The Round Up Tapes // Volume VIII

Bleak Metal turns five years old today. What?!? Where does the time go? Time flies….etc etc…. But honestly, five years is a long time and also no time at all.

I’ve chosen to talk about three bands that are shaping the future of metal (one them has been doing so for as long as I’ve been listening to metal) and will continue to do so. They are bands that push forward, bands that are passionate and bands that create music that speaks to all aspects of the human condition. Two are bands releasing their debut records and one is a band on their seventh (and probably the most “mainstream” album you’ll ever see on here). Here goes….

Ancst – Moloch

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Ancst have been making music for a number of years (they were reviewed here way back in 2013) yet Moloch is their first official full length. That’s not to say that the band have been taking it easy, oh no, this is a project that have no concept of taking it easy and the time since their inception has been coloured with EPs, splits, compilations and a rigorous touring schedule. Moloch is the sum of all that effort and is a record that speaks of despair, darkness, inner turmoil and social awareness. It’s furious for the most part but there are small shining moments that are shaded with sadness and regret and pack an emotional heft that is all too real.

Ancst talk of the huge problems we face as a collective society and Moloch is their manifesto; the album allows them to vocalise their concerns and the result is a furious, deadly record that has no room for breath. It’s fast and moves with an impressive speed, opener “Moloch” setting the pace immediately. “Behold Thy Servants” incorporates a gorgeous guitar line that works against the harsh, punishing vocals and creates a varied harmony that settles under the skin before blowing all semblance of peace away with a ramped up section that leaves you winded. Ancst are terrifying in their ability and the melding of black metal and hardcore works entirely in their favour. There’s room for intensity and sadness in equal measure and Moloch holds both close to its core. The album is an emotional journey and truly a step up for the band. They have so much to say that ten tracks doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough time, but for a band so prolific, finding the time to voice their opinions won’t be difficult at all.

Check Ancst’s bandcamp for information on buying Moloch and their back catalogue.

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The Memory Remains. 2015 in review.

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.

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The Round Up Tapes // Submission Edition Vol.2

That whole thing where I promised to be more active with this kinda failed but here’s a couple of cool releases that you might find interesting.

Circaic – False Prophetic Roads

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If you like huge, technical death metal with a side of melody then Circaic might be the band for you. Melding the darkness with the light isn’t a new tactic, but Circaic’s stab at melodic death metal is solid and will see them on their way to something bigger. False Prophetic Roads still has a hint of immaturity about it – some sections in the opening track “The Spewing of Venom” don’t quite hit the mark or flow as well as they could with the kind of cohesion you’d want to hear – but the young band have something here to be worked on and occasionally there’s a little hint of what that could be.

You can hear some tracks from False Prophetic Roads on their bandcamp page.

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The Round Up Tapes // The Finality of 2014 Edition

2015 is upon us and I’m still trying to lock down things from last year. I have been terribly lax but my main resolution for this year is to keep up with the blog and with things people have kindly sent my way. These five releases are ones which have crossed my e-desk in the latter stages of 2014 and ones which deserve a little shouting about.

Atrum Tempestas – Néant

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Atrum Tempestas tow a melancholy line on their first full length and Néant whispers with the pain of loss and the cold, harsh landscapes of winter are felt quite strongly throughout the desolate gaze of this record. “Quitter ceux qui étaient déjà partis” begins the album on a majestic and grand scale with the track floating on soft moments of sadness, bitter inflections of guitar and frost-filled vocals before “S’éclipser” moves into view with shimmering iciness and rasping, hoarse voices. The duo behind this Finnish project have created a record that, at times, is really wonderful yet it suffers a tad in terms of cohesion. Strong DSBM sections are matched by gorgeous guitar progressions that speak of hopelessness and sorrow which gives an emotional aspect and an aura of misery that Atrum Tempestas will do well to incorporate into future releases. Néant struggles a little in its closing moments and while the piano section is certainly beautiful, the way it has been worked through the music is jarring at best. Still, Néant is an excellent start for the band, and with time and work they could become something much more than that what we hear here – indulge in any case, for Atrum Tempestas are worth watching.

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The Round Up Tapes // 2014 Was Bleak Edition

This third edition of The Round Up Tapes features a couple of records I really enjoyed this year that are particularly bleak in sound and/or aesthetic. Because that’s the MO of this blog and who doesn’t like to feel bleak now and then?

Black Autumn – Losing The Sun

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Black Autumn have been featured on Bleak Metal once before, when the wonderful The Advent October was released at the beginning of 2013. That EP was very much a favourite of last year and so when a full length arrived, excitement abounded. Losing The Sun follows its predecessor in that the melancholy rhythms and soft touches of light filter through the darkness of the sound, yet the record also steps up and forward in terms of the emotional response that is elicited from the listener.

“Losing The Sun” begins the album with huge, sweeping guitar movements that give way to M. Krall’s rasping voice and echoing passages that create a tangible sense of deep, mournful regret. The softer edges of this first track are soon ravaged by the harsh tones of “St Elm’s Fire” that signal its approach. Those hard moments are countered by sorrowful guitar lines that cascade into the song and lift it past just being a wallowing, sadness-filled pit of despair and instead into music that  provokes and intrigues.

This one man project brings much to the black metal table in the music that is created as Black Autumn. Gorgeous instrumentation moves across the work as a whole with the piano sections in particular giving a stately grace to “From Whence We Came” and in turn the song breathes with a measured acceptance that the journey is full of pain and heartache. The electronic pulses of “The Distance” shows that much beauty can be found in utter desolation and Black Autumn is a project for which this adage rings wholly true.

Losing The Sun, along with the Black Autumn catalogue, can be found on bandcamp.

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Dark Fortress + Secrets of the Moon and Schammasch // The Underworld, London 20/10/14

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.

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The Infernal Sea

I’ve been sitting on these releases from The Infernal Sea for a little while now and again, I must apologise for my outrageous laxness in getting something written up about this UK band. I have almost no excuses. I’ve been busy. I’ve been sick. I’ve been at work – at night. Grand Theft Auto V etc etc etc…

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The Crypt Sessions saw the cold light of day earlier this year while debut Call of the Augur was unleashed in 2012. The split with Disinterred that is hiding at the top there was released during the summer and features one track from The Infernal Sea which also features on The Crypt Sessions.

It has to be said that the physical product is an extremely important part of The Infernal Sea’s set up and each item has had a lot of care and attention put into its overall look and feel. Considering that the band do everything themselves, it’s very impressive indeed.

The Call of the Augumarked The Infernal Sea’s first foray into the full length and its pretty raw in nature. Vocals are blunt and coarse while the drums (James Burke) sit high in the mix and provide an interesting way into the backbone of the songs. Small samples of melody sneak into proceedings during opener “A Prayer of Cleansing” and a dual vocal on “Malevolence of our Lord” sets the band apart from other acts on the UK by giving the band a little more power and a much more interesting overall sound.

“Catastrophic Reprisals” throws a blackened death metal vibe into the mix allowing The Infernal Sea to showcase different techniques and this continues into the deeply atmospheric and dark instrumental piece “The Gathering.” The band save the best until last though, and “Ritual Incantation” traverses the black metal spectrum with gorgeous runs of melody, blasts and strikingly horrific vocal lines that are counterbalanced by an extended outro that takes in the rush of waves in the sea.

The Crypt Sessions was recorded live in the studio and the truly feral nature of the band is evident in its raw heart. The blacker side of the band seeps into this recording and so “Skinwalker” pushes along on a heady and claustrophobic beat and “The Circle Closes” continues to pulsate with a defiant and disgusting tone that is overlaid with a bile-laced vocal (Dean Lettice) that spits and convulses with a furious and filthy cadence. “Into The Unknown” pushes those two tracks to the side though with its fifteen minute long run-time and an interesting line in melody that suddenly shines through the darkness at times and takes the song past the standard black metal territory. Outrageously painful stabs of black noise permeate the heart of the song and lead it into ever more increasingly insane routes of sound and if you’re brave enough to endure a solid seven or eight minutes of intense feedback and cacophonous rage then your ears are in for a treat.

The Infernal Sea promise much with these two early works and with momentum gathering for their next full length, it won’t be long until this young UK band are a more common name on the scene.