Seismic, Seismic review (2020)

The first album from Philly instrumental doom band Seismic is an all-encompassing heavy crush.

Anthony Mariano (guitars), Ken Miller (bass), and Mike Lang (drums) came together as a trio in 2018. The quick take is that they play instrumental Doom Metal, but it is not really as homogenous as that. The band’s self-titled debut plainly demonstrates the musicians’ broad palette. In some ways, instrumental music is more compositionally freeing because of the absence of the vocals. It is true you lose the blatant narrative organ, but you also dispense with the need to create music that works with that element.

The album is three songs: 6½, 7½ , and 11½ minutes running. “The Colour Out Of Space” is a minor cacophony for a few seconds before the heavily distorted vibrating strings turn up the power and the feedback squeals open your eyes. The massive doom thrum is the billboard you drive by until the lead work drops in and percussion solidifies the form. You are halfway through by the time the speedy chop rolls up. Riding the high waves of the pushing riffs is nimble electric guitar melody. “Haunter In The Dark” has a more straightforward front end – an ominous percussion movement that is hesitant and also forewarning. It sounds like something terrifying is about to happen, but you have to hang around to hear it.

The longest piece is last, “At The Mountains Of Madness.” Lovecraft is a doom go-to, and they bleed the eerie vibe for all it is worth. Over the course of the song, the haunting seeps in and cannot be shaken out. The atmosphere swells in your lungs, roiling and determined, and clings like sticky smoke. But then you don’t want to let it go, anyway. This is more than an excellent start, this first album from Seismic, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next in the coming months. Recommended.

Bandcamp is the quick and easy place to buy the download. You can also preorder a vinyl version there which will be out in January.

Links.

Website, http://www.seismicdoom.com

Bandcamp, https://seismicdoom.bandcamp.com

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

Seismic, Seismic review (2020)

Katla, Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur review (Prophecy Productions 2020)

The new album from Katla is Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur, and it lives up to the promise of the band’s namesake.

In their follow-up to the 2017 album Móðurástin, Iceland’s Katla continues the well-established sound of the former and extends their musical scope like a growing network of fumaroles. While that first album pushed you down with a glacial weight, the new one is darker, even heavier.

The band is Einar Thorberg Guðmundsson and Guðmundur Óli Pálmason interacting together in a musical partnership that brings the boiling black blood of the earth to the surface. The music is in the Doom universe, nearing Funeral Doom sometimes with many ambient passages. There are also more active guitar solos than you would typically find in Doom albums, a key feature that sets this music apart.

The album’s title Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur translates to All This Damned Darkness, according to the press release, and you feel that right away. “Ást orðum ofar” opens the album with a menacing soundscape that could be a soundtrack for a particularly terrifying scene in an Ari Aster film where the violence and horror happen in slow motion and the voices of the constituents are silent while this music plays on. “Villuljos” is next and presents that first strong example of guitar solos I admire so much in this music. Beyond that, the composition of the piece is unusual in its pace changing and surprising turns.

The vocals are engaging, sometimes presented in harmony, and occasionally bursting forth. As I don’t speak the language, I hear the voices entirely as another instrument and therefore the tone and emotion are the primary impressions I receive from them when listening. In “Salarsvefn” there are strong Death Metal presentations, and in other songs, like “Hvitamyrkur,” you hear a beautiful melancholy guitar. Throughout the feeling is mystical and dark, but within the music is deliciously variegated. The title track is twelve minutes of solemn, dire music that sets up the fourteen minute closer, “Svartnaetti.” There is so much here to explore and experience that you want to hear it undistracted so you do not miss anything. Katla’s new album is a rich, dark discovery. Recommended.

Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur will see its full release this Friday, November 13th from Prophecy Productions and available through Bandcamp. There is also a deluxe version (Luxus) that has additional music. You can order physical copies through the Big Cartel link below.

Links.

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

Big Cartel store, https://katlaband.bigcartel.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/katla.band

Label, https://us.prophecy.de/artists/katla/

Katla, Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur review (Prophecy Productions 2020)

Aphonic Threnody, The Great Hatred review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Abandon all hope and embrace the infinite with the new album from Aphonic Threnody.

The band is Juan Escobar C. and Riccardo Veronese, and they have released three full-length albums (counting the new one – and four if you count First Funeral) along with several splits since 2013. The music is full fathom five Funeral Doom. Consider the name of the band – “aphonic” means not able to make sound (or only a whisper) and “threnody” is a song for the dead. In the music of Aphonic Threnody, there is a dirge supported by steady vocalizations, sometimes gruff, sometimes quietly melodic, sometimes gently spoken. The non-vocal parts shift from dramatic to stalwart, always conveying an inevitability.

Every song has a different depth of feeling and  perspective. The guitar in “The Great Hatred” is filled with indescribable sorrow that can only be understood in the listening, and the strings just after are a retelling in soaking sadness. The coarse vocals in “Drowning” are filled with frightening menace even as the piano is reassuring (although deterministic). “Locura,” which opens the album, is sheer hopelessness while the closing song, “The Fall,” has a more calculated thread of demise with uplifting moments that are nevertheless firmly set in the incontrovertible certainty of doom.

The compositions are carefully and deeply layered to create an immersive experience. The atmosphere is a preternatural inescapability and if the music does not provide comfort for the terminal subjects in their waning moments it does offer surety that the path is unalterable and that, in the absence of acceptance, there is only suffering. This album is going to be high on my 2020 Funeral Doom list. Recommended.

The Great Hatred is out now from Transcending Obscurity and through Bandcamp. Great bundles are available from the always-reliable Transcending Obscurity. Links below.

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://aphonicthrenodydoom.bandcamp.com/

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/aphonic.threnody.5

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/c/AphonicThrenody

TO website, https://tometal.com/

TO Bandcamp, https://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/

TO US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Aphonic Threnody, The Great Hatred review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Ixion, L’Adieu aux Etoiles review (Finisterian Dead End 2020)

The fourth album from French Doom duo Ixion is a further exploration of sound, feeling, and meaning in the dark corners of existence.

Ixion is Julien Prat and Yannick Dilly. They have been releasing albums since 2011 in the vein of Atmospheric Doom, on the edge of Funeral Doom, really. Their most recent album is from 2017, Return, and it had a lighter feel to it in expression and tone compared to the first two albums. The new one sidles up to the dark side again taking the music on a deep space doom journey.

Ixion is the name of a king in Greek mythology that was condemned to spin on a “fiery wheel” for eternity for recalcitrant un-smiled-upon deeds. Traversing first in space and later in hell (Tartarus), Ixion is an icon of suffering. The firmament of this legend enhances the listening experience of L’Adieu aux Etoiles – I can see the burning wheel spinning in my mind while the music plays.

“Stellar Flight” is a somber traversing through the vacuum of time, and it is here the journey begins. All the primary elements are introduced from the enrichment of the dark forever to the melancholy of elegant doom. Throughout the album vocals both clean and corrupt wander the ethereal landscape of guitar and synthesizer. Occasional Prog sentiments appear but they do not stay long. There is a commitment to gloom and what sounds like either hopelessness or regret. Or both. The sorrow conveyed by the bowed string instruments on “Havoc” is elemental. The choir heard in the background of “The Black Veil” is beautiful, angelic, and sinister. Every texture has a surface feeling and a deeper layer, sometimes many, that bleed through the more you listen to them. The meaning is there if you want to know it. Recommended.

L’Adieu aux Etoiles is out on Friday, October 9th from Finisterian Dead End and available through Bandcamp. The back catalogue is on Bandcamp too for the committed.

Links.

Band, https://www.ixiondoom.com/

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

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ixiondoom

Finisterian Dead, https://finisteriandeadend.com/shop/en/29-ixion

Ixion, L’Adieu aux Etoiles review (Finisterian Dead End 2020)

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

The debut album from Funeral Doom virtuosos Atramentus is called Stygian and it is a dark, nonpareil wonder.

Atramentus is from Longueuil, Québec, which is immediately east of Montréal across the river. If you are unfamiliar with the music scene in the beautiful Canadian city of Montréal you should acquaint yourself with the amazing variety of metal and the consistent quality of the bands.

It is worth listing the credits for the musicians in the band so you can get a sense of what sounds you will be hearing when you listen: Phil Tougas: throat, chants, screams, guitars; Claude Leduc: guitars; François Bilodeau: synths, piano, dark ambient elements; Antoine Daigneault: bass; and Xavier Berthiaume: drums. The basics you need for Doom are in there with the guitars and bass and drums, plus there are those others which surely contribute to the atmosphere such as well, “chants” and “dark ambient elements.”

The music is Funeral Doom, so you know it is ponderous and ominous. The album has three songs, two long pieces and a bridge (or chasm) piece sandwiched between. Here again let me list some information that clues you in to what the music is all about, the song titles: 1. Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness), 2. Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace Of The Howling Black Winds), and 3. Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards). The titles are like a libretto.

Each composition has its own separate theme and feel, while of course they are all dark and foreboding. Set on an alternate Earth, part of the story is, “Granted immortality through the gift of the God’s sword, the nameless knight eventually witnesses the death of the sun and the end of all life on Earth. Surviving the great deluge, he is left to wander amongst the ruins of a now frozen earth under a sunless sky for eternity, alone and unable to die even by the scorching-cold blizzard winds around him, enduring perpetual physical torture while haunted by the memories of his past life and everyone he once knew buried under miles of ice.” You can see this story in the song titles, and you can hear the progression of it in the music. Each entry carries the sentiment of the events that are occurring, the calamity of it all, and the crushing sense of loss and loneliness. And abandonment. Listening to this music requires openness and patience to appreciate fully, and it is well worth it. Recommended.

Available Friday, August 21 from 20 Buck Spin, there is the download plus many physical formats (although some of the vinyl variants are already sold out).

Links.

http://www.20buckspin.com

https://20buckspin.bandcamp.com/album/stygian

{An aside … if you are going to Heavy Montréal, here is a pro tip: stay in Longueuil because the hotels are cheaper than Montréal and it is only one Metro stop to Parc Jean-Drapeau from Station Longueuil – Universitié-de-Sherbrooke.}

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)