The Round Up Tapes // Volume XIII

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.

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The Round Up Tapes // Volume XII

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.

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The Round Up Tapes // Volume VII

Wow. It’s been some time, huh? There’s a myriad of reasons but none of them are very exciting and the problem of being in way too much pain to sit at the laptop and type for hours has been the biggest issue. But! There’s plans afoot and a procedure is booked for the end of April. Cool! I’d like to say that that will fix the issue of me just not being very productive…..but who knows? We’ll see.

Anyway, lots of great music has been released and lots of great music is on the way so to get back to regular programming here are some records that are wonderful and worth some attention. Plus, here are some links to other sites where I have talked about Oranssi Pazuzu’s latest and Wolvserpent’s new EP.

Cobalt – Slow Forever

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Cobalt have had a much publicised, troubled history of late, with founding member Erik Wunder removing collaborator Phil McSorley from the line-up soon after discovering his heinous antics on the world wide web (it’s been documented countless times so far be it fro me to get back into such a shitty experience). After a lot of talk of new music, it was touch and go for the band and moving forward seemed a long way off. Yet, Wunder drafted in vocalist Charlie Fell (also going through a public break up with Lord Mantis) to add to his musical palette. Wunder is a delirious musician; he has crafted a stunning and epic double album and allowed Fell to explore his voice in much more scope than he has previously.

Cobalt tread a much different path than they have in the past, leaving many semblances of their black metal past firmly with 2009s Gin (the last time we heard anything from the band). Slow Forever instead incorporates other subtle influences – from the Americana style of the opening lines of “Hunt the Buffalo” to the bass driven punk of “Cold Breaker” to the sludgy howls of “Slow Forever” and the amped up dissonance of album closer “Siege.” It’s a varied and dynamic work that is filled with passion, despair, new-found drive and the occasional breath of beauty. The aforementioned track suddenly gives way to gorgeous, soaring guitars that move against the horror preceding it and allows a little spark of light to filter through. Of course, such serenity isn’t built to last and soon the song falls back into furious beats and pained screams. A devastating reminder that there is always a calm before a tumultuous storm.

Slow Forever can be streamed and purchased here.

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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 // Submission Edition

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

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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.

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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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The Round Up Tapes // Thrill Jockey Edition

If you’ve been reading Bleak Metal for a while (in which case, wow, thank you) then you may remember my End of Year list from, well, the end of last year. Now, I spoke a lot there about how terrible 2013 had been in a lot of respects, the biggest being that pretty soon I would be out of a job. That happened, and it sucked but y’know, I’m so bloody glad about it. Because losing that job meant that I got to do something hecka cool this summer – I went to America and attended Gilead Fest. And holy crap, it was brilliant. At that festival I saw friendly internet faces, bands I never thought I’d get to see (two of which I will talk about below) and I saw up close the passion and commitment that one of my favourite labels has for the community. I reviewed the event for Subterranea/Metal Hammer and you can see it here.

I also met some lovely people, two of whom were Bettina and Jonathan from Thrill Jockey Records who then put me in touch with Ken from the UK side. Since then Ken has sent some excellent works, a few of which I will now talk about because no one wants to hear me bang on about myself and the music is much more interesting.

Hit more for more!

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