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Metal





Seven Spires Finds Clarity in Chaos

 Seven Spires’ This God Is Dead feat. Roy Khan properly puts “symphonic” in “symphonic metal.” In places the 10 minute track is almost theatrical, showing as much DNA from Andrew Lloyd Webber and neoclassical experiments like Trans-Siberian Orchestra as Nightwish and Maiden, particularly in the harmonies early in the song. Any number of metal bands have tried to bring that heavy Handel energy, but the clean vocals on “This God Is Dead” genuinely recall a classical choir, not just 6 people with a combined 20 feet of hair trying to sound like one.

The heavy stuff isn’t quite as accomplished, less for lack of quality than a glass-smooth mix that takes some edge off the harsh vocals and thudding rhythm. Riffs and beats come fast and heavy, but the production is so clean and the melody so prominent that we lose any At the Gates-style snarl. The result recalls anime and videogame soundtracks, for good and ill: screams are screamed, heavy guitars happen, but the melody is so prominent and the mix so smooth it’s not quite music to mosh to.

That said, a few missteps in songwriting and production aren’t nearly enough to write off this beautiful beast. The track finds its footing in the second half, delivering demonic snarls, elliptic spoken word and soaring harmonies with equal aplomb. There’s nothing tongue in cheek here, thank God – we’re a little over metal bands that think metal is hilarious – just musicians who love the genre giving everything they’ve got. Respect. The lyrics deserve a special shoutout: the delivery may not be perfect, but the text achieves the rare goal in high-concept metal of interesting the listener as much in its righteously Gothic plot of remorseful ghost, raging daughter and rising demon as the music backing it.

In short, “This God is Dead” by Seven Spires is big, smart, fun and heavy, a righteous blast of epic scope in spite of a mistake or three. This is music to swordfight your possessed brother atop a burning cathedral to. Light some candles, crank headphones to 11 and bang your head. We certainly did.


-- Matt Salter

 





Annihilus "Draw The Beast"

Annihilus has released the first single, "Draw The Beast", from his forthcoming album, Follow a Song From The Sky, which is due out on August 13th via Federal Prisoner.

This is the Black Metal of Luca Cimarusti, and this is the follow up to his 2020 debut LP Ghanima.

You can catch Cimarusti performing a free DJ set at Sleeping Village on Friday, June 18th.

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God Shell Delivers a Harrowing Adventure Into Sonic Extremity

“I Will Not Be Your Prison, I Will Not Be Your Guide” is a challenging and -- if you have the taste for it -- rewarding three track release from Austin experimental metal band God Shell. The EP immediately throws the listener for a loop with “Skinwalker.” The discordant guitar riffs surprisingly remind me of chaotic no-wave/noise rock outfits like Sissy Spacek and Sleetmute Nightmute. The rhythms are jagged, with thundering drums and angular guitars. The song comes in phases, changing tempo but keeping a constant claustrophobic mood. The guitars squeal and screech, eventually overcoming the actual notes themselves, and as the drums gradually lose momentum, the song returns to the noisescape it began as.

The second track -- the semi-titular “A Prison” -- is more experimental. The introduction reminds me of Daughters’ “You Won’t Get What You Want,” before the beat suddenly collapses amidst a maelstrom of glitches, and shifts into a droning noise cut. A phantom-like drumbeat hides under one thick, sustained chord for most of the runtime, creating the sort of dark, oppressive mood that is so dense it almost becomes cozy. I say “almost” because the song is interspersed with unpredictable -- and at times startling -- stutters and skips.

Ender “Hagibalba” is the most straightforward on the EP, starting off with a catchy, toe-tapping riff that I was stunned to hear after the first two songs. Like “Skinwalker,” “Hagibalba” turns on a dime again and again, changing speeds and flipping from cacophony to measured playing. The drums stay consistently tight considering the whiplash-inducing song structure, providing the listener with a sort of light for navigating the strange progression.

All in all, “I Will Not Be Your Prison” is a release for fans of sonic extremity. The music is entirely un-formulaic and to-the-point. Where another experimental release might gish gallop the listener with semi-listenable,  tedious and indulgent pulp, Shell God explores new concepts with precision and purpose, keeping the listener engaged. The music is leaden, but when performed with such rawness and intensity it becomes irresistible.

 

- Tín Rodriguez

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Mechanical Meets Bestial on Slam Death Metal Release "Born Into Darkness"

Fetid Bowel Infestation is a one-man, electronic metal outfit whose new album, “Born Into Darkness,” provides a gruesome addition to the slam and brutal death metal lineage. Flying in the face of the cliché that metal is the modern equivalent to classical music, Fetid Bowel Infestation comes from the lineage of brutal death metal that crawled from the primordial ooze, saw the virtuosic sweep-picking, finger-tapping guitarists and mechanically precise percussionists and shuffled back into the water to embrace a more chugging, more odious take on the genre.

 

The band bears comparison to Devourment’s classic slam death metal, with the electronic elements reminding me of German cybergrind outfit Libido Airbag. At times a bit of Mortician’s more neanderthalic tendencies creep in, though mostly by virtue of the synthetic drumming. The music is uniformly dank and sludgy, giving the whole album the claustrophobic ambiance of a damp, muggy catacomb. All of this might sound negative, but words like “disgusting” and “gruesome” are high praise for an album like this.

 

“Bathing in the Blood of Angels” begins with an atmospheric soundscape that suddenly gives way and thrusts the listener into the album. Downtuned guitars laden with distortion (HM-2 perhaps?) form a dense sonic jungle, while unnaturally low gutturals drench track after track. Throughout the album — as on the track “Wrath of Cerberus” — the meticulousness of the drum programming shows, with tasty fills and varied beats cutting through the swampish music like a machete. At times the drums even reminded me of the cybergrind flourishes one would hear on Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s “Agorapocalypse'.'

 

The electronic instrumentation and animalistic vocals work together to create a sound that is both mechanical and bestial. This is most evident on “Ancient Corpse Exhumed,” which employs screeches as well as the grunts and low growls that one hears throughout the album; all this over a precise, double-kicked rhythm section. The effect is at times dizzying, and almost always feels like a caveman bashing your head with a leg-bone. All in all, if you’re a fan of slam and brutal death metal “Born Into Darkness” is a disgusting delight.

 

- Tín Rodriguez

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Reverence Meets Revision in Orodrim's "The Void Gazer" EP

Much of the story of American black metal involves mutations — bands taking the tropes of the largely European genre and recontextualizing them. Whether it means eschewing the more questionable politics of some of the genre’s forebears or just not writing so many songs about being cold, American black metal is constantly evolving. “The Void Gazer” is a refreshing release; it is black metal, but it eschews some of the form’s staler conventions (think impenetrable cassette production and overly linear song structure) in favor of originality. Though one can hear numerous sources of inspiration in the album’s roughly 27-minute runtime, the expansive and winding tracks remind me of Altar of Plagues, while some of the riffs would not sound out of place on Cobalt’s boundary-pushing “Gin.”

“The Void Gazer” immediately surprises the listener with its immaculate production. Starting with “The Void Gazer Part I,” the drums sound full, coupling with filthy arpeggios reminiscent of Genghis Tron circa “Board Up The House.” From there, the track unfolds into a chimeric behemoth in which chasmic, sludgy riffs quickly give way to clean, progressive-sounding guitar grooves and then to rapid-fire, tremolo-picked, blackened ferocity. Shrieked vocals mingle with low, deathly growls, giving the song the feeling of a beast that may very well swallow the listener up.

The second track, “A Citadel of Birch,” provides a necessary eye in the storm. The song is an intimate instrumental performed on classical guitar, with a fire crackling in the background — the sort of thing that might heighten suspense towards the end of a full-length release. On this EP however, the song functions as an interlude — if “The Void Gazer” is a journey, this track is a moment of respite by a campfire, steeling oneself for whatever trials lie ahead.

And “The Void Gazer Part II” does not hold back: it is a chugging continuation of Part I, with doom-metal guitars, punctuated by the type of rhythmic passages that would not be out of place on a brutal death metal album. Though the vocals are largely obscured, one can discern words like “wretched” and “wicked” creeping through the murkiness, adding to the track’s vitriol. The song builds on the beastial vivacity of the first part so well, that by the time the final lines have been shrieked it feels almost as if the EP has devoured itself.

All in all that’s gonna be a “kinda great” from me!

- Tín Rodriguez

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