Does anybody read these prefaces? At any rate, I barely got this one out because it’s been a long series of sleepless nights. Narrow House tops the list with Dreamfire just behind, both showing unique approaches that we rarely see here at The Grim Tower. There’s also a slew of metal, folk rock and several other interesting things to behold this week. I gave out a lot of good scores, because I was presented with a lot of good albums. Give them all a listen!
Narrow House – Thanatonaut (2014) – Narrow House is a terrific Ukrainian export that revels in atmospheric instrumental proficiency, though the vocals are quite good as well. It’s very hard to tell you exactly what to expect with this one as it’s definitely got a sort of Ulver meets doom metal feel, especially in the areas where they incorporate additional live instruments and lots of extremely sexy saxophone. Hearing the cello mixed in with such potent doom is certainly a first for me, especially when everything is done quite so well. This is only their second album, but it definitely seems that something worthwhile is brewing; which might have reached its peak with Thanatonaut. Yes, it’s really that good. “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life 3:26” incorporates thick amounts of gravel in addition to its thundering of doom and funerary atmospheres, which continue into “The Midwife To Sorrows 5:04” where clean vocals appear, yet are backed with the same sorts of gothic atmospheres that we’ve heard in the beginning, right before a little bit of crunch and a harsh vocal element comes into play before female chanting, which definitely sets the stage for the record along with (Wait… do you hear those licks?) some astonishing surprises. The title track (5:08) brings in the 60’s keyboards and the sounds of a war march, which escalates into one of the most awesome things that I’ve ever heard accompanied by a saxophone. If you don’t like sax in metal, then I’m sure listening to the awesomeness of Thanatonaut will change that. “A Sad Scream Of Silver 3:31” certainly features almost a crystalline sort of funeral, making me feel as if someone died in a crystal cavern. “Crushing The Old Empire 2:59” kind of pokes at the US a bit, but it launches a great guitar solo amidst the pounding doom. But we were the country that dropped the bomb, so I guess we’ll have to live with that for the rest of our existence as a nation. “The Last Retreat 3:50” continues instrumentalism (most of this record is instrumental, but that’s the beauty of it) with a romantic display of saxophone shoved into what almost sounds a little like dirty rock/thrash. The sax is what really sells the piece for me however. “Doom Over Valiria 2:08” mixes electronics with funerary piano keys, which equal out to something of an astral burial. The feeling of this song is beyond words when it really begins to cook. It’s absolutely breathtaking. The final song on the disc is in Russian, but it’s a much longer piece that encroaches almost a little over seven minutes (7:12). The song itself serves as good instrumental, but the clips might be a little overbearing. I like clips when used in the right areas, but too much of these sound clips can distract from the nature of the band. This one actually does contain vocals though and gets rather vehement towards the very end, in addition to an amazing solo section, separated by a short section of silent instrumentation and a final tone of funereal spite. Narrow House have definitely made a monument in this album, which is definitely worth checking out due to its clever mixture of doom/death, electronics, atmospheres and live instruments. Not to mention all the sax. Definitely go tell everyone you can about this record, because these guys are in need of support and by all means, they deserve it. This is one of the most interesting records that I’ve heard all year, hands down. Go get Thanatonaut right now!
(10 Tracks, 40:00)
Tusmorke – Riset Bak Speilet (2014) – Tuskmorke is a folk rock act with slight psychedelic influences and they’ve made a rather interesting record that’s well worth a listen. “Offerpretsen 8:04” seems them jamming out medieval style, while “Gamle Aker Kirke 8:02” makes me think of a romance in Baldur’s Gate, although while under the influence of LSD. “Black Swift 8:39” reminds me of only the best moments of the 60’s and I’ve played it quite a bit actually. It’s safe to say that I’m quite a fan of these guys, so I’ve listened to this one more than once. It just sort of unlocks the door to when rock was really open to experimentation. You don’t get that these days with the hard rock and modern rock bands. And I think this generation is really missing out on that. But that could just be the Theremins talking. “All Is Lost 7:26” is another great one, with its folky psychedelics and a message that I can certainly agree with. It hit me the first time through and I’ve definitely added it into my personal playlist. It’s the kind of song I can listen to when I’m ready to throw up my hands on things, which I’ve been apt to do lately. The disc ends with its title track, which adds bluesy moments into its folky atmospheres. Yeah, I know Opeth did a record sort of in the same vein as this, but after hearing Riset Bak Speilet, it’s quite obvious that these gentlemen are more qualified in those realms… at least in making something that sounds refreshing, different, and strangely familiar all at the same time…
(5 Tracks, 46:00)
Imbroglio – The Struggle In Pursuit (2014) – How this twenty minute album didn’t end up in my shortlist I’ll never know, but now it’s here and I’ve got to review it. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when core and doom and post metal get into a fight, then this struggle is certainly worth your time. The vocals sound positively adamant, while the band are apt at melding together several different genres in an attempt to create something that comes off rather raw and fresh, with a decidedly warm and overbearing production. To some, it might just sound like a bunch of guys playing anything they want and a vocalist loudly screaming in a room, but it also reminds me of how Mastodon began. There’s actually a lot of Remission to be found here, which is surely a pleasant sign for those who aren’t fond of the more commercial style that the band take now. I’m not quite sure what Imbroglio is going to become here, but The Struggle In Pursuit shows a hell of a lot of anger, texture and promise. If you miss those early Remission days as much as me, then you’re going to want to get a copy of this one.
(5 Tracks, 20:00)
Whitechapel – Our Endless War (2014) – When Whitechapel first began, they brought with them some thick elements of death metal, but with this latest album, it doesn’t really feel that they’re doing anything different from any other deathcore act right now. Instead of me telling you to expect common deathcore riffs and roars, with the obvious inclusion of djent riffs (because come on, that’s what popular these days) I’m going to scroll through the album and see if there’s anything here of merit that I didn’t catch on the first listen. Well, “Let Me Burn 4:31” has an almost ballad nature to it, even though it’s plenty heavy, making me think it’s a sort of segue between deathcore and alternative rock, almost to what FFDP is these days. It’s not that they aren’t trying, because there are some memorable melodies, some rather strong solos and different song textures than you’ll hear on most core albums, but it still feels as if the towel’s been wrung out one too many times, and there really isn’t all that much that you can do with the deathcore genre. It’s much better than the band’s last album and shows that they are growing as musicians and experimenting more with their music, but songs like “Diggs Road 6:09” are one too few and that’s where the intrigue comes from. As for the bonus tracks, “A Process So Familiar 2:58” unleashes some death/thrash moments, while “Fall Of The Hypocrites 3:06” shows a traditional brutal death metal vocal style that the band should have been using from the beginning. It’s still loaded with djent riffs, but I wouldn’t mind hearing more gurgle and less lion roars. Definitely not a bad record, but there’s much better out there right now, even in the core genre. However, you could be listening to much worse as well.
(12 Tracks, 46:00)
Pray For Locust – In The Shadow Of The Colossus (2014) – Another core band, but one with three words; Pray For Locust definitely have that “three word band” formula which seems to mix core elements with some thrashier, blacker and deathier realms to make something which isn’t nearly as bad as most bands in this genre. At least when he says “I will rip you apart” during “Bat Country 3:57” I actually believe it. There’s conviction in the melodies and choral elements of “Dead Man’s Curse 4:01” as “Reap What You Sow 3:43” punches down into almost death metal realms. So maybe these guys aren’t your standard three word act, because they certainly manage to bring some balls to this performance instead of sounding like pre-pubescent women trying to make love to me while some guy screams in the background. “Our Last Breath 4:12” continues the onslaught, while “God Of The Underworld 2:42” picks back up the death/thrash elements, throwing some Devildriver groove into the mix. All in all, it’s not a bad record and I believe I may have second guessed it. These guys really did go out there and make a crushing piece, even though it’s a bit different from my forte. But honestly, I could get used to something like this. It’s got just the right amount of spite and venom in it to really make me give a shit and attach my ears to what they’re saying. Even though the vocals sound a bit youthful and it sounds like there needs to be a bit more testosterone, this motherfucker is pissed and the rest of the band does a great job backing him up in his anger. It almost reminds me a bit of my old band, Unholy Sacrifice and that’s definitely not a bad thing at all. Give these guys a spin, they’ll definitely surprise you.
(10 Tracks, 36:00)
The Golden Grass – The Golden Grass (2014) – Alright, where the hell is my weed? I found my bong, but I’m definitely going to need to find my grass before I jam out this Golden Grass record. You dig, man? As far as the record goes, you know how it is man. They all get together, get high as fuck and jam out. Nothing’s planned, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. They just let the stuff talk and that’s what you get on the disc. It’s spirits or something, like the spirit of rock n’ roll! One of these songs is “Stuck On A Mountain 6:58” and man, I feel like I’m stuck on a mountain with them. But man, it’s a colorful mountain. It’s fucking loaded with grass, golden grass for sure. You roll that shit and you smoke it, and it gets you even higher than what you were before. You’ll sail up into the clouds, where you’re going to what to see your sky woman “One More Time 5:27” before you plunge down and really hit the “Wheels. 12:50” That one’s a really long joint dude, but it’s definitely worth hearing if you sit down and soak it in. It’ll get the wheels of you mind rolling as you roll by Parvati playing on her harp and roll down the dirt hills. Man, before I knew it, I was hearing these guys like they were in my room. If you’re not totally baked by “Sugar N’ Spice 6:11” then you’re doing it wrong. This record’s a trip and a half man and I’m pretty damn sure that you’re gonna want to play it when you’ve got some grass around yourself. Make sure you’ve got some grass and Golden Grass man. What’s the name of this record again? Oh yeah, it’s Golden Grass. So just go into the record store, tell the guy “Hey man, you guys got a copy of that Golden Grass record?” and if he sells you some grass on the side, then you’re all good man.
(5 Tracks, 36:00)
Dreamfire – Atlantean Symphony (2014) – Marked as Neo-classical, ambient, atmospheric and new age; this symphonic music project is much different than what we normally cover here at the Tower. But with an atmosphere as calming and beautiful as this, I’ll allow it. There are no vocals here and most metalheads will think this is music to go to sleep to, but if you can open your mind for about an hour or so, you’ll find some wonderful soundscapes that might remind you of a hidden fantasy world which lies just beyond the thin veil of your present reality. It’s not really a musical experience that one might be able to jam, or to get down to. It’s not something that will make the feet tap or the fingers snap. This is something far deeper and it will require all of your focus. As you listen, the music will sink deep into your soul and carry you off to mystical places that you’ve only witnessed within dreamscapes. I feel that the album is wonderful for invoking a calm mood in which to write or in which to sit and reflect on the day’s events after the sun has long gone down. It’s beautiful, majestic and even at times a bit melancholy; but it certainly makes itself known as rewarding instrumental experience that you’ll surely never forget. The inclusion of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata 7:03” only adds to the icing on the cake, as it is approached in a much different way, which follows the almost quiet calm of the piece. Atlantean Symphony is like a crystal in the palm of your hands. It shimmers radiantly in your hand, yet is so fragile that dropping it could cause such beauty to shatter into millions of tiny pieces. It’s an album that is barely there, yet still felt deep within the soul. There’s really no other way to describe such luminescent magnificence.
(14 Tracks, 58:00)
Hellspirit – Dawn Under Curse (2014) – Hellspirit are a four-piece black metal act of sorts, yet they also play along with thrash and death metal. Kvltists will be pleased to hear the crushing blast beats, raw sound and memorable tremolo riffs. They may not like the idea of a bit of gravel utilized here and there in the back and the thrash riffs as I’ve mentioned earlier. But if they can’t get by those things, then these people have no idea what they want. Through and through, this sounds like thrash and black metal to me, played in the proper fashion and with just enough nuances to keep it sounding fresh… but not too fresh. This carcass is still rotted, frozen and quite decayed; just as you would prefer it. There’s a particularly potent sense of will displayed here, which shows me a band who really believe in what they’re doing. It’s a good thing that you can’t make a whole lot of money in the metal genre, because then I don’t have quite so many fakes to weed out of the sea of releases that I get every week. Hellspirit is definitely the real deal and I think that real metalheads are going to want this real metal. Not like Black Veil Brides or Asking Alexandria to kill themselves, this is the 100% genuine article. It’s recommended like a good imported beer or a “craft” beer, which is what the kids call it nowadays. I always thought “craft” was only for woodworkers and witches…
(6 Tracks, 37:00)
Rahu – The Quest For The Vajra Of Shadows (2014) – Alright, so maybe even though I told you Hellspirit was kvlt as hell, you didn’t quite think it was kvlt enough and you let out a little bit of a chuckle. Well, then Rahu’s interesting take on Indian black metal will certainly fit that “raw and icy” atmosphere that you’ve been looking for. The disc starts out real fuzzy, with “Kalas Bleed For The Sun-Eater 7:35” starting out with excessive static that almost makes the thing unlistenable. It’s not really their fault as they’re just starting out, but the whole things sounds like a demo with a nasty hiss in the background. That’s not to say that these guys are bad at their craft however, as some great tremolo melodies do manage to come forth and vicious scowls manage to crawl out from among the hiss and melody to form something that seems rather noteworthy, like it could be something with a little bit more work in the future. Upon further inspection, I’m noticing that dreadful hiss coming from the bass, which will simply not do for my poor old ears today. There’s definitely talent here, but I feel like it’s swimming underneath a sea of noise and I can’t fully discern the incredible melody sections featured on the piece. Hell, I can barely hear the drums! But if you like something that sounds as raw as this, with a loud hiss and light semblances of something that could be great, give The Quest For The Vajra Of Shadows a try. For those of you who thought that kvlt only meant Norwegian black metal, you just might change your mind when you hear this.
(5 Tracks, 40:00)
Korzo – Polarity (2014) – Instrumentalists Korzo are labeled as post metal, but they’re not. Sure, there are some heavier tracks on the record like “Polar Stream 5:13” and “Virage 4:37” for example, but there’s also a lot of atmosphere and progression in the music which takes it far beyond the realms of anything you might hear from those avian loving bastards in Pelican. Short pieces that almost remind me of Dreamfire appear here, like “Deep Echoes 1:46” and the album’s soothing closer “Eternal Dream 3:39.” Even though there are heavy riffs on the disc, there’s nothing here that really strikes me as aggressive. Even when the music itself isn’t quite so peaceful, there’s definitely no grand declaration of war to be found here. It’s a rather friendly and intuitive mindscape that you’ll enjoy right along with Dreamfire and other albums that serve as momentary reflection pieces. The only difference with this one is that it’s not so quiet all the time.
(7 Tracks, 31:00)