Monday 30 November 2015

False - Untitled 2015


1. Saturnalia
2. The Deluge
3. Untitled
4. Entropy
5. Hedgecraft

I hear a lot of people saying that the artistry of extreme music is dying. Things are becoming more diluted and sub-genres get more and more populated, which in turn affects progression. I don't necessarily agree with that train of thought. I sat watching a documentary on Youtube last night called  Metal Evolution - The Lost Episode: Extreme metal, which a follow-on piece by Sam Dunn who created Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. That documentary made me realise that even in extreme metal in 2015, there are bands with their own identities and blueprints for delivering music in their own way. 

That leads me onto False, whom I don't know a great deal about. From Minnesota (USA), they started playing black metal in 2010 and two short years later, they released a mighty split with compatriots Barghest via Gilead Media. In the same year they released an Untitled EP via fellow underground label Eternal Warfare (who also release a tape version of the Barghest split). Earlier this year, their latest untitled album (and first full-length) was released by Gilead Media. Since False appears to be adhering to a social-media blackout (probably sensible), there is only audible representation available.

(Credit: Josh Martines)

US black metal has always felt kind of special to me. No longer full of pretence and corpse-paint, it’s identity has evolved and split away from the bands of old. False and all of their mystery is testament to that. Saturnalia is off-kilter, chaotic and Rachel’s vocals are so full of bile and hatred. The mid-section is splice with sombre atmosphere and post metal instrumentation, which provides a more earthly sound. In spite of moments like that, there is no let up in the intensity on The Deluge. The driving rhythm section and symphonic instrumentation in the background makes for a dramatic listen. This is no cheesy faux-Dimmu Borgir fare either! False’s majesty is even more apparent during Untitled. It’s flawless blackened battery, which is backed up by plenty of melody is just something else. They create a soundscape that swirls and lurches around you. The songs on Untitled may be lengthy, but with the breadth of False’s musical experimentation, they seem to fly by. Entropy is harrowing from the first note to it’s last. At times the riffs from the guitars are at odds with what you would consider to be melodic, but in the context of what’s around them, they fit in perfectly. The latter half of Entropy is so easy to get lost in. It’s textures and layers shine through more-so thanks to the orchestral grandeur that supports it. This journey ends with Hedgecraft. Like the songs that have come before, it marches forth at an incredibly up-tempo pace. It is weirdly uplifting for a closing number, but that is no bad thing when you consider that the record is close to an hour in length. False weaves many different elements together, choosing not to stick just to black metal. The fact that labels like Gilead believe in music and art enough to put it out there, is surely reason enough for you to pay attention if you haven’t already. Untitled needs to appreciated as a complete whole for it’s full effect to be felt. Breathtaking!

You can stream and download the record via Gilead Media here:-

Physical LP and CD copies can be purchased from the Eroding Winds store below - 

Gilead Media Facebook -

Sunday 29 November 2015

Grim Vision - War - Agony 7"


1. Fallen Soldier
2. War Machine
3. Ten Minutes

German hardcore is heavy. If you've ever listened to Ancst or Henry Fonda then you'll know what I mean, but there's a different strain of the genre that is equally as heavy. It has it's roots closer to Belgian H8000 and one exponent of it is Hamburg's Grim Vision. They released their latest 7" earlier this year via German label Bastardized Recordings. I had no idea about this before I started researching for this review, but Bastardized Recordings have worked with some pretty big names over the years. Their Alumni list includes Arsonists Get All The Girls, Converge (!?!), Darkest Hour, God Forbid and more. It's safe to say they have an ear for hardcore, so I'm expecting good things from Grim Vision.

Grim Vision mixes hardcore with death and grinding tendencies on War - Agony. Fallen Soldier is crushing, with intense screams and raw production. The instrumentation is relentless and there’s constant bass-rumbling in the background. The great things about Grim Vision is that they have a very European sound. They don’t fall into a more predictable US take on hardcore, War Machine keeps the pace high following Fallen Soldier and just when you expect them to launch into some massive chug-laden breakdown, they don’t. They keep things more original and interesting. EP closer Ten Minutes is much more angsty, with an intro-section taken straight from the best 90’s hardcore records. There’s subtle nods to Holy Terror amongst the sludgy riffs and when the band hits full stride, it’s gloriously hate-filled. This may be a short EP, but it leaves it’s mark. Let’s hope for a full-length soon.

You can stream and download War - Agony below:-

7' copies can be picked up from Bastardized Recordings here - 

Grim Vision Facebook -
Bastardized Recordings Facebook -

Saturday 28 November 2015

Pendulous - A Palpable Sense Of Love & Loss


1. Shame
2. A Faltering Will
3. 40 Years
4. Pendant World
5. Hibernal Sun
6. Closure
7. Memoirs

L.A. doom band Pendulous are one that I have a connection with, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic and not in a physical way. I first heard about the band thanks to Baneful Genesis head-honcho Kevin back in 2013, when the band released their first demo Mirrored Confessions. I really enjoyed that demo when I reviewed it and shared the bandcamp stream with a friend on mine who ran a small doom label called Dry Cough Records in Manchester. He liked it too and released the demo on tape. Pendulous released their debut full-length in March, digitally via Baneful Genesis Records (a physical release is pending). I've been a bit a late in writing about this, so sorry guys!

Opening with Shame, quietly-plucked guitar plays beneath spoken-word that sets the scene for the record. What follows is a towering mix of harsh/clean doom in the vein of Mirrored Confessions. A Faltering Will is subtly black yet accessible thanks to Pendulous’s use of melody. The bass-heavy instrumentation that gives way to clean guitar later in the song shows different sides to the band, ones that breathe life into the doom formula. 40 Years is a shot in the arm. The opening sixty-seconds or so are fast and the vocals are delivered in a punk/grunge kind of way. There are slower atmospheric sections aplenty though as well as guttural growls to remind you that this isn’t some kind of surf-rock knock off. It’s welcome variation though from a band not confined by their genre. 40 Years is a song to get lost in too, especially during it’s quieter introspective moments. I might be wrong with this, but the clean vocals towards the end sound like they are being sung by Vice Martyr from Hateful Abandon (are they?). The heavier edge to Pendant World shows it’s rooted heavily in black metal, which is an influence brought forth by the members of the band no doubt. Hibernal Sun is the second of three songs on the album that passes the ten-minute mark. Like the album’s intro, it features more spoken-word. I personally would have been happy with it being solely instrumental, but then I do appreciate what Pendulous are doing here and the beauty that is in the words brings more meaning to the album’s title. Hibernal Sun actually turns into my favourite song on the record, as the soaring clean vocals take over and the thoughtful piano tugs at the heartstrings. You’d think that with the whistling at the start of Closure that Pendulous were writing the soundtrack to a Western. It’s quite a nice touch though. I also like it when bands take me on a journey and they do just that with this record. After the roller-coaster of emotion felt during A Palpable Sense Of Love & Loss, Pendulous finds the time to nail the album shut with Memoirs. This album is not only a step forward for Pendulous but also a body of work that really means something. 

You can stream the entire record here:-

If you like the record you can download it from the above page as well. All proceeds from downloads will go towards an eventual vinyl release, so it'd be well worth contributing if you can!

Pendulous Facebook -
Baneful Genesis Records Facebook -

Friday 27 November 2015

Altarage - MMXV


1. Altars
2. Vortex Pyramid

Black Friday tends to bring out the worst behaviour in the general public, which is why I decided to stay away from the sales today. That sentence doesn't really have anything to do with this review other than because Altarage could easily be the soundtrack to the chaos. Moving on to the task in hand; Altarage are a mysterious Spanish black/death band who've recently released their debut EP. Originally released digitally in March, it's been brought into wider consciousness via a 7" pressing from Iron Bonehead Productions and a tape pressing from Sol Y Nieve in collaboration with Sentient Ruin Laboratories. Little is really known about Altarage, but they are held in very high esteem by the labels who have worked with them and those who have set ears on them.

Hailing from a sunnier side of Europe and not one that you would normally associate with blisteringly fast death metal, Altarage belay their Spanish roots to perform something that’s near super-human. Altars is both raw and all-encompassing in the way that Bolzer were when I first hear them. The deep blackened growls sit within the music, surrounded by thick riffs and pulsating drumming. There’s more to Altarage than just noise though. They weave subtle introspection into the latter sections of Altars that breaks up the atmosphere and know when to draw it to a close so as not to pummel you. Vortex Pyramid rages out of the silence shortly afterwards. It’s maddening pace and sincere hatred courses through every vein of Altarage’s being. They say that resistance is futile and it’s certainly true here. At over five-minutes in length, Vortex Pyramid is a test for any extreme metal fan but one that is rewarding in a sinister way. 2015 has seen the rise of some truly powerful bands and Altarage are worthy of a seat alongside the likes of Sangus, Occult 45 and Ramlord.

You can stream and purchase MMXV (both digitally and physically) here:-

You can also purchase vinyl and tapes from the labels below:-

Iron Bonehead Productions -
Sol Y Nieve Records -
Sentient Ruin Laboratories -

Altarage Facebook -
Iron Bonehead Productions Facebook -
Sol Y Nieve Records Facebook -
Sentient Ruin Laboratories Facebook -

Thursday 26 November 2015

Cropsy Maniac/Burial Ground/Grave Wax/Severed Limbs - Four Paths To Horror Split


1. Cropsy Maniac - No Longer Human
2. Cropsy Maniac - Pale Nimbus
3. Cropsy Maniac - I Want To Make You Break
4. Cropsy Maniac - The Burning
5. Burial Ground - Last House On The Left
6. Burial Ground - They Dwell
7. Burial Ground - Mark Of The Devil
8. Grave Wax - I Spit On Your Grave
9. Grave Wax - All Things Morbid
10. Grave Wax - Transmuting Techno-Terror
11. Severed Limbs - Masticator Of Human Flesh
12. Severed Limbs - The Ultimate Prey

Anyone who buys physical tapes, cds or records will know that if you don't connect with the cover art, you probably won't connect with the music either. That's why I knew I'd like this as soon as that artwork! This four-band split was released in October via death obsessed US label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. It comprises US bands Cropsy Maniac and Grave Wax, Belgium's Burial Ground and sporadic Swe-death band Severed Limbs.

Death metal’s long relationship with themes of horror continues on this split with the intense death/grind of Cropsy Maniac. They open the split with No Longer Human, which would be right at home on any slasher movie worth it’s salt. The band features ex-members of Blood Freak (Willowtip Records) amongst it’s rank, so you know what you’re getting if you like it fast! Talking of slasher movies, the riff at the beginning of Pale Nimbus sounds just like a chainsaw. Cropsy Maniac don’t take to a moments breath during their four songs. I Want To Make You Break contains maniacal dual-vocals and ridiculous double-bass. They close with The Burning, which like No Longer Human is slightly more considered (if that’s possible). The harrowing movie sample puts you on edge before they rip into two-and-a-half minutes of raw fury and wailing leads. Next up comes Belgian doom-death band Burial Ground. Last House On The Left is surprisingly groove-laden and is bulging with thick guitar riffs. Kam Lee (Death, Bone Gnawer, etc) makes a guest appearance on vocals here, providing blackened rasps. Burial Ground’s use of instrumental build-ups mark them out. It’s an approach that was used more commonly by the old-school and it’s great to hear a band staying true to the genre. They Dwell is fantastic and Burial Ground don’t make it too flashy. Sometimes, the simpler the better. That’s not to say they aren’t technical though! Their third and final track Mark Of The Devil hits it’s stride early on. The occult lyrics and catchy tempo continues their momentum and says goodbye to their doom-laden sound, albeit briefly. Grave Wax also features Kam Lee on vocals, as well as renowned extreme metal artists the Riddick brothers, so it’s got pedigree. This is whirlwind stuff from start to finish. Immediately noticeable by the drumming of Brian Forman, I Spit On Your Grave is intense! Equal parts raw-death and thrash. Intense is exactly the right word for Grave Wax. All Things Morbid might be one for the purists, but it’s catchy lead-work and deep-rumbling bass keeps you hooked. I was slightly disappointed that Transmuting-Techno Terror didn’t contain any techno, but joking aside I think this is Grave Wax’s standout track. The guitar work and random torture-implement samples remind you that proper death metal can be fun to listen to. Bands don’t all have to take themselves too seriously! Four Paths To Horror end with a duo of track from the effervescent Rogga Johansson and his project Severed Limbs. I’m not sure quite as to the status of this band. Masticator Of Human Flesh is pure lunacy. The Ultimate Prey follows after what I think is an unnecessary pause. It does however contain one of the most insane roars I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure if it’s a solo outing or not, but it doesn’t matter at all. This whole split is great from start to finish and if you like varied and gruesome death metal, this is for you.

You can stream and download the entire split here:-

As well as that, you can pick it up on CD and HPGD is also offering their entire discography in one giant bundle that equates to 35% off compared to buying it all individually. You should definitely take a look at that!

Cropsy Maniac Facebook -
Burial Ground Facebook -
Grave Wax Facebook -
Severed Limbs Metal-Archives -
Horror Pain Gore Death Productions Facebook -

Saturday 21 November 2015

Human Future - Spectrum


1. Forge
2. Misery Drone
3. Cycle
4. All Must Wither
5. Aberrations
6. Creation Wish

You know it's real life when you take one step forwards and two steps back. I'm referring to my own life here and not that of Human Future, before anyone asks. After an EP in 2013 and a split 7" with label-mates We Never Learned To Live in 2014, Human Future was already making waves in the UK scene prior to the release of this year's 12" Spectrum (via Truthseeker Music). They've just finished touring in Europe with another fave band of mine (Torpor) too! 

Human Future’s mix of experimental hardcore and danceable hooks makes them worth more than just a passing glance. Spectrum opener Forge is a great ice-breaker for those who’ve not checked them out before, while also proving a mature step forward in terms of musical progression. It majors on instrumental music with plenty of subtle textures and nuances while still being better than anything that Bring Me The Horizon has come up with lately. After an opener like that Misery Drone has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Human Future is doing something a little different to that of their peers, which is probably what attracted Holy Roar to them in the first place. It’s bleak but also beautiful, with enough melody to suck the listener in with ease. It’s ending also feature dramatic ambience for good measure. Human Future isn’t the sort of band that just throws together a few three-four minute tracks in the hope that they’ll appeal to the kids. Cycle is nine-minutes plus of majestic guitar and a sound akin to that of Bright Flashes-era Snapcase. That should be enough to make you pay attention surely!  It’s shout-from-the-rooftops catchy. All Must Wither contains a big nod to metal during it’s opening riffs and just a bit of thrash thereafter. The vocals are delivered as if they’re a rallying cry to the masses, like a call to arms during the verses. The urgency of opener Forge is re-lived during Aberrations, though Human Future still finds time to include plenty of progression. They weave an engaging sound throughout. There’s a peculiar groove going on during Creation Wish, thanks to some pretty incredible drumming. That percussion carries on throughout the song’s entirety, save for a couple of guitar passages during the mid-section. Either way, it’s so easy to get lost in this record. That I guess is the beauty of Spectrum. It’s heavy and at time caustic, while being listenable and approachable at the same time. Brilliant!

You can stream, download and buy Spectrum on vinyl here:-

You can also find it here -

Human Future Facebook -
Truthseeker Music Facebook -

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Venom Prison - The Primal Chaos 7"


1. Babylon The Whore
2. Daemon Vulgaris
3. Narcotic
4. The Primal Chaos

It looks like 2015 is going to come a cold and grim end, if recent weather and world events are anything to go by. Just as well then that we've got a new breed of UKHeavy to get us through! Following on from my recent Ithaca and Renounced reviews, I wanted to home in on Venom prison who incidentaly will be joining those two bands for a weekend tour in December, visiting London, Milton Keynes and Bristol. Earlier this year Venom Prison released their new 7" The Primal Chaos via recently formed label Soaked In Torment Records. 

My god this is something else! Venom Prison spews raucous death metal, taking old-school influences and mixing them with modern heavy hardcore. Babylon The Whore is filled with kick-drum madness, breakdowns and squealing guitars. The vocals are torturous growls, straight from the depths. This is the sound I was hoping for and one that other bands have sadly failed in their attempts to emulate. Daemon Vulgaris begins with grin-inducing twin guitar, before the band whip’s up a whirlwind. It’s breakneck but never out of control. In the short space of this 7”, Venom Prison makes a big impression. Narcotic is an intense and urgent battering. There’s no rest. Closing with the title-track, the atmosphere turns even more menacing. It’s also the longest song on the EP and is even more engaging because of that. There’s no pretence or sugar-sweet production here. Venom Prison shoots straight from the hip. 

You can stream and download The Primal Chaos (for £1 or more!) here:-

Grab a 7" directly from the band at gigs or from Soaked In Torment Records below:-

Venom Prison Facebook -
Soaked In Torment Records Facebook -

Sunday 15 November 2015

The Hammer - No Escape 7"


1. All Will End
2. A New Low
3. Freezing To Death
4. Walk Away
5. No Escape
6. Already Dead
7. Obsolete
8. Better Things To Do

I could've sworn that I'd already reviewed this 7", but looking back through my archive it seems I never got round to it. Time to put that right. For anyone that doesn't know The Hammer, they're a kick-ass hardcore/punk band from Gothenburg, Sweden. I first featured them here in 2014 after Headless Guru Records released their early demo tape. Little over 6 months later they released their debut 7" via both Headless Guru and hometown label Moral Panic Records. It was pressed on black vinyl and 500 copies were available. 

The Hammer plays fast punk. The kind of fast punk that gets into the hallowed pages of Maximum Rock N Roll (I miss subscribing to that zine!). They’re even better live too. On No Escape they shoehorn eight tracks onto 7”s of wax. All Will End is just pure moshable hardcore with chunky riffs. They’re prone to sudden spurts of fast (almost grinding) punk, which makes an appearance throughout A New Low. They actually remind me a bit of Boak. I saw these guys at a matinee show in Harrogate last year after one too many cider’s and they were really good. Freezing To Death takes me back to that gig. Walk Away is an angry end to side A, with time-changes and riffs-a-plenty. The title-track that opens side B completely rips and the songs that follow are obviously faster too. They use more fast/slow dynamics during Already Dead, which ends pretty abruptly. Penultimate song Obsolete is catchy in a weird way while Better Things To Do ends it all with some stupidly crazy PV, that seems to just go on and on. I’ve always really enjoyed Swedish hardcore in it’s various forms. The Hammer is one of the better modern day bands. They aren’t trying to be something they’re not. No Escape is brilliant honest fun. Get it while you still can!

You can stream and download No Escape (name-your-price) here:-

7" copies are still available from both labels below:-

Headless Guru Records -
Moral Panic Records -

The Hammer Facebook -
Moral Panic Records Facebook -
Headless Guru Records Fcaebook -

Saturday 14 November 2015

Coma Regalia/We Had A Deal - Split 7"


1. Coma Regalia - The Brothers
2. Coma Regalia - Liam The Silent
3. Coma Regalia - Rafe The Brave
4. We Had A Deal - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
5. We Had A Deal - Send In The Clowns, Frank

Today has been a draining day, but I still feel compelled to write. I feel I should have written more about Coma Regalia because they put together the nicest looking records of any band in my opinion. This split with German screamo band We Had A Deal is no exception, as it was presented inside a silk-screened zine-style hardcover booklet. I remember getting it in the post a while ago and thinking how original it was. I ordered my copy from Skin & Bones Records (who seem to have vanished recently, along with my pre-ordered copy of the new We Had A Deal single-sided LP that they were helping to release). Still, I'm not gonna get to hung up about that on here. This 7" was released in June 2014 by six labels - Pure Heart Records, Farblos Records, Middle Man Records, Walking Is Still Honest Records, Crapoulet Records and of course Skin & Bones Records.

Coma Regalia seems to be forever active. Their hardcore is a product of how they see the world each day. They play three songs here beginning with The Brothers. It acts as a pre-cursor with lowly guitar and distant screaming before seamlessly fusing into Liam The Silent. Coma Regalia’s sound is at times chaotic while they prefer a live recording, compared to the modern day polished sound. That suits the record well for me. Musically there’s plenty of texture and skill, which shows their experience off. Rafe The Brave’s lyrics are quite stark when read along with the music, in a way I can’t really describe. The songs here are laid out in story fashion with an ending that give brief moments for reflection. After the duo of Coma Regalia, We Had A Deal’s two extra members provide them with more immediate volume and power. It’s not all about that of course and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club compliments the songs it has followed and also channels the danceability of the band it shares it’s name with. Pretty dramatic European screamo. Send In The Clowns, Frank is a bit of a sleeper. It begins with radio friendly riffs but gets heavier while the dual-vocals are nice and contrasting. I like that even in the confines of hardcore/screamo music you can get two bands coming together, from different parts of the world and with different approaches, yet both can make something really worthwhile and enjoyable. From the packaging to the music itself, this is great.

You can stream the split here:-

You can download the record above via Middle Man Records, as well as from the bands and other participating labels.

You can buy the 7" version from the links below (Note: these are only links for the labels that are still active or who have copies in stock):-

Pure Heart Records -

Coma Regalia Facebook -
We Had A Deal Facebook -
Pure Heart Records Facebook -
Farblos Records Facebook -
Middle Man Records Facebook -
Skin & Bones Records Facebook -
Walking Is Still Honest Records Facebook -
Crapoulet Records Facebook -

Monday 9 November 2015

Ithaca - Trespassers 7"


1. Otherworldly
2. Lifelost
3. Wither & Wane
4. Trespassers

Ithaca has a link to Renounced, whom I reviewed yesterday. That link is that they're both heading out for a weekender (along with Venom Prison) in December. So prior to that mini-tour I thought I'd get better acquainted with them. After releasing previous EP Narrow The Way in 2014, Trespassers was committed to wax by CoF Records and Soaked In Torment Records in July. It was recorded and mixed by heavy music supremo Joe Clayton at No Studio (he also provided guest vox on Wither & Wane), was mastered by Mr Boatright at Audiosiege and the layout/art was done by Dia Artio. I think that tells you all you need to know about the quality of this EP! 

It seems we’re in the midst of another upturn in UK hardcore/screamo. Ithaca is part of the current wave that’s risen over the last couple of years and this 7” really signifies their arrival. Bringing to mind (the much missed) Esoteric Youth and Svalbard, Otherworldly is technically impressive while still being snarlingly belligerent. Lifelost is the soundtrack to a dire world. One where hope no longer exists and light is all but drowned out. There’s a Southern-drawl to the riffs, plenty of high-pitched harmonics and catharsis around every turn. Even the introspective mid-section breeds nervous expectation. Wither & Wane strips the pace back and replaces it with thick slabs of guitar. The sharp and technical turns throughout stop you from getting comfortable, while underlining Ithaca’s experimental approach. The closing title-track feels lonely and isolated. The vocals during the opening sixty-seconds have a great live-echoey sound, before it all crescendo’s. Doom and mournful instrumental textures replace the heaviness at the mid-point. They really flex their musical might here and it’s a pure-filthy joy too. It ends as abruptly as it begun. Trespassers has the ability to make you feel detached but at the same time stronger. It conjures up a set of emotions that enhances the listening experience. Any music that can do that is worth something.

Stream and download Trespassers here:-

You can pick up 7" copies from the labels below:-

CoF Records -
Soaked In Torment Records -

Ithaca Facebook -
CoF Records Facebook -
Soaked In Torment Records Facebook -

Sunday 8 November 2015

Renounced - The Melancholy We Ache


1. When The Sky Comes Falling
2. The Lies We Burn
3. How Heavy The Downpour
4. When History Repeats As Tragedy
5. Perennial
6. Aching
7. An Unpainted Canvas
8. Mistakes That Dig Graves
9. Joshua Commanding The Sun To Stand Still
10. Outro

UKHC is in better health now than ever. Thanks to venues like The Temple Of Boom in Leeds and labels like Speedowax and Carry The Weight Records, the music and it's bands are something we can be proud of. Obviously, that was just a snapshot of people who make it what it is today. Renounced of course have links to the aforementioned labels, having released their debut EP Conditioned From Birth via Speedowax in 2014 and later their debut LP, The Melancholy We Ache via Carry The Weight Records not long after that. It's recently been issued on CD via Footloose Records and on tape via Life. Lair. Regret Records. With the band venturing far and wide now and in future (2016 US tour anyone?), now is a good time to check them out if you've missed em.

I once read that Renounced had been compared to Skycamefalling. Could that be what influenced the title of the LP Opener. When The Sky Comes Falling begins n strangely calm fashion before the mix of metallic-H8000 hardcore and punk reigns supreme. The hardcore they play is remarkably mature. The Lies We Burn contains one the best breakdowns in modern hardcore and the thrash that pokes it’s head up through the music reminds me of a lot of late-90’s/early-00’s stuff. The closing bars and the sample reminds me of early From Autumn To Ashes. They’re more aggressive on How Heavy The Downpour, with driving riffs and a furious tempo. It’s not enough just to listening to this record though, you’ve got invest your time in it completely. That reminds me that I’ve still not seen Renounced live yet! I’m not too sure what the back story is with these guys, such as what bands they were in previously but either way When History Repeats As Tragedy is spot on musically. It’s safe to say that I’m hooked already. They split the record up with the instrumental song Perennial, which is a nod to folk music full of pleasing acoustic guitar. Aching is achingly good (sorry!). It takes more from our European cousins in musical terms yet Renounced make the sound their own. Songs just seem to flow really well and the dual rough/clean vocals on An Unpainted Canvas are perfectly placed. Of course, when they want to be they can really turn on the heaviness. Mistakes That Dig Graves is another quality slab of atmospheric 90s hardcore, with more faultless instrumentation. For a band to get a musical formula so right in such a short space of time is pretty special. The quiet/loud dynamics  of Joshua Commanding The Sun To Stand Still are up there with Cult Of Luna and their menacing beauty really shows. Ending it all with an uplifting and powerful piano Outro, Renounced have truly planted themselves in my head. Incredible record. People speak every day about the impact that albums have on them both in the present and the future. For anyone who truly appreciates the power and the quality of heavy music, The Melancholy We Ache must rank alongside the best albums we might ever hear.

Stream the record here:-

It's available to download for the bargain sum of £2 from Renounced above. Physical copies can be purchased from the below stores -

Carry The Weight Records (LP) -
Life. Lair. Regret Records (Tape) -

Carry The Weight Records Facebook -
Footloose Records Facebook -
Life. Lair. Regret Records Facebook -

Saturday 7 November 2015

The Journey Of Vardan: Part 1

None are more hardworking than those in the extreme metal community. Whether they're writing, recording and releasing their own music, designing merch or artwork for themselves and others or playing in a myriad of projects all at the same time. They do it for the love of it and it shows in their productivity. There is however; a fine line between productivity and saturation. That last sentence brings me neatly onto Italian black metal band Vardan.

Vardan, depending on the way you look at it, has either been incredibly productive over the last two years or has saturated the underground black metal scene by releasing no less than 15 full-length releases (as well as a couple of splits). Now, I don't condone releasing music for the sake of it but you do have to applaud Vardan's passion. I mean, it took Iron Maiden 30 years to release that many albums!

The purpose of this feature though is not to criticise Vardan, in fact far from it. I want to shed both light and praise on Vardan for the vision and work ethic of it's sole member. This feature is split into two-parts and delves into some (not all) of those aforementioned full-lengths in some kind of chronological order.

...Dreaming ...Living My Funeral - Tracklist:-

1. Living My Funeral
2. Wandering Spirit
3. ...Dreaming (My End)
4. Cold Way To Exist

I begin my own journey into Vardan's discography with his second Moribund Records release, ...Dreaming ...Living My Funeral. This was my first glimpse into the dark, depressive world in which Vardan exists. It was released in the summer of 2013 (curiously) and was the follow-up to Lifeless Shadow, released just a month earlier. Opening with an instantly cold barrage on Living My Funeral, Vardan’s droning and hypnotic black metal bathes beneath a layer of feedback. It’s gloriously raw yet contains plenty of melody, that can even be heard above those terrifying screams. The songs contained on hear are more like droning hymns, but the ambience and melody that is woven into them remains untouched. Not content with brief soundbites, Vardan expands on the formula used in that opener and stretches it into the sprawling Wandering Spirit. It feels altogether more urgent, thanks to added guitar and percussion layers. There is respite mid-way through thanks to a quietly calming passage made up of lowly plucked guitar. Splitting a song of this length into sections makes sense, especially for those whose attention spans may be lacking! It certainly makes the impact better later on. The rawness takes over once again on …Dreaming (My End). It seems like a bit of a step back after the warmth of Wandering Spirit, but then this isn’t a pop album! I do have a lot of affection for releases like this, as I can hear and feel the emotion and passion that went into writing, recording and releasing it. That might sound too soppy for the stoney faced amongst you, but if you’re already into Vardan then you’ll know what I mean. In my opinion Vardan saves the best to last. Cold Way To Exist is musically one of the more creative songs on …Dreaming. Hearing black metal that stripped back to it’s bare bones like this is, it’s easy to think that it’s just made up of simple structures and rudimentary chords. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Vardan fills the song with mysticism and plenty of other-worldliness. It's easy to why Vardan is a solo-project after listening to this album. Solitude and soul-searching form part of a creative process that gives Vardan more meaning.

The Woods Is My Coffin - Tracklist:-

1. Night Of The Horned Rebirth
2. Luciferian Assault
3. Goatcraft
4. Dawn Of The Followers - Part 1
5. Dawn Of The Followers - Part 2

As is now customary with obscure black metal bands, you can find very little information about the origin of their releases. That is certainly true for The Woods Is My Coffin. Following on from …Dreaming …Living My Funeral, Vardan retains the raw sound and depressive atmosphere on Night Of The Horned Rebirth, but this time weaves in more ambient melody. The songs on The Woods Is My Coffin are also more focused. That new found focus is more obvious on Luciferian Assault, where the percussion rages mores than before during the opening passages. In an age where black metal is becoming more Post and introspective, Vardan provides something more akin to the old-school. The main riff in the song could even be considered catchy. As the pace and indeed the atmosphere changes at the midpoint, you can feel and hear the care and attention that Vardan places on his instrumentation. A song titled Goatcraft was always going to be nothing short of disgusting (in a good way). Seemingly taking his sound in a more menacing direction, Vardan once again changes the mood. His rasping shrieks sounding more and more possessed as the seconds tick by. Aside from the usual influences that are contained in The Woods Is My Coffin, Vardan lays down a concept of sorts with the two-part Dawn Of The Followers. After the barrage of Goatcraft, Dawn Of The Followers - Part 1 is weirdly soothing. It’s tempo is more solemn and it’s lyrical content and delivery is filled with more sorrow. The occasional acoustic passages show an often ignored sensitivity. After a brief pause,  Dawn Of The Followers - Part 2 shakes you into life with a more savage delivery. Subtly orchestral and symphonic in places, the ambient melody that's created by the guitars in the background comes across as very majestic, almost like they’re a call to arms. Switching between different tempos creates obvious movements within the song. It all fades out in a logical fashion to round out an album that proves as a definite progression of Vardan’s sound.

Enjoy Of Deep Sadness - Tracklist:-

1. A Broken Existence
2 Enjoy Of Deep Sadness
3. An Abstract Voice

There is one thing that you can rely on with Vardan, which is that he keeps you guessing. From the rawness of …Dreaming …Living My Funeral to the progression of The Woods Is My Coffin, there’s only been a faint blueprint for operation and the black metal contained within has been more than just ordinary. Vardan’s second Moribund full-length of 2014, Enjoy Of Deep Sadness feels immediately more depressive on album opener A Broken Existence. That depression here is spread over just three expansive tracks. Whereas The Woods Is My Coffin contains more melody (and even light), the music is darker and more stripped back here. A Broken Existence is filled with metallic bile and screams that are channelled from the netherworld. It’s harrowing but also cleansing. The title-track is subtly mellower. The guitar work is again the standout element in Vardan’s music for me. It just seems to drag you in and make you feel more attached to the song, which is quite an achievement. It’s that immersive-ness that makes the song’s near twelve-minute length flash by in what feels like a second. Vardan reaches yet another astral plain with An Abstract Voice, which aptly describes him. His gentler cries that are buried within mix sound like those of a tortured soul trying to escape and thanks to the great production, aren’t lost amongst the instrumentation. If you dip in and out of this record, you really won’t feel it’s warmth of it. Enjoy Of Deep Sadness is as swirling and as beautiful as black metal can get in my eyes. From it’s initial rawness it flourished into something more than just another album. Another surprise.

Verses From Ancient Times - Tracklist:-

1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV

After a bit of downtime due to life, I was beginning to doubt that the albums I've been reviewing were in the correct chronological order, so apologies if things are a bit out of order. Verses From Ancient Times was Vardan's second full-length (first for Moribund Records) of 2015. Featuring four songs and an incredibly haunting album cover. The songs and their titles shrouded in mystery, presented only in Roman numerals. I’m beginning to really warm to Vardan’s take on black metal. It’s not for everyone granted, but it seems to really hit the spot after a frustrating working week. I is every bit the barrage I was hoping for. It seems to combine the ambient majesty of dare I say it…Deafheaven, while still remaining icy cold. Even with the catalogue featured in this piece you’d think that an artist would grow tired and lose creative momentum, but there’s no sing of that. Longer songs like I still benefit from distinct movements and lavish instrumental layers, that temper his screams. On hearing II, I’m reminded of what it was that made me take notice of black metal when I started this blog. The ability of the musician to make music that is so menacing and evil, yet play it so endearingly and genuine skill. I may not be worlds biggest expert on the sub-genre but I know how it makes me feel. II could almost be considered upbeat, especially during parts of the latter half of the song. Don’t take that to mean it’s suddenly become easy listening though! III follows Vardan’s formula for shorter and more urgent songs. It seems to really gain in momentum and the male-voice choral chants added to the song are perfect for the atmosphere Vardan is trying to create. It closes with IV, which sounds like it’s been crafted purposefully to follow on from III. It also proves why pauses between songs are pointless in certain situations, other that to help artists appeal to those with short attention spans. It ends like some sort of ghostly death march and with it any hope of a fulfilling and happy life. The mental pain continues.

The Night, The Loneliness - Tracklist:-

1. Pt 2
2. Pt 3
3. Pt 4
4. Pt 5
5. Pt 6

I'm rounding off  part 1 of this feature with an album that released on my birthday. Not sure why I thought you'd want to know that, but it's interesting to me. Anyway, the gloomy artwork Vardan's second Moribund Records release of 2015 tells you all you need to know. The songs are once again lurking under a veil of ambiguity and mystery. I’m not entirely sure which record Pt 1 was on, but Pt 2 opens up The Night, The Loneliness with a remarkably groovy percussion tempo. Vardan isn’t turning into a desert-rock band here though and his startling scream dispels any such notions. What is nice here though is the added melody from what sounds like an organ (maybe?) during the it’s opening half. The clean guitar later on adds more texture and it’s a great listen, though brief by Vardan’s standards. The metallic guitar during Pt 3 invokes subtle metal influences. Even though I’m only two songs into The Night, The Loneliness now, I can already see more progression and thought within Vardan’s music. A definite step forward. Pt 4 drones and lurches forward as if it’s going to be one long noise track, before small columns of light shine through the feedback-ridden guitar. Even when the volume does rise, that melody is still clear and welcoming. It floats straight into Pt 5, which builds on the cosmic feel of the album. I say cosmic because at times it sound very spacey and not as oppressive this time. It’s been quite normal of late to see bands that used to play black metal actually veering away from that narrow sub-genre and widening their musical palette (a perfect example is Twilight Fauna). Vardan seems to be doing that here. Final song Pt 6 gives you time for reflection. It’s mainly instrumental, but the sporadic screams and the choral singing that follows gives me the same chills that Caina’s Orphan did on Setter Of Unseen Snares earlier this year. It underlines what a great year 2015 has been for black metal. Vardan richly deserves the credit he is getting. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into writing part 2 of this feature in a couple of weeks.

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