One of the real tests of instrumental music is its ability to convey narrative. Stripped of lyrics, and the natural focal point of a vocalist, the importance of the music actually putting across something concrete and captivating either comes to the fore; or, in the case of ambient music, is all-but disregarded. With Ceremony in the Stillness, the latest album from A-Sun Amissa, that challenge is not only embraced, but met in superb style. The combination of doom-drone influenced auras, post-rock soundscapes, and haunting dark ambience is loaded with emotion, and moves with a sense of story-telling that is too rare in instrumental music. Most records of this style hint at the idea of having a running theme; but on Ceremony in the Stillness, that sense of narrative is impossible to ignore.
And so, another month, another selection of short reviews. As always, it’s an eclectic selection, taking in a dark abmient soundtrack by Guillermo Pizarro; classic speed metal from Wardance; a reissue of some occult black metal, courtesy of Shaidar Logoth and Sentient Ruin; retro-rock from Wheel in the Sky; stomping hardcore from Peace of Mind; and some crushing death metal in the shape of Skeletal Serpent‘s self-titled EP. Enjoy!
The latest from It Only Gets Worse – duo comprised of Matt Finney and Maurice de Jong (Gnaw Their Tongues) is the most accessible record the band have created to date; yet don’t let that descriptor fool you. “Accessible” only applies in relative terms, and this is still far removed from any conventional understanding of the term. The music might have a certain momentum to it at points, a kind of damaged dance edge that’s reminiscent of 90’s industrial rock, but it’s still heavy with negative emotion. It’s as weighed down by past pain and bad memories as anything Matt Finney has been involved in. The contrast between his bleak spoken word tales and the music results in something both graceful and deadly, as beautiful as it is uncomfortable, and hard to turn away from.
After a break of, well, much too long, the (hopefully) monthly review round-up is back. Truth be told, I missed writing these, despite the work involved. I intend on publishing these towards the end of each month, covering… well, as always with TSNTW, covering whatever I feel like that I think is worthy of your time. This month’s selection takes in the progressive metal of Khôrada (featuring former member of Agalloch and Giant Squid); high-speed thrash from Black Fast; a first-time on vinyl reissue of a Sarcófago album; dark ambient courtesy of ELMA; punk-infused thrash metal nastiness from Butcher in the Fog; and crushingly negative hardcore from Sense Offender. Enjoy!
Even by the standards of extreme music, this split is pretty harrowing. Clawing blend dark ambient soundscapes with Matt Finney’s spoken word contributions, which – if you’re familiar with his work – you know means that you’re in for an emotionally heavy time. Offerbeest is one of the aliases of Maurice de Jong, perhaps best known for his work as Gnaw Their Tongues. His tracks here are no less devastating than those released under that well-known moniker, being filled with harsh noise and industrial oppression, conjured via analog synths. Hardly an enjoyable trip, then – but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it is a split that forces you to confront your demons, to face what is haunting you, throwing yourself into the nightmare and hoping to emerge on the other side.
One of the real joys of underground music is watching bands develop before our eyes, going from promising early releases to albums that more than live up to expectations. Such is the case with the latest album from Abstracter, Cinerous Incarnate. The band have evolved, building on their earlier sounds, bringing further elements of noise and dark ambient to their already soul-crushing fusion of doom, black, death, and crust. It makes Cinerous Incarnate an album of utter despair and world-ending heaviness, filled with the kind of riffs that can collapse buildings and an atmosphere of the most haunting, searing dread.
Matt Finney has, through sheer hard work and determination, become something of a genre unto himself. His spoken word style is distinctive, both in its delivery – straight-forward, matter-of-fact, recounted almost without emotion at times – and also its subject matter which is, invariably, dealing with the bleaker parts of life. Such is the case with Clawing, which also features Austin Gaines and Jeff McLeod, and their debut release Spectral Estate. Over the course of forty minutes, the trio craft a record that is never anything less than unsettling, with its industrial/dark ambient soundscapes shifting and morphing in disturbing fashion, as if they were an expression of broken lives trying to piece themselves back together without success, all topped off with Matt’s spoken words. It’s horrific in its bleakness, but also deeply impressive and hard to look away from.