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Reviews Written by
Gavin Turner "Manbeast Warmachine" (Leeds)

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Price: £9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deafheaven - Sunbather - (91%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Sunbather (Audio CD)
Taken from my last fm journal: [...]

I've had a recent lull in review writing and it has lead to an intimidating backlist of stuff to get through. I partially blame Sunbather for this, as for some reason big releases can give me writer's block - to excuse myself, I think this is because so many people have had their say on this work and I didn't want to either trip over someone else's ideas or find myself being objectionable over some of the choice descriptions I've read and found pretty inaccurate. Now all that's out of sight and mind and I actually feel slightly awake for the first time in two months - hopefully I can get back on the mission. This fourth release by Deafheaven is by far their best work - and that's not to the discredit of the demo or `Roads to Judah', which both helped the band carve their firm and exciting niche.

But Sunbather? Sunbather! With guitars that seem to flawlessly and effortlessly conjure the most beautiful and sophisticated chord sequences accompanied by heart wrenching, epic and expressive embellishments - this harmonic journey is not only a fresh approach within the black metal landscape, but as far as the horizon, the territory seems unfamiliar.

This album definitely contains black metal, as far as an aural energy goes, but if you're the type to procrastinate over descriptions you'll vehemently defend the stance that this is obsolete from that particular crowd - and in fact, purists would be excused for vomiting blood and spitting fire out of their ears (or whatever) at the thought of allowing some handsome, young, cocksure San Franciscans anywhere near their precious kvlt of ugliness, bitterness, morbidity and despair. But the fact remains, this draws on black metal for it's fervour.

I've tried to hear a wasted moment on this album, a cut corner, but I can't and it's not there. I even love the interludes. I really thought I was going to have an issue with the fact that the atmosphere comes across as a sort of suffocating love-sick suburban tragedy, with life really getting on top of these kids who've just found talent comes very easy (it's easy to feel envious), but then I found myself picturing this atmosphere through the more critical and objective lens offered in the spirit of films like American Beauty, or the graphic novels of Daniel Clowes (think Ghost World) and Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings).

So in short, the reason why everyone's talking about Sunbather is it's a genuine masterpiece with an incomprehensible breadth of appeal. It's impossible not to feel - from passion to loss and longing to contentment when those melodies find you.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bölzer - Aura - (89%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: aura (Vinyl)
There's a certain amount of sheer lunacy laced in the crushing death metal, which steamrolls over me, twisting me into a contorted, grinning slowly dying mess, using my last breaths to hum Bölzer riffs.

New Zealand born but Swiss based, it's easy to work out how mountainous etymology is translated into a riffing style that's so huge, it amuses and entertains. With every change of section I find myself coughing out an "urgh" or an "oof" like a Pantera fanboy with tourettes.

Some of the tremolo picked riffs are played with such blurring speed, I imagine a humongous, winged centaur gliding through the cosmos and punching and slapping stars and planets out of existence, just for the glee of it, like a young child popping bubbles, or a cat chasing flies.

There's a definite alcohol soaked rock'n'roll feel to this that is reminiscent of the punkier/grindier early Mastodon material, and this element gives Bölzer an almost fun/party-ish vibe that puts a smile on my face - but combined with some seriously streamlined menace and brutallity, it all makes for a perfect accompaniment to a heroic drinking session. This is a really rare sound, so uplifting, energetic and moving - I can't wait for more.

Price: £10.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Csejthe - Reminiscence - (88%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Reminiscence (Audio CD)
This Canadian melodic black metal onslaught holds a candle up to the dark and takes the listener on a descriptive and volatile journey. Reminiscence was like a twin to Vallendusk's 'Black Clouds Gathering' for me, dropping at the start of spring, the perfect season for this kind of listening.

The way the beat falls out in the albums title track and a new frighteningly expressive chord sequence comes in, it's like for a moment we're lost, until cohesive elements introduced back into the fold. The drums are expertly executed in this steady application of tension, once the choirs are in, you can comfortably vanquish any doubt that we are dealing with one of 2013's TRUE epics.

Can you suggest it's possible to light a fire under Drudkh? Some might argue not, but that's exactly what Csejthe sounds like to me.

Known Flood
Known Flood
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Sannhet - Known Flood - (85%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Known Flood (MP3 Download)
The ripples caused by Sannhett's live performance are what lead me to checking them out, to my delight `Known Flood' had, as if by fate, just dropped. The album is largely instrumental, and has a pitched intensity that only relapses between tracks in brief moments of sound design/samples.

The music is in itself descriptive, dark, sharp and frenetic, like post-rock band Kokomo during their ear peeling epic moments but with added black metal like Bosse de Nage and occasional nods to Isis/Cult of Luna's style of monolithic and engaging post-metal.

This band reflects an accurate realisation of a very current blend of sounds admirably well, and provides me with everything my ears are thirsting for at the moment.

I'm just envious that without a trip to the states, I'm probably not going to get to see this band doing what they do best anytime soon. I strongly advise checking out some of the quality live bootlegs provided by unARTigNYC on youtube.

Sidereus Nuncius
Sidereus Nuncius
Price: £6.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Apocynthion - Sidereus Nuncius - (85%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Sidereus Nuncius (MP3 Download)
These post black metal Spaniards arrived on the scene last year with a luminescent lantern for their respected musical niche in their astounding debut. They've exceeded themselves with Sidereus Nuncius, which is an emotional journey paralleling the mechanisms of inner and outer space . All these subtle notes, flavours and colours, from hope to despondency, despair to perseverance.

The music is just as diverse as the obvious pier, Alcest and along side the likes of Les Discrets, this is probably one of the most thematically realized 'blackgaze' albums which hasn't come from the 'bedroom black metal' aesthetic, which I personally believe yields the most personal and touching results within this genre - but again, there's one thing the shoegaze-y black metal scene is missing and that is bands that deliver these magical, deep and complex compositions to a live stage setting. I commend Apocycnthion for doing that, and really hope to witness it for myself some day.

Price: £15.01

4.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of Every Season - Amends - (83%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Amends (Audio CD)
The Fall of Every Season is an excellent progressive metal solo project from Norway, With a definite vision and heaps of talent, 'Amends' is every bit as good as was expected. Busy and full arrangements, rich acoustics and gut wrenching distorted guitars playing a 'melodoom' somewhere between swallow the suns majestic melancholy and anathema's weepy progressive emotional rock.

This is enough positivity for me to be able to deal with an obvious observation, that being both the screamed and clean vocals are identical to Mikael Akerfeldt's (of Opeth fame). I can hear that Marius Strand is singing with his TRUE voice though, so I can't criticize the project for this, only reflect on how for me it semantically raises issues that I have developed with Opeth over time.

The size of this production is staggering, and certainly for more commercial metal enthusiasts, this should be complete soul-food - because where I find most commercial metal totally void of content, this project is packed with really scintillating moments.

Price: £10.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gehenna - Unravel - (81%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Unravel (Audio CD)
Black Metal from Norway carries an automated stamp of authenticity - it starts to look like these musicians can do little wrong, purely based on the geographical circumstance of their birth. But there really is more to it than that. And that is - we truly do become shaped, conditioned and influenced by our natural or even unnatural surroundings.

Gehenna is very successful at simplistic, primal and secular black metal, with nullifying repetitions that seem to stretch out and emulate the expanse of Norwegian wilderness. Like Vemod, Gehenna feels like a culminating, leading-edge representation of what a nation with such an impeccable legacy should still be producing.

The World Ends
The World Ends
Price: £17.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Ov Hollowness - The World Ends - (80%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The World Ends (Audio CD)
Ov Hollowness is a solo project hailing from Canada. Mark R. is the heart and mind at work behind what can only be described as a vast and extreme musical landscape. Ov Hollowness shows a reach and ambition nothing short of visionary - when an old school black metal riff suddenly explodes into decadent melodic death metal. Modern black metal is possibly best description for this work (going by the big production, progressive structures/styles and the melodic content in general) and alongside bands like Agrypnie, the argument that modernity can only infringe on the true archaic spirit of black metal is being weakened further still (and for the better). Things are not that cut and dry anymore.

It's such a pleasure to listen to albums that can traverse separate territories in music without losing that all important central sense of character. From riff to riff the quality you hear challenges the very best output by bands that have risen to the top of the metal genre (bands such as Amon Amarth) and adding the important elements that fans of new or more obscure music crave - sophistication in the primal, epic and melodic compositions which connect with the specters of our ancestry in the callousness and ferocity of the delivery.

Price: £14.78

4.0 out of 5 stars The Flight of Sleipnir - Saga (75%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Saga (Audio CD)
After a fair few listens, I'm still struggling as to whether or not this album is a masterpiece, or just an average folky doom/sludge album. In the majority of occasions, I usually discover when music keeps me coming back and trying again and again, eventually the 'breakthrough' occurs, but with The Flight of Sleipnir's - Saga, I'm still agonizingly perched on the fence. I wouldn't disagree with anyone who said the former, but I would empathise with anyone who found it mediocre.

It's one of the first albums I listened to this year and it has taken me until April to approach this review. With dreary, perfectly tempered vocals heading music which polarizes between folk, psychedelic rock, black metal and doom, Saga does not lack for ambition. I find the strongest sections musically are in the acoustic arrangements, which also have a physically absorbing production (I can honestly feel the crisp plosive-ness of the steel-stringed acoustic guitar like ice cracking in my sinuses).

The heaviness only occasionally transcends from quite run-of-the-mill (but nevertheless quality) rock/doom riffs to the truly hair raising elemental catharsis The Flight of Sleipnir are capable of. `Demise Carries With it a Song' is a very beautiful track which begins with the raging spirit of Primordial and ends with a simply fantastic waltzing riff in the vain of In The Woods. Time is still on our side, I will love this album completely.

Christs, Redeemers
Christs, Redeemers
Price: £11.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Body - Christs, Redeemers 9. - (95%), 11 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Christs, Redeemers (Audio CD)
With a reputation as one of the weirder, more over-whelming and just down right nasty left-field experimental doom bands, The Body bring their perfectly judged cacophony of masoconventionism to eerie new spectacular heights with the much anticipated `Christ's, Redeemers'. With murderous folky ballads provided by a female vocalist over droning tonal poems, there is also new emotional threads being sewn, particularly in `Night of Blood In a World Without End' when the line "The pain of living holds no victory" reigns out over the preceding filth ridden, amp blowing scuzz fuzz and battery.

I could always imagine Lee Buford and Chip King wryly grinning as they implemented their earth shattering compositional arsenal, but during `Christ's, Redeemers' it feels like the earth, sky and waters turn to grey and happiness or joy is recognised as just a pitiful little spark, neurons firing to protect and blanket us, an emotion that serves very little evolutionary purpose and, actually, the pursuit of joy or beauty or contentment could be reflected upon as a very counter intuitive or destructive thing, seen as though it is always relevant to one's circumstance. People who wilfully pursue their own happiness probably only enjoy short lived relationships, are unreliable, are at a base level deeply selfish. But they're happy so surely that's the meaning of living? If you ask me, that's cold and wrong and sort of fundamentally ignorant. Once again, happiness is no more than a fizzy bit of electricity in your head. The vast majority of life doesn't even have the capacity to be `happy'. It just does and is and fulfilling real instincts that nurture the body is energy better spent than hungering for a mirage of a feeling that just moves further away every time you grasp it for a moment.

`Denial of the Species' is one of the stronger tracks The Body have ever produced, with that characteristic trip-hoppy glitch under the dredging hopelessly punishing guitar.

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