Mini Reviews From Around the Bowl (11/17/23)
Some appetizers before Thanksgiving week.
Rorcal – Silence
Hummus Records | September 29, 2023
The first solo release since 2019 from the darkest band in Switzerland, Silence follows Rorcal’s 2021 collaboration with Earthflesh and mostly eschews long-form drone and totalist tendencies in favour of dissonant blackened-sludge, resulting in their best record since 2013s Vilávége. Lead singles and opening tracks “Early Morning” and “Childhood Is A Knife In The Throat” sets the tone of an album with such piercing intensity that individual songs are quite difficult to get a grasp on, evoking the spirit of Heliogabalus‘ droning, glacial soundscapes while retaining a more deliberately composed sound. Album highlight and closing track No Alleviation, Even In Death teases a noisy, ambient composition before violently exploding into life. As a final track and statement, it’s a tremendous distillation of Rorcal’s progression since their debut, pulling from almost 20 years of development.
The music is much like the titular Henry Fuseli painting which acts as the album artwork; a sanguine expression from an initally unclear form – Rorcal have always used the undefined, blurred edges of their compositions to elucidate monstrous atmospheres. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that Fuseli himself didn’t approach or appreciate landscape painting, because the sheer depth created by Rorcals’ atmosphere is massive. One of the most intense records of the year. –Aaron
Begravement – Horrific Illusions Beckon
Independent | August 11, 2023
Death metal is a style as bloated as the corpses that shamble across its well-trodden path. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—in fact, it’s an insalubrious boon, a sign that there’s still plenty of organic matter left to fester. However, if you wish to stand out amongst 40 years of stench, you’ll have to convince listeners that something truly heinous crawled inside your album’s walls and died. In the case of Begravement’s debut LP, Horrific Illusions Beckon, there’s an entire menagerie of corpses wafting through the floorboards.
From Death‘s disorienting melodies to Bay Area thrash, myriad influences seep into these songs, but they never rest on the graves of their forebears. Take the single, “Desecration of the Meek,” for example: what starts with OSDM’s rickety, nauseous riffs quickly dons a leather jacket for some punky blackened thrash without missing a beat. These genre detours never come at the expense of songwriting, and each track, including the epic-length closer “Return to Planet Earth” kept me in thrall with each unexpected twist of the knife. The band might be young, but they’ve got a unique stink already—a dynamic bouquet that carries both the scent of fresh blood and the decay of ancient tombs. –Roldy
FACS – Still Life in Decay
Trouble in Mind Records | April 7, 2023
While not an outright angry record, this one nonetheless feels tense. On the one hand, there’s an airy, post-rock lightness to the guitars, which can serve up some almost trippy moments, particularly in conjunction with the synths and their various echos and reverbs. On the other hand, the dutiful krautrock repetition and the sardonic, matter-of-fact delivery of the vocals (“the whole point of no return is don’t come back” – what a great line) consistently tether everything to the cold ground, denying a dissolution into psychedelic navel-gazing. Meanwhile, the nihilistic noise rock snarl of the bass seems uninterested in the conflict, perfectly content to just pile on to the overall unease until the stalemate starts to resolve towards the end of the record. Big shout out to W for posting this on the Discord; it’s quickly become one of my go-tos this year. –Hans
Fleshworks – Diabolus Ex Machina
Apostasy Records | October 13, 2023
Fleshworks are giving you a guided tour through their old school death metal factory. You’re thinking, “How interesting can this be? I know exactly how this stuff is made,” and sure, they show you a lot of the things you knew were gonna be there, but the guide’s enthusiasm is infectious. He has all these little fun facts, and there’s a lot of tricks and flourishes in the production process that you weren’t aware of. Ultimately, it’s still a bunch of big, roaring machines doing a job with merciless efficiency, but the guys who designed the machines are pretty damn clever. Maybe you come away with a whole new appreciation for large-scale death metal production, thinking to yourself how it’s no less of a craft than what they do at the little shops you get your weird artisanal death metal from. –Hans
Fluisteraars – De Kronieken Van Het Verdwenen Kasteel – II – Nergena
Eisenwald | September 1st, 2023
The second in a series of 3 EPs inspired by a trio of torn-down castles at Bennekom, a village in the band’s native Gelderland, NL. While none of the castles are still currently standing, the music was made “under the influence of old, damp castle dungeons” still remaining, and the band claims to have found “exiled pagan gods hidden deep.” The band claims that on each chronicle (EP) they act as these lost pagan gods’ mouthpiece. Now if your black metal band mythmaking radar is going off, it probably should be, but once you reach 1:40 on the first track and hear the frenzied, ecstatic howl the vocalist emits, it’s hard to argue that this is a band possessed. Maybe by their own love of Gelderlander folklore, or some other substances found in dark, damp places, or by an actual spiritual connection to a pagan god, the band sounds as raw and unhinged as it does curious and intentional. This is Fluisteraars near their best. Don’t whisper about this EP, howl about it. –Eenzaamheid