Friday, June 29, 2012

Hell/Thou split 7": Resurrection Bay

Thou / Hell - Resurrection Bay
Back in April, the always reliable Gilead Media teamed with Pesanta Urfolk to release a limited (1000 copies) split 7' featuring the bands Hell and Thou entitled Resurrection Bay. How something like this escaped my notice until recently is a great mystery. Mystery solved.
Salem, Oregon's Hell contribute their track, "Sheol" on one side. I am shamefully ignorant of Hell's previous full lengths. So this split serves as my introduction to this Northwest duo. Should the uncompromising doom of "Sheol" be representative of their work, I need to dig into their back catalogue post-haste. One can practically smell the cobwebs festooned on the stalactites hanging overhead in the cavern in which the black metal shrieks of vocalist/multi-intsrumentalist M.S.W. must have been recorded. (Drums are handled by Adam Torrvella) If the lurching pace of the track is any indication, the floors of said cavern must be knee deep in rotting detritus. The filth sucking at the feet of the listener in their futile attempt to escape the darkness. Haunting noisescapes are injected to feed this misanthropic nightmare. Yet for a few tantalizing moments, a feeling of openness presents itself. Whether you view this as (misguided) hope or calm acceptance, the result is the same. No one breaks free from this Hell.
The ridiculously prolific Thou graces the other side of this white vinyl with the deceptively titled "Ordinary People". Ordinary people don't make this kind of music and ordinary people don't listen to this kind of music. Ordinary people don't know what they are missing. While still rooted in the same oppressively heavy doom as Hell, the overall feel of "Ordinary People" compared to "Sheol" is almost in opposition. "Sheol" felt very "under the ground" whereas "Ordinary People" feels more "above the ground". While Hell resides within the mountain, Thou strides across the range itself. The guitar tone is still bone-crushing but there is an airiness present as well. Almost a feeling of height. As if the riffs themselves tower over the feeble and weak, projecting authority. Within its six and a half minutes, the track contains a number of "movements". The cadence shifts from a foot-dragging crawl to periods of  half-gallop and purposeful march. Whatever the pace, the riffs remain muscular and full-bodied. Not to be outdone, vocalist Bryan Funck is equally as scathing in his delivery yet matches the difference in vibe given off by both bands.
More or less cut from the same cloth, the samples of Thou and Hell on each side of the 7" present as different shades in the same colour palette. Perfectly complimentary with a subtle contrast to define the edges between the two.
At this time, Gilead Media is sold out but it appears copies are still available from Pesanta Urfolk here. And they're only $8.50. (While you're there, check out the Ash Borer t-shirts. That logo is just as stellar as the music it represents.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

TITAN - Burn

We last heard from Toronto's favourite sons of sonic destruction on 2009's Colossus EP. Which means it has been almost three years of eager anticipation waiting for a full length release. The wait is over and it was well worth it. The period between releases has seen a minor personnel change (bassist Michael H. replacing Aleks S.) but nothing has changed with the ferocity with which Titan approaches their craft. Burn's ten tracks provide 58 minutes of aggressive and emotional force that threatens to pull you apart.
“Feast” opens the album on a rollercoaster of heart-wrenching despair countered by the will to fight back against the darkness. It's impossible not to get caught up in James M.'s vitriolic hardcore bellow as the song drowns in the murk of doom only to be pulled back out to battle with renewed vigilance.
Dungeon beast growls writhe beneath a simplified mournful riff on “Indulgence” before plowing forth from the pits only to plod through the track with the realization that freedom can be as imprisoning as chains. This type of exchange between oppressive doom and inspiring energy carries throughout the album. It's this ability for Titan to tear your emotions in multiple directions to such an extreme degree that you are unable to resist that makes the band such an abominable force.
While hardcore wasn't the first genre to come to mind when I first encountered Titan (my mind goes to NYHC first) the raw aggression of James's vocals brings that realization in to focus. The emotion he channels into lyrics not immediately personal is astounding. But deep down there must be a connection. That sort of conviction cannot exist with detachment. Nowhere else on the record is this more apparent than on “Myopic”
Chugging sludge, black metal and brooding funeral doom soundtrack “Sermon”. This sermon preaches of the pitfalls of humanity's belief in “something out there” influencing us internally and providing us a scapegoat to blame for our ills instead of taking responsibility for the outcome of our lives.
The centerpiece of Burn and the first single from the album is “Warmer Months”. (You can purchase the limited, one-sided 12” here.) I'm not really a big fan of the term “epic” but in this case it's the best term to use which accurately describes the majority of Burn and this track most of all. Just as a reptile will lay in the sun to warm its body and heat the blood, “Warmer Months” fires up the arteries with reckless abandon. Starting around the 3:30 mark, drummer Chris M. blasts into some fantastic jazz influenced moves as the guitars of Chris W. and Brandon M. build on a swirling vortex that slowly crests to explode across the expanse of time. In fact, the drums throughout this track are phenomenal. While this song does utilize plenty of double kick, sometimes it's not about the most notes, it's about the right ones. “Warmer Months” ends with perhaps the most “sing along chorus” of the album. The repeated “Thy immortal lust, does immortal last, See eyes, the summer months, in warmer past.” begs the listener to scream with every ounce of their being until the protest of the lungs can no longer be ignored.
The acoustic interlude of “Corrupt” provides a brief chance to regain a grip on reality before plunging headlong back in to the fray with “Little Seeds”. I suppose when discussing this track of roaring, blackened doom , it's a good time to note that all the lyrics to the songs on Burn have been translated and edited, without permission by vocalist James from a selection of obscure literary sources. The obscurity of the source material makes the compositions all the more fascinating and telling of the depth of the album as a whole. It's all very cerebral and in some cases, such as “Little Seeds”, the actual lyrics aren't even listed. This is thinking man's metal.
“Telepaths” features a slew of guest musicians/voices. The acoustic strumming that starts the track is somewhat unexpected yet not unwelcome. It serves as the calm before the storm. “Telepaths” is an exercise in insanity. When the black metal begins to dominate the consciousness and the guitars start to drive the listener deeper into the madness, those guests make their appearance. The climax is a truly frightening, schizophrenic display of the madness buried deep within all of us. Multiple personalities all with different voices battle for supremacy. The mind is a difficult thing to master.
The instrumental “Vitiate”, while being a somewhat calm and sorrowful break from the power that permeates the album, still conveys the strength of the emotions Titan is able to wrench from even the most unfeeling of individuals.
Burn finishes with the slow burning “Fire Sculptures”. It's a methodical sludge-driven (and bass heavy, courtesy of Mike H.) exploration into the human potential for violence and destruction. The song builds in intensity towards a grand declaration of our desire for change. We cannot build anew without first destroying the old. “Destroy it all, restore it all” not only speaks to Western society's constant yearning for whatever is “new” but may also be a call to arms against complacency. Instead of resting on our laurels and accepting that which is given to us by those that came before, new generations must be willing to wipe the slate clean and start over when necessary. The imagery of a fire sculpture serves as a perfect metaphor for the melding of destruction and construction. As a fitting end to the album it leaves the listener uplifted. And hopefully motivated to break the chains holding them back from doing what they feel the need to do. We create our own destiny and if that means burning away pre-conceived notions of what is expected, then so be it. Burn it all and sculpt our own future from the ashes.
With Burn, Titan has created a masterwork of doom-laden, sludgeoning, post-hardcore rife with black metal flourish. It's as powerful as it is emotionally taxing. Good music, and especially good metal should have “feeling” and emotion at its core. Burn runs the gamut of human emotions. Fear, sorrow, confusion, anger and even joy are thrust to the fore in just under an hour of pure, unquestionable heaviness. Titan were already considered a measuring stick (at least to this writer) of extreme Canadian metal and Burn sets the bar even higher. That comes as no surprise of course because well, Titan slays.

Titan will be slaying audiences across Europe after a hometown send-off show starting this Saturday June 23 at Soybomb in Toronto.

Burn is available NOW for FREE download at but it is highly recommended you exercise the option to make a donation to the band and support quality Canadian metal.

Burn will also be available to purchase as a 2xLP from React With Protest in Europe June 29 and from Hypaethral Records in North America August 3.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Emptiness - Error

The latest in a string of releases on Dark Descent Records to have grabbed my attention is the third full-length album from Belgium's Emptiness, Error. I can't quite remember what attracted me to the band initially but I strongly suspect it was the name. See, I study and practice Buddhism and the concept of emptiness is central to that belief system. However, this particular Emptiness is not all about peace and love. Quite the contrary. Instead of emptiness as the nature of all existence, the feeling I get from Error is the emptiness of the soul. Leading the charge through the ethereal darkness are bassist/vocalist Phorgath and lead guitar/vocalist Olve J.LW. Both of which are also members of (purer) black/death metal outfit  Enthroned. (Their 2012 album, Obsidium is excellent.) Rounding out the quartet on rhythm and drums respectively are Phil P. and Jonas Sanders.
Across the album's nine tracks, Emptiness captures the all-pervading grim atmosphere of black/death/doom much in the same way as Hooded Menace. One difference being, Emptiness manages to take the dissonance and angularity present in many of the bands of the so-called "Sumerian-core" ilk, slow it down and infuse it with the requisite level of darkness necessary to fit the band's modus operandi.  On Error you'll find that the weight of death metal coupled with the malicious fervor of black metal makes for an intense combination. Add to that a "noise" element and things really get captivating. In the title track there is even a saxophone that muscles its way into the melee.  And in my opinion, it works better here than the sax on the new Napalm Death album. (Gasp!)
Cutting through the sense fog of uneasiness and chaos that envelops the album is a sense that these songs are actually fun to play. The corn-free "mosh parts" are interwoven so seamlessly that the listener may be taken by surprise by the urge to throw oneself against another. I'm not suggesting an Emptiness show would be plagued by circle pits, but the riffs do compel one to be engaged beyond merely raising some invisible oranges and nodding along. Betraying that tonic for inducing metal camaraderie are the almost aqueous vocals.They are drowning in their own cold-hearted menace. They sound as if they belong to a sinister, disembodied pan-dimensional being occupying your cerebral cortex and manipulating your very existence. Underlying the bludgeoning force laid upon the listener of Error is a subtle beauty. Certain passages, riffs or even just notes elevate the otherwise drag-you-through-the-pits-of-hell atmosphere. Although, it very well may just dig its hooks into you do just that.
Emptiness has been around since 1998 with their first full-length, Guilty To Exist,being released in 2004. But I've just been turned on to them now. I feel like I've been missing out for the last eight years. But that's no reason you should miss out any longer. This misanthropic journey to the precipice of insanity is available now from Dark Descent Records.