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.
Barshasketh – Barshasketh
Originally a one-man band from New Zealand, founding member Krigeist’s relocation to Scotland brought new opportunities to enhance his music and after session members and live line-ups were solidified, Barshasketh began to take the form that we see today on their fourth full-length, Barshasketh. Stripping back their sound to that of their early days, Barshasketh are reclaiming the essence of black metal and while their music isn’t breaking down barriers or smashing genre lines, the expertise and musicianship on display here is more than solid and definitely worth multiple listens.
The Round Up Tapes is generally a “hey, I liked this and maybe you will, too,” kind of deal, but sometimes I get sent albums that I may not have come across otherwise – the world of music is huge, of course, and hearing everything is nigh on impossible. With that in mind here are three debut records that were sent my way recently that I enjoyed and perhaps you will too. They all encompass metal in various ways – whether it’s the more straightforward black metal of Bleakwood, or the melancholy of Dawnwalker or the doomed passages from STAHV – but all of the music featured here is passionate and worth your time.
Bleakwood – Solypsis
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.
Couch Slut – Contempt
Couch Slut aren’t taking any prisoners on their follow up to 2014s My Life as a Woman and on Contempt they continue to mine the terrifying real situations the band members have found themselves in. On first glance their music is a mind-melding mesh of noise, old school hardcore and even some nods to second wave black metal, but Couch Slut introduce increasingly off-kilter moments to create an atmosphere of dread and unnerving fury. Front-person Megan Osztrosits wraps her harsh, visceral tones around opener “Funeral Dyke” and its bizarre segues from raging punk to weirdo black metal and even a subtly beautiful riff that soars suddenly over all before fading into groove-laden guitar and screams.
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.
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.
Dodecahedron – Kwintessens
Dutch avant-horror group Dodecahedron are back after a seemingly eternal wait for their follow-up to the incredible Dodecahedron from 2012. Using their time wisely, the quintet have dredged another terrifying prospect from the depths and in Kwintessens they have a record that moves their avant-garde black metal ever further into the realms of chaos.
“Prelude” forces you directly into the abyss with frenetic beats and jarring guitars vying for space in the heat surrounding echoing voices and industrial machinations before “TETRAHEDRON – The Culling Of The Unwanted From The Earth” whirls into view on discordant rhythms and off-kilter attacks. M. Eikenaar’s vocals are guttural and filled with spite, his approach one of total hatred and in line with the despair that echoes throughout the music, which often turns on its own head and becomes increasingly more claustrophobic as time progresses.
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.