Being used to receive very weird and unique releases, we can’t say that we ever expected to come across an album as unique and puzzling as Albatwitch’s “Only Dead Birds Sing Over the Graves of Fallen Kings”. Mixing Folk with Americana, Drone, Sludge, d-beat, crust, Black Metal and a slew of other influences, this is one hell of a rollercoaster ride that is better left to fully unravel rather than try to understand it.
The album opens with a Folk track that brings back memories of the banjos in the movie “Deliverance”, but it quickly transforms into punishing Noise with hellish vocals. And this is just in the first 3 minutes of music. Sludgy Black Metal quickly follows in “Beneath The Flood”, just before we jump into Burzum-esque territory (his instrumental stuff) and then back into more lush Neo-Folk/Folk with very melancholic vocals and the album’s title track.
Getting tons of submissions online every week, it is quite unusual to find unique releases that command our attention like Insect Ark’s “Long Arms” EP. This one-woman entity delivers three tracks that have Ambient, Electro, and some Drone-ish elements meshed together in one very cohesive sound. A bit out of our comfort zone, we found ourselves enjoying this release more than we expected.
Opening with the hypnotic “Long Arms”, the release starts in a very ritualistic fashion. There are plenty of trippy elements to make anybody’s drug induced hallucinations 100 times more vivid. Dana Schechter does a great job in putting together interesting percussions, dissonant bass guitar lines, and interesting electronic sounds. “Lift Off” continues in a hypnotic fashion, letting the listener know that this is one album he will not forget thanks to its dramatic and pseudo-psychedelic elements.
With Alrealon releases being so few in between all the stuff we get, we were quite excited to receive [ówt krì]’s “The New Seed”. As a one member outfit, this ‘band’ delivers chilling Ambient music with a very unique sense of space and time. If you like trippy music that slowly unravels before your ears in a very passive and expansive manner, this is one of those releases that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
The first two tracks “Deep South” and “The New Seed” nicely set the stage in a very ethereal and direct way. Both songs remind us of the music they play on documentaries of stargazing and the deep ends of the universe. The piano at the end of the second song is quite magical and one of the highlight of this release. In a darker mood, “On Hostile Ground” and “Abandoned Path” deliver a harsher experience. The vocals are quite penetrating and the guitars are very dissonant, creating a very unique sense of urgency.
Arriving from Italy, today we have one-man project Nerij and his full-length release “Lophophora Williamsii And Monochromatic Perceptions”. In the vein of Dark Ambient greats Raison d'être, Frozen Ocean, etc., this band delivers 3 tracks that clocking in around 60 minutes of chilling cavernous passages of darkness and madness. If you think that Event Horizon needs a sequel, I believe we have found the soundtrack for it.
This self-released album starts with the ‘short’ (8-minutes long) “Mental Odyssey I: The Shaman Meets The Psychonaut”. This track provides a nice introduction to the darkest parts of Nerij’s inner workings and gives us an early taste of what is to come. With the first 20+ minute behemoth track being “Mental Odyssey II: Mescaline And The Antithesis Of Ethereal Visions”, we have a front row seat into a trippy sidereal journey. Feeling like an endless voyage through space in a very creepy vessel, this track provides excellent build-up fully immersing the listener.
Nachtzeit’s one man project Lustre returns with another killer MCD featuring one 19 minute track title “A Spark of Times of Old”. For all fans of Atmospheric Black Metal, Lustre has been delivering very engaging releases since 2008, and with this EP the project continues to push forward their raw and uncompromising Black Metal filled with lush atmospheric elements and a certain feeling of bleakness that works great with this kind of music.
Opening in a very dramatic fashion, “A Spark of Times of Old” delivers a chilling introduction for what it’s set to be another epic Lustre release. The minimalistic atmospheric keyboards greatly setup a backdrop of ambiance for the crushing riffing and demoralizing vocals of Nachtzeit. We particularly enjoy how well Lustre manages to combine simple elements into a web of depressing and bleak soundscapes that very few bands can achieve, let alone in the first three minutes of a song. As the song progresses the atmosphere has slight changes thanks to the excellent keyboards, varying a bit from the basic structure but staying in tune with the overall nature of the track.
Originally recorded in 2009, today we have Frozen Ocean and ‘their’ release “Vestigial Existence”. This highly active one-man outfit keeps cranking out releases like they are pancakes, but impressively enough they are all pretty good. Whether they are Dark Ambient/Drone or Atmospheric Black Metal, the releases by this band are very well crafted and deliver the right amount of melody, atmosphere, and aggression. Luckily for us, this release is more on the Metal side, and we can enjoy some cool atmospheric elements thrown in with punishing riffs.
Immediately after the ambient intro “In Derelict”, the guitars start pounding on “Winter – Aelean Being”. In this track, a very melancholic vibe is present thanks to the solemn riffs and powerful vocals. The song structure is quite engaging and you can hear that is some of Frozen Ocean’s earlier work since their style is not as refined and sounds rawer. The catchiness is always present with “Mute Walls” and some cool sort-of-electronic elements that make this song very appealing for fans of Industrial Black Metal.
The multi-talented Tim Yatras returns with another crazy release from his latest project: Germ. In “Grief” we get 69 more minutes of the deranged world that Germ creates with their truly unique and very extreme musical style. Arriving just in time for Halloween (in North America), this is one hell of a release that if you liked the band’s previous albums, it will push you to further limits thanks to a bigger assortment of diverse influences.
After a space-ish intro, the album really starts with the very catchy and unsettling “Butterfly”. Featuring Audrey Sylvain (Peste Noire) on this track, we definitely got an instant Amesoeurs vibe from the track until Tim laid his chaotic screams. Besides the catchy song structure, the piano section is quite cool and unique sounding in this track. In true Germ fashion, “The Stain of Past Regrets” immediately blows in your face with powerful screams. The catchy mixture of electronic elements is a staple of the band and it elevates this track to further levels of awesomeness when paired with the clean vocals.
Extremely productive one-man project Frozen Ocean delivers their one of their four full-length releases of 2011 with the transcendental “Oneiric In Geocentrism”. Featuring over 65 minutes of nightmare-inducing Dark Ambient/Drone music, this release feels like a journey through space. While we are bigger fans of Frozen Ocean’s Atmospheric Black Metal, this album delivers a similar vibe that will send chills down your spine.
Setting off with “The Striding Watchtower”, the mood is very mystic and ethereal allowing the listener to fully immerse into Frozen Ocean’s world. Our sidereal journey continues with the tense “A Chink in Coelosphere” and “Levitation”, two tracks that clock in around 24 minutes of intense atmospheric brilliance. On a lighter note, “Quiver in the Voidrift” releases some of the tension initially, but keeps the album’s flow going very steady.
Limited to a short run of 62 CD-R copies, Frozen Ocean presents us with their 2009 EP titled: “Steamworks: Hibernation”. With a behemoth 30+ minutes song, this release is a good stepping stone into understanding the band’s evolution and how Vaarwel’s skills have been changing over time. With a constant stream of releases Frozen Ocean is one of the most active bands we have heard of, so it is nice to hear a bit more from their musical origins.
Immediately starting with some droning percussions, the album has that unsettling vibe with a martial touch to it. The atmosphere is quite heavy and tense as it slowly builds up. The ritualistic percussions are quite interesting and give it a different vibe to what we have heard in the past from Frozen Ocean. As the song mellows out around the 20th minute, some of the tension gets released and we can finally move over from the edge of our seat.