Saturday, June 15, 2019

Nocturnal Monstrous Howls...

Wolf Blood - II (2019)


It was five years ago that Wolf Blood let loose their self-titled debut album, and with pressing after pressing selling their full runs (including the vinyl from Roadburn Fest-hosting Burning World Records), it seemed like the band's momentum was picking up just like one of their riff-digging tunes. As they focused on live shows and a variety of rare merch (count yourself damn lucky if you've got one of the lightning bolts and Petrian cross shirts in your collection), it was up to the six songs of the S/T to keep the torch burning for those outside of WB's tour radius. Thankfully, the wide range of flavors and styles packed into the album made that a working solution.
Now the four-piece is back, having replaced their bassist with one who also does guitar and vocals, and offering up another six tracks of heavy, grimy metal. Opening up the new album with “Lesion”, the band lays down an icebreaker of a hard beat before swinging in the vocals, riding back to the beat, and then drifting off into looser riff exploration. The composition quickly establishes that a lot of the musical character from the first album is still present in force, and that the new bassist slots right in to the action. “Slaughterhouse” continues the fun by further blurring out the style boundaries, bringing together stoner rock, hard metal, and a bit of psych, while letting the focus center on the energy and flow. With the last track of the A-side, “Kumate”, they roll up another twisting ride, with drummer Jakob getting some spotlighting as he trades bashing flourishes with the guitars' snarls. The largely instrumental nature of the song makes for a cool way of recentering listeners, while the deeper psych journey of the song's latter half does solid work in drawing them back into the bumping groove.
Side B's “Opium” picks right up from there with still another hooky spine of a riff, alternating between tranced-out intonations and threatening growls on the vocal side. Moving quick (at two minutes and change) and hitting hard, it soon gives way to the more meditative “Story of a Drowning Man”, which brings probably the slowest drawls from the bass and guitars to be found on the album, while Jakob matches it with measured pace. Here is also where some of the most exposed emotional power comes through, with considerably less bluster and fury obscuring the singing, which moves to a reflective quietness. Things build in intensity, as you might expect, and as the main riffs strengthen their chording and volume, it's only a matter of time before the anger resurfaces, which it does in high style.
“Tsunami”, which you might have heard on last year's single to build hype for WB's return (along with non-album track “Home”), closes out the album with a tour through the assorted elements and inclinations preceding. Big, compelling riffs, contrasted with high-focus brooding and vocal alternation, do the title justice with the surge and ebbs they bring, while the finish is downright devastating.
An album to soak up the nuances of over numerous listening sessions, II shows that there's still plenty of fire in Wolf Blood's veins, and complements the debut with a number of intriguing adjustments to the baseline sound. Though there's not really any immediate howl along choruses like “Dancing on your grave!”, the confidence and skill of the band comes through with no obscuring. Vinyl's limited to 250 copies, tapes to 100, so if you want a physical instance of the album, you'd better act fast. More tour dates are already lined up, so hit those if you can, and keep ready for more to come from this crew.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Blood Farmers, Merlin, Mountain God, Shadowmaster, Stonerror




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Saturday, June 08, 2019

Tying Green Knots

Wykan - Brigid: Of the Night (2019)


About a year ago, we had our first encounter with the Canadian group of Wykan, through their debut EP, Solace. Though the band has since replaced their drummer and bassist (now operating with Dug Kawliss and Corey Thomas in those respective positions), their take on blackened doom with a slight twist of psych rock has been maintained and refined. Holding off on the harsher elements until the engagingly sparse melody which opens the first track (“Imbolc (The Cleansing)”) has pulled listeners thoroughly into its groove, the band shows a deeper care for how the energy of the songs works to the EP's structuring, and it's just one of the aspects which demonstrates not just polish, but fundamental improvement.
When the gurgling vocals from Barrie Butler kick in, they're underscored by a gnarly but clean-toned guitar presence, a dynamic held for most of the EP, serving up both contrast and some interestingly frictional harmonies. Established melodies are revisited with increased intensity, and in the space of just one (seven-minute) song, Wykan show how much work they've put into their song-writing in the intervening year. A smooth flow into song two, “Breo Saighead (Triple Goddess)”, marks yet another fine touch, with the rise in venomous attitude feeling like a natural progression, and the shifts in riffs are done without sacrificing any of the momentum.
Last of the Celtic-themed tunes is “Reul-Luil Bride (Star of Brigid)”, with guest drummer Simon McKay of The Agonist getting some spotlighting as he slides his compelling percussion work all about the drum-kit. Some more sweet riffing guides listeners out into the sounds of a forest fire, and then things are over. Production, performance, and composition are all done superbly throughout the EP, and the songs are captivating without feeling overwrought. Well worth checking out, this'll be available through Wykan's BandCamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, so there's no excuse for not giving it a twenty-minute test run.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Centipede, The Sleer, Trees, Trinacria, War Iron


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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Opposition Is Education...

The Progerians - Crush the Wise Men Who Refuse to Submit (2019)


The last time we covered the four-piece group of The Progerians was back in 2013 (geez, time flies), on their split with fellow Belgians OMSQ. Two years after that, they released their first full album, and now, they've returned with their sophomore LP, bearing four vinyl sides' worth of music.
Leading with the curiously-titled “Frankie Leads to Death” (on his way to Hollywood?), the album promptly establishes an evocative atmosphere with thick, rolling bass waves, shifting slowly from one tone pitch to another as a building intrusion of guitar grind hints at the violence in store. Dramatic vocals and synth squealing arrive to further disrupt the drone, before the plowing in of a steady beat shared by drums, guitar, and bass overturns things almost entirely, and the mood shifts to one of stern doom metal. The main riff swings wide and heavy, and the repetitions are given tasty changing inflections of character each go-round, working well to pull listeners in to the flow and make them eager to hear what else will come.
And, with “Destitute”, the album's second track, that hooky momentum picks up into faster, almost thrashy action, chugging out the riffs while the drummer fire off his beats. Hell, there's even some shredding unleashed towards the end, which, when put up against the tone of “Frankie”, serves as a pretty clear indicator to first-time listeners that the band will keep things moving into different territories throughout the album. “Hold Your Cross” shifts the tempo back down, but pulls another surprise with the vocals by flipping over to frenetic French retorts, a structure eventually mimicked by the instruments, and “Oceania” draws in more electronic textures for a creeping sense of wrongness.
With the first song of the second disk, “Crush the Wise Men”, The Progerians provide what could be argued as the most traditionally-styled of the album's songs, though it still brandishes plenty of uncommon edge. While the computer allusions of “Hello World”'s title don't manifest in further electronic nuttiness, there is plenty of guitar torture, and a splash of rawness evocative of sludge or crust punk, so you certainly can't fault them for predictability. Side C's last song, “Graven”, moves back to the sober-faced strain of doom teased by “Frankie”, deploying yet another sturdy riff through twists of percussion and vocal cadences.
On the last side, “Netjeret” brings more of the sludge/punk energy to the fore, which translates nicely into the worn-out come-down of album finisher “Your Manifest”. Across the album's run, the band does a fantastic job of pulling together the disparate styles and moods with a connective thread of persistent energy and attitude. There's ample depth to each song, plenty of details to absorb on revisits of the album, and impressive balance between the band-members. From start to finish, it's an engaging and very respectable piece of work, and fans both new and old will certainly find much to appreciate.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Asilo, Bell Witch, Body Void, Kalamata, Ksyatriya




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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Informed By Erosion...

Folian - Ache Pillars (2019)


Coming to us from the locale of Portland, Oregon, the latest release from one-man project Folian features four tracks approaching lingering pain and consumptive brooding from an uncommon angle. Mixing low-frequency oscillations, haunted vocals, meticulously-mixed string sparseness, and a bevy of shifting electronic textures, the music of Ache Pillars aims for tangential listening recognition, keeping a thick swaddle of ambiguity to the emotions and structural direction, but prodding out such intriguing combinations of its sounds as to demand an emotional response. Or a physical one, as goosebumps don't seem like an inappropriate reaction to the intersecting layers of reverb and delay banks.
Metal purists will probably be too weirded out or offended by the absence of genre boundaries to really dig the experience, but the near-half-hour ride is one which persistently demonstrates pains-taking efforts to fuse unpredictable emotionality with the unhinged electronics, with quite an impressive result. About half of the EP's run-time goes to the final track, “Where All This Dust Comes From”, which breaks from the momentum built by the preceding tracks' run in order to build its own upwards creep into claustrophobic tension. Something best taken all in one go, but each track shows different facets of musician David Fylstra's exacting technique and enviable creativity.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Gnaw Their Tongues, Pale World, Sutekh Hexen, Ulver, White Darkness




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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Maddened Subterranean Fury...

Gourd - Moldering Aberrations (2019)


Coming at us from Ireland like an assault on auditory immune systems, the latest EP from the two-piece of Gourd brings just under half an hour of filthy doom-soaked sludge, packed into three tracks. Leading off with “Befoulment”, Gourd insinuate creeping despair under unsteadily rising bass reverb, with vocal howls bleeding their notes right into the morass of fragmenting sustain. Treading a rough path through the distortion and growls, the band finds their way on to “Mycelium”, which finds firmer footing in a persistent bass undertow while the vocals struggle through the haze. Broken with a few instances of spoken-word samples, the dark miasma and hard edges of the feedback form a compellingly antagonistic vibe, without even a hint of posturing or pretense behind the attitudes and emotions on display.
Lastly, the title track (the video for which you'll find at the bottom of this review) brings with it some of the most traditionally-structured rhythms to be found on the EP, though they're quickly dropped in favor of the more nebulous rasping and rumbling bellows. Keening abrasion and dissonance are bent to the music's purpose, and multiple twists in volume, along with the song-writing's directions, keep things strange and stimulating. As short as it is, it makes for a harrowing experience, and one which is deeply impressive.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Body Void, Endless Floods, Leechfeast, Lifeless Gaze, Ulver




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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Circulation And Iteration...

Kavod - Wheel of Time (2019)


Coming to us from Italy, the group of Kavod are three guys finding ways to unburden their souls through their music. The three songs of this debut EP are the result of jamming and picking out pieces which they liked, and as a result, the tunes have a solid flow to their grooves, despite the variety of their styles. There's touches of post-metal, but for the most part, the music lets psychedelic metal tendencies guide its path, with carefully-handled rhythms and melody-building. The shifting of focus through the contributing instruments is done with similar slickness, keeping a grit to the tone while pushing for fluidity to the playing.
There's also, arguably, some prog flavoring to the deep consideration of the song-writing, but as the EP comes together at just over fifteen minutes, it's hard to get too firm a read on those inclinations. What it does clearly establish is that this crew is working with open ears and minds, leading to songs that are stimulating while being well-grounded in heaviness. With such an intriguing introduction, I personally can hardly wait to hear more from the group, and find myself especially curious to find how their style grows with the future releases.
~ Gabriel
 
For Fans Of; Asilo, Indukti, Reptensol, Stonerror, Ulver




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