Grim Observations (1/29/20)

I’ll start this week with a review for the new Lurker of Challice, a band that I had been bitching about for a while now after realizing that the mastermind behind this project had no less than four recorded CD’s sitting on his desk or something. That’s music that people aren’t hearing, and he’s already proven (at least to me) that there are fans of this music and we want to hear what he’s cooked up this time around and the other three times as well. Surprisingly though, Tellurian Slaked Furnace is something altogether different. My best guess is that the guy has an awful lot of recorded music sitting on his hard drive and I think he just wanted to go through and pick out some of his favorite recordings that he’s done over the years, rather than to release one of those pre-recorded records I’ve mentioned earlier. This might be the best way to do it, since some of the recordings here do have a bit of dating to them, you can tell that a few were recorded quite a while ago and I do mean over a decade or more. Some of this might even go back to before the band Leviathan and existed as solo projects outside of that. Though it starts with what sounds like aliens in the wild west, the disc features many atmospheres. One of which contains the harsh black metal vocals, though some seem more electronic and noise inspired. I’ve heard traditional industrial here as well as a few cuts that seem like they were originally meant to house vocals many moons ago. With “VIII” you can clearly hear the dating, perhaps noting that this piece was recorded back in the early two-thousands. It reminds me of Megadriver’s old work, which was a big influence to what I now do in my band. I would do a lot of vocal practice to these kinds of songs. There’s a little something for everyone here, but I need to stress that the work is largely instrumental and some of it feels like it might fit better on a film or video game soundtrack. Whatever the case, I’m certainly glad that more of these tracks unearthed themselves and I’m wondering how many others are sitting on the man’s hard drive right now that he feels are fit for public consumption? Time will tell. While I didn’t enjoy this as much as the debut, at least I’m finally getting the chance to hear more of what I bitched about in a review a few years ago – and yes, it was worth it. With Tellurian Slaked Furnace, you simply need to sit down, shut up and listen. The record is definitely an experience, even though I would have favored a more cohesive structure.

Porta Nigra proves that you just can’t do anything based on World War II from the German side of things without all the mainstream metal magazines (and MetalSucks) claiming that “OMG, they’re Nazis!” As this band received a lot of problems during the release of their previous album, Kaiserschnitt. So much so, that they had to publicly distance themselves from it. That doesn’t actually work though, because these people are so brainwashed into progressive ideologies that even if you came out one-hundred percent sincerely against the Nazi party that was prevalent in your country nearly a century ago (eighty years, if I’m not mistaken) they will still hate you for releasing the record in the first place. But let’s be honest, these people weren’t going to buy your album anyway. Aside from all that, black metal fans who were going to buy the bands’s latest album, Schöpfungswut will be glad to know that these guys did go back to their roots a bit, even though some punk infusions still remain here and there. Apparently, one half of the band said “punk” and the other said “black metal” and in order for everyone to get on the same page, there has to be a happy medium. The record still features blazing drums, but definitely rolls along punk lines. They’re also not afraid to throw in a few guitar solos, because that’s metal. One thing that I really hate about even early black and death metal, is the lack of guitar solos. Nu Metal and Metalcore were also bad about this as well, thinking that guitar solos were corny or obsolete. I say the complete opposite and love a good guitar solo in any kind of music, even J-Pop. As it stands, these lengthy cuts feature enough bells and whistles to matter, hinging greatly on melodic black metal while continuing to berate my senses with drumming that rarely lets up and just enough so that the guitars shine properly. After all, heavy metal is a guitar-based form of music and the guitar has always been a very important quality in it. Yes, the drumming and vocals are suitable enough, but as I listened, I focused heavily on the kinds of melodies and acrobatics being utilized on the guitar, because these functions are what keeps the song progressing from one section to another. Keeping the melody flowing and switching up for a guitar solo or two kept me entertained just enough. A lot of black metal bands fall into the category of repeating themselves and each other to the point of bland unoriginality. I won’t say that Porta Nigra is free from this, but I will say that there are a couple of songs here I would quite prefer like “Das Rad Des Ixion” for example, instead of what almost feels like mindless cut and paste from numerous other bands.

Long after the demise of the previous band, we have the debut album from Runescarred, The Distant Infinite and I’m definitely going to give it a shot. There’s definitely more of a punk meets thrash with a sludgy edge, making me think of Testament, Lamb Of God and Rigor Mortis. No this doesn’t sound like what I thought was going to be the second coming of Iced Earth in Dead Earth Politics, but it isn’t terrible either. My only issue here is that the band’s frontman, Ven Scott cannot do cleans and neither can I – so I sympathize greatly. He tries, but it just comes out awful. The man’s great when it comes to harsh vocals, but there’s just something rough about the clean elements of the band that sound off for me. Of course, this is a personal preference and I you may feel differently. To be fair, it simply depends on the tone in which he’s trying to hit, since there are many different styles of clean vocal that he attempts here. All that aside, the musical element of this performance is quite potent and I find myself greatly enjoying the thrashy, Iced Earth influenced bits that I mentioned earlier. Finely crafted guitar solos also round out many of these songs, much in the vein of DEP where several of these guys first appeared. Most of the songs here follow the same structure in terms of BPM, except for “Twisting Flesh” which not only slows the performance down a bit and showcases a slightly more potent clean vocal performance from Scott, but also incorporates some elements of classical guitar, in addition to a powerfully romantic guitar solo section that I’d consider a major standout. You can also hear the more modern Iced Earth influences here, which I certainly won’t consider an issue. Though on this song in particular, it sounds more like the current Iced Earth, which I thought they were moving away from, since that is already a commercially successful thing. It’s a good song, but I wouldn’t want to push too far into territory that is already being tread pretty heavily by it’s progenitors. Then we have the acoustic ballad, “Sorrow Is” which comes out of nowhere and serves as a necessary break from the heaviness. Though don’t worry, as that comes rushing back with “Poison Oasis.” Obviously, these guys still sound very much like they did in the previous act which I will quit mentioning in this observation, but with Tim Driscoll’s playing, you are going to get that feel. This is very much the continuation of that act and unlike that act, these guys are now sharing the stage with acts like Death Angel (who they’re better than, in my opinion as Death Angel have always bored me to tears) and Holy Grail. I do have to note one final thing here, and that’s the fact that album closer “Mammoth” truly spoke to me. I picked up those lyrics immediately, as I’m a huge fan of lyrics that tell people to push through their struggles. There are so many men in particular that I meet anonymously who are on the verge of suicide and sometimes these are young, lost and confused men who’ve woken up into a world that I would have definitely struggled with had I been their age. There are also men I meet who served several tours overseas and they’ve come back to find that not only their mind has been destroyed, but their lives. I hear their stories all the time and it’s pretty rough. Men especially need this kind of re-enforcement that they can conquer their physical and mental struggles. If they’ll get something out of this record and it might help them out in their day to day life, then I’m all for it. We do need more encouraging messages in metal right now, with even pop music going into dark depression. This coming from a man who has written depressing lyrics for ten years now, so you know this is serious. Who cares what I think in regards to the record, these guys need to go far – at least so I’ll stop seeing articles about Ghost and Slipknot all the goddamned time.

NEDXXX is another weird black metal project that I happened to run into, with riffs that are as hypnotic as they are nauseating (and I mean that in a good way, it’s just that some people might not be able to handle the playing style here as it can rumble the stomach a bit) which is a quality of very few bands. The oblong abstractness of these melodies would certainly cause some listeners to lose focus on a task if they were performing one while listening; unless you’ve conditioned yourself to this kind of music before. I daresay that listening to all the noise and Hanatarash that I did left me with some slight mental traumas. Nothing to be too worried about, but a cautionary tale for some listeners. Of course, if you’re still reading, then of course this will interest you. It also contains an unexpected ritual complete with all the fixins smack dab in the middle of the performance, which is only a half an hour at that. The drumming on this one will go right through you, which I think melds pretty well with the vocal style actually seeming to go for more of a death metal roar, rather than that of a growl, scowl or shriek. It feels more organic, even though the album is filled with soundclips and slight atmospheric moments. These actually manage to pack a bit of muscle onto the performance and of course, you can point out all of your favorite soundclips as well. I especially like when the vocals roll into “we summoned that guy from hell” territory and things truly get interesting. Of course, there are more than a few quoted preachers, which honestly make me wonder what the band is trying to say here. Particularly in the very end, I would have to disagree with the preacher because he claims that “man’s father is the devil” yet the devil himself is scarcely mentioned in the Bible to begin with. If nothing else, God committed more acts of murder both by physical and verbal means. Throughout the text, especially in the old testament, God says “kill these people” and “these people.” For a being who penned the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” commandment, he’s sure guilty of breaking it a number of times. The old testament is completely filled to the brim with battle and bloodshed both before and after the commandment was written. You’d almost think the commandments were written as a divine bit of comedy, as it were. I’d also argue that if murder is simply due to the fact that man if following his father, then it makes perfect sense if his father was God. Also, we have to keep in fact that in Zoroastrianism, it was said that both the evil one and the dark one were the same side of a coin. Zoroaster believed that basically, God and the devil were the same thing. I’m pretty sure that preacher would have kicked me out of his church. Religious people seem to hate facts, after all. Anyway, this is a rather weird little album and I think you’ll get something out of it.

ZhOra is another act that came to my attention, and these guys just outright destroyed my senses with their mixture of death and sludge metal, a style I’m quite familiar with and can appreciate greatly when other bands do it. “Coke Vulture” came on strong, with “Hellfire” bringing in some punk gone brutal elements. You’re getting a good dose of reality on this one, even though it does get a little weird (which I find to be a plus). I especially love the actually pounding prevalent on the track (almost like the pounding of boots) which actually brings more power to an already devastating listen. Then you have a nice touch of post-metal with “The Hollow” which proves to me that these guys are willing to make any kind of music they want and seem to have a label that doesn’t mind that. There’s a great deal of progression to be found on this one, almost adding in an unexpected atmosphere that I wouldn’t have seen coming. Then the piece just begins to tear me apart, like some kind of medieval torture device. “Wall Of Time” is next, carrying that atmosphere to the next track. “Demotivator” keeps things interesting though, with a unique kind of bluesy feel to the performance that eventually builds into a series of devastating drum acrobatics. “Spectral Embrace” continues that with more frantic rampage. This disc is more aggressive than a herd of buffalo given cocaine and steroids. It’ll rip your fucking face off while giving you time to think about what just happened. ZhOra show that they’re capable of many things here and this is just a taste. Without rolling into black metal territory, they prove that death metal, sludge, grind, hardcore and post-metal can team up to make a fascinatingly dark collective. Mortals sounds like paint on the wall, but it’s essentially black paint mixed with blood, being thrown against a wall of solid concrete. If you’ve had a rough day at the office, this might be the album for you.

That’s all I have for you this week and If I haven’t gotten to anyone yet, rest assured that as long as you are in my submission folder, I will get to your as soon as I can. If it’s been a few months, just contact me and I’ll go back and look at my emails to see if I’ve missed something. I was also sick last week, but it thankfully wasn’t the coronavirus, so I’m still kicking. As long as I learn to leave those Popeye’s spicy chicken sandwiches alone.


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