Dark Hemyspheres: November 2016
And so another Dirk Serries project draws to a close… Microphonics XXVI-XXX: Resolution Heart  finishes this series off in haunting style as the echoes of 'The Deprivation Of Heart' fade into silence, leaving the listener in an hypnotic trance of otherworldly bliss. It all starts off so menacingly with the dark, distorted loops of 'Epiphany And Isolation', the ever-mounting layers adding dread and half-hidden terror. It is these subtle additions that make this so beguiling yet mesmeric, drawing you in as it flows and evolves from cloaked nightmare to euphoric climax seamlessly. I for one cannot wait to hear what comes next. By comparison Vergers , the latest from Sarah Davachi, seems simplistic, but is almost as effective in creating a wonderfully thoughtless void. In particular the opening twenty minute composition 'Gentle So Gentle' drifts upon a current of low drones and tones that is so appropriately named. The other two pieces are superficially more "interesting", although they never quite reach that state of absolute zen the first half creates.
With J.J. aka Karg being one half of the superlative Harakiri Of The Sky (see July's DH), I was expecting a lot more from his next solo offering Weltenasche , especially given the promising start to proceedings. Screeching, pain-filled black metal is once again the order of the day, but this time we are unsympathetic to the plight. The music is distant, unmoving and rather messy, with long meandering passages lacking anything but miserable self-pity that breaks any spell the more magical moments are able to conjure. Bölzer take a rather different approach to the genre with their debut. Hero  takes the punk aesthetic of fast and furious, and draws it out to groovy, epic proportions. Although fun at first, the trick begins to get tiresome as the record settles into a rather monotonous pace, the bite killed by overfamiliarity and ultimately boredom.
Martyrdöd have been one of the hardcore/d-beat gems Southern Lord have unearthed in recent years, and List  immediately rockets in as their finest to date. Blisteringly fast, relentlessly brutal and monumentally heavy, it is the sheer catchiness of the album that sticks out as something very different and very brilliant. Littered with hooks and melodies, this quickly becomes immensely fun and elicits huge grins from all concerned; it is an unusual combination, but one these Swedes have got working spectacularly. Almost as quick and nearly as devastating, The Empire  is Vader being, well, themselves. There is nothing particularly new to their thrashy death metal here, coming across as the sound of a band very comfortable and confident in what they are doing. They pull it off well, and no doubt this will please fans no end, but by the same dint is unlikely to pull any new followers into the army.
The stories on Hour Of The Nightingale  are gloomy and morose, made even more so with the passing of Trees Of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge as the finishing touches were made to the album. It is her whispered, ghostly vocals that breathe life into a record that otherwise relies too strongly on old gothic, doom-laden clichés; devoid of light and awash with long echoed guitar lines, even the crunchier riffs lack much imagination. It is a tragedy we will hear no more of Ms Starbridge. The End Of Electricity  gets off on the right note with a particularly dirty bassline that immediately shows what Domkraft are trying to achieve. Alas as we delve deeper, it all gets a little too stoned for its own good as the music becomes a long, slow, repetitive haze. One good idea stretched just a wee bit too far…
I have always enjoyed seeing Primordial live, their shows being visceral, energetic and powerful. Unfortunately Gods To The Godless , recorded at Bang Your Head last year, doesn't capture that too well. Whether it is because it is a festival, or because Nemtheanga is not quite in tune for the first half, but the new tracks sound lifeless and flat. It is not until the final numbers like 'The Coffin Ships' and 'Empire Falls' that it clicks into place and that raw untamed fire is truly lit. Leprous however are caught in sparkling form on Live At Rockefeller Music Hall . Punchy and frenetic, the band are flawless as they deliver a ninety minute set of weighty, proggy, charged mini-masterpieces. The quality of the recording too is superb; full-bodied and dynamic, it allows the music to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. To top it off, they are joined by Ihsahn for a stunning version of 'Contaminate Me' to bring it all to a close.
I am as rarely surprised by an album, especially from a known band, as I was upon first hearing Older Terrors  from Esben And The Witch, giving it an edge in the race for the Dark Star. Gone are any last vestiges or illusions of being yet another "cool indie band" as they leap wholeheartedly into droney, ambient soundscapes that bristle with tension and emotion. This is an album that is frighteningly dark and menacing without going overboard or veering towards the camp; helped immeasurably by a far greater assuredness in their ability, Rachel Davies in particular is unfaltering in her confidence and delivery, adding greatly to the horror-tinged atmosphere. The song craft is still very much present as the entire album is suffused with melodious touches, but its growing shadows and emboldened heaviness allow each piece to bloom into the fully formed tales they have become. Whether it is the driving, pulsating rush of 'The Wolf's Sun' or the post-apocalyptic comedown of 'The Reverist', Esben And The Witch have become masters of their art and produced their crowning moment with Older Terrors.
Dirk Serries – Microphonics XXVI-XXX: Resolution Heart (18th, Tonefloat Records)
Sarah Davachi – Vergers (25th, Important Records)
Karg – Weltenasche (11th, Art Of Propaganda)
Bölzer – Hero (25th, Iron Bonehead Productions)
Martyrdöd – List (25th, Southern Lord)
Vader – The Empire (4th, Nuclear Blast Records)
Trees Of Eternity – Hour Of The Nightingale (11th, Svart Records)
Domkraft – The End Of Electricity (11th, Magnetic Eye Records)
Primordial – Gods To The Godless (25th, Metal Blade Records)
Leprous – Live At Rockefeller Music Hall (25th, InsideOut Music)
Esben And The Witch – Older Terrors (4th, Season Of Mist)