Happy new year! Enjoy these excellent indie releases to start 2016!
Suppressive Fire – Bedlam
Location: North Carolina, USA
Bedlam, Suppressive Fire’s debut full-length, certainly lives up to its name, containing some of the most aggressive blackened thrash in recent years. It would be easy to compare it to some of the less punk-sounding material by Toxic Holocaust, or a less melodic Skeletonwitch. There are plenty of similarities between those bands, to be sure, and Joel Grind (Toxic Holocaust’s mastermind) even mixed and mastered Bedlam. Suppressive Fire, however, set themselves apart from the rest of the thrash revivalists with a real sense of rage in tunes like “Coup d’état” and “Ironsights.” Those two tracks, particular favorites of mine, feature some of the fastest riffs on the record, and drums that even go into blast-beat territory, which emphasizes the black metal vibe. Occasionally they even slow things down, as can be heard on the intro to “Thy Flesh Consumed,” which helps to break the monotony up. Vocally, the band goes for for a guttural yell that reminded me of Necrodeath, bordering on black metal styled vocals, though not quite as shrill.
As killer as most of Bedlam is, if you’re not a fan of this kind of thrash then it might wear a little thin towards the middle of the record. Despite the aforementioned change in pace, Suppressive Fire are content in pummeling the listener into submission with a relentless barrage of lightning fast guitars. Fans of this genre (particularly if you like early Kreator and Sodom) will have no trouble hanging with Bedlam, though, and I count myself among those. Bedlam is an exciting release from an up-and-coming young band, and Suppressive Fire will be a household name before too long, mark my words.
Virvel Av Morkerhatet – Metamorphopsia
Label: Avantgarde Music
One thing I’ve always loved about black metal is the attention to atmosphere. In the early days, the purposefully under-produced efforts by Burzum put a big emphasis on creating a moody atmosphere; now Metamorphopsia, the latest release by Ukrainian black metal outfit Virvel Av Morkerhatet, seeks to create a truly malevolent and chaotic ambiance.
Metamorphopsia can really be summed up in three words: pure audio terror. The odd, atonal chord progressions remind me of Deathspell Omega, and give the songs a big boost in the “sounding evil as possible” department. There are plenty of blast-beats all over each and every song, but the ever-changing time signatures manage to keep listeners on their toes. “Theory Of Distress View,” for instance, starts off at a slow, lurching doom metal pace, with nightmarish vocals weaving in and out of the forefront of the mix. “Dissociative Disorder” has a similar vibe, though the guitars are played much faster. Virvel Av Morkerhatet focus on creating atmosphere, but manage to have enough crunch in the guitar to remind you that black metal is supposed to be a part of HEAVY metal. This is something that often gets lost on some of the other speed demons of the genre.
The production on Metamorphopsia is a fantastic mix of new and old-school black metal styles. While there is a lot of reverb, giving the music an otherworldly quality, each instrument can also be heard without difficulty. Virvel Av Morkerhatet have truly struck the balance between brutal and moody, and manage to do so without the heavy use of keyboards or symphonic elements.
If your knowledge of the Ukrainian black metal scene goes no further than Drudkh (excellent as they are) do yourself a favor and check out this release. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Innerwoud – Mirre
Label: Consouling Sounds
One of the qualities I look for in music is variety. Ambient and drone bands can have difficulty crafting a varied performance because of the required subtleties of the genres. A staggering example of ambient music that falls victim to monotony is Year of No Light, whose songs tend to drag on for nearly twenty (boring) minutes. Considering that Innerwoud consists of nothing more than one fellow armed with a cello, the question is whether this man take such an extremely limited arsenal and bring forward something interesting.
A key element for atmospheric music is the ability to stir an emotion or sensation in the audience and Innerwoud has this in spades. The music is not lively or high in energy, being instead dreadfully sombre, and I mean that in the best way. The tone slides between mounting horror, creeping despair, and suffocating anxiety. I can imagine walking through winding streets on a clichéd dark and stormy night as fog seeps out from the sewer grates and Innerwoud stalks behind me. Lugging a cello around, he provides the soundtrack for a treacherous journey.
There is only so much one can ask of a solo act, especially an act that only employs one tool. While there may not be variety in the performance, it is anything but boring. Innerwoud shows a clear sense of purpose and an attainable goal that he strives to achieve and lands right on target. The music would fit perfectly as the soundtrack for a timeless horror setting where the thing that the audience fears most hides in the shadows, just beyond reach. I can’t imagine sitting down with a group of people, whether it be friends, family, or Lovecraftian squidmen and having a grand old time listening to Mirre. Instead, just as it was composed, the album deserves to be listened to in solitude to drive home the feeling of loneliness and terror.