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.
2017 has been an interesting year for music, for realisations, for speaking out and for making changes. Personally, I made a big move to another country (Switzerland) which has been overwhelming at times. I got a job fairly quickly and I’m still trying to figure this country out but mostly I feel settled here.
I thought I should say something here because it’s been at least one hundred years (four months) since I did and somehow a round-up slipped my mind in 2016. It’s been a busy year for writing and sadly this little blog has suffered due to other commitments. I continue to write for Metal Hammer and recently joined the team at the Quietus. I’ve written for Noisey a number of times this year and Scene Point Blank continues to be a big part of my writing life.
This year I contributed to Metal Hammer’s Top 100, the metal list for tQ and Scene Point Blank’s Top 25 – which will be a more general list that includes things other than metal but here on Bleak Metal I will list a few records that I enjoyed very much this year.
2018 has already begun in the writer’s world and I’ve heard a few records already – Watain’s Trident Wolf Eclipse, Tribulation’s Down Below, Portal’s Ion, Summoning’s With Doom We Come and Erdve’s Vaitojimas – and so far the calibre of music coming out in the first few months of the new year is extremely high. My plans are to do more here on Bleak Metal (which I say every bloody year) and as long as my hands don’t fall off then it should be possible.
Thank you for reading this little blog and for taking an interest.
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.
Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones
Originally scheduled for release on November 8th, the extremely reclusive and mysterious sect of Deathspell Omega uploaded the record to bandcamp late on Halloween evening (or afternoon depending on your timezone) sending their fans into a rush to listen and consume. Having not released any new music for four years, and announcing The Synarchy of Molten Bones with little fanfare or warning, the stealth tactics used by the French band suit their style – both in sound and in action. Chaos reigns on this first full length since 2010 and in bringing forth utter destruction, the band call upon the unholy in order to move through and explore the outer limits.
Deathspell Omega’s brand of black metal is one that is often imitated – a discordant array of sounds meld into one swirling vortex that is difficult to pierce on first glance – but never bettered. It’s easier to allow the music to sink into your bones and truly become one with the mind than try to find an entry point in the chaos and that’s something that has established DsO as true masters of their field.
It’s been a little quiet on the Bleak Metal front of late, but fear not! Live music is on the way and heck, it’s free! In association with Old Empire and The Black Heart, a night is planned on October 29th that brings together all that is spooky and esoteric – a great Halloween combination.
Live music will be upstairs and downstairs will host a party until super late. GOLD are heading over for the evening from the Netherlands and a whole heap of local talent makes up the rest of the line up. Bast (who are hopefully showcasing new sounds), Shrines (a deliciously avant-garde project) and Grave Lines (a new prospect but one that is on the up).
Entry is free! But the capacity of the live space tops out at 150. Music will start at 8pm. Costumes are encouraged.
It’s been roughly three years since Bleak Metal’s first ever show, and this could be the last so come hang.
2015 is over and 2016 looms, full of promise and optimism but, in all likelihood it’s going to be much the same as the year before it and the year before that and the year before that……etc etc…. Every year I try not to have too many expectations about what the following twelve months will hold and instead try to take one day at a time and hope that through some kind of cosmic circumstance, that things will be OK. That my family will stay well and that they will be happy and that the struggles they face will become less.
2015 was, on the whole, a good year. My day job went well and continues to do so. For the most part my family are doing great and I saw my little brother get married in the summer, which was incredible despite having to sit in a church for that length of time. Writing took a little bit of a back seat and I found myself struggling to get as excited about it as I used to. It turned into a chore and I thought it best to allow myself some time to regain the joy in writing. I still get paid a little for some work and I continued to do that, but this blog and other online outlets suffered as a result.
I found myself not listening to as much music as I could have and usually do. That I wasn’t listening to a record unless I was writing about it (which as you can see from above, I didn’t do too much of) and so my pleasurable listening came from the occasional musical crush – you don’t want to know how many times I’ve listened to Enthrone Darkness Triumphant in the last six weeks.
As well as that, I have a physical ailment (it’s a super gross ganglion on my right wrist) that is preventing typing for extended periods of time and I finally went to see my GP about it. Fingers crossed that during the beginning of this year I get some news on when it can be operated on. The recovery is a month or more, so I’m not sure how things will go from there but it will save a lifetime of pain and medication.
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.
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.
It’s no secret that one of my favourite discoveries this year has been Swiss band Schammasch – after being sent the record to review (which still isn’t done, oops) and then creating a snazzy two page feature on the band for Subterranea, it was pretty darn exciting to hear that they would be heading out on tour with Dark Fortress (another band who have released an incredible record this year) and German legends Secrets of the Moon. All three bands bring something different to the blackened table and to hear them play off and against each other on The Underworld’s stage is quite the treat indeed.