Rumblings From the Underground: Novembre (Exclusive Interview), Ihsahn, Desaster + More
"From Underground, the Rumblings," as Yoda would say... Thank you again for tolerating my introductory silliness and with that awful pun firmly behind us, it's time to take a look at another exciting week in the underground metal world.
First order of business! After you've finished reading through the news and album review segments, you'll find a short interview with Novembre mastermind Carmelo Orlando as he discusses their new album, URSA. If you haven't listened to it yet, you still have 267 days before you have to turn in your Top 10 list, but I advise getting to it now!
In the news segment, we've got new songs from Abhomine (the legendary Pete Helmkamp's new project), Alkerdeel and a new record announcement from Kayo Dot. Below that are quick reviews for Bog of the Infidel, Cult of Luna with Julie Christmas, Desaster, Ihsahn and Sourvein. Let's get to it!
Abhomine, the latest project from the legendary Pete Helmkamp (Angelcorpse, Revenge, Kerasphorus) debuted the first track off the forthcoming debut, Larvae Offal Swine. "Nest of Disgust" (heard here) is three minutes of pure dripping filth, drenched in Helmkamp's signature croaks and bestial metal revelry.
Alkerdeel are a Belgian sludge / black metal hybrid who are about to drop their first album in four years. The follow-up to the underrated Morinde will come by way of Lede. The title track can be heard here and is a mixed bag of genre-melding coming across as raw, abrasive and genuinely disgusting.
Kayo Dot have announced their newest album, Plastic House on Base of Sky, will be out June 24 on The Flenser Records. The experimental avant-garde outfit have already notched seven albums into their collective belt and never disappoint.
Bog of the Infidel, 'Asleep in the Arms of Suicide'
For the second week in a row we've got a stellar black metal release coming from Rhode Island out on Eternal Death. Where Haxen went full-blown necro, Bog of the Infidel get highly melodic on Asleep in the Arms of Suicide, while retaining the raw edge carefully keeping a distance from the modern age.
Opener "Deum" combines aesthetics from Dissection and early Marduk, played at a relentless pace giving way to "Congregation of Judas" which forsakes breakneck speed to let the lead playing sneak through. Truly, each track is a highlight, but the eight minute "Eden" and the 11-plus minute "Black Awakening Nepenthe" offer more in regards to arrangement, fully realizing Bog of the Infidel's brand of black metal.
Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas, 'Mariner'
Collaborations are always fascinating records, fusing two musical worlds and visions into one cohesive and unique experience, often resulting in eye-opening moments as bands incorporate new sounds. This is the result on Mariner from a combined effort of post-rock stalwarts Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas, Brooklyn's resident avant-garde vocal dynamo... dynamess? I digress...
While Cult of Luna have never sounded stale, the band sounds refreshed with the textured vocals of Christmas weaving a tapestry of gorgeous ethereality with barking brawn. Best listened to in one sitting front to back, no track bests another, but its certain moments like the middle of "Chevron" and the pop sensibilities on "Cygnus" that shine after building to these moments atop the metallic landscape.
Desaster, 'The Oath of an Iron Ritual'
Germany's Desaster never seem to get their fair due. Having been around for over two decades, the band is a glimmering beacon of consistency and The Oath of an Iron Ritual serves as the latest in a long-standing streak of thrashing black metal brilliance. Parallels can be drawn to Aura Noir and Destroyer 666 for their keen sense of understated melody and the first track, "Proclamation in Shadows" executes this from the get-go.
"The Cleric's Arcanum" is the shortest song and also one of the best on The Oath of an Iron Ritual, keeping its foot on the gas, swerving lane to lane just waiting for a church to crash into. "Haunting Siren," the record's longest track immediately follows, running the gamut of Desaster's sound and one of the best they have to offer.
Ihsahn is one of those musicians who can do it all on a virtuosic level across a variety of instruments. A truly masterful composer, he carefully outlined his plan for Arktis, focusing on pop arrangements, which he conceded was a difficult task. The album is the catchiest in Ihsahn's vast catalog, though it retains the same value of requiring close to a dozen listens to reveal all its intricacies.
The brevity of this column doesn't allow me to properly gush over Arktis, but I'll do my best. The most immediate surprises are "South Winds" and "Frail," which are both led by a driving synth bass beat. In context, this works perfectly as Ihsahn continues to bring influences from outside his realm to the forefront. "Until I Too Dissolve" contains a punchy Steve Vai-esque classic, screaming '80s guitar lick and "Crooked Red Line" boasts a sax line so beautiful your loins will set off flash flood warnings within a three mile radius from where you stand.
Sourvein, 'Aquatic Occult'
Sludge lords Sourvein are back with Aquatic Occult, their first album since 2011's Black Fangs and they made it worth the wait. While the record suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, toggling between fitful vocal barks and clean vocals track to track, it makes for an unpredictable listens, never knowing which side of the band you'll get as the album progresses.
The single "Ocypuss" is one of the best songs here, showcasing everything Sourvein are capable of in just over three minutes with a stripped down mid-section that makes the churning guitar work that much heavier by comparison. Songs like "Hymn to Poseidon" and "In the Wind" round out the more psychedelic elements of the band with thick, watery tones calling the album's title to mind.
Novembre - Exclusive Interview
Novembre's URSA was released last week through Peaceville and is a fine return for the Italian progressive melodic death doom outfit after a nine year drought between albums. I had the pleasure of having mainman and sole remaining original member Carmelo Orlando answer some of my questions surrounding the URSA, which can be read below.
It's been nine years since The Blue was released. What was the reason for such a long delay and when did the writing for URSA begin?
Well, the main reason is that we weren't sure if we could fit in this new order of the metal market where paper magazines are no more, record stores are no more and CD sales took a near-extinction downfall. So we said to ourselves we needed time to think this through, and, as it always happens, two years became four and eventually nine. Of course there’s never just one reason but that was the main one.
The album's title was inspired by George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.' Do you feel Orwell's work is manifesting in today's society?
This is perhaps the most interesting question that we received so far about this issue and the answer is that we out-Orwelled Orwell; I think the man who wrote 1984, in which the government bombed their own people making them believe it was the enemy, could never have imagined this could happen for real, like it did happen in 9/11.
Also, thanks to animal-activist investigations, we're now becoming aware of the thousand Auschwitzes around the world where our fellow Earthlings get slaughtered in ways that not even Cannibal Corpse could imagine, with a cruelty that resembles Satanism, perpetrated by psychopaths who enjoy making them suffer. Of course I’m talking about intensive animal farming.
The album artwork offers a sense innocence with the teddy bear. What was the inspiration for the artistic direction and how does the cover relate to URSA's themes?
At first we worked a couple of ideas with Travis Smith and they were going in directions that were not satisfactory. At some point I suggested a sort of Botticelli Venus coming up from ice, holding a baby bear to be linked to the title (Ursa means also 'Bear') and voilà, he delivered this masterpiece. It's a sort of sacred image, a fresco, kind of a symbol of a new religion where the baby bear replaces Jesus himself. This is how it is linked to animalism and the political satire I hid somewhere between the lines.
Thanks to Carmelo Orlando for the interview. To purchase Novembre's URSA, click here.
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