Dark Hemyspheres: June 2016
2016 has been, with a few notable exceptions, a rather disappointing affair in the realm of Dark Hemyspheres. However June is certainly looking brighter, and there are few bands who can draw a look of unconfined glee across the face as clearly as Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. With a new rhythm section in place, the Japanese psychedelic freakout masters don't miss a beat on Wake To The New Dawn Of Another Astro Era  as they set about creating three deliciously mad, hypnotic odes to intergalactic mind travel. In particular the half-hour 'Nebulous Hyper Meditation' is some of the finest cosmic waffling this lot have conjured for some time, flowing from synth-led blissfulness to rocket-fuelled hyperspeed shredding with delightful ease. Our Birth Is But A Sleep And A Forgetting , the sophomore record from the evocatively named It's Not Night: It's Space, sets out to explore similar distant galaxies, albeit with a slightly more refined and tighter approach. Alas after a promising – blistering even – opening, the lack of raw and unrestrained energy pulls these heavy, groovy riffs down into a less stratospheric orbit of homogeny and repeated paths.
Sink blew me away a few years ago with their unique and twisted take on black metal; jump forward three years and you'd never guess Ark Of Contempt And Anger  came from the same minds. The first half is sparse gothic musings that drift by mindlessly, and it is only when we get to 'Crystal Ship' is there any sign of the malevolent, brooding evil they delivered so well. That is as good as it gets though, before sinking back into mindless mediocrity. For explorations into dark and weird worlds this month there is instead Memento Collider  from Virus. Bounding along with an off-kilter gait, they manage to cram jazz, funk, krautrock, prog and black metal into a (vaguely) coherent form without making a complete mess of the ingredients. The unflinching beat means it flirts with being a one-trick pony, but with enough else bombarding the listener the band keeps them so disorientated that they can get away with it.
Southern Lord is once again demonstrating their skill at picking out heavy, crusty hardcore of high quality. The latest to be showcased are Sarabante, hailing from the oft-overlooked metallic outpost of Greece. Poisonous Legacy  rattles along at breakneck pace, charging through the dozen tracks of rage-filled screams and galloping riffs with confidence and panache. There is a slight nagging feeling that it sounds a touch too familiar (some of the samples especially have been overused before), but the results are still brutal. LLNN go for a dirtier, more oppressive slant with their debut Loss . Slower and doomier, this is no less an aggressive, powerful or violent take on the genre. Once again, the spectre of unoriginality does cast a shadow over the experience as passages and elements ring close to a few of their forbearers; however the claustrophobic, paranoid atmosphere they create does just enough to keep it at bay.
Back after a seven year absence and with new vocalist Heljarmadr stepping into the fold, Dark Funeral attempt to resurrect the legacy of Scandinavian black metal for a new age – Where Shadows Forever Reign  even has a cover harking back to their debut. The harsh lo-fi sound is thankfully long gone, replaced instead by a full and powerful mix to deliver the tirades of hatred and dancing, icily melodious riffs. In truth, times and bands may have moved beyond them, yet there is joy in the old magic still. One of those that have done so (sometimes…) are Blut Aus Nord, who here on their split with Ӕvangelist Codex Obscura Nomina , venture back into the decidedly uncomfortable realms of their dissonant black/industrial soundscapes they weave so scarily. Harsh, unnerving and barely listenable, it's rare that music can not only make you sense the malicious shadows but actually have them form and dissipate in front of your very eyes. In comparison the latter half from the American duo feels camp and flat with its pitifully thin mix and insipid guitar work; these final twenty minutes can't pass quickly enough.
We have two very different takes on drone this month: the first sees Khünnt stretching a repeated chord over nearly forty minutes with strangely uplifting if somewhat mind-numbing effects. Failures  is a heavy, noisy, chaotic study in going further; on paper it might sound ridiculous (it is) and pointless (it isn't), yet the effect is calming as it meticulously destroys all thought, luring you towards the eye of the storm. At the other end of the spectrum, drcarlsonalbion returns with another ode to English folk. Falling With A Thousand Stars And Other Wonders From The House Of Albion  sees the godfather of the genre take some traditional tunes and moulds them to his inimitable style. Some remain recognisable, whilst others lose their identity to merely become gently bubbling streams of soporific drones and tones that are pleasing, but too easily merge into a continuous background ambience.
Ten tracks. Twenty one minutes. Utter devastation. Welcome to the new Nails record. You Will Never Be One Of Us  is a relentless barrage of very short, very sharp shocks that is as heavy as metal can get, and as furious as any hardcore act. The sole exception is the eight minute finale of 'They Come Crawling Back', sacrificing some (but my no means all) of the blitzkreig pace for walls of feedback and crushing despair as they rail against any and all ills. Despite the short length, it is difficult to feel cheated after such an explosive assault, and once again Nails leave you breathless, exhausted and thoroughly beaten. It is also a surprise just how catchy You Will Never Be One Of Us can be in places; not a style that generally lends itself to melodious hooks and sneaky earworms, nonetheless tracks such as the eponymous and 'Life Is A Death Sentence' do easily become lodged in the memory bank to continually resurface. Reader, you have been warned – now enjoy...
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – Wake To The New Dawn Of Another Astro Era (24th, Important Records)
It's Not Night: It's Space – Our Birth Is But A Sleep And A Forgetting (24th, Small Stone Records)
Sink – Ark Of Contempt And Anger (10th, Svart Records)
Virus – Memento Collider (3rd, Karisma Records)
Sarabante – Poisonous Legacy (10th, Southern Lord)
LLNN – Loss (17th, Pelagic Records)
Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign (3rd, Century Media Records)
Blut Aus Nord / Ӕvangelist – Codex Obscura Nomina (17th, Debemur Morti Productions)
Khünnt – Failures (10th, Riot Season Records)
drcarlsonalbion – Falling With A Thousand Stars And Other Wonders From The House Of Albion (24th, Independent)
Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (17th, Nuclear Blast Records)