Tag: Doom Metal

Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun – On The Periphery – Review

Artist: Chelsea Wolfe
Album: Hiss Spun
Release date: 22 September 2017
Label: Sargent House

01. Spun
02. 16 Psyche
03. Vex
04. Strain
05. The Culling
06. Particle Flux
07. Twin Fawn
08. Offering
09. Static Hum
10. Welt
11. Two Spirit
12. Scrape

It’s been two years since Chelsea Wolfe dropped Abyss — a career-defining amalgamation of her goth-folk roots and decimating doom metal. In fact, that feet of tortured sublimity is so good that the release of Hiss Spun actually serves as a reminder of how amazing its predecessor is. Whether or not Wolfe’s latest LP is her best is up for debate, but it will more than satisfy those who yearned for her to run with her doomy side.

The first three tracks on this album provide an unholy trinity of goth-doom bangers to set the tone. With Wolfe herself only contributing four guitar performances to the album, her session musicians bring a mean sound. Hiss’s sauntering stoner doom dirge drives home the point that Wolfe isn’t worried about subtlety this time around — relying instead on cathartic heaviness. This raw approach makes the sensual undertones of “16 Psyche” explode into sorrowful ecstasy as a dreary riff and intense dissonance ties it together, and also gives “Vex” the first guttural growls (via post-metal veteran Aaron Turner) in Wolfe’s discography contrasting with Type O Negative-esque grooves, gloomy dissonance and austere keyboards.

“Strain” and “Welt,” the two interludes on Hiss Spun, provide two distinct flavors of industrial murk through the former’s grating sound wall and the latter’s ritualistic chant. These hints at amorphous sound keep Hiss Spun with one foot in the oddball, but the more straightforward aspects of this album do come as a double-edged sword — showing the true power of Wolfe’s doom metal sound, but losing a bit of her uniqueness in translation.

Wolfe’s doom-folk roots manifest on “The Culling,” while “Particle Flux” utilizes a propulsive crescendo akin to modern post-metal — juxtaposing her exploration styles she only flirted with before and ones she established long ago. Ironically, Hiss Spun ends up being less heavy than Abyss because of its emphasis on orthodoxical heavy music instead of strange percussion, warped synths and caustic ambience. It’s less mysterious and fearful, but more visceral and exhilarating. Even so, Wolfe’s gothic affectations and entrancing melodies keep her sound reminiscent of ‘70s occult films.

Though the song’s floatacious mourning and blood-chilling build doesn’t break new ground in Wolfe’s style, Kurt Ballou’s dissonant strains and the bombastic rhythmic accents bassist Ben Chisholm and drummer Jess Gowrie make “Twin Fawn” a perfect backdrop for Wolfe’s chilling siren’s song. The song’s abrupt dynamic changes keep make it as surprising as it is slow-burning, streamlining crushing dynamic changes into an emotional dagger as naturally as the strange electronics and goth-wave flavors of “Offering.”

The austere ponderings of “Static Hum” harken to Chelsea’s weirder side with stark ritualism, introspective lyrics centered around pain and self-destruction shrouded in monotonous drudgery culminating in a passionate arrival point, setting the stage for the staggering conclusion of Hiss Spun.

Wolfe’s gut-wrenching vocal performances climb to a pinnacle during these last eight minutes. Starting with wistful acoustic guitar strums and ghostly singing, the rising action of this two-track journey rises from the ground upward. “Two Spirit” strips back even farther with skeletal percussion and appreciated finger picking before noisy drones take the song to its abysmal peak.

“I want it back, I want it back. What was taken from me, I want it back,” Wolfe’s heartbreaking melody weaves through the most intimate and monumental passages, remaining in impenetrable misery. This allows “Scrape” to bring the final conclusion of the record through overwrought emoting. Ascending modulations, a lurching beat and gurgling synth textures quickly gain weight as Wolfe pole vaults into aural hysteria (“You, the dirty one, what you took from me. There was nothing left but hypocrisy”). Her musicality remains prevalent in this overwhelming environment, bringing the album to a magnificent close.

Wolfe’s unique delivery translates into goth metal confines incredibly well, packing an emotional punch others could only dream of mustering. That being said, her sound has never sounded this conventionally doom, a byproduct of the less nuanced approach she took. This record sees her wrestle with her identity in the midst of hardship, and ultimately transcends her indignations in steadfast resolve. While Abyss remains her darkest and heaviest record, Hiss Spun stands as Chelsea Wolfe’s spiritual manifesto by way of smoky riffs and pitch-black melodies.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Anima Nostra – Atraments – On the Periphery – Review

Artist: Anima Nostra
Album: Atraments
Release date: 16 June 2017
Label: Malignant Records

01. Composition for the Shadow Self
02. Naamah
03. Blameless
04. Tabula Smaragdina
05. Solemn Majesty
06. Anima Nostra
07. Intermezzo for the Double-Wanded One
08. Doxologia Yaldabaoth
09. The Seal

Henrik Nordvargr Björkk is one of the most active and relevant members of the post-industrial scene. His project Mz.412 put him on that map as far back as the late 1980s. Since then he has taken part in a staggering number of projects. His albums have been released by such labels as Cold Meat Industry, Cold Spring, Cyclic Law and Malignant Records to name just a few. In recent years, we’ve seen a some great output by a few of his “side-projects” if they can be called that, as most of his work these days, in one way or another, consists of a side-project to some other previous greatness, be it Mz.412, Pouppée Fabrikk, Nordvargr, etc.

In early 2016 Nordvargr teamed up with Margaux Renaudin to release an album entitled Anima Nostra on Cold Spring. The album consisted of music that was hard to accurately label. There were elements of death industrial, doom metal, neo-classical and dark ambient. The duo were so happy with the final product that they quickly began to work on a follow-up album, this time they named their project/band Anima Nostra. He recently released several well received albums on Malignant Records including The Secret Barbarous Names as Nordvargr and Avatars of Rape and Rage as Körperwelten, a collaboration with Lee Bartow of Theologian/Navicon Torture Technologies. So it followed that Anima Nostra would return to Malignant Records with their newest creation, Atraments.

As was the case with their debut the year before, Anima Nostra bring together an amalgamation of styles/genres that seem like they would clash, but for Anima Nostra the combination works perfectly. Atrament, a word many may not be familiar with, is defined as black fluid. A look over the beautifully crafted digi-pak gives us a literal example of this word in use. Much of the album art consists of a matte black background with a glossy black lettering. The characters are unfamiliar to me, but seem to have similarities to Urdu, ancient Sumerian and ancient Akkadian alphabets. The digi-pak comes with an 8-page booklet containing even more of these beautifully antiquated scripts.

Atraments glides between the territory of multiple genres effortlessly. The opening track, “Composition for the Shadow Self” has an ambient start, which evolves into some glacially paced doom metal style music. The guitar is distorted and only uses several chords repeatedly over industrial metallic drums which give the track an almost religious, tribal feel. Nordvargr’s vocals are deep and guttural screams. “Naamah”, the following track, consists of a screeching guitar feedback which drones over a plethora of drums, whispers and screams, which all provide a backdrop to Nordvargr’s spoken words which are highly ritualistic. Then there are tracks like “Tabula Smaragdina” and “Solemn Majesty” which incorporate Gregorian style chants and other beautiful religious stylized sounds, such as a cathedralic organ section, which provide the perfect opposition to the other more gritty and chaotic tracks.

Atraments is far from my usual musical interests. In general, I’m not always a fan of the many varied works of Nordvargr. but I greatly enjoyed the aforementioned Körperwelten and obviously some of the works of Mz.412, so I gave this latest release an honest chance. My first impressions were a bit negative, again I’m not a huge fan of doom metal in particular. But, after the second and third playthroughs I started to really understand the project and slowly but surely fell in love with each track and the nuances and progressions that take place throughout the album. This is why I would never review an album without giving it numerous listens, first impressions can be misleading, some things, especially those that fall outside the usual genre boundaries, need time to make sense to the listener. At this point, I could say that I highly recommend Atraments to any fans of the varied output of Malignant Records. It seems that the variety of releases from the Malignant label all find their way of making sense within the frame-work of this one single album. There is the dark, the brooding, the beautiful, and the ugly, all making appearances on Atraments.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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