Fireside 2.1 ( The Smashing Skull Sessions Blog Wed, 28 Sep 2022 11:00:00 +0100 The Smashing Skull Sessions Blog en-us King Dude - Death Wed, 28 Sep 2022 11:00:00 +0100 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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!