Dark Hemyspheres: September 2015

There is a certain perverseness opening up this month with Render Of The Veils [3], the third record from Australia's Moon. The band hold the dubious honour of producing the single worst album I have ever heard with the atrocious mess that was their debut. Thankfully matters have improved over the intervening period, and this one is at least listenable. Still clinging to the raw lo-fi aesthetics of early 90s black metal (all about no bass), the fact is this is a terrible recording of a simple and derivative offering that drags on for an eternity. But they are improving. Shrine Of Insanabilis, however, do manage to create a decidedly chilly atmosphere tinged with malevolence on Disciples Of The Void [5]. Similarly eschewing the lower frequencies, the ferocity of the guitars create a storm enough for the piece to maintain the icy air upon which the entire genre is built. Whilst still lacking in imagination, there is enough here to please those who enjoy such bleak musings.

"Joyously gloomy" may seem like an oxymoron, but it rather sums up Amorphis. Latest effort Under The Red Cloud [8] is another fine slab of morose but lively prog, bouncing between a deathly despair and keyboard-laden gothic musings. Trimmed of any fat, first and foremost these are good songs; varied and veracious, it's heavy enough to give a good kicking, but deft enough to know when. On the surface Love, Fear And The Time Machine [7], the latest from Polish proggers Riverside, is gentler than previous outings. However, dig a little deeper and the darkness begins to emerge; Mariusz Duda singing oh-so-sweetly the line "how long can you hold your breath under the pillow" over and over is the first indication that all is not so simple. Amongst the soaring guitar lines and wistful melodies lie some dirty riffs, artfully deployed to create ripples without destroying the illusion – a crystal clear lake with bodies just below the surface.

The doom scene, particularly here in Britain, has been caught in a bit of a quandary for a while now, and Witchsorrow come to exemplify it on No Light, Only Fire [5]. So much now has just become "standard fare"; slow, slower, fast blast, slow again – the old blueprint of Sabbath and Cathedral. It's what we all enjoy, but it lacks the exhilaration, the thrill of something new and invigorating even whilst the music is trying (and too often failing now) to blacken the sun. Tell me if you've heard this one before... The Finns on the other hand have seen a broad range of doom-laden bands emerge in the last decade, none more mellow than Dark Buddha Rising. Inversum [6] consists of two twenty-plus minute pieces that try and charm the listener with its hypnotic prowess. Playing around the borders of drone and psychedelic, there is just enough variation to keep from dropping into repetitive boredom, although there is a sense that some careful pruning wouldn't have gone amiss.

Over the years, the music spilling out of the mind of Robert Logan has become much darker, a steely edge to the beats and beeps cutting through the lush swirling ambience. This leaves Flesh [7] a challenging but ultimately rewarding listen; initially jolting yet meditative, the shadows it creates lure you into an all-encompassing world of unsettling dreams and hallucinogenic scenes. This is uncomfortable in a manner that intrigues and delights as much as it scares – go on, I dare you. At the opposite end of the electronic spectrum, Steve Hauschildt is a comparative safety blanket with Where All Is Fled [6]. All warm tones and soothing drones, this is a light and airy amble through a blissful emptiness. There is enough substance here to keep it moving along too, a sprinkle of chiming beats saving the record from slipping into lifeless musak.

It is with great sadness that I pronounce Planks as this month's dark star. Perished Bodies [9] is the German trio's final offering, and concludes their rather nihilistic trilogy in a grand manner. Not so much a fond farewell as a scourging of the soul, the mixture of hardcore and black metal produces another visceral episode of a dark and bitter railing against this cruel world. As heavy and intense as this is, a memorable riff or great phrase is never far away; once again it is the instrumentals that particularly stand out in this respect, and none more so than the title track as it demonstrates acutely why Planks will be missed so much. The band sign off in similar fashion with the second half of the record's bookend piece 'The Sacrifist', subtitled 'What Does Walking Away Leave Us?', an even more mournful slice that is weighed down with sorrow before fading away with a heavy heart. A bittersweet goodbye.

Moon – Render Of The Veils (18th, Moribund Records)
Shrine Of Insanabilis – Disciples Of The Void (25th, W.T.C. Productions)
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud (4th, Nuclear Blast Records)
Riverside – Love, Fear And The Time Machine (4th, InsideOut Records)
Witchsorrow – No Light, Only Fire (25th, Candlelight Records)
Dark Buddha Rising – Inversum (25th, Neurot Recordings)
Robert Logan – Flesh (25th, Slowfoot Records)
Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled (25th, Kranky)
Planks – Perished Bodies (11th, Golden Antenna Records)

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