Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: Jute Gyte/Venowl - Split (Black Horizons)

Black Horizons is a label that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what dark music can become. The label has increasingly become a house for the obscure, releasing works from acts like death industrial legend Trepaneringsritualen or a recent demo from American black metal luminaries L'Acephale consisting of original tracks and completely reimagined covers of Darkthrone, Current 93, and Emperor. Everything the label releases is challenging and makes the listener rethink the confines of dark music, which, in turn makes it the perfect label to release this split. A union of two bands that take their respective genres and completely warp them until the foundation is non-existent, only leaving traces of what was, Jute Gyte and Venowl act as perfect compliments to one another.

Jute Gyte strikes first on the split, the project of sole member Adam Kalmbach who creates eerie and surreal black metal. The music created by this individual is honestly unlike anything else, it squirms and writhes creating an incoherent cacophony of squealing guitar, bashing drums, and snarled vocals. At times there is a break from the reckless abandon of the song and a heavy riff will present itself, showcasing a more straightforward form of madness. Jute Gytes approach is discordant and unsettling, relying heavily on odd time signatures and layers upon layers of noise accompanying the metal. The second track from Jute Gyte, "The Rib" immediately hits the listener with disjointed doom, seemingly off-key notes piece through a trudging malice the track presents. Soon after this the doom is gone and back is Kalmbach's frantic style of playing, chords and notes are scattered over noise and ambience. His contribution ends with an almost deathrock feel, echoing guitar and haunting ambience, creating a wholly unsettling atmosphere, a fitting end to the spastic horror found on Jute Gyte's side of the split.

Venowl have recently become a staple of my listening habits. Their brand of black/doom/noise/insert another arbitrary genre here is exceptionally challenging and disturbing. The three members who are simply called ::, ][, and // approach music in a way that, like Jute Gyte, is completely outside the realms of influence and categorization, meaning there is no reference points. One could point to funeral doom or black metal or noise but in reality what Venowl create is something different, something completely their own. A creation that is non-musical yet extremely meticulous and oddly rhythmic. Utilizing the sinister ambience of a violin along with crushing guitar and bass trudging, minimalist drumming, and horribly pained shrieks, Venowl's piece "Snowbed" is twenty-seven minutes of drudging and depraved pandemonium. The only comparison I can make is that of a machine lurching to a grinding, violent halt after being over-worked for hundreds of years the sluggish, lumbering approach is industrial yet strangely organic. Through "Snowbed" the three musicians have yet again solidified their place as one of the most exciting and forward thinking acts currently active.

This split is a testament to how well splits can be executed, a perfect pairing of bands who are both pushing sonic boundaries rather than rehashing ideas. Jute Gyte's atonal and vicious black metal is complimented perfectly by Venowl's horrific dirge. Through this release Black Horizons, Jute Gyte, and Venowl yet again solidify themselves as a major forces within the underground dark music scene. Highly recommended and can be ordered here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: Leather Chalice - Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air (Opaqus Records) & Luna (Broken Limbs Recordings)

Purveyor of blackened everything Jan Slezak has been quite busy in 2014. His amazing "blackened stenchviolence" band Ramlord recently released a split with crusty Dutch comrades Nuclear Devastation and has another split release with USBM stalwarts Krieg out shortly. Not only that but his solo project Leather Chalice has released two phenomenal tapes already this year, one a full-length, Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air which was put out by Opaqus Records. The other a one song 15 minute EP, Luna, which was released by Broken Limbs Recordings. Both are murky rides through a blackened punk nightmare but they each travel very different paths.

Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air

From the creeping ambient intro to the last scuzzy chord of "Despondent Reign" Jan takes the listener on a journey, one of punk ferocity mixed with mournful black metal. Punk and black metal have been a natural combination for quite some time with bands like Bone Awl, Furdidurke, and Raspberry Bulbs making waves in the underground but Leather Chalice's approach is different. Conjuring images of drunken trips to the graveyard Jan's ability to play sloppy (a term used ever so fondly) punk laced with the morbid atmosphere of black metal stands out amongst the hordes of bands playing in a similar style. Some tracks are almost pure punk like "Necrohenosis," which starts off with an almost uplifting post-punky riff but soon turned into a stomping display of swampy punk madness, graced with Jan's howls. Other are purely black metal like the guitar instrumental "The Worshippers Garden," displaying a more traditional black metal sound, melancholy in it's execution. These two songs juxtaposed against one another, one grimy punk one sorrowful black metal work perfectly. The way Jan weaves the two together is astounding. Some tracks seamlessly combine the raw elements of both black metal and punk, like "Conquest of Terminal Despair" which begins with an icy tremolo picked portion that sounds like it's coming straight from the second wave and quickly become a punk ripper before descending back into the black metal framework. The two genres contaminate one another forming a hybrid between the two, not punk, not black metal but some warped combination of both. 


If Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air is straightforward, Luna represents Jan's foray into the abstract and experimental. Still rooted in the combination of black metal and punk the tape is a 15 minute long delve into the warped psyche of it's undertaker. Filling the Leather Chalice sound with more ambient and noise he and his cohorts, Ben on drums, Tim on OP-I/electronics, and Devyn providing "dungeon ambient" create something unsettling and deranged. Washing the blackened punk in a spacy haze Luna is almost coldly psychedelic at times, guitar harmonies ring out over hypnotic drumming with odd noises fluttering in and out of focus. This is not to say that the blackened punk isn't as vicious as ever, it definitely is, but instead the unsettling atmosphere is amplified by the inclusion of new sounds. Jan's guitar playing is also given new life on the track, often rising above the murk and playing creeping guitar solos. At times the noise takes over, acting as a segue into a new portion of the track, being a huge fan of noise and electronics these additions only add to Leather Chalice's sound, making it more cryptic and providing the album with an experimental touch. The production here is certainly improved, with clarity highlighting the skilled composition of the 15 minute opus, maintaining a raw edge without drowning the instruments in a sea of dirt, perfect for this type of expansive yet filthy music. After all the insanity Luna ends abruptly, coming to a howling (literally) and crashing halt. 

I personally enjoyed Luna more out of the two, the extra elements and the lengthy structure allowed for the album to develop as it went. That being said, both of these albums demand your attention, and will grip you for their duration. If you have any sort of interest in black metal or punk and would enjoy a unique combination of the two Leather Chalice might just be your new favorite band. Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air is available from Opaqus Records here, and act quick the edition of 50 looks to be running out. Luna is available from Broken Limbs Recordings here. Pick both of them up and be dragged into the scummy world of Leather Chalice.