Sunday, 23 February 2020

Necropsy - Exitus (Xtreem Music)


Labels: Xtreem Music
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 21 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1. Meat Ceremony
2. Fucking Dead
3. 206 Motives
4. Butcherado

This is likely going to be the last review of my little series focusing on Finnish extreme metal. I say likely because I may do one more today, as long as my hi-fi plays ball (the other review didn't happen, sorry). Exitus is the newest EP from death metallers Necropsy. They've been releasing music since way back in 1989, with several demos and a split coming before an eighteen year break between 1993 and 2011, when their first full-length Bloodwork saw the light of day. Now and following their 2015 full-length Buried In The Woods, the quintet returns to show newer bands how it's done.

Here we go. The review I tried to write this morning before writer’s block hit. Now I don’t know if I’m correct here but is this Necropsy (there are quite a few bands with the same name according to Metal Archives!) the same band that made Noisem change to their current name? Let me know in the comments. Anyway, forgetting that for a minute, this is death/doom of the highest order in a form that only the Finn’s can achieve. Opener ‘Meat Ceremony’ is mid-paced but still nasty enough to sit within the death metal sphere. The instrumentation is super clear on this recording (especially the guitars) and the vocals are deep in tone, which is exactly what you want. 

The aptly titled ‘Fucking Dead’ is straight-to-the-point in death/doom terms at least. It proves that experience means more than enthusiasm and Necropsy has more experience than most within the genre. The riffs are huge and thick with atmosphere, while the whole band is cohesive, as if they’re glued together physically.  

The groove is real on ‘206 Motives’ and it starts right from the off. It’s the longest song on the EP and therefore it’s the doomeist. It’s a dirge-laden slab of death metal with some awesome traditional/heavy metal influences and at times it reminds of Insomnium (a band that may or may not have been influenced by Necropsy themselves). Like the rest of the EP, it’s an engaging listen that really draws you in. 

Final song ‘Butcherado’ is at odds with the other songs on the EP. It’s a raging and fast death metal song that barely lasts beyond three minutes and shows off Necropsy’s more brutal side. Musically, it’s still more than solid and it makes use of their collective writing/recording nouse as well as their instrumental skill. It’s over all too quickly, as is this EP.

It’s going to be hard for other bands playing death/doom to match this release in 2020. Necropsy just seem to have the aura and the musicality to nail it from start to finish. This is a great release and Xtreem Music has done a great job sticking by the band and helping them to flourish. 

Stream and purchase Exitus digitally below:-



CD copies can be ordered from Xtreem Music here - http://shop.xtreemmusic.com/.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Blooming Carrions - Sisters In Blooming Flesh (Iron Bonehead Productions)


Labels: Iron Bonehead Productions
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 21 Sep 2019

Tracklist:

1. Sisters In Blooming Flesh
2. Enchantment Of Slaughtering
3. Lehto

I've decided to carry on my dive into Finnish extremity with a review of the latest release from death metal project Blooming Carrions. This time, BC has swelled to a duo with bassist PkE joining multi-instrumentalist EvM on this new EP. I reviewed the band's 2027 debut demo Sparkling Rotten Dreams back in 2018 but they've been off my radar a little until now. 

Blooming Carrions’ blackened death is horrendously evil (in the best possible way). Title track ‘Sisters In Blooming Flesh’ is a mixture of blasting black metal and mid-paced death metal filled with Finnish murkiness. The drums sit deeper in the mix, slightly buried by the bass and guitar, while the vocals are delivered via low growls that bare no comparison. It swirls and howls like the wind.

After a brief moment of silence, the shock of ringing feedback at the beginning of ‘Enchantment Of Slaughtering’ will make you sit up straight. It’s only a brief shock and before long BC head forth into their blackened deathly furrow once more. Musically, this one bares more of an avant-garde feel (though I appreciate that descriptor is probably overused now). The guitar/bass riffs are menacing, while the drums continue to pound out a relentless pace as the vocals hold nothing back.

Closing song ‘Lehto’ is ambient at first but it doesn’t stay that way for long, as thick, almost doom-like riffs take the lead in a song that’s almost ten-minutes in length. Don’t be afraid though, as it breezes by almost effortlessly with a focused tempo that lends itself really well to BC’s extremity and darkness. 

This certainly won’t be to everybody’s tastes but in terms of extreme metal, it’s very good. It’s musically strong and the production/mixing/mastering means that it’s still got an intense raw edge without being a mess of noise. Blooming Carrions are worth investing your time in if barbaric yet intelligent heaviness is what you’re after. 

You can stream and purchase Sisters In Blooming Flesh digitally via the BC's bandcamp page below:-



Physical CD and LP copies can be purchased from Iron Bonehead Productions here:-

Friday, 14 February 2020

Sammas' Equinox/Emanating Void - Temples Of Ice Split 7" (Signal Rex)


Labels: Signal Rex
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 31 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1. Sammas' Equinox - Glaciers In The Somber Night
2. Emanating Void - Crystalized In Superiority

Things have been a bit hit and miss this week, but after the excellent reception that my Frogskin/Taser Split review received, I wanted to make sure I got something else written up before time completely gets away from me. Low and behold, this is another split. Released at the end of January by Portuguese black metal label Signal Rex, Temples Of Ice features Sammas' Equinox and Emanating Void, whom contribute one song each. Sammas' Equinox has released two demos, the first of which was in 2016 and a compilation last year, which gathered all of the songs from those aforementioned tapes. Emanating Void is newer with only a single demo to their name so far. Both bands are mysterious and both present their newest work here.

With another storm due to hit the UK over the weekend, there’s reason to hunker down with something dark and foreboding. Sammas’ Equinox begin with ‘Glaciers In The Somber Night’ and their black metal is evil, noisy but not without atmosphere. It’s not lo-fi by any means, but the crashing percussion, raw guitar work and cold shrieks make it sound very true to the sub-genres beginnings. The ambient synth-led latter-half is enchanting, transporting you to a place with no natural light, where you’re left staring wide-eyed at the stars. It’s cosmic in an odd sort of way but utterly encapsulating as well. 

Emanating Void’s ‘Crystalized In Superiority’ snaps you back down to earth with blasting, orchestral black metal that’s filled with layers of uneasy noise and deeper growls. The drums in the background are threatening while the guitars seem slightly hidden by the vocals and the other instrumental effects. It’s an immersive listen, even it requires more attention from you as a listener. There’s a lot to pick up on here and Emanating Void really takes no prisoners. The band’s expressive nature flows through their song here and turns the light into darkness. 

This year is going to be strong for black metal and Finland looks like it’s going to lead the way, with new releases from Hollow Woods and Pantheon of Blood, alongside this split already seeing the black of night via Signal Rex in January.

You can stream and purchase the split digitally below:-



The Signal Rex webstore re-opens in March, so keep heading back to the link below if you want a copy - https://signalrex.com/store/.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Frogskin/Taser - Split LP (Gate Of Deliria/Iron Coffin/Penny Whistles And Moon Pies/Ramekuukkeli-Levyt)


Labels: Gate Of Deliria/Iron Coffin/Penny Whistles And Moon Pies/Ramekuukkeli-Levyt
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 21 Oct 2019

Tracklist:

1. Frogskin - Settling For Leftovers
2. Taser - Shovel Face
3. Taser - Broken Christ

Yesterday ended up being a washout (literally, due to flooding and me having to help clear the mess from outside the flats that I reside in) and also because I wasn't able to write as many reviews as I had planned for the day. I did hint on social media though that I'd be focusing my writing efforts on Finnish bands this week and here we are. This split LP was one half of a package I received from Ramekuukkeli-Levyt. It split features Frogskin and Taser, both of whom are Finnish doom/sludge bands. It feels very apt to be writing about this release given what I had to endure over the weekend. Thanks go to Tuukka for sending this to me and I'm sorry for the delay with my review.

The artwork on both sides of this split is great. There’s just something about holding the physical release in my hands and pouring over it. It came with a lyric insert and has been pressed on nice thick black vinyl (there’s also a green variant too). Frogskin’s side of this split contains the song ‘Settling For Leftovers’ and it weighs in at nearly fifteen-minutes. With the wind blowing heavily outside my window, it seems only right to jam this now. An eerie spoken word sample plays atop of slow and bass-heavy doom/sludge. It’s not pretty and nor should it be. It’s feedback-laden passages ringing from the speakers as the growled vocals enter the fray. They sit perfectly nestled within the menacing recording. The further in you get, the slower Frogskin’s music seems to become, dragging you down into a blackhole of despair and claustrophobic fear. Towards the song’s conclusion, you’re left with a screeching noise passage that’s even more terrifying than the music that precedes it.

Taser’s side is more to the point and groovy. ‘Shovelface’ is a driving beast with rock n roll sensibilities and vocals that could pass for white-noise such is their high-pitched ferocity. Their approach is to batter whatever functioning faculties you have left with hard and heavy sludge. It works too. The brilliantly named ‘Broken Christ’ continues in the same way and with it’s earth-rumbling riffs, it takes no prisoners. While Frogskin’s contribution is one born of utter harshness and misery, Taser’s duo of songs are slightly more upbeat (if that’s at all possible). I’ve always been a fan of this form of sludge and doom but this split makes me realise why I hold it above all else. It really hits that spot in my brain that wants solitude and distance from humans. 

Both sides of this split are great and while I was already aware of Frogskin, Taser was a new name and I’m glad that Tuukka put them on my radar. They both show how twisted and heavy Finnish heavy music can be. I wholeheartedly recommend this split to anyone who likes the noisier and slower things in life. You won’t be disappointed.

You can stream and purchase the split digitally below, where I've included both the Frogskin and Taser sides for you two stream here via their respective bandcamp pages:-






Physical copies can also be purchased from the bands or from the links below:-



Penny Whistles And Moon Pies is a label that belongs to Taser's guitarist. I don't have a link, but that have copies for sale via their bandcamp page above, as I've already mentioned.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Riviera Kid - It's Not A Matter Of A Or B (Hell Hath No Fury Records)


Labels: Hell Hath No Fury Records
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 01 Jan 2019

Tracklist:

1. Building A Disco
2. Black Dot
3. Broken Town
4. Break Free Stay Free

I seem to have done more planning this week that actual writing, so today could well be a day filled with reviews. This is my third Hell Hath No Fury Records review, but it was the label's first release (I think). Riviera Kid is a duo from Southern England and is described (in the band's own words) as one part anarchy punk and one part gothic nu-metal. It's Not A Matter Of A Or B was released on the first of Jan last year as a CD and digitally. 

This is loud. ‘Building A Disco’ is filled with garage-punk and rock n’ roll vibes, but there’s a decidedly angry backbone to it as well. The instrumentation is delivered with real venom and there’s something very industrial about it thanks to the repeated vocal lines and straight-forward way in which Riviera Kid performs their music. Despite the loudness, the duo are really solid musicians, which is noticeable throughout the EP. ‘Black Dot’ edges over into slightly more experimental territory at times but it’ll still smash you over the head. It reminds me of the anti-establishment punk of the 80s (even though I was far too young at the time to appreciate it). 

‘Broken Town’ is the band’s longest song and also the first song where they employ clean vocals. It’s gritty and still heavy in the choruses but there’s an added complexity to their music that’s not as obvious when they’re just going for it gung-ho. Post-punk is probably the closest comparison I could come to here, if that makes sense. EP closer ‘Break Free Stay Free’ is an example in noisy art-punk with masses of urgency and a crushing bass-heavy rumble. Maybe I’m trying to be too descriptive when talking about this EP, when really all it is is just heavy fun from a band that have their own style and aesthetic.

DIY music is always better than anything manufactured and you can’t get more DIY than this. The music a produced/mixed/mastered brilliantly and doesn’t lose any of it’s abrasive edge. The duo play loads of small gigs across the UK in between their busy daily lives and it was released with the help of a great up-and-coming UK label that takes pride in diversity and giving a leg-up to killer bands at the same time. 

You can stream and purchase It's Not A Matter Of A Or B digitally and on cd (4 remaining) via the Hell Hath No Fury Records bandcamp page below:-



Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Suspect Parts - You Know I Can't Say No 7" (Dirt Cult Records/Wanda Records)


Labels: Dirt Cult Records/Wanda Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 12 July 2019

Tracklist:

1. You Know I Can't Say No
2. Song For Sadie
3. Hundsgemein (Ideal Cover)

I was stood talking to a mate prior to a gig on Friday night and we were talking music, when the conversation turned to my blog and what I cover. I went along the lines of "you cover a lot of heavy shit, but you should feature more punk" or something like that. I agree, I should. Anyway, it's my last day of annual leave before I head back to work and in between scanning Discogs for some elusive gaps in my record collection, I felt the urge to write a review. Suspect Parts are a punk/power pop quartet featuring members from UK, Germany and America. They released this 7" via Dirt Cult Records and Wanda Records last year.

I’ll start this review by saying that I wrote the above intro yesterday, but never got around to completing this and I can’t be bothered thinking of a new one, so here goes. Suspect Parts play self-professed 70’s beach punk with a heavy US flair, mixed with 60’s power pop. The title-track ‘You Know I Can’t Say No’ is catchy and danceable, especially thanks to the vocal melodies and the un-fussy instrumentation. Punk and pop mix together without any form of pretence and plenty of retro appeal. 

The band’s second original on this EP is “Song For Sadie’ and it’s got more of a US Southern drawl going on amongst the band’s pop hooks. One thing’s for sure, Suspect Parts have got the whole three-minute hit thing nailed. Their songs on here are around that mark and they’re instantly hummable from start to end.

They close out their EP with a cover of ‘Hundsgemein’ by 80’s German pop band Ideal. I’m not familiar with the band but listening to the original online before listening to their version, it makes sense that they decided to cover it. The pace is slower and the German lyrics are delivered in a slightly rawer way, which at times is stark (but not because they’re harsh) as well as entertaining. 

Three songs delivered in three subtly different styles by a band made up of three nationalities. Suspect Parts are a great find and they make me nostalgic for punk that’s easygoing and sing-along in nature. Variety certainly is the spice of life. 

You can stream and download the EP below:-



If you're in the EU/UK especially, you can order a copy of the 7" from Wanda Records here - https://mailorder.wandarecords.de/.

USA/Canada orders can be placed via Dirt Cult Records here - https://dirt-cult-records.myshopify.com/.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Gig Review: Fatalist + Bile (Friday 31st Jan, Harrogate Retro Bar)


This post has been a bit delayed due to procrastination and a hangover, but it seems like a good way to start my last day before going back to the daily grind. This past Friday I went to a gig (which, hasn't happened for quite some time!). It was the first heavy gig to happen in Harrogate for sometime and it was all thanks to Retro Bar and Snicklefritz Promotions, a new local gig promoter. 

The gig featured local powerviolence band Bile (whose demo I reviewed not so long ago) and fellow Leeds/Harrogate black metal band Fatalist. Leeds band Dregz were due to play the gig too, but sadly had to pull out at the last minute. I attempted to review the gig and take some photos, so this will either be complete rubbish or not a bad effort...you decide.

Doors were at 8pm and Bile started things off at 9pm. Retro is a cosy space and there was over a handful of people in attendance at this point (aside from the bands themselves). Bile's set was short, like their demo. They sounded great and their no-bullshit approach was refreshing given that this was their first gig. Talking to their drummer before the set, he mentioned how much he enjoyed early-Magrudergrind and I could definitely here that influence in their music, as well a slight hint of sludge to. Great set and I'm definitely eager to hear more from Bile. I did take a couple of photos from their set but managed to lose them, which I'm gutted about.

Fatalist were up next and after the fast and short Bile set, their atmospheric black metal was subtle and sounded really clear. Beginning with an instrumental song (from reading my notes, I'm probably wrong in my recollection) they went onto play black metal with melody and a somewhat earthy feel, especially with the vocals held back in the mix slightly and the haze from the smoke machine filling the room. There were a few more people in the crowd at this point as well and Fatalist's tones filled the bar and rung out into the street above, meaning wherever you were in the venue the sound was clear. It was the second time I'd seen Fatalist (both time being at Retro bar). I managed to salvage three photos of them from the night after my phone's wobbly over the weekend, so I've posted them below.

Note: I decided to turn my phone's flash off part way through the gig so I didn't piss people off. That coupled with the smoke machine means that these are a bit grainy and dark, but I think that adds charm.






If anybody reading this review does gig reviews themselves and can give me tips on how to do things differently or better in future, please don't hesitate to shout up. Maybe, I should invest in better camera equipment for future gigs as well.

Finally, thanks to Snicklefritz Promotions for putting this night on and make sure you check out both bands, as well as Dregz:-

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Robinson - The Great City (Repress - Wax Vessel)


Labels: Wax Vessel (Distribution by Zegema Beach Records)
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 20 Oct 2019

Tracklist:

1. The Great City Of Salvation Part I
2. The Great City Of Salvation Part II
3. The Great City Of Salvation Part III
4. The Great City Of Salvation Part IV
5. The Great City In Peril Part I
6. The Great City In Peril Part II
7. The Great City Of Desolation
8. The Great City Of Ruin Part I
9. The Great City Of Ruin Part II
10. The Great City Of Ruin Part III

I'm doing things a little bit out of order here, as Wax Vessel's repress of Robinson's only album The Great City was actually the labels fourth release; however, it's the third release from them that I've picked up. The album was originally released via Debello Recordings in 2006, but was repressed on vinyl for the first time last year and was limited to a run of 200 copies. Wax Vessel have been killing it with their represses and they've brought stellar mathcore back into the minds of many, while their releases are highly sought after (even if that does mean higher re-sale prices online). For anybody who's interested, my copy is on opaque yellow centerburst swirl in natural PVC with red "rise and grind" splatter. All copies were distributed with the help of Zegema Beach Records.

On the back cover of the LP sleeve, the ‘Salvation’, ‘Peri’, ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ruin’ parts count for four tracks, though it does consist of ten songs in total. I understand why they did that because the first six songs alone don’t individually breach the sixty-second mark. I also have to add that the artwork (by Ben Hoagland) and the general aesthetic of the album sleeve is perfect.

Diving into the album opener ‘The Great City Of Salvation Part I’, you’re greeted with thirty-seconds of grinding drumming and guitar. No vocals yet, but things are just warming up and already the heat is intense. ‘The Great City Of Salvation Part II’ is no safe place either as Robinson’s full-on approach takes hold with the addition of those shrieked vocals. ‘Part III’ is an immediate continuation that really accentuates their mathcore. The riffs and time-signatures are head-spinning. ‘Part IV’ tops off this first assault with aplomb, giving absolutely no cause for rest. Brutal isn’t the word.

By the time you reach ‘The Great City In Peril Part I’ you’re already nearing the mid-point of the record. The songs are getting ever so slightly longer here but still just as ridiculous. The perfect mix of old-school grind meets modernity. ‘Part II’ is a cacophony of tech riffs and metallic tones, that rest underneath the crazy drumming and vox. It’s amazing how engaging these short bursts are.

‘The Great City Of Desolation’ is the solitary movement of the record and it’s mix of mathcore, sludge and black metal works so well. Don’t let the sludge and black metal descriptors throw you off though, as this is still fast when it needs to be, but the relaxing of tempos do make it a more varied listen. Following that with ‘The Great City Of Ruin Part I’ and ‘Part II’, Robinson once again moves in pacier strides. Their blasting and off-kilter mayhem taking pride of place at the forefront of the recording alongside the white noise-like screams. I say that because of the rasping nature of them at times. 

Album closer “The Great City Of Ruin Part III’ is where Robinson really lets fly (creatively speaking). It makes up over half of the record’s playing time on it’s own and once again it’s served by big sludge riffs and angular phrasing. Musically, out of the three Wax Vessel releases I’ve reviewed so far, this one if my favourite and the reason why is summed up in this song. It’s haunting with a slight Deftones vibe going on. Add to that some raw black metal-like screams and music that’s more stripped down .and you’ve got yourself what could be a completely different band altogether. With ringing feedback leading you into the song’s final couple of minutes, you’re left with one last glimpse of the madness that was Robinson, distilled through a Crowbar mash. 

My weekend starts tonight and oh my god what a start! I can’t think of a better release that’s received the posthumous vinyl treatment than this one. Hats off to all involved with this. Fantastic!

You can stream and download "The Great City" as part of ZBR's special discography package below:-



Ridiculously, there are still copies of the LP available via Wax Vessel's store here: - 


Monday, 27 January 2020

Agvirre - Interview + Slience EP Review (Trepanation Recordings/Surviving Sounds)

(Photo Credit: Christian Manthey Photography)

In 2019, I embarked on an interview series called Mental Health In Music: A Musician's Perspective. I have no idea about the impact of that set of interviews; however small, until Frenchie from Manchester's post-metal band Agvirre wrote to me and expressed his thanks for doing it. We talked and that talking turned into an interview about the band's new EP and also about the themes around mental health, which have been woven into Agvirre's music. Below is that interview, along with a review of Silence, which was officially released last Friday. Please read on and I hope that you can get something from it, just as I did.

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TNIO: Please can you talk about how Agvirre formed and who is in the band?

Frenchie: Agvirre kind of came to me in April 2018. I was going through one of the scariest bouts of depression I had ever experienced. I'd been making and performing noisy industrial and electronic music under the name Hexagon Trail for a couple of years and I'd started to lose my tether with it, and ultimately packed it in after a show supporting GosT in the same month. It felt like everything was falling apart at this time and I was being swallowed into an abyss, but I was very determined to not succumb to my depression and fought hard to keep my brain active. I distinctly remember feeling miserable and numb on my couch, staring at my dusty electric guitar which I had barely touched in the last two years because I had been playing synths instead. I decided to plug it in and the basis of the songs that make up the Silence EP came pouring out of me very quickly. They came together faster than I'd ever written songs before and in a weird way it felt like those songs had already existed somewhere inside of me and were just begging to be poured out. It's safe to say that Agvirre really helped to lift me out of my depression and in return I've poured my heart, soul and energy into it ever since.

I went to see my good friend Ricardo who I'd already made music with over the years and played him these songs and he felt that they had potential, so throughout 2018 we worked on making demos for them. We originally decided it would be a studio only project called Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, named after the 1973 Werner Herzog movie, but it proved to be a bit of a mouthful to say out loud so we shortened it. Somewhere along the line, we felt that we were really proud of how these demos were sounding and that they deserved to have proper studio recordings and also be performed live.

Later on we found our lovely and wonderfully talented violinist and vocalist Robin by reaching out online. When we first spoke she was a Jersey girl living in Germany, but happened to be moving to Manchester soon. The first day we met, I took her to a Deafheaven concert where we went back-stage and interviewed drummer Dan Tracy. We hit it off and she agreed to help us out. From the start we wanted to work with another good friend known in the local scene as Badger. He is the go-to extreme metal drummer 'round these parts and was already playing in about four or five bands at the time so we were scared to even ask him, but luckily he ended up coming to us and said he wanted to get involved and was looking for a new challenge. We're still fine tuning our live line-up right now so who knows we might see more performers joining our ranks in the future!

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You’re about to release your first EP (Silence on 24th January). How does it feel to be releasing it and what was the writing process you all went through to create it?

We're all incredibly excited about it. It's been a long hard road. We all perform in other bands and have jobs and busy personal lives, so things have come together slowly, but we feel that it has been worth the wait. We said from the start that we wanted to have a finished record to release to people before we ever performed live and we've stuck with that. We're incredibly happy that two wonderful DIY labels have got behind us, with Trepanation Recordings releasing the CD and Surviving Sounds releasing the cassette tape, and their very first release no less. Dan and David respectively have been very patient, very hands on and have worked really hard with us, as well as being super passionate about what we do from the first time they heard us. We really hope other people get into our strange music and connect with the themes that Silence expresses.

As for the writing process, I guess it's a bit strange. We aren't at all a jam band and nothing is written in the rehearsal room. Both me and Ricardo will write our own songs at home, play them to each other and then add our own little insights and fine tune them. If we think it sounds great, then we will work on recording demos together, and once that is done we'll pass them down to the other band members so that they can inject their own magic. Even when we came into the studio, there were parts that ended up growing and changing right at the last minute, which keeps things exciting.

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I originally wanted to interview you as part of my “Mental Health In Music” series and you mentioned that the topic was one of the main subjects that Agvirre covers. Can you expand on this and talk about how you’ve woven it into your music?

I was really drawn to the interviews you have hosted on This Noise Is Ours, and I would like to commend you for bravely taking on such an important subject. The reason the EP is called Silence is because I feel like this word in particular has been following me and haunting me for a few years now. Agvirre wouldn't exist if I hadn't have fallen into a deep and dark depression, so I knew from day one that this is what our lyrical themes would be about. Being a diagnosed sufferer of mental illnesses, it's something I have to live with and think about every day, so I very much wanted Agvirre to talk about real, every day, down to earth things. It's been a very, very cathartic journey for me and I feel like the intensity of our sound and our performances reflects this. It's a safe place where I can pour my heart out and we also want to connect with other people through our music.

Silence can be a killer for those struggling with anxiety, stress, depression and suicidal thoughts and it is even more prominent in males who feel like they cannot talk about their deepest, darkest feelings of sadness and fear. We live in an overly masculine world where society can look down on men who express their deepest emotions. Of course this doesn't just affect men, but a lot of people feel like they can't truly express their darkest feelings for many reasons. It could be out of fear of becoming vulnerable around their friends and family, or perhaps not wanting to burden others, or even the fear of looking like a "woe is me" kind of attention seeker. But in reality, the worst thing a person can do is bottle up their feelings, because that shit can end up devouring you from the inside out. This was very much the lyrical basis for our song 'Muzzle & Mask'; it's about how people might feel awful inside and overwhelmed by these negative feelings, yet still they feel this need to put on a fake smile in order to face their friends, family and colleagues and try and cover up what is really going on. The suicides of Chris Cornell, Robin Williams and Chester Bennington really, really shocked and affected me. Nobody really knew about the internal turmoil that these men were facing, and we knew there had to be a change in the way society perceives mental illness to stop deaths like these happening further. The message hit home even harder when a dear friend and local scene legend, Eytan took his own life. Our record is dedicated to all four of these men.

We think of Agvirre as a collective and because our songs talk about the experiences and struggles of living with mental illness, we chose to reach out to other people who are struggling. Because I work as a music journalist, I really wanted to find a way to incorporate my experiences of journalism into our music, so I held interviews with friends and asked them about their own experiences with mental illness. Some of these responses have been incorporated with permission into our teaser trailers and into key moments of the songs themselves, adding extra texture to the record.   

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You’ve played alongside and personally know some of the people who I featured in that interview series previously. How important do you think it is to keep talking about mental health, especially amongst the DIY and underground “scene”?

It's incredibly important that everyone who may be struggling feels like they should have someone to turn to and not keep their feelings locked inside. We need to lift this stigma that if people are talking about their pain, sadness and personal woes, they are in no way weak, they're not failures and they're not bad people. Talking openly about sadness, depression, mistakes, regrets, anxiety and negative feelings in general is one of the strongest and most empowering things a person can do, and this strength should not be dismissed or looked down upon by anyone.

I'm glad that there are meds, therapy and hotlines available to help people who may be struggling, but that is not enough. Even though we have those tools to help people out, there are still many people out there who are frightened to be vulnerable and feel like they can't open up about their struggles. It is so very important that we think about others as well. It's not good enough to just post up a status on Facebook with a suicide hotline number and then be able to go to bed and sleep soundly, we need to get active. People who are depressed or feeling suicidal have their own subtle ways at hinting about it, even if it is through humour or something as small as an Instagram post. It is important that we learn to recognise when other people may be struggling and reach out to them. It's not hard to just take a minute to check in on someone, ask how they are doing, maybe even send them a meme or crack a joke that will get them laughing or smiling. We've got to look out for each other and those little things can go a long way to helping out somebody in need, but we also need to know how to look after ourselves. It may sound cliche, but it really is okay to not be okay.

Once again I think the interviews you have conducted have been phenomenal and it is great to see that more musicians are opening up about their own experiences with mental illness. In particular I was really drawn to your interviews with Paul Priest and Andy Curtis-Brignell. I joined Paul on tour last year when Hundred Year Old Man asked me to fill in playing synths across Europe. It was a mind-blowing experience because I'd been a total fanboy of HYOM for a couple of years and befriended the band, so to play in a band I adored so much was a dream come true. Paul is someone whose reputation I'd known about long before I'd actually met him as he has played in more bands than anyone I've ever known! His dedication to music is unparallelled and he is a total legend in the UK underground heavy scene. We got on really well on the tour and he is a very gentle and humble guy. We bonded as we were the only vegans in the van, so it was great to have a buddy to help me stay on track travelling across nine different countries! As for Andy, I used to live on the same road as him in Salford, and I've been a fan of Caina for quite a few years and even supported him a couple of times. Caina was one of the first bands I'd ever heard described as "post-black metal" and he is so fearless and has bravely opened up about his own experiences and struggles with mental illness in both his art and in the public eye, so he is a very inspiring person and another local legend. 

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While writing these questions, I was listening to 'Muzzle & Mask', which is currently available to stream via your Bandcamp page. It struck me that there is much more to Agvirre’s music than just post-black metal. Can you talk about what influences your sound and about what other instruments/effects you use in it, besides the usual guitar, bass, drums and vocals?

The common thread that links all of us in Agvirre is that we aren't really full blown metalheads as such. Most of us do really love metal of course, and have played in other metal bands, but we love so many other music genres too and it was important that Agvirre's music reflected this. Both me and Ricardo have made electronic music in the past so we knew that we wanted to incorporate synths and electronic elements into Agvirre. I've always had a fetish for rock and metal bands that incorporate non-rock instruments in interesting ways too, which comes from my love of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Maudlin Of The Well and Kayo Dot, so I began looking for string players and discovered Robin, who comes from more of a folky background. We don't think of Agvirre as strictly "a metal band", but we knew from the start that our music would be heavy, intense and chaotic. I feel like in the future, non-metal genres will play an even greater role in our sound. 

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Once Silence has been released, what are your plans for the rest of 2020?

We're playing things by ear really, but what we can confirm is that we have been back to Noiseboy Studios to record a new song that we hope to release later in the year. We are already very much thinking about our debut full length album, with enough songs already written, and we have already started demoing them.

Our first live performance will be in support of OHHMS and Hundred Year Old Man in Manchester on March 7th and we want to travel further afield, so if you like what you hear and would like to see us play your town, please get in touch!

We have other big plans in the works too but for now, we really hope everyone connects with Silence.

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Labels: Trepanation Recordings/Surviving Sounds
Formats: CD/Tape/Digital
Release Date: 24 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1.  Radio Silence (Fill In The ______)
2. Muzzle & Mask
3. Abandonment

Having read through Frenchie's interview answers and felt really moved by the honesty and candour presented, it feels like I'm not going to do this EP justice. It's was officially released last Friday and it marks a big step in the band's progression. Having previously only released a couple of single tracks, including an edited version of 'Muzzler & Mask'. Silence has been released on CD via Trepanation Recordings and on tape via Surviving Sounds (as well as digitally via Agvirre themselves). 

I don’t think people realise how much of a help music can be sometimes. It’s no substitute for talking but it’s always there when you need it. EP opener ‘Radio Silence (Fill In The ______)’ is very much a harrowing intro, taking from the band’s history of noise and injecting it with similarly stark voice samples and haunting violin.

‘Muzzle & Mask’ is where Agvirre’s post-black metal begins to show itself and while the band doesn’t want to be confined to that sub-genre, it easy to hear why it’s been described as being part of their sound. The violin played by Robin is effective in adding a calming edge to the music, while the percussion performed by Badger nestles neatly in the background, allowing the rest of the instrumentation and vocals to take more of a central stage. Musically, there are comparisons I could make here but that would be entirely missing the point of Agvirre’s music. The clean, choral vocals that adorn the song are scary and sobering, but even more so are the samples that Frenchie talked about in the interview above. The various movements of the song that are formed by heavy black metal, soothing instrumental passage and an intelligent mix of both of those, turn it into a journey and one that brings a whole host of emotions to bare.

Following ‘Muzzle & Mask” was going to be a hard task indeed but with 'Abandonment’, which also stretches past the twelve-minute barrier, Agvirre once again uses countless layers and textures to bring their sound and their message to life. It proves that it’s not always the heaviest, most aggressive music that hits home the hardest. Sometimes, it’s the more subtle and melodic music that reaches you. That’s definitely the case here. As the previous song was born of a place more angry and violent, ‘Abandonment’ feels more positive and homely. It’s amazing how all of the music contained on Silence can make you think, yet by the end it leaves you not with dark thoughts but with bright and happy ones. That’s really all we can ask for in life. 

You can stream and purchase Silence digitally below:-




Physical CD and Tape versions can be purchased from the links below:-

All that's left if for me to say a massive thank you to Frenchie for taking the time to answer my questions and being so gracious. Also, thank you to everybody who reads this. 

Also, if you want to speak to somebody, know someone else who does or just want to donate, please go to either of the below links:-