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Tuesday 9 February 2021

Reviews: Cult Of Luna, Appalooza, Emptiness, Trivax (Reviews By JT Smith & Matt Bladen)

Cult Of Luna - The Raging River (Red Creek) [JT Smith]

You always know where you are with Cult Of Luna. You know it’s going to be heavy, ponderous to the point of almost sludgy, with nods to both doom and post metal atmospherics, and this EP is no different. Three Bridges is a nearly nine minute behemoth with a slow to anger, nearly two and a half minute build up of unsettling, sparse guitar lines and a huge payoff when the whole band jumps in. What I leave behind leans a bit more heavily on the post metal atmospherics, giving a reverb heavy, swirly feel to the crushing heaviness. This would probably be the sound of falling through Jupiter's atmosphere; layers of swirling, empty clouds and high winds yet still with enough pressure to crush you into a diamond. Inside Of A Dream shows off that the band is still as experimental as they were as when they collaborated with Julie Christmas for The Mariner

Mark Lanegan tends to be perfect in whatever he does, but it is shocking how well he fits with the sparse loneliness of Cult Of Luna’s quieter moments. Simultaneously the least and the most Cult Of Luna track I’ve ever heard. I Remember is a mirror image of the EP opener, starting with an incredibly heavy payoff and morphing into an unsettlingly sparse guitar line, and Wave After Wave has a looser, slightly jammy feel to it. Less heavy than the rest of the album, with a few more interesting dynamics. The slow to crushing heaviness that they usually display is eschewed for stabs of heaviness, deciding to build atmosphere instead in an awful, unsettling way for its twelve and half minutes. Consistent as always Cult Of Luna remain one of those bands that hit nothing but net on every release. 9/10

Appalooza - The Holy Of Holies (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

With a name taken from the US breed of spotted horse, Appolooza deal with the irony of the divine on their second full length record The Holy Of Holies. It’s their first record on Ripple music and yet again that label show that they can pick a great psych driven grungy stoner rock band from a mile away. While the lyrical content looms into the existential and is a comment on how religious fervour is seen as freedom, yet it is quite the opposite, but it does this through demonic possession and the question of our own morality and reality. It’s the sort of high level thinking you need additional help to reach, luckily musically the band can get you there with their desert rock infused AIC worship as the reverbed vocals of Sylvain often hit Layne Staley levels getting nastier as the riffs get heavier. 

Though the shamanic percussion and shimmering clean guitars are there to, shift from thick grunge riffage into a more ethereal place giving them a musical palette somewhere near that of Baroness (the album cover from Wild Horse Artwork is very John Baizley). In fact you would definitely think that Appalooza come from the desolate Midwest of the USA but in fact this trio come from Brest, France. They conjure the spirits of the old west on tracks such as the closing moments of Snake Charmer, while odd riff from Reincarnation brings to mind multiple Josh Homme projects. A colossal slice of mind-expanding heavy rock from Appalooza that culminates in the explorative Canis Majoris ending the record brilliantly. Really a record to experience in one sitting that pick at The Holy Of Holies is an ideal follow up/Ripple debut for Appalooza. 8/10

Emptiness - Vide (Season Of Mist) [JT Smith]

The bleak, minimalist sound of Emptiness is trying to capture the better moments of acts like Portishead and Massive Attack (and according to their press release for this LP, if you’re a fan of those two acts you’ll be a fan of Emptiness), but it’s falling short of that on their sixth record Vide. Far too much effort has been put into making the atmospherics have a swirly, ethereal, ghostly feel. Similarly, the same effect has been layered, nay, smothered, onto the vocals. Picking one or the other would have greatly increased the impact of that, but applying it to both makes the record feel washed out, and lifeless. 

Much of this was recorded during the height of the pandemic, and if they were trying to capture the bored, listlessness and endless days of lockdown where time ceased to have any meaning and your netflix queue had finally been exhausted, then bravo, mission accomplished, but I suspect that this wasn’t their aim. I think something has gone wrong when someone listening to your record finds the 30 second long Le sévère the most compelling track on the album, and only because of how much it reminds him of something you might hear on a Silent Hill soundtrack. 

It’s *definitely* gone wrong if it compels you not to listen to your record further, but seek out more Silent Hill/Akira Yamaoka. It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed something here with this album, and that this could be someone’s favourite record, but it left me cold, unengaged, and confused. It’s not a *bad* record, per se. It’s just not exactly an interesting one. 5/10

Trivax - Into The Void (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Originally recorded during their sessions for album number 2 in 2019, Into The Void is a nine minute opus from Iranian/UK based black metal act Trivax. A band who definitely fly in the face of his birth countries religious dogma, Trivax are a major name on the UK underground scene, led by the fearless, creative mind of Shayan, who wrote both song on this two track EP along with mixing and mastering them as well. As I've said the title track came out of album recording sessions but when this was interrupted by the pandemic, the song went through a few audio changes, before coming out a week ago! It's a colossal, atmospheric blackened metal track full of dense layered instrumentals Sully's bass and Matthew's drumming flitting between doom passages and periods of intense blasting as Shayan riffs like a mad man, slithering into some lead breaks towards the end. 

His vocals conjure rage and mysticism moving between English and I believe Sanskrit. Not content with just this one track though (perhaps knowing we don't review singles) you also get a second track called Black Nirvana which is also 9 minutes long and was recorded by Shayan by himself in the lockdown (though which one?) and is a cacophonous, haunting, fuzzy instrumental with occasional shifts to Middle Eastern sounds, that really is more akin to an intro/outro than a proper 'track'. It adds balance to this mini-EP though and keeps Trivax's very stirring type of black metal in the front of your mind. 7/10 

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