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).
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
As you may have noticed, we here at the Sleeping Village enjoy a good EP. This is especially in the case of a band such as the appropriately moniker'd rotting in dirt--a band, in other words, that possesses a hardcore-inspired sound so violent that it operates best in a short, visceral format.
While the EP as a whole is excellent, there is one track in particular that sticks out, especially on repeat listens. I'm speaking of "thirst," the original single. How to describe the sound? In a word: chaotic. (For the morbidly curious, “exothermic” and “bituminous” also apply. In that order). For the sake of comparison, take Nothing-era Cult Leader and turn the chaos meter all the way up past 11. Remove the bounce from the riffage in Botch’s To Our Friends In the Great White North, and replace, jarringly, with a putrid primal fury. Subject the vocalist--take your pick, really--to a decade or two of ghastly torture, until only a ravaged, animalistic husk remains. Bury it all, and leave it to rot.
While the general ambiance is, of course, the primary draw here, "thirst" is truly made by a surprising ability to step back and examine the carnage from afar. Early on in the track, the screams pause, allowing the percussion to take a slow, deliberate moment out of the impending claustrophobia. The attention to dynamics in a genre that typically eschews breathing room is notable, and if rotting in dirt continues to implement this kind of composition, they are undoubtedly on track to rise above the clay and loam. Stream "thirst" below:
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: Vattghern
Time is money. More notably, time is limited. In this modern day and age, for the majority, everything needs to happen fast. I need my news fast, I don't have time to cook, and I especially don't spend time on anything I don't really need to. It's sad, really, but why this pretentiously philosophical monologue to start the review of Zohamah's Spread My Ashes?
Because Zohamah approached their record in similar fashion--which in this case, works in favour of the music. The record is roughly half an hour long and given the type of music that is presented, a more stretched out approach would undoubtedly have taken away much of its charm.
Kicking off things with thunder and stormy rain is new World, and it captures the soundscape of what is to come accordingly. A bit of dissonant black metal, a bit of doomy atmosphere, and some death metal chugging. Genre traits are not bound to exact attributes though, since variety is subtle but noticeable. While Black Cloud is very fast paced, with hints of death metal, the intense vocal performance and tremolo picked melodies across the album scream "black metal."
Given the underlying diversity of influences and styles, some transitions don't work out as they should. At points an abrupt change or not-so-smooth transition occurs, but luckily for the listener, this is more of a rare occurrence.
With a production that gives spotlight to every instrument and a blend of genres that provides the listener with something fresh yet oddly familiar, Spread my Ashes succeeds in most parts. Especially the decision to cut corners where needed, which ultimately forms this into a short but sweet record.
Zohamah -Spread My Ashes will be released Feb. 1st from Redefining Darkness Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and heavy enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a certain groggy-eyed and highfalutin' peasantry.