Monday, November 17, 2014

Grafvölluðr - Surtr

Artist: Grafvölluðr
Album: Surtr
Label: Fettered Redwoods (FR-003)
Limitation: 15 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Drone
Year: 2014

2015 will see cause for celebration. The mighty Grafvölluðr's highly acclaimed 2014 demo release is seeing a vinyl-only reissue, this time with newly recorded material on the b-side. The track, Surtr, is a beautifully heavy, long-form drone piece devoid of vocals and can be previewed on the above ultra-limited cassette of the same name. While the demo's original track's of raging, anti-cosmic black metal left little room for contemplation, this accompanying composition is an exercise in atmospheric restraint that focuses inward, allowing for ritual meditation while still holding true to the spirit of the original release. 

As always, Fettered Redwoods' releases come with the highest possible recommendation.

Liberation through Chaos!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

With The End In Mind - Thresholder

Album: Thresholder
Label: Self-released
Limitation: 100 Copies
Country: US
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Year: 2013

I discovered With The End In Mind while recently browsing Bandcamp's usually disappointing round-up of recommended metal releases and was immediately and pleasantly surprised. The title track, 'Thresholder,' inevitably invites comparisons to Diadem Of Twelve Stars (if not outright worship of), with it's slow-building, post rock, instrumental beginning and reverential, nature-worshiping lyrics, all the way to the lovely female fronted vocals chanted towards the ending of the song. The difference, however, between With The End In Mind and other bands of this ilk is that, although they wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, they also know how to compose an extremely strong song, not just rehash the same old ingredients from Wolves' classic debut full-length, and sole member Alex F is a more than competent enough musician to pull it off. Track two, 'The Pantheon Arches In All Directions,' is a beautiful, atmospheric instrumental that fades into the ending of 'Thresholder' and prepares us for the tour-de-force that is the album's final track, 'True Weight of the Things We Must Carry.' This track starts heavy and stays heavy throughout most of the duration of its almost nine minute run-time, even incorporating some doom-styled vocals as opposed to just the standard black metal shrieks, leading into a highly cathartic tremolo-picked build-up that is, to me, the highlight of the whole EP. Besides being just a lovely album, those who opt for the physical cassette are treated to a lovingly hand painted gold cardstock insert, as well as a live recording of a solo performance in the band's home town of Olympia, Washington and a personalized note with hand-drawn sigil. Definitely a band to keep an eye on. Hail Cascadia!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Krieg - The Black House

Artist: Krieg
Album: The Black House: 10th Anniversary Edition
Label: Sol Y Nieve (SYN 015)
Limitation: 100 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Classic USBM
Year: 2004 (Reissued 2014)

Originally recorded in Germany in 2003, Krieg's third and arguably finest artistic statement, and one of USBM's early defining underground treasures, The Black House, has recently been unearthed and reissued by Coeur d'Alene, Idaho mainstays Sol Y Nieve in honor of the masterpiece's 10th anniversary. Much has been written (both by journalists and N. Jameson himself) about the psychological dream-issues addressed in this album, and even more so his unusual but very much welcomed choice to include a Velvet Underground cover, namely Venus In Furs, on the recording. As with all Sol Y Nieve releases, the physical artifact is nothing short of beautiful, containing a lovingly created "black c46 cassette with white ink in a traditional plastic case with a 4 panel j-card and a 1 panel insert, all housed in a label-crafted, screen printed, black drawstring bag," and, as far as I can tell, an extra song that's not on my well-worn vinyl copy. Whew. Definitely the deluxe treatment. This being such an intensely personal release, I thought I'd end this reconsideration with a few words from the musician himself:

Originally "dedicated to the memory of Judas Iscariot, R.I.P. 1992-2002."

Wreodan Healh - Læcig

Artist: Wreodan Healh
Album: Læcig
Label: Self-released (Distributed through Exitium Productions)
Limitation: Unknown Limitation on Metallic Silver or Red Paper
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Year: 2014

If you've been yearning for the days when symphonic black metal was more than just a laughable byword to be snubbed by the "true elite warriors" sequestered in basements worldwide, Wreodan Healh, a new horde from Rednal, England, just might become your new favorite artist. This outstanding introductory demo contains three tracks (intro included) and approximately eleven concise minutes of swelling melodies and vintage early 90's aesthetics that makes a convincing argument to reach for this and not your scratched, dusty copy of For All Tid. Distributed by the unassailable Exitium Productions and also available stateside via up-and-coming cult (and Clothbodies' favorite) Fettered Redwoods, this release, while neither groundbreaking nor experimental, comes nonetheless highly recommended to all true worshipers of the black flame. Bonus points for containing a Tim Curry monologue taken straight from Ridley Scott's fantasy masterpiece, Legend.

"Inspired by the dark forests of Albion and the black mysticism of ancient times..."


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Auroral - Summer MMXIV Demo

Artist: Auroral
Label: Void Journeys (VOID 003)
Limitation: 30 Copies (1st Pressing, 2nd Pressing Possible)
Country: US
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Year: 2014

It is with great pleasure that I announce the formation of the Void Journeys' family, and more specifically, new recording project Auroral. It's time for a long-overdue run-through of the amazing new(ish) rehearsal tape from this brand-new black metal two-piece. While both sides of the tape contain versions of the same two songs, it's extremely interesting to hear how the pieces developed over the notably short time (actually just a few days) between the first two rehearsal recordings on Side-A, and my personal favorite, the relatively well-recorded live takes on Side-B, which round out the group with the addition of a live bass player. Both songs are long-form cascadian sounding exercises in high atmosphere as well as emotion, and while there are no vocals on either take, the tremolo picked guitars speak clearly enough for themselves, weaving in and out of the simple but highly effective drumming, as well as the purportedly unrehearsed but decidedly adept bass guitar. Unfortunately, it's possible that this amazing document may be our last exposure to Auroral, as both members are in a number of other time-consuming projects. 

One of which is also a Clothbodies endorsed Void Journeys' release I've been enjoying quite a bit lately, realized by the guitarist of Auroral, called ...Of Stars. Compared to Auroral... Of Stars is another beast completely. Self-described as 'Acoustic Night Worship' by the musician in question, I don't think I could have said it any better myself. Four songs of beautifully raw acoustic guitar playing recorded outdoors after nightfall on an evening in 2013. These two recordings work almost in tandem; ...Of Stars being the palate cleansing come-down to Auroral's tempestuous black metal attack. As these were both pressed in relatively low quantities, I'm not sure if the beautiful, DIY physical versions are still available, but I highly recommend getting in contact with Void Journeys ASAP to secure a copy if at all possible. If not, Clothbodies has digital files of Auroral's demo up for your enjoyment through mutual agreement with the band (and digital files of ...Of Stars forthcoming shortly). Reminiscent of several early Woodsmoke recordings in terms of feeling as well as fidelity and execution (especially Leech), these songs deserve to be heard by as many fans of atmospheric black metal as possible, and not lost in the deluge of internet obscurity - Fullest Possible Recommendation.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ardour Loom - Demo I

Artist: Ardour Loom
Album: Demo I
Limitation: 100 Copies
Country: US
Genre: Black Metal
Year: 2014

I'm surprised this album hasn't had more of a spotlight in the media, as Ardour Loom's first demonstrational recording is one of the finest debuts of the last few months. Majestically transcendent atmospheric black metal featuring members of the mighty northwestern funeral doom juggernaut Aldebaran, Ardour Loom has mastered their own style of hypnotic, ascendant and emotionally draining darkness. This is the kind of album (and it definitely FEELS more like an album than a demo) that lends itself to repeat listens - it doesn't reveal all of its secrets upon first observation and definitely rewards the patient listener over its 40 minute run-time. If these guys flew under your radar, head over to Parastic Records online store and get your hands on a copy of this gem before it's gone.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gloam - Vanquished

Artist: Gloam
Album: Vanquished
Limitation: 200 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Black/Doom Metal
Year: 2014

Finally, one of the bay area' s greatest unsung bands has a new physical release available to the masses (on the mighty Eternal Warfare Records, no less) for actual retail sale and consumption, albeit currently only available at live performances as far as I can tell. And what a live show it was. Ash Borer and Hell headlining with Gloam and the upcoming (and previously highly reviewed) Akatharsia playing support. While I unfortunately arrived too late for Akatharsia due to work issues, it was easily one of the best of many Gloam performances I've witnessed since I've moved to the Bay, and they effortlessly held their own next to two of the greatest live bands currently in existence. While I haven't had a chance to fully spin the fairly lengthy two song demo tape I purchased tonight (just got back from the show myself,) it contains different compositions from the CD-R demo that was previously released back in 2012, and I'm extremely excited to dive into these two no doubt epic tracks.

*UPDATE 09/10/14* Wretched Records currently has physical copies of this amazing cassette now available for purchase.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Drouth - Skinwalker (Contempt)

Artist: Drouth (formerly Contempt)
Album: Skinwalker
Label: Contempt Self-released (001)
Limitation: 100 Copies
Country: US
Genre: Black Metal/Hardcore/Doom
Year: 2014

Recorded by Nate MyersEternal Warfare godhead and main contributor behind Clothbodies' favorite Mania, so you know Skinwalker is something special. This album is pure heavy metal gold. The kind of album that makes you remember why you got into metal in the first place. The type of album you play air-guitar along to. But also the kind of album that you take seriously, because this is some seriously heavy fucking music. I for one am counting down the hours until tomorrow night when I can see them destroy the Hemlock Tavern in my home town of San Francisco. If you're not fortunate enough to catch them live this tour, grab a tape from upcoming Pacific Northwest nerve-center, Greysun Records.

"The circle is a noose."

*LATE NIGHT UPDATE* Just got back from the Contempt show at Hemlock with nothing but smiles on my face, a t-shirt in my hands, and tingles down my spine. I haven't been witness to a summoning with this much sheer passion and fervor for ages, and that's far from just hyperbole. I am totally and completely impressed with the intensity with which the band played, not to mention their flawless stage presence and effortless unorthodoxy. If you get the chance to see Contempt play your hometown any time soon, I promise, you will not be disappointed. Special thanks to my boy Anthony W (of clothbodies favorite Stellar Descent) for spending an awesome night of heavy metal with me, and Preston K (mighty drummer of Contempt) and the boys for being such gracious hosts. Buy the god damn album already.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Akatharsia - Demo

Artist: Akatharsia
Album: Demo
Label: Psychic Violence Records (PV-XII)
Limitation: 200 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Black Metal
Year: 2014

Grunge influenced black metal, anyone? When I was linking to Akatharsia's Bandcamp page so you guys could check out the unholy racket these fiends create, I noticed that one of the descriptive tags they had self-listed next to 'Black Metal', 'Punk' and 'Drone', (and of course their hometown of Oakland) was, surprisingly, 'Grunge'. I wouldn't by any means say this demo sounds like Burzum crossed with Alice In Chains, nor would I have even noticed the influence of the genre if I hadn't noticed the tag, but now that I've gone back and re-listened a few more times, small things like certain riffs (the opening riff in 'Hive Mind' that begins the album comes to mind) as well as the super-catchy song-structures begin to stick out as (very) slightly derivative of some of the heavier grunge artists of the era. In spite of this intriguing facet of the band, the bottom line is that this is a black metal record, released on the mighty Psychic Violence Records, home to Ash Borer and Cerebrate among others, and demands your full respect and attention. If you're lucky enough to live on the west coast, be sure to catch them on tour this weekend in Oakland with Hell and the aforementioned Ash Borer. Mighty company for a young band to keep, indeed, but hardly surprising considering they feature members of powerhouse group Fell Voices

Mongrel - Demo I

Artist: Mongrel
Album: Demo I
Limitation: 100 Copies
Country: US
Genre: Raw Black Metal/Punk
Year: 2014

Violent, punk influenced black metal from the streets of New York City that will resonate highly with fans of Russia's Blazebirth Hall circle of maniacs. As far as I can tell, this is the first release from the stellar new House Of First Light imprint, whose roster also includes Wulfkrieg's latest release, as well as two demo releases from the mighty Vorde, yet another project from multi-instrumentalist Michael Rekeviks of Fell Voices, Ruin Lust, Sleepwalker, and most recently Vilkacis. As far as I can tell, so far the only way to pick up the Mongrel tape (which you should most definitely do) as well as the other House of First Light releases is through Oakland's Analogue Worship, one of the best online distros/labels in existence for metal and noise related releases on analogue formats. Get on it.

"House of First Light is at war with the existant, its defenders, and its false critics."

BUY 1 Copy remaining as of posting

Dross - I & II Comp *UPDATE*

Artist: Dross
Album: Dross I & II
Label: Absenter Records (No. 5)
Limitation: 50 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Year: 2014

Originally released last year in ridiculously low quantities and quickly sold out through Arizona's recommended experimental label Tagobella Records, Dross' first, and so far only, demos quickly became two of my favorite releases last year. Featuring members of clothbodies favorites, In Thoth, Dross create driving, emotional, and slightly experimental hardened black art with amazing riffs and tortured vokills. While its hard to nail down exactly what makes these releases so special without actually hearing them, especially as several bands use this same formula to little success, Dross have that intangible 'something' that a great black metal band needs to stand out from the pretenders. There's also a noticeable improvement in songwriting quality between Demo I and Demo II, which suggests that Dross' future projects will keep exceeding those of previous releases. These compilations should go quick, so if the label's sold out by the time you read this, check out Cloister Recordings for a copy and pick up the amazing cassette release of the live ritual between Sutekh Hexen and Trepaneringsritualen while you're at it.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Hell - Sheol

Artist: Hell
Album: Sheol
Label: Greysun Records (GSR-001)
Limitation: 100 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Sludge/Drone/Doom
Year: 2014

Two devastating live performances exhibiting selections from 2013's monumental Tour Through Hell, both taken from rituals summoned in the band's own Pacific Northwest. This cassette-only release also serves to officially announce the birth of an exciting new label, Greysun Records, representing acts from the same region. With releases from names like Mizmor and Boreal planned for the future, Greysun is definitely a label to expect great things from. And while the cassette version of Sheol is unfortunately now sold out, you'll have a chance to see these songs performed live on tour with the mighty Ash Borer this summer.

"Lower Your Head."

Carved Cross - Demo III

Artist: Carved Cross
Album: Demo III
Label: Nocturnal Emissions (NE-10)
Limitation: 66 Copies
Country: Australia
Genre: Raw Black Metal
Year: 2014

Shambolic, melancholic, draining and repetitive in the best possible ways. This is black metal art as only Carved Cross can summon it - at this point they've essentially created their own sub-genre, and on this demo they're at the height of their devastating powers. This isn't depressive black metal like the kiddies play; there's a vast and staggering well of sadness to these sounds. While late last year's full-length Futile Reflections Of A Failed Existence was utterly and overwhelmingly worshipful, they've upped the ante once more with this release. Truly one of the most effortlessly great cults of the last few years.

"Nocturnal Emissions For The Blackline Elite."

LISTEN (Digital files courtesy of On The Board)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Offerstigen - Regndolk

Artist: Offerstigen
Album: Regndolk
Label: Self-released
Limitation: Unknown
Country: Sweden
Genre: Funeral Doom/Sludge/Black Metal
Year: 2014

Gnarled, ultra heavy, sludge-tainted black metal from Sweden. The debut, home-made, DIY j-card and cassette are almost as charmingly disgusting as the 3 songs and 17 minutes of crushing music contained therein. The project seems to be shrouded in a fog of mystery, which is definitely appropriate for sounds of this nature, and if the quality remains consistent, it's easy to expect great things from these maniacs. In a year of outstanding debut recordings, Regndolk definitely ranks high on my list - grab a physical copy before the word gets out.

Solarthrone - The Light We Follow

Artist: Solarthrone
Album: The Light We Follow
Label: Vanguard Productions (VP-06)
Limitation: Unknown
Country: Unknown
Genre: Neo-folk
Year: 2014

And now for something completely different. This beautiful neo-folk release represents fledgling (and highly recommended) label Vanguard Productions' first non black metal output. Strongly recommended for fans of Death In June, Blood Axis and the like. Expect to see many more traditional black metal styled Vanguard releases highlighted on this site in the near future...

"I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who would speak to you of otherworldly hopes!"

Salvaticus - Hidden Manna

Artist: Salvaticus
Album: Hidden Manna
Label: Nocturnal Reign (NR-01)
Limitation: 100 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Year: 2014

One of a great many surprises of 2014, this young Charlottesville band came seemingly out of nowhere with their debut album of powerful, atmospheric styled black metal. With no preceding demos (that I'm aware of) and an almost non-existent amount of hype, this cassette has quickly grown to become one of my favorite unsung albums of the year. Special thanks to my friend Ethan for turning me on to this incredible album. Recommended for fan's of Bastard Sapling's forward thinking (but also highly traditional) debut.

Thou - Heathen

Artist: Thou
Album: Heathen
Label: Robotic Empire 
Limitation: 200 Copies
Country: US
Genre: Sludge/Drone/Doom
Year: 2014

If you somehow haven't heard this band/album yet, drag yourself out from underneath whatever rock you've been hiding beneath and get the fuck on it. The cassette version is unsurprisingly sold-out, but a vinyl version is currently attainable through Vendetta Records, and a self-released stateside LP version is also in the works. Pre-order soon to be available through the mighty Gilead Media.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Thoth - In Thoth

Artist: In Thoth
Album: In Thoth
Label: Self-released
Limitation: 25 Hand-numbered Copies
Country: US
Genre: Black Metal
Year: 2014

Three-song demo of near perfect black metal from the deserts of Arizona, featuring members of Clothbodies favorite, Dross. While physical copies have been limited to only 25 units and are long sold out from the band, you can still purchase a digital rip of the album from the artist's Bandcamp page for the price of your choosing. No word as to weather this tape was a one-off venture or if more material is on the horizon, but I for one will be crossing my fingers from more ammunition from this young group.