In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. First up in this series of guest reviews is the prolific Espi Kvlt of Apricitas, Yngve, Seas of Winter, Phryne, Guan Yin, and Exsanguinated Shade. Read on!
Written by: Espi Kvlt
Is it blissful?
It’s like a dream.
I want to dream.
These words, from the first track off Deafheaven’s sophomore album, cut through me like a knife the first time I held the lyrics booklet up to my face to digest its contents. Impossible to decipher by simply listening to the album, I wanted to absorb every bit of it, as it had caressed me in the darkness of that filthy basement apartment where I lived with the man that would soon become my ex-boyfriend. The screeching vocals off Sunbather called out to me like a friend each time I was left in that bed in the corner of our room to ponder what I did to deserve the abuse from the man I thought I loved.
It cannot be overstated how much the lyrics alone have left a permanent impact on my
psyche, so much so that I branded those lyrics from “Dream House” permanently onto my flesh beside a ram skull. During those tumultuous times in that apartment, they were a source of comfort. They were my therapy. Accustomed to bands like Darkthrone and Cradle of Filth, it was the first time I had encountered such poetic language in black metal. Later in my life, this extended to my own lyrics. Deafheaven’s Sunbather still informs each decision I make when I put that pen to the paper. Lines like “Lost in the patterns of youth / And the ghost of your aches comes back to haunt you / And the forging of change makes no difference” make me both overjoyed at the experience of being able to read them and saddened to know I didn’t come up with them myself.
Written by: Carlos
Lesser Glow is a five piece heavy band out of Boston. They hit on everything low and slow--and they hit it hard. You’ll get everything from the nastiest sludge to the most vibrant interludes, all without releasing the gas. Lesser Glow is also comprised of some very accomplished industry professionals, one being a producer for Chelsea Wolfe. But we're not here to talk personnel; we’re here to talk about their upcoming album, Nullity.
Nullity is a follow up to their 2018 debut, Ruined. If you haven’t taken Ruined for a spin I suggest you close this and do just that.
...All right, welcome back. Nullity is built around the idea that mankind is a parasite in this world. Weaving themes of internal conflict, creation myths, and interpersonal relations, this album features a big finish (spoiler alert) in which mankind is wiped from existence. Yes please, void daddy.
As ye eagle-eyed readers may note, we published a review of this very same album, like, just a few days ago. However, we just couldn't deny Izzy--the Sleeping Village's self-proclaimed reviewer of all things screamy, dreamy, and inbetweeny--a chance to discuss the latest opus from Infant Island. Enjoy this review redux! - Ed.
Not too long ago I reviewed Infant Island’s latest EP, Sepulcher, and along with my mountains of praise for the band, I promised I would do a full-length write-up on the LP they had just announced, Beneath. I fully intended on fulfilling that promise, so here we are. I’ve been in love with this Virginia post-hardcore/screamo revival outfit since I first discovered them in 2018 with their self titled album, and so I cannot wait to talk about it. (Despite taking a little over a week to actually write this due to circumstances beyond my control.)
Sepulcher blew my mind, so I came into this with high hopes, and Infant Island certainly delivered. However, this is truly an example of an album I love, but think could’ve been something more, or maybe something else. That said, I want to end this review on a positive note, so I’ll begin with my few complaints.
Written by: Continuous Thunder
I first got into heavy music in my mid-teens, and by “got into heavy music” I mean found music that not only appealed to me, but also bothered my parents. (What’s the point of heavy music if it doesn’t cause your parents genuine concern?) Anyway, way back in the mid-’00s, when I was just a distant rumble, the heavy music of choice for the youths of the day was screamo and metalcore. CD players and primitive iPods were full of the sounds of bands like Underoath, The Used, From First To Last, and The Devil Wears Prada. Jeans were tight, lips were pierced, and hair was long and dyed black. These genres and styles fell out of favor right around the end of the decade, but screamo has had a bit of an underground resurgence in recent years. Infant Island, in particular, are a relatively new band that may prove that the genre isn’t entirely dead.
Written by: Izzy
Have any of you noticed this trend in recent years of more post-black bands mixing in elements of post-hardcore, and vice versa? Harakiri For The Sky, Asunojokei, Cara Neir, Unfurl, Oathbreaker, Glassing, King Apathy, John The Void, Møl, they all do it, and as both a hardcore nerd and someone who's often annoyed by the stagnation of black metal due to the attitude of trve kvlt worship many bands have, it's a trend I've loved to see popping up.
I adore black metal, it's easily one of my favourite non-core genres, but post-black especially is where I get off, as you can likely tell by the Sunbather aesthetic plastered everywhere on my Instagram (@izzlesreviewvault yes I'm a self promoting shill.) I'm absolutely a sucker for any bands that know how to blend the heavy, melodic, emotional, and vicious aspects of the genre or experiment and mess with the genres aspects all together, and no one does that better than the post-black community. But despite my adoration for a good black metal album I'm not particularly active in the black metal community for, uhm... obvious reasons.
Here is a feature we slumbering scribes have dragged, kicking and screaming, back from the grave. A year back, desperate for some entertainment of the visual persuasion, we here at the Sleeping Village constructed ourselves a venue, of sorts--a public playhouse designed to house the raunchiest productions around. After a single feature presentation, however, said venue promptly fell into disuse and ruin. A shame, really, because in this world of underground metal, there are a good many videos worth checkin' out. Thus: now is the time for revitalization.
Push aside the cobwebs and vines, dear reader. Kick away the decaying ravens and piles of loam; the show is about to begin. Today, for your viewing pleasure, the Sleeping Village is pleased to present the music video for Belong, title track and lead single from L'Homme Absurde's forthcoming third album. It's a killer track and impressive video, and, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I wholeheartedly recommend you watch for yourself:
Only one (praiseworthy) release to their name, and Richmond's own Conductor have already thrown a bit of a wrench in my typical review-writing process. Generally, when encountering an artist for the first time, inevitable questions arise that then allow for further analysis. Why does this music work (or not work, for that matter) in it's current state? Conductor neatly bypass this part of the process by providing two versions of their debut EP: one with vocals, and one without. Thus, the primary question that arose whilst enjoying Icarus--namely, does this brand of doom afflicted post-metal work best in a purely instrumental form--was answered by default. More on that later, though. Before we get too far into the weeds, let's talk about just how goddamn impressive Conductor are.
Icarus is an effortless journey through genre boundaries. While the majority of the 23 minutes contained herein are of the post-metal variety--expansive, voluminous, and otherwise exploratory--a distinct aggression remains a constant presence, whether lurking on the fringes or launching inward with a blackened bite. The former aspect is comparable to the softer moments of Amenra, Pallbearer, or early Sumac; the latter, perhaps, of Mizmor's abrasive edge. And yet, while they never sound directly comparable or derivative, they are in good company execution-wise. They command a delicate balance between clean and harsh vocals, between melodious exploration and emotive pugilism. And while the blackened bent is used sparingly throughout, it hits hard when called into play.
Conductor demonstrates a keen ability to move between gentle and harsh in a way that reminds me of Omega Massif's dynamism. Look to "Go to the Mast at Dawn" for a prime example of the subtle buildup and sheer cathartic release that these guys are capable of. Genre melding aside, that ability to construct a foundation and then knock it out with one massive blow is central to their songwriting chops. Indeed, this is what gives the opening track such a professional and emotionally satisfying feel. Even given their status as a doom-adjacent band, they aren't entirely focused on the riffs, but yet riffs are central to the buildup and subsequent release. Icarus opens with a nuanced and sophisticated track, and if I wasn't aware, I would have assumed this was the product of a much more mature outfit.
Most notable is the earworm quality Icarus maintains. As those who are forced to live with me may attest, I've been breaking into (horrendously out-of-tune, but heartfelt nonetheless) refrains of O Captain! My Captain! for the better part of a month. "Go to the Mast at Dawn" sticks in my head with a fierce and unpredictable tenacity, and if a track manages to hold on for so long, buffeted about by the current of a thousand promos, it's a great song, plain n' simple. The longing-yet-furious "Catch Me" has a similar effect, with each precious refrain sinking teeth deep. I wish it were a longer track simply so more of those choruses could weasel their way in, and as one who worships brevity in songwriting like no other, that's saying something. Post-metal lives (and dies) by its memorability, and Icarus has memorability in spades.
The aforementioned question regarding the role of vocals--or lack thereof--is raised by the title track itself. Whereas the vocal delivery on the bookends is fairly impeccable, "Icarus" represents a bit of a falter. The pseudo spoken word delivery, while intriguing from a narrative perspective, ultimately doesn't flow with the instrumentation. It's an awkward bump in an otherwise stellar track, and, as a result, this track flows better on the instrumental version of the EP--especially given the brilliant back half, which is a harrowing and emotive journey in its own right. That said, the remaining two tracks are heightened wondrously by their respective vocal accompaniment, and on their respective instrumental tracks, feel otherwise incomplete.
There's room for improvement in Conductor's approach, but it's worth iterating that this improvement need not come across the board. The first track here is a true standout, a prime example of the massive potential they are packing. And, as always, a little more heft in the bass department wouldn't go amiss. But all told, Conductor have a lot on this not-so-Icarian post-metal platter to be proud of. They fly high, but never plummet. Given their penchant for dynamic innovation, I'm very curious to see what they come up with next. Conductor "hopes that anyone who stumbles upon Icarus will feel something from its intense 3-song exhibition." From this particular villager: mission accomplished, and then some.
Conductor's excellent Icarus was released May 2019.
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 someone who spends an inordinate amount of time confronting rough drafts, the process of heartfelt revision is something I can certainly appreciate and applaud. In 2010, as a one-man outfit, Becoming the Lion’s Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier began life as an illustration of the homecoming and attempted emotional reconciliation of the titular soldier. In 2018, after adding vocals (and two bandmates, no less!) the bones of the original EP have been realized in flesh.
And to be frank, Ross Blomgren’s original instrumentation possessed rough-hewn edges. More importantly, however, these compositions revealed, through the cracks and under the dull synths, the post-metal sensibilities of God As Astronaut, the proggy melancholy of Tides from nebula, and the angst of Deftones. A potent and evocative mix, to be sure. The 2018 release, I am pleased to announce, does not lose or limit that core identity--indeed, it maintains those best qualities and significantly improves upon its weaknesses. That said, the freshly minted arrangement simultaneously adds new challenges for Becoming the Lion to confront.
First, the remarkable improvement. With the addition of a drummer and guitarist, (Dan Mazur and Dennis Paterkiewicz, respectively,) the original tracks are imbued with a significant weight. The riffs are somber, and the drums, rather than loosely hanging in the detached programmed void, feel grounded--rooted, even. The issue with so much post-rock/metal is a tendency to float...but not so here. In this sense, Becoming the Lion recall the ability of Russian Circles to place the audience in a percussively concrete time and space. From an instrumental perspective, Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a marked success. The gentle atmospherics draw the listener in. The delay-ridden keys deploy subtle tethers, keeping them entranced. The package isn’t quite proggy in it’s experimentation, but the dynamics between clean and moderately hefty guitar tones work inordinately well with the ambiance. Vocals, particularly in the case of Rally at the Battlefront and standout Ready, Aim, Fire, brings a glorious (and necessary) melodic element. Melancholic, desperate, and borderline tortured at times--when these vocals work, they work very well in portraying the EP’s central character.
As alluded, Becoming the Lion displays some room for improvement. The vocals, while pleasingly emotive and undeniably successful at reinforcing the ambiance established by the guitar, occasionally falls away from the instrumentation, seemingly walking its own path with no clear destination. The introductory verse and pre-chorus on Too Late Now, for example, feels disconnected in a manner that isn’t quite reconciled by the general sense of confusion and tragedy. Otherwise, the EP falls a little flat on the tail end--after the sinister We Should Have Turned Back, I was hoping for a track or two that served to reconcile the various sonic elements displayed until that point. I suppose that a lack of reconciliation is, thematically speaking, sort of the point.
I’m tempted to describe the whole package as “charming,” largely because it continues to pull me in for reasons I haven’t necessarily been able to articulate here. All told, 2018’s return to Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a successful experiment in revision and (inevitable) maturation. If emotive post-metal, post-rock, or otherwise alternative music is your poison of choice, Becoming the Lion is certainly worth your while.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!