Abrasive Audio 2020 – Special Edition; Part the Second

(Another collaborative effort with a few friends)

Abrasive Audio Special Ed 2020 Paty 3

This installment is the second in a Special Edition Series. And again, sees a collaborative effort with friends (whose opinions I respect) from as far afield as the releases featured within. But before we dive in first a few words from Drew

metal cactuses

A gathering of “Metal Cacti”, how about that?

Greetings from the deserts of Arizona.

When I was first approached about the idea of writing this intro, panic and fear consumed me. “What should I say?” “When do you need this by?” and “Please tell me you don’t need it by tomorrow” were several of the thoughts that crossed my mind. After my good friend Cult here was able to reassure me that he wouldn’t need it until “Monday or Tuesday,” a wave of relief washed over me.

“Thank God” I thought. “That gives me at least four more days to put this off until the last minute.” And here’s where my sloth bites me once again.

My house is sick. More specifically, my wife is sick. She has been on death’s door since Saturday. And while I’m never one to panic or overreact, I’m going to just go ahead and officially call this one as Corona virus (I can’t prove it is, but you can’t prove it’s not. And that’s how science works.)

Fast-forward to today and guess who woke up feeling like aged dog shit. By now you should have guessed that would be me. So, what does any of this happen to do with the latest trove of reviews? I have various fluids starting to seep from orifices above the neck. I have slight chills. I have some body aches. I’m also developing a fever blister radiating across my lip and into my face creating an almost offset cleft palate. Combine all those factors together and I’m slowly transforming into something of a Sam Raimi prop reject worthy of a Goregrind cover. Perhaps even for one of the multitude of bands you have read about and will read about here. And it really doesn’t get any more metal than that. So, without further ado…

Onwards to this installment’s selections dedicated, yet again, to a few which apparently…

Slipped Through the Cracks
(Releases of 19′ which I have somehow missed)

Obviously, this isn’t all or even close to those I’ve failed to cover before but rather a handful which have fallen under most radars though still deserve attention.

altarage

Altarage (Spain) – The Approaching Roar

https://altarage.bandcamp.com/album/the-approaching-roar

Release- January/27/19

Season of Mist Underground

ARTWORK- 73

Hardly typical of an image one might normally find within the genre, this nods at audio with the words post and complex in its description. Something sinister is afoot here, these aren’t forms frolicking in shallow depths those depicted here are done frolicking in any way shape or form. There’s a story behind this image and I am intrigued.

FIRST TRACK- 80

Suffocating, all- consuming and claustrophobic. This creates a diabolical atmosphere and embellishes upon it crushing the listener into absolute submission. From a tranquil start to an abrupt cataclysmic apocalypse the transformation is shuddering.

INITIAL LISTEN- 82

More a harrowing experience than a listen, this is what I’m imaging the onslaught of the apocalypse might sound like if one is floundering under water perilously close to drowning. Intricacies flow like blood through a frenzied pumping vein through the audio. Nuances adding to the aura of absolute annihilation and yet there’s also moments of nothing, an ominous silence, as if one has lost consciousness only to be plucked from the brink. But it’s not over. Much like Bolt Throwers “Realm of Chaos” this is also undeniably enveloping audio but here it isn’t a narration telling of unmerciful conquest and advancement by way of city sized industrial death machines but rather being a witness, a participant, in what feels like the very end. An Approaching Roar signifying the climax to all.

Favorite Tracks; Sighting, Urn,

FFO; Pa Vesh En, Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, Portal.

Need a Second Opinion?

atomic heartbeep on twitter

Here’s a few words from Dan, a fellow Brit who added to the sites Best of lists with a handful of intriguing picks I’ve still yet to dive into. He can be found on Twitter displaying his love of Transformers masquerading as @Drachenstrum711

Altarage are a band who have somehow evaded my radar with their releases up until now, and I was only fortunate enough to hear of them through Cult.

“The Upcoming Roar” starts in a very deceptive fashion before exploding from the speakers in a barrage not unlike Incantation battling with Altarage‘s countrymen, Wormed. The overwhelming darkness of that opening salvo continues throughout, with the vocals being quite low in the mix adding to the air of desperation coming from the record. It grinds along with a dissonant fury until the velocity suddenly dissipates into unsettling droning sections, adding a whole new dimension to their already original sound. An extremely refreshing take on modern Death Metal, it picks up the gauntlet of Gateways-era Morbid Angel and pulls it through barren darkness until only a smoking skeleton of that sound remains. It certainly deserves a lot more recognition than it received last year and easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the best releases of 2019.

wilderun

Wilderun (USA) – Veil of Imagination

https://wilderun.bandcamp.com/

Release- November/1/19

Independent

ARTWORK- 74

Its rather hard to tell what this is, though a bouquet of flowers growing from a dead tree is rather close (I believe). The more I look however the more I’m of the understanding that this could be something else entirely; new intricacies and details pop each and every time I rediscover this. I’m intrigued and this is not at all what’s typical of the art which adorns the albums which normally caress my senses.

FIRST TRACK- 93

Spoken word poetry is the first thing to pass the eardrums, this might make many ponder on what’s to come. But have no fear the pace soon picks up but not first before offering perhaps some insight into what this might offer in its totality; an undeniable presence, a depth, a weight of sorts which is sure to make an impression (as weight often does!). With the pace comes at atmosphere as well a familiar aura. Spoiler alert this sounds like certain Opeth audio but with an added and considerable cinematic oomph behind it. But it doesn’t end there, the track meanders across many a landscape in its close to fifteen-minute length. Progressive and driving rock elements are front and center as the track nears its finale, as well a passion which cannot be ignored. All this in a package which screams excellence in both composition and creativity. I cannot believe this is the first I’m hearing of Wilderun, although I had been hearing whispers as the past year waned to its culmination. An exquisite way to start an album.

INITIAL LISTEN- 94

A stunning tapestry rich with depth, intricate melodies, plentiful detail and a perfect balance of ‘beauty and brawn’. Styles are as colors plentiful and blending together seamlessly whilst still standing proud and distinct. A powerful narrative invokes strong emotions, utilizing as it unfolds a myriad of differing rhythms and vocal styles, even what sounds to be a full chorus of voices for beyond cinematic effect. Progressive, progressive metal (for they are two different genres), power metal, symphonic, rock, folk, death/doom, melodic death and more. This album about runs the gamut (save for the darkest end of the extreme spectrum, although some instances do put me in mind of Cradle of Filth’s “Damnation and a Day” album, while others make me reflect upon the Opeth releases which I’ve enjoyed) and delivers throughout while offering an unpredictable nature and intricacies which only unfold following numerous listens. Simply stunning doesn’t even come close to what this offers! It need saying if only I had discovered this that much sooner there’s no doubt it would have featured in the Year End Review/List it took me so damn long to compile.

Favorite Tracks; Distracting from start to finish in the best possible way.

FFO; Opeth, Amorphis, Between the Buried and Me, Devon Townsend, Gates at the Morning, Rhapsody, Akercocke.

Need A Second Opinion?

rickmassive

Here’s a few words from a pal in Canada who will be releasing a single and an album very soon which we are both very excited about. He can be found on Twitter as @rickmassiemusic Visit his website; http://rickmassie.com/ and show support for someone who’s always happy chatting it up about all types of extreme audio. Here are his thoughts;

 Wilderun is a band whose name kept popping up in my Twitter feed, so often in fact, that I eventually decided it was time to take a quick listen. I find it hard to make time to discover new music these days, but something about the many conversations going on about the band gave me the indication that they might have something special going on. So, I checked them out, starting with their newest album, “Veil of Imagination”.

First off, the cover art is a thing of beauty. And discomfort. And strange, lovely grotesqueness. Which actually fits the music within quite well.

Dark, epic, melodic, and at times uplifting. From the very beginning, you feel as if you’re immersed in a fairytale – sometimes dark, sometimes bright – with a soundtrack by the finest folk moments you’ve heard from Amorphis. Before long, it veers off into vast soundscapes of ugly dissonant death metal riffs, that are somehow lovely, despite the ugliness. Think Opeth in their weird-but-heavy moments (“My Arms, Your Hearse” and “Still Life”). Or some of Edge of Sanity’s groovier DM sections. And then… black metal. Then folk. Then prog-laden synth sections.

This music is a bit more like a journey, or a wonderfully written film or book, except expressed in purely musical terms, as opposed to being expressed through words or visuals.  It doesn’t sit still – moving from one riff to the next seamlessly, changing time signatures, tempos, and never seeming like anything is disjointed (except for some moments when it completely intends to do just that, to make you feel uneasy) and never feels forced. There seems to be clean vocals for a little over half of the vocal sections (mid-range vocals, not high-pitched, and not super-low. Like a bard serenading trolls in the forest), and are often accompanied by mixed choir-like groups of low-pitched male voices. The death vocals are clear, mid-to-low-range, but easy to understand. Definitely reminiscent of Opeth and Dan Swano (who coincidentally mixed the album.)

The album never gets boring. I myself get bored with music quickly if it sounds like something I’ve heard before. “Veil of Imagination” sounds fresh and unique, almost as if it’s intentionally trying to catch you off guard. With some of the riffs and sections, you think you know what chord is coming next, but Wilderun proves you wrong each time. Those moments of surprise are one of the things that will keep me listening to this for a long time.

The music flows seamlessly into sections of very cinematic compositions, as if it’s meant to play behind some dark, fantasy film. Orchestras, violins, and flutes all make an appearance in the folky and fantasy-like sections. In the death and black metal moments, the band wouldn’t feel out of place on stage with Opeth. In the acoustic moments, there are visions of Jethro Tull and Amorphis uniting into a prog supergroup.

I particularly loved the way the 2nd-last track (“The Tyranny of Imagination”) threw me off. At the end of the track, I thought it must be the album ending, So, imagine my excitement when it turned out that there was still one more song, nearly 12 minutes long. It starts with a lone piano piece, and vocal accompaniment, eventually working its way into the most glorious and epic moments on the album, and the weirdest. It’s the kind of album ending that you keep coming back for, one that pulls you to re-listen to the full album just so you can relive that epic last track in the context of the full album.

Then, when it ends, you’ll feel uncomfortable, as the last melody and harmony makes you feel nearly sick. In a delightful way, of course.

And that’s my take on this album. Beautiful and ugly. Melodic and dissonant. A pleasant sickness, that you don’t want to go away.

brotthogg

Brotthogg (Norway) – Echoes from the Past

https://brotthogg-no.bandcamp.com/album/echoes-of-the-past-special-edition

Release- July/31/19

Independent

ARTWORK- 80

A wicked jumble of accoutrements and remains (bronzed skeletons, skulls and bones) and this is framed which makes the image all the more oddly intriguing. Strangely reminds me of the 18’ release from Ironflame (“Tales of Splendor and Sorrow”).

FIRST TRACK- 88

Wicked mischievous riffs, rhythms of a pace which could strip paint from the walls, an undeniable ‘presence’ and a style which incorporates elements from a slew of genres including black, death, traditional and pagan metal. This has my attention!

INITIAL LISTEN- 92

For some ungodly reason the band’s name puts me in mind of “Dukes of Hazzard” (anyone else?) The similarities thankfully end there. Imagine if Dissection (“Storm of the Lights Bane” era) was pissed off force of nature fast with a fine gossamer symphonic veil, exhibited flashes of power metal guitar brilliance and other instances which invoke Bathory, Satyricon, and Cradle of Filth. But that’s not all, this also shines with passages of a style eerily close to tech death in a manner befitting Inferi or Vale of Pnath. Either way you shake it this is an album I’m finding hard to remove from the space between my floppy audio catchers. In fact, I’m frustrated as this would’ve ranked especially high on my Year in Review/End of Year lists. Put this between the ears at the next earliest convenience.

Favorite Tracks; Amazing throughout!

FFO; Dissection, Inferi, Vale of Pnath, Inculter, Hellish.

Need A Second Opinion?

drew infared avi

Here’s a few words from the funniest, most loyal person, I believe I’ve ever had the fortune to come in contact with. In short, my BBF, Drew (ha, I sound like an eleven-year old girl) let’s read what he has to say (before I make the full transition) shall we…

The name: Yeah, it’s weird. My initial reaction with a band name like this is it’s going to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek ode to metal a la GWAR or Crotchduster, but this turns out to be not the case. There’s serious metal to be had here.

According to the always faithful Encylcopaedia Metallum, Brotthogg is a 3-piece lineup out of Norway with only one musician setting the sound for two vocalists. Okay. This hardly seems fair to me and I’d love to know how they divvy up royalties, but whatever.

A very thrashy black sound and yet, at times melodic, permeates throughout. Blisteringly fast, heavy riffs can be overwhelming and I imagine physically tiring if you were to see them live.

What’s done here is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but that’s not to dismiss Brotthogg. It’s still done well and has certainly been done worse by others in the past.

Seven tracks (there’s also a bonus, ten-track, release available – Ed*) clock in at just over the half-hour mark, which is honestly all you really need. I can’t imagine keeping pace with this speed for much longer out of respect to my sanity and neck.

“Echoes of the Past” is worth checking out.

Get better minions gif

And these words bring “Guests Taking the Reins” Part the Second to its conclusion. Huge thanks again to all involved for their wisdom, patience, insight, honesty and their amazing ability to put up with my constant badgering, prods and asking “is it ready yet?” Part Three is ready to be put in the can, until then please support the artists included in this installment but most of all don’t fear discovering that which is normally foreign to the sense. But let us not forget some parting words which, in this instance, seem more than appropriate. Drew, get batter. Dammit!

Cult

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