Fireside 2.1 ( The Smashing Skull Sessions Blog Sun, 10 Dec 2023 04:00:00 +0000 The Smashing Skull Sessions Blog en-us AV Sunset – Disconnections Sun, 10 Dec 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 247ce0cd-2f42-4fe5-aac4-a26ceda63bb4 As a band, how do you introduce yourself to the post-rock world? Step one, release a track that has within it, a melody and an ambiance that grasps you right from the outset and holds tight through every twist and turn, through every cord change and every soul stirring crescendo. Step two, follow that track up with a debut album that fits seamlessly amongst all the other great releases of the year, an album that is bubbling beneath the surface, waiting for its moment to unleash all its finery, and explode in a cacophony of colour and creativity.

Well, can I introduce you to AV Sunset, and their debut album Connections! Some of you may have already heard the track I was referring to at the beginning, Hasselhoff, a piece of music that sounds like a long-lost friend that has returned with no drama or fanfare, and just nestles in beside you with a warmth and a glow that warms the soul.

Hailing from Northampton, UK, the four piece have a sound and an energy to their music that does not scream debut! It’s a refined and well-constructed collection of compositions that transport you through a kaleidoscope of emotions and reflection. Opening with Empty Vessels, the heartbeat of the album, the mood is immediately calm and controlled with a bass and synth leaden groove leading the way. Guitars scrawl and echo before opening up into a fine chunky riff driven foray that repeats and grows, reminiscent to something that you would hear on PG.Lost’s Oscillate album.

As mentioned earlier, Hasselhoff is a thing of beauty. Shrouded in reverb and more deep underlying bass lines, it creeps and crawls, before slowly building from its foundations, layer by layer, only to fall back to earth under some gorgeous, plucked strings. But this is post-rock in its purest form, so that build, that crescendo, that release of emotion and adrenaline as it reaches fever pitch, is bloody brilliant. It truly is a special moment in time and worthy of its place on any post rock album compilation.

Tracks like Monomyths bring another dimension to AV Sunset’s repertoire, almost mathy to begin with, but just a little more patient. Atmospheric, spacious, and always heading north, their sound gets a little gritty and coarse before hurtling forward under some glorious lead swells and a very memorable melody. Delay, reverb and all that synthesised magic and sorcery adorn what I would call the interlude track, Radar Invisible, and it provides the perfect entrée to the following track Soundtrack. One of the many things I admire about this band is their ability to hold back long enough to trap you and cocoon you within their soft sullen builds, before releasing this glorious crescendo, that unearths great force and energy.

The closing track, Ancient Radiations brings that wave of electronica to the forefront, again reminding me of Oscillate, which is a good thing by the way! The music ebbs and flows through chasms of dark and light, with pounding drums and blissfully grand guitars rocketing their sound skyward towards one final moment of majesty. AV Sunset have arrived, and they have effortlessly nudged their way through the masses towards the main stage with Disconnections. This album will resonate with every instrumental music lover who appreciates patience, atmosphere and breath-taking finales. Be sure to check this out!

Throat - We Must Leave You Thu, 07 Dec 2023 08:00:00 +0000 [email protected] e1d6f76e-55e0-4579-9d7e-11b46a27bf11 Although existing already since 2009 I only discovered this Finnish band just now through their latest album, We Must Leave You, which was released 27 October via Svart Records.

After some research it becomes clear this new record is Throat's fourth full length with several EP’S, splits and compilations on the side. On those earlier releases the band is said to never shy away of pushing the boundaries in their sound. Starting out as a noise rock act, their sound developed into new territories as well. I haven’t heard the previous albums yet so I can’t compare them, but I can confirm that We Must Leave You drifted away from purely noise rock. On this album I hear an unique style of avantgarde dark rock with an 1980’s gothic/ post-punk approach, mixed with contemporary industrial and electronic elements. Quite an addictive bunch of songs I say.

Opener Negative Lite is a three minute sort of warm up for what’s to come. This album must be seen as a break up album. A break up with the world. The world burns? Let it burn, is what Throat proclaims! That’s the mood throughout the songs. In a split second, the first time I heard the drum beat in the opening of second song Heaven Hanged I laughed and remarked “is that Baywatch?”, but although seeing Da Hoff running in his red Speedo is as 80’s and 90’s as one can get, I do prefer the gothic and post-punk music from that time era. And listening to the guitar and bass lines that follow after those first drums, Throat luckily think the same as me. The slow barritone vocals in the first half are fantastic as well and they somewhat reminding me of Warrel Dane (RIP) how he sings on the Nevermore version of the Bauhaus cover Silent Hedges/Double Dare and his solo version of Sisters of Mercy’s Lucretia my Reflection. Not entirely coincidentally, two songs from bands that can be seen as pioneers in the gothic/wave/post-punk genres. And the awesomness of the song isn’t over yet, because after another drum salvo the pace goes up, transforming the song into a true rock song with a melancholic Solstafir vibe. The tone is set and the interest aroused for the rest of the album.

The Transaction immediately follows up with a great mix of epic and bombastic parts and dark pop-rock atmospheres. The bass line and the warm and dark barritone vocals in Trespassing take us back again to the 1980’s with a modern layer in synths on top. The dry guitar chords and lyrical built up in the first part of Hearsay of Heresy has Nick Cave vibes all over it before the song bursts open for a short while before the opening guitar chords return again to finish the song. By now it’s clear what a fantastic album this turned out with all kinds of atmospheres, twists and layers. The varied name dropping so far is a clear hint of what kind of different genres and moods can be heard and experienced in here. And in Tiny Golden Murder and Valedictory some early White Lies can be traced back as well.

So there you have it. We Must Leave You is one of my favourite revelations this year and a pleasant go-to when temporary tired of extreme metal. Great songwriting, interesting combinations, excellent musiscianship and the guts to deviate. Yearlist material.

Filaments - Am Fear Liath Mòr Tue, 28 Nov 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 0d47e5fa-c846-4a8b-9083-a5ee1136b2cc Haunting, mystical, and entrenched in melancholy, Filaments debut track Am Fear Liath Mòr brings forth a time of great lore and legends and transports the listener to a place that was once solemn and dangerously enchanting. Filaments have conjured up a track that welcomes you in with a warm and open embrace, drawing you in deeper and deeper, before eventually tightening its grip, and constricting you with its sorrowful lament and its deep, downcast atmospherics.

Filaments are Marc-Christian Jordan (Drums), Lennart Riepenhusen (Bass), Patrick Mc Kay (Guitar) and Jens Görlich (Guitar) and to be honest these guys don’t sound like a band that’s taking its first steps into the world of post rock and post metal. Hailing from Kiel, in Germany, Am Fear Liath Mòr is a track that highlights the talent that’s out there. Recorded and mixed at Upaya Sound by Nick Braren and mastered at Strong Emotion Records by Sascha Röhrs, Filaments sound fresh, relevant, and already accomplished.

Nostalgic and mournful in its delivery, the track opens with those solemn and ancient Gaelic words that reverberate off every tree and bounce off every guitar cord as they sing the death march. Crisp percussions come rumbling in and under a blanket of thick forest air, as the rhythm guitars come storming in with a glorious riff that hangs in that dense and earthy air. All this goodness gets soaked in a wave of soft, sullen, synths, as each layer and each instrument comes together in unison, summoning a glorious crescendo that is patient and restrained in its conviction, as that beautifully toned bass guitar orchestrates everything to its final resting place. The melody is memorable, and the atmosphere is palpable.

There is a yearning for more after hearing this track, so I’m pretty sure we will be hearing much more of Filaments in the coming months. Be sure to visit their Bandcamp page and give these guys the support that their sound deserves.

Ad Nihilum – Withering Beauty ( Single) Tue, 21 Nov 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 4fd7ea8a-15ee-46cb-85bd-c4fdf4620869 I always get excited by debut albums! It’s the thrill of the unknown, it’s that moment when you play the first few cords and get an instant connection to both the atmosphere and the passion of what you’re bearing witness to. Now, add a stunning visual display to one of the tracks and just feel yourself getting lost in the throes of all that greatness and grandeur that is opening before your eyes.

Swiss band Ad Nihilum’s unsullied blend of doom, black and atmospheric metal gave me those aforementioned feels when I first hear their pre-released singe, Withering Beauty, from the upcoming album An Escape For The Guilty. Right from the outset, a blizzard of harsh frosty blast beats, tangled up in turbulent, torn riffs, lay siege with great power and wrath. Fast, furious, and set beneath a synthesised skyline, the music cuts right through the harsh, open landscape, before easing and receding into some deeply melancholic dual guitaring and some soft, cold vocals. Funereal in tempo, the track is laced in a brooding air of melancholia that brings with it some heavy, guttural growls and even more majestic musical layers. Never standing still and never repeating itself, this journey changes direction once more and comes spewing forth with some crushing riffs and an ethereal wall of sound that finally ignites and cascades into a post-black onslaught that tears the sky wide open and spits fire and venom across the vast open wilderness!

This track is certainly a statement of intent and under the guidance of These Hands Melt, Ad Nihilum are a force to be reckoned with. While you wait for the album to drop on February 2024, be sure to head to your youtube page and bask in the glorious video that adorns the track, courtesy of the brilliant Anaïs Chareyre-Méjan ( Domhain)

Bury The Burden - An Increased Perception of Suffering Tue, 14 Nov 2023 06:00:00 +0000 [email protected] a62c1786-45d6-4045-bda7-713ec7d38fc0 What a run of it I’m having at the moment with regards to the UK music scene, and Leeds in particular! In the last couple of months, we’ve had stellar releases from the likes of Helve and Din Of Celestial Birds, both bringing their own style of music to the masses. Well next on the hitlist is the filthy, sludge trodden ferocity of Bury The Burden. The self-proclaimed dirty noise mongers have unleashed an EP that gnaws at your soul and torments your mind without a care in the world. Once you press play, be prepared to be hit square in the jaw by a barrage of big, brutal riffs and an antagonistic verbal assault that beats and pummels from start to finish.

Aesthetically, An Increased Perception of Suffering brings you back in time, right back to memories of the Black Sabbath era, with its simplistic black on neon green artwork with its forgotten headstone that sits stark and sombre. Musically, the opening track Repression Interlude carries those Sabbath sentiments beneath a dirge of down tuned riffs and filthy basslines. That infectious groove and those down beaten percussions crawl and claw through those sick, sunken frequencies. It’s memorable and it locks into your psyche just as an opening track should.

Better Off Dead snarls and bellows right from the off under a barrage of thick, thundering guitars and clambering drums that sonically beat the living shit out of you! Screams of "better off dead" are delivered without mercy, like a punch in the chest, before transcending into the next track, With No Remorse. Here the carnage continues, and the visceral onslaught takes swipes at you from every angle, along with one of the sickest bass lines you will hear. The tempo is chaotic, and the tension is palpable. This is music to let loose to, music to unleash your inner demon to, and relinquish all control!

The EP closes with Depression Sickness Withdrawal, and just like everything that has gone before it, the air is hostile, and the bands' blackened hearts are pounding out of their chests. This is hardcore for the hardcore. This is music for those that like it filthy and love to breathe in its fury. Strangely enough though, through the snarls and the sludge, there’s a pattern and a meaning to this EP. As I mentioned already, the groove and the arm-swinging swagger that Bury The Burden carry is infectious and will suck you in. An Increased Perception of Suffering is an angry beast, and one that won't be tamed.

Wozniak – Black Polaroid Tue, 07 Nov 2023 02:00:00 +0000 [email protected] ba7aacd0-ebea-4e45-a12e-1fa1291dffae Lets try and wean you off the weekend and carry you into these dark November weekday mornings with something that soothes, something that can bring you down to earth with all the deftness and subtlety one needs to face another week ahead. The weather may be bleak, the days may have gotten shorter, but there is always room to escape the daily drudge by taking time out, to put on a set of headphones and listen to Wozniak’s new single, Black Polaroid.

Ahead of their potential final release, Memory Disorder, Wozniak have given us a track that unburdens a weary mind and allows the body to suspend, weightless and feather light, for a brief moment in time. Black Polaroid is a softened and restrained body of music that ebbs and flows underfoot, gently caressing with its watery vocals and its near nostalgic and hypnotic arrangements. Distorted at times and always awash with shoegazed atmospherics, the track elevates you to that place where dreams and reality converge. It's a wonderful place to be, under those slow tempo percussions and those delicately plucked strings which weave and merge through waves of reverb and delay. This is simply trance-inducing.

I don’t like to ponder the idea of this being Wozniak’s swansong, but if that really is the case then let’s hope they sign off with all the ethereal splendour and blissful beauty that we have come to expect from these four Scots! And after hearing Black Polaroid, I’m sure we will not be disappointed!

Phantom Winter - Her Cold Materials Thu, 02 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 0a3eed4d-8926-46ad-9917-28c9263e788f Out of the ashes that once was a burning fire called Omega Massif arose winter, Phantom Winter to be specific (another great band arose that you have to check: Cranial) and the year was 2014. In the years that followed, the albums Cvlt (2015), Sundown Pleasures (2016) and Into Dark Science (2018) saw the pitch black dark of night. With their style of winterdoom, as they selfnamed their music, they made quite an impact and thanks to intensive touring, where I saw them playing at Roadburn and Soulcrusher festival, they expanded their fanbase steadily. And rightfully so.

Now, after more than five years, finally there’s a new album with the title Her Cold Materials which is released through This Charming Man Records. HCM is a coming of age concept album dealing with a girl growing up in this, well shall we say somewhat complex life and world? The concept worked out in the seven songs and is based on the novel cycle His Dark Materials by writer Philip Pullman.

For the readers that are not familiar yet with Phantom Winter’s music and thus with the term winterdoom, one should expect a unique, intense and dark ice cold mix of blackened sludge, doom, post-metal and beyond that. There are two singers that grawl and shriek their lungs out, lifting eachother up to intense highs and pulling eachother down to emotional lows. On the three previous albums this resulted in some beautifully extreme music. Let’s dive into the new album to see what it’s songs have to offer us.

Opener Flamethrowers starts with a three minutes heavy doom part where a church bell chimes in the background until the point where the pace in drums, riffs and vocals move up a notch. Then everything comes to a halt and for a second there’s silence. Slowly some guitar noises break the silence again and then begins something that is going to recur more often on the album: a sudden unorthodox drum pattern and pace that transitions the song into a new and different mood and phase. With this song, that means the fast drumfills are accompanied more and more by vocals, instrumentation and sampling, building up to a massive flamethrower explosion as an end.

The tone is set for this album in these first nine minutes and Her Wound is Grave also starts relatively slow and builts with grunting and shrieking vocals battling with eachother. Then the pace errupts again with a frantic fast and creepy guitar (somewhat reminding of Wiegedood’s FN Scar 16) for a shortwhile until everything breaks down again and a long intense build up follows with spoken word vocals. From there the song goes into new territory again where the drumming is going in all directions, making you believe there are two drummers, and the bass and one guitar producing a wall of sound while the other guitar keeps repeating just one note for minutes until the bitter end.

As you can read after the first two tracks there’s so much going on that it’s hard to describe in detail. My analysis is far from complete. This has to be heard and felt to be understood.
When I Throw Up turns out a personal favourite. The main reason for that are those totally different impressive emotional clean vocals. There are so many layers of emotions in the tone and intensity of them that really resonate with my soul. And they can only shine thanks to the subtle harsh vocals underneath them. This shows how creative these musicians are in perfecting their art. There’s no light without darkness. The music shifts again from soft melodic to heavy intense, perfectly fitting the deep lyrics. And when at the end those clean vocals come bursting out of the background into the wide open with the words “Some hope is left, i don’t know why, but maybe… it doesn’t matter if we all die” I can’t hold back no more and I just scream along! In Shadow Barricade, the drumming takes another unexpected side path leading to new destinations that have a certain Amenra vibe to them.

Dark Lanterns contains a part of spoken words that gives a movie feeling, followed by a part of the grunting vocals and after that a shrieking part. Then the drumming starts to do it’s own thing again, preluding a climax where all vocals come together with female vocals added as well. Very moving. With The Unbeholden the end of the album is reached, but it’s never over until the fat lady sings, because this is yet another top-notch song full of layers, built ups and climaxes. Those diverse vocals again, spoken word samples, walls of sound, off the rails drumming, and finally an acoustic guitar that oozes the album to a finish.

What an adventure this album is. It’s extreme, it’s cold, it’s resonating, it’s bombastic, it’s emotive, it’s atmospheric. It’s complete. The coming of age folk-horror concept that is the thread through the album is woven into the titles, lyrics, music and even in every detail of the artwork that is so beautifully done by singer Christian Krank himself. I can honestly say I think this is the best and musically mature album Phantom Winter created thus far. And I was already a fan of their previous albums. A sincere AOTY contender in my book.

Olhava – Eternal Fire Tue, 24 Oct 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] c7f97197-c2a1-4a82-b142-ad10d277e76b So many bands must work both tooth and nail in order to survive the music industry these days. Mentally and even financially, bands must overcome so many hurdles in order to share their art with us mere mortals, and I know that in this tight-knit community of ours, that dedication and willingness to persevere doesn’t go unnoticed.

However, with all that in mind, not many bands have had to endure the hardship, the oppression, and the difficulties that bands like Olhava have had to rise above. Hailing from Saint Petersburg, in Russia, Andrey Novozhilov and Timur Yusupov have had their fair share of troubles and have had their lives tossed upside down. But through adversity, the human race can find an inner strength, as is the case with Olhava. And In times like these, their music has never sounded so poignant and so relevant.

This latest release, Eternal Fire, comes from a highly anticipated album which hasn’t been given a release date yet, but my god, if this track is anything to go by, then we are in for a relentless blizzard of post-black brilliance. Following on from the majestic Frozen Bloom, Eternal Fire wastes no time in opening with a sea of blast beats and glorious guitars that gallop and drive forward in a black gaze frenzy. Haunting, hypnotic, and utterly consuming, this wailing wall of sound gives an almost out of body experience that I have missed. Fuzzy and distorted to the untrained ear, the melodies weave a pattern that creates a euphoric and near celestial experience. Even as the coarse vocals add another layer to the music, it doesn’t take away from the ecstasy and rhapsody that Olhava have conjured up here.

The music breaks down beneath a precise percussive mist momentarily before harnessing more of that blackened brilliance and regenerating itself once more, before spiralling and oscillating beyond the heavens. Anyone who knows Olhava, Trna or Show Me A Dinosaur will be in raptures and in a conscious state of euphoria with this track!. Fourteen minutes into the track, there’s a blissful, ambient passage, that floats and crackles beneath natures own soundtrack, ending a piece of music that epitomises and exemplifies the brilliance of the St. Petersburg scene, that was thriving not so long ago. We live in hope and prayer that it rises once more.

Novere – Nothing Stays Hidden In Daylight Tue, 17 Oct 2023 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 70901e67-b2d1-424e-a37e-0fb9ed2c796d "Nothing Stays Hidden In Daylight" focuses on exposing demons hidden deep inside of us - facing them and letting them out to find peace withinNovere.

Something is happening in the UK post-metal scene in recent years and it’s like a drug you take for the first time, just to test the waters, because you know how to avoid becoming addicted to it, right? But like any possessive substance, once it seeps into your bloodstream and gives you that euphoric escape, you keep coming back for more, and strive to find a bigger hit and a greater high. Well, musically Novere are one of those seriously addictive hits of post metal that will fill your senses and consume you, with all the emotional and heart-breaking highs you can expect from a band that are already at the top of their game.

Nothing Stays Hidden In Daylight is a soulful and intimate journey into the realms of loss, love and uncontrollable addiction. Its stark and brutal concept along with its crushing riffs and pummelling percussions is softened only by its haunting vocals, sullen-soaked atmospherics and carefully constructed song writing. Four tracks somehow manage to skull drag you through a whirlwind of emotions, beginning with the furious and chest-pounding Hydra. Deep, gravely vocals immediately grip tight and slowly constrict you, under a filthy riff and a barrage of drums. Its powerful, it’s abrasive and in complete contrast to where the track goes soon after. The soaring and near celestial vocal disparity from earlier is a thing of beauty and adds a truly unique approach to such a hardened, sludge driven sound. That rich bass guitar sounds huge behind such a clear vocal delivery and really comes into its own during a beautiful harmony-laced passage. However, the track, erupts once more, bringing more fire and fury along for the closing scenes! What a beast of a track.

The ability to braid together bleak and downcast moods with uplifting shards of light makes Aphelion an absolute juggernaut of a track. Influences are a plenty here, ranging from the harshness of Cult Of Luna or Isis, to the more melody strewn side of bands like Tool and A Perfect Circle. It weaves and spirals through many emotions making it a track that can mend and break you in an instant. It is such an amazing track. Dance Macabre on the other hand is a very different proposition, with its Planet Caravan rumblings and its soft and subtle take on extreme music. Stark and simplistic, it just soaks in through every pore and tranquilises the listener for a while.

Closing with Cromlech, a track that is equally as good as everything that has gone before it, has a near psychedelic intro to it, a little funky, but still sickeningly sinister. More harsh growls crush the atmosphere, and rips a hole in any neurotic trip you may have been under. Lead guitars meander and crawl through those thundering riffs, adding layer upon layer, and bringing the album to a vicious and bitter end.

This is only Novere’s first full album, following an EP and a single, but holy shit, Nothing Stays Hidden In Daylight Is an absolute triumph. It’s dark and it’s heavy and it will leave a scar that will never heal. Sublime!

Autómata – Heart Murmur Wed, 11 Oct 2023 16:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 05d5601b-4ad9-441f-94f4-57c8efd4a9d2 Post-rock comes to us in many forms. It has a vast and expandable net that can be cast to the furthest reaches of the musical spectrum. Guitar orientated in design with the ability to metamorphize and mould into many things, it’s a style of music that feeds off experimentation. Hailing from Paris, France, Automata are a band that have taken the post-rock blueprint and simply let their thoughts and ideas modify and alter its appearance.

Heart Murmur is seven tracks of experimental and forward-thinking music that exposes its electronic heart on its sleeve and chronicles its own journey with carefully chosen narrated passages that embellish and expand their already layered sound.

On A Wire opens the album with the words “stay safe, please look after each other, take care” and a sweet and soft acoustic riff that casually plucks its way through an airy, synthesised breeze. Slow, patient and beautifully simplistic in design the music grows and builds, layer upon layer, occasionally dipping under a deep brooding bass line, making everything feel wonderful! This is music to soothe a weary soul, music to lift the spirits and add a splash of positivity in an otherwise troubled world.

Sad Guru, although solemn in title, has this gentle, kinetic energy to it and a hefty slice of sincerity emanating from it. The drums are a joy to listen to on this track as the sticks literally spring off every cymbal, sending reverberations through the rest of the track. Lead swells manoeuvre and bounce between those percussive rumblings while more electronica binds everything together. Keyboards are used for the first time on Mad Motor, and as the name suggests, there’s a little bite to this track, with that distorted guitar revving and building in power. Mogwai in sound, the track uses another spoken passage, and it really adds to the vibe and the emotion found in the music.

Killing Spiders is laced with all those nuances and subtleties we have experienced in the rest of the tracks, with added scratching and plenty of delicious tremolo guitars shredding above some very contrasting drum patterns. Processions closes the album, again showing the mastery and the ingenuity in adapting a narrated passage into a musical composition. At over eighteen minutes long ( if you hang around through the extended silence!) the track traverses through many lifeforms, from aggressive, tribal percussions to heartwarming acoustic theatrics, with splashes of Caspian adorning the final three minutes.

So, if you want post rock that’s experimental and laced in electronica, then Automata are a band for you. If you want something a little different and very forward thing, then Automata are still for you! Be sure to drop by their Bandcamp page and support this wonderful scene of ours!

Domhain – Nimue Tue, 10 Oct 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 577d3fd7-fba1-467b-a26c-9e3c955c9193 For me, my teenage years played a huge part in shaping and moulding my musical journey. Scenes and trends came and went, but there was always a specific style of music rooted deep within my subconscious that laid the foundations and the pillars to what mattered to me from a musical standpoint. From an Irish perspective, bands like Mourning Beloveth and Primordial kept that breeze-blown flame flickering amidst a sea of titans. Bands like Anathema , My Dying Bride , Paradise Lost and In The Woods… carved out a blissful pathway for me to follow, a trail that is etched within me and which houses my adoration for downcast and atmospheric music.

Well, that flame I mentioned earlier has been re-ignited, and is now burning bright, casting a beautifully cloaked shadow across the foggy musical landscape. Belfast born Domhain have released an album that not only respectfully pays homage to all the bands I mentioned earlier, but it toys with a more modern approach to melancholic music. Domhain have managed to infuse some dreamy post-black fuzziness along with the more coarse and frenzied black-metal tirades into their sound and it's result is an avalanche of emotions, power and ethereal splendour.

To quote Domhain’s Bandcamp page, “Nimue" is their debut record, a three song mini album blending doom and atmospheric BM, progressive, post-metal. Made of long-form songs filled with myths and remembrances, Nimue is ethereal metal at its best, anchored by the band's unique dynamics and vocal harmonies. That paragraph encompasses what this band are all about, but there is so much more to discover as this album seeps into your bloodstream and releases its browbeaten beauty through every artery and vein.

The opening track, The Mourning Star is a ten-minute epic that holds within it a romance and a love for the crestfallen. Lush and rich guitars strum gently as pitch perfect percussions roll and rumble over proceedings. Dual vocals weave and dance in unison as they grow from the earth and soar skywards, glowing and reverberating through the warm winter sunshine. However, storm clouds gather and eclipse it all under the hardened vocal of Andy Ennis and some heavy, thundering riffs courtesy of Bryn Mills and Nathan Irvine. What is so special about this track is not only the fact that it ebbs and flows though harsh wintery squalls and warm tepid waters with the help of Raul Andueza on cello , but those vocal harmonies of Anaïs Chareyre-Méjan , Andy & Bryn are some of the most incandescent and soul- stirring euphonies I have ever heard. What an incredible track to welcome Domhain to the world.

Silent Frequency begins with more celestial vocals and a guitar tone that reminds me of Primordial’s Empire Falls, with those drawn out cords and that emotionally charged atmosphere they are synonymous with. However, a blast beaten tirade along with Andy’s bellowing bass guitar erupts and pours its visceral rains down on all that stand before it. Shredded guitars conjure up a black metal fury before a glorious lead guitar solo graces the closing stages of the track, spiralling and spinning out of control right till the death.

A Pile Of Stones Upon Her Grave is the final track, and if the title doesn’t raise the hairs on your arms, the music certainly will. With the brilliant Jo Quail bringing her sorcery and magic to the table, this has epic written all over it. Slow building, and dripping in a forlorn melody, the track leads the procession along a rugged and weather-beaten path, with ghostly vocals crying Nimue through the heavy, solemn air. Piano keys weep and guitars lament, until a force of unbridled power and might comes crashing in under waves of vicious riffs and wicked drums. The vocals snarl and rasp with bitter conviction as the atmosphere blackens and air turns bloody. It’s unnerving, its relentless but it is absolutely jaw dropping.

Music can move you and it can transport you to many worlds. Nimue is a story of old, laced in all the pain and suffering of harsher times past. It aches and it weeps, but it’s those gut-wrenching emotions that light a fire within me and make me appreciate and respect music as a greater entity. Domhain have released something really special here.

Urbain – A Soul Purged Thu, 05 Oct 2023 10:00:00 +0100 [email protected] e6c8da1d-0c32-4b11-952f-ab517af5cb5f Urbain is an American progressive black metal band that formed in 2020 and A Soul Purged is their debut album released by Hypnotic Dirge Records.

The band describes their style as urban black metal since their themes and concepts deal about modern urban dystopia and decay. A Soul Purged turned out a massive and innovative album. It consists of nine songs and four of them are relatively shorter instrumental songs that function as delightful and atmospheric bridges between the songs Perception, Without Conscience, A Soul Purged, Unseen and No God to Greet Me.

Urbain prove themselves geniuses in composing and producing a balanced album that beholds aggressiveness and progressiveness at the same time. Fragile and bombastic at times. 1990’s symphonic BM is in there and the vocals are divers with a filthy high-pitched shriek on most parts, but with some grunting and clean backing vocals mixed in there as well. Although completely different in sound, I wouldn’t be surprised that a band like Savatage, and was some sort of inspiration when it came to the writing and execution of orchestral arrangements, sensitive piano passages, multiple background vocals and wonderful guitar-solos. The pace in the songs alters between fasten your seatbelt, grooving midtempo and melancholic downtempo. On top of all this are well-thought thinking-man lyrics that deal about what Bill Hicks best described in his quote: “I’m tired of this back-slappin’ isn’t humanity neat bullshit. We’re a virus with shoes!”.

Because of aforementioned ingredients there’s plenty of variation what makes this on all levels a more than pleasant album to listen to over and over.
Fans of melodic, progressive, and atmospheric black metal will most definitely be interested in what Urbain has to offer. Surely one of those remarkable revelations in this genre. And mind you that this is only their debut album! I’m looking forward to what the future beholds even more for this band.

La Drache - L'Aurore (Single) Wed, 27 Sep 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3ef96347-bf69-4a8d-831e-ec2a8a6621e1 My love for French post music has never wavered over the years, played in no small part to the constant turnover of incredible bands that have been releasing really solid material, album after album. Whether its post rock, post metal, post hardcore, post black metal, the French have a flair and a deep understanding of creativity and originality. I could write a role of honor and name drop ten bands right off the top of my head, but that’s for another day. Today I want to firmly lay all the attention on a band who hail from Bordeaux, France, and have just released their sophomore album, Le bruit des nuages.

La Drache, have just released four tracks for us all to immerse ourselves in, each one as captivating as the next. With each track weighed heavy in emotion, and cloaked in a dark soulful veil, La Drache’s music comes from a very personal place. On this ONE TO WATCH review, I want to discuss the opening track on the album, L'Aurore.

Delays and reverb bounce off the opening cords, as a beautiful slow tempo drum pattern weaves and writhes its way through the opening sequence. Trance inducing and near psychedelic, the music meanders through a cacophony of plucked guitars and a rumbling bass guitar. When the shackles do come off the track those plucked strings begin to shred and conjure up a delicious riff that gets swallowed up by some lead guitar foreplay, before releasing a beautifully melodic but harsh piece of post rock that almost tips the scales of black gaze as those warm fuzzy guitars fill the air. Retreating back into itself once more, the music fades a floats on a sea of soft cymbals and gently played cords right to the end.

In hindsight, this should really be a full album review, such is the diversity and array of textures found right through these four tracks. But either way, you now know of La Drache, if you haven’t already! The next step you need to take is head to their Bandcamp page and support the artists! Brilliant!

MMTH – Relais (single) Thu, 21 Sep 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 255e8b61-35fd-4052-8281-884c7b872c64 For those of you already in the know, Germany’s instrumental four piece, MMTH have this kinetic and scintillating style that makes their take on experimental rock sound colossal and near epic. Lush, sonic walls of sound marry perfectly with glorious lead swells and potent rhythm guitars, giving the band an energy and a cutting edge that can slice the vacuum-packed genre of instrumental music wide open.

The great news is that the band have a new release, Infinite Heights, coming soon, November 17th to be precise, and they have graced us with a taster of what is to come in the shape of Relais. Opening in an avalanche of sun-drenched melodies and sumptuous waves of power and precision, the music instantly energises the listener and takes you on a journey through glorious, yet rugged peaks and valleys. Lead guitars and sharp synthesised sparks, spiral and set fire to the sky as those pummelling percussions and stomping bass lines keep the track firmly earthed to the coarse, stony soil. Buried deep within these dynamic and barnstorming passages lies an ever so somber undercurrent which gives the track another dimension, and adds another string to its bow.

Always growing and always adding layer upon layer, Relais is a track that grows like ivy, that’s rooted firmly in the earth and climbs all over you without you ever noticing, until it wraps its arms round your neck and totally consumes you. MMTH have chosen a superb track to introduce their new album to the masses, and believe me, after hearing the rest of the album , this release will be huge.

The Crawling - All Of This For Nothing Sun, 17 Sep 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 5dd4f89e-e236-440a-8f6d-a6e5bf8530ff A beautifully bleak and brutal journey through the realms of grief and despair. With their sixth release shortly upon us, Lisburn’s disciples of doom and death, The Crawling are back with another blackened and brow beaten, beast of an album. All Of This For Nothing brings more of that forlorn gloom that has adorned all their previous work, but with this release the lads have really dug deeper that ever before, and have conjured up seven tracks of crushingly heavy but deeply melancholic doom metal that chronicles terrible tales of woe and disquiet. And we wouldn’t want it any other way! To quote guitarist/vocalist Andy Clarke’s brutal summation of existence…“Life is a journey through a bleak, cold, harsh reality that ends in a void of nothingness”… and All Of This For Nothing is the perfect soundtrack to that unforgiving philosophy". Enough said!

The first track on the album, March Of The Worm, immediately sounds the death march, as drums roll and rumble through the intro, laying the foundations for those shredded guitars to pierce the umbra and bring forth the ever familiar harsh and black-hearted vocals of Andy. Its slow-paced power and gut-wrenching delivery really sets the scene perfectly for what is to come.

Another Vulture brings more of that wretched goodness that you come to expect from top-tier doom & death metal. With the piercing chorus of Another Vulture, and the deeply melodic guitar tones that hang weightless of every word, this track brings me right back to the glory days of the 90’s doom legends Paradise Lost’s Gothic album. High praise indeed, but never a truer word spoken. Beneath the ferocity of those guitar riffs lie the gorging bass lines of Stuart Rainey which really carry the track right to the death.

The pre-released track, Thy Nazerene is another slab of cold hearted atmospheric doom, that wails and weeps through a sorrowful, yet emotionally stirring chorus of “Where is that boy who hides when he weeps?, where is that boy who’s lies I keep?” Utter vehemence, and utterly brilliant.

As I listen to this album, I cant help but feel that it gets stronger and more all-consuming, the deeper you fall into into it. Bound To The Negative’s slow, ponderous pace is downright infectious yet achingly bleak. The Paradise Lost influence is evident yet again on this track, with those haunting lead guitars and that crushing Beneath Broken Earth vibes. That rugged melody and menace found in the latter stages of the track give it another dimension that makes it one of the standout tracks on the album.

Leaving The Skin and A Light We Cannot See continue to carry the flame, with more devastating riffs, and not forgetting the colossal and thunderous percussions of Gary Beattie, that tie and bind this whole album together. From funereal paced crashes to near blast beaten fury, the drumming here is insane!

The Closing track, Sparrow, is a rework of their 2021 single and it’s a fitting way to close the album. More death than doom, it’s a tour de force, and a track that weaves and wanders through slow patient passages and punishing cement-heavy riffs. That closing riff leeches into your skull and carries you over the threshold, ending an album that sees The Crawling once again, release another beast of an album. Even the sublime artwork of Travis Smith only adds to the pain and isolation that’s found draped across every track on All Of This For Nothing. A beautifully bleak and brutal journey through the realms of grief and despair.

Uada - Crepuscula Natura Thu, 14 Sep 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 70fa57a8-b035-4a9d-81ce-31a980098663 Uada is a melodic black metal band fom Portland, Oregon and recently they released their fourth full-length release. After it’s inception in 2014, the band fired the albums Devoid of Light (2016), Cult of a Dying Sun (2018) and Djinn (2020) unto the world, and through years of relentlessy touring they're having an increasing fanbase worldwide. With the new album Crepuscula Natura released by the fantastic Eisenwald Records label, that growth will only continue.

Compared to its predecessor Djinn the duration of this new record is significantly shorter. Thirteen minutes to be precise and I think this benefits the overall impact of the album as a whole. The five songs are well-balanced and well-timed with no moments that could’ve been deleted. Everything is in the exact place and right timing, with the outcome of another wickedly strong album.

What I love most is that when you put Uada’s music on, you can hear within a split second it’s Uada. Their melodic sound is so distinctive and so recognisable. The fast tremolo pickings, the melodic harmonies, the hooks and those impressive and repetitive riffs are what stand out, making them true masters in creating catchy music. The classic heavy metal passage midway through the title-track Crepuscula Natura for example completely fits in, and provides such a cool variation that keeps the music interesting. Music that still rips your face off, mind you! It blasts and grooves at ferocious pace and the varied vocals go from icy gnals, filthy growls to gutteral grunts everywhere. Listen to the opener, The Abyss Gazing Back and hear vocals that sound the heaviest in the band’s discography. The album closer, and at a whopping 12 minutes, their longest song, Through the Wax and Through the Wane is another great example of combining all contrasts in one.

Crepuscula Natura makes you violent, desperate and in peace with yourself, all at the same time. Something only few bands are capable of. With that, Uada have again delivered another melodic black metal gem that will make old fans more than satisfied and that will appeal to genre fanatics that are not familiar yet. Also big credit to Kris Verwimp for the stunning artwork. Essential listening.

Helve – To Be Forgotten Tue, 05 Sep 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] cfcf3c48-7316-4289-82b2-e2a26a78b071 My first taste of Helve came about last January at an event hosted by Celestial Diadem Promotions, a half-dayer, to be precise. Six fully loaded bands absolutely annihilated it that night. It was more a coming together of all that is good about our music scene rather than just six bands playing together on any given night. The music was dark, emotive, hugely atmospheric and laced with immense fire and fury. Something special was in the air that night, where friendships were forged and memories were carved.

Speaking of memories, Helve’s performance that night was spine tingling, drifting from soft forlorn passages to blistering, sludge-soaked tirades. It was colossal. Well, I am absolutely delighted to see the guys release an album that shows the bands positive progression and talent ignite and combust, setting fire to the post music scene.

To Be Forgotten is four tracks of dense and often dirty post metal that gnaws at your flesh while at the same time comforting you through its spirited and soul-stirring breakdowns. The opening track, Dark clouds, comes rolling in slow and slumbrous with an air of unexpected calm and serenity. It reminds me so much of my favourite Fourteen Nights At Sea’s track, The Dead House. Patience combined with a underlying sense of fear and unease. It’s almost nearly six minutes into the track before your hypnotic state is broken by a beautiful vocal that floats and travels slowly above your head. Coarse, harsh vocals slice the atmosphere asunder along with a riff that bleeds pain and melody in equal measure, dragging the track by the throat and carrying it, kicking, and screaming to its end.

Woe and despair bleed out on the second track, Guns Heal The Sick, with its wretched vocal delivery bellowing high above a filthy riff. It’s harsh and its melancholic and it’s bloody brilliant. Funeral paced, and aching in an ever so subtle melody, you can feel and sympathise with Helve, as the noise washes over you with some glorious tremolo guitars that echo some of Interpol’s finer moments.

The final two tracks on offer here, Bones Of Giants and Teeth are absolute beasts, weighing in at 12 and 20 minutes respectively. Both these tracks are epic and could do with a review of their own, such is the sonic diversity on display. The range of emotions that Helve pendulate through on each of these tracks is what makes this album huge. It’s a roller-coaster of raw emotion and unconstrained sentiments. Helve have truly found their sound, and I believe the magic lies in their ability to bring that live passion and spirit into the studio and replicate every feeling that is strewn across the stage when they play to a wanting crowd. To Be Forgotten isn’t over produced and it isn’t mixed to within an inch of its life. It sounds how it should, packed with a potency and an intensity that will see these guys take the next big step.

Be sure to grab their album on preorder through the mighty Ripcord Records while you wait for the full release to grace your Bandcamp page. If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that Charlene, of Ripcord Records has impeccable taste and a finely tuned ear for damn fine music! Release Date, September 29th.

ARCTANGENT 2023 - Saturday Sat, 02 Sep 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] f45301ce-caf7-47d3-9d3c-ef98216e77b1 Saturday:
Aaahh the last day of a 4-day festival. Upon waking, my body feels like my head is a watermelon which has been dropped on the floor from a great height. I make use of the excellent sauna which absolutely does wonders for my state of mind, and also my body in general. After a gorgeous breakfast of a massive hot dog, I'm ready to go.

Copse – What a way to start the day. Ed Gibbs from Devil Sold His Soul fame is on the farm with his other band and oh boy, this blasts away the cobwebs. A complex demonstration of heavy dexterity with poignant quieter segments make sure that the day starts in the best way possible.

Psychonaut – After being forced to cancel last year’s festival, the band return eager to make up for lost time, and wow do they deliver. To continue the theme of the day, this is some heavy progressive music with real heart. The huge crowd lap up the tasty musicianship on display and it seems everyone from the crowd to the band themselves consider this to be a rather grand set, awesome.

Bones of Minerva – Boasting an all female line-up, the heavy doom band from Barcelona set about making new fans with their extraordinary range of styles. I didn't know the band before watching them but will not pay attention a lot more. The lead singer especially was displaying an extraordinary range with her vocals ably backed up by the band behind her, things were going rather well today.

La Bestia De Gevaudan – Coming all the way from Chilli means this band must be up for the title of furthest distance travelled to be here today! With a sound akin to post metal masters Rosetta, the tribal drums and heavy guitars mean I leave this tent a very happy man, excellent show.

Vola – Today is most definitely a day for Progressive music fans. To say Vola's brand of heavy prog goes down well is an understatement. With songs taken mostly from brilliant last album Witness, the crowd are in good voice and it's quite a grand old sing along, with vocal hooks like these guys produce though, there seems to be no ceiling for the band, onwards and upwards.

Domkraft – I most definitely did not expect to be transported to outer space at this festival, and yet during Heavy Psych band Domkraft's set, that's exactly what happened. With its repetitive heavy droning psychedelia and smoke-filled atmosphere, I closed my eyes and let the band whisk me away to the cosmos for an epic set which left me exfiltrated in the best possible way, one of the unexpected highlights of the whole festival.

Rolo Tomassi – Drawing what seems to be one of the biggest crowds of the whole weekend, Rolo Tomassi steps up and absolutely deliver a stand out set. Sounding rather more refined than their earlier crazed mathcore days (but no less brutal) means they have become a touch more accessible, but this does nothing to diminish the prowess of vocalist Eva Spense and her extraordinary ability to switch between guttural roars and beautiful cleans at the drop of a hat. This was a headline performance in everything but name.

The Callous Daoboys – If you've never seen an audience lose it's collective shit before, do yourself a favour and go and watch The Callous Daoboys play a show. In what must be the most spectacularly chaotic show of the weekend, the band from Atlanta play with a gleeful abandon which makes a mockery of just how complex it is. Something this crazy has no right being so fun and entertaining, but everyone in attendance can attest to have watch something really rather special indeed.

Deafheaven – To say I was looking forward to hear blackgaze masterpiece Sunbather in full is an understatement. Unfortunately, every bands worst nightmare, the technical issue gremlin had come out to play and was wreaking havoc with the intricate sound the band should be producing. When the gremlins do get sorted out, the music is a stunning reminder of just how brilliant the album was, a stunning example of something being bloody heavy, but yet at the same time, incredibly fragile.

Igorr – Honestly, I don't quite know what to make of Igorr. The band never allow you to settle into a rhythm, nodding along to Grindcore one minute, then in the blink of an eye, it morphs into grandiose opera. Giddying in it's genre hopping, the crowd seem to be going crazy along with it, it's a bit much for me I must admit. Even by the standards of ATG, this is way out there.

Devin Townsend – Bounding onstage and then saying “wow, what a collection of power nerds” does wonders to set the scene for headliner Devin Townsend and his brand of eclectic heavy prog music. Selecting songs from his entire musical history, this is a set built with laser precision to entertain, and do so he did with the most wonderful aplomb. What a way to finish the day and festival, bravo Sir.

ARCTANGENT 2023 - Friday Fri, 01 Sep 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 21295410-4435-44ef-bbe1-4a31a5976d18 Friday:
When I wake up, I realise 2 things. The first is that I'm impressed I can fold my clothes up and put my glasses into the side pocket of my tent whilst being in a state of complete drunken stupor, and the second thing, is that I'm still a little over stimulated from yesterday’s astonishing musical odyssey and I desperately need something to eat to calm myself down. So, I drag myself out of my sleeping bag, grab a wonderful brekkie burrito and head down to the Elephant stage to catch another podcast. This one has an impressive amount of people attending considering it's 10 o'clock in the morning. The reason so many people are here, is to listen to the irrepressible Damnation festival supremo Gavin McInally talk to ATG organiser James Scarlett. Fascinating and informative, they talk like old friends and the crowd really do appreciate the lifting of the veil on some of the intricacies of running a festival, great stuff.

Hidden Mothers – Now this was just what I needed to wake me up. The Sheffield lads blow the cobweb away with a complex maelstrom of blackened post metal. A surprising amount of tenderness is on display too, with the new material in particular making great use of the astounding dynamics, the push and pull of quiet and loud to form a devastating assault on the senses. The stunning vocal triumvirate of guitarist Luke's blissful cleans bassist Liam's guttural growls and the emotive, almost beautiful screams of vocalist Steffan make for a spine tingling show. When Steffan climbs down from the stage and bellows vocals from the middle of the crowd, everyone in attendance is swept along for the ride and is in no doubt that we've just witness a sensational set from a band which has unlimited potential.

Curse These Metal Hands – Apart they are strong, together they are unstoppable. When you amalgamate parts from the bands Pijn and Conjurer, some form of alchemy takes place and magic happens. Packing out the main stage at this time of the day takes a special band, and this band are special. This is the musical equivalent of a hug from a long-lost friend. It's an utter joy from start to finish and when the first notes of High Spirits rings out, the crowd is in raptures. They really don't take themselves too seriously (as proved by the intro to High Spirits being performed by an otamatone!) but this only adds to the sense of joy, it takes a lot of talent to make something this good. Quite silly, and absolutely astounding.

Holy Fawn – Some band sound better live than they do on record. Holy Fawn are one such band. They seem genuinely blown away by the size of the crowd and the emotions which are being reflected back at them. The perfect intersection of heavy and beauty, this is an absurdly good set.

Ashenspire – Do you like listening to ungodly heavy music whilst being shouted at by an angry Scotsman? Well, you are in luck, this is what Ashenspire sound like, and I for one lapped it up, astonishing in every way, these guys should be propelling their way up the billing sooner rather than later. Intoxicating, very odd, very left field and incredibly brilliant, this is why I love ATG.

Project Mishram – One of the joys of ATG is walking around and discovering bands which you didn't know beforehand. One such band were Project Mishram who played a glorious mash up of sludgy metal with traditional Indian sounds. It sounds like it shouldn't work but it did, in the best way possible. The tent was visibly busier by the end of their set, filled with people like me who were bowled over by the positivity and sheer happiness emanating from the stage. Wonderful.

The Ocean – Eager to hear songs form the stunning new album Holocene, I arrive early to get a good spot for German masters The Ocean. And boy, they do not disappoint. I've seen this band countless times over the years and to my ears, they've never sounded better. A real showcase from one of the best bands on the planet, simply stunning. Loic Rossetti is one of the best frontmen in the business at one point, he finds himself sat on the shoulders of someone in the middle of the packed tent with a rather expensive looking camera filming the crowd, what a show.

LLNN – What a way to finish the day, it's like being sat on by a mountain, but in a good way. New frontman Victor Kaas slots in seamlessly and the band don't miss a beat. Devastatingly heavy in the most glorious manner, this is almost a religious experience with the sound battering me into submission, and I have the biggest grin plastered across my face because of it. Mind. Blown.

ARCTANGENT 2023 - Wednesday & Thursday Thu, 31 Aug 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 29665dee-503e-4d24-9688-6a473d11839b Arctangent 2023

For one weekend in late August, the sleepy working farm of Fernhill Farm in Compton Martin wakes from its slumber and welcomes 8000 devotees of alternative, left field and forward-thinking music onto its lush fields. For people in the know, it's the most anticipated event of the calendar. For me personally, it's my happy place. It's the one time when I can cast off my usual low self-esteem and talk to absolutely anyone there without feeling like I don't belong. Every year I go and think, this is the best year yet, how are they going to top it next year? Let's see if they did shall we

The Wednesday at Arctangent (henceforth known as ATG) is a celebration of last years bands and is the perfect way for everyone to get reacquainted with the festival again. By the time I'd got my tent set up and the first beer cracked open, I took a wonder into the site to catch the first band of the day

Five the Hierophant – Even by ATG standards, this band is left field. Cloaked in, well, cloaks, the band exude an aura of mystique. They play a mix of droning post metal with one of the members pushed to the front to showcase his skill as a saxophonist almost making him the de facto leader of the group. Sound issues meant we lost him for a good chunk of the middle of their set but there were plenty of nodding heads so that was good.

Skin Failure – Playing a schizophrenic blend of thrash, metal and hardcore the band certainly kept the crowd on their toes. Frontman Will Gardner is a ball of pent up energy wanting to explode everywhere all at once, running across the stage and looking very much like he wanted nothing more than to jump down into the crowd and mosh along with everyone else! The guitarist also had his hair cut during the set too which was novel, safe to say, they smashed it.

DVNE – The Scottish post metal collective were on blistering form tonight. In a bittersweet moment they said the show marked the end of the remarkable Eteman Aenka era. The sound was on point and the majority of the crowd were stood open mouthed at the incredible noise which was emanating from the stage. This was a show for the ages and I for one cannot wait to see what this band have planned next, they really do stand on the precipice of greatness.

Conjurer – The mighty Conjurer waste no time and barrel out of the gate with The Mire which is a song they haven't played in years. Every time I hear these guys they always deliver, the outstanding vocal interplay between Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale is a thing of joy and the way they can effortlessly switch between blisteringly heavy sludge and ethereal lightness is nothing short of stunning, it's a highlight of the festival for sure.

Today was the day I was most looking forward to in the whole festival, the bands playing today meant a run of music for which I don't think I was fully prepared and kept having to calm myself down to stop getting overly excited! Waking with a rather sore head, breakfast is wolfed down in order to go and catch the Noizze podcast over at the Elephant stage, hastily arranged at the last minute, it was still an entertaining podcast with a surreal game of cheese or services thrown in which was particularly amusing.

Barrens – With more than a hint of PG.Lost about them, the band are a superb mix of post rock and electronic elements which fit this festival like a glove. A healthy crowd were fully behind the band as they get the day off to a brilliant start

Din of Celestial Birds – Bounding onstage with the energy of an excited puppy, the Leeds band set about showcasing their phenomenal new album 'The Night is For Dreamers'. The sound mix is superb and they look genuinely happy to be playing and like the best chefs making great food, this comes across in the end product. The tent is packed and the crowd are treated to a barnstorming set which feels very much like the start of something truly special for the band. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got quite emotional during last song MMEC and I wasn't the only one either, it was going to take something very special indeed for this set to be topped at this festival.

Pothamus – Shrouded in smoke, the mysterious Belgium band set about slaying the crowd with their intoxicating set, which sounded like a marching band of war orcs setting off to pummel everything in their path, their droning take on post metal really hit the spot, wonderful stuff.

Weigdood – Now, I'm not normally the biggest fan of black metal, but I watched these guys and found myself utterly swept along by their brutal take on the sound. With a drummer and 2 guitarists, the setup is far from normal and their stubborn refusal to soften the sound makes for an awe-inspiring sound. Relentlessly bleak, fantastically brutal, I found myself completely in awe of them, stunning.

Cave In – The legendary band take to the packed main stage and mostly showcase new album Heavy Pendulum. This album is one of the best they've ever done and as always Steve Brodsky and Co. look like they are having a blast on stage. Throwing in a Fleetwood Mac cover of I'm so Afraid is a nice touch but it's when they play penultimate track Big Riff which truly marks this out as something really rather brilliant for me.

ESB – Goodness knows what fans of Biffy Clyro make of Andrew Neil's other band Empire State Bastard. With Ocenasize supremo Mike Vennart along for the ride, it must make a nice change for the band to play their incredible off kilter take on grindcore crossed with shoegaze music to an audience who are very receptive to that kind of thing. The band most definitely do not go quietly into the night, raucous, eclectic and brilliant.

Chat Pile – Halfway through the first song, the guy I was stood next to, turned to me and said “what the fuck is this?” You'd have thought he might have known the band considering the meteoric rise the band have had over the last few years. Ferocious sounding and ever so slightly tired looking, the band lay waste to the heaving crowd and mark their festival appearance in style, resoundingly marvellous.

Elder – The criminally underrated Elder are up next and as always, their sound mix is a thing of beauty. Nick DiSalvo has come on leaps and bounds as a frontman in recent years and is much more confident in his vocals which shine through on material from their newest album Infinite Passage, a joyous, triumphant set from a brilliant band.

Russian Circles – After technical issues caused by 'that' rain in 2019 hit their previous visit to Fernhll Farm, the band take to the stage with a point to make. And make it they did. Each and every band member is undoubtedly a master at what they do, but it's drummer Dave Turnkrantz who for me is in a league of his own. The next hour is a blur of sheer brilliance from the band. Songs from the new album (which is the best thing they've done in years) slot in seamlessly alongside more established numbers and make for an exhilarating hour of music. This was a set for the ages and one I won't forget in a hurry, spellbinding

Sugar horse – Every time I see this band, they get better. Tonight, is no exception. Sounding huge and with a heaving crowd (which is impressive considering they are up against the mighty Converge) hanging onto every sound the band make, this makes for a perfect end to the day. Extraordinary lighting added to the drama of the spellbinding music coming from the stage. Ending the set with exhilarating new song Truth and Consequence, New Mexico leaves everyone in attendance in no doubts, they have witnessed something truly special and I for one am left speechless by the wave of euphoric emotions coursing through me.

Din Of Celestial Birds -The Night Is For Dreamers Wed, 23 Aug 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 99e1722e-9f55-4d1a-ba14-b60a6a5bdad0 As you may know The Smashing Skull Sessions started a new concept recently: The Review Room. On this monthly podcast we discuss and review an array of newly released tracks. It’s on the latest episode of The Review Room where Rich B picked the song Downpour from the band Din of Celestial Birds which introduced us to this post-rock band hailing from Leeds, UK. All were pleasantly surprised to say the least so a written album review, to give the album some more display, was in place. Check out that Review Room episode for furthermore reactions.

Din of Celestial Birds (DoCB) originally started out as a studio project in 2019 with guitarist Andy Gill as founder and solo musician. As the first mouth to mouth reactions we hugely positive, Gill took it to the next level by forming a real band to do live shows. Fast forward and passing by an EP and well received live performances, we’re in the here and now with the release of the debut album The Night is for Dreamers which is made available through A Cheery Wave Records (UK) and A Thousands Arms Music (North America).

DoCB play instrumental cinematic post-rock/metal. With three guitarists and added synths and electronics as well as spoken word samples, you can expect a multi-layered sound. An interesting sound in which one can discover new things with each listen to the album. There’s an excellent eye for details as well as a great balance between dreamy long-stretched post-rock passages and wall-of-sound post-metal outbursts. I love that fantastic transition into those harder riffs in the opener, Utopia for instance. It actually took me a couple of listens to figure out that the song went over seamlessly into the second song Junebug. The finesse in that is typical for the quality on this whole album.

The choice of themes and the sporadic spoken word parts are well-thought as well, and deliver such depth to songs like MMEC (that seems to deal about depression and anxiety) and I Love You But It’s Killing Me (in here there’s only one short spoken line, but it immediately tells a whole story: “Your mother and I are separating…”).

And what about my favorite track Laureate of American Low Life! The title and song are a reference to writer/poet Charles Bukowski, and it was already written in 2021. Just like Bukowski, the song is full of contrasts as it is in daily real life as well. The writer would tell about the misanthropic stuff life has to offer like poverty and alcoholism, but always with an uplifting humoristic touch in it. The song beholds the same contrasts: beautiful gentle flow altered by the heaviest riffs on the album. Combined with interview samples of the man himself this song is another proof of the band’s capability of creating immense layers and depth. Even the artwork seems to be well-thought of and tells a story on its own.

From start to finish this album is just top-notch. What a real pleasant discovery this is and I can honestly say this is one of my favorite post-rock/metal albums this year so far. Every fan of those styles should definitely give this album a solid listening and I’m convinced many will agree with all my praising. Year list material!

wemissedthesky – Sojourner Sun, 20 Aug 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] f276d545-d286-4ee7-9a79-2b41fab9b4d7 A niche, a genre, a family, a gathering of souls. However you describe the world of post-rock one thing that remains a constant, and feeds through every drum beat and ever stirring guitar chord is emotion. Every album that’s crafted within this genre wears it’s heart on its sleeve, and this week’s review of wemissedthesky’s latest record, Sojourner epitomizes that belief.

The world is moving fast, and how music is listened to today is no different. Many bands rely on playlists and streaming platforms to survive, like following a trail of breadcrumbs to feed their weary musical journey. And yes, I mean survive, because we all know the income generated through these platforms is but a raindrop in a thunderstorm. Music has become throw-away and albums are becoming fragmented.

Well, I’m here to plead with you all to give albums another chance, to allow the story and the journey to immerse you and bring you on the voyage of pure emotion and joy that it’s designed to do. There is no greater feeling than being completely submerged in a sea of soft, sullen passages and great ,earth moving crescendos, as you play an album from start to finish. Wemissedthesky undertake this craft brilliantly with Sojourner.

Opening with Complex 34, the band immediately transport you to the heavens with their deeply moving and haunting guitar tones and those spine tingling spoken words. Similar to what We Lost The Sea did with Challenger, wemissedthesky soundtrack the space race by bringing a heartbeat along with all the heartbreak. Lush tremolo guitaring, soft subtle synths and crushing percussions hurtle you through the cosmos and right through the next track, V99N62 without you even noticing it!

With nine tracks for you to fall ever deeper into, Sojourner brings you through a plethora of emotions. The title track brings big bold riffs that are drenched in melancholy, but with an air of hope and optimism whistling through them. It’s powerful and it’s what you want from post-rock. It hits that nerve deep within, which sends pulses through your body and bring great joy and fulfillment.

Tracks like Contemplate! showcase what bands within this genre can do when the shackles are well and truly shattered. The crushing riffs that assault the senses right from the off are ignited with great fire, force and fury. As the music ebbs and flows through calmer waters, you’re completely consumed. Slow, patient, and powerful, the music meanders through highs a lows , before descending slowly back to earth with the softest of landings.

Post music is in a good place. Bands are putting out solid records daily, and the least we should do is give these albums the respect that they deserve, and that is to play them as they were full...without interruption! Why not start with Sojourner!

The Color of Cyan – Egress (Single) Wed, 16 Aug 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] eebff7eb-d6d3-4907-99c9-417a9793a4bd Grand cinematic soundscapes along with a sonic wall of drama and distortion makes Egress the track that not only bears the title to the forthcoming album but is also responsible for bringing the record to a close. Emotive orchestral arrangements married perfectly with that drone-drenched fuzziness brings an air of anticipation and trepidation along for the ride. Think Silent whale Becomes A Dream, and all the neoclassical nuances that they bring, and you get just a flavour of what’s in store here.

The Color Of Cyan have certainly embraced and leaned on every member of the band for this track. Opening with stringed theatrics and reverbed notes that hang and suspend midair, the music is only brought down to earth through the heavy, hypnotic percussions and dark shredded guitars that manage to swallow up all that classical beauty. Deeply moving and heavyhearted, the track weaves through sorrowful strings and hefty post rock rumblings. These two musical worlds should, in theory, clash, but they gel and fuse together seamlessly to create a moment that’s equally glorious as it is melancholic.

If this track is anything to go by, then the album, which is due for release next month, should be a voyage laced with raw, emotive energy and mammoth moments of power.

Nebula Orionis – The Black Shores Tue, 08 Aug 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] cff93095-13bf-4ac5-a1eb-6eee94a0098e Russian solo project Nebula Orionis has been adorning us with some of the most beautiful and blistering atmospheric black metal for close on a decade. Like many of these solo projects, the talent and the foresight that goes into creating such heartbreaking melodies and spirit crushing passages of music can often go criminally under the radar. This is why I want to do my bit in showcasing one of the finest examples of post black grandeur you will hear this year.

With an album, Sorrow, due for release towards the end of the month, Alexander has shared two tracks with us all before the full album release, and as part of our ONE TO WATCH series I want to discuss the opening track, The Black Shores.

Opening under gently lapping waves, and calm acoustic guitars, the mood is both tranquil and serene, and even when those imposing and near planetary guitars come surging forward with that beautifully melancholic death march, the atmosphere is still glorious, although shrouded in dark rumbling skies. The vocals are faint and subdued but bring with them an ache and a yearning that elevates the music to another dimension. Blast beats come crashing in amidst a swollen sea of synths and raucous percussions, creating a wall of sound that is heartbreaking but incredibly uplifting. The track ebbs and flows through tremolo shredded strings and subtle tempo changes. Nebula Orionis is more than just another blackgaze band doing the rounds. This track is littered in lush, sonic layers of sound that hypnotise and carry you weightlessly along its journey. The vocals are diluted, and some might say lost in the mix, but it’s intentional and it’s a stroke of genius.

I cannot wait to hear this album in full and I have high hopes for it. Do the right thin folks and head to the Nebula Orionis Bandcamp page and show your support. Music needs to hold emotion and melody. It needs endless intensity and have the ability to change your state of mind. The Black Shores bring all that and more. Stunning!

SIDUS - Seismos Wed, 02 Aug 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 12a4325b-0449-4852-af11-16103fc15570 Thought provoking, structured and formidable, Berlin based Sidus, with roots deep in Athenian soil, have released an EP which is in essence, a journey beneath the underbelly of mother nature, while at the same time drawing parallels to the human state of mind. As the earth erupts and projects fire and fury skyward, causing great chaos and destruction, the human mind faces its own demons though its own earth-shattering quakes.

Seismos is a three-track concept album that explores the breath-taking beauty of this natural disaster, while raising awareness about mental health issues through a voyage of self-discovery and the impending and unavoidable anger mother earth has at her disposal.

Striking artwork and the calm crystalline intro on Rupture brought me right back to the time I listened to Baroness’s Cocanium from the Yellow and Green album. Those gorgeous guitar notes that hang and hover amidst a cool summer breeze, buzz and resonate deep within the subconscious. There’s something beautiful about that slow build, which harnesses all that impending doom and sucks you in, letting you fall into a false sense of security. As the music grows, so does the tension, as layer upon layer, each instrument falls into place and leads you towards the second track.

The aptly named, Seismic Wave comes in from the great open seas, slow at first, but with devastating effect as it crashes onto land. Musically, Sidus have you sitting on the cusp of that wave, front row seat if you will! The guitars are heavy as hell, as the riffs create aftershock upon aftershock, resulting in a tsunami of destruction which devours life under a fury of crashing cymbals, blast beaten percussions and earth-shattering bass guitars. What the band are also portraying here is that such devastation is found deep within us all. Panic attacks and mental breakdowns bring as much hurt and affliction to us internally as an earthquake does outside.

The third track, Seismos brings with it, calm, hope and optimism. Rebuilding and rehabilitation comes under a comfort blanket of crescendo driven guitars that soar over lush, atmospheric rhythm guitars, which breed new life, and fill the skies with an air of positivity.
Sidus have put together an EP that showcases what talent and creativity can achieve when you have a strong-minded vision and of course the finesse to execute a concept to the highest level. From sombre and unsettling moments, through waves of fear and despair, to finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Seismos is both a tragic yet wonderful journey of the mind, and the world we live in. What Sidus have done is simply orchestrated and soundtracked the voyage to perfection.

KOSATKA – Witness Wed, 26 Jul 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 68488d71-7a84-454c-8775-f6d4e0fb3823 When Colossus dropped back in 2019, Madison Roseberry’s post-metal project Kosatka brought with it a deluge of ferocious atmospherics that engulfed the senses, like an overwhelming tsunami of spiralling melodies, crushing rhythm guitars and towering percussions. It was as close to perfect as you would find in the post-rock/post metal genres at that time, and it still stands head and shoulders above a lot of music that has come ever since.

In 2020, Madison stepped in up a gear once more with the release of Whelm, a 10-minute crusade through the realms of emotive and awe-inspiring post music……Then nothing, Kosatka lay dormant for close on three years. Thankfully that old saying of “all good things must come to an end” is a complete fabrication that’s littered with holes, because Kosatka has risen once more with a new single, Witness, and Madison has not only brought all those glorious melodic transitions we were accustomed to along for the ride, but there is also a darkness and an air of foreboding curdled up amongst this latest musical composition.

Witness opens with this menacing, wailing riff that steamrolls slowly over a crushing rhythm section as it plods and ponders through Kosaka’s well recognised lead solos, which sweep and corkscrew over everything. A piano laced piano section casts a dark, Cimmerian shadow over the track, reminding me of God Is An Astronaut’s Mortal Coil, from their Epitaph album. Those brooding and heavy-hearted riffs marry perfectly with those soft, sombre keys, bringing the whole track together, conjuring up a moment of sheer mystery and enchantment.

That harsh opening riff returns once more in the closing stages of the track along with that brow beaten bass guitar that absolutely crushes, bringing closure on a track that sees Kosatka return once again with all the dynamism we come to expect from Mr. Roseberry. Hopefully there’s more to come, but for now let’s just enjoy this glorious piece of post-metal.

The Fierce And The Dead – Shake The Jar Sat, 22 Jul 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 40401002-048f-4c2b-95ef-0e129b9f4501 With their first full album in five years, The Fierce And The Dead have returned and have shaken the proverbial tree from its deep set roots, sending reverberations right through every branch and beyond, with a force that has catapulted their sound skyward, and into new territories.

Yes, their upcoming album News From The Invisible World breeds new life into the band and brings an energy that is infectious, forward thinking and fierce! And that goes in no small way to the introduction of vocals, courtesy of bassist, Kev Feazey.

But the album review is for another day! today I want to share with you all the deeply infectious and groove driven pre-released track, Shake The Jar. With all the sonic TFATD nuances you come to expect from the band, this track is spiked with moments of blistering psychedelic splendour, and gritty, stoner vibes. Feeding off the energy of bands like Baroness and Queens Of The Stone Age and blending that potency with those smooth prog soaked vocals, Shake The Jar is laced in a feel good factor that literally flows through your bloodstream, giving an instant high.

The opening riff on the track is upbeat and heavy, with an instant vocal delivery that mixes and dissolves beautifully into the groove of things. With a chorus and a hook that literally tattoos itself to your grey matter, there’s no escaping those atmospheric and melody-soaked anthemic chants that layer proceedings. The guitar tone is slightly fuzzy and dipped in a shoegaze glaze, which adds yet another dimension to their sound, and keeps that energy and gusto at fever pitch. When the track reaches a momentary celestial plateau, the music fades to the background beneath a rumbling bass, before unleashing itself for one final assault to the senses. Damn, this is electric!

Blackbraid - II Wed, 19 Jul 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 7be99164-6d7c-418f-9c1f-be028222e70d Less than a year ago there was this one-man Native American black metal band that came down from the Adirondack Wilderness and conquered the extreme underground scene at once with the self-titled debut album Blackbraid I. Band leader and founder Sgah’gahsowáh soon formed a real band around himself and they started hitting stages in the US and on European festivals. Leading to an expansion in their fame, and later on a new record announcement was made. Blackbraid II was self-released in july.

It’s always hard to release your sophomore album after it was so well-received. Critics are extra critical in awaiting to see if the band can live up to the hype, and fans are anxious to see if the first album was not just a lucky shot. Well I think everybody can relax now: II continues where I left off resulting in yet another strong and fresh atmospheric black metal album.

There’s twice as much to enjoy since the duration of the album has been doubled to somewhere around 66 minutes. All well-known Blackbraid ingredients are present again: acoustic passages, indiginous flute, nature sound sampling, blasting drums, tremolo picking, melody, groove, guttural and harsh vocals. The songwriting is from that same, interesting level. The production and sound is the same, and the artwork is in the same line as the debut album. If there’s two little criticisms I have on Blackbraid’s work, it would be that I don’t understand why you have such fantastic, long and fitting songtitles, yet you name your albums as unoriginally I and II. Secondly, the artwork is too sketchy for my liking. With themes about mother nature and the beauty of earth, one could bring that back in the frontcover to truly make everything fit together I think. But my humble opinions do nothing short of the kick-ass music, which is the most important thing of course. Let’s have a look at the album shall we?

The ten songs are strategically arranged: a short acoustic instrumental as opener, Autumnal Hearts Ablaze then come two long tracks, then another short instrumental with acoustic guitar and flute, Spells of Moon and Earth, two longer songs follow and then another semi-acoustic with flute instrumental Celestial Passage and the album finishes with two long ones, followed with the cool Bathory cover track, A Fine Day To Die to end it. This way the album is nicely ballanced in black metal heaviness and indiginous peacefullness.

After the instrumental opener The Spirit Returns explodes in your face and the song confirms that the spirit of Blackbraid is back indeed. A howling wolf opens the third song, The Wolf that Guides the Hunters Hand, a very powerful fast song with a majectic battle feeling to it, and one of my favourites.
Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon was one of the singles and at over 13 minutes long, it’s a killer track that starts in a midtempo groove and after a flute passage, builds and accelerates.

The repeating melody in A Song of Death on Winds of Dawn is catchy as hell and a fantastic foundation in the extreme fast and blasting song as it is. Very tranquil mid-section with flute and semi-acoustic guitar with the fast part after that having a certain Uada vibe to it. Yet another excellent song.

And there’s more where that came from! Twilight Hymn of Ancient Blood’s first four minutes dwell in blackened doom pace, but then suddenly transitions into a blackened Death Angel thrash metal rager. Awesomnly done and already a fan favourite in live situations I reckon. Sadness and the Passage of Time and Memory is an intense midtempo song with nice guitar solo work and a great one to finish of the own Blackbraid material. The earlier mentioned killer Bathory coversong closes the album.

Blackbraid is back and here to stay. Fans of the first album can go blindly on this one and get even more of what they already loved. New fans will be made with this banger of a new album, that’s for sure. Going to be one of the best black metal records released this year. Horns up!

COPSE – Old Belief (Single) Thu, 13 Jul 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] b759000e-1530-4d00-8a43-5a3e5aa8a247 The ONE TO WATCH series loves finding brand new tracks from up-and-coming artists and bands. A very familiar stroll through the hallways of Bandcamp has paid dividends yet again, this time in the shape of Copse, a 5-piece post-black metal collective who hail from Bristol, UK. With a 3 track EP due out early August, they have shared one of the tracks off the record with us, and let me tell you, Old Belief is a blitzkrieg of brutal, blackgazed firepower that rains down with great ferocity and vehemence.

Blending black metal percussions, vicious vocals, and murderous riffs with a near celestial soundscape, Copse have summoned up a cacophony of discordant sounds, that weave and weld together to create this near epic track. Blast beats open proceedings with those torturous vocals hitting you square in the face while the guitars shred and scream out a post black tirade. It all comes together beautifully but remains as bleak a fuck! The arrangements and the timing on each section of this track are flawless, with those pummelling blast beats ebbing and flowing in and out of the track, breaking off into a mid-tempo charge, while the bass and rhythm guitars lay the foundations, underpinning everything under 6 feet of cement.

Copse have brought together some really interesting and inventive takes on the post-metal, black-metal and screamo scenes. Neither one overshadows the other, all doing as they’re meant to do, without ever losing any of that raw power, or that atmospheric suspense which elevates this track to greater and grander heights. This EP is sure to be a gem, as will their appearance at this years Arctangent Festival I’m sure! Watch this space!

Maziac – Fear & Fortune (Single) Sun, 09 Jul 2023 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 4a5fa35b-1052-4620-986a-683fb4c4873a London-based alternative/progressive metal 3-piece MAZIAC have just unleashed a missile of a track that has torpedoed through space and time, making it a dead cert for a slot on our ONE TO WATCH series. Fear & Fortune wastes absolutely no time in punishing you right from the off with an avalanche of tech-driven riffs that pierce and pulverise the senses under a hail of vicious drum patterns and a bass guitar that rumbles and pounds your chest cavity.

The band have been around since 2017 and that goes some way in explaining how tight and musically in tune these guys are with one another. Precision, ferocity, and adrenaline-inducing power is the order of the day here. Beneath the fury of those coarse and demonic vocals lies a groove and a sharpened hook that gets right under your skin and feeds its aggression through every vein and artery. Nu metal nuances litter Fear & Fortune right down to those intermittent, harmony laced choruses and those distant, synthesised atmospherics. Add to that, those killer double base kicks and a momentary rap vocal, this track literally travels through decades in finding its mojo!

Not only is there so much going on sonically with Maziac, lyrically they have invested a lot of time and effort also. To quote vocalist/guitarist Tony, “the song is about the feeling of being lucky compared to so many in the world with the creeping awareness that at any moment something bad could happen to make you less fortunate”. An interesting concept indeed and with lyrics like, “why are we so lucky and how long will it last? The future's not determined by the course of the past”, this band are in total control of their vision.

The track is now available on Bandcamp and most streaming platforms, but you know the drill!! Go support the artist on Bandcamp and help feed our underground scene. I look forward to hearing more from these guys and having just played the UK Tech-Metal Fest 2023, the future is bright, but the music is dark!

OV – 22:23:12:22 Wed, 05 Jul 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] c5a31b8d-c42e-46b9-991c-94c9f6639447 Every track is drenched in melody and magic which erupts and spits out these glorious sonic outbursts, like a volcano that has erupted for the first time in aeons. The sheer power on display here, along with all that impelling force behind it, makes for an EP that must heard to be believed! So, this review of OV, from Mainz, Germany begins with me trying to decipher the EP title, 22:23:12:22. My immediate conclusion is that it’s a date and time which must be of deep relevance and significance to the man behind this project, Kevin Hilsdorf. And then again, I could be country mile off target! What I am certain of however, is that any music lover who enjoys powerful, heavy hitting post rock/metal that spirals and helixes through a myriad of melody and mystery will adore this release.

When the world starts breathing is the opener, and it immediately sucks you in beneath a torrent of lush leaden soundscapes and soaring lead guitars that corkscrew though those thundering percussions and a heavyset rhythm section. Its impact is huge and it has you on the edge of your seat right from the off.

And the universe raged eternally follows with a similar wall of fire and fury as the opener did, soaking in those gorgeous, plucked guitars, that are so fondly reminiscent of the great If These Trees Could Talk’s They Speak With Knives. This track has all that explosive power, and all the emotion and elation that Red Forest brought with it, right down to those crushing riffs and those high tempo, pummelling drums. It even transcends into a blast beaten passage, before eventually leading you into a momentary void that houses a catacomb of synths and mirrors that reflect and resound through your senses.

The closer, We found joy and despair, is yet another powerhouse, with more slick lead solos and punishing rhythm guitars. What really keeps these three tracks cemented together is the depth of harmony and euphony that they conjure up. Every track is drenched in melody and magic which erupts and spits out these glorious sonic outbursts, like a volcano that has erupted for the first time in aeons. The sheer power on display here, along with all that impelling force behind it, makes for an EP that must heard to be believed!

If all that wasn’t enough for you to digest in 13 minutes, take a moment to acknowledge the sound quality of this EP also. OV has produced an EP that is crisp, clinical, and fierce, and all in equal measure. The only downside I can find here is that it’s short, but its intent and its all-consuming delivery balances the scales of justice perfectly. Release date is July 7th, so you know the drill by now! Bandcamp is calling!

Soft Kill - Metta World Peace Thu, 29 Jun 2023 13:00:00 +0100 [email protected] ecfd1c66-2eb4-48dc-9793-4d13fecb07f3 As you may have found out yourselves (hopefully), we at the Smashing Skull Sessions like to support the underground music scene. Mostly rock and metal, but sometimes we like to showcase something different from other tastes of music as well. As long as it is played from the heart and soul.

Today I’ve got something slightly different for you again that fits in that latter category. But I hope a lot of our open minded readers and listeners will appreciate this. If you are into 1980’s new wave and postpunk you definitely should read on. Soft Kill is the brainchild of Mr. Tobias Grave with which he’s been releasing music since 2011 with some hiatus due to problematic drug use in the early years.

Since their kinda surprisingly 2019 split record with the stylistically and completely different Portrayal of Guilt (blackened grind) I’ve been following Soft Kill, and what hits home for me is the level of depth that is inbedded in the sound due to Grave’s struggle with addiction and loss. There’s a certain melancholy hanging over many of the songs.

Metta World Peace is the newest record and it was released through Cercle Social Records early June. The album consists of eight songs clocking in just under the 31 minutes and with a sound that I would call 1980’s postpunk with contemporary twists. Contemporary twists as in soundscapes/synths/ programming and some hiphop influences. Different, but it works. It works out great if you ask me.

Rat Poison is an intro with a soothing piano with some in minor angelic female vocals and some male softly singing/whispering on top. Then Trouble starts with a soundsample that easily could have been a beginning beat for a hiphop track (from Slaine for example), but that suddenly shifts into a typical 1980’s bass melody that was made popular by acts like The Cure, Killing Joke, Joy Division and Depeche Mode. And from that moment on, the song, and the rest of the album, starts to nestle into my brain. Repeating sound loops, singalong chorusses, personal lyrics and that typical 1980’s bass and electric drums create a highly infectious album.

Behind the Rain reveals itself as my favourite song of the album and, honestly, as one of my most favourite songs this year! What a killer track. Such great vibe and groove with catchy guitar hooks, bass lines and lyrics. “I can’t see the sun behind the rain”.

Past Life II begins with a distorted voice sample but that also shifts suddenly in a different direction. The core of the song is a downtempo electric dark wave beat with melancholic vocals following the beat, and in the end, the same piano as the opening song returns to finish it off. Paranoid is a slow flowing song with hip hopper Evil Pimp delivering the (rap) vocals. Like I said before: different, but it totally works in the overal sound of the album.

Molly is a single and a somewhat upbeat and uplifting song drenched in that typical 1980’s sound. The following Veil of Pain is another album favourite and contender in the best songs of the year list. It features vocalist N8NOFACE and his contribution makes me singalong with the repeating line “You know we love the violence and the Veil of the Pain”. Love it !

...And before you know it, the album has already reached its last track! With the highly danceable yet dark new wave Fuck Boy, the album adds another favourite before it ends.

So, as you can read, there’s little guitar on this record, at least compared to what we’re normally used to here on The Smashing Skull Sessions, But, this album is still layered as hell, and breaths a dark infectious atmosphere that will appeal to open minded music lovers in a broad spectrum. Highly recommended to give it an honest chance.

The Glass Pavilion - Celestograph Sun, 25 Jun 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] dc81bed4-e946-41ba-9eb2-c2e1be5d4b57 Ashley Owens has written a magical piece of music here that will resonate and resound deep within, long after the last note is played. Heavenly, uplifting and tear inducing at times, Celestograph is simply perfect. No matter what your musical fix is at any given time, there is always a mood and a moment for something soothing and hypnotic to deflect your thoughts away from the rat race, to somewhere where the mind and body can seek solace within its own opiate filled bubble. To be able to release yourself from the day-to-day grind through music is a glorious thing, and this review is to thank musicians like Ashley Owens, who’s ambient and atmospheric project, The Glass Pavilion has become the portal to a very different world and a voyage worth taking.

Ashley has had his own fair share of challenges, after a brain hemorrhage forced him to give up guitar back in 2020. But through tough times can good things come, and The Glass Pavilion is Ashley’s gift to us. Celestograph is a seven chaptered voyage through lush green celestial fields and grand open skies that reach out to infinity. There are no limits to where you can go when you listen to this album from front cover to back.

Each track flows and meanders effortlessly through one another, never breaking the cycle and that is one of its many elusive charms. Pt 1 opens on soft summery xylophone tones, that get carried on a warm synthesized breeze, weightless and blissful, as it drifts from ear to ear, before Pt II brings some beautiful post rock goodness with its soft, sullen bass lines and its gentle airy guitars. Patient, slumbrous and hypnotic, every warm and welcoming bass cord reverbs through your chest, cradling those heavenly brass keys, relaxing ever sensory muscle.

Pt III and Pt IV are awash with rich layers of sound, embraced by synthesized walls of goodness that climb and crawl over gentle acoustic notes. Space and infinity beckons, as the tracks merge and marry to create one perfect moment in time. Shoegaze elements creep quietly into Pt V with its hazy and fuzzy overtones dominating the landscape before Pt VI brings murmurings of Jakob’s unforgettable masterpiece that is Solace. Those beautiful basslines stand front and center once more, guiding and chaperoning you towards the light.

Celestograph closes on Pt VII, a ten-minute piano laced, magic carpet ride that glides and swerves through turbulent post rock pockets and giant canopied treelines. It emotive, its magical and it’s the kind of music that raises the hair on your neck, and forces you to clench your fists tightly, never wanting this musical journey to end. With a crescendo to warm the spirits and cleanse the mind, The Glass Pavilion’s roof is shattered as the music soars and heads off into the great blue yonder.

Ashley Owens has written a magical piece of music here that will resonate and resound deep within, long after the last note is played. Heavenly, uplifting and tear inducing at times, Celestograph is simply perfect.

Fragile - About Going Home Wed, 21 Jun 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3aee62aa-2f0c-41ba-9e53-b39ef9048c1c Debut albums excite me! New music always gives me a lift and helps reinvigorate my love for the underground scene. I have been immersing myself in so much post-rock and post-metal of late, that hearing something fresh, and a little unconventional and unorthodox is a welcome distraction. French modern hardcore outfit, Fragile landed on my lap courtesy of Clement Duboscq of Vous Connaissez, and this is just the tonic I needed! Intoxicated with shots of 90’s punk and 00’s emo, About Going Home is punch drunk in attitude, melody, and a feel-good factor that screams warm summer sessions and idle hours of carefree revelry.

Like a giant porous sponge, Fragile have soaked up so much inspiration from almost four decades of underground music, that they are bursting at the seams with ideas, and they’re not afraid to lay it all on the line with this fantastic debut release. About Going Home is music to share with friends, music to get lost in, and ultimately, music to unleash one’s inhibitions.

Messy Hair opens the album with snappy and unforgettable post-punk inspired rants, along with indie driven guitars reminiscent of The Strokes and Sonic Youth. It’s short, sharp, and dripping in attitude, and is the perfect track to mark their arrival. Grungy at times with those Smashing Pumpkins drum patterns, Selfless continues the trip down memory lane. It’s gritty vocals and catchy guitar hooks are a joy to listen to, and who doesn’t love sing-along chants to lift the spirits!

Placebo influences ring clear in Winter At The Museum, with those uplifting rhythmic passages, but that’s where the similarities end, because Fragile have already stamped their own identity on their music with those glorious chants and a composure that’s well above their years. Every track on this record is like Velcro, they stick and bury themselves deep in your subconscious, so that when you play this album for the second time, it feels like you’ve known these tracks for years! A sign of a great album, I think you’ll agree.

Tracks like Murmuration bring another dynamic to the table with its slow and patient build before breaking into moments of emo angst and shoegazing fuzziness which blend and contrast perfectly. The final track, Model, brings the album to a close with some really cool bass lines and a groove-driven passage of music that gives the track that “bounce on the dancefloor” vibe. It harnesses all the emotion and power that is generated through being with friends, and I’ve no doubt it will become the soundtrack to a very memorable summer.

With a release date of June 9th, via Twenty Something Label, Fragile have just given you the album that will define the next few months!

Jason Isbell and the 400unit - Weathervanes Thu, 15 Jun 2023 08:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 4438c697-5537-4ecd-a196-465ac234cb3d There are levels to the game and only the greats perform at their best in all of them. Where the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker are able to paint a scary realistic horror-scene within a couple of sentences, Isbell needs only a few combinations of words to make you feel you know everything of a person: past, present and future. Perhaps it’s only possible to have a picture painted immediately when somethings are waiting inside of you to resonate? “ I decorate time with words” is how the man describes his way of working. Did you ever love a woman with a death wish? Something in her eyes, like flipping off a light switch. Everybody dies, but you gotta find a reason to carry on.”…. Well, come on in Jason Isbell, have a seat and thanks for penetrating our mind and soul immediately in the opening lines of your new album!

It’s been around three years after their latest studio album Reunions and now Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have returned with a new record called Weathervanes. Reunions made it album of the year in my list then in 2020 and therefore needless to say how anxious I was for this new release.

All musicians in the 400 Unit are top-notch and they exactly know what they need to bring in the sound to complete it. But we can without a doubt say that all and everything in this band, and the music it creates, is about mister Isbell. For many the man has more and more reached a certain icon status with each release over the years. Fans and critics are full of praise on his level of song and lyrics writing. Some call him the modern Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Paul Simon. Although those are big shoes to fill, you can count me in that camp of appraisal.

There are levels to the game and only the greats perform at their best in all of them. Where the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker are able to paint a scary realistic horror-scene within a couple of sentences, Isbell needs only a few combinations of words to make you feel you know everything of a person: past, present and future. Perhaps it’s only possible to have a picture painted immediately when somethings are waiting inside of you to resonate? “ I decorate time with words” is how the man describes his way of working.

On different levels Isbell writes about people and life, autobiographical and fictional and a bit of both. Confessional at times. Sometimes reminiscing about his upbringing or about persons that where part somewhere and somehow in his life, deceased (in jail or on a bathroom floor) or still alive. Sometimes he or the narrator sings about men, often about ladies. His years of drug and alcohol abuse and the recent years where he sobered up find their way back in the stories. His wife and daughter always have a special place in there as well. And then there’s his vocals and how smooth he finds his way on the guitars (acoustic, electric, baritone and slide). Alternating between warm, energetic, full of melancholy, rocking, bluesy, country, and raw. Always with his heart and soul.

Everything mentioned above comes together in a result of thirteen marvelous songs. The four singles Death Wish, Cast Iron Skillet, Save the World and Middle of the Morning were already a forecast of what to expect. To me they are personal highlights and the core of this album. For instance, the level of metaphor in Cast Iron Skillet is off the hook. We all grew up with passed on convictions and beliefs that we saw as truths to live by. As innocent as “don’t walk where you can’t see your feet” to the biggest global problems as murder and racism. Save the World is a beautiful vulnerable song which deals about gun violence in school-shootings and the paralyzing fear parents have when they must send their kid to school soon.

Other songs to me that stand out are King of Oklahoma, When we were Close, Volunteer, White Beretta and album closer the Beatlesque Miles. “What’s the difference between a breakdown and a breakthrough?” Weathervanes turned out a different album than Reunions. In length and in more variations in sound, ranging from singer-songwriter, alternative country, pop, rock and folk. The new album also needed more time to sink in. But since it does, I cannot not play these songs over and over without discovering new sounds, words, meanings and layers. Isbell and co again outdid themselves and Weathervanes will take the lead in many year lists worldwide. This is musical champions league. Essential.

Mammoth Rider – Spirit Science (Single) Sun, 11 Jun 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] e6f4365a-1e3f-4533-8481-8a44507db922 Mammoth Rider are infectious! Ever since I reviewed their first single, Dance Of The Oxen back in January, I became a fan. How can you not be sucked into their raw, gritty, grooves and their psychoactive vibes! Mammoth Rider make me feel good. I want to chant, scream, mosh and dance to those rhythmic tirades that bleed fun and fury in equal measure.

Well, the good news is that the boys from Ashburn, Virginia are back with another toe-curling, hip-shaking slab of stoner rock that feeds those arteries with some seriously infectious riffs. Right from the off, Spirit Science brings that crushing, primitive guitar tone along with some nostalgic 80’s lead solos pulverises the senses. Their indigenous sound rumbles deep with many a nod to the likes of Mastodon and Queens Of The Stone Age, all the time building their sound around a clever hook and melody. Vocally, it’s beautifully rough and organic with those changes in tone and texture, an absolute joy. From clean rasping singing to those deep sullen growls in the background, it gives the whole track greater depth and character. There’s a swagger and an energy pulsating right through the track, swinging like a pendulum, from deep shredded riffs to pounding drums and swirling solos. This track is so good that there’s even a round of applause at the end, for good measure!

The mammoth is gathering pace my friends, and the earth is shaking under foot! Keep an eye on the foothills of the Blue Mountain Ranges, Mammoth Rider are coming!

Still Mountains – Into The Reach (Single) Thu, 08 Jun 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] c907383e-e21a-4dee-90ae-3def949354e1 If there was ever a genre of music to soothe the soul and elevate the spirits to a greater place, post-rock must be the soundtrack. Expansive, emotive, and internally fulfilling, these soundscapes wash over us and guide us through tough times and rapturous times. Granted, this genre can often become flooded with so many bands that you feel you’re only chipping away at an iceberg that seems to be continually growing in both size and stature, but sometimes, patience pays off.

Last week, I was lucky enough to bury my pickaxe into a diamond in the rough, an absolute gem of a track by a band that go by the name of Still Mountains. The four-piece from Baltimore, Maryland have already released two albums, and the track I’m plugging today is the first single to be released from their forthcoming album. Into The Reach encompasses everything that’s beautiful about post music. Patient, perfectly balanced and soaked in rich, warm atmospherics. This is music for the soul and the perfect tonic to hard times.

Opening with reverbed guitars and deliciously plucked cords, the track immediately radiates warmth and positivity. The drums are soft and subtle and marry perfectly with the meandering synths and guitars that seem to glide effortlessly on a warm summer breeze. I mentioned patience earlier, and Into The Reach captures the majesty and deftness required to make that mid-tempo pace just perfect. Without ever reaching that big ground-breaking crescendo that most post rock tracks tend to do, this musical journey meanders through the rich green and bronzed mountain ranges and nestles itself quietly on the highest plateau to watch that shimmering ball of fire descend calmly below the horizon, ending a track that lights a fire deep inside, without ever scorching or charring the moment.

Released through the brilliant Eternal Colossus Records, this track is now available to download on Bandcamp, and to add to that, be sure to keep an eye on the Eternal Colossus social pages for the album release date, which is only weeks away. Still Mountains are on my radar now, and I’m all the richer for it.

Lights & Motion – This Is The Beginning Mon, 05 Jun 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 9b9fd17b-7d70-4642-93c5-bf11ca10965e Recently, I’ve been finding myself subconsciously falling slowly into an infinite chasm of Swedish post music, where the stark contrast of emotive and melancholic riffs rubs shoulders, and empathizes with glorious cinematic soundscapes. This form of music is almost becoming the soundtrack to everything I do of late!. Even in the last couple of months, I’ve been reviewing Swedish bands like Dimwind, Kollaps\e and Feed Me To The Waves, to name just three, and to add to that, I’ve been privileged enough to have interviewed hugely influential bands like A Swarm Of The Sun, EF, Oh Hiroshima and Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet. I really have buried and immersed myself deep within this rugged Nordic landscape, and let me tell you, it’s a beautiful place to be.

So with all that in mind, it was only a matter of time before I came upon the unfaltering talent that is Christoffer Franzén, and his project, Lights & Motion. This multi-instrumentalist producer/composer has a resume of film scores and soundtracks that would make any musician or composer from any time or genre stand up and applaud, or even tip their cap!. The project was initially supposed to reflect the sense of dreamlike state in which a lot of the first album was written in. Since then the he has gone on to release five full-length albums, and several EP´s, so It stands to reason that this man is a gifted and very accomplished musician.

Lights & Motion’s latest release, This Is The Beginning is a new single which features, and I quote, "over 50 individually recorded guitar tracks and a strong percussive element to convey both intimate and cinematic emotions that simply cannot be put into words". So with a comment like that, is it even worth trying to express this music through a review? Well, here’s what I hear and feel when I play this track and maybe it resonates with you in the same way.

Opening through a vast open space, overlooking the wild, expansive wilderness, the guitar tone is delicate and subtle, as it gently reverbs and bounces off every peak and valley as far as the eye can see. Therapeutic percussions add to the magic, as a faint celestial voice hovers overhead, caressing every note and every heartbeat. Post-rock has never sounded so sweet as those galloping drums roll and rumble through the bronzed terrain that seems to stretch to infinity. A soft break and lapse of time allows the harmonies and the sonic might of the track to build once more, giving this musical venture another lease of life and reaffirming its ability to quietly take your mind and body to another place, where you can be at one with the natural world. This really is a piece of post rock magic.

Released through Deep Elm Records, Lights & Motion have only scratched the surface with This Is The Beginning. There is a journey to be had here, and I for one, have my rucksack packed. Head over to their Bandcamp page and have a listen. See you on the other side!

Predatory Void - Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being Thu, 01 Jun 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 5a784602-3449-44f6-bbe0-c8ad479a6599 During last year at Soulcrusher festival over here in the Netherlands, out of nowhere came this band that impressed the audience with a truly pulverizing show. It was their first ever live show with this band, but I remember looking at my mates and giving each other that “head nod” of approval. I had not read anything about this band prior to this gig and didn’t know anything about them. On stage I was surprised to see quite some familiar faces. One could call this a semi all-star Belgian underground quintet with the likes of Lennart Bossu (Amenra, Oathbreaker) and Thijs de Cloedt (Cobra the Impaler) on guitars, Tim de Gieter (Amenra, Doodseskader) on bass, Vincent Verstrepen (Carnation) on drums. Perhaps vocalist Lina R. (Crossbringer) is the only one that is/was not that well-known yet.

Although originally started by Bossu during lockdowns as a musical outlet for what he could not release through the other bands he’s in, Predatory Void really is an amalgamation of all the members’ favorite metal styles and interests. As a result, you can hear elements of death, sludge, thrash, post, doom and black metal on their debut album, Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being. Loose elements that somehow are combined and blended impressively so that every song stands firm and strong on its own. Through the first three minutes of opener Grovel, one can hear melodic grooving, mid-tempo thrash metal, brutal double-bass death metal drums and grunts, ice cold screaming and semi-acoustic guitar with clean female vocals on top, as an immediate showcase of the wide range that this album is built on.

(struggling ..) first seconds opens with Lina R. screaming her lungs out before filthy chunky riffs accompany her. She wrote her own lyrics and went all-in there. Dealing about the dark and heavy topics life beholds for us, she screams all her frustrations and anxieties from deep within, onto the world. Very impressive what sound and volume she can produce on the album. To me those screams turn a bit monotone after listening to them a couple of songs in a row, but cleverly, and for variation, they are altered with passages where she uses her beautiful clean ethereal vocals and whispers. In the fast and heavier parts she’s supported by de Gieter’s deep grunts.

Third song Endless Return to the Kingdom of Sleep starts of slow and melodic with those clean vocals over clean guitars later, to be joined with fast double-bass. The song changes between pure death metal (with some nice Pestilence-ish riffages), grooving sludge and ending with the clean guitars and sensitive clean vocals. Seeds of Frustration is right in the middle of the album, and it continues where the previous song ended and it works as a sort of peaceful safe space between all the darkness, aggression and heaviness around. A place to take a breath and recover.

The band abandons the safe place and dives into the second half of the album. Headfirst back into the turmoil and the extreme with The Well Within, Shedded Weather Skin and closer, Funerary Vision. The latter turns out one of my favorite songs after listening the album over and over. Such fantastic melancholic guitar chords with Lina singing beautifully intense clean parts. Later, the song deepens and accelerates in both tone and pace. A ten-minute banger. And then all is quiet. I must admit that I find it quite a job to listen to the album in its entirety, I find myself enjoying the songs better separately from each other or in pairs. There’s still space to grow as a band, but with all these talents and qualities combined the future looks interesting.

Predatory Void did an amazing job on their first album and Century Media were wise enough to release it. Seven impressive strong songs with great writing and excellent production. With the amazing artwork done by Sven Harambašić this is a superb all-round extreme album that already received high acclaim worldwide in the first month after release. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin if you haven’t already!

Monosphere - Friends & Foes feat. Mirza Radonjica (Siamese) Mon, 29 May 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3db6412c-b78b-4e9b-a9d3-df1dec191865 I have been an almost overzealous supporter of Monosphere since the release of The Puppeteer back in 2021. I reviewed the album back then and have always admired the sheer ferocity that this collective from Mainz could conjure up, all under the tsunami of aggressive and progressive riffs, pummeling percussions and filthy bass lines. Highly technical and meticulously infallible in full flow, Monosphere excited me, simple as that!

Well, as part of the ONE TO WATCH series, we have been gifted their brand-new single, Friends & Foes, which features Mirza Radonjica from Siamese as guest artist. With a razor-sharp visual experience accompanying the track, which is free to view on YouTube by the way, Monosphere have obliterated the textbooks, and have written a short but devastating track that sees the band push more boundaries and fuse multiple genres into one cacophony of euphonic fury and might.

From the opening riffs, the intensity is fever pitch with a vocal onslaught that quite literally bludgeons the eardrums and puts every part of the body on sensory overload. Experimental timing and devastating delivery are the order of the day here. Amidst the wall of sound, the unmistakable melody found interwoven through The Puppeteer is still there to enjoy but as I mentioned earlier, they have somehow found another gear. Monosphere are back my friends, and bloody hell, they mean business.

Ingrina – Ice Flares (Single) Mon, 08 May 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 54c61758-e19b-47cd-b4b1-ca5d66bc908d French post-metallers Ingrina pummeled us with their ferociously heavy and dense, fog-laden atmospherics back in 2018 with Etter Lys and again in 2020 with Siste Lys. Both albums were based on a “metaphorical tale of the geological and oceanic trials that life forms go through when faced with civilizational nightmares”. Deep, dark and thought-provoking philosophies that were perfectly represented by the sheer power and might that Ingrina instilled in their sound.

Well, it’s 2023 and thankfully Ingrina are back with some new music, and bloody hell, this ten minute epic literally suffocates and smothers the senses with its blistering power and devastating energy. Ice Flares tells a story of lives and phenomenon’s lost in a cyclical infinite amber, trapped in endless loops, suddenly discovering a possible future. The track draws on the symbolic representations of the previous two albums, creating a story and a journey that can be so hostile and so powerful that it goes far beyond our basic comprehensions.

Opening with resonant riffs and layers of vast, earthly atmospherics, the track ploughs forth with distant vocals carrying themselves above the thick musky air and stormy percussions. Swollen lead swells spiral and dance through the mire, generating a tense and volatile atmosphere. The ambiance darkens and changes under a barrage of blast beats and bellowing bass lines, as the tempo accelerates into a chasmic, subterranean passageway which catapults you into a great open void. Doom laden and with funereal pace, a wall of synths fill the air once more under heaving riffs and bone breaking drums. For one final swansong, every instrument and every emotion assembles en masse and absolutely annihilates for the final time, ending a track that is in essence, a voyage through the unknown and the never-ending. It’s bleak yet glorious post-metal that will consume you and have you yearning for more.

A Pregnant Light - Capacity For Living Wed, 03 May 2023 15:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 4d3e4b59-ba7d-4c1a-a8ba-2faaefd6be75 A couple of weeks ago I clicked on a clip Cvlt Nation posted on one of their socials and what I heard and saw resonated immediately with me. It was a videoclip for the song Eating Emeralds by a band called A Pregnant Light. Now, after weeks of listening to the whole album, I think it was the dualities and intensity that drew me right in. And that after a thirty seconds clip! Before I get deeper into that, let’s get to know more about this band first shall we?

A Pregnant Light (APL) from the US consists of only one man and that is Damian Master. He is and has been in several other bands, hardcore and metal, but started APL in 2010. Thirtheen years later he has released a cargo load on singles, EP’s, splits, compilation albums and full lengths, most of them through his own label called Colloquial Sound Recordings. Too much to name here, just check Metal Archives for a complete list, but the weird and sad fact is I'd never heard of this band or man before. And that’s a shame, because I would have loved to have this music sooner in my life.

In 2022, from January through December, ten new songs were released in two-song single format. Now these songs (including a Nico cover of 1981’s Purple Lips) are remastered and with two additional bonus tracks they are put together on this new (compilation) album called Capacity For Living (CFL). It’s a way of working that the man already had done in 2020, but a bit different. Then a single was released each month and it could only be listened to by dialing a special telephone number. The album in which those twelve songs were compiled from was named Kiss Me Thru The Phone.

Damian Master grew up as a metalpunk, loving punk and hardcore as well as metal in different subgenres between traditional heavy metal and black. These ingredients can be heard back in his music, and then some. In its core, CFL is a (blackened) aggressive album, but with constant shifts and fluent alternations into (traditional metal or post-punk) melody, (hardcore) groove or singalong vocal lines which make this also an addictive catchy, and at times even danceable one (who said metalpunks can’t dance!?). What I think is very cool is that the sound of it all is truly unique. With the combination of his equipment, tuning, different vocal types and mix of musical styles Master creates a true sound of his own. For instance: where most metalbands tune their guitars down, he tunes his up, like in aforementioned Eating Emeralds. Resulting in fast chords and riffs that sound like a long aggressive yet melodic solo. That combined with fast spitting personal lyrics on top in which the vocal sound in that aggressive spitting style reminds me of Chuck (Death/Control Denied) with some Rob Lind (in his Ramallah era) edges and brought with the same soul ripping energy and commitment of Harakiri for the Sky’s singer J.J., hence the feeling of dualities and intensity.

I‘m namedropping a couple of musicians in this review, but that’s only to try to begin describing what I hear in it and what I think the sound is what one could expect while listening to this. And that’s all subjective of course. Just like how music for Damiam Master is an output of how life’s been felt and dealt with at the particular time of writing and recording. He puts his heart and soul in the music and lyrics like there is no other way for him. Like a personal diary or journal. And with that he makes himself vulnerable, especially by bringing it out into the world to be heard. In essence not caring if it will reach one or a million people as long as it resonates somehow. In work ethic (not in sound) somewhat reminding me of what Kenn Nardi (Anacrusis) does on his solo albums (although less productive) and also King Dude’s music. Coming from heavy background with a love for 1980’s post-punk and wave, and turning that into personal-laden songs. Understood, embraced and loved by a select hardcore fanbase in the underground.

A Pregnant Light’s fanbase has been growing, and hopefully after this review, another one or two will join the ranks. I can honestly say I love all of the twelve songs on Capacity For Living, because they are equally strong and each song has something typical in it that stands out. Should I have to name my favourites, gun to head, than I would choose Beast About (that exhilarating!), Eating Emeralds (that line: ”What would you wear to my funeral”), Too Pure (then I swing, then I headbang and scream along), Germanicus (blackened Unto Others and Iron Maiden and 3 Inches of Blood vibe), Threshold Angel (black metal smoothly transitions into a ballad and back again) and last but not least In Gaul (dark danceable ambient wave singalong).

Enough words spent, go check for yourself. Guarenteed yearlist material for me.

Arhios – Miscible Fri, 28 Apr 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] d6b019e6-3ed7-4663-8276-12f1caf05d44 I have always admired French bands. I always find that the French, as a people, have no fear in showing how they feel. Impulsively, and with great determination, they give it everything, whether it’s driven by the acrimony of politics, whether it’s cinematically showcased through film, or whether its conveyed through the power of music. And when the style of music in question lends itself to being as emotionally invested as instrumental/post rock allows it to be, then you know you are going to have something special on your hands.

Hailing from Rennes, Arhios are a band that seem to have a little bit of that French magic in them, that I spoke of above. Miscible is their latest output, and was released only last month, but I have to say, it’s a solid and very polished slab of rock that encompassed many musical styles and techniques, ranging from post-rock, to math-rock, to electronica. But I suppose the clue was in the album title!

Bachibouzook opens proceedings with an up-tempo beat and a fuzzy layer of indie-strewn guitars, that build and open into a math-rock crescendo that doesn’t quite explode into that big finale, but hovers in and around a flurry of guitar hooks, funky base lines and rolling percussions. Catchy, clever and downright infectious!

Nothing remains stagnant on Miscible, and a track like Bara really shows this, along with its heavier and meatier undertones. Rumblings of And So I Watch You From Afar open the track with a deliciously heavy rhythm guitar leading the line, bringing the math and the funk along with it for fun! Mellow breaks and an air of electronica splits the track up into several parts, allowing each section to thrive and weave through some really groovy chord progressions. Then you have Bangor, which comes in waves, and is in stark contrast to what has gone before, with its electronic doodling and lush wall of synths. Patient and with purpose, the track descends to a canter with some delicate guitar picking, generating this beautiful blanket of warmth and radiance. A really upbeat and positive piece of music that echoes sunny days and a feelgood factor of ten!

Arhios weren’t scrounging when it came to Miscible either. There’s eight tracks here to get lost in, with each one bringing something a little different along with it. From the vast and open atmospheric wilderness of Dune to the stomping, multi-layered passion that’s flowing freely from Daria, this album is an absolute delight. It reminds me so much of A burial At Sea’s self-titled release from 2020. Both are interesting, diverse and both finish on a glorious high. The final build and crescendo on Daria is nothing short of heavenly. The emotion, passion and sheer elation found within it, is simply spine-tingling.

Do yourself a huge favour and head to Bandcamp, and help support artists like Arhios. I didn’t know too much about these guys before this release, but they are on my radar now, and I will be keeping my beady little eyes peeled on future tour dates!

Itself Timeless – 4 - Video Release Mon, 24 Apr 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 34ee5e10-7ec6-40c1-a84f-a4b0218f6f27 Itself Timeless4 Video Release

Our ONE TO WATCH series has returned for this epic video release, and it gives you a taste of the undeniable talent that is strewn all over this underground music scene of ours. It may have went under the radar for some of you music aficionados, but London based sludge and metal merchants Itself Timeless released a three track EP, α back in November 2021, and damn, what a magnificent mass of raw power and technical ferocity it was, and still is! In my defence, The Smashing Skull Sessions was not around at the time, therefore this gem never reached my inbox. However, the guys have just released a new video to go with the second track off the album entitled 4, and once more, Itself Timeless have delivered again, but this time it’s both a visual and a musical tour de force.

Unsettling, sinister, ingenius and inventive are some of the adjectives one could use to describe this audiovisual work of art. Shot by Remains Of Decay and edited by G. Sernicola, everyone involved clearly had a sharp and shrewd panoramic outlook of where they wanted this audio and visual journey to go. Itself Timeless have embraced the balance between sight and sound, fantasy and reality, and this my friends, is the end result. And it is Brilliant! Enjoy.

By the way, those of you who have not yet heard the EP should head to their Bandcamp page and literally freefall headfirst into the visceral and blackened chasm that is α . Three tracks that curdle the blood and drag you down its shadowy and dimly lit pathway, where every emotion and every one of your senses is stripped bare and exposed through a cacophony of deep brooding harmonics.

Wolfredt – IIII Wed, 19 Apr 2023 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 580c6dcc-c4ec-403c-9d9d-7694445d7969 It’s testament to the post scene, and music as a whole, to see a band grow and develop. From the nucleus of a solo project to a fully fledged band reassures me that boundless talent and unwavering support for our underground scene go hand in hand. And you’ll be hard pushed to find a better example of this than on the streets of Tallinn, Estonia.

Wolfredt started out as a one-man project way back in 2013 and since then they have released some really inspiring and deeply emotive music. Tides back in 2020 really put Wolfredt on the map and gained them a lot of new fans, but with the release of their forthcoming album IIII, I can only see this bands trajectory going one way. With a release date of April 28th, theres not too long to wait, but to whet the appetite, why not get a taster of what to expect below, and believe me, this release is an absolute monster.

The Seer opens with guitar chords flashing and blazing pleasantly from ear to ear with a synthesised beat that’s near hypnotic and almost narcotic. Measured and near pristine, swirling lead guitars and a low rumbling bass spark and fly through those chunky rhythm guitars, all together creating a mass of post rock perfection. The pace and the power of the track casually climbs and weaves it way to a really memorable finale that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Stoner hammerings and psychedelic synths are the order of the day on Under The Spell, with its infectious groove and its pulsing tempo and flow. The sweet smell of summer, with its warm westerly breezes and clear blue skies fill the senses, a really positive and uplifting track. What follows however must be my favourite track on the album. Terra Nullius opens with stripped back reverb and slow, sullen atmospherics. Rich post rock guitars ascend and sweep upward into a thick, near distorted passage of music that is soaking in melancholy and hugely emotive textures. Distant vocals echo and travel across the musical wilderness giving me that hair raising moment, you know the one, where your heart pumps faster with uncontrollable elation and you wish the world could also witness and share this moment in time! A truly majestic track which I cannot wait to witness live sometime.

Oh Brother is a piece of music that seems to have been designed to cradle you gently back to earth after the rush that went before. Piano, strings, and acoustic meanderings embrace you and wrap a comfort blanket around your shoulders, settling you back down, so that you can reset and continue to enjoy the rest of the album.

Skeleton Key and Assegai bring a bit of bite with them, with those chugging riffs and those slow crashing cymbals orchestrating proceedings. Often melodic and heart-warming, yet still underpinned with just enough menace and gloom, these are two really strong tracks that keep the album interesting, diverse and varied.

The album closes with The Original Android, which to these ears, bring Caspian’s On Circles vibes to the table. It’s rich, warm, and as deliciously harmonic as it is euphonic. Layers of brass and string only add to the emotion and the sense of grandeur, and makes it a very fitting track to close the album with.

Wolfredt have brought us an album that showcases and quantifies the mastery that they possess. IIII is a record that journeys through many musical styles and genres. From grand flourishes of glorious post-rock to deep, groove trodden stoner riffs, this album really has it all. Go treat yourself on April 28th, and buy this album! And don’t forget, pre-orders are already live!

Lethvm - Winterreise Fri, 14 Apr 2023 17:00:00 +0100 [email protected] e20bdd0a-a2b0-48fc-87a8-8883a05f5a32 Lethvm (Lêtum) is a Belgian band hailing from the Namur area and was formed in the year 2015. Their first EP Affable Erosion came out in 2016 and another year later their debut album This Fall Shall Cease saw the light of day, or perhaps seeing the darkness of night would sound more suitable!, because this band’s music is not for the weak hearted and happy the peppy people. Nevertheless, more people got aware of them, which resulted in their second album Acedia beeing released by renowned label dunk!Records.

It’s from this release that I got acquainted with this band and have been following them since then. Now, a new album, Winterreise is here! Recorded, mixed and mastered by Tim de Gieter (bass player in Amenra, Doodseskader, Predatory Void) in his Much Luv studio. Again, pressed and released by the awesome people from dunk! who always seem to have a perfect nose for spotting talent and quality.

The bar is set high for Winterreise, to follow up such an impressive album as Acedia. And it succeeds if you ask me. Winterreise continues where the predecessor left off with the same distinctive ingredients and sound. Expect Amenra inspired heavy sludge and doom with post-hardcore screams, and with so much more to offer. Winterreise has more post-metal additions and has more varieties in vocals. One can hear grunts, clean vocals, chanted vocals and female vocals (by Elena Lacroix on Mournful) on this record.

Lethvm are so good at combining massive slow walls of sound with in-your-face aggression, into-your-spine sorrow and beautiful transcending melodies. The songs are shaped and deepened by freely interpreted poems by 19th century poet Wilhelm Müller and by composer Franz Schubert’s song Cycle Winter Journey. Vocalist Vincent Dessard screams, grunts and sings all his emotions into your soul. What a showing of sheer vulnerablity, dedication and surrender. Chapeau. To me that’s what makes this album go even more deeper and further as before. Aligned with fantastic musiscianship, massive and impressive songs are created. Personal favourites are Carved, Mournful and Night which are coincidentally, the last three songs on the album, and with ultra-killer songs Blank, Pretence and Torrents in the first half of the album, it only proves what a high-level strong album this Winterreisse turned out! Shoutout as well for the stunning artwork the band created themselve. This is absolutely a must check-out for every fan of extreme, beautiful and intense music.

DIMWIND - The Futility Of Breathing Mon, 10 Apr 2023 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 9ab35486-e44b-4333-b392-b5c2bc511f54 I find myself being drawn to the Swedish music scene more than any other of late. It’s a country that stands tall and proud with its very healthy history of heavy music! pardon the tongue twister! Death-metal, black-metal, thrash-metal, you name it, these are bands that hail from the foothills of the boreal forests and the glaciated mountain ranges, and which are known the world over. And so, it stands to reason that there was inevitably going to be some seriously talented post-bands flying the flag the world over also. The roll of honor is simply too big to put on paper, but just think Cult Of Luna, A Swarm Of The Sun, EF, Oh Hiroshima, Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet, PG.Lost, Nordsind, and so many more besides. Well, in case you haven’t done so already, you can now add Dimwind to the roster.

With their second album The Futility Of Breathing, Dimwind wanted to follow up the story from their debut album Slow Wave Violence by exploring a state of grief after losing a loved one, a topic that rests easy with many rock and metal bands when it comes to musical expression. However, when tragedy lays its head on your very own doorstep, the significance and the substance of that very topic can crush and devastate ones love and passion for something, to a point where it becomes insignificant. When guitarist Andreas Hansens’ wife suddenly passed away I’m sure nothing else mattered. It is something nobody wants to have to feel and endure, but it’s part of life, and thankfully Andreas has found some solace in his music. To quote the band, “With this release, it is Dimwind's sincere intention that the songs serve as a conversation partner for those who have ever experienced - The Futility Of Breathing”.

So, here we have it, an album that is as beautiful as it is painful. Six tracks of metal that traverses and extends across many styles of music, with post-metal and post-rock being the main influences, but there’s so much more on display here. Progressive and alternative meanderings weave and wander through every track. Big, bold riffs, thumping drums and high energy flurries tear through the album giving The Futility Of Breathing the oxygen it needs to make it memorable.

First Light Never Stays opens the album with great power underpinned by a deeply emotive melody that cradles the track along its journey. The guitars sparkle and the drums gallop with gusto, making this a very beautiful and very moving track, and one that sets the mood for the rest of the album, right up to the blast beaten finale. Simply brilliant!

Days Subside Ablaze has more of those familiar post vibes I was expecting, with its battle hardy drums and its dark, menacing guitarwork. The music peaks and valleys through a near jazzy break, before rising once more and delivering another fantastic finale. Once A Lushful Green, on the other hand begins with a slow-tempo march, which houses heavy, heart-breaking harmonies that sweep and dip through chunky shredded riffs and rumbling bass. The drumming of Jonas Eriksson really comes to the forefront here, with its aggressive stomp and its double kicked fury. Add another layer for the senses in the form of a spoken narrative and you tick all the post-music boxes that need to be ticked.

Withering Unseen brings with it a little bit of chaos and an old school rhythm that hooks you in and leaves you shaken and stirred, while The Growing Shadow Gains toys with many different styles, all under a mid-temp, doom-laden procession. Dark and menacing, it builds and rumbles towards a gritty post-strewn crescendo that gives the album its eye teeth, and has no fear of showing them.

The album closes with the final track, _ A Feeble Frame Remains_ . It’s a passage of music that carries a lot of the pain and sadness that’s found buried within the album. Dual guitars lament and pour their hearts out over a soul-searching melody, closing an album that truly is a joy to listen to. However, it holds deep within it, an undeniable hurt that beckons your attention and welcomes your embrace.

Úkryt - 1897 Thu, 30 Mar 2023 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 0ec617ca-8e93-4c59-8c9f-04fbb3cbfbde Here is another band I discovered just by seeing the artwork somewhere online. That stunning black, white and grey image sucked me right in and I found out it’s an album called 1897, by the Australian band Úkryt. It’s said that all photography on the album was done by @bm.aesthetic, but I can’t find any certainty that this person is also responsible for the front cover. The band itself consists of two members M and S and they did all the compositions, performances, and production. A debut EP, Řeka, was released in 2019 and the type of music these Aussies play is described as instrumental black metal. Along with the amazing artwork that description made me even more curious!

1897 is said to be a canvas. A blank canvas that is to be colored in by the listener’s own interpretations. No words, no themes, no narratives. It was created over the last three years, right in the middle of global turmoil. My interpretation process has already begun... Just like they did on the first album, M and S secluded themselves somewhere quiet and remote so that all they had to focus on and put their energy into was on creating this piece. And it turned out a masterpiece if you ask me.

The album contains two long songs: 1897-pt.1 and 1897-pt.2. The first one lasts 16:19min and the second one 17:13min, with a total duration of 33:33 minutes. The opening two minutes are pretty mellow and meditative when suddenly the album cracks open with fast drumming and speedy melodic tremolo riffing. The term instrumental black metal makes sense during the minutes that follow. The tempo changes now and then and the melody comes and goes when the tempo speeds up again. Five minutes later the music breaks and flows into a peaceful guitar part with tranquil drums. A beautiful atmospheric solo echo through my brain and later, the heavier guitars layer up again. Then a weeping Pink Floyd-ish guitar bridges to an explosion of full-speed-ahead, heavily layered, post-metal density, that slowly echoes away, and the song finally ends with the soothing sound of waves on a beach that come and go. WHOEHA, what have I been listening to so far? Nothing less than an evoking and immersive journey that leaves me puzzled, amazed, energized and emotive. A journey that went inward and outward. Sometimes melancholic and introspective, other times uplifting, externalizing and even a tiny bit of destructive aggression if you will. Well, to speak for myself, that’s a journey I recognize for sure when I look back on those pandemic years and the impact they had on me. Feels great to have music that resonates and acknowledges that point in time.

And we still have another half to go on this musical journey. 1897-pt.2 continues where Pt.1 ended thus with the sound of waves. Transcendental meditative synths accompany the waves and the next minutes I’m in higher atmospheres. Perfect passage to put my noise-cancelling headphones on to reflect and contemplate while doing some breathing-techniques. Staring into the fire with a good craft beer in hand would be another tempting possibility though. Then the music gradually transitions. The drums are getting a bit more active, and guitars are coming in and getting louder while the bass is heavy. Layers on layers result in a bombastic mid-tempo post-metal wall of sound. This passage transitions again into a moment where the drums fall silent, and the dissonant guitars interlude the fastest and heaviest part of the album. Crikey, mate! They are going beserk in there, those drums are inimitable, just plain awesomeness. Although the tempo goes down just a bit later, the last minutes continue to keep you on the edge of your seat, because all instruments seem to go in a different direction, and yet they find each other again perfectly (like the masters in Year of no Light are able to do so as well). Then the heaviness stops and in the last seconds of the album I inhale my retention breath and I fall back in my seat. Floored, overwhelmed, impressed. This is executed so perfectly.

Album of the year so far for me! This album has it all. Like written above, there’s so much going on here and so well executed. A wide range and diversity within the spectrums of black metal, post-rock and metal. Merely the term instrumental black metal is not fitting anymore, I think. Compared to Řeka more post-metal influences were incorporated, with the perfectly balanced result that is 1897.

The album is released by their own Starved Light label and an LP and longsleeve were already pre-ordered to ship from the land Down Under to the lands Nether. I can only assume that with this album European or US labels will contact Úkryt very soon to sign them to get their fantastic music even more widespread. Do yourself a favour and check them out.

Where Mermaids Drown – Reminisce Mon, 27 Mar 2023 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 66747d19-064f-4c22-8625-5f2ee198d2b8 Post-rock has been a huge part of my musical voyage over the last decade. Great bands, along with memorable albums have come and gone, and left a deep-rooted mark on my taste in music. Thankfully, as with all musical genres, there’s always someone new out there willing to carry the torch, bands that work damn hard to make it happen, bands that go about things the right way and ultimately deliver with every album they release. This blueprint I speak of perfectly describes a band who hail from Lyon, France, a band that harbors a dark but hugely emotive style of post rock that rests heavy on your chest and aches with bittersweet melancholia. I’m speaking of course, about Where Mermaids Drown.

Their debut release, And the raging winds do blow was sublime. I recall reviewing this when it was released back in 2021, and to quote myself! “It’s a voyage into the cruel and unforgiving seas that surround us, a tale about pulling against the tide and showing how small and irrelevant a vessel we are in such vast oceans. Choppy waters, fear and isolation await, as we carefully put on our aqualung and deep dive our way through this EP”. High praise indeed, and well justified I think you will all agree. So here we are again, and once more, Where Mermaids Drown have adorned us with more glorious post rock in the shape of Reminisce.

Reminisce is in essence a love story, told through haunting melodies that are immersed in big, ethereal atmospherics. The opening track, Apophenia, begins the tale with gentle drums, wispy synths and carefree guitars that quickly open into a tremolo shredded passage that echoes and laments Where Mermaids Drowns already unmistakable sound. Tempo-climbing and layered in atmosphere, the track gathers momentum and swiftly sets the tone of the album. A lush, warm spoken passage adds another dimension to the story, giving it body and substance.

The album flows gracefully into the second track, Rio Plata, with its dreamy, brushed-stroked percussions and those crisp, clear guitar tones. The seductive and emotive vibe carries this love story into the next stage of the relationship, all under the watchful eye of those beautifully caressed tremolo guitars and the ever-growing pace and power of the music. Even the uplifting and high energy riffs of Duality take nothing away from the heartwarming emotion that vortexes through the album. Cleverly off-beat and washed in lead solo acrobatics, the music continues to grow and expand in raw power and emotion.

Every love story is littered with heartache, and here is no different. Statues Learn To Weep laments, and casts a shadow over everything with those deeply somber and harsh riffs that are literally soaking in melody and despair. Musically, the track is quite dark, but for me, it’s where Where Mermaids Drown excel. Crestfallen and forlorn, each instrument wails and weeps through every chord and every arpeggio.

We Grew Up Together along with the closing track, and title track of the album, Reminisce, bring together all the emotion and nostalgia that’s associated with the mourning and the passing of a fervent relationship. All those overcharged emotions that were felt come cascading down beneath those solemn sounded guitars and those gently synthesized passages, ending an album as well as a love story that is laden with some of the finest post rock moments you will encompass on any album.

I was lucky enough to interview Jean-Sébastien Mattant on The Smashing Skull Sessions a few months back, as well as meet the band in person at dunk!festival back in 2022. Those two meetings put me in no doubt that Where Mermaids Drown are one of the most exciting and talented bands in the genre today. With a release date of April 07th, and with a stunning piece of art adorning the cover, this album will be a firm favorite amongst post music fans. Be sure to keep an eye on the bands Bandcamp page and be sure to pick up a vinyl press too, it is stunning.

Alpha Du Centaure – Careless (split with Unknown Fault) Wed, 22 Mar 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 8aa69e97-79e9-4610-9244-505c03ef34ed I began reviewing albums for the very first time back in 2020, and the first album that had to endure my thoughts and opinions was Paralysis by Alpha du Centaure. But, if truth be known, I chose the album because I thought it was one of the best releases of that year, so maybe I cheated a little! Since then, I have always spoken well of the band to anyone who would listen to me, and to anyone who had a fondness for post-black and blackgaze music. For me, Alpha Du Centaure have their own unique sound. It’s cold and bitterly melancholic music, that houses within it a tormented soul, which aches and cries sorrowful tales of woe. It's emotive, dark but profoundly uplifting.

So, here we are in 2023 and I’m beyond excited to hear of new music coming from the band. Granted it’s a split with the experimental and brilliant Unknown Fault, and not a full album, but that takes absolutely nothing away from the quality and unquestionable progression that the band have made since Paralysis.

The opening track on Careless, Sunray Inertia is a soothing and rich passage of music that hangs and sways off delicate reverbed cords, swinging back and forth under a cool summer breeze. When the dark, blast beaten clouds come rolling in however, everything changes, and the music explodes into a post-black frenzy with the haunting voice of Unknown Faults Nadia weighing heavy above the clouds of thunder. Even as the visceral and coarser screams come funnelling into the track under those vicious percussions, the heart wrenching melancholy of the music remains, and finally closes under a blanket of synths and sounds.

Alpha Du Centaure’s second track A fleur des lames is an instant tour de force, with its high intensity drumming and its resounding guitars and bass that bombards the senses mercilessly. This is Alpha as I remembered them back in 2020! However, as the track grows, so does the maturity in their sound. Think Show Me A Dinosaur’s Plantgazer album, and you get a really good idea of where the guys are at. I recall my earlier review back in 2020, mentioning that I would love to hear them experiment with some vocals, and I have to say, they have done just that, and have used them wisely and sparingly. Absolutely sublime!

The remaining three tracks on this split album come from the German duo, Unknown Fault. Experimental, doom laden and with an air of dread and foreboding to their sound, the three tracks flow perfectly together, embracing all that’s dark and beautiful. With lots of reverb, fuzzy distorted guitars and a shoegazed aura, Unknown Fault have their own unique sound, and you can see why they fit so well within the Stellar Frequencies roster. Nadia’s voice really shines and radiates over the dense wall of sound that fills the musky air. This is a band that are relatively new to me but will be one to watch for sure.

Careless will be released on April 7th but there is already some stunning vinyl presses along with an equally impressive merch range available to pre order right now, so please go check out their Bandcamp pages.

Ciemra - The Tread Of Darkness Thu, 16 Mar 2023 11:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 2b3cf65b-ee7c-4f65-92db-2b989ca9db79 Ciemra is a black metal band operating out of Minsk in Belarus. Ciemra means ‘darkness’ in their language, and that is exactly what they artistically create. The band is active since 2019 and they released one EP prior to this debut album, The Tread of Darkness which was set free into the world a couple of weeks ago via the Avantgarde Music label.

Totally new to me, I stepped blank into this band’s music, and from the first minute I was intrigued. Opening track Ciemra starts of with two nicely played acoustic guitars that interlude a midtempo heavy passage with killer chuncky (kataklysm-ish) riffs and gnarling vocals. And at that exact moment, they flow into a beautiful traditional heavy metal guitar-solo, and by the way they do that, I knew this album was going to be something different. That solo returns later on in the song with a more bluesy undertone to it and then the acoustic guitars bring the song to a magnificent ending. WOW, this is interesting stuff!

Four Riders chops in right away, and the song displays some nasty riffs, breakdowns, a clean vocal passage over clean guitars and then those contagous riffs again. The beginning and the melodic feeling in Vomiting Void strangely enough reminds me a bit of Sanctuary’s Into the Mirror Black song. I assume this is not the band’s intention and most likely that’s not an inspiration at all for them, but the fact that this evoked something in me, says it all. It tells me that this band is not a thirteen in a dozen black metalband. These Belarusians dare to experiment and drift away from the standard. It’s all in the details of course, It’s not that this album is completely full of unexpected stuff, no, for sure you can hear the typical 1990’s Scandinavian influences and similarities with modern acts like Celeste and Gaerea. But everything with a firm own sound. And the production of that sound is top-notch as well.

Call of the Ancestors opens in a Mantar vibe and keeps dwelling and grooving in a midtempo pace with another brilliant played solo at the end. War begins with an English spoken-word sample and just like the previous song this one also plays in midtempo with a lot of melody, groovy riffages and filthy vocal outbursts. This combination gives a real oppressive feeling listening to it. In A Night for the Dead the tempo goes up, even to blast mode now and then. The slow beginning of Winter makes my head nod which goes into headbanging when the pace goes up. A howling wind sample closes the track and Serpent’s kicks in, which is another strong melodic midtempo song with tremolo pickings and heavy riffs. Album closer Where the Eyes Close is a bit faster with a dreamy post-rock-ish passage in the middle and especially after such a sensitive part it stands out how intense and wicked the vocals of singer Malvain are. All his horrors, fears (and lungs) are spilling out. After nine songs in 46 and a half minutes The Tread of Darkness comes to an end.

A very impressive first full-length from these mysterious hooded lads. An album where classic meets contemporary black metal. Dissonant and tremolo, but there are twists that give added value to the overall sound. Twists through acoustic parts, fluent traditional metal (and bluesy) guitar-solos and exciting riffs with an almost thrash and death metal approach. The level of performance after only a few years of existing, predicts we can expect a lot more from this band in the coming years. And I’m here waiting and receiving it with open arms.

Empires Of Light – Aberrations Mon, 13 Mar 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] bed64394-c43a-493b-8b0e-830cc9d3d861 Released only last week, Empires Of Light’s Sophomore album Abberations has come from out of the blue for me, without any real fanfare or fuss, and I struggle to reason why! Josh Riggs who hails from Portland, Oregon is another musical wizard, a conjurer of all things “post” related. His empyrean and interplanetary musical sorcery is of the finest you will hear within this genre. Highly technical, and multi-layered in both melody and drama, every track is a space odyssey that thunders through vast open skies and into ether space. Glorious, epic, but not forgetting, it packs one hell of a punch!

Pyroclast wastes no time in transporting you deep into the cosmos with a lush wall of synths and a barrage of crisp clean riffs that are steeped in melody and rousing lead solos, that glide and soar high above the incredible drumming of guest musician Robert Evraets Jr. Heavier moments are found orbiting around the intro of Entropic Disgregations, which ebbs and flows through moments of great ethereal heights, with powerful and electrifying up-tempo shredding and soft earthly acoustic recesses.

Tracks like Knife City bring thundering bass guitars and swirling lead guitars to the forefront and litter them with all these clever little shreds and jabbing riffs that whip the track up into a frenzy. The Lights Became Blood is a much calmer affair with its synthesised atmosphere and its 80’s vibe playing through it. The melody is rich and vibrant with multiple subtleties and nuances adorning every instrument. A second guest drummer, Tyler Jass adds so much to this track too, with his near acrobatic thrashings and his powerful execution.

Aberrations never takes a moment to breathe as it traverses and explores the very far reaches of experimental and instrumental metal. Each track shakes and shudders, bringing with it something new, even just the smallest of details, that makes all the difference. Mortar and Bone for instance, brings dual layered guitars along for the ride, that rebound and ignite off each other as they elevate and grow into the track. The synthesised harmonies and heavy rhythm guitars bring with them moments of God Is an Astronaut to the table, proving that Empires Of Light is doing something right!

Closing tracks always play a big part in an album, as they are responsible for leaving that aftertaste behind, that memory of what has just gone before it, and on this album, Abberations, that’s left to The Argonaut, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, after many listens, it encompasses a lot of what is outstanding on this album. Crushing riffs, spiralling solos, crashing percussions and thundering bass all assemble to ignite the afterburners and send the music shuttling though the atmosphere and into a vast ocean of emptiness.

Empires Of Light, under the watchful eye of Josh Riggs, captures both the imagination and magic of instrumental music. Its absorbing from start to finish, and leaves your body and mind floating in interstellar space. Be sure to grab this on Bandcamp and support these incredible musicians.

Fargo – Geli Wed, 08 Mar 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] df45ef98-32ab-436a-872d-40f107f601d4 So many things go hand in hand when you describe post music. Deep-running concepts with dramatic, narrated passages, epic highs offset by sunken, sullen lows and countless emotive climaxes intersected by last-gasp crescendos. These are all the cogs that are found in that well-oiled wheel that keeps our beloved post-rock relevant and moving in the right direction. They are all part of the formula that make this style of music deeply personal, purposeful and ultimately meaningful.

And with all that in mind I want to talk about Fargo. The Leipzig based four-piece, who were founded back in 2012 (and featuring a new guitarist and bassist since 2017), have all these qualities I mentioned above racing through their veins. So where do you go next, when you want to make more of an impact and somehow elevate your sound to another level? Maybe go back to basics, and go closer to home? Well, with Geli, Fargo have done exactly this by writing about topics close to home, both logistically and emotionally. Geli is four tracks brought together by four cities, all connected through one amazing woman.

Geli was the nickname given to Angelika Zwarg, mother of two close friends of the band, who was also an art teacher and painter. Sadly, she died in 2018 after a long illness, but her art will live on, and Geli’s work now illuminates the album cover with her painting, “Dark Houses”. The four tracks on the album are named after four cities in Germany, which allows the band to feed their knowledge and connection with these cities through music.

The opening track, Dresden, hits you square in the jaw right from the outset with thundering drums and heavy-set riffs that quickly fade into lightly plucked strings and sombre-struck percussions. A gentle rise in tempo and atmosphere leads the track along a rich, warm passage of soft bass guitars and brisk, quick fire rhythm guitars, before exploding once more into a turbulent and hostile wall of angry bass cords, menacing licks and distorted vocals. A great opening track that has the weight and heft of Russian Circles, with the melodic soundscapes of Explosions In The Sky.

Regensburg begins crisp and clean with a proggy feel to it, with this infectious synthesised scratch behind the melody, that adds that quirky layer to it all. The contrast between heavy and light is showcased brilliantly here with those meticulously timed drums and those great big guitar swells breaking and crashing off the softer, more placid passages, ebbing and flowing from start to finish. Berlin follows it with plenty of reverb and drone-like atmospherics. Lone, remote cords play through the ether with more of those metronomic drums pacing the track, keeping it all tight and compact. Mighty riffs power through those sharp, vivid lead solos which seem to zigzag like lightening across the berlin skyline before coming to an abrupt and inevitable end.

Fierce and fiery bass cords set the closing track, Pforzheim alight right from the start. Its flames dance and flicker over thumping mid-tempo drums, gloriously uplifting lead guitars and down tuned rhythm guitars. Melody strewn and full of intensity, the music gets diluted into the closing narrative of Winston Churchill’s famous 1940’s war speech, ending a track and ending an album that has absolutely everything you want from a post rock album.

Fargo have reignited themselves with Geli, and have also managed to remember and dedicate its raw and near combustible beauty to someone close to them. With a release date on March 17th, through the brilliant Kapitän Platte, Geli is a must have for all post music fans. And for any of you who would like to know more about Fargo, and this incredible album, stay tuned to The Smashing Skull Sessions in the coming weeks!.

WuW - L'Orchaostre Mon, 06 Mar 2023 11:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 721d84e9-0614-4faf-9f67-13c1c68d92d5 What do the bands Year of No Light, Gojira, Lyzanxia, One Way Mirror and WuW have in common? Well, first of all they are all French and second, they all have, or had, two brothers playing in them. Since I love the music of all of those bands mentioned, I say “quite some musical genes, mes frères!

So what we can learn from this little bit of trivia is that WuW hail from France, they have two brothers in the band and I love their music. To add to the brother fact: WuW, the band consists of only two members, the aforementioned brothers, Benjamin and Guillaume Colin. Both are classically trained and are inspired by classical music, free jazz and drone and have been making lo-fi Experimental post-doom epics in the vein of Year of no Light, Dirge and Omega Massif since 2016 (as stated on their bandcamp page). Well I totally dig Dirge and love Omega Massif (RIP, but two awesome bands Cranial and Phantom winter where born out of it so the OM spirit lives on) and YONL of course, who are my favourite band, so when I read this they got my attention right away.

WuW released their debut album Rien ne nous sera épargné in 2018 and the sophomore Rétablir l’éternité in 2020. Pelagic Records recognised their talents and potential and signed them for this third album called L’orchaostre which was released in february.

There are five songs on L’orchaostre, simply called Orchaostre 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and the entire album takes a bit less then 42 minutes in total. The content of these 42 minutes is nothing short of impressive, as all five instrumental pieces are so well composed and performed. You can expect a wall of sound with various styles, layers and experimentations to it. Classically trained does not mean you should expect to hear classical in the choice of instrumentation (like BRUIT ≤ does), but classical more in the way of composing and arranging I guess. Experimentation is also done by the choice of their equipment and the use of it. The guitars, bass guitars and drum kit of the brothers are real oldies from the 1960’s and in their own studio, they dare to experiment with modern effects in different kinds of (self built) pedals, electronics and organ. This gives their music an interesting and unique sound, where nostalgia meets modernism.

The overal tempo, especially of the drums is slow, and that is what gives this album that doom atmosphere. Every now and then the tempo goes up to a climax, like at the end in_ Orchaostre_ 2 and 5 for example. I can hear two layers of guitars in the sound and they alternate it between slow, low-tuned heavy, melodic passages, to going fast in riffing and wailing. The bass is put in there prominently to give that drone feeling, and I love it. The use of reverb, loops and psychedelic soundscapes in the background deliver more layers to the sound. The album bursts, it grooves, it dwells, it repeats, it explores, it peaks.

Album closer, and my personal favourite, 5, has all of this in one song. Starting melodic and growing into a thick post-metal sound that changes into an up-tempo swinging psychedlic explosion. Those drum patterns and rhythms at the end give that song so much body. On the climax, the sounds end, and with that, the album comes to a close. Automatically, you put it on repeat, because there is so much to explore in here. I wonder how they will deliver this in live situations!

With bands like YONL, Psychonaut, BRUIT ≤, Briqueville and Pg.Lost on the Pelagic roster, WuW find themselves surrounded with bands that are top of their genres. With L’orchaostre they prove to fit right in there, both stylistically and in quality, and I think they are in the right momentum now. A name we are going to hear more of in the coming years, and I’m sure this album will expand their fanbase drastically, and I expect to see it on many endlists this year. Job well done mes amis!

Les Dunes - Mellow Skies (Single) Thu, 02 Mar 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] e9c5200a-e609-41e0-b143-d6693b3de4bf Soft, solemn, and deeply soothing is Les Dunes first track from their debut self-titled album, which is due for release on 24th March through the fantastic Kapitaen Platte . This new instrumental/alternative band from Haugesund, Norway, consists of members from bands like Low Frequency in Stereo, Undergrünnen, Lumen Drones, Helldorado and Action & Tension & Space.

With Per Andreas Haftorsen on guitar, Morten Jackman on drums and Per Steinar Lie on bass, the trio have crafted a beautifully calm and composed piece of music that quivers and breezes through vast open skies of blue. Rich tremolo rumblings over methodical percussions open Mellow Skies before expanding into a greater aural headspace, as waves of shimmering guitar work flows freely over a brooding bass line and slo-mo drums. A sense of calm and serenity washes over every chord and every plucked string during this four-minute moment in time.

Mellow skies’ slow-core wanderings and dreamy atmospherics makes it a warm and musical companion that you can travel great distances within its company, or it can be that restful and intimate passage of music you want to curl up into a ball with, as it nestles beside you, on repeat, without interruption.

It’s still early days before any big and bold statement can be made about this band, but from what I have heard here, and knowing the quality of music that adorns the Kapitaen Platte roster, I have very high hopes for Les Dunes. So much so, that I have already purchased the vinyl!!. Enjoy!

DDENT – Ex Auditu Mon, 27 Feb 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 83b86a57-c72f-4be0-9e46-6ac043472110 Couvre-sang, back in 2020, was the first album I heard from DDENT and since that release I have devoured their back catalogue, admiring the musicianship as well as their eurythmic and dark blend of doom music. To be this crisp, sharp, and melancholic shouldn’t work on paper, but the French four-piece have somehow struck that balance where their heavier drone-drenched, post-black sounds can cast a dark cimmerian shade over those slow yet sweet euphonic overtones, without ever losing any of the drama or emotion that floods their music.

Having said all that, Ex-Auditu is something a little different here, and the opening track, Caute, wastes no time in setting the pace and pattern of the EP with its vast, broad opening. Mid-tempo in execution, the simple yet somber guitar chords on Neceffe eft vivere marry perfectly with the synthesized backdrop and those funereal drawn percussions. This is music that could very easily have scored on shows like Twin Peaks, simply because of its sinister yet heart-rending melodies. Feather-like key changes along with the elevated drums patterns lift the track to greater heights as layers of textures and timbres rest easy in each other’s company. The rhythm guitars remain constant, guiding the track from start to finish without ever stepping up and dominating.

Calidum Innatum follows a similar path to Neceffe eft vivere but brings with it a more orchestral and chamber-like atmosphere to proceedings. Hugely spirited and deeply emotional harmonics sweep through the track, with more of those trademark hollow- plucked cords laying the foundations to their sound. Lead solos flourish towards the latter stages of the track, elevating the atmosphere up another notch, and expanding into s glorious, near celestial crescendo.

Vale closes the EP with some lush reverb and distorted guitar tones. More bold and prominent synths swirl over the rhythm section, always soaring upwards with layer upon layer. The heaviest moment of the EP is saved till last, as the teeth are finally shown with some brash and hefty riffs and crashing drums, ending an EP that has all the nuances and energy you expect from DDENT, but with less weight and bite than previous outings, not a bad thing by the way!

A Reason To Travel - Concrete Sunrise Tue, 21 Feb 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 41a67f2c-d6d1-4a85-a80d-d3511c10d276 "Ambient post-rock is a beautiful thing when executed as well as it is on Concrete Sunrise. You can wander through its hypnotic and transient labyrinths with a fine-tooth comb, trying to decipher all rhyme and meaning to it, or you can amble barefoot, with your head to the sky, letting the waves of music wash over you, putting your mind in a place of utter calm and peace. Either way, it’s a style of music that we all need to lean on from time to time"

Now that the dust and sand has settled somewhat, following the release of A Reason To Travel’s latest piece, Concrete Sunrise, now is a good time to share my thoughts on it, and shake those concrete foundations once more, forcing that hazy morning sunrise to shine over these monumental pillars of ambient post-rock once more.

I have been a fervent supporter of Yannick and this project A Reason To Travel right from the outset. His album Kingdom found a place in my life just at the right time, and was the perfect tonic in seeking solace and respite from the madness of the modern concrete jungle! Kingdom told a story of old, through waves of ambience and calm, but the beauty of it to me was that even without thinking about the story, the music alone became a silken veil of calm, that covered and rested easy over body and mind.

So, fast forward to 2023 and Concrete Sunrise has arrived and is in essence, a follow on from Kingdom. However, these seven musical compositions can sit rigid and unwavering as their own entity. The mood is different to Kingdom, but the beauty and weightlessness of the music is equally as powerful and fulfilling.

The opening track, and title track, Concrete Sunrise really does set the scene and transports you to a very different place, through its gentle, moody atmospherics and its patient delivery. As the track evolves, spiraling lead guitars reverb and clash against thundering percussions and sharp-edged synths. A great opening track which shows the ability that A Reason To Travel has of harnessing such palpable power, and intertwining that energy with these brooding tones and textures. An empty City is another great piece of tense and apprehensive electronica which lends itself perfectly to the track title. You can sense the emptiness and sheer desolation through the wall of reverb and resonance.

Tracks like Dust Wanderer bring a more airy and almost ethereal feel to the album, through windswept whistles, and wind-chimed whispers, all very somber yet oddly uplifting. Tracks like Last Light have that God Is An Astronaut vibe to them, big and bold in its delivery, with thick heavy drums that sees Yannick exploring many different soundscapes and not being afraid to experiment with them.

I Miss The Sight Of Chimneys closes the album and for me, is one of the strongest tracks on Concrete Sunrise. Rich warm atmospherics with gentle echoes and reverb rebound off sharp jabbing cords, before funneling into a cacophony of distortion and melody, that travels beyond the album itself, into the great wide open.

Ambient post-rock is a beautiful thing when executed as well as it is on Concrete Sunrise. You can wander through its hypnotic and transient labyrinths with a fine-tooth comb, trying to decipher all rhyme and meaning to it, or you can amble barefoot, with your head to the sky, letting the waves of music wash over you, putting your mind in a place of utter calm and peace. Either way, it’s a style of music that we all need to lean on from time to time. Sometimes, you don’t need a reason to travel to get away from it all, it’s often right before your very ears and eyes, in your very own living room. It’s music for the morning after and it’s music for the day before.

After-Math - Of Our Dire Existence ( Single) Sun, 19 Feb 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 4636a92a-fa9e-4ea9-b233-b3ea63435e13 I'm almost ashamed to say that I only very recently fell upon this solo project that is musically, right down my alley! After-Math, hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, uses just the right blend of post-rock, math-rock, and electronica to conjure up sounds and images that seem to bounce and ricochet off glass walls and ceilings, reflecting and deflecting their metallic power and needle-sharp synthesized flares into the vast, post-rock void. It's an optical representation of what After-Math is all about.

So, with all that in mind, The Smashing Skull Sessions ONE TO WATCH series is delighted to bring you Of Our Dire Existence , the next single to be released by this solo musician, and to heighten the tension even more, our promo clip holds a 30 second snapshot of what you can expect to hear on February 23rd!!.

Of Our Dire Existence open with thumping percussions and rich textured guitar passages that flow like hot, molten metal, slowly gathering pace and power, all under those dense, smoldering synths that weigh heavy on the track, forging an edgy and drama fueled moment in time. Lead and rhythm guitars begin to spit out riffs that change the atmosphere of the track to something darker and ever so sinister. Always crisp, and as sharp as a butcher’s blade, the music is brilliantly produced with every instrument being able to breathe and fight it's corner. No sound overwhelms or smothers the rest, allowing the track to ebb and flow effortlessly through a myriad of moods and timbres. Of Our Dire Existence is blindingly futuristic in sound and is littered with technical nuances that shine brighter each time you hear the track. It's emotive, heavy, and powerful post-rock that only whets the appetite for more.

After-Math has been releasing music since 2019 and that back catalog is well worth visiting through their Bandcamp page. Solo projects have taken a giant leap in recent times, in terms of sound and depth, and After-Math typifies this, using layers that are weighty and melody driven, and seem to dovetail into one another seamlessly. All I can say here is, keep an eye on this guy!

Six Days Of Calm – Uncertainty (Single) Mon, 13 Feb 2023 06:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 828dc49c-60f0-4d36-a291-7208a3c50e18 Back in 2020 musician, Marc Fischer, who hails from Würzburg, Germany, released one of the most beautiful and deeply emotive post rock albums of that year, under the name Six Days Of Calm. It was eight tracks of uplifting yet melancholic music that carried you on a gut wrenching journey that travelled deep within the soul.

Fast forward to 2023 and Six Days Of Calm have finally graced us with some new music. Uncertainty was dropped three weeks ago along with a stunning video which gave this glorious passage of music a story and a meaning. Visually, this out of body experience we see before our eyes harbors the natural beauty and softness of this world, portraying how precious and delicate our ecosystem can be. Musically it opens with rich, warm cinematic synths and gentle percussions that sway and drift without order, just like the emerald green ferns that we see in the video. When the music does blossom and expand outwards, the drums erupt and plunder above deep baritone guitars that fuzz and hypnotize , all under the glorious resonance of whistling synths creating a moment of post rock nirvana that should never come to a close. It’s as glorious a crescendo as you will hear in post music, and it’s a moment that sucks you in and cradles you in its clutches, keeping you shielded and sheltered.

Uncertainty is the first track to be released from the upcoming album My Little, Safe Place which will see the light of day later this year. but I have this feeling that it will be worth the wait. And in the meantime, why not head to the Six Days Of Calm bandcamp page and treat yourself to one of the few remaining vinyl presses of The Oceans Lullaby. It should be in every post rockers collection!

Riverside – ID. Entity Thu, 09 Feb 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 8a590437-9b53-45a4-8e29-e4273d1a7021 The album is more experimental in ways and contemplates from different angles on the subject of identity. I love the typical Riverside ingredients like Mariusz’ bass and warm vocals and those long-stretched guitar solos, and the production is flawless again as well. So all in all just another high-class progressive album from this sympathetic band that deserves your spinning

The Polish progressive rockers Riverside recently released their eight studio album called ID. Entity. It’s been five years since its predecessor Wasteland, which then was the first album after the sudden passing of co-founder/guitarist Piotr Grudzinsky in 2016. For a while the band came to a halt after that tragedy, and took a lot of time to reflect and decide whether they would continue without their friend and his typical style of playing. It was decided they would go on as a band to keep honouring him through their music. Wasteland was a melancholic album that was written and recorded amidst the mourning process and ID.Entity shows the band is further in that process now, since it turned out less heavy-hearted and more uplifting.

I’m somewhere between a fan and (constant) follower/admirer where it concerns Riverside. Their debut album Out of Myself (2003) immediately pulled me right in with it’s great progressive compositions and most of all the magistral mood full of melancholy. It is still my favourite in their discography, but every release that followed scored at least a 7.5/10 and higher on my scale. This band is not capable of writing bad songs. All members are such class musicians and perfectionists, and they know how to put that into good, clever songwriting, so that every song that comes out is just top notch. All is subjective and a matter of taste of course, and I found myself more fan of their songs that are darker and emotional and more of a follower, and appreciative of the more technical and experimental ones.

And for me ID. Entity fits best in that last category. It’s another fantastic prog album where hardcore Riverside fans can go blind on. I am, and will be playing some songs over and over. Other songs are good but resonate less with me. On this album the band mixes more keys/synths and a 1980’s pop sound in their own typical sound. Opener Friend or Foe? Has a certain A-HA vibe to it and in the first two minutes from Big Tech Brother the sound of trumpets prelude a Sabbath-like riff. Progressive influences from for instance Rush or Camel are always nearby (like in Self-Aware).

It’s songs like I’m Done with You and especially Landmine Blast and The Place where I Belong that exceed the rest for me. Landmine Blast starts off semi-acoustic and then the typical guitar-solo, that we got to recognize since the debut album, comes in. New guitarist Maciej Meller did a great job approaching Piotr Grudzinsky’s distinctive David Gilmore inspired guitar playing. This song could have been written in the early days of the band. I Love it. The Place where I Belong is a thirteen minutes long wonderfully sensitive partly acoustic song.

In conclusion I can say I really like this new album and even love a couple of songs on it as well. The album is more experimental in ways and contemplates from different angles on the subject of identity. I love the typical Riverside ingredients like Mariusz’ bass and warm vocals and those long-stretched guitar solos, and the production is flawless again as well. So all in all just another high-class progressive album from this sympathetic band that deserves your spinning.

Silent Whale Becomes A Dream – North EP Mon, 06 Feb 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 9b366976-6752-4e70-a8e1-8e5713670383 This week’s review comes from a very special group of musicians. It’s a two track EP, however it should be noted that one of these tracks is a remaster of an older composition, and one is a brand new composition. So with that in mind, let me concentrate on the new track for now.

There are times when I envy those who may be unfamiliar with the work of the French avant-garde and post rock introverts, Silent Whale Becomes A Dream. Those of you who have yet to hear and feel their heart-wrenching and classically influenced sounds will experience an immediate connection to their music that will stay with you forever. They take you on a journey that is awash with these rich, glorious climaxes that ultimately carry you to a blissful and euphoric state of consciousness. Hearing it for the first time really is something special. Silent whale have been around since 2011 and have been releasing music sparingly throughout that time. But it still rings true that the best things come to those who wait, and that patience is now rewarded with Their latest release North.

North is the new track, and in typical Silent Whale fashion it opens under a rippling tremolo guitar that pushes the deftest of sound waves through your body, along with a soft, distorted breeze that brushes past your cheek. Tribal drums ring out in the distance as the atmosphere builds and the heartrate begins to pick up the pace. Once the core of the track is released, the energy and emotion is elevated by shredded guitars and sullen strings that ache and languish in this heavy, heartfelt mist that brings with it, warmth and deep nostalgia. It’s powerful and its crushing without ever being offensive and stark. Even within a momentary breakdown in the track, it re-emerges once more in the form of a ferocious and mind-blowing crescendo that lifts you from your feet and thrusts your chest to the skies. To quote Jo Quail from a recent interview I did with her, “Heaviness is an emotional concept rather than an expression of volume”. This music doesn’t need violent screams, double kick drums or guitars down tuned to the death in order to be heavy. It’s burdened heavily with unconditional emotion and its right there, where the real weight of the music is carried.

It’s great to see Silent Whale Becomes A Dream releasing new music, as it shows there’s still a fire burning within the belly of the beast. This is stunning!

Death Pill - Расцарапаю Ебало (single) Mon, 30 Jan 2023 03:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 15886ae4-2d2c-4b6e-8e03-e6161204ffb3 This week’s ONE TO WATCH is a hostile and malevolent fusion of punk and metalcore with a blunt-bladed slice of Motorhead’s chaotic style and swagger strewn across it for good measure. Death Pill are a Ukrainian all female three piece band, and their self-titled debut album is due to drop on the 24th February. Judging from the two pre-released tracks already available on their Bandcamp page, the trio mean business, and are out to annihilate and obliterate all who stand before them.

Having to endure the destruction and chaos that has been ripping through their beloved country for the last 14 months, these ladies have good reason to vent and literally come out swinging. Расцарапаю Ебало is the second last track on the album, and it opens with an onslaught of raw punk power and energy, with a tempo and riff that gives off that Motorhead reference I mentioned earlier. Its hooks pierce the skin right from the outset with a tirade of visceral vocals and finger-ripping riffs. The drums are raw and in your face, with a chorus that echoes the chants of Ballroom Blitz! It’s energetic, it’s fast and it’s aggressive, and coming in a just under two minutes it’s short. But what it loses in duration, it makes up in passion and fervor.

Mariana, Anastasiya and Nataliya are out to put a dent in the hardcore punk scene and beyond with this debut release. There’s also thrash and metal influences buried deep in those high-tempo riffs that will make Death Pill appeal to many different scenes and styles so all thats left to say is, Bring it on!

Sáasil – Ephemeral Thu, 26 Jan 2023 03:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 619841ca-ec08-4fc6-8261-63a0d2a02dd1 "Ephemeral is an album that showcases the harsher side of black gaze, and blends it with some of the most melancholic and ethereal atmospheric crescendos, ultimately, creating a post-black fury of light and dark, good and evil"

Carlos Herrera is a musical workhorse, an artist who works tirelessly through the medium of music and seems to seek inspiration from almost everything that guides him through his everyday life. He seems to be far more perceptive and sensitive to the things that we can often take for granted on this earth. There’s beauty in everything that surrounds us, whether it shows itself as a beacon of light and hope, or as a dark and comforting veil of melancholy. Carlos, along with all his projects, including Non Somnia, have the craft and qualities to harness and compose all these feelings and put them to music. Music that moves you and often breaks you, but ultimately unearths an emotion of some kind that makes you feel alive and awake.

Saasil, meaning light, is a collaboration between Carlos and Victoria Haze, a lady who might be familiar to a lot of you through her other project, Cora’s Heart. Well, together they bring forth this beautifully dark and abrasive album that is awash with blizzard-like screams and angelic serenading. Ephemeral is an album that showcases the harsher side of black gaze, and blends it with some of the most melancholic and ethereal atmospheric crescendos, ultimately, creating a post-black fury of light and dark, good and evil.

Opening tracks like Roses bring with it, a soft yet heavy mist of synths and distant whispers that fill the room with atmosphere an instant emotion. Gentle piano keys and sullen strings weep lowly before being smothered by the harsh black screams that cascade down like torrential rains, soaking everything under a deluge of thundering drums and fuzzy guitars. Funeral paced and aching in grief, it continues to surge forward with power and unbridled emotion.

More Black gazed distortion and violent screams shroud the senses on The Longest Winter while Tomoe Gozen tick-tocks its way into your head with that hypnotizing metronomic beat and soft, sweet piano that reminds me of something straight out of Solstafir’s Otta album. Faint vocals and soft spoken words fall deep below the mix as a wall of reverbed guitars lead the charge under a muted blast beaten finale.

The opening moments of the acoustic leaden and doom inspired Narea gradually morphs into a cacophony of disquiet and dismay, unearthing great fear and trepidation, while Memento Finis drifts and floats through a shoegazed trance, with more of those angelic vocals caressing the tempo and leading the track to its near celestial end.

In My Last Night closes the album with a synthesized dreamscape that opens the mind to a great black hole, an infinite void, where you find yourself soaring through great emptiness and nothingness. Its harsh and bleak but somewhat comforting and consoling in the same breath. There’s no hiding my love and respect for the work of Carlos Herrera, especially with his work on Non Somnia, but this collaboration with Victoria Haze is another triumph. Cora’s Heart can be heard beating right through this album, and it brings with it, new life, and a softer edge to this black gazed journey. Be sure to check out both artists on Bandcamp, and please support this amazing underground talent.

Mammoth Rider – Dance Of The Oxen (Single) Mon, 23 Jan 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 2635dbcf-cc8a-4e4e-aade-95a0e1c0a2ee Yes, the mighty Mammoth has risen from extinction, drawn its first breath, and now comes trampling across the Blue Mountain Ranges in the shape of a ground-shaking, groove-trodden, thrash-churning, stoner-smokin’ beast that is Virginia’s very own Mammoth Rider. Dance Of The Oxen is their first track to be released, and damn, what a breath of fresh smokey air it is!

January blues are well and truly cast aside with Dance Of The Oxen. Andy, Shawn, Nick and Jamie have assembled to bring us a track that is literally bursting at the seams with groove, vivacity and ridiculous energy. Opening with a spoken sample that firmly nails their colors to the mast, the riffs erupt, and open up into a thrash inspired onslaught that is heavy with heft and power. Crossing genres and styles with ease, the boys have most definitely found their groove and literally nail us to the rafters with their guitar-chugging swagger crossed with soaring acrobatics, and all orchestrated under the influence of that funky bass and those crashing percussions, that attack in waves. Gravelly vocals with a distinctive and ferocious tone, spit out the lyrics with great intent and gusto, rounding off a track that is ripped in old school doom rock and is at the same time, flexing its modern musical muscle.

One to watch?, most certainly. You can’t help but feel good after listening Mammoth Rider. I cannot wait to hear more!

Raum Kingdom – Monarch Wed, 18 Jan 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 0176e0d6-6536-4460-b909-d3d3e9aa97d0 Complex but very well rounded, it shapeshifts and transforms into many different beasts, bringing closure on an album that sees Raum Kingdom take another giant leap into the upper echelons of the sludge-drenched, post metal scene. "Monarch" is indeed just that, however, Raum Kingdom, well they stand tall as chieftains.

When the forces of doom metal, post metal and sludge converge and collide at just the right time, it’s the equivalent of the earths tectonic plates moving and shifting, gouging chasms through one another and shattering the earth’s crust, leaving scars that will take an eternity to heal. Ireland’s very own Raum kingdom have that tectonic power in spades. The intensity and weight of their sound crushes and smothers without remorse, as we found out back in 2018 with the release of Everything and Nothing. They showcased their ruthless and malevolent side with a slab of post-driven doom metal that still rumbles deep beneath the earth’s surface, provoking hairline cracks that still splinter and grow beneath our feet.

Well, it maybe a new year, and as a race we may well be caught up in a battle to save the earth from dying long before its time, but with the release of Raum Kingdoms latest album, a lot of the work may well be in vein. Monarch is soon to be unleashed and take my word for it, it’s an absolute beast of an album. The stars and the planets have aligned, and the sheer ferocity and magnitude of this album will cause the earth to rumble once more, summoning great earthquakes and tsunamis of sorrow and sludge. These six tracks see Raum Kingdom carry on from where they left off, but with a more diverse and multifaceted approach.

Red Admiral wastes no time in rising from the earth, crushing us with violent riffs along with the menacing vocals of Dave Lee, which immediately invoke an air of despair and angst. However, some clean spoken words and melody-soaked vocals lament and cry under an acoustic interlude, getting lost in the ether, before being drawn back down to the gutter with more demonic meanderings and some soul crushing riffs courtesy of Andrew Colohan. An opening track that conjures up all the venom and might of dark, dirty, sludge-heavy metal.

The haunting and hard-hitting Hairstreak is a track the epitomizes the diversity I mentioned earlier. Beginning with a piano soaked intro, it falls heavy with horror and menace under those eerie and atmospheric vocals, before becoming consumed by the more punishing riffs and Mark Gilchrist’s harrowing drum patterns. Swallowtail adorns us with more clean singing which brings another layer of melody and softness to the usually bleak and harsh environment that Raum Kingdom often imprison you in. It’s refreshing and a little unexpected to hear so much of it in one track, but it works, such is its chant like charm and delivery. But this ability to sing was always lying beneath the fog when you think back to the vocal acrobatics that haunted the opening track Summon, from Everything And nothing.

From Comma’s acoustic guitar opening to the sonically distorted bass lines of Niall Gregory, this is another piledriver of a track. A behemoth in its own right, but with a celestial undercurrent that keeps it edgy and absorbing. Gate Keeper, on the other hand is a straight up battering ram of a track. Wicked rhythm guitars with swirling lead guitars interwoven through skyward vocals make it a juggernaut that keeps on growing and expanding right to the death.

Pieris Closes the album with all the nuances and shadings that littered the album right from the start. Complex but very well rounded, it shapeshifts and transforms into many different beasts, bringing closure on an album that sees Raum Kingdom take another giant leap into the upper echelons of the sludge-drenched, post metal scene. Monarch is indeed just that, however, Raum Kingdom, well they stand tall as chieftains.

Рожь- Всё Mon, 16 Jan 2023 03:00:00 +0000 [email protected] b91efd92-0511-47f3-984d-8f8fa49c10ef It's a brand new year ahead filled with great music, and on the 2nd January this interesting album was released and has kicked off 2023 in a great way.

The St. Petersburg, Russia-based artist Vladimir Frith is a multi-instrumentalist that set up several bands and projects on his own, ranging from ambient, experimental electronics, neoclassical folk and extreme metal. Bands he conceived are for example Reflection Nebula, Drwa, Alice Dodo and Рожь.

Рожь is Cyrillic for the word Rye in English, and with this band, he released so far a demo, a couple of EP’s and two full lengths. Всё is the latest and sophomore after 2021 Вечное, which really surprised me back then. Всё was all done by Frith at his home: lyrics, music and mixing so you can really call this a DIY product. But the level of talent in both composing and recording is extremely high nowadays in the homemade scene. Accompanied with the evolution of possibilities and quality in technics and equipment, more and more interesting indivualistic music comes to the surface. Rye is definitely a good example of this.

First song Прощай starts peacefully with the calm sound of an owl and other animals in the night. Slowly, an atmospheric synth orchestra comes swelling from the back to the foreground and then the cymbals kick off and black metal comes blasting in full throttle. The cool thing is that a typical black metal scream is only used occasionally on Rye’s music in general, and on this album as well. Shamanic folk chanting is used the most and in different ways, which creates a real eerie and mysterious atmosphere.

In Трехногая слава a repeating effected violin sets the mood, while more layers of instrumentation grow with a certain drone beneath, and a short dark spoken word on top. The volume rises increasingly and the chanting returns. A tremolo guitar goes off in the back and disappears abruptly, only later to be brought back again. A lot of things are happening in these six minute as you can read. And that’s why I appreciate this album so much. It’s one man’s own brainchild, but there are worlds to discover in his musical spectrum.

Истина is a ten minute long journey that opens with the sound of raindrops, after which another black blast follows. That blast changes into an instrumental spheric mid-tempo groove, with a nice melancholic guitar solo that echoes long underneath the layered chants that continue to grow. And then the blasting fades in again for a couple of minutes while the guitar echoes and the chanting continues. Finally the mid-tempo groove takes over again and brings this fantastic song to an end. Just brilliantly done.

Зовёт меня is a 1.40 minute instrumental bridge towards Навсегда that comes bursting in with a thundering bass as a drone underneath. The song feels heavy yet open and transparent with all its layers. The first half of the song is post-metal at its best with a fantastic drum acceleration. This first part sometimes reminds me of a mild version of Year of no Light. Later on a blackened scream inserts itself, and the song builds to an abrupt ending.

Аминь is the fourteen and a half minute album closer. Another stellar song with great song writing. It begins with a repeating post-rockish guitar chord with another guitar added later on that has the same tone as the guitar in the opening of Amenra’s A Solitary Reign. Not a bad song to be compared with. On the contrary! The song takes its time, and then all of a sudden a guitar feedback pulls you out of your trance and a heavy, fat and slow doom riff washes in. Drums and chanting choirs join in and when later on a filthy guttural grunt appears with over the top violins and other soundscapes, the song grows into a somewhat insane Godspeed You Black Emperor! funeral doom version. The last three minutes the calmness returns with a shamanic chant and instrumentation. And when the music dies out the album comes to an end.

As I already said, what a great way to start the new year. The bar is set high by this extraordinary musician. Firth dares to push the boundaries and somehow he’s able to give the feeling you are listening to a black metal album, but using very little of the typical ingredients found in that genre. The blend of dark folk, soundscapes, doom, drone and chanting vocals is innovative with an beautifully impressive result. Give this man and his musical brainchild (s) a visit and the recognition he deserves.

Katatonia – Birds (Single) Wed, 11 Jan 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] f7f4669b-eb9e-4ecd-84d6-ffbff69956a6 When Katatonia release an album, you have to sit up and pay heed. I have been a fan of this band since their Peaceville days, way back in the very early nineties, and they are a band that have aged and grown alongside me for close on three decades. Continuing to be relevant while maintaining that cutting edge amidst an ocean of fervent artists doesn’t come cheaply, and many bands have fallen like autumn leaves trying to replicate and rediscover the magic that catapulted them into the throes of greatness all those years ago. Well, Katatonia have managed to weather many musical storms and have berthed once more with another juggernaut of a release. Their 12th album, Sky Void of Stars is a dynamic journey through the realms of darkness on board a vessel that feeds off harsh bleak atmospheres and rich emotive harmonics.

One of their pre-released tracks from the aforementioned album is Birds, and it’s a track that exposes a more energetic and upbeat persona that really came to the fore on 2016’s The Fall Of Hearts. Saturated in rich guitar swells and crushing drums, the track immediately pounces with great power and potency, generating a blizzard of boundless atmosphere and fervor. However, once the vocal of Jonas Renkse imposes itself on the track, all the jigsaw pieces come scrambling together, displaying a well-recognized and much revered sound that only Katatonia can forge. Soaked in melody and cleverly timed phrasing and breaks, the track unfolds and evolves into a symphony of classic melodic death metal, with all the nuances of a lush post-rock powerhouse. There’s always a dark cloud overhead when it comes to the music of Katatonia, but with Birds there’s a more optimistic and hopeful skyline ahead. For once there’s less a murder of crows hovering overhead, but more a murmuration of solace and deep benevolence.
Album releases on 20-01-2023

Ropes Inside A Hole – A Man And His Nature Mon, 09 Jan 2023 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 8182a1f8-ba1b-4a55-bcba-138e6f969c8e "Every instrument and every emotion on Time To Sleep is unloaded through the ebb and flow of acoustic breakdowns and rip-roaring rhythm guitars. Dual lead guitars soar and clash mid-air as the double kick drums ignite the afterburners, thrusting the music into the dark, moonless sky, before exploding and falling back to earth like fireworks, embellished in magnificent color and euphonic grandeur"

Ropes Inside a Hole, or RIAH as some of you may have remembered this band, are back with an album that musically conjures up as many unorthodox connotations as the band name itself. The mind is a powerful tool, and each and every one of us will conceptualize our own unique take on what ropes in a hole represents. It’s a name that allows the mind to wander, opening a window that allows us to create and fabricate our own personal image, which in turn, is used to connect to the music. Post Rock and Post Metal bands have been using unconventional and alternative names as long as I have been a fan of these genres and it’s just another unique piece of the puzzle, highlighting the originality and creative spirit that makes us love this music scene all the more.

A Man And His Nature is being dropped nearly three years after the release of their debut album Autumnalia and nearly two years following their split RIAHPSTVRT with Postvorta, and to add to the suspense, they now return with a new line-up! Inviting guest musicians to bring their emotive and heart wrenching sounds to the album through brass and string, and blending them seamlessly with the ethereal and subtle lamentations of Daniel Loefgren from Sweden's Suffocate For Fuck Sake, this has all the makings of a masterpiece in waiting.

A Man And His Nature wastes no time in dragging you into a deep, dark embrace with the opening track, Distance. Sparse acoustic guitars and the rich warm violin of Hernan Paulitti blows gently and patiently above the undercurrent of Francesco "Fresco" Cellini’s Cello and Daniels silky vocals. Shimmers of bands like Immanu El and EF glisten through the ever so patient build up, before the decisive and predestined crescendo erupts into a maelstrom of power and blinding intensity that leaves you in a numbed state of musical euphoria. My only gripe here is that this finale didn’t go on longer, such is the beauty and majesty it expels.

However, Others Are Gone, I Don’t Care manages to right the wrong as it cascades over you right from the outset. Rocco Catturani’s crashing drums, soaked in the soft sorrowful sax playing of William Suvanne slowly opens the track before the guitars erupt and blaze a trail of post rock splendour adorned with crushing precision and venomous intent. Respite comes in the form of an acoustic wandering before more potent riffs and clammering percussions see out the track with an explosion of emotion and gusto.

Loss And Grief show Ropes Within A Hole plod through a mid-tempo saunter with more of those delicious vocals and some melancholic tremolo shredding that bleeds pure emotion and heartache, reminding me so much of The brilliant A Swarm Of The Sun, and finishing with a musical climax that absolutely annihilates. Then to follow that you have the bluesy, jazzy tones of Feet In The Swamp, Gaze To The Sky, which brings with it, another layer of innovation and creativity as it oscillates and pulsates through heaving post metal tirades and groovy jazz strewn rhapsodies. It finishes with the witchcraft and wizardry of Mohammed Ashfarf on synths that closes a track that is very different, that’s for sure, but has a this addictive quality to it that makes you want to hear more.

Having three guitarists in Flavio Di Bella, Andrea Binetti and MIchele Verni along with its backbone, bassist Diego Ruggeri, there was never a fear that this album was going to fall flat, or lack conviction. Every aspect to it is beautifully saturated and chock-full of fire power, and with the help of producer Riccardo Pasini and the mastering genius of Magnus Lindberg, A Man And His Nature was always going to leave its mark on the scene. From my first listen, I have been spellbound by its artistry and its originality. Even on the closing tracks Overwhelmed and Time To Sleep, nothing remains stagnant, everything changes. Overwhelmed for example, is dirty and sludgy with tool-esque riffs and basslines thrown in for good measure while Time To Sleep is a gorgeous lullaby, caressed with soft acoustic strings and warm reassuring vocals. As it’s the closing track you do expect more, and damn, does it deliver. Every instrument and every emotion on Time To Sleep is unloaded through the ebb and flow of acoustic breakdowns and rip-roaring rhythm guitars. Dual lead guitars soar and clash mid-air as the double kick drums ignite the afterburners, thrusting the music into the dark, moonless sky, before exploding and falling back to earth like fireworks, embellished in magnificent color and euphonic grandeur.

Ropes Within A Hole have created a fascinating and truly memorable musical journey that we should all experience and bask in. Its resounding, silver-toned qualities will stay with you all the way to the end of the year, where it will no doubt be on all those AOTY lists......I know it’s only January, can it withstand another 52 weeks of competition? Absolutely! And to further enhance the experience, you have to check out the incredible vinyl options available for A Man And His Nature, courtesy of Voice Of The Unheard , stunning work as always.

KOLLAPS\E - Phantom Centre Wed, 04 Jan 2023 07:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 2bfbab73-c9b1-461a-85e9-db960e74bc55 "this album stands like a giant concrete headstone, carved by hand with deep brooding riffs and furious bass lines, and inscribed with the lyrics that rumble and bellow across the coarse and monolithic city of the dead. All of this under crashing drums that bring with them a deluge of rain and thunder"

Back in July, we unearthed the first single from Swedish sludge/post-hardcore heathens KOLLAPS\E and to quote myself back then, “One thing that really makes ERA stand out from its peers is that even amidst those heavy and weighty passages, there’s a rigid and well-balanced melody that re-enforces the track, making it a very memorable piece of music”. Well, having taken time to absorb and immerse myself, mind and body in the full album, Phantom Centre, and I can say with my stony heart that this album stands like a giant concrete headstone, carved by hand with deep brooding riffs and furious bass lines, and inscribed with the lyrics that rumble and bellow across the coarse and monolithic city of the dead. All of this under crashing drums that bring with them a deluge of rain and thunder.

I’ve already spoken highly of the opening track ERA, so its no surprise that the following track, BEAUTIFUL DESOLATE was going to be a slab of melody-strewn sludge metal that pulverises and crushes. Powerful riffs and harrowing vocals pummel and shred under this delicately melodic yet aggressive tirade. Broken down with solemn plucked cords and the deftest of synths, the track ebbs and flows through a post metal wilderness. Beautiful Desolate really is a fitting title to a thunderous track.

UTHCEARE is a much calmer affair, with its slow and resonant guitars that reverb and bounce off the walls, creating great atmosphere and tension. Its patient and it’s played with great precision, which gradually exposes itself through a thundering rhythm section that’s led by that dark and dirty bass guitar. Dipping its toes into the post-metal waters UTHCEARE really showcases itself through lush warm harmonics and crescendo driven riffs. ANAEMIA is another track that opens with a rich vein of melody and emotive restraint, but eventually unleashes itself with more of those fiendish and near demonic vocals. But again, I find myself repeating myself when I talk about KOLLAPS\E ,they are as heavy as fuck, but there is this scaly, melodic skin beneath the belly of the beast that makes it completely spellbinding and absorbing.

Experimental sounds, piano keys and screeching cords unleash the wrath of BRANT BARN SKY amidst another fury of guitars, percussions, and synths while RADIANT//STATIC is a headfirst, in-your-face post-hardcore juggernaut. Deep, low-lying guitars and mid-tempo drums are the foundations of this track, along with some fret-swirling lead swells that overlap and push the envelope once more.

The album closes with MURRAIN, which brings more of the fury and post apocalyptic devastation that has littered this album from the outset. Another great track and another example of how KOLLAPS\E have mastered and managed to control the aggression of Phantom Centre, holding back, and deferring on some of that vehemence, to give the melody room to draw breath and release. Many styles of music are on display here, and each one an important cog in the wheel of coherence. KOLLAPS\E have excelled on this record, and have already set the bar high, so early in the year. The Helsingborg four-piece have stepped up and need to be counted.

Archierophant - Scenes From A Mirador Mon, 02 Jan 2023 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] a65e840a-d3eb-4ecb-a2a1-aa6accd5f667 The first track of the year on the ONE TO WATCH series comes courtesy of London’s atmospheric black metallers, Archierophant. We are propelled into 2023 amidst the throes of a blistering black metal blizzard that bruises and batters right from the opening cords. Scenes From A Mirador is taken from the upcoming full band release From The Fires, which is expected to see the cold light of day in early 2023, and if this track is anything to go by, then the bleak, cold winter days and dark sullen nights will rumble on through many seasons to come.

Scenes From A Mirador opens under a furore of caustic blast beats, dungeon synths and blood-thirsty vocals, all swirling around in a deluge of blackened fury. The opening two minutes are atmospheric black metal at its most intense and foreboding, weilding anger and emotion like a razor sharp axe. A break in the track brings some grandeur orchestrations to the forefront, as the haunting and celestial vocals of Annabelle Iratni braid and tangle through the cries of Jack Thompson, before a maelstrom of blackgazed pandemonium lays siege once more, before drowning itself out in a current of plucked strings and more angelic serenading.

Archierophant have made a pretty clear statement with Scenes From A Mirador. It's as polished as black metal can be, without losing its edge. It’s awash with raw emotion, melody and unbridled ferocity that sucks you in and takes you on a one-way pilgrimage to the ends of the earth. I cannot wait to get these frostbitten hands on the upcoming album From The Fires as soon as it’s released. Keep a close eye on this one.

Serotonin Syndrome – Among Others (Single) Mon, 19 Dec 2022 12:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 42a0fe8a-3c52-4ac0-a804-88f858dfef76 Serotonin Syndrome hail from Northern Finland and originally formed back in 2013. Their last album release, Sarajas, crushed us way back in 2015 and that was a vicious fusion of doom and blackened post-metal. Now they’re back with their second album Seed of Mankind, and that release will see the bitterly cold light of day on January 27th.

However, we don’t have to wait that long to get a flavour of what is to come because Serotonin Syndrome have released the first single from the album, entitled Among Others. To quote the band, "Among others deals with hypocrisy, the human ability to avoid being responsible for one's actions. How a person can lie to oneself to make the reality seem more acceptable. Protagonist is not an exception, but one among the others."

Melodic, dark and heavy with brooding atmospherics, Among Others opens with tremolo shredded chords and harmony-laced lead swells that pave the way for a barrage of high intensity blast beats and vicious guttural screams. Deeply emotive, and casting flashbacks to the doom inspired glory days of the 90’s, Serotonin Syndrome have used their musical influences cleverly, and have elaborated on them and incorporated their own weight and heft to the track. Amidst moments of Paradise Lost’s Gothic era, the band have allowed that funeral pace to dominate the final moments of the track, showing the bands willingness and ability to play a broad spectrum of styles and sounds.

I have been lucky enough to hear the full album, Seed Of Mankind, and I have to say, this music grabs you by the throat and leads you down a merciless and unforgiving path that leads to its inevitable and toe-curling destination, you guessed it, the gates of hell. And fear not, they’re wide open for you to enter. However, When they slam shut behind you, lets just say you have satan’s own soundtrack to keep you company. Enjoy.

Dream Unending - Song Of Salvation Thu, 15 Dec 2022 03:00:00 +0000 [email protected] c845bb3f-a52e-4894-81e9-890ae1484e18 Expect an awesome balance between slow-paced beautiful progressive dreamy doom passages and bursting death grunts of heaviness. The composing and the musicianship from Derrick Vella and Justin De Tore are of the hook again. What a level they reach in their writing and execution

Only one year ago Dream Unending released their debut album Tide Turns Eternal and they made quite an impression with that one. It was high-quality doom/death metal with a predilection for old Paradise Lost and Anathema (Peaceville era) with brilliant progressive elements in the arangements and soloing. The band baptised their sound as dream-doom, and a new album Song of Salvation, again released through the 20 Buck Spin label, certainly continues on that basis, but has developed even further, resulting in a top five yearlist album for me.

The duration of both Song of Salvation and its predecessor Tide Turns Eternal is around 45 minutes, with the difference that the new album only consists of five songs instead of seven. That’s because the album opens with the title-track Songs of Salvation, a lengthy beast of 14 minutes, with the album closing with Ecstatic Rain, another impressive banger of 16 minutes. Those two songs alone are already enough reason to check and instantly buy this record. Expect an awesome balance between slow-paced beautiful progressive dreamy doom passages and bursting death grunts of heaviness. The composing and the musicianship from Derrick Vella and Justin De Tore are of the hook again. What a level they reach in their writing and execution.

Song of Salvation contains progressive elements by adding diverse (clean and melancholic, male and female) guest vocals, a trumpet, a spoken-word sample and piano/ synth parts which can also be heard on the relatively shorter songs Secret Grief, Murmur of Voices and Unrequited. And just like last year I’m totally in awe again with the brilliant long-stretched guitar solos that make me think of a marvelous Satriani/Gilmour/Mackintosh-ish combination. With a funeral-doom grunt thundering over them, you must be both impatient and curious to go and check this out by now, aren’t you?

The production is flawless and the cover painting by Benjamin A. Vierling is just stunning. All these ingredients together make this album such an interesting and worthy recipient to any end of year list. Still thinking of a flat 30cm by 30cm present for under that green decorated tree of yours? I just did you a no-brainer suggestion. You’re welcome. Enjoy!

Often The Thinker – For What’s Missing (Single) Mon, 12 Dec 2022 06:00:00 +0000 [email protected] acfa36d8-c8a3-4134-bb20-f2503a6c3892 Releasing music since 2007, Often The Thinker is a studio project from San Diego, California. Creating music for the morning after, these guys play a radiant blend of shimmering post-rock that reverberates and resonates, filling space and time with lush musical amplifications and deep meditative swells. Often The Thinker’s sound has a place in every person’s headspace, and I’m delighted to see that they are releasing a new album early next year, along with a pre released track that is available right now!

For What’s Missing is one of those tracks that grows like ivy, slowly climbing around your ankles and spiralling around both legs, eventually covering every part of your body. The track opens with broad but delicate guitar strings that ring out and rebound of every surface before unveiling itself with a more crisp and clean sound that flows and meanders through your head, nonchalant and steady. When those beautiful country-infused sliding cords grace the track, time stands still, and for that moment, nothing else matters. Another subtle and understated layer is added to the sound as a brass-blown melody washes over everything, slowly bringing the track to a close, and ultimately putting you, the listener into a state of great calm and perfectly balanced equilibrium.

Often The Thinker is not heavy music, it’s not metal music, but what it does have is a weight behind it that comforts and cocoons the listener. Everybody needs music like this in their lives. This is ambient post rock done to perfection. Keep an eye on this release in 2023!

Rise To the Sky – Stay With Me When You’re Gone Wed, 07 Dec 2022 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 70d6f51b-0aac-4b30-aadd-42b12bfaf525 " Each track leans heavy against your heart, carefully pulling on each heartstring with just enough tension to allow you to feel and experience every crestfallen emotion you have inside without ever losing hope "

Gut wrenching and utterly heart-breaking is how I can best describe Rise To The Sky’s latest offering Stay With Me When Youre Gone. I love extremes in music, and I always look to be moved by music. I thrive off being emotionally torn to shreds when listening to the darker and more melancholic side of it. Santiago, in Chile is where vocalist and instrumentalist Sergio González Catalán hails from and this project of his has been breaking hearts and stirring the soul of many a listener since 2019. This latest offering is heaving with unabating grief and sorrow, but within all this suffering and despair, the listener can seek, and find solace beneath its heavy sunken heart.

The heartbreak is instant as the opening track, A time I Was Loved mourns and weeps under a veil of cellos and violins, before being consoled and comforted by those deep, intense bellows that shed tears under the cover of deep solemn riffs and funereal paced drums. An intense opening track that aches and yearns for a time that has now passed. Lyrically, the pain is magnified by the words “Dream of a time When I laughed like a child, Bring back my past, When I knew I was loved by you”. Even the closing moments of the track with its acoustic beauty and it’s softly spoken passage doesn’t soften the pain or the heartache that has just been witnessed.

The beauty of tracks like Deep Wound To My Heart is its ability to make those harrowing vocals sing in unison with the melody of those guitars and that mid-paced procession. Even as the track begins to soar under those lead guitars and Emidio Alexandre's clambering percussions, the sadness weighs heavy. "Oh no time can heal this loss, Oh this wound so deep inside, I don’t see it heal with time, No one can take this pain away, There is no way to bring you back”. There are moments here where the pain that Sergio sings about is immeasurable through words. It’s that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach which this style of music feeds on. Its grave but somehow glorious sentiments have a way of healing and comforting the soul.

Rise To the Sky’s blend of atmospheric doom metal along with the funereal undercurrents that haunt the album make for a truly special record. Every track is laced with emotion, sorrow and woe. Lush, rich walls of sound interlace with heaving guitars and torrid vocals that make this journey through grief one to remember. Even when the cleaner vocals on tracks like Leave Me make an appearance, it never dilutes or takes away from the anguish that’s felt throughout.

Standout tracks like the beautifully harmonic Chervona Ruta, which is a cover of an Ukranian traditional song by Volodymyr Ivasiuk still aches and hurts, and how fitting a track to cover under the current climate. Sergio has put an emotion and a scar on the track that really emphasises the meaning and the intent of the lyrics. “Don’t go seeking, For the red bloom this evening, You’re the one, you’re the only one for me, For your great beauty Is the most clear of rivers, Of the mountains You’ve given death to me”.

If you have any fondness for the melancholic and the down beaten, Rise To the Sky are a must listen. All seven tracks on Stay With Me When You’re Gone hit hard. They seep in through your pores and travel through every vein in your body, unearthing an emotion deep within. Each track leans heavy against your heart, carefully pulling on each heartstring with just enough tension to allow you to feel and experience every crestfallen emotion you have inside without ever losing hope. You only have to look at the glorious artwork to be able to visualise all those feelings. I loved this album!

It Was A Good Dream – Drawing Your Recurve (Single) Mon, 05 Dec 2022 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 1f4fd64b-b669-4be5-bfc2-ac19a6fa3f6d Hailing from Boston Massachusetts, It Was A Good Dream play a really warm and heartfelt blend of instrumental rock that has a delicate and soothing side to it that really embraces you and keeps you immersed and engaged. The music is never one dimensional or linear and it’s all those layers and textures that bring so much emotion and depth to their sound. Help Me To Recollect was their debut album, which was released through the mighty Dunk Records back in 2019, and I’m delighted to see that we are finally getting some new material, in the shape of the first single off their forthcoming sophomore album, which is due in the spring of 2023!

The ONE TO WATCH series has gotten its teeth into that new single, Drawing Your Recurve, and it’s everything you want from this band. It Was A Good Dream paint through music. For me, the energy and vibrancy in their sound always reveals this glorious, colour-soaked landscape that rolls on into infinity. Drawing your recurve is no different.

Opening with plucked cords and metronomic beats, the immediate pace of the track is calm and serene, slowly gathering momentum but always building on anticipation. Some electro percussions and synthesised atmospherics bring another dimension to their sound, before elevating it once more into a beautiful post rock crescendo that flows like a swollen stream through that lush multi-chromatic landscape that their music always evokes. It’s a short track, but what it does is whet the appetite for what is to come.
It Was A Good Dream and Dunk Records are the perfect accompaniment to each other. I’m confident this new album will be as beautiful and grand as their first. I’m also pretty sure that we will see both Chris Anthony and Alex Glover on the Smashing Skull Sessions Podcast in the not-too-distant future also.

Antimatter - A Profusion of Thought Thu, 01 Dec 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 777e02e8-71a2-47da-882c-1574a3b50d43 " A Profusion of Thought contains excellent song-crafting with the perfect balance of vocals and musical arrangements that really complement and lift each other to a higher level. One moment it’s progressive and the other time more straight forward, but always with a sense of emotion, along with profound layers that are both interesting and impressive from start to finish "

Originally founded in 1998 by Duncan Patterson (former bassist and songwriter in Anathema) and Mick Moss, Antimatter is a dark rock band from the UK. Together, the two musiscians compiled their seperately written songs on three studio albums (Saviour, Light Out and Planetary Confinement), before Patterson withdrew himself from the project in 2005. Since then it’s completely Mick Moss’s band. Four more studio records and a couple of live and compilation albums further up the road and we are in 2022 where A Profusion of Thought sees the light of day via Moss’s own independent label, Music in Stone.

This album is comprised of ten songs that were never heard or never recorded before, they werer songs that were written during the earlier albums in the band’s discography. The risk with albums like this is that the result can turn out as loose as sand, but that’s not the case on A Profusion of Thought. This feels like a varied yet coherent, and very strong album, no leftovers or fillers on this one. During the years I have heard some Antimatter now and then, but I can’t say that I am a true connoisseur. What I do know however, is that I was addicted to these ten songs from the first time I heard them.

Antimatter’s music differs somewhere between accoustic, Brit pop, progressive rock with metal traces, ambient and grunge, and always with a melancholic undertone thanks to Moss’ distinctive and charismatic vocals.

Opener No Contact starts as a ballad with sensitive semi-acoustic guitar and Mick’s trembeling voice over it. The song grows into a heavy rock track with a singalong chorus “I can feel no contact”. Even a saxophone comes in at the end! The bar is set high immediately, and the cool thing is, that bar is not getting any lower on the following songs. Of course, it’s always a matter of taste and one always has some favorites, but that doesn’t take anything away of the quality of the other ones. Paranoid Carbon vibes the same feeling as No Contact with emotive lyrics that can be sung along all the way. By now, I am already hooked by the sound of these opening tracks, and when that bass comes in together with the subtle drums and synths in Heathen I am completely in a trance. Add to all that, a sort of wave/post-punk vibe with Eddie Vedder-ish grunge vocals on top, damn that’s awesome! The song doesn’t really need the saxophone later in my opinion, but the returning bass-rhythm makes up for that again.

And then Templates even goes one further with its high-level of songcrafting. A more mellow paced ambient song that suddenly bursts open, and that emotive Vedder-ish grunge style vocals occur again for a powerful passage. Fold slows down in a semi-acoustic way with a beautiful electric guitar solo towards the end. Highlight after highlight, Redshift is yet another top-notch emotional-laden song. Acoustic guitar with Moss’vocals and some sporadic flute and trumpet additions. Those canon vocals with that bass underneath and that saxophone just finish this song off perfectly.

At first listen, Fools Gold doesn’t really stand out despite being the longest song, but after having the album on repeat this is as equal a gem as the rest. The same goes for Entheogen with its interesting progressive drum-patterns and overal progressive vibration. Breaking the Machine with 3:46 minutes is the shortest song before album closer Kick the Dog comes in. Man, what a song to finish such wonderful album. A grunge vibe with a certain danceable bass rhythm and Anathema-like guitar soloing. Whoeha, what a ride!

A Profusion of Thought contains excellent song- crafting with the perfect balance of vocals and musical arrangements that really complement and lift each other to a higher level. One moment it’s progressive and the other time, more straight forward, but always with a sense of emotion, along with profound layers that are interesting and impressive from start to finish. Die hard fans no doubtedly have already picked this one up. If you’re not familiar yet by the band and find that these high-praised words have you interested, give it a shot. But be warned, you’ll be singing these songs coming weeks. Enjoy.

Return To Zion - If This Is The End, It’s Beautiful Mon, 28 Nov 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 3c3d1129-fbbf-4363-a30d-4f33c483d90f " Simply glorious and sometimes overwhelming, the closing track, If This Is The End, It’s Beautiful hits you hard and heavy, deep into the centre of your chest. Beginning in hope and prayer the track explodes into a rousing and uplifting array of tones and textures, where the music elevates itself to another sphere, before erupting into a tsunami of raw emotion and unbridled, majestic splendour. Every instrument bleeds and weeps its little heart out creating this moment of sheer elation and divine rhapsody "

Experimental. A word that is so open ended yet so specific when referencing the complex world of artists and musicians. Picture a scenario of sitting in front of a plain blank canvas, staring aimlessly at those empty pages that seems to unfold into infinity before your very eyes. Now, envisage a head and a heart both overloaded and burdened with great heartbreak and overwhelming joy. A mass of contradictions in their own right I know, but for some artists, all this emotional chaos and sentiment can transcribe into one great long-range forecast that in turn, becomes the catalyst for a perfect storm.

Joshua Cook of Return To Zion recently found himself consumed by such a predicament. The trauma of losing friends and family, while also nurturing new life into the world must have had a profound effect on his creative mindspace. However, the pendulum of emotions somehow opened a door to his mind, which allowed him to experiment and tinker with sights and sounds. Experiencing the emotions of both life and death in such a short space of time has moulded and forged Return To Zion’s latest EP If This Is The End, It’s Beautiful. It’s an experimental and heavily distorted collage of tones and textures interwoven through poignant salutations and bitter condemnations. Dan Cupps, Justin Nazario & Rachael Bodek along with Joshua have written a record that tramples through fields of doomgaze and experimental rock, all under the dimly lit post-rock moonlight

And We Fly Apart Like Leaves opens the EP with some deeply spoken diatribe that aches under the squalls of violins and cellos. Drums march in tandum with the strings as the momentum and emotion of the track buids into this beautiful and transcendent wall of sound. Guitars, violins, and bass guitars weave through a cacophony of greatness before gently closing under the bow of a solo violin.

Judas Goat brings with it noise and an organised commotion for close on three minutes, which in turn opens the door to the third track, Dreadnought // Vignette, which begins calm and near tribal with beaten percussions, simple guitar cords and a violin that weeps and laments. However, I simply cannot carry on with this review without paying homage to bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions In The Sky and A Silver Mt. Zion, whose trails blaze brightly throughout this EP. There’s no doubt those bands have shaped and influenced Return To Zion’s musical blueprint, and it’s something we should be very grateful for. But back to the track... the trance-like qualities of the music, along with the heartfelt melodies and heavily distorted riffs are a joy to hear. Even through tempo changes and breaks from electronica to acoustic, the power and the emotion rings loud and clear.

Simply glorious and sometimes overwhelming, the closing track, If This Is The End, It’s Beautiful hits you hard and heavy, deep into the centre of your chest. Beginning in hope and prayer the track explodes into a rousing and uplifting array of tones and textures, where the music elevates itself to another sphere, before erupting into a tsunami of raw emotion and unbridled, majestic splendour. Every instrument bleeds and weeps its little heart out creating this moment of sheer elation and divine rhapsody. It’s one of those passages of music you never want to end, but like everything in life, it must at some stage.

Return To Zion have created something memorable in If This Is The End, It’s Beautiful. This album has found a place in my head and my heart, and I’m pretty sure you’ll experience the same once you give it a listen. Bloody Brilliant!

We lost The Sea & Solkyri - LIVE Wed, 23 Nov 2022 13:00:00 +0000 [email protected] a4a993e5-1f79-47fe-9e68-143a47c65c25 I remember Dunk! Festival 2017 like it was yesterday. The air was heavy with anticipation and emotion ahead of We Lost The Sea’s Departure Songs album being played in it’s entirety, in front of post music’s most loyal followers…. No pressure, right!

Well, what happened that night will live long in the memory of everyone that witnessed that performance. It spiralled through waves of emotions, ranging from sombre, heart-breaking power riffs right through to huge soul stirring climaxes…it was insane, a rollercoaster of emotions, that left everyone in the tent in awe.

Well, fast forward to the 21st November 2022 and I’m at the 229 in London to witness another performance from the mighty We Lost The Sea, along with fellow countrymen, and legends in their own right, Solkyri . This time however, WLTS are finally getting a chance to showcase their latest album Triumph And Disaster, (yes it was released in 2019 but we all know the chaos and dismay that followed for the next 18 months!) and holy shit, it truly deserves the live environment in order to fully understand and comprehend its power and majesty.

But before we dive into We Lost The Sea’s performance, there is the little matter of discussing another great Australian band in the shape of ** Solkyri** . 2020’s release Mount Pleasant was a game changer for these guys, and really nudged them up the post-rock charts. I must admit however, that having experienced the energy, passion and power that these guys brought to the stage, it will be hard to go back to the studio versions! Solkyrie were immense, pacing up and down the stage under a hail of riffs, hooks, and melodies. The dynamism and passion in everything they do literally poured off the stage, drenching everyone in the venue, they were electric! The highlight track for me had to be Summer Sun, with its spiralling lead guitar swells that bounced off the walls generating a real positive and uplifting experience for everyone in attendance. A real solid performance, and one that set up We Lost The Sea perfectly.

Opening with Dust and A Beautiful Collapse, We Lost The Sea had the whole venue within the palm of their hands right from the get go. The atmosphere was buzzing, with everyone on tender hooks, waiting for those heavy leaden riffs to shatter the still, and boy, they didn’t disappoint. A beautiful Collapse never sounded so raw, heavy, and downright crushing, what a start! Bogatyri was next up to mesmerise with its slow patient climb and its deep-set groove, but once those chugging riffs filled the room, the venue lit up and sent shock waves right through London!

As if the energy and excitement wasn’t already at fever pitch, Challenger Part 1, Towers and A Gallant Gentleman were yet to be unleashed to us. And without fail, each one brought a magic and a spark that ignited the 229. The emotion and the sentiment of Challenger was hair-raising while Towers stood magnificent and formidable, shaking the very foundations we stood on. Closing the show with A Gallant Gentleman left the audience in awe and wonder, a moving and heartfelt track that aches in glory. A truly memorable night, and one I don’t think anyone will forget anytime soon.

Live music is something special, no two ways about it, no matter what your musical tastes are. There’s something very intimate and personal to a live show within a closed environment. But I urge everyone to somehow get the chance to witness We Lost The Sea at some stage in your life. It is special.

Mansion – You Are Suspicious (Single) Mon, 21 Nov 2022 03:00:00 +0000 [email protected] f551b1ce-cd16-4dbc-a2b0-3332a9f58faa Releasing their own unique blend of gothic inspired doom and gloom since 2012, Mansion are back again with the first track off their forthcoming sophomore album Second Death, which is due for release in January. Those horror inspired, antediluvian qualities that have haunted and disturbed listeners for close on a decade have returned under a blackened veil of twisted and tortured psychedelia.

You Are Suspicious opens under the drone of synths and fuzzy guitars and the vocal of Mother Alma that breathes heavy on the back of your neck, sending chills that spiral down to the base of your spine. It’s deep, possessive delivery is all-consuming and absorbing, raising the curtain on a scene that aches of a drama and theatre. Those droning, down tuned riffs that reek of distortion and menace, crawl through doom laden patterns and tempos, enhancing that gothic soaked atmosphere to a stage where the sands dramatically shift under a wailing guitar solo, courtesy of Tommi Hoffren (Jess and the Ancient Ones) that electrifies the track and ups the ante. More deathly vocals raise the roof under a banshee’s wail, before a sea of synths immerse and drown out all that went before.

A track heavy in layers and textures, Mansion have hit the spot once again, delivering a vibe and an ambiance that only bands like Type O Negative and Crippled Black Phoenix can conjure up with similar conviction. Roll on next January, when we could soon be adorned with the soundtrack to the winter of 2023, thanks to some of Finlands finest doom merchants.

Carved Into The Sun - The Earth Fell Away Wed, 16 Nov 2022 07:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 88dd3f84-e47d-4a86-a8c3-65eb563d0aa0 A couple of weeks ago, while bored and scrolling through social media, my attention was suddenly drawn to something. As a sucker for black and white realistic art, an image struck me and made me look closer. A person standing head bowed, knee deep in misty water. Nothing else. Just as simple and melancholic as that. Resonated, I found out that it was the frontcover (by Leanna White ) of the then new released album The Earth Fell Away by the one-man instrumental post-rock/metal band Carved into the Sun.
My gut already told me that the music would match the feeling the image evoked. And within a minute of listening, that was confirmed indeed. Jewels can be found within a blink of an eye.

Carved into the Sun is the brainchild of Eric Reifinger who’s responsible for all the writing, guitars and drum- programming. Artem Molodtsov takes care of the bass duties on this one. In 2020 a self-titled album was released. The Earth Fell Away touches an even deeper dimension when realizing it was written after the passing of Reisingers beloved brother and in that way it’s reflecting his proces of mourning. Resulting in a painful beauty.

Hexis opens calm and dreamy and the progressive subtleness of the guitarwork immediately shows that we can expect something special for the next hour. The song builds up to a modest outburst and returns then to more tranquil waters. Listening to this first song I can’t hardly believe this isn’t a full band playing. The drum-programming is as real as it gets and the production and mastering are top-notch.

5-25-20 (I assume the date of death) is a short sensitive piano-based song that unexpectedly bursts into The Earth Fell Away On Every Side. Fantastic how these instrumentals are arranged so that they tell their own story without words. A band that comes in mind, especially guitar and arrangements-wise, is The Chasing Monster, with the difference that they have three guitarists where Reifinger creates this sound on his own. Fast arpeggiated pickings, fluent soloing, melodic bridges, it’s all played technically perfect, but most importantly, it’s played with overwhelming feeling. The song goes to sleep peacefully and Inverness awakes. A long Bernard Albertson spoken-word audio sample starts and tells us some lifelessons. Those continue on Even As A Dream and in that way all songs so far merge and overlap eachother, creating a certain concept-album atmosphere.

The Other Side Of Despair is another long rollercoaster between tears and helpless rage. I love the build-up to the heavy post-metal part at the end. Through My Screams The Wind Still Whispers gives space to quietness and introspection before blasting that away with wide-open epicness.

Shoreless is a 12 minute beast of a track. Rhythmic drum-patterns and exciting guitars underlay another spoken-word sample, this time from C.S. Lewis and the song gets more intense and layered until it reaches its peak and then returns to the aforementioned drum-patterns to melt into album-closer Chasing The Rain. And when that one fades after two minutes The Earth Fell Away comes to an end.

Many times I think an hour is too long for an album, but The Earth Fell Away is one of those exceptions to the rule. The way the music is invented, written and shaped is nothing short of magnificent. This album is a painful yet beautiful tribute, a form of healing-therapy for the creator and a consolatory hour for the listeners. A must-listen for all progressive post-rock/metal minded freaks out there. I’m convinced this one will end up AOTY or at least high in the lists by many. It certainly will be in mine next month.

ONHOU – Ruins (single) Mon, 14 Nov 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] c0a2f2a3-498e-4eb8-8469-de46f3edc111 This week’s ONE TO WATCH comes from a band whos music will constrict and asphyxiate you right from the get-go, with their relentless and devastating power. Hailing from Groningen, Netherlands, Onhou are intent on suffocating you amidst their doom-laden riffs, tormented vocals and harrowing, synthesised atmospherics. The mood here is bleak, and it will blacken any wilful soul that allows itself to buckle under its fury and wrath.

The track we are listening to is Ruins, and it’s the first track to be released off their forthcoming sophomore album, Monument, which is due for release on the 9th December through Lay Bare Recordings and Tartarus Records. It’s an unforgiving and uncomfortable slab of doom inspired metal that has an obsessive and compulsive quality about it that will have you coming back for more. Ruins opens up under a synthesised sky, with tremolo guitars filling the backdrop. As the riffs power through alongside the funereal pace of the drums, the mood changes instantly and an eerie darkness descends. Deep gutteral cries consume and devour your eardrums as the melody and power trudges forward with great intensity and vehemence. A vocal metamorphosis brings forth a black-metal cry that literally scratches and claws at your eyes, vicious and merciless. Reverb, distortion and more menacing synths cascade down on proceedings, dampening the pain and hurt momentarily, before the screams from the depths of hell resurface and suffocate under heaving guitars and punishing percussions, right to the death.

Ruins is a gruelling and monumental mass of heft that will destroy and pulverise the listener without mercy, but isn’t that the reason you’re here! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the album release in December, with the understanding that they haven’t already been clawed and gouged out from this beast of a track!

Eternal Helcaraxe – Drown In Ash Wed, 09 Nov 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 64b2c925-0c55-4afa-ad74-4adcff763f55 Drown In Ash is a bleak and beautiful passage of music, where the band stand as pallbearers, bringing you through that final journey, with all the dignity and respect that their music bestows. It’s desolate and it’s forlorn, but beneath those darkened cloaks, there's an uplifting and monumental slab of metal to be discovered

This week I’ve been completely absorbed and aurally battered by Ireland's very own Eternal Helcaraxe, and their forthcoming release Drown In Ash. Vicious blast beats, scowling vocals and blizzard-driven guitars whip up a frenzy of post-black atmospherics that manifest into a maelstrom of forlorn melancholia. This style of music resonates with every part of my being, from sullen moments of contemplation to soaring blackened highs, Eternal Helcaraxe have mastered and tailored the black metal genre by crossing imaginary boundaries of blackgaze, post-metal and even classical music to bring us an album that doesn't follow the pack but leads by example.

Withered Strands Of Existence opens the album with a solemn piano that laments the senses with its simple but sorrowful tone, only to be severed by an onslaught of a harrowing cry and a tirade of beautifully harmonic guitars and power-driven percussions. On first listen I couldn't help but make comparisons with St. Petersburg’s post-black titans TRNA and Show Me A Dinosaur, but also some of the modern-day black metal bands like White Ward or Gaerea, and some Primordial thrown in for good measure, all good company to be in by the way! Laced with blistering pace and hapless melodies, these guys can bring a track from 0 – 10 with ease. The underpinned riff remains throughout, hypnotic at times, but always fierce.

The title track Drowned In Ash gallops forth with great conviction through a barrage of shredded guitars and a wicked bass. Almost euphoric in places, the track can reach these moments of great celestial splendour through a haunting chant that carries through every riff and drumbeat. It must be up there come December as one of my favourite tracks of the year. Even Where Dead Things Roam Free must be considered, with its vicious tremolo riffs that erupt into a vocal onslaught of venom and bile. Even as the track changes pace and the vocals sing the words “I don't dwell in the darkness, the darkness dwells inside me. An abandoned library of forgotten words that meant something once”, everything is still high on intensity and drama.

None Of It Mattered is basically three minutes of stark, cold piano keys, but having said that it’s a welcome interlude and a clever move when you consider the highly charged pace of what has been before it. What it also does is give tracks like Ice Cold Winds and Cease a clean slate, a tabuls rasa so to speak, to allow them to begin another chapter in this black metal masterclass. Tormented black metal tongue lashings are joined by the deathly guttural growls on Cease, adding another dimension to this already multi-layered tour de force.

The epilogue to this journey comes in the shape of In Dark Woods And Dreams, and it maintains the relentless pace and power that adorned the rest of the album. Those melody driven riffs still ring fierce and potent, reminding me of the hooks that Amon Amarth have mastered. Lyrics like “In dark woods and dreams, divorced from the heart, desolation a drowning solace, concealing sentimental venom” show the pain and torment that’s strewn across this track. Lush basslines and dreaded whispers break the track down to a canter, a mid-tempo slog, before unleashing hell one final time, and closing on a synthesised wave of relief and wonder, both in equal measure.

Eternal Helcaraxe may be pigeonholed as a black-metal outfit, but there are just so many other strings to their bow. They have incorporated so many musical styles into this album, and thankfully it has all kneaded together beautifully. Drown In Ash is a bleak and beautiful passage of music, where the band stand as pallbearers, bringing you through that final journey, with all the dignity and respect that their music bestows. It’s desolate and it’s forlorn, but beneath those darkened cloaks, there's an uplifting and monumental slab of metal to be discovered.

Hubris – Of Light (Single) Mon, 07 Nov 2022 04:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 05e8e4c1-ae76-40b3-ad55-5b377212074f You gotta love Hubris. The Swiss quartet play a delicately balanced blend of post-rock, electronica and post-metal, which makes this band a firm favourite amongst the post music community. Their two previous outings, Apocryphal Gravity and Metempsychosis are both cleverly crafted albums that have seen Hubris master the intricacies of harnessing the emotion and sentiment of post-rock and flawlessly adorning it with heavy guitar swells and glorious electronica. Well, the great news is that the guys are back with new music. Their latest single, Of Light, is the first of 4 parts of the new upcoming album "The One Above" which delves into the intricacies of Plato's allegory of the cave as well as drawing links between the allegory and the Greek Mythology.

Of Light opens like a warm summer breeze, with guitars shimmering and glistening as they reverb, delay and gently vibrate in the way that Chris Isaac’s masterpiece Wicked Game did all those years ago. Soft electronic swells sheath the music under smooth feathery percussions and fresh, airy atmospherics. It’s not until the third minute that you get that first burst of power and overwhelmiing energy as the track ups the ante and steps up a gear in both mood and tone. The melody remains, but the intensity is magnified as hairs begin to rise and brush against the collar of your T-shirt.

The midway point bring a break in play, as gently plucked strings and razor-sharp synths zig-zag through the air, cutting through that warm coastal breeze before a blast of energy sees the music lift itself once more high above that heavy summer haze, blazing a trail through the cool, satin clouds, before exploding into a cacophony of splendour and magnificence. Those final ninety seconds are up there with some of the greatest post-rock climaxes you will hear, hair-raising and soul-stirring.

Hubris have laid down a marker with this track. Of Light is a magnificent piece of music that will no doubt put them high on that towering pedestal of post-rock and electronica, alongside their fellow countrymen Leech. It’s that good.

Ueldes – The Lake Above (Single) Wed, 02 Nov 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 9c8a64d6-1d67-4c52-a4d3-22f4c9c7e4ad From the ashes of Veldes comes the newly established Ueldes, who will release its debut album Foreverer on 4th November, and The Smashing Skull Sessions is thrilled to share the first released track, The Lake Above as part of the ONE TO WATCH series. Anyone familiar with the name Tilen Šimon, Sij Music Art or even Mossgiver will have already been aquainted and will know what to expect with this release. The Lake above is a blistering mass of atmospheric black metal with plenty of dark-folk and blackgaze elements, that all culminate into one epic slab of blackened beauty.

The track opens with a folk infused melody that echoes of tudor and renaissance times gone by, but this period in time is short lived as the track erupts into a blast beaten frenzy of melody and intensity, swirling around a vicious harmony that locks into the subconscious with great nobility and grandeur. The vocals soon join the fury, with its phrasing merging in unison with the guitars own euphonic meanderings, creating something a little different for this style of music. Ruthless double kicks and shredded strings power the track along its wicked path, often taking detours through faint acoustic passages, awash with sombre synths. Guitars swell while keyboards arch and slither through the wall of sound, adding great depth and lattitude to the music.

Ueldes’ arrangements are spot on here, allowing each tempo change and rhythmical pattern to grow and develop into the blizzard that it is. Tilen Šimon is a very talented artist, and this new project of his has all the ingredients to make a memorable black metal release. It has all the power, melody and vehemence needed to please all those blackened souls out there, including mine!. I look forward to hearing Foreverer in full when it drops on November 4th. Keep an eye on this one!

The Abyss Inside Us & Non-Somnia - Our Fears Is What We Become Mon, 31 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 9a60ecee-4575-48f0-9906-5e1d0033e09d "Mournful and heavy in sincerity, it flows and streams head first into a blizzard of hardened, distorted riffs amidst an uneasy wall of noise that’s laced with dread and trepidation. Even the violin begins to wail loudly as the panic sets in, and before you know it, both contrasting sounds become one, and play in unison, buiding to a crescendo of rapture and delirium"

My love for the underground music scene, in particular the atmospheric and post black genres reads like an open book. When I think of underground music, two solo projects always come to mind, you could nearly say that they have become the central characters to the narrative. Non-Somnia and The Abyss Inside Us have always intrigued me musically. Their emotive forcefulness along with their soul stirring melodies have always captured my imagination. And just like any great novel, the readers imagination is key to bringing the story to life. Music is no different. Both Carlos Herrera and Nikos Togkaridis are storytellers, authors, but ultimately musicians, who’s story lines unfold and reveal themselves through a myriad of euphonic and blackgazed lamentations.

Now, take a moment and imagine the emotion and power that these two musical projects could catalyse by collaberating together. Well, that wait is over, and I’m beyond excited to be able to listen to, and review the new EP from The Abyss Inside Us and Non-Somnia. Our Fears Is What We Become is the title of the EP and it’s an amalgamation of both Carlos’s and Nikos’s great wealth of talent and creativity, all blended and strewn together.

The first of six tracks is Prelude (for a new beginning), a beautiful piano laden piece of music, simplistic in its delivery but with a warmth and a sorrow that can mend and break your heart in one simple stroke of the keys. The title track Our Fears Is What We Become soon follows and leads with a weeping violin which is casually caressed by an acoustic guitar, and brush stroked percussions. Mournful and heavy in sincerity, it flows and streams head first into a blizzard of hardened, distorted riffs and an uneasy wall of noise that’s laced with dread and trepidation. Even the violin begins to wail loudly as the panic sets in, and before you know it, both contrasting sounds become one, and play in unison, buiding to a crescendo of rapture and delirium.

One Word Was Enough plays through haunting tremolo guitars and rumbling synths, all the time moving forward with metronomic precision, under the watchful eye of melancholic violins and ebony keys. The melody and the harmony is strong and powerful, reaching great emotive highs and brow beaten lows. The orchestration and rhythm of the track is infectious, it’s that kind of melody that stays with you and lodges itself deep into the old grey matter.

Previous releases from both The Abyss Inside Us and Non-Somnia have often been heavier and harsher than this split album, but as Jo Quail recently quoted on a recent podcast with me, “Heaviness is an emotional concept rather than an expression of volume”, and this resonates right through this album. Even though tracks like Beneath My Wings and Soft Sun definitely raise the ante and lean heavily into a blackgaze stupor, but the heaviness never overshadows the emotion, and this is what both these artists bring to every release.

The closing track Dont Disturb Me arrives like a morning wake up call, tick-tocking and gently nudging you to wake from your slumber. As you reach for that snooze button those distorted, fuzzy guitars shake your bones and blow the curtains wide open, releasing an ocean of glorious post metal that advances with gusto then recedes back under the blankets momentarily. One final push and the sunlight streams through under a barrage of guitars, bass and drums, blinding you with light, filling the room with radiance and hope. A great way to close an EP that is really something special, and something you dont come across too often, be sure to check it out. Avilable November 01.

Ggu:ll- Ex Est Thu, 27 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] c9170cf1-dfec-4795-b000-a15fa4e4ca31 "Although Ex Est is not a concept album and every song has its typical ingredients, to me, the overall atmosphere of all the songs combined gives this album that gloomy and melancholy feeling. Albums like this must not only be heard, they must be digested like a Dahmer victim just to be with you forever, physically and spiritually"

The Dutch extreme music scene is alive and kicking and growing more than ever. Being a Dutchie myself it’s with pride how I look at the development in the quality of musicianship, creativity and total self-expression over the years, with a clear increase in the quantity of bands coming forth out of that. Festivals like Roadburn and Soulcrusher are sold out, with many bands from the Netherlands on the same billing as international (sub) top-acts, without ever being inferior to them. And the end is not in sight, on the contrary!

Ggu:ll, a blackened doom/drone metal band hailing from the city of Tilburg (home of Roadburn and the famous 013 venue), is part of that extreme scene since its inception in 2009. Under the name of Man Dies When He Wants they recorded a demo in 2010, but only in 2014 the EP Waan:Hoon saw the light of day. With a typical doom-tempo they wrote and released two full lengths, Dwaling in 2016 on Ván Records and Ex Est now in 2022 on Consouling Sounds.

On all previous releases Ggu:ll stayed true to their distinctive sound: slow, heavy, filthy and depressive. Ex Est follows that path as well. Expect a thick wall of (mostly) slow and heavy doom/drone, blackened and gutteral vocals with some noise and psychedelic infusion to make the hang-yourself-party complete.

Opener Raupe is more or less a three minute pile of distorted guitar chords that lead right into Falter that continues these stomping chords in your face. It’s from there, where your head starts nodding back and forth with the rhythm, with the pace accelerating twice and falling back again too. With just over four and a half minutes long, the two shortest songs opened the album.

The five songs that follow are all between seven and eight minutes, each with their own unique sounding; Enkel Achterland with its slow start that builds up to up-tempo with a, let’s call it a doomcore, vibe. Samt al Ras with a certain mix of funeral doom and shoegaze. Stuip, with its melody that feels like the most mellow song, but then again, with those vocals from hell on top it’s really not! Hoisting Ruined Sails sounds the most obscure and furiating. The last track, Voertuig der Verlorenen is a thundering beast that gets tamed and transforms into minutes of deppressive psychedelics resembling the most haunting Pink Floyd electronics. And with that Ggu:ll leaves you dwelling in a cold empty void, or a state after being so to speak.

Although Ex Est is not a concept album and every song has its typical ingredients, to me, the overall atmosphere of all the songs combined gives this album that gloomy and melancholy feeling. Albums like this must not only be heard, they must be digested like a Dahmer victim just to be with you forever, physically and spiritually.

And how about that amazing artwork Manuel Tinnemans from Comaworx created to complete this fine piece of Dutch art, incredible! Job well-done lads.

Lucida Dark – ORDIRI Mon, 24 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 7db01d02-a34d-4909-affe-8248797abd3b This weeks ONE TO WATCH is something really special and comes from a band that released an album back in January of this year, and I have to say, it made a big impact on me personally, it basically left me floored!. Great bands are a plenty, as are great musicians, and in the case of Lucida Dark, both of these essential ingredients were in abundance. However, the secret ingredient, the one that makes it stand out from all the rest is Lucida Dark’s gift of writing music that is often heartbreaking and forlorn, but underwritten with a warm, consoling and often uplifting undercurrent.

When I reviewed Of Death, Of Love earlier in the year, I wrote, “Lucida Dark have written an album that tips the scales between darkness and light, harmonising these polar opposites through an odyssey of love and death” and with the release of Ordiri a two track mini EP, those words still ring through. The title track is an epic ten minute journey, a tapestry of glorious post-rock that holds within its grasp, a broken heart that aches and bleeds crimson melancholia. It begins with heavy atmospherics, solemn guitars and drums that wisp and blow, all serene and all consuming. The track eases itself along, in a mid-tempo trance, all the time building on intensity and emotion without ever losing it’s flow. When that first big crescendo hits however, the hairs on your neck raise and a chill runs down your spine. The immediate effect of Wren Soryn's mixing and Magnus Lindberg's mastering becomes crystal clear. Those shredded tremolo guitars tear through your body, powered by a ferocious bass and pummeling drums. Like the raging seas, these moments of utter potency and might ebb and flow, each time drowning in heart-wrenching guitar solos and weatherbeaten rhythm sections. When the waters do ease and rest, you’re left with a calm and broken piano that brings this behemoth of a track to a close.

The second track is a remix of the brilliant On That Dark Immortal Shore, from the album Of Death, Of Love. The mastermind behind this mix is the hugely innovative and avant garde Ryan Osterman of Holy Fawn. On paper you wouldnt believe there’s a way of reinventing the original track in a way that it elevates it to a different place without losing the essense of the track, but Ryan has done just that with great care and attention. It surges over the initial blueprint, immersing it in a warm synthesised glow befor exploding into a multicoloured aural experience thast overwhelms and engulfs the senses. It’s different and it’s a breath of fresh ocean-sprayed air.

Quite an extensive write up for just two tracks, but at the end of the day they are not “just” two tracks. They’re a rollercoaster through deep swells of emotion, intensity and power, a really beautiful place to be. Release date is 28-10-2022

18 Seconds - À l'ombre des cyprès Fri, 21 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] b592e65f-b899-49f2-afb0-450ef6369f38 "Strewn out chords wail under that uneasy tempo, creating the soundtrack to that nightmare scenario where you find yourself lost and isolated under a veil of shadows and silhouettes"

Montreal-based 18 Seconds is the solo project of post-rock/ambient artist and composer Pascal Normand. Pascal’s music employs a wide palette of emotions and images with the help of an affluent sonic aesthetic, intertwined in rich melodic tapestries which explore the darker side of the human soul. With influences taken from a broad spectrum of music, inspiration shines in the form of bands like the world renowned The Smashing Pumpkins and the dark and atmospherically brilliant Godspeed You! Black Emperor. 18 Seconds latest offering À l'ombre des cyprès (In the shade of cypresses) is a musical quest without boundaries that navigates through the agitated waters of anxiety, fear and even anger. Music has this incredible ability to consume and sheathe the listener, and in doing so, it always finds a way to move and soothe the soul. Sit back, relax and let this five track EP transport you through all these emotions and much more besides.

The opening track Sur mon corps pousseront des arbres (On my body will grow trees) ambles in under a blanket of synths a distorted guitars, slow and sombre. Beautiful tremolo guitars caress and comfort your senses and any dark connotations that were lurking behind you are brushed aside momentarily. That is until the track fuzzes and hisses its way into a passage of noise and measured consternation, that fills your head with concern and disquiet, and it's those feelings which are carried into the following track, Your God is Black and Green with its sinister groove that haunts and niggles at your subconscious. Strewn out chords wail under that uneasy tempo, creating the soundtrack to that nightmare scenario where you find yourself lost and isolated under a veil of shadows and silhouettes. There’s something oddly comforting in it, maybe thats due to the fact that you can wake from it, but that melody will always stick with you, and as this track builds, it grows in weight and intensity, making sure you never forget.

For Gene, is a very different composition, and floats on a feathered bed of gently plucked strings under a delicate synthesised breeze. It’s short, it’s sweet and is the perfect interlude, before the celestial and heavenly Je suis la poussière dans ton troisième oeil (I am the dust in your third eye) whispers and blows through your headspace. It’s a simple but very moving melody, that’s illuminmated by those angelic atmospherics and transcendent rhythms.

The EP closes with Jeux de mains, jeux demain (hand games, games tomorrow) and again, it’s a restful and empyrean piece of music that incorporates a little brass and wind to bring the curtain down on a thoroughly enjoyable and almost therapeutic EP, that has your undivided attention without ever having to shake and rattle your bones. Its hypnotic and slumbrous qualities are a welcome change for anyone who feels the need to listen to something a little different from time to time, for someone who needs escape from all the chaos that can so often consume and devour us. 18 Seconds gives you that portal.

PSYCHONAUT - Violate Consensus Reality Wed, 19 Oct 2022 16:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 80c8913e-7203-4b63-b953-4311be1a779d Psychonaut are on the brink of something special here, hurtling through the earth’s atmosphere like an asteroid on a collision course with mother earth, and with the release of Violate Consensus Reality, that scorching sphere of fury has gorged the earth’s crust and set it alight! Have no doubt in your mind, this album will be huge, and deservedly so.

Psychonaut were always on The Smashing Skull Sessions radar. Their album, Unfold The God Man was ablaze with endless potential, as were their previous releases for that matter. Raucous, psychedelic flair and gut-wrenching riffs are the cornerstone of their sound. However, decorate that with rich harmonies and vicious vocal acrobatics and you have a phonic fireball of near biblical proportions. Psychonaut are on the brink of something special here, hurtling through the earth’s atmosphere like an asteroid on a collision course with mother earth, and with the release of Violate Consensus Reality, that scorching sphere of fury has gorged the earth’s crust and set it alight! Have no doubt in your mind, this album will be huge, and deservedly so.

A Storm Approaching is a very fitting title for the opening track, with its groovy bass lines and its scaling lead guitars leading the charge, followed by some super-sized drums and some dirty, fuzzy rhythm guitars. Harmony and melody mixed with obese heft and burliness give way to primal screams clashing against smooth, eurythmic singing. A superb piece of music that has everything to whet the appetite for what is to come.

It's hard not to feel the Mastodon, Amenra and Tool influences creep into the next two tracks, All Your Gods Have Gone and Age Of Separation. Both tracks are drenched in power and melody, heavy in atmosphere and dynamism. Psychonaut have found that very fragile balance of measured aggression and swashbuckling swagger, and I gotta say it’s so exciting and refreshing.

Now, lets talk about the title track, Violate Consensus Reality……. opening with the haunting vocals of Stefanie Mannaerts (Brutus) the track has you immediately transfixed, with soaring vocals drowning over rich layers of guitars and percussions. The hooks of the track’s melody pierce the skin deep, amidst a cluster of weaving hammer-ons and elevating pull-offs, never standing still, flashing through tempos and vocal tirades. Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra) also features on the track, leaving his trade-mark stamp all over the final flourishes, heightening the tension and the potency to another level. A beast of a track, and one that stays with you long after you listen to it.

Tracks like Hope, showcase Psychonaut in another light, a dimly lit one at that, overshadowed with dark sombre silhouettes that create a deeply atmospheric and distinctive sound. Violins, softly sung vocals, and chant like choruses wash over the piano keys, reminiscent of bands like Katatonia and Opeth. Interbeing on the other hand has the coolest and most addictive intro with those Tool vibes latching onto your soul like blood thirsty leeches. More dynamic tempo changes and deeply harmonised vocals really set this track aside from a lot of other progressive/post-metal tracks you will hear.

A Pacifists Guide To Violence is a vicious and bloodthirsty track that simply pulverises you without mercy. Those murderous vocals rip and sever the larynx, stretching those vocal cords to their limit while manic drum patterns and mind-bending guitar chords blister and batter your ears right to the death. This leaves the closing track Towards The Edge with the task of picking up the pieces, and reassembling your body parts, setting you up for one final assault. Melodic and euphonic vocals comfort and soothe, even under such heavy, chunky riffs. The track momentarily breaks down to a lonesome drum before erupting once more with a surge of fiery energy power, all helped by the mastered intricacies of every component within the band. Sign off with the celestial voice of Stephanie Mannaerts one final time, and you have reached the end of this enormous album.

After writing this review while listening to the album again, it only re-iterates and re-affirms what I said in my opening paragraph really. Psychonaut are on an upward trajectory with the afterburners engaged and ablaze, scorching the sky behind them. Violate Consensus Reality is a beast of an album. It has everything your mind and body wants from heavy music. October 28th is fast approaching, so be sure to have that stereo and headphones serviced and ready for an assault of the senses. Superb!

THE V.O.I.D – Into The Void (single) Mon, 17 Oct 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] fb050544-7233-42fc-bcfa-7bdf3f98151e This weeks ONE TO WATCH hails from Exeter, in the UK, and is a solo project by Sean Davey that goes under the banner of THE V.O.I.D. The full album has just been released and is available on all streaming platforms as well as Bandcamp but seeing as the ONE TO WATCH series concentrates on singles, I’m going to delve deep into the title track of the album, Into The Void.

Firstly, this album tells of the struggles and successes with mental health. It sends the message that it's ok to seek support and seek help during those darkened times. With a topic like mental health, you can imagine the music to be awash with emotion, heartbreak but ultimately hope, and that is exactly what you are adorned with. “In music, we trust, in music we feel, feel love, despair, hurt, grief darkness. This is a journey of experiences in life, this is a journey into the void”. These are the poignant and heartfelt words that are spoken over forlorn piano keys and sombre guitar chords, that guide us under their warm embrace, and comfort us as we wander deep into the void.

As the drums latch onto the melody, the track glides and shifts through a lush, celestial showering of post-rock goodness, adorned with spiralling lead guitars that entwine and envelop the listener, creating a safe haven and a place of refuge. The rhythm guitars grow, and the synthesised energy of the music elevates itself once more, all the time guided by those piano keys that now seem to echo with hope and reassurance, as the track erupts into its final crescendo with thundering percussions and heaving riffs. Into The Void is a journey within itself, that begins with questions and doubt, but ends in great clarity and conviction.

Sean Davey is a talented artist, and THE V.O.I.D is a portal to his mind. Glorious instrumental beauty awaits everyone who takes that leap of faith and jumps fearlessly Into The Void.

Gaerea - mirage Wed, 12 Oct 2022 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 7baef10c-560c-4633-9c8d-ba44f281a024 Existing since 2016 and hailing from Porto Portugal, Gaerea are a black metal band that exists of an anonymous quintet. It's nothing new or original anymore, but wearing black and gold hoods on and off stage sure helps in keeping a certain amount of mystery around the band.

After an EP simply called Gaerea in 2016, the band released their first full album** Unsettling Whispers** through Transcending Obscurity Records in 2018. Things moved very fast after that when one of the leading labels in extreme music, Season of Mist picked them up and put out album number two, Limbo, in 2020 and now number three, Mirage. With each release the band have increased it’s fame, and with this new album they have established their name definitively to the extreme subtop.

Mirage consists of eight songs with a total running time of 53 minutes and one second. The overall sound continues where Limbo stopped, so one can expect more tight, high-level musicianship here. The way the band members synchronise is just spectacular. The quality of how they are capable of producing such a distinctive sound containing fast riffing, blastbeats, breakdowns, subtle bridges, bombast, melodic passages and melancholy in the same time is of the hook. I’m not going walk you through each song, just listen to that awesome repetitive riff in Salve and you’ll get what I mean.

In about two weeks I’m going to see the band live at the Soulcrusher festival and I’m convinced this riff alone is going to tear the audience to pieces. Each song has its own recognising points like for example in Mirage the wonderful transition from ultra-fast to post-rockish/progressive peacefullness and then into beserk mode again (the abruptness and tightness sometimes reminding me of French colleagues Déluge), or the grooving and epic mid-tempo passage in album-closer Laude. It’s these typical riffs, melodies, shifts and passages that make this album so strong. And let’s not forget those vocals, full of anguish, that give the songs those gloomy and depressive layers. With a flawless production and beautiful artwork to match, this album will hit the endlists for sure in a couple of months.

Together with such an acknowledged label behind them to give everything an extra push, Gaerea will no doubt increase their status more and more in the coming years. Be sure to be part of their rise.

Kodiac – Split Routine (single) Mon, 10 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 0e561a6f-c7df-4baf-af2e-3a43f4692fc6 Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, KODIAC are back, and are about to release their first slab of doom-soaked post-metal in almost four years. This week’s ONE TO WATCH shines its dimly lit torch on their latest single Split Routine and let me tell you, it’s a wretched and woeful lament, a harrowing voyage through heavy sullen riffs and doom-laden drums. Incorporating many heavy styles of music, Split Routine has its deathly cold fingers stuck in many genres, ranging from doom to death, sludge to post-metal. It absorbs all the pain found in each of them, and harnesses all that grief and hurt to create this deeply powerful and agonizing slab of music.

The intro on Split Routine is calm, restrained and unassuming, with gentle chords plucked and carried through slow paced percussions. However, when satan’s very own throat cries and weeps, the ground shakes and you find yourself falling helplessly into a six-foot sinkhole. The weight of the track is immense, pounding on your chest as each riff and bass chord plods and chugs, rattling your ribcage without clemency. The atmosphere is bleak, there’s no denying that, but once you’ve been consumed by this, you find solace within it, and an empathy for the macabre. The funereal pace of it all devours you and has you craving more of its darkened charms. This track reminds me so much of Mourning Beloveth’s behemoth of a track, Godether, so for me kodiac have hit every nail of the coffin on the head with Split Routine. I genuinely cannot wait to hear more from these guys, and here’s hoping we won’t be waiting another four years! Set your reminders for the single release date of 21-10-2022.

Mountainscape - Atoms Unfurling Wed, 05 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3a42becc-9a90-4cb4-ac2a-1de400d386d2 Blast beats and black-metal undercurrents up the ante once more, swallowing you up in a maelstrom of post-metal ecstasy and fury, a musical nirvana for anyone who can appreciate heavy music. "When the earth does quake, the riffs are filthy and gritty, and that bass guitar literally plucks chunks out of the earths crust. Beneath all this weight and power, there’s a melodic swell that brings the track together brilliantly. Awakening hits you like a boulder, slow to mid-tempo, then crushes and destroys all in its path"

The post-music landscape can be a rugged and unforgiving terrain for bands and musicians these days. It's often a congested and swollen community bulging with endless talent and promise. Just like the vast and expansive Himalayan Mountain ranges, there are bands who stand like giants, those who's icy summits will seldom be reached or equalled, bands that have earned the right to be forever renowned and idolised. With that being said however, there are plenty of other mighty peaks that cast a sweeping shadow across that jagged landscape with their ferocious presence and stature. They stand tall and broad-chested, reaching up and pointing towards the sky with great confidence and conviction. One of these such goliaths is the very aptly named Mountainscape, from Reading, in the UK.

With a new album about to be dropped mid-October, I sense tremors and deep rumblings forthcoming! Yes, Atoms Unfurling is coming and holy shit, it is colossal. Just take the opening track for instance, Awakening, which smoulders along like heavy dense fog, crawling below the mountain tops under thundering drums and dark synths. When the earth does quake, the riffs are filthy and gritty, and that bass guitar literally plucks chunks out of the earths crust. Beneath all this weight and power, there’s a melodic swell that brings the track together brilliantly. Awakening hits you like a boulder, slow to mid-tempo, then crushes and destroys all in its path. Then you have that black metal fury at the end which absolutely destroys! What an opening!

Transient is a well-chosen track to follow Awakening as it brings your heartrate down a beat or two with its mellow plucked chords and lightly rimmed percussions. When the riffs do hit however, the skies open, with a downpouring of energy and intensity, all under the watchful eye of that lead guitar that licks and leads the way, guiding the track through various tempos and cadences.

The title track, which for me, is up there with the best post-metal tracks of the year, Atoms Unfurling is next to blow your mind wide open. Deep brooding drums and celestial synths open the track, before those gritty, chugging riffs power ahead with more swirling lead guitars as back up. The energy and direction is then flipped on its head with some airy, Ranges style expanses and lush soundscapes, before changing gear once more and piledriving home more of those glorious, heavy riffs. Blast beats and black-metal undercurrents up the ante once more, swallowing you up in a maelstrom of post-metal ecstasy and fury, a musical nirvana for anyone who can appreciate heavy music.

Solace and Earthpulse are two more slabs of post-metal played with great confidence and credence. While Solace is more ethereal and almost cosmic in sound, without losing any of its power, that bass guitar in Earthpulse is the highlight for me, as it is in essence, the pulse and the heartbeat of the track. Both pieces of music are stellar and keep this juggernaut of an album moving in the right direction, all the way to the final track.

Patterns In The Mist unearths itself below a warm synthesised breeze, rising slowly under gentle percussions and proggy guitars. Once the dam walls breach however, the full weight and heft of Mountainscape cascades forward as those megalithic riffs smash and churn up everything in its path with rich, melodic grace and precision. The ability to generate such power and ferocity and underpin it with so much harmony and resonance is truly something to behold.

Mountainscape have laid down a serious marker with Atoms Unfurling. It is an absolute mammoth of an album. It’s imposing presence and intense atmospherics make it one of the great post-metal releases. Brace yourselves!

Feed Me To The Waves - It All Lingers (single) Mon, 03 Oct 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] d6a990c9-c5fe-4f26-a91c-44c2314e3e12 Feed Me To The Waves' 2019 sophomore release Intill captured the essence of post-rock with the longing to explore the realms of dark ambient soundscapes. It was a glorious journey through a world of sounds and textures, all performed under the watchful eye of tremolo guitars and crashing percussions. Well the Swedish quartet are back once more with with a new album, Apart, which is due for release on 18-11-2022, through the mighty Dunk! Records. But between now and then we will have to make do with two pre-released tracks to fill the void between now and then.

The track I want to showcase on the ONE TO WATCH series is It All Lingers and it is a soul searching and sobering passage of music that comforts and consoles both the mind and body into a state of deepened serenity and equanimity. Think of This Will Destroy You's Tunnel Banket or Jakob's Solace and you get an idea of where this musical wandering is heading. From the slow-caressed cymbals that crash over lush ethereal soundscapes, you're immediately dosed up to an almost halucenogenic state of mind. Add to that, these fuzzy, muted guitars that filter through the dense waves of sound, and you have a piece of music that nestles intimately within your psyche, a mini voyage through deep atmospherics and warm lo-fi dreamscapes.

Feed Me To The Waves belong in the upper echelons of ambient post rock, and I get the feeling that Apart is the album that will validate that thought. Check the track out on their Bandcamp page and why not pre-order the album while you're there!

King Dude - Death Wed, 28 Sep 2022 11:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 012006ff-4d37-48a4-8d01-641217e64a77 This is your last chance to dance with me tonight

When Thomas Jefferson Cowgill started King Dude around twelve years ago he already knew that he was going to end it again one day with this final album called Death. It was never intended to last forever, "Lucifer forbids for repeating and stagnating yourself", he thought. So now, he keeps his word and hangs up his black King Dude boots.

On the ten albums that were released, King Dude gave us music with inspirations coming from dark (neo) folk, goth-synth, acoustic, americana, post-punk, blues, country and rock n roll, while thematically and lyrically dealing with the obscure, Lucifer, love, fear, sex and death. Where some albums were more acoustic orientated, on Death, the overall vibe and instrumentation emphasizes goth synth/post punk/wave, evoking the sound of Sisters of Mercy Joy Division Bauhaus and the likes.

I typically love the King Dude songs that immediately get stuck in your brain thanks to catchy and repetitive lyrics, melodies and chorusses, you know, the singalong songs!, and this album is full of those. After having the record on repeat I find myself yelling and humming along with fantastic songs such as O’ Darkness, Everybody Goes to Heaven, Cast no Reflection and my absolute album favourites, Pray for Nuclear War and Silver Cord. Be warned for these last two, cause they are going to keep you awake at night. And let’s not forget the two duet songs Sweet Death (featuring Shannon F.) and Black and Blue (featuring Nicole Estil) that sound like kick-ass modern day Cash & Carter collaborations.

With Lay Waste of the Human Race, a sensitive piano and vocals song, (with the piano playing reminding me a bit of Jon Oliva in his Savatage and Jon Oliva’s Pain era) Death comes to an end. Or to a beginning of something new? We'll have to see what the future brings from the hand of Thomas Jefferson Cowgill. If so, one thing is going to be sure: it will be interesting and worth waiting for! Until that time, thank you King Dude for all the haunting and addictive tunes. Your legacy lives forth beyond Death.

Overhead, The Albatross – L’Appel du Vide (Single) Mon, 26 Sep 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 0e1b6ace-822c-4644-9c83-f46d7411e5d0 “We have all stood at the edge of a cliff and been struck by the urge to take another step, or sat in a moving car and had the fleeting thought to open the door. We have all had that feeling. We have all felt L'appel du Vide - The Call Of The Void”

Overhead, The Albatross have basically encompassed everything about this track in what you have just read above. L’Appel du Vide is their first outing in a long while, and I gotta say, it has been very much worth the wait. Hailing from my homeland, The Emerald Isle, Overhead, The Albatross are a gem of a band, a jewel in the crown of instrumental and alternative music. Ever since Learning To Growl, back in 2016 these guys have left a void that has not been filled up to now. There is something very unique about this band, an aura and a charm about them that warms the soul and lifts the spirits.

L’Appel du Vide marks their return and it opens very patiently, with pulsing guitars and electronic percussions that get washed over with the comforting and restful strings of the violin. More electronica begins to swirl and ripple through tremolo guitars and heavenly piano keys. However when the track opens up, you are slung into the throes of a post-rock blizzard, drenched in rich, warm melodies and blissful atmospherics. Another break down in the track brings in a celestial vocal that soars and whistles through the lush wall of sound, before another grand crescendo elevates the mind and body towards the wide blue yonder.

Overhead, The Albatross are back, and they have laid down a marker that oozes class and splendour. I cannot wait to hear more from these guys, and if L’Appel du Vide is any indication of whats ahead, then we are in for a treat. Go check out their Bandcamp page and download this slab of instrumental wizardry.

TWIN DRUGS - In Now Less Than Ever Wed, 21 Sep 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 5c170cfb-8bf0-4f69-8d47-bd7178b85c20 "Twin Drugs bring a fuzzy style of indie rock that grates and gnaws at the formulaic and the conventional, resulting in a shoegazed, psychedelic spiral that corkscrews through dreamy soundscapes and post punk noises"

Boundaries are there to be pushed, right?! Music seems to be going through a growth spurt at the moment with genres exploding and shattering into shards of original and offbeat sub genres. The result of this is bands like Twin Drugs, who bring a fuzzy style of indie rock that grates and gnaws at the formulaic and the conventional, resulting in a shoegazed, psychedelic spiral that corkscrews through dreamy soundscapes and post punk noises. With no pigeonhole to nestle within, the Richmond, Virginia trio have crafted an album that meanders through soothing vocal arrangements and dreamy atmospherics, all the time smothered in a warm distorted veil of noise.

Ten tracks are the order of the day on In Now Less Than Ever, and the opener, Ash Candied Cough (what a fantastic title!) wastes no time in dropping low to the floor, throwing out these heavily distorted, fuzzy guitars and muffled percussions adorned in stark contrast with the celestial and dreamy vocal style that has become a trademark of the band. Its Radiohead drum patterns, and synthesised sorcery bring a delicious indie vibe with it that’s carried on into the following track, We Want Our Heaven. Here, we here some eccentric drum patterns washed over with introverted vocal deliveries. It pulses and palpitates like nothing I have heard in a long time. An immediate favourite?, no, but I’m sure it’s going to be one of those slow burners that will engulf me later rather than sooner!

This brings me on to one of the standout tracks on the album, World Fell Off, and its atmospheric and transient charms that remind me of a man sitting, legs crossed, playing his pungi, as the hypnotised cobra snake charms and dances his way out of his basket, basking in its hallucinogenic state. A real trippy and beautiful track. That psychedelia that’s found soaked within Twin Drugs sound is even more prevalent on tracks like Eyelets And Aglets and The Velvet Noise. Mid-tempo, blurred and erratic at times, these tracks play with your mind and your whole body for that matter. Layers lie on layers as the music fills the headspace, dreamy and wistful.

Rule 110 breaks all the rules (terrible pun alert!) with its ethereal and synth-heavy waves of sound and its 80’s aura, thick in deep dark electronica and haunting, looped passages. Think Mercury Rev, My bloody Valentine with a dream-pop quartet behind them, and you will get some idea of where this shoegazed-sherbet of a track is going.

Sazerac is in complete contrast to Rule 110, with its heavy grungy guitars and more prominent drums. It’s almost gritty and dirty in places, but there’s always that comfort blanket of dream pop to dampen the flames and bring you back on that magic carpet ride.

The Sun While You Can closes the album with its array of eclectic layers and styles, that has been at the forefront of this release right from the outset. In Now Less Than Ever is not just shoegaze, it’s not just Indie or post-punk either, but what it certainly has is a USP that will help it stand out from the rest. Twin Drugs have composed an album that is different to everything else you will hear this year. Yes, it does have all that post music vibes and that shoegazey flourishes, but the thing is , not many bands have made that concoction sound this interesting.

Blackbraid - Blackbraid I Wed, 14 Sep 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 25bbf661-531e-4288-b2e3-ac57bed5afd9 "The sound of rattling chains emphasizes the lyrics about the oppression indigenous people had to suffer. By now you’re completely plunged within the totality of this album, which feels almost like a true concept-album. Lyrically and thematically, some of the songs deal with Native American traditions and historical events and horrors, but mainly the focus is on Mother Nature and the connection humankind has lost with it"

When it comes to solo projects in the black metal spectrum, the image that "one" (or at least I) can stereotypically have, is one of a depressive loner, disappointed with the world, sitting in his parents’ dark, shabby attic (or basement) while frantically writing evil music and lyrics the entire night. With the sonic result sounding like thirteen in a dozen, there are however absolute exceptions to that rule (Mizmor, Unreqvited, Mare Cognitum anyone?) Well, this Blackbraid solo project most certainly doesn’t fit in that narrowminded image I painted before and most certainly does fit in the exceptions to the rule category.

This one-man band was founded by Sgah’gahsowáh (meaning Witch Hawk in Mohawk) who has his roots in Native American heritage and who lives in the Adirondack Wilderness, hours above New York. He is responsible for all music and lyrics except for the drums, recording, mixing and mastering which are done by Neil Schneider. The result in the form of his DIY debut album Blackbraid I is just plain astonishing, and in my opinion, it deserves your immediate attention.

The album opener The River of Time Flows Through Me fittingly begins with the sound of a peaceful flowing river for a couple of seconds and with that, the picture of that shabby attic goes out of the window for good, and a wide view over a rural wilderness takes over. Riffs are rolling and the drums kick in and this interesting journey begins. The pace is fast, and the atmosphere is mystic and in your face. Sgah’gahsowáh’s vocals play a big part in that. Expect no typical black metal shrieks or screams, but a variety of deep guttural and harsh tones with a tone ranging somewhere between and beyond Johann Hegg (Amon Amarth) and Henri Sattler (God Dethroned). In the middle of it all, the song slows down to mid-tempo, with a melodic solo and the sound of the river, but then the fast riffage returns, with that melodic soloing going along over it, with the drums blasting underneath. The floating river sounds end the song by fading into second song As the Creek Flows Softly By which is an emotionally laden instrumental song carried by an acoustic guitar and a traditional flute. I love the courage to place a song like this so early on the album, because together with the lyrics it is this indigenous sound that makes this a Native American black metal album.

Sacandaga comes bursting in, full throttle as soon as the last flute note disappears in the raven-filled sky, reminding you that this is still a black metal album you’re listening to. And while the fierce tremolo pickings are fired in your brain, another traditional instrument (is it a horn?) appears in the background and it’s so cool that the guitars pick up that same melody and continue the song from there. The pace stays ultra-fast for awhile but always with small rhythm changes that perfectly fit and give the song it’s unique body. The flute that we heard on the previous song returns for a passage as well, but not in an overkill fashion, but in a well-dosed manner.

Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood-Soaked Soil follows next and it’s a six-and-a-half-minute song with the same ingredients alternating between fast and fierce, and grooving dynamic melody. The sound of rattling chains emphasizes the lyrics about the oppression indigenous people had to suffer. By now you’re completely plunged within the totality of this album, which feels almost like a true concept-album. Lyrically and thematically, some of the songs deal with Native American traditions and historical events and horrors, but mainly the focus is on Mother Nature and the connection humankind has lost with it.

Warm Wind Whispering Softly Through Hemlock at Dusk is another instrumental song that caresses our ears and soul. This time it’s the earlier heard acoustic guitar and an electric guitar that merges their sensitive melodies as a prelude to the last song of the album: Prying Open the Jaws of Eternity. A ten-minute magnum opus that starts of as an almost doom song with the deep guttural vocals grabbing you by the balls, but slowly pacing its way up to mid-tempo, and from there into “fasten your seatbelts” mode, finally returning to the doom laden sound of earlier, leaving you with a WHOOOAHHH! what a ride, kinda feeling!

There are albums that from the first note, resonate. To me, Blackbraid I is one of those albums. And remember that this was written by one person and recorded by two, and with a production like this and no label (yet) to release it, I feel the need to spread the word, in order to give this the acknowledgement and recognition it deserves. Pick it up. Year list material.

Burning Bones - New Tsars Mon, 12 Sep 2022 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 41938ff6-a628-4cac-8772-4833948442d0 Melbourne's indie rockers Burning Bones recently released two tracks under the title New Tsar with an incisive running time of just over seven minutes, but for that short moment in time, we are embraced by two deliciously mellow and strangely melancholic lullabies to bask in. Melbourne's indie rockers Burning Bones recently released two tracks under the title New Tsars with an incisive running time of just over seven minutes, but for that short moment in time, we are embraced by two deliciously mellow and strangely melancholic lullabies to bask in. Rich soothing vocals and clean, crisp guitars bring flashes of EF and Nada Surf to the table, which has to be two of the finest ingredients to grace any ambient post-rock casserole.

The first track, Harsh Words opens with that sliding country guitar and that velvet vocal I spoke of earlier. The tempo and blueprint of the track is upbeat, but subconsciously, it seems to slumber under a heartbreaking vortex. Gentle drums brush and caress over the guitars with a dreamy, nonchalant cadence that’s both warming and comforting, allowing your head to drift off to a place more spirited, wherever that may be.

Track number two, Out west, is a piano laden piece of music that again, caresses you with its warm and emotive words, all delivered with great calm and solace. Plucked strings and soft percussions are the heartbeat of the track, keeping the music alive and truly organic. There’s no big crescendo to be found here from a musical standpoint, but emotionally the track elevates and pushes itself froward like a warm summer breeze heavy with sentiment and susceptibility.

Burning Bones have been releasing singles since 2017, so to be graced with two tracks has to be a step in the right direction!. This style of indie rock has a place in everyones life. It’s music to kick back and daydream to, music to drive and cruise to, whatever your method of winding down is, Burning Bones could easily be the soundtrack to it. Be sure to support and follow through Bandcamp and of course, other streaming platforms.

Chloe Dancer – Chloe Dancer EP Wed, 07 Sep 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 28998898-864c-4282-9308-dff2d1d67f6c Chloe Dancer is an eerie and deviant three track EP, that creeps and prowls through various musical genres, from slow shoegaze passages through to frantic blast beaten tirades. Its this stark contrast of styles that make this EP a hugely Immersive and compelling listen "Chloe Dancer is an eerie and deviant three track EP, that creeps and prowls through various musical genres, from slow shoegaze passages through to frantic blast beaten tirades. Its this stark contrast of styles that make this EP a hugely Immersive and compelling listen"

So, this weeks review has a two pronged approach to it, because not only have I come across a band whose sound hypnotised me right from the off, but it also introduced me to a new independent DIY label that has a great work ethic and a clear vision of what it wants to achieve in the music scene it finds itself in.

The band is Chloe Dancer, the brainchild of K.M North whose style of music spirals and swirls through waves of Blackgaze, Shoegaze and glorious Post-Rock. The label is Syrup Moose Records, from British Columbia, whose unique model is that of sharing and evenly distributing all that comes from the music. A refreshing and non-partisan outlook that will put Syrup Moose in good stead.

But anyway, back to the music. Chloe Dancer is an eerie and deviant three track EP, that creeps and prowls through various musical genres, from slow shoegaze passages through to frantic blast beaten tirades. Its this stark contrast of styles that make this EP a hugely Immersive and compelling listen.

Broken down into three acts, Act I opens with a haunting ,slow-tempo, cymbal crashing intro that bounces off some reverbed and fuzzy guitars, before opening up into a post-rock inspired tremolo shredding rhythm section that spellbinds and charms. However this 10 minute track has more twists and turns ahead, as the atmosphere shifts to a powerful and manic Post-Black frenzy, without ever losing its hypnotic qualities.

Act II plays out as an interlude, the glue that binds Act I and Act III together. Fuzzy, distorted waves of shoegaze feed your senses in a windstorm of sound. Its balmy yet weighty delivery never over-imposes itself on you, but at the same time theres a forceful undercurrent that breaks the surface on occasion, keeping the tension and interest alive.
Act III is a wall of blackgaze. The bass hammers out its wrath while the guitars send vicious riffs in tandem. The drums sound manic and out of control momentarily, but the more your ears adapt to the commotion, the more every instrument falls into place, releasing a trance-like fury that seeps deep into your subconscious. The track closes amidst a slumberous drum beat, with Post-Rock surges flashing over the dense percussions, right to the end.

The band’s press kit likened their sound to moments of Deafheaven and Slowdive, which is pretty accurate, but to add to that I can hear rumblings of bands like Au-Revoir and Our Ceasing Voice haunting the airwaves, which all-in-all is a good thing. Chloe Dancer are a band to watch for sure, and Syrup Moose Records deserve your attention also. Long live DIY labels and god bless the bands that support them!

Huracan – Bruises (Single) Mon, 05 Sep 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 35c0302b-9865-472c-aa23-ea2bb4c68c2a This weeks ONE TO WATCH comes from the Dunk! Records stable, and it's a band that have a passion and an unbridled aggression that pummels and destroys while at the same time piercing your skin with savage hooks and frantic melodies. Hailing from Ghent in Belgium, Huracan are due to release their third album We Are Very Happy on september 30th, and thankfully the band have graced and assaulted us with three singles already, each one more diverse and multidimensional than the next. There is an energy and a force behind each track that signals these guys’ intent.

The track we are going to highlight here is Bruises, and its a potent diatribe of angst and torment that’s tangled up in a web of deep rooted harmonics. The track rips everything asunder right from the off with those severed guitars and battered drums. The scorching vocal delivery of guest singer Wim Reygaert, who coincidentally produced the album, lacerates and cuts everything to ribbons under a cyclone of high tempo riffs and filthy bass lines. Sheer power and might whips the track into a carefully measured frenzy of melody and menace, all the time racing to the end in a cacophony of high octane energy and vigour.

Huracan have something special , an energy and a fire inside that has just been stoked. Dunk! Records dont sign up average bands, each one is a tour de force, and Huracan is no different to the rest of the Dunk! family. One to watch? bet your life it is!

RussianCircles-Gnosis Thu, 01 Sep 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 736c169a-7ae6-45d1-8a39-083adafb713c Gnosis turned out an awesome album. With its length of less than 40 min, it keeps the attention and adrenaline flowing from start to finish. The way these three musiscians are aligned and the way they can compliment each other is extraordinary. With a nice production and stunning artwork this is just a top notch release that will end up high in many yearlists I predict "Gnosis turned out an awesome album. With its length of less than 40 min, it keeps the attention and adrenaline flowing from start to finish. The way these three musiscians are aligned and the way they can compliment each other is extraordinary. With a nice production and stunning artwork this is just a top notch release that will end up high in many yearlists I predict".

The instrumental post metal/rock powerhouse trio Russian Circles are back. Three years after Blood Year, their eight studio album** Gnosis** was released on the 19th of August via Sargent House.

With the pandemic paralysing the live music world, the only good thing that came from that was the time bands were given to write and record new music. The Chicago-based musicians must have felt strange with all the extra time on their hands, and with no deadlines in sight. Therefore, the new songs could get the process they needed to reach perfection. Whoever saw the trio live will know and feel the synergy and dynamism between them, which is so important in creating their own unique feeling. I remember seeing them live for the first time, at the mighty Dunk! Festival, and being completely ovewhelmed with the power and diversity they were able to produce with just the three of them. To be honest, since their crushing albums Memorial and Guidance, I haven’t really picked up Blood Year somehow, but when I gave Gnosis a first listen I was impressed immediately and gave it much more spins after that. It’s yet another killer album.

First song Tupilak begins a bit safe, but builts up to an exciting, energetic and powerful post-metal track, and is followed by Conduit, which immediately kicks off with heavy rolling riffs that return several times during the song until its abrupt ending. Title-track Gnosis opens with post-rock dreaminess that continues and grows in volume with a freakingly awesome last minute that’s full of heavy grooving riffages, thundering bass and hyper drum patterns. That’s going to be another fan-favourite live for sure. Also worth mentioning is that they made their first ever music video for this song.

Vlastimil sounds very transparant with many open and melodic passages, but secretely there are also some of the heaviest and fastest parts of the album in there. Ó braonáin is a short slow guitar-solo that sounds very light and friendly and stands out between all the heaviness and darkness. After less than two minutes Betrayal takes over again with a blastbeat and furious guitar and bass. I can’t recall Russian Circles sound any heavier than this part ever before. The overal sound and pace of this song stays like this with a full on, thundering climax in the end.

With Betrayal still reverberating, the album closer Bloom comes in and with that the most post-rock’ish and shoegaze song of the album. It contains so much melancholy that it evokes a deep Solstafír type atmosphere, and before you know it the album is finished.

Gnosis turned out an awesome album. With its length of less than 40 min, it keeps the attention and adrenaline flowing from start to finish. The way these three musiscians are aligned and the way they can compliment each other is extraordinary. With a nice production and stunning artwork this is just a top notch release that will end up high in many yearlists I predict.

Tides From Nebula – The Sweetest Way To Die (Single) Mon, 29 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 52a88819-e24f-46b0-9fd4-33371561dd26 This weeks ONE TO WATCH is from one of the most imaginative and innovative post bands out there today. Dynamic and intense electronica married with the power and grit of good old fashioned post- rock has been the recipe to Tides From Nebula’s success in recent years. Their futuristic and ultra-modern approach on From Voodoo to Zen set the bar dangerously high!, and this latest single The Sweetest Way To Die is a follow on from that, loaded in atmospherics, with an uplifting and refreshing quality that oozes class.

The Sweetest Way to Die opens with synths and percussions rolling over an off-centre guitar passage. The unorthodox gallop of the track is an instant hit, with lead guitars shooting lazers across the sky like earthly spotlights, while a fuzzy rhtyhm guitar and funky bass give the music great volume and space. Tempo changes and subtle variations in direction keep the track fresh and upbeat with shredded tremolo outbursts and rapid rolling drums seeing out this progressive and synthesised piece of magic.

It’s great to see Tides From Nebula back again. It’s nearly three years since their last studio album and between themselves and Leech, there's a void that needs to be filled with this style of post-rock. I’m excited to see what the Polish trio have in store for us over the next few months!

Long distance Calling - Eraser Tue, 23 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a01370a6-b74c-4dd4-90fc-5a92b982e5ee "Eraser is a monumental and majestic slab of instrumental music that pushes boundaries and explores the gulf between moments of euphoric, guitar-soaring highs and dark, sullen riffs and percussions. Consistency, with the natural ability to experiment and evolve has made Germany’s Long Distance Calling one of the best bands in the business, and Eraser is just another step on the road to perfection"

Long distance Calling are back, even though they were never gone! Eraser is about to be dropped to the masses this week, and to be honest, I’m in a state of indescribable rapture after spending the last couple of weeks listening to this masterpiece on repeat. It has become the soundtrack to my summer, but even bigger than that, it could well become the soundtrack to a movement and a realisation that we as humans are the foremost architects of this earths unravelling. Eraser is two things. Firstly, it’s a call to arms so to speak, a wake-up call, and a stark realisation that some of the most amazing animals on our planet are on the brink of extinction. A heavy-hearted topic for sure and one that should resonate with most of us, as we walk this earth, leaving our deep sunken footprints on the sand.

Secondly however, Eraser is a monumental and majestic slab of instrumental music that pushes boundaries and explores the gulf between moments of euphoric, guitar- soaring highs and dark, sullen riffs and percussions. Long Distance Calling have never released a poor album, in my opinion. They have a discography that warrants the greatest of respect, just take for example the heavy and hugely melodic Avoid The Light, right through to the inspiring and uplifting Boundless. Consistency, with the natural ability to experiment and evolve has made Germany’s Long Distance Calling one of the best bands in the business, and Eraser is just another step on the road to perfection.

Every track on this record is a heavy hitter, that needs to be tracked and traced by the richter scale! The magnitude and amplitude found in tracks like Blades showcase the measured and technical ferocity that Long Distance Calling have at their disposal. Deep, cutting riffs erupt under swirling solo passages, all smothered in molten magma and rumbling drums. This may well be LDC’s heaviest release to date, the guitars sound menacing, the bass is bad ass, and the drums could very easily cause an avalanche when they find their rhythm.

Each track depicts an animal on Eraser, and a track like Kamila suits the mighty gorilla to a tee, with its broad-chested, chugs and beats. The guitars are super heavy here, but the beauty about LDC is that there’s always a hook and a melody that ropes it all together. Even through the more serene moments of the track there’s an air of power and ferocity just waiting to be unleashed, and it’s done so with a coolness and a calmness that only these guys can pull off.

I couldn’t possibly do a track-by-track review of this album as there is so much to unravel and digest. Needless to say, there is not a filler in sight. Tracks like 500 Years bring with it wailing guitars and double kicked drums that pulverise and punish, while the majestic albatross is adorned and revered with the herculean Giants Leaving.
Blood Honey brings with it swarms of fizzing energy that manoeuvres through off-beat rhythms and into a slumbrous bass and piano trance, while Landless King brings the funk and the swagger, like a mammoth sea giant, as it glides and breaks the ocean’s surface.

But I want to keep the best till last on this review, and it’s a track that breaks down every musical barrier and arrangement that exists in rock music, in order to compose and invent this magical track that meanders and ambles through velvet pathways, soaking in sweet saxophones and sophisticated basslines. Sloth is one of those heavenly tracks that improvises and impulsively draws you into the world of this restful mammal as he hangs upside down within his canopied rainforest, his home. Rich Sax solos overlap and caress the spiralling Floydesque guitars as the music is pulled slowly along by the ponderous and trance inducing pace of the track. It’s a composition that I have played over and over again, enjoying it all the more each time. Track of the year? Absolutely!

Long Distance Calling have penned an album that cements their place at the top of the food chain. I can’t say any more than that really. I witnessed them at Dunk this year and it only reaffirmed my love and respect for what they have already achieved as a band, and ultimately what has yet to come. 10/10

In Lieu Of Flowers - Garden Of Light Mon, 22 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3c87eb1f-173f-45c7-b3f2-9cb730a6d82d On this week's ONE TO WATCH series, we head to Texas and fall into a post-black trance with In Lieu Of Flowers, with their latest track Garden Of Light.

Taking inspiration and guidance from bands like Nordsind, Olhava, Daygraves and Violet Cold, the American duo have crafted a track that swings effortlessly on a pendulum of emotion, bringing us on a journey between all things beautiful and all that’s harrowing.

Opening with a melody that's caressed by richly strummed chords, the track begins with a pleasant and plush tremolo inspired passage, all so serene and calming. However, once the drums grasp hold of the track the music gathers momentum before some fuzzy, power-driven, black-gaze riffs lay siege, leaning all it's might and weight to one side of the pendulum. The intensity continues to escalate before finally exploding into a whirlwind of post-black bliss and beauty. The layers of sound wash over and fill every inch of space, led by the ferocious blast beats that are both electrifying and elevating. There's even a synthesized key that acts as a metronome, all the time enhancing the melody without ever suffocating or stifling the atmosphere. It’s a 5-minute journey that pivots between two powerful forces, darkness and light, with each one releasing a musical nocturne that captivates and excites.

Garden Of Light was released on August 04th, and I can't wait to hear what follows. Any fan of atmospheric, black-gazed music needs to drop by In Lieu Of Flowers Bandcamp page. A stunning track

Chat Pile - God’s Country Thu, 18 Aug 2022 18:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a292bfbe-51d2-4114-80cb-1a9cd419ed6a "One can empathize with what he genuinly brings across in his words, tone and volume. You can hear and feel his pure emotions when he ventilates his lyrics (autobiographical or not) through his spoken-word singing, howls, screams or grunts"

Originating from early 2019 Chat Pile is an Oklahoma, US based noise-rock/sludge band. They released two EP's (This Dungeon Earth and Remove Your Skin Please) in 2019, but I only got acquainted through their split with Portrayal Of Guilt last year.

From that moment on I had my eyes on them because with their style of music, you raise an eyebrow, or two at first, and soon after you find yourself nodding your head and digging their intensity, and finally, before you know it, you are hooked and addicted to hear more. So, I was eagerly waiting for their debut album to arrive and as I expected, the first single that saw the light of day only confirmed that my impatience was for a good reason.

God’s Country got released through the interesting San Francisco based label The Flenser ( Midwife, Mamaleek, King Woman) and the first reactions are purely positive. Music-wise the songs breath a typical underground DIY vibe with no compromises. As Bill Hicks once beautifuly stated: “Play from your fucking heart!” well that’s what these guys do. The bass is fat and low-tuned, the drums sound Godfleshish-like, heavily industrial and the guitar is filthy and omnious. One moment the music is transparant and building, the other moment it's erupting and exploding like an unexpected right-hook to the jaw. On top of all those sounds are the charismatic vocals of Raygun Busch (real name Randy Heyer). Quite an interesting approach vocally I have to say. In his maniacal rants, on the verge of psychiatry, he reminds me of Alexis Marschall from Daughters.

As a teacher in social work I train students in the importance of empathizing with other human beings in order to get into and understand their living world. As a social worker you have to find a certain balance in feeling with and for the other, but not get too emotional attached with someone else’s problems either, otherwise they become your burden keeping you awake every night feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and with the images of other peoples traumatic experiences haunting you. As a vocalist in Chat Pile, now that’s a whole different story of course! Here, it seems to be impossible NOT to over-empathize, and perhaps it’s the only way to fully express? Busch seems to be able to totally immerse himself in the immense and ever growing shit pile American society (and the whole world that is) brings forth. One can empathize with what he genuinly brings across in his words, tone and volume. You can hear and feel his pure emotions when he ventilates his lyrics (autobiographical or not) through his spoken-word singing, howls, screams or grunts. You can feel his pain and utter sadness when he screams about what animals are going through in Slaughterhouses. Right there and then he’s not just singing about an animal, he IS that animal, feeling it’s pain and sadness. You can feel the complete hopelessness, powerlessness and rage he feels for the suffering of his fellow human beings who have to live and die outside, while we have the means and resources to do it differently.

In I Don’t Care If I Burn (which is more like a radio play with spoken word and sound effects) and album closer grimacesmokingweed.jpeg you start to believe Rusch is truly fighting to keep in touch with reality and not slip into a delusional murderous or suicidal psychosis. Just listen to those primal, gut-spilling and soul-tearing screams that end this album. If these don’t get under your skin just a little bit, then you’re a cold-hearted and soulless weirdo. And if you were dreaming about becoming a social worker, here’s some advice: please don’t!.

The entire album is like this. Each song is soaked with Rusch’s vulnerability, balancing delicately on the edge of insanity, psychosis and (self) murder. “You were not supposed to see this, but here it is!” And it’s exactly this that gives this album and band that extra dimension. Fucking brilliant. Yearlist material.

Dawnwalker – House of Sand Wed, 10 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 65847cfe-b5ba-4f3b-b3b8-451b63d05fb5 House Of Sand is a dark and often solemn portrayal of the human psyche transcribed through a triumphant collection of tracks that come together impeccably into one musical montage

As a music reviewer there are times when you fear falling short on expressing either the beauty or the brains behind an album. Some albums are special, for one reason or another, whether it be the emotion it bestows upon the listener, or the creativity and technical ability that bends the mind. Dawnwalker’s latest album House Of Sand is one of those artistic creations that ambushed me and captured my imagination instantly. Not because of its pioneering and hi-tech gadgetry, which has definitely helped revolutionise song writing over the last 20 years, but because of it’s "back to basics" concept of bringing together a collective of musicians wielding guitars, piano and violins with the backing of crooners and balladeers! House Of Sand is a dark and often solemn portrayal of the human psyche transcribed through a triumphant collection of tracks that come together impeccably into one musical montage.

R.I.P wastes no time in making an impression with its instant hit of delicious prog rock, caressed with clean, melodic vocals and a hook that soars through the sombre atmosphere. The growling death vocals towards the end of the track gives an indication of the dark emotive tension that weighs heavy on this album. Demon Of Noontide is built with the same structure as the opening track, deeply melancholic and harbouring plenty of hurt and pain, but somehow managing to contain it amidst the dimly lit recesses.

The Witness anchors itself off a brilliantly clever narrative, that speaks with emotion and sentiment, an interlude if you will, before flowing seamlessly into False Doors, a track that cleverly harnesses the emotion found in harmonised vocals. The music is timid and becomes the backdrop to the vocals, something akin to what Baroness did brilliantly on Little Things from the Yellow & Green album and even on Cocanium in the closing stages of this track. Slow brooding riffs and soaring vocals see out the track before closing on another sampled narrative that’s simple in delivery but black in wit.

The cries of a violin make their first appearance on the cold and muted acoustic intro of_ Egypt_. As this track wakes up however, a fierce, almost black-metal riff chugs and thunders through a deep-set bassline with more angelic vocals. There is so much happening on this album, so many influences and characteristics sweeping right through every track, that there are times when your head wants to explode with all these little nuances and variations that transport you through a musical discography of great music. Even the title track House Of Sand for example, is something very different, and very unique, yet you feel like you heard it before!!! Well, you did, by the Rock and Roll Legend himself Elvis! 60’s 70’s, 80’s, it’s all in here, and it’s bloody brilliant!

The spoken passage of The Prisoner along with its theatrical crescendo brings Pink Floyd into Dawnwalkers world, before quickly alternating once more into the beautifully smooth and stony contrasts of Prog-Rock and Soft-Rock. 40-Watt Sun, Anathema, Opeth all grace this track and make this musical journey thoroughly enjoyable.

One of the heaviest and dominant tracks on the album Coming Forth By Day is simply colossal. Right from the dramatic and grandiose guitars to the shredded tremolo chords and punishing drums, magnificent vocals battle with vicious screams in a dog fight between good and evil. A solitary bass guitar breaks the track momentarily before getting consumed once more in a blizzard of deathly squalls. I absolutely love this track!

Standing Stones piano laden intro along with heart-breaking violins and choral vocals raise every hair on the back of your neck, such is the emotion and pain found buried deep in the track. This progressive and melancholic style of rock always appeals to me and resonates with me every time I hear this kind of track. House Of Sand II - “Pillar of salt blows in the wind, Houses of sand, slowly crumbling” echoes and resounds into a Post-Rock crescendo that is both beautiful and forlorn, accentuated by some glorious vocal acrobatics that spiral and blow between these aforementioned pillars.

The final piece of music Mildew closes the curtain on an album that is in truth, a story. The music reflects the artwork of Mitchell Nolte’s cover painting, which is a backdrop of idyllic suburbs and the darkness that may be lurking beneath. The underbelly of House Of Sand is quite gloomy and downbeat, but the craft involved in making that happen through glorious passages of music is a gift in songwriting and creativity. Dawnwalker have written an album that spans genres, decades, and emotions. It is an album that will be held in very high regard across various musical circles for a long time to come. Sublime.

COLDWORLD – Walz Mon, 08 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3060f25f-3ef4-434d-89c2-7da1c6d08d90 Next up on The Smashing Skull Sessions ONE TO WATCH series is a track from the upcoming Coldworld album, Isolation, which is due for release in late September. Solo project of Georg A. Börner, the track Walz is a turbulent and harrowing journey through the realms of atmospheric black metal, all the time cloaked under a cloud of dark ambient soundscapes. With two full albums already under his belt, G.B. has well and truly mastered his craft, knowing precisely how to express the cold, dark landscapes through depressive passages and harrowing vocals.

Walz opens with a brisk and blackened riff that shreds and grinds beneath a ferocious and fiendish vocal. Its pitch rebounds and echoes through the bleak atmosphere until an ambient passage, serenaded by a lone violin, cuts the tension momentarily. Lead guitars try to lift the spirits above the low lying mist, gasping for oxygen in under a chorus of haunting voices and succumbed chords. It’s a short track in length, but what it has in abundance is emotion, tension, and a forlorn beauty that only whets the appetite for the full album release. Isolation is only a few weeks away, but there is plenty of merchandise already available through the Bandcamp page or through the purveyors of all things dark, Eisenwald. Go check them both out!

White Ward - False Light Thu, 04 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3b8e289b-fb7f-4431-b61a-591904e72349 That’s the beauty of music. They can't get that from you...haven't you ever felt that way about music? Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget. Forget that...there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside...that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours…. Hope

A beautiful phrase that painfully proves it’s truth right now for this band living in Ukraine. A phrase they most likely weren’t consciously thinking of while writing and creating their third album because then their country wasn’t in war yet. False Light is out now approximately six weeks and the way it’s been received sure will give hope to the band since it’s just massive. And rightfully so.

On the first two full-length albums (Futility Report and Love Exchange Failure) WHITE WARD already showed that they are a different breed and they put themselves on the radar for everyone to keep an eye on in the future. Well, the future is now, and music-wise the world lies open for them. With this gem they draw attention from all kinds of music lovers. Their deviant style of black metal develops real fast and they dared to experiment even further with different instruments, vocals and arrangements. The use of a saxophone or brass instruments in general is something that more extreme newschool bands incorporate (Rivers of Nihil, Five the Hierophant or Aetheria Conscientia to name a few) and that’s an interesting development and one can only be curious what the next step in evolution is going to be on that front.

On this album WW wanted to address certain topics and themes they needed the world to know about such as government-sanctioned murders, domestic abuse, police brutality, overconsumption and environmental catastrophes. The album opener Leviathan thematically continues where Love Exchange Faillure ended and builds a bridge between that album and False Light. You know you’re into something special when an album begins with a thirteen minutes song. After a peaceful synth opening suddenly the guitars and sax kick in massively and we’re off. The pace is thriving with the drums going beserk, the riffs and melodies are as tight and swinging as ever before and the vocals are harsh. Midway the song fades into silence. A clean guitar lick interludes a wonderful minutes-long trumpet passage played by Jerome Burns. This sounds so open and pure. With the eyes closed one can see a silhouette standing and blowing the trumpet in the middle of a desolated street in an Ukranian ghosttown… Then the same riffs that opened the song kick in again to continue the second half towards another fade as a finish.The bar is set very high.

Second song Salt Paradise differs quite from the rest at first listen, but after each rotation it fits more and more since the use of clean vocals occurs more often in various ways later on the album. Third song Phoenix tells the story of Kateryna Handziuk, an Ukrainian activist who was investigating the mass forest fires in the Kherson region when she suddenly died after an acid attack. The song has the same built up: easy listening, fast aggressive, jazzy midpart and then built up again to full throttle with great synth and aggressive multiple backing vocals along the way.

Silence Circles also starts off tranquilo, silence before the storm. Sax, keyboard (by Mykola Lebed) and samples are altered with heavy and filthy guitars, blasting drums, and grunts go hand in hand with blackened screams and clean vocals. The dark jazzy instrumental Echoes in Eternity is strategically placed as a winddown after those intense longer songs and in the same time also placed before another two heavy songs that follow after.

Cronus starts off with clean vocals by Vitaliy Harvilenko, who can also be heard on the song No Cure for Pain on the previous album. His sound gives the song a certain post-punk/wave start before the blasting takes over. The intense lyrics deal about the dead of a five year old boy who got shot by a police officer. Just like on the entire album the lyrics go as deep and high as the music, completing eachother perfectly. Title song False Light leans more towards death metal with the grunting and blastbeats. And then with another easy-listening instrumental Downfall, although accompanied again with deep-thinking voice over samples, one can take a deep breath and reflect while the album slowely comes to and end. Whoeha, what a ride.

False Light is an album with so many well-thought directions and layers, touching base on all kinds of musical subgenres performed on such a high-quality level, with a fantastic production and similar artwork (Lucas DeShazer), resulting in a near perfect masterpiece. I cannot see another band surpassing this brilliance in the coming months to dethrone False Light as my AOTY. I believe this band isn’t even at their peak yet. Can you imagine what their next album is going to sound like after the war is done and they are going to process all the horrors and emotions into their music? Hope is a good thing. Let’s hope they can start writing that album as soon as possible. In the meantime let the world embrace and immerse in this modern classic.

In2Elements - Dystopia (Single) Mon, 01 Aug 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] bf27d706-0c79-4bcf-b9fc-9a7df0f21fa1 This week’s ONE TO WATCH series takes us to Southern Poland, and gifts us with the first track to be taken from In2Elements upcoming release It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn. Dystopia is a track that showcases the shady and arcane side to Post-Rock, feeding off that cosmic, but moonless ether that fills the skies above. As the title suggests it’s music that transports you to a place that’s cold and unbounded where hope can fade, and darkness can consume.

A wave of celestial synths open the track, immediately transporting into the great wide open, with gentle guitars following the slow, but measured drum patterns. In typical Post-Rock fashion the track begins its journey through dreamy passages and chunky riffs with that soaring lead guitar sailing through the thick dense atmosphere. The slow to mid-tempo pace of the track brings with it a flurry of heavy, fleshy riffs and a sea of synths, that reach the stratosphere and sail off into the wide blue yonder. Dystopia is Post-Rock done to perfection, and has a taste of more off it.

I have been lucky enough to hear this album in full, so if you find that Dystopia has the ability to carry and transport you through blissfully dark, astral worlds, then their new album is a must have. With a release date of early September, there’s not long to wait, so be sure to keep an eye on their Bandcamp page, as well as their galactic voyage through Europe alongside some equally impressive bands.

ourhomeisthesky – Reflections Thu, 28 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a1e909c9-230c-4d2e-8139-dc367fc84d74 "ourhomeisthesky is a haunting and soul-stirring synthesis of post-black harshness and dreamy shoegaze atmospherics which make Reflections an unspoilt and untouched diamond in the rough"

I treated myself to a wander through Bandcamp last week, with no real direction or path to follow. It was a blank canvas, a musical map that held no destination, and it's journeys like this that more often than not, unearth some gems. Needless to say, my Wishlist has been well fed and fattened up and ready for slaughter! And first on the butcher’s block is an unknown entity for me up to now. Hailing from Hobart, Australia, ourhomeisthesky is a haunting and soul-stirring synthesis of post-black harshness and dreamy shoegaze atmospherics which make Reflections an unspoilt and untouched diamond in the rough. I know very little about ourhomeisthesky, and I think that has added to the mystery and intrigue of this release.

The opening track, Reflection I awakens with a soft piano and a sea of synths that ebb and flow between the ebony and ivory keys. It’s unassuming and almost introverted to begin with, but as the rhythm guitars begin their ascent through the synthesised haze, the power and the melody take over the track and with a simple and delicate lead guitar leading the way, the music reaches this rich, atmospheric crescendo which aches and feeds off bands like Olhava, and that delicious post-black scene that has engulfed St. Petersburg.

Deserted follows with the same tempo and ethereal presence of what went before it, soaking in heavy atmospherics and ambience. However, on Deserted we are introduced to some sombre, lachrymose vocals that almost weep and cry before getting devoured in a blackgazed mist and smothered with a deathly vocal that rolls with the music and summons some incredible Floyd-esque guitar solos, bringing the music to another plateau. It’s a dark, but beautiful track.

Reflection II keeps the atmosphere on a positive high with more lead guitars that soar and drift over the main passage of music. Those of you who love to seek refuge is swarms of melody and hair-raising highs will devour this track. It reminds me so much of the music and emotion that Anathema were able to produce when they hit that sweet spot. It takes you somewhere else, far from the everyday grind, and opens a window to the mind, where you can lose yourself and feel damn good about it.

The closing track, Breathe brings back those warm Olhava moments with its repetitive dreamgazed riff and trance-like atmosphere. Black-metal vocals tear through that utopian dreamworld, however they’re not at all harsh or uncomfortable, they’re diluted down just enough to make an impact without tearing the atmosphere to shreds. Just think of the latest Show Me A Dinosaur material or even Deafheaven, and you’ll have an idea of where you have been transported to. It’s another very impressive passage of music and a very fitting way to close the album.

ourhomeisthesky is probably not on the tip of everyone’s tongue but believe me when I say that this music deserves an audience. So many amazing artists are among us, you just gotta do a little digging to reap the rewards. As I’ve said so many times!!!! Check out their Bandcamp page!

Entropy – Death Spell (Single) Mon, 25 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 026628d4-8c06-4c7a-a372-0ffadfb1f692 Hamburg’s shoegazed, Indie rockers Entropy will be releasing a three track EP entitled Death Spell very soon, so on this week’s ONE TO WATCH series, we will be focussing on the title track of the EP, Death Spell.

Nostalgic, uplifting and drenched in grunge, the track opens with a fresh, guitar-driven indie riff that’s made for those long meandering road trips under glorious sunshine, with the cool, coastal breeze rushing through the wide-open windows. The feel-good factor is further heightened by the soothing, shoegaze inspired vocals that stream and swirl through every hook and melody, carving out a soundtrack to the summer, a track to play aloud from the beauty of the morning’s sunrise right through to its sunset under those shimmering blood red skies. Entropy have melody and emotion in abundance, pulling on the heartstrings of times past, combining musical influences from the eighties and nineties, and injecting it with a luminescence that lifts the spirits. Call it rock, call it indie, call it shoegaze, either which way, it’s positive and emotive music that there to be enjoyed.

Keep an eye on their bandcamp page for the release, which is due around the 29th July.

Wilderness Of Mirrors – Extinction Level Event Tue, 19 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] ff5d9103-fd5b-401a-b69b-a62c23ae5c5b The doom inspired riffs echo and rebound off the inner walls of the chamber as the heat and ferocity inside reaches fever pitch. All that tarred and molten rock begins to weep and seep under beautiful tremolo guitars and rolling drums.

Well, I have to say, getting hold of Wilderness Of Mirrors latest album was an exciting prospect. I have been a fan of Andie’s solo project for a while now, and having reviewed his last release Melancholia last year, I was mad eager to get my teeth into this album. So, just to paint the picture for you, the concept behind Extinction Level Event is one of what ifs and maybes. To quote Andie himself, “what would happen if a super volcano, such as the Yellowstone Caldera were to erupt?” Well Extinction Level Event hurtles you into the throes of such a nightmare, and with Andie’s gift of narrating through melody, sit back and brace yourself as the nightmare becomes reality once those headphones are put on.

Magma chamber opens proceedings with its long, heavy and reverbed notes filling the inner chamber, with sporadic drums causing the magma inside to bubble and boil, generating vile energy and ferocity. As soon as the main hook of the track gathers momentum, the melody begins to flow, slow and steady. The doom inspired riffs echo and rebound off the inner walls of the chamber as the heat and ferocity inside reaches fever pitch. All that tarred and molten rock begins to weep and seep under beautiful tremolo guitars and rolling drums. The energy is immense as it plunders forward with a sense of inevitability, and just like the chamber itself, it’s ready to unleash its power and fury.

That power is radiated once more on_ Harmonic Tremors_ through the harsh chugging riffs that sign the death march, as the snail-paced rhythm guitars gather momentum under a synthesised cloud of ash and fire. Similar to Magma Chamber, the atmosphere being created here is overwhelming, and Andie has this natural talent of making the music do all the talking, every guitar riff, every bass line and every drum crash is cleverly orchestrated and has its place and purpose in the bigger picture. This abundance of talent is showcased to perfection on the next track, Earth Sleeps-Nature Is Stirred-Eruption Begins.

It opens with calming, reassuring synths and dreamy guitars that blanket and comfort, as the world lies in slumber, blissfully unaware of what impending doom awaits. But, once the track erupts, the sheer weight and blackened beauty of the guitars and the forlorn piano keys spit lava and fire into the sky, releasing all that underground energy and potency. What follows this is a twelve-minute beast of a track named Pyroclastic Flow, that follows the trail of this molten mess as it meanders its way down the mountainside. Its slow, sluggish riffs, and soaring lead guitar builds on the tension and atmosphere. Musically, this is atmospheric post-metal at its finest, rich in harmonics with a dark underbelly, always tense and always hugely emotive. The closing few minutes of Pyroclastic Flow is as good an example of emotive metal as you will find anywhere. A masterclass in song writing.

Bliss Of Devastation Part 1 and part 2 showcase another string to Andie's bow. These two tracks are venomous and bitter, and as the title suggests, they devastate. Part 1 leans heavy on those sunken Black Sabbath riffs, but they’re cleverly washed over with hugely atmospheric lead guitars and deathly bass chords. Then you have part 2, which is an aural assault of post-black brilliance that gallops and crashes into a stone-walled riff, depicting the devastation caused by mother earth. More sombre piano keys break up the track before a tsunami of destruction takes over once more, played through down tuned riffs and forceful atmospherics.

Year Zero-Human Extinction-Nature Starts Over brings the curtain down on an album that literally throws you into the darkest recesses of humankind. The album, though hypothetical, could so very easily become reality. We as a race, are at the mercy of this planet. The rumblings and the tremors we feel and hear are warnings. We are tenants here, simple as! We can’t stop the earth from unleashing its anger whenever it decides to do so. Mankind needs to respect its power, and all we can do as mere mortals here, is be prepared.

Wilderness Of Mirrors and Andie have taken a huge leap on this release, stepping out of his comfort zone, and trying out something new. All previous releases have been very personal for Andie, where he wears his heart on his sleeve, and through his talent and creativity, gives rise to some of the most beautiful and equally melancholic pieces of music you will hear. Extinction Level Event shares all that beauty and darkness, but this time its from a different perspective. Enjoy!

KOLLAPS\E – ERA (Single) Mon, 18 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 4d583cb0-b0b8-48e5-aff6-ba4e2429f1b0 This weeks ONE TO WATCH series finds itself smothered beneath the blistering and often brutal wall of sound that’s been ruggedly moulded by Sweden’s post-metal and sludge undertakers KOLLAPS\E. Their latest single ERA is a titan of a track and is an indicator of what is to come on their upcoming EP, which has yet to be given a release date. So, for now, let ERA demolish and devour you.

Even though the track opens with the stirrings of a sci-fi drama, don’t allow the high-tech layers of sound fool you. Once those crushing guitars and brutal cries force themselves on you, the dynamic immediately shifts to a sinister and heinous point in time. The riffs are drawn from leaden strings while the bass guitar is played beneath the ground, such is the weight and depth of the chords. The slow to mid-tempo drums stamp and pound their authority from start to finish, creating a fluid and well-timed track, even while riding the peaks and troughs of their sound. One thing that really makes ERA stand out from its peers is that even amidst those heavy and weighty passages, there’s a rigid and well-balanced melody that re-enforces the track, making it a very memorable piece of music.

Be sure to check out their earlier releases, such as The Pandemic Sessions in order to hear more of KOLLAPS\E’s brilliant and often brutal post-metal style, and here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long for their EP to surface.

PANZERFAUST - The Suns of Perdition, Chapter III: The Astral Drain Wed, 13 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 868b242c-06d3-41e6-960c-ccc566dc3a6a "The harmonies are subtle but visible amidst the predominantly dark layered ambience, allowing the hooks of the track to pierce your skin and play you like a marionette, taking full control of your body while defiantly tormenting your soul".

Canada's PANZERFAUST will be unleashing their highly anticipated sixth album The Astral Drain, forming the third chapter of "The Suns of Perdition" tetralogy on 22nd July and it is a disturbing and jet-black journey, documenting mankind's descent into madness, opening the door to a chamber of horrors that unleash the terror and trepidation of our own wrongdoing. This pilgrimage of sorts is littered in disquiet, and a foreboding paranoia the seeps deep within the soul, conjuring up images of despair, and drains all hope from the body. The Astral Drain is not for the faint hearted, or for those who sleep lightly, this is a nightmare, where sleep paralysis deadens the mind and body allowing PANZERFAUST to consume and conquer.

Hells gates open with the backdrop of lashing rain and screams of despair, before the power and the down-trodden atmosphere makes way for the opening track, Death-Drive Projections. Deep, Throaty vocals dance under the sorcery of mid-tempo drums and bleak, harsh guitars that distort and muffle through every chord. The terrain is dark but layered with some deeply atmospheric passages that give the track a trance inducing feel to it, all the time building in intensity and growing ever so sombre. It rumbles along, dormant and patient as lead guitar bleed from a wailing wall of noise, bringing the first track to an almighty end.

The First interlude of the album, The Fear brings with it reverb and menace. The single chords hang like dense fog, before bringing forth with it B22: The Hive And The Hole. Two toned death growls narrate and tear at the throat before the blackened percussions and heavy rhythm guitars are uncloaked, left bare and uncoiled. The harmonies are subtle but visible amidst the predominantly dark layered ambience, allowing the hooks of the track to pierce your skin and play you like a marionette, taking full control of your body while defiantly tormenting your soul.

And it’s The Pain that is echoed through the next interlude, before Bonfire Of The Insanities bring with them reflections of Slayer’s South Of Heaven, with their slowly strummed chords, revealing a deep distant vocal that morphs into a mass gregorian chant which is both haunting and deeply melancholic. This track truly is a blueprint for great black-metal vocals, with the varied depths and ranges being showcased, illustrating the beauty and turmoil that is to be found in the black-metal genre.

The Fury interlude leads us into the first, dare I say up-tempo track! The music brings with it more purpose as The Far Bank At The River Styx unleashes a post-black gallop that tears the earth underfoot to smithereens. Double kicks and shredded riffs along with a barrelling base summon a storm, that pulverises and blows the album wide open. It’s a fierce and bloodthirsty track that’s layered with bleak atmospherics and a wicked melody.

The Final interlude Enantodromia brings the final track Tabula Rasa to us for one final assault. I’m not sure it will bring with it a clean slate though, as everything that has gone before it has left a deep scar that will take forever to heal, but this doesn’t stop the tribal drums and manic musicianship to swallow you up once more in a tirade of blackened magnificence that closes an album that won’t be forgotten for a long time to come.

In my opinion, The Astral Drain stands as PANZERFAUST's most accomplished and ambitious work to date, unearthing great depth and measured complexity within its song writing, and inventiveness that can only be found buried deep beneath its black-metal headstone. A superb release.

MAZIAC – Acid (Single) Mon, 11 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] ba7b165d-7e6e-4f15-b2f1-9760510b5047 Another ONE TO WATCH for you all this Monday, and another London based modern prog-metal/alternative rock band for you all to consume. MAZIAC recently released Acid to the masses, and just like the corrosive nature of the substance, this track will devour and eat away at everything in its path.

The track opens with a sharp, crisp meandering riff and a precise mechanical drum passage that pounds and pummels right into the first vocal rhetoric which has a shady and malevolent undertone to it. Even though the music is definitive and sharply defined, there’s an air of hostility about the place, a sense of impending doom and demise. Contrasting clean vocals cross over the track, which are heavily melodic and euphonic. Deaths own voice then casts a shadow over everything, delivering its guttural growls, adding another dimension to an already multi-layered narrative. The final couple of minutes of the music transcends into an array of riffs, lead solos and tempo changes as MAZIAC converge for one final assault.

Acid is a multidimensional rollercoaster that drives and powers through various prog progressions and eclectic metal nuances, creating an intense and textured tour de force. Keep your eyes peeled for more MAZIAC music to follow, aon’t forget to hit Bandcamp and support the guys!

Psychonaut - Interbeing (Single) Mon, 04 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a3126c57-ab7c-479e-a8f2-50491878a0ee There’s tension, and an air of excitement about the place as the first sightings of new Psychonaut music emerges. The Belgian trio have always released quality material, mesmerising us with their psychedelic post-metal harmonics and their clean and gritty vocal crossovers. There’s no doubt about it, Belgium has become a searing cauldron of fiery post music, and there seems to be no end to the talent being poured upon us.

Interbeing is Psychonaut’s latest release and it’s a slab of skillfully crafted post-metal that’s built on various layers of euphonic atmospherics and opposing vocal frameworks, all cemented together beneath a heaving guitar groove that gets right under your skin. Beginning with some simple guitar chords and patient drums, it doesn’t take long before the guitar hook tears through the calm and unleashes a riff that’s adorned with Tool nuances and vibes. Gravel-torn cries give the track a bitter bite that snarls and snaps at the clean harmonic delivery, giving the music greater depth and a dynamic edge that’s razor sharp. The melody hurtles through various tempo changes and structures effortlessly, bringing you through soothing silver-toned passages and big, thunderous crescendos. Interbeing is a well-polished and meticulously played slab of progressive post-metal that has just enough psychedelia to keep Psychonaut fans very happy indeed. There is progression in their sound, a certain refinement about it, but that takes nothing away from the ferocity and fire that’s burning beneath the volcanic surface.

These guys are on an upward trajectory, and that doesn’t happen by chance. Psychonaut are all talented musicians, and know how to write great music, just ask Pelagic Records

The Ever Living – Artificial Devices Sat, 02 Jul 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 56e7777f-792b-4e39-8cdc-96edf8e99034 The Ever Living have manufactured an album that scours the vast soundscapes of alternative metal, adding layers of sprawling synths, and crushing, drop-tuned riffs that vortex into one huge epic orchestral cyclone of near biblical proportions. The antediluvian weight and power of this album is cleverly balanced with the high-tech complexities of modern-day electronica

I was lucky enough to review The Ever Living’s single Total Impasse a few weeks back and since then this highly anticipated release has been high on The Smashing Skull Sessions wantlist! So here it is in all its glory, and let me tell you, it goes beyond my expectations. The London duo of Chris Bevan Lee (vocalist, keyboards, programming) and Andrei Alan (guitars, bass, programming) have manufactured an album that scours the vast soundscapes of alternative metal, adding layers of sprawling synths, and crushing, drop-tuned riffs that vortex into one huge epic orchestral cyclone of near biblical proportions. The antediluvian weight and power of this album is cleverly balanced with the high-tech complexities of modern-day electronica. Often harsh and vicious, but always smothered in rich atmospherics, Artificial Devices is a kaleidoscope of modern, alternative metal that perfectly depicts the age we live in.

Omniphorm opens the album with some lush guitars, rich in melody and positivity, with bright keys playing over a vast synthesised skyline. Even when the gritty, coarse vocals break through, it takes nothing away from the mood and feeling of the track. Riffs begin to open themselves up, stretching and flexing their muscle as keyboards continue to wash over everything. Omniphorm is a deeply melodic and sometimes harsh affair with those guitars weighing heavy with venom and purpose.

The industrial vibes on De-Emulate really show The Ever Living’s talent for creating punchy high-tech harmonies that bond tightly with just the right amount of old school bass and guitars. No single element ever smothers the other, it all drives forward in unison, and straight into Circadian March, which is a giant wall of grandiose synths, heavily embellished with some electronic pads and recorded spoken passage. There is a really good flow to the album, with great care and detail given to the track listing. Every song seems to hold its own amidst the eight tracks.

The real force and potency of The Ever Living is found on Total Impasse. That deep and dirty bass line at the beginning has got serious attitude! As I mentioned on my mini review of this track last month, the power and venom of the track is instant and builds towards a tsunami of measured ferocity and synthesised waves. The vocal delivery is both gut-wrenching and severe and breaks against every crash cymbal and tempo change. Well, I stand by that description, and each time I play the track it gets bigger and better.

Tracks like You’ve Come To The Right Place continue the industrial tendencies, leaning heavily on a Ministry crutch, but never needing the second one to help it stand on its own merit. Flourishes of the nineties are awash throughout, and even into the intro of the final track, Take Heed, Take Flight. However, once this song does take flight it soars in mid-tempo thermals with more scowling vocals and deep-set riffs. Drums crash and pummel their way to the finale with the bass again showing its teeth, before the track fades into a synthesised haze, ending a hugely entertaining and unique musical journey.

Guitarist Andrei Alan was quoted as saying "My guitars no longer presented me with ideas, and I was starting to think that perhaps I had said everything that I had to say." Well, this album has clearly shown that The Ever Living have found their voice again, and have written an album that’s fresh, experimental, with a taste of more off it….. and I f#*king love it!

MARA - Nightbound (Single) Mon, 27 Jun 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] fa929d14-5559-4c2f-8b7a-c1a9c2838ca5 Next up in our ONE TO WATCH series is the rebellious and malevolent sounds of Swedish Death Metallers MARA, and their latest single Nightbound.

The track instantly explodes with a fury of high paced guitars, clambering drums and a deathly cry that entrenches itself deep within your soul right from the off. A lead guitar signals its war cry before the riffs hit with bitter cold force and technical vividness. The energy and power of this track beats you to a pulp, with screams of Nightbound ringing in your ears. It’s not long, however, before the track takes a sinister twist and breaks down into an Opeth inspired plucked passage that’s all the time leaden with a deep and dark bass line. As the paces gathers momentum once more, you’re adorned with some hair-raising guitar solos that swirl and corkscrew through the rhythm guitar sections, even sidestepping into a sick yet slick bass solo. From here on, you’re catapulted through a catacomb of night terrors and head trips that stay with you long after the track has ended.

Death Metal has never sounded so fresh and ferocious, and its refreshing to hear that deliberate nod to the titans of the nineties thrown in for good measure. MARA have a bright future ahead, that’s for sure, especially when you hear extreme metal played with such technical flair and prowess. With no imminent release date for an album, be sure to keep an eye on future single releases down the track.

Lascar - Presence Wed, 22 Jun 2022 03:30:00 +0100 [email protected] 9e6f2e47-afc0-4680-a595-ad485a9fc8a7 Like any great musical genre, it can branch out and diversify, unearthing something new and interesting at every turn. It becomes a labyrinth of dark shadowy tunnels that lead you somewhere cold, bleak and nerve-racking, and you wouldn’t want it any other way!

Santiago Chile is home to Lascar, and Gabriel Hugo, its creator. Inspired by nature, spirituality and the human condition, this beautifully crafted, but achingly bleak style of furious, black-gazed splendour brings you on the wildest and harshest of journeys. The music is hugely emotive, saturated in a vicious euphonic diatribe that can shatter the stoniest of hearts. This music is not for the faint hearted either, or those who’s nerves are delicately balanced on a knife edge. To appreciate the blackened beauty of Presence, you need to be laid bare before it, and be willing to succumb to everything it throws at you.

The opening track, The Garden greets you with a soft acoustic melody, gently synthesised with an airy, seraphic breeze. However, as soon as the heavens open, thunderous guitars are shredded and ripped asunder, giving off a numbing and hypnotic aura. The blast beats tear the skies apart as Satan’s very own throat pours its jet-black heart out upon all of mankind. The emotion and the atmosphere are huge, bringing with them something addictive and spellbinding. That same entrancing spell continues through Endless Night Journey. The melody is heart-breaking and soul-destroying in equal measure, with a vocal delivery that weeps and wails in sorrow, and it’s this kind of emotion that enthrals me and makes me crave more. The passion and the pain is relentless, just as any depressive black metal album should.

I find myself falling deeper and deeper into the bottomless, black-gazed pit quite a lot lately. Like any great musical genre, it can branch out and diversify, unearthing something new and interesting at every turn. It becomes a labyrinth of dark shadowy tunnels that lead you somewhere cold, bleak and nerve-racking, and you wouldn’t want it any other way!

The diversity I mentioned earlier can be found in tracks like Albatross Epiphany, with its slightly brighter feel to it, maybe that’s due to the synths that weigh heavy on the track, but there’s definitely something more personal buried within the cries and funereal paced composition. Lyrically, Gabriel has penned some beautiful words, though macabre and sullen. “Your glowing forest, signal of repent. Albatross epiphany as he nips the buds. They will never get over this. Memories of a golden life”. Poetic and heartfelt.

The title track Presence has exactly that, great presence and power in its opening riffs. A Passionate gloom fills the air on this track with its furious paced drums laying siege, quickly followed by that hypnotic and melodic guitar. It leads us into the closing track, Crystal Giant, a track that is a sea of energy and again, a catchy melody buried in a shallow grave behind the musical mayhem. The track changes gears on several occasions and it’s the first track where I got a strong whiff of Violet Cold emanating from the depths. An acoustic interlude sets the track up for the grand finale, that post music moment where every ounce of energy, atmosphere and sorrow bombards you in a moment of bleak celestial bliss.

Lascar ticks every box if you crave music that cuts deep and leaves a lasting impression with its black-gazed fuzziness and its post black lineage. I wouldn’t have found this album if it wasn’t for an online friend, Jenni, who shared this epic release on Instagram, so with that in mind, I’m happy to be late to the Lascar party rather than never know it took place! Presence is a superb release.

Marlugubre – Bleak Are The November Nights (Single) Mon, 20 Jun 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 21c4f560-9f82-46a1-8655-22a88c65f4a9 Marlugubre is a solo project hailing from Taranto, Italy. There are two reasons why I chose this artist and track for the ONE-TO-WATCH series, first one being the incredible talent on display, and the sheer weight of emotion the track carries on its very broad shoulders. The second reason is the fact that it is associated with Frozen Woods Records. This independent label from Turin, Italy has a gift of unearthing these unique and talented artists from the vast and endless wilderness of bleak, dark and atmospheric music.

Bleak Are The November Nights is taken from Marlugubre’s second full length album Maladie, which is due for release on 07-07-2022. Heavily influenced by the Progressive Death Metal and Post-Black Metal genres, this track is a vehement, yet passionate piece of music that bobs and weaves through rich acoustic passages and heavy burdensome riffs, all of which are baptised in deep sentiment and euphony. It’s never easy to marry two such extremes, but Marlugubre executes this flawlessly, all the time kneading the two contraries with torrential drum kicks and harrowing vocals. To add to this grandiose wall of sound, there are wanderings of sweet soaring solos that sweep through every crack and crevice, creating something altogether beautiful, though heavy in darkness.

The whole Post-Black and Blackgaze scene is thriving at the moment and it’s easy to see why, when talent like this is there to be consumed and absorbed. Marlugubre is certainly one to watch and with a deeply emotive and fascinating tale to tell, Maladie should be something special.

Yoo Doo Right - A Murmur, Boundless To The East Thu, 16 Jun 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 856ba271-6c61-4e9e-834c-011e2dda0e94 Yoo Doo Right have crafted an album that never tires, it’s an album that tosses you through an endless kaleidoscopic oblivion, stopping off briefly to allow each utopian dreamworld soak into your bloodstream before hurtling you onwards once more. It’s an album you cannot get bored of, simple as that!

Live music can possess you in so many ways. Recently, I was taking a breather mid-festival, eyes semi-closed, beer in hand, resting on a bench, blissfully unaware that the hypnotic murmurs I could hear behind the concrete wall I was resting against, were seeping into my body, right through to my feet, causing them to tap in sync with every muffled drumbeat that penetrated the mortar. It was at that moment that my torso dragged itself up and carried itself into the room, which was saturated and drowning in a shoegazed, psychedelic trip. The rich bass lines, and synthesised soundscapes carried throughout the room. Everyone that had congregated there were swaying and drowning in a percussive trance, with moody and melodic guitars brushing over its captive audience.

That was my experience of seeing and hearing Yoo Doo Right for the first time! As much as we love seeing our favourite artists playing live, there’s something extra special in finding someone new, a band that comes at you right out of leftfield and possesses your soul for 40 minutes. Yoo Doo Right’s ability to mesmerise and enthral you with their experimental concoction of krautrock, shoegaze and post-rock will hypnotize and paralyze, bringing you to a state of harmonic rapture and musical rhapsody
Their latest release, A Murmur, Boundless To The East is an album that needs to be experienced without interference. Right from the opening track, Say Less, Do more, latches onto you with its dreamy bass guitar and addictive, opioid charm. When the vocals enter the mix, it is totally unexpected and refreshing. It’s a chant, a voice to the masses, that wakes the fuzzy guitars from their slumber, synchronising everyone into a musical ensemble that floats and levitates right through to the end of the track.

SMB is a hypnotic, slow building and foot tapping wall of lush, rich harmonics that take their orders from that metronomic kick drum and those gently plucked tremolo chords. Patience is a virtue on this track as it carefully adds layers of melody and suspense on top of the other, causing the body to rock ever so gingerly in anticipation of the magical moment when it all comes at you in a tsunami of textures and noise, which it does, momentarily, before retreating back into that slow metronomic drum kick.

Derive on the other hand is a flurry of noise that engulfs the senses with its spatial and wide-open sprawl of sounds and synths. It’s all very psychedelic and almost futuristic in delivery. Yoo Doo Right never let you fall into that trap of being bored or fatigued by the album, instead tracks like The Failure Is Stiff, Tired Friends brings the mind-bending groove back in time with a western themed guitar which plucks out desert riffs from the deep, wild west.

For me however, as amazing as this album is, the jewel in the crown must be the swansong, Feet Together, Face Up, On The Front Lawn. A glorious post rock intro unleashes a vocal delivery seldom associated with this style of music. It’s fresh, funky and thick with attitude, and breaks up each section of the track brilliantly, allowing the soundscapes to explode and grow in many directions. To call this track experimental would go some way in describing the journey it takes. Wailing guitars, married with downtrodden riffs make way for celestial orchestrated moments that swarm and expand beyond the horizon. Violins lament and drums crash, as the track comes to a drowsy, tortoise-like end, giving closure to this sixteen-minute epic.

Yoo Doo Right have crafted an album that never tires, it’s an album that tosses you through an endless kaleidoscopic oblivion, stopping off briefly to allow each utopian dreamworld soak into your bloodstream before hurtling you onwards once more. It’s an album you cannot get bored of, simple as that!

TELOS - Smother (Single) Mon, 13 Jun 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a5dea697-316b-453f-9304-c67d19238a20 Next up on our ONE-TO-WATCH series, is Copenhagen’s blackened hardcore outfit Telos, and their chaotic and heavy hitting track Smother. Inspired by personal tragedy and the growing onslaught of fake news, Smother is a three-minute condemnation of all that, and so much more.

Smother could not be more aptly named because as soon as the track explodes you are utterly consumed and asphyxiated by the filthiest of riffs that wreak havoc and utter chaos with the most sinister and uncomfortable level of ferocity. Crushing percussive passages lay the foundations of the track, with a twisted bass hook underlining the sheer intensity of it all. Once the vocal onslaught grabs you by the throat, those blackened screams lay pressure on the windpipe, restricting the airwaves, and bringing you to that delicate stage between consciousness and a comatose stupor. Smother is a vicious track, breaking through death and hardcore tirades, with those shredded, high pitched guitars giving everything a scorched and charred aftertaste.

With no release date as yet for Telos’s full album, this track will give you plenty of forewarning on what to expect when it does eventually lay siege. Brace yourself!

Am Fost La Munte Și Mi-a Plăcut – La Vale Thu, 09 Jun 2022 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] df4c2283-4bcb-45b4-90e2-563c0e55157e "There’s no slow post rock build up needed here, you are literally swept into the sky on a magic carpet ride, sailing the blue, cloudless skies with that beautifully toned bass guitar acting as a thermal cushion, keeping everything in a state of heavenly bliss".

Right, so how do I even begin this review! Well, the First time I ever heard of Am Fost La Munte Și Mi-a Plăcut was at the forest stage at dunk!festival back in 2019. It was a glorious weekend of non-stop post music, and those of you who have experienced the forest stage, will know that it had the ability to conjure up a little bit of magic, as the lights shone through the trees, casting long shadows deep into the woodland, while the music lifted spirits and emotions, generating a majestic and unique atmosphere. Well, these five Romanian guys took to that very stage, and within two minutes of the opening track I was hooked. The energy, emotion and intensity they projected had everyone swaying, nodding and stargazing in unison.

So, when guitarist Mircea made contact with me, asking if I’d review the new album, I was both honoured and excited. I maybe two weeks late in getting it published, but some things can’t be rushed, and savouring La Vale was one such instance where I needed to absorb and fully appreciate the album before I wrote about it! So here I go….finally!

Ne Cerem Scuze Pentru Disconfortul Creat is the opening track, and it wastes no time in smothering you in a heavy post rock veil that shrouds from head to toe. The music is crisp, emotive and laced in rich harmonies and delicious plucked chords that blend beautifully with the harsh, heavy-drawn rhythm guitars. Those dreamy and slumberous drums march the track along nonchalantly, never panicking, and always in control. Even when the track breaks down to a plucked interlude, you know there’s no rush in reaching that post rock high, you know, that moment when the hairs stand on the back of your neck and a shiver channels its way down through every vertebra. Here, the melody intensifies but never implodes, and instead it fades away into the distance.

Tremolo chords hang and hover over a simple base line on Sertarul Cu Apă, and its that simplicity and that underlying melody that transcends this track into another atmosphere. There’s no slow post rock build up needed here, you are literally swept into the sky on a magic carpet ride, sailing the blue, cloudless skies with that beautifully toned bass guitar acting as a thermal cushion, keeping everything in a state of heavenly bliss.

Am Fost La Munte Și Mi-a Plăcut’s previous album La Deal was a real juicy slab of post rock with great harmony and timing, but I think La Vale has been a huge progression in terms of its diversity and song writing. Tracks like În Caz De Forță Majoră for instance, takes possession of some brilliant Mogwai moments, while Dar În 1996? is a heavenly acoustic piece that is soaked in dense thick atmospherics that slots in perfectly at the midway point. Even the heart-breaking tremolo intro of Nu Mai Comandăm De La Ăștia carries murmurs of Mono but in the same breath they rubberstamp their own sound on it with those powerful rhythm guitars, and that swirling lead guitar, that conducts and guides the track to that astounding post rock crescendo, it’s truly magical.

Kilometri Reali and Bravo Tată, Ia Uite Ce Băiat, Bravo are another two incredible tracks that carry with them a more old fashioned and trademarked approach to post music with their hugely atmospheric builds and their meandering guitars, that reach that near celestial moment, before exhausting all that energy into the great blue yonder. There’s nothing wrong with that either, isn’t it one of the reasons we adore this genre of music?!

The closing track on the album, Să Zică Și Băieții is the perfect track to sign off with. Beginning with open chords that reverb and echo, the track slowly plods along, giving the track great depth and room to breathe. Shifting harmonies, with a little groove and swagger, take the track along a different path towards that grand finish, that final destination, where every instrument opens up and carries its soul through each chord and percussive crash. It's like the swansong of an intimate live gig where every head and every limb launches forward in tandem, just as every power chord crashes against it. A really nice way to close out an album that has truly left its mark on me.

Am Fost La Munte Și Mi-a Plăcut are some of the nicest guys in the business, and I think they have taken a giant leap in going from the roguery people may have though they represented at the very beginning, to a tight and masterful post rock outfit. La Vale is as good as any album you will hear this year, and just because you can’t pronounce or spell the band’s name, doesnt mean it can't be up there as one of your albums of the year!

Hiroe - Black Mountain (single) Mon, 06 Jun 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 33264c82-cf49-4755-b729-5b9f7c3e71b1 This weeks ONE-TO-WATCH comes in the shape of Hiroe, a hard-hitting post-metal behemoth from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hiroe will be releasing their debut album Wrought through the mighty Pelagic Records, and it’s a record that's been forged from the hardship and the drudgery that has fenced us all in over the last three years. Wrought could easily represent an enclosure of cold steel railings that have been hammered and formed with man’s very own primitive tools, incarcerating us all in our own physical and mental asylum. It's a lookback at how we have had to diversify, adapt and metamorphose into something that's alien to us.

The first track that has been released from the album is Black Mountain, and it's a force that needs to be heard, inhaled and digested. The track opens in a hazy, crisp and hypnotic guitar passage that is armoured with the same clarity and conviction of bands like If These Trees Could Talk. The melody corrugates and folds over itself like formed molten steel, all the time keeping its shape through flashing drums and percussions. As the track begins to open up, the layers begin to warp and buckle beneath that biting bass guitar, that plucks out dark sombre notes amidst swells of halcyon solos . As Black Mountain continues to surge forward, it hurtles riff after riff, amassing a tension that almost consumes and suffocates, before the tone shifts, bringing shards of hope to the forefront, and pulling you from the darkest depths with its outstretched steel beam, releasing you from the throes of despair.

Black Mountain is a reflection of a bleak point in time, a track that is sodden in dark, turbulent undertones and crushing riffs, that gorge on every ounce of hope, without empathy. Pelagic Records make very few, if any mistakes when bringing bands into the family, so this album is sure to explode. I would also suggest you keep your eyes peeled here, because I don’t think you’ve heard the last of these guys on The Smashing Skull Sessions either.

Cave In - Heavy Pendulum Tue, 31 May 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] a71d5ba6-9f63-45db-a8bd-525fffed7e28 "It’s time to move up from being an insider tip to a spot on the pedestal next to all the other bands from the Massachusetts area. I for one cannot wait to see where they go in the future when they distill the formula of this album down to perfection"

This band has been through a lot. From being a critically acclaimed hardcore band, to turning into a rock powerhouse on a major-label and touring with the Foo Fighters, to their demise because they failed the labels expectations, and the band basically became nonexistent for a couple of years (even though they never broke up). The untimely death of their bass player and songwriter Caleb Scofield may have been the worst these guys have ever gone through, but they came out stronger in the end. It is a miracle that this band pulled themselves together to release a new record, especially as this might be the best they sounded in years. To fill in the shoes of their fallen comrade they recruited Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom, Doomriders) and recorded some of their strongest songs to date, but also some of their weakest but let’s not jump ahead of ourselves...

The new Cave In record Heavy Pendulum starts off remarkably strong with the groove driven riff monster that is New Reality. While still catchy this is easily the meanest sounding piece of music this band has created in ages. If this is an indicator for things to come we are in for a treat. The Songs on this album range from straight up hardcore songs that other likeminded bands wish they could write, to almost proggy or krautrock territory. While in the past you could always pinpoint the musical direction and specific influences of each Cave In record, this time it feels like they pull all of them together to fire on all cylinders. Ultimately this is the records biggest strength as well as its biggest fault. While all songs sound cohesive and written from the same group of people, sometimes the gap between the heavier and the more melodic side is just a bit too much, but that could just be the kid in me which fell in love with Until The Heart Stops (probably their heaviest record ever).

What I do appreciate is their will to experiment with different soundscapes within their own sound cosmos and the willingness to just get very weird from time to time, Pendulambient is the perfect result of that. The 70s called and they want their hallucinogenics back!. Also the lyrical themes are a bit more on the optimistic and positive side of things, which is very refreshing when you compare this band to their peers. I think this is probably the result of the stuff this band has gone through. I remember an interview specifically stating that these guys always felt like they went to war together and came back alive.

The record could have been so much more of a ride if it would just be a bit shorter. While a 71-minute playtime sounds impressive on paper, towards the end of it the fillers become more and more apparent, and the songs start to meander a bit. Thankfully Cave In decided to put some bangers near the end of the record for a pay off, but is it a pay off when some of the material beforehand missed the mark? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Another point of critique I have seen over the last few days was the voice of singer and guitar player Stephen Brodsky, but that is a sentiment that I cannot echo, I love this man’s voice and he could serenade me to sleep for the rest of my life.

Even though not their best record this is still a strong effort and probably their best sounding in years (Kurt Balou of Converge worked his magic again). Also, I am just glad that a band like Cave In exists and finally gets the attention they always deserved. It’s time to move up from being an insider tip to a spot on the pedestal next to all the other bands from the Massachusetts area. I for one cannot wait to see where they go in the future when they distill the formula of this album down to perfection. If this record is an indicator the best Record of Cave In may just be around the corner.

Living with Giants – This Place Is Not A Home Wed, 25 May 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 842c45ba-2f93-4b02-b549-937fcbd58c30 "The Moment We Escaped opens with a single string that echoes and resonates, suspended in the air by the singular drum beat that leads the track into a flourish of warm summer riffs and breezy percussions. It’s a hopeful track, full of restful ambiances and textures"

Does the band name sound familiar to you? Yes, it is a very post-rock name I know! but you have definitely heard it before, and more importantly, heard their music. After an eight-year long hiatus, Living With Giants have returned to being an active recording band. Now only a two-man venture, both Ryan Mannie and Carver Simmons have decided to breathe new life into the band following their 2011 album The World Is Held By A Taut String. The Sacramento duo have wasted no time in finding their feet and have hit the ground running with their return album This Place Is Not A Home. Here’s a few words about it!

The opening track, introduction, is exactly that, an intro that samples and sounds all that you’re about to experience on this album. It’s a small synthesised piece, but there is an anticipation and a rich warm embrace buried beneath the soundscape that welcomes you into their domain and gracefully opens the door to the second track , The Part Where… This track is flooded with crisp guitar tones and post rock radiance, all the time carried along by galloping percussions, that momentarily pause, before erupting once more into a voyage of guitar swells that bow and arc through different and often irregular notes, reaching fever pitch, but never hitting that post music crescendo you might have expected. Instead, the music waves retreat and recede for now.

The Moment We Escaped opens with a single string that echoes and resonates, suspended in the air by the singular drum beat that leads the track into a flourish of warm summer riffs and breezy percussions. It’s a hopeful track, full of restful ambiances and textures. Drum rolls and crashing cymbals produce this air of expanse and intimacy, and it all feels warm and welcoming. What’s really nice about it is the fact that there’s no rush here, once you’re in that moment, you can stay a while and soak it all up. When the track does eventually change pace, the build is patient and that crescendo finally emerges, filling the sky with bursts of colour, the explode into a downpour of positivity.

The following two tracks, A Yearlong Departure and Wander continue this gorgeous post rock adventure, with boundless moments of uplifting highs and quieter, more thought-provoking lows. This album never really releases you from its embrace at any stage throughout its path. It keeps the listener close and comfortable. There is nothing overly unique about This Place Is Not A Home, but it really is a beautiful piece of positive and uplifting post rock, that will always find a home with listeners that delve into this genre for its sometimes heart-breaking, but always positive and emotive highs.

Living with Giants are back, and they have most certainly retained the seat they vacated almost eight years ago. Be sure to check out the single The Moment We Escaped, and mark in your online calendars 27th May 2022, when the album will be available in full.

Ode & Elegy - Ode & Elegy Mon, 23 May 2022 04:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 39730df2-fedd-437f-b648-05dab628dd5e "...if you are a lover of music as a universal force, and enjoy music that can seep into your bloodstream and reach every part of your body, releasing endorphins that can raise hairs, break hearts and draw tears, then Ode & Elegy is an album that will bring you through every emotion possible".

Sometimes there are albums that fall on your lap and you put them aside for a while, with all the greatest will in the world to get to them eventually, but that’s not always the case. Ode & Elegy is one such album. Released back in February, I stumbled upon it and slotted it into my wishlist in Bandcamp, and that’s where it stayed gathering tech-dust, until a facebook friend, Eric Young floated my name to Kent of Ode & Elegy, and to cut a long story short, here I am reviewing the album.

First off, I need to get something across before I try and untangle and lay bare, the story of this fifty-five-minute requiem. This musical composition has completely consumed me and has had me in rapture and despair throughout its soul-searching journey. This intricate and vast opus tells the story of someone who is nearing death and through the guidance and eyes of a heron, encounters their life from the lofty heights above. What branches out below below is life squandered and a road that is strewn with pain and desolation. This lifetime’s journey is littered with memories and misgivings, all musically narrated through a cacophony of string quartets, brass orchestrations and choral rhapsodies, beautifully blended with the harshness and the hardship of doom rock and metal.

Ode & Elegy opens with shivering chamber music that aches and whistles through every hair on your body. The lamentations and the heartache are felt through every string as they shed bitter tears before becoming engulfed in heaving guitars and percussions. As the air clears, angels weep and serenade, bringing with them flashes reminiscent of the brilliant Dead Can Dance. As the vocals become clearer and more angelic, they are soon joined by calm acoustic strings.

As the atmosphere thickens with a brass-filled outcry, guitars get angry, and the journey is led down a treacherous path of vicious screams and manic musicianship that branch off into a haunting, but somewhat heart-warming vocal that comforts and consoles this person who is forced to take a hard look at the life they have lived. As they witness their life lose colour and clarity, the music summons a storm that is thick and blackened with swollen clouds and merciless rains. The pain and the hurt is relentless as the winds carry the Sofia Session Choir's voices deep within its belly, hurtling grim and sombre reminders like harpoons, that pierce a weary soul.

A brief pause in this opus gives hope, and gives our journeyman time to reflect, and through provocative violins, bass and cello, gives credence of rebirth, and another chance at life, albeit through new eyes. The musical journey that coincides and follows on from this moment of clarity is a passage of post-rock perfection that builds in tempo and builds in atmosphere and fever, orchestrating into a harmonic and passionate crescendo, adorned with vacuumed screams and harrowing melody that become a beacon of light in such a sombre saga.

I have to say, this review is hard to do, simply because so much happens in this album, from moments of violent and agonising orchestration to polar moments of chilling and heart-rending choral acrobatics. It has everything. To try and put it another way maybe! if you are a lover of music as a universal force, and enjoy music that can seep into your bloodstream and reach every part of your body, releasing endorphins that can raise hairs, break hearts and draw tears, then Ode & Elegy is an album that will bring you through every emotion possible.

To create a composition that incorporates chamber folk, doom metal, and neoclassical music, and then some! takes very talented individuals. To compose a piece of music that stretches fifty-five minutes and keeps you in suspense throughout is no easy feat either. Those of you already familiar with Ode & Elegy in their previous life The Pax Cecelia, will not be one bit shocked to hear such an epic release. Either way it is genius.

If I had to compare this album to another, in order to give some folk a reference point, I would say it encompasses a lot of the beauty that’s found in albums like Omnio from In The Woods, Rotten Fruit: Regular Orchard from Portal To The God Damn Blood Dimension, and a solid slab of Dead Can Dance. I don’t think there’s anymore left to say here, other than you must listen to this, and you must give it the time it deserves.

Cairns - Keening Mon, 16 May 2022 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] cd98a677-c1a6-4689-a6a7-8b6d2c1de9a9 Everything about this EP had my attention the moment I laid my eyes and ears on it. The ancient burial tomb depicted in the artwork gave you a good indication where this was going. The EP title, Keening, which is the Intense mournful and wailing after death, usually at a funeral or wake, further cemented the mood and the direction that this album was going to take. And after endless listens uninterrupted, it has certainly delivered. The grief within is palpable, and rests heavy on your ears, but within all that shadowey and blissful lamenting, there’s moments of hope and buoyancy rising from the mist.

But before any light is seen, The Wicker Ablaze opens in a maelstrom of atmospheric, post-black ruination that flattens and floors you right from the get-go. Its high-speed tirade is adorned with a visceral and deathly vocal that gets tongue twisted and tangled up in a blizzard of a shredded guitar frenzies and blast beaten brutality. Its as intense an opening to a track as you’ll find this year, with all the energy being harnessed and cleverly dispersed in moments of stormy passages braided with slower, melodic components and synthesised chants. The Wicker Ablaze encompasses everything that’s great about atmospheric metal, in the sense that it’s laced in measured harmonies, that get whipped up in a furore of fuzzy riffs and percussions. I’ve been playing this EP solidly over the last three weeks and this track is one that I will never tire of.

What follows is When The Days Grew Shorter, and the diversity of Cairns gets its first breath of air with a sombre and acoustically charged intro, that wallows in its own melody and grips tight on that watered down, distant death metal vocal. However, what engulfs the senses next is a beautifully orchestrated chorus, vocalised with great emotion and melody that catches you by surprise, but it does add more depth and expanse to the track, making it a lot more memorable. More post-black riffs split the track into sections of high intensity force and heart-wrenching crescendos.

Cairns have really created something special with this EP, because even though it reeks of atmospheric black metal, there are great moments of clarity and melody-driven hard rock sprawled throughout. The Eternal Sea, for example, has a groove and a stoner vibe about it that has me immediately thinking of ** The Angelus** and Mountaineer’s recent releases. It’s a moment of light in what is a bleak and darkened EP, and it is absolutely glorious to hear!

The closing track, Haunted, samples everything that we have heard in the previous three tracks and weaves us an atmospheric post-black backing track that’s flooded with a shoe gazed vocal that warms the soul, and is the perfect contrast to the coarse and gritty growls. The track is huge and is a mountain of energy and attitude, and really showcases the talent that Cairns have in abundance. Production wise the EP is on the money, beautifully balanced between moments of distorted doom and cool, calm clarity.

I’m sure Keening will be up there come December as one of the great and underrated releases of the year. It may fall under the atmospheric black metal spectrum, but this EP is not defined by any genre. No linear or rigid lines were followed, Cairns allowed their sound to follow its own path, and I’m so glad of that.

The Ever Living - Total Impasse (Single) Thu, 12 May 2022 13:45:00 +0100 [email protected] 50ca577e-ff0c-483c-bffb-07e2dc4d820a Next up in our ONE TO WATCH series is the explosive and synth-soaked sounds of The Ever Living. Total Impasse is the first track off their new album, Artificial Devices, which is due for release on July 15th, but I couldn’t wait until then to expose their synthesised and doom driven heaviness to all who will listen. You need to go back to 2018’s Herephemine, if you want to get your musical fix of The Ever Living, so it’s with open arms that we welcome the news that new material is on the horizon.

To whet the appetite, Total Impasse has been gifted to us as a precursor to the album, and fans of the band will immediately drown in its sea of violent riffs and bludgeoning bass lines. The power and venom of the track is instant and builds towards a tsunami of measured ferocity and synthesised waves. The vocal delivery is both gut-wrenching and severe and breaks against every crash cymbal and tempo change. The Ever Living like their synths, and I’m delighted to see the guys use them unequivocally and decisively on the track, as it has become almost a trademark to their sound and style.

If Total Impasse is a taster of what’s to come, Artificial Devices is going to be an imposing and towering slab of alternative metal, so buckle up!

Merrow - Mojave Repressions Wed, 11 May 2022 07:00:00 +0100 [email protected] e83b0e6f-19af-4cca-8795-b650a28feb40 "Precise, palm muted riffs which go hand in hand with some atonal and dissonant parts. The way this track shifts from full throttle to being very sludgy is also so surprising that it caught me off guard for a second"

If you are slightly interested in guitars and musical gear in general, there is a pretty good chance that you heard of Keith Merrow. He made a name reviewing guitars, pedals and amps for quite a while. Over the last couple of years, he has shifted away from being a YouTube content creator, and more towards creating and releasing some very well received albums and EP’s in various different projects ( Conquering Dystopia, Demisery, Alluvial and more recently, Nightmarer). Apart from that he also releases music under his own name. While dawning his own name this EP has a lot of incredible guest musicians on it. Chris Finster, Leon Delmuerte previously in Nails, Gord Olson, the other half of Demisery and Kerim “Krimh” Lechner, previously in Decapitated Behemoth and currently the drummer for Septic Flesh.

So, onto the album! Mojave Repressions opens with some somber tones in the shape of Tumbleweed, which is brilliant at setting the mood for the next 25 minutes. This track has a lot of sonic soundscapes and atmosphere, all paired together with riffs that dabble a lot into dissonant and atonal territory and would be fitting for every modern contemporary black-metal band today. If you are a fan of Ulcerate or Deathspell Omega you should be right at home here. Dissonant arpeggiated riffs paired with blast beats and unresolving playing, makes this whole song very hard to grasp while at the same time, burying you deeper into the rabbit-hole. As it should be no surprise, the musicianship on display is absolutely incredible. From very tightly played riffs to some very brief but tasty solos this track has a lot to keep extreme metal listeners happy.

The following Track Palmdale Cemetery picks up the speed immensely. Blast beats and super groovy riffs paired with some atonal playing is all over the place here. While this may sound as though the song is unapproachable and hard to grasp, it is actually the opposite, as it’s quite catchy, if that even applies to extreme metal. Apart from going full steam ahead and just blast anyone away, a lot of melodic goodness can be witnessed here. Probably the song that is the closest to traditional Black and Death Metal.

After assaulting everyone who dares to listen with the previous track the follow up Mumbles feels a lot like the influence of Keith’s latest project Nightmarer starts to creep in more and more into his songwriting. The opening riff alone is so reminiscent of Simon Hawemanns Playing (Ex - War From A Harlots Mouth, and founder of Nightmarer ) that I cannot wait to see what these guys will come up with on their next release. What differentiates this song from the just mentioned band is the long melodic solo towards the second half of the track. A very interesting and clever contrast that blends well with the dark and haunting tone this song has up to this point.

What could come after this? Maybe the piece of music that feels the most out of place on this EP. Gravitational feels more like a Behemoth song that kinda got lost on its way to the next record of the polish Black metal powerhouse. It spirals from epic orchestration to tremolo-picked blast beat-filled riffs. While still a decent song it feels the most unfitting to the rest of Mojave Repressions

What follows is probably the most diverse and strongest track on this entire release. The title-track is such an assault on your senses and combines all the influences that have been on display for the last 20 minutes. Precise, palm muted riffs which go hand in hand with some atonal and dissonant parts. The way this track shifts from full throttle to being very sludgy is also so surprising that it caught me off guard for a second.

While I am really enjoying this EP, I can imagine that it might be a bit hard to grasp for people who are not into technical metal, and at times it also feels like it has been made for musicians. If you don’t shy away from that, and getting your ears blown off by some almost proggy riffs while still being very heavy, Mojave Repressions is for you. After listening to this on repeat for quite some time I just cannot wait for the next Nightmarer release to see where this sound is going!

ASTODAN - Évora Tue, 03 May 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 31ece15b-dad4-4c12-8839-ad7aee4245c1 "The riffs floor you, the bass guitar rattles your bones as it reverbs and ploughs through the track. The vocals swell and soar between the music while its shadowy and dimmed melody spirals and gorges on the listener"

We all have a fondness for certain bands over others, and it’s never really a forced decision or a carefully calculated choice, it just manifests and crystallises itself into something more, and it becomes a bigger part of you than the rest. Back in 2017, a late-night burrow through the YouTube labyrinth brought me onto a track from a Belgian post metal band who went under the name Astodan. New life was the name of the track and within thirty seconds I was swallowed up by the power and clarity of those colossal, crisp riffs and the breakdowns into a haunting singular guitar play, awash with keys and synthesised atmospherics. It was one of those “Holy fuck!!!” moments you get when the music gets right under your skin and travels through your bloodstream, releasing a full on, sensory overload.

From that moment on I was a fan of Astodan and their style of music. Two albums followed in the shape of Ameretat and Bathala, with both these albums further cementing my love for their ability to go from passages of thick, riff-driven melodies to pin-dropping moments of calm, never losing the mood and energy they had invoked. So, with all this in mind, it was time to welcome Astodan’s highly anticipated third studio album Evora. It was time to get devoured once more by their deeply atmospheric and intense style of music.

So first off, the big change in Astodan is the addition of vocals! Let’s get that out there right from the off. Bart Van Der Elst has been drafted into the fold to give the band another layer of sound and act as another instrument to help create more emotion, more depth to their sound and ultimately give the music a bigger heartbeat.

Relocate is the first track on the album and it’s the first opportunity to hear Astodan with another member. Musically they have stayed true to their blueprint with their ever-consuming, power-driven riffs that are played with great precision and clarity. When the vocals hit for the first time, they enter somewhat sunken within the mix. The haunting voice of Bart is watery and fluid, and flows in between the instruments, never attempting to take centre stage. It’s an interesting decision in making the vocals another instrument and not a standalone frontman, but when you understand and feel the emotion of Astodan’s sound, and allow those crushing riffs to consume you as they always do, it all starts to make a lot more sense. Relocate is a huge track and is simply brilliant.

Oath was the first track released as a single, and it immediately epitomises all that is unique and quintessentially Astodan. The riffs floor you, the bass guitar rattles your bones as it reverbs and ploughs through the track. The vocals swell and soar between the music while its shadowy and dimmed melody spirals and gorges on the listener.

The emotion in Astodan’s sound that I touched on earlier is all over The Falls, from the dimly lit opening guitars through to the heart-breaking and stirring vocals, that elevates it to another place. That atmosphere and sentiment seeps its way into the title track Evora, which is a slow-burning spoken passage of music that is dark, mystical and smothered in a synthesised haze.

The final two tracks on the album Nothing and Reconcile are truly a thing of beauty and showcase the talent of Astodan. From those quiet, sullen moments of almost shoegazed reflection, to the churning up of those heaving rhythm guitars, the guys have mastered the ability to harness the darkness and channel the light into a symphony of sentiment and sadness. Nothing’s harmonic hooks fly skyward under rolling drums and sweet guitars, building into that post-crescendo we all live for, while Reconcile is a slow rumbling piece that crawls and barks under a blackened sky, with a percussive heartbeat that keeps the track alive. The pace and power of the track lifts its head up and eventually stands tall, with the emotive cry of Bart shattering the clouds above, giving us all a moment to breathe in the air and sigh.

Astodan have once again delivered, and Tim Moens vision of where the band is going is becoming ever so clear. These guys are a talent, there’s no denying that. Evora is another step in the metamorphosis of the band and this upward trajectory is showing no sign of stopping. I am looking forward to seeing these guys next month at Dunk! and will enjoy a beer or two with them after the show, I’m sure!

Also, keep and eye on this week’s podcast where I speak to Tim Moens and have a really cool chat about all things Astodan. From the bands inception to album concepts and playing live, be sure to check it out.

HELPLESS - Caged In Gold Sat, 30 Apr 2022 07:00:00 +0100 [email protected] c4186c96-7116-40a9-b21e-048969648888 "The whole sound aesthetic changes to a super reverb laden sound with tons of feedback. It is almost undecipherable what is going guitar-wise, and I guess this is exactly what is intended. Someone must have had some fun with his pedal board, jamming his guitar into the guitar cab"

Sometimes there are records that come very much out of leftfield and HELPLESS (yes it’s all capital letters) managed to deliver just that. Hailing from the UK this three-piece noise outfit just released their new record Caged In Gold via Churchroad Records, and boy does it deliver. Chaotic and noisy hardcore with some extreme metal elements that pretty much worships bands like GAZA/ Cult Leader, Ed Gein and all the super chaotic mathcore bands.

The Opener Wraiths Of Memory starts with a hissing guitar-amp which is just the perfect precursor of what’s to come over the next 28 minutes. Firing away with a barrage of blast-beats, a super thick and organic sound and some of the nastiest riffs that you will hear this year. You just can’t get any room to breathe. What an opener!

The following track The Empty Gesture just takes this and adds some double-kick parts and a more diverse rhythmic feel to it. Going from mid-tempo to punk-beats in a heartbeat, there is an overall super unpleasant and restless tone cemented in here, and you definitely should check if you just received a new haircut. Only 2 songs in and you already know where this ship is sailing.

But soon after that it gets a bit more accessible, not that any of this is easy listening per se, changing it up with maybe the first very catchy riff towards the end of Suppression. Just when you thought this band only knows how to crash a train at full speed into a building, they diversify what they are doing. This keeps the whole thing fresh and exciting rather than just having the same thing regurgitated over the span of an entire record, otherwise it can feel tiring at some point.

Another sunlight would fit very well on one of the earlier Converge records! Almost a straight up hardcore song with up-tempo parts and riffs and maybe the most dramatic sounding chord progression of the entire record. Towards the end this song it all gets very atmospheric, and leaves some room to breath after the onslaught that has been unleashed up until now. That drawn out ending that almost borders in sludge territory is paving the way for what is to follow in Single File.

The whole sound aesthetic changes to a super reverb laden sound with tons of feedback. It is almost undecipherable what is going guitar-wise, and I guess this is exactly what is intended. Someone must have had some fun with his pedal board, jamming his guitar into the guitar cab. This entire track gives the feel that contemporary black metal bands like Plebaian Grandstand or newer Deathspell Omega omit. This is the perfect midpoint for this record and feels very relieving after 4 songs of sheer terror.

The tempo then slowly starts to build up again with maybe the most melodic song this record has to offer. Time Worship is there to pick you up from the pit that the previous song just buried you in to let you wallow in despair. While still not a happy song by any means, the change in mood and tempo is just the perfect contrast.

The Kurt Ballou style riffing with hammer-on’s and pull off’s is all over the next song. There is some excellent and diverse songwriting on display in this track, and its sounds like something Converge hasn’t written themselves in the last 10 years! Again, a testament to HELPLESS, that they take the best parts of extreme and chaotic music from the last decade to incorporate them into their own bastard of noise.

Simulacrum starts out very slow before erupting in maybe the most chaotic part the record has to offer. Full of odd time signatures, hectic riffs and full of panic chords, there’s not much to add to this as it really shows this band at their peak. I could write essays on how much I admire their influences, but I leave that off for another time.

Up until this point it should be pretty established that these guys must love GAZA, as The Great Silence would have fitted very nicely on any of their records. If you are like me, and miss this band a lot this song is 100% for you. The ending of this track is very drawn out and would be the exact fit for I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die. Just the best possible way to end a record that violent.

This may not be the most diverse record out there but what it lacks in diversity, it has in violence and anger. If you are like me and a full-on fan of bands that just don’t let up, and also if you are a mega fan of GAZA (RIP) this record is for you. If you expect more of a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs you are best advised to look somewhere else. To me this record is everything I want to hear in that type of music, and I hope HELPLESS will stick around much longer and grace us with their super chaotic and complex mix of metal and hardcore.

Wolfredt – The Lost Art Of Humming (Now Found Again) SINGLE Wed, 27 Apr 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 6bf35838-74cb-45c4-8455-6f5febf6a578 Estonian psychedelic post-rockers Wolfredt are next up on our ONE-TO-WATCH series, with the fantastic remake of a track from back in 2013. The Lost Art Of Humming was originally on their Lullabies To Vilhelmine album, but the guys have reworked the track and have injected it with a hallucinogenic groove that seeps into your bloodstream, giving off a euphoric and mood-altering, musical high.

The track opens with an eighties electronic drum beat that sounds out of place, but when that wicked bass line kicks in, the track changes gear immediately and the groove and swagger I spoke of earlier starts to take effect on your senses. Fuzzy, low-resolution vocals sink into the mix with their hypnotic and dead pan delivery adding another layer to the tie-dyed vibe. Lead guitars reverb and soar over an infectious rhythm section that has you swaying and tapping to the melody. Picture driving an open- top muscle car along a desert highway, with the midday sun shimmering and melting the road ahead, while this track blasts from the speakers, filling the sandy and sweaty air with a kaleidoscopic feel-good vibe! That should give you an idea of what this track is all about. It’s the sound of the summer, a moment of optimism and positivity in an otherwise crazy moment in time. We all need this track.

Vinyl fans should know that this track, The Art Of Humming is available on a limited edition 8” lathe cut press. Do not miss out on that little gem.

The Abyss Inside Us - Among The Ruins (Single) Tue, 26 Apr 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 2134c420-c2ab-467a-b55d-185edbebe2a1 Next up on our ONE-TO-WATCH series is the hauntingly beautiful but equally bereft Among The Ruins by the hugely cinematic and emotive project that is The Abyss Inside Us. This track is a ten-minute tale which was hugely influenced by the heartbreak and mindless destruction of a beautiful country and its innocent civilians, by a modern-day monster. This isn’t a horror story from the history books, or a tale of woe told by campfire light, this is happening today, 2022. Oh, how mankind has shamed itself.

But back to the music, and it’s so easy to get consumed by the atmosphere and the despair that echoes through the opening chords and its chilling vocal, that travels through the air in a blanket of smoke and sorrow. It’s slow tempo and cautious build-up hooks you in with its sense of anticipation and power. The melody is memorable and the crescendo, bleakly beautiful. The drums rumble and role like gunfire as the emotion and passion within the track explodes and weeps, bucketing rain down on the listener.

There is a break in the horror six minutes into the track, offering a glimmer of hope through an optimistic bass line that guides the music toward a more upbeat trajectory. It's powerful, it's resilient and bursting with hope, and the yearning of a nation. This write-up may come across forlorn and sullen, but there’s no doubting that the music echoes those sentiments. But to take the music as its own entity, this is a thing of beauty. Music can do so much, and this track cuts deep. It is colossal and achingly jaw dropping.

Be sure to check this track out on Bandcamp, as the album won't grace us until December.

NON SOMNIA Wed, 20 Apr 2022 17:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 56939ede-fda2-4385-bd61-1ba86f01d7f1 "Carlos would hum this track to his little girl while putting her to sleep, which is a very personal and very beautiful thing to share and incorporate into an album. It’s a moment of enchantment and deep affection buried carefully amongst the hardship and sorrow that overwhelms Gehenna"

I am a huge fan of the Spanish multi-instrumentalist, Carlos Herrera. Since first hearing Non Somnia’s music back in the summer of 2021, I was hooked. His ability to emotionally connect with you through dark, solemn atmospherics and dense black-gazed passages gave his music a heartbeat, albeit scorched and broken. I reviewed his album last year, Stella Meae, and I quote “Non Somnia have an incredible understanding of melody, drama and suspense. This is something that an artist needs to feel and experience to be able to put these emotions to music, and there is no shortage of that here”. Well I stand by that and if I was to add to it, I would say that Non Somnia has built on those foundations and has created a piece of bleak, post-rock magnificence in the shape of Gehenna.

The album opens with sombre piano keys that immediately reach into your chest and carefully cradle your heart for the opening track, Feels Cold When Blood Leaves You. Its melancholic tones are somehow warm and comforting, however, the track soon erupts into a swell of post-black atmospherics, weaving a chilling melody of sorrow and loss. That cradled organ deep in your chest begins to tense up and constrict, until those moody piano keys bring peace once more, this time, accompanied by a brooding violin, allowing blood to flow once again. The music ebbs and flows from calm keys to a caustic black-gaze wall of sound. A truly beautiful opening track.

Road to Osorezan is a heavy and scowling track with its tremolo opening and its fuzzy rhythm guitars filling the void. Rumbling drums bring on an emotional violin that soaks up all the atmosphere as its bow scrawls across the strings. The tempo drops as the music provides solace and respite before being thrown back into that blackened post-rock frenzy with more tremolo guitars wailing and soaring above the gloom. Another fantastic piece of dark, emotive music.

Last Leaf Falling is similar to what went before it, all the time dripping in sentiment and intensity, while pushing your senses to the limit as the music oscillates through all levels of emotion. That emotion only intensifies when Lullaby for Noa, part 1 comforts you and brings calm and slumber. Carlos would hum this track to his little girl while putting her to sleep, which is a very personal and very beautiful thing to share and incorporate into an album. It’s a moment of enchantment and deep affection buried carefully amongst the hardship and sorrow that overwhelms Gehenna. It also lays the foundation for Lullaby for Noa, part 2, which continues the rich warm keys of part 1, only to explode into a grand, expansive post-rock crescendo that leaves a lump in the throat.

The Abyss Talked About Hope and Like Summer Rain are awash with majestic and grandiose moments of post-black beauty and post-rock perfection that build and climb with bloodied fingertips to the mountains crest, to that celestial plateau and its endless expanse. A place where the music is soothing and where the mind and body are re-energised, a place we all need to go to and find inner peace.

The closing track on Gehenna, Of Moon And Sun moves in different circles to Like Summer Rain, in the sense that it bathes in fuzzy, blackened guitars and distant, silent screams that conjure up moments of another amazing solo project, Violet Cold. It's bitter and it bites and shows the vast array of layers and textures that make up Non Somnia. It's always atmospheric and always absorbing, and soaks up every emotion that it can find.

As you all probably know by now, I’m a huge advocate of Bandcamp and I always push people to go there and get lost in its musical labyrinth, however I found Non Somnia through a different platform last year. Instagram is becoming a great source for new music, and bands are working this social to the max, using it as the gateway to share music clips, videos, artwork and reviews of upcoming albums. Its another treasure trove of up-and-coming bands and musicians. If the standard there is anywhere near the quality of Non Somnia, then its somewhere we all need to be. Gehenna is being released this week, so whatever platfrom you use, be sure to check it out.

Noorvik – Hamartia Tue, 19 Apr 2022 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 63c0949b-602f-4fe2-874b-a1d82b8fb477 "The Feast is a fifteen-minute epic, that stretches it’s brilliance across many musical styles, incorporating some off beat melodies and prog-fuelled hooks that are sewn together seamlessly creating a mass tapestry of genre-defining sections. Like a thread being fed through the eye of a needle, patience and precision has been used to blend all these classic styles, from early rock progressions and bass-beaten riffs, right through to Floyd-esque swells"

Since their self-titled debut release back in 2018 and their follow up album Omission in 2019, Noorvik have sculpted and chiselled out a bitter-cold slab of progressive, stoner inspired post-metal. The music, along with the artwork had the listener frost bitten and frozen in time. Its glacial and bone-chilling imagery reflected the music through its iceberg sized riffs, and blizzard-blanketed layers of guitars, bass and drums.

Three years on and Noorvik have taken on a concept that couldn’t be further from what has preceded it. Parching heat, blistering sand and Greek pillars of power fortify a Greek tragedy that in time, could have history repeat itself, such is the inevitable consequences of our actions today.

Hamartia tells the story of a king, Tantalos, who realizes the consequences of his actions and in the end falls from his throne. This musical journey tells of how man’s greed and arrogance sow the seeds of his own downfall. Narcissism and egotism outshine the pristine beauty of the world and the innocence of its inhabitants. Let us sit back and let the music of Noorvik tell the story.

The opening track on the album is Tantalos, is a mellow and chilled acoustic hook that opens into a post-metal riff that maintains the melody and that rich, broody bass line. As the track heats up, the pace and tempo shifts with a more aggressive and inflamed rhythm section that takes many forms, ranging from sludge-soaked riffs to a stoner driven cadence, all with a musical phrasing that’s catchy and is forever etched deep into the memory.

Next up is Hybris, and it opens with a gorgeous plucked acoustic intro that swirls and suspends overhead with deep prog-infused elements that are greatly enhanced by a soaring acid-soaked lead guitar. It’s rich, warm tapestry of sound slowly builds with the help of heavy riffs that hang in the air before eventually getting swallowed up by a trippy solo that sedates everything around it. Its psychedelic vibe is as powerful and as addictive as any hallucinogenic drug. Simply put, Hybris is a delicious piece of music that I could listen to over and over again.

Omonoia is a hypnotic and sedating passage of music that numbs and transfixes the listener before seamlessly rolling into the next track Ambrosia. Its breezy and delicate intro is beautifully paced and cleverly builds ever so slowly, as each layer is spread evenly and methodically over the next. However, this album is awash with carefully placed nuances and subtleties, and because of these, the music takes an intuitive twist, dropping to the floor with its power-driven doom riffs and its gritty bass chords, all orchestrated by some crushing percussions that pound and kick through the dirt. Another psychedelic dip in the track momentarily calms things before the track’s crescendo opens up and thunders to the end with grit and determination.

The Feast is a fifteen-minute epic, that stretches it’s brilliance across many musical styles, incorporating some off beat melodies and prog-fuelled hooks that are sewn together seamlessly creating a mass tapestry of genre-defining sections. Like a thread being fed through the eye of a needle, patience and precision has been used to blend all these classic styles, from early rock progressions and bass-beaten riffs, right through to Floyd-esque swells. Noorvik have moulded this mammoth track that shapes and shifts at every opportunity, all the time building in intensity and substance right through to its colossal epilogue.

More dreamy guitars wash over you on Aeon, taking you back to Fleetwood Mac’s gorgeous Albatross with its reflective qualities that hypnotise and transcend the listener to another place. Atreides however, is a different beast and opens with a vicious riff that punches the air in victory, as it’s joined by a cavalry of drums and bass. The track meanders through resonant lead solos and some of the best baritone-like bass lines I’ve heard in a long while. The track has a groove and a swagger that oozes brashness and just the right amount of exhibitionism!

The closing track, and the aptly named Tartaros is a twelve-minute master class of power and progressive lashings, that bombards and attacks in a post-metal assault, relentlessly churning out riff after riff and embellishing them with an atmosphere that’s as dark and abhorrent as the story it narrates.

Noorvik has delivered an album that is a story perfectly chronicled through a prog-rock and post-metal feast. It isn’t any wonder that Noorvik haven’t released an album in three years, when you see and hear the tale that unfolds before you on Hamartia. This album is titanic, and it has redefined and, in my opinion, reshaped the band. Every current fan will love this, but I believe they have also opened the floodgates to new followers too. Superb.

Austere Days - AWAY (single) Thu, 14 Apr 2022 01:00:00 +0100 [email protected] e9dc29a3-9dea-4a76-ad89-3b77d82eb604 This week on ONE-TO-WATCH we have Austere Days who hail from the gothic and archaic, cobbled streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. Austere Days is Miska Aunala, a solo project who plays a unique and bereaved style of electronic, doom leaden music that creeps and grows on you like ivy, crawling and constricting around your limbs and torso, suffocating you with its dark and inert atmosphere.

Away is about losing hope, and the music of Austere Days captures all that disquiet, with its downcast and synthesised undertones, all the time haunted by sombre piano keys that layer heavily over the fuzzy, electronic drone. The vocals style is as much narrated as it is sung, such is it's deadpan delivery. It wails and weeps beside sludge-driven distortion, all performed at a funereal pace. It’s doom-gazed, dreary mood weighs heavy all the way through the track and portrays a bleak and sullen landscape. However, if you are like me, and thrive on dark, shoegazing atmospherics, then Austere Days is one to watch. There was another track entitled How/Why, which was released earlier in the month which is also worth your time and your blackened heart.

The track Away is currently available on the Austere Days Bandcamp page, with an ambient and instrumental version to follow later in the month. So, make sure you keep an eye out for more interesting single releases here on The Smashing Skull Sessions new ONE-TO-WATCH mini-series!.

Chalk Hands - Don’t Think About Death Tue, 12 Apr 2022 01:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 9f17079c-8535-4e48-a932-87231e336578 "This record took me by storm. It’s the perfect soundtrack for those lone nights where so many thoughts could run through your head. Don’t Think About Death is the perfect partner to reflect, to think and to leave past mistakes behind"

The musical landscape around 2010 was shaped by a bunch of hardcore bands that weren’t so much hard in the musical sense but more in an emotional way. La Dispute, Piano Become The Teeth, Defeater and the likes were all the rage back then. Telecaster and Jazzmaster guitars, half sung/screamed vocals and an overall super organic sound were basically everywhere. In the last couple years this sound moved from being super fresh to be pretty niche. A couple of bands uphold this aesthetic to this day, and Chalk Hands from Brighton, UK are probably one of the most interesting and promising bands in that vein. Their Instagram bio even says "Loud sad songs", and this is probably the most accurate description anyone can give about them.

Their new record Don’t Think About Death has been released on March 18th of this year and has been recorded and mixed by Lewis Johns (The man that records basically everything that has quality in the UK )

First of all, the production is superb, but I didn’t expect anything else from Lewis. Everything is clear, the drums pack an immense punch while also sounding super roomy, and those crunchy guitars omit a lot of warmth. Everything is exactly where it should be in the mix. This is just not studio trickery, and it’s heavily underlined by the live in-studio performance that Chalk Hands uploaded to their socials recently. This is a band which has honed their craft and know exactly what they want to achieve. It’s all very impressive!

It is super hard to pick out one specific song, which is not a bad thing. This record feels like it should be enjoyed in one go. The atmosphere and the choice of chord progressions is really touching overall, and when these guys turn on their reverb and delay pedals, they make every post-rock band run for their money. This is what Piano Become The Teeth could have sounded like if they didn’t stray into the rock domain, leaving their screaming vocals behind.

The immediacy of the singer is also what reeled me in over and over again. The desperation is almost touchable, and you can feel every word. Is this something super unique? Nope! Is it still good to hear it being executed in such a fulfilling and absorbing way? Absolutely. Sure, we have heard tons of bands going for this exact sound, but there are also tons of them out there who just feel fake and not real. Contrary to that, this record feels very honest and very real, and I couldn’t care less that this not the most original band on the planet. As long as it is as captivating and well-made as this piece of music is, I’m all in.

This record took me by storm. It’s the perfect soundtrack for those lone nights where so many thoughts could run through your head. Don’t Think About Death is the perfect partner to reflect, to think and to leave past mistakes behind. I know I tend to repeat this in every review, but I highly recommend checking Chalk Hands out and let them ebb and flow into your life. Their vinyl is sadly already sold out, but a very cool tape version is still available on their Bandcamp page.

Still Motions – Welcome Oblivion (Single) Fri, 08 Apr 2022 06:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 02f35011-2fd2-409a-8a2f-266914dbe67f Welcome to the second of our ONE-TO-WATCH series where we unearth and promote incredible tracks that have either blindsided us or delivered a piece of music that has embellished and heightened our imagination. This week we write about a band that has done both. Still Motions from Phoenix, Arizona, have released Welcome Oblivion, which is a piece of post-rock grandeur in its purest form. It’s both anthemic and somewhat overwhelming on first listen, but that’s what post-rock should do to you when you open your mind to it, and let sentiment and solace flood your senses.

Welcome Oblivion doesn’t hold back from the moment it graces your eardrums. Rich, layered guitars overlap and traverse over a chasmic deluge of rhythm guitars and thundering drums, all the time following a deeply intense bass line that plucks emotions from every duct. A sultry breakdown midway through the track allows the music to spin and swirl within its own vortex, before the pace, power and emotion triggers a centrifugal surge of post rock splendour that’s as heart-breaking as it is uplifting. It’s music that raises the hairs on your arms and sends electrical currents charging through your veins. Post-Rock perfection.

I loved Still Motions 2020 release, Mirrors, which featured highly on people’s album of the year back then, and deservedly so, but with Welcome Oblivion, they have raised the bar yet again. I don’t have a date yet on an impending album release yet, but suffice to say, if this is a taste of things to come, then Still Motions have catapulted themselves into the post music stratosphere, right where they belong.

MORROW - The Quiet Earth Wed, 06 Apr 2022 05:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 3be5e97d-43cc-47e3-a281-52e4fb6b0bb4 ......An album that has devastated me with its sheer energy, power and ferocity, and devoured me with the kind of intensity and potency that torches a fire deep in my belly, that keeps getting stoked by bellows that can only be compared to the wings of an albatross, as each track releases its wrath.

Have I heard my album of The Year already?! Is it even possible to foresee no other release reaching the nose-bleeding heights of the album that I have just bore witness to? An album that has devastated me with its sheer energy, power and ferocity, and devoured me with the kind of intensity and potency that torches a fire deep in my belly, that keeps getting stoked by bellows that can only be compared to the wings of an albatross, as each track releases its wrath.

I have taken a couple of weeks to really digest Morrow’s latest album The Quiet Earth, in order to be sure of some of the statements I’m going to make in this review. There are many albums deserved of the AOTY accolade, as each month rolls by. However, there are few albums that can sit so high as to be regarded as one of the albums that define a decade, and I believe this is one of them. This is an album that can hold its head high and proud above the rest when speaking of classic albums within the realms of heavy music. I say heavy music, because The Quiet Earth holds some magic within it for every person that succumbs to its sorcery. Morrow have bestowed upon us, their own form of witchcraft, that’s hugely emotive, heavy as hell, which plays and blisters without shackles or restraints.

From the strummed acoustic intro to the rumbling drums and ferocious vocal onslaught, that chokes on the cello-wept notes, you are instantly tossed into the throes of another world. Lyrically, Rejoice, This Quiet Earth is poetry, narrated with the hunger and harshness of two vocals that attack right from the outset, and this is the template for most of the album. Guest vocalists are strewn across the album, which gives it great depth and dissonant qualities.

This disharmonic triumph is displayed in all its glory on the track Totemic. The genius that is Alex CF breathes from every pore of this track, not to mention the song writing and instrumentation of David Robinson. Tempo changes, break downs, insurmountable layers and a relentless intensity, pummels the listener. From Alex’s’ gritty delivery to the black metal rasp that remonstrates every sentence, this track is a colossus. It stands alone as one of the tracks of the year for me. It’s thirteen minutes of epic-crusted hardcore.

To The Fold’s whispered intro is haunting and sombre and is the preface to the doom drenched, and down trodden funeral pace of the next section of music. Bereaved violins lament and lead the congregation, before an outpouring of intensity and visceral intent disperses the gathering into a fury of tears and tantrums, as more dual vocals bark and snarl in unison with every drum crash. Fugue Plague maintains the terror and potency that went before it, but the execution is delivered in a chorused outpouring, which gives Fugue Plague a more structured flow.

Those familiar with the work of Alex CF and one of his other creations Archivist will have a better understanding of the lyrics and their meaning, and that will give the music more life, if that was even possible. The Quiet Earth is in some way a continuation of Archivists third album but taken from a different perspective. It will all make more sense if you take time to dig deeper into the mind of Alex CF through his lyrics and his Novels. No review could capture all that this beholds, but I would advise checking out an interview Alex did a few months ago with Richie of The Metal Cell Podcast, where he summarises perfectly, the connection to both Morrow and Archivist, and the amazing journey it all takes.

Our Right In Rest is a story told by firelight amidst a dark and rugged terrain, romanticised by a story teller who builds everyone’s spirits with the words “we claim this ice as shelter matrimony with water and earth the branches bend for our bows the nourishing wealth, cloth and twine what malice of mouth and teeth that seek nothing but to do harm we are nothing but the ice made flesh we seek nothing but our right in rest”.

The closing track on this epic album is Of Sermons And Omens To Mend, and I can’t hide my sense of pride in knowing that a fellow Cork man, Howard, from Partholon has a part to play in this colossus. The track is heavy with grief-stricken vocals and grievous violin strings. It all builds slowly to that ever-faithful crescendo that graces every great album. Rolling drums, sand-blasted vocals and haunting cellos and violins build on the climax and finish on a masterful orchestra of grandiose layers and vehement voices, bringing to a close another chapter in this never-ending world.

There are so many great musicians and vocalists gracing this album, it’s mind-blowing. Every lyric and every note is delivered with blood and guts dripping from their mouths and instruments. Even if you haven’t followed the storyline between Morrow, Archivist, and the creative genius of Alex CF, The quiet Earth stands tall and proud as its own work of art. This is an album that will be spoken of for many years to come.

BlackBraid - Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil (Single) Sun, 03 Apr 2022 03:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 842edc14-f50b-4e87-9032-c52e262dbdce One To Watch ONE TO WATCH

*SINGLE: BlackBraid - Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil *

For the first in the series of the ONE TO WATCH, I had to write about BlackBraid’s latest single Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil. BlackBraid is a Native American black-metal solo project hailing from the Adirondack Mountains, a wilderness in the north-eastern New York State. Just like the landscape, which still exists in its primitive natural form, musically it’s wild, untamed and overgrown with vicious riffs, blistering pace and deathly vocals.

Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil opens with a solitary riff that detonates into a bestial, blast-beaten assault, that obliterates and destroys everything in its path. Like a thunderstorm within the Adirondack wilderness, a tirade of guitars, drums and bass whip up a fury of biblical proportions. A momentary break in the storm brings a mid-tempo breakdown that sweeps melodically through the rain soaked treetops, before the heavens open once more in a black-metal diatribe of speed and wicked-tongued ferocity. This track is dripping in blackened melody and atmosphere, and every tempo-shift brings forth power and uncontrollable destruction. It’s a track that will blow your mind and darken your soul, such is its gargantuan presence.

There is no release date yet for an album release, but it’s likely to happen towards the winter months… fitting! An incredible track, enjoy.

SUNDOWNING - In the Light Of Defeat, I Cease To Exist Tue, 29 Mar 2022 07:00:00 +0100 [email protected] 21304345-50d9-4fa5-91bf-596db33505ad "...the following track, A Prison, A Cage throws all of that out of the window when it starts off with fuzzy guitars, downbeat tones and an eerie descending guitar lead. You will almost be able to grasp the sadness and despair in this song. A very heavy but also very touching piece of music"

Originally hailing from the bowels of the ruhrarea in Germany, Sundowning was a hardcore band which garnered a small following, but was consistently putting out well received records, that had a somewhat darker edge to them. In 2014 they played their last show and disbanded shortly after. Now around eight years later these guys are living all over Germany, and they have returned with their strongest work to date. In the meantime, two of the four members started their own mail-order called Evil Greed. Why is important you might ask yourself, we will get back to that later..

First, let’s talk about how this record sounds and feels. While these guys were straight up, a hardcore band, nowadays they feel a lot more at home in post-metal and sludge territory. They traded the angsty sound for something that has a lot more depth to it. The opener Exits Don’t Exist introduces a lot of noisy and outer worldly textures to their heavy and down tuned sound. While that sheer heaviness was always present in their previous material, it feels a lot more refined and thought out on this new record. The heavy vocals are mostly gone and replaced with clean singing that captures the vibe of this track perfectly. This song meanders like molten magma until it finally solidifies in a wall of noise. What an opener!

Imminent Ache continues this feel right away but replaces the sung vocals with heavy vocals that reek of desperation and existential dread. Reverb laden interludes trade places with extremely heavy distorted guitars, with vocals that seem to reach out of the depths of a mind riddled with dread. While the whole song is collapsing in on itself, Dylan Walker (Singer from Full of Hell) takes over the vocal reigns with one of the most surprising turns you could expect. While being well known for his angry vocals that lets you question how one person could sound so aggrieved, he is gracing this song with some of the most beautiful vocals this record has, all supported by an epic orchestration.

While the Previous Song ended on a somewhat melodic and almost optimistic sounding note, the following track A Prison, A Cage throws all of that out of the window when it starts off with fuzzy guitars, downbeat tones and an eerie descending guitar lead. You will almost be able to grasp the sadness and despair in this song. A very heavy but also very touching piece of music. This is the kind of song that will most definitely unfold an entire spectrum of sounds when blasted at full volume. Your neighbors will be very thankful for it… or not, but it is not their choice!

Armor of Indifference starts off very calm while building up a menacing and unpleasant atmosphere, only to explode in dissonant chords and tribal drum grooves. The cataclysmic spoken vocals just top all of that off, yes, this is the heaviest song on this record. It’s relentless, and creates so much tension, that the point where all of that is bursting feels like a bittersweet release. While every song so far has been absolutely exceptional, this song is the absolute highlight on this album for me. If you only listen to one song from Sundowning, let it be this track!

After the onslaught of what went before it, the record is closing on a somewhat placatory tone. In The Light Of Defeat, I Cease To Exist almost feels optimistic, the sweet relief of leaving everything behind seems to be the lyrical theme of this song. It continues to build steadily, layering guitars on top of guitars. Throughout this entire song it is very much present that these guys took their inspiration from Belgium Post-Metal Band Amenra. Definitely not the worst Band to be compared to. The Perfect closer for this fantastic tour de force.

This entire record feels like a band growing up, not just as musician but also as human beings. The soundscapes sound intricate and well thought out. The feelings these songs convey spark so many questions about the existence of us as human beings. After such a long hiatus it feels like this record is the absolute culmination of what these guys have achieved personally. Surely their experiences with building up Evil Greed is a huge factor why Sundowning was able to gather such esteemed personnel around them to create this record. For me, ** In The Light Of Defeat, I Cease To Exist** will end up very high on my Albums of the year list.

Blessed Be Man – MMXXII Sat, 26 Mar 2022 02:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 31436988-3e59-47e0-82c5-45eb2542413f "This short but heavily weighted passage of music revisits a journey we all have taken, it’s just a matter of taking a step back and taking stock of all that has gone before. There has been a low-lying cloud suspended over the world for these last two years, but finally shards of light are finally cutting through it"

Blessed Be Man has been writing music and sharing it with us all since 2012. His music reflects his frame of mind at any given time and gives the listener an opportunity to burrow deep into his thought process to see what provokes and evokes such heart-breaking and uplifting moments of post rock distortion and blackened percussions. This solo project from El Paso, Texas has been blessed with the gift of relaying emotions and feelings we all experience and suffer, through the power of music.

I have always enjoyed Blessed Be Man’s musical chronicles, that bring you from the depths of sorrow and despair to the lofty heights of utter euphoria and nirvana. 2019’s album Chapter III encapsulated all these emotions and cradled you through moments of deep melancholia, never letting go, until you reached that crescendo led moment of elation and rapture. Now, with his latest work of art getting a release on 04-01-2022, everyone can once again bask in the emotional rollercoaster that Blessed Be Man has constructed.

MMXXII is a 10-minute journey that is broken down into five stages. Fear – Pain – Despair – Faith – Hope. This EP may be short but every stage and emotion it depicts has been felt by us all over these past two years. Nobody has escaped these stages unfortunately, and many of us don’t even realise we have lived through them, but life is a journey into the unknown at times. This musical pilgrimage, however, begins with Fear, and it opens in a synthesised veil that completely shrouds the listener, giving way to uncertainty and doubt. As The strings wail above the blanket of suspense, the tension and emotions that are felt, run high and consume. What follows this is that feeling of Pain that aches and eats at your soul, and this is expressed through a distorted guitar sequence that loops and comes at you in waves, relentless and incessant.

Despair falls under the spell of a Mexican guitar and contorted narratives that fill your head with a sense of hopelessness and the feeling that you’re consumed by the voices of doubt, all the time beneath the rumbling of industrial noises. When Faith enters, it's almost like rounding a corner, or reaching the top of that mountain after a torturous ascent, its that first glimpse of something positive and reassuring. Faith is something we all share and have within us all, but its just a matter of finding it and seeking solace in whatever form it takes, and with Blessed Be Man this is shown as a calming and thought-provoking violin that haunts and serenades over clean percussions and restful guitars. Hope finally enters the body and for once there’s light at the end of the tunnel, as an earthly weight has been lifted off your shoulders. More shredded and distorted guitars play a more positive tune, as all the instruments join together in one grand finale, leaving the listener in a more upbeat and hopeful place, mentally.

This short but heavily weighted passage of music revisits a journey we all have taken, it’s just a matter of taking a step back and taking stock of all that has gone before. There has been a low-lying cloud suspended over the world for these last two years, but finally shards of light are finally cutting through it. Blessed Be Man’s mini-EP MMXXII could be the soundtrack to this, a summary of each and everyone’s journey, and a way of accepting the past and looking forward to the future.

Disaster Forecast – How To Skate Everything Tue, 22 Mar 2022 06:00:00 +0000 [email protected] e4ea5f42-489a-4e72-a736-7358d48e8ffe The Closing track, and the pre released track from this EP, Identity Parade is a brambled bush of hooks and memorable chants, that have enough kinetic energy to boil the blood and expose your inner demon

So here we have it, Spring is in the air and daylight is stretching its weary limbs aloft after a being in hibernation for those harsh winter months. Cobwebs are dusted off, and an air of optimism and newfound energy is spreading its glow and effervescence across the sprawling urban landscape. Moods change and the human mindset alters its state to a more upbeat state of mind. Music plays a huge part in this, whether it’s intentional or whether it occurs subconsciously. So, you need a soundtrack to that transition, a shot in the arm to get you motivated and galvanised. Well, you could do a lot worse than Sheffield's own skate-punks Disaster Forecast and their forthcoming EP, How To Skate Everything. This short but infectious blast of melody-infused hardcore, is music to fuck around with and enjoy. It's music for the streets, the parks and it's the soundtrack to the urban sprawl that is slowly but surely devouring and consuming us.

This 3 track EP is bulging and spilling over with energy, attitude, and a hardcore potency that shakes the foundations right from the off. The opening track Rising Tide wastes no time in tackling you head on with its high tempo tirade of slamming riffs and pounding drums. Vocals dripping in aggression and measured force spew and rasp over the track, all deeply melodic but delivered with purpose and attitude. The music is deconstructed in such a way, that it thunders through screamo tirades, filthy bass lines and furious fastcore assaults, that have you on a musical high right to the end.

Hanging Over is just under one minute long but the sheer intensity of the tempo, and the hardcore venom that it spits out, gives it the energy and adrenaline to make you feel like you’ve fallen headfirst off that skateboard, across that bone-shattering concrete terrain, only to get up and attack it all over again!

The Closing track, and the pre-released track from this EP, Identity Parade is a brambled bush of hooks and memorable chants, that have enough kinetic energy to boil the blood and expose your inner demon. The track breaks down to a delicious bass line and a momentary pause for breath, before a Maiden-esque solo reopens the track, strewn with the shouts of "So wave goodbye and hold your head up high. Give up, give out, give in, but never give it away. And when you come back down to earth, remind yourself of what it’s worth. This identity parade will start to fade. Stand by the choices that you made". It’s a high-octane anthem of a generation that have endured the pompous snigger from a battle hardened generation that went before it, or it can also be interpreted as the chant for any person who has had to endure their own demons, and needs a way to overcome and exorcise those spirits.

This EP maybe short on time but it more than makes up for that in energy and positivity. How To Skate Everything is ball of progressive zest and vigour that will lift your spirits and could even be the soundtrack to your summer.

Abraham - Débris de Mondes Perdus Tue, 15 Mar 2022 08:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 9a15c0bb-5446-4bac-848d-22836d1093bd "This whole song feels like the perfect soundtrack to the credits of a post-apocalyptic road movie. Hands down the most accessible song on the record as it ditches all the dissonance for a more melodic but very sorrowful tone and vibe with a lot of reverb"

Abraham was a band that I heard of, but I never checked them out in the past. The name evoked something in me that I couldn’t pin down. This record is an unrelentless bastard of sludgy "post-metal" combined with a hint of dissonant modern "black metal". This record sounds like a poisoning cloud that is drifting and floating around, consuming and swallowing up every bit of hope.

The cover artwork is the perfect representation of how the record sounds and feels. Verminvisible starts off with desperate vocals and a slow but groovy tempo. This whole track is just the perfect precursor on where the next 45 minutes will go. Sometimes this sounds like a darker version of Cult of Luna (as if this was even possible!). Blood moon, New Alliance picks up the pace while weaving in some "black metal" elements, paired with beautiful basslines just to end in dissonant arpeggio picked guitar line. This song really has it all.

The absolute highlight of the entire record for me is Maudissements. This whole song sounds like it has been recorded in a shed with the bare minimum of technology, and it really evokes the feeling like the world is slowly being radiated and just rotting away. This is the song where the artwork, the production and the songwriting all come together to create something absolutely unique. While the song goes on it sounds like it’s going out of tempo and out of tune ever so slightly, and this is so subtle, that it can sometimes question your sanity. A fever dream of a song.

The next track Ravenous Is The Night sounds like waking up after the end of the world with a riff that any extreme metal band with their toe in modern black metal would be proud to have written. Our Words Born In Fire feels like an offshoot of a Neurosis record. Those tribal drums paired with the vast soundscape of the guitars is just phenomenal. The song goes harder the more it goes on. It is a testament to the vibe this song creating that the rhythm doesn’t change that much throughout the entire song.

The following track Fear Overthrown continues this vibe, even though the arrangement is far more complex. The most remarkable thing about this track is the moment where the whole song breaks down to a vocal delivery that seems to sing into the void, accompanied only, by a haunting guitar. The line “breathe in the poison the winds” is sticking so much with the listener while bridging the gap to the overarching theme, that the world is ending. This is the most epic song on the record for me.

After Fear Overthrown, the record delves deep into post-metal territory with A Celestial Funeral. While the whole build seems very minimalistic it also is very unsettling. Again, a perfect mixture of Cult of Luna and Neurosis is heard echoing throughout. The very natural and grounded production just supports every fibre of this song. The record finishes off with the moody and haunting Black breath featuring the Swiss artist Emilie Zoe, who gives the song a very welcome contrast. This whole song feels like the perfect soundtrack to the credits of a post-apocalyptic road movie. Hands down the most accessible song on the record as it ditches all the dissonance for a more melodic but very sorrowful tone and vibe with a lot of reverb.

Débris de Mondes Perdus is visceral, it’s grounded and it’s unpleasant at times. The artwork ties in so well with how this record sounds and feels, and even though the result seems a bit simple at first it really unfolds itself the deeper you allow yourself to sink into it. If you want to listen to the perfect soundtrack to the end of the world look no further. For me, this is definitely an early contender for Album of the year.


Gairo - HER Sat, 12 Mar 2022 07:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 9c4fee53-b906-44a6-ad0b-b63add61c249 "It’s all meticulously timed and cleverly arranged in order to bring those gnarly, gravel -choked vocals to the forefront. What follows the vocals could be best described as a jamming session, where the drums lead and everyone follows in a seismic wave of "post-metal" power and passion"

One of the most experimental albums in the "instrumental/post-rock" genres of recent years for me was Lazybone Flame Kids’ 2019 album Beyond. The Italian five-piece really put their own stamp on the post music scene with that album, mainly due to the fact that it was bursting with new ideas and exploding with experimentation. Well, there must be something in the waters that surround Italy and its islands because the Sardinian six-piece Gairo have released their second album, HER and that too has soaked up all that experimentation and leftfield maelstrom that the salt-soaked waves of The Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean and Balearic Seas have washed ashore.

The first thing to grab you on the album HER, is the artwork, and the collaboration with Kismet Hubble and Blood Valkyrie. It’s striking and thought-provoking imagery hits hard right from the off with Its stark use of the human form and a battle-weary woman standing motionless before you. And it’s this picture that paints the narrative for the opening track, and title track, Her. Deep, dark acoustic strings play an intro that’s simmering and bubbling away in a cauldron of forbidding angst. Percussions roll gently over it, before those deep unfathomed vocals ooze along the floor like a lingering, subterranean spill. The track does pick itself up and patiently builds up into a heavy and harmonic rhythm section that gradually climbs and climbs until it sits high above that sea of inertia. The music continues to expand and fill space, as the pace continues to grow ever so slowly, pounding and laying siege, layer after layer, right the end of the track.

Koobi For a is a strange and experimental piece of music, that has this white noised backing track wisping and spitting over it and stays right to the end. Meanwhile, acoustic guitars play out a scene that could be take straight from an old western, just as the sun is reaching its peak in the sky, and the barren and parched sands below crave moisture and shelter. This is my interpretation of the music granted! and yours may be very different, but whatever picture it conjures up, Its thought provoking and somewhat detached.

It’s a very different beast from the following track 1808, which has that Russian Circles chug, set deep into its "post-metal" steeliness. It showcases Gairo’s ability the muddy things up, to distort and play with some guitar pedals! Even though it’s a simple riff, it exudes ferocity and harmony in equal measure. What follows that are the tribal drums of Apogee, which has this almost grand cinematic opening that eventually unleashes more of those gripping, downtrodden riffs and heavily soaked melodies. An intense bass line, rattled in tambourines, create more theatre and drama to the track before building to that finale that doesn’t disappoint.

One of the highlights of the album has to be Like An Elephant In A Sandstorm, and before I delve deeper into it, you need to know that there is a stunning video made for this track that has to be watched. That alone will explain this track better than I ever will, but it won’t stop me from trying! Open acoustic chords reverb ever so gently before a vocal delivery that drinks from the well of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen utters the words “that’s how it works If you’re able to get through the routine maybe you find….. but I aways wake up feeling like I don’t even know myself”. It gives the track so much character and identity, it’s a stroke of genius. Dirty, distorted guitars begin to plough through the riffs as the drums slap and pound. It’s all meticulously timed and cleverly arranged in order to bring those gnarly, gravel -choked vocals to the forefront. What follows the vocals could be best described as a jamming session, where the drums lead and everyone follows in a seismic wave of "post-metal" power and passion. A glorious track that just keeps on getting better with each listen, and definitely one of the standout tracks of the year so far for me.

The album closes with the track Summer, and it needs to be something calming and chilled out after the firepower and potency that went before it. Neolithic inspired acoustic guitars strum with the warming tones of dual vocals, delivered both off-time and emotive. As the track slowly emerges from itself, the energy builds and lights a fire within the belly of the beast. Tribal drums and airborne guitars are released creating a monsoon of melody and emotion, that washes over every chord that has gone before it. It’s a fitting end to an album that captures the imagination and brings you on a journey of sights and sounds you wouldn’t normally hear within the "post-metal" genre.

I predict big things for Gairo within this scene of ours, and if I’m wrong then it will be a travesty! HER has something unique about, something that allows it to stand out, without being isolated. With a release date of 21-03-2022, get over to their Bandcamp page and sample the fruits of their labour, and of course, pr- order this brilliant release.

Once Upon A Winter - Void Moments Of Inertia Tue, 08 Mar 2022 07:00:00 +0000 [email protected] c8ec623b-6335-47c4-9db3-4871e22999cc "Once Upon A Winter have really mastered the paralleling of heavy and soft soundscapes to the extent that both can uplift and heighten emotions, but can also recede and pacify at any given place and time".

There are many great "post- rock" albums out there that you could reference when describing a classic. Everyone will have their favourites, those pillars of strength that hold the genre aloft, to showcase the strength and beauty that this style of music can encapsulate. One such album for me must be Jakob’s Solace. It’s one of those albums that did everything right, a moment in time, when the gods of "post-rock" looked down on the studio and stayed till the final mix. Since that record there have been many more classics, but one album that might have slipped under the radar for some was Once Upon A Winter’s 2019 release, Pain And Other Pleasures. Like Solace, it was stacked with emotion, melody and reflection. It made you sit up and see the world in another light. Not many albums can do that.

So, with all that fanboy talk out of the way, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Once upon A Winter’s new album Void moments of Inertia and get lost In its magic, and that’s exactly what happened.

Loneliness is the suffering of our time. Even if we’re surrounded by others, we can feel alone” are the first words spoken on the opening track Far End and that can catch you off guard a little as they are immediately followed by an unexpected, but beautifully played saxophone solo that’s instantly joined by a rush of "post-rock" splendour. This track really does open like a mini cyclone, whipping up from beneath your feet and swirling frantically between your legs, whistling up through your chest cavity and tunnelling in through your ears, filling your head with soaring and vibrant harmonics and sky-scraping guitars. It’s an instant hit of "post-rock" goodness that has your head spinning in awe. Once your senses have adapted to the deluge of glorious guitars and lead swells, more sax symphonies spiral and orbit around you. Some vocal samples get carried up in the gusts, before the track gallops to an epic finale with high tempo drums and thundering bass.

Anthos is a far calmer affair, thick with a heavy bass line that becomes quietly romanced with some gorgeous violins, that float and fly upwards before some heavy-hearted tremolo guitars and huge melodic riffs crash in and elevate the track to another place, as more lead guitars layer themselves over the rhythm section. It all falls dreamy and serene for a while before that sweet violin serenades once more leading the track into a crescendo-laced climax, splashing colour and joy right to the end.

Elegant Demise weighs in heavy with a "black gaze" onslaught right from the outset, that bombards the mind with its double kicks and its multi layered instruments, all harmonising as one. Sombre violins dismantle the wall of sound as its bow caresses and cuts the strings with pain and compassion. Those stringed moments are used to perfection on this track, breaking up the black gazed fury, and then closing the track in a solo show of melancholy. That haunting violin brings me right back to the time I heard My Dying Bride play Sear Me for the first time. Goosebumps.

//ether welcomes back those soothing and heart-warming saxophone melodies, only this time they are countered and contradicted by chunky riffs that respond in a "post metal" vortex of guitars and fleshy drums. The musical “dance off” ebbs and flows, each raising the bar, reaching their near celestial highs and their moody, tranquil lows. It a glorious contrast that merges when required and stands alone when needed.

When I first heard the title track Void Moments Of Inertia, I immediately heard the ghost of We Lost The Sea’s masterpiece, Bogatyri haunting the opening passage, and resurfacing again in other parts of the track. It’s a piece of music that thrives on shredded tremolo glory and an underlying bass guitar, that is an absolute joy to hear throughout the album. Moments of synthesised calm followed by gut wrenching climaxes make this track a worthy title track to the album. Once Upon A Winter have really mastered the paralleling of heavy and soft soundscapes to the extent that both can uplift and heighten emotions, but can also recede and pacify at any given place and time.

This moving and transcendent album closes with the enchanting, piano laced Orenda, all beautifully swathed in a blanket of warm, restful saxophone tones. Even as the guitars and drums rumble in, they never distract from the serenity and bliss that the piano and sax manage to choregraph between them. This is a moment of "post-rock" heaven that deserves an auditorium that spans for miles, such is the glory and emotion that it radiates. A fitting end to an album that is well and truly a Greek triumph.

Svntarer - The Ardent Weight Of Thoughts Mon, 28 Feb 2022 06:00:00 +0000 [email protected] f2d8a2b4-919d-49ce-a6d9-324ad7dc4769 ( Doom – Sludge – Post Metal )

Svntarer have released a titanic slab of doom and sludge that's chest high and will slowly engulf you and bring you on a harrowing journey through those nightmares you hoped you'd never recollect again.

Here’s another debut album getting The Smashing Skull treatment! Svntarer have released a beast in the shape of The Ardent Weight Of Thoughts. It’s bleak and hostile and unearths the darkness that can be found buried within us all. Marko Kolac has somehow managed to gain access to it, and cocoon it all in deep melody and euphony. This album does not sound like a debut album. It sounds huge, and it does bite. Let’s get straight into it!

Dolunge is a menacing and uncomfortable horror themed intro that lures you into its lair, even though every sense of your being is telling you not to enter. Once you’re in the gateway slams shut behind you and you’re in the throes of Svntarer’s world, a catacomb of chaos and disarray. What follows, is churning riffs and wails of anguish from the track Erode, that rebound off the rugged stone walls, and echoe through every chamber and tomb. The weight of their sound is gargantuan as those sludgy riffs and pummelling bass chords are prised wide open. There’s a break in the madness midway through the track, a moment of recomposing oneself before burrowing deeper down into the darkness. The vocals of Marko are harrowing and give life no hope, such is his guttural presence. It’s hugely impressive, but holy shit, does it terrorise.

Misere on the other hand, shows another side to Svntarer, showcasing the talent and dynamics of the band. It shows how they can strip the whole thing back and in mellow ambient fashion, along the lines of This Will Destroy You, with the music patient and passionate, all the time being led by the beautifully plucked bass of Sebastian Adlgasser. That is until a penetrating bellow shatters the calm and is accompanied by haunting tremolo guitars, weeping under aching melodies. It's despairing and arousing at the same time, depending on how deep your love for music heavy-hearted goes. The lyrics "Bury me In the yard, where you lay, Silent body I simply got paranoid" echo and reflect the music perfectly.

Ungetot is almost like another calmly played interlude that’s placid and easy-going but never reassuring! Post black shredding opens Skelta with seldom seen celestial tremolo playing, that lifts spirits and delivers respite. But in stark contrast to this glimmer of hope, chunky bass chords and sunless drums work together, pounding forth a doom sodden march with blistering vocals, that are both lambasting and scourging. Vicious blast beats courtesy of Sebastian Hübner, along with a fury of riffs terrorise right to the end of the track, leaving you stunned and in shock. In four minutes, you've gone from a soul at peace to a soul tormented.

This journey through your worst nightmares and the battle of one’s mental state never recedes on The Ardent Weight of Thoughts, but instead continues to get deeper under your already shredded skin and delivers further tongue lashings and shoulder shakes, with the tracks Lazar and Vacanz. Relentless, doom inspired chords continue to trample and beat you down. It's harrowing to some, but the sinister side of you will love every single second of it. If you can embrace and learn to love your dark side as much as the false façade everyone else sees, then Svntarer are for you.

Demerunge is the sounds you hear when you open your eyes and find yourself in tatters on the misty sludgy soil. It's that music you wake up to after being trampled and trodden on through a crazy nightmare. The syths blow over you in a light dusting of dew and morning rain. The guitars are calming and near comforting, signalling the end of the nightmare, and letting you know that you have survived those dreaded hours.

This album is huge, simple as that. It's dark and it's disturbing at times, but that's where its beauty lies. Turn on the local radio station if you want some background music to life's mundane tasks, but if you want to test yourself and push your boundaries, then lie back, put on your headphones on, and get lost in the labyrinth that is The Ardent Weight of Thoughts. With a release date of February 14th, Svntarer have delivered the best Valentine's gift you will have ever received! Enjoy.

Nautilus - Nautilus Thu, 24 Feb 2022 07:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 7b00199e-4f1d-4cc4-b266-2a6ad25bb6b3 (Doom - Blackgaze - Post Metal )

I Love discovering debut albums, and hearing something new and refreshing within that often unpolished state. Adelaide's Nautilus have arrived on the scene and have dropped a debut release that's adorned with various metal styles that interweave and then fuse together in a mass of heavy melancholic soundscapes and soaring swells of optimism.

Nautilus is a 3-piece instrumental metal band from Adelaide, Australia and their self-titled debut album poked my curiosity the moment I heard it. I love finding new music and I get even more excited when I feel the need to reach out to the band and ask if they would like me to review their album! The Smashing Skull Sessions' ethos of showcasing new and exciting metal music from every corner of the globe rings loud and clear when I hear bands like Nautilus. Up and coming bands, and especially debut releases need all the help they can get especially in these crazy times of throw-away music, and where streaming doesn’t allow albums to breathe and develop.

The band is comprised of Yuqi Liu on guitars, Jordan Kane on drums and Leonardo Orlandi on bass. They blend elements of "post-rock", "doom-metal" and even lashings of "black-metal" to create these epic and emotional soundscapes that consume and engross the listener. So, let me get straight into it, and try my best to convey the emotions and the intensity that's strewn across this debut album.

The opening track, Longing for Nautilus has a sombre tone that hangs by soft dense strings with some delicious tremolo guitar work that heightens the mood with every chord plucked. The passage of music is melodic, harmonious, and carefully ushers you into a safe and contemplative place, a lush grass-covered meadow, where the melody grows like wildflowers around your ankles with its bright subtle harmonics. Halfway through the track some distorted and heavy riffs bond with crashing hi-hats and cymbals delivering a post metal crescendo that's ignites a lead solo which is mirrored by a rich bass line and a steadfast rhythm guitar. This recipe ebbs and flows, delivering some old school riffs reminiscent of early Black Sabbath before that lead guitar rises once more with its soaring melody which embraces the listener and grasps tightly until the track retreats one final time with more gentle transient strings, finally releasing you from its grip.

The second track Sun Epithet momentarily lulls you into a false sense of security as it opens with more serene chords and a gorgeous hook, that are soon devoured by resounding guitars that somehow manage to maintain that initial melody and hook but injecting it with a steroid that delivers an instant surge of firepower. The tempo-changes are a plenty here, as the track meanders through various cadences and compositions, all the time mesmerising with that lead guitar that whitewashes everything with its unfading laments.

The Cave Is Where I Found You is another slab of melodically inspired "post-rock" that hits the spot. It’s melancholically driven, however its sombre undertones never overwhelm or cast a shadow over the music. There are enough uplifting crescendos scattered through the track to keep the vibes optimistic and buoyant. The same can be said for To The Mountain We Ascend, which is aptly named, and has all the energy and power needed to see you reach that near impossible summit, standing there in awe, as blast beats pound and echo across the snow-covered mountain ranges below. It’s a track that not only sounds immense, but it also has the ability to visually transport you to that towering mountain top.

As I listen to this album, I'm drawn to bands like Audiolepsia and We Were Heading North for the catchy melodies and grand lead guitars, then bands like Nordsind for the hypnotizing black gazed fury that breaks through on occasion. In The Distance, I Hear Them is a track that perfectly blends all the above and leads you into the final track of the album.

The Sunken Forest has an almost D-Beat gallop to it as it builds in energy and power right from the get-go. However, the air soon turns menacing and heavy as the doom descends on the album and plods its path in a mid-tempo canter before a "black-metal" fury lays siege one final time, turning the canter into a high speed, thrash - inspired chase. The track closes with a gentle and patient guitar piece and brings this very impressive debut album to a close.

Nautilus are a band who have done incredibly well in combining various metal styles and making it flow and sound tight and taught. The formula has worked well, and I’m sure the guys will take more risks on future releases, but for now this self-titled album has raised their profile, and rightly so. I look forward to watching these guys grow and develop their sound and see where this journey brings them. Enjoy!

Turpentine Valley - Alder Mon, 21 Feb 2022 09:00:00 +0000 [email protected] 4d808930-f68a-4bd0-845c-d8802fbd2a55 ( Post-Metal - Sludge - Doom )

Turpentine Valley's latest release Alder is like a monumental steel structure that has been galvanised and strengthened, but at the same time its naturally weathered beauty remains, demonstrating its imposing power and ruggedness. Alder hits hard, with its heavy leaden riffs and bleak harsh atmospheres. It’s an album that excites, as much as it unsettles.

When Turpentine Valley emerged from the Dunk Records foundry with their debut album Etch back in November 2019, it was a like a turbulent, scalding river of molten post-metal liquid, that had been carefully forged into this imposing and towering steel structure. The music was both dense and impenetrable, leaning heavily on its relentless delivery of layered guitars, scowling bass and ground-breaking percussions.

Just over three years on, and from the depths of a worldwide pandemic, Turpentine Valley have re-emerged with an absolute colossus of an album in the shape of Alder. That monumental steel structure has now been galvanised and strengthened, but at the same time its naturally weathered beauty remains, demonstrating its imposing power and ruggedness. Alder hits hard, with its heavy leaden riffs and bleak harsh atmospheres. It’s an album that excites, as much as it unsettles.

The opening passage Veeleer I is a short, calmly picked stringed piece that still manages to create a mood that is a little unnerving, thanks to the sparce use of synths that carefully roll over the guitar. This opens the door for the first onslaught of hard-hitting chords and crashing drums in the shape of Sereen. Right from the off, those dual layered guitars fill the room, while the bass earths the music to the floor with its deep, dark tone. The melody is catchy, the pace is fevered and for some reason, reminds me of the track Empire Falls from Primordial, such is the brilliance of the two guitars playing in unison. The pace drops to a crawl with some deep shredded guitars that roll into the background, allowing that lead swell to rise once more, closing out a real juggernaut of a track.

Parabel is the first track that was pre-released and opens in an almost dreamy shoegaze mist with a deep-set bass line driving the track forward, both carefully and methodically. As the track opens up, it becomes awash with atmosphere and lush melodic swells, before breaking down to a canter momentarily until it catapults itself once more into a sea of melody, force and might.

Teloor and Tremor are two tracks cut from the same cloth with their slow-paced meditative influences. Even though one breeds doom inspired lows, crawling through murky and sludge-drenched soil and the other breeds a more positive outlook, with its uplifting harmonies, offering an air of hope and respite, both these tracks are used very cleverly in bringing side A of the vinyl offering to a close, and introducing us to side B.

Everybody will find something to love in this album, there’s no fear there, but it will be interesting to see what tracks move people and what emotion and atmosphere they lean on when engrossing themselves in this record. Alder is awash with forlorn undercurrents and heavy-hearted riffs but there are moments of light and hope scattered throughout. None more so than the next two offerings. Neuron is delicately decorated in sparce violin atmospherics that complement the meandering pace of the track. Huge open chords bring the track into a vast open chamber of optimism, with tremolo guitars layering the walls before releasing one of the highlight grooves on the album. Respijt’s synth waves at the beginning breathe an air of positivity and bring a sense of calm to the album, and even though the track does break into thick, thundering riffs, the lead guitar’s tremolo chords sing and soar like a mighty lark levitating overhead.

The Closing track Veleer II embraces the voice of Pieter Jan De Paepe. It’s emotive, it’s impassioned and even though I don’t speak the language, it’s delivery hits hard and strikes a nerve. It closes another chapter in Turpentine Valley’s development as a post-metal powerhouse. Alder is an imposing album, that stands tall and proud amongst all the other great post metal albums that I have heard in the last few years. Turpentine Valley will only get bigger and stronger as time goes on, I’m sure of that. Just like that steel structure, they will build on it and expand on it to create something that will ultimately set them aside from all the rest. These guys are ones to watch out for in the future.

With the amazing Dunk Records creating a stunning press for Alder, and with A thousand Arms distributing the US market, you can now add Ripcord Records to the list with their exclusive issue on cassette. There is no excuse for anyone not to own a physical copy of this album. Enjoy!

Lucida Dark – Of Death, Of Love Sun, 13 Feb 2022 01:00:00 +0000 [email protected] e91dd02e-6ab0-45a5-bbed-031c353e83a8 Lucida Dark have written an album that tips the scales between darkness and light, harmonising these polar opposites through an odyssey of love and death. Music can elevate, and music can transcend. Of Death, Of Love does both! ( Instrumental - Post-Rock - Post-Metal )

Lucida Dark have written an album that tips the scales between darkness and light, harmonising these polar opposites through an odyssey of love and death. Music can elevate, and music can transcend. Of Death, Of Love does both!

Subconsciously, we can either decide on an album at a moment’s glance or consciously procrastinate for an eternity before allowing it into our musical realm. I can recall 1993 like it was yesterday, shifting through a myriad of vinyl in Greb Records. Using the two-handed technique of flicking through various rock and metal albums, both index fingers froze when a strange and obscure album cover caught my eye. Picking the album up and turning it over to read the track listing had me further mesmerised. Track names like Lovelorn Rhapsody, Under A Veil Of Black Lace and Sleep In Sanity took complete control of me. What followed was a love affair with Anathema that lasted close on 15years.

Fast forward nearly two decades, and Lucida Dark’s latest release Of Death, Of Love takes me back to that moment, only now it’s 2022, and I’m scrolling through Bandcamp! but the reaction and curiosity hit me the very same way. The artwork on Of Death, Of Love is stunning, and visually striking, depicting something dark, sinister and enigmatic. Track titles such as Taken By Sorrow and We Shall Meet And Part No More weigh heavy with emotion and melancholic suspicion. Simply put, this was an album I had to listen to, and damn, I wasn’t disappointed. Lucida Dark have written an album that tips the scales between darkness and light, harmonising these polar opposites through an odyssey of love and death.

The opening track, Taken By Sorrow’s piano-cloaked opening is caressed by dense atmospherics and sombre drums, gently opening up the music with an ensemble of guitars and a trumpet that would break a stony heart. Heavy guitar swells roll in, crashing heavy against that sombre brass backdrop, building up to a thunderously heavy "post-metal" crescendo, before a synthesised wave brings the track to a close.

On That Dark Immortal Shore is equally atmospheric, with its electronic drum pattern rebounding off soft delicate guitars. The pace is slow and measured allowing every layer time to breathe, before crashing into a Ranges-esque wall of glorious harmony and coherence. Driving tremolo shredding and thunderous rhythm guitars hit the nail square on the head. The dip in pace and potency only excites and toys with the listener, because you know that the track is on its ascension towards a monumentally joyous and immersive high….and with that, rolling drums followed by a gasp of breath and the music elevates to a higher place, high above the earth, then cascades down in a symphony of sound. Musical bliss!

We Shall Meet And Part No More. Well, what can I say here that hasn’t been envisioned in the track’s title. Torrential musical highs flood your ears beneath that brooding melancholic sky, before transitioning into brass-soaked lows, that are so smooth and comforting. More thunderous swells surge forward once more with sweet soaring solos and crushing guitars closing the track.

All that power and well-trained ferocity is put at ease with the intro of There Are Other Worlds Than these. Drawn out chords reverb as the mid paced tempo brings light and hope to this crazy and overwhelming universe of ours. As the music hits that beautiful crescendo awash with soaring solos, you can feel this interstellar mission being swept up in a superterrestrial space storm.

Lucida Darks’ music is like a meteor with a trail of fire spanning the horizon that hits the earth with unmeasurable force. It delivers monumental power, all the while, sculpted around lush, serene melodies and hooks. The title track, Of Death Of Love and They Never Come Back only re-enforce this with their divine structures and celestial energy. The vast Nebraska skies that these guys reside under must be awash with inspiration and creativity!

The Closing track on the album is the beautiful bass heavy Scarcity. I can’t even put into words how amazing the finale is on this track. If this doesn’t lift your spirits and send chills down your spine then music as a medium just isn’t for you! What a way to close a truly great album. Of Death, Of Love had me snared before I even played a single note. There are very few albums that can do that, but Lucida Dark will lure you in with its stunning artwork, its thought-provoking track titles, and finally its euphoric music. Sublime.

Violet Cold - Səni Uzaq Kainatlarda Axtarıram Sat, 05 Feb 2022 02:00:00 +0000 [email protected] e8210cc2-9098-4b31-a753-b70116a8c4b3 Violet Cold play a style of Atmospheric Black Metal that hypnotises and spellbinds the listener. Ambient elecltronic soundscapes collide with a cosmic black gazed frenzy, exploding into what can only be described as full on sensory overload. No better place to be! ( Black Metal - Blackgaze )

Violet Cold play a style of Atmospheric Black Metal that hypnotises and spellbinds the listener. Ambient elecltronic soundscapes collide with a cosmic black gazed frenzy, exploding into what can only be described as full on sensory overload. No better place to be!

I stare in awe at the Violet Cold Bandcamp page with my jaw touching the floor when I see that Violet Cold has 52 releases in his discography. Granted there’s singles, EP’s, albums and everything in between amidst the mass of work. Some artists are gifted, simple as. They have a fountain of creativity at their disposal. Their mind works in mysterious ways, far different from us mere mortals!! I only came to know Violet Colds music in detail after the release of Kosmik back in 2019. Since then, I’ve been burrowing my way through his labyrinth of music, spending hours tumbling through blast beats and vast atmospheric deliriums. What Empire Of Love did in 2021 was break barriers, open minds, and get people talking. The Album is a "post black" masterpiece, swarmed in hooks and positive auras. But in Səni Uzaq Kainatlarda Axtarıram, we have a more recognisable Violet Cold, a trance-gazed, sombre affair, but to anyone who immerses themselves in this genre of music will find solace and reassurance and a place to escape to.

So the journey begins….Venus opens the album with a rich synthesised swell interlaced with piano keys, before the trademark "black-gazed" soundscapes swirl and spiral into fuzzy guitars and mid paced drums. This opens the door for Shoegaze Rave with its frantic jungle beats and atmospheric backdrop. Vocals rasp and wail amidst the mayhem before a synthesised interlude sweeps through the track, carrying with it the angelic backing vocals that feel both celestial and divine. As the mist descends once more, blast beats and huge atmospheric acrobatics blister through distorted shredding and visceral vocals.

Immersive Collapse feeds off those celestial moments from earlier and opens with a sweet female operatic lullaby before a slow driven groove ignites and plunders forth with more cutting vocals and synthesised backdrop that seduces and almost hypnotises the listener, engulfing you in its sandstorm. Double bass drums kick up the sand once more as the track fills the air tossing a blanket dust over all in its path. Immersive Collapse is a track that keeps on growing in stature the longer it plays out, to the extent that you don’t want it to cease. But unfortunately, everything must come to end, but once the storm has receded you find yourself elevated, weightless, rising through the clouds with the atmospheric and inspiring Getma. Simply put, this is ambient "black-metal" in electronic euphoria.

There’s not many artists that can play a genre of "black-metal" and be able to incorporate a dance beat, but Violet Cold has mastered the unique ability to fuse any form or style of music and blacken it with its tragic and heavy-hearted passion. Haunting backing vocals sweep over the stony and harsh screams in a multi layered spectacle, creating another work of art.

The Closing track "Demise", reeks of grief and anguish with its sombre tone and its procession paced beats. It’s emotive, it’s agonising, and it cuts the listener deep. Anyone with a soul, no matter how tarnished it is, can’t help to be moved by "depressive black metal" played as well as this. Midway through the track, shredded tremolo guitars come out from behind their celestial veil, and as the track reaches its climatic and furious end, one final chorus of lamentations and woe bring Səni Uzaq Kainatlarda Axtarıram to a close. I’m left sitting here with a lump in my throat and the need to close my eyes and play this EP again.

Mountaineer – Giving Up The Ghost Tue, 01 Feb 2022 00:15:00 +0000 [email protected] bb098ac2-a29e-4eb9-9c59-544e4014a1f3 Mountaineer have delivered yet again, and have released an album that smothers and shrouds the listener with its blanket of rich melodic hooks and heaving shoegaze riffs. The music is often dark and overcast , but it always allows that little shard of light through, which brings hope and rebirth. ( Doom-Metal - Shoegaze )

Mountaineer have delivered yet again, and have released an album that smothers and shrouds the listener with its blanket of rich melodic hooks and heaving shoegaze riffs. The music is often dark and overcast , but it always allows that little shard of light through, which brings hope and rebirth.

I remember vividly, hearing Mountaineer’s third album Bloodletting for the first time when it was released back in 2020. With some of the music in the “post-metal” genre, I find there can be a lack of tone changes and a shortage of any melodic framework within the vocal delivery, and this tends to distance me from a lot of the bands who are undoubtedly all terrific musicians, but for these ears, and for this style of music, I feel the vocals should accompany the melody and harmony of the track a lot more! This is where the Oakland “post-metal” outfit Mountaineer sauntered in, and in one fell swoop reenergised my love for heavy post music. All those little nuances and essences that I felt were missing in this genre were strewn across Bloodletting. From harmonised, dirt-encrusted screams doused in dream gaze flourishes to doom laden riffs synchronised with unrestrained drums, Bloodletting had it all.

So, I’m happy to say that 2022 is already looking a whole lot brighter with the February release of Mountaineer’s fourth studio album Giving Up The Ghost. This album has brought with it, all those rich melancholic melodies and varied vocal operatics that adorned Bloodletting, however, I believe they have evolved once more with Giving Up The Ghost. There is something airy and fresh about it. Their sound is still heavy, and still languishing in lovelorn pensiveness, but at times the music feels like its nonchalantly drifting amidst the thermals of a shoegaze heatwave, suspended in glorious harmony and rapture.

That feeling is immediately apparent in the opening two tracks. The Ghost is just a passage of some serene and calmly plucked strings, married with the most delicate percussions rolling softly over it, that gently pushes the door ajar for the next track Blot Out The Sun, which showcases Mountaineer in all their splendour. From calm placid chord progressions come crisp clean vocals, velvet in texture and aching in melancholy. Volcanic growls pour lava over the mid-tempo riffs, while lugubrious drums lead us into what I consider the trademark Mountaineer sound. Deeply melodic chord progressions reveal that near-celestial vocal delivery that haunts and stirs the soul. The vocals flip back and forth through a synergy of serenades and shanties, all the time adorned with rich harmonies, before cascading into a mudslide of rolling drums and hair-raising guitar swells.

Bed Of Flowers is where this dream gazing sound I spoke of earlier really comes out from behind the shadows. Wailing guitar riffs rain over a slow chugging rhythm section, while slightly sand blasted vocals, reminiscent of the late Layne Staley, bring the track into a euphoric crescendo. Come to think of it, even the phrasing and pace of this track holds its dimly lit grunge torch to Alice In Chains, almost paying homage to them. A really great track.

The next two tracks, Touch of Glass and When The Soul Sleeps continue this gaze driven journey with more delicious hooks and deep melancholic melodies. The vocal ranges really do reign supreme on _When The Soul Sleeps _as they battle and tussle for bragging rights, all the way to the end. The final musical flourish elevates the album to yet another majestic plateau laced with elation and divine gratification.

My favourite track on the album, Twin Flame begins at funereal pace, with those rich lush vocals drawing and elongating on every word, “With death comes rebirth, with birth comes death, on a trip to the end, welcome to your last breath”. The guitars and bass continue at a snail’s pace with their slow-motion movements, accentuating the hardship and deep sense of loss within the track’s melody. Reverbed bass chords along with thrashing drums bring the track to its climax as the vocals continue to gently weep, before perfectly rolling into the closing piece of music Giving Up. This little piece of medieval styled plucking gently closes the album, serenading the listener one last time, bringing down the curtain on an album that’s both beautiful and black.

Mountaineer have continued to grow on every album and have constantly pushed the “post-metal" and "post-rock” envelope with each release. Their sound is unmistakably Mountaineer, there’s no denying that, it’s baptised in harmony and melody while all the time maintaining its musical prowess and underlying ferocity. Vocally there is less growling here than in earlier albums, which plays a big part in my assessment that this album has more of a “shoegazey” vibe than before, but for the atmosphere and the context of Giving Up The Ghost it works perfectly. I love this album, and I need to see these guys live soon. You do too!