Poltergeists: Week of February 6, 2017

Michael

Ellende - “Ballade auf den Tod”

After a long night of talking to and then seeing Alcest live in Portland, I was in need of some truly epic atmospheric black metal and very quickly found myself lost in Ellende. One of the things that drew me to “Ballade auf den Tod” right away was the somber tone of the introduction. Soft strings and sad, usually nylon stringed guitars tend to get me right where the heart is. The somber introduction carries through the verse with only a few added sections for rhythm and screams, but the atmosphere really pulls me through the many variations and back again to the roots of the song. The breakdown, which carries along at a nice pace with full instrumentation, is helped along with a lo-fi, sad-sounding audio sample that I can’t make out enough to translate but is spoken meaningfully enough to get the message across. Needless to say I am thoroughly satisfied with Ellende’s unique take on atmospheric black metal.  

Ellende is a one-person project based in Austria who quotes Camus on their Bandcamp release page… so… I am sold.

V▲LH▲LL - “ΛΞONS”

As a very key influence in my own music, I tend to watch V▲LH▲LL very closely whenever anything is about to come out. Not only are they awesome people to hang out with, but the music is always unique and inspiring. The first track on their newest EP, STΞNDHΛL, is a take on the very popular outrun synth lines, but with that special V▲LH▲LL stuff mixed in. The main line itself has a very spooky yet victorious feel to it, leading through various patterns and samples. One thing that the track really has a grasp on is the way that different plucky synth lines can play in the background of the main line to change the rise and fall of the song. The samples and the bass lines are all important, but the faster notes in the background give it that characteristic outrun feel. My only complaint is that it is too short and ends with a quick fade. I could have gone on that same synth line for another 2 minutes easily.

V▲LH▲LL are a bunch of wonderfully spooky people with great taste in music and style. Their new EP is up on their Bandcamp, and if you haven’t picked up the last full-length album (Leaning on Shadows), you definitely should!

Wes

Dumal - “Lost Caverns”

Dumal’s has managed to develop a really powerful and emotional tone to their music. In “Lost Caverns” the song start with a riff that carries a sort of melancholic weight, lifted by the sort of rolling beat of the drums. This tone becomes a through line - after breakdowns of heavier, more aggressive moments, the beginning riff breaks in and brings back a sense of almost hopefulness.

On top of this, Dumal is an incredibly tight sounding black metal band. In a genre that often lacks in production values, you can tell that these guys take their time to make sure that everything sounds as good and together as possible. The tremolo picking stands apart from the rhythm guitar in the background in a way that really pulls their sound together and makes it shine.

Durmal is a black metal band from Pennsylvania whose music is inspired by Ukrainian folklore. Their album, The Lesser God, is available on Bandcamp.

Nails - “Wide Open Wound”

After recently seeing Code Orange play with Youth Code, I’ve been going on a bit of a hardcore kick. This kick led me to Nails, who are, and I think this is the only accurate way to describe them, heavy as fuck. With breakdowns that feel around 80 BPM, Nails just grinds away at the listener. If it weren’t for the sort of rolling feeling of the guitars, a sort of way the riff creates a feeling of circular motion, the speed and feeling of “Wide Open Wound” would almost make me think of funeral doom - the weight of the guitar tone and the fact that you can almost count the seconds between the kick and the snare through much of the song shares a sort of language with its metal cousin.

Nails is a hardcore band from Oxnard, California. Their latest release, You Will Never Be One Of Us, is available from Nuclear Blast.

Poltergeists: Week of August 8, 2016

Michael

Vinterriket - “Nächtens”

I have to admit that I stole this amazing find from Heathen Harvest this week - Patrick from Heathen Harvest has a really nice album review and brief band history up on their site now that I definitely urge you to check out - but I have a few things to say about the style of the track “Nächtens” from Vinterriket’s newest release Hinweg. There are so many classic influences in this track that are subtle and still very unique to the album. Dimmu Borgir’s debut album, For All Tid, has one of my all-time favorite opening tracks to an album - it is slow and pragmatic at times, taking on different forms through a few short minutes while still embodying one solid motion of sound - and I think that this track is the closest thing that I have found to that style of early symphonic black metal. The tone of the strings and the subtlety of the track, with a few short phrases - almost spoken - stands out against the signature ambient texture in “Nächtens,” and largely throughout the album. While there are more complex acoustic-guitar / traditional-folk driven tracks on the album, I believe that “Nächtens” really sets the tone for Hinweg, and the project.

Vinterriket’s newest album, Hinweg, is out now on the Russian label Kunsthauch and you can purchase it in many formats from their Bandcamp.

VALHALL - “Тили Тили Бом/Tili Tili Bom (ЈѴѕҬ ВӠӋӀЍЭ ҮѺЦ Edit)”

a Russian lullaby

VALHALL is rad as hell and you should buy everything they have out this very second, including their full length out on Storming the Base.

Wes

Makeup and Vanity Set - “Great Leader Has Fallen”

I don’t know how I haven’t already written about this; I’ve been listening to Makeup and Vanity Set’s Brigador, Vol. I over and over for a while now. While the whole thing is a lot of fun to listen to I really like the feel of “Great Leader Has Fallen”. The fast moving arpeggios at the beginning set up the tone of the song wonderfully; there’s a little bit of darkness, a little bit of nervousness. This tone is shifted by the pads and leads that follow, which add a sense of hopefulness - there is still that nervousness but it is tempered. The song drives you forward, and as you move forward the sense of hope builds and the dark, while still there, takes a back seat. I’ve noticed that one of the things I enjoy about synthwave acts is that despite whatever darkness the tracks carry, there is always this sense of triumph to the music, a sense of pulling through despite the odds; “Great Leader Has Fallen” carries that feeling through the bulk of the track as well.

Makeup and Vanity Set is a synthwave project from Nashville, Tennessee. Their latest release, Brigador, Vol. I, is available on Bandcamp.

S U R V I V E - “A.H.B”

I gotta say, with all the Stranger Things hype, it is nice to see other people getting as excited by SURVIVE as I am. I think much of what I said about SURVIVE before continues to hold true in “A.H.B”. The song is crafted beautifully; there are a all these great little transitions from phrase to phrase that move so seamlessly it almost feels improvised. The little plucks and pads meld together wonderfully - the sense of triumph mentioned in the above track continues through here. The elements are pared back to the necessities. Nothing feels unnecessary in “A.H.B”. Every swell, every hit of the metallic, almost trashy snare, feels carefully throughout.

S U R V I V E is a synthwave project out of Austin, Texas. Their latest release, RR7349, is available for pre-order on Bandcamp through Relapse Records.

Poltergeists: Week of December 28, 2015

Poltergeists is a biweekly feature in which Michael and Wes share tracks that they have had on repeat over the past two weeks.

Michael

Wiegedood - “De Doden Hebben Het Goed”

It is winter here in Oregon and you know what that means?! Black metal is in my ears almost non-stop. I crave it in the darker months more than at any other time of the year. Thanks to Cvlt Nation’s year-end list I am fully stocked! Wiegedood’s De Doden Hebben Het Goed is a classically great black metal album. The title track of the album stands out to me as a song that I will go back to often throughout the years. With a slow and methodical pace, the song lulls me into an epic undertaking. The vocals perfectly balance out the breakdown about halfway through by opposing the guitars with their intensity. “No stars will fall. No wars will end. Father, grant me my three nails. And nothing will change. I fade.”  

Metaconqueror - “Order of The Golden Dawn”

This is one of those tracks that you either need to be listening to on high level in a dark room by yourself or through some good headphones. There are so many ambient layers that I missed on the first listen through because the volume was too low. “Order of The Golden Dawn” is a pulsing track that trudges through complex soundscapes of total darkness.

(Nerdy fact: The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn was a 19th century group of Freemasons that studied the occult, metaphysics, and paranormal activity in Great Britain. via wikipedia)

Wes

Annex - “Caminos”

Annex’s “Caminos” kind of reminds me a bit of Lié. The feel of the guitars is very similar, in a way that really appeals to me. There’s kind of the same sort of dark, punk oriented without being punk groove to the way they’re played and the tone of the effects. The vocal delivery also feels a bit Lié-esque as well. Compare to the song “Sorry”. This isn’t to say that Annex sounds like they’re copping Lié’s feel; rather, it’s more to say that Lié is really great, and Annex makes me think of why I like Lié so much. The same sort of tonal approaches Annex takes makes me want to put their tracks on repeat in the same way that I wanted to listen to Consent over and over. If you’re a fan of that dark punk feel, definitely give Annex your time.

Caustic - “Why Because (V▲LH▲LL Remix)

The thing I like best from remixes is when they take the source material and change it completely, and in this V▲LH▲LL remix that is exactly what they do. Caustic has a very punk energy in his recent album, Industrial Music, and this remix is about as far from that energy as you can get. It’s interesting, this track almost feels like a throwback in the same way that Industrial Music almost has a throwback vibe; the difference is that V▲LH▲LL is throwing back to early witch house, with heavy hip-hop influence and big saws taking the place of Caustic’s heavy beats and fast moving synths. I’ve definitely had to give it a few listens, and it’s not alone on this remix release in that regard. The guys over at I Die: You Die did a great job pulling together unexpected artists for this release and most of it is worth a listen (except for maybe those reakt[ion] and [product] guys - I hear they’re real dicks).

Poltergeists: Week of June 29, 2015

Poltergeists is a biweekly feature in which Michael and Wes share tracks that they have had on repeat over the past two weeks.

Michael

Riotmiloo & Friends - “Child Bride. with Scalper”

Directly from the Ant-Zen Bandcamp page: “'La Pierre Soudée,' Riotmiloo’s first personal album, is a careful selection of past and present real-life stories compiled in eleven tracks documenting women’s suffering in the world. The title is borrowed from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s book 'Masculine Domination,' in which he describes how language defines and perpetrates symbolic violence against women; the album expands on this idea through storytelling.”

“Child Bride” is an appropriately haunting track for this album. It makes me uncomfortable and unsettled in a way that sticks with me even after the track has stopped. All of the tracks on this album are really well put together and feature some of my favorite artists in the genre, but this one stands out as the most powerful to me. I think, now more than ever, it is important to make impactful statements with music; and this song, and album on the greater scale, is terrifying to me. As a podcaster and fan of storytelling, I feel like this album is geared to all of my favors. It is an important collection of tracks in an important time for women's suffering and violence against women.

Mathias Grassow & John Haughm - “Eindringliche Praesenz”

On Saturday of last week, my partner and I went to see Agalloch play their tour-ending hometown show at the Star Theater here in Portland. The show was amazing and overall a really great time. John Haughm, the founding member of Agalloch, is a wonderful musician and I generally follow whatever he is promoting or puts out himself. “Auræ” is a collaboration with Mathias Grassow and takes on a brilliant ambient atmosphere. The layers that evolve over the course of the album’s introductory track, “Eindringliche Praesenz,” are haunting and cinematic. Something that draws me to Agalloch is the emotional charge behind every song - I feel like a lot of the work that John does is very personal and that he is able, and unafraid, to take the time to delve into the sound elements and shape them into images and textured emotions.

Wes

Sayer - “Glassjaw (Bios Remix)”

Oh, what’s that? A new Saturate release? Well, I guess that means it’s time for me to write about future bass again. Sayer just put out Process Animation and I’ve got to say it has been one of my favorite Saturate releases for the past while. Sayer mixes some really interesting sounds: you have some trappy kicks, some acid arps, and to round it off you have these big clanging snares that sound straight from the junkyard. There’s definitely some parts where I can hearing the synth lines working with a mid-aughts aggrotech project. Definitely make sure to check out the full album.

V▲LH▲LL - “Einhärjar [TRIP CULT EDIT]”

Full Disclosure: Both Michael and I have remixes on this release. This is not why I am writing about this release though: this Trip Cult edit is so god damn dope. It is unlike any remix I have heard; the closest thing I think I’ve heard to this sort of departure from the source was the Seeming remix of iVardensphere’s "Stygian". Trip Cult’s addition of a harmonic choir rendition of  V▲LH▲LL’s lyrics adds this wonderful layer to an already great song. And those strings! The dialed back, sort of acoustic take really was a wonderful idea. Though at first I wasn't sold, every time I listen to this track I love it more and more. If you haven't check out this release, do so now and make sure to track down Trip Cult's bandcamp and check out their other work.

Poltergeists: Week of December 1, 2014

Poltergeists is a biweekly feature in which Michael and Wes share tracks that they have had on repeat over the past two weeks.

Michael

V▲LH▲LL - “BORTOM FJÄLL”

▲LH▲LL is one of the bands that I have been following pretty closely for some time. They did a remix on my first witchey EP Awaken The Alchemist and I have been in random contact with them for some time - they are very nice mysterious people. Their new album Leaning On Shadows is out now on Artoffact Records and I could not be more pleased for them. Artoffact has a great selection of diverse music and does really well for their artists. Leaning On Shadows is a solid album that plays from start to finish like the most beautiful elements of my dreams. It is dark, spooky, and has emotion behind every song. “Bortom Fjäll” is no exception; deep bass lines and thumpy drum beats mixed with great orchestral elements and big crashing symbols that create a fluid oceanic feeling that makes me want to venture out on the dark waters of high sea just to feel the calm breeze of the morning on my face. Maybe I’m dramatic, but it is true.

The Devil and the Universe - “Stygian”

The Devil and the Universe is one of my go-to bands when I want something that will make the crowd pulse on the dancefloor but I want to keep it as spooky as possible. I love their sound - a weird mix of tribal dance beats, harpsichord, and nightmare gypsy movements. “Stygian” especially, from their newest album Haunted Summer, gives me a lot of pleasure because it appeals to my need for thumpy beats and still maintains a rather old-world-style occult feeling - which is pretty hard to do when you do not have any vocals.

Wes

Paul Dee' Laek - “White Flag”

There is a sense of urgency to this song that I don’t feel like you usually get from witch house and the adjacent genres. The song threatens to be slow, starting with long aahs and heavy bass, before kicking into its prime gear, a fast moving beat that features trill high hats and a fast, shuffling beat. It’s this quick paced beat that sets up the catharsis of the breakdown, where the aahs take the forefront again while a half time beats bangs out back, before slipping away into nothing, a brief calm before slamming back into the quick shuffle of the first section of the song.

Mare Cognitum - “Weaving The Thread Of Transcendence”

When I want to listen to black metal, I want something that feels like it has a story. There are movements to it, changes in feeling and emotion. On this, Mare Cognitum delivers. This 13 minute epic begins slowly, with ambient drones a light guitar work, before striking out into a heavier, but still slow moving atmosphere. All this setup pays compliment to the coming storm of tremolo picking and blast beats in which our lyricist weaves his tale of the void of space and time. If you want your black metal to tell you a story, to feel symphonic in its delivery, then this is a band you should definitely check out.