Friday, December 18, 2015
Now, for this, their debut long-player, the quintet bring us four snaking tracks of blackened doom filled with buckets of blast beats, swathes of dissonance, extended chord couplets and the standard fayre of screeching, drone-tastic, monochromatic, acid-gargling vocals direct from the colourless lips of the undead themselves.
What hits you hardest of all, besides Dorge’s toasted throat, is the lack of warmth or colour in their music. It’s to be expected considering the subject matter offers “a unique glimpse into the human condition, for all its faults, heartbreak and despair” but it is no less of a shock to find it so brutally emotionless in the way in which it dissects the insidious disease within.
Right from the off, they fire up the slow, atmospheric doom machine. When the freezing blasts of drum and screech eventually kick in they cut through the fog like a shadowy, howling phantom. The downbeat tone and dark portents hit home and the temperature plummets. Beware the tuneless quality of “The Elder” – it is particularly nasty and relentlessly unforgiving. You absolutely get the sense of the horror and of the soul being torn asunder.
With each of the first three tracks cruising on past the 11-minute mark, all the while hammering their mournful tune with the same monochromatic attack and pitch, it really is heavy-going. The crumb of comfort here is the variation of pace which allows for some particularly neat shifts in vehemence. After 41 excruciating minutes it seems safe to surmise that this really is a work bereft of joy.
With so little variation and such a harsh, caustic attack marrying itself to the depressive tone, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but, as they probably say in Canada, if you don’t like the cold, get out of the fridge.
Listen now: https://wiltmanitoba.bandcamp.com/
The first run-through of this experimental debut will have you scratching your head whilst marvelling at their adaptability. Allow the collision of soft melodics and brutalistic rhythms to wash over you and you’ll start to feel the dark concept begin to snag your mind. You’ll suddenly feel like the essential cog in their machine; the key to connecting the dots.
From the all-consuming introduction of rattling double-kick and ritualistic chanting that encompasses “Ariadne’s Thread” through to the otherwordly moaning and jagged rise-and-fall blitzkrieg that forms “Truth”, this debut album is one wild rollercoaster ride of genre-crossing that pitches and tosses you along whilst sneaking attacks from every conceivable angle. The jagged rhythms, slo-mo chugs and exploding cosmic experimentalism of tracks like “The Drowned” and “Eternal Return” feel like some bizarre Vreid / Wolves In The Throne Room / Mastodon musical collision.
In stark contrast, the majestic 6-minute centre-piece “Of The Wolf” is the key to the piece. Working like a finger to the lips it is dramatic, incisive and other-worldly. Inevitably it is the key that opens the door into understanding the band and the album. Without it the the thing wouldn’t have a mooring.
If drummer Daniel Blackmore is the tormenting villain of the piece then vocalist Sam Loynes (Voices, ex-Ackercocke) is equally as divisve. He switches between smooth melodics, antagonistic roars and pig squeals with apparent ease. Check out “Multitude Of Sin” for his full range – it is one track that really has fun bending genre boundaries. Staid, dyed-in-the wool, anodyne? Shrines are not.
It does feel slightly dissolute as a complete work and tends to ties itself in knots when simplicity is called for. However, when the backline tightens up, it provides the perfect canvas for the musical theatrics and vocal gymnastics to really make an impression.
Listen here: https://apocalypticwitchcraft.bandcamp.com/album/shrines
Friday, December 4, 2015
Recorded live in the studio, Ammu Dia shows promise but lacks punch. Roughly produced, its consequently loaded with honesty and raw power, yet is somewhat imbalanced and has plenty of niggling inaccuracies. Thematically lacking also, the album relies all too often on mere stringwork to discover the heart and soul of the tracks, rather than by using layering and soundscaping to dig into the emotional bedrock. Bands like Russian Circles or Red Sparowes are masters of both, whilst Arrakis attempt to fuel a different fire. They are more about the riff and the head-down groove. Only the final few tracks, and in particular, both “Noema” and the 12 paper-thin minutes of “Diplomacy?” even attempt to draw a little introspection from the listener.
With just the single lead guitar forging ahead to mingle with the battering kit and gutsy bass there’s little room for string interplay and, as a consequence, the big bloated monsters of one-dimensional “Audium” and the anomalous “Aztec” create nothing but a swathe of flat noise, losing what little craftwork there is in the muddy production and heaving dissonance. One recognisable touchstone lurks as “Oppose” tips its hat to the dark patterning and simplistic doom of both St. Vitus and Black Sabbath.
As a jam in a live setting with their chords blasting through chests, Arrakis have the tuneage to really make bonces bounce, but with so little to offer in this crudely-produced recorded format they are unfortunately just more of a racket.
Formed in 2011 in Brisbane by lead vocalist Jim Grey and guitarist Sam Vallen, their previous releases include euphoric debut Moments From Ephemeral City and 2013’s darker, more potent The Thief & River’s End. The success of the latter led them to share stages with acolytes Mastodon, Protest The Hero and The Ocean so can third album Bloom live up to it’s stirring moniker?
Well, it certainly acts as the perfect vehicle for Grey’s elegant vocal. It delicately introducing his softer side on the opening title-track before providing a musical framework for it on the elegaic melodic numbers like “Marigold” and “Daughter Of The Mountain”. The easy emotion he elicits prompts the listener’s heart to soar, the soul to become enveloped and the hairs to stand on end. Do also explore album-closer “Undergrowth” for his full monstrous range. Think of Daniel Tompkins’ (TesseracT) unerring capacity to beguile and you’ll not be far off the mark.
Deeper in there are big grooves, vast lyrical hooks and chorus-led giants like “Firelight” and “Turntail”, echoing both Intervals’ effortless power and Skyharbor’s knack for creating living pieces. Then come more malevolent hits such as “Dragonfly” and “Rust”, both riddled with hate-fuelled lyricisms – “She smiles like an open grave” and “Fuck your prayer for rain, pray for rust”.
Bloom certainly proves Caligula’s Horse are maturing nicely, varying their repertoire well to include a little light and a little darkness; all the while crafting music riddled with passion whilst keeping one eye firmly on the scene around them. First impressions have left me suitably impressed; now the band have swam into my field of vision, they most certainly won’t be my last.