Dark Hemyspheres: June 2015

The Japanese phenomenon that is Babymetal are finally releasing their debut album - imaginatively titled Babymetal - [7], over here. The idea of three young teenage girls singing heavy metal (a scene hardly unaccustomed to unusual vocal stylings) has provoked just about every reaction possible, some more disturbing than others. But by sitting down and just listening to the record, the lasting impression that this is really rather heavy, and casts its net across a vast selection of subgenres from death and thrash to rap and power metal. The pop elements can range from infuriatingly catchy to moshpit ferocity, but ensure nearly every song is at least memorable. I have my doubts as if the project will last out to a second album, but I for one am charmed by this light-hearted but genuine dedication to the cause.

It's a strange relationship between myself and the music of Between The Buried And Me; I have a lot of respect for the supremely talented musicians playing incredibly technical music, but it has never failed to completely bore me. The same is happening with Coma Ecliptic [5]. Full of proggy madness and dazzling chops, I am left completely cold. This record moves on a long way from their last, being far more melodic and varied whilst never losing the ability to raze a small country with a stunningly heavy blast. They just cannot engage me on an emotional level. The opposite has been true with Oceansize, so the prospect of a Vennart solo album to fill the hole has caused much excitement. Whilst The Demon Joke [6] doesn't quite scratch that itch, there is enough there to remind us all just what all the fuss was about. Guided by just the one man, Mike Vennart's excellent song-craft is plain to hear; what it lacks in grandiose atmospherics is made up with a greater emphasis on the poppy and melodic elements to create a varied and often beautiful piece.

Something has happened in the Paradise Lost camp as the Yorkshire doom-mongers have returned heavier, more vitriolic and gloomier than in a very long time. The Plague Within [8] is almost overwhelming with its sense of despair, heightened by the monumental funereal guitar riffs and Nick Holmes' finest vocal performance to date as he switches from melancholic anguish to guttural menace. The experience is somewhat harrowing, a feeling that only grows with each listen. On the subject of devastating riffs, few are better than Greg Anderson when he's on top form, so it's rather pleasing to hear Goatsnake back again. A long time in coming, Black Age Blues [6] is no disappointment, delivering nothing less than expected. But also nothing more - a mixture of stoner rock and blues played very loudly, this is more satisfying than it is electrifying.

There appears to have been something of a surge in Portuguese black metal of late, a scene without fail churning out horribly dull, derivative and poorly recorded copycats. So stumbling across The Absence Of Void [7] from Porto's Nevoa was a very nice surprise. Not that there is much "nice" about this record, as full of bleak menace as it is. Whether the band are engulfing the listener in tempestuous, reverb-drenched riffs or luring them with minimalistic acoustic interludes, the music remains unremittingly dark. A fine example of taking all you cherish about a genre and crafting something of your own with it. Woes Of Mortal Devotion [4], the debut from Mefitic begins with similar promise and a wall of blackened noise both dense and sustained. Alas, they never deviate from that singular path, making the record a painfully dull and undynamic listening experience. New dogs need to learn new tricks too.

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra started out as a solo vehicle for Thomas Corpse, songwriter behind psych-proggers Jess & The Ancient Ones, but by adding most of his primary band including the eponymous Jess to this outfit, I [6] ends up being little removed from that entity. Leaning more towards the psychedelic than the proggy, the more direct approach leads to catchy and memorable tunes, but at the expense of some creative magic holding the whole thing together. Although it is hard to argue with gems like 'The Smoke' and 'Two-Zero 13', sparkling examples that bode well for the next venture. Continuing last month's theme of excessive interludes, My Sleeping Karma use another five on Moksha [5]. Again they are rather unnecessary as the six main tracks are all swirling psychedelic adventures that have their own highs and lows, resulting in a broken flow and an uneven finish. The truly excellent and mesmeric Indian-tinged kosmische of the first half is replaced by a bland style of post-rock by the time we reach the title track, from where the album descends out of consciousness and into background nothingness.

It is an almost impossible, and often thankless, task for an established band to strike the balance between pleasing old fans with something instantly recognisable and going further than merely rehashing old ground. So it is easy to give High On Fire this month's dark star as they have done exactly that with album number seven, Luminiferous [8]. The backbone remains Matt Pike's earth-shattering riffs, monolithic slabs of distorted brutality rocking along in that hazy stoner groove. Added to the mix this time however is a raging fire scorching through the record; it is still undeniably High On Fire, but faster, angrier and much hungrier. Relentless in its onslaught, Luminiferous bulldozers through the brain in a most enjoyable manner. There is a celebratory mood to the piece, revelling in the joyfulness of reckless abandon and ear-splittingly loud music, you cannot help but headbang.

Babymetal – Babymetal (1st, earMUSIC)
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic (29th, Metal Blade Records)
Vennart – The Demon Joke (22nd, Superball Music)
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (1st, Century Media Records)
Goatsnake – Black Age Blues (1st, Southern Lord)
Nevoa – The Absence Of Void (22nd, Altare Productions)
Mefitic – Woes Of Mortal Devotion (15th, Nuclear War Now! Productions)
The Exploding Eyes Orchestra – I (15th, Svart Records)
My Sleeping Karma – Moksha (1st, Napalm Records)
High On Fire – Luminiferous (22nd, Century Media Records)

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