Wednesday 17 April 2024

Curtains/New Ruins - Split

Labels: Zegema Beach Records

Formats: Tape/Digital

Release Date: 07 Nov 2018


1. Curtains - Dampe

2. Curtains - Your Angels

3. Curtains - Ark

4. Curtains - Burnt

5. Curtains - Since Shadowed

6. New Ruins - Never Knows Best

7. New Ruins - We Could Have Had It All

I'm diving back into the ZBR roster as promised in my recent Crossed review. This time I'm focusing on the 2018 split tape (otherwise known as halixkaliV2) that featured Curtains from the US (inc. members of Ghost Spirit, Letters To Catalonia, Nuvolascura and SeeYouSpaceCowboy) and Canada's New Ruins (inc. members of Rinoa and Frail Hands, amongst others). It was released as a run of 75 tapes by ZBR and was one of two physical releases to come from Curtains, while being the one only from New Ruins (according to Discogs). It was also made available digitally.

Split releases come in all shapes and sizes. This one is a case in point with Curtains contributing five songs in pretty much the same running time as the two from New Ruins. Curtains open with ‘Dampe’ and immediately they hit top gear with caustic emo-violence that shifts in tempo and atmosphere. ‘Your Angels’ is a thirty-second hit of off-kilter mayhem that pretty much follows where ‘Dampe’ came from. 

‘Ark’ is a longer song that sees Curtains spreading their intensity out, allowing themselves more time to expand on what they’ve already delivered musically. Going back and writing about a release posthumously isn’t always that easy, at least for me anyway’ so I apologise if I switch between past and present tense sometimes. That said, it’s easier to talk about a song like ‘Burnt’ when it lasts less than a minute. Basically, it’s loud and heavy with screeching feedback to boot.

That same feedback leads you into the final curtain call (sorry) ‘Since Shadowed’. At times the vocals remind  me of the screams from George Pettit of Alexisonfire, especially due to their raspiness. The instrumentation is a lot more violent though as you’d maybe expect. New Ruins are seemingly more easy-going on ‘Never Knows Best’ with cleanly plucked guitar/bass work sitting alongside similarly chilled percussion, while the vocals present a much harsher audible image. The tempo isn’t as in-your-face and that’s fine because the music of New Ruins doesn’t need that. 

Their second and final song ‘We Could Have Had It All’ is filled with angst and unbridled emotion that grows as the song itself grows. A proper post-hardcore song with a story to tell and an ear to bend. Split releases are always a surprise if you’re open minded. The format brings new bands to new ears, which is why both Curtains and New Ruins were such a good fit for this one. 

You can stream and purchase the split digitally from both bands below:-

Curtains -

New Ruins -

Tape copies are still available from the ZBR US store here -

Zegema Beach Records -

Thursday 11 April 2024

Penny Coffin - Conscripted Morality

 Labels: At War With False Noise/Dry Cough Records/Macho Records

Formats: Vinyl/CD/Tape/Digital

Release Date: 07 Apr 2023


1. Ballistic

2. Predator

3. Slowdive

4. Conscripted Morality

I'm slowly making my way through write-ups about the latest releases from Mancunian doom/death label Dry Cough Records (in order of release according to bandcamp because I'm like that!). Conscripted Morality is the most recent EP to come from Scotland's Penny Coffin. It was self-released by the band digitally last April, alongside Dry Cough's tape version and a cd release from At War With False Noise. Later that month it received the vinyl treatment thanks to Macho Records. It's always great to hear what the current (and ever growing) crop of UK death metal bands are spewing out.

It’s been just over a year since Conscripted Morality was released, but a year is nothing really when you think about it. Opener ‘Ballistic’ gives off a bit of false hope initially (title-wise anyway) with a psychedelic intro before Penny Coffin launch into some proper riff-heavy, percussion-led brutality with the cruellest of vocal deliveries and melody that creates a whole different level of atmosphere.

There’s an unnerving undertone flowing through ‘Predator’, though it’s overridden by the groove-laden death metal approach that’s employed here. At times it borrows from modern brutal death metal (Gore House Productions/Unique Leader Records-type death) but it never strays too far from the old-school. I guess it could easily sit on either of those two labels but they’re only used as a reference. 

‘Slowdive’ uses Penny Coffin’s love for harsh noise to rouse and rile up those listening before another round of submission-like OSDM comes out fighting. The low register frequented by the vocals create a hellish vibe, yet when they give way and allow the instrumentation to take over, it feels like you’re in a different realm. Spacey, avant-garde guitar work and time signatures provide the perfect mid-section before Penny Coffin hit the loud pedal once again. 

Closing with the expansive title-track, Penny Coffin leaves you with so much to take in and process, not mentally but musically (and maybe even spiritually). Nearly eight minutes of extremity await in what is their most doom-heavy song on the EP. It shows just how good they are musically, from early intensity to comforting melody before repeated bludgeoning and all manner of warped majesty later on. 

I can try to paint a picture with words but it’s all futile in the end. Listening is one of the great qualities we possess as humans and taking time out to do just that can be transformative. The experience of listening to Conscripted Morality feels just the same. A fantastic EP that deserves to be enjoyed by any extreme metal maniac.

You can stream and purchase Conscripted Morality digitally, as well as a special tape pre-order from Penny Coffin below:-

Penny Coffin -

Physical copies are available from the labels below:-

At War With False Noise -

Macho Records -

Dry Cough Records -

Macho Records -

Sunday 7 April 2024

Wolf Lichen - Empyreal Alpine Lysergy

Labels: Self-Released/Fiadh Productions/GreySun Records

Formats: Tape/Digital

Release Date: 18 Aug 2023


1. Blooming Into Light

2. A Vision Of Eternity In Spectral Light

3. A Transfiguration Forever Unfolding

4. Currents Of Matter

I'm being pulled towards new music again, especially after my most recent review of the new EP from Crossed. This debut EP from US cascadian, anarchist black metal band Wolf Lichen was self-released last August before getting a tape release via US label GreySun Records in November. April 5th saw the  release of the latest tape pressing of Empyreal Alpine Lysergy, coming from fellow US label Fiadh Productions. 

Made up of Letharian Rays on bass and rhythm guitars (of Anaximander, Stare), Dire Wolfkin on drums and lead guitars (of Kneipegeist, Eleusis) and Blaidd Ysgaswen who provides session vocals (of Exulansis, Carrion Bloom), Wolf Lichen have dedicated this release and passed any funds from digital sales to the People of Red Mountain who are fighting to save Thacker Pass/Peehee Mu'huh from the desecration of their homelands by mining companies.

Stepping away from the imagery and lyricism of more traditional black metal is something that’s taken hold over recent years. Satan, anti-religious sentiment and church burning are all fine topics (I’m not religious at all, in case you hadn’t noticed) but other more divisive ones like racism are not. The rise of anarchist (or red) black metal continues at pace and US trio Wolf Lichen are another name to add to the growing list. Beginning their debut EP with ‘Blooming Into Light’, the gentle acoustic/folk guitar and percussion reminds me of Twilight Fauna to a degree. It’s only an intro piece but it’s a beautiful one.

Following a brief pause, Wolf Lichen launches into ‘A Vision Of Eternity In Spectral Light’ and for the first time you hear the full intent of the band. It’s true that it contains all of the musical trappings of black metal but the cascadian sound really breaks through with an earthiness that’s often missing from the sub-genre. It’s a lengthy song that moves between blasting passages and more atmospheric instrumental ones, while the excellent vocals play their part in adding to that atmosphere.

‘A Transfiguration Forever Unfolding’ is an epic all of it’s own, given that it stretches well beyond the ten-minute mark. I’m all for expansive black metal songs and there’s plenty to get lost in here. Wolf Lichen prove beyond doubt that they’re excellent song-writers and performers. The melodies that are woven into their guitar work, the subtle rhythm guitar and bass, the on-point drums and vocal delivery back that up. We’re not even at the final song yet either!

EP closer ‘Currents Of Matter’ is another stirring instrumental piece that’s brimming with the sound of the trees and nature. It grows in volume as it reaches a final conclusion, making you think that Wolf Lichen are going to burst into life once again. No such thing happens though and instead the instrumental tones draw to an inevitable end. I’m so glad that I chose to spend the time listening to this release. It’s excellent from beginning to end and it deserves much more attention. 

You can stream and purchase Empyreal Alpine Lysergy digitally from Wolf Lichen below, with all digital process going to the People Of Red Mountain:-

Tape copies are available from GreySun Records here -

Tapes from Fiadh Productions are available here -

Fiadh Productions -

Thursday 4 April 2024

Crossed - Vida Quieta

Labels: Zegema Beach Records

Formats: Vinyl/Digital

Release Date: 19 Apr 2024


1. Ceniza En La Boca

2. Vaho

3. Mala Suerte

4. Nostalgia

Before I jump back into my retrospective ZBR release series for a bit, I wanted to give you at least a glimpse into one of the label's up-coming releases. Spanish screamo/hardcore band Crossed (featuring members of Boneflower, Descubriendo A Mr Mime and Eros + Massacre) released one of my favourite records of 2022 in the form of Morir. Vida Quieta is their latest EP and it follows their split EP with Vibora, which also came out in 2022. I haven't even scratched the surface yet when it comes to 2024 releases but the excitement is definitely real!

The four songs that make up Vida Quieta last nearly ten minutes, so there’s no time for apprehension. Opener ‘Ceniza En La Boca’ is a noisy affair with throat-shredding screams joined by instrumentation that starts off like some kind of hazy dirge, before launching into metallic hardcore that’s akin to Converge and Cult Leader. The final bars of sunken clean vocals and cymbal-led intensity drag you nicely into ‘Vaho’, which is more technical guitar-wise and the song as a whole delivers a sound that’s closer to progressive death metal, at least during it’s first half. It’s latter half is a lot more melodic with chilled-out vocals taking over from the heaviness prior.

‘Mala Suerte’ is more glitch-inspired, with electronic beats joining up with the distorted heaviness that Crossed employ on this EP. It’s one of those songs that needs to be heard in context alongside the rest of the release, just so it can be properly appreciated. What I’m trying to say (in a very round-about way) is that it sounds very different to the rest of the EP yet it exhibits the experimental approach of Crossed. EP closer and currently available single ‘Nostalgia’ doesn’t allow for any moments of comfort either, as it goes from grindcore, to semi-spoken word/almost rap, to deathcore depravity all in little over three minutes. 

I have literally just tried my best to describe what I hear when listening to Vida Quieta and I’m still nowhere near. My advice would be to check out single ‘Nostalgia’ and then eagerly await it’s full release later this month. You will not be disappointed. Crossed are genius!

You can stream and purchase the single 'Nostalgia' here:-

Pre-orders for the up-coming LP release can be placed directly with Crossed above.

Crossed -

Vinyl copies will soon be available from Zegema Beach Records below:-



Zegema Beach Records -

Monday 1 April 2024

Cara Neir - Portals To A Better, Dead World

Labels: Broken Limbs Recordings/Halo Of Flies/Fiadh Productions

Formats: Digital/Vinyl/Tape

Release Date: 31 Oct 2013/05 Jan 2024


1. Peridot

2. Closing Doors

3. Red Moon Foreboding

4. Dust Collector

5. Forlorn Love (Henry And Karen)

6. Exalting The Shadow Proprietor

7. 3,380 Pounds

The band Cara Neir, formed in 2008 by Garry Brents and Chris Francis, explored everything from black metal to grindcore and hardcore, as well as 8-bit video game and chiptune sounds later on in their discography. They called it a day earlier this year (according to Metal Archives, so that may not be correct) but not before US label Fiadh Productions released their third full-length Portals To A Better, Dead World on tape. It was originally released back in 2013 digitally and on vinyl with the help of Broken Limbs Recordings and Halo Of Flies Records. I own a copy of this album on vinyl yet I have never written about it here. It's time to change that.

I’ve listened to this album many times over the years and each listen gives me a new perspective on it. Opener ‘Peridot’ is a lot more metallic than I remember and Cara Neir’s full-blooded delivery means business. It’s great that this release has been made available on a physical format once again. ’Closing Doors’ blooms right from the first note with off-kilter instrumentation and frenzied vocals. The riffs and percussion standing out on the recording, which is still one of the album’s many qualities. 

There’s a heaviness that really takes hold on ‘Red Moon Foreboding’, especially in the vocal delivery. It just has this extra layer of bitterness to it, though that bitterness doesn’t effect the instrumentation, which still remains melodic and expressive. The further you get into this album, the greater it becomes. Age doesn’t seem to affect records in the same way it once did and ‘Dust Collector’ is a fine example of why. It’s simplistic introduction and early build-up provides plenty of atmosphere that gives way to excellently played post-hardcore, with an added touch of crust. In truth, both of those elements have been there all along but they seem to jump out here.

‘Forlorn Love (Henry and Karen)’ is the briefest of songs that tells it’s own story. As with previous songs, it provides eery, angsty atmosphere that leads into the album’s closing songs. The first of which is ‘Exalting The Shadow Proprietor’ and it’s the lengthiest one so far. As has gone before, Cara Neir pepper it with so many musical layers. There’s even a nod to Scandinavian metal in the guitar work.

Album closer ‘3,380 Pounds’ goes into full-on story mode during it’s ten+ minute playing time. After the extended build-up, which is unnerving to say the least, you’re greeted with a mix of both harsh vocals and distant clean tones set amongst gentle guitar. Less straightforward than the earlier songs on Portals To A Better, Dead World, it’s one that you can truly become immersed in.

Both Chris and Garry produced something brilliant here, which laid the way for musical endeavours to come. The guest vocal/instrumental appearances of Jan Siezak, Drew Weston-Ball, Leon Perkin, Dominique Patton and Blake Turner added to it’s mystique too. Nearly eleven years on, this is still epic.

You can stream and purchase Portals To A Better, Dead World digitally below (where you can also subscribe and receive all existing/future related releases below):-

Cara Neir -

Tape copies from Fiadh Productions and vinyl copies from both Broken Limbs Recordings/Halo Of Flies are sold out.

Fiadh Productions -

Broken Limbs Recordings -

Halo Of Flies -

While you're here, please visit Shape Of Storms Records (the label that spawned from the ashes of Halo Of Flies) -