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Reviews Written by
Gavin Turner "Manbeast Warmachine" (Leeds)
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In Dreams And Time
In Dreams And Time
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ancestors - In Dreams and Time (98%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: In Dreams And Time (Audio CD)
This album has been a truly one-of-a-kind experience for me. I am completely new to this band and haven't looked back at their discography yet, so there'll be no comparisons to where they've come and how they've developed, but as an introduction this album stimulated me on every level good music should!

They're playing a wonderfully tasteful amalgamation of styles, all basically underpinned by doom guitars and a sort of 70's progressive organ sound, but without a detailed description, you can't be truly representative of the extent of Ancestors' aural achievements. They can crush you (Whispers!), they can take you on a trip (Corryvreckan/Running in Circles), they can make you feel introverted (the Last Return/on the wind) and they also offer moments of epic celebration for the extrovert (best track I've heard this year, First Light).

The closer is a compelling, emotive and utterly astonishing 20 minute epic which dissolves early into this cloud of sound which progresses to a gorgeous chord sequence lead by the bass and organ. These chords build and build while a story is told by a truly heroic guitar solo. I was marching through town in the wind and rain blasting this section on my ear phones and every time the last chord hit, the drums tumbling before smashing back in, the lead guitar making some melodic suggestion as to how much higher this epic can ascend I found my chest barely able to contend with the utter anticipation. And With jaw clenched eventually a thunderous rhythm guitar part comes in under this jam and it's a release I can only compare to seeing Sigur Ros perform 'Popplagiš' (Untitled 8) live. I'm thankful beyond words to the beings that created this album.

It's given me something to be certain of; that all of those blind corners awaiting us, big scary decisions or even the equally frightening concept of rusting out in monotony and routine, it's good to know there's music like 'In Dreams and Time' to fall back on... and things will be fruitful, colourful and meaning will continue to prevail.


Selenelion
Selenelion
Price: £15.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaura - Selenelion (98%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Selenelion (Audio CD)
Vaura are a collection of well known musicians based in New York (members of Kayo Dot, Gorguts and Religious to Damn) making music that truly transcends description (although Toby Driver jokingly described this as 'Weakling' meets 'The Police', with tonnes of other bands thrown in for comedy effect. If I had to pick two bands I would've said 'Krallice' and 'Echo & The Bunnymen').

Through art-rock, black metal and just avant-garde sensibilities in general, these experimenters communicate an extremely streamline vision of emotive mellancholy on an intelligent and mind broadening spectrum.

The guitars are really stacked up here to create lush fields of colour and character with melodies that glisten through on the wings of an astounding production. The musicianship is fierce and flawless, but more in the understanding of lyrical performance than in the level of virtuosity on display.

Vocally we're dealt a clean and morose tone bordering on the choral. This is very unique and delivered with touching sincerity. Shouty territory is also visited to immense and violating effect when and where appropriate.

It's hard to pick highlights on Selenelion because from start to finish the album is a completely consistent journey - a truly monolithic vision neatly knitted together with the musical syntax of a brilliantly conceived symphony. Saying that, however, my favourite track is probably the most aggressive offering on the album "The Emanation". Repeated listens have proven increasingly rewarding and I'm so incredibly connected to what Vaura have achieved here.


Empires Should Burn
Empires Should Burn
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Asva & Philippe Petit - Empires Should Burn - (97%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Empires Should Burn (MP3 Download)
With 2011's 'Presences of Absences', Asva created the absolute highlight of the year, and a release which became a momentous break through in my ability as a listener to appreciate drone. I can't explain what it is about Stuart Dahlquist's compositions that elicit such an emotional response, I think I've just been patient with his approach and at some point the textures in his music have become a part of me.

Empires should burn is actually a collaboration with fellow experimental musician and composer Philippe Petit, whose contributions are more inclined to fragmented, pointillist groupings of quite chromatic aleatoric melodies with a steeper attack than the culling drones. This engraves a far sharper silhouette around the faceless character drawn by the massive beds of nebulous ambience.

Joining Dahlquist and Petit, we're also introduced to various guest orators, each one given their own piece to deliver a poetic and disturbing spoken narrative over. I was particularly excited to read Jarboe had lent out her bewildering vocal talents. This music has an atmosphere that instantly gets into your blood. It feels like pausing life on the very moment before cataclysm befalls the earth (if in that last moment you felt fear and were weighed down by negative reflections).

The opening track is twenty-plus minutes of nightmarish, surreal and beautiful tension, with the dry lips of Edward Ka-Spel pressed firmly to your ear, telling you about a character, linked through his moniker to Cain, a religious allegory, the beta of man - son of the snake in the Garden of Eden. He is sat in isolation, hallucinating vividly that he has been trapped in a room since the dawn of time, and will still be there in the end. Images of the people he despises idolising him seems to warm him at times, the insanity soon turns to paranoia, a click of the fingers and everything changes... god delusions lead to murderous intentions. And if this allegory is meant literally, it's a very dark one. We leave Cain behind and the hammered dulcimer from the tracks introduction comes crashing in.

This level of art honours even tragedy, and feels almost premonitory to an event in America which shook the world, and took place mere months after the albums release. Listen loudly and with due respect, and what you will experience will frighten and enlighten you as much as it will reward you.


Sorrow & Extinction
Sorrow & Extinction
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction - (96%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Sorrow & Extinction (Audio CD)
In 2011 we had 40 Watt Sun bearing the torch for the monolithic, slow and harrowing melodic doom metal with an album that paid homage to just about every amazing doom band since the genre's conception. This year we have Pallbearer.

After a hugely promising demo they've successfully exceeded the hype with their first full length Sorrow and Extinction - A doom metal album that also references and builds on the music of every slow band that has ever mattered, with a huge sprinkling of their own retrospective charm and an ability to bleed every inch of heaviness out of their instruments.

The vocals are captured incredibly on what sounds like some old ribbon mic, giving it that 50/60's sort of distortion and analogue grainy-ness. Even though the vocalist sings with quite a high register, he sounds consistently confrontational and has an amazing ability to choose melodies that initiate an ecstatic response.

The guitar riffs are somewhere between YOB style chuggathons and Warning-esque single note harmonies, with lots of big pauses and feedback and all that kind of stuff. One of my favourite tracks is actually off the demo, and is called devoid of redemption. The symbiosis between the riffs and vocals in the last half of this song are unimaginably epic.

I return to this album regularly and find myself experiencing it in different ways, and so it's certainly had a real longevity alot of the music I listen to lacks. As far as doom is concerned, I can't see there being a release more grand than this any time soon.


Weather Systems
Weather Systems
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Anathema - Weather Systems - (96%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Weather Systems (Audio CD)
Anathema are back performing yet another soul jarring effort of borderline spiritual rock/post rock/ambient/electronic/metal which has left me breathless after every spin.

With Anathema, the song writing has always shone through - regardless of the production (which in retrospect has sometimes been a little adequate and flat when compared to this latest sonically pristine artifact). I loved 'We're Here Because We're Here' musically, but I think Steve Wilson's mixes are so 'safe' sounding and the aim seems to be toward clarity rather than dynamics.

The new album has a tonne of dynamics, and so many layers - it's like swimming in a rainbow of sound. The vocals are so epic they hurt, with more duets than ever. Both Vinny and Lee have improved to the point of almost being at a classical standard (who'd have thought Vincent Cavanagh would've reached these levels when the history is that he was shoe-ed in on vocal duties back during their doom years when Darren White left, at the time filling the void with a damn good impression of White's morose doomed moans/monologues and despairing screams).

Last years Falling Deeper impressed me on every level, and in a parting statement I said if Anathema could marry the lush orchestral harmonics and the more dynamic based structures to their usual rock textures, they would potentially produce their greatest material to date. I think weather Systems achieves exactly this.


Universum Infinitum
Universum Infinitum
Price: £14.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Omega Centauri - Universum Infinitum (94%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Universum Infinitum (Audio CD)
This is visceral and intelligent music. Intricate and challenging in all the ways Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord offer, with a grand production and scintillating atmospheres. This really is a masterful work. I like space. These guys like space. They also have the ability to translate the wonderment and vastness of the universe into musical form, with dream like melodies and huge progressive chord sequences over odd metrics making for an explorative vision of sound.

Lots of moments are almost through composed, with very little repetition and when things do re-occur it's like a spiral, with little details changing all the time. All this adds up to a pretty exhausting experience and I tend to listen to this album in little bursts rather than in one big go. But that's more my fault for not having the stamina to keep a firm grip as this vehicle twists and turns.

Being prolific has it's benefits, but can also mean output becomes watered down or ideas can be rushed and so not meet their full potential - this album was actually composed over a five year period (and so the opposite is in effect to the pitfalls of artists trying to be prolific). This really shows, just in the level of detail through the arrangements and fact that the album contains no filler whatsoever.

The instrumentalist and composer behind this project is called Tom Vallely, and has really honoured his vision for this band by taking his time on the recordings and compositions. I can't wait for the next installment, and will happily wait another 5 years if that'd mean it would be half this good!


Gamma Knife
Gamma Knife
Price: £13.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife - (93%), 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Gamma Knife (Audio CD)
Not really proud to admit this but one of the items on my bucket list is to be upstairs on a double-decker bus when it takes a corner too sharply at high speed and tips over. I wouldn't want to anticipate this, like arrange it, I'd just want it to happen tragically and spontaneously. And similarly the first feeling I get when test results come back clear from the doctors is disappointment. Which is morbid and bad but probably a natural thing? And thirdly, I did used to give thought to receiving brain surgery, knowing your face needed to be peeled off traditionally, but perhaps more terrifyingly, now they can do it by otherworldly methods, which are the subject of Kayo Dot's latest EP.

Gamma Knife gives me the sense of being suspended over my own body and having to witness the almost magical procedure in unblinking detail. The opening track is the haunting anesthetic that lulls you into a perceived 'out-of-body' or 'astral' state, with tubular bells and haunting choral vocals.

The following three tracks, which weave virtuosic discordance in a swirling, visceral and meditative musical display, are the procedure and the perceived horror. Allow yourself the intricacies of each instrument, and imagine each of these as the complicated methods used to incise the skull, to remove or replace the grey matter. All these little changes rewiring that which makes you who you are - your 'presence' or 'consciousness'. Or if you're more inclined - your spirit. And these three ghastly tracks have you witness that, willingly or not. You have to hover above yourself, knowing when you return to your awakening body in the final beautiful sonnet like ballad, whether for good or bad, you'll never feel the same.

I love this return to more traditional heavy timbres.


No Holier Temple
No Holier Temple
Price: £14.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hexvessel - No Holier Temple - (91%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: No Holier Temple (Audio CD)
Last year, Hexvessel blew my mind with their debut album 'Dawnbearer'. To produce a follow up less than a year later is virtually unheard of, but No Holier Temple has shown that the creative marriage between Mat McNerney and the musicians of Dark Buddah Rising is an immensely fruitful one!

This album does everything a successful follow up should, with an introduction of extra ideas. There's a fair bit of overdriven guitar growling away on this one, challenging the 'Neo Folk' element to the 'Occult Rock' of the debut with what can only be described as a sort of 'pagan doom'. All the while, not straying far from the mystical, new-age, spiritual and gypsy references at the music's core.

Imagine my glee. Late at night, loud in my headphones this album is private transportation for the spirit. A glorious commute to a land where the inanimate becomes animate and the structural occultation which is the veil we call 'reality' is challenged.

I think this album is stronger than Dawnbearer but I can't score it higher and the 'why' is simply that the debut earned superlative points purely based on my initial reaction, which was of ecstasy, surprise and wonderment.


Antique
Antique
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dead Forest Index - Antique - (91%), 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Antique (Audio CD)
A Dead Forest Index are a unique sibling duo from Australia making a totally engrossing music initiating eccentric-isms of independent and generally left-field artistry but on a sound largely rooted in folk-rock.

The vocals come at you in ever building layers, probably performed live using a loop station. At their best these voices create sorrowful pools of pastel shade to just plunge your face in to and have the cold currents of sound fill and cleanse your senses.

Anchoring The Hands is an amazing track which starts almost jovially with a catchy verse and flows into a nice hook in the chorus but earlier in the song than you expect, when the structure would normally continue to progress in a verse/chorus direction, it dissolves with a deep, pulsating, tribal interruption before a harrowingly soulful round of vocals begin.

This is invigorating and exciting stuff, which will grow on you and blossom into something very personal indeed. 'Antique' is an EP that has truly wet my appetite for A Dead Forest Index's debut full length.


Season of Raven Words
Season of Raven Words
Price: £5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Lethian Dreams - Season of Raven Words - (89%), 11 Jan. 2014
Lethian Dreams are French and play beautiful nature-inspired black metal/doom, packed with melody and emotion and fronted by a female vocalist. Very much coming from a similar place to fellow post-black metallers and citizens of France, Alcest and Les Discrets.

Vocally this lady reminds me alot of Amesoeurs' somewhat legendary vocalist Audrey Sylvain. Dripping with gothic melancholy and atmosphere. There's a certain dreariness to the mood that likens it to such doomy and emotional metal legends as Katatonia or Anathema. The riffs lend themselves more to the Burzum school of hypnotic meaningful 'axe'ploration - Maybe more appropriate to name some contemporaries - like Finnr's Cane or Lantlos would be more accurate, but still somewhat lazy comparisons.

There's rawness that gives this vitality. The ideas on display are startlingly crafted. White Gold is one of my favourite tracks with a stunning build up that makes me feel pressure behind my eyes and stirs up a storm inside me. Mentioning a high point on the album, but there are no dull moments here, just epic and communicative song writing that really reaches out.

This band don't appear to have even close to the recognition they deserve. I can't see that being the case for very long.


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