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Monday 22 June 2020

Reviews: Long Distance Calling, Behold The Void, Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Wino (Alex, Dr Claire, Paul S & Paul H)

Long Distance Calling: How Do We Want To Live? (Inside Out Music) [Alex Swift]

Instrumental prog out of Germany, the impressive, spacey soundscapes long-distance calling create, do not require vocals to add to their sense of majestic composure. We begin on a note, many may not expect – The Curiosity Suite has more in common with an electronic ambient piece, inspired by the elusive musical movements of dream pop and trip-hop. The effect is hallucinogenic in tone and epic in magnitude, feeling akin to a film score, with the constantly swelling sense of tension which these musicians muster. Hazard is more traditional and guitar-led, yet still bears a serene feeling of travelling – of fleeing from a plane of existence, exploring planets, worlds, and galaxies – the intriguing voice-overs paint surreal images not of what our future will look like, yet the different possibilities in front of us. To clarify, Long Distance Calling are not laying down some grand, dystopian narrative here, yet using their skill to create a set of ambiances and musical realities that explore the realms of how our world may look as technology advances its relentless march and political realities take form before our eyes.

The reason pieces such as Voices and Immunity are so effective in crafting auditory narratives is that they refuse the stagnation of sticking to singular ideas - instead choosing to change and investigation. We stray serenely between haunting synthesiser and electronic passages, to impressionistic percussive moments, and sections of pure elation and melody. All this allows the scientific themes to sprawl and rejoices, as though the playing is providing the precise and exciting soundtrack to a revolutionary experiment. That's not to say there aren’t instants where this particular experiment goes awry – where sung vocals are incorporated such as on the disenchanting Beyond Limits, they dull the grandiose and molecular feel of the surrounding musicianship. Also, at times there is too much emphasis placed on creating an atmosphere as opposed to doing anything inspiring – I’m not sure if they intended to be subtle or brooding, yet the closer Ashes failed to tir much of anything in my emotions. That said, I won’t deny the talent on show, and certainly, lots of thought has been utilized in creating a vast and expansive work of art with How do we want to live? 7/10

Behold The Void: Disintegration (Self Released) [Dr Claire Hanley]

Instantly bludgeoning, Merciless One kicks off proceedings with an incredible intensity. The steady, purposeful pace locks you firmly into the Djent groove from the outset. Punchy drum patterns and slamming bass riffs dominate throughout. Behind the brutality is a blackened edge with tempo changes that layer perfectly with the overriding Deathcore influence, and the howling vocals accentuate the crushing soundscape. Encircled In Death leads with a comparatively melodic opening but maintains that sense of the macabre, fading out into Plots And Schemes which showcases a blend of symphonic synth effects and throat-stripping screams, with an atmospheric interlude that wouldn’t be out of place on a Swallow The Sun album. There is no let up from the intensity as Blindfold embodies the aural equivalent of being dragged through Hell; continuing to unleash more abrupt, blackened switches in tempo, while Light enhances this by introducing some galloping guitar riffs.

The pinnacle of the album, Distant brings the aforementioned layers together. The mix is exquisite, expertly meshing the blackened elements and borderline-beatdown riffs. However, from this point, things become repetitive. Into The Bliss possesses similar characteristics as the previous tracks, so fails to add anything novel. Much the same story for Enemy, which feels comparatively weak and lacklustre. The addition of an instrumental track, Agonia, sets the record on an upward trajectory again, before the title track Disintegration closes with some tremendous, thundering double kicks. Far more accomplished than similar offerings by artists such as Lorna Shore, Behold The Void manage to seamlessly integrate largely divergent genres. The result is impressive but sticking to a similar formula prevents individual tracks from standing out, which leaves the record teetering on the brink of background music. 7/10

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough Volume 1 (Profound Lore Records) [Paul Scoble]

Firstly, this album is not a split, this is not one side Bell Witch, one side Aerial Ruin. This album is a rarer beast than a simple split album. This is a collaboration between Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin, in all intents and purposes the two acts have formed a three piece to make this album. Collaborative albums are not that common, some have been incredibly successful (The Body and Thou or Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore) some haven’t (Metallica and Lou Reed), it’s a risky thing for bands to do. However Bell Witch duo Dylan Desmond (Bass and Vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (Drums and Vocals) and Aerial Ruin’s only member Erik Moggridge have worked together before in this way. Erik Moggridge has been involved with all 3 Bell Witch albums, most obviously on Bell Witch’s third album Mirror Reaper where he provided vocals. So, these two acts have some experience of working together, which bodes well for this collaboration.

The album opens with the track The Bastard Wind, which starts with strummy clean guitar and clean vocals, this has a soft, folky feel to it. The softer feel is quickly dispensed with as a huge and heavy riff comes crashing in, the clean vocals continue. Extra layers are added, suddenly this collaboration starts to feel really special, as this is similar in style to Bell Witch, but with guitar. This means that there are more depth and complexity to the layering, this also creates some extremely effective harmonies. As the song continues the feel moves towards a more menacing sense, the vocals get harsher and for a while it feels almost claustrophobic. After this nastier section everything slows down and the clean vocals are back. This section has a more relaxed tempo, slow and heavy but with a slightly drifting feel. A big and very melodic guitar line comes in over the huge and slow riff and the song slowly moves to an end.

Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage) is a piece of dark folk. Simple, slow acoustic guitar, with ethereal vocals. The track is graceful and delicate, it feels sombre and old. The track has an almost ambient break in the middle before going back to the dark, melancholy folk. Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage) leads us into the next track Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll) which erupts into life out of the melancholy, minimalism of the preceding track. Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll) is huge and heavy, it’s shorter than the other two big and heavy tracks on here as it’s only 8 and a half minutes. The track is slow and very mournful, the huge harmonies are there as well which, with the pacing of the song, has an effect that is similar to Warnings masterpiece Watching From A Distance.

Prelude is a short instrumental that leads us into the final song The Unbodied Air. As with the first track, The Unbodied Air is nearly 20 minutes long, and is a sprawling, huge track. It opens with a huge, heavy and quite discordant riff, there is a menacing quality to this part. A melody lead guitar part is added, it’s also dissonant and so makes the whole sound feel nasty and unpleasant. This feeling is continued through into a faster section, which has more drive and purpose and has harsh vocals which add to the menace. And then all of a sudden it all fades and a solitary church organ is the only instrument to be heard. Clean vocals and some very minimalistic clean guitar come in, this is now soft lilting, and genuinely beautiful. After this section the huge and heavy riffs come thundering back, but this time they are very slow, and melancholy, without the menacing feeling that this song had before. The organ has decided to join in as well, and we can also welcome back the huge and very melodic harmonies that again remind me of Warning. This track now feels as if it has almost limitless depth, it’s huge and cathartic, as it slowly builds to a massively heavy climax.

Stygian Bough Volume 1 is a stunning piece of work. It’s monumentally heavy and huge, but is also packed with melody, nuance and power. This feels like something enormous, if mountain ranges could make music this is what it would sound like, but at the same time the folk influences brought to this project by Erik Moggridge also give it a beautiful feeling of lilting, delicate beauty. The album has enormous depth, this is a very impressive compositionally, and structurally, whilst at the same time containing some great melodies that will stick in your head, I must admit I have been humming a lot of this album over the last few days. This is probably going to be a very important album, this will probably be one of the best doom albums released this year. It also gives us a hint of more amazing music to come, after all if this is Volume 1 then that suggests a Volume 2, and hopefully a Volume 3. I’m already exited at the prospect! 9/10

Wino: Forever Gone (Ripple Music) [Paul Hutchings]

One of the most recognisable frontmen in the hard rock world, Scott “Wino” Weinrich is best known as the iconic frontman of cornerstone doom metal founders Saint Vitus and The Obsessed. His history is well documented with his move to California to join Saint Vitus in the 1980s, with whom he released the seminal Born Too Late widely regarded as one of the most powerful statements in doom’s early history. His raspy, heartfelt, and punk-charged vocals have been easily identifiable for over three decades. His third album Forever Gone is his first release on Ripple Music and his first since 2010’s Adrift.

Forever Gone is 11 tracks of acoustic stripped-down melancholic rock. His third solo album ranges from Americana inspired music to deeper, darker unplugged tracks. Joined once again by fellow Maryland rocker and Clutch drummer Jean Paul Gaster, it is likely to be an album that appeals to die hard fans as well as those who appreciate the efforts of a man and his guitar. The closing track is a cover of Joy Division’s Isolation, and with the addition of drums and electric instruments it’s probably the most exciting track on the album.

Elsewhere, the opening title track is an updated version of his 2015 song with Conny Ochs, a gentle play which provides the basis for many of the tracks on this release. As pleasant as it is, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about here and I must admit I found it just a tad dull. It’s Wino and his guitar at a slower pace than normal. Beautifully performed, just a bit dull. If you enjoy acoustic sets then this may well be something to relax to. For me, well, let’s just say it’s not going to get the heart rate much above normal. 6/10

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