Last we checked, the world was still very much in the metaphorical toilet, with news of rapidly climbing COVID-19 infection rates killing off whatever tiny glimmer of fragile, tentative hope we might’ve had for the revival of our beloved live music scene. But hey, at least we can still take comfort in the rich array of virtual shows and e-festivals that, since the outset of lockdown, our favourite bands, labels and promoters have been kindly providing us with in steady, sanity-preserving supply. Right? Not according to Mark Zuckerberg, you can’t. Because, from 1st October, Facebook will be imposing a site-wide ban on hosting live streaming events and shows, with severe penalties for any artist who fails to observe the social media giant’s latest raft of new rules and regulations. You can’t help but stop and marvel that, at a time when morale is at a truly crippling, all-time low, when people are battling daily to maintain something resembling sanity in this prolonged period of darkness and frightening uncertainty, seemingly nothing can halt these corporate giants in their ruthless and unrelenting quest to line their own already bulging pockets - no matter how ruinous and immeasurable the damage they incur in the process. This is, of course, by no means the first time art has been stifled and curtailed by the cold, iron grip of capitalist greed and, like all the fearlessly pioneering musicians, writers, artists and assorted visionaries who came before us, we will not go gentle into that good night. And speaking of creativity and the tremendous comfort we take in its consumption and appreciation, here’s another round-up of all the killer standouts and singles we’ve been digging this week. Stay strong, stay metal...
-Faye Coulman, Editor-in-chief
‘Death Magic’ (‘Black Waves’, 2020)
Even to this veteran metal journo’s thoroughly jaded critical ears, there’s no mistaking the blinding spark and glimmer of creative genius when you hear it. Those white-hot, incandescent flashes of sonic brilliance that, within milliseconds of that very first, exploratory foray into a new band, ignite the senses with an immediacy that leaves us instantly aware that we’ve stumbled upon something undeniably special. Enter Swedish one-man black metal operation Svartkonst.
Taken from deliciously macabre 2020 full-length ‘Black Waves’, incendiary opener ‘Death Magic’ is one hell of an initiation into this violently pulverising long-player. Imploding out of a seething expanse of ink-black reverb that teems and bristles like a nest of agitated hornets, it’s with frantically accelerating momentum that crippling blasts of bass groove and hammering percussion leave us instantly dizzy with adrenaline. From here, insanely tight whorls and flurries of densely muscular riffs assail the ears from every imaginable angle as caustic-throated vocalist Rickard Törnqvist spews forth a torrent of gargling bile nasty and corrosive enough to leave the Devil himself quaking in his cloven-hoofed boots. Drawing on an expansive wealth of churning, ragged and frost-caked textures sourced from all corners of the extreme metal spectrum, this is an intoxicating, thoroughly diabolical brew to be sure.
But it’s not until this joyously scabrous assault later unravels into a gargantuan passage of Watain-ish, torturously elongated riffage that we get to witness the full, richly expansive scope of Svartkonst’s wondrously ritualistic craft. And from searing, insanely paced passages of undiluted aggression to luxuriantly dark guitar sections that audibly smoulder with blackly glistening hell-fire, ‘Death Magic’ is everything we worship and adore about black metal…and more!
'Regulars' ('Command Your Weather)
Listening to two piece Radiant Knife's EPs (review due in October of both, but check out 'The Body' while waiting for 'The Ghost' to come out!) reminded me you don't always need a massive band to make a massive sound. So this week, I delved into my collection of dynamic duos. Most dynamic of all are this LA drum and bass duo. Barrelling in with punk energy and a sludge tone and a wry, fun-loving approach, they are an enlivening start to any day, and this cut from 'Command Your Weather' is the strongest pick me up known to man unless someone invents a napalm espresso. Tight and taut is the order on the thrill ride that is 'Regulars' here. And just wait until you see them live...ooof....
'Era Borealis' ('Ode to the Flame', 2016)
This is the band of the moment, now officially a couple with their recent marriage. That's probably the most tender thing to come out of their relationship, as the music the Hamburg duo create with a guitar, drumkit and a vocalist whose pre-gig ritual appears to be eating broken glass washed down with paint stripper is thrillingly and unrepentantly as heavy as it is filthy. This is perhaps one of their memorable moments for them as it lurches unpredictably from hatred-of-the-living sludge to fist in the air anthemic chorus and then seditious swagger of hanging chords that belies just how clever their songwriting is. This pair have been making waves these last few years and long may they continue.
'Yellow Mile' ('The Sun Behind the Dustbin, 2007)
Yet another bass and drum duo, and also from Germany, this eccentric pair never found a guitarist who fitted in. So with admirable efficiency, they stuck a load of effects on the bass and set about constructing an eccentric yet melodic world. There's elements of grunge here, but also rumbustious psychedelia and just plain old rock and roll that makes them difficult to classify. And that's just the way they like it. With their long, flowing, ever-evolving jams, they're best experienced one album at a time. But this opener from their debut is a good place to start: driving and propulsive from the start, it remoulds and mutates so we're never quite sure what to make of it, except that it's bloody awesome!
'The Words You Speak Are Not Your Own' ('Natron', 2015)
They should have had an album out by now, but COVID's put that release date back to fuck knows when. If you've ever wondered what would happen if Neurosis and Godflesh ever collaborated, look no further than the French duo and drum machine. In the teeth of uncertainty, this ominous funeral doom is perfect. The cold electronic heartbeats of the drum loops are as relentless as the guitar's slow, buzzsaw procession tinged with majesty and menace, and all the while a mantra of misery chants with solemn nihility as if it were presiding over the funeral of hope itself. Just imagine what the next album is going to sound like. If ever we needed a soundtrack to this frustrating slow-motion Armageddon, C.R.O.W.N can provide it.
'Backstabber' ('Yes, Virginia', 2006)
Roadrunner's unlikliest signing have been quiet of late, with frontwoman's Amanda Fucking Palmer's solo career being her the focus, but combined with drummer Brian Viglione, they're almost unbeatable. Taking their atheistic cues from the caberet and vaudeville and liberally applying a jet black macabre sheen, they're a crackling theatrical tour de force. From the maudlin to the breakneck DD have it all covered. This encapsulate what they're all about and how two talented musicians can create their own little world. Brian is one of the most lyrical drummers ever, and Amanda's husky full vocals weave a world of massive Fuck You to those who have wronged her. “Fear has made you so cruel” Amanda sings amid crashing chords to drums innovate and exquisite.