Transfiguration – Lovecraftian Rhetoric (C60, Existentiell)

Black metal, doom metal, Music, Review, Uncategorized

Transfiguration is the doom metal/black metal project of Cathal Rodgers, also the artist behind Spermacidal, Wereju, and more. Lovecraftian Rhetoric is the only release that I can find from this particular moniker, a slow-moving cassette from 2014 released on Existentiell; here, Transfiguration offers up three tracks influenced by the titular writer H.P. Lovecraft as well as Dante Alighieri, steeped in depression and mired in an ethereal muck. Both sides of this tape contain the same three tracks, making it easy for listeners to flip and repeat.

Purveyors of blackened doom will certainly enjoy Lovecraftian Rhetoric‘s often glacial pacing, with plodding tracks that reach the 9 minute mark almost every time. “Comedy Divine” keeps the same heavy bass thudding throughout with excellent depressive, melancholic synth patterns that shudder throughout the track. It’s an enveloping experience, and Transfiguration allows the notes to soar and sustain, holding them out like a wallowing wail. The vocals on this track, too, are more akin to black metal’s cries.

“Some Mute Inglorious Milton” centers more in doom territory, though, with heavy rhythmic riffs and a deeper-toned growl that echoes through the muddied recording. That murky sound is a boon to Transfiguration, creating a foggy atmosphere that makes these recordings – particularly Lovecraftian Rhetoric‘s second track – eerie and unnatural, a perfect fit to Lovecraft’s often indescribable settings.

The title track, “Lovecraftian Rhetoric,” takes on a similar tone, slowly paced with fairly simplistic drum beats and an overall synth tone that carries the track throughout. It’s another great doom offering from Transfiguration, but it also signals a problem some listeners may have with this tape: the tracks often meld together, especially at longer lengths, because of their similarities. For this reviewer, it’s not a bother considering how largely similar most doom tends to be anyway, with the differing tones elevating these tracks. But less focused listeners may find themselves struggling to pick out what makes each track distinct.

Still, Lovecraftian Rhetoric is an immensely enjoyable experience for those who like slow, funereal doom and black metal. Transfiguration has done some great work on this cassette, and it’s unfortunate that the project hasn’t – to my knowledge – released anything else yet. You can check out this release on the Existentiell Bandcamp page!

Flesh Coffin/Spermicidal – Split (C42, Idrone Park)

Black metal, harsh noise

Flesh Coffin has been reviewed quite heavily here on Memory Wave Transmission, and the reason is that Andreas Brandal is a fairly prolific artist. His blend of dark ambient harsh noise certainly highlights horror atmosphere, and it fits in well with Cathal Rodgers project Spermicidal and his industrial black metal noise. This untitled split, with all untitled tracks, features two from Flesh Coffin and three from Spermicidal for a bleak, harrowing listen.

Flesh Coffin starts things off with a track of junk noise and atmosphere. A sustained drone fills out the background of this track, wavering slightly here and there and also crescendoing at times with train horn trills but ultimately setting the tone for utter blackness. Clicks and clatters fill the foreground, adding texture that comes and goes as the drones escalate and shudder into a blast of static and unyielding harsh noise that effortlessly incorporates those early clicking textures. The second untitled track plays with searing high-pitched sounds, sometimes even so overblown that the noise drops entirely. But there are swirls of the usual windswept deep tones, with just a bit of crunchy static thrown in, that keep this track grounded in the Flesh Coffin ouvre. Both tracks are very much par with the canon of his noise, and good additions to it.

The Spermicidal side features three tracks of industrial black metal, sitting somewhere in between the traditional nature of the black metal genre and noisy power electronics. The project uses what sounds like programmed drum beats to add percussion, and amid the howling vocals, swirls of noise pepper the background. The first untitled track starts off with a lot of noisy sweeps of sound as the drums lead in to the more musical aspect of the track; echoing vocals and reverbed chords create an industrial surge that works well, often clouding the whole track in a haze.

It’s a technique Spermicidal uses throughout his three tracks, reappearing again with the downtempo second untitled track, swirling with droned and distorted chords and lots of layered fuzz, and then similarly in the final track. The one thing that feels somewhat overused on this side of the split is the drums, because they tend to feature the same type of rhythm in each track. It causes these songs to blend in a little too much, in the same way that industrial act Godflesh often suffers from the same standard percussive elements on every song.

Other than that, though, this split tape from Flesh Coffin and Spermicidal is deserving of your time and money. Brandal’s project consistently delivers moody harsh noise, and Spermicidal seems to have a good handle on the industrial black metal he’s delivering.

Vinland Special Services/Cosmic Breath – Hanoi Hilton/Five Pointed Snow Mound (C60[?], Brotherhood of Light)

Black metal, harsh noise, Neofolk, Noise, Review

hanoi hilton five pointed snow moundThis is an odd release in that Vinland Special Services and Cosmic Breath seem to have little in common. Vinland SS often changes things up on each of his releases to the point where I’m never sure what to expect, and on Hanoi Hilton/Five Pointed Snow Mound, Cosmic Breath gives us a lot of low and dirty black metal. There’s little meeting point between the two, except for the expressed fact that they both share affinity for H.P. Lovecraft (where “Five Pointed Snow Mound” gets its name).

Vinland Special Services’ side is subtitled “Hanoi Hilton,” and it’s a blend of odd instrumentation, vocal deliveries, and balladry. Some tracks are very sparse, opting for rhythmic loops instead of an onslaught of sound, like “American Nationalist Avant-Garde (Nothing is Just Music Anymore)”. “Hangman Hang Me High” begins with noise and morphs into a softly-sung ballad. There are piccolos that seek to mimic and also defile wartime nationalist songs. The one thing, however, that recurs most often is Vinland SS’s talk/sing delivery, and that may either charm or grate depending on the listener.

Cosmic Breath’s side is sub-titled “Five Pointed Snow Mound,” taken from H.P. Lovecraft and synthesized with black metal. “Worn Down to Nothing” is more of a noise jaunt than anything, with lots of samples that are mashed up into a looping rhythm; but Cosmic Breath moves away from harsh noise and sampling for a more black metal-oriented series of tracks starting with “Sleepless Dance of the Macabre.” These tracks are structured around the guitar parts instead of the common black metal blast beat; while the drums are here, they’re way, way down in the mix, which seems like a preference from Cosmic Breath instead of a recording issue. It allows him to add ambient textures to the songs, or spoken word moments (“Five Pointed Snow Mound”), or heavily-filtered vocals (“White Light From Above”) instead of the usual overwhelming battery of drums.

Both Vinland Special Services and Cosmic Breath deliver a very different experience on their sides, but it works in quite a few ways. And both sides have their own merits; while I found Cosmic Breath’s “Five Pointed Snow Mound” a little more enjoyable to listen to, what Vinland Special Services does on “Hanoi Hilton” is interesting as he destroys what should be nationalistic pieces.

Morgirion – None Left to Worship (C32, NoVisible Scars)

Black metal, Music, Review

none left to worshipMorgirion are still deeply entrenched in the underground black metal scene, creating rough demo tapes of shredding guitars, muffled drum and bass, and unmixed/unmicced vocals. Their previous full-length release Infinite Retribution Upon Paradise, is has less of a basement approach to recording, but it still has that muddied mixing that comes from low budgets and DIY ethics. None Left to Worship, released on NoVisible Scars, brings Morgirion back to live recording straight to tape, and it’s a great look at the band’s ability to perform haunting black metal without the need for studio mixing.

The tape’s four tracks are spread across two sides, and Morgirion usually fall within the five-to-six minute range for their songs. None Left to Worship has a very old-school metal vibe – its cover is hand-drawn,  its tracks are muddy, and more importantly, the band give little importance to refining those qualities. They’re more interested in crafting great black metal in the vein of “Norwegian titans like the early 90’s Mayhem and Immortal, Marduk or barbaric, mid-paced Bathory.”

Truly, they do capture that style with both fast- and mid-paced songs. “None Left to Worship” blasts away from the start of the tape with a pronounced guitar tone; the drums and vocals get somewhat lost in the mix here and on “Infiltration of Divine Entity,” but the artistry is clearly here, and “None Left to Worship” really comes into its own in its half-time conclusion. “The Pulse of Death” pulls out deeper growled vocals in favor of Morgirion’s normal high-pitched shrieks, while “A Cancer Now Severed” slows things down in the back half of the tape to end None Left to Worship on an atmospheric note.

Morgirion are holding fast to the style of unrefined, unfiltered metal so popular in the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s great to see a black metal band with able to rage with brutality that doesn’t need effects and mixing techniques. This is straight black metal, plain and simple, and None Left to Worship throws down accordingly.

One Master – Live in the Castle of Quiet (C62, NoVisible Scars)

Black metal, Music, Review

one master live in the castle of quietOne Master is a black metal group – their Discogs lists Ryan Adams, but there must be more in their live line-up – with a couple of releases under their belt. Live in the Castle of Quiet, released on NoVisible Scars as a one-sided C62 with repeating side B, is a live set played for the radio show “My Castle of Quiet,” and as clear from the four tracks offered, the band’s music is anything but silent.

One Master play fairly traditional black metal, and their songs tend to run longer in length. The recording master on Live in the Castle of Quiet is rougher on some parts of these tracks – the vocals are mixed pretty low, the drums muffled, and the tape itself mastered low – but overall the meat of what One Master does is apparent.

“The Destroyer (Parts I and II)” is the first track, and out of the gate it’s a plodding depressive track with howled vocals and a heavy reliance on guitar riffs. But One Master aren’t afraid to speed things up, either, and the track’s final moments double the pace. As does “A Cursed and Dismal Mind” – an unreleased song with the new lineup – with its blast beats and arpeggios after an initial attack of dueling guitar, before it follows up with a devastating breakdown of its rhythm.

“Intolerance” is a track off of One Master’s split with Glass Coffin, and it blasts away with quick guitar sweeps and a pounding drum line; of course, it’s also a bit shorter than the rest because of its blistering pace. Another new song, “Infernal Silence,” finishes the set with another intense, pounding cut that finds the guitars so fast and unremitting that they tend to actually blend into a difficult sprawling drone until One Master slow things down again. It would seem like that’s a problem with the recording fidelity, except it’s strangely enjoyable to have this wave of noise envelope the listener.

Live in the Castle of Quiet is a frenetic release from One Master, and they deliver some heavy, bleak black metal, even in a live setting. This release is rough around the edges, as most underground black metal tapes are; that means it will definitely interest those cobwebbed, shrouded BM lovers.

recommended

Krueleco – Regno (C30, Stupro Rituale)

Black metal, Black Noise, harsh noise, Review

krueleco regno

Krueleco are Occultus Parn Diam and Occultus Parc CMII (for those who might not realize, not their real names), a duo that plays black harsh noise. That’s a combination of things, including noise in the vein of power electronics and a prominent display of drum tracking. Seven tracks round out Regno, split into two sides: Kultur and Zivilisation.

The Kultur side features more drumming parts; “Regno I” in particular is a looping track that uses what sounds like grindcore drumming underneath noise as a rhythmic assault. Similarly, “Regno II” attacks with sizzling crunchy hiss while a repetitive drum beat bangs away. Regno‘s tracks generally stay fairly consistent in their sound, rarely traveling very far from their starting points, but the cuts are short enough to allow such subtle movement. “Regno IV” is a particularly good example of cut-up, squally harsh noise.

Zivilisation’s side is more focused on noise than the drum parts of its opposite side. “Regno V” does have a heavy bass rumble akin to double-bass blasts, but its central feature is a loop and sawing noises at the forefront. “Regno VI” has a nice sizzling static line along with huge booms of bass, and the drums drop out for more electronic mayhem, as does the longer “Regno VII,” which involves a whirring, tonal feedback and a saw-like drone that eventually add a fast-paced drum beat. It’s very hypnotic, and the best of the tape.

Krueleco provides a fairly unique experience combining blackened metal and harsh noise together, and Regno features a good range of tracks that utilize these elements well. None are explicitly harsh, nor are they simply black metal with noise; instead, Regno finds a medium that still espouses the darkness of both genres.

 

Trees – Sickness In… (CD, Crucial Blast)

Black metal, doom metal, Drone, Music, Noise, Review, sludge

trees

Trees are heavy; there’s really no doubt about it. They perform lumbering doom/drone metal, the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Khanate or Sunn 0)))’s metal output or maybe a car engine backfiring down a crisp woodland dirt path. Guitar and drum hits clash together as Lenny Smith delivers tortured vocals; you’ll think the next chord will come, and it won’t, at least not at the tempo expected. Trees refuse to play by the rules of doom metal, opting for an even slower approach to rhythm than others in the genre.

Sickness In… doesn’t change things very much from the rest of their output. There are still just two tracks on this release clocking in at 15 minutes apiece; the tracks are still just barely formulated, resembling almost an amorphous blob of sound that feels improvised during the time of recording. Both tracks have flurries of feedback and distortion that break up the constant onslaught of droning chords, and in a way this does help to differentiate them, but ultimately Sickness In… is another release that refuses to change the speed of Trees’ music.

It can be both a good and bad thing. There are moments when these tracks are crushingly heavy, and for a while, the consistent plod of chords works. But across two tracks (and Trees’ discography), this approach grows tired and, worse, expected. There’s no shock in what Trees does; going from “Cover Your Mouth” to “Perish” does not yield new territory or an emphasis on expansion. Trees just do what they do, and you accept it or you stop listening.

Depending on your mood, Trees can grab you or lose you. At some point, it’s difficult to decipher if Sickness In… is intensely bleak and grueling or if it’s just Smith howling out his grocery list to some guys banging a guitar against a cymbal. I guess it’s both, and that makes it commendable and disappointing at the same time.

Triste L’Hiver – New Illusions (MP3, Victory Orgasm Records)

Black metal, Blackwave, dark ambient, Drone, Music, Review, Shoegaze

new illusions

Triste L’Hiver is a project not working within the confines of normal genre types. New Illusions, the newest release from the project, finds the sound jumping from shoegaze-style riffs right into a sort of pop groove; there’s a lot of distortion and repetition that recalls black metal, but there’s no vocals or slamming drums to fill out that role. Instead, the four tracks on this release tend more towards repetitively uplifting songs on par with something a post rock band might put together.

Opener “Light” really is as airy as its title suggests; a wall of distorted guitar carries on throughout while some lingering, melodic synth gives the tone a spacey vibe; drums (they sound programmed to me) help to provide the rhythm, though they’re light and metallic in the mix.

Sometimes the repetition isn’t as mesmerizing as it should be, though. The closer “Red Glow”, with its bass-heavy hip-hop hook, works in a similar vein to “Light,” but the song’s composition isn’t as interesting as the other song’s.

Still, the short “End to End” features a darker, more abrasive mix – the drums are really pared down, while the guitar’s distorted black metal riffs threaten to drown out the atmospheric vocals. It’s the best song on this album; ethereal, and often deep, the short length shows that Triste L’Hiver can write good songs without needing 8 minutes to do so.

“Callico” is also less repetitious, and though the ways it works are generally similar to the other tracks, there’s more instrumentation to it – the drums are a bit more complicated, the synth work is awesome, and the electronics come together nicely. It’s the most explicitly shoegaze of the album, but it’s done very well.

New Illusions is quite impressive, and at only 20 minutes, it’s a quick listen. Triste L’Hiver is a new artist to look out for; the pairing of all these different types of genres means that subsequent albums could be entirely different, and the possibilities for new tunes are endless.