Mini-Reviews From Around the Bowl (9/2/21)
Snack-sized reviews for your hungry ears.
Serpent Column – Katartisis
Dissociative Visions | August 27, 2021
Serpent Column short-noticed released another blizzard of an EP, Katartisis, last week, and in true Serpent Column fashion, it’s dissonant yet nimble, again bearing Jane Morris Pack’s artwork and that warm Serpent Column production. Like previous EP Endless Detainment, the songs are shorter here, but no less powerful. Blistering tracks like “Dereliction II” pack a delicious punch despite being under two minutes. The first six songs are a tempest, ending with the carnage of “Cold Fires” before more the moodier, yet still rapid-fire title track, leads us into the EP’s interior. The penultimate track “Edelweiss” feels like Katartisis‘s heart. At 6:39, it is the EP’s longest track and also its most emotive, with more uplifting moments and hardcore-adjacent riffs above Theophonos’s murky howls. It is this aspect of Serpent Column that keeps me coming back—moments like 4:30 in “Edelweiss,” when Serpent Column dares to be vulnerable yet without getting hokey, creating a moment for meaning amid the chaos.
If you like this mysterious band, you’ll definitely want to give Katartisis a spin. It’s out now, NYP, on Bandcamp. — Theophrastus Bombastus
One with the Riverbed – Absence
Independent | August 20, 2021
2021 has seen a kind of reinvigoration of atmoblack, with the likes of Wolves in the Throne Room, Woman Is the Earth, and others releasing what could be argued as their defining works this summer. Up in Michigan, Kalamazoo’s One with the Riverbed have been busy, as well—their second full-length, Absence, dropped last week. With elements of both Panopticon-style blackgaze and hardcore elements à la Glassing, One with the Riverbed creates a sonically varied atmoblack-ish album that will appeal to those who dabble in hxc and skramz. Opener “Thaw” shows off the band’s range, while “Carcass” is a moodier detour. Central track “Disembodied” brings One with the Riverbed back to a faster tempo, eschewing reverb and forest mystique for straightforward tremolo riffing and furious drums.
“Sanctuary” is borne again by a gentler current, giving Absence a kind of A-B-A-B feel until 14-minute closer “Phantom’s G” reveals a new suite of ideas, including a more ambient section and a beautiful dénouement. Though its production may not appeal to trve types who want more mystery and “chilling” atmospheres, Absence is nothing if not ambitious, showcasing a band unafraid to mix fluttering hardcore sensibilities with grand black metal gestures. — Theophrastus Bombastus
Grandeur – Aurea Aetas
Absolute Contempt/Halo of Flies | June 29, 2021
The kind of production displayed on this plucky little EP has quickly become my favorite for black metal: crackling and bristling all the way, yet never so lo-fi as to obscure its central ideas. In this case, those are first and foremost the often heartwrenchingly melancholic and sometimes triumphant melodies that are given plenty of room to shine throughout every track. Their dramatic air of defiance against impossible odds is further supported by a vocal approach that howls in torment, yet never sounds defeated, and everything is backed by punchy drums that provide a strong backbone. If the part two minutes into “Ultimum” doesn’t make you wanna storm heedlessly into battle against an army that hopelessly outnumbers you, then uhh… you’re a very reasonable person, I suppose. But your heart is definitely dead. — Hans
Eastwood – Antibiose
Independent | July 5, 2021
No idea when I’ll get around to the next Bump’n’Grind, and it’d be a shame to let this one sit on the backburner for too long, so I had to put it here. I was initially wary of the powerviolence tag in conjunction with an actor’s name – that combo has never yielded great results for me. Luckily, it’s only the vocals that very occasionally remind me of that genre. The rest is 100% laser-focused, tightly-wound grindcore that very proficiently blitzes through its twists and turns, always keeping things interesting with a level of songwriting that is a cut above many others in the genre. This combo of brutality and craftsmanship is simply an immense joy to hear, and should put a smile on your face many times throughout the album’s runtime (if not, heart dead). — Hans
Heavy Temple – Lupi Amoris
Magnetic Eye Records | June 18, 2021
Heavy Temple approach cloaked in inscrutable glamor. They are mundane at a glance, but a prolonged meeting will slowly reveal their fae nature, something old that has survived in a youngster’s stolen shape. They play retro doom on the spritely side, using the classic arsenal of bluesy swing and howlin’, moanin’ croons from High Priestess Nighthawk. It’s a solid choice for rocking your next moonlit Walpurgis, for sure, but beyond the robust, catchy songwriting, I’m really taken with the exploratory psychedelic texturing running through it. The many leads and solos are a changeling that takes sundry shapes thanks to cheesy tape-style effects of reverb, reversal, and phasing that are never applied quite the same way twice. They have a great grasp on their historical focus, to a degree I haven’t heard since Witcher’s Creed, and hopefully Heavy Temple avoids the same fate and pens their next chapter soon. — A Spooky Mansion
UNREQVITED – Beautiful Ghosts
Prophecy Productions | August 13, 2021
Tender, embracing, reassuring, empathic. Uncommon traits expressed in the dominant black metal allele, but here comes UNREQVITED, who uses swelling orchestra and piano to flick black metal into negative color. If standard blackgaze is meant to evoke a placid breeze, lonely and near death, then Unreqvited is instead the sound of finding your second wind, a revival of hope and drive jutting against defeat. There’s definitely some Devin Townsend spirit haunting the mix, multi-layered as it is, and there are shades of the more slick, annealed melodic sensibilities of say, Periphery, that breed of crisp, energetic djent.
It’s often the case that a despondent mood turns one hostile to open cheeriness, that loathing of people happier than you are, which ends up self-sustaining. I think Beautiful Ghosts would be able to reach me in such a moment and gently re-orient me in healthier directions. It’s not hooky, more meant to linger, undemanding, overwhelming, and in the end irresistible. It can catch your
cold, chilling feelings and curve them away from the precipice without condescension. This album gives me a head full of roses, lush color blooming above the thorny briar. — A Spooky Mansion