It’s been a little over 4 years since both Eden and I joined Heavy Blog as fresh-faced, innocent souls who had not been completely tarnished by the world, and in that time the two of us have bonded over many things (understatement of the day). Although we share a lot of commonalities in music taste, the one area we have long overlapped the most heavily has been in the realm of post-rock/metal. Namely, both of us share a deep love of the music, but that love is far from an unconditional one. More than to just about any other genre, we tend to bring a particularly critical ear to this music and do not find the status quo and tropes of the genre sufficient on their own. We have spent a lot of time exploring what defines this spectrum of music and its strands, we have often taken the music to task in our reviews, and we’ve explored how a new “wave” in the scene might form and some of the bands we would like to see at the forefront of it.
The latter post in particular, being more than 2 years out from it, feels especially dated and surface-level now. The analysis and critiques of the genre as a whole hold up just as well, but the talent pool of incredible and innovative music within even just post-metal is far wider and deeper than we were even aware of at the time. There are new waves and scenes popping up everywhere, and though the music is long past the point of falling within any sort of more broadly cultural zeitgeist, it is far from dying. It is constantly being rejuvenated, and new communities, labels, festivals, and more are picking up the mantle and driving the music forward in all sorts of exciting directions. That was the big takeaway from Eden’s and my analysis of the genre in our end-of-year coverage this past December, and, unsurprisingly, we feel just as strongly about it today as we did then.
All of which is to say that although the two of us have certainly been supporting and reporting on the scenes and strands within post-rock and metal for quite some time, we want to do more than that. We want to present to you a living document of the music and community in this day and age, and more so, we want to be an active part of that community and play an active hand in shaping and spreading it. And given that we already have monthly curated columns for many strands of music we cover on this site, it only makes sense that we would add this to the roster. So that is what we have here! Every month, Eden and I will offer up a few albums that stood out for us (including probably a few that we haven’t written about elsewhere on the site), as well as any exciting news or developments in the community we feel are worth mentioning and our thoughts on it all.
January is perhaps the most difficult month to start something like this as it generally takes until at least February for bigger and more anticipated label releases to come our way. Unlike last January, which at least saw a superb release from Set and Setting and provided several incredible promos for albums that would come shortly after like Labirinto and Grails, it’s been pretty quiet on the promos front for post-y stuff thus far in 2018. The positive side of this is that it has forced me to explore on my own and make a habit of searching through Bandcamp to find gems I almost certainly would not have come on my radar otherwise. So that’s what we’ve got below, which will feature one album both of us feel is worthy of highlighting, and then a small selection of LPs and EPs we also liked very much. Of course, if you think we missed or overlooked anything, PLEASE let us know. You are all a part of this as well, and we want this to be a place of open dialogue and sharing. So let’s get to it!
Post Topper: Noorvik – Noorvik
Hello my name is Eden Kupermintz and I like to write music words. Nick wrote this first sentence, probably expecting me to edit it out, but it’s perfect, so I’m keeping it. But I’m not here to talk about myself (although, of course, the cliche is all too real in the case of “all writing is about oneself”). Instead, I’m here to talk about Noorvik, possibly the most exciting band on this January, inaugural edition of the revamped Post Rock Post. Noorvik, hailing from Cologne, Germany, deal in the type of music that perfectly straddles the border between post rock and post metal. Like other bands operating within this rarified field, like Telepathy for example or Hubris., Noorvik channel the quieter passages of post rock as contrast for the meatier grooves of post metal. The focus is on delivery, cohesion and restraint rather than on being the loudest, the most delayed or the most aesthetic.
The result is an album which moves from valley to summit, from contemplation to catharsis. Focusing on the last track, “Turnagain”, might be the perfect way to exemplify these themes. It starts off with a dreamy and classically intoned opening passage, spanning roughly two minutes. Here, the guitar lead reigns supreme, marching with the drums towards the inevitable middle passage of the track. That passage is ushered in with thick guitar chords and a more present groove section, mostly noticeable in how heavy the bass is present in the mix. This is a fantastic thing since the bass lines are exquisitely written and executed; they’re not about flair but rather about carrying the composition forward. They, more than any other instrument, reflect that most important trait of all for post rock and metal, one which I have already mentioned above; it is, of course, restraint.
Why is restraint so important and why does it work so metal for Noorvik? Both of these questions can be answered if you listen to the transition which takes place at 3:38 on “Turnagain”. We just heard another iteration on the main riff of this part of the track; it was a grandiose iteration and the stage is perfectly set for a gigantic crescendo or a break in the direction of something even heavier. This would be indulgence, the band playing up the listener’s expectations and then delivering on those inflated ideas. Which isn’t a bad thing per se, it’s just been to death. Instead, Noorvik curb their momentum and return to the quieter tones of the track’s opening. This creates a balance much more interesting than simple catharsis, a flow to the track that becomes undeniably strong and attractive.
The rest of the album is replete with these kinds of clever bait and switches. The keyword here is, once again, restraint; this is perhaps the force which is saving and will save post rock and metal. In the face of the excess which often characterized the third wave of post rock (and which gets worse and worse as those bands age), this sort of clever restraint and usage of more subtle track/album structures is at the forefront of the emerging generation of post rock bands. Noorvik are right up there with the best of them, able to craft a version of these themes which is deeper and more interesting. Post rock is dead; long live post rock!
The Endless Shimmering (AKA Best of the Rest)
BStar – BStar
When I think of places in North America that seem ripe for breeding great and imaginative rock groups, Iowa City is not one of them, but perhaps I should change that. Because what we have in the debut album from the Iowa City-based BStar is in incredibly intoxicating and promising mixture of math rock’s explosiveness and dynamism and post-rock’s expansive palette. Think the bright and pastoral sound of the likes of Explosions In the Sky colliding with the ferocity of And So I Watch You From Afar at their most manic with a healthy dash of the kind of off-kilter time signatures and bold composition that defines other post-math groups like Arms of Tripoli. At the heart of the entire album is an utter showcase of impressive and propulsive drumwork, which I can honestly only compare to Dave Turncrantz of Russian Circles despite BStar not being nearly as dark or heavy a group. But man, this thing fucking grooves. I honestly have a difficult time picking out a single highlight here as the entire album is so thoroughly consistent in quality, but centerpiece “GrantBrown” or “LindsayWoolridge” are probably the best examples to show off the sheer percussive magnitude that this band is putting out there.
If you’re able to look past the somewhat lo-fi-sounding production, then BStar shines nearly as much as any debut in the genre, including ASIWYFA’s self-titled. Keep an eye on this group, and definitely go and show them some support because we need more music like this.
Nanaki – Epilogue
Hailing from the Isle of Man, Nanaki is a solo instrumental project from guitarist Michael Daugherty. Though evidently at one point the project featured a full band, his latest installment, Epilogue, is a return to solo work, programmed drums and all. Fortunately that percussive sparseness and occasional electronic flair actually mostly does his sound a service as Epilogue is the music of a cold, largely barren landscape. Opener “Farewell” practically floats its way by with a melancholy lightness reminiscent of The Album Leaf, while “I Still Remember” puts a more aggressive spin on it, layers of snarling guitar circling around an enticing groove. The rest of the album largely follows suit, packing in enough pleasant melodies and texture to keep the relatively stripped-down compositions fresh. Closing track “Into the Afterlife” is a much more ambitious affair though, clocking in at 18 minutes and taking a far more dramatic approach with more synths and greater emphasis on light/dark contrasts. It’s a very pretty composition and probably the only time in the album I would have loved to have heard gotten the full Mono-like treatment, but for a solo effort it is nonetheless impressive and worth your time.
Night Verses – Copper Wasp EP
If the name Night Verses sounds familiar but not in a post-rock context, there’s good reason for that. The LA-based group were recently known as a fearsome progressive post-hardcore band along the likes of Eidola, Black Peaks, Stolas, and more. Following vocalist Douglas Robinson’s departure though, the band decided to take a sharp left turn and follow a path similar to the prog-turned-post Tides of Man, continuing as a heavy instrumental trio. Their opening salvo is a three-track EP, Copper Wasp, and I tell you what, these boys are BURNING. Utilizing all of the technical chops present in their previous work to their fullest extent, Copper Wasp is a full-octane slab of slick riffs, grimy fuzz, and head-spinning drumwork. The opening title track mixes the take-no-prisoners attitude of post-metal groups like Sannhet with the darkly mysterious ambiance of groups like Telepathy and ratchets up the prog/tech factor by several notches, all without actually losing sight of interesting songwriting. “Vice Wave” is perhaps even more impressive though as guitarist Nick DiPirro and bassist Reilly Herrera burn through some really impressive riffs while drummer Aric Improta is just let loose to turn everything in front of him into dust. There is such an incredible degree of interplay between the three, and they are so keyed-in the entire time that the track is likely to leave you with heart palpitations. Closer “Vantablonde” by comparison is more subdued but no less impressive for all it packs into such a short timeframe.
The EP is only 12 minutes, but it is far more than a simple proof of concept. With a full-length supposedly not far behind containing these three tracks and more, Night Verses are absolutely a must-watch act for 2018 and quite possibly beyond.
Rammen – The Echo & The System
Similar to what we wrote just above for Noorvik, Greece’s Rammen and their album The Echo & The System is yet another example of the fundamentals of heavy and sludgy post-metal done well. Closer to the likes of Telepathy and If These Trees Could Talk, the band have a more than solid formula of reverb and tremolo-washed guitar melodies gliding over driving grooves. Tracks like “Silence Is Medicine,” “In Sorrow,” and “The Buildings Are Mountains” hit hard in just the right ways to nod along, while moments of lull in tracks like “Something Went Terribly Wrong…” and “Urban Scavenger” are a perfectly tuned and darkly mellow contrast that breaks up the similar mid-tempo tracks that fill the album. This isn’t the kind of album that will immediately knock you on your ass and demand your attention. It works in more subtle ways than that. But what Rammen lack in technical prowess they more than make up in building a consistent and compelling musical environment that carries through its entirety without feeling too repetitive. It’s a more than solid album that works in large part because it functions as albums should, a sum greater than its individual parts.