Dark Hemyspheres: October 2015

There has been remarkably little fuss made about the coming together of Lee Dorrian, Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening as With The Dead, but the results are as great a collision of their illustrious histories as could be hoped for. With The Dead [8] is a tour de force of monstrously heavy funereal doom, forty minutes of monolithic rites that fill the ears in a relentless, crawling assault. Underneath the mire, Lee intones his eulogies with more bile and vitriol than has been heard out of him for years. It's definitely time to bring out your dead. Offering up a single twenty seven minute track as your debut album is a bold move from Recitation. The swirling, feedback-drenched doom of Carrion [5] bludgeons the listener for the entire half hour, yet at times has a tendency to slip into mindless repetition, breaking the spell. Invariably though, the band do manage to keep relaunching the offensive after these dips in momentum, ensuring that this is not a lost cause.

Wearing masks and having no less than four bass players may seem a little gimmicky, but Evil Blizzard can sure make them work. Sophomore record Everybody Come To Church [7] still has some unevenness as the shorter songs blend into mediocre uniformity; but when the band cut loose on the longer more psychedelic numbers like 'Sacrifice' and 'Watching' there are few who match the doom-laden grooves for sheer hallucinogenic madness – tracks that crucially are as catchy as they are crazy. More and more Aussie bands are getting their records out over here now, and the latest off the boat are Caligula's Horse, who show off their prog chops with Bloom [6]. Drawing upon all eras of the genre, they flit between blistering quick-fire metallic blasts to folky introspection without batting an eyelid. What holds it all together is a constant underpinning of pure pop sensibility; that whimsical little tune always comes first.

There are no surprises from Grave, beyond the fact that they are still going, on Out Of Respect For The Dead [5], remarkably their eleventh full-length. This is pure blood-soaked, chainsaw-buzzing Swedish death metal as exhibited by one of its earliest exponents, nothing more and most certainly nothing less. What's lacking in originality and progression is made up for with an unbridled intensity, an admirable feat after so many years and records. For an album that took the best part of a decade to complete, Forward Without Motion [3] is very much the second half of its title and none of the first. Vehemence have managed to over-engineer this effort to death, a painfully thin and pan-flat sound devoid of depth or emotion that leaves this merely an empty shell of formulated notes. Add in that the songs are mindlessly generic and seemingly go on forever (to accommodate the ill-fitting guitar solos), this becomes a very difficult and unrewarding experience to sit through.

More black metal bands really should take note of what Abigail Williams are doing with the genre. The Accuser [7] ticks all the standard boxes without stepping far beyond the basics; blisteringly fast, abhorrently grim and utterly dismal. The difference here though is that they vary the methods by which they drag the listener down, sliding from relentless wall-of-noise ferocity to gloomy melodic depression without allowing the atmosphere to diffuse. Thus a far more enthralling, and ultimately depressing, journey for all concerned is embarked upon. By comparison, Temple Of Baal are a little one-dimensional, albeit a dimension they do rather well. The French scene is rather atypical with its embracing of a wider range of the audible spectrum, particularly at the lower end, and Mysterium [6] is no different as it lays down a punishing and explosive episode of violent black metal. It is nothing new, even from this band, but the execution is faultless.

On the same day that his primary band finally releases a new album, Steve Moore rather overshadows himself with the soundtrack to the small horror film Cub [7]. A fascinating trip through ambient krautrock, it captures a mood of fear, dread and malevolence wonderfully – the flick will have to go some to match this for dark, foreboding tension. The ghost of that archetypal kosmische rhythm maintains a sense of breathless momentum throughout, whilst the sea of ethereal synths ebb and flow to create a story all of their own. Esmerine return with what has been labelled their "rock" album, Lost Voices [8]. But whatever you want to label it, the lush swathes of strings and keyboards create a mesmerizing, all-encompassing dreamworld that won't fail to lift the spirit. There are moments with greater urgency, driven on by more recognisable rock elements; the greatest of which is 'Funambule (Deus Pas De Serein)', which beautifully melds Eastern and Western music in what is a truly astounding eight minutes of aural bliss and wonderment.

The only reason I didn't lavish heaps of praise upon the first Avatarium record was because no one told me about it, but I'm not going to miss out this time around. What is immediately noticeable about The Girl With The Raven Mask [8] compared to their debut is the dirtier, grittier air to the whole piece; rather than the pure, solemn doom there is a more malign edge this time around. What does remain the same are the gargantuan bonecrushing riffs and powerfully gorgeous vocals, a combination as fantastical as it is devastating. Avatarium is certainly a child of the 70s, but The Girl With The Raven Mask goes beyond merely that decade – both before and after; the slow swing of closer 'The Master Thief' is bombastic enough to be a Bond theme, whilst 'Run Killer Run' has neo-prog tinges in its blood. Above all though these are just damn good songs, deliciously heavy and instantly memorable – not least of all the title track.

With The Dead – With The Dead (16th, Rise Above Records)
Recitation – Carrion (9th, Indisciplinarian)
Evil Blizzard – Everybody Come To Church (9th, Louder Than War Records)
Caligula's Horse – Bloom (16th, InsideOut Music)
Grave – Out Of Respect For The Dead (16th, Century Media Records)
Vehemence – Forward Without Motion (23rd, Battleground Records)
Abigail Williams – The Accuser (30th, Candlelight Records)
Temple Of Baal – Mysterium (2nd, Agonia Records)
Steve Moore – Cub (16th, Relapse Records)
Esmerine – Lost Voices (16th, Constellation Records)
Avatarium – The Girl With The Raven Mask (23rd, Nuclear Blast Records)

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