Review: Time Lurker – “Time Lurker”

Posted in Reviews on June 4th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Time Lurker

Time Lurker is a one-man atmospheric black metal project that came to life in Strasbourg, France in 2014. Though it is technically a solo project, a number of other musicians contributed to this record, including members of ParamnesiaPyrecult, and Le Mal des Ardents. Their debut full-length album, the eponymous Time Lurker, channels charts a course that explores the nature of the human condition through the medium of introspective, atmospheric black metal. Stylistically it reminds me of Mare Cognitum, Aureole, or Spectral Lore. The sheer scale and ambition of the compositions contained within is as impressive as it is daunting, the intensity of the emotions and the consequential catharsis exhausting. While it very occasionally bites off more than it can chew, Time Lurker is an exhilarating, emotionally draining record from start to finish. Read more »

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Review: Au-Dessus – “End of Chapter”

Posted in Reviews on May 4th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Au-Dessus

Lithuania’s Au-Dessus‘s debut album “End of Chapter” is a haunting, moving piece of post-black metal mastery. Conceptualised as both sequel and conclusion to their 2015 self-titled EP, “End of Chapter” sees Au-Dessus push deeper into the realms of dissonant, unsettling extreme metal. Comparisons with bands such as Blut Aus NordDeathspell Omega, and Schammasch are natural and appropriate, but Au-Dessus more than do enough to carve out their own niche in this flourishing style of black metal. Jarring, dissonant guitar riffs metamorphose into crushing passages of atmospheric sludge metal brutality; inhuman, tortured howls give way to melodic, passionate singing. Make no mistake about it: Despite the sleek visual aesthetic, this is challenging, harsh music that requires patience and careful attention to appreciate and come to grips with. With “End of Chapter”, Au-Dessus have crafted one of the most fascinating and powerful metal records in recent memory.  Read more »

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TERRA: Interview and Album Review

Posted in Features, Interviews, Reviews on December 14th, 2016 by Matthew Lowery

That Cambridgeshire simply didn’t have any good metal bands was a sad fact I’d come to accept. When I’m not at university here in York, I live in the small cathedral-city of Ely, a short drive from the county’s namesake and hub of Cambridge. Musically, it’s an utterly desolate landscape. Friends of mine who live and study in Cambridge have confirmed as much. So when I learned that Cambridge was now the home of TERRA, an atmospheric black metal band along the lines of Wolves in the Throne Room or Ash Borer, my heart leapt. And while TERRA certainly do draw on these bands, they forge their own path on their second full-length album ‘Mors Secunda’. Read more »

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Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

I hadn’t really heard of Nechochwen when I first listened to this album. I was aware of the sort of Native American themes they focus on but otherwise I was in the dark, having basically stumbled onto this album’s page on the Nordvis Records Bandcamp. But it seemed intriguing, and any album whose tags include “black metal”, “acoustic”, and “folk rock” definitely has my attention. But this album totally blew me away.

Read more »

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Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Posted in Reviews on August 30th, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

Mgła (pronounced ‘mg-wah’) are a Polish black metal band that began back in 2000. Their very first release was as part of the legendary 2005 split/compilation album ‘Crushing the Holy Trinity’ alongside Deathspell Omega, Clandestine Blaze, and others. Since then Mgła have released a steady stream of EPs, splits and full-lengths, their last release being 2012’s fantastic album ‘With Hearts Towards None’, recognised by many as one of the top black metal albums of that year. Three years on, Mgła are back with another full-length, and in my view this their best release yet, improving on all aspects of their sound.

Read more »

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Interview: Sorrow Plagues

Posted in Interviews on June 11th, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

Sorrow Plagues is a one-man atmospheric black metal/blackgaze project from the UK. Having recently reviewed the new EP ‘An Eternity of Solitude’, I wanted to talk with the man behind it to delve deeper into his music. He was kind enough to speak to me about the themes explored on the EP and more! Read more »

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Sorrow Plagues – An Eternity of Solitude

Posted in Reviews on June 10th, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

Much of black metal is a dreary, somber affair: dark, often self-destructive lyrical subjects and aggressive and often deliberately depressive music that doesn’t really leave much room for positivity; Not so with UK one-man black metal project Sorrow Plagues: like many recent atmospheric/post-black metal artists such as Deafheaven, Woods of Desolation, and others, Sorrow Plagues intends on challenging much of the genre’s long-held assumptions about what black metal can or should sound like.

The hazy, shoegazey atmosphere on this EP combined with the raw and  noisy production style are a very evocative combination, and under other
circumstances might have sounded totally at home in a far less extreme genre of music. Yet these mask the true feelings this music seeks to channel. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to describe ‘An Eternity of Solitude’ as a positive album, yet the feelings it evokes are far from the often nihilistic, aggressive ones that black metal artists have traditionally sought to channel. It might be more accurate to say that An Eternity of Solitude channels feelings of hope, despair, and longing for something beyond reach. This is speculation of course, as the lyrics have not been published, but I am speaking to what the emotions this music draw out in me, and what I feel Sorrow Plagues is trying to communicate.

Read more »

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Abominor – Opus Decay

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

Abominor are a black metal band from Reykjavík, Iceland. Formed back in 2008, this is their first release since their 2010 demo, and it left quite an impression on me. Iceland is having something of a black metal renaissance at the moment, with groups like Svartidauði, Sinmara (formerly Chao), and Misþyrming making huge waves across the metal scene over the last few years. Abominor do not entirely break with the suffocating, occult sound developed within the Icelandic scene, but they do enough to stand out that this EP is well worth a listen, particularly if you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned bands.

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Review: Myrkur – “Myrkur”

Posted in Reviews on September 10th, 2014 by Matthew Lowery
Myrkur

You may well have heard of Myrkur. This one-woman black metal project from Denmark has been causing quite a stir recently with parent label Relapse Records promoting and releasing this debut EP, comparing her music to early Ulver and Darkthrone; not comparisons to be made lightly, it must be said. She does appear to have come out of nowhere, and signing with a relatively major label before releasing even a demo aroused peoples suspicions. But I’m less interested in the person behind the music than I am with the music itself, so that’s what I would like
to focus on here.

While I understand the comparison with Ulver, I don’t think Darkthrone is a particularly useful point of comparison. In fact, the group that Myrkur most reminded me of while I was listening to this EP was actually Alcest. I think both seem to have a fairly similar sound and vision for their music. Both take a rather unorthodox approach to black metal, making use of clean vocals and atmosphere rather than brutality and low-quality production. Unfortunately in this comparison it became clear to me that Myrkur is less successful in achieving her vision. Perhaps the most frustating thing about this EP is I can totally see where she is going with this. I can totally understand how she is trying to balance these fragile choir vocals against a more raw, black metal set of instruments in an attempt to conjure an atmosphere of nature, forests, waterfalls etc. However the execution is not there yet. Read more »

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Falls of Rauros & Panopticon – Split 12″

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11th, 2014 by Matthew Lowery
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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

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