Well, as expected, the new Sólstafir album, Ótta [5/5], is incredible. The “Icelandic cowboys” have taken what they did on 2011’s brilliant Svartir Sandar to new levels of beautiful melancholy and reigned everything in a little for arguably a more cohesive end product. I’ve given it a couple of spins already, but it’s one of those albums that as soon as it ends, my only instinct is to hit play again. There’s a subtlety and a fragility to the arrangements that is beyond mesmerising, and the vocals are full of emotion, perhaps even despair, with every mournful minute that passes more engaging than the last. Highly recommended as one of the best releases of 2014.
After this, it was on to a whole other extreme as I went back to Terrorizer #250 and started working my way through the reviewed albums from where I left off yesterday. First off was the recent reissue of the second Sarcófago album, Rotting [4/5]. Despite being really into black metal, I’ve never checked out these influential Brazilians, so I was going into this pretty blind. Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to check them out properly. This is a perfect example of early black metal from 1989, with more than a big nod to the early Morbid Angel sound in there too. It’s got that sort of cavernous production sound down to a tee, which I think was perfected (and never equalled) on Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Well worth checking out, but I get the feeling I’m one of the last ones to the (alcohol-fuelled) party with this one. Opening line of the first song, “Alcohol Coma”: “Sitting in my room sodomising a bitch. I open a Smirnoff and start to drink.” That’s some black metal poetry right there.
Then it was on to some sludge metal from the UK from the excellently named Sea Bastard, with their third album, the four-track Scabrous [3/5]. This actually came out last year, but seems to have been picked up by the Mosh Tuneage label for a rerelease. Again, not a band (or label) I was familiar with previously. I guess I’d describe their brand of sludge metal as very listenable, but not extraordinary in terms of ambition or originality. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with it per se, but there’s nothing that gets me all that excited either. I did just read that one of the members is in the band Sabazius, who infamously released an 11-hour(!!!) song, which I think was recorded live in one take, on Earache last year, so maybe the back-to-basics approach can be sympathised with on the back of that.
From the sludge of the UK to some ambient/drone/black metal goodness from the Netherlands courtesy of one-man project Seirom of Mories (aka Maurice de Jong) of Gnaw Their Tongues fame, and his fourth album under this monicker, And the Light Swallowed Everything [4/5]. I’ve been a fan of his more noisy and disturbing output with Gnaw Their Tongues for a few years now, but this is the first time I’ve checked out this project besides hearing a few tracks in passing. What we have here, rather than the provocative and claustrophobic atmosphere of Gnaw Their Tongues, is a more shoegaze-esque sound, full of much more uplifting, meandering, and dare I say beautiful passages. Immediate comparisons that come to mind are Alcest and Deafheaven, even some Anathema, but this certainly has its own unique ambience going on alongside the more obvious influences, with a few little hints in the background here and there of the more abrasive side of this multi-talented artist.
After this, I listened to the new album from Greece’s Septicflesh, Titan [4/5]. I’ve got a soft spot for the admittedly over-the-top orchestral style this band employs with their own brand of symphonic death metal. Same goes for a band like Fleshgod Apocalypse, albeit that the arrangements are much more restrained here. Must have something to do with Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia being my gateway into heavier music back in 2001 that has numbed me to the pomposity of it all. Overall, Titan is very clinically executed, well polished, and incredibly catchy, despite moments like in the third track, “The Order of Dracul”, where the blasting makes way for a ridiculous harpsichord solo about halfway through. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something that manages to be devastatingly heavy in sound but is also packed full of a great variety of memorable riffs and melodies (not to mention some exceptionally epic choir moments), this is one to check out.
Think that’ll be my lot today. It’s been a globetrotting kind of day music-wise, from Iceland, to Brazil, to the UK, to the Netherlands, to Greece. And it’s helped me get through the final stages of editing this legal book on credit law. Tonight’s plan, as it stands: kick back and try to tick off another couple of movies from the dreaded list.