It's quite a bewildering feeling when you realise that a label that you thought was up and coming, actually had a hand in the history black metal. Excuse my ignorance but that was what I thought about Italian black metal/doom label Avantgarde before reading "Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies Volume One" by Dayal Patterson. Through his chapter about Norwegian band Solefald, I discovered that their 1997 album "The Linear Scaffold" was released by the label. Times have past since those days and the musical landscape has changed beyond recognition, so this label spotlight focuses on recent releases by bands that were no doubt in some way inspired by the label's early discography. This feature includes reviews of recent records by Angela Martyr as well as UK duo Mountains Crave and Wode.
Angela Martyr - The November Harvest
5. Negative Youth
7. On The Edge Of Next Time
9. Angela Martyr
Firstly, I wanted to approach something that is oddly far removed from the black metal beginnings of Avantgarde Music, yet is something that is the epitome of what the label stands for. Released in December of 2015, "The November Harvest" by Angela Martyr is a concoction of shoegaze, doom and an affection for The Cure. The band rose from the ashes of creator Morgan Bellini's previous band Vanessa Van Basten, which in it's own right had a cult following.
If you enjoyed the music of Astronoid, whom I reviewed a little while ago then this will also wet your appetite. The opener Deviant is melodic, in a grunge-like way and borrows musical textures from drone music as well. A mixture of electronic and analogue soundscapes make it hard to pin down. Weird noise rock and goth overtones greet you on Georgina, yet the vocals scream Pearl Jam. The music is mid-paced but it’s exciting to listen too and from someone who’s never been a big fan of grunge, that’s a compliment indeed. I don’t feel like there needs to be a brief silence between the end of Georgina and Deathwish, but there is. I guess it’s to help people tell where one stops and the other starts. Pet peeves aside, Deathwish is really dreamy and nearly hallucinatory. Being able to take different forms of music that often seem at odds with each other and make them sound like this takes a certain degree of talent. Talent that Morgan Bellini clearly has. Serpent sounds like a collaboration with Bong, such is the abject misery contained in the droning riffs and the slow, doom-like percussion. This record is certainly becoming more sinister the deeper you get into it. The orchestral mid section leads to a maddening passage of feedback and noise that only becomes more chaotic. Negative Youth takes you past the mid-point of “The November Harvest” with a heady mix of electronic ambience and Katatonia-like misery, before morphing into something that a certain big US grunge trio would have been proud of. From those somewhat retro sounds Angela Martyr unleashes one of the doomiest songs on the record with Carsleeper. It’s subtly heavy but it’s still accessible to those who want to play it safe. There are some very distant traces of black metal in some of the music on the record and On The Edge Of Next Time they show themselves ever so slightly. The occasional cymbal blasts and off-kilter riffs are begging for someone to scream over the top, but Morgan’s restraint and singular vision doesn’t relent. It’s a good job because extremity can sometimes be off putting in the wrong setting and it would certainly be so here. The short song Imprinting begins acoustically, before swirling harmonies and bass-feedback lead you into the lengthy closing song (also called Angela Martyr). It meanders through to the ten minute mark in a laid-back way, before one final blast of dissonant goodness. It’s a joy to sit and drift of too this song and to Angela Martyr as a whole. I know that many of you probably won’t get this far into my review, but if you have then thank you. You’ll have made me feel like “The November Harvest” has, blissfully at peace and content. Beautiful.
You can stream "The November Harvest" and download it below:-
Angela Martyr - https://www.facebook.com/Angela-Martyr
Mountains Crave - As We Were When We Were Not
2. Istigkeit (We Saw Them Of Old)
3. Clear Light Of The Void
4. Arise O Magnificent Sun
5. As We Were When We Were Not
I'm now venturing back into more familiar black metal territory with the new album from Leeds based quintet Mountains Crave. After releasing their debut self-titled EP in December 2014 via local label No Fun Intended, Mountains Crave took their time and honed their sound in the live setting alongside the likes of Dragged Into Sunlight and The Great Old Ones amongst others. They have now returned with their debut album (featuring guest appearances from members of Undersmile), which was released in May.
It’s great to see a label such as Avantgarde Music paying attention to bands from the North of England like Mountains Crave and Wode. Mountains Crave approach things from a mysteriously occult angle on opener Ynisvitrin, which features female chanting that builds into a slow and doom-like verse backed up by black shrieks. The mood of the song remains very otherworldly throughout, but the pace and extremity does build thanks to furious percussion during the mid-section. There’s a lot of ambience flowing through the music too and it’s certainly more than just black metal that’s on show here. Mountains Crave mix cavernous atmosphere with rabid urgency and that’s evident on Istigkeit (We Saw Them Of Old), which includes glorious folk-metal riffs and melody that sits within the mix. It’s a catchy song that’s made better by the shining instrumentation. When you consider the bands that these members include on their respective CV’s, you shouldn’t be surprised though. The morbid sample that opens Clear Light Of The Void hides the sheer beauty of what’s to come, as the sensitive guitar melodies wash over you and banish any memories of the extremity you’ve heard so far. Those memories are only banished briefly though as the band launches into another full-scale black metal attack. There are nods to black metal originators encased in the song as well as elements of death metal. The siren-like female singing and atmosphere it creates later on is a striking turn that’s pulled off effortlessly by all concerned, breaking up the bleak mood but for a moment at least. Arise O Magnificent Sun is no less engaging, as it changes tempo and relays layer upon layer of sound. The level of songwriting that’s witnessed on “As We Were When We Were Not” is a lot higher than you would expect from a band and their debut album, but Mountains Crave prove they can step up. Compared to it’s predecessors on this album the title-track is brief, yet it’s intoxication is obvious. Essentially an instrumental song except for the near-operatic singing, it lights up the room prior to album closer Theophany but it’s abrupt ending is a bit of a shock. Theophany itself is one final blast of majestic black metal spread across just over nine minutes. It’s a mammoth journey in itself but it rounds out the record perfectly and further highlights how good Mountains Crave are. The record is the perfect length and that only improves it’s impact. Creativity and originality go hand in hand and Mountains Crave (with the help of their guests from Undersmile) has created one heck an album.
Stream and purchase a download of "As We Were When We Were Not" below:-
Mountains Crave - https://www.facebook.com/mountainscrave/
Wode - Servants Of The Countercosmos
1. Crypt Of Creation
2. Celestial Dagger
3. Temple Interment
4. Servants Of The Countercosmos
5. Chaos Spell
Last but not least is Wode, who're are from just across the Pennines in Manchester. Their early 2011 demo hinted at their black metal prowess but it wasn't until 2016 that it was heard again, with the release of their self-titled debut album (released on all formats via Broken Limbs Recordings, Vendetta Records and CoF Records respectively). The follow-up "Servants of The Countercosmos" was released just last week via Avantgarde Music. It's been very well received too with vinyl copies all but selling out from the band themselves.
The strain in my arms has come back so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to type for tonight, but I’m hoping that this record will help me forget about it. There’s something familiar about the opening bars of Crypt Of Creation, as the intro guitar work brings to mind the Black Twilight Circle’s Shataan and Volahn. Wode’s black metal is as raw as that of those bands too. They do have more in their locker though and mixed in with the rhythm section and ghoulish vocals, there’s catchy lead work that breaks through the noise. There’s a lot of off-kilter structure to Wode’s music and on Celestial Dagger they mould it together with punk-like rhythms in a song that has plenty of urgency and reminds me a bit of black ’n’ roll (although I know that comparisons does Wode a disservice!). That urgency remains well and truly in place during Temple Interment. In fact is has a slight death metal element to it that makes it sound even bleaker. There’s no such ambience going on either with Wode just satisfied to flail through the album. The title-track has some nice traditional heavy metal influences that make it more accessible. The production and mastering takes away some of their rawness but it’s still a heavy and gruesome song indeed. Chaos Spell is the longest song on the album and is a maddening, swirling beast. The chainsaw-like riffs and harsh growls summon all that is unholy. Their songwriting is well worth mentioning too as they pick up where the opening guitar from Crypt Of Creation left off, making for good continuation. Chaos Spell is also wonderfully progressive later on. Album closer Undoing is an acoustic piece full of melancholy and relief. It’s a calming way to finish what has been an immense and challenging record. Wode are much more bludgeoning than they are beautiful but they are still captivating in many ways. Alongside Mountains Crave, they prove that British black metal is in safe hands.
You can stream and purchase "Servants Of The Countercosmos" below:-
Wode - https://www.facebook.com/Wodecult/
CD and vinyl copies of all of the above records can be purchased from the bands and via Avantgarde Music here - http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com.
Avantgarde Music - https://www.facebook.com/avantgardemusiclabel