30 Apr 2014

Silent Carrion - Suprematism EP I - IUPITER [EP] (2013, Self-released)

Silent Carrion has always been progressive and boundary pushing. It's the bread and butter, the heart and soul of the project. An amalgam of trip hop, electronica, dark ambient, prog and trace amounts of a myriad of other components. Established upon the first release, Ruins, in 2010 in Northern Italy, 2013 welcomed the beginning of an EP-based trilogy starting with IUPITER, the first Suprematism EP.

Right off the bat the Suprematism EP starts off heavier than previous Silent Carrion incarnations. Caustic aggression and hostile chaos ensues through heavily distorted guitars, programmed blast beats and an assortment noisy invocations, a bleak piano sometimes finding its way through the cacophony. There is a rich theme of turmoil and anxiety embedded in this work, a subject that may very well continue on or contrast with the remainder of the trilogy.

But where previous efforts were finely balanced, well-adjusted dark symphonies of careful instrumentation, Suprematism's discord borders on the outright offensive. Noise and industrial can achieve some sort of appeal through atmospheric courses and harsh moodsetters, but in that sense Silent Carrion belittles the very notion that this could be classified as structurally sound. It's entirely possible that their is a point to be made once the EP trilogy is complete, but at the time of writing that point is lost to me.

It is not until the final track (the live recording of "The Ground Seems Hollow" from Andras being considered a bonus track) that we can finally recognize the Italian ordeal. Silent Carrion has come full circle and yet again relies on synth-driven ambience, which again contrasts highly with the first ten minutes of IUPITER. There is little structure to be found, and even so the compositions don't even feel complex as much as merely disorganized anarchy. 3/10 guitars.

1. Suicide
2. I'm Calm Now
3. Malphas
4. Human Maggots Swarming Round Her Bed of Death
5. Suprematism (Mercy)
6. The Ground Seems Hollow (Live)

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25 Apr 2014

Drug Honkey - Ghost in the Fire [Full length] (2012, Transcending Obscurity)

Drug Honkey evolved from the 1997-project "Chronic Illogic" with Paul Gillis and Adam Smith at the helm, handling vocals and drums respectively. The band was designed to merge together several musical currents, most of which would be considered metal. Ever since the first album, the self-titled 2002 release, electronics in the form of excessive sampling and abrassive synths as well as an industrial, sludgy death metal sound have been the heart and soul of Drug Honkey. Through lineup changes and live performances the band from Chicago has endured to see the release of their fourth album in 2012, and have a new EP coming out in 2014.

When it comes to heaviness, bands like Triptykon, Conan, Hooded Menace, Sunn o))) or Coffins often come up as prime examples. But those that have witnessed the gospel of Ghost in the Fire know that Drug Honkey are giving all these acts a serious run for their money. The loathesome American quartet grudgingly strikes up an atmosphere of a psychedelic inclination, carved from a body of fuzz and reverb. More than once the speakers threatened to give in under the stress and booming rumble of the downtuned strings, the paranoia-inducing ambience adding reality-shattering depth to the otherwise lonesome drones of the bass and guitars.

Describing Drug Honkey's sound means reaching deep into a vocabulary that seems almost dried out of adequate adjectives. The cavernesque vocals sound at times like Asphyx's Martin Van Drunen being firmly pressed through a rusty grate. The drums eeriely accompany every track like the ever-present stalker haunting his victim. The album comes to a steadily paced halt on the second-to-last track "Twitcher", which is also where it is at its most far out stage. The stygian darkness of this psychedelic track builds up to the grand finale: Saturate/Annihilate, the culmination of everything shown thus far by Drug Honkey. The contrast between the two is where the mix becomes most volatile and seductively dangerous, being both the highest and lowest point of Ghost in the Fire. Every "song" is in itself a parody of life and a mockery of sentience, yet I couldn't imagine listening to Ghost in the Fire for the sake of a single track. The album works best as a whole, each track providing its own element to the final result. A fine specimen indeed. 8/10 guitars.

1. Order of the Solar Temple
2. Ghost in the Fire
3. Weight of the World
4. This Time I Won't Hesitate
5. In Black Robe
6. Dead Days (Heroin III)
7. Five Years Up
8. Out of My Mind
9. Twitcher
10. Saturate/Annihilate

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22 Apr 2014

Countess - Ancient Lies And Battle Cries [Full length] (2014, Barbarian Wrath]

Ancient Lies And Battle Cries presents a new chapter in the history of Countess, the 2013 EP "Sermons of the Infidel" serving as an adequate bridge between the "old" Countess and this newer incarnation. The Dutch band has for the most part been a one-man effort at the hands and throat of Orlok, with a select few exceptions mainly in the 90's, and last year's EP and the new album marks the time when Countess has once again expanded upon the lineup with the addition of Zagan on guitars. Zagan also played guitars on the 1997 EP "Hell's Rock and Roll". Ancient Lies And Battle Cries is an album that has been underway for many years with several versions being worked and expanded upon since 2004.

The Dutch band has been around since the 90's, and the many albums the band has produced over the years has revealed a decisively traditional heavy metal approach to black metal, a tendency which has only been made more apparent with each new release. This means keyboard synths aplenty, as well as a slower and more melodic pace than most contemporary black metal groups. The songwriting and composition in itself also speaks volumes of Orlok's love for tradition, only seldom expanding into full fledged black metal grandeur. Each track on Ancient Lies And Battle Cries is very lengthy, almost excessively so. Tracks like Battle Sky and By Hammer And Blood go through many changes, both stylistically and in disposition, before their end, meaning that each song can be different to discern in the grander scheme of things because there are relatively few hooks to remember them by. Beneath The Eye Of Wisdom is an exception to this and is arguably the album's strongest track in itself with its hate-fueled heaviness, catchier guitar section and more easily digestible song structure taking it a step further.

The addition of a guitarist has added substantial depth and heaviness to Countess' music, something that I had lamented in my review of their last album "On Wings of Defiance". I'm still not entirely sure why Countess so openly shuns layered guitars. An old school approach to recording an album with each instrument being recorded simultaneously might explain it, but this technique is more or less ancient and it is doubtful more than a handful of jam-based bands use this anymore. The addition of more layers of guitar would drastically change the drearily ongoing nature of Countess music, and while some may consider this to be how the band is supposed to sound, I personally think it would greatly add to the music's enjoyability.

Ancient Lies And Battle Cries, although greatly improving upon the formula used in the writing of On Wings Of Defiance from 2011, ultimately suffers from many of the same problems. Many tracks bar a few good ones merely meander around in an impressive abundance of tedious melodies without ever truly blossoming into the raw epicness they so obviously strive for. Burn The Throne, Cursed Seed Of Aten and Beneath The Eye Of Wisdom are definitely the three best tracks on Countess' newest album, with each of these cuts actively marking the fact that Orlok is a seasoned musician, and that he has it in him to produce some cool songs. But it seems to be too much of a hit-and-miss type of thing. 5/10 guitars.

1. Battle Sky
2. Call of the Ancient Pantheon
3. By Hammer and Blood
4. Vengeance of the Slain
5. Beneath the Eye of Wisdom
6. Confessions of a Polytheist
7. Pray for the Cult
8. Cursed Seed of Aten
9. Burn the Throne
10. The Last Temple

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13 Apr 2014

Ancst - The Humane Condition [EP] (2013, Dark Omen Records)

Ancst are nothing if not productive. In the short time their carreer has spanned hitherto the German duo has produced no less than 7 releases, 5 of which were released in 2013. The prime question that springs to mind is whether or not this productivity comes at the cost of creativity and originality.

Though seeming to take a turn for bleak atmospherics, as is so trendy nowadays, Ancst narrowly avoid the usual clich├ęs of the modern scene. The tempestuous vocals provided by Torsten tend to sound exceedingly hardcoresque in their crude, shouted manner, and at times - even if they're in the back of the mix - they detract attention from the formidable threads of guitar laid down presumably by the second part of the duo, Tom. The EP consists of the songs Ascetic and Entropie, two tracks that at first glance are so immaculate in their execution that they come off as aimless attempts at a modern trend. Only through further delving into their sound do the tracks open up for the immense detail work that lies hidden in the exceptionally well-crafted riffing.

Writing, recording and releasing only a few songs at a time looks to be the way Ancst get around being making a slew of uninteresting, mass-produced tracks. For the most part on The Humane Condition EP, it works. As mentioned the riffs are strong and creative, but this is where the fun ends. The lack of an actual drummer leaves Ancst at a disadvantage with programmed drums that never quite fills the roll appropriately. In much the same manner the vocals feel like a fish out of water. While this type of shouted vocals isn't entirely out of the ordinary in this genre, Torsten's screams never quite penetrate the misty atmosphere the same way the guitars do.

All in all every instrument feels well-balanced within the mix, but this doesn't mean every part that makes up this machine are equal in quality. It's all put together in a way that diverts attention from any shortcomings, and the vocals and drums aren't as such a complete blunder. But they never come through and prove their point. Entropie, the EP's last track, is arguably the best of the two songs due to variation crafted in a sleek and stylish manner and a great use of momentum and sense of pace. The Humane Condition is by no means a terrible EP, and it's entirely worth the roughly 12 minutes it takes. 7/10 guitars.

1. Ascetic
2. Entropie

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