Mini-Reviews From Around the Bowl (10/29/20)
Six reviews for the price of one!
This is Convulsif’s fifth album, and while I don’t know if previous efforts warranted the grindcore comparisons made in the press text, this one certainly doesn’t. The band consists of bass guitar, drums, a bass clarinet, and a violin, and approached this record with an improvisational style that they developed while touring Cuba, which I didn’t even know was a thing you could do. If all this reeks of jazz bullshit to you, you’re not entirely wrong, although the music leans more on noise rock and drone. While shorter pieces like the preview tracks bop and bounce in flurries that make you wonder what the fuck they’re doing to that poor violin, the opener and the 12-minute “Five Days of Open Bones” need plenty of time to come alive, like they’re going from single cells to organisms too complex for their own good and collapse in frenzied free jazz. Points for conveying the Darwin theme that inspired this, but I feel like there’s almost always too little or too much going on. I’m either waiting for something to happen or hoping that things stop happening very soon. Hey, maybe there’s a metaphor for life in that, too. –Hans
What do you expect from a band with that name, featuring the guitarist that played on Morbid Visions and contributed to Schizophrenia? Yeah, it’s exactly that. Not only does the EP contain two Sepultura covers, it sounds so much like the latter album that you will either rejoice or laugh at how blatant it is. The sound is a little bit cleaner, but the characteristic toms and the vocals are enough to bring you right back to 1987. A few influences from other luminaries of 80s thrash and first wave black metal are allowed in, most notably on “The Confessional,” but they do little to tranform this into something new. It’s a faithful and competent recreation of pretty specific days gone by. –Hans
Oh hello, another dutch black metal record utilising horns and veering into blackgaze territory. Further similarities to Fluisteraars can be found in the vocal range, although Dystopia utilise the theatrical clean vocals much more frequently. Despite the stylistic overlap, Geen Weg Uit sounds very different, a much more fleshed out and varied experience. The first suite of songs, “Razernij” (“Rage”), takes us through peaks of aggressive black metal and valleys of heart-rending, almost depressive slower parts in which the clean vocals alternately radiate a dignified sadness and all-out anguish. Part four begins to introduce trippy, “Maggot Brain”-esque guitarwork against a minimalist background, an idea that the first two parts of “Van de Meute Vervreemd” (“Estranged from the masses”) expound on, mixing it with post and doom metal, before part three ramps up to black metal again and the final instrumental closes out the album. I don’t know the details of the underlying concept, but with everything the music offers, fanciful listeners will have no trouble imagining a journey of their own, and will more likely than not find it to be a rewarding, if sad one. –Hans
Moksha is the second half of the double album, the first of which, Nirvana, made an appearance here some weeks ago. The distinction between the two is largely thematic, but not entirely without musical differences as well. Though the production is as clear and smooth here, as is was on Nirvana, the latter took the post-black influence Cult of Fire had to a degree always carried with them further than before, with some of the prettiest material they’ve released. While Moksha isn’t as aggressive as the untitled EP that preceded the two either, it’s riffing is based less purely on long chains of tremolo-picked melodies, and the fingers remain more active on the fretboard. Both use keyboards mainly as a tool to create a thicker atmosphere, mostly relegated to the background, but even when Moksha briefly places them on the fore of the mix, they still remain as long chords, whereas Nirvana sometimes gave them an opening to carry the lead melody. Moksha also still makes some use of the the Indian influences and instruments found on their sophomore and could serve as a follow-up to that album, whereas Nirvana could be seen taking the ideas introduced on Life, Sex and Death EP further. Of the two, Moksha is the one I haven’t been coming back to so much, but despite it’s less gripping nature, it might be the one that withstands the test of time better. –KARHU
Little needs to be said about Inferi as a band these days; they’ve spent the better part of the past decade making a name for themselves as one of the best melodic tech death bands in the modern scene, and their formula for success still holds on Of Sunless Realms. Suffice to say that if you like technical music with an excellent ear for melody and a penchant for theatrical songwriting, you’re going to like this. And while any surprise Inferi album is nice (there was very little build-up to this EP’s release), it’s even better when it outclasses all their previous material in terms of mix. The orchestral parts that played such a huge role on Revenant have been pared down to a much smaller supporting spot, and it gives the rest of the band a lot more room in the mix. The guitars are a lot easier to follow this time around, and the bass comes through so much clearer. That instrumental clarity is a necessity when everything is going this fast, but above all, it simply sounds excellent. This is more than just a stopgap release between full-lengths, an excellent listen if you’re looking for some tech in a small dose. –Spear
It’s about time we gave this niche of prog an official title. You’ll know the kind as soon as the vocals kick in on “False Awakening” (assuming the cover didn’t tip you off)- it’s the type that Mastodon and Baroness are best known for, that paradoxical combination of earthy and ethereal, flashy and subtle. There are enough bands out there doing it now that it seems like it should have its own name, and Calyces is the newest of them. For their part, they sound like almost the exact middle ground between the aforementioned bands to the point where you could almost mistake them for either if you weren’t paying close attention. The vocals somehow sound like both Troy Sanders and John Baizley, and the instrumental work is a slick combination of the weirdness of the former act and the jamming rock feel of the latter. The comparisons are very much a compliment- Calyces are extremely good at what they do, and the only negative thing I have to say about Impulse to Soar is that some of the legato riffing sounds a bit samey by the time you hit the end. Despite that, this is essential listening for fans of whatever the fuck you call this type of music. –Spear