As I'm still taking a light break, (but we'll be back up with plenty of reviews next week) I'm not doing a full set this time around. Nevertheless, there will be reviews. These releases are much different from material that I usually cover, but it is certainly something I'm open to and would like to hear more of. These aren't metal or rock albums, they are atmospheric discs that range from frightening to melancholy and even ethereal. Graciously, these were sent right to my physical mailbox, where I upon opened them like a kid on Christmas. Then I began to listen to each disc, taking short breaks so that I could soak them all in. I tip my hat to everyone at Malignant records and hope that these reviews are sufficient.
I'll also add that some of these discs were incredibly useful while writing and editing my novels (of which I am currently touching up one, and editing the other for publish at a future date.)
Phragments - New Kings And New Queens (PR2013) - Phragments was the first band I listened to out of these six discs, and this is a limited LP of which only 500 were made in a special fold-out packaging. The Slovakian atmospherists usually incorporate neo-classical influences (something I'm rather curious about) into their music, but this album is much different in that it is essentially one long track, broken up into six different pieces. Considered "orchestral dark ambient" it is something that one might listen to for an unnerving calm, or to experience odd moments of lucidity.
"The Foundations Shatter 3:04" begins our journey with a light sense of calm that quickly elevates into something... well, else. It's the feeling that you feel when you've first entered an alien world. "New Kings 3:49" is what occurs when you've noticed that the alien world you've been transported to, is not a friendly place. The toll of some sort of bell sounds in your head as you look from the cliff to the ground below and notice that you're just one of many humans who have been transported to the planet for a lifetime of slavery. "Bridge Burners 5:25" sees you walking towards the slave camp, feeling partially ill - maybe that feeling is in the pit of your stomach... and there it sounds again. Almost like a throbbing machine in your head. What are they doing to you? Yet as you go closer, the mechanical siren buzzes about once again. Thump, thump, thump... The sound is subtle, but it encapsulates your damnation. For there is a hell and you've found it farther from Earth than you would've ever imagined. Two slaves fumble about, trying to secure an iron plate. It rumbles a bit, as they try to secure it. A whip lashes as you hear the sounds of plates rattling about the factory. That thump in your head sounds yet again. "When Memory Fails, We Disintegrate 10:01" brings on a fierce humming noise in your head, somewhat soothing; yet still immobilizing. The sound continues to expand, threatening to expand out of your mind... and then it slows back to an earthy bass. You awaken from this odd slumber to hear the sounds of slaves fumbling with the heavy iron plates again, but you can't quite discern why they are carrying these large metallic devices. A piano chord rings in your head now, sounding like a trumpet of fear as you look around and ask yourself how you've gotten here. Why did you volunteer for such an endeavor? The amnesia effect of teleportation must be worse than you expected. You felt brave to enter the other world, but never would have imagined this. A slave is beaten to the ground, a final lash might kill them. But you're frozen as another humming rings into your head. This one much louder, less forgiving than the other. You feel as if all of your thoughts are about to fade into nothing, like an emotionless jelly of ideas and actions that once were. The humming fades as you exit the den of slaves. No one even noticed you as you walked past the terror that lay before your eyes. For now, there is a calm peace. You continue to tread the dusty violet landscapes of this world; a world that couldn't possibly exist - but yet, it's as real as your hand in front of you. A thump resounds, reminding you that you're never going to be a free man here, even if you've not yet been fastened to the chains of indenturement.
"New Queens 3:53" opens, as the door to what you'd perceive as a city swims into view. You feel the pomp of royal species, as you make your way into the large building that lay at the foot of the metropolis. And a metropolis it is, zooming, buzzing, hissing, with the sounds and sights of another world... a world that seems very much like your own. In that moment, you are taken. Suddenly, a claw lifts you up from the ground and forces you from the city. You put up a fuss, but it does not rattle the unfeeling object as it throws you back into the cold, violet sands of this harsh otherworld. As the "Aftermath 5:45" begins, you realize that you've made a grave error and seem to be trapped in this harsh abyss. Why was I so brash? Why didn't I wait until I was sure I could return? You ask yourself as you walk about the barren landscapes... as the humming begins yet again. Subtle, but it's certainly there. Someone is trying to contact me, you think as you continue to trod through the weighty sands... surely, they weren't so weighty before... surely, you're not losing consciousness... and then...
It all fades to white.
Matej Gyarfas has certainly concocted an amazing record with this release. His first since 2008's Earth Shall Not Cover Their Blood features some of the most brooding, yet otherworldly soundscapes that I've heard in quite a while. The album definitely made me think I was on an alien world, that I was this nameless character and truth be told; all of this was written just now, during a second listen of the album. The disc is certainly filled with a subtle, yet humming nature and the sounds of machines can be felt at times on this strangely cold trip into another world. Phragments is not human, it's certainly something worthy of a science fiction tale such as the one I've concocted here. The music did not show any signs of survival, so don't expect a happy ending. Though limited, (or perhaps just in the fold-out packing) I certainly recommend that you give this album a chance if the above sounds like what you're looking for. Yes, it's subtle... but the subtlety makes the unexpected moments all the more worthwhile on the disc.
If you're looking for a journey, Phragments will certainly provide one for you. But whether or not you'll make it back safely is another story altogether...
(6 Tracks, 31:00)
Steel Hook Prosthesis - The Empirics Guild (PR2013) - The new album from this Texan two man death industrial/dark ambient group, Steel Hook Prosthesis is certainly the sort of atmosphere that nightmares are made of. This won't be the kind of music that one could write a short story to explain, because the effect of the music tells it's own equally twisted tale. The band incorporates elements of horror and harsh electronic fuzz coupled with some quite threatening vocalization efforts to deliver something that might be capable of scaring the living shit out of people. Which means that the album could come in handy for a few things, and I'll leave that up to you to decide those things. Yes, you could probably give someone a heart attack from this music, so don't play it around the elderly, small children or the faint of heart and especially not in the dark.
"Rendering Human Tallow 5:06" begins our sick surgical journey, probably in an underground basement of horrors. The amount of fuzz and dusk on this one makes it just perfect for scaring the living shit out of someone, yet it's quite uncomfortable to listen to by yourself. "Leprosaria Dross 4:51" starts out with a quite, but features what sounds like a fan and vocals that sound like they came from something that I wouldn't want to talk to (probably because I couldn't understand it.) I'm curious as to what Lovecraft would have thought of this music. I'm also curious as to what the holy rollers would have to say about it. Yes, it's that uncomfortable. People might actually think you're listening to demons and such.
"Sadomecia 5:44" comes next, but it isn't until much further in the song that things start getting interesting. However, it's not until much later in the track that you can hear the moans of patients... or one might say, the ghosts of patients. A woman screams in agony along with several other tortured victims, whose cries echo into the night sky. "Debridled Necrotic Tissue 5:33" features some whirring, the sounds of a male voice and some buzzing that enters into the demonic words being uttered through the fog. "Gula 4:11" features some guitar in all actuality, but now how you'd think. I have no idea what extra-terrestrial beings they've found in Texas and captured to trill on the album, which at this point begins to sound like it would remind someone who got abducted by aliens of their journey.
"Emaciated Angel 4:06" is next, with a faint hint of choral vocal and the fuzz electronics that the disc is known for. It fades as the vocals uttering's come back one again (and there's no lyrics with the disc, so I have no idea what these guys are going on about.) "Disfiguring Aesthetics 4:45" did nothing for me though, it was more or less the same. There wasn't anything of merit here. "Decrepit Hands Emerge 4:50" brought on the robot voice, which I was certainly glad to hear; because if they continued the same approach, this album would become very bland. I hear a fuzzed out black metal scowl now, this works well with the rest of the atmosphere. Then I hear the robot vocals again, and that works for me. The scowl continues and then the robot vocals kind of fade out. "Scald 5:05" comes next, continuing the same "fuzz scowl" approach, which is alright, but I'd like to hear more from them than this. Then you can tell that these guys really wanted "Disease Incubator 7:00" to be something grand, but it just doesn't come off as such. It's a very long atmosphere that works well enough, with the coupling of "fuzz-death" vocals. Interesting, but nothing amazing.
"The Blood Cough 5:03" brings out the sound of metal scraping, but little more. I guess as a whole, it flows much better. There's also a bit of a siren at the end of this. The album ends with "Antiquus Morbus 8:13" which actually does something else with the electronics for once, but eventually continues with the fuzz. Not that it's a bad thing, but too much fuzz for too long a length of time can become boring. It doesn't really have an effect on the listener and they're soon beginning to wonder "is it over yet?" But when the album does start to get interesting and include some TV static, (or maybe that's the sound of steel sharpening) it's already over. How unfortunate.
As uncomfortable as this disc already sounds, I thought I was supposed to get the feeling of a nightmarish surgeon's practice. But I only heard a few patients screaming, a couple of sounds that elicited wonderment, not fear - and too much of the death/black vocal fuzz. You can't sell an album on that, and it's a novelty only because it hasn't been done often. I recommend the use of more surgical sounds. Attend actual surgeries and take note of how the machines and apparatuses that they use sound and behave. I want to hear footsteps, feel like I'm right outside the door of a twisted surgery, where I might be next. It's just not frightening enough. The atmospheres are great, but I'd like to be able to put this on and feel completely uncomfortable, not be bombarded with static. I actually recommend that the vocals be kept to a bare minimum, but they would sound better in an industrial metal act, because I haven't heard many acts use that style of vocal in metal music and it would certainly suit the metal genre. It was good for a bit, but then it became monotonous. I love the image and the artwork, but the music itself needs just a bit of work.
Terrify me, gentlemen. I'm afraid I'm just not frightened enough.
Highlights: Rendering Human Tallow, Leprosaria Dross, Debridled Necrotic Tissue, Gula, Antiquus Morbus (12 Tracks, 64:00)
Treperaningsritualen - The Totality Of Death (PR2013) - I don't have much information on this release, but I do know that the band is German. I get that from the packaging. At any rate, this is the kind of atmospheric record that will appeal to black metal fans. It's essentially a mix of black metal scowls and uncomfortable atmospheres, complete with guitar influence. The album features twelve tracks of differing lengths and runs at about 65 minutes, so plenty of ground is covered here.
The first track "Death Reveler 4:56" starts out with light riffs, fierce scowls and what sounds like the ringing of bells atop some fuzz. It's definitely chaotic though. "Edifice Of Nine Sauvastikas 10:02" is a large atmosphere that separates itself greatly from the first track, and seems a bit grimy in it's approach. It sounds like rusted steel. "For Svears Val 4:50" continues the atmosphere, but is a bit more threatening in nature, complete with some odd moments of speech that follow what appear to be threatening winds. "All Hail The Black Flame 3:41" brings back the scowl, amidst what sounds like a sort of tribal drumming. This gets a bit more electronic however, but remains as ravenous as you would expect. Again, this is an atmospheric album for black metal fans. "Ohergm 5:43" features a nauseating hum, which is backed by the sounds of someone speaking, but I know not about what. Guitars are used, but they are played in a fashion much different than the metal fan would expect; which should either be refreshing or irritating. "Lord Of This World 3:33" certainly sounds unruly, but it does so in a subtle sense. The track feels as if it's a recording from a hellish realm. "Drunk With Blood 3:37" features more recognizable guitar influence and a continuation of scowling. But it's very trippy, with recognizable LSD influence.
The longest track on the album is also the longest track name on the album, "Van Zeven Manieren Van Heilige Ninne 14:47" which sounds, very cold, rustic and like someone's walking around in a shed in the dark, bumping into things along the way. You'll hear quite a few clangs, as voices seem to mutter in the background, but in time they'll fade away. Thus begins "The Birth Of Babylon 2:54" which features a slowed down vocal recording amidst a foggy atmosphere. It succeeds in being truly evil. "Lightbringer 3:22" sounds like an electric fire, perhaps something we could liken to the track's namesake. "Judas Goat 3:35" adds a bit of muffled black metal to the horrific atmosphere that's being witnessed here. "C'est Un Reve 4:02" finishes the disc out, sounding like a muffled industrial track complete with a harsh or yelled vocal expellation. It's certainly an interesting way to end a wildly experimental disc.
Trepaneringsritualen is definitely an album worth checking out for fans of black metal and especially of industrial black metal, atmospheric black metal, and other assorted sub-genres of the black metal, atmospheric and industrial vein. That means that these guys have done something right on this album, taking what they've already seemed to know from black metal and industrial, but adding touches to it that really make the music altogether different; but no less fierce. It's just as chaotic as you might expect on some of these tracks, but on others the album comes off quite cold, dark and foreboding. The sound of the apocalypse is truly comparable to this album. This is most certainly the soundtrack to our end.
Highlights: Death Reveler, For Svears Val, All Hail The Black Flame, Drunk With Blood, The Birth of Babylon, Lightbringer, Judas Goat (12 Tracks, 65:00)
Abandoned Asylum - Derelicts Of Distant Hope (PR2013) - I don't know what Dani Czajka's intention was for this album, but it certainly doesn't seem like the sort of depressing matter which would warrant it's title. I and a friend of mine both gave this album (again, ltd. to 500 copies) a listen, and we agreed that it certainly does sound like "you're floating through the stars." Which is commendable, by any means. Perhaps Mr. Czajka is pounding his hands in frustration now, wondering if he had done something wrong - but it definitely is a great disc to listen to in all regards and is one of the best albums I've heard out of these six. I was also working on a space-themed sci-fi novella, which is part of my series and will be released in some form eventually; but this music helped me tremendously in feeling the material and being able to properly edit and add the touches that the work needed.
It does consider itself to be an exploration of "not only the outer edges of the cosmos, but deep into catacombs and dimly lit underground passages." These are explored through the whirling industrial sensation of "Interstellar Transmission 5:57" which literally makes me think the strange vocal utterances I hear are coming from a disembodied communication system from ancient ship that has long since, been departed from it's crew. Then Dani takes us into "Shades Of Nebular Images 6:08" which continues the feeling of being separated from the earth and drifting out into the sounds of space. Truth be told, I grabbed a rare collection of NASA space recordings as taken by a satellite back in the 90's and was quite amazed by what I heard. It did sound very much like this, so this guy definitely got it right. "Drifting In Constant Eclipse 6:14" starts out almost soundless, but envelops into what begins to sound like the barrier that separates our realm, from the astral world. One thinks that they can briefly hear the sounds of a brighter realm, the chanting of many monks in unison; but they can't actually enter it, no matter how hard they try to cross the void. "Among Shapes Unknown To Man 5:47" makes me feel like I may have entered another world altogether, an alien universe completely different from my own. I can see little specs of color, blob looking things out in the middle of the atmosphere - but I'm not sure if I want to touch one of them. Something whizzes past me quickly, some sort of organism; but how can there be living organisms out here in space? There are things out here that I can't even safely discern. This track is positively unreal.
Then "Pathway Through Nothingness 7:19" launches me far out past the alien universe, as I drift further into a sot of light. I'm not quite sure if it's friendly, but I can hear it reverberating in my head. It's a long journey, to where I must go. "Echoes Of Forgotten Origin 6:09" continues my trek, filled with all sorts of sounds as the whizzing and whirling continues. At some point, I hear what sounds like a submarine... Am I underwater? Or in space? Finally, "Storms In The Endless Void 5:20" makes a great end to my adventure, bringing me into a world of light and energy and form. Am I dead? It all becomes so vivid... and then I'm gone.
That's the sort of feeling you get from listening to this masterpiece of atmosphere. Abandoned Asylum brings you a journey that will literally take you away, and if you're trying to astral project (leave your body) this atmosphere may help to give you the right state of mind in which to do that. Apparently these guys are comparable to label mates Rasalhague, Collapsar and Phelios which all sound like acts that I'd be interested in. Turn out the lights, give me my headphones and watch as I close my eyes and drift off...
Yeah, it's that kind of album, folks. If this sounds like something you're into, then I highly recommend it.
(7 Tracks, 42:00)
Aderlating - Gospel Of The Burning Idols (PR2013) - Aderlating is a side project of Gnaw Their Tongues, and the album cover looked like what you might find on a black metal or satanic death metal disc to be honest. The content however is atmosphere backed with unholy growls and chants that certainly come off as unsettling as humanly possible. But there are still some issues.
"Opening Of The Tomb 9:28" sounds utterly revolting, as it begins with an ominous atmosphere and dreadfully evil growls which soon accompany odd electronics and what sounds like distorted drumming. "A Vulture's Tongue Disease 4:31" continues with light cymbals and fouls winds that blow across the sounds of what appears to be vengeful spirits. "The Burial Gown Reeks Of Semen 5:24" follows a harsh industrial approach which enters into the realm of whirling lost souls on "Dragged Into The Smoldering Pits Of Infinity 5:26" but I don't understand the drumming on this track. It doesn't really add anything to the song. "Bondaged In Shame, Disgraced In Fear 6:06" brings back the electronics and industrial influence, yet continues with the graveyard approach and more odd drumming that doesn't seem to work at all. I understand that he's trying to add atmosphere with the drums, but the drum solo sessions on here don't really help anyone. When the drums are subtle, it's much better. "Spewed On By Slaves Of Inhumanity 5:36" actually sounds like it wants to be the most raw black metal of all time, complete with the same whizzing atmospheres. It's an odd way to hear black metal. The album ends with "Gospel Of The Burning Idols 4:19" which incorporates the sound of a radio trying to find signal as it screeches about, lost in a maze of uncomfortable mist.
This fourth effort by Aderlating is alright, but I think I'm more curious to hear their work in Gnaw Their Tongues. It achieves what it means to achieve, but the drumming on the disc is at times just too fast, and it kills the atmosphere. it feels as if those drum tracks really don't have a purpose on the album at all and would be better without them. Not without drumming completely, mind you; as light drumming does help to produce the atmosphere. They've done a decent job with the album, but I think I'd like to go back and hear the earlier efforts.
Another one recommended for metal fans, but I'm not sure how you'll feel about the "drum solo" portions on the disc. Less is more, gentlemen.
Highlights: Opening Of The Tomb, Spewed On By Slaves Of Inhumanity (7 Tracks, 40:00)
The Vomit Arsonist - An Occasion For Death (PR2013) - Andrew Grant makes some very depressing and bleak material, that almost made me feel sick. I have no idea what it was exactly; but something in the music really got to me. Nevertheless, I'll go through the disc and see if I run in to it again.
"Think God Out Of Existence 6:19" starts out bleak enough, with a some spoken words and drone. "At The Edge Of Life, Everything Is An Occasion For Death 5:33" features Grant screaming while subtle industrial drones back his vocal animosity. He fuzzes his vocal approach, but it comes out well in the music. "Invita Minerva 5:03" is next, following a drone atmosphere with a hint of harsh vocal. "Black Bile 4:40" is next, following the same approach of subtle electronics, yet still with a very cold feel. Grant still screams and yells incoherently and it works well for him. "Torn Between Will And Desire 6:52" sounds much like the last track, but features an end whir that adds much to his vocals. "The Absurd 5:12" flows along with a completely different tone, and this might be the one that nauseated me a bit. I think it's just the effect, but at any rate it certainly sees Grant succeeding in ridding himself of anger and negativity. This disc reminds me a bit of early Skinny Puppy in all actuality, before they became a little less mechanical. "Means To An End 9:58" features drone and another series of spoken word pieces, with Grant screaming one time before it's all over with.
The Vomit Arsonist is an solid enough act. They follow drone quite a bit and I've done the same things that he's done but with lower quality, when I read from the Necronomicon during my old album intro, an invocation to Yog-Sothoth. Sadly, he never came and that sucks, because I had plenty of questions for him. I also though he might want to play a game of cards or something. But apparently you need three tablets and I don't have those three tablets to throw in the ocean. Or maybe that was Cthulhu. Anyway, I certainly understand where Andrew Grant is coming from, but this album won't speak to everyone. Imagine the harshness of metal without the instruments and just the vocals alone and you'll get it. It's drone and anger, coupled with negativity. Again, not everyone's cup of tea, but this guy sure felt better after it. You know, until he - like me - hears about some other bullshit on the news that made him want to scream and yell and holler and bitch and rant and rave and just get every goddamned bit of piss and vinegar out of his system. And that's what An Occasion For Death feels like to me.
If you like the sounds of a man completely losing his mind while being backed by all manner of metallic subtle drone ala early Skinny Puppy, definitely check this album out.
(7 Tracks 43:00)