Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE TWILIGHT REVUE: Swallowed, Haunter, Rhuith, Tongues

SWALLOWED "Lunaterial"
Death Metal/Doom

At long last we get a full-length from this Finnish group. In fact, "Lunarterial" is the band's first release in 4 years, but it was worth the protracted timeframe. With a noticeable step-up on the production from 2010's eponymous EP, the band still preserves the grime-crusted depravity of past recordings. SWALLOWED touches on something truly foul; they have a tangible atmosphere of down-and-out filth that makes you want to take a shower after listening to their music. "Lunaterial" sees the band launching their plague-dipped spears in a bombastic shower of dissonance and grime, reminiscent of Spanish occult horde TEITANBLOOD at times. But what really sets SWALLOWED apart is their relentless, uncompromising pursuit of psychic nausea and delirious dread, and with "Lunaterial" they achieve their sickening goal.

Physical formats available from Dark Descent Records.

HAUNTER "He Who Jumps Into the Void Owes No Explanation to Those Who Stand and Watch"
Black Metal/Hardcore
United States

I had some trouble tracking down info on these guys, but they look to be a 3-piece outfit from San Antonio, TX, and this is their second release. HAUNTER plays a great blend of moody, atmospheric black metal laced with some hardcore punk. The vocal duties are shared between two members, and they switch off on harsh screams, occasionally using more of a shouted hardcore vocal style. Some great riffing, dynamic transitions, and a raw but fitting production make this worth checking out.

RHUITH "Darkness Moves"
Black Metal/Dark Pop

RHUITH has quite a few albums and EPs, but "Darkness Moves", released on cassette by Canadian label Tour de Garde, is my favorite. This band's output, the product of sole member XV, is eclectic and defies categorization. At times, you'll hear straight-forward raw black metal; at other times styles like post-punk, goth, and dark pop with layered harpsichords that give the music a romantic, baroque quality. My favorite song on "Darkness Moves" is "12 Hours In Malkuth", a blown out, distorted affair with a driving beat and vocals that alternate between an echoey plea of longing and harsh, overdriven screams. RHUITH is also known for doing uniquely interpretive cover songs, from EMPEROR and SLAYER to DEPECHE MODE and EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL.

Cassette version available here.

TONGUES "Thelésis Ignis"

An exciting debut from this Danish 2-piece, released on I, Voidhanger Records, that has drawn me back for repeat listens. TONGUES certainly covers some of the same alien, insectoid turf as PORTAL, invoking cosmic horrors by ripping open the veil between worlds. But TONGUES offers more than just tentacles and centipedes; they diversify with passages of mournful doom, creating an unsettling atmosphere that alternates between melancholy and delirium. The outro is a 6:39 long drone piece with a deeply-pitched vocal chant reminiscent of the Tibetan throat singers. Truly unique songwriting sets this release apart and makes TONGUES a band to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE TWILIGHT REVUE: Ritual Chamber, Afterwalker, Murmuüre, Summer Graves

RITUAL CHAMBER "The Pits of Tentacled Screams"
Black/Death Metal
United States

This demo was released earlier this year by Nuclear War Now!, but I never heard much talk about it. It's got that great dark, murky atmosphere quite prevalent in today's current death metal zeitgeist; however RITUAL CHAMBER adds a mysterious thread of melancholy to the riffing, with subtle melodies that float upon the abscess of the pits. Not surprising since the sole member Numinas is also the creative force behind depressive black metal band KROHM.

Tape version still available here.

AFTERWALKER "Afterwalker"
Depressive Black Metal/Shoegaze

Shimmering, pulsating and hypnotic black metal from Brisbane. Repetitive long form patterns oscillate from left to right, with layers of guitars and a haunting, chiming effect. Sad and beautiful at the same time. So awash in reverb it borders on ambient. So epic.

MURMUÜRE "Murmuüre"
Ambient Black Metal/Experimental

This band's name means "whisper" in French. This eponymous release is the sole emanation of sole member "F." and it came out in 2010. I recommend it. Totally unique, with a very deliberate and well-realised vision, a true artistic approach, with distorted ambience and instruments that could be guitars or synths. Drums kick in here and there. For me this music has a Chicago art-rock vibe, like TORTOISE or a Jim O'Rourke side project. The drums have that explosive Albini-esque production. It's cinematic, too.

Raw Black Metal
United States

Esoteric black metal from Tennessee. One man band, and very stripped down, most songs are comprised of drum machine, one guitar track, and vocals. Nonetheless, SUMMER GRAVES has a catchy simplicity that drew me back for repeat listens. Clean vocals doing Latin-style chants adds to the mystery. The song "Quarrel of the Sun and Moon" kicks ass.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE TWILIGHT REVUE: Interview with Luca Dalpiaz of BARRENS

Tuscany is a triangle-shaped region in central Italy roughly 9,000 square miles in size. With a geography comprised of rolling hills and mountains, fertile plains, and the white sands of the Etruscan coast, it is a rural paradise of natural beauty.

It also happens to be home to musician Luca Dalpiaz and his solo project BARRENS; a seamless, alchemical blend of black metal, gothic folk and shoegaze. After discovering his debut demo "Circles" while cruising the blogosphere (see our review here), we were eager to learn more about this artist and the influences and methods behind his music.

Tell us about the history of BARRENS and how the project came to be.

LUCA DALPIAZ: I started playing bass when I was a teenager. From that moment I've been involved in a lot of different bands and projects; I was focused on my instrument, that's why I changed so many musical styles. Punk, hardcore, noise, post-stuff, folk, shoegaze. During these years I always developed music as a part of a band, improving my skills, my ears, and growing as a person by meeting the right people around me to collaborate with. I can say it was a long period of learning. Then I felt like the moment had arrived; the moment to do something that would be strictly mine, deeply mine. The name ''Barrens'' had been floating in my mind for the last 2 and a half years, I liked the sound of it, so evocative; therefore the thing was so natural, I had the right name at the right moment. So I only started playing other instruments to create what in my mind was so clear: the first structure of ''Circles'', my demo.

BARRENS combines a variety of styles/genres into a very unique sound. What are the influences or inspirations behind the project?

As I said, a lot of musical styles, and I always listened to everything in my life: what is important to me is the quality and the intensity of a song, of a track, of an ambient suite. So I tried to concentrate all the whispers of inspiration that came to my mind into something that had its own essence, and that was consistent. These ''whispers'' were Cormac McCarthy, Dino Buzzati, Eugenio Montale, A. Jodorowsky, Werner Herzog, Ben Chasny, Phil Elverum, Dylan Carlson, David Eugene Edwards. Then ambient music, wicked blues and, of course, black metal.

Since you are a one-man band, how does the songwriting process happen? Do you start with one instrument and add layers until a song is complete?

First of all, I start from a concept. I mean, it can also be a peculiar word, or just an atmosphere. Then I start playing instruments to create it. When I decided to work on the material that would become the demo ''Circles'' I had a few lines of lyrics and some riffs; I just let them grow in my mind. The first brick of the recording session was the drums/percussion; that's because the song was clear in my mind, I already knew the guitar parts because I had already written the guitar's acoustic line; then I recorded acoustic instruments, basses, then the most important moment: the atmospheres. I say this because they are like a ''glue'' that brings together all the work's different parts. All the ambient/drone parts you hear on ''Circles'' are not synths; I made them using the reverbs and the distortions between the mics and tens of overdubbed acoustic guitars.

You play multiple instruments and are an accomplished songwriter. Have you ever had any formal or classical training?

I am completely self-taught. I am just a curious guy with a strong sense of discipline.

You mentioned that you are in other bands besides BARRENS, but this is your first solo project. Can you compare what it is like to work with an ensemble group versus working alone? Is it better or worse, or just different?

These are two completely different ways of working. I mean, not only as a method, but as a philosophy. I've always had some bands and musical projects in my life, so I shared many experiences and deep feelings with people/friends/musicians around me. It's great to create the chemistry to get a good band, achieving our musical ideas together. This is a path of compromises and discussions, which are very important to make you grow as a person and, why not, as a musician. This simply does not happen when you work by yourself. All the possibilities around you drastically change, and a sort of a ''creative avalanche'' overwhelms you; you can do whatever you want, but you have to be prepared to manage this freedom. You don't want to drown in it. That's why you need your discipline to create a balance between all these new possibilities, to bring them wherever they may come to. So it's different to have or not have a band to play with, as you can imagine; what I can say for sure is that I could never start this solo project without first being in a band.

What is the music scene like where you are from? Are there a lot of shows? Are people supportive?

Sincerely, I don't like the concept of ''scene'' very much. I will say more: I started BARRENS to escape from these ''rock'n'roll'' ideas. I mean, I like to be competitive, trying to reach the highest level I can (considering my equipment, of course) and doing my stuff. I obviously listen to other artists from my area, comparison has always been important to me; it keeps me ''awake'' so I can take inspiration from the things around me, from what I see and what I hear. I think that this improves us and lets the music show itself in the purest way. But this cannot create immutable standards that flow into these sort of reactionary dogmas; there is a high risk of falling into a dead end that would suffocate the natural development of an idea. So know your soil but don't let it control you. In the meantime, a few ''Italian'' suggestions: be sure to check out Gottesmorder (they split up but they have released a great record), Graad, Bland Vargar and Enisum.

Black metal seems to be crossing over with more and more genres, what do you think of this? Do you see potential for the genre of black metal to spread even further?

Now the moment is over, but I think that in the last years Black Metal showed itself as the more dynamic style in between metal genres. I think that's happened because of its being so extreme; it is like a raw, dark and distant frontier, where everything could happen; it's like, you know, the perfect place for contamination. If you stripped it of all its theatrical aspects (face-painting, satanistic stuff) you can see a huge, dark and entirely free area to work in, to fill it with your ideas without any sort of restriction. This music style is particularly suitable for these dark years, where the wave of progress has crashed upon the stones of some atavistic, deadly recall. What I call ''Black Metal'' is just a mood to approach reality, or what it means to you, in a deepest way; it does not base itself on solipsistic dogmas or musical laws, you can express it with atmospheres, raw drums, melodies, electronics, primitive percussions, techno, dark ambient, whatever. The point is ''what'', not '' how''.

What are your future plans for BARRENS?

I am writing new material. That will be pretty different from the ''Circles'' demo; more ''songs-based'' work instead of long suites, a sort of melancholic journey.

Thanks for the interview Luca, is there anything else you would like to say?

Thank you for this interview and for having discovered my work in the depths of the web's ocean.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THE TWILIGHT REVUE: Barrens, Conjuro Nuclear, Venowl / Highgate Split, Sempiternal Dusk

BARRENS "Circles" EP
Ambient/Folk/Black Metal

BARRENS hails from Tuscany, Italy and is the remarkable solo debut of musician Luca Dalpiaz. Expertly combining genres such as depressive black metal, ambient, goth and neofolk, BARRENS has the spectral melancholy of XASTHUR infused with the mystical atmosphere of DEAD CAN DANCE. A variety of moods are explored, from cathartic despair to quiet introspection, through dense, lush instrumentation featuring layers of both distorted and acoustic guitars. The vocals alternate between a desperate, whispered rasp, and majestic, billowing harmonies. These 2 compositions, clocking in around 20 minutes total, wash over you in haunting, ethereal waves encrusted in a grim haze of longing and loss. Truly one of my favorite discoveries of late.

Look for an interview with BARRENS, coming soon.

CONJURO NUCLEAR "Conjuro Nuclear"
Black Metal/Darkwave

This is CONJURO NUCLEAR's second release of black metal and darkwave. Unabashed, melodramatic synths reminiscent of 70's and 80's horror film soundtracks combine with simple but driving black metal riffs in a way that is both grim and danceable at the same time. Ventures into punk at times, but really all of the styles are integrated very well, even when the synths dominate the songs. Vocals are a distorted shriek usually buried in the background but they work great for me. These short, punchy songs start to sound a little similar by the end, but the whole release is so much fun it hardly matters.

United States

VENOWL's part of this doom/noise split is one sprawling, fully-improvised composition titled "Vacant Cellar", and it clocks in just over 34 minutes. Extremely bleak atmosphere, like staring through zero, spirit-crushing hopelessness carved out by punishing feedback. Vocals are piercing, like an ice pick on glass, seriously shrill as hell and amazing. I love the part around 15:00 when the drums drop out and the vocals echo over guitar riffs. Just enough restraint utilized to avoid total oblivion as this seething, bilious mass reaches a satisfying conclusion.
Kentucky's HIGHGATE takes a more conventional route, using extreme dynamics to set the mood in their composition titled "Carved Into Winter". The piece is interspersed with segments of dark ambient drone that develop slowly as a lone guitar begins playing a stoic riff. Gradually the other instruments follow in a build-up/release pattern that culminates in an anguished, extended crescendo with tortured vocals. I'm not up to speed (pun intended) on current trends in the doom genre, but to me these guys touch on that special, scuzzy, down-and-out vibe like EYEHATEGOD or GRIEF. Not re-inventing the genre per say, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Cassette edition available from Tartarus Records here.

SEMPITERNAL DUSK "Sempiternal Dusk"
Death Metal/Doom
United States

At last, the long-awaited full-length from this Portland, Oregon band. Originally a 2-piece outfit, the lineup has now expanded as SEMPITERNAL DUSK evolves from what may have been a side-project into a fully-fledged entity. Indeed, these 5 massive compositions find the band truly coming into their own. The riffs at times have a barbaric simplicity that reminds me of USDM pioneers AUTOPSY or IMPETIGO; however SEMPITERNAL DUSK creates far more atmosphere; in fact to me that is one of the achievements of this record. It manages to be primitive and bludgeoning while evoking a grisly mood at the same time. Deep, cavernous vocals emanate across detuned guitars and fantastic drumming. The production is near perfection, everything sits in balance right where it should, achieving refinement without sacrificing the edge. One of my top death metal picks for 2014.