Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Shackles for a Crown - Demo 2013

Shackles for a Crown is a relatively new band from The Netherlands. Shrouded in mystery this anonymous band (or possibly man) plays a chaotic form of black metal. This demo, consisting of three songs, is an excellent opening statement made by this young project.

The frenzy is immediate, the first track "You'll Die" starts with a savage and layered riff. Multiple guitar parts are utilized simultaneously creating a thick sound. While the lead part is punishing there are also other guitar lines lurking in the background, giving the record a frantic and complex feeling. The vocals are harsh growling rasps barked forth commandingly, at times they are reminiscent of the warped Atilla Csihar, not quite as demented but still containing a certain type of mania that is lacking on so many records. The second track "Mental Retribution" starts with a haunting guitar sequence, dissonance is vital to the record, chords bounce off one another creating a sound similar to the French masters of atonal dissonance, Deathspell Omega. Shackles for a Crown is no mere clone however, riffs snake moving subtly through different melodies. This track also utilizes a restrained passage, building tension through repetition before bursting into a full on aural assault.

Tension is created once again on the last track, "Loathe". Starting with eerie guitar played over heavy drones, anticipation built. Suddenly the track blasts forward at unreal speeds.  Ferociously played, teetering on the edge of insanity. The focus is on velocity, but through the rapid fire riffs beautiful harmonies can be made out, gracing the savagery as they clammer to be heard above the chaos. The track provides a flawless mixture of ominous elegance and straightforward, ripping black metal.

By combining fury and restraint Shackles for a Crown have created a stunning first impression. This demo was self released and unfortunately the cassettes are sold out. Word is that a CD of this material is coming and you can stream and download it as of now from bandcamp. This band has the makings of true greatness, I suspect their name will be known soon enough.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Urzeit - Urzeit (Psychic Violence Records)

Urzeit is a project based in Portland, Oregon playing a vicious form of black metal. Formed by two members, A.L.N. of the excellent blackened doom project Mizmor and R.F. of the mighty Ash Borer. Needless to say with that lineup I had high expectations for this tape, and unsurprisingly it does not disappoint.

The tape consists of three rather short tracks and right off the bat Urzeit brings fury, ripping guitar riffs are at full speed immediately, accompanied by blasting drums. Most of the tape is played at an extreme speed which makes the occasional foot stomping riff even more devastating. The end segment of the first track "Erdboden Gleichmachen" is a perfect example, the song blisters forward for most of it's duration until suddenly heavy riffs erupt, ending the song perfectly. The vocals are mainly traditional black metal rasps but occasionally the band will throw in a deep cavernous growl. Most of the tape follows the same basic formula but this approach is surprisingly not limiting. Where Urzeit's strength lies is in their ability to simply write a great black metal song. No surprises and no frills seems to be the formula and hopefully that won't change. This tape is unfortunately sold out but you can stream and buy it at the band's bandcamp.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: Omens - The Seventh Chalice (Belief Mower Records)

Omens is a project of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jonathan Nicosia through which he performs an interesting mixture of everything from post-punk to doom metal, deathrock to black metal, and at times a bit of ethereal wave thrown in. This is the only release from the project and sadly it has come to an end, luckily he has left us with an amazing, gloomy piece of work released on cassette by Belief Mower Records last year.

Jagged chords are struck chiming the beginning of the tape. Soon joined by plodding drums and droning vocals that instantly remind me of Michael Gira, full of apathy and loathing. This first track "The Unclean Distance" slowly moves forward, driven by a gloomy bassline. Suddenly the track collapses into mid pace blasting covered in swirling atmospherics. Noise elements are used heavily on this tape to create a dense, immersive experience. The second track "Seven Chimes" is rooted in the gloom created by post-punk and deathrock. The throbbing bass keeps a steady tempo while creeping guitar lines weave themselves over the music. The track is not free from metallic tendencies, still containing sinister melodies and a doom-like portion where the original composition is shifted to a slow malevolent pace. The many genres the tape straddles are mixed perfectly into something cohesive and enthralling. 

The second half of the tape starts with "Flames At Dawn" a nearly ambient piece consisting of piano and various noise components. The piano is played seemingly randomly with keys being hit in an atonal and repetitive manner, there is still a haunting melody that seeps through as the notes are hit and the background noise seethes. The last track on this tape is a cover, and a spectacular one. A rendition of the Cocteau Twins song "Blind Dumb Deaf". This cover is as beautiful as the original with an added layer of melancholy and hopelessness. I strongly suggest listening to the two in succession to see how he takes the original and changes it into something wholly new. I couldn't believe what I was hearing when I first heard it, the track is given a whole new depth. Taking Cocteau Twins and creating something dark and depressive out of their ethereal music is a rather ambitious idea, especially given their legacy. Through brilliant execution Omens makes it a complete success and ends this tape perfectly.

Omens is really unlike anything I have heard, the closest comparison I could come to would be Lurker of Chalice but even that does not really come close to describing the mood created by this album. Unfortunately this will be the only release by the project but it is still available from Belief Mower Records and the opening track can be heard on bandcamp. I cannot recommend this tape enough especially for fans of any of the various genres mentioned above.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Label Spotlight: Primal Vomit Records

Primal Vomit Records is a record label based in Jacksonville, Florida run by Sam Morgan. Specializing in black metal and almost every variation of the genre, P.V.R. has an extensive roster. I recently received a number of cassettes the label released between 2010 and 2012 and while they are not new releases they deserve your attention.

Ov - Pleasure

This demo, released in 2011 is pure audial filth. Ov plays a style of black metal that is extremely muddy and death metal influenced. Alternating between blasting madness and slow doomed out death metal passages this tape is full of variety. This album features no guitar, only bass giving the tape a low end, pulsating feeling. The bass riffs are extremely distorted, they tend to meld together creating a claustrophobic wall of sound. Some of the riffs have an almost punk like feel, this mixture of primitive playing and raw production values is the foundation of this release. The recording is very lo-fi but in Ov's case this is an advantage, the raw recording gives the tape a decrepit atmosphere, dripping with misanthropy and malice. The vocals are performed in a hoarse rasp, the perfect accompaniment to the music. Ov is a great example of black and death metal being mixed in an interesting way. The two genres are combined so often it is easy to sound like one's contemporaries, Ov is an exception. By adding punk influence and a great variation of tempos they distance themselves from the heard. According to the Metal Archives the status of the project is unknown, hopefully Ov will surface again and release another monster.

Vomikaust - Morbid Way to Suffer

Thrashing black metal is Vomikaust's specialty. This is the most violent release featured in this spotlight and once you hear it you'll immediately understand why. This entire tape is full of evil riffs over frantic blasts. The guitar tone on this tape is perfect, thick and distorted but clear enough to fully hear all the great riffs. Equal parts black and thrash Vomikaust's strength lies in a similar territory as Ov's, in the ability to seamlessly meld two genres into an interesting, cohesive whole. Yes there are elements of black metal: blast beats, tremolo picks, rasps, but there are also thrash elements like interesting and riff heavy guitar leads and the occasional Tom Araya-esque scream. The band also throws in an awesome cover of Von's "Devil Pig", this is one of the few instances a cover surpasses the original. I absolutely love Von but Vomikaust add a certain furry to the track that gives the rather one dimensional song a completely new and revamped feel. Everything about this release is smothering and oppressive, the fourteen minutes fly by in a furious rage, and it provides another example of P.V.R.'s dedication to all forms of the unholy genre of black metal. 

Ill-Tolerance - Prospects of Terror

The final release highlighted here is the second demo from the two piece, ski mask clad, Ill-Tolerance. Playing a mixture of numerous styles including black metal, grindcore, and powerviolence, that is melodic while still maintaining an extremely vicious edge. The guitar tone is thick and the riffs are crushingly heavy. There is a sense of the pummeling brutality utilized by many of the forefathers of the powerviolence genre like Infest or Crossed Out. This mixed seamlessly with black metal blasts and rasps makes the tape a full force onslaught. Each song is very distinct, containing different rhythms and grooves, something that can often be lost in a record so rooted in grindcore and powerviolence. Melody plays a large role here, while the genre tends to steer clear of melodic sensibilities Ill-Tolerance uses them as an advantage, even if not at the forefront there are hidden, lingering melodies. This is quite a unique project with a distinct sound. The band is still active so hopefully they will release something new soon.

This concludes my spotlight on P.V.R. and I've only scratched the surface of what this label has to offer. Other acts like Floridian Winter, Ives, and Fields of Passing also demonstrate P.V.R.'s stedfast dedication to the underground. Find them on Facebook here and at their blogspot.