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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.