High Command, Everlasting Torment review (Southern Lord 2020)

Following up on the success of last year’s Beyond The Wall Of Desolation, High Command release new music.

In the frozen expanse of six long winter months every year in Massachusetts, idle hands led to the creation of heavy music. Conjured and fostered by Ryan McArdle (guitar) and Kevin Fitzgerald (vocals), the music created by the band is labeled crossover frequently for its combination of heavy influences and elements from speed to torn metal.

The EP is two songs, and the motivation for the music is summarized as follows in released materials. “In an age of mystery where knowledge is shared through steel, Everlasting Torment offers two fables of esoteric savagery. Gaze upon the sanguine dawn where ancient lands were carved by ice and stone. Scream for mercy as you bear witness to an arcane god’s unquenchable thirst for bloodshed. Ride the frost winds north to the fantastical lands of Secartha. See where the madness began…” That sets a mood, doesn’t it. Let’s listen to it.

“Everlasting Torment” is first up, walking into the room with a meaty riff and an eastern mysticism we used to hear occasionally in Dio-related music. A minute in, however, the speed kicks the table over and it is all adrenaline. “Sword of Wisdom” is even eerier up front, with threatening aural effects and again a dark and menacing marching heathen army intro. When the switch flips this time, the rolling thunder is completely different and has a surging insistence that is further plead by argumentative percussion. The lead guitar work is searching and whimsical, breathing a jet of fire on the sizzling embers. The song goes out wicked, and you can tell there is more to the story. I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Everlasting Torment is out on Friday, December 4th from Southern Lord at the usual places for downloads. Triple B Records is releasing a vinyl version in a few weeks. Recommended.


Bandcamp, https://highcommand.bandcamp.com

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

Label, http://www.southernlord.com

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High Command, Everlasting Torment review (Southern Lord 2020)

Anna von Hausswolff, All Thoughts Fly review (Southern Lord Records 2020)

Did you ever think to yourself, “I sure do love heavy music but I wish there was a whole album of heavy music on solo pipe organ”? Anna Von Hausswolff is here to make your wish come true.

Working out of Gothenburg, Sweden, Anna Von Hausswolff is well known for her melodic compositions and often avant-garde approach to music. She has performed all over the world on the pipe organ, and has endeavored to ingratiate the instrument to music fans of all dimensions simply by showing them what it sounds like and what it can do.

On her 2018 album Dead Magic, von Hausswolff made liberal use of organ music, as she did on her four other albums, especially Ceremony (2014). The new one, however, is all pipe organ all day long – no vocals and no other instruments. The organ she used for this recording “is situated in Gothenburg and is a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger organ in Germany. It is the largest organ tuned in Quarter-comma Meantone temperament in the world. With its four manuals, one pedal and fifty-four stops, it was built as part of a ten-year research project reconstructing 17th Century North German organ building craft.” That’s from the press release. I don’t know much about pipe organs so most of it is lost on me, but I appreciate an instrument with a long history and unique provenance.

Not being an aficionado of the pipe organ but having heard one played many times, I can say that I have never heard one sound like this. The sadness and melancholy, pain and dread that von Hausswolff is able to produce is astonishing. There are passages that sound like an organ you might hear during a church service, but most of it is so much more than that. The composition and execution is far beyond the image in my head of what this album could be. I was completely blown away.

I have never heard anything like this. Of course it isn’t heavy metal – it is a pipe organ. The emotion in this music, the raw feeling and the gentle sentiment and the ethereal presence are all moving in ways that are difficult to articulate. You have to hear it. Recommended.

September 25th is release day for All Thoughts Fly, from Southern Lord and available through Bandcamp.






Anna von Hausswolff, All Thoughts Fly review (Southern Lord Records 2020)

Xibalba, Años En Infierno review (Southern Lord 2020)

California cataclysmists Xibalba are back with their fourth full-length release, Años En Infierno, and it is one to bring the house down.

From their home in southern California, Nate Rebolledo, Brian Ortiz, and Jason Brunes have come together again to sow ruin on the path before them. Their music is described on the band’s Facebook page as Death Metal / Doom / Hardcore – all those fit. Their catalogue up to the release of this new one shows a propensity for the tonal low end with crushing doom riffs transitioning to full speed death passages that touch on thrash. The result is a full force aural benison that shows you everything and lets you live. With more than a decade of experience under their belts, the new album fulfills the promise of their earlier music and works an even finer musical balance.

“La Injusticia” starts the set off with a message of violence and a thirst for revenge. Pummeling guitars and percussion make the case that no quarter is to be had throughout. An instrumental interlude follows (with vocalizations), and then the hypertensive “Santa Muerte” roars into your ears. Speed is king, interspersed with heavy hammer falls, and then another instrumental, “Saka.” The album takes a turn after the first four songs toward an outright volcanic explosion – rather like the glowing pyramid depicted on the cover. Two raging chaotic storms lead to the finale, “El Abismo I” and “El Abismo II.” In some ways invoking the masterful “El Vacio” from their earlier album Tierra Y Libertad, this closing epic in two parts is darker and more … upsetting. In the first part, melodic vocals about forests of blight where souls come to die are crushed and ground to dust by thunderous interjections. The soft voice comes back, only to be crushed again. There is a message here. At least I heard one anyway. The second part starts with aggression and loud anger before turning somewhat reflective, and even cosmic. A journey is described in the music, one of the soul and of the mind. It is an excellent way to close this volume of the band’s music, wrapping up the range style and expression that make the whole. Recommended.

Años En Infierno is available now in hardcopy at Southern Lord, and digitally at Bandcamp. It is streaming all over, too. Other Xibalba merch can be had at Closed Casket Activities. If you want physical copies of anything you better get on it while you can.






Xibalba, Años En Infierno review (Southern Lord 2020)