Written by: Ancient Hand
Mesarthim recently surprise-dropped a new album, and I finally had the time to sit down and listen to the follow-up to my 4th favorite album of 2018. With 2 tracks that each clock in at 20 minutes exactly, Mesarthim already show their intent with this album: trying new things. Ghost Condensate is one whole made up of two halves, both of which show the band incorporating new elements into their already established style of intense avant-garde metal.
Despite featuring the band’s trademark sound, risks are taken on this album. On the first track, there are hip-hop trap influences around the 8-9-minute mark, which give way to dense and spacey atmosphere with orchestral synth breaking through after a few moments of staring into deep-space blackness. Then, guitars begin to build before being undercut by drums, and the sound falls back into an infectious rhythm made of guitar, synth, drums, and howls from unimaginable realms of black space horrors. A classic heavy-metal guitar solo shreds in at the speed of light around the 11-minute mark and crescendos into black metal fury.
This is just a 3-minute example of Mesarthim’s attempts to craft an interesting and original album, which they always seem to be doing. Most often is the band’s sound and style chalked up to “spacey atmospheric black metal,” but on this release, they prove that their influences cover a wide breadth of genres and musical styles. The project’s previous release showcased EDM elements, but Mesarthim builds on those sounds with more mainstream elements mixed with chilling black metal. This blend of styles leads to an album that sounds just as otherworldly as its cover appears to be.
On the second half of this release, Mesarthim play more to their tried and true strengths. Blistering black metal pummels you as dazzling synths add a wall of impenetrable noise before the release calms down and fades away in glistening electronics, willing you to start all over again. The blending of familiar sounds in unfamiliar places (trap elements on a black metal album) make for a very engaging and interesting listen.
Mesarthim have, to state it simply, done it again. Pushing the boundary enough to keep long-time listeners on their toes but not alienate fans of black metal, the band has crafted a 40:00 adventure through the cosmos. If anything, this release feels more akin to Mesarthim’s older releases than their previous album. The electronics feel more supportive of the black metal rather than center stage— aside from the trap-inspired section on Part 1. It is difficult to definitively state what the intent of this album is and whether or not it achieves its goal(s); however, it is easy to state that it is an album worth the concise runtime. Do yourself a favor and take a journey into the unknown with this new release.
Mesarthim can be found:
In the ‘verse of metal bloggers, there are many small establishments doing cool stuff, and despite the grizzled, ink-splattered, and decidedly misanthropic appearance of our scribes, we here at the Sleeping Village are, on occasion, cordial folks. As the inhabitants of our extensive grave pit will tell you, it’s an undeniably violent world out there. When the marauders return once more to our homely township, we certainly appreciate our allies mettle (and, well, metal. In a manner of speaking). It’s good to have friends.
This is all to say that Alternative Control, out of the wildlands of Connecticut, is one such blog doing cool stuff. As you may recall, we ran a review a while back for their Volume Doom compilation, which featured some truly excellent tracks of the low ‘n’ slow variety. This spring, Alt Ctrl is back with a seasonal sampler--a collection of songs from bands who have appeared on the blog, in some fashion, over the past few months. While the genre cohesion is nonexistent in this case, the general trend is not. To quote site proprietor extraordinaire Jessie May, this sampler contains "no garbage tracks," plain and simple. Sign me up.
There are eight great songs on this compilation, ranging from hardcore, to depressive black metal, to stoner. Each is highly enjoyable in it’s own right. Things kick off with a killer track from German dark metal progenitors Bethlehem--"Niemals mehr Ieben," which features Yvonne "Onielar Wilczynska on haunting vocals, comes from their forthcoming May release. I know the alphabetical nature of the tracklisting makes this a happy coincidence, but if we're going the thematic route, Bethlehem form an excellent bridge from winter's depressive side to a lighter--err, springier--soundscape. From there, Blind Scryer's doomy treatise and Dread These Day's hardcore approach should, on paper, clash, but both are such solid singles that any lost continuity is a complete non-issue. The same can be said for the remaining 5 tracks herein. London's groovy-yet-rockin' Gramma Vedetta, the avant-garde and deliciously bass-heavy Laster, and the ever-provocative Necrosexual all deliver in spades. Owl Maker contributes the penultimate track, the experimental Lizzy-esque "Owl City" from their recent 2-track EP, much beloved by our humble Village. The standout track, however, is the closer--Scabby Ghouls deliver an upbeat and punky Misfits-esque romp. "Knife Fight" is a whimsically horror-themed ditty, and the delightfully bombastic chorus has been stuck in my head for the better part of a month.
All told, this Spring Sampler is a first-rate collection of equally first-rate tunes. Alternative Control is hitting it out of the park with these compilations, and we're very excited to see where this trend takes them. Summer awaits!
1. Bethlehem - "Niemals mehr leben"
2. Blind Scryer - "Delta V"
3. Dread These Days - "Eldfell"
4. Gramma Vedetta - "Address Unknown"
5. Laster - "Haat & bonhomie"
6. Necrosexual - "Trust No One"
7. Owl Maker - "Owl City"
8. The Scabby Ghouls - "Knife Fight"
Written by: Loveloth
Iceland – the land of ice and fire. It's every geologist's dream land, due to it being packed with countless natural peculiarities. But this is far from the only thing that piques my interest when it comes to this fascinating country. Iceland is rough, very rough in fact, so people adapted via usage of geothermal and hydroelectric energy, fishing, or aluminium smelting--but everything changed in 2007 when the Great Recession struck. People were desperate. Some fled to Norway in hope of finding a better life, but those who stayed endured. Now, you may be saying to yourself: "Oh mighty Loveloth, what does this have to do with anything?" but fear not, this unnecessarily long intro is getting to the point, so hear me out. Because Iceland is so isolated, there is a sense of community, so people partake in sports, media, or create music insert the sound of a point being gotten. And Iceland always had a superb music scene, but something sinister evolved during the pinnacle of said recession--black metal. All these things I mentioned fuel this scene with volcanic might. Bands like Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Sinmara, and Wormlust are just some of the brilliant bands you can come across but this year, we got another. Kaleikr.
Formed from the ashes of Draugsól, Kaleikr burst from the icy depths with Heart Of Lead, a debut I've been excited for since I heard "The Descent" last year. Rooted in dissonance and good ole' atmosphere, the duo grabs and drags you through Heart Of Lead's many murky corridors, and I, for one, greatly enjoyed this violent and claustrophobic voyage.
This vague, semi-descriptive sentence is nothing new in the world of wordsmithery so let me elaborate. Kaleikr play a blend of progressive black, progressive death, and a dash of post-metal for good measure, and it becomes apparent pretty quickly with the slow, unraveling arrival of "Beheld At Sunrise." The violas and piano are a nice touch but it takes a bit too much to get going but as soon as you hear Maximilian Klimko's earthy growls and Kjartan Harðarson's blastbeats, the true journey starts. The duo possesses immense synergy, synergy most bands strive for and most songs here prove this. Angular, melodic, ethereal or start/stop, Klimko's riffs and general guitar work is impressive. However, even more impressive is the fact he takes care of vocals, bass, and the arrangements. This may seem like he is the star of this record but Harðarson's clever, rich and overall superb drumming demonstrates that both of them are absolutely crucial. Each of the songs presented are vast, dynamic and engaging and the record's unusually clean production tries emphasizing this. Tries because the record tends to sound flat when things really start going haywire. Those moments of pure insanity are always welcomed but I love when Kaleikr throw surprises at you like that Enslaved-like guitar section in "Of Unbearable Longing" or the nasty opening riff and viola-infused ending section in "Internal Contradiction." That ending section in particular is hauntingly beautiful and transitions perfectly in "Neurodelirium" which is one of my favourite tracks from Heart Of Lead.
With all these positives I listed, it seems Heart Of Lead is really good. It is, but there are flaws. Apart from the production, some tracks simply overstay their welcome, the title track and intro of "Beheld At Sunrise" being the biggest culprits, but there is a few more instances of meandering.
However, the good greatly overpowers the bad and what we're left is a very good debut from a band that is poised for success. I would greatly appreciate if Kaleikr doesn't share the same fate as Draugsól because the potential for a monumental record is here and ready to be expanded upon. The individual performances, lyrics, songwriting (aside the aforementioned), it all comes together and we ended up with one of the best debuts of 2019. I am sure this won't change when we reach the year-end mayhem so definitely give this record a listen, preferably more than one because there are many details you'll miss on the first listen.
There is just one thing I want to say: "Thank you, Iceland."
Kaleikr's Heart of Lead was released Feb. 2019 from Debemur Morti Productions
Written by: Loveloth
In an ocean of similar sounding post-everything bands, Astronoid clearly stand out. Each time I listen to them, I go to places, places that are far above all our tellurian and insignificant issues. While this feeling of elation isn't something new to me, Astronoid awaken something very specific in me. Despite existing for seven years now, Astronoid grabbed a lot of people's attention back in 2016 when they burst on to the scene with their debut Air, which brimmed with energy and creativity. It was a really good record so I wondered how their follow-up will sound, and I got my answer recently in the shape of Astronoid. I was a bit confused why they opted for such a simple title but after acquainting myself well with the record I realized what they were going for. But more on that later.
For the uninitiated, Astronoid revel in reverb, delay-heavy guitar work which, when combined with Brett Boland's falsetto's and Matt St. Jean's energetic and fast drumming, creates an ethereal and otherwordly atmosphere, but it's still intense and vivacious. I'll admit that this doesn't sound very original but make no mistake, as soon as you hear them, you'll realize they're something special. And while I didn't agree with them being labeled as "dream thrash" before, it definitely makes more sense now. You see, unlike Air, Astronoid doesn't rely as much on blastbeats or aggression. Instead, the band opted for a more varied and even punky (regarding the drums) approach.What we get is something that isn't that much different from Air, but it needs not be because of the quality the band possesses.
The record sets off with "A New Color" which is standard Astronoid business. It's fast, uplifting, has wonderful guitar harmonies, and Boland's characteristic vocals that you'll either love or hate due to his higher register and often usage of falsetto that is akin to Agent Fresco, Arcane Roots and most importantly Mew, who are a big inspiration to the band. Funnily enough "A New Color" is actually one of the weaker tracks but serves as a nice segway into the more interesting stuff that is down the line.
"Lost" is one of those tracks. Be it the gorgeous build-up, breathtaking breakdown or that nasty riff, this track is Astronoid at their best. Their sense of crafting sprawling and richly ambient compositions is superb and that sense of wonder I mentioned never left me, even when on repeated listens. Beauty and elusiveness hides all over Astronoid and I am certain that everyone will be reminded of different things when listening to it.
However, there is fair deal of repetition on this record but Astronoid use it as another tool for immersion and it works most of the time. "I Wish I Was There While The Sun Set" is a solid example of this but I need to mention that break near the fourth minute mark which caught me off guard because it reminds me of Motorhead that played post-rock. That bass tone is too good to ignore.
Speaking of which, the production. Magnus Lindberg (of Cult Of Luna) did an excellent job with the mastering but it would be pointless if the mix wasn't as good as it is. Drums are punchy but not overpowering (that snare sounds amazing), the bass is rich and chunky but is in that sweet spot between the guitars and the drums, you know, the place where it should be. The vocals are above everything but don't suffocate the instrumentation. What I am trying to say is that I really like how this record sounds.
Now, back to the introductory paragraph. I think the band chose the name Astronoid because it perfectly represents them as a band and the journey that led them to this point where they are at. It's obvious, but you can hear that youthful passion, energy and drive in the songs and I do love hearing genuine art because it's not as common nowadays. There is one issue that is holding this record back a bit though, and it has to do with Boland and his one-note approach to vocals. I sincerely hope he changes things up, or that the band adds more of them on their next release.
Overall, Astronoid may not possess that shock value Air had, but it's still a worthy successor to one of the most exciting debuts in recent memory. "Water", "Fault", "Ideal World" or "Breathe" all show a band that is confident and love what they do. I just hope they exit their comfort zone a bit. In any case, I am excited for their future, just as I was almost three years ago. History repeats itself.
Astronoid - Astronoid was released Feb 1st. from Blood Music
As one embroiled in the everyday drama associated with dwelling in a medieval township, this particular villager has some opinions on Heretical Sects--y’know, in the abstract. Whether mere blasphemers, or divergents intent on shaking the very foundation of spiritual and social order, a group of righteous heretics holds an undeniable appeal to us iconoclasts-at-heart.
That said, heretics these days need to put in some genuine work. Shock value in black metal has, alas, become a bit of a non-starter, from blasphemous lyrical content to the now-cliche aesthetic of asceticism. And let’s face the facts: it’s a little late in the game for Christ-punishing antics to come off as particularly excommunication-worthy. In other words, in the modern era of Way Too Much Black Metal, Heretical Sect’s choice of expression isn’t schismatic per se. But does that mean their EP lacks a certain fringe-treading modus operandi that the Redefining Darkness association suggests? Of course not. Rotting Cosmic Grief is, to put it mildly, an impressively well-conceived debut.
The hooded and anonymous members of Heretical Sect have allegedly seen and contributed to their fair share of the New Mexican metal scene. This, I am willing to believe. Rotting Cosmic Grief comfortably wears a natural cohesion, a well-conceived flow from beginning to end. This is not, in my experience, something that simply occurs. From a compositional standpoint, experience is evident--this EP was built by appropriately battle-scarred hands. Blending harsh doom and formative blackness, Heretical Sect excels at adjusting the tempo to suit the needs of a track at any given point in time. Moving from Sabbathian riffage to strenuous-yet-hefty tremolos with nary a thought, the guitar weaves a delicate and dangerous path. Melodic where melody is required, pulsating when the thick vocals can make ample use of a thick undercurrent...and even, on occasion, galloping at a skeletal NWOBHM-esque frenzy. Dynamic by design, each track rises to glorious crescendo and falls to troubled depths...albeit each at its own unique pace. Simultaneously razor sharp and crudely honed, the best moments herein, of which there are many, remain as unshakable as a moonlit night terror.
At times I’m reminded of Bathory, but realistically, these purely blackened moments are few are far between. Heretical Sect is not defined by genre conventions, and their use of various soundscapes echoes the expansive and conflicted Southwestern landscape--both social and natural--from which they draw inspiration. The doomiest moments on “Punish the Christ” are reflective and far-reaching, while highlight track “Visceral Divination” spits and hacks with violent abandon. As promo material alludes, these sharp contrasts are a prime representation of the inherent disconnect between a nostalgic fascination of the Southwest, and the brutal history it hides and indeed maintains. Both sides of American tradition are laid bare by Heretical Sect. Without getting too philosophical, I’d posit that perhaps this is the future of black metal--not blasphemous speech, but honest illustration of the grief and horror we would rather ignore.
As an EP should, Rotting Cosmic Grief leaves me wanting significantly more. Their approach feels unique enough to merit further exploration, and their sheer ability to write compelling music across a wide genre spectrum gives me hope for the longevity of Heretical Sect’s vision. These four track resonate in more way than one. In sum? Rotting Cosmic Grief comes highly recommended. Play it loud.
Heretical Sect - Rotting Cosmic Grief is out today, and is the product of a triple-threat release from Redefining Darkness Records (CD), Caligari Records (cassette), and Vendetta Records (vinyl).
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry