It has been a while since we did one of these, I know, but we have been covering festivals, doing interviews and, in general, trying to deliver the best information we can. As a result of this, we neglected our demo section a little bit.
Also, in order to avoid confusion, we have decided to change the name, moving away from “Blast Radius” to “Indie Wednesdays”, as it is just much more straightforward.
Black, stoner, avant-garde… there’s a little bit of everything this week.
[section label=”Toluca – Memoria”]
Toluca – Memoria
Label: Independent Release
In order to keep from stagnating, the bands in a scene often look outside the boundaries of what is accepted in that particular genre. One such scene is black metal, which, admittedly had a pretty wide variety from the start; just look at the second wave in Norway with the orchestral and epic arrangements of Emperor compared to the more raw and primal approach of Darkthrone.
Toluca are a young band from Moscow that are hoping to continue pushing the boundaries in the black metal scene with their own brand of shoegaze-influenced playing. Memoria is their second release, and it incorporates influences such as post-rock, screamo, post-hardcore, and shoegaze. Lately there have been many bands incorporating these styles, such Alcest, Vattnet Viskar and Deafheaven, all of which are easy comparisons to make when discussing the music presented on Memoria. It’s almost easier to say Toluca are a post-hardcore/screamo band (keep in mind that when I say screamo I mean bands like Pg. 99 and the Massachusetts-based Orchid, not My Chemical Romance) that have incorporated black metal influences. There are a lot of dynamics in the songs, such as what you hear on the opening track, “Gaap.” Japan’s post-hardcore heroes Envy come to mind when listening to this album, as Toluca have a lot of similarities with them, particularly in terms of song structure, tone, and even vocals. In the vocal department Toluca go for an anguished melodic hardcore style, rather than the high-pitched shrieks black metal is often associated with. There aren’t too many blast-beats to speak of, and the bass guitar is pretty decently mixed, which really sets Memoria apart from most black metal releases. The production is excellent at accenting the different tones and moods in the music; the old “necro” style of production would have ruined the effect, and too clean would have sucked all the emotion out.
With Memoria Toluca are poised to make a lot of waves in the current black-gaze scene, and will appeal to fans of such bands as Bosse-de-Nage, Ash Borer, and Vattnet Viskar. This is an excellent release, and truly should be part of any metalhead’s collection that likes to experiment outside of their musical comfort zone.
-Bradley[section label=”N/ill – Black Marble Carapacea”]
N/ill – Black Marble Carapace
Label: Independent Release
N/ill is the solo project of post-punk project Crystalizer‘s George Pemberton, an artist from Germany who dabbles in the brooding, dark and morose. Earlier in the summer, Pemberton‘s first release, Shut delivered three sombre baritone spirituals which drew heavily from the darker side of the singer-songwriter canon, notably the works of Michael Gira and Jamie Stewart. His new release, Black Marble Carapace shows him expanding N/ill‘s sonic palette to accommodate the influence of ambient, drone, darkwave and a heady injection of ’80s goth.
As its sophomore release, Black Marble Carapace shows a completely different side to N/ill, with most of the tracks being less straightforward and more experimental. While Safe emphasised guitars and vocals, Carapace focuses on electronics as a showcase for the variety of Pemberton‘s work. A heavily cinematic tone carries the listener through the EP, with its high points being the more guitar-driven tracks. Some of the synth compositions at times feel clumsy or misguided, and the production often doesn’t settle too well on the ears (the intro to ‘Hader’, for instance), however when coupled with Pemberton‘s fantastic voice and expressively bleak lyrics and guitar, the songs seem far more thought-out, filled with substance and meaning. The prime example of this being the EP’s standout track ‘Zero Point’, a Tom Waits meets Throbbing Gristle murder ballad driven by hollow bass hits, guitar and disturbing male vocal delivering bleak verses on nihilism and suffering. “There are no thoughts to speak / I swallow myself in the nothingness”. Mr. Pemberton really has a knack for capturing a morose, crushing atmosphere which haunts you long after you stop listening. If darkwave was around in the 1800s, Nietzsche would totally be N/ill‘s biggest fan.
As a record, Black Marble Carapace is patchy at best, however when viewed as an early exhibition into the troubled, disturbed thoughts of a promising new artist, it’s hard not to get excited about Mr. Pemberton‘s future work, picturing it comfortably rubbing shoulders with Planning For Burial, Wreck & Reference and Have A Nice Life. It’s a brave fusion of genres as far apart as singer-songwriter and dark ambient, with the end result being a bold collection of aural juxtaposition.
[section label=”Mörkö- Itsensänimeävä”]
Label: Independent Release
I’ve always been a fan of bands that like to push boundaries in the extreme metal genre; even if the finished product isn’t “up to snuff,” I applaud bands for taking risks. Mörkö are one such band, and though they aren’t exactly a new band (having formed in 1998) their releases have been few and far between enough that they haven’t exactly become a household name.
Itsensänimeävä is certainly a mixed bag of sounds; the core is black metal, but there are a lot of odd time signatures, atonal progressions, and loads of atmosphere. The music is pretty similar to Dødheimsgard, in particular the newer, more avant-garde material, though without the industrial aspects. There are slow, almost doom-like moments, but mostly, a mid-paced chaotic sounding avant-black metal sound, that cause a disorienting affect, coupled with a decent vocal variety. Although there are shrieks aplenty, there are also some cleaner chant-style vocals, like those on “Nesteen luo.” The members of Mörkö also have a side-band called Disorder of Deadeight that focus on a more psychedelic noise-rock sound, and you can’t help but feel that their activities in that band have bled into the new metal material, it’s that different from any other extreme metal you’ve heard. In actuality, Itsensänimeävä is seen as the conclusion to a trilogy started by Disorder Of Deadeight, so the avant-garde influences aren’t too much of a leap in style. The more metal aspects of the band are pretty similar to Celtic Frost, and have a really raw old-school feel to them.
One disappointing element to this album, and which keeps it from being excellent, is the production; when the band plays more straight-forward metal the production works fine, but the more experimental stuff really gets lost in translation. The music presented here really deserves a much cleaner and modern sounding production, much like the production you hear on the newer DHG albums. That, coupled with the somewhat challenging nature of the music, might turn a few people away, but if you can look past the lo-fi quality in the sound, and if you can get into some more experimental songwriting, you may find something to like here.
[section label=”Reclvse – Reclvse”]
Reclvse – Reclvse
Label: Independent Release
Reclvse are a Welsh doom metal band that formed just last year, and play a very traditional style of doom. They’ve digitally released their self-titled debut demo (which features 3 songs and clocks in at nearly 20 minutes) on bandcamp, and I have to say they have already left me wanting more.
The band plays traditional doom in the vein of Pentagram and Reverend Bizarre, with occasional hints of gothic doom similar to My Dying Bride. The music moves at a glacial pace and creates a gloomy atmosphere, with occasional bursts of speed. The vocals are melodic, and give off a dreary vibe that at times remind me of Aaron Stainthorpe from My Dying Bride, and they really make the tone of the music melancholic.
Sadly, the production hinders Reclvse, as this type of music really deserves to have a larger than life sound, and what you get here sounds like more of a garage recording, almost like it was recorded live. There’s an acoustic section towards the end of “Bewitch The Sky” that falls a bit flat, and probably should have been given another take in the recording process. The guitars have a buzzy tone to them, and just a little too much echo, while the overdubs sound like they were recorded by plugging straight into a computer.
Although Reclvse are a young band, and have a bit of work to do in the recording/production side of things, they already have some very strong song-writing. I’m anxious to see what they could do if they were given a big budget; if they tightened a couple of loose screws, Reclvse could become a well-oiled doom metal machine.
Well, that’s it for now! Tune in next Wednesday to see what new demos we’ll have for you!