Souldrainer - Departure (Black Lion Records) [Richard Oliver]
Departure is the new album from Swedish symphonic death metallers Souldrainer. Not a band I have heard before but they have been going since 1999 and Departure is the fourth full length album from the band. The band have stated that Departure is a journey through your own dark fantasy where anything is possible and we have made sure that every song will leave you with darkness, hopelessness, emptiness, anger, and despair.
On the musical front, Departure is very much on the melodic side of death metal and the symphonic elements are provided by atmospheric angel choirs and string ensembles mixed in with that wondrous Swedish melodic death metal goodness. When all these elements are used together it is very effective indeed such as on a song like Weaver Of Mortal Dreams and the melodic elements really come to the fore in Rats Of The International Race, One Last Shot and album closer End Of The World. Quite a lot of the album is at a steady pace though there are a handful of occasions where the songs ramp up the speed such as Paint The World In Lies which rips ahead. The musicianship is top tier with some absolutely fantastic guitar work throughout.
I’m quite the sucker for Swedish melodic death metal and Departure is a great album which showcases a lot of the elements I love in the genre. It is catchy, heavy, melodic and atmospheric all in the space of one album. Souldrainer do wear their influences a bit too blatantly on their sleeves with the music sounding very reminiscent of Hypocrisy and especially the latter day albums by the band. Even though there is a good degree of unoriginality in this album it is still bloody good and I can’t argue with bands wanting to sound like Hypocrisy. If you are a fan of melodic death metal then Souldrainer are well worth a listen. 8/10
Dysgnostic - Scar Echoes (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Matt Cook]
Rebranded from the ashes of the now-defunct Defilementory, the Danish three-piece Dysgnostic have found stability and direction with their Transcending Obscurity debut full-length, Scar Echoes, a deliberate 44-minute slog. Five of the eight tracks exceed the six-minute mark, and all the while, the tracks meander from pummelling spite to bubbling-to-the-surface-but-never-breaching teases. The death metal is delivered as an ever-present entity over the record.
The titular opening track is indicative of what’s to come because its lumbering pace and brooding, droning guitar notes permeate at every corner. Even songs that hit the ground running eventually combine to form a labouring composition. Nothing’s Embrace supplies a doomy dirge section with effective drum-guitar interplay, which makes for a serviceable death-doom performance.
Oceans Of Grey is Thomas Fischer at his most acerbic, belching out delectable harsh vocals that slap the listener back to reality that this is in fact a death metal record. But even with Dysgnostic strays from that modus operandi, they thrive. Beneath Abyssal Plains starts fuzzy and morose, devolving into the musical equivalent of pulling teeth or performing a lobotomy, painstakingly working to not royally fuck things up.
Even with Silvery Tongues coming out the gates swinging, the track never wanders too far from the crawling tempo that is the skeleton of Scar Echoes. The rhythm section doesn’t abandon the dense, thumping elements that make the genre great. Instead, it’s the band’s ability to dangle the carrot in front of your face while also assuring you that in the end, it’ll all be worth it.
By now, it should be evident what to expect from a Transcending Obscurity signee. Dysgnostic straddle the constantly thinning line between technical death metal and a more subdued death-doom entity. 7/10
Digir Gidim - The Celestial Macrocosmic Scale And The Shimmering Path Of The Supreme Regulator (Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum) [Paul Scoble]
Digir Gidim have been making deeply ritualistic black metal since 2014. The duo made up of Utanapištim Ziusudra on all instruments and composition, and Lalartu on Vocals and Lyricism. In the eight years the band have been together Digir Gidim have released one album before The Celestial Macrocosmic Scale And The Shimmering Path Of The Supreme Regulator, in 2017’s I Thought There Was The Sun Awaiting My Awakening.
Clearly lovers of black metal and very long album titles, Digir Gidim have tempered their discordant, occult and ritualistic black metal with influences from ancient Indo-Sumerian music. Those influences come across in the melodic aspects of the album, because despite featuring some very extreme black metal and lots of nasty discordant elements, this album is full of great tunes.
The album is split into 4 songs called I, II, III, IV all around the 11 to 12 minute mark. First track I, is a mix of fairly dramatic black metal that feels quite epic (epic black metal is the style originated by Summoning, and perfected by Caladan Brood) in style; mid paced with lots of melody in the tremolo picked riffs. This is mixed with slow and heavy sections, at one point what sounds like a Hammond organ is added to make a sound that in my notes I described as psychedelic epic black metal. It’s a great track, there is a small amount of high speed, savage blasting, which as the next track shows, is just a taste of what is to come.
II opens with savagely fast blast beats with nasty discordant riffs over the top, the riffs feel very aggressive as do the vocals, which are excellent throughout this album. The second half of the song slows down to a mid pace, and we are back in epic black metal with Indo-Sumerian influences. Some of the Epic material feels huge (which is appropriate) and in one section features clean vocals and chanting. The song gets more and more expansive as it goes along until it is wider than the sky for the finish.
III has an opening that reminds me of In The Nightside Eclipse era Emperor; the riffs and keyboard swells work together in the same way. The track then takes on a slightly punky tempo, this is accelerated into a blast beat that has a riff with a fairly hardcore feel to it, the centre of the song is fast and full of inertia and energy and leads us to a massively melodic final section of the song. The final part of the song is full of tremolo picked riffs that are beautifully tuneful and melodious. Whether its a fast, slow, or mid-paced riff this section drips tune-fullness and melody in a really pleasing way.
The album comes to an end with IV. This track has some slow bits, but is mainly a high speed blast of nasty discordant blasting and unhinged vocals. The blast beats are almost ridiculously fast, and the riffs, in some places layered riffs, are nasty and inharmonious. After three tracks that are packed with melody, it’s a bit of a surprise to get so much savage, unpleasant discordance. However, this viciousness has been hinted at throughout the album, and it feels right that the album ends in such a ferocious and malign way.
The Celestial Macrocosmic Scale And The Shimmering Path Of The Supreme Regulator, is a cracking album, it manages to touch base with a lot of different feelings and styles. The melodic elements are fantastic, and after a few listens really worm their way into your conciseness, and the more extreme parts are suitably savage, dissonant and malicious. It took a couple of listens for me to really get into this album, there is a lot going on and it takes a little while to really get it, so if you don’t click with it immediately don’t worry, just give it a few more listens and it will reveal itself to you, and when it does, what it reveals is fantastic. 8/10
Astrosaur - Portals (Pelagic Records) [Ben Baljak]Astrosaur are a three piece band from Oslo, Norway. They have a mysterious lack of information about themselves online, as their bio simply reads; instrumental rock from Oslo… Cheers Astrosaur. To attempt to elaborate on Instrumental Rock; their style spans over or is at least reminiscent of post-rock/metal, doom, prog with essence of jazz and black metal to name but a few.
The band have just released their third album - Portals. It opens with the creative and alluringly named Opening. Opening opens … as if it were recorded by the band’s doppelgängers at the black loge in the surrounding forests of Twin Peaks. Reverse delay pulling the listener into the beautifully desolate world of post rock and followed up with the droney tremolo of a darkened Mogwai.
Black Hole Earth kicks off with the fictitious unholy collaboration of Lemmy and Mick Gordon and I bloody love it! Dropping into a haunting John Murphy film score and rising with an impressive, engaging and lengthy build up until I’m crushed with twisted beauty once again. The Deluge floods the senses with another fantastic atmospheric. An almost doom passed with flourishes and fills from drummer Jonatan Eikum that torrent and cascade impressively through the heavy foundations held together by guitarist Erik Krakenes and bassist Steinar Glas.
Reptile Empire is an entirely different beast! The catchy running rhythms of the heavier side of Queens Of The Stone Age with the technicalities and clever use of open strings and picked discordant dissonant chords of Mastodon.
Eternal Return. Our mandatory long song for the progressive and instrumental album inclined. Astrosaur manage to keep it interesting for the full twenty three and a half minute duration! A feat few can attest to. A cosmic journey both ominous and bewitching. From the fifteen minute mark is pure joy for me; as I find myself pulling the rare contorted oval mouthed grimace reserved for musicians applauding the disgustingly brilliant riffs of other musicians.
To put it bluntly; Portals is simply fucking brilliant! The slower paced heavy stuff feels like head banging music for the intoxicated immobilised, the softer stuff for the explorers over vast decaying landscapes and the faster stuff a treat for anybody who appreciates the complexities of heavy prog or those who just want to move to the groove. Luckily for me, I have recently injured my foot and just been prescribed strong painkillers so this album was a remarkable experience. Disclaimer - I’m not condoning drug use and I’m sure this album would be great regardless.
Throughout the review, many bands and composers have been mentioned that certain sections reminded me of; I want it to be clear that Astrosaur are not derivative of these bands and are their own beast. It was just the best way that I could explain what was being done. Although that killer riff near the fifteen minute mark of Eternal Return would sit well in Mastodon’s Leviathan, which just so happens to be a personal favourite.
Portals is an impressive array of twisted ambience, crushing riffs and eldritch intricacy that belongs on the playlist of any self-respecting instrumental post rock/metal connoisseur. 9/10