Label: Dullest Records
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.
Label: Black Bow Records
Originally released seven years ago, the split between sonter/drone/doom legends Conan and psychedelic doom explorers Slomatics is seeing a reissue on vinyl in June. It’s a fine split, and one that has been reissued several times before, but it still has a lot to offer, given that it’s the kind of record that’s perfectly summed up by the cover art of a warrior riding a snail – it’s slow, it’s heavy, and it’s incredibly powerful.
Label: Opal Tapes
Gospel is the third collaboration (though second to be released) between Siavash Amini and Matt Finney, and the combination of ambient/drone soundscapes and confessional spoken word is every bit as emotionally devastating as you’d hope and expect. It’s not a record to be enjoyed in any conventional sense of the word; instead, it’s music as therapy, as a means of confronting one’s demons and trying to put the past behind you, no matter how Sisyphean a task that may seem. It picks up the thread (both musically and emotionally) from Familial Rot and not so much runs with it as it does stumble forward, hands reaching desperately for safety, fighting off demons and trauma that are more spiritual than anything else. It is a haunting, uncomfortable listen; but also compelling in its own way.
Label: Whited Sepulchre Records
The music contained on the split between Brianna Kelly and Sympathy Pain is the kind of thing that we all need within our lives; something to unwind with, to let go of our cares and worries as we try to find some sort of inner peace. Warm, and comforting, this is a split of soul-soothing ambient and emotional post-rock, that possesses a human touch and tenderness that can so often be lacking in the genres, making this a release to recommend both to those who already appreciate said styles, but also those who aren’t usually fans.
Label: Diwphalanx Records / Southern Lord Records (reissue)
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Boris know that the Japanese band have a vast, hugely varied discography, ranging from drone to psychedelic metal to J-pop – sometimes in the space of a single album. Akuma no Uta is the album that introduced me to the band, and remains my favourite – which is why I’m slightly apprehensive about getting to see them on their UK tour with Amenra. Their most recent album, Dear, is a different beast to Akuma no Uta, being based upon drone, rather than the psychedelic heavy metal of Akuma… – and, as good as I expect them to be, part of me will be disappointed if nothing from Akuma… is played.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Dark Horizons / Wooaaargh
Underground extreme music is often a vibrant, exciting place, filled with bands and labels releasing work that pushes boundaries, challenges conventions (musically, socially, or otherwise), and is, by its very nature, often only intended for a small audience. Yet it can also be a place fraught with risk, especially financial. No one with any sense gets in to extreme music for the money, because most of the time, there isn’t any. This means that even if a label is responsible for helping to unleash some superb music upon the world, financial constraints might see that music vanish without a trace. Such was the original fate of Sedation by Rotting Sky, the solo project of Nux Vomica guitarist T. Messing, when the label that originally released it (Grimoire Cassette Culture) closed down around the time of Sedation‘s original release. Eternal praises to the labels involved, then, for giving this record a reissue and helping to save it from complete obscurity, as this mixture of black metal, drone, and noise is excellent.
Label: Moribund Records / Southern Lord Recordings
Not to be confused with a similarly-named Polish NSBM band, Thorr’s Hammer are an important part of modern doom and drone metal history. Though they were initially only active for six weeks – playing two gigs and recording a demo and the Dommedagsnatt EP, before disbanding when vocalist Runhild Grammelsæter returned to Norway – it was from this band that the seeds of future collaborations between Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson were sewn. And I’m sure we all know how important a duo they are to modern heaviness. Yet Dommedagsnatt is noteworthy beyond its status as an historical artifact – this EP is filled with crushing death-doom that still holds up today.