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Columnus Metallicus

Columnus Metallicus: Your Metal Roundup For September
Cheryl Carter , October 1st, 2018 06:55

Pig Destroyer, you say? Anaal Nathrakh? Bliss Signal? Yes, we say. We have all this and more - scroll on, read, listen and wallow in the rich bleak horrors

Experimentation has always been at the forefront of the metal scene and this month innovation rears its head countless times. From the electronically inflected Bliss Signal to the Victorian leanings of A Forest Of Stars to the dissonance of Bosse-De-Nage – metal has never sounded so fresh and exciting.

A Forest Of Stars– Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes (Prophecy Productions)

A Forest Of Stars’ sound has long been hard to categorise. Is it black metal? Avant garde? Are they actually a Victorian Gentlemen’s Club somehow releasing music in the 21st century? Maybe.

Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes follows the footprints laid down by their four previous works; decadent swirls of violin permeate the grim atmosphere created by the collective on ‘Tombward Bound’ and vocalist Mister Curse utilises a strange spoken word style that really gets under your skin. You can feel the dirt and filth seeping up through the cracks of the song and the blackened elements are filtered through blasting drums and raging guitars. It’s a curious mixture but one that works perfectly.

‘Premature Invocation’ begins on melancholic flutes and ambient structures before spinning into psychedelic moods and repetitive strains of bass. Cosmic keys are brought forward and the song shifts into even stranger territory as time progresses. It’s hypnotic in its crescendo and Mister Curse’s voice rings over it all in tortured breaths and diatribes against the dregs of humanity.

Anaal Nathrakh– A New Kind of Horror (Metal Blade Records)

Dave Hunt, or V.I.T.R.I.O.L. as he is known with Anaal Nathrakh, is one of the most aggressive vocalists metal has ever seen; his screams are truly terrifying. But he is also an incredibly gifted singer, something often overlooked when people talk about this band. The clean sections on single ‘Obscene As Cancer’ are some of the best you will hear this year. The build is breathtaking and the tumultuous guitars behind his voice only serve to highlight just how soaring and beautiful his singing style is.

Mick Kenney’s production on A New Kind Of Horror is pristine and the machine-gun guitars of ‘Forward!’ are a wonder to behold. Anaal Nathrakh’s brand of black metal is set far apart from the genre’s beginnings but they bring that misanthropic, anti-everything slant to each album. ‘New Bethlehem/Mass Death Futures’ is almost a traditional black metal at first, with choral chants making an appearance and mystical keys getting pushed up, then it becomes a whirlwind of clashing ideas and absolute chaos – which sounds awful but works so well.

A New Kind of Horror is Anaal Nathrakh at the very peak of their sound; swirling guitars, fear, spite, hatred, inhumanity – it all adds up to a maelstrom of disgust and one that sounds so, so good.

Bliss Signal– Bliss Signal (Profound Lore Records)

Bliss Signal’s MO lies somewhere in the dark spaces between metal and dance music; featuring James Kelly (ex-Altar of Plagues) and electronic artist Mumdance, they are an amalgamation of two genres fighting to be heard over one another, neither winning but each creating waves of driving sound. The guitars are prominent over pulsing beats with Kelly using sounds that are certainly reminiscent of AoP’s final record, Teethed Glory and Injury. ‘Surge’ is one such track and the beating processed drums echo the feral style of black metal while the poppier elements push for control over the darkened corners of the song. Vocals are missing but they are not missed, as the instrumentation makes ghosts of voices and leads the narrative into the rain-soaked night.

Bliss Signal holds much in its heart for fans of either genre; swelling crescendos of sound build tension and sorrow in equal measure during ‘N16 Drift,’ echoing the best of dark ambient electronica while ‘Floodlight’ is an unusually bright song filtered through an atmospheric black metal beginning. The album is experimentation at its finest and a successful venture for the creative minds behind it.

Bosse-De-Nage – Further Still (Profound Lore Records)

Bosse-De-Nage are not afraid of sounding different and their brand of black metal is heavily influenced by hardcore, post-punk and everything in between. Further Still finds the San Francisco band at their discordant best with vocalist B. still occupying the painful space between screaming and speaking, giving the band an unruly edge and setting them apart from more traditional black metal sounds. It’s this voice that gives Bosse-De-Nage most of their dissonance, but the angular guitars and H.’s percussion do much to drive the uncomfortable vibrations the band have long established as their identity.

‘Crux’ thrives on a quiet/loud dynamic that builds tension and fear, a feeling that grows as you delve beneath the murk on the surface of their music. The dark violins of ‘Dolorous Interlude’ should allow a short pause for breath but the synthesized sounds only serve to leave you sinking deeper into the abyss. It’s sickening.

Bosse-De-Nage somehow make music that makes you feel dirty; it’s like you’re crawling with insects, stuck in a filthy, lightless room with no hope for escape, trapped in a nightmare you’ll never wake up from.

Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music)

Clutch have been around for almost 30 years, have released record upon record of excellent music, and still have their original recording line-up intact. There’s nary a blip in their career and in 2018 the band still sound vital, with Neil Fallon’s voice in particular a defiant and commanding presence. Live they are a force to be reckoned with and this album is full of tracks that will sound immense on stage – I’m especially looking forward to hearing ‘In Walks Barberella’, with its stomping beat, and thousands of people shouting “…weaponised funk” in unison.

These tracks are full of spirit and obvious passion for the craft and Fallon’s lyrical prowess is at its peak, while his voice is rich and gravelly where it counts. ‘Emily Dickinson’ and its languid pace belies an intriguing tale that’s as much fun to unravel as it is to listen to, while ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ is punchy and catchy as heck. Clutch really can’t put a foot wrong and Book Of Bad Decisions is a fiery record that shows a band still at the very top of their game.

Deicide – Overtures Of Blasphemy (Century Media Records)

Frenetic riffs, Glen Benton’s scarred voice, imagery that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror flick – it all adds up to a classic Deicide record, and their twelfth full-length is a bulldozer of sound from start to finish. Deicide have been around longer than many of their fans yet the fire from those early days is still present in the technical guitars of ‘All That Is Evil’ and the rampant pace of album opener ‘One With Satan’. Florida death metal has always been at the forefront of the extreme scene and Deicide have long been one of the bands at the helm of the genre.

Never ones to shy away from controversy, Deicide follow the absolutely blasphemous path of their career so far and song titles and lyrical themes are not exactly metaphorical in their depictions of anti-Christianity. ‘Crawled From the Shadows’ tells us that the bible is “….a plague of dysfunction” while ‘Anointed in Blood’ talks about a “father of failure entangled in lies” – there’s no room for discussion here and Benton is very clear in his hatred.

Luckily, Deicide have the songs to back up these ideas and musically Overtures Of Blasphemy is a roaring tidal wave of classic death metal; guitars are ramped up, the drums are a destructive force throughout and Benton’s voice constantly invokes a beast from the depths. It’s an excellent Deicide record and the sprightly running time works in its favour – the band don’t outstay their welcome, and Overtures Of Blasphemy is an uncompromising assault on the mind.

From The Bogs Of Aughiska – Mineral Bearing Veins (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)

Ultimately a disturbing dark ambient project, Mineral Bearing Veins finds the Irish trio leaning a little more into their black metal roots and embracing a different kind of harshness. ‘Poll An Eideain’ uses screams to build tension and field recordings to add texture and bleakness. ‘Wake Of Buzzards’ is led by a spoken-word piece, underpinned by echoing drones and bird cries, while ‘Crataegus’ twists electronic elements around punishing drums and inhuman voices. ‘The Devil Is An Irishman’ is truly stunning, and the transition into ‘An Spealadoir’ is sublime.

From The Bogs Of Aughiska are often difficult to find a way into, as their music is so desolate and shrouded in folklore, but Mineral Bearing Veins is both their most accessible and most exciting release so far.

Pantheist– Seeking Infinity (Melancholic Realm Productions)

Pantheist work hard, release excellent music and are extremely humble about just how good they are. They are revered within the doom scene for good reason; their music is personal and affecting and is structured with plenty of care and attention. It has taken seven years to release a follow-up to 2011’s Pantheist – testament to how much they put into each record, and likely a result of line-up changes too. But the core of the band, Kostas Panagiotou, remains and Seeking Infinity sounds like classic Pantheist while also having an element of renewal in its monumental walls of sound.

‘Control and Fire’ is heartbreaking, with Panagiotou ringing out clear in the clean moments and sounding utterly desperate when the guttural vocals hit. Guitars are rendered beautifully with Frank Allain (also of Fen) bringing forth total sorrow, and the keyboards bring textural melancholy. It’s a stunning beginning to a record that feels full of blood, sweat and tears, as well as being their most funereal sounding album for years.

The gothic overtures of ‘500BC to 30AD – The Enlightened Ones’ move with stately grace into the cavernous moments of ‘1453 – An Empire Crumbles’ before ‘Emergence’ and its echoing cries tear you apart. It is a masterclass in funeral doom; the pace is glacial at times, building tension with faster passages and abyssal vocals, while spoken-word sections facilitate the narrative. Seeking Infinity is Pantheist at their very best and their reverence should spin out further than the genre they call home. This is music from the heart and deserves to be heard.

Pig Destroyer– Head Cage (Relapse Records)

Pig Destroyer have long been in high regard as one of the most prominent names in grindcore, and with good reason. Vocalist and lyricist JR Hayes is one of the most interesting songwriters of recent times and Pig Destroyer’s albums always have narratives that delve much deeper into the human psyche than many of their peers. It’s in the subject matter that Pig Destroyer find their rage and on Head Cage that rage is evident in the furious drums and energetic guitar lines that spin so fast it’s hard to keep up.

‘The Torture Fields’ is gloriously energetic from start to finish while ‘Concrete Beast’ aims to slow down things a little, as Kat Katz (Agoraphobic Nosebleed) leads the charge with spiteful vocals that lay over chugging riffs and pops of drums. It’s a standout on a great record, just one of many excellent moments on this album. The gang vocals of ‘Army Of Cops’ pull you into the fray, the floor-pounding closing moments of ‘Mt Skull’ lure you to violence and the painful noise elements courtesy of Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) make for a listening experience like no other.

Head Cage is angry; it touches on depression, the darkness inherent in humanity, life and death and the fear that comes with it all. The combination is devastating and while they don’t stray from their own formula too much, Pig Destroyer are still masters of their craft.

Sumac – Love In Shadow (Thrill Jockey)

Sumac started life in 2014 with members gathered from already established acts, and finding their place in the musical world came easily. Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom), Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) came from projects that sound completely different to each other but Sumac as a whole melds all those different styles into one cohesive unit. Their third full-length, Love In Shadow is an ode to the pain of love, the disgust that comes with it, the highs of emotion and the lows of the end. There are winding sections that wash over you (heavily influenced by previous collaborator Keiji Haino) as well as abrupt bursts of sound that shatter any semblance of peace you may try to find.

Opening track ‘The Task’ is pure fire before even the two second mark hits, as if we walk in on the band already in full flow – they recorded this album live, in five days in a single room – and the energy that pours from the song is enormous. It beats with a cursed heart and Turner uses his voice to pull that fetid, rotting organ from its anchor while the band spin sludged-out tones from their instruments. It’s a fiery maelstrom of sound that eventually dips into a quieter passage, albeit one quite discordant, showing that even in peace there is still fear. And that’s love, at its core. A frightening aspect of the human condition that almost everybody seeks although once we get it, we aren’t quite sure what to do with it. Love In Shadow aims to find out – but it’s a loud, aggressive and oftentimes painful experience.