Catching up: Agrimonia, Earthen Grave, Suns Of Thyme

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the following albums from Agrimonia, Earthen Grave, Suns Of Thyme

The last few months have been hectic, what with recording and releasing the first Djinn & Miskatonic album, and I have a number of album reviews pending. I’m going to do a few shorter, but hopefully equally useful reviews until I’ve caught up with the backlog.

1. Agrimonia – Rites of Separation (Southern Lord)

Gotherburg crust/sludgers Agrimonia’s sophomore effort, ‘Host of the Winged’ was one of the most dense and relentlessly intense releases in this space in 2010. Particularly with the modern US sludge scene dwindling away on the trail of accessibility, it’s heartening to see that, on ‘Rites of Separation’, Agrimonia continue to practice the art of adding melody and expansiveness to their sound without compromising on the sheer weight of negativity their tutelary genres are supposed to embody. Christina’s vocals are harsh litanies of acrimony, guitarists Pontus (also in the excellent OSDM band Miasmal) and Magnus unleash a range of six-string-soundscapes that maintain the pressure while exploring almost post-metal like whorls and tides of sound and melody. The 5 songs  here are all generally of epic length, and the layered, lush yet corrosive sound is augmented by thoughtfully positioned keyboard layers contributed by Christina. She even contributes gentle piano lines – piano on a crusty sludge record! – which only add another element of contrast and cohesion to Agrimonia’s arsenal. Martin’s bass work is especially effective at bringing in dolorous, droning undercurrents in the more introspective sections and Bjorn, who also plays for Miasmal, anchors the sound with his incisive, dynamic drum work. This one is up there with Kongh’s ‘Sole Creation’ and Primitive Man’s ‘Scorn’ as one of the most crushingly massive releases of the year from the sludgier side of the tracks, but that heaviness is only furthered by the moments of melodic reflectiveness that are interspersed throughout the album.

2. Earthen Grave – S/T (Ripple Music)

The band’s stated genre is doom/thrash and I was curious to see how they would make that work. Mainly they’ve taken the crunch of thrash and some of its more mid-tempo aspects and melded it to a histrionic, melodic, traditional doom framework. This isn’t miles away from how Trouble (which is bassist Ron Holzner’s alma mater, after all) always brought the doom without being overtaken by the pace and energy of their coevals in the thrash scene – nothing here will be mistaken for an Exodus outtake. Instead we have songs that are long on melody, augmented by generous lashings of violin, and can move from moody, slow passages to 8th-note grooves with pounding drums and chugging power chord riffs. The band’s musicianship is top-notch but I found the vocals a shade too grungy at times, which is a shame because Mark Weiner does a mean Eric Wagner when the mood catches him, such as on the magnificent ‘Tilted World’. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine’s contributions go well beyond simple layering or novelty interludes, perfectly meshing with the seasoned doom-mongering of the rest of the band. The end result is a sound that makes the band a natural addition to the front row of classic American doom bands. Certainly, their decision to include two classic doom covers in their debut offering (a great version of ‘Burning A Sinner’ which makes the Witchfinder General sound more like Trouble and a cover of Pentagram’s ‘Relentless’ which sees Weiner apparently channeling the vocal stylings of Wino) shows how closely this band identifies with the history of the doom genre, but doesn’t capture the variety and lush romanticism of the music on offer here, which isn’t just limited to retreading what has gone before.

3. Suns of Thyme – Fortune, Shelter, Love and Cure (Electric Magic)

Kraut is alive, and it’s got shoes. While Samsara Blues Experiment purveys the darker end of the modern kraut spectrum, their scene-mates and countrymen, Suns Of Thyme have a more airy sound, less grueling, more filigreed and bright-eyed. There is a sense of wide-open spaces and endless, ecstatic jamming in these songs, but there is also a certain serene contemplativeness underlying the psychedelic excursions. These songs are also decidedly concise, with running times in the 3-4 minute range most of the time. It’s kraut crossed with shoegaze: shimmering guitars, motorik jams and hazy vocals intertwining to form a dreamlike, propulsive sound. Everything here, especially the voice, sounds like it has been slathered in layers of glistening star-stuff (not to mention delay), and while individual songs do not jump out at you on initial listens, there are enough way-out bits and shimmering, melodic passages to make this album a pleasant excursion down the river of Lethe, the sonic equivalent of a kaleidoscope held to the eyes on a warm summer afternoon.

And that’s it from me for now – stay tuned for a couple more catch-up posts this week!

All Pigs Must Die – Nothing Violates This Nature

Mohammad Kabeer reviews the new record from All Pigs Must Die titled Nothing Violates This Nature, released via Southern Lord.

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Artwork by Aaron Turner of Isis fame. Damn! This is good!! Follow his artwork on his personal blog called the Feral Pig.

TRACKLIST:
01. Chaos Arise
02. Silencer
03. Primitive Fear
04. Bloodlines
05. Of Suffering
06. Holy Plague
07. Aqim Siege
08. Sacred Nothing
09. Faith Eater
10. Articles Of Human Weakness

I remember talking about this band  called  All Pigs Must Die to a friend on Facebook Chat, telling him that it is really brutal and crushing and all the other adjectives used to describe  music like this, funny thing is he typed on YouTube and instead came up  with  a soft  yet haunting  Neofolk song by Death in June. Both of us laughed  at this  and then I ultimately  gave him the link  to the title track  from their  album God is War  with which  he was indeed very impressed, so was I, but somehow  although liking their music  I didn’t   really follow the  band because at that time I was into things that were a lot faster a lot more chaotic, like Grindcore, or early Powerviolence. I am really glad that I am getting the opportunity now because this is seriously something, which is not to be missed.

All pigs must die is a sludge/hardcore band from Massachusetts, their sound can be  best described as   sludge  mixed with hardcore  along with  some elements of Death Metal. Mostly so in the tremolos  which  occur in between the primal raw sludge/hardcore carnage,  which are  very  similar to the ones in Swedish and Finnish Death  Metal  bands  like Entombed and Dismember. These  can be  best exemplified in Chaos Arise, Silencer, Primitive Fear and  Aqim Siege, which takes the metal element  one step  above as the band adds   death metal distortion which is  matched to  medium  tempo double bass, a trademark characteristic of old school death metal. Even though there sound is pretty wholesome as it is,  the slower tracks like  Bloodlines, which starts with a very  middle eastern sounding guitar and later evolves into a slow  Integrity like Hardcore, and Of suffering which has a very strong  funeral doom vibe and in a few other ways reminds me of Triptykon. This lends a a certain charisma to the album, and also  offer  some breathing space in between all the  slaughter.

So when all is said and done, all I can say is All Pigs Must die know exactly what  they want to be  but don’t   shy away from   experimenting ,  yet  know what and where their roots are.  This is a great album that I thoroughly enjoyed, here’s  hoping for more from them in the future.