Review of Winged Waltz by October Tide

Band: Winged Waltz
Album: October Tide
Release Date: 22 April 2016
Record Label: Agonia Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XV: 4:45 Sunday at Rams Head Live

Winged Waltz by October Tide

Maryland Deathfest XV kicks off this Thursday. I’ve tasked the DCHM album reviewers with writing about a band playing MDF that they’re excited to see. Buzzo Jr wrote about grindcore band Insect Warfare (read it here) however Tal’s pick of death/doom band October Tide is on the complete opposite end of the metal spectrum. Read this review to know why you can’t miss October Tide at Maryland Deathfest this weekend!

For the second year in a row, the band I’m most excited about at MDF is a melodic death/doom band that I thought I’d never get to see live on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps that says more about my love of obscure melodic death/doom than about MDF, though. In the festival line-up, October Tide is buried in an avalanche of black metal.

October Tide began as a Katatonia side project (back in the good ole days of Brave Murder Day – i.e. mid 90’s), released two hallowed albums in the 90’s and then went on hiatus for 11 years, until the band took on a life of its own in 2010. Carried on by founder and ex-Katatonia guitarist Fredrik Norrman, October Tide now also includes his brother Mattias Norrman, who also played bass for Katatonia. Amon Amarth’s new full-time drummer Jocke Wallgren also took part in recording last year’s Winged Waltz. The current October Tide line-up is rounded out by bassist Johan Jönsegård and drummer Jonas Sköld, in addition to vocalist Alexander Högbom.

As they always have, October Tide carries on where Katatonia left off, and Winged Waltz is no different. If you wish you could find more music like Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day, like Daylight Dies and the short-lived Slumber (Fallout, 2004), then Winged Waltz is for you.

Listening to the album is like putting on a well-worn shoe (and I’m not just saying that because I’ve listened to it so many times). You know just how it’s going to feel. As the intro to the first song, “Swarm,” creeps around in a minor key and then jumps by a discordant interval – a jarring feeling that’s also just what you expected. As atmospheric riffs build nearly into white noise, but still with a discernible melody, sorrowful and keening, at the high end. As long notes waver and layer in a more downtempo segment. As the growled vocals full of aggrieved rage complete the crushing weight of the album.

That isn’t to say that the songs are cookie-cutter. There’s variety in pace and melody – an expansive, all-guns-blazing section at the end of “Swarm” contrasting nicely with the meandering pace of the next song, “Sleepless Sun”; more aggressive riffage in “Reckless Abandon” and “Perilous”; the brash melodic motif that runs through “Nursed by the Cold.” But at the same time, there’s not a huge distinction between the songs, making them run together a bit. This isn’t unique to this album, though. For me, it happens with pretty much all melodic death/doom, from Brave Murder Day and other music in that style, to Swallow the Sun and Doom:VS. It might even be a mark of a good melodic death/doom album that it feels like one continuous experience, of churning doom underpinnings, sorrowful melodies and crushing harsh vocals.

And Winged Waltz checks off all these boxes consummately. The 2016 release may be following a formula, but it’s been a successful formula all these years, and I hope they never stop.

Review of World Extermination by Insect Warfare

Band: Insect Warfare
Album: World Extermination
Release Date: October 2007
Record Label: 625 Thrashcore
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XV: 11:50 Saturday at Baltimore Soundstage

World Extermination by Insect Warfare

Maryland Deathfest XV starts this Thursday! As always I let my writers each do a special album review as we lead up to MDF. For this review I let them pick a band they are excited to see at MDF and review their most recent album as well as give some extra background on the band. This one is written by DCHM writer Buzzo Jr and he decided to write about the Baltimore Soundstage’s Saturday headliner, Insect Warfare. If you’re looking for something a bit slower, be sure to read Tal’s piece on Swedish death/doom band October Tide here

Legendary grindcore act Insect Warfare was formed in Houston, Texas, in 2004 by drummer Frank Faerman, guitarist Beau Beasley, and vocalist Rahi Geramifar. They soon broke into the Texas scene with their debut EP; At War With Grindcore, in 2005. Two years later following the release of a handful of splits and EPs, drummer Frank Faerman was replaced by Dobber Beverly. In 2007, the trio released their first and only full length record World Extermination on 625 Thrashcore Records, and split up a year after. Insect Warfare reunited back in 2016 for one final tour and will be playing one of their very last shows at this years Maryland Deathfest. Insect Warfare will be the final band to take the stage at the Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday, playing at 11:50 PM.

The early/mid 2000’s was a damn good time to be a fan of grindcore. The genre that originated in dingy basements back in the late 80’s with Repulsion and Napalm Death was seeing an influx of new bands breathing energy into an already frenzied style of extreme metal. Landmark albums were being released left and right; with Discordance Axis’ dissonant The Inalienable Dreamless, Rotten Sound’s frantic Murderworks and even DC’s own Pig Destroyer with their twisted masterpiece Prowler In the Yard. In 2007, Insect Warfare swiftly cemented themselves as undisputed legends of the extreme metal scene when they released one of the fastest, heaviest, and most pissed off albums in the genre; World Extermination. What Insect Warfare lack in technical prowess, they make up for with pure, unfettered fury. World Extermination is a goliath of all things that makes grindcore… well, grindcore. Beau Beasley’s crushing, punk-tinged riffs rampage with the weight of a goddamn freight train; retaining their incredible power while at the same time being extremely catchy, or at least as catchy as a riff can get on this kind of album. While simplistic in structure, the riffs on this record are delivered at an almost machine-like efficiency, with absolutely no empty space left in between notes. Insect Warfare’s rhythm section is no slouch either; Dobber Beverly’s hyperspeed drumming comes at you like a 50 caliber machine gun, with an unyielding barrage of blast beats detonating in the backdrop throughout each track. Rahi’s insane vocals round out the audio carnage on the record, and his performance is pretty much unmatched in terms of sheer anger. Every single low, guttural growl and piercing, animalistic shriek being is used a rhythmic tool to accentuate the full on assault of the blast beats and riffs. Insect Warfare may not have reinvented the wheel here, but what they did do was take a formula that definitely worked and perfected it; creating what may likely be the best example of the classic grind sound of the late 90s and early 2000s.

If you’re at all a fan of grindcore and for some reason you have yet to listened to this record, drop whatever you’re doing and listen to it. Then listen to it again. And again. (You get the picture.) Insect Warfare’s performance at this years Maryland Deathfest will likely be the last chance most of us will ever get to see this legendary band in the DMV area, so make sure to catch them at the Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday!

Review of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

Band: Sickdeer
Album: The Wretched of the Earth
Release Date: 20 March 2017
Buy on CD ($10) or as digital files ($7) from: Bandcamp

Cover of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

You may have seen locals Sickdeer as they play out a lot! They seem to be one of the openers on many DIY metal shows in DC. In case you haven’t seen them yet, they’re playing a show at Slash Run tomorrow night (details here). Today we’re running a review of their debut album The Wretched of the Earth that they released this spring. As you might expect, DCHM writer Tal has a lot to say about this album. Be sure to stream it at the bottom of this post while you read.

I was truly surprised to hear of a band like Sickdeer in the DMV area. Usually, haunting black metal seeping with atmosphere seems to come from some far-off, mysterious place, like Eastern Europe or Russia, or at least Washington state or Utah. How could the urbanized and urbane (and sludge-choked) DC metropolitan area spawn something so atmospheric?

However it happened, I’m not complaining. Well, not a lot, anyway. I do have to say that the band’s name didn’t exactly scream “atmospheric black metal,” so it may not be the most effective marketing tool. Same for the album cover – with the black and white design and the medieval font, it channels Venom’s Black Metal pretty hard.

Once they got me in the door, though, I was quickly won over. “Retracting Accusations,” the first song on The Wretched of the Earth, starts off with an acoustic bit at the beginning, which sounds like it could have some Middle Eastern or Spanish influence. It seduces the listener into the album before the black metal barrage kicks in. Sickdeer is a bit more uptempo than your typical ABM band (which tend to have a more doomy tempo) but I’m going to stick with the atmospheric tag because of the sorrowful, cascading riffs that underpin every song.

They also have a strong groove to their music, especially in the second song, “Pitiful Ego.” It starts out slow but relentlessly driving, impossible to resist bobbing your head along to – at a nice measured pace. And then it picks up from time to time, including a little jackhammer death metal interlude in the middle.

That’s not the only death metal-ish thing about this album. The vocals are mostly a guttural roar, more like death metal vocals, only sometimes going into a raspy scream more typical of black metal. The vocals do get just a tad monotonous, but they do provide a nice contrast to the moodier, prettier atmospheric riffage.

Despite its dispirited title, “The Wretched of the Earth” might actually be the most beautiful song on the album, with a drawn-out, doomy melody. It also has the only annoying vocals. It’s pretty hard to annoy me with black metal vocals — I’m a sucker for the dirtiest, snarliest, gargliest black metal vocals out there — but there’s a part in the middle which sounds like a yowling cat which I don’t enjoy. That may be the point, of course, since some metal bands make a point to be unpleasant to the ears. And it may be that I’ll get used to it, as I have to countless other types of, ahem, unusual metal vocals.

Based on the song titles (I can’t make out most of the lyrics) the lyrical themes of the album seem to be typical black/death metal subject matter – how despicable we all are (“Pitiful Ego,” “The Wretched of the Earth”), how fleeting and doomed our existence (“Sand to Dust,” “Awaiting the Trench”). No nature or fantasy themes here. No clean vocals or choirs either.

I wonder if the band set out to create an “atmospheric black metal” album, or that’s just what The Wretched of the Earth ended up sounding like. Either way, it’s still a great gift to our local metal scene – a mysterious far-away place to lose ourselves in when the DC traffic and politics get to be too much.

Review of Reverberations by Alluvion

Band: Alluvion
Album: Reverberations
Release Date: 7 October 2016
Download as digital files (name your price) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Reverberations by Alluvion

Alluvion is a band from Fredericksburg, Virginia, that released Reverberations back in October. Be sure to check Alluvion out at the Rhodeside Grill in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday, Jan 27th as part of the local metal showcase the venue is hosting (details here). I’ve never heard of that place having a metal show before so hopefully a good turn out will mean more in the future. Anyways, enjoy the review, written by DCHM writer Tal, and be sure to stream the songs at the bottom of this post. If you really like them, you can download as a name-your-price from the above Bandcamp link.

Alluvion is one of those many metal bands that defy genre categorization. There’s definitely a stoner doom feel to it – the music is thicker and fuzzier than what I normally listen to, but not to the point that it bothers me. But under the stoner doom veneer, there’s a lot more going on. While the first song on Reverberations, “Exodus,” has a lot of long droning tones, the second song, “Heel of the Boot,” is fast and thrashy but with sludgy production, and later on the album there are punk and atmospheric moments as well.

The vocals are equally unique. What drew me most to this album was the clean vocals. The first thing you hear on the album – other than some spacey guitar noises – are John Harmon’s ethereal and, let me just put it out there, beautiful high clean vocals. Especially in the fourth song, “Drop It,” the wavering and drifting style of the high clean vocals reminds me a lot of Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil, which is quite a juxtaposition with the overall thick, stoner-doomy sound. Aside from some outbursts toward the end of “Exodus,” though, John’s clean vocals are not quite as strong and piercing, and they seem to get drowned out in a live setting.

He does have versatility, though, since he also does harsh vocals and screams, all of which are featured in the first song, “Exodus” — so there’s a lot of contrast going on. At first there are riffs that are fuzzy but have heavy metal energy going on in the background, but about two-thirds through, the song slows way down and ends with more spacey noises.

The second song, “Heel of the Boot,” continues the theme of constant changes. After a few seconds of some very cool riffs that alternate between high and trumpeting, and low and bludgeoning, the song becomes a frenetic thrashy assault with harsh screamed vocals and violent lyrics: “Bring that shit around here and we’ll force you under heel of the boot, as we continue to slaughter all you’ve ever loved“. But there’s a clean chorus and then the song becomes very groovy, with a celebratory feel, in strange contrast to the violent lyrics — “All you’ve ever loved, you’ll eventually ravage. All will fall victim to collateral damage.”

As if things weren’t weird enough, there’s “Reverberations,” a nearly two-minute track in the middle of the album with a bunch of people talking, as though in a crowded room, that gradually gets warped and blurred and mixed with creepy mechanical noises that bring to mind sci-fi and horror movies involving alien invasions or demonic possession. The demonic impression is furthered by a voice whispering, “Resonance, spaces, get out of my head.”

The middle track, “Reverberations,” seems like it might be an intro to the fourth song, “Drop It,” especially since that song also includes the line “get out of my head.” This song has the most stoner-doom-like riffage – groovy in a low-key sort of way, and then plodding and understated in the middle of the song. It has a similar vocal mixture to other songs, with mostly high clean vocals and some harsh vocals and low roaring, and closes with about a minute of weird noises – train-like sounds, spacey noises, rumbling that sounds like a collision.

As one might expect by now, the last song, “Critters,” is another succession of changes – from stoner doom rumbling that quickly turns to speedy proggy guitaring and then a pop punk feel with straightforward energetic riffs and harshly shouted and sung vocals. Then there’s a slow interlude in the middle with some atmospheric guitar. In a fitting end to the album, the song ends with about a minute of progressively less-riff-like and more spacey guitar noises.

Despite all that, the lyrics to the album are deceptively simple. Since most of the lyrics are addressed to the second person (“you”), one gets the sneaky feeling, “Is he singing about me?” Since most of the lyrics are critical at best (“I’m gonna show you your own apathy, because our blood stains are on your hands”) and threatening at worst (“Bring that shit around here and we’ll force you under heel of the boot”), it makes for a very unsettling feeling. Having to think and being uncomfortable are not necessarily bad things, though.

With all its jumping around between various styles, the whole album is a bit unsettling. I found myself enjoying bits and pieces of it rather than the whole — the mellifluous clean vocals, the opening riffs of “Heel of the Boot,” the fun beginning and atmospheric middle section of “Critters.” I can’t quite wrap my head around the whole album, but then again maybe that’s the intention.

Review of Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow by Wake

Band: Wake
Album: Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow
Release Date: 26 February 2016
Record Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Buy as CD ($8) or cassette ($7) or digital ($5) from: Bandcamp
Buy on vinyl (€13) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow by Wake

As 2016 comes to a close you’ve probably seen countless end of year lists of albums, often listing many of the same popular releases. We don’t like ranking music here at DCHM (our album reviews aren’t given a score for this reason as well) so at the end of the year I always give my album review writers the chance to pick an album of their choice from the year that they feel deserves more attention than it received. It doesn’t have to be a local band, and in fact this year they have both chosen bands from outside the US. DCHM reviewer Buzzo Jr. chose to review the latest release by Calgary based Wake. Be sure to stream the tracks at the end of the post to give it a listen while you read and be sure to check out Tal’s review of Chinese black metal band Demogorgon’s debut here if you haven’t already.

2016 has been another great year for heavy underground music, and like the previous year, there are a good amount of hidden gems that went unheard by a majority of people. One of the many records I saw missing from far too many album of the year lists was Wake’s Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow. Formed in Alberta, Canada, in 2009, the band’s third full length album is a furious onslaught of grindcore mixed with crust punk, sludge, and black metal.

The album’s opening track “Burn Well” begins with a short, yet foreboding ambient style intro that soon erupts into a full on assault of blast beats and frenzied riffage. The opening track soon fades into silence, but the chaos almost immediately resumes with “Wretched Tongues;” a track that comes rushing out at top speed and then slows down in the middle section for a heavy sludge style breakdown. Kyle Ball (also of Canadian tech death band Kataplexis) showcases his insane vocals on this track in particular; punctuating the breaks in the instrumentation with ear piercing shrieks and gut churning growls. “Wretched Tongues” picks up the tempo once again near the end and terminates with a droning, industrial style outro. The album continues on with “Drones” and my personal favorite track “Better Living Through Apathy.” These third and fourth tracks are rife with dissonant black metal style guitar passages that flow brilliantly with Brian Serzynski frantic d-beat style drumming; creating a fantastic fusion of the band’s influences.

The second half of the record is kicked off by “Low,” and at over three and a half minutes, it’s certainly an epic in the context of a genre with songs barely averaging two minutes in length. It opens with a clean guitar melody that lasts just long enough to lull the listener into a false sense of security, only to explode once more into a barrage of sludge tinged riffs and hyper-speed blast beats. The usage of violent vocal overlays on this track makes it a definite standout and creates an atmosphere of total pandemonium. As one may have already guessed from the album’s title, this is a nihilistic album; both in sound and in message. “Unrelenting Hate” sums up the misanthropic tone of the album perfectly during the song’s breakdown; “We don’t deserve this, we are all hypocrites, we are all arrogant, we are all worthless. We are all scum.” No artsy metaphors, no beating around the bush. Wake’s message is plain and simple: humanity sucks. The album soon comes to a close with the final two tracks. “Vultures” is definitely the fastest track on here, zooming through with hardly any changes in speed and before the listener knows what hit them, it’s already flowed seamlessly into the final track of the album, “Endless Decay.” The final track starts off with a dark vocal sample accompanied by slow, heavy riffs and tribal drum beats. The band once more goes into full on overdrive at the halfway point, putting everything they have left into the final minute before the album comes to a final, screeching halt.

Finally, the production on the album also deserves a mention. Recorded and engineered by Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust fame, the production manages to land right at that perfect spot in between raw and overly polished. Rob Lachance and Arjun Gill’s guitar tones are phenomenal, being both grime-ridden and filthy while also being perfectly clear. This goes for the vocals as well, with Kyle’s screams being extremely harsh while still having a large amount of clarity to them. A large amount of grindcore acts tend to go all the way to one side or the other when choosing between super raw or super polished album prosecution, so it’s great to see a band that manages to find a good compromise between the two. The main, and possibly only gripe I can manage to think of concerning this record is that it’s relatively short running time of 20 minutes will definitely leave you wanting more. But apart from that, there isn’t a bad song on here and it’s an album practically begging for multiple listenings in one sitting.

Wake’s Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow is a furious vortex of crust soaked grindcore, and is an absolute must have for fans of the genre. Happy New Year to everyone, and once again, here’s to 2017 being yet another year of great music!

Burn Well:

Better Living Through Apathy:

Review of 飞狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

Band: Demogorgon
Album: 飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.
Release Date: 31 October 2016
Record Label: Pest Productions
Buy on CD ($9.99) or digital ($5) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

As 2016 comes to a close you’ve probably seen countless end of year lists of albums, often listing many of the same popular releases. We don’t like ranking music here at DCHM (our album reviews aren’t given a score for this reason as well) so at the end of the year I always give my album review writers the chance to pick an album of their choice from the year that they feel deserves more attention than it received. It doesn’t have to be a local band, and in fact this year they have both chosen bands from outside the US. First up is DCHM writer Tal’s in depth review of the debut release by a new black metal band in China. Be sure to stream the track at the end of the post to give it a listen while you read and stay tuned for our next end of year album review post coming up shortly.

I am once again enthralled by the literary theme of an atmospheric black metal band – this time Demogorgon, a project of members from established Chinese black metal bands Zuriaake (atmospheric black metal), HolyArrow (epic black metal) and Destruction of Redemption (primitive black metal) as well as the eponymous Demogorgon, a major figure in the Chinese metal scene as one of the founders of the magazines Extreme Music (《极端音乐》) and Dragonland Music (《金属乐界》).

These metal masterminds teamed up to produce a short debut based on the martial arts novel Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (《雪山飞狐》) by one of the founding fathers of the modern martial arts novel, Jin Yong (金庸). I actually started reading Flying Fox, in Chinese, over the summer, but didn’t finish it yet. Still, the context of an exciting, bloody and yet romanticized story set in the world of wuxia (武侠, the martial hero) immediately caught my interest and made this musical work richer for me.

This release contains only two tracks, although it still clocks in at about 25 minutes total. The first song is called “飞狐” (“Flying Fox”) in Chinese and “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” in English — I figure this is because non-Chinese speakers may not know the significance of Flying Fox or be able to understand the lyrics, so the English title gives them an idea of the themes of the song. The song is 14 minutes long, in fine atmospheric black metal form. It has four distinct sections, which are so clearly separated that they might as well be individual songs.

The first section introduces the setting and the story with all the gradual buildup of a movie soundtrack. It starts with a few martial horns blaring and isolated drumbeats, and then distorted guitar notes like thickly falling snow with a dreamlike sad melody floating above. Then it launches into chugging atmospheric guitars, drumming with an irresistible marching rhythm and harsh screams. A duet of clean, solemn vocals poetically describe the desolate wintry landscape:

A cold night with few stars
Shadows vanish and voices retreat
Floating clouds sink away
The white moon is silent and bright
The frosted river, cold and lonely
The mountain forest stands desolate and solemn
Icy peaks like white cranes

The verse ends proclaiming the entrance of the hero: “Through the snow flies the fox!”

The second verse describes the lonely life of the wandering, vengeful martial hero in the same style:

Vengeance spanning generations
Half a lifetime spent wandering alone
Grass and trees flourish and decline
The swan geese fly away and return
A deserted village listens to the rain
I’m alone with my sorrow

The verse ends with an octave jump on the last word, followed by wordless singing in a higher, more emotional register – where before the vocals were solemn, now they give voice to the hero’s loneliness.

Around four and a half minutes, the second section begins, as the chugging guitars abruptly fade out and are replaced by synthesized reed and string instruments, whose long, clear and melancholy notes evoke vast snowy expanses. The harsh vocals that start a minute later sound like the howling of a blizzard. Distorted guitar notes blend discordantly with the vocals, adding to the impression of being lost in a storm.

This time the vocals are conveyed in a harsh, half-drowned scream, once again describing the solitary life of the martial hero:

A free spirit all my life
A wandering swordsman
Used to favor and vengeance
Drawn sword whistling through late autumn

This is followed by a Summoning-like bridge with distorted guitar arpeggios and a gentle keyboard that’s more counterpoint than melody. When the vocals start up again, the vocalist’s extended screams and the vistas of nature evoked by the music make the human feelings in the lyrics epic-sized:

Love and hate are so difficult to lay down
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

Just before the nine minute mark, the third section begins with ominous, brassy and discordant notes, like horns sounding before a battle, but in a gloomy key. A repeated clean guitar arpeggio adds to the sense of anticipation before the song plunges into an avalanche of distorted guitar backed by percussion like the clashing of swords and overlaid with harsh screams. The vocals are slightly different again, the screams higher and more desperate-sounding, and the driving, repetitive guitar arpeggio evokes a relentless onslaught of blows. Obviously, this section describes combat, specifically the hero’s prowess:

Blade like sudden thunder
Imposing as the mighty heavens
The vigor of my sword sweeps through the cold sky
The mountains shake with the tiger’s roar
My jade disc travels as a fierce dragon

Then, without relenting its musical onslaught or distraught vocals, the song reverts back to describing the hero’s loneliness and sorrow:

Cherishing
The icy heart of the orchid
Sighing
At the hurried moment of joy and love
Turning my head to look back
The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises

Then, while the martial drumming, battering distorted guitar and even the harsh screams continue, the solemn duet from the beginning of the song returns for a final sorrowful verse, reprising lyrics from earlier:

The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

In the fourth section, the last 30 seconds of the song is filled with the mournful reed and strings from the start of the second section, as though snow blankets the landscape in the aftermath of battle, and the tragic story fades into memory.

The second track, “悲月 / Sadness Moon,” is very different in style, belonging to the genre of dungeon synth rather than atmospheric black metal. Dungeon synth is a genre of synthesized music that has a medieval feel. This particular track also has a somber, mournful feel at first, as befitting the title. It starts out dominated by long, low tones of synthesized pipe organ. Eventually, resounding drumbeats and a synthesized choir and strings join in, and then a synthesized reed instrument plays a dreamy but lonesome melody similar to the one that opened the album. The second half of the track has a grander and more martial feel, with a marching rhythm, but the final organ tones close the album on a solemn note.

The album purports to “vividly depict the vast lands of northern China” and to evoke the jianghu (江湖, the quasi-outlaw society of martial artists in ancient times). I think it succeeds in creating a certain impression of these concepts, anyway. Both the white-noisey sound of distorted guitar and the solemn or melancholy clean parts lend themselves well to describing desolate, snowy landscapes. This impression is heightened if you watch the lyric video for “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” where you can actually see the mountain scenery (in the form of a traditional Chinese painting) as the song unfolds. The jianghu described by Demogorgon, meanwhile, is a solitary existence full of loneliness, longing for lost love, obsession with vengeance, and epic-sized violence – ideas conveyed both by the lyrics and the sorrowful or martial sound of the music. These are not the only or the most important features of the jianghu of Chinese martial arts novels, however – loyalty and seeking after justice are a few others that come to mind – but they are the qualities conveyed by Demogorgon’s work.

That’s not to say I don’t like it, though. Sad atmospheric music is exactly the kind I enjoy, and if it has an epic story tied to it, so much the better. The harsh and distorted nature of atmospheric black metal means that non-metalhead fans of Chinese martial arts novels may not be able to get into the album, or the first track anyway, but by contrast, one does not need to be a fan or knowledgeable about Flying Fox or martial arts novels to enjoy the music as a metalhead. The brooding mood and solemn vocals remind me a bit of Caladan Brood, so fans of that sort of music would probably enjoy the first track, “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” The second track, “Sadness Moon,” is not as strong or memorable in my opinion, but then again I’m a bigger fan of atmospheric black metal than of dungeon synth. In any case, the first track is diverse and epic enough to be worth four songs, and a must-hear for 2016 in atmospheric black metal.

飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.:

Review of Dunsmuir by Dunsmuir

Band: Dunsmuir
Album: Dunsmuir
Release Date: 22 July 2016
Record Label: Hall Of Records
Buy on vinyl with signed lithograph ($24) from: Indie Merch
Buy as mp3 ($8.99) from: Bandcamp or iTunes

Cover of s/t by Dunsmuir

Dunsmuir is releasing their debut album this Friday. While the band’s talented line up has been getting a lot of attention, Dunsmuir stands up strong on its own merits. The concept album is a great launching point for the band. We lucked into getting an advance copy of the full album and I got DCHM writer Buzzo Jr to write the following review. Be sure to stream a couple tunes at the bottom of the post while you read it.

Dunsmuir is a newly formed heavy metal band whose self titled debut will be landing this week. While not an entirely local act, Neil Fallon, the frontman of Maryland’s own Clutch, is teaming up with legendary drummer Vinny Appice, formerly of Black Sabbath and Dio. Rounding out the lineup is Brad Davis of the desert rock band Fu Manchu on bass and Dave Bone of The Company Band on guitar. Having been in the works since 2013, Dunsmuir’s self titled debut is an ode to classic heavy metal, along with being a concept album about the fates of the survivors of a 19th century shipwreck.

Upon the first few notes of the album’s opening track, “Hung On the Rocks,” listeners can tell that they’re in for one hell of a good time. The main thing one will take note of here is that the tunes on this record are filled with a much more of traditional metal influence than vocalist Neil Fallon’s other outings like Clutch or the Company Band; both of which feature a heavy blues/punk/stoner rock vibe to them. This is by no means a negative however, as it’s always a pleasure to hear Neil’s amazing vocals regardless of the music around it. Vinny Appice’s drumming is the main star of the following track “Our Only Master,” with his hard hitting beats driving the head banging grooves onward, and at some points hearkening back to his tenure in the Dio era of Black Sabbath. The band’s traditional heavy metal influence becomes even more prevalent in my personal favorite track on the album, “The Bats are Hungry Tonight;” a grooving track that has guitarist Dave Bone playing Iron Maiden-esque galloping riffs and driving melodies backed up by Neil’s powerful voice. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Neil’s vocals, (as mentioned in my review of Clutch’s previous album, Psychic Warfare) and his instantly recognizable bellows are in part what gives Dunsmuir, and any other band he works with, a unique element that sets them apart from other rock and metal bands. The fast galloping pace of “The Bats are Hungry Tonight” soon give way to the slower “What Matter of Bliss,” a track oozing with doomy riffage and Black Sabbath worship. The slow eerie riffs soon speed up once again on “Deceiver;” a track that combines a great amount of Judas Priest inspired metallic riffs and an infectious chorus.

The grooves keep on coming with the tracks “…And Madness” and “Orb of Empire.” Neil delivers his trademark bluesy shouts and ruff barks alongside Vinny’s bombastic drumming and Dave Bone’s fuzz drenched riffs. The tempo comes slowing down once more for the album’s longest track, “Church of the Tooth.” Dave plays at a crawling pace, interspersing the dark atmosphere of the track with melodic guitar licks and is backed up perfectly by Brad Davis’s bass lines. The penultimate track “The Gate” is a great mid paced track full of hard rocking rhythms. The album comes to an end with “Crawling Chaos!,” which is by far the most sinister sounding track on the album. Neil finds himself switching between his usual melodic croons to an angry growl; all the while telling tales of Lovecraftian deities from another dimension. Lyrics such as “They rise from the desert, from the mountains, and waves, to swallow the sun, cast down their chains, they open their mouths and fill up their lungs, speak the unspeakable, with their terrible tongues” evoke a sense of mystery and wonder, as Neil’s cryptic lyricism often does. Neil’s shouts combine excellently with the bombastic drumming and the grooving riffs, bringing the album to a slow and steady close.

While it’s relatively short run time of 35 minutes may leave you wanting more, Dunsmuir’s debut album is not one you want to miss. Those of you who are fans of Clutch and Dio era Black Sabbath will love this record although they may miss Dio’s signature wails. Here’s hoping that a tour is in the works soon, because I’d love to hear these tracks played in a live setting.

The Bats Are Hungry Tonight:

Crawling Chaos!: