Tagged: Post-rock

As the Stars: a work of soundscaping art that needs something extra

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Woods of Desolation, As the Stars, Northern Silence Productions, digiCD / LP NSP 119 (2014)

At least the fellow behind Woods of Desolation has a great sense of humour in releasing this album on St Valentine’s Day in 2014. This recording, the third full-length for this Australian act, is set in the realm of depressive ambient black metal, with longing and a sense of the impermanence of things and of nature being strong themes here. At the same time  there are signs of hope and movement towards a brighter, more radiant world. There is beauty of a mellow and introspective kind present in the music, both BM and clean-toned, and the guitar layers have a shimmering brightness. Drumming by guest musician Vlad (of Ukrainian band Drudkh) is steady and anchors the music, allowing WoD main-man D to throw all his energies into maintaining a good flow and a  substantial ambience throughout the recording.

“Like Falling Leaves” introduces the album in grand style: there’s a slight melodic folk element in some of the instrumental passages and the song vibrates with a rich shimmering almost-summery texture. The vocals are not too clear but they are very harsh and tend to blend in with the music so they become an additional musical element rather than something separate. Each succeeding song has its own mood and ambience though the change in atmosphere from one track to the next is not abrupt or jarring. “Unfold” continues some of the grandness of the first song and adds an uplifing feel in the riffing and rhythms. This spirit of richness and radiance continues in the next couple of tracks.

“Anamnesis” is a weak link in its repetition and for not substituting something original for missing vocals – an opportunity for the band to break out of a rut and explore different if related musical territory is lost here. “Withering Fields” is a solid track that restores the album’s flow and richness but it falls to outro track “Ad Infinitum” to recall the majesty of the earlier tracks: it does so in a rousing way with shrill vibrato guitar lines, moments of quiet solitude and an underlying message of hope and optimism.

The band has crafted an album strong on atmosphere, melodic layered grandeur and a hopeful, positive mood. Radiant beauty is to be found right across all tracks in the music and its ambience. However over the course of the album the band does not build much on the foundation of a rich layered music and this makes for an above-average recording of consistent performance rather than a really outstanding work of originality and heightened emotion with peaks and troughs. Originality and a risk-taking approach that might include additional instrumentation, an extra vocalist or some deliberate toying around with the band’s essential black metal / post-rock style would have been welcome.

Contact: Northern Silence Productions

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Anarchic: an intriguing work of dark atmospheric transcendental black metal art

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Skagos, Anarchic, The Flenser, CD (2013)

At this time of writing, “Anarchic” is an enigmatic work: not all of it has been released. The album under review contains the first five movements of what will be a work of seven parts (to be released on CD on The Flenser label in April 2013; I’ve heard the album online). There may be significance in that – why seven parts altogether and why must the recording be broken up into two very unequal sections? – but until the rest of the work comes out, we can only speculate. Perhaps there is a cosmic significance which may or may not be part of Skagos’ overall worldview.

The work begins slowly, as if waking up, and proceeds cautiously with wistful pure-toned singing and quiet solo guitar melody. When the black metal kicks in, it does so suddenly and at a fast pace: there’s not much fanfare at all. There’s a post-metal feel to the trilling guitars that reminds me a little of Caina; the sound is clean and quite crisp, and even the grim BM-styled vocal is merely deep and growly. Wistfulness, a near-angelic choir of sorrowful-sounding voices and beauty go hand in hand with harsh vocals, a sometimes choppy rhythm and lots of metallic crunch and pounding percussion.

What constitutes “Side A” seems fairly self-contained if a little all over the place. “Side B” starts quietly but more confidently and with guitar and what appears to be organ working together. The lyrics, whether spoken, sung or chanted, recast the act of creation as an act of violence, nature as the physical embodiment of rage and pain, and humanity as the conscious tool of nature’s vengeance against its remote and indifferent creator. Despite this nihilist concept of the universe, the track is a very beautiful one, full of defiance and despair, and the ambient effects used are sparkling and wondrous indeed. “Side B” is less black metal musically than the previous but is a darker track.

“Side B” is a much more focused and intense piece and is full of mystery and wonder. It can be quite a transcendental work that lifts your awareness to another realm: proof that you don’t need repetitive, droning and monotonous music to reach a state of being receptive to the power of the universe and that there are many ways to connect with the higher powers around you. The music is very beguiling and takes you to a place where you just want to stay forever and never return to the mundane affairs of planet Earth. You know humanity is on a collision course with Fate anyway so you wouldn’t be missing much that is worth dragging you back for.

This album is an intriguing work of dark transcendental black metal art and might well be on many people’s top ten black metal album lists for 2013.

Contact: Eternal Warfare, The Flenser

Source: heathen-hymns.blogspot.com

Drought: mighty black metal / post-rock fusion packed tightly into mini-album EP format


Deathspell Omega, Drought, Season of Mist CD SOM810 (2012)

Another mighty missive from Deathspell Omega in the form of an EP and it’s a surprise in that the band is expanding its sonic range into something more atmospheric, doomy and emotional. Opening track “… I had a salowe vision” (sic) is a brief yet astonishing foray into intense and bleak apocalyptic post-rock of ringing chords and lots of dark, anguished space recognisable to fans of Caina and Godspeed You Black Emperor perhaps. “Fiery Serpents” explodes upon us in all its heavy, intricate yet melodic black metal fury: stop-start rhythms, nuclear-powered drumming, constantly twisting and turning arrangements, and occasional swanky passages of staccato riffing and drum rolls all overlaid by the familiar gnarly-snarly vocals. All tracks are very short and stop very abruptly and you wonder how the band manages to control its energy so well that each song is clear and distinct from the others yet managing to pack so much in the way of melody, rhythm and intense aggression into the space of about 3 – 4 minutes.

Already we’re halfway through the EP with “Sand”, a confident swaggering piece with an off-kilter counter-melody to the main tune played on sparkle-toned electric guitar. “Abrasive Swirling Murk” quickly pushes it aside with a complicated rhythm structure and more of those stuttering guitar riffs. This track builds down to a middling post-rock pace and (but for a brief pause) segues into “The cracked book of life” which unusually perhaps for DSO is a long instrumental piece of ambient post-rock groove with a trumpet loop surrounded by heavy guitar crunch and grind. A long mournful clean-toned guitar solo underlines the anguish of existence in which belief in a loving God is futile because God does not care about humanity and its misdeeds.

The recording may be very short (it’s only 20 minutes in total) but there is such a lot pressed into it that even DSO regulars must hear it a few times to register what the band has done. Parts of the album can be trippy and quirky in the way guitar chords and notes can sometimes appear off-key against the rest of the music. The musicians are delving much deeper into the territory of atmospheric post-rock and might be taking on an avantgarde jazz influence as well, all the while maintaining a firm grip on their black metal foundation with their fuzzy rhythm guitars. As usual, the DSO lyrics are very dense and quite a mouthful for the vocalist to chant through. I’m now accustomed to the idea of DSO releasing mini-albums instead of longer recordings: the mini-album format suits the band’s music very well. The musicians limit their exposure to their own stark and unwavering intensity or they might end up absorbing too much of the radiant energy that their instruments release.