Gonemage – Mystical Extraction
After the release of Cara Neir’s Phase Out in February band member Garry Brents (here known as Galimgim) sought to expand on that already well-rounded universe by creating an offshoot to the story, a side-quest if you will, to explore further what happened when their characters were glitched into a land where video games rule (the lore is explained much more succinctly on their bandcamp pages). Mystical Extraction is a work of bizarre electronic pulses, chiptune, black metal, melody and fantasy and it is clear that Gonemage are deeply in love with their subject matter.
“Chained Castle” is a furiously screamed song of wonder – Who am I? Where am I? – and Brents’ voice is a spark in the darkness, whether that’s during rage-fuelled cries or the subtle clean harmonies that peek through towards the end. “Dust Merchant” also utilises those clean lines to bring new dimensions to this character – much like “Shady Blades” on Phase Out which allows the music to exist in the same universe while also standing on its own. This screamo influenced direction is one which Gonemage settles into often and as the music gets more aggressive, then the vocals become more beautiful and melancholic — it’s a wonderful shift in texture and Mystical Extraction is all the better for it.
The video game sound effects are still present here and are used as beats or transitions into new tones on the sublime “Dream Moat” or as guitar fills during the sorrowful beginnings of “Uncast.” It’s a clever technique and one that Gonemage uses to great effect. It’s never overdone and while the songs often feel like layers of sound competing for attention, Brents does allow space to breathe, and the peaks and valleys are enough to keep the music under control without becoming overwhelming.
As Mystical Extraction closes on “Ipinta,” the echoing vocals paint a picture of radiant grief and loss while glitches of electronic beats add new patterns and glittering guitars build towards the climax. Gonemage close out the album on softer moments, as though slowly waking from a dream that seemed all too real and that fades quietly throughout the day, the details becoming hazy each time you try to remember.
Listen and purchase here.
Isgherurd Morth – Hellrduk
Isgherurd Morth’s sound is rooted in black metal and explores the differing facets that the genre has accumulated over the years — it includes unusual time structures, groove and melody, the deep resonance of death inflected doom and a plethora of experimental moments, often all within the same song as evidenced during the heady phases of “Nokturahl.” As Hellrduk progresses so does the eclectic sound of the band who are from as far apart as Siberia and France and have come together to create an album of extremes. The intensity of Pitom’s voice counters the bittersweet guitars of the closing moments of “Beliath Todh Grimr” while the curious leaning progressions of opener “Inferhn” plays off deep rumblings of bass.
“Kultth Tormentr” brings with it intriguing melodies and expressive vocal work that evokes images of demonic entities and the fires of hell. As it moves through the rising smoke the song becomes fuelled by rage and a desire to conquer all. The lyrics on Hellrduk read as incantations to demons and supplications to the old gods and as the album forges ahead, Isgherurd Morth fall deeper into the flames. “Nokturahl” slithers through bombastic riffs that call for movement, a ritual dance around the fire in offering to unknown realities while Pitom’s voice curls around the glowing guitars in sly spoken word or suffering screams.
The peculiar beauty of “Lucir Stormalah” is rendered through glittering post-rock chords that flow with melancholy angst and are later tempered by harsh vocal lines and bass that is pushed forward in the mix to create an uneasy tension. It’s an interesting mix and one that Isgherurd Morth pull off with style. Hellrduk is a fascinating work and reveals a multitude of layers and unexpected sounds on repeated, and necessary, listens.
Listen and purchase here.
Take Over And Destroy – Fade Out
The cinematic opening of Fade Out’s “Fade In” calls to mind the soundtrack of a film lost to time, finally found and given the chance it deserves to find its place in the world. The synthy chords usher in a bombastic groove and Take Over And Destroy come to life in technicolour guitars and heavy vocal lines. Their sound is one that has change over the years and with member changes, but one thing has always remained true, their love of heavy metal and their ability to bring that older sound screaming into the modern age.
“Film Crux” enables the band to explore those soundtrack ideals again and as a whole, Fade Out does adhere to a narrative that echoes that of an unhinged horror flick with lyrics that could be lifted directly from a screenplay. It’s fun, in a heavy way, and Take Over And Destroy are clearly enjoying the heck out of their music and concept. Chthon’s vocals are suitably gripping as gruff rasps tangle themselves into curious harmonies to keep the songs pushing forward while guitars are heady, fuzzy and harken back to trad metal and heavy metal sounds.
The band are adept at merging these influences, many of them older than them, and creating a modern and slick sound as “Principal Photography” kicks into gear and the film truly begins in earnest. This is the main event as the story unfolds in massive rhythms and Chthon’s voice overlays all in furious anguish. Guttural bellows play against deep bass tones as the song builds to its end point before giving way to the entertaining “Anything Else” and its glorious gang harmonics. Take Over And Destroy did not come to play with Fade Out and their previous records have allowed them to learn and grow and if this is the result, then their future is wide open for success.
The dynamic “Exit Bag” is a short but to the point exercise in fury and the band touch on their black metal past and influences in this track as the snarled vocals twist against the raging guitars. “Night Break” keeps the energy dangerously high as Fade Out barrels towards its finale. “Fade Out” is a fitting end to such a vivid album and as Take Over And Destroy cement their place in the heavy metal world, the record closes on Chthon’s brusque voice and echoing guitars, slowly fading into the night.
Listen and purchase here.
Void of Apep – Horror Vacui
Horror Vacui is filled with churning, cavernous black metal that coils around echoing vocals and a significant sense of chaos and is Void of Apep’s first release. For the enigmatic artist from Portugal, it is an excellent start to the band. Named for the Egyptian God of destruction and darkness, Void of Apep take those themes to the heart of this EP and project a distinct feeling of the occult in songs that twist and turn through darkened passages.
“Tenebris in Lux” begins the EP with an atmosphere that is cloying and tense almost immediately. F, the sole member of the project, lends a vocal approach that resonates in the dungeons that their music is dredged from, as though narrating a journey through the dank, grimy hallways of an underground hell. Musically, the sound sits comfortably within the realm of orthodox black metal and is lyrically filled with nods to the occult and the left-hand path. Void of Apep takes those foundations and moves Horror Vacui through filth encrusted sections that writhe with chaos. Guitars are given time to explore unusual patterns and add dimension during “Ex Imperato Averno” while F’s vocal is a demonic voice in the darkness, vying to close all doors to the light.
Where Horror Vacui excels is in the tense groove of “Lapsit Exillis” — there is a sense of pushing for control and as the song unfolds the melody reveals itself in each iteration to be gently hypnotic, quietly drawing you deeper into this descent to hell before “Horror Vacui” finalises the transformation and the gates to the underworld fully open to consume you. Void of Apep have created a great first foray into the underground with Horror Vacui – it’ll be interesting to hear what comes next.
Listen and purchase here.