Monday, 15 June 2009

EbonyLake - On the Eve of the Grimly Inventive

Cacophonous Records, 1999

1. The Author of the Burning Flock
2. The Wanderings of Ophelia Through the Untamed Countryside
3. On the Eve of the Grimly Inventive
4. Within Deepest Red (The Opening Of...)
5. An Autumn to Cripple Children
6. A Voice in the Piano
7. The Music and Woe Between Horse Thieves

Being experimental in Black Metal can be a dangerous thing: it balances in the delicate position of being too underground for fans of experimental music whilst being too experimental for fans of the underground. How many experimental gems might have been lost in the shadow of more mundane bands like Marduk and Immortal? At least one: this one!

EbonyLake's first (and so far only) album On the Eve of the Grimly Inventive was released by the now defunct Cacophanous Records, more famous for giving Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir amongst others their kickstart in the metal world. It is Black Metal played with all the fury, tempo shifts and technicality more common to mathcore, whilst being submerged in "Victorian Horror" atmospheres evoked through ghostly female wails, beautiful and sometimes discordant piano passages, and brilliantly conceived lyrics.

Sounding quite unlike any other Black Metal album I've heard, this is reminiscent of something like The End's Within Dividia, and much to its advantage. I am surprised that this has gone almost entirely beneath the radar in the ten years since its release but them's the breaks eh? That it still sounds fresh is a testament to its unique nature - compare, for example, Carpathian Forest's Black Shining Leather or the aforementioned Immortal's At the Heart of Winter, both of which were released in the same year and both of which sound dated to my ears, due in part to the amount of imitations that have followed in their wake.

But there is good news for fans of the band, though I am sure most fans will already knows this. Mass Firth, after taking a prolonged detour through Death Metal band Nailed, has ressurrected EbonyLake with the claim to be carrying on "from where On The Eve Of The Grimly Inventive had taken us." There is a great sounding demo from the new album available on the Myspace page. Go check them out now!

Recommended if:
You want your Black Metal with a dose of insanity.

The End - Within Dividia, A Forest of Stars

Friday, 12 June 2009

Dont Look Back - Brighter

Noise Digger, 2005

1. Six Feet Under The Ground
2. Remove All Trace
3. Joyrider
4. Nothing Just Happens
5. Farewell To The Bright Side
6. All Day Long
7. Dark Mobson
8. 1887 / D.I.Y.A.
9. Kids Got Shadows In Their Eyes
10. Ask The Dust

When I first heard Brighter by southeastern Frenchmen, Dont Look Back I thought to myself "not another Indie band". It lasted about 2 minutes in my headphones before I put something else on - probably The Pax Cecilia or Khelvin since I couldn't stop listening to these two bands at that time.

To discard Dont Look Back as 'just another Indie band' is slightly acceptable (upon first hearing only) given the opening track to Brighter, Six Feet Under The Ground is a very drum-driven indie rock track. As catchy as this opener is, the sonic depths of this album aren't truly revealed until further along the aural journey.

In my opinion, the use of post rock motifs and progressions as a soundtrack to vocal samples is an exquisite marriage; Maybeshewill, for example, being notorious for this. It's of no surprise then that, for this reason, my two favourite tracks on Brighter are Nothing Just Happens and Dark Mobson. The incessant and often impassioned ramblings by preachers of our Saviour-Apparent make Nothing Just Happens a wonder to listen to. Dark Mobson introduced me to the poetry of Allen Ginsburg and although I've decided I don't like it, the excerpt - and recital itself by the two readers - of Kaddish in this track is nothing short of brilliant.

Dont Look Back escorts you along an entertaining journey through progressive waves of interesting yet delightfully pleasant post-rock with Brighter. I feel Kids Got Shadows In Their Eyes should be stationed at the end of the line - being another great, yet more melancholic 'Indie' track like Six Feet Under The Ground - but this isn't the case. There's nothing sub-par about Ask The Dusk, but its placement as the last track makes it seem less memorable as a part of the album as a whole.

Recommended if:
You're fed up with all your other post-rock albums.

Souvaris, Maybeshewill

Homepage: (French)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fight Bite - Emerald Eyes

Self-released, 2008

1. The Accident
2. Never Let Go
3. Swiss Ex Lover
4. Widow's Peak
5. Emerald Eyes
6. Age of Faith
7. Small Wonder
8. Dorothea
9. Strings
10. Spring Rain

Reading around, other reviews of this album have used adjectives like "haunting", "eerie" and "dreamy" to describe this album. Whilst they are not far wrong, as this album is indeed drenched with reverb and hazy production, I believe it misses out the key element which pervades this album and pulls those other elements together: nostalgia. From purposely lo-fi effects, through 80s organ synth, to the female vocals that are reminiscent of the early days of French pop, this album brings the past into the present and with it come those haunted, dreamlike feelings.

In an interview band member Leanne says she hopes listeners 'find the music to be beautiful and sad'. I agree that the music is exactly this and yet it is a reaction that's, if one thinks about it, quite illogical. How can an experience be both beautiful and sad when they are almost polar opposites? Yet it's not hard to think of numerous other works which also provoke this combination of emotions: Aranofsky's movie The Fountain, Jesu's album Conqueror or Millais' painting Ophelia for example. So what is it about all of these that allows for conflicting emotions to exist in harmony? My guess is that the simplest answer is the most likely: they are all objective. By being experience-by-proxy, art - and this album - allows its audience to mix and match any combination of emotions that could not normally coexist if your experience a first hand situation.

Why have I written a short psychoanalysis of the album? Because I believe the album's power lies in its appeal to emotion in very primal ways. Nostalgia functions through the distancing between memory and present, much as this album's ability to glue beauty to sadness functions through it's medium as music, as experience-by-proxy. Even the song's lyrics reflect this with its tales of old, old loves and heartbreaking memories. But this is not cold, calculated, surgical attempt at evoking emotion; like all the greatest emotional albums this feels like a shoot first, ask questions later outpouring of creativity that succeeds through it's simplicity in approach (despite some songs apparently having 35 tracks!).

Recommended if:
You're an old romantic at heart, love late nights and drink red wine.

Cocteau Twins - Victorialand

Friday, 5 June 2009

Kodiak - Kodiak

Denovali, 2009

1. Beginning
2. End

This is the crushing debut release from three-piece German act Kodiak. It features only 2 tracks yet spans just shy of 40 minutes; opening with such a melancholic cello intro (courtesy of Emelie Molin from Audrey) leading into some of the most vast, downtempo sludge/doom ever.

The mournful lilt of Emelie's cello conjures images and emotions of the passing and procession of royalty, or the embarking of a lonely but glorious expedition, deep into the snow-laden valleys, from the eyes of the wives whom were left behind. If this were a film then the coming of the guitars would herald a shift in scene where we now all but helpless in watching the long, slow struggle and turmoil of our protagonists as they dredge onwards.

Kodiak put a lot of focus on brillliant structural progression, just at a very lethargic pace. The first half, Beginning, may start with sorrowful strings but its 18 minutes builds into thick, destructive doom.

Although maybe not brimming with as much epic as Hyatari, I'd easily classify Kodiak's self titled debut as the most emotion-rich drone I've heard; which is quite an achievement considering it's no more than just deep guitars and drums.

Recommended if:
Becoming tearful over the glory of dredging guitars makes you feel whole.

Earth, Khanate, Hyatari


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hyatari - The Light Carriers

Codebreaker, 2005

1. Sheet of Flames
2. Freeform for the Disenfranchised
3. The Light Carriers
4. Fourth Realm
5. 14,000,000,000 Years Ago
6. Harvesting Sod
7. Collapse

Hyatari - whose name is slang for peyote - are a way-above average drone band out of West Virginia, USA. Eschewing the aimless wandering of many drone bands, these guys have a purpose and a goal with their Godflesh-influenced industrial droning: to rattle the bones of the universe until they turn to dust. Just look at those titles! "Sheet of Flames", "14,000,000,000 Years Ago", "Collapse" - you don't get more bloody epic than that!

The first edition of the album was self-released and comprised a single tracks sans titles, but the wider release on Codebreaker has been cut into seven songs; each track marker is in an entirely logical place, but nonetheless the album surges onward without pause in a monolithic 45 minute slab that will smash your face in before pounding the Earth to a bloody pulp.

I'd like to draw attention to the use of dynamics on this album which is, in my opinion, simply brilliant: there are moments when the bass suddenly drops out and leaves a most beautiful feeling of freefalling, and the barely-audible samples buried deep between mountainous guitars really fuck with your mind.

Recommended if:
You've ever wanted to know what the death of the universe would be like but were too scared to go there.

Nobody. Seriously.

Homepage: (not working as of 04/06/2009)