Album Review – Of Blood and Mercury / Strangers EP (2019)

A mix of dark pop and ambient with a touch of synthetic nostalgia from the 80’s by a Belgian duo not afraid of experimenting in music, giving us a hint of the concepts and harmonies to be feature on their upcoming album.

Brought into being in early 2018 in the city of Brussles, Belgium by vocalist Michelle Nocon (Bathsheba, Leviathan Speaks, Serpentcult) and multi-instrumentalist Olivier Lomer-Wilbers (Enthroned, Emptiness), Avantgarde Noir Rock project Of Blood and Mercury is not exactly what you would expect from the fusion of musicians from extreme bands such as Enthroned, Pro-Pain, Bathsheba and Luminance, but that doesn’t mean it’s bland or tiresome. Quite the contrary, Michele and Olivier united their creativity in a very vibrant and detailed musical style that could be described as a mix of dark pop and ambient, with a touch of synthetic nostalgia from the 80’s.

As their first adventure through the realms of avantgarde music, Of Blood and Mercury are offering us an enthralling three-track EP entitled Strangers, where Michelle and Olivier have the support of bassist David Alexandre Parquier (Soror Dolorosa) and drummer Jonas Sanders (Emptiness, Pro-Pain, Resistance) to help them give life to their very distinct project. Recorded in the caves of Brussels’ Blackout Studio, Strangers gives us a hint of the concepts and harmonies to be feature on their upcoming 10-track album to be released later this year, with the melancholic tones of Michelle’s voice beautifully depicting the shadows that drag the wonders of nature to their ghostly forms.

Ethereal sounds ignite the mesmerizing Strangers, where you’ll feel embraced by Michelle’s vocals while she recites the song’s delicate lyrics (“Dusty words remember a lost cause. A feeling of a half filled glass. / Half poison, half wine. Half bitter, half sweet. some steel, some rust, some victory.”), with an extra kick added to the musicality thanks to the precise drums by Jonas. Put differently, this is first-class heavier-than-usual Dark Wave penetrating deep inside our hearts and souls, which can also be said about the following tune, titled Walk the Void. Inspired by the music by Enya with a modern and melodic twist, Of Blood and Mercury generate an inebriating atmosphere throughout the entire song, with Olivier doing a great job with his precise synths, keys and guitar lines. Furthermore, it definitely feels like the band is focusing a lot more on the atmosphere rather than just the music itself, and the final result is absolutely amazing. And the last song of the EP, Estranged, continues to wander between the rock and electronic genres in a very gentle and serene way, inviting us to simply close our eyes and let the hypnotic waves crafted by Michelle, Oliver & Co. invade our senses. In addition, some people like to say that musicians are the poets of the modern era we’re living in, and based on the lyrics crafted by Michelle and Olivier that statement is more than valid (“Estranged one, / in oblivion. / The disease has sprung. / Wear the mask of Cain. / ‘Cause you still haven’t learned to exit the dream. / And I still feel numb. / Estranged one, / in oblivion. / Symmetry gone wrong, / infertile brain.”).

You can listen to the entire EP by clicking HERE, follow Of Blood and Mercury on Facebook, and obviously show your true support to this classy duo by purchasing their debut EP directly from their BandCamp page. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for a full-bodied release by Of Blood and Mercury in the coming months, and until then we can satisfy our craving by listening to Strangers again, again and again, letting our minds and souls wander through the vast and melancholic lands of the distinct Avantgarde Noir Rock presented to us all by two veterans of the extreme music scene who are not afraid of experimenting and trying new musical styles and nuances, consequently showing the world there is no such thing as boundaries for musicians who create music from the bottom of their hearts.

Best moments of the album: Strangers.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Strangers 4:54
2. Walk the Void 5:30
3. Estranged 4:58

Band members
Michelle Nocon – vocals, programming
Olivier Lomer-Wilbers – guitars, keyboards, programming

Guest musicians
David Alexandre Parquier – bass
Jonas Sanders – drums, percussion

Album Review – Vile Creature / Cast of Static and Smoke (2018)

A dystopian science fiction taking place well after civilization has been destroyed by its own nuclear ambitions in the form of 44 minutes of suffering and austere Doom Metal.

Formed in 2014 in Saint Catharines, the largest city in Canada’s Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in the province of Ontario, Sludge/Doom Metal duo Vile Creature is more than ready to release their brand new full-length album titled Cast of Static and Smoke, a logical progression from their previous releases both in sound and content. While in their 2015 debut album A Steady Descent into the Soil they mirrored Blackened Doom with equally melancholy stories of growing up queer, and in their 2016 EP A Pessimistic Doomsayer they explored escaping your demons by forging relationships with works of fiction, now with Cast of Static and Smoke the band have delved into building a world of their own while writing a compelling 44 minutes of  what they like to call “suffering metal”.

In order to properly translate all that melancholy and suffering into metal music, the duo comprised of Vic on vocals and drums and KW on vocals, guitar and percussion recorded the core of the album live with only one guitar and one drum kit. Furthermore, Cast of Static and Smoke is a record and a short story at the same time, a dystopian science fiction taking place well after civilization has been destroyed by its own nuclear ambitions. Displaying an eerie artwork by artist Stephen Wilson (Unknown Relic) and featuring a few interesting guest musicians who end up bringing extra layers of complexity to the music, the album presents four songs that embody emotions felt by characters and moments that take place within the story, sounding less chronological and more a response to certain instances. Musically the band is as heavy as they have ever been, weaving through different paces and influences with ease while maintaining their foundation in Doom Metal.

Wicked, somber sounds kick off the 10-minute Doom metal aria Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper, with guest Erin Severson talking about all that’s wrong in our society before the sluggish beats and distorted guitars by Vic and KW invade our ears, paving the path for the song’s austere lyrics (“Blinded by visions of the elements of life / Leading to a scorched earth / A crows nest shrouded in metal and rust / Even scraps fear nothingness / I’ve seen blackened, deserted shores / Calling me, whispering lore”). Furthermore, guest vocalist Chris Colohan effectively provides his share of anguished growling, taking the song’s acidity to a whole new level before everything ends in the most visceral way possible. Then we have the absolutely grim Circuits, Bending & Breaking, an excellent hybrid of Doom Metal, Blackened Doom, Drone and Ambient with a violent twist where Vic keeps blasting Stygian, slow-paced beast while KW gnarls desperately and rabidly amidst a high level of distortions and rough noises perfect for disturbing our thoughts.

Forest, Subsists as a Tomb starts as dark and downbeat as the two initial compositions of the album, becoming another feast of devilish sounds and tones led by the lingering drums by Vic, with KW firing some enraged growls and slashing guitar noises. Once again, Erin’s narration feels as creepy as the previous one, with another guest musician, James Claypool, bringing forward a good amount of wickedness to the overall musicality with his flammable guitar. And lastly we have Sky, in Descending Pieces, a song that doesn’t bring any joy or happiness to our hearts and souls; quite the contrary, it follows the same somber path crafted by Vile Creature throughout the entire album, resulting in a solid display of modern-day Doom and Sludge Metal with the duo’s deranged screams and perturbing riffs and beats setting the stage for the final unsettling message by Erin.

In summary, although Cast of Static and Smoke is definitely not an easy listen for newcomers to the world of depressive and suffering Doom Metal by Vile Creature, it’s indeed an album that will grow on you as the music and the story progress together, gradually making your ears and senses more familiar with the band’s eccentric type of music. The album can be purchased through the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as through the Halo of Flies’ BandCamp page or webstore and the Dry Cough Records’ webstore. Furthemrore, if you buy Cast of Static and Smoke you’re not just buying over 40 minutes of high-quality extreme music, but the physical copy is also accompanied by a 16-page booklet that includes lyrics, credits, the full story itself (which you can read HERE), and an audio recording of the entire story scored by Vile Creature for those who have a hard time reading small print or just want another way to experience it. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go show your support to Vile Creature by visiting their Facebook page and buying their new album, and consequently immersing yourself in the bitter and melancholic post-apocalyptic reality proposed by this persevering Canadian duo.

Best moments of the album: Circuits, Bending & Breaking.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Halo of Flies

Track listing  
1. Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper 10:20
2. Circuits, Bending & Breaking 9:16
3. Forest, Subsists as a Tomb 13:36
4. Sky, in Descending Pieces 8:52

Band member
Vic – drums, vocals
KW – guitar, vocals, percussion

Guest musicians
Chris Colohan – vocals on “Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper”
James Claypool – guitar on “Forest, Subsists as a Tomb”
Erin Severson – the narrator on “Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper”, “Forest, Subsists as a Tomb” and “Sky, in Descending Pieces”
George Zhen – piano