Archive for May, 2013

Obivionized / Plague Widow Split Release – This Black Earth

Posted in Grindcore with tags , , , , on May 15, 2013 by Badass and Grim

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Oblivionized

Making up the first menacing half of this split is North-London based three piece Oblivionized, purveyors of avant-grind and maulers of inner ear workings. While most groups focus on the music they produce at suitably ear splitting volume, Oblivionized have decided that this leaves a spare hour in the twenty-four provided each day, and have filled that with recording, producing, designing, tweaking, recording studio footage for YouTube, going on tour, commuting and a hell of a lot of other legwork, with the odd beer in between. Rarely does a band throw itself so headlong into its own work, and it shows. The first track, Hope Is The First Sign Of Defeat, begins with a suitably melancholic spoken-word piece backed by looming tones that crash into discordant guitar riffery. It continues winding through a labyrinth of furious drum battery, tempo changes, breakdowns, destructive industrial-bleach-tinged vocals and spoken propaganda-like rantings. The guitars switch from the beautifully complex to head-nodding simplicity, supported by innovative drumming, and the space between the end of First Sign and the second track, Just Show Me How It Ends, is dominated by almost a full minute of ominous feedback and looming overtone, making it easy to imagine a crowd tearing open for the creation of a pit.

The song kicks in around fifty seconds from the start, with a chugging riff that matches the blood pulsing in your fists. This is quickly overridden by more technical wizardry from guitarist and bassist Sammy Urwin, who was also responsible for the commendable production and sound engineering of the two tracks. The trio have worked hard to produce something unique, and their technicality with both guitars and drums have certainly set them apart from other grind bands.

Plague Widow

Admittedly, when this split delight dropped through the floorboards and near to one of my limbs, I was in the process of reviewing Sacramento-based Plague Widow’s self-titled EP. Grind is one of those strange beasts that has mutated into many different guises over the years, and it’s intriguing to hear two sides of the same coin share a split, and this particular pairing of bands works brilliantly. While Oblivionised work from the sheer energy of frustration and anger, Plague Widow are the masters of dread, and there is nothing like fear to overcome angry spewings. Their self-titled album was riddled with deathly ambience and passages from H.P. Lovecraft’s ever-pronounceable ‘Nyarlathotep’, recorded with chilling hostage negotiation tape distortion. On this split, Plague Widow continue their disturbingly blackened breed of grind with their first track, Malignant, cutting short a haunting ambient intro in favour of full-on sonic battery. Unlike Oblivionized, Plague Widow have chosen the juggernaut death-machine approach to grind over the technical ecstasy of drum and guitar combinations, and it’s something that remains just as effective. There are still plateaus of breakdown and the occasional squeal, but the feel is much more death-like and sinister, particularly with vocalist Marc Dickinson’s abyssal utterings. Guitar passages penned by the aptly named Hal Rotter (also responsible for the cover art) and meticulous sonic discharge by session drummer Gabe Seeber seem almost effortless in the studio footage, but bring a ferocious energy that charges right through to the second track, Paralytic Levitation, releasing just under two minutes of pure blackened deathgrind that leaves you breathless.

The pre-order CD version of this split lasted just 26 days before it sold out all one hundred copies completely, which given the quality and sheer effort from both bands isn’t surprising. Not to worry for hard-copy lovers, however; BuriedInHell Records have shiny 7-inch versions of the split in various colours, replete with posters and stickers too. Digital copies via Bandcamp currently hold only two tracks out of the four, with the other two due to be released in June. If you can get your hands on a copy, do so, and if you can make it to the Czech Republic in July for Obscene Extreme Festival you can see Oblivionized destroy the place with the likes of Napalm Death, Cryptopsy and Aborted. Being over the pond doesn’t excuse Plague Widow, either – for more of their terror-music, check out their EP (which is available now in various formats), crank the speakers and turn out the lights.

Venus in Binbags

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Hagl – In The Heart

Posted in Black Metal, Pagan Metal with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2013 by Badass and Grim

In The Heart

I was supremely interested to hear an example of Russian Black Metal since although familiar with bands from the surrounding nations this was one which was yet to grace my ears. So what can I tell you about Hagl? They’re style of BM is melodic, but none the less brutal for it, and without getting too deep too early, compares favourably with bands such as Istapp (Sweden). I assume the name derives from the Old Norse “H” rune Haglaz which stood for Hail, and so they stand firm in the grand tradition of BM bands named after inclement weather.

On that meteorological note, following the intro which is comprised of sinister Russian on a synth base (tasty), the first song “Heavy Gale” displays a great variety of rhythm and pace which keeps the sound fresh and interesting. Opening with a washed out treble only tremolo that’d fit right into a Helrunar album, the track begins with a straight blast, it’s like a fucking full speed death-train, with vocals furiously panning between speakers. Then things get really interesting, as after a brief bass break there is a progression into a slower section which moves through interesting chord progressions and discordant harmonies before dropping back into the maelstrom for a race to the finish.

“Mors Triumphalis” lives up to its name, where BM can often be aimed at expressing despair or a sense of loss, the refrain here is savagely triumphalist. “Mors Triumphalis is the will’s triumph, Impulse of heroes who disdained demise. With clear mind, not in delirium’s dusk – Towards their death, with wide-open eyes!” The guitar harmonies here are rising and brook no compromise, you’re can fight and die for glory or you can go home.

Next is a nice simple concept we can all get behind “Thunderstorm”. Again, Hagl keep things interesting by working through a variety of musical ideas, with full out brutality tempered by acoustic interlude and storm/thunder samples. The high point is when at 2:52 they put their collective band boot to the floor once again and unleash a melodic frost storm of freezing hate. This is carried over into “Howl of the Wolf”, as is the band’s use of samples which match up with the name of the song with the titular howls rising over the guitars. I kind of wish there was a track on here called “Ice-Cream Truck and Fucking Foxes” just to see where they went with it.

Honestly, I didn’t really plan to get into a track by track guide here but that’s where it went for a bit, so a few words about the rest of the tracks. “Europe” is a more straightforward affair that while not really a stand out track will still get your head moving. “Above Death” features one of the album’s only guitar solo’s, which pairs nicely with a simultaneous vocal line. “The North” is a lyrical theme which Immortal fans won’t find unfamiliar. My only criticism here is that there’s some weird stuff going on with the cymbals during a riff which recurs through the track, I don’t know if this was intentional but its fairly distracting as shit keeps switching in the extremes of the panning. The final track “Wake Up!” opens with good acoustic guitar work, again very much like Helrunar, before breaking into the kind of epicness you would definitely save for last, there’re acoustic sections, the second melodic guitar solo on the album, twin harmonies, organ synth, and all the other audial fireworks you’d want to close with. (I say close, there is an outro, with the final melodic solo, which is somewhat spoilt by a lot of tremble end fuzz which again sounds like poor mixing).

The strength of this album is its variety, achieving a balance between blast beats, more rhythmically led sections, acoustic interludes, touches of synth, sparing soloing, and a strong vocal. This is the bands third full length release and comes a decade after their initial demo, and all those years of song writing and graft have paid off. I strongly recommend this to anyone with a taste for melodic Black Metal, solid song writing or standing in the freezing cold screaming at the sky.

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