- Words by Faye Coulman and Jonesy
ANTHEMS FROM THE ABYSS #5
This humble webzine rarely pulls any punches when it comes to hitting you with some of the most uncompromisingly brutal and caustic listening material known to humanity. But if you thought last month’s edition of ‘Anthems’ was loaded with deeply disquieting, no-holds-barred extremity, trust us when we tell you: you ain’t seen nothing yet. And with the thoroughly catastrophic shit-show that is the year 2020 seeing us spiralling into increasingly turbulent waters, this euphemistically-titled living nightmare we call ‘the new normal’ seems to be, rather unsurprisingly, prompting our editorial team to traverse still-darker and more violently extreme sonic territories. Which is good news for all of you, naturally. So brace your eardrums for the brutal, sanity-ravaging raft of unearthly delights that is Anthems From the Abyss #5!
FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE ‘The Forsaking’ ('Agony', 2011)
With its sultry, velvet-rich layerings of piano weaving a richly expansive plethora of turbulent, restlessly shifting technical intricacies, this broodingly evocative masterpiece has unsurprisingly sparked widely noted comparisons to Beethoven’s timelessly influential ‘Moonlit Sonata’. Whether an intentional homage or not, it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that, had he been born a few centuries or so later, old Ludwig van probably wouldn’t have been averse to the odd blastbeat or two. Indeed, having led a famously tortured life blighted by an array of debilitating illnesses which would eventually rob him of his hearing by the age of 44, it’s clear the dark-hearted legacy of extreme music stretches considerably further back than we might initially assume. Trace this illustrious line of edgy, absurdly talented composers several hundred years forward to Fleshgod Apocalypse’s insanely agile feats of violently energised modern extremity and it’s clear we’ve moved on quite a bit since the 1700s. But despite their reputation for performing at a pace fierce and visceral enough to melt flesh from bone, theirs is a sound equally steeped in tradition, as this exquisitely orchestrated blend of sweepingly expansive symphony and brutality more than abundantly proves.
Slowing their typically stupefying levels of insane speed and aggression to a pace that allows its instrumental dynamics ample space to breathe and unravel beneath a simmering, ink-black undertow of violently rumbling double bass, ‘The Forsaking’ displays uncannily seamless ease in melding together these seemingly disparate musical dynamics. With its whirling, delirious lines of gracefully orchestrated piano luring us deeper and deeper into a bleakly beautiful nocturnal soundscape that’s positively drenched in melancholia, scalding lashings of bloodcurdling screams and bass-laden blasts punctuate the mix with an intensity that, however explosive, never overwhelms or otherwise detracts from its atmospheric counterparts. And from its darkly churning layers of crippling bass groove to the final lacerating, darkly climactic guitar line that closes proceedings down in exquisitely elegant style, it’s hard to imagine an infernal anthem more thoroughly loaded with emotion.
‘Stellar’ (‘Fear’, 2020)
Sinking into this release from Svart has been one of my pleasures as the weather gets colder and the nights draw in. This collective from northern Finland have been a very pleasant new discovery, and delightfully this is their third album so even more to check out. Historically, me and brass in rock music have seldom got on; the inane sax parpings on Shining’s output generally annoys me, and only Rocket From The Crypt have truly incorporated brass in a lively fashion in a manner that doesn’t irritate the fuck out of me or make me wince remembering the time I slipped on beer skanking to Reel Big Fish and smashed my knee. While my patella no longer makes an irritating sound, the pain of a patina of parping is diminished when they’re used for somewhat more lugubrious tones. The psychedelic rock formula is present on ‘Stellar’ but deconstructed and placed around the long slow shadows cast by brass instrumentation, and paired with a didgeridoo’s haunting droning tones in a hypnotic mesmerising stand out cut.
HALPHAS ‘Bones and Dust’ ('The Infernal Path into Oblivion')
Deriving their name from that of a demon notorious for commanding no less than 26 legions of spirits, sending men to war, supplying ammunitions and (certainly by the looks of things lately) generally doing a mightily efficient job of raising merry hell here on Earth, German black metal unit Halphas are every bit as nasty and visceral a proposition as their diabolical title suggests. Taken from 2019 smash ‘The Infernal Path Into Oblivion’, joyously brutalising standout ‘Bones and Dust’ kicks straight into a violently unrelenting onslaught of icily abrasive tremolo and vocal cord-liquefying shrieks without so much as a millisecond’s hesitation. From the get-go, this is a thoroughly nightmarish and frenzied assault on the senses that’s generously drenched in hostility. Yet for all these punishing extremes of spinal cord-shattering speed and aggression, there’s no mistaking the nimble-fingered precision and taut control at the heart of this dizzyingly ferocious tsunami of a track. Owing as much to manic acceleration and synapse-scalding hostility as it does to skilled musicianship that’s rich in sculpted, blackly grandiose atmosphere, ‘Bones and Dust’ strikes a truly tantalising balance between ripping ultra-violence and darkly absorbing ambience.
'Akte XIII’ ('Quelle', 2020)
Some bands make you yearn to see them live, and Belgian post-metal troops Briqueville are one of them. The singular riff in hypnotic, ever-evolving cycles is a cornerstone of the post-metal genre, and Briqueville have perfected it. It’s ominous from the start, with a two note riff that packs a promise of malevolence while ominous other storms brew on the horizon, slowly converging on the perfect time to explode into fury. Just imagine the unbearable moment of tension as they build up to that heavy pounding drumbeat and as snares and guitar chords stab like vengeful lightning. COVID may have put a stop to touring, but it doesn’t stop Briqueville living.
THE WHITE SWAN
‘Nocturnal Transmission’ (Self-titled EP, 2020)
Yup, it’s Mercedes Lander from turn of the millennium groove metal group Kittie. Their music has aged about as badly as I have, because that’s the last time you’ll be reminded of them. Like the titular feathered fowl, this glides with an atmospheric grace and a swirling psychedelic sludge riff, with the ethereal female vocals closer in spirit to the languid My Bloody Valentine and dream pop act that the bile-spitting brick-chewing she will shortly be formerly associated with. Like the swan though, once you get up and close to it, you can also find that it’s a massive heavy fucker as well, that could legitimately break your arm if they so choose. Sadly, this is only the second EP from them, but we can hope that, with this COVID clipping our wings, there’s a full length release in the works.
Follow our official Anthems From the Abyss playlist HERE