Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Lvcifyre- "Svn Eater" CD/LP (Dark Descent)

Greetings readers. Thanks for being patient with my slight delay in reviews. Today we're visiting an album that's only been out for a couple days and has already been causing quite a stir in the general metal media. I tend to try to steer clear of releases that are receiving larger amounts of coverage, but this one impressed me enough to warrant sharing with my readers. With a name like Lvcifyre, I would normally be slightly hesitant about the music, as the whole business of substituting "v' for "u" is typically an indication of campy junk, but even my first listen yielded great interest. It's evident these guys are dead serious and focused on cultivating a truly evil atmosphere, not just playing with Satanism for laughs.

While Svn Eater lurches in slowly with a nearly five-minute long buildup on opener "Night Seas Sorcery," the rest of the album's nearly fifty minutes passes quickly with very few moments of relief. While the lyrical and visual aesthetic of the album is clearly rooted in black metal's symbolism, this is very much an efficient and precise exercise in death metal perfection. Guitars swirl and roar in lower frequencies, yet don't tread into the more subterranean horror that's so popular now. Instead, this is a modern take on the classic aggression of early 90's acts, relentless and full of great riffs. In fact, the mix is crystal clear without treading into slick or obnoxious territory. Everything is crisp and balanced, exactly as it should be, with just enough variety and nuance to keep things from being a simple rehash of a genre overplayed. Copies of this album are officially on sale from Dark Descent now, so grab it on the format of your choice while it's available.

Yellow Eyes- "The Desert Mourns" EP (SIbir Records/Dead Section)

Readers who have been following for any amount of time should know I've been big on New York black metal group Yellow Eyes since the beginning of my writing career (if you could call a blog a career). In just a few short years, these guys have gone from being a band with a promising demo to being the sort of hot commodity who makes year end lists on sites with hundreds of times the visitor count of my little blog. I've even seen copies of their debut demo going for offensively high prices on discogs, which is a sign of their current popularity, although I'd love to see the band getting that kind of cash instead of folks who bought a tape and never even listened to it. In other words, I love Yellow Eyes and it's incredible to me that they've become such a buzz band. This hype would typically be hard to live up to, but this band delivers time after time. Today we're taking a look at their brand new 12" EP, The Desert Mourns.

Back of shirt. Front has Yellow Eyes logo.
With only one song on each side, this album plays at 45RPM, which is a rarity in my collection, but makes this a real collectible gem. These two songs see Yellow Eyes demonstrating a sound that is truly their own yet instantly welcoming even for those not previously initiated with this skilled young act. Vibrant and bright guitars that cut through the mix with a clarity uncommon in black metal will grab your attention almost immediately after following the band's trademark introductory ambiance. If the band's energy doesn't come through your sound system with the passion and fury of a live performance, then I can only assume your ears or heart aren't in the right place, because this is a gripping, if not unnecessarily brief, demonstration of Yellow Eyes' mastery of the genre and true potential. The drumming is expressive without hogging the spotlight and the vocals are almost scientifically engineered to hit the right degree of presence for this kind of music. There is a sense of confidence that this album displays that, while other releases hinted at, is finally coming to the foreground here. I think the band has always had material like this in them yet perhaps did not have the reputation or experience necessary to share it properly. This isn't really even ambitious so much as it is another step in this already challenging band's continuous path towards dominance of the metal underground. Another thing to make note of is the lyrical expansion. While Yellow Eyes' career started with rather bleak, depressing lyrics fixated on self-loathing, misery, and generally unpleasant themes, they've adapted the position of storytellers rather than miserable black metal dudes. While I'm a fan of both, the growth and maturity of the band has clearly expanded in every aspect of their complete package, which delights me. As an aside, if you're a geek like me, you'll love how intense this gets if you play it at 33RPM instead of 45. You'll have to try it for yourself when you grab a copy.

This album is available on its own in versions unique to both the US and EU, as well as in a bundle with a shirt commissioned for this particular album. I'm honestly surprised this didn't sell out in its first day or two, but that doesn't mean you should wait long if you want to have a shot at owning a copy. Also, yes, I'm still unable to embed from bandcamp for some awful reason. Here's a youtube sample of the title track. Once my official site goes up soon I'll be able to embed properly again. Thanks for the patience, dear readers.

Synsophony- "Rabbit Hole" (Self-Released)

Readers, you may remember how I gushed about Synsophony's debut, Karmic Existence, some time ago. Today I'm pleased to share another release from these black drone madmen, Rabbit Hole. Like their first album, this digital release is one track of expansive confusion, chaos, and anxiety. While it's not necessarily something I recommend before your morning coffee, it's a great experience for those of us who like to test our boundaries.

Unlike the lingering horror of Karmic Existence, Rabbit Hole starts at a peak of sorts, slowly crumbling as the listener descends slowly. The obvious nod to Lewis Carroll in the title conjures, again, thoughts of the onset of a psychedelic experience of some sort, but far darker than anything you'd find depicted in a story for families. With only thirteen minutes to do its damage, Rabbit Hole is far more of a meandering journey through and past uncomfortable sounds than it is a death sentence. One can occasionally hear chatter in the distance, as if observers to one's descent are nearby, yet are nowhere to be seen through the oppressive haze created by Synsophony. No peaceful closure is presented, yet one feels slightly more resolution here, despite the lack of beauty given.

Rabbit Hole is currently available as a pay what you like download from Synsophony's bandcamp page, but will see release as a cassette from Acephale Winter Productions later in 2014, along with a bonus remix.

New from Sol y Nieve: Nemorensis & Hellebore

Today I'm featuring two releases currently available for a discounted pre-order from Sol y Nieve. It's been a few reviews since I touched on something purely black metal, so this is a perfect fit. I've always been thrilled with Sol y Nieve's releases and these two show the label continuing a tradition of working with bands that are unheard yet as talented as larger names. I'm super excited about these two tapes, so let's jump right in.

Starting things off here is Nemorensis, with its epic offering, "The Lady In The Lake." Clocking in at 27:27, this is a monolithic beast that works in movements more than functioning like a song rooted in rock structure. The opening section has a slowed down, ethereal gloom that features a melody that strongly reminds me of Depeche Mode's "Policy of Truth" at about 20% of its normal speed. It's haunting and beautiful, but feels somewhat like drowning or falling into an unplanned, drugged sleep. The ominous nature of this otherworldly drone begins to peak as chants and voices emerge, as if carried across great distances by an unexpected wind. As soon as I'm almost entirely lulled into calmness, I'm startled by the dissolution of peace as electric guitars are introduced. Dissonance begins to take hold, yet the guitars begin as merely an extension of the droning ambiance, slowly growing into something entirely of independent. Like an ancient evil awakening from slumber, it rises slowly into view, growing more dreadful by the minute, dripping with grime and reeking of death. With a transition so slow it's almost unnoticeable, the music shifts from droning guitars to a more aggressive, decidedly black metal approach, with a jagged pulsing approach that all but buries the distant percussion. By the end, the song builds to a radiant, glistening passage that feels like a rawer cousin of Lustre. In case my words don't make it obvious, this is already one of the most exciting things I expect to hear this year. Sol Y Nieve's release of this  gem is limited to 100 cassettes, packaged in a plastic case with a heavy stock J-card and a scroll attached with twine.

As if one massive, spacey black metal release wasn't enough, Sol y Nieve will also be releasing Hellebore's "Anouof Thwo." I have no idea what the title means, but the album art leads me to believe that the cosmic atmospheres have a lyrical direction that matches. While I don't listen to too many bands that take ambient black metal this far, this release genuinely captivates me. While my initial listen left me slightly confused and uncertain about my feelings, repeated visits have planted this in my head. Pounding rhythms and oddly textured leads are par for the course here, but this does not make for a straightforward listen. I'm all for unorthodox, and Hellebore seems keen on delivering just enough strangeness for me to be hooked without running the risk of scaring away more traditional listeners. Even the mellower interludes here (like stunning yet brief centerpiece "Udrea") have an unearthly feeling that isn't quite sad so much as detached, which really adds depth to the experience for me. The vocals have enough reverb to resonate across the void yet they aren't as buried as many similar bands might have them, allowing for a more balanced approach that still yields a raw coldness that pleases me. This surprised me in many ways and I'm glad I gave it a full and fair listen. It's limited to 100 copies on cassette with a heavy stock J-card and a button.

Founders Porter

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 45

Today I'm reviewing a beer that's a bit more of a standard, but this does nothing to diminish its impact. I feel like beers that are more widely distributed or are available in six packs get a bit of a bad rap from some craft beer geeks. While I'm always hunting down fancy 750ml bottles of limited beers, I also appreciate getting six of the same delicious beer for a good price. When Founders announced they'd be arriving in Florida, I was thrilled. This beer has been worth the wait.

Founders Porter has a bit more of a hoppy kick than some other porters, but it blends nicely with the smoothness of malt and makes for a great drinking experience. The smooth, dark brown liquid tingles nicely on the tip of my tongue. It's not something I can drink thoughtlessly but it's not a strong and challenging flavor either. In other words, it's ideal sipping beer, which is just what I wanted today.

While drinking this, I'm listening to "Mixed Emotions" by Søren, which is part of this month's free download series from electronic/industrial/noise/etc label, Ascetic House. Each day this month a new cassette is being released for purchase. At the end of the day, the tape is taken out of the store. In addition to the tape sales, each day a new album is added to the website for free download. These albums are often rare or out of print releases, making the download quite welcome. While it's not aggressive metal, this music pairs nicely with an equally smooth and deep beer.

Myopic- "Beyond the Mirror's Edge" (Grimoire Records)

Released just this past week, Myopic's "Beyond the Mirror's Edge" is a journey of an album, just as exploratory as it is rooted in creating something tense and energetic. This band is wholly new to me, yet in many ways this album gives me some of the same rush I felt when I first heard Mastodon's "Remission" back in high school, yet with more of a raw punk rock feel. Technically proficient without being showy, this is the first exciting progressive-leaning metal album of the year.

Equal parts progressive metal, sludge, and rock, with a bit of black metal chord structure thrown in for good measure, this album is too brief for its own good, yet it's somehow appropriate enough for what will be the first many of us hear from this creative and daring group. Many bands with grand ambitions tend to overplay their hand by offering a massive, lengthy release that falters only under its own weight. The brevity of this album is a strength in that it does what needs to be done and comes to a halt, allowing the listener to really get into every second of it rather than becoming an endurance test or display of excess. Still, one can't help be surprised by monumental centerpiece "Backstitch," which showcases the band's capacity for elegance and meandering guitars that go strange places without fully straying from their course. I can only imagine what would happen if these guys let the songs expand past the ten-minute mark. Perhaps future outings will see more expansion. Or maybe they'll get faster and more aggressive. Either way I'll be delighted to see what comes next.

From start to finish, this album had my attention. With such a solid sound and energetic delivery, I look forward to future output from these guys. Grab a CD from Grimoire Records now or wait until March for the cassette release, but don't sleep on this one. These guys will probably start receiving press from sites and publications far larger than mine if they keep this up.

Rei Rea- "Selected Works I: Still Suns" CS (Union Finale)

In mid-December I was contacted by Rei Rea, inquiring about the possibility of a review. While I always give a look and listen to emails I receive, I was particularly captivated by the unique fusion of sounds and visuals. You see, Rei Rea serves as the musical output of visual artist Christian Dubé. With knowledge of his works as a painter and general madman, it's impossible to listen to "Selected Works I: Still Suns" without imagining the music as some kind of visual music. While I often experience music in colors and patterns, it's rare that I imagine the creator using some sort of sonic brush strokes, but this album makes perfect sense in that context.

Drone and noise are terms that come to mind, but Rei Rea's work rarely commits itself to an easily categorized set of sounds. Instead, the elements of each song leave trails through multiple sets of sounds, frequently unsettling and troubling, but rarely horrific, allowing an experience that is unique while still relatively familiar. I find this album is one that either warrants headphones or a great sound system, as immersing oneself in the anxiety-inducing atmospheres here yields far greater results than simply dipping one's toes in it. Tracks like "Throne of Papa" introduce just enough beauty to keep the listener optimistic, if not even instilling a sense of euphoria. This elation is mostly to balance out the dread, which comes in waves between the moments of respite. Still, this is not the relentless horror of so many artists working with noise. This is more of the monotony of working for life only to die poor. This is a sonic painting in broad strokes of grey, brown, rust red, and black. Pain and suffering are present, but are accompanied by the small joys and moments of personal satisfaction. Perhaps Rei Rea is exactly this outlet for Dubé, the place away from the chaos.

The artist recommended pairing this album with an IPA, but I've been quite under the weather lately and have not been able to drink much of anything other than tea. That said, I'll recommend the exact beer he shared with me in an email conversation. It's not locally available for me, but he says it's quite potent. Rei Rea recommends drinking Le Castor Brewing Company's Yakima IPA. It's a Montreal-based brewery, so those of us in the United States might struggle to find it, but I hope my friends up north can enjoy a bottle while listening to this album. Cassette copies are available from Union Finale, and each tape comes with a large poster of the album art, making it a total steal. Stream the album here if my words aren't enough to convince you.

Innis & Gunn's Scottish Porter

Brewery: Innis & Gunn
ABV: 7.4%
IBUs: Not given

Innis & Gunn has graced this website before with some of its deceptively simple and wonderful beers. Due to the relatively low price and high quality of their standard drinks, they've become a staple in my home. When I saw this one in a store, I grabbed it for my partner, as this brewery is one of our shared favorites and porters are her preferred style.

While this Scottish porter is not at all like the darker, thicker porters we're used to drinking, the sweetness of molasses definitely shows at moments here. Additionally, the body is thinner and lighter in color than your average heavy porter, which makes for an easier drinking experience, but may not impress people looking for dark and heavy beers. The oak aging shows a bit with a light whiskey characteristic on the aftertaste, although I'm not sure if there was whiskey in the barrels before this beer was aged in them.

We enjoyed this slightly sweet and slightly tart beer while watching classic Dark Tranquillity videos. While their music is slightly edgy, the accessibility and harmony of their music pairs nicely with this beer which might impress beer geeks and beer newcomers alike.

New Music: Smorg, Astral Rebirth, Being

Smorg- "A Morbid Chapter" CDr (Self-Released)
Have you, dear readers, ever wished for the maddened howls of LLN-inspired black metal to be fused with the punkier side of grindcore? Smorg sees an absence of this in the overall metal community and is filling this void. The rawness of this demo only adds to the fabulously murky sound these guys have crafted. While the songs are aggressive and the vocals are as inhuman as it gets, there are occasional melodic leads that are well integrated, allowing for even less adventurous listeners to become assimilated as Smorg grows to engulf the weak. The CD-r the band sent me is about as DIY and simple as it gets. My laptop even refuses to play it (although other devices of mine seem to have no issue--thanks computer), perhaps because it can't handle the intensity of Smorg's assault. With songs like "Spilling Imperial Blood" being both addictive and vicious, it's safe to say these guys deserve a listen. They just released a split with Cold Crypt on Depressive Illusions, so snag a copy of that if you enjoy what you hear.

Astral Rebirth- "Surrendered to the Black Immensity" CD (Winterglow Records)
Immensity is as apt a term as any to describe the majestic black atmospheres Astral Rebirth creates on this beast of an album. I've had the promo email sitting in my inbox for four months, and like the fool I am, I've listened many times and neglected to review it. This hazy brand of ambient black metal is perfect for rainy days, contemplation, and even winding down in the evening. That's not to say that Astral Rebirth makes mellow music, but it embodies heavy grey days and clear starry nights. On a deeper level, the name and the atmosphere here make it clear that this music comes from a place of deep focus and possibly self-reflection. I'm not able to speak to the themes on this release, but these songs capture a vastness and timelessness that I can't quite place. It appears that copies are sold out from the label, although I'd keep an eye out, as I'm sure more will emerge.

Being- "II: Nyx" (Super-Void)
If Astral Rebirth isn't cosmic enough for your liking, Being's most recent release will surely capture the right state for you. Easily the cleanest recording featured in this post, "II: Nyx" is a two-track affair of cosmic melancholy. Opener "Hypnos" has a purposefully repetitive vocal melody, driving a sense of great emptiness in over the course of many minutes while the music spirals from somber to chaotic. Closer "Ex Nihilo" is decidedly more planted in progressive metal territory, yet doesn't lean towards needless noodling. There are absolutely no harsh vocals on this album, which might not suit all fans of extreme music but works quite nicely here, with a clean presence that is firm yet almost ghostly in its wavering nature. The bleakness of the music and the solemn determination of the vocals work together to create an elegant and multifaceted album. While just under twenty minutes in length, "II: Nyx" feels fully realized and lacks little. Download it from the Super-Void/Being bandcamp.

Southern Tier Brewing Company's Plum Noir Imperial Porter.

Hey folks. It's been a while since I've shared a good drink on here, and what better beer than one I've had sitting in my fridge for nearly five months? When I saw Southern Tier's Plum Noir in the store, I knew I had to have it. However, I also made the mistake of putting it on a pedestal and refusing to drink it until circumstances made for the perfect moment. What I should have been doing was including this in my semi-regular drinking routine.

The beer pours as dark as the "Noir" in the name would imply, with a frothy head that parts way just enough to allow for a decent sip. The nose is surprisingly floral for such a dark beer, and the sweetness of the plums does little to detract from its bitterness, but instead broadens the overall experience. Given that plums are a fruit with such a deep flavor, it's nice to see them getting attention here. There's also the slight coffee note that commonly accompanies darker porters. It works perfectly here. There's a light fizziness that's barely present but just noticeable enough on the tip of my tongue, and there's just an overall pleasant balance to the whole thing. Southern Tier's Blackwater Series is proving to be consistent and fantastic and just experimental enough to intrigue without confusing the palate. While it definitely might be appealing to a niche audience, it's worth trying for any passionate drinkers.

Late Summer/Fall releases from Gilead Media

Well folks, it should come as no surprise that with a massive batch of new releases from Gilead Media making their way to light, it's time for me to review them and share them with you. Aside from being one of the few labels I regularly feature with bands who are "well known," they're also one of the most consistently daring labels I've encountered, taking chances on unconventional artists only to watch them excel time after time. With this in mind, it's little surprise that these new releases are both daring and enriching for me as a listener.

For the sake of organization, I'll share them in order of catalog number. Relic 46 is Hexer's debut LP, and while this is a fresh face to me, I instantly see why this band belongs alongside such heavyweights as Thou, False, and Ash Borer. While the band's logo and album cover initially had me guessing this might be a thrash release, I'm delighted that things instantly open up with some of the most fuzz-drenched, riffy black metal (albeit with some thrash influence thrown in for good measure) I've heard in a while. While I love an intricate journey, sometimes a headbanging good time is all that's needed, and Hexer delivers in full force. That's not to say that this is a simplistic mosh-fest though, as the pace and structure changes on a dime, with the band hurtling ahead at full-speed into new territory at every chance. Even when the band slows things down to a marching pace, I can practically envision buildings crumbling and explosions surrounding the band as they methodically churn out their apocalyptic black madness. While many bands these days seem intent on hiding behind distortion and density of sound, Hexer has adopted the aesthetic subtly, using it as a jagged accent to their music instead of a mask to compensate for lack of musicianship like so many other groups have been known to do. If you're into facemelting grimness, this one will be up for sale soon enough, so keep an eye on Gilead's webstore.

Next up is Relic 50, the second release from Colin Marston's project Indricothere, which is appropriately titled "II." In all honesty, I have not enjoyed everything Marston related, so with slight anxiety but as much of an open mind as I can have, I approached this album. From the opening drum assault, I was surprised. While the music is as technically sound as one would expect from a member of projects like Krallice, Behold...The Arctopus, and Gorguts, this is more listenable than I had anticipated. Alternating between valiant, aggressive, and majestic, Indricothere practically pummels the beauty out of potentially hideous structures with it's machine-gun drumming and relentless guitars chiseling away at the listener. Once the assault has created enough open space, the guitars are free to explore the space, taking the listener on a journey that seems to weave in and out of some unknown dimension. Indeed, on songs like "VII" or the drifting ambiance of "XI," I find myself actually feeling relaxed amid the sheer expansive nature of sound. It's hard to explain, but for some reason this release is so fast, so chaotic, that the only response it leaves me with is to simply relax and let it take me along whatever route it sees fit. If you're looking for some solid instrumental wizardry and have an interdimensional journey in mind, you should preorder a copy of "II" and get ready to travel into the deepest recesses of your own brain.

While the order of these items was dictated by catalog number, it's only fitting that this post closes out with the "biggest" feeling release of the three, the new album from Northless, "World Keeps Sinking," which is a split release between Gilead Media and Halo of Flies. While I tend not to like hardcore and sludge hybrids, I can tell that Northless are on top of their game for the genre. Riffs swell up in an absolutely crushing fashion, which I love, but at times the song structures are a bit uninteresting to me. That's not to say that this is in any way a dull or "bad" release, but sometimes things feel a bit cleaner than my tastes generally lean. I'm also a bit less than sold on the vocalist's style, but again, I realize this is a matter of taste rather than quality. Where this album does excel is in its instrumental passages and its capacity to shape the songs in unpredictable directions at times. I'm always into a good surprise, and this album does deliver enough of those to keep me interested. Fans of slightly more chaotic hardcore or more polished sludge releases will definitely gravitate towards this, and this album is a clear indicator as to Northless' current popularity. Perhaps with a few more listens, even this curmudgeon will be won over.

The new LPs from Indricothere and Northless are available at a discounted price when purchased together, and Hexer's LP will be available for purchase when Gilead has copies on hand. Pairing these new releases with some excellent new distro updates (including Blut Aus Nord LPs that I'm swooning over) means we're all about to be a few dollars lighter in the pocket. Get these soon, as I anticipate each of them will be successful enough to sell out rather quickly.

New music from Fragile Branch

As I've been making posts in threes from time to time, I figure that now is as good a time as any to introduce my readers and friends to the young and promising Fragile Branch. The label already has a few releases out and seems determined to keep as busy as possible, with a full distro, custom button orders, and shirt and patch printing in addition to upcoming releases. Label head Andy was kind enough to send me a few cassettes for consideration, which I'm happy to share with all of you.

Starting things off is Maugrim's "Nothing, Bare." This cassette is firmly planted in the depressive black metal genre, but keeps it fresh and pleasant. While nods to some of the classics are clearly here, I don't feel like this is a stale homage so much as a true enthusiast creating something bleak and crushing. If the pained shrieks and somber melodies don't already direct you towards a darker place, the lyrics will surely make the artist's intentions clear. Many tracks on this album either beg for death or reflect on it in some way, and the music tends to meander along, pensive as the listener will surely be when focusing on such topics. By the time the album has ended, there is a sense of peace and bliss, a relief from the chaos within which the album often resides.

Next up is Lifelorn with "Katalis Sebuah Obsesi." Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this artist creates a dense yet peaceful style of black metal that calls to mind efforts from groups like Lustre or earlier Jesu. While there is certainly a sense of darkness that often comes with the genre's overall aesthetic, I feel as though the catharsis here is greater than the misery. As an instrumental effort, I feel this album opens up enough space for the listener to imprint their own personal meaning without the artist's vision losing its clarity. There is beauty, and there is discomfort. This tape works best when each layer of the music is allowed to build up rather than all being presented at once--hearing the individual pieces as they grow towards a single entity is quite satisfying. While I try not to pick favorites, this one is uncommonly good and comes with the highest of recommendations.

Rounding out the initial batch of Fragile Branch's releases is Filsufatia's "Buried Beneath & Forgotten." Displaying a noticeably cleaner production than the other two releases and also hailing from Malaysia, this is perhaps the middle ground between the other two groups presented in this review. The album opens with simple yet effective piano that is quickly joined by a full band's worth of instruments, crafting an elegant and reflective atmosphere. Much like Lifelorn, this release is purely instrumental, but it leans towards sorrow more than catharsis. Funereal keyboard melodies are often accompanied by distorted guitars as this one-man project builds atmosphere with precision and purpose.

Each of these fantastic tapes can be purchased in either a regular or special edition (which comes with more than just the patches I've pictured with my tapes) by visiting Fragile Branch's webstore. There is already a new lathe cut from Maugrim in stock and the label is planning their first LP release, Wanderlust's debut entitled "Monolithes entre ruines." I see great promise in this young label's selections and it's obvious that the stream of new music won't slow down any time soon.

Evil Twin Brewing- Lil' B Imperial Porter

This beer serves as an appropriate way for me to get back to my old hobby of reviewing tasty new beers. It's been a while simply because I've been short on funds and beer isn't cheap. That said, Evil Twin Brewing has been on my "must try" list for quite a while now, and I'm a sucker for beers that pay tribute to musicians, even if they aren't familiar to me. I know Lil' B is a popular rapper, but that's about the beginning and the end of it. Regardless, I decided to snag this brew as a good imperial porter is always welcome in my stomach.

Lil' B (the beer) pours a nice dark brown with a thin, tan head. The nose is relatively subtle and malty, although each sip displays heavy toffee and caramel flavors, with a thinner presence than the darkness would imply. The beer's eleven and a half percent alcohol content is well masked by the sweetness and richness of the flavors, but it can obviously be felt. I'm not sure if this beer is available in a larger bottle, but I probably wouldn't want any more than this drink offers, as it would surely overwhelm both my palate and my alcohol tolerance. While I know almost nothing about the musician with whom this beer shares its name, I'm all for anybody who inspires such a delicious drink. Grab a bottle if you can find it, it's worth getting.

Gethsemane - "S/T"

Gethsemane’s brand of black metal is not unlike that of Amputator or Revenge in that it seethes chaos, dismantling the listener through noise-laden guitars backed by relentless blastbeats and suffering, subdued vocals. The demo begins ominously enough with picked strings and static before setting off on a destructive path that doesn’t yield until it’s over. And while the all-out assault approach certainly works in Gethsemane’s favor, I’d argue that it’s also the demo’s biggest drawback. Amidst the swirling violence I find myself periodically uninterested, the music no longer the focal point of my attention as much as background noise. The moments wherein Gethsemane restrain the tempo, however, are my favorite parts of the demo as it showcases something more than just cacophony, which, to clarify, I’m all for when it’s done well.

 When they slow down, they generate a necrotic atmosphere that slows the blade they otherwise wield maniacally, luring the listener into a false reprieve that soon gives way to pandemonium, tried and true. Overall, I’d certainly recommend giving Gethsemane a listen as they have all the elements necessary to create something truly rewarding. You can also purchase their tape directly from the band through their Bandcamp page should you enjoy what you hear.

Review contributed by Julio Espin

Teratism- "La Bas" 12" MLP (Negativity Records)

(image from Nuclear War Now! Productions)

Today's review takes us to a band that made an early impression on me when I first began seriously delving into the USBM community. A friend lent me a compilation CD entitled Destroyers From The Western Skies, which included greats such as Xasthur, Krieg, and Cobalt, as well as a track from Teratism, which certainly caught my attention as one of the album's standouts. Here I sit, years later, spinning their newest release, La Bas, feeling just as impressed and thrilled as I did when I first heard them. The occult attack is as strong as ever, and these four tracks are some of the most aggressive new black metal I've heard.

The album opens thick and ugly with "Gospel of the Heliophobe" with distorted choirs giving way to bestial madness of the most intense variety. For those who feel I often feature bands that aren't raw or evil enough, here you go. This is probably one of the filthiest black metal albums of the year, yet it doesn't sacrifice the dark majesty of the genre. Vocals are blown out and churning in all the right ways, and the guitars keep it bleak and ferocious without succumbing to simplified or dull riffs. This album's assault rarely relents, and it only seems to do so to add to the horror of the atmosphere. Many bands surround themselves with occult imagery or namedrop Satan any chance they can get, but few are actually convincing. Teratism are vicious and merciless in both music and lyrics, which is refreshing in a genre so full of showboating with minimal effort to back it up. This album closes up with a ritualistic and melancholy cover of "Come to the Sabbat" by Black Widow, a group who are new to me but are clearly worth my attention, as Teratism has dedicated this album to them. Due to its short length and consistent quality, this album certainly begs for repeated spins and has already worked its way into regular rotation in my home.

The album is currently available from Negativity Records's webstore, and comes loaded with extras to top off this demonic masterpiece. The record comes on black and white "splatter" vinyl and is accompanied by a 12-page booklet with lyrics and illustrations as well as a poster with some of the most awesome art I've seen in a while, courtesy of the legendary Mark Riddick. This is well worth the price of admission, and collectors should take note.  As I said, if you feel things have been a bit soft on here lately, don't pass on this one.

Song Premiere: Venowl & Auditor- "Mounds of Scorched Teeth (Unmastered)"

I feel like I'm constantly having firsts here on this site. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do, because today's first is something I'm used to seeing only on more prominent sites. I have the first available track from the impending release from Venowl & Auditor entitled Acid Revealing Open Wounds. This release showcases some rather new territory for Venowl, who do seem to benefit from rising to the challenge of working with others. When they force their churning noise through the paradigm of another artist, they expand in new directions. Auditor's contributions to this release manifest as a sort of tension, something reeling in Venowl's typically rabid sound and forcing it along a newer path. While this isn't nearly as painful as having teeth burnt out of my skull, these guys continue to create sounds that walk the masochistic line between enjoyable and hideous in all the best ways. The crawling horror of Venowl is slow and meticulous, with loose arrangements allowing for Auditor to fill in the gaps with bursts of noise, melody, and everything in between. About halfway through, things become truly deconstructed and it almost feels like witnessing people being torn apart. Those who have enjoyed previous works from Venowl or Auditor's former project, Iron Forest, should know what to expect, although there are a few surprises hidden in the murk.

Unmastered copies of this CD will be sold in a specially packaged edition at Venowl & Auditor's upcoming show opening for Wreck and Reference in Chicago. Fully mastered audio will be available on a separate release later this year from Altar of Waste paired with a bonus disc of unreleased material from Venowl. For now, enjoy the first of this album's two tracks, "Mounds of Scorched Teeth."

Paramnesia- "Ce Que Dit La Bouche D'Ombre" CD-r (Self-Released)

Here's another post about a band that caught me off guard. I make a lot of these, because apparently most of the bands that are really shaking things up are interested in contacting me but aren't being discussed by my friends. So, meet Paramnesia, an engaging and incredible French black metal group. I received an email from a member of the band politely requesting that I listen to his music, and I'm thrilled I paid attention.

While there's a slight language barrier in our communications, I believe this album was written and recorded in a three day period. These two tracks are each fully formed journeys through territory that bring to mind tracks from equally crushing groups like Deathspell Omega or The Great Old Ones, both of whom also happen to be from France. It's definitely safe to say that French (and French Canadian) bands have frequently been among my favorites, so I'm pleased to see that Paramnesia are carrying the torch. While elements of shoegaze and doom weigh heavily in this music, atmospheric black metal is the primary focus here, and Paramnesia seldom stray into territory that would disappoint purists. Guitars weave textures and melodies more than riffs, while the drums and vocals accent the overall bleakness of the music without any one musician forcing the others out of the spotlight. The coordination here is really something to notice, especially if this album was churned out in such a rapid fashion.

Copies of this brilliant release are available from Paramnesia's bandcamp page, and feature stellar artwork from Business For Satan. Grab this while you can and prepare for the next offering, which the band has indicated will draw influences from groups like Paysage d'Hiver and Leviathan.

Morthylla- "Morthylla" CS (Self-Released)

I often find myself feeling like I hear about new music after most of my friends and music-loving online contacts have already discovered it. For once, I've been lucky enough to catch a highly promising new act from pretty much the first moment of its ascent. Morthylla appeared pretty much out of nowhere with this spectacular five song demo tape. Despite their relative freshness, they're already churning out tunes that place them among the top new black metal acts I've heard this year. With even distribution of duties, this two-piece have enough creative fury to put most full live acts to shame.

The album begins with "Sussurans de Lamia," a track which kicks off with one of the catchiest riffs I've heard in ages only to plod on into a classic mid-paced black metal section. The whole album is filled with some of the most straight up anguished screams I've heard to date, and while they do play with reverb a bit, it's not to a criminal degree. Everything here fits my ideal production criteria, with just enough clarity to enjoy the music and just enough murky nastiness to keep things raw and pure feeling. While the album's centerpiece is essentially a sample, the four tracks that surround it are solid enough to make up for the relatively minimal amount of music here. If you enjoy your black metal in slower, somber forms without allowing it to stoop to so many of the cheesy DSBM cliches, this album should be highly appealing. The riffs have enough motion to keep the songs fresh yet they linger long enough to be memorable.

Aside from being a killer tape from a promising new band, this album also stands as the first release from a coalition of bands known as Antilight. Antilight groups are dissatisfied with the current state of black metal and are seeking to remedy this issue by creating music they feel better represents black metal's desired direction. Whether you agree with Antilight's purpose or you feel black metal is currently a blossoming community, it's pretty obvious that this album is raising the bar for releases in 2013. This tape is currently sold out in the limited box-set edition pictured here, but will be released in standard cassette format with 200 copies from Schattenkult Produktionen some time very soon. Check here for details to come as they are announced.

New Music 5/29/13: Schrei Aus Stein, Gnashing of Teeth, Twilight Fauna

Schrei Aus Stein- Philosophie CS (Self-Released)
This album from one of the members of BM&B approved group Curseworship is one of the more haunting pieces of black metal I've heard lately. Existing almost exclusively in the space between conventional black metal structures and free-form black noise, the ever-shifting nature of this music keeps it flowing nicely without feeling repetitive. The music is nebulous and ethereal and feels like it was created in some sort of other universe. After two solid original tracks, Schrei Aus Stein includes a sweet Velvet Cacoon cover as a digital bonus track. Buy the tape by clicking on the album title or find it for download on soundcloud.

Gnashing of Teeth- Demo MMXII CDr (Self-Released)
If you've visited this blog before, there's a chance you might be familiar with the black noise madness of Gnashing of Teeth. Aside from curating his own music blog, this man apparently has the time and capacity to make some of the most repulsive music I've heard. This is definitely one of those "if you could call it music" scenarios, which is something I've grown to love. While Gnashing of Teeth will always be an acquired taste, I'll be one of the happy few, sipping on delicious beer while filling the room with high quality black noise. There's definitely an expansion of sound from the split with Enbilulugugal to this release. It's slightly more musical here, but there are still layers of fuzz and filth to either "get past" or wallow in, depending on your attitude towards noise. My recommendation? Just immerse yourself in the void. You'll come out stronger.

Twilight Fauna- Grief CD/CS (Depressive Illusions)
Twilight Fauna is an Appalachian black metal project consisting almost exclusively of just one member who goes by the name Ravenwood. Ravenwood uses this project to convey both murky, dense black metal sadness alongside subtle acoustic passages that provide adequate space for reflection. It's an essential balance when going through such bleak territory, and Twilight Fauna seems to specialize in balance. Each instrument is still easily discerned despite the sheer density of sound and each song is enjoyable in spite of (or perhaps because of) the dissonance and chaos contained within. The depression here seems timeless rather than self-indulgent. Many bands who deal with melancholy seem to be wallowing in it, while this feels more like a portrayal of an ancient, earthy sadness. This album will certainly lower your spirits, but is worth a listen regardless. Purchase a CD directly from the band or a cassette from the label.

New tunes 5/22/13: Deathcult, Deuil, The Infernal Sea

Deathcult- The Test of Time CS (Caligari Records)
Deathcult is a one-man thrashy death metal band from Chicago who plays with the intensity of a full band. The album is loaded with eerily catchy leads and galloping riffs that are perfectly tailored for headbanging. The vocals at times remind me of the legendary Don Tardy from Obituary, so expect a really throaty attack. One hundred copies of this tape are available here, which is the debut of both band and record label. The label is rooted here in my current home of Tampa, FL and seems set to release more quality stuff in the very near future. With addictive songs like "Mutant Generation" and "Hail the Antichrist," this will be a hit at your next party.

Deuil- Acceptance/Rebuild CDr (Self-Released)
Deuil are one of those bands that totally caught me off guard. I've been receiving many emails from bands seeking review, (which is why I'm now doing these abbreviated posts in the first place--to catch up), and these guys instantly stood out. The album begins with a rather peculiar yet intriguing vocal drone that leads into filthy sludge that reminds me of the ferocity of groups like Amenra or Fall of Efrafa, with all the dynamics, peaks, and valleys you'd hope to find. These Belgian maniacs absolutely crush from start to finish with this album, which you can either download for the price you'd like or purchase on a beautifully packaged and screen-printed CDr. It's limited to 50 copies, so I'd hop on it quickly.

The Infernal Sea- Call of the Augur CD (Self-Released)
The Infernal Sea are probably the only band in this post that fit into the black metal spectrum, but they are vicious enough to cover all three slots in blackened fury. These guys have a very precise and well-executed brand of black metal that is not exclusively rooted in any one subcategory of metal. Drums are aggressive and perfectly placed, the vocals are truly ravenous, and the guitar tone is rooted in classic black metal while the riffs tend to meander through whatever territory The Infernal Sea deems necessary. It's solid, aggressive, and instantly memorable black metal with strong elements of death metal that never quite overpower the darker side of the music. Purchase a download from their bandcamp or do the right thing and order the actual CD for your collection.