Welcome to another Indie Wednesday.
Since last year we were pretty irresponsible with this section, we’re absolutely trying to make up for it this time around. There is a lot here, so make sure to check these bands out!
Check them out and given them a chance!
Cult of Lilith – Arkanum
Arkanum is the debut from this Icelandic/Italian trio, featuring members from Dark Legacy. The EP’s five tracks quickly launch into their tech-death efforts, with all the growls, blast-beats, and twisting guitar riffs you’d expect, though they thankfully take a low-arpeggio route.
After “Abaddon” sets things up, “Tomb of Sa’ir” ducks in with a quick intro that sounds like it was put together on a keyboard’s harpsichord voice setting. This adds an interesting touch of flavor before they throw themselves back into the standard style. There is another bit of fun in that track from a sample that will amuse Tim Curry fans, something that, along with a bridge of stripped-down guitar noodling, helps the song stand out as one of the more promising pieces of the EP.
All over the album the guitarist does a good job of making things seem lively, with both broad and quick playing offering enough stomp and swing to keep from dragging. The drummer, though he keeps up with everything well enough, seems somewhat hampered by the song-writing, coming across as a background thumping even at his most explosive moments. On the other hand, when the drumming is pared down to more irregular beats (usually in cymbal-heavy sections), his presence emerges as more influential on the songs.
Spouting off lines about “the end of creation,” “deceivers,” and similar subjects, the vocals seem content to sick with tech-death’s usual contrast of near-monotone growling against the complexity of the other instruments. It’s the way things go, I guess, but that doesn’t stop it from seeming like a wasted chance to play with the balance or expectations, at least a little.
Although the EP sounds like the band is still trying to feel things out, there is a lot of promising material here. Once Cult of Lilith start establishing some more of their own character (maybe doing something to address the themes of their name with some female-voiced back-up, chanting, or just more apocalyptic samples), there should be more reason to check in on them; for now, aside from a handful of neat touches, they come off as pretty average for their chosen style.
Kult Mogil – Anxiety Never Descending
Label: Pagan Records
Anxiety Never Descending is the debut album from this Polish group, and the band does a good job of establishing their sound with its six tracks. Aiming for something more than wall-to-wall blast-beats, Kult Mogil set up chilly atmospheres of dissonant feedback and buzzing bass for an aggressive fusion of black metal’s spirit and focus of purpose with death-grounded riffs and chords. Serving as another bridging point is the work of the drummer, who combines the two styles in a way that rarely settles fully into either, without compromising any of the vitality.
Reaching for bands to serve as comparison to Kult Mogil‘s work here is difficult, personally speaking. There’s something to it like Mörk Gryning with the symphonic elements ground away, Birkenau with less ethereality and the NS elements stripped out, or Toxic Holocaust on a dirtier and heavier bender. Hell, as long as I’m just throwing stuff out there, think of it as a smashing together of Pig Destroyer and GG Allin, or Agalloch in a blender with Slaughter and Sarcofago. To be honest, though, there’s so much tearing down of their musical form every time they start to settle in, trying to point to who they sound like is much less useful than just urging you to check KM out and judge them on their own merits.
Whichever lineage of influence you might hear when listening to AND, there’s good effort and crafting shaping the furious din they hammer out. The instrumental sections, which often give way to a harsh and disintegrating keening, show an experimental side which should help keep the band from growing bored and happy to recycle on future albums, along with providing an extra belt of sonic nihilism to the acerbic atmosphere of this LP.
Listeners with a broader knowledge of death metal bands than mine will probably be able to pick out sections here and there which seem like homage/legacy stemming from specific groups, but AND does a very solid job of doing what it needs to as a debut. The band sets down a sense of their attitude and style, there’s hooks to pull people back after the first play, and they seem genuinely angry, always refreshing with modern metal being such a commercialized commodity. If grinding, pounding, and screams of rage are what get you through the day, check ’em out.
Sanktuary – Winter’s Doom
Many moons ago I had the privilege of seeing Sanktuary open for… I think it was Cauldron? I could be wrong. Regardless, since I thought they were a great live band, I was really excited to have a listen to some of their studio stuff. Unfortunately, I never really followed up on that thought. How excited I was to see a promo for their latest release plunked down in the download folder so I could finally properly explore the output of a band that I was actually thoroughly impressed with.
But did Winter’s Doom live up to my fond memories of seeing the band live?
Yes. Mostly. Actually, Winter’s Doom does some things remarkably well. The band’s mix between more traditional metal and thrash is a heady one, and a headspace that I have spent a lot of my leisure time indulging in. When Sanktuary eases back just a little on the throttle and focuses on galloping riffage and dynamics, they become one of Canada’s best acts playing this style; but when they speed things up for any extended period on songs like “Curse of the Vermin”, they kind of fall off the rails just a little bit into the mundane. They seem to have real trouble making use of the same verve and “hookiness” once the speedometer passes a certain point. So where songs like the opening track “Space Race” or the pounding, bombastic “Corpse Blockade” positively soar with excellence, other moments just feel a little flat.
Despite some minor quibbles, Winter’s Doom is, overall, a solid release. It’s produced fairly well, avoiding being too polished and having a sonic aesthetic that is fairly unique. The songs are generally well constructed and the performances are solid. It’s not mind-blowing, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and definitely worth your time if you’re looking for a new old-school fix.
Fall – The Insatiable Weakness
In crossover genres I generally expect that the music will sound as if the elements from each parent genre were thrown in a blender to create a subgenre smoothie. Sometimes the flavour may tantalize and delight and other times it may induce projectile vomiting. Rather than partaking in a mashing of styles, Fall took the deconstructive approach and presented the qualities of progressive and death metal in a separate fashion.
Fall wasted no time in crushing their audience. Vicious growls ripped through the singer’s vocal chords and the guitars aimed for fast and dirty low blows. While these aspects added a great deal of brutality to the music, it was the percussion that brought it home. It felt as if the drummer was using my skull as a bass drum, which although might seem difficult to enjoy, was rather invigorating. There were plenty of moments where I felt the muscles in my neck loosen and had an irresistible desire to swing my head around like a flail.
While Fall nailed the heavy elements of their music, in mid-headbang I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the progressive side. Then, the music broke. The vocals washed up from growls and became clean with occasional female vocals mixed in. Also, the guitars elevated themselves from the furious trudge into more complex passages that changed the tone substantially. While change is welcome, the growls were much stronger than the clean vocals, however the guitar work added a new layer to the sound that made the performance dynamic. The additions gave the music a structure that resembled Opeth circa My Arms, Your Hearse, but still maintained originality.
In The Insatiable Weakness, Fall bring forward a solid effort on a crossover genre. By keeping the elements of progressive metal and death metal separate, they keep the performance fresh and entertaining. While the heavy aspects outshine the progressive oddities, the contrast adds variety that only spices up the music. For those who enjoy the brutal and the melodic, this one is for you.
Like Animals – Feral
Do you remember when screamo bands like The Fall Of Troy and Chiodos tried to reject the “screamo” moniker by calling themselves post-hardcore? With some fairly technical guitar work and odd time signatures, those bands made a case for themselves, but ultimately ended up just being more Vans Warped Tour fodder. I only mention this because there are still bands that do this apparently, a fact that was brought to my attention by Feral, the latest release by Ontario, Canada’s Like Animals.
Chock-full of time changes and arpegiatting guitars, Like Animals are a cut above the more punked-up version of screamo like Silverstein and The Used, at least in terms of technical musicianship. Like Animals have more in common with The Fall Of Troy and Protest The Hero, the difference being that those bands actually have some balls to their music (relatively speaking). The vocals are a dead give away for this being basically a screamo band, with whiny “emotional” (read: emo) vocals, and high-pitched screams in the vein of The Used. Given the fact that it’s probably difficult to carry a tune over atonal guitars, I’ll admit Like Animals at least gave it a shot, even if the result is akin to listening to a 12 year old choir-student nervously fumble through a solo at their recital.
Musically, the guitars take on a post-hardcore, jazzy feel, but the constant arpeggios make the guitar-tone sound really thin. Even when actual chords are used, the music just isn’t very heavy, and sounds more like a hardcore band, only without the testoterone. Like Animals will probably appeal to the Hot Topic crowd (if it was 2002), but ultimately fall flat as a “metal” band in any regard. I hesitate to even call them a post-hardcore band, because that title belongs to bands like Drive Like Jehu and Fugazi; this is just screamo with a slightly more technical edge.
If you like songs about feelings and teenage angst, then this is your new favorite band. That is, until next week, when that other band that totally gets you releases an album.
Ondt Blod – Finnmark
Label: Loyal Blood Records
Before taking the plunge into metal, I started out as a little punk rocker, eventually moving into hardcore. I used to draw the Black Flag bars and Dead Kennedy’s logo all over everything, and I readily admit that I still listen to those bands. I still have a soft spot for the genre, even if haven’t kept up with the scene recently, so I was pleasantly surprised with Finnmark by Ondt Blod.
Formed in 2013, Ondt Blod play hardcore that mixes new and old-school sounds, with melody and sledgehammer heaviness. Each track is like a crash-course in hardcore, with nearly every style in the genre covered, from the slightly Millencolin-esque “Nye Lydspor,” to the brooding post-hardcore “Finnmark.” I’m reminded of Kvelertak at times, as Ondt Blod manages to blend punk, hardcore, and a little bit of metal into a unique sound, such as in “Kompis Med Satan.” The sing-along choruses throughout are insanely catchy, with melodic guitar lines and gang vocals placing Ondt Blod firmly in the hardcore punk category.
The production is handled quite professionally, with a touch of reverb throughout, giving the songs a gritty edge, without sacrificing quality. “Symbola” starts off sounding like a classic black metal track, with a muddy tone (done completely for effect), before getting a boost in volume and clarity, and switching to a more traditional hardcore vibe. The pop punk moments might turn off fans looking for something a bit heavier, but if you like bands like Comeback Kid, Bane, with a little bit of Kvelertak, give Finnmark a try!