The opening paragraph to this month’s short reviews was initially about how excited I was for Temples Festival. I was only going for the Friday, lured in by the promise of Pissgrave, Revenge, Mgla, and Mayhem all in one night (with the later three being amongst my favourite bands). But alas, the whole festival has been cancelled, days before it was due to take place. This is a huge blow, for the bands playing, the organiser, and for fans like me who have payed out hundreds of pounds and won’t get most of it back (due to non-refundable hotels and trains). Hopefully the individuals involved won’t lose out too badly, but in hindsight, a lot of warning signs were there (just look at how many bands cancelled late-on, and plenty of acts from previous years are talking about the trouble they had being paid).
On a personal note, this is the second time I’ve had the chance to see Mayhem and it’s fallen through; and only the second time I’ve brought tickets for a festival. At least this time it wasn’t called off early because of a bomb scare, I guess?
Anyway; no sense dwelling on what can’t be helped. Up this month though is the usual six shorts. Goatslave unleash their bestial Procession Of Doom; whilst Goddess offer something more prog/doom/psych with The Withering. Grimness and Kastchei bring the weirdo black metal on their split tap, and Noire offer up the atmospheric The Tracks Of The Hunted. Finally, Ulcer‘s Heading Below is a dose of old-school Swedish death, before Zorormr round things off with The Aftermath.
Goatslave – Procession Of Doom
Label: Atavism Records
The Chris Moyen artwork should be clue enough for anyone likely to be interested in the blasphemous metal Goatslave have to offer on Procession Of Doom, and the music lives up to expectations. Dirty, violent and cavernous, this is a superb example of bestial black metal. It’s perhaps a touch more accessible than the likes of Archgoat and Blasphemy, with more obvious hooks and catchy riffs – or perhaps I’m just more used to the genre now – but it’s hardly at risk of becoming mainstream metal. Nor is it exactly clever, but tracks like “Six Sex Satan” and “Finished By The Wolf” have a certain something about them beyond just violence. There is still plenty of that though; enough to make it clear that this is bestial metal through-and-through, even if it isn’t as boneheaded as the style often is. Overall, Procession Of Doom does exactly what you’d expect, and then a bit more. Recommended!
Goddess – The Withering
Label: Voidcaller Records
To describe it, The Withering by Norway’s Goddess sounds incredibly daunting. A 19 minute track blending prog, psychedelic, proto-doom, and a whole host of other genres? I wouldn’t blame you for being intimidated. But to listen to it, The Withering is surprisingly accessible, feeling far, far shorter than it actually is (in a good way). There’s a lot of different movements and styles here, and it could all so easily have ended up a mess, but instead it’s one of the most surprisingly enjoyable tracks I’ve heard this month; and also one of the most captivating. It’s entirely possible to lose hours at a time, wrapped up in its cocoon of sound. Comparisons to a range of bands, including Boris, Baroness, and Cathedral all feel apt, but only tell half the story. Love the use of organ, too. I’d normally run a mile from something like this, so that it’s impressed me should say a lot.
Grimmness / Kastchei – Split
“Weirdo black metal” is a term I don’t especially like, but it suits this split release pretty perfectly. Both acts contribute raw black metal, but with something more to it than just a love of Les Legiones Noires or Ildjarn. Grimness throw in some unsettling noise elements as well as a bit of damaged punk rock spirit that is sure to upset those who only care about what is “trve”, yet still come across – barely – as the more accessible of the two bands. With Kastchei, there’s also a punk rock feel and noise elements and samples, but it’s even more unrefined and almost OTT, with hints of the drama of 80’s post-punk. It doesn’t exactly sound black metal, but it doesn’t fit anywhere else: hence, weirdo black metal. This is music for those who are outsiders even within the underground. It certainly puts all those Darkthrone clones in to perspective. Undeniably niche, but also quite special. With any justice, these tapes will be collectors items in years to come.
Noire – The Tracks Of The Hunted
There’s only one way to listen to The Tracks Of The Hunted and do it justice: alone, at night, in darkness. The new EP from Noire is heavy on atmosphere – and what an atmosphere it conjures! Largely instrumental, with long acoustic passages, The Tracks Of The Hunted is majestic and haunting. Only the title track can really be called black metal in sound, with clear influences from the likes of Dissection and Enslaved, full of stirring guitar-lines and epic scope. As impressive as it is, it’s also the odd one out of the EP’s six tracks. The other five largely eschew the sound of black metal, and instead draw from its atmospheres. Acoustic guitars and strong vocals carry songs like “My Name”, whilst tracks like “The Sound Of The Void” and “There is Nothing Left” are challenging, with the vocals used in the later in a manner more common in experimental genres, overlapping and placed in the background of the mix. Even if it takes a very different musical approach, there’s no denying that The Tracks Of The Hunted captures the frostbitten, isolationist atmosphere of black metal. It’s an interesting sound, and one I hope gets more recognition.
Ulcer – Heading Below
Label: Arachnophobia Records
First off: I absolutely love that cover art. Look at it! So brilliantly (death) metal. As for the album itself, well, I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Swedish death metal recently (both classic bands and bands who sound like those bands), and Ulcer fall in to the later category for the most part. Whilst there’s little in the core sound of Heading Below you won’t have heard before, the Polish roots of the band and their involvement in other acts (most notably with half of the line-up having served time in Blaze Of Perdition) give them something slightly different to the norm. It’s no grand departure, but it does mean Ulcer will never be accused of simply imitating their inspirations, even if they do pay homage to them. It’s certainly a solid release, but there’s moments when it loses the momentum it builds, as with the extended closing section to second track “Fiends Forever”. There’s the sense that the album is never coming across as strongly as it should do, and it’s a real shame – it’s a good album, but never quite becomes the excellent one it so nearly is. Still, fans of Swedish death are unlikely to be disappointed, and there’s more than enough violence and dirt here to ultimately carry the day. Third track “Sights To See” is especially effective, and strong enough to make the record worth checking out on its own.
Zørormr – The Aftermath
Label: Via Nocturna
One of the most noticeable things about Polish one-man act Zørormr‘s new EP, The Aftermath, is how many different strands of metal it pulls from. There’s a clear Rotting Christ influence, as well as hints of Naglfar, all topped off with an undeniable 80’s metal influence. It’s a joy to hear a black metal band taking inspiration for more than just corpse-paint from King Diamond, with tracks like “The Last Judgement” having a sense of drama and theatrics. They never come across as camp though, with there being plenty of black metal grit and darkness to ensure they sound dangerous rather than flamboyant. It’s in vast contrast not just to most Polish or solo act black metal, but most modern black metal full stop. The only mis-step is with closing track “Zorormr” and its unusual production, more reminiscent of industrial metal than anything else; worthy enough for sure, but slightly strange in the context of the rest of the EP. This one track aside though, it is a very strong and hugely enjoyable EP.