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Bitterness – Resurrexodus

480789German band Bitterness has been going at it for over a decade. With “Resurrexodus” they’ve released an album reminiscent of the past, both visually and musically. (And although I’m usually not too fond of wordplays or concatenated words in titles, this one is pretty cool.)
Of course, while many riffs are relentlessly driving or contain typical motifs, the production is more contemporary: the main emphasis is placed on the guitars. Rather gritty and dry, they sound as if they’re trying to jump out of your speakers. This frontal assault is supported by perfectly mixed in drumset and vocals – you can hear that the amount of reverb and delay is exactly right for both the snare and voice. And the guitar leads are bathing in effects, making them stick all over the place (like they should). Did I already mention I love this mix?
In a few songs, Bitterness resorts to not-so-classic thrash elements, but I can’t imagine anyone experiencing discomfort at hearing a few melodic deathmetal phrases now and again. Another good move is layering the vocals on the occasional chorus, to keep the monotony at bay.
Not all songs are great, but most of them are. In short: this album can keep you entertained.


Battalion – Only the dead have seen the end of war

80661_battalion_only_the_dead_have_seen_the_end_of_warIt’s been six years since “Welcome to the warzone”, and Battalion have now launched their third full-fledged campaign called “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” The artwork is sober but excellently elegant – the band picture idea is superb as well.
Battalion are a death metal band by nature, and that nature isn’t going to change anytime soon. You’ll be hearing either double kick runs or blastbeats, about ninety percent of the time. Which, for the rather pure approach to the genre, is a healthy ratio. And while we expect nothing less, it must be said that some drum rolls are as fun as impressive to listen to.

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Charnia – Dageraad

charniaThis is the next release in ConSouling Records’ series of ambient and post metal.The interesting point is that Charnia are four Belgian youngsters – new blood in the scene as of 2012. To paraphrase their sound in one sentence: it’s a nephew of AmenRa. The pristine instrumental ambient sections, although outnumbered, are impeccable. Most of the time however, we’re served textbook post metal. Very much so that, about ten milliseconds after the screams begun, I couldn’t think of anything else but AmenRa’s Mass III specifically. The production is strikingly similar too. the snare is a tad more powerful, and the vocals are pushed well in the foreground. The guitars are thick and gritty, but perhaps not as confronting. The fact that it’s so comparable means that Dageraad is more than decent. As you all know how Mass III sounds, I’ll spare you the details. If you don’t mind “band clones” (well, a half one in this case) and just want to hear excellent music: be sure to give Charnia a spin when your AmenRa CD needs a rest.


Hypnodrome Ensemble – S/T

HypnodroneWe’re here to discuss the music, but a little context is definitely in order for this album. It’s basically a single track (41 minutes) that’s a live recording from earlier in 2014. Aidan Baker and Eric Quach (thisquietarmy) have performed a semi-improvisational soundscape, supported by three (3!) drummers. I’m not sure why they needed that many, but maybe I’ll found it.
The introductory section is an excellent build-up – the droning guitars are accompanied by nothing but cymbalwork. Of course it ventures into polyrhythms, what did you expect with six hands.
After about seven minutes, one drummer kicks in with a solid, fairly up-tempo beat, interspersed with snare rolls. For many those constant beats will be part of the trance, but I think it’s a bit of a shame as well. The guitarsounds are somewhat lost, especially their singular eeriness and climactic atmosphere. Then again, there probably isn’t another solution with three drummers.
Almost halfway through the set, peace returns and the pace slows down, with the percussion leaving some breathing room. About three quarters in, I start to get really bored with the same old kick-kick-snare-kick pattern. I have had it with a hi-hat hit every quarter note. Please mix it up with a ride. Or a cowbell. Or an iron bucket.
If you’re capable of gazing into infinity on this music, you’re in for it until the end – great for you. Otherwise, I suggest starting off with some less jumpy ambient.


Caudal – Ascension

cuadalAscension’s opening track – a twenty-minute mammoth – injects my ears with pure aural pleasure. It’s the duality of the music that’s truly enchanting to me. On the one hand, the musicians are busy packing every measure with a constant stream of eighth notes. The rhythm guitar is constantly looping its mesmerizing chord progression, while an instrumental voice – in different shapes and colours – floats on top of it all. The grooves and foundation are created by the bass guitar, and the drumming is quite dense. But it’s so gently played (and well placed in the mix) that it only heightens the dreamy and fleeting character of the soundscape. And this is the contrast I was speaking of: intensive jamming that comes across as carefully soft, almost keeping a polite distance. This mix of qualities makes me experience Caudal’s tune as a gentle journey through the blank spots in your mind, the spots where you don’t have to think of anything else.
The other two tracks follow suit, and I must say these guys have made a formidably entertaining (vocalless!) album.


Snailking – Storm

Snailking-Storm-CoverThis Swedish trio launches their second album next month. The artwork is oddly attractive – it’s neatly hand-drawn and almost looks like the first page of a high-quality comic book. Anyway, the five tracks average over ten minutes and contain fuzzy doom/sludge interspersed with interludes.
First of all, the sound is ideal for what these guys play. The guitar is on crushing mode with the fuzz and overdrive dialed in to perfection. Every riff sounds thick and gluey, while the drums are somewhat subdued. The kickdrum is practically underproduced (if that’s even possible), and even though the cymbals and snare are lashing everything forward, they aren’t predominant.
While the production is fitting, I’m not always convinced by the compositions. I wonder why these guys need a bass player: just put an octaver on the guitarist, nobody will notice any difference. (Unbelievably, as I’m writing this, I’m hearing the first few bass notes that diverge from the guitar chords. Only half a measure, no worries!)
I do respect bands that manage to create tons of atmosphere with just one guitar. Most riffs are just that on ‘Storm’ – and the acoustic, effects-heavy passages are quite enthralling. But sometimes, I do get the feeling my patience is being tested – albums like this should come with a little weed, I guess. My musician’s ears, while highly appreciative of the guitar effects and creative simplicity, are at times disappointed with the heavier riffs; heavy but without purpose. But subtle accents, fleeting dissonances and other tricks make these tracks worthwile. One condition: you must enjoy slow, plangent, gritty sludge.
For the fans: there’s a limited series of blue vinyl (100 pieces) exclusivey available through Consouling Sounds!