Storm of the Light’s Bane

Straddling Gothenburg death and pure Norwegian black metal, basically at that margin of what we might term as consonance and coarseness, resides Dissection. Crossing genre and aesthetic boundaries, Storm of the Light’s Bane simply prods the listener into conflicting paths. Responses could vary, from a nodding reverence of those exquisite guitar passages, to a chilling silence, or just a morbid mosh-pit. Channeling those Scandinavian contemporaries, Dissection simply shapes their own brand of occult romanticism, often more despondent and atmospheric.

Extending the boundaries of aggression and poetry, these compositions are constantly shifting their contours, adequately complementing the drifts in lyrical prose. “I drown in the colour of your eye, for a black heart will only find beauty in darkness“– simultaneously conveys the elegance of an autumn night and dual guitar harmonies. With vocal textures reflecting the gloom in lyrics, Nödtveidt adds a layer of darkness unlike any other. Channeling divergent strands, and yet in perfect harmony, Storm of the Light’s Bane is one of those meticulous crafts. The rare ones illustrating extreme metal in all its glory and quirks. Described in Nödtveidt’s own lyrics — “Forged in blood by tragedy” — album leaves a definite imprint.

Dissection_live_in_2005.jpg: Shadowgatederivative work: Elizabeth Bathory, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ground Collapses

Sludge and death metal, both evolved from hardcore/punk and electric blues, but a sludge-death cross-over is so much more than their shared roots. Fifty years of metal evolution, hundreds of sub-genres and here Disbelief simply continues that very captivating trend of mutations. In this case – strands of hardcore, New Orleans sludge and death metal crafts an unusual atmospheric blend. The Ground Collapses is quintessential extreme metal – in other words it encodes those long running lineage of influences, but still manages to sound novel.

It’s that familiar doom like aesthetics, that essential low, but uniquely fueled by deathly compositions rooted somewhere in late 80s Florida or Sweden. A hardcore wall-of-sound, often severed by meandering leads, and layered with cross-over vocals, creating an atmosphere so dank, deathly and gloomy. In metal, cross-genre sound is not uncommon, but this elegant cross-over aesthetic is. This subtle blend of aggression and grief makes for an essential listen, ironically one of those pockets of bliss in a rather morbid year.

Silent Waters

Folk and some epic poetry can make for more than a few exquisite moments. And even with all that doom undertones, melody seems omnipresent. That’s not it – Finnish mythology, picturesque choruses, and deathly bass-lines – all layered in harmony. In other words, it’s rich, unmistakable, and Amorphis.

Music often complements that romanticism in lyrics — “Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve, find and catch the devil’s moose and bring it there to me” – elegantly transitions to segments more appropriate for melodic-death. But, this is just one of those many instances of stunning coherence, on how their compositions accommodate hues, vibrant and diverse.

Elegant and melancholic, album does justice to the literature it adapts. “Pulled under the raging waters, my child, sank in the drowning currents, my son” — Amorphis unmistakably recreates Lemminkäinen’s tale. But now with compositions as sorrowful and gallant as his mythology, and with a “River of Death” Artwork as that fitting cover. Needless to say, exquisite and epic Silent Waters.

Stefan Bollmann, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The End of Dormancy – EP

Often reminding us of 70s prog or jazz rock, and at times of their Motörhead roots, Voivod sound pretty much their usual self. Live recording adds some rough textures, but not enough to eclipse the classical symphony, or those intricate transformations, or even those strange lyrical plots. It’s also easy to notice that interesting contrast — two songs on the EP occupying slightly different ends of their musical spectrum. ‘The End of Dormancy’ reflecting their proggy sophistication, while ‘The Unknown Known’ rooted in their more dissonant past. Giving us all a glimpse into that unique set of influences only Voivod dares to blend.

Roman Horník / CC BY-SA

In Cauda Venenum

Post-Watershed, Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren were conspicuously missing, but so was that musical coherence! It was complex progressive rock, but reflected very little of Opeth’s signature aesthetics. Even though all those vibrant influences were still present, a certain noticeable imbalance, especially in how they were composed! This is easily audible relative to In Cauda Venenum, here they bring back that all-immersive-experience of Blackwater Park and Still Life.

Their signature is exactly that ability to harmonize divergent strands. Funk to folk, jazz fusion to goth, all peacefully coexisting, a splendid harmony across discordant influences. It’s that harmony in discord when proggy riffs flawlessly transitions to strange ramblings in “Charlatan”, or when that further moves on to gothic blues of “Universal Truth”. That rich consistency in musicianship is also complemented by vocals– Åkerfeldt evokes a spectrum of emotions, almost reminiscent of Damnation.

Seems like Opeth was testing the waters with their first three prog rock records, and In Cauda Venenum is the consequence. Quite like an evolving organism, they are adding layers to their prog skeleton, bringing higher levels of coherence and texture. So, those underlying influences remain the same, but now they are gently cloaked beneath few exquisite layers of artistic splendor.

MrPanyGoff / CC BY-SA

Algorythm

Beyond Creation illustrates the same old genre influences, but in a remarkably novel way. With jazz fusion and layered signature progressions, these Canadians craft an atmosphere often too poignant for tech death. Channeling that proficient lineage running from Mahavishnu Orchestra to Atheist, Algorythm is tech death at its refined best. Demanding bass lines, odd drum patterns, and deathly grows — the band simply marvels in their unquestionable extreme metal territory.

With a structured ease and sophistication, songs bridge jazz rock segments with sheer death. Whether it’s “Surfaces Echoes” or the title track, these transformations are frequent, and happens with an Opeth like finesse. So it’s quite possible, when that atmospheric jazz fusion harmony fades into a passage as brutal as Suffocation’s, the listener might be too captivated to even realize the subtle, vital and stunningly exquisite nature of this symphony.

Image Attribution: https://beyondcreationofficial.com/gallery/

Relentless Mutation

At the frontiers of metal, and probably beyond that, resides Archspire’s dizzying precision. Here compositions proceed in convulsive strides of synchronized riff–drums and robotic vocals, stepping from one atypical rhythm to another. Abruptly switching to varying palates — from “Sound of Perseverance” like scathing guitar harmonies, to math rock signatures. But everything strung together into one seamless train, propelling at this dissonant pace and agility.

Drum patterns on the title track — every single beat astonishingly audible and precise, pretty much illustrates this measured approach to compositions. Even though rooted in the ‘Effigy of the Forgotten’ like riffs, those dialed down hardcore-punk influences make the band more symphonic, in a classical music sense. So, quite akin to a brutal-math-metal orchestra, with novel and yet coherent influences, Archspire is well into that inimitable territory.

Scourge of the Enthroned

With subtle dynamics, and a uniquely synchronized riff-drum assault, Krisiun forges ahead. Signatures here are inimitable. Not only is it old school as it ever gets, that intricate shredding and precision temporal switches simply elevates the band, altitudes above the numbing turbulence of run-of-the-mill death metal releases.

When a steady synchronized hammer of riffs and double bass runs into that hardly decipherable characteristic growls – “Slay yourself for the glorious day. When the bell tolls for the sins you have made” – it just provides that vocal finesse to this old school technical train. But, as expected, “Devouring Faith“ finally scorches its path into an electric blues like shredding, searing and relentless.

S. Bollmann [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons