Belgium’s Amenra are one of those bands that consistently produces quality material for a comparatively modest but incredibly devoted following. Having been around since 1999, collaborated and toured with a wide array of other acts, and even started their own artistic collective with Oathbreaker, Black Heart Rebellion and others called Church of Ra, Amenra are nothing if not dedicated to their craft. All the better that said craft happens to be a mesmerizing mix of doom, post-metal and hardcore.
Writing a standout doom metal album is a difficult task nowadays. This isn’t due to an overall lack of quality within the genre’s modern progenitors, but because of the antithesis; more and more excellent doom metal albums seem to enter the running for our year ends lists with each passing year. MONARCH! (Monarch from here on out) has never struggled with this endeavor over the course of their 15-year career, particularly when it comes to their recent output with the eminent Profound Lore Records. Yet, while Sabbracadaver was certainly a doom highlight in 2014, Never Forever sees the band returning this year with their most colossal and grandiose album to date, presenting a masterful synthesis of drone metal with doom’s more macabre characteristics. We sat down with the band to discuss the process of writing their latest epic, as well as a handful of other topics related to their past, present and future within the shifting landscape of modern doom.
Loincloth are an interesting group, one that meshes together various elements from realms of metal but keeps a very distinct sound of sludgy, crushing, and almost atonal instrumental metal. Their records sit nice and snuggly on their Southern Lord label, baring resemblance to the general dark ambiance and heavy production that bring together other artists in this territory. Not only do they have their sound up to scratch, but they even get quite progressive within their sound, employing left-field rhythms and grooves that are extremely math-core inspired and really grab you and keep you engaged. This band have so much going for them, and they truly showcase what it means to do a lot with a little. Not to mention I absolutely love that I can put an image to this music of three shirtless, bearded guys in a claustrophobic room, jamming intensely while getting lost in the power of the riff. But yet, while this record is a fun experience at first, there’s some qualities to it that need some workshopping because this release wears pretty thin, pretty fast.
Ufomammut are a strange band. Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat. The Italian trio of metallers moonlight as professional graphic artists in the Malleus art collective, and also have an expansive back catalog of albums that plunder elements of psychedelic, stoner, and sludge-infused doom with reckless abandon. Given this mix of styles, the band are fairly difficult to pigeon hole into any specific subgenre niche in metal. Which is simultaneously both one of the best things about their music and one of the worst aspects of it when trying to explain how they sound in a review. But bravely shall I endure for the cause.
Subtlety isn’t a common approach when it comes to sludge metal, which rather favours blistering, distortion-focused guitars and thunderous drums since the notoriously volcanic heaviness of genre spearheads Electric Wizard and Weedeater. Although in a genre that finds it’s bands in a battle of extremes, seeing who can cause the most damage to the PA system with their amps, the 2010s have seen sludge been taken down a number of different avenues. We have Mastodon using it as a basis to conjure up progressive, multi-layered musical odysseys, Indian using noise experimentation to make it as hellishly freaky as possible, to Bongripper putting an emphasis on the direct riffs in creating a mood through repetition. However, we have Melbourne underground head-turners Sundr, dragging the style even further out to a much less assertive sound, yet a much more ethereal and tension-building experience on their vertiginous sophomore LP, The Canvas Sea.
What’s to know or learn about Richmond, Virginia’s multi-instrumentalist Fowst? Not much, except that he’s the brains and sole instrumentalist behind the so-fuzzy-it-must’ve-died-and-now-it’s-molding doom project that is Mindkult. The one-man band approach is something that never fails to pique my interest. I get the notion that it’s often viewed as…
India is a place I wouldn’t really associate with extreme music. The limited exposure I’ve had with the culture comes primarily from Indian restaurants, vacation stories from friends, or movies. That being said, it feels like a really traditional kind of place. The limited amount of Indian music I’ve heard is immediately identifiable as such, and even the pop music feels like it follows in that convention, there’s a distinct “sound.” So when I caught wind of a split by hardcore bands from Bangalore and Mumbai, I was obviously surprised. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Why wouldn’t there be an underground scene in India? Beyond that, considering how “conventional” and “traditional” it seems to me as some ignorant dude from the states, it makes absolutely perfect sense that there would be some positively savage bands out there stickin’ it to the man.
Summer is nearly wrapped up over here so it’s time to get right back into the miserable weather, miserable conversation and general misery of being in a Northern part of the world. Fuck the tanned people and their day drinking, fuck the sweaty patch on the small of your back, fuck the tourists who stop walking every two seconds on the street. It’s high time for the grey, grim and gruesome to rear it’s resentful head. This weeks entry into Grind My Gears might just be the most obtuse and vehemently bleak thing you’ll hear the rest of this summer. I love that I get to write this next bit. Get Fucked.
Literature has been one of the foremost sources of inspiration for metal lyricism and composition alike, regardless of subgenre. The list of examples is significant—Ernest Hemingway and Cobalt, Georges Bataille and Deathspell Omega, H. P. Lovecraft and seemingly everyone, and so on. Drawing inspiration from a novel is a challenging but relatively structured undertaking; a plot can be interpreted into numerous sonic and lyrical directions but will always follow the same trajectory of its narrative. Poetry contrasts this process by its very nature, as its natural code of symbolic meaning and suggestive prose necessitates musical decoding drawn from a strictly thematic place. Even poems with a decipherable narrative are often told in a verbose, indirect manner that challenges metal lyricists and composers to write with a liberated hand, looking beyond the words on the page to a deeper understanding of the poem’s true meaning and mood. Agalloch’s interpretation of W. B. Yeats is a stellar example of this process being executed beautifully, as is the latest offering from Ehnahre, a Boston-based avant-garde metal collective who count Kay Dot alumni among their ranks. Their incredible four-part song cycle on The Marrow captures the essence of Theodore Roethke’s eponymous poem* through consuming landscapes of avant-garde death-doom that are as ridden with despair as the poet’s initial musing on whether or not life is worthwhile.
Comeback albums are in vogue this year, especially for rock music and its offshoots. At the Drive-In, Gorillaz and nearly every major shoegaze pioneer (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, Slowdive, etc.) have all resurfaced for returns-to-form or late-career flops, depending on whom you ask. The fact many of these bands had been laid to rest for decades certainly contributed to disappointment among some fans, as did the heightened expectations created by their pre-breakup classics. Part Chimp bucks the drawbacks of all these metrics with their hiatus-smashing record Iv, which provides and incredible delivery of the band’s signature blend of sludge-ridden noise rock and stoner metal. The band’s comfortable position in the underground and relatively short hiatus—they disbanded in 2011 and reunited last year—has allowed Iv to feel less like a comeback album and more like a reunion with a beloved friend, where good memories come flooding back and it feels as though everything is still in its right place.