We’re back with even more indie releases.
Luckily for you, this week we have only great material, so you’ll be a fool not to check it all out!
[section label=”Norse – Pest”]
Norse – Pest
Label: Independent Release
There are certain rules you have to follow to make good album art. While there is an endless number of codes and conventions that an artist has to follow when putting it all together, arguably the biggest is that it has to be a representation of the album itself. While the artwork of Pest, the new EP from Australian blackened death duo Norse, one would expect a dreary foray into human abandon, as depicted by the two white-veiled figures slumped together on the record sleeve, it doesn’t prepare you for the band’s uniquely bizarre experimentation.
The band’s avant-garde attitudes hit you instantly, with the opening track ‘Encoded Weakness’ featuring some intricately strange guitar slides and pinch harmonics, capturing atonality as their biggest muse, as if John Zorn fronted a metal band. More conventional tracks like ‘Disarmed, Toothless, Weak’ (taken from the Thou school of song titles) mix in the band’s penchant of atonality and experimentalism with more traditional black metal song structures, with breakdowns of discordant guitars and passages of frenetic offbeat drumming working much more naturally, shambling along like the band’s own Frankenstein’s Monster. As enjoyable as the record’s experimental sections can be, however, their execution is often hit and miss, veering from creepy to bizarre to awkward and sloppy. Having said that, however, the band rarely falls into overused genre conventions, and their audacious experimentation is commendable on its own.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Pest is its level of detail, which comes through in the musicianship and songwriting, but also in the vocals. Although vocalist ADR is no Sin Nanna, but the untethered passion and expressiveness he injects into his performance breathe so much life into the record, conveying the band’s intricate lyrics of solitude and misanthropy through a variety of styles, from growls to gutturals, grunts and yells, channeling the bitterness of hundreds of lonely souls through his sludgy delivery. The recurring layered vocal sections also add a heap of atmosphere to the record, drawing out anguished screams over spoken word.
Although Pest’s execution sways between inspired and sloppy, it’s still a worthy follow-up to the band’s excellent 2012 LP All is Mist and Fog. It’s a bleakly bitter record that manages to uncannily capture the feelings of betrayal, angst and mistrust that come with depression through a filter of offbeat and unconventional songwriting, making it an intensely curious and dark listen.
[section label=”Chasma – Codex Constellatia”]
Chasma – Codex Constellatia
‘Raw’ is a term used to death when describing black metal, since its versatility means you can apply it to almost every aspect of the music, be it the ‘raw, gritty production’ or the ‘evil, raw vocals’. It’s a term that goes hand in hand with the genre itself, but used so much that it’s lost its meaning. Once in a blue moon, however, a band comes out that really exemplifies the term; that is the case with Chasma. This might be a bit of an overstatement, but they do what they do fucking well. Since their last album, Declarations of the Grand Artificer, Chasma have turned their music into a more progressive direction, shambling out the tombs of the USBM underground and into the celestials of post-black metal.
Although from its outward appearance Codex Constellatia hints at themes of spirituality, divinity and transcendence, the album’s contents feel much more pessimistic, evoking images of a Lars von Trier-esque apocalypse through a forlorn, dreary lens. Swirling guitars and cascading drums glide and whirl like dying stars before crashing miserably into the earth during each song’s climax. A chilling vocal sample in ‘Solarsin’ reveals the album’s more internalised themes; a female voice recites, “they’re going to catch up with us, they’re going to rape us, they’re going to kill us”. Though melodramatic, inclusions of these vocal samples strewn throughout the album frame its apocalyptic nature as a metaphor for self-destruction, which really solidifies itself with the vocal performances. More angst-ridden than Dystopia, more terrifying than Ashdautas and more heart-wrenching than Lifelover. The vocals mutate through the ebb and flow of the songs, building from mortal screams into primal snarls, capturing the absolute essence of raw emotion that very few black metal bands achieve. Even past the droning outro of the album, the soul-rending catharsis still lingers. It’s an addictive, enchanting listen that leaves a serious impact on you.
[section label=”Ironstorm – Wrathwind”]
Ironstorm – Wrathwind
Edmonton, Alberta’s Ironstorm have crafted an EP that combines a lot of elements. Power metal, speed metal, melodic death metal, all of it rolled into something that sounds not only cohesive, but explosive. Lead vocalist Karli Romyn has a gorgeous set of pipes: melodic and technically solid, but with lots of inflection and personality. Offset by the more guttural vocals of guitarist Diego Fernandez, the result pulls the listener deep into the galloping, almost Maiden-esque structures of songs like “Revenant” and “The Watcher”.
Something that sets this EP apart even further is the production. The rawness of these recordings lends the band the kind of unique flavour that would have been lost with technically better production jobs. It’s a throwback to underground records from the 80’s, when the production styles gave each band a unique vibe. It may just be me, but not everything should be polished to perfection. Rough edges have their place too.
It’s not a perfect EP by any stretch. The 2 minute intro track is pretty unnecessary, and “Dreamons” is a bit throwaway compared the four other skull crushers present here. It’s just that there’s enough interesting and exciting material here to be able to overlook those little foibles though. Hell, even the live bonus track is a blinder, reminding me of Canadian contemporaries Skull Fist and Axxion. Ironstorm’s first recorded output is further proof that, right now, the great white north is fertile ground for high-quality traditional metal.
[section label=”Liber Necris – Negative Creator“]
Liber Necris – Negative Creator
Label: Venn Records
Liber Necris occupy a strange place in metal, not fitting straight into the black metal reign, but also not into the death metal area. Although they are called “blackened death metal” (a monicker I’m not too fond of) they don’t seem to be constrained by it.
As I write this, and even though I’ve listened to this EP several times, it’s still hard for me to define exactly what I’m listening to. It’s definitely melodic (reminds of Dissection at times) but also quite cacophonous, sometimes bringing memories of Anaal Nathrakh (such as in the backing growling vocals in “In the Beginning (First Light)”). Obituary and Cannibal Corpse also find their way into my mind as I listen to the screams coming from my headphones, perhaps courtesy of the lighting-fast drumming delivered by Tom Mulvihill.
Liber Necris define the concept of the album as “the story of the life and death of earth through our own hate and rage”. Although most of the time I would have dismissed this as the kind of dark hyperbole that black metal bands love so much, in this case there is some truth to it. Things like the changes of tempo in tracks like “De-constructor: Negative Creator”, or the switching of vocal styles that happen throughout the record create a feeling of uneasiness that stays with you during the whole listening experience. They have managed to create an album that not only keeps you on edge, but also keeps you wanting for more.
Another week, another bunch of great indie releases.
We would like to thank all of the bands who submitted their material for review and are looking forward to what more you guys can come up with.
If you have a release that you’d like to have reviewed, do not hesitate to contacts us!
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