Written by: Beaston Lane
2020 was my first year delving into the obscure and current side of heavy metal, leading me to listen to a seemingly infinite amount of artists including critical darlings like Haken and Imperial Triumphant. However, one band that seemed to fly under the radar far too often--Black Crown Initiate--endlessly commanded my attention with their third album, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape.
Having dropped on August 7th, this magnum opus has steadily gained momentum through the beginning of 2021, but I’m here to put it in the spotlight again. Artists who released albums during 2020 took a big risk with touring on hiatus, and they deserve all the attention they can get. Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is my favorite album of the year--intoxicating, refreshing, poignant, and above all, beautiful.
Written by: The Administrator
And now for something completely different! Today's album (and band) in question covers a unique blend of genres that don't get a whole lot of coverage 'round these parts--or any parts, for that matter, that we slumbering scribes tend to frequent. With that disclaimer in mind: let's dive in.
On their latest effort, Shocking Stories! (And Those Who Dare to Tell Them,) The Northway play a difficult-to-place conglomerate of pop punk, prog, math rock, and perhaps some alt metal, with a few other assorted elements weaving their respective ways into the chaotic fold. There's an alternative rock/metal angst on display, as well as a ska-esque sense of hype. Most notable, however, is the prominent role of the utterly unexpected. Take, for example, early album highlight "Trampolinehead," which blends a straightforward punk riff with a delightful Gentle Giant-by-way-of-Primus level of prog weirdness. There's a jazz lounge solo, a de la Rocha rap-rock moment, and a whole lotta assorted oddities besides. And if you think this is wacky, the excellent "City Trial" takes similarly disparate elements and cranks 'em up to 11. This thing is like the unholy alt-metal lovechild of Haken 's proggy tendencies and, I dunno, the early-aughts swagger of Priestess. And even that only covers a fraction of this track's identity. The entire album exists in a similarly fluid state, and, as a result, it's incredibly fun to experience.
Written by: Vattghern
Haken, oh Haken! Some VIP Tickets, Meet and Greets, lots of merch, and signed vinyl copies later, Haken has not only become a titan of modern prog, but also a friend through thick and thin for me. Despite my love for the Brits, after the release of their last studio album Vector and my corresponding praise for it, the band seemingly vanished from my playlists. Did I outgrow Haken? Did they outgrow me? All these questions crossed my mind when the band announced Vector’s spiritual successor Virus out of the blue and my inner fanboy didn’t move a muscle.
“New Haken single is meh,” I disappointingly declared in the lead up to the release, only to end up hitting play on “Invasion” every time I got a hold of my headphones. So, as it tends to do, the future proofed me wrong and answered my doubts with a big, fat “nah.” And after three midnight sessions of eagerly hitting refresh on Haken’s Spotify, only to find out the album has been delayed again, I finally got ahold of Virus. Since the past had proven that Haken ages like a fine wine for me, I’ve taken my appropriate time with it, which translates to about a week of nonstop listening. My verdict? Virus, while still awaiting the test of time, is not only the perfect second part to Vector, but also some of the band's finest work to date.
Written by: Loveloth
How does a band evoke the feelings of melancholy? The approach varies from genre to genre, but using the minor scale is a definite foundation. After that anything is game, and as a result, any sadboi--like yours truly--has a plethora of options to choose from. The most extreme examples are the DSBM and adjacent black metal genres. There, melancholy manifests through anguish and despair. Tremolo picking, shrieks and blast beats reign as lords, whereas on the opposite side of the spectrum, such as on the notorious pop ballads, we've got clean vocals covered by electronic-based instrumentation with slower paced beats.
I personally don't have any emotional responses when I hear most of that type of stuff due to how they're manufactured and how much they rely on cheap motifs. I realized this when I was a wee lad and as time went on, I searched far and wide for music to comfort, help me contemplate, and of course cope with any hardships I came across. At one point in time, I found myself listening to “Lethean” by Katatonia via a great YouTube recommendation, remember those? I was stunned with its energy and heaviness, and by the time Jonas Renkse's vocals kicked in, I was hooked. To this very day, Dead End Kings remains my favorite album by them and I would honestly put Katatonia right next to Opeth and that dude Devon Townsent as my go-to sadboi band.
We covered this album during last week's edition of Fresh Meat Friday...but Pyrrhon is far too significant of a band to gloss over with such egregious brevity. As such, our very own gibbously non-euclidean amalgamation--aka Loveloth the Omniscient--took the reins. Hence: enjoy this expanded review! - Ed.
Written by: Loveloth
Three years ago, a more impressionable, less jaded Loveloth scoured the plains of the Interwebz in search of new, exciting music. One faithful day, I was doing the usual, which translated to me religiously reading Angry Metal Guy. Anyhow, here I am scrolling through and chillin' until I see this insane album cover. It features a mangled dog snarling, whose paw got stuck in a rusty iron trap. The beast has multiple wounds and is clearly malnourished. The surrounding area looks nice though as it's filled with leaves, but the dog and washed out color palette evokes a feeling of discomfort. Needless to say, my interest was piqued and one quick glance later I see the title. Pyrrhon, What Passes For Survival. The two r's in the band name were weird, sure, but I was not prepared what was to come.
You see, there is this guy named Kronos who writes for AMG, and he is known for his hot takes and penchant for the most extreme forms of metal. What I absolutely love about his style, apart from his vast vocabulary and superb phrasing, is how convincing his points always were. Sure, I would disagree with him, but his hot takes never felt cheap and that is pretty rare these days. But now: back to the epic, overlong intro.
Written by: Izzy
Let’s address the elephant in the room. This album sounds a lot like Deftones, but let’s make an important distinction in Loathe’s music. While Deftones are certainly capable of being aggressive, both on their new and old material, Loathe’s blending of metalcore’s raw energy and ferocity works beautifully to contrast the softer sections and make them feel especially intense, this interplay between tones elevates the listening experience of the entire album to new heights. Rather than creating cascading landscapes where these sounds weave together as Deftones would, Loathe are more interested in forging roads with sharp twists and turns through both beauty and musical invective.
The one-two of the vicious "Broken Vision Rhythm" attack, and the otherworldly slow-dance of "Two Way Mirror," provides a perfect example of this knack for hairpin changes of tone and sonic scenery; a trick the album doesn’t use once, but pulls again later with the hauntingly beautiful "Is It Really You?" transitioning into the most hideously relentless, breakneck song on the entire album, "Gored." Despite the sudden transformation, everything on display here is crafted so tastefully that these shifts feel very natural and flow into one another gracefully.
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!
Well, here we are. The belly of the riff-lovin' extraterrestrial beast. You'll inevitably be subjected to a veritable cosmic load of Blood Incantation hype in the weeks to come prior to Hidden History of the Human Race's November 22nd release, so I'll keep this intro brief.
Blood Incantation's meteoric rise to the upper echelon of underground death metal carried with it a burden of expectation. 2016's Starspawn hit the scene with an expansive roar, solidifying Blood Incantation's reputation as an outfit willing to inject a little intensity and exploration into their forward-thinking approach to atmospheric death metal. How do you follow up a flawed-but-remarkably-promising debut? In an ideal world, by removing said flaws from the picture, while simultaneously pushing onward and upward so as to avoid stagnation. No small order.
To assess Blood Incantation's latest offering, two Village-dwellers took up the pen, making for a rare double review 'round these parts (and quite possibly a triple, if I can get my doddering ass into gear). Without further ado, I'll let them do the talking.
Yogyakarta, Indonesia is a long way from the humble halls of the Sleeping Village, but, much like the plague that riddles our haggard inhabitants, proggy melodeath knows no borders. In that spirit, we’re breaking out the latest single from Yogyakarta’s own Goddess of Fate. “The Orchard Gardener” represents a tidy breakdown of composition: in the band’s words, “this single is 50% progressive metal and 50% ‘everything else.’” And I’ll be damned, that somehow isn’t mere hyperbole. While the blend may not appear entirely seamless, Goddess of Fate rip it up with a meaty conglomerate of blastbeats, melodeath riffing, tech shredding, acoustic-backed chanting, harsh screams, and (prerequisite) proggy passages. A distinctly jig-esque riff forms the bookends, lending the 7-and-a-half-minutes an epic quality that stretches across the entirety.
Here’s something I’m comfortable admitting: at first blush, Huelga’s self-titled debut EP made for an exceedingly frustrating experience. Inconsistent. Illusive. Nonsensical. Not, in other words, the terms one might enjoy having applied to their passion project of more than a decade. However, after continued exposure and a certain degree of reflection, it became apparent that Huelga is a remarkable effort with a patently unique perspective. Multi-instrumentalist Michael Fonseca--who brings a background in jazz and an apparent interest in the non-conformist and modernist compositions of Zappa and Ives--isn’t here to recycle wrought notions of genre expectation. Huelga, in other words, operates exclusively outside the bubble of comfortable expectation, and for that reason alone, it’s worth our collective whiles.
Despite appearing to wear the heavy sonic trappings of groove, thrash and (ill-defined) mathcore, Fonseca's approach aligns the project with avant-garde jazz. Thus, from an instrumental perspective, there’s a mind-boggling amount to discuss--especially given Huelga’s 15 minute run-time. Making ample use of squealing leads, melodic dissonance, poly-rhythms, and aggressively fluid tempos, Huelga offers few moments for the listener to sink in and grasp what is actually happening. Riffs meld and adapt with startling frequency, disappearing into the fold one moment, only to reemerge in some vastly redefined form further down the road, shaped by the rolling boil of seemingly spontaneous invention. Even if this isn’t free-form composition in the true sense of the term, the semblance of improvisation is enough to evoke those noise and jazz connections. Intro track “The Very Marrow of Our Bones” is an effective crash course in Fonseca's methodology--in under 3 minutes, one careens through a deluge of colorful melody, downtuned groove, and an oddly harmonious percussive elements. At times "Marrow" feels djent-y in its distorted technical intensity, but churning thrash elements and pull-out-the-carpet percussion prevent anything approaching stagnation. “Chinga de Perro” and the 2-part “No Word for Blue” continue this pattern, although the latter--the album highlight, in my humble opinion--does feel slightly more consistent, due to its use of identifiable melodies across the first half.
Huelga is not clever because its complicated. Rather, it is clever because it demonstrates a complex understanding of modern arrangement, and utilizes the tools it has avaliable to effectively illustrate a central contextual background. Inspired by the Chicano Movement and the obvious stress and violent intentions that arise from a border defined, in many way, by borderline xenophobia, Foncesa is decidedly mission-based. To quote his bio, Huelga “takes a stand against the anti-Latinx, anti-immigrant sentiment that pollutes ‘The Land of the Free’ today.” To this end, the arrangements herein do an inordinately good job at creating--and reflecting--a palpable sense of tension. This particular scribe is a firm believer that art is, inherently speaking, a product of its political environment. In the case of Huelga, this environment feels essential to both the musical impact and approach.
How best to summarize a project that so willingly denies categorization? In short, the musical virtuosity on display is undeniable. That said, intriguing and ear-catching instrumentation does not (necessarily) a good song make, and the absence of traditional structure can make for a jarring listening experience if you’re approaching Huelga on a casual level. But yet, these moments of melodic dissonance, of tempo-shifting blindsides, and of seemingly blatant inconsistency are what define Huelga’s unique sonic assault.
As such, Huelga highlights a truth that we often miss: there is undeniable beauty in the unexpected. Take, for example, the bright chime that claims a brief moment in the spotlight on “Chinga de Perro.” Seemingly uncalculated, it adds an unexpected flair to the full picture, a moment of interest in a sea of interesting moments. Like so many across this debut, this glimmer exudes gleeful revelry in its rejection of expectations. Lack of continuity gives the affair, for obvious reasons, a disconnected and ungrounded aura--a “floating world” feeling where technical aspects astound, but the (seeming) lack of foundation offers a challenge to the audience. In the context of a more prototypical work, this would undoubtedly come across as criticism. Not so here. Fonseca is seeking, it would seem, to disassemble our understanding of the ways in which heavy music can operate. After several encounters, I’ve come to realize that he succeeds incredibly.
Huelga’s self-titled debut will be released April 5th, 2019.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!