Let me set the scene. It’s 20 below here in the Sleeping Village, but I’m safely hiding from the frigid environs, cloistered in the lofty confines of my Ivory Tower. The lamps are burning. The quill is sharp. It's a comfortable existence, but the parchment stares blankly. This will not do.
To fully submerse oneself in the dismal strains of Gather, All Ye Hellions--the recent demo from Vredensdal, Northern Wisconsin's representative for the New Wave of USBM--one requires an equally dismal atmosphere. It is with this mindset that I head outdoors into the cold and the bitter wind, seeking the physical manifestation of Vredensdal's frostbitten sound. Flesh stings as the naturalistic ambiance and somber chanting of "Ved Midnatt..." sets in, followed by distortion, forthright tremolo, and the comforting swells of (surprisingly hefty) underlying riffage. And then the vocals fall in place, and it all becomes apparent: Gather, All Ye Hellions isn't the product of your run-of-the-mill black metal wannabe. Nor is it a half-baked call to arms. Vredensdal means business.
While the general hoarfrost'd ambiance is obviously influenced by your favorite Norwegian black metallers, the willingness of the guitar throughout to weave in the occasional doom-inspired riff or lick seems subtly akin to Rebel Wizard. A distinctly gloomy and melodic current is evident throughout the entire package, with the doomy undertones showing an ugly mug most willingly on "Die By The Sword." If forced to choose, this is my favorite here--although that honor is fiercely contested by the title track.
Even to the chilblained ear, the vocals are highly decipherable. As a highly personal project that--in the artist's words--reflects "the struggle of human existence and how life itself is a burden," these lyrics leave a significant mark, and their delivery is the true star of this demo's show. Vrednesdal's voice is, simply put, fantastic. From a contemplative standpoint, it remains a prime blend of harsh naturalism, and the steadfast, world-weary confidence of someone who has seen their fair share of woes. As a result, the only real critique I have of this demo is that the vocals could stand to be louder in the mix. They deserve to be heard loud and clear.
Gather, All Ye Hellions feels significant, greater than the sum of its short runtime. It feels like the beginnings of something larger, and, given the current (justified) air of confidence Vrednesdal brings to the table, I'm quite excited to see where this is headed. If you find yourself out in the cold--or perhaps, whilst in the midst of comfort, have found the need for a little darkness--Gather, All Ye Hellions comes highly recommended.
Written by: Tales_of_Deception
The beginning of my journey with metal started nearly two decades ago. Possessed, Testament, Overkill and Death were my life force at the time. I was a strapping young lad with zero spark on what my future would hold. All I knew was that I enjoyed the hell out of the bands mentioned above and couldn't get enough of them. As time went on, I slowly experimented with different genres of music and for some reason, the passion I had for pure thrash metal or head crushing death just sort of went the fuck out of the window. Flash forward to present day and I may have found the saving grace that has more potential to drag me out of the pits when it comes to thrash/death metal than I've heard in nearly a decade.
Suffering In Diseases is the debut record from Germany's own Toxic Trap. At first listen, I was a little on the boarder of "really enjoying this record" and "it could use some work in spaces". By the end, I was in bliss and didn't want to come out of whatever I was in. The opening track, "Black Death," really hits the nail on the head when it comes to embracing the roots of the founding fathers of thrash. A slow melodic, creeping intro for a mere 30-seconds is what you get until the flesh from your ears is ripped apart from the throttling bass and addictive speed of the drums. It might start there but it most definitely does not end at that point. Track by track Toxic Trap does everything they can to hold the listeners attention.
To be honest, it seems that they have it all figured out. When it's time for one track to end and the next to begin, you prepare yourself for the same thing on repeat for damn near 47-minutes. At least that's usually the case with most of the thrash/death records I've heard in the past. Spoiler alert! Suffering In Diseases isn't that! It's a record that can be repeated a hundred times on a loop and you will hear something brand new every single time. Just look at the track below, "Burned To Death." It's a whirlpool of destruction that consistently slaps you right in the fucking mouth but then graciously doctors the wounds it just pounded into your skull. Best of both worlds, right?
In closing, the thought and depth that the guys from Toxic Trap put into this whole project is very welcomed and loved, at least by me. All the words in the world couldn't begin to explain how pleased I am with this record as a whole. From front to back and every inch in between, this record is exactly what I want from a thrash/death record, if you couldn't tell from the above paragraphs. Don't take my opinion for facts, give it a listen and support it if you enjoy it.
Country of Origin: Germany | Genres: Thrash/Death Metal | Record Type: Full-Length | Release Date: September, 2018
Sorry to break it to ye, hopeful peasantry: life here at the Sleeping Village is, alas, generally a little mundane. Cobblestones must be swept, crude chamber-pots must be chucked from second story windows, plague pits must be dug. Day in, day out. Thus, when something unexpected enters our humble township, must fanfare must be made.
The unexpected article in question? Vol III, the debut album from Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar. Bearing a minimalist album cover and a distinct lack of adjectives in their promo material, Inner Altar seem like masters of understatement. From the onset, who knew that their debut album contains such an impressively well-conceived and well-articulated breadth of sights and sounds?
Vocally, Inner Altar’s approach reminds, fairly significantly, of Domkraft’s expansive stylings. Howl-into-the-void vocals are certainly coming into their own as of late, and while the echo and deliberate weightlessness are certainly a continuation of modern doom’s spaced-out leanings, they feel somewhat rooted in the distantly melancholic whine of the immortal Terry Jones, or even early-era Liebling. The Pagan Altar connection doesn’t end there--the momentous central motif on the paganic Altar, for example, would feel at home on a Vol III highlight such as "Undine’s Kiss." It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Inner Altar’s subtle shapeshifting goth-rock tendencies give them an edge in a sea of amp worshipers. While the guitar tone is certainly present, hefty, and otherwise effective, riffs don’t ever feel like the sole focus. Significant attention is given to melody, to percussion, and, most especially, to the transitions between passages. While they never truly approach the post-punk accessibility of, say, The Chameleons, a regard for gothic introspection is apparent across the board, particularly in the refreshing approach to hooks. If you’re looking for more namedrops, Demon Head’s folksy leanings seem fairly apt. But at the end of the day, these guys sound like their own damn band, not a simple knockoff. Credit where credit is due.
Doom lives or dies by its ability to keep things fresh and intriguing. To their great credit, Inner Altar take this challenge in stride, and interesting moments abound. Take, for example, the tempo shifts in "Pagan Rays | Numbered Days." The pseudo-pastoral baroque on "Prelude." The balls-to-the-wall Sabbathian riffage that (appropriately) busts the door and storms in on "Castle Storm." The brief percussive march thrown into "Dethroned & Fugitive," which breaks up plaintive wails and hefty bass with a certain grace. Not to be undone, the title track features a notably aggressive vocal stance. While remaining utterly unlike anything else the album offers, fits the bill incredibly well. Moments like these maintain my vested interest in a given track--and thus, the album as a whole. All told, Vol III consistently displays songwriting that deliberately avoids fatigue. Evoke a gloomy mood without boring your audience: usually much, much harder said than done. Not so here.
The most difficult aspect of reviewing this album has been consideration of its staying power. It’s an unusual conundrum, yet one that garners Inner Altar a net zero negative points. While time spent listening to Vol III is completely satisfying in its immersive quality, I found time after time that as the title track’s droning outro fade, I struggle to remember distinct moments from the album--riffs, hooks, melodies. They seem to exist entirely within the confines of the albums runtime, and while this ultimately makes for a genuinely excellent experience in the moment, there is little that carries over when Inner Altar isn’t actively filling airspace. With that said, a tangible side effect is that the past few weeks have born multiple instances of turning to Vol III, simply because the listening experience is so supremely gratifying in the moment.
With surprising variety in genre influence, and clear attention given to composition, Vol III is a complex album. More than that, it is a distinct triumph. Whatever they are doing down in Kansas City’s doom department is working inordinately well, with Inner Altar being further proof of actualized potential. Vol III is, quite simply, a wonderful effort. Highly recommended.
Inner Altar - Vol III was released Jan. 18th from The Company
Evidently raised on a diet of Twilight Zone reruns, fantasy, monster flicks, and Iommi riffs, Chicago’s Sacred Monster is, first and foremost, a pretty unique outfit. Take the campy and otherwise nerdy jubilance of Gloryhammer, splice it through the sludgy riff-driven aesthetic of Time Traveling Blues-era Orange Goblin, and enjoy the resulting concoction whilst having your molars removed in the damp confines of a medieval dungeon. Ah, hell. Throw in an aggressive vocal tone accented with Them-worthy shrieks for good measure. That (in an appropriately weird nutshell) is what you get with Sacred Monster’s debut LP. Worship the Weird is, without a doubt, the single-most entertaining album I’ve heard this year, and I’m very, very excited for its release on March 1st.
Fear not: We’ll be writing a full review of Worship the Weird in good time. Today, however, is all about lead single High Confessor, which can be streamed below. Taking inspiration from the sneering Sand dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, the track follows a torturer and his victim through the inevitable grisly affair. “Go ahead,” the protagonist growls in his cruelly contemptuous tone. “Beg God for mercy... but He doesn’t hold the pliers down here.” High Confessor is a track that ratchets up the riff-centric intensity--both thematically and sonically--with shameless abandon. The result? A wildly groovy and aggressive ride.
I could blather all day. But let’s get to the music, shall we? Check out High Confessor...and if you are equally smitten, take it upon yourself to check out that pre-order.
Written by: Loveloth
Portal's monstrous shadow inspired many a band to push the boundaries of extreme music, and Basque's Altarage is one of many that follow the Aussies' sinister footsteps. Shrouded in anonymity, the three (formerly four) masked figures exploded on the scene with Nihl in 2016 and caused quite a ruckus. The band wasted no time and released Endinghent just a year and a half later, and here is where I found out about them. I found the record decent, basically a more accessible and stripped-down version of Portal, which is OK but not enough. Cue The Approaching Roar that was released last Friday. I have to say, my opinion on this band has changed. Let me explain.
While the Portal influence is undoubtedly here, The Approaching Roar is more or less (more on that later) its own beast. Vile dissonance, inhuman howls, spastic drumming and angular riffs are still all the rage but, unlike Endinghent, is overall a more memorable and diverse experience. Things start off hellishly great with "Sighting," where you are greeted by a few unpleasant guitar plucks before a wall of noise encircles you. It's swift, vicious, and overwhelming. The best course of action is to stop resisting and simply give in and let the band guide you through their carefully crafted and terrifying soundscapes. However, these alone do not make this record shine, it's firstly the fact Altarage decided to mix things up and I realized this with the arrival of "Urn". Its initial churns and bellows are more akin to Sunn O))) or early Earth, and not only does this change the pace but also continues the sonic onslaught. It also attacks you differently, and I feel that this was lacking in Endinghent.
Like the songwriting, the quality of the production also improved and is surely one of my highlights, as the record walks a very thin line between being disgustingly dense and murky, yet somehow crisp and clear enough for you to properly hear what's exactly happening. Funnily enough Portal did the same thing with ION last year but for my money, this sounds better. I mentioned songwriting and I have to commend the guys for doing an excellent job, although some parts like that outro in "Cyclopean Clash" linger for too long and some songs can be hard to distinguish from one another, but you can only do so much with this style of death metal and Altarage mostly succeed. As for the individual performances, I only have praise. The vocals are gnarly, guttural and perfectly complement the absolute chaos that are those angular and dirty riffs and astonishingly fast and precise drumming that will make fans of Deathspell Omega or Ulcerate very pleased.
Overall, The Approaching Roar is a seemingly infinite abyss that was carved by a band I now think of seriously. I am completely aware how many times I namedropped Portal but make no mistake, Altarage are carving their sound before our very eyes. Expect seeing this record popping up on some year-end death metal lists as its content, no matter how bleak and seemingly impenetrable, hides many treats for you to discover. You only need to be brave or insane enough to dive deep into the approaching roar of Altarage.
Altarage - The Approaching Roar was released Jan. 25th from Season of Mist Underground Activists
Written by: Loveloth and the Soliloquist
Chicxulub - The Fossil Record is the second full-length album by Norwegian progressive extreme metal band Endolith. In contrast to their debut album that dealt with rather cold, esoteric themes, Chicxulub is a concept album on, as the band calls it, more “tangible” themes: dinosaurs, fossils, and the Chicxulub crater buried under the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico where an asteroid or comet hit and set off the extinction of the dinosaurs. Whether you want to call these topics “tangible” or not - they are definitely interesting and pretty unique. More on that later. Musically speaking, Chicxulub is a brutal and progressive death metal album with lots of interesting stylistic elements that result in a very unique sound. Featuring the strings of the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, and guest musicians on timpani and solo viola including world famous violinist Henning Kraggerud, the album has a very grand and epic dimension to it, which contrasts and complements the ferocious death metal basis of its sound.
When we at the Sleeping Village got the promo for this album, two of our writers were very interested in reviewing it - Loveloth and the Soliloquist. And since we could not decide who should write it, we had an idea: Why not write a review together? So, here it is: The first edition of TwofoldTreatise - two critics, one album.
Soliloquist: Okay, let’s start this review by talking about the dinosaur in the room. This is an album about the extinction of the dinosaurs. Pretty metal, if you ask me. I find it rather interesting that I have never heard a metal album about dinosaurs before, actually.
Loveloth: Ever since I was a wee lad, dinosaurs fascinated me. So much in fact, I wanted to be a palaeontologist but life panned out differently. In any case this should be right up my alley. Prog hybrid record about dinosaurs? Yes please, I’ll have one of those to get my mezosoic fix before The Ocean release Phanerozoic II.
Soliloquist: Dude, this sounds exactly like my biography. I also wanted to be a paleontologist and my childhood was reigned by dinosaurs. I still know most of their names and have a rather great amount of completely useless knowledge about them. Dinosaurs are freaking cool, man. So, what were some of your initial impressions when listening to this album?
Loveloth: Same here my dude, Walking with… series were a constant companion back in my youth so now I understand why both of us were so interested in this. Glad you asked, I liked the record and I am ready to discuss. Before we start that, a question. What bands do Endolith remind you of?
Soliloquist: That’s a very good question. I got strong Devin Townsend vibes throughout the album. The wall-of-sound approach to songwriting the band uses frequently on this record is very akin of Devin’s approach in my opinion. Some of the proggier death metal sections made me think of Rivers of Nihil’s latest album and lots of the rest, e. g. the clean vocal choruses, as well as some of the riffs, reminded me of Extol, another Norwegian prog-death band. How about you?
Loveloth: Interesting, I’m a huge Devy fanboy and didn’t hear a lot of his influence here, apart from the production like you mentioned. For me though, Endolith remind me of an angrier, shriekier The Ocean mixed with Meshuggah (some of those riffs man), Extol (good call btw) and Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh due to The Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra lending a hand, or thirty eight to be more exact. Judging by our descriptions (and please do judge, we’re totally in the right), this is a weird band, so what stood out for you the most?
Soliloquist: First of all, I agree 100% on the Meshuggah part. Totally forgot to mention them, they came to my mind, as well. Yes, weird is a good word to describe them. I can’t even pinpoint one particular thing that stood out to me. The lyrics, the atmosphere, the combination of orchestral elements, death metal and those melodic sections - there’s so much interesting stuff going on in this album. I think the first thing that really struck me when I listened to it for the first time was how prominent the orchestral elements are in the band’s sound and how well they fit in with the djenty extreme metal riffs. The clean vocals were another element that really pleasantly surprised me.
Loveloth: It’s quite a dense package, that’s for sure but Endolith make it work, not only that but constantly throw curveballs at the listener for good measure. The addition of the orchestra was an excellent call as it adds another layer of atmosphere and since we’re dealing with that pesky asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs, that grand scope which the strings, brass, percussion and woodwinds provide comes in really handy. I’ll be honest and state how I wasn’t particularly impressed with Chicxulub after my first listen but it grew on me as I started wrapping my head around all the mayhem that is present here. Take “Nest Scrape Display” for example, and how its thrashy beat clashes with a very Shuggah riff but as soon as you get used to it, we get a soaring chorus that greatly reminds me of their fellow countrymen In Vain. Endolith are unhinged, ambitious and I like that but I feel the band is yet to achieve their peak. Some things just feel off. Do we share this sentiment?
Soliloquist: Absolutely. My listening experience with this album was interestingly the other way around. Listening to it for the first time was super impressive, but after multiple listens I began to notice some flaws and things I didn’t like all that much. I think this is a great album by a band with lots of potential to become even better in the future. Endolith have a rather unique sound already and I think they’ll be refining it on future releases. I’ll definitely keep an eye on them. Do you have a favourite song on the record or one that stands out to you in any way?
Loveloth: I do actually and guess what, it’s the proggiest and longest track, I am of course referring to the title track. It contained the only “oh shit” moments on the record. That breakdown around the three minute mark is nasty but what completely caught me off guard is the return of the record’s main theme that appears in the beginning of “Bloodfiends”. It’s a good and effective trick that works wonders with prog bois such as me. After it, the track morphs into a lengthy and epic outro and this is where Endolith shines the most as they have the time to successfully pull-off every idea they have for the song. And while no song is bad, some are a bit underwhelming like “Mount Evidence” or the final, bluesy track “When The Earth Died Screaming”. The idea is extremely cool but the execution lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on. What’s your favourite?
Soliloquist: I’m not quite sure. The title track is great and I really like “Nest Scrape Display” and “Ichthys” a lot, but I think I have to go with “Diseasons”. I love how ominous and atmospheric it begins and how ridiculously heavy it gets towards the end. The harmonies and melodies on this track are some of the best on the album and it generally feels the most “complete” and thought out to me.
Loveloth: “Diseasons” almost ended up as my favourite for reasons you mentioned and I totally agree on it feeling the most “complete”. Regardless of this positives we went through, I still think I should like this more than I do. It has everything I like: paleontology, prog, djent, unconventional songwriting, dynamic vocals, experimentation, an orchestra and fat riffs but I still feel something is stopping the band from creating a true gem and I am yet to pinpoint what and maybe that’s the problem! It’s so hard to define this record and I think that hinders it despite helping it. I know that sounds contradictory but hear me out. Endolith needs to find that is completely theirs to solidify their character and that comes with time, time the band has because despite this flaw, Chicxulub is an enjoyable, quirky and fun journey that I see myself revisiting from time to time.
Soliloquist: I agree on almost everything you mentioned. I enjoyed Chicxulub enough to listen to it many times and never be bored or annoyed by it, but it also didn’t blow me away or become an album I’d call an absolute masterpiece. I see it primarily as an album by a band still figuring out their definitive style and within that framework it’s a very good album. It has its flaws and some edges that would have needed some smoothening, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to listen to and I don’t regret a minute I spent with it.
Loveloth: Absolutely, well, think we went through everything, surprised how much we agree on things, must be the palaeontology fixation, in any case, if you are in some need of odd, eccentric and progressive death metal, Chicxulub (unlike the poor dinos) is here and available on every music platform, you know how it goes. Any last words Mr. Soliloquist?
Soliloquist: Life uh.... finds a way.
Loveloth: Thus spake the Soliloquist and Loveloth, the two lords of palaentology-laden metal.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry