Horns Up Ya Shitters! A Columnus Metallicus For February

Mat Colegate forces himself face down into the best recent metal releases

Ten curlicues of mist through the boardroom. Ten curlicues of mist through the pub.

January drips past like cum through a Victorian stevedore’s fingers and we’re howling in a hall full of February. How’s it going out there? Welcome to Columnus Metallicus, like Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog, surrounded by a pea-souper of supernatural origin and broadcasting to a colony of broken souls. That’s you. You look okay for it, mind. What was your favourite part of the holiday season? Can you even remember that far back? Me neither, and I know Columnus has been gone a wee while but I don’t think that’s it. Rather that when I look back at then it appears as queer yellow mist filled with glottal gurglings and repugnant sucking sounds, followed by an exhaling of said fug over a seemingly endless pushing of laminated trinkets from points labelled ‘A’ to points labelled ‘Nowhere’.

Indeed, this month’s chosen highlights capture that mood just perfectly, being, for the most part, filth strewn offerings that would obliterate the light in a glass church at sunrise. As to why this wretched stuff remains so compelling, perhaps that’s a question best asked another time. For now, grip a solid surface, crack open a can of your chosen unguent and prepare yourself for a splattering. It’s the only language we animals understand.

Aevangelist – Mortuorum In Tumulis

(Blood Harvest)

I can guarantee you that no matter what grim path the beginning of the year is leading you down there is no better way to make it even more wretchedly benighted than by listening to the putrid churn laid down on Florida based Aevangelist’s Mortuorum In Tumulis. Sure, it originally came out in 2012, but this double vinyl reissue has arrived at the perfect time to aid your compact with the tentacled denizens of the sacrificial void (said perfect time being February. Well what the fuck else is there to do? And it’s not as if selling your soul costs you anything. Much.) Starting as it means to carry on, with a load of screaming, spluttering and hacking noises and what sounds ominously like a dentists drill, before lurching into a blasphemous death metal closer in spirit to Gnaw Their Tongues (the warped choirs are a giveaway) and even Blut Aus Nord, than anything more traditionally associated with the genre. Certainly, there’s nothing ‘technical’ about this record unless you stretch the meaning of the word to incorporate the hard work and effort that goes into pelting a rotting body in a gibbet with mud. No choruses, no fret wankery, no relief. By the time the album belly crawls into the nine minute ‘Hierophant Disposal Facility’ – festooned as it is with the sounds of clanking metal and heart stoppingly brutal half-speed riffs – the listener will experience a feeling very similar to that experienced by someone watching the lid slam shut on a barrel full of tar and offal. From the inside.

Gnaw Their Tongues and Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema

(Consouling Sounds)

And speaking of Gnaw Their Tongues… here comes Mories! (I am now imagining ‘Here Comes Mories!’ as a kid’s cartoon, claymation animated like Postman Pat but with the black clad titular protagonist walking into Greendale gleefully tossing a severed head from one hand to the other). Over the last few years – which have featured releases from Gnaw Their Tongues, Aderlating and more, not to mention his extraordinary contribution to last year’s From The Bogs Of Augishka LP – Mories has set out his stall as possibly the most distinctive extreme metal vocalist working today, his nuance and phrasing setting him leagues ahead of his competitors. Listening to Mories shriek, gargle, intone and gibber is akin to having every bad thought you’ve ever had in your life fashioned into an icepick and slammed repeatedly into your cranium by a sex doll with your mother’s eyes. This record – a single 19 minute collaboration with Flanders’ Alkerdeel – does nothing to diminish his reputation. Mories harrows, immolates and howls over filth streaked riffage as unrecognisable shadows warp and weave out of the tunnel walls, finally ending with a roil of muddy noise and (what else?) a single tolling church bell. If you’re a fan you need this desperately. If not, you need two. Then you should play them at the same time but slightly out of sync with each other. Serves you right.

An Autumn For Crippled Children – Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love

(ATMF Records)

“Where are Deafheaven?” the people cried, when confronted with said cuddly chaps’ absence from the The Quietus’s Best Metal of 2013 list. “Where are Deafheaven?!!” came the lament from the mountain tops, as the dispossessed huddled round tiny fires and tried desperately to find warmth from the harshest gust of news since the Alexisonfire split. “WHERE ARE DEAFHEAVEN?!!!” came the anguished howl, the mantic scream of rage, the spittle flecked roar of fury that lunges for freedom even in the darkest, thickest night. “Calm thyselves” said we “it sounds like Coldplay with the bloke from Marduk on vocals. Now check out the new An Autumn For Crippled Children LP, for it is a beast. Yes, cosmetically it is perhaps a similar mix of black metal histrionics and pretty boy emotional distress, but at least AAFCC know that capturing emotion in music is more than simply a matter of moving your hands up the fretboard after every other bar.” If the idea of someone putting the ’emo’ into emotional black metal leaves you a bit cold (‘cold’ isn’t the right word in these circumstances is it? How about ‘tepid’?) then these Dutch dudes are the solution. Each track is tightly wound and coiled, like anger in a broken man’s gut, meaning that when the big stirring hooks come; when the sky cracks open and the keyboards and guitars come pouring through the clouds like slow-motion angels riding white stallions, it feels earned and just, rather than the product of some netherworthys hitching their wagon to the black ram of anguish and riding it for easy tears. Sure, there are moments when the bathos threatens to unseat you, but they always snatch you back from the brink with an unexpected twist: a left-hook rhythmic rumble or a crackling wall of distortion that ensures they remain aloof from a simple fix. You can have a good sob to this album, but you can also set fire to your own house and dance naked on the burning roof to it as well. I recommend doing both, in fact.

Cult Of Fire – मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान

(Iron Bonehead Productions)

Like the An Autumn For Crippled Children LP this is one that slipped the net late last year, despite finding it’s way to our Best of 2013 list. And it rode its desert stallion high in said list for good reason, this record is fucking crucial. Seriously, the first time I was inducted into its world of skull goblets and scimitars I was walking through the park at dead of night and the moment ‘संहार रक्त काली’ erupted through my brain pan I busted a claw so hard that a nearby tree started crying tears of blood. Imagine if Ghost (B.C. … or whatever) were as seriously heavy as they looked. Yeah? Okay, now imagine that they dropped all that Christian/Satanic duality nonsense and started coming on like the guitar wielding, ruins dwelling relatives of the Thugee cult from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Sounds smashing eh? And it is. Mainly because Cult of Fire are brilliant at writing proper tunes. Big big tunes, piled high with catchy-as-herpes riffs and head scratching little bits of weirdness that’ll have you screeching “What the fuck was that?!”, such as the sudden eruption of direction changing chainsaw riffage in the middle of ‘शव साधना’ or the sitar and chanting instrumental ‘काली मां’; tunes that bring to mind greats like Emperor and Immortal but that remember to update the flavour and provide a new spin. Also, and this can’t be overstated enough, the use of instrumentation from outside BM’s usual scope is never used as a garnish – the sitar is never simply allowed to go ‘WROOOOOOOAWWW’ over the riffery for example. It’s subtly added and well played laying to rest any charges of exoticism or gimmickry. The song titles all being in sanskrit is another clue: these guys are serious. And serious fun is the best kind of fun there is, right? Molaraam Sularaam, people. Buy this album or I’ll rip out your hearts and drop you in a pit of lava.

Circle – Incarnation


So let me see if I’ve got this right… Circle, the be-studded Finnish heathens who dare to pray at the altars of both Judas Priest and La Dusseldorf, have decreed, in a fit of downright Neoist generosity, that from now on their nom de plume can be adopted by any band that so chooses, whilst they themselves have changed name to the slightly unwieldy Falcon (ex-Circle) and started hanging around on the beach worshipping KITT from Knightrider. So what we have here is the first fruit from a bumper crop of Circles. And it’s a death metal album. Kind of. Okay.

What all this confusion serves to mask, of course, is this incarnations sheer quality. It never once strikes you as the kind of album made by a bunch of dudes in gore splattered T’s who woke up one morning and said “today we’re going to make a death metal album”, rather it seems that this band have a metric shit ton of ideas and, in throwing them all together and the to-and-fro of creation, it just happened that a death metal album (of sorts) is what came out. Indeed by track three, ‘Transcending’, with it mix of ultra repetitive drumming and steadily escalating guitars, you’re dealing less with metal of any kind and more with the kind of tunnel visioned ultra-thrum that Glenn Branca routinely plots his charts through. But is it heavy? Gee whiz, yes. Incredibly so, and recorded just right, too. Ultra-reverbed and messy so that the whole slop of it reels from speaker to speaker like a drunk in a manure filled jail cell. By the time an ignorant kraut pummel kicks in on the 11 minute long closer, ‘Burden’, you’ve realised that not only do you feel like Gnod, Flipper and Possessed are having a party in your mouth but that you’re also one of the few privileged humans ever to witness the death of a whole star system. Awesome stuff.

Falcon (ex-Circle) – Frontier


Meanwhile, back on the beach, our favourite Finnish troubadors have traded in their leather and studs for something…a little different. Indeed this album does beg the question of what the guys are going to be wearing for shows. Giant ray-bans? Silk scarves and lycra? Bermuda shirts? Because labour under no doubts, mateys, this is an album of pure, thoroughbred FM rock, up to and including songs with titles like ‘Partners in Crime’, ‘Bringers of the Dawn’ and, most jarringly, ‘Miami Tits’, and full of lyrics about “rockin’ ’till the sun goes down” and so on. Well, okay, that’s only partly true, and one of the surprising things about Frontier (it’s called Frontier, for fuck’s sake!) is how many parallels it draws between the sun-dappled radio rock it draws from and Circle’s more usual mono-chordal heads-down blasts into the infinite. Nonetheless regular travellers on their galaxy encompassing juggernaut will have to prepare themselves for some outrageously gauche lyricism, power ballads and some of the most horribly shit-splattered keyboard sounds since Toto did their best to straddle the planet in nut-crushing trousers. Funnily enough, for an album that draws on music that sounded terrific blasting out of open topped cars and on the Sony walkmen of bronzed rollerskaters, Frontier is a surprisingly deep listen. First impressions aren’t so good. It sounds weedy and half-baked, with no tunes that match up to the peerless majesty of, say, Michael Bolton’s ‘Fool’s Game’ or Kim Carne’s ‘Voyeur’ (both solid gold classics, by the way). In short, it sounds a bit like a bad joke. However on repeat listens it begins to unlock and the highlights become plentiful: the icy keyboard line that rinky-dinks throughout ‘Beer and Ribs’ and couldn’t sound more incongruously European if it was wearing a pair of lederhosen and entering a song contest, or ‘Vegas Sundown’s double vocodered vocal duet. Indeed what Circle have done for soft rock here is exactly the same as they did for NWOBHM about ten years ago, wholesale adopting its outer trappings and in the process revealing its mantric potential by pushing their feet firmly to the accelerator and hitting the open road.

The Wounded Kings – Consolamentum


Doom is tough beast to ride, man. For me anyway. So often it seems to descend into a pit of retro parody – rocking the right flares, playing through the right amps, sporting the mightiest mutton chops – that any life it had is crushed out in a flurry of forelock tugging toward its elders and betters. There is much that transcends, of course, but when doom triumphs it is usually through either damn-the-torpedoes gung-ho or the often untroubled tactic of actually having something to say about itself. Consolamentum lights black candles in the latter bracket. This sounds like an extremely considered album. But before you go equating ‘considered’ with ‘contrived’ let me rephrase. Consolamentum works because The Wounded Kings sound like the kind of band who, upon setting up their amps, flicking the hair from their shoulders and thudding into the first powerchord, looked around their joint smoke-stained practice room with grins of pure ‘holy-fuck-can-you-believe-this-rumpus?’ joy and then proceeded to hone that original racket into something approaching majesty. Everything about the album is unforced, focussed and as atmospherically wind-blasted as a ruined cathedral on a hill. The guitars are weighty but never lazy; the drums pound with the insouciance of a disgraced monk walking to the hangman’s noose and in singer Sharie Neyland they posses a high-priestess of awesome invocative power. Indeed, and without wishing to go too far down the ‘look-the-singer’s-a-chick!’ route, there is a genuine sense of cosmic feminine power hanging around Consolamentum. As if the sky was black with Bathshebas, Shivas, and Jezebels riding six horned rams and descending in a mass cock severing raid onto the Loaded magazine Christmas party. And that sense of eternal mystery extends to the instrumentation as well, the whole record seeming to breathe, leaving as much space for worship and reflection as it does for more bodily pursuits. It was recorded near the blasted gorse and disfigured tors of Dartmoor, apparently. You can hear that in every note of it and there is no higher compliment in my book.

Indian – From All Purity


Imagine a kid’s game called Hungry Hungry Holocaust. Now imagine that the gameplay consists of tying all the members of Indian face down and slapping their asses in order to force them to eat rolling marbles filled with quaaludes, excrement and upsetting newspaper headlines. That’s From All Purity right there. Need I go on? Okay then. It’s been a solid joy watching the worlds of harsh noise and metallic blood-letting orbit closer and closer over the last few years. It’s not unprecedented, of course – Brutal Truth were banging bits of scrap metal together as far back as Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses – but right now, in my time and your time and this time where we all seem to be thinking the same scream and screaming about nothing much at all, this commitment to violating airspace with putrid fusions of arrhythmic scorch and numb, pummelling guitar filth feels utterly necessary and occasionally borders on the transcendent. Indian weigh in six tracks of hopelessness that do a terrifyingly accurate job of summing up what I feel every time I glance at the news and wish I hadn’t. And trying to sum up an album this pulverisingly furious isn’t easy. Screeched vocals? Yep. Hammering guitars? Yep. Insane swoops of cochlea crunching crack and fizzle? Yep. You know this, you’ve heard stuff like this bounding off your cranium walls during a thousand and one sleepless nights and the sad trudges to the bathroom in the mornings after, but it doesn’t prepare you for the riff from ‘The Rhetoric Of No’s constant inversions and contortions – early Big Business fed into a pasta maker, he suggested hopefully – or the pure power electronics of ‘Clarify’, a track that feeds on attention like maggots feed on severed tongues. From All Purity annihilates effort, ambition and hope in one stride of its league long boot. It sounds like every single fucking day.

Vardan – The Wood Is My coffin


Finally, someone has crafted the perfect soundtrack for fashioning a coffin the length of a canoe and trudging through a forest peeking from underneath it like a frightened turtle. Italian purveyor of DSBM (that’s ‘Depressive Suicidal Black Metal’, yeeesh), Vardan has crafted a black pearl here; an album so utterly lost in its own sense of helplessness that it comes across as crippled, yet evocative enough to carry you along in its stunted wake. Touchstones are obvious, US grim-niks Xasthur and Leviathan being the most apparent, but those two lives-of-the-party at least occasionally manage to raise themselves above a shamble and add eye-bulging fury into the mix. Vardan, on this evidence, glimpses life’s horrors with a weary shrug, flops spinelessly into a hole in the ground and waits for the wolves to start circling. The reason The Woods Is My Coffin remains compelling is down to its tight control and nigh on monomaniacal use of space and repetition. You can hear the wind whistling through these riffs, which gives the whole stunted edifice a sense of serenity and hopelessness usually only shared by abandoned croft cottages filled with yellowed children’s drawings.

So that’s that for this month. Draw close to the fire, tell yourself reassuring stories, ignore the sounds of heavy breathing at the cottage door. Until next month:

Horns Up, Ya Shitters!

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