A Sea of Dead Trees – Garmonbozia
A Sea of Dead Trees is a vehicle for pain and depression; the voice with which sole member Robert Heath channels their deepest thoughts and anxieties, hopeless nights and endless days which merge into one blurry passage of unknown time. Heath does not shy away from the intensity of depression and the intrusive thoughts that can enter the mind as though a voice from another dimension. Here, A Sea of Dead Trees winds haunting and oftentimes soft vocals into songs that would otherwise have been instrumental narratives of a life lost to pain.
Using vocalisations for the first time is another way in which this project injects a more human side to the melancholy that is found within and allows this new work to stand apart form previous albums in its honesty that is laid bare for all to see. “Carried Away By Owls” uses slow, repeated progressions and resonant vocals to build hypnotic melodies – in much the same way that Have A Nice Life, do – creating emotive passages that burrow deep under the skin allowing you to feel the depth of Robert Heath’s anguish. He describes Garmonbozia as:
“…my pain and sorrow laid bare and ready to be consumed in the form of music. It’s my hope that my struggles will help others realise they are not alone in what they are going through.”
The vocals move from entrancing and repetitive clean lines during “The View From Halfway Down” to harsher, blackened cries, adding dimension to a song that is already layered with sadness. The plaintive screams that echo in the closing moments give a sense of hopelessness, while the accented clean vocals of Heath (who is Scottish and uses that lilt to great effect throughout the album) draws the song to a bittersweet finale that shows a tiny sliver of light in the armour of darkness that segues into “Damn Fine Coffee” and its instrumental gloom.
The final track, “Vallis Lacrimarum” builds echoing guitars over fuzzy vocal lines that sway from ethereal singing to agonising cries, wrapping each iteration around itself and adding new pain in each rotation until only Heath’s voice is left to echo out across the dimming light of the day, calling for relief from the pervasive darkness. The shadows are always present on Garmonbozia, yet Heath sprinkles fragments of light throughout the album with the idea that somewhere in the psyche there is the knowledge that there can be a reprieve. Garmonbozia is the sound of suffering, yes, but it also the sound of a person coming to the realisation that by creating this art, they are helping others with their own pain.
Listen and purchase here.
All Life Dies – Ghost Dust
All Life Dies swing heavily from black metal to gothic darkness to blackened death on this three track EP that showcases their range in a punchy twelve minutes. Ghost Dust is a short but sweet example of a band injecting their influences into a sound and coming up with something exciting, interesting and…. good. Hailing from Texas and featuring members of Oceans of Slumber and Æternal Requiem, All Life Dies meld rich, gothic tones into blackened metal in a way that feels vibrant and fresh.
“This Grave Is My Home” opens Ghost Dust on guitars that dredge the depths and vocals from Jessie Santos that are guttural, reverberating and tangible in their depiction of death and as the song progresses those dark vibrations edge into cleanly sang lines that evoke the cracks of light seen through your casket as you’re lowered into your final resting place. It’s a bold image and one that All Life Dies carries through into the sumptuous goth-inflected ruminations of “A Red Night,” giving Katatonia in the sweet sorrow of the vocals and climbing melancholy.
This moment of repose is soon shattered by the intensity of final track “Ghost Dust” as it explodes into aggressive snarls and churning guitars. A sly melody underpins the controlling bombast as Santos’ voice slinks into clean territory once again and a bittersweet choral line weaves its way through the fabric of the song before All Life Dies go all out on the blackened portion of their sound to soar over the mournful sequences of harsh screams, cascading guitars and poignant mantras. Ghost Dust is a thrilling start for All Life Dies and it will be interesting to hear which of these songs goes forward to become their “base” sound.
Listen and purchase here.
Grandeur – Aurea Aetas
Occasionally you come across an artist who apparently has foregone the necessity of sleep in order to create, build and reform. Grandeur’s sole member, Erech Leleth (Ancient Mastery, Narzissus and others) is one such artist and he has already released five works this year and shows no signs of slowing down. As Aurea Aetas begins to creep out from the shadows, it’s clear that Leleth still has ideas aplenty. Grandeur’s sound is rough, rustic, an emblem of creation for the joy of creation and Aurea Aetas builds its melodies towards the heavens, the EP forms into a kaleidoscope of colour and sound, riffing on classic black metal tropes and including an audacious nod to Nirvana during “III: Ultimum” – if you’re wondering if you’ve heard that riff before, you probably have.
Aurea Aetas straddles the realm of black metal in many respects as the atmospheric cues build around Leleth’s harsh delivery of his lyrics, the blissful and radiant guitars that curate sorrow in their leads during “II: Exordium,” and the relentless drive of “IV: Aurea Aetas.” The music found here is bombastic and melodic as the riffs lift songs to ascension rather than dragging them through the murky depths. It’s almost celebratory in a way and as the punchy guitars of “IV: Aurea Aetas” echo through the night, a sense of exaltation can be found. It’s a release so good, it brought Halo of Flies out of retirement in order to produce a cassette. Wild.
Listen and purchase here.
Under A Banner Black As Blood – Under A Banner Black As Blood
Spectral Lore has been a force in the underground of black metal for well over a decade and founder Ayloss has made some of the most intriguing and cosmos-inspired music during those years at the helm of the project. Occasionally, he will step outside that comfort zone to produce music that lives on the fringes of the genre such as with Mystras which lives in the medieval time period and talks of the struggles of those seen to be of lower class, and now, Under A Banner Black As Blood, which dabbles in dungeon synth as well as being a call to arms for those under oppression. The martial industrial sound is one that is stripped back, utilising electronic beats and warped pitches to bring about a sense of mechanical construction.
Ayloss and collaborator Spider of Pnyx meld digital and analogue synths, live percussion and samples to build a world that is both the past and the present combined. Folk riffs are teased out of modern technology during the slow, processional beats of “Those that Sowed Winds, Shall Now Reap the Storm,” as it moves curiously from a traditional sounding campfire song to become a layered orchestral motif of progression. The band say that they have blended their styles “in a militant symphony of peasant sieges upon noble strongholds and forgotten skirmishes, as an allegory to modern struggles people face nowadays” and this is a theme that filters through the music found Under A Banner Black As Blood as the sounds refer to medieval patterns that have oft been repeated through the ages. Those under oppression rise up against tyrants again and again and while those tyrants are now hidden under the guise of corporations, banks and technological progress, the people still fight for their right to live.
The rich textures of “Forged In The Fire Of Dissent” give way to feelings of hope and inspiration in the cyclic rhythms of synthesised brass and martial drums that are soon dissipated by the extraordinarily creepy synths of “The Fortress of an Ironclad Oppressor Has Been Breached.” This latter track is bizarre in its cadence and echoing beats that call back to experimental structures of the 70s and inject a feeling of deep, eerie unease into the album that is carried into the unsettling inflections of “You Will Never See the Ninth Again.” One of the only songs to include “vocals,” this track is oddly assembled around a voice that echoes just out of reach in rasped, throaty passages which clash against 80s synths, almost as though the album is taking us through history and styles on its way to the finale.
The last song on Under A Banner As Black As Blood is a cover of Atari Teenage Riot’s “Revolution Action” which features a blend of hardcore vocals that are thrown against a blackened scream. It’s not entirely unexpected when confronted with the subject matter of both Under A Banner Black As Blood’s debut and ATR’s manifesto of anti-fascist action. It’s a faithful adaptation in its digital blends of synths and drums and it’s a clear representation of what Under A Banner Black As Blood are aiming for with their music – the oppressed will not stay that way for long.
Listen and purchase here.