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Thursday, 21 February 2019

Reviews: Saor, Warlung, Dark Years From Now, YERÛŠELEM (Sean, Mark & Paul S)

Saor: Forgotten Paths (Avantguarde) [Sean]

Wow. I….just give me a moment, I wasn’t expecting my spirit to be sent skyward and so suddenly. Come on Seán, you have a review to type here! Maintain your composure! *clears throat and cracks fingers* If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, never bothering to cast your senses towards the glorious North, then your ignorance is unforgivable. A great force has emerged from its farthest reaches, imbued by the very heritage and natural beauty that birthed it. I speak of Saor, the Scottish Atmospheric/Celtic/Folk Black Metal entity forged by multi instrumentalist, Andy Marshall. Embodying all things evocative and earthy, Saor return with Forgotten Paths, the fourth (heathen) foray into the rugged Scottish wilderness. Put on your warmest garments, feel the bracing air caress your skin and set foot into the furthest you have been from time and home….

Title track, Forgotten Paths, sets us on our journey. Blast beats, which are always welcome, lead us onward, with strong guitar melodies placed tastefully above the furious fray. The pace slows, the melodies intensify and one can soon hear each layer added into the already huge spectrum of sound. Violins, flutes and even a piano add to an already cinematic outburst, captured perfectly by the clear and expansive production. It’s also pleasing to hears Andy’s earth shaking bellows increasingly shine through, it’s prominence greatly enhancing the proceedings. A brief intermission follows, before all manner of melody fires off at once in a stunning crescendo. Was that 10 minutes? Certainly didn’t feel like it! Monadh gradually heaps sombre melody upon melody, maintaining it’s more deliberate pace even after every instrument erupts into life.

Monadh’s main lead runs through most of the track, with varying layers and instrumentation built around it’s core, continuously shifting yet never straying afar or outstaying it’s welcome. The mood soon becomes one of triumph and hope, conjuring images of a lone figure having conquered an insurmountable foe. Another 10 minutes pass with Bron, my mind and spirit elsewhere, soaring above Scotland’s rolling hills and deepest lochs in the grip of Autumn, soon fading to winters touch. Is that a dulcimer I hear? Regardless, I am cascaded by beautiful folk instrumentation (bagpipes, fuck aye!) bolstered by ethereal clean vocals, melting this jaded Celt’s heart in amateur of seconds. Exile closes with the pensive plucking of a lonely harp, finding me casting my minds eye out towards the waves breaking upon the shore, bringing our journey to an end. Wow.

I’ve started with a wow, so I’ll finish with a wow. Hell, such is the majesty of Forgotten Paths, I uttered it repeatedly Owen Wilson style in a deep, drawn out exhale of purest joy. Wow. Such is the immersive power of Forgotten Paths, it transcends any base sensation and strikes not only the mind but the spirit, too. Andy Marshall’s vision is vast and compositional guile, vaster still. Saor effortlessly balance might and melancholy across sprawling musical vistas with nary a misstep. You owe it to yourself to hear Forgotten Paths, to experience what Andy and thus, Soar, have experienced and immediately hit repeat the moment Forgotten Paths fades into silence. After all, silence is deafening. 10/10

Warlung: Immortal Portal (Self Released) [Mark]

Let’s start with the obvious; an absolutely great name for a band, bravo chaps. If you’re wondering if the music lives up to that moniker, in short, it does. This album has a stoner/desert feel, with a lot of classic 70’s thump woven into decent modern production techniques, all self produced, too. Warlung have crossed the boundaries of that stoner vibe with melodic doom cuts to great effect. Opening with Black Horse Pike, the intro is dirty, filtered through a 70’s telephone and short enough to not be an annoyance, this drops into a crisp lead and then Warlung does one of my favourite things, singing the name of the song immediately, the rest of the song goes by in a flash of syncopated kick drums and great vocal melodies. We All Die In The End is a slightly more upbeat song, even though you’d never guess it from the discordant intro, reminiscent of a band who have listened to a fair amount of Black Sabbath and channelled it to good use. The main riff in this song is infectious, it gets in your head and keeps playing long after the track has finished and the outro lead is well crafted, not a shred fest, but tactfully placed notes over a great building rhythm section.

Other highlights - Psychonauts, more minimal than the rest of the album, not much in the way of rhythm guitars in this one, and it’s good because of it. Coal Minors is tremendous and a very good way to close the album, lyrically dark and melodically well structured. Vocal duties are carried out by George Baba and Philip Bennett, who do a very solid job, clean and accomplished throughout this 49 minutes. The rhythm section, Chris and Ethan Tamez is tight and very in sync, keeping the head nodding track after track. Definitely a band I’d want to check out live, a few beers with good friends in a sweaty rock club and I can imagine this being one of those nights out that leaves you a bit blurry the next day. Overall, this album isn’t a world beater, but it isn’t forgettable either, I feel Immortal Portal overstays its welcome just a touch at 49 minutes but overall the listener is left with an enjoyable experience and something that’s likely to get a few more listens throughout the year. 7/10

Dark Years From Now: Dark Years From Now (Self Released) [Paul S]

Dark Years From Now is a 1 man band from Vancouver in Canada. The one man in question is called Dan Potter, who is a multi instrumentalist, this self titled album is his first release. Opening track Forbidden Nexus is a short instrumental that is a little Djent-ish, reminds me of Animals As Leaders or Chimp Spanner. Next up is Heaven And Hell collide which has a technical Death metal feel to it, but in a fairly simple mid-paced way. The vocals are harsh, but in a black metal way rather than a death metal way. The vocals are in a higher register than you would expect for death metal; I suppose if you are a one man band you just have to go with the voice you have.

Red Light Glares is also techy death, but is faster; more obviously death metal. The song has a aggressive feel to it despite the technicality, the song also boasts a slower, heavier part and a very impressive solo. Proxy Whore has a slightly more restrained and measured feel to it, still technical death metal, but there are elements of djent coming in as well. The song again has some very impressive solos and a soft middle section with some very interesting rhythmic passages.

Zubaydah is more technical and djent, the rhythm is fairly staccato, and doesn’t flow like the previous songs, definitely a different feel. Burial Forest is nearly 3 minutes of electronic noise. Pyrophoric has a slower choppier sense to it, similar to Zubaydah, but with a heavier feel and drive. Shot Caller is similar to the song that came before it, the track is an instrumental with some very good solo’s and an interesting middle section. X Or Cyst? Pt 1 is another djent track, that is tight and controlled, the vocals are whispered, which is an interesting way to handle them.

Fall Away is a rather strange song. Not death metal or djent in any way, rather it’s more like an early nineties piece of alternative rock. The vocals are clean (and not very good, sorry), the song feel out of place and is a bit of an oddity. The album closes with the track Riptides Of The Abyss, which is just like Burial Forest, in that it is just electronic noise, but this time it’s for over ten minutes.

Dark Years From Now is an interesting album. It doesn’t totally work, but it’s so packed full of promise that it highlights huge things could be on the way. Personally I prefer the technical death metal style over the Djent, but which ever way Dan wants to push this, he needs to focus what he wants to do. Go for one style, and try to produce a coherent whole. I’d encourage him to work with other people (in particular a vocalist), so he has some ideas from other people to control his creativity. This project needs focus and direction, but the raw talent on display is fantastic, and hints at a future that could be huge, doesn’t quite work yet, but my god, watch this space! 7/10

YERÛŠELEM: The Sublime (Debemur Morti Productions) [Paul S]

YERÛŠELEM is an industrial project from Vindsval and W.D. Feld the current mastermind, and former member of french band Blut Aus Nord. The Sublime is the band's first album. The music on offer here is Industrial that is quite similar to the style found on last years Mirrors For Psychic Warfare album. There are clearly lots of Industrial influences on here, even going back as far as Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. The album does have a few problems, not massive problems, if you are passionate about industrial you’ll find a lot to like. However, the album does lack some complexity, each track has a drumbeat, some dissonant guitar, very echoey vocals, some samples and quite often a simple melody played on guitar. But that's about it. The individual tracks are just that, for 4 - 5 minutes and then they fade out. The feeling that this isn’t going anywhere is present on each track, in fact what this sounds like most to me is 1 very long track that is faded up for a few minutes, faded down for a few seconds, and then faded up again. 

So, the track The Sublime has a slow to mid-paced tempo, with a simple beat and a bit of an eastern feel. Autoimmunity is very similar but a little bit mellower. Eternal is like the other 2 but a little simpler. Sound Over Matter is very quiet, short soundscape (probably the only track that stands out from the rest). Joyless is a bit more aggressively rhythmic with a simple repeated melody. Triiinity has a bit of a hip hop or possibly trip hop beat to it. And so it goes on. The same track 9 times, it’s not a band track, but I’d expect a bit more for my money. This isn’t bad, it just need more work, more complexity, more inventiveness, just more really. The other problem with this album is the fact that the the people who put it together are the same people who made Blut Aus Nord’s masterpiece The Work Which Transforms God. This is an album I recently saw described as uncriticizable. It is as perfect an Industrial Black Metal album as you can get, so this just isn’t good enough, we know they can produce perfection, so less than that feels disappointing. Again, this is a good album, but it could be so much better. Maybe save your money on this, and get The Work Which Transforms God instead, you won’t be disappointed with that! 7/10

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