Rough, raw, and with everything pushed in to the red, the demo tape from Feral Nun is a 10 minute riot of gothic post-punk. Crude in the best possible way, this is the what Bauhaus or Joy Division would have sounded like were they even more strung-out on anxiety and desperation than was already true, spitting out shorts bursts of violence and catharsis. In short, it’s bloody great.
It’s easy to feel angry and hopeless these days, what with the political shitstorms that are Trump, Brexit, and the rise of corporations controlling our lives like some quietly creeping dystopian sci-fi plot. On their demo tape, Baron Soil provide the perfect soundtrack for such anger and circumstances, channeling their rage in to four short tracks of melodic crust, that move with real purpose and urgency. It’s short, fast, and leaves me wanting more – just as a demo should.
La Fin De L’ère Sauvage, the first demo from French band Woest, is an ugly piece of music. The industrial black metal contained within the record is harsh, aggressive, and possessed of a nihilistic, corrosive atmosphere, as if playing it will somehow cause your speakers to decay. Steeped deeply in a ritualistic aura, this record is an uncomfortable experience, that revels in the dark shadows it conjures as it combines black metal mysticism with dystopian industrial sounds.
It’s great when a band and label recognise that there’s a hunger for their early, out-of-print work. Such is the case with the original demo by extreme funeral doom band Esoteric, Esoteric Emotions – The Death of Ignorance. Seeing the high prices it was fetching online, and the increasingly poor quality of copies available, the decision was taken to give the demo the reissue and remastering treatment it deserved. Available as a special edition CD, Esoteric Emotions is a work of colossal misery, heavy both musically and emotionally, and has stood the test of time well.
Blackened thrash is the kind of genre where less can often be more. It doesn’t need to be progressive, or musically forward-thinking, or risk thinking outside of its box. Instead, the genre is often at its best when bands nail the fundamentals; when the riffs and leads are fast and vicious, the drums a crashing hammer of power, and the vocals utterly unhinged. Nekrokraft tick all of these boxes, and Witches Funeral – a compilation of their early demos, including two previously unreleased tracks – shows that the band were writing top-quality blackened thrash right from their very first days.
If you’re anything like me, then as much as you might be able to appreciate modern, technical, slickly produced death metal, it’ll never win your heart in the same way that the dirty, heavy, gruesome likes of Autopsy have. Full of memorable riffs and a delightfully crushing old-school feel, the demo from Cadaver Soiree is sure to appeal to fans of early death metal; it might not stray far from the traditional template set down in the 80’s, but it does it so very well, and with such passion, that it’s hard to hold this against the demo or band.
2016 has been the year that saw me listen to, and review, more music than ever before. For every release that gets reviewed, there’s several that I don’t have the time to write something on; or that I listen to, but simply don’t get excited over. It’s also worth bearing in mind the purposes of this blog – exploring the underground. With the odd exception (such as the new Darkthrone), I have no interest in writing in the “big” releases; I want to help give some exposure and coverage to the small and underground, not go chasing whatever review or feature will get me the most hits. I’d also point out that it’s easy to lose sense of what actually is mainstream and underground when you spend so much time immersed in music. Sure, everyone may have access to Bandcamp and Youtube and a legion of Spotify recommendations, but it’s easy to overestimate just how big our favourite bands are.
That said, there’s still some mainstream releases I’ve really enjoyed this year and want to share some thoughts on in another post. But here, I want to take the time to give shout-outs to those more underground releases which didn’t quite make the cut for my list of 25 favourites of the year.