Live report: Zhrine / Auðn / Hubris (23/04/2017)

Posted in Live reviews on April 25th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Zhrine

The prospect of seeing two of Iceland’s very best black metal bands performing at a free-entry show in a small pub in London was simply too much for me to resist, so I caught a coach down from York in eager anticipation. Since the release of their album Unortheta (probably my favourite album of all time), Zhrine have secured spots at major festivals around Europe and North America, and even toured the US with Ulcerate and Phobocosm last year. Self-described ‘outsiders’ to Iceland’s black metal scene, Auðn are truly one of Iceland’s underrated gems. Atmospheric and evocative, bleak and tortured by melancholy, with throat-shredding shrieks and howls. Their side-project Hubris rounded off the stellar lineup, delivering brutal death metal aggression with malicious black metal influences. The stellar lineup delivered a spectacular show for all present, reaffirming the strength of Iceland’s metal scene. Read more »

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Interview: Sathamel on death metal, touring, and their upcoming album

Posted in Interviews on April 18th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Sathamel

Sathamel are one of the most exciting extreme metal acts to come out of Yorkshire in years. Known for their blackened death metal and blistering live performances, Sathamel have honed their craft touring across the UK for the past several years. Their performance at Northern Extremity XI at the Fulford Arms in York was a ferocious assault and a rousing success, so I sat down with them to talk about their music, the UK’s metal scene and York. Read more »

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Interview: Devouring Star on Antihedron, Satanism, and Death

Posted in Interviews on March 30th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Devouring Star

In the process of writing my recent review of Devouring Star‘s fantastic new EP ‘Antihedron’, I came to realise that there was a rare depth and maturity to the record, both musically and conceptually. They recently published brief explanations of some of the themes and meanings behind both their debut album ‘Through Lung and Heart’ and ‘Antihedron‘. But there are yet further depths to be explored. The band are cloaked in anonymity, however I was lucky enough to speak with JL who was kind enough to expound upon the concepts and themes at work within ‘Antihedron’, and the motivations and beliefs that inspire Devouring Star‘s music more generally. The answers shed new light on the impenetrable darkness of these records. Read on for the full interview. Read more »

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Review: Draugsól – “Volaða Land”

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Draugsól

Volaða Land is the debut record from the recently-formed Icelandic group Draugsól. The band describe themselves as black metal, and by and large that’s accurate, but to my ears there’s a whole lot of death metal influence going on here as well, with a prominent low-end sound, heavy palm-muted guitar riffs, and guttural vocals. In some ways the texture of influences on this album almost reminds me of a way heavier, more death metal-influenced Enslaved. The tremolo-picked guitar passages and aggressive percussion are here as well of course, but Draugsól venture well beyond these conventional genre boundaries. The songs are constructed around powerful melodies, rhythms and motifs, with some incredibly tasteful, understated guitar solos and jazzy, varied percussion. Read more »

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Review: Devouring Star – “Antihedron”

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2017 by Matthew Lowery
Devouring Star

Devouring Star’s new EP ‘Antihedron’ is the sound of worlds collapsing in on themselves, a black hole devouring a solar system. Antihedron describes “negative planes and shapes”, and discusses the three central concepts of birth, existence, and death. Each song serves to highlight a separate facet of the human experience, as beings whose experience extends across each plane of existence. The crushing, abrasive weight of Devouring Star‘s sound serves as the perfect vessel for the cold, malicious Satanic energies they channel through their music. Antihedron is Devouring Star‘s finest moment to date, and a forceful reminder of the power a record can wield when the music is given purpose through its message. Read on for the review.

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Review: Bölzer – “Hero”

Posted in Reviews on November 25th, 2016 by Matthew Lowery

Bölzer’s debut full-length album ‘Hero’ is finally here. It’s a testament to the quality of their music that they have succeeded in setting the metal underground on fire with less than an hour’s musical material to their name. Because Bölzer has set such a high standard with their music so far, and the media buzz around the band, there’s an enormous amount of pressure on the band for Hero to live up to everyone’s expectations. And in most respects, Hero delivers the goods.

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Review: Zhrine – “Unortheta”

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2016 by Matthew Lowery
ZHRINE

Over the past few years, Iceland’s metal scene has exploded in popularity. This year has seen Svartidauði perform in the United States and support Primordial on a tour across Europe, while Misþyrming performed as an Artist In Residence at the legendary Roadburn festival after just one album to their name. Zhrine seem set to continue that winning streak with their debut album ‘Unortheta’, taking elements of black metal and death metal and combining them to create that something far greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m going to get straight to the point here: Zhrine‘s greatest strength is their ability to write fantastic songs. Other bands might be heavier, more technical, or more avant-garde, but Zhrine‘s ability to write beautiful, haunting, deeply unsettling  music is so many steps ahead of most other bands it’s almost silly. And that’s even more impressive considering this is their first release together as Zhrine, having been previously known as Gone Postal before rebranding as Zhrine to mark the change in musical direction from that past project. For such a young band to come out with such a well-written debut album as Unortheta is a rare thing. It’s not an easy thing to articulate or explain, but whatever good songwriting is – it’s present on Unortheta in spades.

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Leviathan – Scar Sighted

Posted in Reviews on March 3rd, 2015 by Matthew Lowery

Leviathan is the one-man black metal project of the controversial California-based multi-instrumentalist, tattooist Jef Whitehead, a.k.a. ‘Wrest’. Wrest made a name for himself with Leviathan’s early music which channelled the depressive suicidal black metal spirit better than almost any of his contemporaries, and 2003’s ‘The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide’ remains a classic within that subgenre. But as time moved on Wrest began to incorporate many more influences and styles into Leviathan’s music, culminating in 2008’s ‘Massive Conspiracy Against All Life’, to date (in my view) one of the best albums in the entire black metal genre. I remember listening to the album through my earphones on a long, late walk back from town and this album absolutely engulfed me. It grabs you and pulls you in in a deeply unsettling but gripping way with weird, psychedelic melodies and distorted riffs as well as long, progressive song structures.

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ZOM – Flesh Assimilation

Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2014 by Matthew Lowery

ZOM are a blackened death metal group from Dublin, Ireland. With their debut full-length album ‘Flesh Assimilatiion’ they join bands like their fellow Irish compatriots Malthusian in the fight to create the most cacophonous, cavernous death metal out there, and do a marvellous job of it, blending catchy, punishing riffs, with brutal vocals that demolish everything put before them, all amplified by rough, raw, loud production that sounds primitive and heavy as hell.

While ZOM don’t necessarily do much to reinvent the entire genre of death metal, one simply cannot deny the compelling nature of their sound. There is something totally honest about the rough nature of their sound: Sabbac hammers and smash away furiously behind his drumkit while guitarist Sodomaniac produces some of the heaviest, catchiest riffs heard this year. While some are a conventional (but still enjoyable) blackened death metal affair, other moments (particularly the last three tracks of this album) bring in influences from bands like Death and Slayer and make for some really memorable tracks.

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Teitanblood – Death

Posted in Reviews on April 27th, 2014 by Matthew Lowery
teitanblood

I was not prepared for Death. I was tipped off about this album from a bunch of people over on last.fm and after I worked up the courage I eventually gave in and decided I would have a listen. From a quick look at their last.fm profile, at their picture and at the most common tags (three of them being “black metal”, “death metal”, and “war metal”) I went into Death with the idea that ‘okay, this is probably going to be pretty heavy.’

I was not prepared how heavy Death was going to be.

Death is the sound of a thousand corpses being crushed into the ground by some huge machine, their souls screaming out in agony, and all about the sound of war and noise. All of which, it goes without saying, takes place within an impenetrable vortex of torment and suffering. This is not an album of subtleties or complexity: it does one thing and it does it really fucking well. There is absolutely no intention of fundamentally revisiting what death metal should or could sound like. Instead, they see how far they can push it in terms of extremity.

Death is almost certainly the most relentlessly extreme and terrifying album you will hear all year. I certainly can’t remember a heavier one. The drums, performed by “J”, are like a machine gun, relentlessly smashing away with such ferocity and precision that it becomes a force of its own. “NSK” is responsible for the guitar, bass, and vocals and he is really at the top of his game here. The vocals aren’t really black metal so much as a range of howls and  roars ranging from shrieks to bellows to guttural growls; whatever works  in the moment.

The guitars are tuned low. Really low. The mix also results in a huge amount of distortion, and seems to blend the guitars, bass, and drums into a single cacophony of fury slightly below the vocals, while also providing a kind of ‘cavernous’ sound to the record, with some echo/reverb on the vocals and drums. Among the muddied, thundering guitarwork you also have occasionally flairs of dizzying, powerful, and electrifying guitarwork. Electrifying is a good word here, I think, because in the context of the music it almost sounds like a crash of thunder and lightning above the battlefield. There are some seriously headbangable riffs throughout this album, but the two that stand out for me appear towards the ends of ‘Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist’ and ‘Burning in Damnation Fires.’

That said, at times Death is so single-minded in its approach that it can become tiring, particularly when the album clocks in at a pretty massive 70 minutes. When you listen to Death it really does demand your undivided attention, but on the other hand Death lacks the variety and dynamics to make that sustainable over such a long period. By the end it does all stand to blend together a bit, which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t demand so much time to finish in the first place. You may instead have greater success listening to the first half, taking a break, and then coming back to the maelstrom in a bit. And, in general, I certainly enjoy listening to this album. I love putting it on my record player, turning the volume up, and getting lost in it until the end of the first of the two records, before I go and do something else for a bit, and come back to finish it. But after that experience is over, I can never remember exactly which track I enjoyed the most, as they all sounded so similar. There are only a few moments I can point to that were real highlights.

Death almost requires a mindset change to appreciate it. I know it did for me and for others I’ve talked to online. Fundamentally, you have to know what you want out of this album before you go into it. If you go into this album expecting some avant-garde piece of art metaphorically exploring the metaphysical consequences of the human condition… you’re going to be disappointed. If you want unbelievably powerful, cacophonous metal, representing the most brutal and dark recesses of extreme metal, extreme music taken to its most extreme, then you’ve come to the right place, and what a place it is.

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