Written by: Reese
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a big fan of atmospheric black metal, but not so much a fan of the recent blackened synth craze that’s been sweeping the underground. You’ve probably also got a recurring itch on your back that’s frustratingly just out of reach. Maybe that one is just me though. But I digress, it’s not hard for me to get swept up in a good atmospheric black metal album, but I’m much pickier with my ambient music. That’s why I’m such a big fan of Moulderyawn; this one-man black metal band truly brings together the best of both worlds in a way that’s both interesting and engaging.
A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is Moulderyawn’s second full-length album. I became aware of this band after discovering their 2016 debut album, From Whence the Woods, on Bandcamp, and while I was a fan of that album, A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is on an entirely different level. On past releases, the ratio of ambient to metal has been roughly 40:60, but on ADO it’s much closer to a 50:50 balance. Normally that would be a huge red light for someone like me who isn’t much of an ambient listener, but Moulderyawn's way of approaching songwriting allows the ambient soundscapes to be worked into the album in a manner that feels dynamic and robust. The fluid transitions from black metal to ambient make the album feel like one multi-textured movement rather than several black metal songs broken up by unrelated ambient interlude tracks, like many albums of this nature do.
But of course it’s the black metal that has me coming back. A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is paradoxically a pretty album and an abrasively raw album. Part of ADO’s charm is the album’s ability to create something beautiful from such “crude” building blocks. A gorgeous chord scale is still a gorgeous scale even when it’s played with several layers of distortion, and Moulderyawn realize this. They took that ball and ran with it as far as they could. The whole album feels like you’re in a lucid dream that you can’t wake up from; on one hand it’s very surreal and pretty, but on the other hand something feels “wrong” and there’s a pervasive malevolence that gives ADO a real set of teeth, as any good black metal album should have.
In the vocal department we’ve got all the usual shrieks, yelps and howls you’d expect from this style of depressive black metal, and mercifully absent is the clean singing that stains so many albums of this variety. Moulderyawn keep things grim and nasty, and when they want to give listeners a moment of calm to catch their breath, they let the music speak for itself. In keeping with the surreal, dreamlike theme of the album, the vocals are drenched in feedback and static; they sound like they’re being performed in a long hallway and being listened to through an old radio.
If this album is any indication, this is going to be a very good year for black metal. Had A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre been released last year it would have easily been among the year’s best. Sadly, ADO is set to be Moulderyawn’s final album, at least for the foreseeable future. But it’s a good note to bow out on, and a good record to be remembered for.
Moulderyawn - A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre was released Jan. 2019
My music-listening experience this winter has been haunted by an intriguing conundrum. At any given moment I have the option of subjecting myself to a bevy of new music from an impossibly wide range of genres--music that I will inevitably find enjoyable. But an alternative perpetually looms: listen to Sacred Monster’s stunning debut yet again. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the latter option ranks supreme. This album has flesh-rending hooks, and putting it down has been a genuine struggle. The year--despite still in an admittedly infantile stage--has been concretely defined by Worship The Weird, and I'm honored and excited to have the opportunity to share it with you today. For those of you lookin' to get directly to the good stuff, you can find Worship the Weird streaming in full below.
As described in our review/stream of lead single “High Confessor,” Sacred Monster’s aesthetic is a peculiar (and wholly singular) blend of Gloryhammer’s campy exultance, spliced through the riff-centric approach of Orange Goblin. Why Gloryhammer? Despite not wanking around the sonic confines of power metal heaven, Sacred Monster apply a palpable sense of nerdy excitement to everything they touch. When it comes to being fans of weird shit, Sacred Monster is an unabashedly jubilant outfit, and their energy is infectious beyond cure. Joe Abercrombie, Twilight Zone, Stephen King’s Gunslinger, Lovecraftian existentialism, and the general ambiance of prosthetic-laden horror are all on gratuitous display. Goofy it may be, but it’s most certainly not fluff. Despite cheesy subject matter, Sacred Monster are undeniably worldbuilders and storytellers--and, even when those fantastical elements technically belong to some other creative entity, these interpretations are never simple re-hashery. Take, for example, the explicit Twilight Zone worship of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Despite maintaining a firm grasp on frankly ridiculous material, this hard-hitting track takes a turn as its narrator appears...sympathetic? It's all oddly endearing.
Sacred Monster's sound is honestly difficult to describe, due largely to an expansive palette of instrumental influences. While riffage is generally omnipresent and blocky in stature, it recalls a variety of genre, from the hefty footprints of stoner doom to the galloping drive of NWOBHM. Despite a fairly fuzz-free application, the aforementioned Orange Goblin’s aggressive bite-first-ask-questions-later approach is apparent. Meanwhile, the general heft recalls, at times, the carpet-bomb'd groove of Corrosion of Conformity, as well as the bluesy hard-rockin’ appeal of Danzig or Clutch. Because the guitar tone is so pleasantly modern, I almost hesitate to mention Pentagram, but a certain Griffen-esque willingness to gleefully cram riff after superb riff into a track remains a defining characteristic. No question: Robert Nubel, the appointed Riff Finder General, knows how to write 'em gnarly and mean. Nothing here feels derivative, overused, or otherwise tired...and for a band that falls, tangentially, into the stoner doom category, that’s a goddamn accomplishment. Melodic intros and occasion blazing solo reinforce the General as a formidable force. One-trick-pony he is not. Sacred Monster is relentlessly uptempo, and so, not to be outshone, Guillermo Moreno and Ted Nubel--Bishop of the Bottom End and Priest of Percussion, respectively--keep things consistently intriguing. Guitar-centric songs all-too-oft feel shallow, but here, a tangible weight is carried throughout. Sacred Monster contends with some obvious star power, and it is to their credit that the band so clearly operates as a unit. Worship the Weird is relentlessly solid. Stoic, even. There's not a track here that suffers from undercooked songwriting or unbalanced arrangements, and as a result, Side B fares just as well as Side A at delivering uniquely kooky material wrapped in brobdingnagian heft.
Speaking of star power: I give you Adam Szczygieł, The Minister of Screams Himself. This man has an unbelievable range, from the guttural roars of “Re-animator,” to the throat-wrenching chant of (standout track) “Face of My Father,” to the King Diamond-esque wails scattered, liberally, throughout. The vastly divergent vocal techniques employed only adds to the substantial interest, and it is to Szczygieł’s credit that one never really knows what to expect. Forget the thematic trappings: this man is a monster unto himself.
Sacred Monster is wondrously proficient, approaching the madness of the Frankenstein-ian protagonist of "Re-animator" in their uncanny ability to execute an appropriately weird vision. With Worship the Weird, they deliver what is easily the most straight-up entertaining album to lay siege to the Sleeping Village's walls in a very, very long time. In promo material, Sacred Monster invites listeners to “celebrate...the unexplainable and the inescapable; the shapes just outside the corner of your eye. Pay tribute to the beasts that haunt your dreams and their creators. Join with us in wicked ceremony to give praise to the things that lurk below, outside space, and just beyond your door.” For once, I actually believe the hyperbole, and in this way, Worship the Weird is as much of a mission statement as it is a ritualistic command. I, for one, am obliged to bow my head in supplication of the strange. Needless to say, this album comes at the highest order of recommendation.
Sacred Monster's Worship the Weird will be released March 1st. In the meantime, listen to the album in full here:
Once I know something about a musician’s character, separating that knowledge from the fruits of their labor can be, well, a laborious affair. In the case of Red Beard Wall, that certainly isn't a bad thing. Judging from our interactions, I have gathered that whatever the red-bearded frontman Aaron Wall does, he does with the utmost enthusiasm and fervor. Take, for example, his online comments, which remain an ALL HAIL hailstorm of goat and flame emojis. His persona’s omnipresence feels remarkably sincere, and is always realized with noteworthy vivacity--which, in turn, results in a unique sound solidly founded on glorious zeal. Less we get too highfalutin, let me state the obvious: Red Beard Wall is also really fucking weird. Rest assured, this slumbering villager likes weird. Weird is what gets me up in the morning, and The Fight Needs Us All is the epitome of this oddball brand I have come to wholeheartedly enjoy.
Several months back we ran a brief review of “The Warming,” lead single from the Wall’s sophomore effort. While recycling may be in bad form, these are words I stand by: “Red Beard Wall plays a wickedly cacophonous brand of sludge--a brutal slugfest between the hooky pseudo-melodic stylings of Torche or Helmet, and the bayou groove of NOLA’s finest...this is sludge rock at its best--thick, unique, and relentlessly repeatable. It’s a rabble-rouser, a neck-snapper.” At the time, “The Warming” seemed a distillation of the components that make this project so special...and now, given wider vision, I consider it the focal point of the album. No question: “The Warming” is truly the hottest track amongst a cabal of barn-burners.
The obvious first stop on the road to dissecting the Red Beard Wall methodology is the two-tongued vocal style, split between throat-wrenching screams and along-the-riff cleans. It’s a real Jekyll/Hyde situation, and throughout the album, Wall continually pulls off the odd juxtaposition with a delightfully bludgeoning grace. While contrasting vocals certainly aren’t new in the world of sludge nor rock, there is little out there that demonstrates a similarly visceral approach. And while this dichotomy has always been the outfit’s strongest suit, both forms of delivery have improved significantly from debut in several ways. The screams are increasingly savage, in the pent-up-animal sense of the word. Conversely, Wall’s cleans are employed with increased regularity, adding a much-needed melodic focus to the pummeling riffs.
The guitar itself is utterly sasquatchian--never floundering in whimsy, but remaining rooted in straightforward groove. There’s glimmers of influence here, from the scuzzy heft of early Bill Kelliher, to the head-bopping flow of Siamese Dream-era Billy Corgan. Thick and heavy, the guitar remains a cornerstone for the vocal acrobatics. The back-to-back punch of “Come On Down” and “To My Queen” is a prime example of this technique in practice. And! Lest they be forgotten, the militaristic drums match the riffage in terms of aggression and sheer weight, pound-for-pound. Viewed as a whole, The Fight Needs Us All is a bloody bout, rather than an exercise in instrumental harmony.
The album is compulsively listenable and endlessly enjoyable, yet from a songwriting perspective, there are some oddly paradoxical challenges. The general structure is unique, but that uniqueness doesn’t indicate an overly sophisticated plane of songwriting. This results in a number of Side-B moments recalling--perhaps too strongly--that which came before. Realistically, a weird approach becomes less weird each time you hear it, and for this reason, some variety throughout would accent the potency of Red Beard Wall’s core motif. That said, existing breaks in the formula do contribute significantly to the beginnings of a balance. The doomy instrumental ambiance of “Reverend.” The slower moments of “Tell Me The Future of Existence,” which recalls early Mastodon at their most somber--think “Trilobite.” The alt-rock pace at which clean vocals passages weave between riffs on the aforementioned “Ode to Green.” Given Wall’s obvious ability to seamlessly break (and subsequently bridge) genre expectations, I’m hopeful that the future bodes well for continued experimentation. A wall may be stationary by definition, but with two high-quality albums at this stage, Red Beard Wall is dealing with the kind of structural stability that allows for flourishes. Y’know, ramparts and gargoyles and shit.
The Fight Needs Us All builds on the promise Red Beard Wall previously displayed, and, for the sake of comparison, this album has spent more time pummeling my eardrums than any other this month. It’s ridden with meaty hooks and melodic swells. It’s relentlessly repeatable, passionately aggressive...and just off-kilter enough to merit a double-take. As the soundtrack to a purported revolution, it remains as invigorating as ever.
In sum? Red Beard Wall requests--nay, demands--your presence at the fight. All Hail!
Red Beard Wall - The Fight Needs Us All was released Feb. 22nd from Argonauta Records.
Despite remaining a banner year by most accounts, few 2018 releases exemplified the new era of underground death metal as well as the fantastic split shared between Coffin Rot and Molder. As a certain glowing account reported at the time, Molder's putrid, fetid, and otherwise sarcophagal sound wasn't created so much as uncovered. It's a relic wrestled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. Call it an exercise in grave robbery--albeit committed not with the typical implements of the trade, but rather with ragged fingernails. It is with great pleasure that we here at the Sleeping Village can confirm: neither this split, nor Molder's previous EP, were flukes. Enter the appropriately entitled "Granulated Chunks," the first track off Necrobiome, their forthcoming 3-track demo.
Besides a deliciously lo-fi production value--which contributes immensely and indeed feels essential to the aesthetic--Molder operates on a simple winning formula: meaty riffs, restrained drums, and a dry-bones distressed bark. Making no particular effort to get any too quickly, the guitar evokes a near-doomy bent as it takes on riffage straight out the respective playbooks of early-era Master and Pungent Stench. The bass is buried, yet effective at providing "Granulated Chunks" the weight it oh-so deserves. The percussion does exactly what is needs to do without senseless flair--seldom do drummers receive praise for maintaining a status quo, but I'll be damned if Nick Ayala isn't becoming notably consistent. And of course, Aaren Pantke's dusty, no-nonsense tonality, which made "Condemned to the Catafalque" such a fine track, is here to stay.
All told, "Granulated Chunks" reaffirms a commitment to a core sound. Gloriously, it adds little in terms of fresh content--because let's face it. Molder doesn't deal in fresh. Their climb out of the plague pit doesn't necessitate the destruction of established motifs and boundaries. Molder represents the concentrated form of everything we underground and old school death metal fans love about the genre trappings. Give "Granulated Chunks" a listen below...and keep one eye open. With any luck, Necrobiome shall claw its way out of the grave shortly.
Considering that this particular villager is decidedly one of those “album guys,” for whom singles without context hold little intrigue, reviewing a compilation is a difficult affair. Jumping from artist to artist with nary a backward glance necessitates finding a common thread, and in the case of (fellow music blog) Alternative Control's excellent Volume Doom, that thread is obvious: despite a wide range of technique, application, and general sonic appeal, every band here exemplifies the spirit of the low ‘n’ slow. Even at first blush, you’ve got a fine range on display, from the rockin’ riffage of Owl Maker’s desert groove, to the gargantuan swampy bass of Gorge, to the ethereal tones of Eye of Nix. The stoner and doom umbrella is well represented herein, and with international, national, and local Connecticut bands alike, Volume Doom defines the ideal conglomerate.
While followers of said genres will undoubtedly recognize some names here (see Year of the Cobra, 1476, and the UK’s ever-intimidating Kurokuma) there are some greenhorns as well. The most obvious example of the unheard contingent is Low Moment, whose austere-yet-oddly-emotive “Plague, Take Me Low” is--I shit you not, folks--their first and only recorded track. Between exist a variety of other groups, all of whom make exceptional use of the platform this compilation affords. At risk of showing all my cards, it’s fair to say that Volume Doom contains no skippable tracks, and if we sway you to listen, you should listen to it all, dammit. That said, resorting to describing each track (and thereby band) seems unfortunately inefficient, so while I stress that each and every song here deserves a wholehearted shout-out, we’ll trim things down to three tracks that left a particularly prominent impression.
First up we have Howling Giant, whose adventurous “The Pioneer” recalls, thematically, something Rush might have conceived in a blaze of typical lyrical prowess. While not narrative per se, “The Pioneer” makes use of tasteful samples and follows a distinct protagonist, resulting in a perpetual desire to return to the track time and time again. Call it akin to the satisfaction of re-reading a good book. Groovy yet progressively light on their feet, Howling Giant bring in both mighty riffs and subtle synths. Behind it all, at the helm of their galaxy-trawling craft, sits Zach Wheeler, bringing a level of subtle sophistication to the percussion that is, for lack of an appropriate metaphor, a genuine joy to take in.
Next up is “False Martyr” from Philadelphia's own Witching--a group that, evidently, knows how to kick in the door. Following a wonderfully misleading intro, Jacqui Powell lets it rip, self-exorcising vile caustic howls. A potent blend of blackened anguish and hardcore fury, if e’er there was. Whether reverb-stricken or charging forth with fuzzy angularity, the guitar tone is masterful on all counts, seamlessly maintaining a sense of direction amidst the track’s violent ebb and flow. “False Martyr” is doggedly forceful, and hits harder than anything else Volume Doom has on display. Despite sounding different, in the grand scheme, than its stoner-influenced brethren, Witching’s contribution works quite well as a focal point.
Lastly we have Dust Prophet, whose “Revolutionary Suicide” is an eerie (if irresistible) romp. Heather Lynn belts out a hook like few can, but that’s not the only draw: hefty guitar, massive drums, and a noticeable attention to detail in the ambiance department set Dust Prophet apart. All told, this track has a certain commercial appeal--and coming from an underground blog, I can see the implications, but bear with me. Few bands under the riff-worshipping fold can claim this level of sheer head-bopping ‘n’ air-guitar wielding gravitas. A spoken word intro and some squealing intrusions underneath the riffs provide the necessary balance--all the weirdness one needs to really stand out in a crowd. The result? A remarkably ear-wormy addition to the comp.
Because, alas, I must maintain a critical edge even in the midst of doomy excellence, it’s worth mentioning that Year of the Cobra’s contribution--opening track “The Descent”--doesn’t quite match my expectations given this Seattle powerhouse’s recent output. Here, the trademark genre-defying vocals carry themselves with less weight, particularly in the chorus itself. That said, YoTC has yet to put out a track that one could conceivably classify as “uninspired.” Otherwise, I sometimes found myself wishing that the album followed a more rigorous path of ethereal to harsh, as exemplified by the opening and closing bands--but even so, I’m not sure what a reordered tracklist might look like in practice.
Speaking to the overall mission, Jessie May--Alternative Control editor and holder-down of the Owl Maker low end--states that she hopes “all the bands on Volume Doom will gain new listeners from being part of this comp!” Frankly, every band here has contributed mightily to that end. If the point of a comp is to open doors and provide deserving bands with an audience, Alternative Control has done the doomsphere a substantial favor. As a direct result of this collection of tunes, I have been introduced to more than a few bands that will undoubtedly receive continued support. On a base level, as a consumer, its a fantastic feeling to be introduced to so many high-quality bands in a single well-curated package. Volume Doom feels like a preemptive peek into the future--a future where the bands before ye sit atop the veritable mountain of doomy competition. Highly, highly recommended.
1. Year of the Cobra -- The Descent
2. Howling Giant -- The Pioneer
3. Mourn the Light -- Embrace the Darkness
4. Owl Maker -- Sky Road
5. Gorge -- The Great Dying
6. Witching -- False Martyr
7. Pinto Graham -- High Flyer
8. Eye of Nix -- Lull
9. 1476 -- Winter of Winds
10. Dust Prophet -- Revolutionary Suicide
11. Low Moments -- Plague, Take Me
12. Kurokuma -- Dope Rider, Pt. 1
(If you’re not already a reader, check out Alternative Control for thoughtful discussions of metal...and everything else you need to live.)
Volume Doom will be released Friday, Feb. 22nd. Preorder here at a ridiculously fair price. Like, seriously. How can you go wrong?
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.