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Thursday, 19 January 2023

Reviews: Great Cold Emptiness, ten56, Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, Oleka (Reviews By Matt Cook, Matt Bladen, David Karpel & Mark Young)

Great Cold Emptiness - Immaculate Hearts Will Triumph (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

Great Cold Emptiness doesn't do anything halfway, and they don’t subscribe to cash grabs. Their music is intricately written and each record is a massive undertaking, both independently and within the scope of their discography.

Take Immaculate Hearts Will Triumph, the atmospheric/post-black metal trio’s third full-length and the last instalment of the “The Becoming Of A Man Trilogy.” The second record released during the dreaded pandemic, it’s “about forgiveness and companionship among friends,” according to Great Cold Emptiness’ Bandcamp. “An album about understanding the self, and its place in the modern world, as well as the reminder that you are never truly alone.”

The crux of Immaculate is confronting the reality of having to leave one’s home, either figuratively, literally or both. Inspired by songwriter Nathan Guerrette’s 2020 magic mushroom-fuelled pilgrimage to his ancestral landing spot of Quebec, he was able to come to grips with life as it is, not as it was or as it may or may not be. In other words, Nathan 1, COVID 0.

Musically, the record incorporates a solid tempo throughout the 48 minutes. Muffled production is offset by stout guitars. Frosty cries of desolation give way to invigorating arrangements and symphonics. Spectral atmospherics become rummaging madness.

Amplified by Preston Lobzun (bass, guitar) and Meghan Wood’s eccentric vocals, Immaculate Hearts Will Triumph demands attention, promotes introspection and provokes feelings of content isolation. Far from what most records of this genre introduce, Great Cold Emptiness utilises atmospheric black metal as a driver for deep thoughts of acceptance and blissful understanding.

In only four carefully constructed compositions, a playthrough is a journey more suited to be undertaken alone. It’s how Guerrette came to grips with the rugged landscape of society while firmly supplanted within the rugged landscape of Canada. 8/10

ten56 - Downer Part. 2 (Out Of Line Music) [Matt Bladen]

Returning with their second EP Parisian metalcore mob ten56 bring 7 more cuts of crushing heaviness to your ears with Downer Part 2. Brimming with vitriol and bite, this second EP is an intimate portrait of what makes the band tick. Delivered through paint stripping vocals and concrete bottomed breakdowns such as Yenta. They have some of the heaviest breakdowns of 2023 so far but they can also utilise space and wider soundscapes to be just as effective.

Traumadoll features some rapid fire vocals, as does the more atmospheric electronic thump of RLS, both changing the course of the EP with songs that don't subscribe totally to the violent metalcore, the ghosts of nu-metal and hardcore come diving in too. Over the course of 19 minutes ten56 showing why they have had so much hype around them, the EP changes pace and tone a few times across the seven tracks but maintains its heaviness throughout. 

Even the songs that don't have beatdowns still carry a weight to them. This second EP is ten56 announcing their intent to destroy, get caught up in the wake. 7/10

Endtime & Cosmic Reaper - The Doom Session Vol 7 (Heavy Psych Sounds) [David Karpel]

The Doom Sessions splits released by Heavy Psych Sounds have featured some great underground bands like Hippie Death Cult, High Reeper, Bongzilla, Tons, and others. Volume 7 brings us two songs from Swedish horror-doom stompers Endtime and three from Charlotte, North Carolina’s own Sabbathian psych-doom riffers Cosmic Reaper.

Endtime’s singer Christian Chatfield doesn’t make an appearance until almost three minutes into the opener, Tunnel Of Life. Eighties horror-movie synth sounds open a theatrical introduction emphasised with crashing chords over slow-doom beats. The keys lead us with tempestuous suspense, like a horror movie dragging you to the edge of fear. Chatfield’s snarling breaks through like an ax, “Heeere’s Johnny!” The allusion is appropriate. Same energy. 

Much like Jack Nicholson’s performance, Chatfield’s over-the-top, idiosyncratic delivery is jarring and throttles the listener with its intensity. Beyond The Black Void demonstrates Endtime’s dedication to consistency. Minus the keys this time around, the band bashes into this beyond at a steady doom-laden pace. Two-thirds of the way in, things get darker, Chatfield rages, and the band crashes through to the end.

On the flip side, Cosmic Reaper stretch their leathery black wings for a cold hug of dark psychedelic riffs. Sundowner lets us know immediately that while this too is doom, Cosmic Reaper includes classic structures, with choruses, catchy riffs, and melody. While we’re in familiar territory (I keep thinking Hazemaze), coming to Cosmic Reaper’s offerings after listening to Endtime emphasises the slightly more dynamic nature of the former. 

Dead And Loving It sets up a steady swing of dead solid doom riffs sung over with almost ethereal touches on the pain drenched, soaring vocals. King Of Kings finishes the side depicting a sense of darkness and ruin in its own rolling tides of riffs and steady drumming. The brief solo that kicks off of the song-ending jam is a lightning show revealing the hidden layers of the band’s arsenal.

Splits work best when bands, juxtaposed, have their strongest qualities emphasised as a result. Here that works in spades. Endtime’s dark and gloomy, head-bashing suspenseful horror is evermore apparent in the context of a shared space with the psychedelic nature of Cosmic Reaper. And while Cosmic Reaper’s trippy shadows and mist on Side B appeals more to my personal taste, Endtime’s smashing embrace of the horror-sphere is admirably unrelenting. 7/10

Oleka - Driftwood (Wormholedeath Records) [Mark Young]

There is something in the water in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Driftwood is the first release which started to take shape in 2019 finally being released via Bandcamp in May 2022. This two-piece consisting of Aaron Reurink on vocals and all guitars and Byron Shuflita on drums create a heavy groove which reinforces their mission statement to STAY METAL. 

Driftwood has 4 songs and on first listen there is a distinct Lamb Of God vibe, with intricate guitar work and propelling drums that suggests that there is a lot of talent at play with just the two members here. Two Years kicks off proceedings and continues at a decent pace with the normal double bass and de-tuned guitars front and centre which fly along until it drops into the quiet section which echoes the musical refrain from the start and then bang back into the heavy which brings it back on track with the finish line in sight. 

The Manufactured Truth comes at you next and doesn’t want to let the pace drop vocals are spat with intent and Byron’s drums just holding everything together just enough to finish. Pulse slows down to show some of the groove that was promised and sounds the most like Lamb Of God which I suppose is unavoidable given that they are a yardstick to measure against. There are also hints of Pantera in here which is great because if you are going to borrow then borrow from the best.

Dead Echoes finishes off and sounds vocally the closest to death metal with the guitar behind it sounding like Necrophagist. Again, this is another track that get’s the head moving and like the others before it is just the right length, so they do not overstay their welcome. I’d love to see them do a full-length album to see if they can sustain this level of quality over 9 or more songs without it being a rehash of the ones before it or sounding too much like their influences.

Its new without sounding like a rip on a thousand groove metal bands, it has an almost European style to it (If that is such a thing) which makes it just different to me. Its produced well, guitars and drums are heavy. 7/10

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