HAIKU FUNERAL: Nightmare Painting CD Aesthetic Death
The opening structures of this release sound like the backdrop to an 80’s US crime thriller; a peculiar introduction to what is overall, an avant-garde mash up of electronics, analogue bass and percussion.
Considering the overt leanings towards Black Metal image wise, slap jazz bass ultimately threw me as it slithered through a wash of epic electronics and vocals that drifted between standard metal and guttural screams. If anything this made for a more uncomfortable listen than all out BM.
Credit has to be given for Haiku Funeral for trying something that I honestly haven’t heard much of, if at all. In the originality stakes there is a lot to be said about ‘Nightmare Painting’, it takes a great deal of bravery to tamper with this kind of obscurity and they get points for that alone; coupled with an obvious talent for the bizarre, future leanings could produce something special if they focus their attentions to structure and form.
What this album lacks is a decent production. More often than not the rhythmical sections are swamped, regressing into a turgid oozing mass of tame thumps and pattering clicks. Given this duo’s attention to detail regarding obscurity, this is a somewhat disappointing release where fleeting glances of splendour make way for what is an ultimately bland affair that wallows in its own self-importance.
ORTEGA: 1634 CD Aesthetic Death
This album has been released twice before, albeit in limited fashion and now picked up by the steadily progressing Aesthetic Death label.
The oppressive all black, spot-varnish adorned digipak should give an instant description of the albums contents audio wise, so I was a trifle thrown at the harmonic and blissful guitar opening key structures; of course this didn’t last too long before doom laden riffs laid down he true story of what was to come.
Abrasive vocals and up tempo off kilter metal drags this from becoming swamped in the niche that so many others have cemented the foundations for before. The works of early Paradise Lost have a lot to answer for and indeed Ortega momentarily nod at the Halifax based originators, at selective points throughout this release on their guitar solo’s, but if truth be told have more in common with Opeth and such like in the grand scheme of things.
Overall though, Ortega have produced a solid album, with a vast array of instrumentation and attention to detail that should be commended by many in the metal fraternity. A rich variety of tempo keeps ‘1634’ from falling over itself, resulting in an album that jumps from the blackest of black to the whitest of white in a heartbeat and is all the better for doing so.
EIBON: s/t CDep Aesthetic Death
A retrospective review here, requested from the label and comprising of two tracks spanning just over 22 minutes in length.
Gutter level vocals, sludge driven guitars and precise rhythmic percussion are the main foundations of opener ‘Asleep and Threatening’. With a spotless production, providing an edge that could have been lost somewhat as so many of this ilk suffer from, Eibon manage to drive home a barrage of brutality whilst keeping check on harmony and clarity of structure.
‘Staring at the Abyss’, carries on from where track one left off, albeit in a slower fashion, focussing more on breathing spaces for an unnerving psychosis to slide through the gaps, before bludgeoning the listener to death. Think of mid period Black Sabbath tinged with slower elements of Eyehategod and you will be somewhat close.
Concentrating your efforts on producing lengthy tracks can be a dangerous game, where it’s ever so easy to become self-indulgent and bore the listener senseless. Eibon however, have variation on their side and an attention to finer detail, providing what is overall, a solid interpretation of the genre with hints of better things to come. I haven’t heard anything else by this project, but if this EP is anything to go by then I wouldn’t be surprised if this has already been achieved on future releases.
THE NULLL COLLECTIVE: De Monstris CD Aesthetic Death
What is immediately obvious with this album is the absolutely abysmal production. The most surprising factor (or so it appears), is that this is purely intentional; which in all honesty actually works in the albums favour.
Clanging chimes, painfully slow distorted guitars and Death Metal vocals pave the way for a solid, if not entirely original concept, but is effective at rattling the cobwebs somewhat and provides a fairly representative interpretation of what the lower divisions produce throughout the genre.
Listening to ‘De Monstris’ though, is a lot like pulling teeth. Moving along at a snails pace at best, there were moments that I felt myself nodding off, only to find myself laughing out loud and feeling the urge to repeatedly head-butt my desk mid-way through the ludicrously covered ‘Silent Night’; never mind lads, at least you put a smile on my face.
GOATSPALM: Erset La Tari CD Aesthetic Death
This is a three-track affair clocking in at just over 45 minutes, maybe indicating how Goatspalm approach their musical leanings, without actually having to press play.
Thundering cavernous Black Ambient is the foundation to ‘Utuk-Xul’, with guttural sniping vocalisations and feedback driven open chord guitars. Oppressive and visceral without overstating itself too much, this opens up mid way, rising at the necessary point in which you are feeling yourself being dragged down too far into the mire, paving your way for an easier transition through this twenty minute-long journey.
‘Bab-Illu’ by Goatspalm’s standards is barely a track at all, coming to completion at just under six minutes. However this is a different slant from its opening bigger brother, with rich dark, breathing ambience, complimented with eastern guitar work.
‘Under the Trident of Rammaru’ once again beds in on the Dark Ambient scale, flirting with blistering Black Metal overtones that crash through when least expected, culminating into an early horror film soundtrack like ending.
Overall this is a solid, competent release that should appeal to listeners of Black Metal and Dark Ambient, reminding me somewhat of the earlier works of MZ412, or indeed Goatvagr. With a little more attention vocal wise, to stick with high-pitched screams over lower ranges and more reverb on the grinding guitars, the nightmarish sounds on offer would be ultimately more epic.
BLACK DEPTHS GREY WAVES: Nightmare of the Blackened Heart CD Aesthetic Death
Machine distortion is the main body to the opening track ‘The Hunt For Greater Truth’, reminiscent of some of the works of Deathpile’s sludge like grit on his quieter numbers (if there are such a thing). An atmospheric orchestral film-like sample sits low in the mix, which for the most part is effective, if a little over used, as are the low, forced vocals and the song could benefit from being cut into two halves.
The second track, ‘3rd Candle for the Fallen’, concentrates on analogue drones and distorted surges that work effectively enough for the most part with enough background interference to make you prick up your ears to pick out the individual dynamics.
Grinding demonic elements brings together the best work of this release on ‘Final Key to a Pure Thought’ and is the ultimate highlight of this album and I feel this is where BDGW should have concentrated their efforts, reminding me of the circle of friends that Black Leather Jesus and his cohorts reside in.
On it’s own, separated into more individual tracks, this release could have been an absolute belter and making this a three track album is ultimately where it falls short. With the vocals spat out as visceral screams, not as a yearning for cough medicine, this could have been a horrific, brutal kick in the guts; all the elements are there for the taking, but a more concentrated effort is needed to ride with their peers.
FATUM ELISUM: Homo Nihilis CD Aesthetic Death
Gregorian chant like moans open up this album, setting the tone for the all out doom metal affair ‘Pursuit of Sadness’ from this French act. This 15 minute long trudge pretty much sums up the genre musically, with a lot of the guitar work reminding me of some of the earlier less orchestral releases of My Dying Bride.
The title track itself really is the best song on this debut; think of the earlier works of Paradise Lost from their ‘Lost Paradise’ era and you wouldn’t be far off. Indeed key elements of ‘Homo Nihilis’ sound so similar I did a double take, from the sludge like guitar work chugging alongside the flabby double bass drumming, right through to the key breaks where everything cuts and slows down to a thundering landslide of sludge.
Overall this is a competent and solid album in its entirety, if not entirely original. Don’t expect to find anything on this CD to play if you want just a quick blast of noise to fill in time, as everything on here is a marathon of monolithic proportions. The vocals are well thought out, as are the song structures as a whole, working well together even if I personally don’t particularly like the Candlemass route of singing myself.
WALK THROUGH FIRE: Furthest From Heaven CD Aesthetic Death
Hypnotic off-key open guitars resonate with harmonics and slowly turn into a torturous mass of crashing percussion and screaming vocals, culminating in the writhing title track being a visceral and oppressive, yet impressive introduction to this trio.
If something isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. WTF carry on relentlessly with more torrid landslides of guitar and thundering rhythm work that grind along like a slow, yet effective kick to the guts, followed by ‘The Dying Sun’ utilising guitar drones and pads to calm down the proceedings somewhat.
Overall, there is an apocalyptic feel to the album, more than emphasised by closer, ‘The Dead Sun’; ending the album on a high (musically speaking), with a decimating vision of unrelenting brutality that is offset with tight multi-layered guitars. A clever use of pace dictates the end as the collapsing star expands and swallows its solar system, erupting and falling in on itself, leaving nothing but the brutal destructive mass of a black hole in its wake.
Walk Through Fire have a lot more to them than immediately meets the eye and that their use of overt, satanic imagery lets on. As with a lot of Aesthetic Death releases, you are in for the long hall the moment you hit play; ‘Furthest From Heaven’ though, does have a story to tell, even if it’s not the happiest of tales.
MURKRAT: Drudging the Mire CD Aesthetic Death
It’s an impressive start to this album with the piano led title track, riddled with atmosphere, leading into the slow, funeral doom-laden guitar work of ‘I, Rodent’.
This is the first time I have heard Murkrat and was quite surprised overall with the female vocals of Mandy VKS, displaying a good ear for range and variation; sometimes the singing is harmonious, sometimes a guttural scream.
As I have mentioned before, the foundations of this album are predominantly aimed at the Doom Metal market; the sheer, slug-like pace and pitch of the guitars categorically stamp that marker down. However, there is something to the construction of the tracks on offer that suggests more than the sum of their parts. Occasionally, there is more than a flair for the classical that flirts with the listener throughout this release, compositionally reminding me of Diamanda Galas in a lot of respects; although VKS does tame down a lot of the madness, concentrating more on harmonies and straight-forward singing, than operatic shrieks and wails.
‘Drudging the Mire’ is an impressive release from start to finish with a lot more on here than is first evident; ambient sub-plots and minute attention to detail, provide a necessary counter-balance to the drawn out wade through what could have been a fairly formulaic release otherwise. Add to the pot that apart from the percussion, this album was written and performed by VKS all on her own and you have something that stands out amongst a heavily saturated market, where individuality becomes all the more important.
WRECK OF THE HESPERUS: Light Rotting Out CD Aesthetic Death
I have a penchant for alternative packaging and do like releases when they’re not placed in the standard format of a normal compact disc jewel case, so smiled when upon opening this A5 packaging and postcard set.
The imagery reeks of Black Metal from the off, however the music throughout this release is anything but; an anticonvulsant to the genre if you will and indeed what would happen if you took that genre and slowed it down in pace and pitch.
I am torn with WOTH; all the necessary ingredients are there for something special. The screaming vocals are set right and the sludge like rhythm and guitars achieve to hit the target that they’re aimed at; unfortunately my patience waned at the mid-way point of this release.
Variation is the key element that ‘Light Rotting Out’ sorely lacks; if you are going to make a three-track album, you have to introduce different paths to the story you are trying to convey or your audience drifts off and stops paying attention.
Wreck of the Hesperus haven’t produced a bad release, don’t get me wrong. I do however think that future compositions could be shortened and other instrumentation introduced to the mix, therefore adding a necessary punch to the proceedings.