Ordinance – Relinquishment
Label: Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions
What a fucking amazing piece of cover art. A hairy vagina dripping blood into a ceremonial vase held high by a Gorgon-like creature (with both a penis and breasts), surrounded by emaciated people who seem to be cowering in fear, as a pentagram star shines in the distance. As ridiculous as it sounds, it works. This is the kind of thing you can only describe in a heavy metal setting.
For a black metal release, Relinquishment offers a lot of variety. There are plenty of doom and progressive moments scattered throughout the album to keep things from becoming too repetitive (as it is often the case in black metal). The different progressions are perhaps the most remarkable part of the album, as they show Ordinance‘s ability to move away from the more traditional aspects of the genre and try new things. The occasional use of clean guitars is an interesting element, and I’d love to see more black metal bands trying it; Ordinance demonstrate that they can be used without taking away any of the aggression and darkness that they wanted to keep in the music.
Lyrically things are quite reminiscent of Mayhem, maintaining a very low-pitched growl throughout the songs, which although at times becomes a bit tiring (the musical variety does not seem to apply to the lyrics) works well in the setting of this record. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and if this style works for Ordinance, even at the cost of occasional monotony, there’s no reason to change it.
Production-wise, Relinquishment fails to live up to the quality of the songwriting, and although it manages to avoid a cacophonous sound by mixing the instruments in a competent manner, everything sounds distant, as if it was a poorly compressed digital file. There are some sound effects added her and there, like some bells tolling the distant and some choral chants, that do contribute to the overall feel of the album instead of becoming a distraction, and were an interesting little thing to pay attention to.
Relinquishment shows great potential, and I’m looking forward to see what Ordinance are capable of. I can only hope that next time around production will be of a higher quality.
We All Die (Laughing) / Mathieu Drouet – Tentoonstelling
Location: France / Bulgaria
Label: Kaotoxin Records
I have a problem with artsy fartsy things. I think that nowadays it’s easy to just pull pretty much anything out of your ass and call it “art”, safe in the knowledge that few people will dare to be the ones revealing that the emperor has no clothes. Although music often escapes the pretentiousness of modern art, from time to time it does get polluted with it.
Tentoonstelling is a split that serves as an example of what happens when someone has his head stuck so far up his own ass that he fails to see that his output is utter nonsense. The contribution by We All Die (Laughing) (hereafter “WADL”, because I’m not going to be typing that shit every time) is a fairly depressive, yet unremarkable, ambient piece inspired by their debut album Thoughtscan (under the title “Variations on the Scanning of Thought”, because if you’re going to be a pretentious asshole why not go all the way). It seems like a more melodic version of what Burzum did in Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, although WADL seem to have aimed at a conveying a feeling of claustrophobia and depression with their tunes, albeit in a very repetitive manner.
While WADL‘s piece (clocking at 13:49 altogether) might have some merit, the contribution by photographer Mathieu Drouet is pure, unadulterated, unprocessed, all natural, 100% organic, bullshit. As this release was made for one of his exhibits, his contribution, “Grande Plage (op. #1, movement #1): le noir”, is an audio rendition of “the photograpy digital file’s data”. In other words, this asshole grabbed the photograph’s metadata and decided to see how it sounded. You know, pretty much like changing the .jpeg extension to .mp3 and hoping for the best. The result are 10 excruciating minutes of noise. I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, like someone might call growling vocals or distorted guitars “noise”; I mean literally noise, static, weird sounds, and white noise. Why he thought that this shit deserved 10 minutes is absolutely beyond me, but I’m guessing being a French artist had something to do with it.
You should get this split if you’ve always been curious about what would happen if the shitty pianist at your local Marriott was dealing with depression (side A), and if you’ve always wanted to know what happens when the TV stops broadcasting (Side B).
Pineal – Smiling Cult
Location: London, England
While prog rock’s roots may have flourished from the humble schools of Cantebury, the kings of modern progressive metal all hail from the land of bald eagles, freedom and apple pie. Still, recently there have been some bands seeking to bring prog back to its spiritual home, while keeping the contemporary nature of US prog bands, such as Bossk, Light Bearer and now, Pineal. Based in London, Pineal are a three-piece prog metal powerhouse that draws from the tutelage of, among others, Melvins and Tool, channeling the sleaziness of stoner and sludge with an oppressive, bleak atmosphere. Following a promising demo released earlier this year, their debut EP, Smiling Cult, sees them taking more influence from the North American side of prog, as well as some of metal’s distant relatives.
One of the most striking things upon first listen is the almost (almost) throwback mood of the record. Smiling Cult has a particularly 90s feel, embodied by the slow, crawling pace of many of the songs and the fuzzed-out, jagged riffs held together by thick, bulky bass. It all feels like it’s coming from a parallel universe where grunge never evolved into whiny, inoffensive radio rock, and embraced all of its dark, abrasive and sinister elements instead. Some of the riffs and guitar work call even further back to post-punk acts like Slint or Killing Joke, with the intentionally awkward, stumbling riffs lurching forward like a convict in a drunken stupor.
As impressive as it is for a debut, Smiling Cult is not the most ambitious record, playing it a little too safe and feeling confined within the conventional structures of metal as a result. That said, Pineal‘s focus on conveying atmosphere over the self-indulgent decadence and showboating of so many modern prog bands is commendable, feeling like more of a fusion between the sensibilities of post-metal and the musicianship of prog. Pineal are definitely a band to keep an eye on in the UK scene right now, and I’m seriously looking forward to how they develop their sound in the future. These guys could be huge.
Dementia Senex – Heartworm
Label: The Path less Traveled Records / Drown Within Records
Dementia Senex are a band from Italy that mix elements of sludge, death metal, and post-hardcore. Heartworm is the band’s debut release, and despite its relatively short length they make quite an impact. Dementia Senex play metal along the lines of Ulcerate, Gorguts, and even a little bit of Intronaut. One minute there will be a brutal-yet-jazzy slab of death metal riffing, and another giving way to some melodic post-hardcore/post-rock passages (complete with full use of ebow), the track “Heartworm” being a fine example of this. The musicianship is excellent, as well as the band’s sense of timing when changing from one progression to the next; they show their considerable skill without coming off as being overindulgent. “Kairos”, for example, highlights their ability to switch up timing in speed seamlessly, starting with a chaotic-sounding jazz-infused death section, then switching into a bludgeoning hardcore-ish half-time section, with a healthy dose of melody still intact.
The production compliments the music extremely well; there’s plenty of in your face guitar work, low bass, huge drums, and the vocals layered throughout. There’s a slight echo on everything, which gives even the super heavy sections a bit of a spacey vibe, and creates a somewhat murky atmosphere, but in the best possible way. I’m also impressed with the vocal delivery; while they tend to stick to a mid-range guttural yell, there’s still a lot of emotion and conviction, which is a nice break from the 1-dimensional tough-guy approach taken by many bands.
Dementia Senex manage to grab and keep your attention with just 3 tracks on Heartworm, which is no small task; the only issue here is that it is over too soon. That’s the nature of EPs, sure, but blink and you miss it. Dementia Senex should definitely be on everybody’s watch list, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing what they do on a full-length.
Hannes Grossmann – The Radial Covenant
Hannes Grossmann is no stranger to the metal world. Best known for his work as drummer/main songwriter in Obscura, as well as his drum work in Blotted Science, he has been considered a drum virtuoso of sorts, and has even released an instructional DVD.
The Radial Covenant is Hannes’ first release as a solo artist, having successfully funded the project on IndieGoGo. The music here isn’t too far removed from what you’d hear on an Obscura record; death metal with a heavy prog-infused sound, and some insanely technical playing all around. In addition to drums, Hannes also provides the bulk of the guitar-work, and I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed with the man’s six-string abilities. There are melodic lead guitar lines, loads of interesting guitar effects, and some truly punishing death metal moments (just check the last minute or so of “The Voyager”).
There are several guest musician appearances, including fellow Obscura members Linus Klausenitzer on bass and Christian Münzener (who provided a memorable guitar solo on “Alien Utopia”). Although the list goes on, the amount of guest musicians isn’t really distracting, as Hannes is really the mastermind here, and has written every note painstakingly.
The production is, again, very reminiscent of the production you’d expect on an Obscura record; super clean, but not sterile, as the heavy bits are still in your face with their intensity. As you’d expect, the drums and the guitars are pretty high in the mix, but there are enough changes in tone and intensity to give every instrument and vocal bit a moment in the spotlight. Occasionally the amount of overdubs and layers can be a bit too much to take in at times; there are a lot of different guitar lines happening at the same time, and it can come off as really busy sounding.
If you’re familiar with Hannes Grossman’s musical output up to this point, The Radial Covenant will fit right in with your collection. If you’re new to the game, however, this is progressive/technical death metal at its finest, and sometimes will leave you breathless. With a little more restraint, I can definitely see Hannes Grossmann having a successful career as a solo artist.
Well, that’s it for now! Tune in next Wednesday to see what new demos we’ll have for you! In the meantime, drop us a line if you think there are any releases we should review!