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Gavin Turner (Leeds)

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The Destroyers Of All
The Destroyers Of All
Price: £15.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All (84%), 26 May 2011
This review is from: The Destroyers Of All (Audio CD)
Here we have a big slab of emotive, evil, avant-garde Progressive blackened death metal. From the opening notes, I could tell this was right up my street.

I'm not a big follower of straight up death metal, and generally find it fairly exhausting to digest. I have a great appreciation for the technicality of it, and especially enjoy seeing good death metal bands live. But beyond that, I usually need something more out of my music to be able to sit and listen happily for 40+ minutes.

Ulcerate are quite new to me, and have a slightly different approach to the morbid brutality of the (somewhat tired) genre. As far as the guitars are concerned, speed and technicality is sacrificed for a far darker, slower and more compositional approach. Something more akin to bands like Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Ehnahre or Nihil (essentially death metal on a hot dose of Ved Buens Ende).

The guitars literally make me feel like I'm sliding down a steep wet embankment into a pitch black pit filled with Lovecraftian horrors. It is awesome. One guitar is playing clash-y melodies quite high up the neck, while another is plodding and bending around on the low notes. It doesn't just serve to omit a sense of dread and horror through the epic macabre dissonance; it's actually really quite clever stuff.

The vocals have Eric Rutan written all over them. Very devastating loud and low shouts and growls.

The drums trip me up a little bit. It's fast and technical, and at times doesn't even seem to follow the guitars, which works on one level, but on the other, it feels like the drummer was really intent on showing technical flare and speed, where it might've suited the overall feel better if he'd dropped the clinical blasts for looser jazzier style black metal drumming. This is really just a point of preference though.

Anyway, I think this album is going to be on repeat in my ears for some time to come. It's revived something that was fairly dead to me, and I have a feeling this release is going to be very popular with almost every scene in underground metal.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2011 3:21 PM BST

Polyimage of Known Exits
Polyimage of Known Exits
Price: £3.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Tartar Lamb II - Polyimage of Known Exits, 26 May 2011
Tartar Lamb has evolved into Tartar Lamb II. What has changed? Seemingly we're being treat to an entirely different ensemble; however, it's still a subsection of Kayo Dot. If you don't like Kayo Dot, leave now. If you do. Proceeeeed.

Toby Driver is an unevil genius of music. His compositions are utterly unique in every way. And so, the sounds and textures he presents in his various projects are almost completely foreign on the ear. Some might translate this as abrasive. To me, it's just the most glorious high-art. At times, its difficult aural flavours and melodies take a few listens to really understand, but the majority of the time the music is immeasurably communicative and emotional.

The piece is split into four movements which are depicted as tracks on the release.

I have to keep this section brief... The composition is "restricted" to a small collection of instruments. The same massive bass sound which is used on Coyote is Toby's weapon of choice. Then we have brass and woodwind... some electronics and samples... some synths... Some vocals... No Violin... No Guitar... Very little in Percussion...

I knew I was going to find this difficult to put into words. The texture this collection of instruments creates is extremely smooth and flowing and allows for progressions to move and evolve without ever needing to punctuate themselves in a conventional time frame leaving the music itself extremely loose and open to endless interpretation through its performance.

The melodies contained within are bordering on harrowing. Partly for the album's subject matter, which is the days after the passing of Toby Driver's friend Yuko Sueta, whose last days were also chronicled in Kayo Dot's latest full Length 'Coyote'. Toby Driver's sadness and melancholy is completely on display here in a way none of his compositions have shown before. The place we're taken as listeners feels more unnerving to me than his visits to the 'Lugubrious Library Loft'.

The occurrences of sound played on the bass are fairly pointillist, with a continuous bed of tumbling chords created by the brass, synth and woodwind. The bass's sporadic licks sound quite literally obsessive around a certain motif. Very similar to the first Tartar Lamb, Sixty Metonymies in that sense. It creates a somnambulant mood over time, although with it, urgency... I suppose that's why I've found this music chameleonic of my mood?

Anyway, here's to hoping Toby writes an essay on this piece because it's allot to get your head around and dissect, and any help to solve the massive puzzle would be hugely appreciated.

Toby Driver took a risk, using Kickstarter to fund this project! In doing so he had to raise $6000 in donations before a certain date, which he did. There's still hope for our world.

This review doesn't do Polyimage of Known Exits justice at all, but what words could? Go forth and experience it.

Price: £15.21

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fen - Epoch (69%), 26 May 2011
This review is from: Epoch (Audio CD)
Fen are one of the leading bands for modern UKBM (please excuse me using that abbreviation, I'm not sure it amounts to anything, the bands in this 'movement' aren't really related, nor are they aurally similar, there's just a few good ones out there now so someone needed a term to ring-fence them, and yes, they share this pokey island) and with good reason. Their influences sit proudly on their sleeve and what they do they do well. Epoch doesn't perhaps raise the bar for this nations black metal output, but it's definitely a solid contribution.

I don't like making comparisons unless a band sort of invites it and here I feel there is an invitation to mention Agalloch and Alcest in so far as the melodies often sound happy or sort of hopeful. I think the intent is to sound more malicious, but the compositions seem to find themselves naturally falling into some major scale progressions.

Their previous and first album, The Malediction Fields, is an album I've returned to time and time again, mainly because I never fully got my ear around it. It has an obscure atmosphere and a ferocity that swells from a very tonal leaning.

Epoch isn't that different really. Although on first listen I enjoyed it a lot more, and subsequent listens have been increasingly rewarding. There's still sections where the synths sound clashy with the guitars and everything is piling up a little chaotically. Also the happy sound to some of the riffs distracts my ear a little, especially when the vocal delivery is bile filled and fueled with anger.

However, strange and wavering clean sounds cast a veil over blackened riffage making a 'listening to emperor while watching Twin Peaks' vibe. There's more middle ground covered here than on the previous effort, something between the all out paganistic anger and folky/experimental passages.

The vocals go through lots of transformations. Mainly, a focus on a hoarse rasp, but occasionally we're treated to some clean singing and lower growls which sound superb.

There's a deeper well for inspiration here than just extreme metal and it's perhaps more rewarding to listen around the abrasive elements. But for now, I'm finding this slightly easier to digest than the first album and I'm happy to recommend it to anyone trying to build a catalogue of standout metal releases this year.

Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dornenreich - Flammentriebe (89%), 26 May 2011
This review is from: Flammentriebe (Audio CD)
This is an absolute powerhouse of an album. Germanique long standers on the glorious Prophecy Productions label. The band offer up black metal that feels intricately woven with our ancestry, but not in a cheesy 'swords and sandals' way, more the presentation Primordial offer. What hit me first is the unique vocals, growled and chanted in German. Rolling 'R's and spitting 'P's... So much conviction. Wish I understood the lyrics, as from all accounts they're really good. It's not massively original, but for me it's great to hear something tried and tested done so well that it pricks my ears up.

The Violinist isn't exactly a Virtuoso, but the rough around the edges bits really help Dornenreich's over all cause, in so far as I can hear he has a bit of gypsy in his tone and style, which is a more favourable sound to black metal than a classically trained violinist's offering would be.

Every song is unique, with a great dynamic and progressive structure and as a result, the album doesn't drag on at all (unlike this review, yawn). The musical pallet from which they paint is clearly varied and colourful, with all guns blazing moments of epic violence to harmonious acoustic passages. It's all superlative. The great mix on the album means nothing is left to the imagination... every instrument has its place, but there's enough bleed into each others' frequencies and space for the occasional wall of sound effect. And I must say not only are the riffs highly memorable and mesmerising, they're played with a belter of a tone!

Straight up as good as it gets... goodness.

Roads To Judah
Roads To Judah
Price: £10.34

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deafheaven - Roads To Judah (88%), 26 May 2011
This review is from: Roads To Judah (Audio CD)
Wowza. Where did these guys come from? A better question might be; where are they going? The answer, they're going to be huge and popular, and for now, they're popular with us kvlt lovers (more or less) but not for long as this is what's going to take the horrible phrase 'hipster black metal' straight to the door of all the kids who are quite happy to be spoon fed watered down rubbish by mainstream metal magazines and moozik video channelziz... But that does not detract from the fact that this is so good it hurts.

Epic epic chord progressions played blurringly over savage muscular blasting. Beautiful, sad melodies more akin to post-metal than black metal saw over the essentially black metal body of the song. Vocals that are screamed and grim and exist aurally somewhere between WitTR and the fathers of this brand of black metal; Weakling.

Slightly watered down? Well no doubt a big divider of the kvlt hordes... but who really gives a damn about that now? I've already given that too much attention. It's a damn fine album that makes their demo look weak, but only in comparison as before hearing the album the demo was a sturdy little release!

Very strong contender for a top ten list. If there's more to come from bands of a similar ilk, this is going to be a very good year.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2012 1:46 PM BST

The Agent That Shapes The Desert
The Agent That Shapes The Desert
Price: £15.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Virus - The Agent That Shapes the Desert 81%, 26 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have so so much love for this Norwegian band and I've been counting the days to this coming out. It's my first official Album of 2011 too, so getting off on the right foot! Carl-Michael Eide was one of the limbs in Ved Buens Ende with creative brethren Vicotnik, until they disbanded, seemingly because at the time nobody got what they were doing, lots of reviews and such claiming they didn't know how to tune (let alone play-) their instruments; when in fact, they were extremely ahead of their time (Only need to listen to Mastodon who did essentially the exact same thing with their guitars only with punk at their core rather than black metal). Then after Carl's fall VBE reformed, only for Carl to realise he wanted to do a project where he had 100% creative say and Vicotnik knew his own VBE input could be recycled in Dodheimsgard. Thus came Virus.

This album is the third in a series of completely cult releases and is still essentially avant-garde rock with leanings toward epic black metal sensibilities. It is not a big departure from previous album The Black Flux, which is a good and a, well it's just a good thing really (more later-ish).

Anyway, No hiding behind horrible frequencies to horrify the listener, just genuinely intricate guitar work. It really is a genuinely unique sound with lots of minor first intervals bleeding into one another creating beating effects that only a specific guitar tone and tuning can compliment (a fairly raw but clean sound with lots of clink and string noise). It's actually bordering on virtuoso stuff and is a whole new school in riff writing which I hope more bands can tap into and put there slant on it (Not just Mastodon (And whirling (And Acolyte) ) ).

The vocals here are, as always, a strong point and coupled with the riffs, it's majestic, maddening and ultimately charming. Maybe not quite as epic as previous releases though. They're a little dryer and louder in the mix making them slightly more uncomfortable and some of the atmosphere is lost. The vocal performance is, however, great. I imagine Czral (the kvlt version of 'Carl') didn't want to have to hide any of that under reverbs, even though it would have worked really well. This might be just me though.

Album closer 'Call of the Tuskers' has guest vocals from 'pappa wolf' Kristoffer Rygg... really eventful and extremely good track. These guys are good friends so it's touching to hear, not to mention we've got very used to hearing Garm's voice over lush strings and eerie electronics, so nice to have some solid riffs giving it more melodic grounding.

The themes as I interpret them are about erosion/evolution/nature/death/renewal and are all good in my book. Raw energetic and organic music about something other than human emotion... it's strange, but it works. The natural world is a place of wonder, it's a disturbing place we don't fully understand yet and Virus twist this enigma into something surreal and predatory.

Do I wish they'd further departed from their sound on The Black Flux? Well I was surprised they didn't, but at the same time, there's years ahead of us for Carl to explore new territory. I'm not the type of person who'd hold a successful continuation of a sound against a band.

Pretty Little Lightning Paw
Pretty Little Lightning Paw

5.0 out of 5 stars A veritable feast for the ears., 14 May 2010
Picked this up the other day knowing microphones in the trees is a classic Silver Mount Zion live track and hoped the material surrounding it on this pretty little EP would be as good. And it is! Hurrah!

This is a different approach from usual SMZ material, to the point where I'd say this is almost a satellite project with Effrim at it's core. It's as if the change in name (the silver mountain reveries) was almost done for significance, and not just because it's a display of open/fervent/unconventional spirit.

The vocals come across beautifully and anything grating about the usual organic delivery is covered up by some original effects and production techniques.

The compositions are experimental and make excellent use of repetition in unusual time signatures. This creates somnabulent and surreal soundscapes. Excellent and effective listening after a hard day at the grind.

Most of all the actual melodies are just crying with emotion. It's hard to sit on a bus and travel out of a city, looking at pedestrians grey faces and poorly expression, then moving on into the outer city areas with old archetectural cadavers; crumbeling and unusued, while listening to this hopeful (but futile) transmission. It's another plea for all the tragedies of human kind in general.

It grabs any hope you have in a tight fist, shows you it's beauty and then turns it over to show you it's futility. Then it says, persevere!

Price: £13.22

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I found this so disturbing and moving., 30 April 2010
This review is from: Coyote (Audio CD)
Kayo Dot have another sterling release here.

No where near as difficult as Blue Lambency Downward but some how a lot more uncomfortable.

The albums subject matter is realised absolutely (Good friend Yuko Sueta's story of terminal illness and a journey through solitude and suffering), and anyone who can connect through sympathy or empathy is going to find this a difficult and even at times tear jerking journey.

Instrumental forces are approached in a new way, and the bass has an amazingly ominous character about it. The violin seems joined at the hip to the brass instruments. This combined voice yearns over the walking bass and is a wonderous texture.

The melodic idiosyncrasies are still Toby Driver's unique colour. As lush, if not more so, than some classics such as Immortelle and Paper Caravelle.

The biggest change is the rhythm. Constant and pounding. Not unpredictable. It makes a support for the tension and increases the sensation of an actual journey rather than a series of experiences outside of a conventional time frame.

There's not much for Kayo Dot critics to hold onto here. It's an album of both amazing and original music.

Horses In The Sky
Horses In The Sky
Price: £13.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please be well!, 16 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Horses In The Sky (Audio CD)
Every time I listen to this album, I hear something new in the compostions and like-wise I get a different message from each song. These songs are packed with interesting melodies which develope into rounds and other weird experimentations with the harmony lines. The slow builds with subtle changes seen on 'As the Sparks Fly Upward...' are not as patiently here, but are equally as effective and in alot of ways more accessible.

The vocals are crying with weakness and at times pleading with sadness, with a far more organic production than the previous two records (this organic production seemed to become the way-to-go, as side by side 'Collapse Tranditionals' and 'Horses in the Sky' are uniquely similar).

This gives the album a tonne of vintage charm, and a really classic tone.

I was disappointed that I loved this album instantly, (sounds strange that doesn't it) as I sometimes like to be so challenged that I'm not sure what I make of a CD, as I'm more intrigued to return to it and ultimately I build a better relationship with the music that way. HOWEVER. I started off loving this, and it's just getting better and better on each listen. I'm excited now. My feelings for Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra music is just getting more and more personal.

Newcomers of Sin
Newcomers of Sin
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy and long awaited follow up., 24 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Newcomers of Sin (Audio CD)
Corporation 187 truly impressed me with their album "perfection in pain" and I was lucky enough to catch them live here in the UK some years ago. I felt this band had a certain edge and individuality that alot of Melodic Death Metal misses.

Newcomers of Sin has this edge in abundance, although the speed freaks among their fans may be dissapointed to hear they have slowed in their paces for what sounds like a more emotive approach to the song writing (although there are some awesome monolithic moments where the drums are playing a sort of half pace rhythm in the snare and cymbals with the double bass going at something close to demi-quavers). ask yourself is replacing energy with emotion a fair trade? It is for me. Many moments of groove. If you imagine tracks like 'Violated Relations' from perfection in pain and then add some years of experience you'll be able to approximate the current state of this band.

I would have loved to give this album 5 stars, but it lost a star for me because I thought the production on the vocals was a little awkward and startling. Perhaps a little bit too loud and dry. If the guitars were higher in the mix this probably wouldn't have been a problem.

This is another fantastic band on the Anticulture Records Roster who deserve a much bigger following! This album can do nothing but aid that.

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