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.
Sinmara – Hvísl Stjarnanna
Iceland’s black metal scene is one full of creativity and unique sounds and Sinmara are but one part in a much larger group of musicians who make music so unlike other current black metal that the small country is now home to some of the most interesting projects around. While the Icelandic sound is different to most modern black metal it’s still difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it so intriguing. Is it the vast, desolate landscapes of their home country? The pitch black darkness or blinding sun of the most extreme times of the year? The remoteness of their locale giving rise to untainted ideas and themes? It could be all of those things or none of those things but Sinmara are one of the trailblazers of a scene that is so revered that it became one of Roadburn Festival’s commissioned projects at the 2018 edition (although Sinmara members were not a part of this performance, many of their contemporaries were).
Sinmara’s second full length builds on 2014s Aphotic Womb and 2017s EP Within The Weaves of Infinity plays a large part in informing the melodic structures of this new record – Sinmara do not shy away from creating moments of great beauty within their chaos and many songs are deceptively harmonious at times. The dissonance of “Mephitic Haze” is tempered by Ólafur Guðjónsson rasping vocals and guitars that suddenly soar on high, rich notes that create passages of utter elegance.
This year has been incredible for music and metal in particular. Choosing records to include on a “best of” list is a personal thing and so I chose records that I enjoyed for their creativity, emotion, spirituality or message.
I did some cool things in 2018 in terms of writing and I went to some new places. Switzerland felt more like home each day. My day job in interesting and I’m learning a lot. I took lots of photographs and some will be included on an album release.
I hope to continue writing for Metal Hammer, The Quietus, Scene Point Blank and sporadically, myself in 2019 and I hope to hear a lot more exciting music.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.