Dark Hemyspheres: May 2014

Early signs are promising for the infamous English summer, and Dark Hemyspheres is already sunburnt, a mere ten days before we head off on our holidays – perfect timing (as an aside, my new column Beer:Geek will be documenting the liquid parts of said holiday). And, for the first time, there is no dark star this month! There are indeed some enjoyable records seeing the sun this month, but nothing that has got me overly excited so I am withholding this most prestigious of awards.

Starting things off, Killer Be Killed is the sort of supergroup that you put together in the pub after a few beers – Soulfly, Mastodon, The Mars Volta and The Dillinger Escape Plan all rolled into one!? Unsurprisingly, Killer Be Killed [7] is energetic and blisteringly aggressive, seemingly driven primarily by Max Cavalera and Troy Sanders, but never quite lives up to the spectacular billing. This is the sound of four friends messing around in the studio, free from the pressures of their primary bands, and so a sense of complacency and a touch of monotony creeps in to take the edge off by the time the final tracks roll around.

Italian death metallers Electrocution are back with album number two, just a mere 21 years since their debut. Metaphysincarnation [6] does shown signs of maturity and moving with the times: the crisp production and added technicality to the music ensures this is an enjoyably bruising listen. Aussies Boris The Blade try to go one step further on The Human Hive [3], but in doing so lose all distinguishing features in what becomes a completely flat exercise in paint-by-numbers composition. This isn't just dull, it quickly becomes irritatingly repetitive - no matter how heavy or technical they dress it up.

It has been 15 years, but Eyehategod have now decided it is time for another chapter. The imaginatively titled Eyehategod [6] is still as full of anger as they ever have shown, but in an era where bands have borrowed their formula for nearly two decades, this no longer has the impact it once did. They are a legendary band, without question, but alas this is not quite the album we were hoping for. When Enabler burst onto the US extreme hardcore scene two years ago I was very much taken with their utterly destructive debut. So needless to say I was excited by the prospect of La Fin Absolue Du Monde [6] coming along to kick the shit out of my ears once again. The problem this time around though is it is too predictable, sounding too similar to that first record. It comes roaring out of the stereo, complete with a sense of melody their peers shun, yet shows precious little progress from two years previous.

Doom-death as a true and equal combination seems to have fallen out of favour in the last decade or so, which makes The Living Ever Mourn [7] from Portland's Nightfell even more of a pleasant surprise. Funereal and intense, it offers a fresh and very heavy perspective on a forgotten but treasured sound. Above all else, this is a hugely satisfying listen. This is less true of Serpentine Path's second offering, Emanations [4], a plodding and ponderous affair that never truly gets going. Too bland to maintain the interest, it has more of a soporific effect than I am sure they intend. The riffs are simplistic and lifeless, and there are no distinguishing features to the music to lift it above the general mass of doom bands. To coincide with their European trek, sludge pair Graves At Sea and Sourvein have put together a little Split [5] release. Graves At Sea certainly have some groovy riffs going, and the sheer tortured pain emanating from the vocals is harrowing. On the other side, Sourvein churn out three bland and lifeless tracks that merely pander to doom stereotypes, lacking any sort of creativity.

Both rightly and wrongly, Cradle Of Filth have copped their fair share of flak over the years. Digging deep into the vaults, they have decided to re-release their last demo Total Fucking Darkness [3], bolstered with what little they could find that makes up the remains of the infamous “lost” first album. Being an early nineties black metal demo, the sound quality is appalling to the point of unlistenable, but what it does show is the huge leaps made by the band in the following months; the standard here is well below the debut. One for the completists only, methinks. However, a fine example of the raw end of black metal comes from Waxen. Second album Agios Holokauston [6] treads just the right side of that fine line between freezing harshness and lo-fi nonsense that plagues the genre. Furious and unrelenting, there is a feeling of authentic hatred coursing through its icy veins, without having to sacrifice the entire low end.

With a trio of Ambarchi, O'Malley, Dunn, the expectation is for something weird, inventive and mind-bending. Shade Themes From Kairos [7] is born out of the soundtrack for the film Kairos, the first half is characterised by Oren Ambarchi’s snapping, rhythmical drumming keeping a constant beat throughout as Stephen O’Malley and Randall Dunn wring squeals out of guitars and synths to create a most unsettling atmosphere. The final 30 minutes sink into a more drone-orientated space that will be familiar to fans of most projects this illustrious trio have been involved in over the years. There must be a strange old story behind their name, and USA Out Of Vietnam live up to the oddity promised with debut Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes [6]. A clash of heavy drones and beautiful vocal harmonies, this sounds big, really big, with buckets of atmosphere that crosses nicely over into post-rock territory. A pleasant listen for the entire hour, it does lack a bit of character and bite.

To be honest, you always know exactly what you are going to get from an Eat Lights, Become Lights album, and Into Forever [6] continues the trend. Driving motoric rhythms and bouncing riffs are interspersed with banks of kosmische synths – a treat for fans of the genre, and irritating repetitive hell for those who are not. This latest addition to their catalogue may not bring anything new to the genre, but they remain a fun and uplifting listen. Germans Kreidler celebrate their twentieth anniversary with album number twelve. ABC [5] has most of the krautrock elements correct and present, but heads down darker, more restrained electronic avenues. This is efficient, lacking the quirky cheekiness and sense of barely-restrained insanity that adds life to the genre’s landmarks, but does at least offer a different take on the usual ‘Hallogallo’ variations. Kimi Kärki is better known as one third of doom masters Reverend Bizarre, but amongst his numerous musical ventures since are E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr whose sophomore record Spiralo [5] is straight out of the Tangerine Dream book. Two near-twenty minute tracks of swirling space-age keyboards, this is a cosmic homage to the bands of the 70s that kicked it all off, and unsurprisingly suffers in comparison.

Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed (12th, Nuclear Blast Records)
Electrocution – Metaphysincarnation (5th, Goregorecords)
Boris The Blade – The Human Hive (12th, Siege Of Amida Records)
Eyehategod – Eyehategod (26th, Century Media Records)
Enabler – La Fin Absolue Du Monde (26th, The Compound/Creator-Destructor)
Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn (26th, Southern Lord)
Serpentine Path – Emanations (26th, Relapse Records)
Graves At Sea/Sourvein – Split (12th, Seventh Rule Recordings)
Cradle Of Filth – Total Fucking Darkness (5th, Mordgrimm)
Waxen – Agios Holokauston (26th, Moribund Records)
Ambarchi, O'Malley, Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos (19th, Drag City)
USA Out Of Vietnam – Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes (5th, Aurora Borealis)
Eat Lights Become Lights – Into Forever (19th, Rocket Girl Records)
Kreidler – ABC (5th, Bureau B)
E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr – Spiralo (5th, Svart Records)

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