Sermon of Flames (Ire) – I Have Seen the Light, and it Was Repulsive (2021)

Sermon of Flames’s first full length presents a spectrum of shades. The record “I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive” released on I, Voidhanger records makes a phenomenal impression. Although this isn’t the regular Death Metal affair, Sermon of Flames put together elements of Black & Sludge which enhances the experience greatly. The album opens with ‘To Behead One’s Desire’ a short creepy atmospheric track with muffled vocals to support, at just 1 minute in length, this acts a fantastic introduction to the things lined up. As we move to ‘Cauldrons of Boiling Piss’ the band is at their angriest. The thick smoke of hate coupled with incessant drumming elevate the sound. This is a dirty, ugly slab of metal with a significant deviation. The band is not happy with the established songwriting norms, they churn their burning vision with the crudest elements available at their disposal and churn it inside out. Again, this is just a 2 minute song which leaves such an impression. As we move on to ‘Chords Wrung From the Ribs of the Earth’ the band is comfortable and marches on.

Sermon of Flames’s brand of death metal is clearly devoid of light whilst paying homage to the greats of dissonance. The rhythm doesn’t stick to a pattern, it evolves by the minute and the guitars entwine their harsh output to the rhythm like a snake suffocating its prey by the minute and the band literally juxtapose that ambience onto their sound. There is a sense of urgency, a literate composure of loss. Although all the songs swing towards higher tempos, the band beautifully strikes a chord with small passages that dissociate you with ache only to immerse you back with vengeance. Track 4, ‘I//H//D//O//D//E//S//I//W//A//C’ is a clear example, although hinging on the traditional approach, the rhythm isn’t your run of the mill. These are the areas the drumming absolutely shines through, mixing approaches and tempos creating an independent monster in the mix, they stand out on the album.

Whilst the riffs themselves mould into a sludge of heaviness coupled with ugliness, the band uses them effectively as charon uses a row across Styx. Navigating through the denseness of banality, bereft of oxygen and in a semi consciousness state adding the built up imagery to the overall arsenal, Sermon of Flames manage to conjure a dark vision for themselves and execute it well. I immensely enjoy the short tracks, it’s like an incantation for every step of the journey, sometimes dense, sometimes like a fading trail of scent. My favourite track of the album is ‘Vacuous & Disjointed’ a traditional Death Metal track onto which the band puts a chant of murky sludge slowly dragging the weight of their output to the pyre. The drumming does the job of rhythmic chants here, brimming with a tone to counteract all positivity, it sets a path of ritualistic mantra that draws away all positivity. I have to say Sermon of Flames has released a phenomenal slab and is one of the contenders for the album of the year for me. I like everything about this release, the way it’s mixed, the songwriting, the delicate juxtaposition of human vision with the atmosphere and finally the execution. I’m hoping they play live someday and I get to see them, for now, I’m going to order a CD. If you’re thinking about it, give them your time and you will not be disappointed.

I, Voidhanger Bandcamp

ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL (2021, Self Titled EP)

ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL is a collaborativve project including Endless Floods, Greyfell and other friends between the two majestic cities of Bordeaux and Rouen. They’re simply an atmospheric Sci-Fi Sludge/Doom Metal band that seems to have found the way that many tend to lose easily. This is their debut EP and although I’m not a fan of how the name is written, I’ve become a huge fan of their effort here. Track #1 – Armure opens with a gentle chant with surrounding layers of synth that flows gently across the room, the band doesn’t get into the heavy mode till it’s 5 minutes. They then marry the heaviness that the traditional Sludge provides with beautiful esoteric loneliness that the synth offers. At 14 minutes in length this is the longest track of the EP and keeps you well within the wraps of their journey. The guitars showcase themselves with care and precision. There’s not an extra note jumping out of rhythm in this March of melancholy. They’re carefully embedded with the rhythm, sometimes mixed slightly lower but yet make their presence felt throughout. I suppose we have to talk about the drumming here, I’m not familiar with which drummer took the active role here or if both the drummers played alongside by side (does feel like that at times but I can’t be certain for sure). 

What kind of drumming stands out? The one that is just right, that’s the drumming that stands out and with Age Total, it’s a measured, acknowledged and a well crafted tool that holds the songs together. But isn’t all drumming supposed to hold the music together? Well, not really, a drummer is a timekeeper and has no obligation to rest the heaviness of the band on their shoulders. In this case, the drummer gently packages the relative heaviness and synth laden atmospheric denseness and engages with the skins with a tormented grace. This is what we need and this is a fantastic performance. The vocals sound like recorded versions of echoes from Norwegian mountains, if we took all the music away and played the isolated vocals alongside a stream of freshwater in a Scandinavian forest they’d actually sound in sync. We need to talk about Track #2 – Carré, a glitchy-electro-atmospheric incantation, which is brilliantly put together. It is the suburban soundtrack to a city at night creaking with a derelict synth in the background.

This is a fantastic EP and I’m looking forward to more of their output in the future. I do sense this project potentially branching out into a power electronics zone eventually and that’d be interesting too. Track 3, the unambiguously titled ‘Metal’ is your standard heavy affair with their style of delivery and happens to be a good companion to the EP. Songs like these are to be experienced live and when well done create the gentle rhythmic aura behind a screen of lights. I genuinely hope I get to see them live someday, for today, if you’ve got some time to spare please do check them out.

Rating: 3.5/5

Bandcamp: https://endlessfloods.bandcamp.com/album/ge-total

Cynic – Mythical Serpents (2021, Single)

Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that asks an important question pertaining to identity. When you take a ship apart part by part or piece by piece and replace it accordingly, does it still continue to be the same ship? Cynic now is a band that is undergoing this metamorphosis. With the tragic passing of 2 of its members (Sean Malone & Sean Reinert) both, greats of their respective craft. It is interesting to see what the band in its new avatar can accomplish. Needless to say, Focus is one of my all time favourite albums and Cynic is an important band to me. The new 2021 single Mythical Serpents is a continuation of exactly where the band left off and continues the harmonious outlook of the band with processed vocals.

The credits lists Dave Mackay responsible for the bass synthesizer & keyboards along with Matt Lynch responsible for the drumscapes. Paul Masvidal’s phenomenal songwriting skills are the forefront here. The track is very progressive edging on Sci-Fi sounds that will immediately strike a chord with fans of modern prog metal or fans of Cynic at large. Beautifully composed, with a slightly fast paced tempo, given the circumstances Cynic seems to be at the top of their game thanks to the direction of Paul. The track starts off slow with an amalgamation of sounds leading to crests and troughs of sonic planes. As gentle as it sounds, the track channels an inner aggressiveness that comes through. The pleasant wave like solos stand out and the drumming is fantastic (nicely done Matt!).

Produced and mixed to perfection, it sets an excellent platform for the upcoming full length. Needless to say I am eagerly waiting for the full length which will be out on Nov 26, 2021 via Season of Mist Records. Till then, I hope they keep dropping snippets off the 18 track album. 

Diskord – Degenerations (2021)

We kick off Degenrations with a very Djent’y beginning but contrary to the generic workflows of metal artists, we know Diskord is anything but a normal band. They’re funky, Djent’y, Heavy and quite innovative. Now, does innovation warrant stupidity? It sometimes does and who dares, might perhaps win too. Now, as I come to Track #2 – Bionic Tomb Eternal, we’re talking about a Flea like bassline guiding the track ahead. I like it but I’m not so sure about the traditional fans of the genre whom I doubt would stray so far in the first place. As we potentially hint at a normalcy with Track #3 – Abnegations, we are taken into the juggernaut, this is like being in a clothes dryer, the rhythm is bouncy. The bass sounds “poppy” and the guitar solo in between is tasty. On the whole this is perhaps as standard as we can get but this is a fantastic composition. The mini guitar interludes weave into each other with utmost precision. I think if you’re reading this, you’ve already given this album some time of your life and I sincerely urge you to continue. This could be a gym album, it could be a soundtrack to a sunny day in Vancouver or well, you can simply have this alongside your FPS.

I am on the fence about it but I surely want to keep this album in my rotation. The genius of this album is the songwriting. An ever-changing spectrum of sound with experimental patterns and buffers fill up the atmosphere. You can call it chunky, poppy or jumpy but Diskord manage to pull it all together with a definite sense of ease. The growls mix in with synthetic ease. It’s as if they’re meant to be there, you once don’t question what such low vocals are doing in the mix and that’s the genius of it. The album is definitely not your run of the mill Death Metal affair, it’s like reality TV. You either love it or hate it. Although I said I was on the fence earlier, I know this is the kind of Death-Metal-Crazy I love with some time. Give it a while and consume the crazy because you hear something new every single time and it is exactly that sense of “Woooaaahhh” that I truly enjoy. Shout out to the technical crew behind the album it’s mixed to perfection and the production is fantastic on the whole.

Rating: 3.5/5

Our Place of Worship is Silence – Disavowed, and Left Hopeless (2021)

A hesitating descent into rhythm sparks surprises as we kick off with ‘The Conspiracy Against Cruelty’. The dissonant guitars envelope the well tracked drums. Although the riffs are the nothing new, their crispness keeps your attention. With the  vocalist’s incantation is ringing in the background, we finally enter the well of nothingness. OUR PLACE OF WORSHIP IS SILENCE has a few things going for them, firstly I love the name of the band and secondly, they’re a coherent unit working with the strengths of each other. These could be your typical vocals on a Black / Death Metal records but they fit in well. The highlight of this album has to be the execution of riffs. Nothing new and revolutionary, yet they’re executed to perfection. They occupy the sonic spectrum with a command.

The rhythm is rock solid, the band seems to have approached the songwriting with a precision of an assembly line line production giving utmost care to every single aspect whilst having simply complimented each other’s strengths. I’ve to add that this slab of metal is quite engaging. The next obvious question is how frequently will I spin this record and well, I’d say once in 2-3 weeks perhaps and it wouldn’t be my immediate go-to. This album will surely follow the greats in dissonant dealers. Whilst I can attest to the quality, this album needs time and patience to settle into the gaps of your environment. Tracks like ‘Disavowed, and Left Hopeless’ see a sudden punch to the vocals which take a moment to dissolve into the madness. Although these are high in the mix, you eventually get used to them. All in all this is a pretty decent album.

Rating: 3/5

Aara – Triade I: Eos

We need to ask the obvious question here, what is so exceptional about this record? Well, in my opinion, nothing really. It is a well made record with excellent musicianship and production. Other than that it seems pretty ordinary to me, it surely doesn’t feel the the best of what atmospheric black metal could offer this year or in general.

The drumming is default, there’s not much variety across songs and it’s the constant pummelling all through. There’s very little variation in the entirety of the sound. The vocals are pretty constant as well, again it’s the same tone through the entire release. I’m fine with screeches but it did kind of got monotonous after track 1. The atmosphere feels thin and frankly doesn’t really build up as we flow through the album. The band clearly seems to have missed building upon the slow sections in between, they’re just left there for relief of the listener I suppose. To me it seems like an opportunity missed, the album definitely has good ideas and frankly gives an eastern esoteric feel on the whole.

To circle back, is this a well made record? Yes.
Are the musicians top notch? Yes.
Is this an excellent atmospheric black metal album? No.
Is this a decent atmospheric black metal album? Sure.

Kawthra (Can) – The Tenets [EP] (2021)

It was quite an accident that I came across this release. Kawthra are a Canadian band who in their own words are “Bound by an ever present disdain for existence, Kawthra’s form of sludge fills the sonic space with reverberating screamsand thick, burdensome riffs. Born from Fort Erie, Ontario, this four piece combines brooding passages with hauntingly melodic expanses that frame the desperate cries for purpose.” This is one of the most accurate mini bio’s written by bands. Kawthra haven’t split the sky into two, they haven’t redrawn parameters of existence into auditory aberrations, they’ve just decided to play riffs that bring down buildings with heaviness that is usually associated with the apocalypse or the more accessible internal torment. Their lyrics are introspective and it makes sense why they’ve chosen the form of metal they ended up with. This brand of doomy sludge offers the width to carry the burden and the band manage to bring all their angst festered with harshness onto this EP. Kawthra also manage to put together an absolute bare bones eerie atmosphere that chills in between the monolith of riffs. I’m going to follow this band till their first full length at the least.

Bandcamp: https://kawthra.bandcamp.com/album/the-tenets

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kawthraband/