Falls of Rauros & Panopticon – Split 12″

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Both Falls of Rauros and Panopticon are United States black metal-ish
bands who have collaborated for this powerful 12" split release.
Panopticon (actually a solo project) is openly anarchistic in the real
sense of the term, opposing both the state and capitalism. While I’m not
quite so certain about Falls of Rauros, looking at the lyrics they seem to share a common distaste/bitterness for modern consumerist,
capitalist society and they both seem to express a preference for the
natural world over an ultimately coercive and destructive human one.
These political and environmental views certainly seems to fuel the
sound of the music they create. The two artists apparently spent some
time together in Norway, and such an environment that has inspired so
many Norwegian black metal bands like Burzum and Gorgoroth to create
such dark, atmospheric, and compelling music, has clearly had an effect
on them.

Falls of Rauros’ side:

  1. ‘Unavailing’ (11:53)
  2. The Purity of Isolation’ (06:45)

This is actually the first new material from Falls of Rauros since their
last full-length album in 2011, so in a sense there’s some pressure on
them to not let people down, and they certainly don’t. ‘Unavailing’ is a
wonderful exposition in atmospheric black metal, featuring numerous
beautiful, sorrowful guitar melodies soaring amongst the tasteful and
measured drumming, and a deep, earthy bass contribution to help ground
the guitars and keep them from sounding too airy. About 2 minutes
in there’s an astonishing but short guitar solo which is picked up
again later in the track which really does provoke an emotional reaction
to the music.

The second track ‘The Purity of Isolation’ begins as a
pretty big departure from the previous track, instead focusing on an
acoustic guitar and soft, chanted vocals, before introducing a few more
electrified melodies and black metal screams instead of singing, but
never leaving the folky acoustic base of the song. There is something so
utterly compelling about the mournfulness that permeates every moment
of both these tracks that one cannot help but be moved by it. One senses
at the same time a deep love for the natural world and life itself, but
also despair at the tragedy that has befallen nature at our hands.

“I can not find any beauty
in our sightless ambitions
I am through with forgiveness
for our unseeing
I will not feel any sorrow
by the crumbling of towers
raised from the earth in arrogance
Cleaving the welkin
Piercing the heavens”
Falls of Rauros – Unavailing

Even before I read the lyrics this was something I had a real sense of,
drawing from what little knowledge of the political backgrounds of these
two artists that I had, from the album cover, the track titles, and the
kinds of feelings they were eliciting from me, but if you do read the
lyrics (you can do so here)
I would argue their sound and their message work in tandem,
complementing each other and expressing more viscerally the concepts
they wanted to communicate. At times reminding me of Alcest’s second
album ‘Écailles de lune’ FoR’s side of the split impressed me greatly
and as soon as I publish this review I’m off to go have a listen to more
of their music.

Panopticon’s side

  1. ‘Through Mountains I Wander This Evening’ (4:33)
  2. ‘Can You Loan Me a Raven?’ (7:29)
  3. ‘Gods of Flame’ (4:26)
  4. ‘One Cold Night’ (7:56)

Panopticon’s side of the split is a much more straightforward affair
though on a similar level of quality. Sole band member A. Lunn was
clearly a lot more influneced by traditional Norwegian black metal than
his FoR counterparts. Opening track ‘Through Mountains I Wander This
Evening’  has a pretty traditional verse-chorus song structure and I really enjoy the ‘chorus’ part of this song. The band take a moment away from
the blastbeats and noise to focus on an Agalloch-ian tremolo-picked
guitar chord and settle into a more rhythmic drum pattern before leaping
straight back into the fray. ‘Can You Loan Me a Raven?’ is a much more
experimental piece of music. Though still remaining strictly within the
boundaries of black metal, it seems to explore the effects that an
almost hypnotic sense of repetition can achieve, in a very Svartidaudi/Wormlust-ian way, with a slow, droning pace, audible and
enjoyable bass, massive sections of noise, static and guitar feedback
before the drums kick back in and these wonderfully dark guitar notes
are introduced that are ingenious in their simplicity and the sort of
dark atmosphere they help further intensify.

Gods of Flame is more closely aligned with the opening track opting for a
more straightforward Norwegian black metal sound with all the
essentials you might expect with layers of atmosphere and a great raw
sound, as well as a really evil passage just before 3 minutes in. The
final track ‘One Cold Night’ is the one that made the greatest
impression on me, however. The song starts slow and the opening guitar
riff is utterly dark and entrancing, probably my favourite on the entire
split. The introduction of the muffled black metal snarls muffled in
the distance with the introduction of quiet but reverb-heavy guitars
layered on top of the whole thing heavily reminds me of the sort
of thing Burzum might have written for, say, Dunkelheit. Moments of
frenzy with blastbeats and hectic riffs, complimented by identical bass,
break up the slow pace of much of the song before slowly returning to
the depths, only to be summoned forth once more to tear off what is left
of your face by the end of this split.

This is definitely among the best splits I have had the pleasure of
listening to. Falls of Rauros present a compelling and emotionally
resonant atmospheric and melancholic take on black metal while
Panopticon opt for an equally atmospheric take but with greater emphasis
on rawness and influence from such Norwegian greats as Gorgoroth and
Burzum. The album artwork (high-res version here)
is also fantastic in my opinion, perfectly epitomising the kind of
scenery brought to mind by these two talented bands. Highly recommended
if you’re at all a fan of black metal.

Falls of Rauros & Panopticon – Split 12" is available May 3, 2014 through Bandcamp (FoR, Panopticon) or on vinyl through Bindrune Recordings

Liber Necris – Negative Creator

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Sometimes you click play on an album
without knowing quite what to expect and find yourself blown away by
what you find, and this is one of such occasions. Liber Necris’ EP Negative Creator
is one of the most ferociously heavy records I have ever had the
borderline-masochistic pleasure of listening to. Drawing together
influences from death metal, black metal, thrash, hardcore, and crust,
Liber Necris throw them all into the cauldron and what comes out is
nothing short of an auditory assault on the senses.

Liber Necris formed in Leeds, England in 2010. They released their debut EP The Immutable Aversion back in 2011 and Negative Creator is
their first release since, recorded by Rob Hobson at Silent City. I
cannot knock the production at all: it perfectly captures the visceral
sound of their music, while also adding a lot of atmosphere to the
music, such as the howls in the background towards the end of opening
track ‘In the Beginning (First Light)’ and the screams off in the
distance on closing track ‘The Eulogy for Our Earth.’

The music itself is brutal. If you were to ask me for another band as a sort of reference point for what to expect from this album, I would probably say Plague Widow,
who blend similar influences to a quite different result. The vocals
are varied, shifting between a high pitch black metal shriek (with a
considerable amount of power behind it too, it must be said) and a more
guttural death metal growl. The guitars likewise display their influence
from both black and death metal, with tremolo picked passages, powerful
riffs, and even some passages that border on breakdowns – of the good
kind, you can be assured. The drumming is seriously intense stuff, with blastbeats to accentuate the heaviest and fastest moments, and a lot of variety through the tracks.

Closing track ‘The Eulogy of the Earth’ is one of the most interesting
of the tracks here to me on the basis that it deviates so strongly from
the formula established on the previous three. The guitar leads are much
more melodic with a more atmospheric introduction before the blast
beats and black metal screams kick in (somewhat reminding me of early
Watain), though the middle section of this song settles into a strong
formula of vicious, intricate riffs and powerful drumming, while
alternating between howls and growls. The section just over 2 minutes in
reminds me of some of the more recent post-black metal music movement,
and then the band lays on some atmospherics in the background to
complement the tortured guttural vocals. The final minute of the track
moves from haunting and hypnotic to a powerful declaration of intent,
ending this record as forcefully as they began it.

Invidious – In Death

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Invidious are a Swedish death/black
metal band from Uppsala, Sweden, a city also home to Watain and In
Solitude. What first drew me to this band was the discovery that Pelle
Åhman, vocalist in heavy metal band In Solitude
(a personal favourite), was also the vocalist in a death metal band.
Having heard his fantastic clean vocals and spurred on by the few hints
of harsh vocals in In Solitude’s first two albums, I was curious to see
what Pelle had been getting up to in this side-project of his. Their
only release is this, their 2011 EP, ‘In Death.’

The first thing to make quite clear is that this is not In
Solitude. This is old-school Swedish death metal at its best. Chaotic,
heavy, low-fi and fuzzy, noisy, and heavy as hell. Each of the four
tracks on this EP are tight and focused assaults on the senses. Åhman’s
vocals are superb, at times sounding like Erik Danielsson of Watain but
with a more consistently extreme sound. One the one hand this means
less variety, but given the short length of the EP this isn’t a major
issue. The overall ‘sound’ of the band isn’t easily pinned down: on the
one hand comparisons could be made to Entombed, Degial, or Entrails. But comparisons could equally be made with early Watain, Valkyrja, or Dissection.

Opening track ‘Black Blood’
is a pretty strong start to the album. Blastbeats, nicely mixed bass, and some
frenzied, chaotic riff-work, with the harsh vocal acting as the icing on
the cake. This sort of description could easily be applied to the
following three tracks though; Dead Salvation Spawn, Throne of Death,
and Visions. But not all songs are created equal – some here are
evidently stronger than others. The chorus sections on the first two
tracks just don’t do it for me. The feeling of relentless chaos is lost
as they slow down for these choruses, often allowing single notes to
reverberate for seconds at a time and the drumming to slow down as Åhman delivers
what’s really quite a simple and bland chorus. The exact same can be
said for Dead Salvation Spawn: good until the chorus kicks in and then
just about bearable until they get back into their stride in the verse
sections again.

The last two tracks on this EP are the strongest by some margin. In
‘Throne of Death’ the chorus is a big improvement, no longer forsaking
the energy of the rest of the song and finding itself much more at home
within the context of the rest of the song. That said it still suffers
from the problem of getting a little lazy with the guitarwork behind the
vocals, content to just let a few notes hang behind the vocals.
‘Visions’ is my personal favourite from the four tracks on this EP, with
some compelling bass-work, all four members deftly transitioning
between the different parts of this song.

Ultimately, this is a good EP held back by a lack of time and experience
in refining their ability to write compelling tracks. It is for this
reason that while I will continue to enjoy this EP, I hope
that Åhman comes back from In Solitude’s compelling new album ‘Sister’
with a renewed sense of focus and a strengthened songwriting ability, to
put these into action in Invidious. There’s a lot to like about this
EP: the song is chaotic, heavy, and conveys a sense of honesty about
their vision for this band. I still recommend you give this a listen if
you’re into old-school Swedish death metal and keep an eye out for them
in the future, because there’s lots of potential here.

Angist are a female-fronted old
school death metal band from Iceland! That line on its own should be
enough to intrigue you. Angist combine an insane level of brutality,
accentuated by strong dual guitar leads, very strong vocals from
vocalist Edda, and consistently strong drumming. It must also be said
that this is one of the few death metal releases I’ve listened to where
the bass has been so strong and mixed so well that sometimes I’ve
actually been able to listen along that instead of, say, the guitars, so
props to Haraldur for that.

It’s a really strong debut EP. If you’re looking for really brutal death
metal, with an interesting vocal twist, that actually has a keen sense
of melody throughout, look no further. There are some killer riffs, a
very atmospheric, dark sound, and five well-constructed tracks here. I
asked the band on Twitter and they’re heading into the studio next week
to record their first full-length, so now’s the perfect time to get
introduced to them!