I mentioned last month how excited I was over SubRosa coming to the UK, but that excitement has been matched this month by the announcement of a new Planes Mistaken For Stars record. I honestly never expected it to ever materalise, ever though the band have been playing shows for years since reforming. There’s few bands I hold in higher regard than those guys, so I’m very excited.
But, that’s for the future. For now, we have Bloodshed Remains offering up some hardcore Peace; Austrian D-beat/hardcore/grindcore band Six Score with Lebensräume; metallic French hardcore bruisers Pallass and their Devotion Of Souls; Yūgen from atmospheric black metal act Ashbringer; UK anti-fascist black metal band Dawn Ray’d with A Thorn, A Blight; and the pumelling split between Sea Of Bones and Ramlord. Oof!
Bloodshed Remains – Peace
Label: Demons Run Amok
It may hit like a hammer, but there’s a positive vibe to Peace that helps raise it above most other hardcore records I’ve heard recently. Over the course of four songs, Bloodshed Remains combine the heavier side of hardcore with some more melodic touches, meaning that, even at its most hard-hitting, Peace is never anything other than enjoyable. This is hardcore as a clarion call for self-improvement, and that anything worthwhile is worth working for, even if there’s those who will seek to undermine you. There’s certainly no arguing with the passion displayed on tracks like “Bright Lies”, and Nick Jett (Terror) has given the record an excellent production job, making this Austrian band one to watch.
Six Score – Lebensraume
Well, isn’t that a loaded title! Don’t fret, though. This is anti-capitalist grindcore of the most furious kind, with plenty of hardcore and d-beat influence too. Every bit as intense as you’d hope, Lebensräume is packed full of superb, hyped-speed riffs, mercilless drumming, and desperate vocals. There’s actual songs in amongst the noise too though, with songs such as “Contracts” possessing the kind of small movements and guitar turns that show, as intent as Six Score are on making political points, they’re also determined to write strong grindcore songs, and they more than succeed. The closing cover of Nasum’s “Scoop” – to these ears, one of the best grind songs ever written – is a very brave move, and that they pull it off speaks volumes about how good this album and band are.
Pallass – Devotion Of Souls
Label: BDHW Records
There’s been a few changes in the lineup of French act Pallass these past few years, which has seen the band move in a more metal, less beatdown direction; and on the strength of Devotion Of Souls, I’ve no complaints about this. This is heavy, hard-hitting metallic hardcore (not metalcore), packed full of great riffs, breakdowns, and plenty of double-bass drum punishment. New vocalist Stu is an absolute beast, his deep bellows full of power but also with the words coming through clearly, which really counts for a lot. There’s a sense of danger and threat throughout, and whilst it never fully goes in to Holy Terror territories, Devotion Of Souls carries a comparable apocalyptic aura. Absolutely not to be fucked with.
Ashbringer – Yūgen
Label: Avantgarde Music
It sometimes feels like there’s a new atmospheric black metal album being released every day, of which, most of them are dross. With so much competition, it really takes something special to stand out, and for the music to convince me to stick with it rather than just feeling like I’d be better off listening to Drudkh or something. So, that I’m writing about Ashbringer in the first place should say something about how good their second album, Yūgen, is. There’s a bit of a subtle prog feel to the music at points, and plenty of skilled builds-up and moments of star-gazing wonder. Really though, albums like this are – to me – best judged by how well they pull you in to their world, and by this criteria, Yūgen is superb, transporting the listener away to autumnal forests and twilight mountainsides. There’s also a rather lovely melancholy throughout, giving the album the emotional attachment it needs to really stand out. There’s some good atmospheric black metal out there, and Yūgen can be considered among the year’s best.
Dawn Ray’d – A Thorn, A Blight
Label: Halo Of Flies Records
Somehow, I missed this one when it was released, but since I stumbled upon it, A Thorn, A Blight has been on heavy rotation. It’s rare to hear black metal played with such passionate intensity, and when wedded to explicitly anti-fascist, intelligent lyrics, it’s practically impossible for me not to love it. Swirling, head-spinning riffs and furious drumming combine with mournful violins to utterly devastating emotional effect, making Dawn Ray’d a band that strike the heart as well as the head. “Cauldron Of Rebirth” is a particular highlight, especially the refrain of “I swear, I am getting weaker / I swear, I am slowing down” that will haunt you for days. The only complaint is that it’s only 23 minutes long, but considering how superlative those 23 minutes are, that’s an incredibly minor point. This is superb.
Sea Of Bones / Ramlord – Split
Label: Broken Limbs Recordings
First of all: that artwork! Yeah, it’s gorgeous. Such a piece of work deserves music to match, and thankfully, this split is more than up to the job. Both bands offer up a single track, with the contribution from Sea Of Bones – Hopelessness And Decay – being suitably bleak and dark for such a title. Ten and a half minutes of punishing, ultra-heavy sludge are the order of the day, moving at the slowest of tempos, giving each bellowed vocal, hanging riff, and blast of feedback the required time to burrow in to your skull; which means that, when the tempo does pick up, it’s all the more effective. There’s some real apocalyptic vibes to this. Absolutely horrible, in the best, most cathartic way possible. Ramlord‘s side of the split is nasty in a different way, with their track Incarceration Of Clairvoyance (Part Three) being the most stripped-down metalpunk I’ve heard, well, probably ever. There’s plenty of changes of pace to keep things interesting and moving over the ten minute duration, the vocals are nasty, and I love the fuzzy production on the guitars. There’s some superb riffs and movements here too, most notable around the three minute mark, and I love the almost psychedelic vibe the track gives off. It’s metalpunk, for sure, but not as you might know it.