Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn

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Nightfell
The Living Ever Mourn
Southern Lord/Parasitic

Nightfell is a new band comprising of its two core members Todd Burdette (Tragedy, His Hero is Gone) and Tim Call (Aldebaran, Shadow of the Torturer), collecting here as Nightfell, a two-piece project which has recently released their debut album ‘The Living Ever Mourn’. As members of some of their respectively critically acclaimed and loved underground work, you would expect Nightfell to meet those high standards, and ‘The Living Ever Mourn’ doesn’t let anyone down. It’s a mix of Burdette’s and Call’s collective experience, leaning more towards Call’s doom worship in more ways than one, but underneath some of the trudge and plaintive mood is some ripping riffs and thunderous strikes. The guitar tone, particularly during the shredding, has a whiff of Amon Amarth about it, though you won’t find any odes to vikings or Norseology here. Burdette’s vocals are often deep growls if not guttural and connect with some wicked moments – yes, the black metal ‘ugh’ is often overused but even in its sheer simplicity, it boosts the first part of ‘The Last Disease’, which moves at a fast if not quite frenetic tempo before shifting into a slower dirge to finish. Much of the material here works in pretty much the same manner, barring ‘Empty Prayers’, an incredible dirge featuring clean, chanted vocals, a heavy, almost weeping riff, occasionally punctuated with a bit of slide for that added punch. They could have made that song twice as long and it would still be perfect. And ‘Altars To Wrath’ is one hell of a track that twists and writhes its listener into enduring pain. I’m not sure whether this will be a one-off project from Burdette and Call, but I would be happy for more Nightfell in future. Splendid stuff.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Living Ever Mourn’ here
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All Pigs Must Die – Nothing Violates This Nature

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All Pigs Must Die
Nothing Violates This Nature
Southern Lord 

This trend of monkeying around with Entombed riffs has reached saturation point, hasn’t it? All manners of bands getting signed up and making a living off the Stockholm legends who’ve proved so influential, I’ve even seen their named given a –core suffix. JEEZUS CRUST! It’s led me to yawn when a new band comes up with any mix of the words ‘hardcore’ ‘crust’ ‘metal’ and yes, ‘Entombed’ within the same spiel about their noise. That most have these have come from Southern Lord is partly coincidence, though their marketing strategy sure has changed from the label that used to bow simply to the slow riff. And that’s not to belittle those bands coming through, most of whom make a righteous racket, but the symptoms of staid are already seeping through the loins of this movement, and like thrash 2.0, NWOAHM, emo, nu-metal, grunge, thrash 1.0, and any other trend driven movement, the premise is simple – evolve, stand out, or die.

Not that this has ever been a concern to All Pigs Must Die – consisting of Converge’s Ben Koller, The Hope Conspiracy’s Kevin Baker, and Adam Wentworth and Matt Woods of Bloodhorse can be fully relied upon to deliver the goods and boy, have they delivered a supreme package again. If ‘God is War’ was a statement of intent, ‘Nothing Violates This Nature’ is an execution of action, a roaring wave of encrusted hardcore that intimidates and rags you about like an impatient dog with a bone. It supremely careers along with tracks such as ‘Chaos Arise’ and ‘Primitive Fear’, before slamming the brakes on with sludge-tinged ‘Of Suffering’, with chords ringing out eerily among the caustic yells from Baker. This provides the only ‘lull’ in terms of speed – it certainly can’t be labelled tardy – and soon APMD are back on rickety railroad, with no brakes and a flagrant disregard for safety. ‘Faith Eater’ is a particularly savage cut as the album thunders towards the finish.
 
I think its safe to say that APMD long superseded the tag of ‘supergroup’ – a millstone if there ever was one – and their credentials are as strong as the very best the current scene has to offer. ‘Nothing Violates This Nature’ is nothing short of essential listening, a thirty-three minute application of the band’s collective nous and sheer force. Rarely has an opening song (‘Chaos Arise’) felt so appropriate for what’s about to happen, and it delivers in that department in spades, opening up slightly more to the band’s metal leanings to refine rather than dilute their original clatter. True, it doesn’t quite rid itself of all the comparisons to that band, but they stand above, and on top of a giant pedestal too, in a scene increasing filling with clones. So relax, enjoy, and go bananas.

Peter Clegg 

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High on Fire – The Art of Self Defense

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High on Fire
The Art of Self Defense
Southern Lord
 
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!

Rarely I have been so thrilled at the reissue of the album than I have with High on Fire’s debut album, ‘The Art of Self Defense’. Matt Pike’s stint in rehab and his recently stolen guitar aside, it has been a stellar year for Pike so far, with not one, but two magnum opera being (re)released – the stunning ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ and the rerelease of Sleep’s infamous and incomparable ‘Dopesmoker’ that Southern Lord also reissued earlier this year. Some successful touring with both Sleep and High on Fire has commenced, prior to Pike’s entering rehab to overcome an alcohol addiction.

High on Fire have enjoyable gradual, considerable success since ‘Surrounded by Thieves’ and, in particular, ‘Blessed Black Wings’ emerged, but back in 2000, when nu-metal was still dominating the airwaves, Pike’s re-emergence with the then-fledgling High on Fire gathered little attention. Originally issued on Man’s Ruin Records, and then again with bonus tracks by Tee Pee Records, it was an excellent debut album let down slightly by a (perhaps to be expected) low-budget production that meant that the stoner metal vibe that High on Fire were trying to project at the time was slightly lost and the true power of these songs were never truly realised.

The last time I listened to any part of this album, it was a dreary day in Hull’s Rail Station years ago. I listened to the reissue initially on a walk through rainy Huddersfield. I immediately forgot I was in the middle of a soaking. 

Brad Boatright, just as he did with the recent Sleep re-issue, has done an incredible job once again of remastering and enhancing ‘The Art of Self-Defence’. Any initial thoughts about missing the old-school production eventually subsided simply due to the raw power. Like any High on Fire record, it needs to be blasted through the speakers to generate the full effect, to gain the full experience. After all, it’s the first Pike record post-Sleep, and one which sees his new band going that bit more aggressively, but still rooted in Sleep territory. Unlike later High on Fire records, ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ relies less on speed, more on broad thunder, crashing down with each repeated riff.

High on Fire – Blood From Zion

I mean, those drums are positively powerful. The intro to ‘Blood From Zion’ is positively explosive. The repeated tom rolls of ‘Last’ boom across the savannah, instead of fizzling through my headphones like that rainy day in Hull. There is a much more repetitive nature about some of these songs than on later albums, but that’s not a bad thing here – it feels perfectly natural. The intro to ‘Fireface’ could well have come from Sleep’s discography, and ‘Last’ certainly wouldn’t have felt out-of-place either, as it leads us all to another satisfying riff trip. The zap of ‘Master of Fists’ is the perfect finisher to regular proceedings, an impassioned stoner jam in honour of Bruce Lee, it would seem. One half a lumbering mammoth of a track, the second an ominous warning as it thunders out the remainder of the original tracklisting.

Of the extras, the bonus tracks ‘Steel Shoe’ and a faithful cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘The Usurper’ are much more what High on Fire were to become, the former should certainly have you headbanging properly. The remaining three tracks are demos that completists will certainly enjoy, the improved production highlighting their rough edges but still an exciting document all the same.

Plenty of bands try to conjure images of demons, witches, neophytes, monsters, tuskans, winged beasts and more – but none do it quite so fittingly as High on Fire. It’s grand that this once hard to find release has been given a new sheen, boosting its best qualities – the trademark Pike guitar, chunky bass and boomshot drums – whilst retaining that raw power and grit. It’s a must not just for long time fans of the band like me, but also fans who might have only just gotten into High on Fire as their profile has risen. Stylistically, yes it is somewhat the unfinished package – but their odyssey into thrashing songs of foreboding lore can once again be traced back to the start.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ (reissue) here

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Xibalba – Hasta La Muerte

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Xibalba
Hasta La Muerte
Southern Lord

I really, really don’t know how to sum up Xibalba. As in, should be be really liking this, or really hating it? It’s taken me a while to get round to this hardcore/sludge quintet, perhaps owing to a current lack of familiarity with Xibalba in the UK, with this new album eliminating any previous wonder I had about the band. Wonder no more, I guess. One way or the other, ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is one of the ugliest, grimiest, nastiest records I’ve come across for quite a while.

If anyone came here expecting innovation, disappointment is thy name. Xibalba’s music is pretty much that of the lowest common denominator – the lack of pig squeals and general breakdown for breakdown’s sake mean its not quite deathcore, but its pretty close. Generally songs chug along in a fast/medium pace, eventually hitting a speedbump and generally building up with that ‘dun-dun-dun-dun-UUUUUUGGGH!‘ effect. Either that, or often just fast/slow/fast.

Thankfully, Xibalba’s pure bile and intensity make for a satisfying neck workout, if not a degree-level test. Setting its stall out from the beginning on ‘No Serenity’, ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is full of truly brutal tunes designed to knock fifty shades of shit out of you and laugh at your broken body at once, from the Obituary-esque ‘Soledad’, the warrior-march of ‘The Flood’ and the truly venomous title track. Despite Southern Lord’s shift to the crusty side of hardcore, its good to see they have here a band that doesn’t overpreach about the world’s problems and at the same time is as reliably downcast both lyrically and musical aggression as the label’s back catalogue. Not the utmost greatest release all year, but no-frills, all (blood) spills is what ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is all about. And by hell do they know how to bring them.

Peter Clegg

Xibalba – Soledad

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Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale

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Eagle Twin
The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale
Southern Lord

Southern Lord might well be primarily focused on a catalogue of dark, crusty punk & hardcore these days, having pushed its recent revival to its very limits, such has been their output. It’s relieving to know that head honcho Greg Anderson hasn’t completely forgotten the slow, crushing doom, sludge and drone on which the label made their name, backed up by the return of the two-piece Eagle Twin. Their second album, ‘The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale’ is a rich concept album this time exploring the role of the Serpent through religious history, picking up from the end of their debut album ‘The Unkindness of Crows’, with the titular crows burned down to earth, transitioning into snakes in the process.

The album is divided into seven tracks though it could well be one single track partitioned into seven. The opening jam ‘Ballad of Job Cain’, referencing Elvin Jones’ character from ‘the first electric western’ Zachariah’, stretches past eighteen minutes, split pretty much down the middle into part I and II respectively, all crushing heavy groove occasionally broken up with a brief drum solo or a minimalist crawl with Gentry Densley’s low, booming drones telling the story of the aforementioned transition into snakes. The serpent is indeed a pervading influence through the record, as ‘Adan (Lorca)’ further explores the claim from some Jewish traditions that Cain was in fact fathered by the Serpent, slowly thundering along through Gentry’s chants and the band’s collective slow drudge. It leads nicely into the eleven-minute-plus ‘Snake Hymn’, which merges all aspects of the band’s influences of doom, drone and sludge rock that builds to a supreme finale.

Eagle Twin – Ballad of Job Cain II

The remaining tracks are shorter in length but no less a part of the process, each track seeming segueing into the next, each with its own air of foreboding and menace. Each step of the way, it remains thoroughly compelling, right through to the conclusion of ‘Epilogue: Crow’s Theology’, as masterful a doom jam as you will see all year.

The weighty concept might seem a lot to digest, but Eagle Twin craft it masterfully into a heavy brew of religious text, occult imagery and crushing heavy rock. Too often have we seen bands come up with a concept only to fail to convey it properly into its lyrics, or lose it completely in a swirl of over ambitious pomp and riffery. Eagle Twin understand exactly how to convey their vision, and how to retain it in the face of delivering sledgehammers riffs and grooves that would strangulate even the mightiest anaconda. The power displayed by this two piece remains incredible to hear, even if not surprising any more. All this is proof that Eagle Twin are the real deal, which makes their next foray into historical and mythical lore ever more enterprising.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale’ here

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Burning Love – Rotten Thing to Say

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Burning Love
Rotten Thing to Say
Southern Lord

Yes, yes, and yes again. If I didn’t have to explain to you all why the new Burning Love LP ‘Rotten Thing to Say’ kicks so much rear, I would simply sum it up in those five words. Alas, I’ve got to a job to do in terms of telling why you should all go and buy this album the second it’s released. Their debut ‘Songs for Burning Lovers’ was one of the finest releases of its kind back in 2010, and ‘Rotten Thing to Say’ might just be a step ahead of even that record.

The second post-Cursed record headed by Chris Colohan, ‘Rotten Thing to Say’ is twelve tracks (and a bookending ‘Intro’ and ‘Outro’) of pedal to the floor, dangerous hardcore punk rock with swagger and a penchant of things of dark, dangerous means. Colohan indeed sounds as possessed as ever whilst roaring ‘three days is a long time/for a Catholic girl to die’ on ‘Karla’ (about notorious Toronto serial killer Karla Homolka) and other tracks such as ‘Superstitious Friend’ and ‘Hateful Comforts’ channel the punk spirit a la Poison Idea. It reminds me in some way of G.U. Medicine’s final record ‘Lords of Oblivion’, albeit not so much on a drunken drive to hell as a pit slam into its fiery depths.

The seemingly ever-present Kurt Ballou produced this record, adding to a recent string of punk, hardcore and d-beat classics to his producer extraordinaire role. Everything instrument gets it’s due, pumping loud and proud, exactly how this record should be heard. Sure, it’s not the most original, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done with hardcore punk circles before, but Burning Love have certain proved here that they’re not just a flash in the pan. Not that it was in any doubt with such pedigree.

Peter Clegg

Burning Love – Karla

Buy ‘Rotten Thing to Say’ here 

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