ALBUM REVIEW: Messa ‘Belfry’

Messa-Belfry

MESSA
‘Belfry’
(Aural Music, May 2016)
7/10

Unencumbered by commercial considerations, Messa welcome you into their own strange world on their own terms. Mixing ambient drones and occult doom, they possess a bleak determination, coupled with the grainy charm of vintage Pentagram and a modern femininity in the style of Windhand.

In between the album’s rumbling, crackling atmospherics, occasionally a song breaks out. And when it does it tends to be pretty excellent. ‘Belfry’ is blessed with a scattering of spectacular, effervescent moments. Moments when powerful, focused, direct doom metal takes over the world.

Seven minutes of sweet woe, the song ‘Babalon’ sounds like it has always existed in the deepest crevices of your psyche, while the pulsating ‘Blood’ is almost a work of genius but for the excessive hanging-around and clarinet abuse. Later on, the magnificent standout track, ‘New Horns’, has a gentle Viking vibe, like an Italian version of Falkenbach.

The long, sullen passages of grey droning might be off-putting to some, but patience is rewarded when the good stuff explodes into life.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Abysmal Growls Of Despair ‘Abyss’

Abysmal Growls Of Despair

ABYSMAL GROWLS OF DESPAIR
‘Abyss’
Released August 2014
6/10

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. ‘Abyss’ is a truly terrifying, mesmerising slab of funeral drone and atmospheric noise. This relentlessly sinister album is enough to give Satan nightmares! Even the artwork will give you the creeps.

The name of this band may be slightly off-putting for its simplistic literalism, but the music itself is pretty devastating. From the desperate, wolf-like howling of the enigmatic opening track, to the album’s sorrowful finale, AGOD deploy expertly-judged and well-paced sound effects that fall across your mind like a black curtain blocking out the light.

Using extensive extracts from classical masterworks ‘Pie Jesu’ and ‘Moonlight Sonata’, it is difficult to make a judgement about the musicianship on display. Undoubtedly, the finest music contained within this ‘Abyss’ is the creation of other composers, which is sometimes embellished and sometimes undermined by synthetic sounds of pain, sorrow and horror.

The sweet notes of the classical music are mere glimpses of light and beauty, but always shadow and dread overwhelm them. At times, the combination is breathtaking and beautiful, at others, genuinely frightening.

However, it is a fairly one-dimensional approach that works better in some places than others. For example, the mountainous rumble that overwhelms Pie Jesu on the track ‘Hang This Fucking Black Frockman’ is grimly enthralling, but the desolate moaning that disrupts Beethoven’s tender sonata is rather less convincing.

The closing song, ‘Calm Despair Hollow Life’ shows AGOD’s ability to create its own delicate composition, a gently mournful ditty that completes the album on a comparatively melancholic, peaceful note. ‘Abyss’ is a dark, destructive and disturbing experience that takes familiar sounds and sends them to Hell.

http://abysmalgrowlsofdespair.bandcamp.com/album/abyss

ALBUM REVIEW: The Cold View

the cold view

THE COLD VIEW
‘Wires Of Woe, Ways Of Waste’
OUT July 2014
7/10

Madonna’s 1980’s pop anthem ‘Material Girl’ addressed modern materialism in a fun, upbeat style. Thirty years later, The Cold View’s ‘Wires Of Woe, Ways Of Waste’ is the absolute opposite of that in every possible sense. This one-man project of Berlin-based A.A.S. approaches the soullessness of today’s technology-enshrined culture in a totally literal and terrifying manner, creating an album of such desperate bleakness that afterwards you might feel like listening to some Madonna just to cheer yourself up. Only joking – that desperate hag is more depressing than anything on offer here.

You’d be better off sticking with this daylight-swallowing, droning ambient funeral doom. It’s not easy listening. The Cold View’s music is slow, sullen and sparse. In its understated efforts to replicate the sheer futility of existence, the album’s quartet of songs – each 15-minutes-plus – can feel a little underpopulated. Minimalism, after all, must be very carefully managed.

Moments of beauty are rare, although they do appear, particularly in the piano accompaniment on the second track ‘Woe’ and the intro to ‘Waste’. The first moments of standout track ‘Ways’ offer some glimmer of synthy warmth, and although they are soon drowned by funereal sorrow, they return later on with an unexpected majesty. The four songs are called ‘Wires’, ‘Woe’, ‘Ways’, ‘Waste’, perhaps in an effort to go one step further than Robert J Sawyer’s ‘WWW’ sci-fi trilogy (‘Wake’, ‘Watch’, ‘Wonder’) which touches upon broadly similar subject matter.

The Cold View’s dissonant, buzzing guitars sound like a rusty telephone cable. Hushed, sinister vocals murmur and slice through the grey clouds of misery, and their message is evidently not a cheery one. A.A.S. seems intent on pointing the way towards humankind’s inevitable demise, engulfed by its own cleverness. It would be particularly ironic, therefore, to find yourself enjoying this album on Bandcamp, using a laptop. It might be advisable to use a wireless connection though – at least, you might feel safer that way, safer from the technological finale that The Cold View seems to foretell.

Perhaps this is one for hardcore funeral doom fanatics, as the incessant emptiness can feel slightly frustrating and soul-destroying at times. That said, The Cold View certainly lives up to its band name with its second album, giving a harsh and at times mesmerising exploration of the frustrations of living our lives wrapped in wires.

http://thecoldview.bandcamp.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: Zaum

zaum

ZAUM
‘Oracles’
I Hate Records (13 June 2014)
7/10

Zaum create a unique, otherworldy sound that takes us on a journey through time to the blood-soaked sands of an ancient Middle East. The land in which we arrive is a far cry from the modern, gleaming towers of today’s Dubai or Abu Dhabi – this is a grim and dusty place where death shadows every footstep.

Reminiscent of Om or Queen Elephantine, ‘Oracles’ forms a swirling, clanking mantra, a Canadian interpretation of Middle Eastern music that manages to steer clear of cliché. This duo from New Brunswick have enough experience to avoid that particular pitfall – drummer Christopher Lewis has fronted Iron Giant, while vocalist/guitarist/synthesizerist Kyle Alexander McDonald is also the frontman with Shevil.

Throughout the album, relentless sitar textures tie the tracks together and add to the sense of exploration, sending your mind to a distant, long-dead world. Not for Zaum the bombastic posturing of Orphaned Land – this is slow, contemplative and spiritual. The songs undulate, moving as imperceptibly as the sands of a desert and this constant movement is vital, maintaining a sense of impetus behind the mantra.

From the opening track, McDonald launches into some exciting vocal melodies that help to lift the songs from droning misery. And whenever the songs threaten to drag, the band’s creativity interjects just in time. The third song, for example, offers a change of perspective, centering on sinister synths in place of the shuddering guitars. That said, the song can feel less organic than some of the others, the focal riff and overall arrangement a little too awkward to flow naturally.

The fourth and final song, ‘Omen’, features a slightly obvious and drawn-out opening passage, but then continues with experimental ambience as Zaum seek out “a deeper state of thought”. With its unexpected vocal treatments, this track is often ugly/beautiful and spectacular, although not quite the special ending that we might have hoped for on this adventure into antiquity.

Zaum’s ‘Oracles’ is an ambitious and sometimes exhilarating journey of contemplation, mysticism and slow, sludgy, droning metal. It takes you to the Middle East and dumps you in the middle of a desert wearing only your underpants and clutching your copy of Om’s ‘Live At Jerusalem’. 

https://www.facebook.com/zaumn