The Fifth Alliance – The Depth of the Darkness
The Fifth Alliance hail from The Netherlands and their sound is one of blackened edges – black metal, doom and sludge all feature – and this amalgation of influences makes for an intriguing and harrowing journey into darkness. Silvia Saunders vocals range from gorgeous, mournful cleans to deep, guttural roars and it’s this stark contrast that gives The Fifth Alliance a stunning lead over others in the post-black metal genre. Opening the album is “Black,” a song which begins on slow, deliberate strikes of guitar and simple drum patterns before Silvia’s voice winds through the instrumentation on soft, haunting clean lines that evokes melancholy. Slowly, the song starts to build towards something more monolithic and the drums pound a more urgent beat and guitars ramp up their own tension behind the serenity of the vocals. Of course, such peace is not built to last and soon the song flips its MO entirely, becoming a blackened and raging act of defiance. Vocals are switched to harsh shouts and the black metal influences are given space over the doomier initial steps of the song.
This approach to the quiet/loud dynamic is one that is followed through on the rest of the album and while Saunder’s simmering clean lines are not heard so often, aside from the beautiful first moments of “Hekate” (a shame, because that is truly a powerful sound), the contrasts between calmer moments and the more full-on sounds are enough to bewitch. “Into Extinction” rises and falls in considered waves with the guitars working hard to create expansive sounds around vocals that are growled and gruff from the outset with repeated lyrical lines giving a more meditative atmosphere than previously heard on The Depth of the Darkness. It pays off and the groove that The Fifth Alliance create is one that drags you beneath the current and leaves you gasping for air.
Listen and purchase here.
Forgotten Bottom – Hostile Architecture
Forgotten Bottom may not be wildly metallic in its sound, but it is certainly bleak and so warrants inclusion in this edition of submitted records. Brought to life on bouzouki and viola, to name a few of the wordly instruments on this release, Hostile Architecture is a beautifully maudlin record that never wallows in its pools of sadness but instead asks you to reflect inwards on your own influence on the world. The music on display here is, for the most part, wonderfully rich and textured and the sorrowful lines of “The Dog Has Been Poisoned So It Will Not Bark” bring to life the narrative that Forgotten Bottom are portraying – one of urban change, the slow yet overarching theme of gentrification and the impact it has on communities that have long suffered at the hands of those in power.
“Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter” begins the record on resonant viola (Myles Donavan – Disemballerina) while the bouzouki of Eric Bandel rises into view on “Shoot Me or Give Me A Place To Live,” a song which wears its influences quite obviously on its proverbial sleeve. It’s this desire to show the truth of what is really happening in our cities the world over that gives Forgotten Bottom its power and the band’s name an extra level of understanding that was perhaps missing before. Ambient drone has never been so compelling.
Listen and purchase here.
Verdelet – Against All Odds
England’s Verdelet have not had an easy year and it’s testament to the passion they have for their music that Against All Odds came out at all. In 2014 Lights of the Old World was unleashed and it was spoken about for CVLT Nation, however, aside from a smattering of live performances, the band were largely quiet until earlier this year when the band broke the news that drummer Vadok had passed away. This extremely untimely death came at the tail end of rehearsal and recording sessions for what would become Against All Odds, and rather than tarnish the legacy of a friend and musician with re-recording or not releasing the music at all, Verdelet chose instead to put out the album in its most raw, unfiltered state.
Black metal can be a punishing exercise, one that is devoid of light or any semblance of happiness and it is in this realm that Verdelet find themselves. Against All Odds begins on lo-fi waves of guitar and drums that push forward with no regard for the devastation that will be left in their wake. It is clear that Vadok was a passionate musician and here his drumming is relentless yet superbly controlled and even in this rehearsal environment there seems to be hardly any room for error. The vocals of Morior are laced with hate, with first track “Last Rays of the Sun” coming across in sharp rasps that gives an angluar edge to a song that screams with agony.
Knowing now, what the future would hold for the band, Against All Odds is a fitting tribute to a group who loved to create music together and the fervour with which these songs were performed is tangible through the fiery riffs of “Endless Deceit” or the bittersweet anguish of “Lost, Incapable of Triumph.” The coarse surfaces of the songs are charming, in a way, and it’s a wonderful way to show their deep respect for a fallen friend.