Album Review – The Sun Through a Telescope / Black Hole Smile (2017)

Brave the psychedelic sludge waters of Doom and Drone Metal brought forth by this inventive one-man band from Canada, and have your musical boundaries pushed further in a unique way.

I love when a band challenges our senses and pushes our musical boundaries further and further, which is exactly what you’ll face in Black Hole Smile, the brand new album by Canadian Drone/Doom Metal one-man project The Sun Through a Telescope, led by Ottawa-based multi-instrumentalist Leigh Newton (also known as Lee Neutron). In nothing less than 17 (yes, seventeen!) distinct tracks, Lee offers the listener an unconventional fusion of several styles and genres that will blow your mind, or as he likes to say, his music is where “Blackened Doom meets Ambient Drone, soaked in psychedelic sludge water.”

Lee has been very active with his The Sun Through a Telescope since 2011, having released a few EP’s that year before his first full-length album, titled I Die Smiling, came to light in 2013. The following year saw the birth of a new EP named Unnatural Cruciform on a Moss Covered Rock, paving the path for Lee to go even further with his creativity and bring forth Black Hole Smile. Each song will sound different than the others, each one being a distinct experiment by Lee, creating a parallel universe of music that might not make a lot of sense at first, but that will certainly get you entranced from start to finish.

In the very atmospheric, psychedelic and experimental Never Pray, Lee’s clean vocals sound as if he was in a different dimension, with the song’s background being only a distant, smooth noise, becoming an interesting warm-up for Living Every Single Hell, where alternative and distorted guitars are complemented by slow, sharp beats before an explosion of rage and anger with elements of Black and Death Metal invades our ears. Furthermore, Lee goes from maniac growls to desolated clean vocals and back to his demented mode à la Mike Patton, guiding us in a 10-minute voyage through the world of The Sun Through a Telescope. With such an impactful name, I couldn’t expect anything less visceral and experimental than Worm(hole)s, where Lee offers more of his hypnotic guitars and doomed beats, as well as his sick gnarls blending Drone and Doom Metal in a very gripping manner; followed by The Inverted Cross Of A Sunday Funday, a fun and solid instrumental piece by this one-man army displaying less than two minutes of demonic sounds inspired by the meanest forms of Industrial and Drone Metal.

“More Light” continues with Lee’s movie score-inspired extravaganza, being somehow epic and building an instant connection to Every Single Living Hell (note the word play with the second track of the album), with the crow in the background giving it a funereal vibe before becoming a hellish hybrid of Blackened Doom and Drone Metal, also presenting wicked sounds usually found in Alternative and Groove Metal. Focusing on its choir-like vocals and gentle guitar lines, the purely atmospheric composition Dead Dies, New Born gets to a more Alternative Rock and Metal sonority halfway through it, giving even a sense of hope to the whole song, whereas Something Witchy offers 40 seconds of a demented devastation full of distortions and wicked growls before peace returns in No Way Home. However, that peaceful ambience lasts only until half of the song, when Lee beings firing his blast beats and atmospheric vocals again.

Black Hole Bile and “Oh No, This Is Mine” are two similar but somehow unique one-minute deranged instrumental tunes, while A Prolonged Vegetative State presents a more violent side of The Sun Through a Telescope, showcasing deeper guttural and heavier sounds as if Faith No More was “poisoned” with the darkness of Drone and Doom Metal. And never tired of experimenting with different sounds, Lee delivers the Ambient Black Metal tunes Burn Everything and No More Light, with things only getting weirder and more experimental as the album progresses, so alternative it’s impossible to label what’s happening. If I try to explain the music in Caught, Drugged, Trial, Exile, one more atmospheric creation spawned by Lee, I would say there’s an inner fury in this song that never fully comes out, increasing its anxiousness and despair, while the melancholy and the sounds of birds in the background in Dead Tomorrow flow into the pleasant sonority with smooth vocals and the delicate instrumental from Whitehole / Brighthell, with moments of anger meticulously inserted at specific parts of the song, building a suffocating and climatic conclusion to this extravagant album.

If you want to know more about Lee and his The Sun Through a Telescope, simply visit his Facebook page for the most up-to-date news, with Black Hole Smile (which can be streamed in its entirety HERE) being available for purchase on BandCamp, CD Baby, iTunes and on Amazon. After swimming in the psychedelic sludge waters of Doom and Drone Metal proposed by The Sun Through a Telescope, I’m sure your view of the current state of heavy music will change considerably, proving how important independent artists like Lee are for music and arts in general.

Best moments of the album: Living Every Single Hell, Every Single Living Hell, A Prolonged Vegetative State and Whitehole / Brighthell.

Worst moments of the album: “Oh No, This Is Mine” and No More Light.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Never Pray 2:55
2. Living Every Single Hell 9:57
3. Worm(hole)s 6:20
4. The Inverted Cross Of A Sunday Funday 1:39
5. “More Light” 1:35
6. Every Single Living Hell 7:50
7. Dead Dies, New Born 4:06
8. Something Witchy 0:38
9. No Way Home 3:14
10. Black Hole Bile 1:06
11. “Oh No, This Is Mine” 1:17
12. A Prolonged Vegetative State 2:59
13. Burn Everything 1:04
14. No More Light 2:05
15. Caught, Drugged, Trial, Exile 5:38
16. Dead Tomorrow 0:51
17. Whitehole / Brighthell 7:08

Band members
Lee Neutron – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, programming, samples

Guest musician
Ava – additional vocals

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Album Review – netra / Ingrats (2017)

The perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres into a coherent stream of melancholy, might be right in front of your eyes thanks to this exquisite Urban Black Metal one-man project.

Conveying images of a grey, boring and anxiogenic city life, Urban Black Metal one-man project netra is back with its third full-length album, titled Ingrats (which is French for “ungrateful”), the perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres such as as Ambient Black Metal, Trip-Hop and moody Jazz into a coherent stream of melancholy. Put differently, the music found in Ingrats is highly recommended if you like bands such as Manes, Katatonia or Burzum, and especially if you are not afraid of trying something truly new that will defy your senses and concepts in music.

Formed in 2003 by French multi-instrumentalist Steven Le Moan in Quimper, a citiy located in Brittany, in northwestern France, netra relased its first album Mélancolie Urbaine in 2010. Two years later, netra presented the highly claustrophobic Sørbyen, recorded after relocating to the city of Gjøcik, Norway over the course of a year. In addition to that, netra also collaborated with Californian rap duo We’rewolves in 2013 to create a true hybrid between Hip-Hop and Black Metal, the EP entitled Dreading Consciousness. Now in 2017, after moving to Auckland, a major urban city in the North Island of New Zealand, Steven and his netra found the right amount of inspiration to mesmerize us once again with the Depressive Black Metal and all other styles featured in Ingrats.

Gimme a Break, a Jazz-like intro with smooth piano and drums, introduces us to the universe of Ingrats before netra’s Black Metal strikes the listener like a lightning bolt in Everything’s Fine, a dark and aggressive composition where netra manically grasps the song’s lyrics, full of anguish and hatred. Furthermore, the song’s hints of Jazz and Experimental Metal, together with some clean vocals by the end of the song, make the whole experience of listening to this multilayered tune even more exciting. In Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours, an atmospheric instrumental composition alternating between electronic music and sheer obscurity, simply close your eyes and savor its musicality, getting ready for the melancholic Live with It, continuing with netra’s wicked fusion of sounds and proving music doesn’t need to be heavy and fast all the time to be good. Its clean vocals are spot-on, not to mention the gentle balance between acoustic guitars and electronic elements, turning it into one of the top moments of the album in my opinion.

Infinite Boredom, an instrumental bridge displaying gentle piano notes under the rain, paves a gray and sorrowful path for Don’t Keep Me Waiting, a movie-inspired creation by netra where all instruments keep growing in intensity, transpiring melancholy and pain. It’s interesting to notice how the saxophone somehow “replaces” the vocal parts, with a dense background voice, as well as the song’s Atmospheric Black Metal beats, enhancing the overall darkness present in the music. And A Genuinely Benevolent Man, the most modern and electronic of all songs, blends Trip-Hop with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with the music gradually increasing in intensity while netra delivers only a few sick growls throughout the whole song.

The hopelessness depicted by netra continues in the ambient Paris or Me, where subtle hints of Jazz and Black Metal coming from the piano and guitar lines add to this instrumental piece a delicate feeling of solitude; whereas in Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve I highly recommend you keep your eyes closed and follow netra in his walk through the dark and hazy urban streets where he lives. Bringing forward Industrial and Alternative Metal nuances, there’s no sign of happiness in the music, which can be felt through his clean but acid vocals, reminding me of some of the best creations by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. And how about a sweet Jazz song as the closing act of this unusual album? In Jusqu’au-boutiste you’ll not only get that, but netra also offers trenchant riffs and blast beats in the best Atmospheric Black Metal style imaginable, like a sharp razor cutting our ears while the piano parts give peace to our souls, ending the album in a tempestuous fashion.

Only time will tell what’s next for the urban black metaller netra, but based on the amazing quality of the music found in Ingrats (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), I don’t think he’ll take too long to release more of his eccentric music. While we all wait for another blast of his multilayered creations, let’s keep in touch with him through his Facebook page, and purchase a copy of Ingrats through the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp (where you can find some interesting bundles like the “ultimate netra listener pack”) or official webstore in a 4 panel sleeve with 8 page booklet format or as a fantastic package containing the CD, a 11cm x 7cm all-weather vinyl netra sticker and a beyond awesome “Urban Black Metal” shirt, as well as on Amazon and on CD Baby. Now please excuse, as I’m going for a lonely walk through the dark and cold shadows of Toronto, and I guess you know which album I’ll be listening to.

Best moments of the album: Everything’s Fine, Live with It and Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve.

Worst moments of the album: A Genuinely Benevolent Man.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Gimme a Break 1:19
2. Everything’s Fine 5:24
3. Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours 3:36
4. Live with It 4:30
5. Infinite Boredom 0:44
6. Don’t Keep Me Waiting 4:32
7. A Genuinely Benevolent Man 5:10
8. Paris or Me 3:32
9. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve 5:00
10. Jusqu’au-boutiste 5:55

Band members
netra – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Horn / Turm am Hang (2017)

One of the most respected underground musicians from Germany returns with more of his nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots and tribalism in another remarkable album.

Rating4

coverSince its creation in 2002 by German multi-instrumentalist Niklas “Nerrath”, Teutonic one-man army Horn has aimed at creating nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots, focusing on the relation of man and nature in a regional context. And this excellent project, hailing from Paderborn, a city in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, has been extremely successful in its journey, delivering high-end extreme music always with a meaningful concept behind it and always singing in its mother tongue German. Now, in the beginning of 2017, we have Horn’s seventh studio album, the folk, dynamic opus Turm Am Hang.

Inspired by the classic German folk song “Es ist ein Schnitter”, from the 17th century, as well as lansquenets (a gambling game of German origin), wars of the past, tribalism and the spirit of masculinity, Turm Am Hang will stimulate your most primeval senses with its distinctive ambience and powerful music. Furthermore, the artwork, layout and visual concept, all brought forth by German illustrator Timon Kokott, perfectly visualize the album’s combined musical and lyrical themes, complementing the already thrilling experience of listening to the music crafted by Nerrath.

After a pleasant folk intro in the opening track, titled Alles in einem Schnitt (which would translate as “everything in one cut”), Nerrath offers us his thrilling Black Metal with Folk and Pagan Metal elements, all sung in German as aforementioned to make things even more aggressive, not to mention the uniqueness of his tribal and stylish guitar lines. The title-track Turm am Hang (“tower on slope”) also begins in a serene way, again exploding into what can be called Blackened Folk Metal, with Nerrath blasting his enraged growls, potent beats and blazing, rhythmic riffs; followed by Verhallend in Landstrichen (“ranging in landscapes”), with the folk elements in the background adding a lot of epicness to the musicality together with its menacing drums. Furthermore, simply close your eyes and you will be able to feel all the energy flowing from the folkloristic sounds generated by Nerrath in this brilliant composition.

primarA song with an impactful name like Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz (“the one with the bow on the cross”) couldn’t sound less amazing than this, with its somber intro being gradually joined by guitars until all becomes an Extreme Metal extravaganza, perfect for drinking a few pints of beer together with your friends. Ä(h)renschnitter (“spices”) kicks off at full speed, with Nerrath going berserk with his fast-paced beats and riffs while powerfully vociferating the song’s lyrics at the same time. Moreover, hints of old school German Punk Rock are a very welcome addition to the overall musicality, enhancing the song’s effectiveness. And in Totenräumer (“Mortimer”), a fantastic fast-paced creation by Nerrath, our one-man army is startling on vocals, giving life to the song’s epic lyrics. Leaning towards sheer Pagan Metal, it never slows down, keeping the listener fully entertained from start to finish.

The eerie instrumental Lanz und Spieß (“lance and spear”) works as an intro for Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels (“bastion, in the sea of deaf rock”), a voyage through the realms of experimental and atmospheric extreme music, bringing forward elements of Black and Pagan Metal with an obscure rhythm. Ad lastly, as a “bonus” Nerrath offers the listener his excellent version for The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way, a melancholic and introspective journey of ambient music by American Ambient Black Metal band When Bitter Spring Sleeps, from their 2013 album Coven of the Wolves. Not only this is the only song in English in the album, but it also features guest vocals by American Lord Sardonyx, the mastermind behind When Bitter Spring Sleeps himself.

In order to enjoy everything Nerrath and his amazing project Horn have to offer, simply follow his steps on Facebook, and go to Horn’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel to grab your copy of Turm am Hang. As mentioned before, the experience of listening to an album by Horn is beyond unique, connecting you to the pagan and tribal origins of man and embraced all the time by superior metal music. As this is always the main goal of ambient and experimental extreme music, I must say Turm am Hang triumphs brilliantly hands down.

Best moments of the album: Alles in einem Schnitt, Verhallend in Landstrichen and Totenräumer.

Worst moments of the album: Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels.

Released in 2017 Iron Bonehead/Northern Silence Productions

Track listing
1. Alles in einem Schnitt 5:42
2. Turm am Hang 5:09
3. Verhallend in Landstrichen 5:10
4. Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz 5:00
5. Ä(h)renschnitter 5:35
6. Totenräumer 5:34
7. Lanz und Spieß 2:09
8. Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels 4:44
9. The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way (When Bitter Spring Sleeps cover) 8:12

Band members
Nerrath – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Lord Sardonyx – additional vocals on “The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way”