Vol. 11posted on 9/2016 By:
Maybe 'Back To The Future: Part II' was merely off by one year? Defying all sound reasoning, the Cubs are the best team in baseball, and good metal releases continue to fall through the cracks. At least a little something can be done about the latter: Volume 11 of Fast Rites welcomes in the Fall season by highlighting six releases that are worthy of most any metal fan's attention.
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THE WOUNDED KINGS – VISIONS OF BONE
Worshippers at the altar of all things Black Sabbath are probably already well aware of Great Britain’s The Wounded Kings, as Black Sabbath emulation is played with near perfection by the quartet. The last full-length, Consolamentum from 2014, narrowly missed my best of the year list that year with its mix of melancholy riffs, clean, haunting vocals from Sharie Neyland, and a dirge-like pace. Visions Of Bone ups the ante by asking the following question: can The Wounded Kings forge its own identity? Well, yes and no. First of all, Neyland left the band prior to the recording, and long time member George Birch takes on double duty as guitarist and vocalist (which he handled on early albums). Melodic doom is always going to hark back to Black Sabbath, regardless of whatever twist is introduced, but Visions Of Bone is a quieter beast, sounding more like it’s from the ‘70s than its predecessor. Tthe songs sound more dynamic with a slightly quicker pace, and guitar solos are introduced that have a dreamlike quality to them, so much so that they’d fit right in on a latter day Pink Floyd album. Tony Iommi and David Gilmour now stand side by side in The Wounded Kings’ chosen pantheon. Sadly, The Wounded Kings has apparently broken up just as this album was released.
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KUROKUMA – ADVORSUS
The tagline on Great Britain’s Kurokuma reads "progressive sludge/ doom", just like that of a million other bands these days. If there ever was a genre ripe for a reset, "progressive sludge/ doom" is probably it. Before you turn away, though, you may want to give this trio a look as a few interesting songwriting elements are present is this short, three-song EP. Sure, the riffs are lumbering and the vocals are a hoarse growl that occasionally upticks to a scream (all typical of the genre), but the songwriting is dynamic with subtle changes in riffs, pacing, and atmosphere. A few effects occur here and there, providing a touch of atmospherics, but the real story is a great, fluid bass that anchors the sound. Nothing gets technically over the top on Advorsus, but the sound is clean enough to separate Kurokuma from the sludge/ doom pack. In a very subtle way, the progressive label is apt, and ends up being the most interesting thing about Advorsus.
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BANGLADEAFY – NARCOPALOMA
The duo that is Bangladeafy got their name through rather logical means: drummer Atif Haq is of Bangladeshi descent, while Jon Ehlers plays bass and piano despite being hearing impaired. Still, fun as that name is, they might as well call themselves Skronk Nation, as this is some serious music school nerd stuff. At their core Bangladeafy is a jazzy drum and bass project, but it often has a secret heft that approaches metal, and the compositional long game across this 16-minute EP certainly comes from a progressive rock mindset. The first impression when “Termites” kicks into full gear is that this is just a virtuosic showcase, because both of these cats can absolutely play, but there are some real riffs hidden in those tappy slappy acrobatics. Those moments of real riffiness, combined with the occasional nod to jazz-djent rhythmic sputtering (“Tundra Suntan”) are where the album earns its ever-so-slight metal touch. When the EP goes super proggy in the songwriting department, as during the magnificent, almost melancholy-in-its-melody closer “Trillionaire,” yet another face of the band is revealed. I’m more than curious to hear what this duo can do over about a 30- or 40-minute runtime, as the layers of their talent are only hinted at on Narcopaloma. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy these short bursts of amazing instrumental wackadoodlery.
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VALBORG – WERWOLF
After four albums that largely stayed the dark/death metal course, Germany’s Valborg have spent the better part of two years throwing us curveballs. Romantik abandoned much of the heft for an ambient, atmospheric journey, and revealed the band to be just as adept at applying their craft across minimalist plains. Earlier this year, they released a brief (and rad) collaboration with Bloodway, and with the 7-inch release Werwolf, they are fully returning to their heavy ways. And I do mean fully, as these two songs represent possibly the weightiest material the band has ever released. Like much of Valborg’s material, these two songs feature a simple, efficient approach to dropping boulders. An open-close-open-close riff style is common, and helps to emphasize both the thick chunkiness of the songs and Christian Kolf’s raspy death vocals (only Kolf takes the mic here; Jan Buckard’s gothy wails are left out of the Werwolf equation). However, inasmuch as this is among Valborg’s heaviest material, it still utilizes the band’s atmospheric tricks. Both songs find time to open up and spread into eerie soundscapes before returning to the pure riffage, transitions that are made all the more effective through Florian Toyka’s rock solid drumming foundation. The band made detours into this atmospheric terrain long before the release of Romantik, but something about hearing it now, with that album as a new reference point, makes it all the more effective. In under nine total minutes, Werwolf shows Valborg making full use of their toolset, and has me chomping at the bit (nyuk nyuk) for the band’s next full length.
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ZEALOT CULT – KARMENIAN CRYPT
Irish death metal quartet Zealot Cult covers a lot of ground with its three-song debut EP, Karmenian Crypt. Zealot Cult draws primary influence from classic death metal, particulary, but not exclusively, the Floridian variety. The opening title track, with its thrashy blasting owes much to early Morbid Angel, though some of the mid-section grooves point more toward Obituary, as do the vocals of guitarist Jay Quigley who sounds like a cross between John Tardy and Martin van Drunen. “Eternal Winter” again brings to mind Morbid Angel, but the much slower pace and deeper rumble of the riffs gives this track a seething menace more reminiscent of the Tucker era. The closer, “Suffocation of Mind” differs dramatically from the other two tracks: With its seven-minute length, abundant soloing, and atmospheric noodling, the song has a progressive vibe, reminiscent of later Death and even a hint of Cynic or Atheist. The band does, however, find some time in the tracks extended run-time to lay down some straight forward death metal punishment. With Karmenian Crypt, Zealot Cult makes a pretty strong case for itself in eighteen minutes. Drawing from a fairly broad palette within its admittedly old-school pool influences, the EP is an impressive display of the surprisingly broad scope of the band’s talents.
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NOX FORMULAE – THE HIDDEN PATHS TO BLACK ECSTASY
The band’s name, Nox Formulae, is an emanation relating to the well of N.O.X, the darkest aspect of the Draconian/ Typhonian Principle which applies to the mystical Black Magical Formula of XONOX (not the software company). Thus, they stand, a Red Black sect driven by Luciferian fanaticism, the mission of whom is to establish the Ruler of Atlantis in the human subconscious. So, this is going to be some grim shit. However, it is through grim, murky, somber black metal that the darkest paths to the Shadow Chiefs who reside in the Death Plane can be found. For it is inside the Death Plane that the Black Dragon rules and, by enthroning the Dragon, the gates from the Shadow of O.D. will open to this world. The idea here, is that the music can filter into your subconscious, ever so slowly loosening the bolts on the gates to other dimensions. Through ritualistic black metal will our subconscious open and accept the darknesses that lie beyond. So except a modicum of psychedelia among the murky blast beats provided. But don’t expect the typical, run-of-the-mill experimental, chaotic black metal. Nox Formulae provide a musical and vocal performance nearly unrivaled in their sub genre. For all the mystical hoopla and the dark magic underpinnings, The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy is actually a great album. Buried beneath the grimoire billing and the adjective-laden descriptions is an album that is purely entertaining, encapsulating and landscape inducing black metal.
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