Primitive Man/Sea Bastard – Split (Review)

Primitive ManThis is a split release between two of Doom’s darkest stars, Primitive Man from the US and Sea Bastard from the UK.

Both excel at what they do and having both of them on one release is quite an exciting prospect.

Primitive Man start us off with two tracks of the grimmest, most evil Sludge-fuelled Doom that there is. It’s 17 minutes of agonised pain and hatred. After many releases, (here, here and here, for example), I still can’t get enough of the horribly bleak noises that they make.

Colossally heavy and nihilistically bleak, Primitive Man always deliver the goods, and on this split it seems that the goods are well past their best-before-date and covered in filth and dirt.

The singer has hands-down one of the best pitch-black growls I’ve ever heard and when his voice first makes an appearance on Cold Resolve it’s like being floored by a truck. That’s if the slow, crushing guitars haven’t flattened you before then. The song proceeds to crawl across your broken corpse, all distorted malice and squealing feedback, slowly pressing you into the ground until there’s nothing left.

The second song of theirs is the shorter of the two, yet is no less nasty for it. Servant starts off with a feedback squeal and is typically crushing from then on in, once again showing off the kind of high-quality Doom that the band have become known for. Dripping with spite and rage-fuelled negativity, as the track unfolds things just get heavier and darker until the playing time is mercifully over.

But there’s no real breather, as we now have Sea Bastard’s colossal near-20 minute behemoth of a track, The Hermit, to deal with.

Like Primitive Man, Sea Bastard keep unleashing quality releases on the world, (here, for example), and this is no exception.

Sea Bastard’s Sludge Metal is less dripping with filth than Primitive Man’s, but no less effective for it. Previously I’ve described them as similar to Bongripper only with screams and growls, and that’s not a band starting point for initial reference.

Sea Bastard specialise in settling into a slow-burning crawling-groove, with a mesmerising heaviness drawing the listener in and repeating itself over and over, but never to the point of where the listener loses interest. This is enticing and hypnotic, and just when you can’t take it any more the band shift gears or change riffs and the suffocating Doom takes on a different edge, no less crushing than the last.

The screamed vocals are the perfect accompaniment to the music’s guitars, and the combination of the two produces a very satisfying feeling deep in the stomach where the bass seems to have set up home.

Picking up the pace a bit halfway through, the band show that it’s not just slow riffs that they can peel off with ease. This doesn’t last, of course, and once spent the juggernaut returns to a malevolent crawl as the song claws its way to conclusion.

The Hermit is just as good as anything the band have released, and combined with Primitive Man’s side of the split this is a pretty damn essential Doom release for anyone who’s into this kind of thing.

DOOM!

Interview with Sarke

Sarke Logo

Upon the release of their fourth album Bogefod, Sarke have unleashed a shambling horror of an album on an unsuspecting world. Dark, sinister and mysterious, it’s an album I can’t stop listening to and keep returning to again and again. I wanted to find out a little bit more about this impressive release…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!

I am Sarke, plays bass. I am the main songwriter in Sarke.

Give us a bit of background to Sarke

Sarke started out as a solo act. After tons of band releases I wanted to release an album were I did almost everything myself. Write all the song and lyrics, play all the instruments and produce the album. The album did well and the record company wanted to release more albums. I did not feel like doing another solo album, so I got together a full line up band.

What are your influences?

My influences are Norwegian nature like forests, mountains, lakes. Paintings by Kittelsen. Music from the 70s and 80s.

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

I don’t listen to much these days. When we play concerts ourself I focus on our own music.

Sarke BandHow do you feel that you fit into the wider Black Metal scene?

Sarke is not only a black metal band. Our music has a big range. We have a lot of different style in our music. The members of Sarke have played all kind of metal.

Give us a bit of background to Bogefod – any particular concepts or ideas you want to discuss?

Bogefod is a concept album. Its based on a 1000 year old Viking saga. Its about Torolv Bogefod, a Viking king that dies, comes back from the dead and terrorises the village as a walking dead.

Tell us about the album artwork

It’s done by Terje Johnsen. The artwork is taken from the movie SAGA, a film that Sarke is involved in and has also made a lot of the music in the film.

How do you go about writing your songs?

Its mostly written at home on acoustic guitar. We finish the song at rehearsal with the whole band. And usually add some riffs or parts together to make it work, so we get a complete song.

How did the recording process go?

It worked out great. We planned the recording process in advance. We start with drums. Acoustic drums with no trigging and so on. Then guitar, bass, keys and then Nocturno comes and do the vocals as the last thing.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

Hard for me to pick one song. Maybe Taken because of the guitar solo.

What does the future hold for Sarke?

Not easy to say, but hopefully we will get some good shows and the people will check out Bogefod.

Funeral Whore – Phantasm (Review)

Funeral WhoreThis is the second album from Funeral Whore, who are a Death Metal band from The Netherlands.

We have briefly met Funeral Whore before, during their very tasty split with Obscure Infinity – Summon the Undead.

Funeral Whore play old-school Death Metal that reeks of the crypt and lands somewhere between Incantation, Bolt Thrower and Dismember in style.

As on their split with Obscure Infinity, Funeral Whore are, (deliberately), rough around the edges, lending their music a real underground feeling.

Heavy riffs and hammering drums crush and destroy while deep, gruff vocals belch out obscenities. The songs drip with old-school malevolence, sinister leads and dark melodies.

It’s easy to enjoy this kind of atavistic Death Metal, especially when it’s written with songs and mood in mind as these tracks clearly are. Funeral Whore know what they’re doing, it seems.

If you have any love for the old-school style of Death Metal then it’s worth checking out Funeral Whore as Phantasm is a very satisfying listen.

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Review)

Amon AmarthAmon Amarth are a melodic Death Metal band from Sweden and this is their tenth album.

Returning with a Viking-themed concept album, Amon Amarth continue their tried-and-tested formula for melodic Death Metal that they have been slowly perfecting and refining now for decades.

At this point in their existence you pretty much know exactly what to expect from them and they never fail to deliver. The songs on this release are as catchy and memorable as any that they have released over their victory-filled career.

Time has clearly been taken over these riffs, and the vast majority of the material here is bright, upbeat, full of energy, very memorable and laced with just the right amount of darkness, loss and violence.

Bright leads accompany the songs, as we’ve come to expect, and I particularly enjoy the solo work on this release too. The rhythm guitars are where the bulk of the action is at though, of course, and these tracks are destined to be hits in the live environment.

The singer’s charismatic and gruff voice is present and correct. Using pleasing rhythms and fitting in with the pace of the songs effortlessly, he provides a suitably compelling and powerful performance that does the weighty, (and epic), subject matter justice. In addition to his normal singing voice, he occasionally gives vent to a full-throated Death Metal growl, and it’s a thing of beauty. Doro also makes an appearance on A Dream That Cannot Be, adding a different dimension to the proceedings.

I find it incredibly hard to dislike anything Amon Amarth have released, and Jomsviking is no different. The band have an uncanny knack of providing the listener with highly-enjoyable songs that somehow manage to combine both style and substance, which is not something to be taken lightly.

Essential listening for all Metal warriors.

Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic (Review)

BTBAMBetween the Buried and Me are a progressive Extreme Metal band from the US. This is their eighth album.

If you haven’t encountered Between the Buried and Me before then you’re in for a treat. They’re one of the best examples of a band individualising what they do, and what they do is progressive Extreme Technical Metal. It’s a bit of a mouthful but it’s hard to describe this band in simple terms. Over the course of their career they’ve pretty much done it all, and over time they’re only getting more ambitious with their releases.

As with anything like this though, it’s not for everyone. If you favour music that has traditional song structures and predictable layouts, then move quietly along. If, however, you like the idea of listening to a band that can effortlessly combine the type of stuff you’d hear from bands like Queen, Deicide, Dream Theatre and The Dillinger Escape Plan, while simultaneously remaining entirely their own entity, then make sure you check this out.

This latest album is as ambitious and grandiose as always, more so in many respects. Piano and keyboards probably feature even more heavily than previously and add to the progressive structures in innumerable ways.

The singer uses both clean vocals and growls, although there seems to be a trend developing now that shows him using his clean vocals more and more. This is reflected in the music too, as the band use blast beats more sparingly than they used too as well. It may be less extreme than some of their other work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any more accessible for the average listener. After all, there are more ways to be extreme than just playing fast.

The music is flawlessly delivered and the level of musicianship on Coma Ecliptic is staggeringly high; this is a band who know how to work their instruments. The compositions are long and involved, as usual, although the average track length is slightly shorter than some of their previous work.

Eschewing anything close to standard song structures, Between the Buried and Me are all about the song sections and how these holistically fit together. There’s a lot to take in over these 69 minutes and the album certainly requires multiple spins to give up its secrets.

All of the songs have their own personality, as you would imagine, and it’s easy to differentiate between them. They’ve always been a highly textured and nuanced band, and this only seems to be becoming more pronounced over time.

Anyone into challenging music that successfully mixes progressive music with extremity, heaviness and quirkiness should definitely check this out.

Walls of Jericho – No One Can Save You from Yourself (Review)

Walls of JerichoWalls of Jericho are a US Hardcore/Metalcore band and this is their fifth album.

I haven’t encountered Walls of Jericho since their 2004 album All Hail the Dead, which I really enjoyed. I’m not too sure why I never got any of their subsequent releases, but at least I’m finally catching up with them again now, a mere 12 years later…

Coming from a very fertile time in Hardcore/Metalcore history, Walls of Jericho continue to play the kind of heavy, angry music that’s so effortlessly pit-friendly and easy to move to.

The singer’s angry snarl appears to have gotten even gruffer over the years since I last heard her, and on this newest album she sounds on fire with her aggressive delivery. It’s interesting, as on some songs she varies her style a bit and when she screams a little higher in places she sounds more like her old self. Which do I prefer? Honestly not sure. Her deeper voice has more drive in it but her higher one has more personality. Ultimately both do the job nicely, just in different ways.

The songs are compact and belligerent, echoing the style of fellow bruisers Hatebreed, Terror, Born from Pain, etc. only with Walls of Jericho adding their own spin on things. They seem absolutely designed to be played in a live environment, with every riff tweaked to provide maximum mosh-pit action.

Featuring a plethora of heavy, chunky riffs and enough breakdowns to snap a leg to, this is a record that’s easy to get along with.

The last track Probably Will is completely out of place and out of sync with the rest of the album, showing a definite different side to the band and the singer in particular. It’s great to hear and a great song, but as it’s so different to everything else on here it almost shows large chunks of the rest of the album in a bad light as it has much more depth and nuance than anything else on this record. The key word in that last sentence, though, is almost, as the material is strong and confident enough to stand on its own when compared to its softer side.

Overall, this is a strong return for the band after an eight year absence, and No One Can Save You from Yourself is definitely a recommended listen for when you want to feel energised and firmly want the cobwebs blown away in the morning.

Boris/Merzbow – Gensho – Split (Review)

Boris with MerzbowThis is a split between two well-known, (in underground circles, at least), Japanese groups; Boris and Merzbow.

This is a mammoth release that contains almost two and a half hours of music, evenly split between both artists. This is an exact split too, as the two sides are designed to be played either separately or simultaneously; doing the latter provides yet a different experience as the music of the two syncs up to provide the listener with something greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Boris’ side features 9 songs that are all percussion-less versions of some of their existing tracks. This reinterpretation of their own work lends the songs a different quality to the originals, (some of which I’m familiar with and some of which I’m not), creating dreamy soundscapes and indulgent forays into emotive colour and feeling.

The band have picked tracks that demonstrate their emotive and Doom/Drone side well, resulting in an emotive and atmospheric release that easily stands up on its own even without its counterpart music from Merzbow.

As someone who’s a massive fan of all things drums, I’m pleased with how well the music holds up without percussion and this Boris side of the split is stronger and more effective than I expected.

Merzbow is a legendary noise-maker that I have been aware of for so long now that I can’t recall. However, apart from the odd collaboration or guest spot on someone else’s music, I have never actually heard anything by him. Due to my general antipathy towards most percussion-less noise, I’ve never felt the urge to particular seek out his music, so it’s taken this long to hear anything by him.

With that in mind, we turn our attention to these four colossal tracks that are designed, as with the Boris ones, to be played individually or in conjunction with those of his split-mates.

Unfortunately, as alluded to previously, most noise leaves me rather cold, and although I can appreciate that these Merzbow tracks have structure and do create harsh soundscapes with squeals, feedback and distorted crackles, etc., it’s ultimately not a style I can claim to love.

Having said that though, these tracks do have their moments, and due to the prolonged playing time I was very surprised to find myself eventually settling into it. Shocking! As I say; in general this is not a type of music that really does that much for me, so it’s testament to his skill as an artist that I can actually willingly listen to this and take something from it.

None were more surprised than I. It seems that Merzbow deserves his reputation after all.

So here we have it, a very long and surprisingly enjoyable release that certainly won’t be for everyone, but may be more to your liking than you might first think.

However, that’s not the end of it, and this is where the genius comes in; play the two artists together as is intended, and everything changes. All of sudden, the Merzbow contribution works wonders when taken alongside the Boris tracks. The resulting soundscapes combine the harsh frequencies and dreamy guitar-based drones to produce four long tracks that paint some really evocative musical pictures.

This, for me, is the ultimate way to enjoy this release. Taken in at the same time, the entire experience gets elevated and I wouldn’t really listen to it any other way now.

Some releases are a challenge to review and this one has been a marathon of exploration and expectation-destroying revelation. It has been worth every second though, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about this one.

Gargantua – Avant-Propos (Review)

GargantuaThis is the début EP from French Progressive Metal band Gargantua.

Gargantua play Progressive Metal that combines some quite eclectic influences to produce a 26 minute calling card that shows off what they can do quite effectively.

To give you a flavour of their style, imagine a mix of The Meads of Asphodel, Sigh, The Black Dahlia Murder and Akercocke, among others. It’s essentially a form of melodic Death Metal with added folk, avant-garde and progressive influences, allowing the band a freedom to experiment and be playful with their influences.

The keyboard and accordion aspect of their sound is quirky and endearing. While not as completely over-the-top as some of the stuff that Sigh get up to, this part of their sound can still be demanding and attention-seeking.

The more aggressive Metal that lays the foundation of their music is tempered by their other influences so that the majority of the riffs have a lot of other stuff going on; the avant-garde and more-emotive aspects of their style are never too far away.

Thrash Metal-esque shouted growls, barely-holding-it-together screams, progressive cleans, operatic choral parts, emotive theatrics; there’s a plethora of different styles employed on Avant-Propos via four of the various band members.

A very promising first release. While not perfect, it shows a creative band willing and able to push boundaries to achieve the sound they want. With a few tweaks here and there to tighten the songwriting up, they could become quite a fearsome proposition in the future.

Check them out.

Slaughterday – Laws of the Occult (Review)

SlaughterdayThis is the second album from German Death Metal band Slaughterday.

Slaughterday already have a couple of solid releases behind them, (their début album, Nightmare Vortex, and an EP, Ravenous), and this new album continues the trend with 43 minutes of quality, timeless Death Metal.

The band have a talent for writing enjoyable leads and solos, as well as meaty rhythm guitars. If anything, they’ve stepped up their game on this release, with the flowing, grim leads and electrified solos especially.

Featuring a slightly more morbid overall sound than previously, Slaughterday reek of the grave and these songs once again show that the band continue to unleash high-value Death Metal on the world with every release.

As always, I like Slaughterday the most when they play on the slower end of the spectrum. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with their faster work, it’s just that I really enjoy the slower/mid-paced riffs and the moods that these parts evoke.

The singer’s voice is just as guttural as ever, accompanying the well-written music with merciless growls. The overall impact is that of a focused and complete album, with everything where it needs to be and sounding like it should.

This is a very enjoyable release, and I’d recommend this for anyone who has a taste for the old-school.

Piss Vortex – Future Cancer (Review)

Piss VortexHailing from Denmark, Piss Vortex play Grindcore and this is their latest EP.

Piss Vortex return, subjecting an unsuspecting world to more of the angular, dissonant Grind that we so enjoyed on their self-titled début album.

As with their début, this EP is filled with interesting and inventive riffs, alongside a decent amount of Sludge influence in their killing sound. Piss Vortex don’t do things the typical way, which is only to be commended, of course.

Future Cancer is 12 minutes of savage experimental and exploratory Grindcore. There’s plenty of brutality and mayhem on offer, which the band do in their own inimitable way. These tracks focus on causing as much damage as possible from as many different directions at once, it seems.

I can’t help but be drawn into the odd time signatures and atypical riffs that the band use, and these tracks have a lot to offer someone who’s into their Grind with a side order of modern violent Hardcore and nasty Sludge.

Highly recommended.