Sunday, August 25, 2013

All Will Gather To The Shores - Deity Of Ruin

And now for the new release.

All Will Gather To The Shores have crafted something far more abrasive and far more interesting with Deity Of Ruin. Sounds and effects blare and fade, intermixed with distinct and heavily distorted harsh vocals on this release much like they did on the previous. Everything feels more refined, and from beginning to end, Deity Of Ruin feels like a grand escapade towards an abstract land or cosmic goal. Ironically the track titled "Journey" happens to be one of the best on here.

The rattling, jarring opener "Captivity" sets things in motion as Deity Of Ruin begins sculpting its sonic landscape from whale bones and the ashes of modernity. "Machine" is interesting in that it features subtle drumwork and even a few fills along with All Will Gather To The Shores' fuzzy, low guitars. The blaring high register notes are the sounds I would imagine the earth would make as humanity scars its landscape with mines and refineries. Some tracks, like these two, are less subtle than those on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. The distant roaring of "Journey," and the electric guitar-driven "Ashore" are both similar to the openers in this regard.

As the more subtle, dark ambient track "Mist" gives way to the comparatively lighthearted "Relief," the sonic landscape appears to be reaching completion. The general picture of Deity Of Ruin has already been established by the end of "Relief," whose guitar keeps building in decibels as it goes. "Journey" follows up and sets the action in motion aboard the decrepit world stage. Soft, clean guitarwork dotted with a very light post rock sound guides the listener over crevasses, empty valleys, vast oceans, and tortured cities. The vocals on this track are fantastic, subdued and distant in the mix, and a subtle reminder of all that is wrong with the planet Deity Of Ruin has built. They trail off, fade in, and eventually the distorted, gated guitar brings the world to its knees in a calamitous finale.

"Island" is far more quiet and introspective, guided almost entirely by acoustic guitars. It makes for a nice follow up to "Journey" before the catchy drone riffing of "Ashore." The vocals on "Ashore" are raspy and almost black metallish, contrasting from the primal, world-roar of "Journey." Granted they're all heavily distorted so it makes little difference, but just something I noticed. "Beyond" closes the album out with distant sounds of gulls and waves, returning the world to the water in which it was born.

There are numerous instances on Deity Of Ruin which grant it the added tag of doom along with ambient, drone, and psychedelic noise. The riffing is distorted, fuzzy, heavy, and some of it is constant enough to put it in the drone doom realm. The use of strings is honestly what makes this such an interesting release for me, and the atmosphere that All Will Gather To The Shores create on Deity Of Ruin is stark on multiple levels.

Deity Of Ruin makes me think again about Herakleitos, impermanence, and post modernity. Any album that makes me contemplate...things is good in my books.

8.5 out of 10

1. Captivity
2. Machine
3. Mist
4. Relief
5. Journey
6. lsland
7. Ashore
8. Beyond


All Will Gather To The Shores - Their Bodies Clutter The Sea

I'm going to cover both of Russian act All Will Gather To The Shores' releases. This is their first release, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea.

Drone and ambient work well with psychedelic. The visual aspect of psychedelic has always been the main draw, and as I'm finding out now, the main draw for drone, ambient, and noise. Unlike most purely electronic or synthetic ambient or drone, All Will Gather To The Shores utilize subtle and limited strings and extremely distorted, low-mixed vocals. The latter pop up infrequently, and on this release only on "Gale" and "Calm." "Gale" is appropriately the least soothing with its noisy, distorted looping and dissonant chord transitions. As a concept it serves quite nicely, although it isn't the most compelling track.

Follow up tracks "Hope" and "Despair" are two sides of the same coin with "Hope" being guided by relatively peaceful string sounds. It's nice coming from "Gale" but since the track is barely over a minute "Despair" slowly kicks in, which is surprisingly less melancholy than the name. It's a lackadaisical track, like basking on the sun-baked deck of a ship left adrift after a monstrous storm. "Calm," the longest and most acutely developed track on the album is much more solemn in its development. The soft strings kick in before the vocals do - as harsh and distorted as ever - until they fade to light guitars and a droning outro.

The guitar tone is of note on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. It's doomy, heavy, and distorted, and the higher register notes sound like the audio interpretation of sun rays beating down onto sunburnt backs. In a way, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea almost evokes a desert image in that regard.

A solid, but slightly underdeveloped taster of the sound that would await on Deity Of Ruin.

6.5 out of 10

1. Gale
2. Hope
3. Despair
4. Calm


Host - Null Pointer

One from the inbox! Felt like doing a bunch of drone/ambient stuff today.

Host are a noisy, dark, ritual ambient group from Australia. Host is the product of Nathan Jenkins, ex-The Amenta, who I have tremendous respect for after he played bass on one of my favorite albums, Occasus. Host have also toured with a bunch of metal artists including The Amenta, Ruins, and others. I have to say I definitely like the name of the album and the whole computing connotations that go along with it. Nothing is more abrasive to the psyche than segfaults, null pointer exceptions, and other programming frustrations. In fact the whole field of computer science is more or less a droning, ritual effort in its incessant but necessary tedium.

Like all good noise and ambient, the tracks on Null Pointer don't just persist in monotony for their entirety. "Know That I Am" opens with a calamitous roar and a pervasive, metallic echo like air being funneled into a bunch of PVC piping. The dull roaring pops up intermittently before the track becomes much more subdued, but following that a repetitious ascending whir takes over in the void of melody. It all sounds like crawling through an air duct and coming upon a vast network of industrial size fans. Very claustrophobic and very picturesque.

The same can be said of the other tracks. "Four Crooked Arms" has a very oceanic vibe with a tidal sound and a droning whistle. The imagery this music evokes for me is astounding, like walking through a glass canyon leading to a frigid coastline. Some of the higher pitched noises sound like rockfalls scratching the glass of the canyon, etching their impermanence into its sides. While I would describe the first two tracks as noisy dark ambient, the title track on Null Pointer is certainly ritualistic with its subtle bass thrums and even - dare I say - a melody. It has a pretty distinct sound compared to the other two tracks before it fades out with a noise reminiscent from the beginning of "Know That I Am."

There's plenty of static and graininess to Null Pointer, so if that's your thing you'll definitely enjoy this. It isn't harsh noise by any means, and it's pretty relaxing and visually appealing to listen to. This is a genre that I'm not wholly experienced with, and writing about it is still new to me, but I've been getting more into it with time. Host definitely have something going here though, and quite frankly I wasn't thinking as highly before I sat down and listened to it while writing. Null Pointer is definitely filled with great concentration sounds and plenty of mental imagery. I'll definitely be keeping tabs on Jenkins' future work.

7.75 out of 10

1. Know That I Am
2. Four Crooked Arms
3. Null Pointer


Also I really recommend trying out Host's cool little experiment titled Evolution. It takes various metadata from local financial, social, and meteorological services, converts them to soundwaves, and plays them over Host's music. Use only in Chrome. When I checked it out I got a churning low-end with some wooden sounding clicks and clacks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Flight Of Sleipnir - Saga

The Flight Of Sleipnir are still out near the Rockies releasing sublime stoner folkdoom. Essence Of Nine and Lore were both great releases that merged catchy, dense riffing, folk beauty, and a Scandinavian aesthetic to create fun and immersive listens. Saga is a direct continuation of their now well-established sound.

One thing that I definitely respect about this duo is their use of keyboards. They're not explosive, over the top, or anything like that. They usually play a single chord buried in the mix before fading and repeating in drone fashion (see: "Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned"). It's subtle enough to keep them from being intrusive and it adds another layer of texture to The Flight Of Sleipnir's music. Like the keyboards though, the vocals are low in the mix as well and personally I think it works quite well. Clean vocals are quiet yet coherent enough to add poetic beauty, and the throaty blackened rasping echoes like calls to mother nature in a vast fjord.

Saga fits pretty well in The Flight Of Sleipnir's. Unlike some bands who try to repetitively release the same album however, these guys' add a bit of unique flavor. Lore felt a little unpolished with its denser mix, and Essence Of Nine took that sound and added more complex riffs and rhythms as well as more acoustic passages. Saga feels more subdued than both of them, at least in terms of their mainstay in the fuzzy guitar tone. David Csicsely's snare still sounds as great as ever. "Harrowing Desperation" is a good example of that and the mellowed guitar-plus-effects add a lot to the track. I always liked the long, drone-like outro lead of "Reverence" as well. Not that they haven't had these qualities on their previous releases, but it took me until now to really put my finger on them.

The Flight Of Sleipnir's albums are something you have to listen to in their entirety to appreciate despite having a few standout, hook-based tracks on each (looking at you, "Of Words and Ravens"). They're solid active listening experiences and great passive listening ones. If the interlacing of acoustic guitars with electrified doom and a light folk atmosphere appeals to you, then there's no doubt that you'll enjoy all of their releases. Saga is no different, and I guess that's why I'm having trouble writing about it since I've covered their other output already - but that's definitely not a bad thing.

7.75 out of 10

1. Prologue
2. Reaffirmation
3. Reverence
4. Harrowing Desperation
5. Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned
6. Judgment
7. Dmise Carries With It a Song
8. The Mountain
9. Hour Of Cessation
!0. Remission
11. Beneath Red Skies
12. Epilogue


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Paganizer - World Lobotomy

The world can't go for more than a few months between releases featuring everyone's favorite guitarist Rogga Johansson. Paganizer's newest release World Lobotomy only continues his reign as one of the most prolific names in death metal. Paganizer never leaves much to the imagination. They've always sounded like a less abrasive Putrevore mixed with a less catchy Revolting or Bone Gnawer. It's very standard death metal even if none of it is really bad.

World Lobotomy is no different. Like Into The Catacombs before it, there are groovy moments of catchiness hidden between the recycled riffs. The closing melody on "Mass Of Parasites," the main riff of "You Call It Deviance," closer "Hunt Eat Repeat," and the d-beat sections in the second half of the album tend to stick around a bit longer than the occasionally shoddy verse riffing. It's a shame since Paganizer has always been a second-rate project in Johansson's catalog at least for me, and this album doesn't really do much to change that. Some tracks just feel like they were throwaway ideas that end before going anywhere - "As The Maggots Gather," the pointless intro track, and "As Blood Grows Cold" all fit this description.

The production and mixing is fine and archetypal. There's a little bit separating this one and last year's Macabre Kingdom by Putrevore but it's nothing worth even discussing. In a year starred with great death metal releases, Paganizer have to try a little harder to impress me.

5.5 out of 10

1. Prelude To The Lobotomy
2. World Lobotomy
3. The Sky On Fire
4. Mass Of Parasites
5. As Blood Grows Cold
6. Ödeläggaren
7. You Call It Deviance
8. As The Maggots Gather
9. Trail Of Human Decay
10. The Drowners
11. The Last Chapter
12. Hunt Eat Repeat

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gorguts - Colored Sands

Twelve years is a long time.

After the release of From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts went silent. We saw new bands rise up and push the boundaries of the extreme metal umbrella. Gigan with The Order Of The False Eye, Ulcerate with Everything Is Fire, Deathspell Omega with Fas, Flourishing, Crowpath, Mitochondrion, and more have all experimented and taken extreme metal beyond the archetype much like Obscura did back in 1998. The forward-thinking metal movement doesn't have an end goal in mind. To quote Ulcerate, "the axiom of being is infinite."

Gorguts have returned with one of the most exhaustive, powerful listens of 2013: Colored Sands, a thematically singular slab of death metal that oozes Himalayan beauty.

Merging melody and dissonance is hardly an easy task yet Luc Lemay and co. have done it seamlessly here. Riffs roar into life, meander, and rediscover their original purpose but with no detriments. Many of these riffs are vibrant, colorful in texture and with plenty of compositional decoration. Like an ode to the convoluted nature of life, Colored Sands is wonderfully complex. Time signatures blur together, effects trail off the end of tracks ("Forgotten Arrows"), and some of the most mindbending solo guitarwork I've heard in recent years ("Enemies Of Compassion") all culminate in this release being one of the best this year has to offer.

Everything on Colored Sands has a purpose; everything is intentionally composed in such a way to give meaning to the individual tracks. Like all great albums, it's the little things that make Colored Sands so special and separate it from the rest of Gorguts' discography. As preview track "Forgotten Arrows" begins blasting itself into oblivion, it pulls itself from the brink stronger and more massive than ever with a bunch of bass hits to the face. "The Battle Of Chamdo" is an exercise in Luc's classical training with a real orchestra and unlike most 'orchestral' sounds, it fits the theme and feel of the album. The soft orchestral moments blur over into the explosive intro of "Enemies Of Compassion," my favorite track on the album. The main riff bursts and bubbles like superheated magma, and the track explores the sonic scenery a little before returning for an incredibly chaotic solo. The sustained notes that pop up towards its end are magnificent and send chills down my spine every time.

I can't say I wasn't a tiny bit skeptical with Colored Sands, as I tend to be with most things. I liked the crew Luc assembled for this album, although each members' individual acts are a bit removed from the Gorguts sound. The preview track from 2011 was alright but left me wondering if the new members' influences would overshadow the Gorguts' feel and luckily I was wrong. Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel, and John Longstreth have all proven their versatility before but on Colored Sands you can hear them adapting perfectly to a different sound. Speaking of outside influence, the angular "Absconders" is an interesting track in that it distinctly sounds like something Deathspell Omega would write with Ulcerate-esque effects and linearity. Even the name sounds very Deathspell Omega-ish. I like it, and to me it's like Gorguts' giving the nod to all the bands which are similar in musical ideology.

Now comes that obligatory time in which I mention the production and mixing - it's borderline perfect perhaps minus the bass drums' sound which sounds a bit too tinny but at the higher speeds it keeps the mix from being muddy. I'm sure a select few will undoubtedly complain how Colored Sands is heavy and complex without the "darkness" they associate with death metal, as most of the composition is very odd or melodious.

They've missed the point completely.

9.25 out of 10

1. Le Toit du Monde
2. An Ocean Of Wisdom
3. Forgotten Arrows
4. Colored Sands
5. The Battle Of Chamdo
6. Enemies Of Compassion
7. Ember's Voice
8. Absconders
9. Reduced To Silence

Bandcamp (I assume it'll be available on release - it's currently streaming on Spotify)

Here's a cool interview about the concept of the album.

Thou Art Lord - The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer

Sakis Tolis is an interesting figure. Rotting Christ started out as a pretty sweet grindcore outfit before moving towards black metal and eventually a dark, ambiguous extreme metal sound. As a side project he founded Thou Art Lord with George Zacharopoulos (of underground Necromantia fame) under the pseudonym Necromayhem in 1993 and since then they've served as Sakis' vehicle for a more abrasive, guttural sound. I've only heard Thou Art Lord's material post-2002 in which Sakis became the primary vocalist.

Now on NWN! Prod, Thou Art Lord continue their satanic Greek terror campaign.

The more conventional Rotting Christ and subtle Necromantia influence has always been present in Thou Art Lord's music from the occasional subtle synthesizers to the Sakis' signature abuse of tremolo harmonics. The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is no different with opener "Nine Steps To Hell" being littered with those signature riffs. Thou Art Lord differs in quite a few ways from both Rotting Christ and Necromantia in that the project has plenty more thrash and death metal influence. "ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΩΝ" being the obvious pick out of the tracks on The Regal Pulse. The stereotypically descending chromatic riffs, d-beats merged with blasting and tremolo riffing, as well as the occasional guttural vocals really describes their overall feel best. There's just something so distinctly Greek in style about it that makes it special. The Hellenic metal scene is hardly dead, but The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is almost like an ode to the scene.

Sakis' guitar leads are fantastic when they pop up. All of his material tends to lean on the simple side but they're damn catchy and that's what makes them so good. They never sound like needless fretboard exercises, always fitting the flow and feel of the track. "Justicia Profana" is a great example, where the lead and minor solo bit becomes entwined with the main riff for the final third of the track. That's not to discount other cool guitar moments like the subtle lead on "Artificial Malevolence."

The production and mixing is solid and grainy. The catchy guitar leads shine through the high-gain rhythm support and The Magus' (George) bass has plenty of low-end to it although naturally it doesn't come up in the mix on its own much. One thing I found kind of silly though was the use of samples and short intros to tracks. The humorously pitch-shifted vocals at the beginning of "L'Evangelium de Diable" heralding the start of the track were a bit out of place. The synthesizers on "Infernarium" were a bit over the top for my taste too.

The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is a solid album and the only Thou Art Lord release that really stuck with me after a single listen. I should really get around to hearing Rotting Christ's newest but I have to say AEALO left a bad taste in my mouth.

7.25 out of 10

1. Nine Steps To Hell
3. Das Messer
4. The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer
5. Artificial Malevolence
6. Justicia Profana
7. L'Evangelium de Diable
8. Infernarium
9. Fire And Blood


Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Life takes unexpected and often frustrating turns that require you to mull and contemplate over issues that end up being trivial in the end anyway. That's why I haven't posted much of anything in over a month, and quite frankly I needed the time off.

In better news I've been listening to a boatload of new music. Some of it awful, some of it fantastic. Since I've been feeling pretty down lately I'll start with one that you really don't want to listen to: The sequel to 2011's Agony: Fleshgod Apocalypse's Labyrinth.

Let me clarify: it is stupid to expect anything akin to Oracles from these guys at this point. I certainly wasn't, and part of me only listened to this album to see what overblown monstrosity these Italians would churn out next. Agony was one of my most reviled releases of 2011 for its disgusting use of an orchestra and bombastic, plastic sounding instruments. That's not to mention the awful, incoherent mash-up that sounded, as one internet-dwelling metalnerd stated, like a "Disney soundtrack thrown into a blender." The emphasis of Agony was solely on the 'orchestral' elements and the guitarwork took a backseat to everything.

I don't even think there was a bass.

Anyway Fleshgod apparently noticed some fans' reactions to the lack of intricate guitarwork and claimed that with Labyrinth they would merge more technical guitars with the 'orchestral' elements of Agony. I have to give them credit there. They did make good on their promise. There are a bunch of solos ("Minotaur," Pathfinder," "The Fall Of Asterion," etc.) and significantly more riffage compared to Agony's monotonous chugging.

Songwriting remains an enormous issue on Labyrinth, and the orchestral elements are still left on their own more often than not. There is no real merging of metal and a symphony here, just two completely separate entities playing at the same time. It's like playing Bach in one ear and Suffocation in the other and calling it symphonic death metal. The female supporting vocals are atrocious when they're not negligible. Opener "Kingborn" is unbearable for this reason and "Towards The Sun" is an absolute abomination of a track even with them being used sparingly. We will not even speak of "Under Black Sails." Seven-and-a-half minutes of nauseating ear-pain...

The mix is just as depressing as it was on Agony. Everything is muddled and compressed and it makes listening to the album a more frustrating experience than it's worth. The most straightforward and metal track on the album, "Pathfinder" (and by far the best), sounds like it would've fit at home on Mercenary's B-sides, or maybe as an extreme extension of what Fleshgod Apocalypse tried to do on Mafia. The absolutely shitty production is largely to blame for that.

Now I wasn't expecting much from Labyrinth and I can't even say I'm disappointed. What I still don't really understand is how Fleshgod Apocalypse still have fans after they went to Nuclear Blast. Even the album art screams "recycled lukewarm bullshit." However they clearly have gained quite a following as you can glean from all the internet buzz surrounding them, so good for them. Maybe someday if Fleshgod Apocalypse continue down this path they'll be able to fill the shoes Septicflesh filled nearly a decade ago.

2.5 out of 10

1. Kingborn
2. Minotaur
3. Elegy
4. Towards The Sun
5. Warpledge
6. Pathfinder
7. The Fall of Asterion
8. Prologue
9. Epilogue
10. Under Black Sails
11. Labyrinth

Listen // Buy