Diamonds in the Rough – April – Part I

Diamonds in the Rough
Its that time of the month where i bring you guys our truly one-of-a-kind playlist for your immediate relief and later demise :P. Today we look back at some of the records released in the month of April,which might as well have escaped your grasp, or failed to take notice of altogether. Fortunately the month of April seems to see the whole of metaldom roused from its rather long slumber. It is safe to say that albeit having a few good records, quite nothing has had enough staying power and quirkiness to clearly catch one’s attention. But with April you’ve had the back to form Arsis, subtly reinvented Killswitch Engage, beautifully harrowing Amorphis all making good albums in their own right. That said, there are still some great tracks you ought to give an ear to. Below is the first playlist.

 

THE PLAYLIST

 

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1. APOCYNTHION

While Spain’s Wormed has unleashed this year one of the most brutal albums to date and has raised the weirdo metal bar outright high, there’s been something brewing in a genre at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Ambient and spaced out blackgaze (Black metal and shoegaze) are outfit, Apocynthion from Madrid, Spain . Now now! Before you draw up the Agalloch and Alcest comparison chart, i must say that this veers more towards the post-rockish side . The ethereal  and flowing clean guitars climaxes in phalanxes of tremolo-laden riffs and rasps. Something that will sombre you up, and hint at depression if you get too close. The track Redshift comes off their new album Sidereus Nuncius released via Pest Productions.

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2. VERMINOUS

Straight from the 9th circle of hell is Verminous. The track Hordes ov Vermin reeks of the vilest odor . With a much fast paced death metal barrage, reminiscent of early Morbid Angel and possibly  Severed Survival era Autopsy, they clinically eviscerate your senses. Their version of the Last Supper (album cover) is probably the best way to describe their music as well. The track comes off their sophomore effort titled The Unholy Communion released via Xtreem Music.

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3. VALLENDUSK

Now something to wear out that grim look, off your face. Here is Vallendusk from Indonesia. The first thing that came to mind is why India cannot have such great bands, despite having a population that shrinks Indonesia’s into irrelevance.  While we senselessly go on aping bands and delve deeper into the cauldron of mediocrity, Indonesia wets its feet in blissful atmospheric black metal. Among the Giants is a 9 minute epic, traversing everything from upbeat to moody passages and instantly catchy folky riffs. Yet it exudes a certain sense of serenity. The track comes off their first full length Black Clouds Gathering released via Pest Productions.

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4. BLACK PYRAMID

Psychedelic War metal. Something which Black Pyramid calls themselves, and most veritably so. This is stoner doom for the animal skin clad, club swinging hunter from the stone ages. Much like watching Conan the Barbarian after a bad acid trip. Their last album which was released just last year, completely floored me and if the rest of their new album, this year, follows much like Onyx & Obsidian then i am all for it. The track comes off their new record titled Adversarial.

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5. LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR

Intro riff… And there you have it! A choke hold. Lair of the Minotaur takes what would make for a great thrash song on its own, slows it down several notches and then adds in a few beefy sludge sections, essentially transforming into one mind wracking listen. You’ve got the thrashy pace of the song plateaued by an insane amount of downtuned yet hard hitting heaviness. Coming off their EP titled Godslayer, here is the title track. God slaying indeed…

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Dark Buddha Rising – Dakhmandal

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Dark Buddha Rising titled Dakhmandal, released via Svart Records.

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Tracklisting:
1. D
2. K
3. H
4. M
5. N
6. L

Mark your calendars: June 7th, 2013 is going to be the day a new highwater mark is achieved in the drone/doom/sludge space. That’s the day Dark Buddha Rising’s new album, ‘Dakhmandal’ drops.

Few artists emerging from this space have made this kind of impact on me since, oh Orthodox and Khanate before them. When I first heard of Dark Buddha Rising, I assumed they’d be a slightly kraut-y, psychedelic/stoner jam outfit like the excellent but very different My Sleeping Karma. If you need to take a moment to shake your head in dismay at the shallowness of my thought processes, go ahead, I’ll wait. Oh good, you’re back. Well, when I heard Dark Buddha Rising’s previous album, 2011’s ‘Abyssolute Transfinite’, I realized how wrong I was. This is hermetic music, obscure and even oppressive, yet with a compelling, mesmeric atmosphere. Sparse, deconstructed passages co-exist with supermassive, dense sequences that feel like sludge metal played inside a black hole. The final impression is one of incredible heaviness, but in a ritualistic and leftfield manner.

Dakhmandal ably carries on with the band’s campaign of esoteric sonic persecution, refining it to a new peak of majesty and authority. This is completely uncompromising music, music that you have to work towards understanding, and that can be an incredibly refreshing experience after the wash of US sludge bands miming the sounds of post-peak Mastodon or Baroness. If you’re at all into heavy music, you don’t always want to be pulled along by hooks, accessible melodies and catchy vocals. Sometimes you need to listen to music that is shaped by individualism, integrity and some very twisted yet absolutely brilliant and original sensibilities.

If so, the cycle of songs on this album will serve as a series of destinations on a grueling but rewarding sonic journey. These songs may well stand on their own, but it’s clear that they were meant to be listened to as a suite.

 

 

The opening song, ‘D’ begins with the faintest hints of sound – the stray feedback artifact, a distant almost-drone that keens to itself in darkness. Three minutes in, a simple bass pulse emerges out of this mysterious soundscape. The ritual has begun. Melody starts to insinuate itself, ever so subtly, into this realm of antediluvian rhythm and drone. The claustral atmosphere opens out, as if we’re emerging from a cave into bright starlight, into the kind of atmosphere created by an Om song. ‘K’ plunges us into the world of craggy, overdriven guitars and sludgy riffs. Hollow, incantatory vocals invite us deeper into the mysteries of an unfolding catechism. The song shifts gear into a drawn-out spacey, downtempo jam before building up to a sludgy finale. ‘H’ is another serving of mountainous riffs, moving at geological speed, like a slightly less ponderous Khanate. Aggressive stasis defines this song, as opposed to the shifting musical textures of the previous tracks. This is a Sargasso Sea of sound that is eventually swallowed in mist and squall. ‘M’ strips away the sludge metal appurtenances to take us into a vaulted chamber where a mutated organ vies with other droning layers. Then, a simple, pulsating guitar melody signals a shift into something that I can best describe as shamanic. Seriously, nevermind the Morrison bollocks, this is the real deal. At times, the warm, sunshiny, mystical feel of this song reminds me of those masters of the drone, Earth, but more occult and less Cormac McCarthy. The spirits have certainly been invited to this feast. The song closes out with some wall-to-wall riffing and vocals that are reminiscent of Yob’s more mantra-like moments. ‘N’ continues mine the same vein of monumental riffs, cavernous atmosphere and transcendental sludge. How do you close out an album like this? The last track, ‘L’ takes its time coalescing out of a wash of feedback and almost disjointed drumming. Ominous, fervent vocal proclamations issue from a preacher’s pulpit, but one that is obviously stationed in some cavernous subterranean cathedral to an unknown deity. Distant, soaring choruses float behind veils of sheer noise – and then there’s a simple, insistent groove which emerges as a focus for a pulsing, hypnotic song with weird chants and harsh invocations hovering just out of reach.  It’s a monumental ending, full of restraint, power and an unusual widdershins grace.

Some have described this music as dirge-like, but I think it’s more than that. Something is being celebrated here, but it is not of the daylit world we imagine we inhabit. This is bigger than Satanism or paganism. It’s an initiation into the mysteries of the sonic arcana. After three self-released albums, this is Dark Buddha Rising’s first album to be released by an external label – Svart Records. Credit is due to Svart for having the vision to take on this 80-minute exercise in sound as ritual. This is a band and a record that deserves a wider audience, although the uncompromising intensity and uniqueness of their sound necessarily imposes a limit on that audience.

 

Chthonic – Bu-Tik

Review of the new album from Chthonic titled Bu-Tik, released via Spinefarm Records.

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Tracklisting:

1.”Arising Armament (Intro)”
2.”Supreme Pain for the Tyrant”
3.”Sail into the Sunset’s Fire”
4.”Next Republic”
5.”Rage of my Sword”
6.”Between Silence and Death”
7.”Resurrection Pyre”
8.”Set Fire to the Island”
9.”Defenders of Bu-tik Palace”
10.”Undying Rearmament (Outro)”

-The idea of an armed body and mind

The image is made of the features of an elder, child, and girl model. The female model depicted in the cover, Bu –Tik, was chosen of nearly a hundred volunteers candidates.

One can only imagine the immense political allegory behind it, given the band’s penchant for driven political activism. An element that runs the entire gamut of the Chthonic discography.

No Chthonic review is complete without a brief insight into the deep political well of Taiwan from which their work ceaselessly draws from. For instance let us take the case of their last three records. The critically acclaimed Seediq Bale, the one album that put Chthonic on the international metal map talked about the infamous Wushe massacre where thousands of native  Seediq tribesmen were slaughtered by the colonial Japanese. The less successful Mirror of Retribution took to the 228 incident where an altercation between the civilian populace and the then Chinese government developed into a full scale genocide. Finally their last album Takasago Army which portrayed the courage and valor rooted in the heroism of Takasago volunteers.   You ought to read about Teruo Nakamura who made his living off an island for 30 years after the bloody great holocaust did come to an official end. Talk about loyalty.

 

 

Come to their new album and it is no different in character. It is a beast armed to the teeth with unbridled fury but sometimes found ailing in a few places. Bu-Tik  much like its predecessor shows the band partially abandoning their uber-cheese symphonic black metal moments. Seediq Bale thrived on this very fact but was more cohesive overall and was in fact one could their own brand of oriental metal. Although the keyboards had a slightly overbearing edge to it, the eerie patriotism soaked atmosphere overall, held its ground. The combination of the Chinese folk instrument Erhu ,catchy riffage and serene female vocals at exactly the right places together formed the centerpiece of the atmosphere. Yet one cannot fail to conceive the cheesy influences of Dimmu borgir and Cradle Filth running the gamut of the entire album. It was more of the same on Mirror of Retribution and rather sloppily done too. Takasago Army on the other hand was more of a departure from the said sound and relied on the more riff oriented approach. Although nothing spectacular by any means, it did appeal to a larger audience with its share of infectious melodies, group chants and ebullient patriotism.

Bu-Tik picks up where Takasago Army left off, but does so in a far more memorable way. Bands that seek to ride the wave of success of their last album usually end up just regurgitating the same ol.. The result being of a slimy and pallid nature. Well this is not the case here, for one there seems to be a sudden flux of more memorable songs here than on their previous outing. While Takao and Quell the Souls in Sing Ling Temple were probably the only standout tracks on Takasago Army, Bu-Tik  have five to six of them in a total of eight proper songs (the other two being the intro and outro). Be it the incipient thrash attack of Rage of my Sword, the rabid groove of Resurrection Pyre or the absolutely majestic closer Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace. Jesse Liu’s exquisite solos populating ably crafted bridge sections and absolutely massive choruses that serve to invigorate the dying conviction in one nation’s past are some of the conspicous highlights. And yes the Erhu ..the serene Chinese folk instrument.. Freddy Lim’s erhu playing elevates the said choruses to a near sublime level which is basically at the heart of every Chthonic  song.

Lyrically rather than sticking to a single all-pervading theme, the songs draw upon a vast array of different illustrious incidents dotting Taiwan’s fractured history. The details of which have been neatly rundown by the charming Doris over at Terrorizer. And this is probably one of the reasons why the album feels a bit disjointed in terms of flow. The songs stand on their own, but sadly don’t really develop into a self providing unit. I guess this was deliberate work on the band’s part, for they seem to be more inclined to deliver a bunch of one hit scorchers than make a statement on cohesion. The faults don’t really end there as well, songs such as Sail into the Sunset’s Fire, Set Fire to the Island and the first half of Between Silence and Death are just too lack luster to be given any serious attention at al. On the instrumental side you have the drums just managing to stay above average , a casualty of the now ubiquitous modern sound, and Doris despite her innate eye candyness seems to be doing nothing more than following the lower end of each riff.

These pardonable blemishes aside, this really can be one real good session of oriental metal. With a sound lyrical approach to consolidate their musical output this makes for an interesting listen which grows in catchiness on repeated listens. This is not of a work of ultranationalist and over the brim jingoism; this represents a band mourning and celebrating the travesties and glories of a nation littered with a turbulent past, Taiwan.

 Watch their brand new video for their song ‘Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace’ below.

 

Anciients – Heart of Oak

We apologize for the dip in our review rate… Gosh! You ought to know that we’ve got lives as well!!

That said, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Anciients titled Heart of Oak, released via Season of Mist.

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Tracklisting:

1.  Raise the Sun
2.  Overthrone
3.  Falling in Line
4.  One Foot in the Light
5.  The Longest River
6.  Giants
7.  Faith and Oath
8.  Flood and Fire
9.  For Lisa

Somewhat disingenuously described as ‘progressive metal with extreme metal elements’ or ‘progressive stoner metal’, Anciients’ music is modern sludge in the Baroness/Mastodon vein. Remember how quickly those two bands went from crossover powerhouses to meandering, dentured versions of their old selves? Anciients manage to capture the spirit of their forerunners right on the cusp of that shift, not quite putting out the intensity of Remission-era Mastodon, but rarely achieving the bloat of Baroness’ Blue Album.

 

 

They’re good musicians – there’s no denying it. They have complex, involving guitar melodies, mile-wide riffs and a powerhouse rhythm section. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the energy and musicianship of this material. Still, ‘Overthrone’ sounds too much like an attempt to channel the chug and vocal delivery of ‘Leviathan’. Building from a clean, melodic opening, ‘Falling In Line’ has a compelling ferocity and a nicely eastern-tinged solo as well. The puling bassline provides a great underpinning to the questing, flowing dual-guitar lines. ‘The Longest River’ mixes in classic metal melody and touches of both Baroness and Opeth in music and vocal delivery.  ‘Faith and Oath’ showcases some of those extreme metal influences with an opening that could almost have been battle-ready old school death metal with a slightly different sound. However, we’re soon back in the loping, noodly modern sludge space. The vocals are too cheesy for my taste, both the melodic, soaring voice and the cartoonish cookie monster growl, but your mileage may vary. The rest of the songs are basically cut from the same cloth, apart from the flowing, melodic jam ‘For Lisa’.

Anciients have a lot of talent. Nearly every song contains great riffs, intricate and effective arrangements and balls-out brilliant playing by everyone in the band. I’m less convinced about their song craft, and about the derivative nature of their music. This style of melodic, epic sludge metal hasn’t proven to have much staying power, with the pioneers of the genre rapidly diluting their own formula. Perhaps the prog aspirations will prove to be Anciients’ saving grace, compelling them to move away from the fortuitous but somewhat shallow pool of zeitgeist influences they’re currently channeling. They certainly have the chops for it, and perhaps it’s time there was an alternative to the Dream Theater paradigm of prog metal.

Stream the entire album below: