Written by: Lichtmensch, Loveloth, and Ancient Hand
"But wait!" the haters said, sweating feverishly. "This is a metal review site! Get this pop crap out of here!" Needless to say, said haters are now....disposed of, and the Village is significantly quieter for it. Miss Anthropocene an album many of our writers enjoyed, and it is also hardly a stretch to justify Grimes' latest iteration as "heavy." On her long-awaited followup to 2015's revered Art Angels, Grimes pushes pop to a dark and ethereal place. Utilizing a healthy blend of sounds and genre aesthetics, Miss Anthropocene decries stagnation.
The Sleeping Village's cabal of scribes is a multifaceted lot, and when a Grimes review was proposed, three unique individuals--Lichstman, Loveloth, and Ancient Hand--were all excited to put in their two cents regarding Miss Anthropocene. In cases like these, where a frank and friendly discussion between friends seems more productive than a bunch of separate reviews, we break out a rare but ancient form of communication: the conversation. So, here it is: the long-belated followup edition of Twofold Treatise-- but, in this case, we're not dealing with two slumbering critics, but rather three. Hence: Threefold Treatise.
Written by: Loveloth (parodically)
Lo! Greetings, insignificant mortals. It is I, Loveloth, your omniscient and gloriously betentacled Overlord.
[brief pause, as to allow the audience of thousands to gasp in awe]
In all my infinite wisdom, I have decided this day to abandon my Gazebo in order to rectify a terrible mistake--namely, the travesty that was the Sleeping Village Year End List. If you missed it, worry not: it was an embarrassing miscalculation, nothing more. Thus, I am here to provide the Village's loyal readership with the One Trve AoTY List. Behold!
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
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
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.