Mini Reviews From Around the Bowl (2/16/23)
No empty calories in these petite treats: just good, tasty, nutritious tunes.
Vosbúð – Heklugjá
January 6 2023 | Independent
If the opening Bathory homage didn’t make it clear from the get-go, Vosbúð plays Black Metal with a passion 4 grandeur that’s all about falling in love with a volcano. Think “epic” (ugh) black metal with multi-layered, soaring melodies and atmospherics. The contemporary Icelandic black metal penchant for dissonance is still here to some extent, but this is not void-embracing, “spooky” black metal about drugs and snakes or w/e the guys at Zhrine and Sinmara sing about. This is highly geothermally active Trees n’ Shit black metal.
Despite its 60 minute runtime Heklugjá moves as swift as a lava flow, likely helped by the symmetrical caldera-shape of its 5 songs. The album is bookended by massive 16+ minute tracks that musically suggest the treacherous ascent and descent of the slopes as much as the beautiful sweeping panoramic views witnessed from the ridgeline. These are succeeded (or preceded) by ~12 minute meditative navigations through the pyroclastic smog, tephra, and basalt of the interior slopes. Eventually we come to Heklugjá‘s midpoint— the crater—where a relatively short, flowing instrumental tune skirts directly above the volcano’s slumbering, molten heart. All throughout guitar lines ebb and flow between the glint and flicker of obsidian to the glowing rumble and explosive force of magma. Hands down my favorite January release this year. Don’t lie dormant on this one folks! -Megachiles
Vitrail – Le Mépris du Monde
Independent | January 20th, 2023
Vitrail’s latest EP is like looking outside to see droplets forming on the ends of icicles—a promise, however improbable, that winter will come to an end. While never completely abandoning black metal’s customary frost, Le Mépris du Monde focuses more on the sunlight shining off the ice. Post-metal and pop-punk melodies intertwine with blastbeats and tremolo riffs to great effect, and by the time an extended Pink Floydian jam in “Les Plaies / Exode” rears its dreamy head, all but the most kvlt will be suffused with warmth.
That’s an impressive feat given Simon Tremblay’s caustic, phlegmy vocals. They’re reminiscent of a young Abbath (I believe this is called a tadpole), albeit if he frequented beaches and drank exclusively Capri Suns instead of hard liquor. Sparse, dramatic cleans elevate songs wherever they appear, especially in EP highlight “La Tentation,” which builds to a climax of pure elation. If you are a trve, don’t entry because you’ll be soothed and enjoyed. -Rolderathis
Street Tombs – Reclusive Decay
Carbonized Records | February 17, 2023
Street Tombs. From the streets. They keep it real, so they rarely run. They leisurely roam the veins of the city like they own the place, making their menacing presence felt everywhere. At the cemetery, they picked up a wee dash of horror movie shlock for their rare atmospheric needs. While there, they ransacked the crypts and looted a bit of reverb for their vocals, but they flash it with equal restraint. Intimidatingly smoking cigarettes behind the skate park, Street Tombs took a little bit of the thrashy versatility on display there to have at their disposal for the occasional sprint in case the coppers show up. When Street Tombs walk past the coffee place, even the chronically unimpressed death metal hipsters watch in awe. They wish they were allowed leather jackets instead of ironic neon shirts. Street Tombs are so fucking cool, man. –Hans
Sarpa – Mauta Tala
Independent | February 17, 2023
Just two long tracks tied together by an interlude, but many a paragraph could be written on this solo project’s dense mix of death, black, and whatever other metal happens to come in handy at any given point. While the intent of the first track is to create a chaotic atmosphere, it achieves this simply by throwing a lot at the wall rather than making itself inaccessibly heady, so despite a somewhat confounding structure, its parts mostly remain catchy and fun to follow. The second track balances the chaos by dwelling more in the realm of death doom and post metal, throwing some eerie synths into the mix that I can’t help but find intriguing despite my disdain for slow music. For a more even distribution of the project’s many ideas, check the 2020 debut, but this here trip is well worth the price. –Hans
Some may be wondering why a band from a landlocked state like Iowa would be singing about the ocean. As someone who lived in Mason City for a little while, I too would like to be dragged down to the blackened icy void of the ocean by an unspeakable eldritch sea monster. Dryad’s The Abyssal Plain is an unforgiving blackened whirlpool of riffs, blasts, and cavernous hellscreams. Fast, loud, and mean, the band still works in groove and melody, making the album a complete and entertaining work. This is punctuated with moody, atmospheric 80’s horror movie style interludes. It’s so great and works so well. If you’ve ever wanted to hear John Carpenter playing synth in a cave while someone screams and gurgles about unfathomable creatures from the ocean over black metal riffs, Dryad’s album The Abyssal Plain is for you. -365 Days of Horror
For the most part, folk metal is, hmmm, how do I put this delicately? Corny as fuck. Dressing up in furry boots, praising Odin, cranking a hurdy-gurdy. It’s a much-beloved gimmick-heavy genre, particularly in Europe, but often times it slips into parody. Often, the music is secondary forced to play a paint-by-numbers game of clichés. Heidevolk’s Wederkeer thankfully focuses on the music, crafting 12 songs that take the listener on an engaging and enveloping journey. You’re not just pummeled with references to Loki or an endless barrage of beer hall chants. The Dutch folk metal veteran’s songs have variety, emotion, creativity, and dare I say, warmth. Choirs, violins, cellos, and more folk instruments give the songs texture and a richness often missing from the genre. Wederkeer is like gathering around a fire, listening to tales of old, and connecting with the ancient world around us. -365 Days of Horror
Memoriam – Rise To Power
Reaper Entertainment | February 3, 2023
Memoriam is a supergroup that really keeps it in the family, the primogeniture of a territorial wedding that blurs the borders of three great houses of British death metal. This is album numero cinco from these lads, so brace yourself: it’s a gritty and groovy affair with steady lead motifs that filligree around broad dirgy breaks and stir up a tone that is at once tragic, moving, and massive. Business as usual. If this is your first Memoriam outing, then lucky you, there’s 4 other records where that came from. Like the tracks of a treaded tank, the groove gets worn more clearly until it’s a trail for all the troops to follow. As an aside, I realize this is kind of a sad bar to have to clear, but the opener is a pretty solid Holocaust remembrance track that seems to actually handle its subject with a sense of the gravitas due, which I can’t say of basically any other death metal outfit that tries its hand at genocide musings. -A Spooky Mansion