I really liked Myrkr; when they came out Black Metal was not in such a good moment as it is now, and they cast some good and strong releases. But I would lie if I said I miss them or I'm sorry they stopped their activities, because that made Mr. Joseph Deegan focus on his other project, Slidhr, which has proved to be an even more interesting and personal entity. Their first demo and EP may not have been that groundbreaking, even if they contained some very dark tunes, but from their split with Rebirth of Nefast, and especially on their first album, 'Deluge' (when Bjarni Einarsson from Wormlust/Sinmara joined the band on drums), they've turned into a whole new and more interesting entity.
'Spit of the Apostate', which was released around a year ago (although the vinyl came out just in April 2016), is the natural progression we could expect from such a monumental release as 'Deluge' was. They keep the path taken on that album, with a brand of Black Metal that is as ferocious as introspective and atmospheric, set in a harsh and drowning ambiance where we can find traces of several branches of the genre (from Swedish and French dissonant waves to some rawer approaches) and which can show similitudes too with some of the other bands that have emerged from the Terratur Possessions roster; also some slight Death Metal leanings show their face and have some impact on the intensity of the three new songs, which are probably the reason why I've found myself several times thinking about such bands as Hate Forest, Ellorsith or even Grave Miasma.
All in all, the differences between this EP and their first album are more in the details than on the basis of their sound, but affected the result is such a way that the progression is quite remarkable. And that, the sound, is actually the point that distinguishes this recording the most from its predecessor. Slidhr managed to deliver something that is even more sinister, maybe due to their compositions progressing more naturally and generating an improved overall entrancing effect, and also more organic and striking. On the later, I definitely think Mr. Bjarni should get some recognition, as his job on the skins is very well crafted, not due to being the most technically or brutally impressive drummer I've ever heard, but for how well he chooses his parts, no matter if what is needed are blastbeats or a slower and groovier part. He's actually very present on the mix, and blows a big amount of energy into Slidhr's cold sound. The vocal lines of Joseph are quite intense and varied as well (without going too far from what's usual in the genre), especially on the first song on face B, where he combines his powerful and deeper tone (just as a sonic representation of the wolf on the cover) with some screaming voices coming from the depths.
I would also add, in addition to the previous mention to the more organic sound of this release, or maybe as a result of it, that they turn out a bit less cold and dehumanized in comparison to 'Deluge'. They still make you feel like being in the middle of an icy storm, but in a slightly more brutal and lacerating way. Maybe it's the change of studio (although it's the same guy taking care of the recording, Mr. S. "Wann" Lockhart, aka Rebirth of Nefast), maybe it's something else, but when I put the vinyl on the turntable I get a way more intense feeling in comparison to the cold and slightly mechanical atmosphere I got from 'Deluge'.
This is without the shadow of a doubt the best Slidhr recording so far, they have found their personality, their sound and their form and they have refined it until they got the most polished and raw core of what they aim for. And these three songs end up being just too short, as the ideas they represent could have very well been explored further in order to form a fantastic album. In case you didn't know, they recently released a split EP with another Black Metal monster as is Acherontas, although I still haven't had the chance to give it a proper listen.
When Alaric’s self-titled first album came out in 2011, under the auspice of 20 Buck Spin, the resurgence of Death Punk was still not as palpable as it is now, and it was a tremendous surprise and pleasure to discover an album that could take you back to the golden days of the genre and keep that combination of Punk anger and Post negativity and desolation while sounding fresh and contemporary. But here we are now, five years later, and I thought they had stopped their activities after sharing another 12” vinyl with their neighbours from Atriarch; but these experienced guys (let’s not forget they played in bands such as Cross Stitched Eyes or Noothgrush, just to name the ones closer to their sound and style) suddenly release a new second full-length, this time under none other than Neurot Recordings.
The return of Oakland’s is not only that, it’s something else. It’s a big evolution in terms of composition, personality and sound. Because, despite ‘End of Mirrors’ keeps the essence of Alaric’s sound (the influences of Killing Joke, Crass or even Amebix are still very rooted in their sound) they do not stop there at all. It’s actually quite a step forward, a huge one, event if it’s in a delicate manner. Because those atmospheric and very percussion driven parts are mixed now with way heavier ones, something they were already announcing on that previous split. The guitars and bass combine those ethereal and most intimate parts with punishing ones, even having some catchy cavalcades. And, all in all, it’s a jump of their sound into a lot denser and darker territories than their debut, but this doesn’t mean they’ve completely gone into Doom laden ambiances and suddenly increased low distortion to drown themselves into heaviness.
It’s actually a way more subtle process, as the basis of their sound is still pretty clean and Punk related, both in the way they wrote the songs, with simplicity and rawness distilling all along the record and being their flag, and how they execute them, as you could think they’re just in front of you given how naturally they develop, sometimes in an almost ethereal and improvised way, as the beginning of the second side of the vinyl. It's actually a jump in terms of production too. Mr. Skot Brown (¿Altar de Fey someone?) did an enormous job capturing their purest essence, which was afterwards empowered by the infallible Brad Boatright, getting a perfect ballance for their already polarised moments.
The biggest change one feels when listening to the record for the first time, as mentioned above, is actually those few moments where they decide to unleash their most extreme feelings and go for slightly more metallic and doomy sounding riffs. If I had to think about some comparisons to describe that side of ‘End of Mirrors’, it shouldn’t sound so strange that they have been signed to Neurot Recordings, because there’s something from the softer and more atmospheric Neurosis vibe in their music, probably because they share a few influences, but still very similar. On the angriest parts, the ones that bring them to clear Amebix shores, they wouldn’t be too far from the first Morne album. But that's just one small part of it, as it’s in the details where one finds the best improvements and evolutive signs. No matter if it’s in the progressions from those angry riffs to Post-Punkish atmospheres. Or if it’s in the beautifully simple and repetitive rhythmic patterns the drums and the bass draw in the same way as a painter magically delineating a sketch. They actually have somewhat of a seventies Prog touch in that sense.
And it's definitely those softer parts that I enjoy the most from Alaric’s compositions, because they are simply perfect for moments of solitude and negativeness. I can actually find a lot more despair and devoid of hope in some of these songs than in a lot of more extreme and darker bands. Alaric manage to sound terribly sad, sometimes even empty; but, on the other side, they know very well of to sound full of energy and ready to fight too when they want, they just need to introduce some of those warlike almost Bolt-throwerish riffs and break the chains that were retaining them. And let’s not forget Mr. Shane Baker, who delivers here what’s without the shadow of a doubt his best performance, with a lot of different vocal nuances when the songs require them, while keeping his tone sober and very emotional.
I've said enough, no more words needed. "This is the end of mirrors, this is the end. That's right, get what you came for", which is obviously Alaric's new album.
Out from the always fertile Canadian Metal fields, more precisely from the city of Ottawa, arose in 2012 this three piece gang called Occult Burial, including ex-Iron Dogs drummer Dan Lee. They first self-released two demos, then contributed with one track on the 'Evil Spells Volume I' compilation next to such beasts as Throaat, Swamp or Possession (among others), and finally released a new demo (or promo) tape through Stygian Black Hand before signing with Irish Metal stronghold Invictus Productions in order to release this piece of wax I will be speaking about.
The first thing that caught my attention when I read about this record was it's cover. And you know that proverb saying "Do not judge a book by it's cover"? Well, in this case it's absolutely false. What I saw on the cover of this nicely presented vinyl (no news here when it comes to Invictus releases) was mostly clichés; clichés of eighties darkest Metal bands. Spiked armbands, skulls, inverted crosses, chalices, demons, witches, darkness all over, guys closing their hands with their palms upwards like if they had arthritis in their fingers ... All the good stuff.
Indeed, when I first played 'Hideous Obscure', it was just as if I had travelled back in time to the first time I played a few records, and especially two of them: 'Sentence of Death' and 'Bathory'. Same kind of sloppy sound (you know I do not mean it in a negative way), same angry Punked dose of primitive Metal that still reeks of Motörhead and GBH, same groovy Rockin'riffs and same raspy voice which sometimes tends to higher toned screams (this was actually very Teutonic). Nothing new, at all, but man, how much have I missed this kind of raw and deep sound, this unstoppable energy and this dark atmosphere in every Thrash Metal record I've tried to listen to in the last ... 15 years?
When I say nothing new I really mean it, as I could find a lot of very straight resemblances to those two albums and others of the yesteryears of the genre, but this tome I mean it in a positive way (do not takes this as a habit); just take a listen closely to the opening track "Blasted Death", it's pure Destruction, no matter if it's the riffs, fast and savagely aggressive, or the vocals, which are pure Schmier in his younger years. "Occult Burial", the last track of the record, could very well have been a long forgotten recording of the Germans too. On the other hand you have "Ancient Returns", which is pure Bathory devotion, groovy and evil as fuck. "A witch shall be born" is absolute Venom devotion, so I understood why they get compared to Midnight from time to time too. They can go from quite fast and violent songs to more mid-paced and catchy ones, without breaking the great eighties devoted writing aesthetics, using cool rocking guitar leads, some double bass drums to infuse some more heaviness when needed, and a good dose of reverb on the vocals to make them sound more evil.
And yet, does this mean we can't give Occult Burial any mention to anything that isn't bringing back the past? Shouldn't they if I ended playing their record on a daily basis and never got tired of it? If I've been singing their great riffs and choruses after the vinyl stopped turning? Definitely not. 'Hideous Obscure' has everything you need if you want a good dose of ol'Black Metal, maybe not in such an original way as Malokarpatan's first album, and definitely a lot more straight-forward. But it still contains great compositions, and it's definitely well presented on the production side, with the kind of sound you would expect for their style, raw and slightly dirty yet quite distinguishable (in opposition to the dirtier recordings of later Black Metal bands), and not some crappy digital sound ruining it all. They actually sent it to the Enormous Door Studios for the mastering, and it's without any doubt the best decision they could have made for an old-school and punkish sounding record like this one.
You want some evil Metal? You miss the old times? Let some youngsters help you remember instead of listening to the new super-produced records of all those reformed grandpas in search for money.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.