Fascinating Things : Issue 04

This time around things of a metal flavour dominate the blog.

Following an extended slumber, Mammoth Lake, California-based black/death merchants, Valdur, emerge from their crypts with the infernal fruits of latest offering, lovingly titled  Pathetic Scum.

The follow-up to 2013’s  At War With full-length, Pathetic Scum was tracked entirely at the band’s Bloody Mountain Bunker, mixed by drummer Matthew, mastered by Dan at Morbid Mastering and offers up seven intense pieces of metal.   Featuring the addition of new guitarist, Vuke, the record delivers an onslaught of warring riffs, wrath-infused vocal offensives and percussive barrages. Indeed, Pathetic Scum maintains the bands place as one of America’s best kept extreme metal secrets.

The band say, “Guitarist/vocalist Samuel is still with us so to speak, but he is so busy with personal/family matters at the moment. Vuke, new guitarist, is not a replacement, but a full time member of Valdur. And for live dates this spring, Roskva will be on vocals again. And we have William on bass and Matthew on drums. We all appreciate anyone who takes the time in this world to have a listen to our music. It is built and moulded by our own hands to the form and shape that we like. With these new songs, we give you something different yet again along the obscure Valdur timeline…”

Featuring past and current members of Weverin, Endless Blizzard and Plutocracy, Valdur was formed at the turn of the century in a small mountain town located in the pulsating heart of the Sierra Mountains where the Death Valley desert lands meet the ascending Mt. Whitney and where the collective dwells without interference of fashionable scenes or rulebooks.

Pathetic Scum will be officially unveiled digitally and in digipak format via the band’s own Bloody Mountain Records on June 30th, 2015.

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Unique Leader Records have confirmed July 24th as the date French death metal band, Kronos, will release their Arisen New Era album upon the waiting world. Recorded, mixed and mastered by David Potvin at Dome Studios (Lyzanxia, Arcania, Under The Abyss etc.) in Angers, France, the band’s latest slab of audio menace features nine tracks adorned with the distinctive cover art of Pierre Alain (Withering Soul, Silentlie, Cyrax etc.).

Kronos formed over fifteen years ago and quickly established a name for themselves based solely on their musical unity of harmony and violence. Featuring a continuous textual reference to the gods of ancient civilizations, Kronos punctures ears with a heightened level of dynamics accomplished by only by a select number of bands. It all began in a small town in the north eastern province of Alsace-Lorraine. Following various line-up shifts and musical experimentation, the band recorded their first demo in 2000. One year later, they released their Titan’s Awakening debut. Produced entirely by the band, the album lead to a union with French imprint Warpath Records. By the end of 2001, Titan’s Awakening was re-released, this time with a brand new cover designed by Deather (Gurkkhas, Vital Remains, Angel Corpse) as well as a visually disquieting booklet.

Kronos later joined forces with Spanish label Xtreem Music run by Avulsed’s Dave Rotten, for the unleashing of their next two full-lengths. Second offering, Colossal Titan Strife was released in 2004 to the applause of underground critics in the proverbial know.

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Chicago-based blackened death grind unit, Immortal Bird, have confirmed the official details of their anticipated Empress/Abscess LP.

Set for release on July 14th, the follow-up to 2013’s Akrasia EP was captured by Pete Grossmann (Weekend Nachos, Harm’s Way, Dead In The Dirt) at Bricktop Recording in Chicago, Illinois earlier this year and mixed and mastered by Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice, Nader Sadek, Atheist, Origin etc.) at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves in Queens, New York. Empress/Abscess includes a guest appearance by John Hoffman of Weekend Nachos and finds former drummer/vocalist, Amitay, swapping in her drum stool for a full-time position at the mic with longtime live drummer, Garry Naples (Novembers Doom) taking her place at the kit.

Elaborates Amitay, “I’ve stepped away from drumming duties and enlisted our live drummer, Garry Naples (Novembers Doom). Essentially, I had to set my ego aside and determine what was going to be the best for this music. [Guitarist] Evan [Berry] and I wrote some incredibly challenging material for Empress/Abscess, and Garry had been playing it live for months, whereas I’d been focusing a lot of my drumming energy on the newest Thrawsunblat album. My chops are in a very different place than they were when we recorded Akrasia and it would take me a week in the studio to do what Garry can accomplish in two days. Having him behind the kit saved us time, the finished product is stronger, and I was able to delve into the vocal performances and lyrics with my undivided attention. Will I play drums on future Immortal Bird albums? It’s entirely likely, but for Empress/Abscess, I passed the sticks over to the best person for the job.”

The band was formed by Rae Amitay and brought to fruition by cowriter and guitarist Evan Berry and bassist John Picillo. Their debut EP, Akrasia, mixed by Kurt Ballou and mastered by Brad Boatright, was released in December of 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. Decibel Magazine called the offering, “dark and twisting,” while The Chicago Reader commended the band’s “…sick and greasy black metal that does an admirable job inventing the sound of a mind tearing itself apart.” Elsewhere the sentiment echoed with Ghost Cult crowning Akrasia, “Distinctly disturbing and beautifully harsh,” This Is Not A Scene heralding, “…nineteen minutes of metal greatness,” and Last Rites noting, “these songs don’t really make their point; they insist on it.”

Following several tours that took the band across the United States and into Canada, the band entered the studio to record their debut full-length, Empress/Abscess. Picking up where Akrasia left off, Empress/Abscess delves once again into a cesspool of misery, fury, and anguish with stunning cover art by Kikyz1313 (Akrasia). The album will be released as a collaborative effort, with Broken Limbs Recordings taking charge with vinyl and cassettes, while the band will be self-releasing the CD/digital version under the moniker Manatee Rampage Recordings.

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Olympia, Washington-based 20 Buck Spin has hooked up with Denver, Colorado’s doom quartet Khemmis for the band’s impending debut LP, Absolution, which is coming together for release later this Summer amidst extensive touring from the band.

20 Buck Spin has, over the course of the last ten years, worked with the best of the best in the crowded doom genre; bands as diverse as Samothrace, Graves At Sea, Pallbearer, Yob, Mournful Congregation, Lycus, Atlantean Kodex and more. In that tradition, the label is proud to present Khemmis, a quartet from Denver, who, on their debut full-length brings components of many of the aforementioned label alumni and create a testament to what heavy doom rock is in 2015.

The six meticulously crafted songs on Absolution reveal a level of musicianship and writing skill seldom heard on debut albums. Often within the scope of a single song, Khemmis veers effortlessly between the crushing heaviness of Southern sludge and the sombre melodies of traditional doom metal, cohesively weaving the disparate styles into their own immediately recognizable form. Vocally, Khemmis also utilizes a dual approach, sometimes harsh and guttural, but generally through a stunningly smooth classic doom/heavy rock delivery that even adamant fans of Pete Stahl and Wino will applaud. The powerfully adept rhythm section perfectly anchor the towering riff mastery and colorful dual guitar harmonies, all brought together by Dave Otero’s (Cobalt, Nightbringer) pitch perfect production work.

From the album opener “Torn Asunder” to closing track “The Bereaved,” the latter of which will stand as the doom track of 2015, Absolution positions Khemmis among the highlight surprises of the year. The band is most certainly a live act and will tour at intervals throughout the remainder of 2015, including a planned West Coast US run in Summer 2015. Fans of Goatsnake, Pallbearer, Samothrace, Graves At Sea, Red Fang and Yob should keep the name Khemmis at the top of their list of bands to watch this year. The album’s fantastic Frazetta inspired cover art by Sam Turner (Speedwolf, Black Breath, Trve Brewing) is notable.

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All Pigs Must Die are bringing their blistering take on volatile hardcore/metal to the UK for the very first time in July, as part of only two European dates this year (the other one being Roskilde Festival, Denmark). The band, who are well known individually for their roles in other acts such as Converge, The Hope Conspiracy, American Nightmare and The Red Chord, will be playing London’s Underworld on July 5th, with Krokodil, Quiet Man, and the newly reformed Throats supporting.

Xibalba has issued an official video for the revolutionary anthem “Guerrilla,” one of the most vital tracks from their third LP, Tierra Y Libertad, which saw release in January via Southern Lord Recordings.
In complete DIY fashion, Xibalba basically took the concept of their classic “Cold” video to the next level, this time the overthrowing an entire neighbourhood in their hometown of Pomona, California. Directed, shot and edited by Shawn Skadburg and Matt Welch for Nine/One films, with footage by Danny Mayo and Mike Sogoff, the video for “Guerrilla” features a brutalizing live uprising filmed at a live outdoor show in a Pomona neighbourhood, utilizing the voices of their friends and family to carry the message of the track to the masses.
With new tour dates and festival appearances confirmed, Xibalba continue to deliver their piledriving death metal-infused hardcore in support of Tierra Y Libertad through the Summer months. September will see Xibalba hitting Ghostfest in Leeds and Bristol, UK on 5th and 6th of the month alongside Hatebreed, Emmure, Despised Icon, Born Of Osiris, Turnstile and more.
Tierra Y Libertad was recorded by Taylor Young (Nails, Twitching Tongues, Disgrace) at The Pit in Van Nuys, California, the LP’s forty-four minute onslaught delivers more haunting, atmospheric tones and traumatic death-infused metallic hardcore. Tierra Y Libertad is available on CD and grey vinyl LP direct through Xibalba’s Southern Lord store here, and digitally through BandCamp here, as well as through All In Merch including a t-shirt package here.

 

Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, alongside fellow Montreal artist Charles-André Coderre, returns with If He Dies, If If If If If If, a second full-length album from his acclaimed Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) project, conceived and recorded in his dual homes of Montréal and Beirut.

Known for his production and engineering work with artists as diverse as Matana Roberts (all three chapters of her Coin Coin recordings to date), Mashrou’ Leila, Ought, Eric Chenaux (with whom he also released a collaborative album for the Grapefruit Records Club) and Suuns (with whom he also released a collaborative album on Secretly Canadian in spring 2015), Moumneh has been firing on all cylinders over the past few years. He has brought JIMH to mesmerized live audiences in Canada, Europe and the Middle East since the release of his first album in 2013, following many years during which the project was a strictly Montréal-based live/theatrical happening. While JIMH continues to expand to include a larger cast of players for select engagements and commissions, the group is currently an immersive and performative audio-visual duo at its core, with Moumneh responsible for all sound/composition and Coderre creating 16mm visuals and live projections/installations.

Moumneh expands his compositional palette on If He Dies, If If If If If If, exploring new deconstructions and juxtapositions of both traditional and popular Arab musical currents, with an album that oscillates between powerfully emotive vocal tunes and instrumental works that primarily make use of Radwan’s expressive acoustic playing on buzuk as a point of departure. One of Moumneh’s finest melismatic a cappella vocal performances opens the album, followed by the uncharacteristically literal-titled “A Granular Buzuk”, where said instrument is processed, re-sampled and otherwise disrupted through Radwan’s real-time custom signal patches. “7ebr El 3oyoun” follows with languidly plaintive vocals set against a gradually accelerating riff underpinned by hand percussion, and Side One closes with a scabrous white noise intervention wherein the entire audio mix is fed through a contact mic placed in Radwan’s mouth. Moumneh continues to channel his love for Arabic pop and Casio/cassette culture on the silky lo-fi dance of “Lau Ridyou Bil Hijaz?” which opens Side Two, then pays homage to the until-recently-exiled Kurdish poet and singer Sivan Perwer on the traditional-minded, unadorned folk tune “Ta3mani; Ta3meitu”. The album closes with a tour-de-force drone piece built from Bansuri flute (performed by guest player Dave Gossage) and a delicate acoustic number set against the sound of waves recorded on a beach in Lebanon. (Song titles employ the transliterative characters used in Arabic phone texting.)

Coderre’s creation of the album artwork involved re-photographing images on 16mm film and then developing that film with bespoke chemical treatments of his own discovery and invention; the cover images result from this entirely hand-made and analog process. The album art is also an extension of the JIMH raison d’etre: the pursuit of innovative reciprocal relationships between celluloid film and live music performance, and the preservation of and experimentation with manual photographic methods and materials amidst a culture/tech industry that encourages the obsolescence of celluloid.

If He Dies, If If If If If If is an adventurous, scrupulous, impassioned and highly original work of modern contemporary Arabic music and a gratifying sign that Jerusalem In My Heart is situating itself in recorded works with the same thoughtful and dynamic intensity previously accessible only in live performances.

Much of the music described above will be featured in future editions of the Sonic Attack podcast.

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