Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Venowl / Highgate (Tartarus Records) & Cara Neir / Venowl (Broken Limbs Recordings)

Venowl is an enigmatic group. The three members choose to represent themselves with symbols; ::, //, and ][. The band creates some of the most caustic and disjointed music to ever grace these ears. Doom, black metal, noise, and general disregard for convention are combined to create something wholly earth shattering and devastatingly depraved. Lurching and ominous the band utilizes improvisation to create their horrid, torturous sonic landscapes. The band has seen two new releases in the months of September and October, both splits and both are nothing less than expressions of sonic torment. On each split Venowl is joined by an equally groundbreaking and impressive band. Both Highgate and Cara Neir easily match Venowl's jagged intensity with more structured pieces, Highgate brings lumbering blackened doom while Cara Neir drags the listener through swarming, diverse black metal.

Venowl / Highgate

September saw the release of a split between Venowl and Highgate. Venowl begins with "Vacant Cellar" a song without defined structure or reason. The track continues the Venowl tradition of being completely disjointed and improvised, however it is more structural and rhythmic than much of Venowl's music. Taking on more of a doom-like structure the band experiments within those confines. However, the band does no use this as a limitation, instead utilizing the loose structure to further enhance their descent into madness. Slowing moving towards oblivion, painful shrieks usher in layer upon layer of madness. Feedback slices through the grime accompanying the manic screams and shouts. Where Venowl truly succeed is in creating sickening atmosphere. Conjuring images of an old vacant house, filled with an aura of horrible deeds and broken bones. A place of destruction and most importantly a place of torture. Living up to the description of "torture doom" and completely embodying all that is horrific and depraved.

Highgate also implements elements of black metal and noise into their murky doom. Considerably more riff based and structured than Venowl, Highgate provide the listener with a more traditional and in some ways comprehensible take a similar formula. This is not to say that "Carved into Winter" is easy listening by any means. The Kentucky quartet offers up spirit-breaking doom, massive riffs collide with crashing drums and vicious rasps and grunts. Utilizing repetition as a tool for complete annihilation Highgate drags the listener deeper and deeper into their horrid cave. Ghastly melodies accompany the sludge addled riffs, suddenly the track dissolves abstraction. Pulsating rays of noise fade in and out creating a disorienting interlude to the rest of Highgate's track. Taking a more mournful form the track progresses slowly before disintegrating into feedback, ending the excellent work. 

The split can be heard and purchased here through Tartarus Records. A triumph of blackened doom, and a perfect pairing of two bands with different takes on the same devastating combination.

Cara Neir / Venowl

The second split is forthcoming. A reunion between Venowl and Cara Neir set to be released by Broken Limbs Recordings in mid-October. Cara Neir opens the split with three tracks of screamo influenced, post-hardcore injected, crusty black metal. Vocalist Chris Francis uses his powerful voice to push the songs to further levels of intensity while multi-instrumentalist Garry Brents displays his immense talent on each instrument. Playing everything from ripping hardcore chords to reflective even jazz-like melodies. Opening with "Aeonian Temple" with technicality at the forefront, Brents plays riffs like a madman while Francis offers frantic barks. The second and third tracks take on more reflective tones. "Nights..." sounds akin to the lighter moments 90s screamo artists like Saetia, utilizing harmonies and calm echoed vocals. The track provides the perfect amount of reflection before "Pitiful Human Bindings" rears its head. Combining the best parts of the first two tracks, ripping aggression and cryptic reflection. Madness and contemplation are joined as one, creating a track unconcerned with any sort of tradition, merely following the creative will of two immensely talented musicians. With their contributions on this split Cara Neir prove yet again that they are one of the most interesting and inventive bands currently active.

Venowl's track "Scour (Parts I and II)" is again another journey into the deepest abyss of the darkest aspects human consciousness. A completely soulless evil which takes the form of disjointed, dragged out chords, pained shrieks, and spastic drumming. Trudging through the mire, sickeningly dense and calamitous. The improvisational beast could only be described as ugly, completely without any trace of human attachment. The whole track is a confusing and harrowing journey deep into the minds of the three nameless specters. Formless and yet containing remnants of structure shaped by completely ruinous riffs. When a structural riff rears its head it becomes all the more powerful, cutting its way through the murky mess of incoherent chords and triumphantly presenting itself as supremely devastating. Venowl's contribution to this split is corrosive and scathing, providing the listener with layer upon layer of discord and bleak expressionism.

A union of two very different bands create something wholly unlike any other split release I have ever come across. A true testament to the fragmented nature of man. The tape will be available from Broken Limbs Recordings soon.

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