Heavier Than Air

Drive My Temple Car

Got the fourth album by Queen Elephantine, a distinctive metal band who are situated at the “experimental” end of the genre, but working hard to martial their forces and weave a potent doomy brew from their massed guitars and two drumkits, while still retaining the iron grip of sturdy “minimalism” – in so far as that term can apply to rock. The band originally formed in Hong Kong in 2006, but only the guitarist Indrayudh Shome remains from that first line-up, and the band now reside in Providence, suggesting that the band now comprises a mix of Asian and American doomsters. Scarab (HEART & CROSSBONE HCB 047) contains four lengthy and lumbering cuts, all of them pushed along by drumbeats as hard as concrete, and where much effort and sweat is expended on summoning up a vague form of “tribal-ceremonial” vibe while still keeping all four of the elephant’s feet planted on the grim and doomoid terrain; it’s as though the religious procession and all its priests and pilgrims were being slowly dragged down into a deep black marsh, to the accompaniment of hammered gongs and the rich scent of incense. If that sounds depressing, remember that they died willingly, for a cause they believed in. Queen Elephantine’s group sound isn’t actually as ponderous as I make it appear; none of that excessive amplification and distorted guitars malarkey for them, thanks very much, and all their notes are uttered with a deathly, minimal precision, much like a slowed-down and less uptight version of Om. If this team were archers, then you’d better be wearing body armour. The presence of the tanpura (played here by Srinivas Reddy) certainly adds an additional exotic / psychedelic flavour to the general unhinged drone, while an uncredited vocalist adds a harrowing plaint from his perturbed throatal zones, paying scant regard to matching the tune or rhythm, just as long as the haunted tone is in the correct area. It’s also mightily impressive how the band maintains their murderously slow processional pace throughout, even in the teeth of pain and suffering; fans of interminable torture-filth like Khanate are advised to check in, and prepare for an endless ride on the Ratha Yatra temple car (or juggernaut, as some will have it). The quasi-mystical cover artworks are by Adrian Dexter. From 01 July 2013.

Fear and Loathing in Stockholm

In the same envelope, we gots a reissue of I, Guilt Bearer (HCB 046), a 2012 album by the Swedish black-sludge death metal combo This Gift Is A Curse; it’s a joint release with Discouraged Records (MMICD19), Black Wave (BWP003), and Ecocentric (E.R. #185), and includes four bonus tracks taken from the band’s self-titled EP. This Stockholm four-piece specialise in serving up large gobbets of hatred and abomination, flailing wildly as they scream out their extreme alienation, disaffection, and mean-spirited contempt for the world and all that’s in it. Even the label (which has a deep love of unlistenable, obnoxious grindcore) admits it’s a pretty “punishing” listen, while revelling in its psychotic qualities, and while most of that pathological evil stems from the constantly-hysterical screams of singer Jonas, the guitarist Patrik supplies a good deal of musical horror and alarm from his pitch-black instrument, veering wildly from full-on paranoia to terror-stricken claustrophobia. You get the feeling he could start a panic attack just by walking into a music shop to buy a new set of strings. I’ve no problem with confronting all of these wild negative emotions running around the room like red and green speed demons, but I still find this album a bit of a monotonous listen; every track is tuned to the same root note, pretty much played at the same speed, and the dynamic range throughout is extremely – erm – limited. It seems churlish to complain on these grounds though, as this is probably largely the point, and I’d imagine that great catharsis awaits any listener with the fortitude to endure to the end of this “hell ride through the disparate sicknesses of mankind”. Cover is adorned with various ritual Satanic imagery, involving bloodshed, flesh piercing, etc. in a forest at twilight. From 01 July 2013.

Godzilla vs The Kremlin

While still partial to the taste of excessive guitars and drumming, I turned with some delight to the Moweton mini-album Guitaroid Vs Megadrumster (INTONEMA int007). This duo, charmingly named as FX’d Ibby R-ock G-uitar and Trashy Soft, manage to squeeze 26 ultra-short tracks onto their 3-inch CD, and perform a strange species of mega-fast experimental hardcore mathrock, tempering the overall mayhem with unexpected jazzy major seventh chords, funky riffs, and avant-garde electronic noise. It defies rational sense how they manage to get away with violating so many musical taboos in such a small space, but they pull it off with gusto and zeal. The listening experience alternates between having six-inch nails hammered into the forehead at great speed, and being force-fed a series of small energy pills about the size of Smarties. A vitamin-enriched painfest it be. Moweton illustrate their work with one of the naffest and trashiest sci-fi disaster movie airbrushed visuals ever created, but don’t let this prevent you from investigating their insanely hyped-up music. This record sent from Russia is packaged together with…

Tickling Valmiera, performed by Astma featuring Edgars Rubenis. Just one track on here, shy of eight minutes in length, performed by the wonderful Alexei Borisov and Olga Nosova, joined by said Rubenis. This strange growling murk, enlivened with multiple swarms of electric bees, was made using guitars, bass, percussion, effects and electronics, and it inhabits a curious zone – a zig-zagging gaseous stormcloud of musical noise, throwing out strange bolts and shimmering like a vast, inedible fruit jelly. Apparently it’s an edited fragment from a concert the trio performed in Latvia in 2011. Why haven’t we got the whole gig? Maybe it was deemed to dangerous for human consumption. Now that I look at the cover drawing by Erik Shutov, I have to admit that his perceptive pen has come very close to illustrating the exact nature of the spiky abrasive sound herein. Very good. From 01 July 2013.

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