Dendritic Arbor – Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittburgh’s Dendritic Arbor have been making some big waves in the extreme music underground since forming in 2012. 2015 has been one of the busiest years for the band, with the release of a single, a full-length album entitled Romantic Love, and a tour. Striking while the iron is hot, Dendritic Arbor have unleashed a new EP of blackened sonic terror, Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden.
Clocking in at around 20 minutes, Dendritic Arbor manage to cover more sounds in one EP than many bands cover in their entire careers. Mixing noise, grindcore, and black metal, they play a form of nightmare-inducing metal that places them somewhere between Gorguts, Anaal Nathrakh, and Krallice. Opening track “Cotard Delusion” is about as fierce as you can get, with noisy, clashing guitars, demonic vocals that remind me of Krallice, and crushing drums.
Time signatures are all over the place in this EP, which will definitely appeal to fans of the technical metal persuasion, but the black metal-influenced atmosphere found throughout will also attract more traditional style metal fans as well. “Latex” is my particular favorite of the 4 songs, with the closest to a straight-forward song structure, if you can call the chaotic blackened sounds of later-era Deathspell Omega structured. About a third of the way into the song, the band breaks into an almost melodic, melancholy black metal riff that gives the listener a chance to breath, before diving back into a savage, pounding noise riff.
Dendritic Arbor are continuing their winning streak with Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden, with some of the most terrifying/exciting tunes I’ve heard a while. Metal fans looking for a little more structure might be turned off, but I’d counter that black metal was never meant to be widely accepted in the first place. Give this EP a few spins, but leave the lights on.
Prolefeed/War All The Time – Split LP
Location: Prolefeed: Newcastle
War All The Time: Leeds
Label: Wooaaargh Records
Since inventing grindcore in the 1980’s, the UK has been a hotbed for this extreme form of music. Owing just as much to punk and hardcore as it does to heavy metal, grindcore has been a pretty divisive genre, with metalheads saying it’s too punk, and punk rockers saying it’s too heavy.
In this split LP you get two bands that play on the opposite edges of the grindcore spectrum. With Newcastle’s Prolefeed, for instance, there is definitely more of a punk/hardcore feel, with yelping vocals, buzzsaw guitars, and d-beat sounding drums. With song titles like “Robocock” and “There’s No Cure For Being A Cunt,” it’s safe to say Prolefeed also bring a punk rock attitude and sense of humor to their music. Aggressive, and fast, Prolefeed will certainly appeal to any crusty kid worth their weight in Doom and Amebix backpatches.
On the slightly heavier end, Leeds’ War All The Time play a fast, brutal version of grindcore reminiscent of early Napalm Death and Kill The Client. While there is still plenty of punk and hardcore in their sound, War All The Time blast through tracks like “Public Execution” and “Tonge Dynasty” with a ferocity that leaves little doubt about the band’s heavy influences. The vocals on War All The Time’s tracks have a Barney Greenway vibe to them, giving the songs a sense of urgency. The vocals even briefly delve into a deeper, guttural growl at times, as in “Revolution”.
The production on this split is pretty much on par with the underground DIY punk aesthetic: buzzy guitars, loud snares, not a whole lot of low-end, and the vocals are high in the mix. For grindcore/crust punk/hardcore fans, this won’t be an issue at all, but if you’re looking for a crystal clear production, you’re barking up the wrong tree here. In the case of Prolefeed and War All The Time, I can tell you that punk and metal do indeed mix, and I will be keeping an eye on both bands in the future.
Affliction Gate – Dying Alone
Label: Transcending Obscurity
This new EP from Affliction Gate starts off hard and fast, and stays there for about 95% of the run-time (about 20 minutes divided among four songs). Although the band sets a fast pace of pummeling beats, gruff growling, and intense work from the guitarists, there’s some missing element that seems to be holding them back in their work to elevate themselves past the usual execution of tech-death.
There are quick break-downs of noodliness that come across as practically relaxed in comparison to the standard jack-hammer assault they have going, but those moments come rarely enough to keep their burst-in surprise from getting stale. The vocals are actually a little less rough than those of some similar bands, though they’re still far-removed from the realm of clean singing, landing in a zone where moving in either direction would probably serve them better. While submerged layers of activity with guitar texturing add extra punch to the proceedings, apart from that there doesn’t seem to be much to distinguish them from your average (competent) tech-death band. The howling guitar-work on “Devising Our Own Chains” provides some of the more divergent riffing, though it too is mixed down too far to really seize the moment.
The biggest shortcoming here is that while you might expect to hear at least one track on an EP that steps away from the band’s usual style at least a little bit, here it’s basically the same thing from song to song. Most of the changes are embedded in the break-downs, lasting about five seconds at a stretch, and the track/EP titling don’t add much distinguishing character to the proceedings.
Aside from these compromised qualities, they play the style well enough to put them on par with the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hideous Divinity, and their drummer (credited as Laurent M.) does a thoroughly impressive job in his role, giving a strong shot at establishing himself as the band’s stand-out member. If battering percussion, quick-change riffs, and roiling rhythms are what get you going, you’ll probably want to give this quintet a check.