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Columnus Metallicus

Columnus Metallicus: Your Heavy Metal Roundup For March
Cheryl Carter , March 28th, 2018 07:56

Ten of the heaviest, sludgiest, nastiest, doomiest metal albums to welcome the spring, with Ancst, Conjurer, Vile Creature and Eagle Twin

Crippled Black Phoenix - Horrific Honorifics

Have we ever mentioned how bloody difficult it is to choose only ten records each month to talk about? Even if the answer to this question is, “Yes, please stop telling us this,” it still needs to be said. It’s really bloody difficult to choose the records that feature in this column each month. You get your list together, then one hundred new records come pouring into your inbox. Some good, some excellent, some you never want to hear again. Some you might not get sent in time to cover here so if you’re wondering what the new Mournful Congregation sounds like then you’re shit out of luck – as am I at this point. This month we cover anarchist black metal, death metal, new British metal, doom, stoner and much more in between. March is crammed with excellent music and here is a rundown of ten records that are great and that were heard in time to get this piece together. It could be twice, three or even four times as long. Music really is bloody great.

Ancst – Ghosts Of The Timeless Void (Lifeforce Records)

Anarchist black metal is making huge waves at the moment with Dawn Ray’d in particular seemingly leading the movement towards a more socially conscious scene. Another band to have that in mind is Germany’s Ancst. They’ve been hitting incredible heights for the last seven or so years but are only now releasing a sophomore record. For Ancst it’s all about the rage, and on Ghosts Of The Timeless Void the band are on furious form.

‘Concrete Veins’ is a masterclass in brutality and the vocals push forward in devastating waves of fire. It’s truly monstrous in its viciousness. Ancst have long tapped into a well of fear – fear for humanity, the world we live in and the world we will leave behind – and in their songs you will find stark moments that demonstrate the wastelands of the world.

‘Revelation Of Deformity’ blends subtle hints of beauty into an otherwise aggressive piece, giving a glimpse of the hope that the band so desperately cling to. Such moments are sparse, though, as they are in the world right now – a world teetering on the edge.

Conjurer – Mire (Holy Roar Records)

England’s Conjurer have been slowly working their way towards something special for a few years and debut Mire is the culmination of extraordinary hard work on stage and off. The young band formed in 2014 and have been honing their craft while playing with some big names across the UK and beyond.

Equal parts sludge, doom and post-metal, Conjurer are an exciting name on the underground and it shouldn’t be long before the wider metal scene knows their music. Mire is a work that casts weight in every second; from the opening bars of ‘Choke’ to the closing moments of ‘Hadal,’ Conjurer do not let the pace drop – even the quieter movements of ‘Hollow’ are coloured with tension.

Vocals are two-pronged with guttural roars clashing against higher pitched screams, with both voices exploring a range of emotions in their styles and coming together at times to create heady tracts of power. ‘Thankless’ places some well-executed clean vocals in its midst which serves only to heighten the sorrow in the guitars and the solitary mood at its centre. Mire is really an assured and mature debut from a band that will surely be the next big thing in British metal.

Crippled Black Phoenix – Horrific Honorifics (Season Of Mist)

Crippled Black Phoenix’s cover song tributes see a vinyl release this month, hence their inclusion on the list - and because it wasn’t covered the first time around. Covers are tricky things to pull off but CBP are resolute masters and here the band strip their heroes bare and lay them out for all to see. Swans are revered through ‘The Golden Boy Swallowed By The Sea’ while Magnolia Electric Co., Arboretum and No Means No also make their influence known.

‘False Spring,’ originally by Arboretum, is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Americana style of the original, and ‘Will-O-The-Wisp’ is a downtrodden ode to Magnolia Electric Co.’s sublime and saddening music and Jason Molina’s extraordinary legacy. ‘In Bad Dreams’ plays with the undercurrent of sorrow in The God Machine’s original by taking a minimal approach to the instrumentation and focussing on the lyrics rather than twisting the track out of shape. Some covers work well as homages while others deserve the twist they get, but CBP stay true to the feeling of each song.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж / They Often See Dreams About the Spring(Season of Mist)

Drudkh are one of the more prolific black metal bands out there, with eleven full-lengths and a handful of splits under their belts since the band was formed in 2002. While the Ukrainians have stumbled in the past - Handful of Stars in 2010 was a slight disappointment – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring) sees them on deadly form once again. This record is full of wonderful moments.

Each song takes inspiration and lyrics from Ukrainian poetry. On ‘Накрита неба бурим дахом...’ guitars are constantly in motion, with climbing riffs and cycling progressions coercing Thurios’ voice to the brink of despair. The rasping and haunting vocals add much to the cold and windswept atmosphere – Drudkh have painted the vast expanses of their homeland in such a way throughout their career.

‘У дахів іржавім колоссю...’ pushes forward on furious guitars while blasting drums keep the pace in an almost inhuman way before giving way to the doomier progression of ‘Вечірній смерк окутує кімнати...’ The weight is carried in slower pulses of guitar that occasionally break into beautiful sections that shimmer with light, and it’s in these small moments of contrast that Drudkh find their place. From the darkness comes fragile beauty.

Eagle Twin – The Thundering Head (Songs Of Hoof And Horn) (Southern Lord)

It’s been almost six years since The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale and Eagle Twin are back with a bombastic array of new tracks. Comprised of only drums, guitars and a bit of shouting, this Salt Lake City duo make more noise than a band twice their size. Their third full-length is full of chunky, downtuned riffs awash with smoky haze and rasped vocals from Gentry Densley (what a great name).

Opening The Thundering Head (Songs of Hoof and Horn) is the gigantic buzz of ‘Quanah Un Rama,’ a song that flows with grit and determination as well as a subtly hypnotising beat. Guitars are thick and woozy where it counts and occasionally a cleaner line rings out and pulls you back into the abyss.

The four songs here are monumental by design, and in final offering ‘Antlers of Lightning’ the band take us on a 14-minute doomed journey into the wasteland. Slow, weighty strikes carry the song forward to inevitable destruction and Eagle Twin show exactly why they’re a band to be talked about despite the long wait between records.

Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps (Blood Music)

Lychgate’s baroque black metal has been doing curious things since the band’s inception in 2011. Organs and keyboards are as much an instrument as the guitars or vocals, and it’s in this ecclesiastical void that Lychgate find their niche. Founded by Vortigern and given a voice by Esoteric’s Greg Chandler, the band are strangeness personified. ‘Republic’ is a disturbing and kaleidoscopic nightmare of meshing sounds; deep and rasped vocals clash with rich organs which in turn play off howls and discordant guitar textures. It’s not an easy listen and The Contagion in Nine Steps will take more than one, two or even ten full plays in order to dig under its skin.

‘Unity Of Opposites’ plays with choral chants and gives the record a feeling of grandness. Gorgeous clean voices ring out over the contrasting and soaring guitars – it’s a strange juxtaposition but it works, as do most of the odd styles here.

‘Hither Comes the Storm’ delves into deadly doom territory with chants again making an appearance, as well as bizarre keyboard rhythms and haunting whispers. It’s all very unusual but is put together in a cohesive way. In lesser hands, the oddities here would crumble under the weight of expectation but the minds behind Lychgate are devilishly formed and their music is buoyed by the peculiar.

Nightmarer – Cacophony Of Terror (Season Of Mist)

Clumsy band name aside, Nightmarer are a delicious new proposition on the death metal front. Modern and slick by design, the Florida natives (but of course) chart a course in uncompromising technicality and their debut is drenched in incandescent rage. Vocalist John Collett spits bile over deadly guitars and in ‘Stahlwald’ the band charge out of the gate on discordant rhythms and eerie keyboards.

Angular beats filter through Cacophony Of Terror and conjure images of inhuman suffering; the claustrophobic walls of ‘Skinner’ or the haunting screams of ‘Death’ and the terrifying guest vocals of Khanate’s Alan Dubin. There’s a very real horror to be found in this song and the doomed, tortured pace is an echo of a life ebbing away.

Nightmarer are certainly on to an excellent start and their version of death metal is rooted in dissonance, human horror and the hopelessness of existence.

Primordial – Exile Amongst The Ruins (Metal Blade Records)

Primordial are a band that defiantly follow the old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That’s not a slight on the Irishmen at all, as their Celtic-flavoured black metal has been burning the scene for the best part of 27 years and they’ve yet to put a musical foot wrong. Exile Amongst The Ruins continues that streak with a little over an hour of thrilling black metal. Frontman AA Nemtheanga sounds as passionate as ever and the band is on incredible form.

‘To Hell or the Hangman’ is a deliriously catchy trip, while the title track is carried with doomier elements that add extra weight to Primordial’s always-heavy lyrics. The band often speak of their country, their heritage and their independence so it’s no surprise that on their ninth full length they continue to tap into that urgency: Nemtheanga sounds more vital that ever here.

The Sword – Used Future (Razor & Tie)

The Sword have been kicking around for a little over a decade and their mission to create old-school fuzzy rocknroll has been a journey from young upstarts to genre peers. Used Future doesn’t mess with the Texan quartet’s formula too much but it does showcase their ability to write a dastardly catchy tune. ‘Deadly Nightshade’ kicks things off in a somewhat minimal manner but while the lyrics are simple and the riffs righteous, the band still pull you in.

Vocalist JD Cronise wraps an echoing effect around the words of ‘Twilight Sunrise’ while the band spin out cosmic lines and the crunchy guitars build the walls of the story around it all. Used Future does suffer during the mid-section with songs that merge together a little more than you’d probably like; instrumental tracks can be great but they are overused here. Still, this album has a lot to offer and in the midst of it all you will find a classic stoner rock record. Hazy guitars permeate the languid ‘Don’t Get Too Comfortable’ while ‘Used Future’ is a trippy piece that flies to the outer reaches with alien effects.

Vile Creature – Cast Of Static And Smoke (Halo Of Flies)

Canada’s Vile Creature tread a dark path into doomed sludge with crunched-down guitars and drums making plenty of noise on Cast Of Static And Smoke. Vocals are generally shared between the duo – screams ring out of hollowed sections in ‘Circuits, Bending and Breaking’ while Vic’s desolate drums keep the pace and KW’s guitar strikes deliberate notes to create tension.

The song builds its walls in monolithic layers with guitars getting filthier as the whole track threatens to breach the fabric of reality. Short passages of what passes for quiet permeate the final minutes allowing a chance to take a breath before Vile Creature drag you back into hell – a dirty, oppressive and dank hell.

‘Forest, Subsists As A Tomb’ opens on painful feedback; the squalling notes slice through the heady atmosphere before giving way to slow, resolute, fuzzy guitars and guttural howls. The funereal pace is overwhelming at times and when voices finally break through the bleak shadows it is not to offer comfort. Vile Creature wants you to experience their pain, their humanity, their suffering. It’s tremendous.