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Posts Tagged ‘Profound Lore Records’

Caïna, Hands That Pluck (2011)

A cosmic distance

My review of Caïna’s final album is up now at MetalReviewHands That Pluck is dense, frequently off-putting, and also excellent.  Give it some time and you’ll find yourself rewarded.  Hands That Pluck is out now on Profound Lore Records.

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Avichi, The Devil’s Fractal (2011)

A bit Weapon-ish, yes, but sufficiently fractal

My review of the second album from Illinois’s Avichi is up now at MetalReview.  The album prompts me to spin out all sorts of nonsense about whether or not black metal has to be ugly and dangerous to be effective, and whether so-called orthodox black metal is self-defeating in its attempts to be seductive.  Anyway, regardless of my bullshit, The Devil’s Fractal is out now on Profound Lore Records.

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A Storm Of Light, As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (2011)

We get it, man - you like overstuffed collage art.

My review of the latest album from the Josh Graham-led post-metallers A Storm Of Light is up now over at MetalReview.  It’s unfortunately a rather dull album, and most definitely a step backward from the much more interesting second album, 2009’s Forgive Us Our TrespassesAs The Valley Of Death Becomes Us… is out now on Profound Lore Records.

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StarGazer, A Great Work Of Ages / A Work Of Great Ages (2010)

Burrows its way into your mind like it was always already there

First things first: A band so bold as to share their name with one of the greatest songs in heavy metal’s vast pantheon to feature the unimpeachable lungs of steel of Ronnie James Dio had better have some fucking chops to back up such chutzpah.  On this count, however, Australia’s purveyors of twisted progressive death metal StarGazer come out smelling of roses.  A Great Work Of Ages / A Work Of Great Ages is a seething, lurching, yet surprisingly sprightly beast of a musical journey that assaults the unsuspecting passer-by with dauntingly technical instrumentation that nevertheless resolves into a measured, artfully-meted out accounting of chaos.

The cover art displays crustacean shells, out of which emerge Doré-esque dragons.  The focal point of the image is another of these shells, which may also be a staircase spiraling into the slow decay of madness, or a doorway found only at the bottom of the ocean.  They ask if you will follow, these mortals, but in their beckoning you swear you hear a fractured echo – it’s your own voice, too.  You are Odysseus, journeying to the underworld, borne on these waves not just out but also down.  Down, from whence no Ithacan return is assured.

The most artful of aesthetics, however, don’t mean shit unless the music puts one in the same mind.  Thankfully, the endeavor is a success, in that the cover art mirrors the looping, sinusoidal death metal shamanism to such great effect that recurrent image to this listener was that of the titular house in Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves.  This is the novel which features, arguably, as its main character a house in which the interior dimensions are found to exceed the exterior dimensions, leading the home’s owners on a nightmarish exploration of the unfathomable and constantly mutating depths of a physically impossible space; this house, a brilliant narrative device (despite Danielewski’s myriad of other distracting typeset games) that reads like the polyglot ecstasy and narrative disregard of Finnegan’s Wake made demented architectural flesh.

The overall flavor of the album is musty and dense, a performance at a museum by candlelight.  Your ears can already hear its soundings by imagining the dementedly labyrinthine occult death metal of Portal (unsurprising, given the previous overlap in membership with StarGazer) being stricken with the same progressive inspiration that produced so many of our bona fide early tech/death masterpieces, from Pestilence and Cynic to Human and Individual Thought Patterns-era Death to early Gorguts and, particularly, Atheist circa Unquestionable Presence.

The album doesn’t sound particularly heavy, although the songwriting itself is obviously quite full and weighty.  The smoothness of the sound is primarily due the production, which is exceedingly rounded-off, revealing no jagged edges of sound or texture.  Though the sounds are quite distinct, you might yet think about how nimble and airy Obscura’s Cosmogenesis sounded by way of comparison with the sonic impact of this record.  Music this technical generally needs to be given the production space to flex its manifold tentacles, and although the sound here is somewhat muddy – especially in the guitar tone – each instrument nevertheless carves out an auditory niche, even during the most chaotic of sections.

Occasionally the interaction of the dense picking style and the generally busy drumming creates an awkward shuffling effect, which veers here to the side of intentionally off-putting and avant-garde, and there to the side of muddying the occult-thrashed waters.  The guitars churn and snort their way through unsettling passages of elaborate and serpentine riff-figures, stitched together then ripped apart and reassembled with consummate ease.  Special mention, of course, must necessarily go to the tremendous bass playing throughout this album, which is fittingly given a gloriously prominent spot in the mix.  The gorgeousness is particularly evident on “Pypes of Psychosomatis,” which eventually leads the rest of the band into a fist-clenched galloping section.

Vocals are, so far as one will notice them, a low, hoarse, wind-tunnel affair.  The moody introductory section of “Hue-Mn-King” is a nice change of pace, and the later sections of the song feature some of the highest-impact vocalizing of the entire album, with a nice echo effect on the grizzled snarling.  (It’s still nothing to Vomitor’s recent paean to all that is OTT, “Neutron HAMMER-AMMER-ammer-ammer…”, but that’s rather beside the point.)  The last track features a bit of chanting in the vocal department.

The unorthodox-sounding movements of these dense compositions do demonstrate some regularity and reason over repeated listens.  “Refractice Convex Continuum,” for example, succeeds by having one of the more recognizable song structures, with an excellent repeated melodic theme that recurs in slightly different rhythmic forms – now truncated, now stretched and contorted.  The opening of “Chase for the Serpentsong” carries the listener into a subtle trance, like a slow-motion samba played on tabla drums.  The last track of the album just kind of fizzles out, with its clean guitar strumming that is likely meant to seem profound and valedictory, but seems more like an afterthought.  Still, this is one of the only real missteps to these ears.

Throughout A Great Work Of Ages, the lyrics aim at portentous, Lovecraftian menace, but end up coming off as more or less ludicrously daft, which, frankly, is fine by me.  A masterclass in avant-garde extreme metal rarely gets the textual support for which one might nevertheless yearn.  This is from ex-members of Portal, which is not exactly a band notable for its cogent philosophical missives (viz., “Seepia accord thee / Stygian obsequious antipodes / Drear they larder, paradoor thy quay,” from “Black Houses”).  Fuck it.  When I hear something as jawdropping as the chiming, ringing arpeggios about midway through “The Morbid Slither…” which are then doubled and echoed by the bass, I’m willing to ignore lyrics that translate Max Weber into Sanskrit.

All things told, this would be a fantastic album to throw on while you lose yourself inside the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine writer of short stories that were equally enthralled by gauchos as they were by labyrinths physical and figural.  There are standout moments, of course, as I’ve tried to highlight, but this isn’t really an album that one listens to for those standout moments.  This is an album for simply following along in wonder – gazing out at the stars, if you will – as the band moves you from one moment to the next, until the next moment is the last moment and your brain still keens for the next next moment.

Imagine navigating the maze of a library in Umberto Eco’s famed novel The Name of the Rose as it burns down around your shoulders.  This profound disorientation is a thread that runs all the way through StarGazer’s excellent sophomore album, and yet, just as the labyrinthine library, one never shakes the feeling that there is a secret order to the superficial madness, and that if one could only grasp it, no matter how partially, there might be found yet a way home.  To Enlightenment.  To Ithaca.  To wherever it is you first began.

Overall rating: 85%.  We built a tower of stone / With our flesh and bone.

A Great Work Of Ages / A Work Of Great Ages is out now on Profound Lore Records, and available here.

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That's right, folks: rifles, not skyscrapers.

1) The debut album by Blood Revolt, entitled Indoctrine and out now on Profound Lore Records, is an absolute fucking FACE-MELTER.  The barrage of equal parts black and death metal (thanks to the instrumental prowess/degradation of former members of Canadian outfits Revenge and Axis Of Advance) is profoundly (har har) disorienting, but in a manner that always seems intentional.  The vocals of Alan Averill (of Irish pagan/black metallers Primordial) are a real treat, displaying not quite the same epic, soaring melodicisms of Primordial, but a broader range of spoken word, faster lyrical phrasing, and an all-around more aggressive vocal approach.

I suspect that I’ll be writing up an actual review of this album once it’s been given time to sink its gnarled teeth a bit further into my skin.  The real comment that I wanted to make here, however, is just to note how much of a pleasure it is to listen to an album whose pacing has been very thoughtfully constructed.  What I mean is, this album’s eight tracks seem to have been very intentionally arranged so that even when played on CD, the first four and latter four tracks play like sides A and B of an LP.  It’s a very nice symmetry which only works to enhance the nicely understated ‘concept album’ nature, as well as giving the listener the smallest of chances to catch his or her breath in between these slabs of furious metal onslaught.  This is definitely not to be missed.

Order it here, and learn more here.
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2) A little while back, I was whinging on and on about nostalgia, and about never having the opportunity any longer to be well and truly surprised by music (e.g., the time I bought my first Dream Theater or Swans album, never having heard of either).  Well, just a few days ago I was shopping at Reckless Records down in the loop, and happened to spot two (2!) brand new albums up on their ‘New Releases’ wall that I had not even the slightest inkling were being released.

One of these was a brand new album from David Tibet’s wonderfully cryptic and singular Current 93, entitled Baalstorm, Sing Omega.  So recent are these purchases, in fact, that I haven’t even listened to it yet.  I really just wanted to register my glee at having found this brand new full-length statement, fully formed and ready for the embrace of my earnest dollars.

The newest from everyone's favorite Coptic scholar and apocalyptic folkster

The second is the debut (and eponymous) album from a project called The Blood Of Heroes, which features Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh/Jesu/&c./&c.) on guitar, Bill Laswell (of, well, a fuckload of stuff) on bass, electronic artists Submerged and Enduser on, well, electronics, along with other electronic, live drums, and vocal collaborators.  I’ve only spun the thing once so far, but it’s a pretty interesting fusion of some of latter-day Godflesh’s dub-inflected experimentation, some of Jesu’s yearning melodies, with a bit of noise rock, not-quite-dancehall-but-close vocals, and a tasteful dollop of the slightly-less frenetic side of the breakcore/IDM/drum ‘n bass/whatever scene.

Toward a dark electro / post-industrial / metal synthetics.

I mean, clearly this is not exactly the same thing, since I already know (more or less) what Current 93 sounds like, and although The Blood Of Heroes is a new project, knowing a fair bit about several of the contributors gave me a pretty good sense of what the overall vibe might be.  Still, point is: Surprises are still possible in this here world of ours.

Or, maybe the moral is: If you don’t try and pay attention to every goddamned thing in the world of music, you’ll stumble across these gems, these bolts from the blue, more often.

3) On that same trip to Reckless, I came across a used copy of Summoning’s Dol Guldur in the clearance bin for $0.99.  Nothing much to add there, other than ‘Fuck yeah!’  These Austrian synth-obsessed symphonic/black metallers are equally obsessed with JRR Tolkien, so I’m just downright pleased as punch to have gotten so much Middle-Earth bang for my Regular Earth buck.

Sounds even better for $1

4) Overwrought expressions of grief always end up being more insulting, so I will just say that I offer my condolences to the family, friends, and band mates of Makh Daniels, vocalist of the promising band Early Graves.  Daniels was killed in a car accident earlier today while on tour.  The music world should mourn the loss of a very talented musician, but of course that all pales next to the real, human loss of those who knew him.

Ave atque vale.

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