I knew it wouldn’t take long until I found another reason to revisit ye olde Soda Bar in sunny San Diego. Though the weather was fair, the night’s music would be bringing plenty of gloom ‘n’ doom in the form of Cryptic Languages, Void Omnia, He Whose Ox is Gored, and Samothrace. After circling the block for twenty minutes trying to find parking, I entered my new favorite venue and took the pole position (literally, it’s a pole that has the baffling honor of being located right in front of the stage). Ideal viewing conditions or not, I was ready.
Speakin’ My Cryptic Language
One good thing about seeing a shit-ton of recent shows is the routine exposure I get from the local metal scene. I can directly support hometown acts and get a taste for genres I normally wouldn’t seek out myself — a win-win for this metalhead who’s always looking to expand his listening horizons with new jams. So it was with Cryptic Languages (San Diego), an instrumental psychedelic/stoner-doom metal trio with some seriously tasty parts.
Right away, I was quite taken with their huge bass sound, which employed phaser and other effects to add texture and fullness in absence of a vocalist. The guitarist’s tasteful solos were a treat for the ears and not one bit overused in the way some bands do to compensate for a lack of vocals. I’ll also say that the drummer had among the best live tom sound I’ve ever heard — thick, full, with the perfect amount of thud. The band’s foray into stoner/psychedelic territory led to a good mix of energetic, uptempo parts that contrasted nicely with backbreaking doom passages. All in all, way more enjoyable than most opening bands have a right to be. Liked, followed, shared, and subscribed, gents.
Void Omni-YEAH, BABY!
I can’t quite remember where I’d first come across black metal quintet Void Omnia (Oakland), but I’d always been curious of their live potential. Their 2016 release “Dying Light” has only recently been demanding a lot of my attention, but what I’d heard was reason enough to make the trip south solely for them. As the band set up, the Soda Bar crowd had turned noticeably more grim, their t-shirt logos more illegible. A couple Void Omnia devotees wormed their way to the front, blocking my view, which spurred me closer to the stage as well. Since missing Taake last month, I was eager for some blackened barraging up close and personal.
Once the levels were set, Void Omnia’s vocalist hopped off the stage to let the rest of the band open up with the ominous, plodding intro for Of Time. I’ll be honest, the slow-paced opener wasn’t what I was expecting, but all my feelings were laid aside once the spark of the song ignited into a full-fledged flame. Their second song, Remanence of a Ghost Haunt, spread the flames even further, the flames of which were fuel by the vocalist. Upon his return, the man was positively unhinged and blazing across the stage with a fervor granted to him from some dark, cosmic force. A few songs later he left the stage to scream and rage right in front of the crowd, elevating the insane vortex the rest of the band were unleashing behind him. Their live sound cut through with furious clarity, this in stark contrast to the unfortunate muddiness of Ghost Bath, the last band I’d seen at the Soda Bar. Bear in mind the guitarists were still whirlwinding with tremolo black metal ferocity, but I could finally enjoy hearing the riff changes rather than guess at them. And the drummer — that poor guy! — his limbs were mostly a blur of 32nd notes for the entire show. Someone give him a medal.
Void Omnia carried their level of vigor and vehemence on until the end, closed out by the obliterating Emptied Heartless, an utter black hole of despair with a multitude of fakeouts that left me wondering if there’d ever be an end in sight (I would have been willing to be punished by a few more songs, but alas — the show must go on). As a whole, the band was searing, complete annihilating energy incarnate — the proximity certainly helped, but these were musicians that knew their instruments and knew how to use them in a way that infected the audience without any trite bullshit. I’d see them again in a heartbeat.
Sludged, Progged, and Gored
After the all-consuming force of nature that was Void Omnia, I wasn’t ready to get proggy — but He Whose Ox is Gored (Seattle) wasn’t going to wait for me to catch up. The vocalist/keyboardist came right out and plopped her rig right in front of the stage, and it wasn’t until I saw her start plugging cords in that I realized there was no room on the stage for it. I’d listened to a bit of the band beforehand and found them interesting — but bands always shine when they’re live and have you as a captive audience.
And captivate they did! He Whose Ox is Gored plays a pedigree of synth-assisted prog that is both wildly like and unlike heavy hitters like Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me. Maybe it’s their bleak sludge metal bits that makes their prog parts seem more weighty — either way, their comfort in using twisting time-signatures while maintaining melody at the forefront made a lot of the music of the aforementioned bands seem almost pedestrian and uninspired. He Whose Ox is Gored didn’t shred for shredding’s sake — they preferred to prog along with an acute sense of emotion and mood; the vocalist embodied this as she gesticulated wildly with passionate vocal delivery. I was also impressed by their amazingly clean guitar tone (although I’m a drummer who doesn’t know more than two things about guitars, so take that however you want).
He Whose Ox is Gored is one of those bands that gets more rewarding the more you listen to them — and that’s even more true live. Before closing out their set, they thanked Samothrace and their tour manager in a moment of pure, genuine feeling that reflected the passion in their musicianship. They left us with a new song — Ache or Egg, I’ve been unable to discern which — an intense, dazzling track with a simply stunning conclusion. If ever there were an indication that a band is reaching a new height in its creative career, it is Ache/Egg for He Whose Ox is Gored. I believe I uttered an earnest “holy shit” after it ended.
Not Quite a Winged Victory for Doom… But Close
Let me be frank — I didn’t have a pressing need to see Samothrace. I’m not a big fan of doom, and although what I’d heard from them wasn’t bad by any means, I couldn’t see how they could follow up the previous two acts of the night. But I stuck around because the other bands spoke very highly of Samothrace, and I saw this as an opportunity for me to try to “understand” doom. With their extra-high cymbals and super-low mic stand, I was already a bit puzzled before they even starting playing.
Their set seemed pretty standard doom to me — long songs with lengthy open chords, punctuated by crash cymbals and low, cavernous roars. But around the second song, I thought I began to “get it” — it seemed that, to me at least, doom metal was all about building toward this great, big, cathartic climax. As the undulating waves of toms, cymbals, and cacophonous chords rolled over me, I had to admit the release was satisfying. But by that logic, it felt to me like most of each song’s duration just didn’t matter, especially when it went on for several more minutes after it had reached its big peak. This was most apparent to me on their last song, the end of which they drew out for what felt like five minutes with the same percussive pattern. Samothrace didn’t make me a believer, though they were potent doomsayers/players, but I’m glad I stuck around and saw what they had to offer.
As I walked back to wherever it was I parked my car, I reflected on what a strange lineup the bands had been. Doom seemed to be the uniting factor, save for Void Omnia, but each band sounded too distinct from each other. What struck me was how none of the bands announced who they were, or where they were from — it didn’t matter. These were four groups of talented musicians just doing their thing — listeners and audience be damned. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t come there for Samothrace — they knew what they were there to accomplish, and they believed in that to their fullest. Several times throughout their set, their drummer would bend over and rest his head on his snare drum — I couldn’t really say why, but for some reason it made me think of how music means more to some people than it does to others, and it may mean the most to the artist most of all. All music is subjective and deeply personal — it’s capable of pulling a small unit of highly creative, sometimes highly reclusive musicians miles away from their homes to express themselves to crowds of strangers. And whether that’s in some rundown bar or an enormous theater, that’s a hell of an amazing thing.
I wouldn’t consider Paraguay one of the more well-known sources of death metal, but Verthebral seems ready to change that. This fearsome four-piece has been stewing 10 songs for their full-length debut, “Regeneration,” and it’ll be ready to serve on June 29th via Satanath Records. To whet your appetite, we’ve got a sizzling new song premiere for you — introducing Old Man’s Memories.
An aggressive palm-muted assault opens up the song, clearing space for double bass to thunder by, bolstered by powerful bass clanking in the background. An uptick in tempo takes the verse to a neck-breaking pace before winding back to the intro/chorus, which with the addition of repugnant vocals has taken on an anthemic (if still pleasantly putrid) quality. We’re then treated to two solos, both of which have their own distinct personality while maintaining the level of antagonistic energy. The odd-time bridge that follows is death metal perfection — I feel guilty admitting that something so brutal could be so catchy, but there you have it. A final short sprint aided by double bass downbeats and a unified guitar attack takes us to a final chorus and catastrophic outro.
Old Man’s Memories is but one meaty slice of “Regeneration,” but I’m already hungry for the whole thing. Verthebral proves they’ve got the chops and songwriting skills to put their country on the map. We’re betting the final result will be a real treat.
“Regeneration” will release June 29th via Satanath Records.
Rabid, hateful, with a penchant for nihilism — that’s how we’d describe Persian black metal duo Zurvan. With their second full-length album, entitled “Gorge of Blood,” creeping closer toward its June 28th release via Satanath Records, we’re pleased to reinforce their bleak outlook on life with a brand new song premiere. It’s called Filthy Calendar of the Time, and it’s an abusive slab of black metal that hits like a rusty steel shovel. Listen up — this one’s gonna bury you.
Zurvan rips from the crypt with a fiery expulsion of thrashy, blackened riffing and red-hot leads. Things pick up quickly — a quarter-note downbeat over a flurry of 32nd double bass notes carries the track forward into a spiraling, blackened abyss. Around the halfway mark, the drums slow to a 6/8 time signature, the rhythm guitar activates its clean channel, and a frenzied solo rises up like a smoldering effigy, a permanent scornful look sewn onto its face that etches itself in your mind through the remainder of the song.
Filthy Calendar of the Time is simple songwriting at its best — vicious verse, caustic chorus, and a sufferingly bleak bridge section/outro. The vocals are potent, yet not overly present — Zurvan is content to let their instruments do the talking, and like any solid nihilistic black metal act, the conversation turns violent fast. The good news is you only have to wait a few more days until you’ve got the whole album, so try to hold out until then, okay?
“Gorge of Blood” releases June 28th via Satanath Records.
Evolution is the key to the continued survival of a species. The same thing can be said about music. As the population of bands playing extreme music grows steadily, there is a need to branch out from the established paths to stand out from the throng. Many bands have realised this need for innovation and as a result, we see more thinning of boundaries between styles (both within metal and outside).
This series of articles has focused on such evolution within the grindcore spectrum, and here is #3 with a few more underground acts that are taking the style forward.
Black metal is one of those genres that does its best to overwhelm the listener, though how a particular band reaches that point varies wildly. In the case of London based Kassad, the one man project achieves this through dense layers of instrumentation that have a warlike feel and cold industrial undertone alongside sprawling introspective soundscapes. Kassad is a relatively new project, having released a three song EP ‘Humans’ last year before composing the seven track full length ‘Faces Turn Away’. Originally released in an extremely limited run of cassettes a few months ago, Hypnotic Dirge Records is set to give the album a CD and digital release on July 6th. Today we’re premiering the fifth song from ‘Faces Turn Away’, Broken.
Chicago’s Atonement Theory is the solo project of Jay Jancetic, who also plays guitar in Harm’s Way and has been involved with a slew of other bands in the past. While Harm’s Way stuck with the heavy and aggressive side of the spectrum, Jancetic’s goal with Atonement Theory is to strike a balance between the heavy and melodic and he’s accomplished that through drum machine driven sludge/post metal. The project’s debut EP ‘Illumination’ came out in vinyl last year, but it’s now getting a digital deluxe version with a new bonus track on July 28th. In advance of the upcoming re-release we’re excited to offer a stream of the EP’s title track, which starts off the five song effort.
LLNN (Copenhagen) and Wovoka (Los Angeles, CA) may be 5,590 miles apart, but their collaborative effort, a split entitled “Traces/Marks” releasing June 16th via Pelagic Records, shares an overwhelming, spirit-crushing bleakness. Luckily, you won’t have to wait to lash your soul to ribbons, as we’ve got the full album for you to hear in its entirety right here.
Although they describe their music as “post-apocalyptic,” that doesn’t even begin to fully describe “Marks,”LLNN’s six-song share of the split. It’s a good jump-start adjective for sure, but you could easily augment it with other dismal soundtrack descriptors like “dystopian,” “cyberpunk,” and even “grimdark.” LLNN wastes no time subjecting listeners to the collapsing condition of their world with the grimy opener The Guardian. Vocalist Christian Bonnesen provides a potent, distinctly human contrast to the mechanized drone synths on songs like Swarms, his belligerent shouts drowning out pealing sirens like defiance against a machine god.
The heaviness on “Marks” isn’t just expressed through the pounding, bottom-heavy guitars — you can almost taste the existential futility stinging like battery acid on the tongue. The songs are short, yet honed to a needle-sharp point — each is a two- to three-minute declaration of dissension and mistrust, creating a seamless throughline of urban decay. The exception is LLNN’s last track, Gravitated, which drifts along like an embellished John Carpenter song, dripping with dystopian dread. It’s disquieting end to LLNN’s side of the split, and an effective segue into the grief-stricken song that follows.
A steady guitar with utterly arid distortion opens up “Traces,”Wovoka’s sole contribution to the split. At over seventeen minutes long, “Traces” is content to take its time dragging us through scorching passages of luminous intensity. Where the “Marks” side of the split had us fearfully peering into a darkened world, Wovoka’s realm is bright and fiery yet not an ounce less punishing. A severe 6/4 time signature drives the majority of the song’s first half, urging the listener ever onward… or suffer an end in a consuming blaze.
A break seems to appear around the nine-minute mark, but it too clangs and shimmers with discordant static, dispelling the illusion of safety. The bass guitar, which had previously grumbled along like a disgruntled sidewinder, takes on a quicker gait, building momentum toward an unseen destination. The vocals undergo a similar transformation — the parched screams you’d heard only moments before now sound ethereal and melodious, uplifting you from your despair… but that too is a mirage. As your inevitable ascension continues over the next five minutes, you are pummeled and whipped by increasingly harsh waves of noise — shattering cymbals, crashing snares, and throbbing guitars. Then, before you know it, it’s all over.
LLNN and Wovoka have come together to create a powerful piece of music in “Traces/Marks.” Both are phenomenal in their own right, but united they take the listener on an odyssey into distinct realms of hellish grief and loss.
“Traces/Marks” releases June 16th via Pelagic Records. Read our interview with LLNN here.
Music to me has always been a gateway away from reality. But these days I come to understand as to how this world’s reality shapes and influences music, while the music itself offers escapism to those that seek it during troubled times. The past few weeks have just added more reasons and examples as to why this world is turning into this terrible place. It’s good that we had some solid metal and punk releases to lean on this month. ~ Shrivatsan R
Amiensus (USA) – All Paths Lead to Death (Black / Death Metal, Apathia Records)
Ljosazabojstwa’s aggressive take on black/death metal turned heads in late 2015 with a rip-roaring three-track demo. Now, with new EP “Sychodžańnie” in the chamber and ready to fire on June 30th via Hellthrasher Productions, it’s clear these Belarusian brawlers will take no prisoners. Take a listen to our premiere of the second track off “Sychodžańnie,” entitled Zhuba.
The midtempo intro/verse alone is enough to get anyone’s noggin nodding in rhythmic fashion, but it’s the following bridge section that shows how capable Ljosazabojstwa has become at shifting genres in such a short time. The sound of a funeral knell halts the assault of the guitars, slowing them down into a trudge with grinding bass and doom-y hammer-ons. The accompaniment of transcendent organs suggest you’re plodding toward a fate that’s at once terrible, majestic, and inevitable, before breaking away with speedy thrash riffing and blackened heaviness. Ljosazabojstwa switches gears into a 6/4 rhythm, followed up by a less-intense (though no-less powerful) slower beat reminiscent of the intro — then it’s back to neck-breaking brutality before a punchy end.
Ljosazabojstwa is able to cram oodles of metal goodness into their songs without making them feel overstuffed. Although not much is known about them as a band, Zhuba proves they have the energy and aggression to be a formidable black/death act to watch this year.
“Sychodžańnie” releases June 30th via Hellthrasher Productions. Read our past interview with Ljosazabojstwahere.