Saturday, August 27, 2011


As a genre, doom metal is perhaps more prone to stagnancy than others; there's only so slowly you can play before what you're doing becomes formless. Likewise there's only so far you can downtune the guitars and retain any attempt at clarity. The worst doom metal bands bludgeon away lifelessly at two or three (or sixteen, it doesn't matter) chromatic power chords and call it artistic extremity and gravitational rejection, forwarding the notion that brutality for its own sake is enough to merit consideration in a field already drowning in merciless practitioners. The best doom metal bands escape this constraint and actively work against it, sculpting towering works of void and emotional devastation that harrow listeners and seem to carve chunks out of the sky. Units like Worship take anxiety and fear to suicidal levels of depseration; Khanate chooses to explore the ever-increasing feelings of isolation that result from hyper intelligence and immersion in the seas of modern culture; Bunkur ally themselves with staunch minimalism and seek to craft the most militant, punishing pools of sludge laid to tape; Loss plumbs the depths of self-loathing to a point where the only way out is to drag a razor blade across the wrists and say a prayer in the dark. And then there's Japan's Corrupted, a band that by this point is really doom by past reflection only. Across a wealth of releases, Corrupted have taken a simplistic, crushing, and ritualistic take on doom metal to its outermost reaches, turning in record after record of agonized cross-cultural disgust and self-reflection, filtering their music through an ever-more melancholic lens to arrive at the mountain of sadness that is "Garten der Unbewusstheit."
Roughly translated as "Garden of Unconsciousness," Corrupted turn in a strangely docile and mournful effort owing more to Mogwai and Isis than any association with doom. The closest genre touchstone at this point would be early Thergothon, but Corrupted's sound is so much more powerful than any sort of comparison at all to contemporaries is going to fall flat. Made up of two epic 30 minute interpolations of the same song and a short acoustic interlude to separate them, "Garten der Unbewusstheit" is a sour field of rotted delight, yielding a sickening stench of sweetness wasting away in the sunlight.
"Garten" leads the record and immediately sets the tone with severely languid clean guitar lines imbued with a deep sense of regret and restraint. The tone is plodding and tightly controlled, melodies repeated and cycled through over and over. Across its thirty minutes "Garten" builds up and achieves an exhausting intensity as well as a fragile sort of beauty (these are probably the most unabashedly lovely songs Corrupted have ever written) that weeps from within, growing louder and more dense as it exhausts itself but never fully opening up and giving itself over to the mammoth swathes of belching distortion that Corrupted are so famous for. This is sadness as an eternal quality, an illustration of personal defeat and resignation that uses constancy and repetition to pull you further into a sense of despair.
"Against the Darkest Days" is the interlude piece, a somber bit of acoustic guitar that echoes some of the melodies and form and certainly most of the ideas behind "Garten"; as a reprieve it works wonderfully, drawing you in with its gentle affectations even as it readies the razorblades and lights the candles.
The record closes off with "Gekkou no Daichi," a deeper exploration of all the musical themes introduced in "Garten" rendered more black and vilified. "Gekkou no Daichi" reeks of venom and sorrow, its head held low to the ground as its tears stain the earth beneath. Ruin, emptiness, and the destruction of sense of self all come across in waves as the track rolls over you, the cavernous vocals shredding away over the bleeding guitar work and measured drumming. Everything here is let loose. Speed is glacial, guitars are pulsing, seething and beyond monstrous. Bass tones here are sedentary, barely moving but turning all beneath to quivering acquiescence. Almost every line ends in wafting feedback, screaming out yearning and horror as the tendrils of sound reach out to caress the face of elegance. This is easily one of the most powerful and accomplished Corrupted pieces i've heard; the psychedelic flourishes and the embrace of texture through repetition create a composition of near infinite depth, clutching you close and dragging you ever deeper into the recesses of endless self-examination and true personal rejection. The whole record dares us to forget, forcing us to own up to mistakes and relive them in hypershades of grey and black. "Garten der Unbewusstheit" is failure reflected outward, a requiem for all that we held dear, a focus on existential angst and the pervasive nothingness hidden in the corners of our lives.
It took several years for Corrupted to arrive at this point, but it's an awesome step forward for a band that started out so simply. Japanese bands are unique in that they devour virtually every sound from every culture they love and manage to transform it into something entirely their own, often surpassing the source material. I think the United States has some serious contributors as far as artistic doom metal is concerned, but there's nothing here quite so all-encompassing as Corrupted's "Garten der Unbewusstheit." We'll be playing catch-up for years after this one, and by that point Corrupted will have probably already vanished even further down the horizon. Fucking massive, a superlative effort by any measure, and a major statement for doom metal of any sort.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Originally released by Hyperblasted Recordings in 2007, now re-released by Essence Music. One of Baker's more inspired solo outings, consisting of one single piece of uber-drone constructed of thick pulsing cloud-tones and densely layered strains of sludged out feedback scattered beneath an almost ever present wash of altered vocals. This veers towards the heavier end of Baker's ambient output, very easily recalling his "Exoskeleton Heart" album for Crucial Bliss as well as Nadja's more formless voiding moments, blurring the line between Baker's two aesthetics even more than they already have been. With Nadja growing more and more spacious with each release and Baker's personal explorations growing darker and more aggressive, one wonders when it will finally all fall under the Nadja blanket (the recent release of the "Beta Betes" LP on Beta-Lactam, in which Nadja "covers" some of Aidan Baker's songs, does little to help with any sort of distinction.) Nitpicking aside, "Noise of Silence" is a well-crafted example of Baker at his personal best, crafting a frightening, narrow world out of obliques and atmospheres more often found in body horror films than in ambient music.
While much of Baker's work does achieve a pleasant floating quality, his is truly an ambience of anxiety. There is always an underlying tension in the tones, a strain that never quite surfaces but always makes itself known. It's eerie and unsettling much of the time, resulting in difficult extended pieces that put the listener on edge as much as they relax. Listening to this sort of stuff in the dark is sure to inspire a certain level of fucked-upedness in your dreams provided you can eve get to sleep; this isn't the passive sort of ambient used for narcoleptic endeavour. This is music that reduces you to insomnia, infected with a darkness and venom that poisons any chance for repose with a wilting discomfort. Like Lull or Lustmord, this is precision drone with nefarious intent, insistent on exploring oceanic realms of drift, going ever deeper into zones forbidden and weeping with otherworldy pressures and presences. The landscapes become mountainous, threatening oblivion even as they beckon and tempt with terrain unknown.
As "Noise of Silences" continues across its reach, the piece begins to achieve an almost industrial level of immersion, with all manner of klangs and hisses rising out of the ether. It's measured brutality, and the size of it becomes almost overwhelming. The idea of body-horror surfaces here again, with Baker transforming a promise of the gentle and graceful into some towering monolith of hateful, roaring machine-driven terror. That the piece contorts itself and becomes such a weapon, almost from the inside out, aligns Baker with a near Cronenbergian philosophy of being in the world, that everything we are is really a mysterious and terrifying unknown, that the secrets our bodies hide from us could crack us apart at any moment and claw their ways through our fragile, rubbery skin. Pure unbridled electricity and raw power course through "Noise of Silence," creating a suffocating atmosphere of dread and demanding deference to its true spaciousness.
When at last the work begins to calm itself and retreat, Baker throws in a repeated series of samples taken from a suffering person, persecuted by society and perhaps plagued by some sort of mental illness. The voice bemoans the "loudness of silence" and repeatedly confirms that he was driven to think of suicide; the piece comes to a close on this voice's confession that sometimes the silence becomes so much that you just want to drive your car right into a tree and end it. It's an elegant and chilling way to close out a record that so carefully and powerfully establishes the terrifying qualities of raging sound; that this could go on and on without reprieve, flaying us ever closer to the bone and to our beings, suggests something close to an existential apocalypse that our minds are unable to comprehend.
Essence Music's deluxe version of this record (which, as usual, is breathtakingly gorgeous and a true collector's artifact) includes a bonus CDr of early Aidan Baker demo material culled from the 1991-1999 period. The eight selections range widely in tone, some treading close to the overblown industrial horror heard here and some veering closer to a more intimate style of audio confessional. The most successful are those that contrast most heavily to "Noise of Silence" itself; both "West of the Sun" and "Clinging" show a more tender hand, utilizing slightly amplified acoustic guitars and sampler/sequencing pedals to great, melancholy, and distressing effect. The same sense of unease is present but tempered by a warmth that "Noise of Silence" largely eschews. Taken together the two records form a lovely contrast as well as make a powerful statement regarding Baker's mastery of mood; "Godless" and "Misunderstanding" both drench the ears with wintry, screaming guitars but manage to come off as inviting, like a cloak of sunlight between two hulking glaciers. Far from being a toss-off (which would be easy considering Baker's extensive discography), the demos disc is a carefully assembled, symbiotic companion to the rework of "Noise of Silence" that plays off the strengths of the former while still delivering its own unique display of aesthetic. If you were to hear only one Aidan Baker record your whole life, this one would be in the running for most essential. Highest possible recommendation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Another unexpected return from a black metal entity that more or less disappeared. Kadotus' last full length, "Seven Glorifications of Evil," was an absolutely astonishing slab of hyper melodic, ultra-raw neoclassicist black metal, revering the old masters while flying a middle finger towards the idea of black metal's growth and future. Released in 2003, "Seven Glorifications..." caused little fervor amongst the community at large; few save the true diehards recognized the strength and vision boiling beneath the baroque riffing and abrasive atmospheres. Afterwards Kadotus more or less went deep underground, releasing the occasional split or seven inch but never resurfacing with a sophomore effort, content to let the years (and a wave of pointless black metal understudys) wash away behind them, readying the strike.
That deathblow comes in the form of "Vaienneet Temmpelit," a total reinvention of the Kadotus sound and a retreat into further reaches of primeval black metal, finding more in common with the early ragged works of Bathory and Venom than the structured melodicism of contemporaries like Gorgoroth and Satanic Warmaster (whose label Kadotus calls home.) While initially the album seems to abandon all the things that made "Seven Glorification of Evil" so fucking masterful, "Vaienneet Temppelit" is just a slightly different exploration of black metal's fiery history, pillaging the sounds most associated with chainsaw violence and blackened birth to form a backwards-looking retreat into unbridled chromaticism and thrashtastic death-metal tremelo figures. This is the most atonal Kadotus have ever been, with most songs draping themselves in occultish half-time groove-riffing not unlike Teitanblood or Vasaeleth. Production is similarly reductionist, the whole affair sounding dust-drenched and buried beneath layers of grime and cobwebbed murk. As the record progresses the intensity becomes almost narcoleptic, lending an air of mesmerization to the proceedings that perfectly suits the sacrificial aura surrounding the magicks contained within. Kadotus are one of few truly Satanic BM units, crafting hymns to worship and praise as much as they are writing songs to commit to record. "Vaienneet Temppelit" feels suitably frightening; despite the somewhat comical cover art the album still comes across as being something from another system of beliefs, touching on the weird vibes you get from handling a GBK album or one of Burzum's prison recordings. There's a darkness present here, and it's slightly unnerving.
While i would have rather seen Kadotus continue down the melodic path they began to tred on "Seven Glorifications..." and the equally excellent "Twilight's Depths" EP, "Vaienneet Tempellit" is a worthy follow-up in crafting a legacy of evil from one of modern black metal's most promising projects. The purity present in the recordings summons up the spirit of rancid classical black metal, baring teeth and going straight for the throat as if there was nothing more important than destruction and the gospel of the horns. This is church-burning music, a rallying cry for those that hold the fires of rebellion deep in their hearts. Christianity and monotheism are intrusive forces not suitable to the world as is, and Kadotus are out to wage bloody, death-drenched war on all those who falsely believe. A true force of black metal fury for dimming times. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Totally surprising return for Primigenium, after nine years of dormancy. Their last effort was the Drakkar-released "Intolerance" in 2002, a hateful slab of borderline war metal that wore the masques of black deep into the caves of obscurity, courting indifference from the vast majority of critics and even some open hostility from listeners. Often accused of a serious lack of creativity, Primigenium have refused to eschew black metal classicism since their inception, never veering far from the template established by Mayhem (easily the major influence) and flirting with an ideology that embraces serious anti-semitic overtones tempered with a touch of suicidal anxiety and frustration. "Faith Through Anguish" sees the band reduced to lone member Smaug and ushers in a deeper influence of depressive aesthetics, with six tracks that reference his work in side project Shroud as well as the obvious nod to black metal's violent beginnings. The result is the band's strongest album to date and a seriously welcome comeback from one of Spain's few contributors to the black metal genre.
Across the album's 42 minute runtime, Smaug displays an impressive artistic obstinancy that chooses to pretend the last 15 years or so never happened. For Primigenium black metal begins with Mayhem and ends with Striid, staring through a five year window that reduces the idea of growth to a whisper on a horizon miles and miles away, separated from modernity by an ocean of tradition. Every song trades in simple melodic riffs anchored by severe double bass heroics, achieving a hypnotic repetition that bestows an impressive sense of severity. The guitar tone and heavily muted phrasing recalls Metallica's on "Ride The Lightning" while the speed is all "Deathcrush"-era Mayhem. The aggressively chaotic nature of this sound gives "Faith Through Anguish" a heaviness not usually found in black metal; there's an intensity running throughout that reminds of power violence or completely unhinged thrash metal by way of early '90's Ministry. It sounds weird but it makes sense when all the parts add up: it's violent, oppressive and freezing cold. Vocals are equally weird, veering between haunted caterwauling, choking graverasps, death metal low-end extremism and majestic actual singing. Normally such a varied approach yields a schizophrenic pointlessness but here it works, recalling the low/high effect that characterized early Deicide.
Many Spain-area black metal bands (Grim Funeral, Defuntos, etc.) fall back on extreme dissonance to give their music an entirely separated, almost-nauseous atmosphere and Primigenium are no different. The crushing opening riff in "Third Floor" is nearly transformed by the dissonant inflection upon it's reemergence towards the song's end, making everything feel far more off-kilter and frenzied than it really is. So too the main riffs in "Faith Through Anguish I: The Abysses," where the chord voicings veer towards the atonal, creating complex finger-benders worthy of Dave Mustaine's most composed outings. For all that, though, Primigenium can't abandon the sheer rock majesty of cookie-cutter black metal, and the endlessly furious buzzsaw riffing and wintry ambience evoke the very best of the old masters. Primigenium isn't afraid to reach even further back into metal's bag of tricks, either: the guitar solo that takes you out of "The Abysses" is sheer melodic neo-classicism, soaring and moon-minded in its singular quest for sky-cleaving.
For a band that had all but disappeared, this is a phenomenal effort, and easily one of the most enjoyable no-frills black metal recordings i've heard this year. There's no posturing, no real display of influence other than the genre template (albeit with a few classical garnishes), and no fucking around. The incorporation of more suicidal textures lends a heft to the sound and atmosphere that wasn't there on previous efforts; here those weeping melodies and sorrowful, elongated structures serve as a portal to take the listener ever-deeper into war-ravaged realms of mental strife and ideological stratification. By invoking history and embracing primitivism, Primigenium have created an album that sounds like it belongs in the now. Their contemporaries, past or present, have much to meet in terms of artistic achievement if they hope to even approach the grandeur of "Faith Through Anguish"; by the time Smaug screams "Fuck you all" towards the end of the record you can't help but feel it's directed at all those who left Primigenium, as well as the pure black metal they proffered, behind. Such banal dismissal usually rings hollow but here it's warranted, justified, and venomous. While it's something of a surprise that Primigenium are still around, "Faith Through Anguish" demonstrates the strength of black metal as a genre. If simple regurgitations garner critical accolades, the real thing should pretty much lay the current black metal landscape to waste. Be wary of the pretenders.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Guttural cthonic immersion dressed up in the trappings of classic era death metal from Disma, one of the best examples of death metal revision that i've heard. Everything about this is cloaked in the atmosphere of the early '90's, from the gorgeously Satanic terror fantasy of the cover artwork (which is glorious and must truly be seen spread across the disc's six panels) to the muted production and murky bludgeoning audial trauma spread across the album's eight tracks. Opening this thing up, it even smelled like all my tapes did back in the '90's, that undefinable sort of "book" odor that reminds of being 12 years old and cracking a Napalm Death tape open for the first time. This is a pure act of reverence as well as a revitalization of extreme music, veering away from pointless complexity and getting back to the frightening basics of death metal.
While Disma doesn't shy away from tempo changes, the majority of "Towards the Megalith" basks in a sludgy, sloping gate, a race forward in half time driven by relentless, punishing double bass repetition and thick distorted bass throbs. Guitars are mudboxes, tuned so low as to be wiping themselves across the fretboards in hobbling resonance. It's a sound that hearkens back to both Entombed and Morbid Angel at their respective bests, a bottomless grinding hole of shredded amp crust-overs and boiling tar mixed together for maximum yield. Disma strengthens their connection to death metal's glorious past even further with Craig Pillard's vocal performance, a tortured descent into the further reaches of untampered human low end. There are no vocal effects or drum triggers to be found here-this is pure and raw, coming at your ears like a chainsaw gutsfuck of hulking, bloody proportion. Pillard's work with Incantation was always phenomenal, and here he guides Disma to the sludge-minded peaks that Incantation was headed towards. The refusal of complexity lends an immediacy (and a weird approachability) that a lot of modern death metal simply lacks. There's no pretension or aura of infallible musicianship obscuring Disma's intent; they're simply out to rip your fucking face off. A million hyper-complicated unplayable riffs don't mean shit when they're thrown against one raging death metal groove; the hypnotic zone-out potential of death metal classicism wins out everytime.
But Disma aren't just some nostalgic throwback. They're a band existing between the lines of defined extremity, furthering a sound that never should have really stagnated. For whatever reason, death metal as movement pretty much disappeared by the mid '90's. Extremity without image (the sort that black metal began to unwittingly cultivate for itself) became borderline ridiculous. Now the curtains have been drawn back to reveal throngs of fans still desperate for that classic sound, the sort delivered by Carcass, Disincarnate, early Deicide and more. Modern death metal, especially of this sort (as well as the style done by bands like Vastum, Encoffination and Coffins) is less revisionism than it is picking up where something left off far too prematurely, a taking up of the mantle to continue the mission began so long ago. You could make the argument that death metal reached its end by simply having nowhere left to go-no one will ever make an album as complex and raging as Deicide's "Legion" and it'd be hard to surpass the majestic elegance of Carcass' "Swansong"-but it could also be argued that the formula had been perfected, and what was left was for interesting and creative projects to come in and work within the templates to push the genre as a whole forward. This is what Disma does. "Towards the Megalith" is that superlative record that both references and exceeds its pedigree, a work of suffocating density and vitriolic aggression rendered in classicist terms. It's importance can't be understated, and it's status as a death metal benchmark is more than assured. Recommended.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Obliterating sonic nullification via a pure HNW recording by black metal auteur Nekrasov. This approach has been hinted at before in many of Nekrasov's recordings but never fully embraced; on this recording for Void Seance Nekrasov commits fully to the stagnation of the wall, churning out just over an hour of flooding constancy, an subtly glacial piece of white noise and black hyperstatic that advances so slowly it seems nothing more than a sample of belching distortion turned over on itself a thousand times, giving the illusion of no change or growth across its runtime. This is the hallmark of HNW recording-the reduction of ideas into simple cognitive power, the brutal thrum and chortle of living electricity showering over the brain and melting down nerves into puddles of subservient jelly. At its best HNW achieves a truly psychedelic, time-stopping effect, and Nekrasov's contribution to the genre ranks as one of the best.
Perhaps its the inherent nihilism found in Nekrasov's black metal offerings that allows the project to switch so effortlessly into industrialized black power ambience; perhaps it's nothing more than a refutation of form and the willingness to endure and punish that imbues this band with the vision to go so deeply into the true, pure black. The argument could be made that this sort of sound is the true essence of black metal-the ultimate rebellion, the ultimate fuck you in the form of utter rejection of song-which delivers a feeling of hopelessness and isolation that only total silence could better achieve. Ancient groups like Abruptum were veering towards this type of chaos invocation at black metal's inception, while early power electronics groups like Whitehouse and Ramleh were treading this line even more precariously but never totally giving in. HNW records are really endurance tests, drowning pools for pain-minded head-trippers to ensconce themselves in until they're beautifully erased. "In Solitude and Darkness..." takes that aesthetic and corrupts it to fit a bleak picture of blown out black metal gold at the end of the vomit rainbow, where speed and primalcy collide in a defiling torrent of burbling foulness, the sound of tar boiling over miles below the earth. It's a muffled scream from under mounds of funeral dirt, a choking cry for release from the agonies of entropic boredom.
Whether Nekrasov gives over fully to this direction remains to be seen; previous effort "Extinction" saw the project spending more time with this sort of horrific soundscaping than the white-hot black metal that characterized earlier releases. I'd be happy either way, as almost all of the output i've heard from this unit has been beyond insane, riding the rails to complete collapse stopping just short of total meltdown. Amplifier destruction never sounded so fucking delectable. This is a round trip ticket to despondency, awash in nothingness and reeking of failure. The wall will consume and eradicate; the noise is alive and larger than you could conceive.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ASH BORER "ASH BORER" (Psychic Violence)

Lengthy excursion into the foggier sides of the Cascadias courtesy of Ash Borer, another northwest US black metal band trafficking in severely elongated song structures and an elevation of atmosphere over ideology. Like other practitioners of this geographic style, Ash Borer are heavily indebted to the type of expansive black metal perfected by Weakling and later period Nargaroth-repetition and murky sound blend together to create powerful, gargantuan works of pure mesmerizing elitist art, resulting in an album that feels utterly engulfing. While not exactly on par with the aforementioned, Ash Borer's debut is a worthy entry into this difficult subsect, and one which hints at greater things to come.
Ash Borer does pretty much everything right. Mournful gusts of keyboard dirge give way to equally mournful guitar work, while the drums carry the songs relentlessly with almost impossible to fathom bursts of double bass, creating a hypnotism similar to the effect Burzum attained on "Jesus' Tod." At times the band also recall the time-stretching properties of early Krallice. Vocals are appropriately rasped and agonized; most surprising to me is how present these vocals are. A lot of Cascadian black metal bands deal more in instrumental passages, with vocals something of an afterthought, cloaked and warped by echoes and effects. Ash Borer allows them ample space to move; the overall mood of these songs becomes distinctly more angst-ridden and immediate thanks to their presence.
While the majority of the music follows the tried and true formula of classical black metal riffing stretched out to near-infinite lengths, Ash Borer inject a slightly desert-blasted mentality into their work, with some sections of songs reminding me a lot of Souvenirs Young America. This is probably one of the more original treatments of the Cascadian style i've come across, and i feel the vague westernisms i hear seeping into the record take Ash Borer a little further out of the geographic pigeonhole that a lot of their grim northwestern brethren are doomed to. That willingness to branch out a bit from the expected is what's going to make Ash Borer an interesting band. There's also a very pronounced post-rock element present in the song structures; the restless build-ups found throughout "Ash Borer" owe much to the cinematic approach of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. The illusion of densely layered soundscapes is manipulated brilliantly, the only downside being that some of the build-ups are so grandiose that the obvious cathartic moments are rendered less so. It simply isn't enough to fall back into a blast beat; there has to be something else there to make all that power as dramatic and heart-ripping as it wants to be.
As a debut, this is pretty accomplished, and more than worthy of attention. While it doesn't transcend or equal any of its primary influences, it does break away noticeably from its geographically set aesthetic. There's an admirable focus on outside atmospheres and an introduction of non-region specific type sounds (many Cascadian bands are overly fond of rain or forest recordings to make their ideologic points) that hints at something beyond the ecological fetishizations of contemporaries like Fauna or Wolves in the Throne Room. If Ash Borer can go even further in the rejection of that geography, they'll be a serious force in modern black metal.