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!

Ghost Miner – Shadow Factory (C25, Out-Of-Body Records)

darkwave, EBM, Industrial, Music, Noise, Review

Ghost Miner is Nick Cabrera (also of harsh noise project Ascites), and he joins the canon of other great releases on Out-Of-Body Records with this C25 titled “Shadow Factory.” A factory is correct – of loops, that is, because the eleven tracks on this cassette are full of repetitive minimal tracks with heavy beats and drum tracks. It’s a lot different from the expected assault of Ascites, and a nice change of pace at that.

The first side is filled with seven quick cuts, the second with four longer offerings. These tracks are filled with beat-driven noise that compiles synth layers and drum machine programs, softly alternating their rhythms with minimal texturing changes. The A-side really flies through its 12 minutes without stopping, and it’s often difficult to tell the shift from one track to the next; these are good, but the B-side shines with the longer cuts, allowing Ghost Miner to add more detailed and nuance to the repetitive tracks.

These are moody synth scores in the vein of ’80s industrialized movie soundtracks, and Shadow Factory adds a number of atmospheric songs. “Evasion” is the longest at 5 minutes, operating with an echoey synth and drum duality and adding in ghostly vocals throughout; it’s the sound of a sinister toy-making facility, all off-key and atonal, and it shows how successful Ghost Miner can be with drawn-out pieces.

Shadow Factory is a great release of minimal noise-driven beats, and it’s interesting to hear Ghost Miner’s dark dancework in comparison to Ascites blasts of noise. Like everything Out-Of-Body Records has put out so far, this is material that’s definitely worth picking up.

Republic/The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – Meditation Music Volume 1 (C70, Winter Solace Productions)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

I’m not familiar with either of these projects, and any information on Republic is hidden because of the difficulty of Googling their moniker. However, based on Discogs listings, this is the only release Republic has participated in; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been at work for some time on National Socialism noise, although their time has now come to an end (note: Memory Wave Transmission does not support NS ideology, and this review is based on sound alone). It seems, based on the title, that Meditation Music was meant to be a series of releases, but Volume 1 remains the only compilation at this time, at least on Winter Solace Productions.

Each artist contributes a 35-minute track of meditation, taking up one side of this cassette. The first comes from Republic, titled “Within Time,” and it features a number of sustained synth progressions and drones set to the subtle ticking of the clock. This is a very pure sound, with the drones wavering without much complexity and slowly altering sound as the track continues. At times, the ticking of the clock becomes the focal point; at others, a somewhat sinister riff takes over. All told, this is perfect for relaxation, especially during the early morning hours as the liner notes indicate – Republic recognizes the difference between meditation and the focus of listening and strikes a delicate balance.

I’m not sure that I would call The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’s track, “Untitled,” meditative exactly. It’s harsher and more difficult to listen to than I would have expected, a trilling sound that continues throughout the entirety of the 35 minutes. While meditation doesn’t necessarily require a softer sound, “Untitled” borders on annoying, and that often took me out of whatever meditation I could muster. However, the movement within this piece – subtle changes to the chiming sound – helps to create a trance-like experience. Enjoyment probably depends on the listener.

While I didn’t enjoy The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’s track as much, Republic definitely offers a nicely hypnotic track to aid in whatever meditative art one practices. Meditation Music Volume 1 is an interesting experiment, and I’d be curious to see what other artists could do on recurring volumes.

Yen Pox – Between the Horizon and the Abyss (CD, Malignant Records)

ambient, dark ambient, Music, Review

I’ll be honest – writing for a noise/drone review blog, I hear a lot of dark ambient works. At this point, it’s difficult to get excited for most of them, even if the idea behind them seems solid. There are many artists working in the field who are prone to dropping a few long, sustained synth notes into a track and calling it dark ambient, and it’s the kind of oversaturation that is really hurting the subgenre. Yen Pox, however, are not newbies to this kind of music, and it truly shows on their latest album Between the Horizon and the Abyss. This isn’t a couple of notes alternated over an 8-10 minute track; it really is an ambient experience, full of moody sustained chords, swirled instrumentation, with a tension apparent from the first minutes of the near-80 minute album.

They start things off with “The Awakening,” which focuses on those sustained notes – the kind of thing that can often make for an underwhelming listen – and then integrates a wavering complexity to them. And morphing right into “White of the Eye,” it’s clear that Yen Pox understand that dark ambient’s atmosphere takes more than just dreary, held-note progressions; the swirls of sound ebb and flow, and nuance takes precedence here. There’s a reliance on the minimal within their sound that one should not mistake for a lack of complexity, because a close listen rewards with a number of subtle changes in the wavering tones of Michael J.V. Hensley and Steven Hall’s compositions.

It’s not always so quiet, though. “Cold Summer Sun” finds Yen Pox hammering on the chords, breaking out chains and rattling whatever metal was on hand – it’s almost like an updated version of A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s theme from the boiler room scenes, even complete with ghostly giggles in the background.

The flaw with Between the Horizon and the Abyss, which I would argue is a flaw with almost every album of this style, is that the listener begins to get desensitized to the flowing darkness within each of these tracks. While Yen Pox spice things up with new ideas within each song, the central idea remains mostly the same – plodding tones, sweeps of sound, and an ambiance that forces the listener to feel uneasy. That’s really the intention, to overload the audience with the abyss, but Between the Horizon and the Abyss feels a tad overstuffed. The tracks are a bit too long, or, there are too many of them. At 80 minutes, this will be a difficult listen for all those save the lover of the subgenre.

Still, Yen Pox delivers exactly what’s expected of them, with some seriously dark and brooding tunes. The vocal deliveries and the clangs of distant metallics combine with the swarming synth textures for an album that is brimming with ethereal darkness. With Between the Horizon and the Abyss, the listener finds oneself in a limbo that feels tense and uneasy – an album that showcases the best of the dark ambient genre.

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

Hunted Creatures – Mogollon Rim (C30, Dynamo Sound Collective)

ambient, Music, Noise, Review

mogollon rimMogollon Rim is an area in Arizona known for its natural beauty near the Colorado Plateau. It’s also known for sitings of a monster that closely resembles Bigfoot. Known as the Mogollon Monster, this beast has been the subject of folklore since the early 1900s, and members of the Apache tribe that live close to the Rim claim to have seen the monster even more recently. As Hunted Creatures’ name suggests, the idea behind this tape seems to be inspired by the Bigfoot-esque creature, and the team of Micah Pacileo, Amy Hoffmann, and Ryan Emmett deliver with a very ethereal set of six tracks. Mogollon Rim has a hazy feature to its songs, and all of them span the course of about five minutes while weaving various guitars, electronics, and violins into the mix. “Whisper Bullets” starts things off with a quiet looping rhythm of ambient sustained chords and percussive elements, adding in the waver of electronics here and there. It builds up into reverb-heavy wallops and whispers, water-droplet blops and bubbles, that heads right into “Interlude”. A soft guitar melody pairs with the clanks and patters of “Whisper Bullets”‘ rhythm section until vibes take over. It seems important to note that the fogginess of each track carries into the next, especially on the first side – what was once important to the percussion becomes the backdrop of a new track. The somewhat melancholy violin on Mogollon Rim is a lovely aspect of the tape, the alternating rhythms in “Hallway” becoming mournful as warped guitar wails overtop. “Dream Snake” has an alluring power electronics vibe to it, the classical violin sounds working as a backdrop to a plucked, exotic guitar repetition. “Human Dust” provides a tribalism with is percussive sounds and synchronous violin/guitar riff. Though Mogollon Rim often feels repetitious, the idea behind crafting these hazy tracks is to highlight the subtleties of change throughout. Hunted Creatures are constantly adding additional noise and instrumentation to the tracks, and the most interesting parts of these songs are the noticeable inclusion of a new sound. It makes Mogollon Rim feel effortlessly fluid, and alludes to the hidden nature of the tape’s Mogollon Monster – perhaps it’s there, if you look (or listen) hard enough. recommended

Mark Van Fleet – Alien Versions (C122, Little Miracles)

ambient, Drone, Music, Noise, Review, soundtrack

alien versions

Mark Van Fleet’s Alien Versions is an ode to Ridley Scott’s film Alien, a film-length alternate soundtrack to the film meant to be played at the same time with the volume of the movie turned down. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it with the film, and instead listened to it alone, but it doesn’t seem to matter much: even without the film’s visuals, the atmosphere of Van Fleet’s release is more than enough to evoke the stimulation and tension of Alien.

Alien Versions contains a lot of ambient noise that sits very well within the film; bleeps and bloops of space computers pair with quiet backdrops of electronic dread. Van Fleet often allows his soundtrack to thud along patiently, quietly droning with an ambient pounding or a subtle buzz. Side A’s 60 minutes often pair the ambiance with the alien growls and clicks, immediately visualizing Scott’s intense drama.

Side B’s opening pounds along with a soft feedback squeal behind it, the kind of muffled sound expected from a space shuttle. Without seeing the alien at all, the threat is there; and with this kind of alternate soundtrack, I think it’s just as important to listen to it without any visual aid as it is to listen to the two paired together. The effectiveness certainly comes from both combined, but Van Fleet is just as impressive at crafting intensity from sounds alone. In general, the cassette builds and builds without end, only multiple recesses before the next terrifying encounter.

The dark, somewhat muffled aspect of the approach is important to the soundtrack, too. The listener feels completely alone in its confining structure, subject to whatever horrors await. It’s a testament to what Van Fleet can do, and I certainly look forward to other re-imagined soundtracks because of this. Alien Versions is tense but also very much in line with Alien‘s atmosphere and mood, a difficult thing to re-enact but something Van Fleet is very good at.

Whether you’ve seen Alien or not (you need to rectify that though, really), Alien Versions is an important listen. Van Fleet effectively transitions between quieter moments and swelling, climactic encounters, forcing the listener to engage just as the characters in the film do. It’s a tight soundtrack full of dread, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

recommended

I.G.M – Virgin Skins (CD-R, Pidgin Records)

Drone, free jazz, Music, Noise, Review

virgin skins

Ian McColm’s project I.G.M is his solo work, but on Virgin Skins it sounds like there is at least a duo working to produce the noise/music on these ten tracks. Virgin Skins is a mixture of percussion and free jazz elements, noisy but also significantly rhythmic in its use of drum elements. It makes for a pounding, relentless release, the frenetic percussion melding with quieter repetitive moments for a wonderfully unique concept.

Virgin Skins is bookended by “Punctuation Alpha” and “Punctuation Omega,” two drum sequences that highligh I.G.M’s style of jazzy, sophisticated, and complex rhythms. The fills are fast and furious, and the chops are fantastic; this is playing at a high skill level, and the album never descends into boring drum solo territory because of the alternations in each song. “Plus/Minus” is a good example, a track of drumming that speeds up and subsequently slows down a tough beat.

Likewise, “The Wind That Blows the Birds” and “Blood Memory” take a different approach, using bells and chimes to create an ambient aura. “Blood Memory” is probably one of the most hypnotic tracks on offer on Virgin Skins: it’s the soundtrack to a horror film, combining a couple different instruments into a chilling song.

Virgin Skins is quite lengthy too, but it never feels that way. The album swiftly moves through tracks, often blending them together to the point where it’s easy to get lost in the repetition as though it’s a just a long song. That’s not to say that Virgin Skins doesn’t have distinguishable tracks; they just work well back-to-back together, alternating between poly-rhythms and droning elements.

It’s an intriguing listen, and one that works on all sorts of levels. I.G.M brings in noises along with his percussion, but there are also moments of great jazzy drumming too; this isn’t the kind of album that would be reserved for noise fanatics only, and those dabbling in free jazz or the avant garde would certainly find elements that strike. There’s one thought the listener is left with after Virgin Skins, though: McColm isn’t just a good drummer, but a great performer in general.

recommended

Matthew Akers – A History of Arson (C36, Out-Of-Body Records)

darkwave, Music, soundtrack, synthwave

a history of arson

Matthew Akers explores both the digital and analog side of synths on his tape for Out-Of-Body Records, A History of Arson. The cassette features a match that comes with inside the case, in case one decides that the music makes them want to go and commit a crime; but Akers’ music swells and vamps, instrumental songs that capture a light, or a flash in the darkness.

The first side of A History of Arson is somewhat uplifting. The rhythmic vamps of synth work in “A History of Arson Prologue” wash over the listener, a soundtrack to a climactic act to come. Akers works with repetition but adds key riffing to the context late in the track, a new synth beat that works off the staccato punctuation. It’s at odds with the opening to “Bad Wolf,” a melancholy dirge, but that quickly picks up into a Zombi-esque prog-synth rock session, completely with some fantastic programmed drums with just the right fade into the mix. “Bad Wolf” would fit right at home on an Italian giallo soundtrack from the ’80s, and indeed Akers’ work seems to hit that nostalgic itch.

Side B is the darker part of A History of Arson, opening with “Voyeur”‘s minor chord swells and a slight martial beat from the drums. “A History of Arson Epilogue” continues the brooding atmosphere with Akers’ sustained synth notes, while “Midnight in October” features a dance beat and busy note alternations.

A History of Arson is one of those rare gems, the kind of thing you might happen to stumble across on accident but get hooked on immediately. Matthew Akers’ synth scores – because that’s what they are – are suited for the movies you’d watch on a late night, with the wind blowing outside your door. The compositions are refreshingly original, and I look forward to hearing more of the artist’s work.

recommended