Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian dissonant Black Metallers Norse release their fourth full-length album, Ascetic.

Norse is a duo that has been haunting the landscape since 2006. Their focus has always been on Black Metal, but the execution of the musical endeavor has changed over the years. The new album works a penetrating brand of dissonance that enhances the chaos of the songs’ narrative themes.

There are eight tracks on the album, most of them tipping over the five minute mark. The title track has what I would call strong doom influences to go along with the more central dissonant black metal orientation and it opens the set with howl. “Parasite Warmongers” is very clanging, noisy, and operates a clearly defined dissonance. I know I am over-using the word, but an intentional grating quality is so much a part of this album that it is difficult to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of variation. “Fearless Filth Seeker” has a shrill distortion to it gliding along with the melodic vocals. “Radical Depression” sounds like a march played in a cocktail lounge at the beginning, quiet and sultry; insinuating. After a couple of minutes a wall of sound kicks in and pushes you over until toward the end when the snare returns. There are many corners and crannies to explore.

“Useless” is the final mail in the coffin, and it seems to be offering a way through. But to where? The afterlife? Maybe. I hear it as a parable of the ultimate pointlessness of a life of struggle when the end is predetermined: death. That might be too on the nose. Whatever the intent, it is one the most engaging tracks of the set and it is properly fitted at the end. It is also one of the main reasons I am recommending the album.

Ascetic is out through Transcending Obscurity on Friday, October 8th, gatherable at Bandcamp or the label’s US store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://norsebm.bandcamp.com/album/ascetic-dissonant-black-metal

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/norse.official

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The Omnific, Escapades (Wild Thing Records 2021)

The Omnific lays out an amazing array of heavy instrumental prog on Escapades.

The Australian trio The Omnific is Matthew Fackrell (bass), Toby Peterson-Stewart (bass), and Jerome Lematua (drums). That’s right. Two bass players. I’ve been saying for years, “You know what you never see? Two basses in a band.” I am going to have to retire that one from my altered-state repertoire. They play instrumental progressive music across a range of styles from metal to rock to jazz and pretty much everything around and in between.

Expect the unexpected. Seriously. The bass lines are breathtaking; sometimes difficult to believe they are real. I love Les Claypool and he is clearly one of the best, most accomplished bassist in the history of modern rock – I bet Les would on board with these constructions and also be impressed.

In every style that emerges, the progressive lines elbow in and, rather than overpowering the demonstrated course, they join with it to create a synergistic time-lapse garden of music. The sharp pops of the bass, heavy syncopation, and a pulsing, turbulent energy are massively compelling forces.

And then there are songs like “Dwam” that are soft, melodic, beautifully enchanting. “Ne Plus Ultra” could be the soundtrack to a roving spaceship that may or may not be lost in the farthest reaches of the universe. The possibilities undulate with an aura limitlessness.

The closer is “Posterity.” When I think of the title to mean all and everything that comes next, the music fits right in. The lyricism of the keys seem at first to be in contrast with the punchiness of the rhythm, but as with the other pieces it all flows together and, while I wouldn’t call it linear, it does coalesce into meaning that is at once obvious and profound. Recommended.

Escapades is out on Friday, October 8th and can be picked up at Wild Thing Records or Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://theomnific.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/theomnific

Wild Thing Records, https://www.wildthingrecords.com/collections/the-omnific

The Omnific, Escapades (Wild Thing Records 2021)

Atræ Bilis, Apexapien (20 Buck Spin 2021)

The first full-length album from Canadian Death Metal venturers Atræ Bilis is a warning shot across the bow of musical mediocrity.

Formed in 2018, Vancouver Death Metal band Atræ Bilis released its first album last year, Divinihility, through Transcending Obscurity. That EP was an earth-shaker that created anticipation for what the band might do next. Apexapien answers that question. The band is Luka Govednik (drums), Jordan Berglund (vocals), Brendan Campbell (bass), and David Stepanavicius (guitar).

The opener is a two minute stabbing attack, “Theta.” Absolutely furious. Death Metal vocals break through in the next rack, “Lore Beyond Bone,” featuring harmonies and frenetic percussion and guitar accompaniment. It is like a flock of birds in rapid flight, undulating and twisting but somehow always retuning to a recognizable form.

The album treads this line throughout, the chaos-in-order brutal technical Death Metal. While the style is present on every track, variations abound. Blackened harmonic vocals interact synergistically, especially on tracks like “Hymn of the Flies.” These are some of my favorite moments on the album, but I am impressed overall by the ability and ingenuity of the musical enterprise.

You can hear all manner of labelable crystals in the music from the discordant to perpendicular angularity to experimental avant-garde. To make these diverse ingredients into a workable whole is an accomplishment in and of itself, but to make them musically sound is nearly impossible because if you make one wrong step then it is just noise. Atræ Bilis never take a wrong a step. Recommended.

Apexapien is out on Friday, October 8th through 20 Buck Spin. The vinyl will be out a little later as all record labels deal with the backlog at the vinyl pressers.

Band photo by Derek Carr.

Links.

Atræ Bilis Linktree, https://linktr.ee/atraebilis

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/atraebilis

20 Buck Spin, https://www.20buckspin.com/

Atræ Bilis, Apexapien (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Clutch, Stöner, and King Buffalo at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, October 3, 2021

Clutch’s 30 Years of Rock N Roll Tour came to the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on Sunday.

Clutch

Has it really been thirty years? If you look over the discography Clutch has created then it seems like it must be at least that long. One classic album after another, dozens and dozens of unforgettable songs. Not to mention the amazing live performances. I see Clutch six or more times every year, and I have the same thought at the end of every show: I can’t wait to see them again.

On the current leg of the tour, Clutch is supported by King Buffalo and Stöner. King Buffalo opened with thirty minutes of heavy psych music. The band recently released The Burden of Restlessness, one of three planned albums for 2021. They played a mellow set that grew in intensity as it went along, providing a nice ramp up for the rest of the evening.

King Buffalo

Stöner is Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, and Ryan Gut, the former two being original members of Kyuss. Their music takes a heavy stoner jam angle – it is the kind of thing you can easily get lost in.

Stöner

Like King Buffalo, Stöner is a trio. The solid basis for their music is guitar, drums, and bass, forming the lines and color for narrative vocals. They were definitely crowd-pleasers on Sunday night. Their current album is Stoners Rule.

Stöner

One of the more amazing things about Clutch’s live show is the set list changes every night. Sure, there are a lot of songs they play on the regular, but they do not have a fixed set they play for each stop like most bands when they are touring. They always post the set list after the fact on their Instagram account so you can look back over previous shows and see what I mean.

Clutch

In Portland they opened with “The Promoter,” one of the dozen+ hits from Blast Tyrant. An excellent choice to get the crowd fired up. Not that it needed much encouragement. They were Clutch fans, these people who gathered on Sunday night. And sure, you expect Clutch fans to show up at a Clutch concert, but this crowd knew the music by heart and were heavily into it, more than you would likely see on any given night. The energy of the fans combined with that of the band to generate a burgeoning synergy and create a crackling atmosphere.

Clutch

I am never disappointed with any Clutch song, but I can say that I am very excited to hear a couple of my favorites pop up that don’t make every set, including “Elephant Riders” and “Mice and Gods.” And the encore was magnificent, featuring “Electric Worry.”

Clutch

There was no controversy among attendees that the show was everything fans wanted and a whole lot more. There are still some dates you can catch – check out the band’s website for tour info. After this leg, Clutch is doing their usual holiday run between Christmas and New Year’s, too. Get out there and see them. I have seen them twice this year and I am hoping to double that before 2021 is done.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Clutch, http://www.pro-rock.com/

Stöner, https://www.stonerband.com/

King Buffalo, https://kingbuffalo.com/

State Theatre, https://statetheatreportland.com/

Clutch, Stöner, and King Buffalo at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, October 3, 2021

Creeping Death, The Edge of Existence (MNRK Heavy 2021)

Texas metal mongers Creeping Death pile on the aggression and suffering with their new EP The Edge of Existence.

Releasing their first demo in 2015 and an EP the following year, Creeping Death came out of the gate hot. Even in those early days it was clear that this band from Denton had the potential to make a permanent mark on heavy music. With each new release you can hear subtle differences in the music as it evolved. The style is Death Metal, increasingly in a classic lane, and the latest EP reinforces the propulsion toward this vanishing point. The musicians are Reese Alavi (vocals), Trey Pemberton (guitar), A. J. Ross, III (guitar), Eric “Rico” Mejia (bass), and Lincoln Mullins (drums).

The Edge of Existence has three new songs, “Relics From The Past,” “Humanity Transcends,” and “The Edge of Existence,” plus re-recorded and re-oriented versions of all three songs from Sacrament Of Death (2016): “Sacrament Of Death,” “Doused In Flames,” and “Skinned Alive.”

The three new tracks pulse in the heartland range of a growling Death Metal landscape. Taken together, they are the arc of a nightmare, a punishing treatment of struggle weighed down by the leaden crush of inevitability. Sonically consistent with Wretched Illusions (2019), the sound feels a little deeper on these three, leaning a bit more in the doom direction. Oh, they do rage, especially “Humanity Transcends.” They just do it with a somewhat denser center of gravity.

The re-recorded songs are a nice addition to the set. It is good to hear these songs get a bright shaking. I particularly like “Sacrament Of Death” in this triplet, and “Skinned Alive” buzzes and sparkles like a kicked hornet’s nest. If this doesn’t get fans fired up I don’t know what will. Recommended.

October 8th is the drop date for The Edge of Existence, released through MNRK Heavy. Hook-ups below.

Links.

Creeping Death website, https://www.creepingdeath.net/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/creepingdeathtx

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Creeping Death, The Edge of Existence (MNRK Heavy 2021)

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)

The second Crystal Spiders album, Morieris, is an even bigger deal than the first.

The duo Crystal Spiders released their first long-player just last year, Molt. I listened to that album as recently as two weeks ago. It has been on my mind ever since it came out. There is just something about the music that mesmerizes and lingers in your mind. The phrase “highly anticipated” doesn’t really capture my state of mind leading up to the drop date of the new album, Morieris.

The band is Brenna Leath (bass) and Tradd Yancey (drums). Joining them for the session on guitar is Mike Dean. There is also a guest appearance by High Priestess Nighthawk of Heavy Temple on cello.

The first song of the set starts out spacey and groovy, leaning into the mystery with hypnotic vocals and spell-casting guitar. That’s the title track. “Septix” comes next and lays a commanding bass up front to set the stage, turning into a rambler after ninety seconds or so – the perfect accompaniment for a drive down a dark country road at night alone.

“Harness” brings the doom and then shifts to high-test. The middle section of reflective solo work is a breath before the charge starts again. Indeed there is a lot of up-tempo music on this album, offering an excellent balance to the more ethereal passages. “Pandora,” for example, is a two minute rager that perfectly sets up the epic “En Medias Res,” a song that takes all the time it needs, offering desert overtones and tantalizing strings over eight sumptuous minutes.

“Maelstrom” and “Golden Paw” are the final two songs, the former being a super fuzzy, adrenaline-fueled spectacle and the latter a contemplative cool-down. Having heard Molt we might have been able to anticipate the general form on the new album but we could not have known its breadth and depth. Morieris is excellent in every way – concept, composition, and execution. Highly recommended with no reservations.

Morieris is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp and the Ripple store are linked below. You know how this works – the physicals often go fast so if you are a collector you want to jump on it.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://crystalspiders.bandcamp.com/album/morieris

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/crystal-spiders-morieris-deluxe-vinyl-editions

FFMB review of Molt, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/09/28/crystal-spiders-molt-review-ripple-music-2020/

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)

Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Florida Thrash~Death Metal band Charred re-release their first long-player, Prayers of Malediction.

There is not an enormous amount of information out there about Charred. The Bandcamp page reports that the band is from Deerfield Beach, Florida. The Metal Archives has about the same amount of detail, adding that Prayers of Malediction was originally released digitally in 2019. The new HPGD release will give wider distribution to this excellent album, so that is a good thing. And, anyway, maybe we don’t need to know much about the musicians and the band if we have their music to listen to.

There are nine ripping tracks on the album. Along with the obvious Thrash and Death Metal content, there is also a strong groove vein running throughout that makes these songs even more memorable. Most of the tracks are short, in the two minute range, with a handful of longer pieces. Growling vocals, battering percussion, and wailing shreds tag team to add force and power to the music.

“The Athame Of The Witchking” has a tasty Doom Metal opening, and that is always a good thing for me to hear. “Entity Of War” has a nice Mercyful Fate callback and “Enthralling The Weak” swings a weighty metal hammer aimed directly at your spine. My favorite track might be “The Means Of Destruction” because of the way it comes at you low and swerving then hooks back to crack you on the skull.

“Kesai Khati (Eater Of The Raw Flesh)” shuts the show down with a story that will keep you up at night. I did not know about Charred until I listened to this album and I am glad I got to hear it. Keep an eye out for anything else they release. Recommended.

CD and digital forms of Prayers of Malediction will be out from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on Friday, October 1st.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/prayers-of-malediction

HPGD, https://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Polish metal trio Wingless let loose with their fourth album, Nonconform.

Nearly a decade ago, Wingless came together as a group of seasoned musicians playing heavy metal from a modern angle. As time passed, the music solidified into a more classic death and doom sound, and that is what we hear on Nonconform. The band is comprised of the newest member, Michał “Xaay” Loranc (vocals), founder Grzegorz Luzar (guitar and bass), and Piotr Wójcik (drums), who has been with the group since 2018.

The nine-track album starts with “Imperceptible,” which opens like waking up with the house on fire – heavy and loud from the first note. After the first movement, there is a slowed-down spoken word segment then a return to the bestial pummeling. The pace shifts are a regular feature of the landscape on Nonconform.

The songs are often a negotiated truce between Death Metal elements and Doom Metal presence. And frequently a mixture of the two, like in “Separated From All Life” where we have doom guitars and vocals with a more peppery percussion. Some of the tracks do start out with a slower pace at the gate – “Sadness Filled With Silence” and “Nyctophilia,” for example – and maintain it throughout. Shifting tempo is more common, however.

Standout tracks for me are “Constellations” and the sinister title track, both of which, in their own ways, highlight the strengths of the band. The final track is “When You Are Short Of Tears,” a solemn song with a powerful arc that resolves in quietude. The classic influences from two metal lineages coalesce in a fulfilling heavy music experience. This is the best album I have heard from Wingless. Recommended.

Digital and CD formats are available from Selfmadegod Records on the first Friday in October, the 1st.

Links.

Wingless Bandcamp, https://wingless.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/winglessofficial

Selfmadegod Store, https://selfmadegod-store.com/

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The fifth album from Headless is a welcome return of catchy guitar-driven European hard rock.

Headless is a group formed of veteran rockers from well-known bands. The music is perhaps best described as hard rock, and it is reminiscent of 1980s and 1990s work from acts like Queensrÿche, with a less serious perspective, perhaps, and with more emphasis on the melodic. The band is Göran Edman (vocals), Walter Cianciusi (guitar), Dario Parente (guitar), Martin Helmantel (bass), and Enrico Cianciusi (drums).

The set’s first song, “A Leaf’s Flight Path,” starts off very slowly and quietly, building to a harder-edged rock song by the halfway point with compelling guitar work. In fact, when I think back on this album it is the guitar that comes first to mind. The mature compositions are a pleasure to listen to, and Edman has a compelling voice. Those guitars parts, though, they really stay with you.

Songs that stuck my head include “Backseat Rhythm,” “Langeweile,” and “Streetlight Buzz.” These tracks are very different, one to the next, but they all have a way of engaging my neurons that sets in a permanent placeholder. The guitar, sure, like I said already, but also the design of each of these songs has a deliberate construction to achieve a particular aim, a specific mood and feeling. The result is unswervingly captivating. Whenever I next have a feeling for this lane of rock I’ll be scrolling for Headless. Recommended.

Square One is out on Friday, September 24th through M-Theory Audio. Check out the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://headless-official.bandcamp.com/

Headless website, http://www.headlessofficial.com/wordpress/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/headless.italy/

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/store

Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Day 4: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

This is it, the last hoorah. One last time around the track for Louder Than Life 2021.

Virtually all the music festivals that returned this year added an extra day. I know what they are doing. They are trying to give the fans a little more because last year was so tough for everybody, missing the festival and the general malaise we all lived in. That’s great. It also requires additional endurance. Four days is a long festival. More music is better. You just have to give it that extra push. Another cup of coffee. A little yoga. A couple more beers. And then we’re ready for Day 4. It was a big one with Judas Priest and Metallica’s second set.

We learned a few things this weekend. Three quick ones. 1. The covid-19 protocols really caused almost no delays at all. There was a health check station before the box office or security, and the lines moved extremely fast. This could easily become the emergent standard for festivals – proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative test – that allows us to gather in very large groups and enjoy music together. It worked. 2. We found out that it is inevitable in these times that the line-up will change, sometimes suddenly, but that other bands will jump right in and fill out the bill. 3. We also learned that two full, completely different sets by Metallica is a fantastic idea.

All right. That’s a wrap, Loudmouths. Another great festival under the belt. The promoter, Danny Wimmer Presents, always does an excellent job putting on festivals. Compare their festivals to any other ones and I think you’ll agree with me. The grounds are clean, safe, and well-maintained, and if any issues pop up, they get addressed. It all adds up to an exceptional fan experience. Their next one is Aftershock in Sacramento in two weeks. I will be at that one, too. See you all out there.

Photos by Wayne Edwards. Metallica set list image is from the band’s Instagram page.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com/

Day 4: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky