Beginning a review is always the most difficult part of the writing process. There are many thoughts and feelings that you want to express and so many experiences that you want to put across in the right way and your train of thought moves fluidly from one thing to the next…. but getting that down in a coherent and interesting way is something that often falls short. For a weekend spent at Roadburn Festival that process becomes ten times more difficult as experiences are not exactly in short supply and each person has their own unique take on what the city of Tilburg has given them for the four day festival run. No two people will likely have exactly the same experience of Roadburn and it’s often said by the festival team and those who have attended many times “Roadburn is what you make of it, it’s personal, it’s yours.” And that is such a true statement. This is my third Roadburn and while it’s not a festival I can claim to have been to as many times as another person…it often feels like some bands are being booked directly out of my dreams and for the thousands of other attendees this is most probably true for them. Somehow Walter gets into your mind and pulls out your musical desires and the festival becomes as much a part of you as it is for the organisers.
Cavernlight – As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache
Cavernlight’s debut is a record wrought with absolute despair and in the five passages that make up this work, there is no hope to be found. The members are clear in their utter desperation and in As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache there is almost a willingness to revel in that sadness, to let it be all-consuming and to allow it to take over. Some doom holds a little light but for this Oshkosh band there is nothing at the end of the tunnel. For a debut, As We Cup Our Hands… is extremely assured; the themes run beautifully throughout and the differing elements are brought together succinctly to create a palette of darkness. Doom is the key but noise, ambient and abstract tones filter through the shadows to build an aura of claustrophobia that is unrelenting in its scope.
Former Worlds – Photos of Eve IX – XVI
Former Worlds use differing palettes of sound to create a landscape that is ravaged by the harshness of life. Soft, spinning drones echo in the quieter moments while filth-laden sludge bears the brunt of their rage in the opposing loud passages, all within one epic, seventeen minute track. Their first release, Photos of Eve IX – XVI, showcases the quartet’s ability to turn things on a head with barely any notice, yet it’s tight and cohesive and the inclusion of Erin Severson’s voice gives them a little leverage over other bands of this ilk.
Starting life under a different moniker, Stephen Trepak’s Annexia is the sound of movement, closure and despair. Trepak’s (also of Human Future) foray into doomed electronica takes steps towards black metal, sludge and post-metal all while encompassing an atmosphere that speaks of change and acceptance. Leaving behind the past is a huge upheaval, but on Egress, Annexia try to come to terms with the fact that that past cannot be changed and instead we must embrace it and move forwards. “An Introduction, Of Sorts,” welcomes the future on soft flowing and intricate horns that gently push for space between the rhythm and call to mind Ulver, in their latter incarnation – an inflection that is carried throughout the record and lends it an epic and melancholy cohesion.
South African metal may not be super familiar to fans of the genre, but the continent plays host to a great many interesting metal bands, so much so that Wildernessking member Keenan Nathan Oakes collected together six of the best, and current, metal bands South Africa has to offer in a compilation entitled Secret Ceremonies. This is Volume I of what will hopefully be a long running series and a collection of incredibly different sounds – from the gorgeous instrumental post-rock of Strage, to the cold harshness of Nihil, and everything in between. South Africa is a interesting place, and its music follows suit. Each song heard here is exclusive to the release and while it’s only available digitally for the time being, it will be released on vinyl later this year.
Ahhh, the good ol’d end of year list. It’s time, once again, to write down a whole heap of records that I thought were super good. But not before I reflect on 2014 as a whole. Let’s see. I lost my job – boo-urns. I found a really cool new job – hooray! I turned thirty – yikes! I heard some excellent music, I met some incredible people, I saw great live performances and I got to visit America with the money I gained from being made redundant.
Gilead Fest was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I spent the weekend with my best friend and his lovely lady, and some of the most passionate, dedicated and downright amazing people I have ever had the privilege to meet. There are too many to mention, but for everyone who made that weekend so damn memorable, I thank you. I can’t wait to come back.
Usually I get super introspective at this time of year and this list is preambled with a whole load of shit that happened but I’m trying this new thing where I look forward and not back. So 2015, I am ready for you. I move house on January 2nd, my job is really interesting and there’s a career in there if I want it. Writing is going well and I’m already planning some really exciting things for the first few months of the year – visiting new places, putting on bands and seeing the release of a new Caïna record. It’s busy, but I’m enjoying life quite a lot right now, something I would not have believed if you said this to me at this point last year.
As is customary, here’s a picture of something really metal lest you all think I’ve gone soft in my old age.
Often I have bands send me a nice email asking if I’d like to hear some music. I like that, I like hearing new things that I may not have found otherwise. Sometimes I have bands who I have been in touch with previously send me something they think I might like. And I like that too. What I don’t like is when I take forever to write something about those bands. Life is busy and I don’t do enough on here. The Round Up Tapes this time is five bands who have submitted themselves, or have been submitted by someone I have dealt with before. Enjoy!
Barbelith – Mirror Unveiled
Baltimore’s Barbelith attack black metal with a sly atmospheric tone that creeps beneath their otherwise harsh sounds and lifts their music into the more intriguing category of USBM. The band are raw where it counts and beautiful where it matters with Mirror Unveiled flowing from fast, staggering black metal to gorgeous arrangements of softer movements that layer the epic “Astral Plane” from beginning to end in light and shade. Harrowing screams from Barbelith’s frontman stand against the darkness and encompass the anguish that is held within their walls of sound. Highly recommended.
I like to makes lists. So many lists. My “to do” list is, quite frankly, massive. I thought that instead of trying to do twenty individual reviews that would take approximately one million years, that perhaps once a month I would collect together a few cool little releases that have come my way and talk about them and why they are good. A lot has happened this year (mostly bad, some good) so it would save my sanity because there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs doing.
And so, The Round Up Tapes are born. Hat tip to Opeth because I made a play on a name of a release of theirs. I hope that’s cool?
Ainulindalë – Nevrast
Nevrast is a gorgeous, folky and affecting record from the French project Ainulindalë which is centred around Tolkein’s universe and heavily influenced by The Silmarillion. Ainulindalë’s sound is comprised of dark elements that contrast with lighter, sunnier currents that shine through the acoustic progressions of sole member Engwar’s guitar and his voice which carries with it a gorgeous tone that embraces the subtleties of his music and wraps it in warmth and soul. Nevrast incorporates simple movements that link together to create a work that ebbs and flows with a tender grace while Engwar’s vocal layers over majestic strings to lift tracks to a higher plane of beauty. The title track dips into choral lines that slowly build to a brass and a female voice that shimmers with light over the shadows created by the words of Engwar.
Nevrast moves with a refined style that genuinely moves and breathes with a deep-rooted love and knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkein’s work and never comes across as cliché or overwrought. The emotion is honest and the music breathtaking.
Nevrast can be purchased via bandcamp.
Saor aren’t an entirely new prospect, having began life in 2012 as Àrsaidh, yet Aura is a significant step up from the debut Roots and an incredible testament to learning, growing and becoming better. On Aura, sole member Andrew Marshall takes everything he has and creates a record of constant movement and power while also staying true to the roots of the band and being essentially, a lovesong to his homeland of Scotland.
This time around, Marshall allows other musicians to mark their mark on his sounds and Aura features performances from Panopticon’s Austin Lunn on drums and violin/strings are provided by the hardest working player in the business, Johan Becker. The traditional elements of the music are still in place yet everything seems so much more solid, rounded and thought out. That’t not to say that Roots wasn’t an exceptional record, but that time is a glorious thing and Aura benefits from it immensely.
Forming in Oklahoma City, Idre are a melancholic, earthy and hypnotic entity. The former trio (now duo for the time being due to bassist Andon Whitehorn recently taking his leave of the band) are a delicious entry into the atmospheric sphere and their sound is quite difficult to pin down. Taking in elements of doom, sludge, drone and noise, even a martial beat (Nicholas Wojcik) during second track “Witch Trial”, Idre travel the path towards oblivion in many different ways yet their gloomy aura is coherent and each passage moves deftly into the next without losing track of the core of the band.
Vocals are sparse but delightfully gothic in tone with guitarist Ryan Davis adding a new sphere of darkness to proceedings with the recordings on this two track full length taking on a somewhat doomed country feeling at times – think True Widow or Earth’s latest for comparisons – and the sprawling, sculpted landscapes of sound the record conjures are truly mesmerising.