Monthly Overview – the Best of August 2018

Let’s cast our eyes over some of my favourite metal releases from August 2018… Continue reading

Advertisements

Manes – Slow Motion Death Sequence (Review)

ManesManes are a Norwegian avant-garde rock band, and this is their fifth album.

New Manes is always a pleasure to hear. This is the band’s first material since 2014’s Be All End All, and once again they show why they are so highly regarded. Continue reading

Pogavranjen – Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem (Review)

PogavranjenPogavranjen are a Croatian avant-garde Post-Black Metal band and this is their third album.

Pogavranjen are one of many Post-Black Metal bands who are not content with the base genre and are intent on pushing boundaries and experimenting with the genre to help them get to the sound they want. In this case, this means twisting the core style in avant-garde, progressive, jazz and psychedelic ways, mutating it into the end result on Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem.

In addition to the standard instruments, the band use keyboards, synths, trumpets and trombones to achieve their vision. All of these are well-played and the musicians clearly know what they’re doing, whether it’s playing more straightforward parts, more involved, jazz-inspired free-form chaos, or building atmosphere with grim intent.

Coming across as a curious mix of Ephel Duath, Arcturus, Manes and Solefald, the band spend 45 minutes building up intricate and textured soundscapes, taking the listener on a compelling journey into the abyss.

The vocals mainly consist of well-performed cleans that are full of presence and an authoritarian charisma. They immediately catch the attention and provide a focal point while the music travels down multiple paths of darkened delights.

Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem is a real slow-burner of an album, requiring multiple listens to truly give up its secrets, and even then it keeps some back, jealous of its esoteric knowledge. It’s worth the effort though, as Pogavranjen’s avant-garde stylings are definitely on the right-side of quirky and this album is full of impressive sounds and moods.

Recommended.

Corpo-Mente – Corpo-Mente (Review)

Corpo-MenteCorpo-Mente are from France and this is their début album.

Now this is something a bit different, a bit special.

This is exotic, sensual music that combines Dark Rock, Trip-Hop and Electro Avant-Garde.

This is powerful stuff that grips from the start with it’s highly individualistic sound.

The songs seem to slip and slide through the musical landscape and they seem to pulse with a deeply vibrant internal heat. The way the album moves through the running time is almost carnal in nature.

The vocals are operatic in nature and yet somehow still manage to remain intimate and personal. The singer has a strong voice and is extremely talented at what she does. She injects personality and charismatic inflection into the singing which results in the music avoiding the trap of rather faceless, impersonal operatic vocals that some bands who employ them can sometimes fall into.

The music is multi-textural and richly evocative of sumptuous soundscapes. It’s also filled with haunting melodies and quite beautiful compositions. There is a definite darkness here, sometimes quite menacing in tone.

With enough “hair-standing-on-end” moments to stop anyone in their tracks, this is a must. What a highly accomplished collection of songs!

If you like bands like Ulver, Lethe, Manes, etc. then this is a definite highlight to be seized.

A surprise and a pleasure; Corpo-Mente have made a firm fan here.

Astrakhan – A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin (Review)

AstrakhanAstrakhan are from Canada and play Progressive Metal. This is their latest EP.

This is powerful music with plenty of dynamics and personality.

Think Progressive Metal with a modern edge; kind of in the vein of what Mastodon do but without really sounding like them too much. Couple this with elements of bands as diverse as Alice in Chains, High on Fire and Metallica…

Hard Rock mixes with a Sludge feel and strong clean vocals dominate everything. Stoner simplicity and technical complexity merge together. They are at once cohesive and divisive; multiple influences congeal into a coherent whole and result in four very impressive songs.

The sheer force of charisma generated by the singer is draw-dropping. To further muddy the waters of genre-definition, he sometimes sounds like he could easily front an Avant-Garde band like Arcturus or Manes with ease.

The distortion feels alive and the riffs have a vitality to them. Each of the songs flexes its musical muscles and exudes feelings that are both epic and emotive.

Their music is textured and rich with riffs that propel the songs onward with real passion and vigour.

Top quality. If they can translate their obvious talent into a full length album they’ll be on to a real winner.

Manes – Be All End All (Review)

ManesManes are from Norway and this is their fourth album.

Following on from their last release Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets, which was an anthology, this is the first new Manes album in seven years.

Manes play a beguiling blend of artistic Rock, Darkwave Trip Hop, Avant Garde and 80’s-style Pop. It’s subtle, charming, disarming and insidious.

These songs have a laid back quality to them that’s almost detached from the actual music; as if something has been created by the music that hovers just out of view yet its effects can be felt by a lasting aura of deceptive comfort and false familiarity. This lends the songs a certain flavour of the otherworldly and the different.

There is a low-key catchiness to the tracks as well. Again, it’s a subtle affair, as even though the songs obviously contain hooks the first time you listen to them, it takes multiple listens for them to fully work their magic. Such is the nature of all great albums that have true longevity and depth.

There is so much to experience here. Manes create across a vast canvas using a rich palette of colours. There’s a lot that’s easily missed on first glance and only after taking it in for a good amount of time can you really appreciate what they have done here.

The singer’s captivating vocals are on strong form and the bleak-yet-uplifting-yet-not melodies that he uses complement the instruments perfectly adding layers of emotion to already emotive and layered songs.

This is music for dark nights and even darker activities. This is music that drips with soul and is ethereal in nature.

Fans of bands such as Arcturus, Ulver, Lethe, Dødheimsgard, Green Carnation, In The Woods…, etc. will lap this up, and with good reason.

It’s time to enter the world of Manes.

Interview with Lethe

Lethe LogoLethe have been responsible for one of the best multi-textural dark-Rock albums of some time in their début album When Dreams Become Nightmares. I asked them some questions to see how it all came about…

Hi! For those who are unfamiliar with your band, introduce yourself!

Tor-Helge Skei (THS): Hi everybody! We are Lethe.. 🙂 We’re a Norwegian/Swiss band, or project, consisting of Anna Murphy (Eluveitie, solo, Fräkmundt, nucleus torn, and heaps of other bands/projects) and Tor-Helge Skei (Manes, Manii, Kkoagulaa, etc.).

As Lethe is comprised of members of other bands, how did this project come about?

THS: Mostly by chance, actually. I posted something on my blog a while ago, about me thinking abut doing an album of cover songs, and wondering where I could start looking for vocalists and contributors to that. Shortly after, I got an email from Anna, and we almost immediately started working on a few songs (among others, ‘Hutterite Mile’ by 16 Horsepower). It didn’t take long before we just knew we had to do more music together…and the idea about Lethe was born..

Anna Murphy (A): A journalist (singer of Three Days of Silence) contacted me because Tor-Helge was looking for musical collaborators. So we got in touch, started on some music, finished some cover songs and decided to do a real project.

Lethe 1Is it important to keep Lethe a fully separate entity from Manes/Eluveitie?

THS: The chemistry in the various bands and between the members are quite different, and that influences how we approach music and presentation and everything, so there’s not much real effort being done keeping them separate, really. It comes naturally.

A: Well with Eluveitie it’s pretty obvious that Lethe has nothing to do with it apart from some members maybe pitching in from time to time, but Lethe and Manes share a lot of the same collaborators so there’s more connection there. I can imagine doing shows together and combined things like that, but of course they’re still to be looked at as separate projects.

What were the influences you drew on for the sound of Lethe?

THS: Oh, the usual, I guess. Life, death, mental processes, nightmares. Everything that happen/s/ed in our lives.

A: Lyrically as well as musically we have no limits, that’s probably what influences us most, because then we can draw inspiration from everywhere 🙂

The songs are multi-textured and very well composed. How did the writing process work for this album?

Lethe aloneTHS: I can only speak for myself, but it’s quite similar to how the ‘writing’ is done in the other bands/projects I’m involved with…chaotic, unplanned, whimsical…the music kind of grows on its own, and we just follow along 🙂

A: All hail the internet. Most of it was done by exchanging files back and forth. Most of the initial sketches came from Tor-Helge and I built my parts on top of them. To finalize everything and also record some things together I went on a trip to Trondheim.

Do you feel you accomplished what you set out to with this release?

THS: Yeah, since we had no concrete plans for the final result. It was more like pushing it in a direction we would like to see it go.

A: Yes!

What would you do differently next time, if anything?

THS: Hmm.. Anna talks about some smaller mixing and audio issues she would like to do better on the next album, but I don’t hear much of that 🙂 She works in a studio, and is a lot more focused on sound quality and frequencies and stuff like that, while I’m obsessed with the general feeling and mood only. I guess we’ll do it quite similar to how we made this album, but with other songs and ideas, of course. Actually, we’re working on a set of songs for the next album already, even if the first one isn’t officially released yet 😀

A: Nothing except maybe the mixing. I’m not quite 100% happy with it and I’m learning more and more each day so I think the next one will sound better 🙂

How do you feel this album fits into the wider music scene?

THS: A little on ‘the outside’ of everything, I guess. Never been interested in being in the middle of any genres or milieus. For me, the exploration of new and unknown musical paths is massively satisfying and motivating, but I have no idea if the ‘general music listener’ thinks like that. Can’t start focusing on the potential reaction while making music! The only thing that would do, is putting breaks on the creative process. No way.

A: I have no idea if it fits anywhere, but I don’t really care either.

Lethe 2What are you listening to at the moment that you want to recommend?

THS: It’s been a lot of Lethe and Manes lately, of course, because of the new albums from both. Apart from that…varied stuff, mainly…Dälek, Shpongle, Blut Aus Nord, Jega, Ggfh, Billie Holiday, Buddy Rich,

A: Frostmoon Eclipse, they’re cool

What does the future hold for Lethe?

THS: New music, new albums, new personal horror stories.

A: No idea, let’s see! 🙂

Thanks!

Manes – Teeth, Toes And Other Trinkets (Review)

ManesNorwegian band Manes have released this anthology album that collects together alternative versions, unreleased, obscure and live songs.

This is of the Avant-Garde style, replete with dark melodicism and atmosphere. It’s heavy on the electronics and effects, both of which are used skilfully to craft memorable songs and melodies.

Even if these tracks are essentially B-sides, the talent of the band is still apparent. Combined with the soulful, melancholic vocals the tracks portray the same kind of depth and nostalgic feelings as some of the best of 80’s pop/Darkwave music.

Some of the songs are unfinished or works-in-progress, but as a whole the album works surprisingly well and doesn’t sound as disjointed as one might expect from a release of this nature.

A quality band with quality songs; even though they are off-cuts this is an enjoyable collection. This should appeal to more than just completists and also serves to adequately whet the appetite for the next album that this always-evolving band release.

Lethe – When Dreams Become Nightmares (Review)

LetheFormed by members of Manes and Eluveitie, Lethe play dark and multi-textured experimental music.

Combining the best parts of Rock, Post-Rock, Electronica and Metal to create 10 tracks of emotive songs that instantly capture your attention while also having enough depth to keep you satiated in the long run. Bands such as Ulver, Arcturus and Manes are the obvious starting points and Lethe should definitely appeal to fans of these groups.

The main vocalist is a very talented person. Her vocals are exceptional and she shows great range across the album. She has great character and talent, and infuses both of these into every song to create the right mood for each. The occasional male vocals that swim in and out of the various tracks simply add another dimension to the proceedings.

The music doesn’t let the side down though – each song is crafted to a high standard by experienced personnel who know exactly what to do to achieve the effect that they want. The songs are passionate and dark, with Gothic Rock stamped all over some of them but not in a commercial stadium-friendly way, rather in a more personal way that allows you to have a relationship with the actual songs rather than some stylised version that will eventually become stale due to overexposure and lack of substance. This is female fronted Rock for people that don’t like female fronted Rock.

This is an astoundingly good album that combines catchiness and intellect to produce sophisticated dark Rock. What a fantastic way to start off 2014.