Infestus – E x | I s t (Debemur Morti, 2011)

E x | I s t  is a harrowing beast.  The vocals and lyrics tell a tale of crushing hopelessness, chronicling one man's descent into sickness, despair and the void of insanity. The music tells another tale altogether. The word 'epic' has been overused and abused as a metal adjective, but every once in a long while it's the best descriptor for an album.  E x | I s t earns that distinction.   E x | I s t is grand in scale, possessing the dynamic character of a symphony without employing any of the Stilton-streaked devices of “symphonic” metal.  Infestus unfurl a warm, nuanced and swarming breed of black metal that's utterly engrossing.  E x | I s t plays out in diverse, memorable movements of melancholy, misanthropy and rage, marked by an abundance of mind-melting riffs.  Melodic themes are visited and revisited, revealing a deep attention to compositional detail and a fount of songwriting skill.

Improbably,  E x | I s t is composed and performed entirely by one man. Andras plays every instrument on the album with eminent skill.  He draws from diverse influences to manifest this master-course in interesting music.  Tireless, teeming tremolations are accompanied by constantly distinctive, purposeful leads.  Blastbeats and outre arpeggiations evoke the stranger aeons of Bergraven or Deathspell Omega.  Opethian leads ride over stuttering, dark, thrashing polyrhythms and plodding dirges.  Clean guitars are broken out in good measure, reminding me specifically of Opeth's early forays into progressive music.  The album is crisply produced, featuring the the wide-open, resonant sound-field of a classical recording.

I've had  E x | I s t in rotation for months; I'm repeatedly drawn into its disturbing and satisfying grasp. Infestus conjoin a unique, tenebrous atmosphere to the timbre of absolute madness; never has a psychological hell-ride been so enjoyable. E x | I s t is certainly one of the year's more astounding and disconcerting musical journeys.



Urfaust, Black Anvil, Krallice – September 17th – Union Pool, Brooklyn

On paper, Urfaust are an absurd proposition. The Dutch duo play a doomy, mid-paced and droning breed of black metal, over-topped by operatic, howling male vocals, in German (I think). The unlikely result is an intoxicating and addictive perfection. Due in part to their friendship with members of Black Anvil, Urfaust made the journey to the United States for the brief “Rites of Alcoholic Darkness” tour. Union Pool was packed with drunken, adoring fans for the band's New York show.

I've been hearing from more and more Krallice detractors of late, who either prefer the band's earlier material or dismiss the band outright with “post” and “hipster” pejoratives. I'm still enjoying Diotima immensely; it's persisted in my playlist throughout the year. Based on the crowded room on Saturday, a good many people also enjoy the band's newer music, or were at least overcome with a morbid curiosity. Krallice played a relatively short, three song set, featuring two Diotima tracks. I'm still taken by the the physical intensity involved in playing this music live. As usual, Krallice performed with a mesmerizing, organic brilliance.

Black Anvil are a band I'm constantly rediscovering. I know I enjoy their music, but every time I throw on a Black Anvil album I'm shocked by its immediacy. This revelatory propensity also applies to the band's live performances. Black Anvil always play like they have something to prove; they're only satisfied with completely flattening a crowd. The first thing I noticed when they took the stage was the gut crunching glory of Gary Bennett's guitar tone; I love it. I started out standing directly in front of Paul Delaney, but he screamed and wielded his bass with such apoplectic dementia that I feared my skull would be split open. The excellent set tore tracks from both albums and accentuated Black Anvil's power to harness riffs and rhythm in the name of malignity.

Stripped down to their essence, removed from keyboards, vocal reverb and choruses, Urfaust are an incredible live band. They may be one of the very few bands that sound better in person than on tape. Plugged into Black Anvil's rig, the guitars were sparse and gorgeous, as was the mix from the soundboard. IX's vocals were clear, strong and magnificently in key. When he let loose his signature howl, its unhinged glory begged us to respond in kind like wolves. The banter was kept to a minimum, although at one point IX dedicated a song to Peter Steele, calling him the band's single greatest influence. This explains a lot and also elicited a raucous response from the audience, as you can imagine.

The crowd was surprisingly vehement, singing along (in German?!), screaming, shoving drunkenly and raising many a beer in tribute to Urfaust. Although IX was remarkably subdued on stage, drummer VRDRBR rode his kit with a restless, punk rock rage. Never has a rudimentary beat been so viciously eviscerated. Even while keeping an eye on the crowd's soccer hooligan antics, I smiled throughout the entire set. Urfaust for strength.

Justina V also has a fantastic set of photos from the tour here.


Tiger Flowers - Tiger Flowers EP (The Path Less Traveled, 2011)

I posted a review of Tiger Flowers' debut EP at Metal Injection. This thing kicks my ass.  You can stream it right here:


Heavy Rotation

Botanist - I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead

Tiger Flowers - S/T EP

Opeth - Heritage

False - S/T EP

Krallice - Diotima

Deafest - Through Wood and Fog EP

Defeatist - Tyranny Of Decay

Fuck the Facts - Die Miserable

Vader - Welcome to the Morbid Reich

Urfaust - Der freiwillige Bettler
Listen: (Bandcamp goodness below)


Revocation, Mutant Supremacy – August 20th – The Studio at Webster Hall, NYC

Revocation don't fit neatly into metal's Venn diagram.  They're not exactly death metal, and they're not exactly thrash.  They don't dabble in the “taking it seriously” world of cvlt credibility, but they don't  belong to the djentified morass of “modern” metal.  These distinctions matter little to me; I simply enjoy the band's music.  The ambiguous allegiances, however, ensure that a Revocation concert is a sociological Petri dish.  Regardless of the diverse clientele at their shows, Revocation are monstrously entertaining on stage.  The band recently visited New York in celebration of their newest album, Chaos of Forms.  The captivating experience transcended any and all social concerns of the motley crowd; we were unified by metal.

I love me some Mutant Supremacy, and evidently I'm not alone.  The Studio at Webster Hall was absolutely jammed with folks stoked on the sounds of old school death.  Infinite Suffering was one of my favorite albums of 2010, and its distinctive tracks continue to rip in the live setting.  Sam Awry and company blasted barbarically through a set of older songs and a handful of new ones that deserve an expeditious recording.

Despite the fury of the band and its fans, I couldn't help but be distracted by the sound.  Webster Hall is frustratingly capable of both perfect audio transmission and awful muddy landslides of fuzz.  Mutant Supremacy's set suffered from the latter, but no one in the seething crowd seemed to notice.  Onward to Death.

My last live experience with Revocation was a rapturous affair that almost left me paralyzed.  On that night the pit consisted only of myself and a couple of hapless drunkards.  We had a great time while the rest of the crowd stood stock-still.   The band have since found their audience, and Webster Hall was a writhing metal mass on this go-around.  The PA was absurdly loud, but David Davidson's riffs cut a clear swath through the air.

Revocation seemed more reserved on stage for this performance, as if their self-consciousness has increased with their fame and fan-base.  They shredded with abandon a year ago as if they had nothing to lose.  Now the stakes are higher and the band seem to be working harder on audience interaction.  The results were sometimes awkward, but never faulty or distracting.

The short headlining set focused on new compositions off Chaos of Forms, interspersed with an excellent helping of Empire of the Obscene and well worn tracks from Existence is Futile.  Every riff and lead was executed with heart-stopping precision.  It's easy to lose yourself in the Revocation live experience. The band induce a satisfying suspension of disbelief.  I'm not standing in a room with a bunch of people listening to music, I'm experiencing an organic, transporting metal experience.  Don't mind the air guitar, I can't help it.



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