Dark Hemyspheres: August 2016

In yet another month with an alarmingly thin collection of records from which to sift out a few gems (thankfully next month is looking much more promising), the label really bucking the trend is the new imprint House Of Mythology, who unleash two excellent albums in the coming weeks. The first is the new project from David Tibet and Youth, Hypnopazūzu, in the rather twisted and psychotic form of Create Christ, Sailor Boy [8]. Dense layers of blissful synths swirl around Tibet's maniacal, bizarre oratory; but the most surprising element, bearing in mind both contributors' harsh and dissonant pasts, is how melodic the whole concoction turns out. The aural incarnations of the strangest of dreams, it is neither hellish nightmares nor soppy fairy tales – just wonderfully confusing. Remoteness Of Light [7] from The Stargazer's Assistant appears much calmer at first, slow oscillations and crystalline percussion float with disembodied flutes and droning hurdy-gurdies. All three mammoth tracks take their time to build, but once they do the walls of sound swell masterfully to block out all else, and leave the listener breathless upon this spectral rollercoaster.

Californians Carnifex have established themselves in the vanguard of American death metal for the new millennium over the last decade without ever setting the world alight. Sixth offering Slow Death [5] is not really going to change much, either way. The work of Jason Suecof and Mick Kenney ensure this is a hefty beast heavy enough to sink a tanker; but the identity remains defined by the scene, not the band – there is little here to separate them from their peers. The solo project of Craig Peters Destroying The Devoid explores more progressive offshoots, but Paramnesia [4] quickly falls into many of the clichéd pitfalls. Showing off technical prowess appears to be the ultimate goal, as periods of mindless chugging suddenly break into ill-fitting fretboard fireworks or disjointed stylistic U-turns. Bland and unimaginative, even these detours quickly become routine enough to be instantly forgettable.

One of the bright spots this month should have been the new Horseback record; alas Dead Ringers [3] is as disappointing as soggy seaside fish and chips. Lacking in enthusiasm, playfulness and daring, half a dozen meandering slices of programmed patterns and directionless waffling is finished off by a tedious sound collage that feels little more than the loops left running. Only the kraut-drone haze of 'The Cord Itself' shows what could have been, the kosmische synths floating around the hum of the deep distorted guitar transporting us to the outer reaches. For every let-down, there is a thrilling find; For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages [8] from SubRosa is exactly that. Expansive slabs of psychedelic doom rage across the salt plains, the play of light and shade inextricably drawing you in both directions. The whole piece is driven and passionate, a raw, authentic vulnerability beneath the melancholic violins and violent guitars that is as enthralling as it is brilliant.

An album perfect for the dark summer nights is August's Dark Star; Realms [8], the debut full-length from Darkher, is a stunning exploration of bleak landscapes and windswept moors that cannot help but induce chills. Jayn H. Wissenberg's beautiful, ethereal voice drifts across the scenery, filling the air with the ghosts of memories and wistful dreams; there is the merest spark of hope amongst the rumbling drones and ritualistic drumming, enough to stop the blackness closing in completely, but only just. Realms flows like a river, twisting and turning, at times rapid and others almost too still, but never jarring or abrupt enough to wake us from the reverie. The music of Darkher is that kind of "heavy" that is oft overlooked, oppressive and crushing without being loud, distorted or the other usual tricks – this is about atmosphere, emotion and feeling. And is utterly spellbinding.

Hypnopazūzu – Create Christ, Sailor Boy (19th, House Of Mythology)
The Stargazer's Assistant – Remoteness Of Light (19th, House Of Mythology)
Carnifex – Slow Death (5th, Nuclear Blast Records)
Destroying The Devoid – Paramnesia (19th, Unique Leader Records)
Horseback – Dead Ringers (12th, Relapse Records)
SubRosa – For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages (26th, Profound Lore)
Darkher – Realms (19th, Prophecy Productions)

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