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

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Album Review – Hexis / Tando Ashanti (2017)

Behold the epitome of Blackened Hardcore offered by a distinct Danish act, channeling pure darkness throughout 40 minutes of doomed sounds and noises split in 11 obscure compositions.

Hexis (ἕξις), a Greek word important in the philosophy of Aristotle (and because of this a traditional word of philosophy), is a relatively stable arrangement or disposition, for example a person’s health or knowledge or character. However, since 2010 the word has also been used to describe a distinct band from the city of Copenhagen, in Denmark, playing a mix of Hardcore and doomy Black Metal and singing about topics such as nihilism, anti-Christianity and abstract thought. Across their history, the band has played over 300 shows in the United States, Canada, Japan, Cuba, Russia, the UK and all over Europe, showing how appreciated their unique and obscure music is worldwide.

Following the success of their first full-length album Abalam, from 2014, as well as many other EP’s, demos and split albums released through the years, Hexis return with their second full-length installment, titled Tando Ashanti, the epitome of Blackened Hardcore channeling pure darkness in the vein of Celeste and Oathbreaker and the start of an almost year-long worldwide tour for 2017, released through Halo of Flies in North America and Alerta Antifascista Records in Europe. Furthermore, Hexis are one of those bands where informing their lineup is definitely an item of very low importance to them, which means the names featured on this review might not be accurate. What seems to be their current lineup is Filip on vocals, Victor Kaas on guitars, Luca Mele on bass and Tommaso Rey on drums, but if these names are somehow incorrect I apologize for that. Anyway, it’s the music that really matters, don’t you agree?

Distorted sounds and an apparent lack of hope permeate the air in the intro Tando, when we’re suddenly attacked by Hexis in Ashanti, with the lancinating riffs by Victor together with the demented beats by Tommaso creating a beyond belligerent atmosphere perfect for the irreligious lyrics growled by Filip (“Faithless. But yet you pray in hope that your nightmares will disappear, that these images will leave your head, leave your mind. Tied into anxiety, tied into hopelessness. Surrounded by flies, surrounded by thousands of eyes. Faithless. God is not here today.”). Molestus also begins in full force, a visceral amalgamation of heavy sounds and piercing noises by Filip and his crew, with highlights to the crude riffs by Victor and the rhythmic drumming by Tommaso; whereas Ritualis, albeit following a similar pattern, sounds sharper and more aggressive, which in the end boosts its impact on the listener, not to mention its old school Black Metal riffage and endless obscurity as its main ingredients.

Calamitas represents brutal devastation in the form of music, blending the most violent elements from Black Metal, Hardcore and Neocrust in a fantastic spawn of extreme music by Hexis, with the vocals by Filip sounding extremely demented; followed by Nocturnus, where heavier-than-hell riffs are quickly joined by frantic drums in another brutal creation. Moreover, their sonic havoc suddenly gives place to a slow-paced Doom Metal-ish musicality led by the low-tuned bass by Luca Melo, but all hell breaks loose again for our total delight. And it looks like Hexis mastered the art of crafting bold and devilish songs with less than three minutes like what we face in Opacus, presenting more of the band’s austere lyrics (“As shadows it passes by, creating what is his, taking what was yours. Purging the body, the body of the heartless. Immerse them, immerse the victims, immerse all life, the fragile souls. The shadows they pass, purging the souls.”). Can you imagine this song with a dark orchestra in the background? I can, and just the idea is already beyond awesome.

Cordolium, the longest of all tracks, comes crushing with a hurricane of distorted guitar sounds, slow and menacing beats, and the vociferations of Filip, and that negativity and despair goes on for the song’s six obscure minutes, growing in hostility until its resonant ending, which builds an instant connection with the demonic Resurrectio, with Filip being accompanied by only an eerie background noise and a few isolated beats. In the end, it’s just noise and feels a bit like filler, albeit it makes some kind of sense when put together with all other songs from the album. Luckily, in the belligerent Septem the band gets back to a more Hardcore sonority, delivering modern Black Metal riffs with progressive drumming and hellish gnarls, not to mention the guitars by Victor which are a demonic work-of-art. And ending this eccentric spawn of blackened sounds we have another intense creation named Praesagium, showcasing an amazing job done by Tommaso with his intricate beats, all the malignancy flowing from Filip’s grasps, and a truly Stygian ending in one of the most complete and visceral of all songs.

There are so many places where you can buy your copy of Tando Ashanti in different formats I might have forgotten a few of them on my list, but here we go anyway. You can get the album at Hexis’ BandCamp, at the Alerta Antifascista Records’ BandCamp, at the Init Records’ BandCamp or webshop, at the Halo of Flies’ BandCamp or webshop, at the Bloated Veins’ Big Cartel, on Amazon or at Discogs. Tando Ashanti might be considered by many the most complete, detailed and obscure work by Hexis to date, which is something I have to agree with. I don’t recall listening to such piercing and multi-layered Blackened Hardcore before, and let’s hope Hexis keep taking their aggressiveness and creativity to new heights for many years still to come.

Best moments of the album: Ritualis, Calamitas, Opacus and Praesagium.

Worst moments of the album: Resurrectio.

Released in 2017 Halo of Flies/Alerta Antifascista Records

Track listing
1. Tando 2:16
2. Ashanti 5:24
3. Molestus 2:37
4. Ritualis 2:46
5. Calamitas 1:59
6. Nocturnus 4:58
7. Opacus 2:24
8. Cordolium 5:54
9. Resurrectio 2:27
10. Septem 2:31
11. Praesagium 5:28

Band members
Filip – vocals
Victor Kaas – guitars
Luca Mele – bass
Tommaso Rey – drums

Album Review – Pyramido / Vatten (2016)

Dive into the troubled waters of Swedish Sludge and Doom Metal and feel all its heaviness, sorrow and insanity flowing through your veins.

Rating5

Pyramido-Vatten CoverVatten, the brand new album by Swedish Sludge/Doom Metal act Pyramido, is one of those albums that will twist your mind with its eerie noises, heaviness and growls (exclusively in Swedish), whereas at the same time will make you feel really good while listening to it. You’ll be introduced to a different music perspective in Vatten, something only bands from places like Scandinavia, where creativity is a core piece of people’s lives, are capable of doing. And although the name of the album means “water” in Swedish (not to mention that among their previous releases there are albums called Salt and Sand), this is not a concept album about water nor part of any “trilogy” about the elements.

This is not only the fourth full-length album in the already solid career by this Malmö-based five-piece band formed in 2006, but a step further in terms of melodies, complexity and feeling. Moreover, it’s quite interesting to see the contrast between the serenity found in the artwork designed by Swedish artist Anna Widengård together with lead singer Ronnie Källback and all the sonic turmoil engendered by Pyramido, therefore enhancing our senses as the music progresses. With that said, are you ready to swim in troubled Swedish waters?

Feel the thunderous sound of the old school Doom Metal bass guitar by Dan Widing, while guitarists Henrik Wendel and Dan Hedlund alternate between Black Metal riffs and sludgy and obscure Stoner Metal lines in the opening track, entitled En Linje i Sanden (“a line in the sand”), where albeit most of us won’t understand a word from its Swedish lyrics we can still have a lot of fun with the deranged screams by Ronnie. In Att Bida Sin Tid (“to bide his time”), sorrow and darkness grow through the steady and heavy beats by Sticky Manchester, which are effectively complemented by the song’s melodic guitars while Ronnie gets even more anguished on vocals (and that anger and hopelessness goes on until the end of the song for our total delight).

Pyramido av Fredrik Hylten-CavalliusTempus (“tense”) brings forward the metallic bass lines by Dan and an introspective feeling, being absolutely sluggish and perfect for breaking your neck while headbanging in solitude. Furthermore, a huge amount of despair and pain flows from Ronnie’s wicked growls, supported by the soulful guitars by Henrik and Dan. And there’s no hope in sight based on the resonant Doom Metal crafted by Pyramido, gathering elements from masters of doom like Celtic Frost and Black Sabbath and delivering an infernal hymn entitled Aktion (“action”) that will certainly please all fans of the genre. I love the main riff of this song, keeping up with the legacy from the aforementioned iconic bands and turning this into the best of all tracks in Vatten.

As one last shot of Pyramido’s addictive and sorrowful Stoner Metal we have En Rak Linje (“a straight line”), where the work on the guitars is once again superb and increases the song’s melancholy. In addition, the break at around three minutes brings a little peace to our minds before Ronnie comes back with his desperate growling, until the song reaches its somber but smooth conclusion in this 8-minute salutation to all things Doom Metal.

No matter how much you enjoy Sludge and Doom Metal, you have to experience listening to the music by Pyramido at least once to truly understand what this dark subgenre of heavy music is all about. And if you’re already a longtime fan of the sluggish and low-tuned heaviness found in the music by bands like Pyramido, you can purchase Vatten at the band’s official BandCamp page, and also at the Halo of Flies’ BandCamp page or webshop. As soon as you have Vatten on your hands, simply dive into its troubled waters of Sludge and Doom Metal to feel all its heaviness, sorrow and insanity flowing through your veins.

Best moments of the album: Aktion.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Halo of Flies

Track listing
1. En Linje i Sanden 7:32
2. Att Bida Sin Tid 6:50
3. Tempus 6:49
4. Aktion 8:14
5. En Rak Linje 8:15

Band members
Ronnie Källback – vocals
Henrik Wendel – guitar
Dan Hedlund – guitar
Dan Widing – bass
Sticky Manchester – drums