take a back seat and the band show off their technical proficiency. The guitar solos are insane, and the drummer and bassist aren’t far behind in terms of skill. There’s some hitches here and there, but considering this is essentially a demo-level recording, it’s pretty damn good. Easily worth a shot for every fan of old school heavy metal and doom. – Hans
After a soothing acoustic intro track, Skullcave introduces you to a slow sustained doom with a mix of clean and harsh vocals nicely placed atop. It takes a little bit to get going on “Fear to Hide” but the back third of the track really shows off what they are capable of: great melodic riffs, rich layers, and memorable lines. Some of the transitions can be less than smooth when they are too eager to reveal a Pallbearer-like harmony or when dropping back to a base drone. But, if you’re willing to overlook some of the unpolishedness common to a debut, there’s some really promising stuff here. The 19-minute closer may have been a little over-ambitious, but I like that they took the risk. Some of the best chunks of the album are hidden in there somewhere. – Joaquin
Bosse-de-Nage is usually pregnant with surprises. The only surprise on Further Still is that it contains only one surprise: Man, these songs are short. Previous albums saw the band flexing ever larger post- and indie rock muscles, straying ever further from their black metal roots. In lieu of straying further still, Further Still trims all the fixings from II and III and All Fours, leaving an abrasive and compact core which, though rife with blastbeats and screams, is really only nominally black metal. Each of these new tracks is an enjoyable little punch to the gut in its own right (“Vestiges” is a clear high point) but as a group they struggle to attain distinction. So: Polished and intense yet also proof that it is possible for bands of a certain caliber to err too heavily on the side of brevity. – Richter
Throughout From Nothing, Attan sounded caught in a landslide. Their chaotic hardcore having bested the men, taking control over the manic arrangements. Even though it was more likely a calculated approach, than a consequence of circumstances, it worked – especially when the slower moments on “Full Circle/Full Stop” and the now-re-recorded “Black Liquid Marrow” stripped the impression. In comparison, End Of is darker and a more focused effort, without any of the forceful maturity that so often follows. Mind you, that’s not to say Attan is an infantile band, they remain masters of non-repetitive structures chock full of memorability. The secret is that in this regard they haven’t changed from the Ep, despite increased dynamics in their songwriting and wider vocal variety. Slower sections don’t seem to exist for the sake of slowing down, or offering a breather, but entwined in the band’s manner of arranging. The only truly bothersome moment comes as End Of goes quiet with “Ghostwriters”. From it’s opening beat reminiscent of Prurient, to it’s violently brooding second half, it screams closure. But in fact, almost two-thirds of the album remain in form of the near ten-minute title track. The approach is similar to the dual-closer of “BLM” and “Edward” on the EP, and “End Of.” is an excellent track that goes from an opening section that wouldn’t feel out of place on some modern black metal bands repertoire to heartfelt post-rock/hardcore passages, but it was genuinely annoying, until I had heard End Of enough times to expect it, at which time the pieces fell together. Though it still remains as something of an eyebrow-raised-in-doubtful-curiosity kind of a moment, and a different track order could have enhanced the experience. – Karhu
Having by some miracle managed to carve their own niche in melodeath from The Redshift onwards, even referring to their music as AOR death metal – a tag not entirely misleading, given the ultra-positive vibe that has always permeated the band (I dare you to find video of the band performing where Pelkonen isn’t visibly grinning throughout), Omnium Gatherum have arrived at their eight album. At the turn of the decade, with somewhat proggy stylings of New World Shadows they the nail on the head musically as well, and have since been consistently rising in prominence. Unfortunately their last record, Grey Heavens left a lot to be desired. The more stripped down and modern version of their sound didn’t work for a band known for it’s richly melodic, dual-guitar, heavily active keyboards and even bass solos. Not to mention it featured the abysmally dreadful “Frontiers” that not only sounded nothing like the band, but also managed to rip-off an entire In Flames song. Twice as disappointing considering how well the cover of “Subdivisions” fit into the band’s catalogue, despite not changing a note – and worked to perfectly highlight the righteousness of their self-engineered moniker. It’s a pleasure then to be able to say that The Burning Cold sees the band return to tracks for the most part. The first single, and track-proper “Gods Go First” is a trademark Omnium Gatherum song filled with busy guitar-work, slick melodies, bright hooks and Jukka Pelkonen far-below standard growls. For the most part, this is the route the band follows, though occasionally flirting dangerously with it’s predecessor’s tones’, not breaking until the last few songs. “Driven by Conflict” sees the band take a more outwardly aggressive stance, “The Frontline” demonstrates how to reserve all your ammunition to the chorus without the inclusion of clean vocals, or stripping the remainder from melody. Though The Burning Cold still includes none of the longer songs Vanhala once stated he most likes to write, but at least “Planet Scale” and “Cold” seem to for a longer arch to make up for this slight. Though far from the peaks they once roamed, The Burning Cold, apart from it’s terrible cover, is an excellent Omnium Gatherum record. I’m just not sure it’s enough anymore. – Karhu
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.
Don’t do it for me. Do it for the ghost of the MasterLord.