Bern’s Dachstock is the kind of venue that seems lived in; the graffiti that adorns every available wall space feels like it’s been there since the dawn of time and the punk aesthetic that seeps into the atmosphere is the kind that you’d have expected to find when Neurosis were still starting out – it’s fitting then, that this is the place that they are playing this evening and the hot, stifling air only adds to the electric atmosphere that is already rippling through the venue as Oakland’s Kowloon Walled City take to the stage.
The quartet are heavy where it counts and despite the weighty tones thrown out by the guitars and prominent bass, there is a sparse feeling to their sound – the music is allowed to breathe and move around Scott Evans’ voice, which is throaty and rage-filled from beginning to end, while still fulfilling the sludge aesthetic. Kowloon Walled City play with their sound enough to make them stand out from the crowded “post” scene and their approach is crushing and one that leaves the audience visibly shaken.
The black metal scene in Iceland has been thriving for many years and where many projects from the volcanic country are proving their worth with second full lengths and touring the world, Andavald have been slowly curating their sound and biding their time before unleashing their debut upon an unsuspecting scene. Undir skyggðarhaldi is the culmination of years of work with Andavald forming around 2014 but waiting until 2019 to release their music. Their debut is more moderately paced than, say, Sinmara’s work, but it’s no less impactful for it; instead the band use moments of doomed rhythm and slow, drawn out screams to create their darkness. Speed is not of the essence here and for Andavald it is the building of terror, the procession towards finality and the beauty found within the pitch black cosmos that serves Undir skyggðarhaldi the most.
Dead To A Dying World do not do anything by halves and the six members of the Texan band are joined by several more players on their third full length, giving their already bombastic sound an energy that drives it further forward into thoughtful realms. Elegy is a beautiful work that truly seeps under your skin – from the opening simplicity of “Syzygy” and Mike Yeager’s deep voice to the closing moments of the monolithic “Of Moss and Stone,” – and the record takes you on an emotional journey with a deft handle on the quiet/loud dynamic and a roster of guest appearances that serve to add dimension and clarity.
The relative serenity of the opening ode is entirely at odds with the aggressive pitch of the next track and “The Seer’s Embrace” plays Yeager’s voice against the screams of Heidi Moore and the gorgeous depth of Eva Vonne’s viola (an instrument really brought to the fore on this album) to create layers of sound that caress tenderly before snatching back any promise of safety. Each aspect of Dead To A Dying World’s sound is given space to flourish and while there are several members of the band, there are no overpowering moments to be heard – everything works in harmony, including the vocalists that have been asked to participate in the album. Emil Rapstine (The Angelus) adds a light, ethereal voice in the quieter passages that form the mid-section of the song and this voice works so well, blends so seamlessly into the band’s sound that it becomes an element that was seemingly always there.
The second part of my Roadburn Festival coverage can be found below (the first part is here). Please forgive the lapses into first person narrative – it’s not something that I do very often at all but Roadburn has been a deeply personal experience each time I’ve attended and I feel that I couldn’t have taken a step back from it while writing something about it.
2018’s edition was a strange time for me; I’d moved country a few months prior and still had many unsettled feelings and that I didn’t really belong anywhere yet. The music I saw that year hit hard and seeing Bell Witch, Worship and Mizmor in one long day really took me to places I had tried not to think about. This year I feel more at home in my new country and the experience of the festival was reflected in that. I felt grief for the person I once was but also hope for what is to come. There is so much relief to be found this year, and this culminated in the Have A Nice Life performance on the main stage on Sunday – I can finally let go of my fears and embrace the future.
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.
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.
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 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.