Roundbear Roundup: November 2023


On this busy year I also listened to some music. Now I would like for you to sit down and listen to it.

It’s been quite some time since I last made an appearance on these here pages. A lot has happened since. I worked for the Red Cross for some time, went to school and got myself a degree and technically headlined the indoors-stage of the Nordic countries’ biggest metal festival. Despite all that I managed to listen to a few albums on the way, and though many of my favourites— Afterbirth, Convocation and VoidCeremony to mention a few—have already been admitted to these pages, a few hadn’t. So I figured it was time to make a return of sorts.

Malicious – Merciless Storm

Few bands have managed to capture extreme metal in gestation as well as Malicious. Echoing from a time when the subgenres hadn’t yet begun to drift apart, you can find the violent tremolo riffs with the added weight of blunt, thrashing approach of Necrovore, but sharper, faster and more rabid—not unlike the Brazilian ’80s black metal scene. You’ll find the taste of early US death/thrash titans Possessed, Morbid Angel pre-Altars or even Insanity, as well, further adding the general chaos of grindcore’s youth. Despite their influences, Malicious never feels particularly nostalgic. Their fervent concoction seems inspired above all by the mainstream, and more popular currents of underground, of today’s extreme metal. Especially the nostalgic corners of it. The single-minded attempts at capturing old glories and feelings by turning, even doing away with, the momentum that birthed all that metal in the first place. Stripping away the desire for more brutality, more atmosphere, more technicality and more weirdness that drove the bands of those early days. And believing that somehow this will make their music, lacking in vision, ambition and identity, more authentic. In opposition to all this stands Malicious, and this their driving force.

Merciless Storm doesn’t waver on their set path, nor does it bring any great changes to their approach. The thrash has grown even more central than on Deranged Hexes, and the fragments of melody which held together its corpse have somewhat diminished. A more hulking, but no less threatening effort that’s mercilessly short at only 4 songs and 11 minutes. It’s hard to get a big enough dose of Merciless Storm at a time, and I sincerely hope the band is up for bigger and better things in the future.


Nucleus/Azath – Split

It is no great secret that I hold Nucleus as one of the very best contemporary death metal bands. And though I never ranked among the greatest fans of Through a Warren of Shadows, I know better than to take Azath for a conjurer of cheap tricks either. Their song “In Reptilian Pathways” is easily the best of their career so far. Continuing to lay siege with their hyperspeed death metal, the plentiful leads, solos and weird melodies keep adding colour to the straightforward structure. And while drummer Pierce Williams does reign it in, if you compare his performance here to that on Aenigmatum’s Deconsecrate, he’s nothing short of monstrous.

Speaking of monstrous, Derek Orthner’s sewer vocals remain as vile as ever. But therein lies my greatest complain on the split. His performance isn’t just monotonous, it sounds quite literally one-note. He’s definitely capable of more based on Begrime Exemious and even the occasionally appearing secondary vocals here. Shouldn’t those then dissipate the monotony? Well no, as they are equally one-note, just with a higher pitch. They also never appear individually on the track, instead always being layered with the low main vocals for minimal variety. Ultimately it is no great detriment, especially on a release this short, but something I’d hope Azath would consider when it comes time to record the already written second full-length.

Nucleus’ song is, perhaps unsurprisingly, pure bliss. Although a great band proving capable of keeping their quality should never be scoffed at. “Inculcate” comes with all the twisted, weird riffing one could ever want and the structure is in a constant state of mutation. Even when the full band is not yet taking it to a new direction, something is brewing underneath and Nucleus never truly stays put in one place. As on Entity the songwriting is more about evolving from one state to the next than about any singular hooks. And you get some David Vincent-esque semi-clean vocals  before you’re through! I’ll take a head start and proclaim “Inculcate” my song of the year now, in case The Toilet doesn’t do that song and dance this year, or I’m not around when they do.

Nucleus: Facebook | Instagram  Azath: Instagram | Facebook

Bad Jesus Experience – Ovat muistojemme lehdet kuolleet

It’s always a delight when an old friend returns in triumph. Whether their absence has been only a brief interlude between two parades of camaraderie, or a lengthy leave forming a void in one’s existence. But it is especially delightful when the return should occur after a void has begun to form, and with their greatest triumph yet. Bad Jesus Experience and I go back a decade or so, and I have embraced them warmly whenever they’ve seen fit to bring out their ferocious, hyper-aggressive, unrelenting and [Computer, google “synonyms for ferocious”] strain of hardcore punk for show.

It’s been almost 4 years since Kaikki on hyvin, which I must admit I did not enjoy quite as much as its predecessors. I have been putting this down to it being the first BJE album not to be a first for me [Hey, that is a first!], II having been the first album of theirs I found, and III having then been the first I got to eagerly await the release of. There is no such question of quality, however, with Ovat muistojemme lehdet kuolleet. It is somehow even more relentless than before, and comes with a stronger side of powerviolence.

There is no respite, no release, to be found from its machine-gun vocals and repentless guitars [let ’em ride], whether strumming atonally or blazing arrhythmic riffs. That is not to say that every song is spat with the same pressure. But the band finds ways to work around the problem of dynamics. Songs are segued so that the next one will always bring something a little different. So while the beating never really stops, or takes a moment, it retains an element of surprise which never allows you to grow numb to the pain. Every note lands as hard and heavy as the last. A kick in the spleen never felt so good.

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Castlesiege – The Council of Trees

By far the most intriguing and joyous dungeon synth album I’ve heard in a very long time. Or perhaps adventure, or fantasy, synth would be a more appropriate pigeonhole for Landon Myers’ brainchild. Dungeons and darkness are images hardly conjured by Castlesiege as it details the adventures of healer Emerich and his red fox companion Gilloman. To be questioned by the sentient and conversational flora which form the titular council, overseeing all things in their native Nabir, is surely an adventure unto itself. But to be sent on a quest to determine the entire fate of your native land, and undoubtedly to be transformed in irreversible and surprising ways by said quest, must be a thrill like no other. Regardless of all unassuming heroes-to-be seemingly ending up on taking up, and being changed by, a similar quest. Better get assuming, boys. Unless you’re looking to walk down that path.

Such a quest can only be about living, loving, laughing; the power of friendship and the goodness within. And so, a bright and melodic affair is in order. And bright and melodic The Council of Trees, sprinkled with the occasional Final Fantasy-esque melody, is. It recalls the blissful joys of Fief, rather than the dark dungeons deep and sinistrous haunts of Mortiis.

Perhaps due to its conceptual and storytelling nature, The Council of Trees is a more diverse work than those of Salt Lake Citydel’s man. “Waltz of Thieves” an actual waltz with horns, accordion and a cembalo, all so very pleasingly synthesized. “Light Amongst the Fog” recalls that particular air of magic, mystery and wonder that is so hard to grab a hold of once the days of childhood have passed. “Cave Dweller” starts as one of the more minimal, and threatening, songs on the album, but ends up as the most overtly dramatic. And “A New Day” closes The Council of Trees with the mix of melancholy and joy only appropriate for the end of such a quest. An excellent undertaking that will hopefully plant many smouldering seeds to sprout as flaming flowers come next spring.

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