Left Hand Path
#011: Three Sixes, Six, Six, Six



everything has its opposite. For the righteous, there are the wicked; for the lucky, there are the unlucky, and for those that live, there are those that die. The ancient Hebrews gave us yamin; the ancient Romans, sinister. Inevitably, these words grew into even more divergent connotation—that of the Right Hand Path and that of the Left Hand Path. This monthly column will celebrate all that resides in the shadow of the left, regardless of religious allegiance or format.


Label Profile: Profound Lore Records


Begun in 2004 by former metal scribes Chris Bruni and Adrian Bromley, Missasauga, Ontario’s Profound Lore started off as a small, independent enterprise releasing only limited quantities of vinyl. Still small and still fiercely independent since being taken over completely by Bruni, the label has grown in stature ever since, providing an outlet for those listeners ready to be weaned off the same-old metal sound, as well those listeners ready to try new and more lethal poison. Recently, LHP caught up with Bruni to query him on the label’s recent success and its somewhat controversial role in bringing together musical directions once thought of as polar opposites.

With a steady stream of releases by Portal, Atavist, Alcest, Cobalt, Pulsfear, Amber Asylum, Asunder and WOLD, Profound Lore isn't necessarily what you could call a niche record label. It provides for a select but comparatively wide variety of tastes, and your reputation seems to be growing rapidly. What were your goals when you started the label and what do you think your biggest accomplishment has been so far?

The goals were to develop a label that’s simply a reflection of my personality and my views on music and my appreciation for art (in general). I guess one of the biggest accomplishments is just getting the label off the ground and slowly continuing that uphill climb to build its reputation within an industry where I have the deck constantly stacked against me, one in which I refuse to submit and fall slave to.

That’s an accomplishment in itself; basically meeting several collective goals (i.e. working with whichever particular artist, slowly getting the distribution factor up, getting so-and-so to acknowledge you and appreciate what you are doing etc.) that reflect the whole of the label and where it’s at. Release wise, I think releasing the Asunder album was a big accomplishment because it pretty much set the new chapter and turning point of the label of where the true vision of the label should build and manifest toward. The release of Works Will Come Undone was the new (and maybe even real) beginning of the label because the aesthetics were all set in place, and the release is quite personal to me.

Before moving over to the actual business side of music, you were a staff member at BW&BK magazine and also a writer for Unrestrained! Magazine. Talk a little bit about how you got involved with writing and gradually came to put together your own record label.

Throughout the years of doing this, I made a fair share of contacts (bands, people at labels etc.), had some perks, and I guess I needed something of a new challenge (since when the label technically started, I had nothing going for me really). Admittedly I’m getting kinda burnt out with the writing thing, I get lazy and just to meet a deadline or whatever for me is a task that I just want to get it over with.

I guess it’s kinda like how Woody Allen makes a movie these days (unless he’s directing Scarlett Johansson, haha). I mean, the label is a much more personal jaunt because it’s more reflective of myself and who I am, my real musical tastes, how I view music and my general outlook on life portrayed through the artists I release.

So, is this a full time job for you?

Currently at the moment, yes it is, mainly because I don’t have a choice even though financially it sure as hell not as stable as a “real job” (i.e. a job which is deemed acceptable by society). A few years ago I graduated a prestigious Public Relations/Communications post-grad program (my undergrad is in film studies) in which I entered because I needed to find a real job and this was one of those programs which “guaranteed” you a job after graduation.

The initial idea was to get one of these jobs in the field and do the label as a side-hobby thing to keep my sanity in check. But after being denied opportunities, work etc. ad nauseam over the last few years (which have been quite hard and virulent, especially on a mental level), I had no choice but to take the label, run with it and just do my best to at least try and hurt the vultures and just… live the dream.

Did you ever have any musical ambitions of your own?

I’ve never been part of a band or anything, but I’ve studied classical piano with the Royal Conservatory for a good portion of my childhood; have everything up to my Grade 9 certificate. Although I’m very appreciative for such a venture, that I can sight read music, do all that technique etc, admittedly it was very hard to actually enjoy it because there was a ridiculous amount of pressure put upon me and I’ve never felt as much pressure ever when it came to any kind of schooling in my life. And that’s lightly putting it!

Through this, in a way, it was a good way to understand music, how its structured, arranged, and the way melody works. I’ve never picked up a guitar in my life though, of course I’ve wanted to know how to play it, but I guess too many of my friends played guitar that I found it pointless and playing Bach, Liszt, and Beethoven was much more unique and satisfying than trying to play Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Metallica or whoever was the popular band to cover when you were in high school. Admittedly though, I haven’t touched the piano in ages, and I think it’s important that to at least maintain the skills and keep them at bay.

The Profound Lore roster has grown so unique over the last couple of years that you can't even really call it a metal label, but it's not an indie-rock or out and out avante-garde outlet either. It's sort of a blur, and the roster reflects this from top to bottom, blurring the line between various styles—from doom metal, to Black Metal, death metal, and ambient sounds. What has been your favorite release so far?

I guess the releases that I feel closest to, for many personal reasons of my own, are the aforementioned Asunder Works Will Come Undone, Leviathan A Silhouette In Splinters LP, Agalloch Pale Folklore LP, Cobalt Eater Of Birds, and Alcest Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde. Even though the releases on my label harbour many different styles, in a way they all reflect with one another and can relate to one another under one aesthetical banner. For example Portal and Amber Asylum and Alcest are all different styles (musically and especially personally behind the individuals who mastermind these acts), but putting them next to each other, they don’t seem out of place, well to me anyway…

Compared to most North American labels and distributors, and between Ajna, Southern Lord and Profound Lore, there seems to be a great importance placed on the packaging/layout. Archive and Chet Scott's Glass Throat Recordings are two others who make really slick or else more tactile casing, though on a much smaller scale. Like Ajna, you seem to prefer digipacks, and actually manage to have them made sturdier than most. What are the benefits of using that format and do you have any direct involvement or input with the band/artist in designing the releases?

Ah yes, the controversial digipack format. There are several reasons why I prefer this, of course I think aesthetically, with the fitting artwork etc. it helps bring the aura of the artist to a new level (the new Portal release is a perfect example of this) and admittedly on a practical level, doing releases in the digipack format saves me a shitload of money when mailing orders out because digipacks are light and mailing a single digipack release is way cheaper than mailing out a CD in a jewel case (under the farce known as Canada Post). I take this into account as well of course because I like to sell my CDs at a very reasonable price.

People always complain that digipacks get ruined easier or whatever, but I mean, it’s not that hard to take care of them. But at the same time, I guess I do kinda see their point (my Dissection “Storm Of The Light’s Bane” digipack is not in the greatest condition actually). But I’ve always preferred digipacks (or any kind of cool gatefold sleeves of any kind), even when buying music. I guess they are just nicer, look and feel cooler, especially how the artwork becomes portrayed and of course it’s important that the artwork is portrayed on the right sturdy card-stock/digipack material. But for the most part, for some strange reason, I’m not really too fond of jewel cases…

On the flipside, there are more and more (predominantly metal) labels using either poor Photoshop or painfully generic, retrograde artwork. From a sales point of view, from a label whose releases are (correct me if I'm wrong) sold mostly online, do you think cover art really has the same impact it did when buying a record?

I do think cover art still has that impact today as it did in the �80s where metalheads were getting off on just staring at the covers of their Iron Maiden or Running Wild LPs. But in the genre I’m geared toward, I think cover art does make an impression and is important. I do like to stress to my artists that an intriguing album cover is essential, no matter how expansive, minimal (I think “Transilvanian Hunger” is one of the greatest Black Metal covers of all time), or simple it is; it has to have an effect to help bring the aesthetic to another level and to penetrate the listener even more when glancing at a piece of art when listening to the audial aspect (you know, like the cover to the first Black Sabbath LP). It doesn’t matter if the cover art is ambiguous, confusing, or can be taken at face value, as long as it elicits a certain feeling of sorts (even if it’s for a brief moment).

Take the cover art for the new Portal album (done by Jeff Lowe). I don’t think I can recall seeing any kind of cover art with such an intriguing, dark, disturbing, unique and polarizing aura that is just so evil in nature. Looking at this particular image, which comes across as someone’s worst Lovecraftian nightmare manifested (kinda like the reaction of the protagonist in Pickman’s Model when those nightmarish images were cast right before his eyes), makes the listening experience of Outre that much more. Luckily, the majority of my artists do present their art in competent ways. So in that sense, I do trust them to deliver on this front…

Of course, quality packaging also helps build a loyal fan base...What is the demand in Europe or South America for Profound Lore releases compared to North America? What's been the best market here in The States?

In Europe it seems that the UK has really warmed to the label quite a bit, as that’s where most of my overseas sales come from, easily. It’s pretty much non-existent in South America, I think I’ve received only one order from Mexico ever, and in the States, it seems pretty much consistent and stable between the West Coast, the Mid-West, and the East Coast.

Being from Canada, I would like my presence here to be felt a bit more, mainly because there is no such label with the nature of mine in this territory. I think it would be great to pervert the Canadian indie-music scene because it’s just so gay. But there’s only so much you can do within this landscape, and I guess you can only go so far when penetrating the Canadian market with this kind of music and getting whoever to care. Although Atom Egoyan did acknowledge my label once which I thought was cool…

The general mood of and quantity of releases of late - not speaking of just you and Profound Lore, but across the board, often concerns the mixing up and constant referencing of shoegaze aesthetics in connection witho either Black Metal or a more melancholy, heavier crossover style. Home recording technology has boosted all kinds of releases in this vein (just as it has as many redundant "purists") but what are your thoughts about why this particular combination has become so “in demand” and do you have any opinions on how long it will last?

It’s funny because if Hyvis Lyset Tar Oss was released today, it would probably be considered shoegaze Black Metal. Nonetheless, crossover is inevitable; a lot of these Black Metal artists are discovering other forms of dark music (outside metal) and appreciating the likes of bands such as Jesu, Neurosis, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Swans, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky etc. And I guess a lot of these more open- minded artists do find many elements (be it oppressive or comforting) that they can relate to within such music (and same with fans of Black Metal and the likes).

But I do think there is somewhat of a correlation between Black Metal aesthetics and the oppressing vibes of some bands that dwell within shoegaze, post/art rock, and even new wave genres. I mean, most extreme metal bands today could never even come close to creating something as devastating as The Great Annihilator, White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity, or Soundtracks For The Blind. A band like Joy Division is way more depressing than a collective army of suicidal bedroom Black Metal bands. But I think this new influx of shoegaze, post-rock etc. into Black Metal (just like progressive Black Metal) will just take its course until it’ll be irrelevant as to deem whatever in Black Metald as shoegaze or post-rock influenced. If the lines become blurred, then they’ll get even more blurred as time goes by…

Even if persons like Alcest and Caina are delving into the softer side of things, two of the most acclaimed bands on the Profound Lore roster, WOLD and Portal, are surely holding nothing back on their respective discs Screech Owl and the newly released nightmare Outre. How did you get into contact with these two bands, notorious recluses and eccentrics that they are?

It’s great to deal with personalities like those in WOLD and Portal, and I think it’s very important to harbour unique personalities amongst your roster of bands. Personally, I like to reflect and relate with the personalities behind the artists, and I think it’s important that the artists do not have normal personalities. Each artist I deal with have their own perspective on things and are each a character in themselves. For example, Andy of Caina, at only 21 years old is one of the most intelligent musicians I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with, and the guys in Cobalt and Killusion of Thralldom/The Howling Wind have to be some of the most uncompromising, intelligent, and extreme personalities in extreme metal today.

As for WOLD, we came in contact by sheer coincidence, I loved the “Badb” demo, was looking to do a CD release, contacted them, and coincidentally they just finished “L.O.T.M.P.” I then heard it, thought it was some of the most extreme and sonically provoking stuff I’ve heard, I didn’t know (nor cared) how other people would tend to it, but I just decided to run with it and the rest is history.

As for Portal, I came across them from a recommendation and was instantly floored by their intimidating aesthetic and surreal sonic histrionics that reflected a demented cinematic aura (like a celluloid nightmare of some old silent art-house film from the �40s) that I wanted the label to relate with. Got in contact, re-released Seepia (even though it went over the heads of trendy Death Metal fans) and now we’re here with Outre. Indeed they are a very interesting enigma with very interesting and provoking views on life amongst other things.

Personally I think Portal is where I would like to see Death Metal headed because 95% of bands that are deemed Death Metal today are not Death Metal. Any idiot can create “brutal” riffs, or play fast or can have technical fortitude. Death Metal is supposed to be extreme, the music and the personalities behind the music likewise. It is supposed to have an uncompromising atmosphere, a raw feeling of dread, unease, and horror that must not be accessible to normal Death Metal fans who like their stuff to sound digitally triggered and safe. Even though a band like Portal may not be for everyone, I consider them one of the very few bands today that portray a real vision of what Death Metal is supposed to purport, sonically and personably (even if Portal do transcend such a genre). Personally I think most Death Metal released after 1993 is useless anyway…

Profound Lore and its artists have also been referred to in various publications as "forward-thinking." Has metal by and large burnt itself out or is it just that more people who maybe didn’t grow up interested in metal previously are now taking notice because of the label/artists collective approach? Does the possibility of being considered "hip" concern you at all?

As much as I appreciate good solid quality metal (which is very rare these days), and I definitely would love to release an album that breathes true metal, the label itself is not concerned whatsoever with fitting in the genre, as much as I love it.

Then again, I’m not concerned with fitting into any genre. And I guess the people into metal that embrace the stuff I release are the more open minded individuals who will take the plunge and take the chance on discovering new sounds and even be evasive if need be because they might feel uneasy or provoked. And I think this is an important factor for such underground music to progress, get recognized, and develop even more.

I think if I want to convert someone who didn’t grow up with metal, I would like to see them get into something really extreme, penetrating, left-field and somewhat groundbreaking of course (all while discovering where it truly came from). I would like to think that I offer a wide variety of sounds for fans who seek intriguing unique music, no matter the genre or style; it’s very important to intrigue, provoke, and enlighten with whatever forms of art (be it music or cinema). And then from these unique users who discover say Amber Asylum or Alcest, can then discover something more extreme as Cobalt, Portal, or Atavist, and appreciate what they have to offer as well.

[Todd DePalma]




Atavist - II: Ruined
[Profound Lore]

This whole Do-Yrself-A-Favor-Kill-Yrself thing was instantaneously stale and the only sloooooow (grazie, AQ) band that’s made me stop and stare in the past five years—other than the sadly defunct Khanate—is the sadly defunct Otesanek. But I digress… So war-drummer Jamie Sykes is gone and we’ve got seven songs that sound like some fidgety reworkings of the admittedly stellar s/t. “Dropping the needle” at random on this one yields varying results. Track six, a sort of Arvo Part meets The Teeth of Lions, etc. is indeed a tasty morsel, but the rest of the program is just a bunch of mimetic echoes with a few flashes of “Look, Ma, I’m Bootsykronos”—with track three being a quaint little fucking “homage” to Sunn O))), Inc.’s “Richard.” Make of it what you will.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Battletorn - Terminal Dawn
[Mad At The World Records]

With nothing to hide behind, be it longwinded, cryptic lyrics, “majestic” album art or dense and overdone production, Battletorn come quickly, come prejudicially, and it’s all over before one’s able to really process what has transpired. It’s fucking hardcore and metal and all the emotive states the two genres encompass at once and it’s fast and angry and great when it’s rolled out wide open on the hi-fi or hilariously uncompressed into minuscule ear buds. Folks, it’s time to try to put belief behind the music, because there is no fucking way you could convince me that Omid and William don’t. This is not a put-on. This is not “taking the piss.” This is just straight-up shredding, motherfucker. Highly recommended.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Blues - Snakepit
[Corrosive]

Hellooo, mid-'90s! Blues pick up The Jesus Lizard's slack, unloading wiry dissonance and piledriving rhythms in pure Touch and Go fashion. Even the name recalls Rollins Band and their completely unbluesy invocation of the word. The vocals are David Yow-ser authentic, and also do the most uncanny Guy Picciotto impression ever. This guy must rule at Fugazi karaoke—he has Picciotto's warbling-around-the-pitch thing down cold. Sometimes the band leans into more earnest catharsis a la Converge, and the production is imposingly steely. Those are the only modernities, though. Kudos for the shivering chords and copious rimshots on "Say Nothing But Good of the Dead"—Blues have resurrected mighty ones here.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Coalesce - Salt and Passage
[Second Nature]

After an eight-year recording hiatus, the mighty Coalesce return with a vinyl-only 7.” Its two cuts are just like the old days—elbow patch/patched elbow mathcore, abrasive and angular. Sean Ingram's bark still bites, as the string section jabs out sharp, yet familiar, dissonance. The only real change is the up-to-date recording. Ed Rose's production is Ballou/Albini-esque, analog and beefy. The guitars are huge and chewy, while the drums achieve both punch and texture. Kudos on not only staying in shape in the off-seasons, but also perhaps even bulking up.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Cobalt - Eater of Birds
[Profound Lore]

War metal, literally—vocalist/guitarist Phil McSorley is a G.I. stationed in Korea—Cobalt make the perfect soundtrack for breast-beating and shield-clashing. Some reference points: High on Fire gone black metal, Venom plus skill minus reverb. Unlike the triumphant pap that passes for much of war metal, Eater of Birds captures the fray in all its blood, despair, and dirt. Tribal toms augur impending funerals; keening guitars pierce ash-choked winds with the lamentations of women. "Blood Eagle Sacrifice" sets up half-speed martial fanfare before hurling armies at each other in skull-splitting double time. Dave Otero turns in thundering production; Jarboe's pipes haunt two tracks. The minimal artwork conveys little, but thankfully the label website provides lyrics. Massive and recommended.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Coffins/The Arm & Sword of a Bastard God - Untitled split CD
[20 Buck Spin]

“Decapitated Crawl” almost sounds like S.O.D.’s “March of the S.O.D.” Don’t it? OK, maybe not…. So, Coffins do the Sludge thing exceptionally well and still manage to maintain that gonad-tuggin’ low-fuckin’-end even on the midtempo skank. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re better humans for it and it’s time someone or something gave them money to make gawdamn sure that they continue to do what it is they’re doing. The Arm & Sword of a Bastard God makes me want to listen to Fudge Tunnel, and that either means I don’t like them, or they remind me of Fudge Tunnel or both. Whatever it means, “Band-With-Too-Long-Name” has some totally magnificent song titles: “Giant Invisible Liar,” and “Shit Life” are like the Family Circus kids possessed by Peter Bagge. Somebody get me a doctor.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Crimson Moon - Xepera Xeper Xeperu
[Deathgasm Records]

This record stands as massive testament to holism’s power. And let’s just face it: the only truly enjoyable aspect of Underworld was Kate Beckinsale’s body encased in black latex.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Funerapolis - Demonized
[Self-Released]

Hailing from Bergen, Norge, Funerapolis lie halfway between doom and stoner metal, trudging through six tracks in 34 minutes. Bjørnar Nilsen's (Vulture Industries, Black Hole Generator) production jumps out immediately—the drums are like battering rams, while downtuned guitars growl with singular focus. Occasionally, songs depart from their steely marches for pumping, Type O Negative-esque rock. The six string work is minimal yet confident, coloring with jangles and harmonics only when necessary. Perhaps the rhythm section could be tighter, but, hell, Paradise Lost were pretty creaky when they started out. The vocals, a throaty blend of Lemmy and Danzig, need work, but nothing that woodshedding can't fix. Aside from the sophomoric, faux-Satanic lyrics, a promising debut.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Grave in the Sky - Cutlery Hits China: English for the Hearing Impaired
[Heart & Crossbone]

Israel's Grave in the Sky take Hyatari's Godflesh-gone-digital vibe, and smear it with harsh distortion and tortured electronics. But unlike Godflesh, the vocal delays keep going and going, smashing through bar lines and plunging into dirty depths even Broadrick and co. avoided. The production avoids the laptop glitch to which such experiments often stoop. No choked or chopped sounds here; white noise bruises, digital rugburn, and between-radio-stations static scar the soundscape like an electromagnetic storm. Near the end, filthy sub-bass lashes out wantonly; imagine Khanate with a blood-crusted computer vomiting old school techstep. Forget analog amp worship; Akira's Tetsuo has inflated Black Sabbath into a leviathan-like cyborg.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Grima Morstua - Illustratio Per Horribilem Obscuritatem
[Drakkar Productions]

Black Metal via Buenos Aires, which tries in vain to ape Funeral Mist. I’ll let you figure how that works out. Once removed from this unfortunate comparison, the music reluctantly stands on its own. Competent musicians, convincing vocal delivery, and a luxurious aesthetic (some of the most interesting cover art this late year) make for an occasionally compelling listen, but that’s it. Half-baked at best…
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Helloween - Gambling with the Devil
[Steamhammer]

Massive, gleaming stages; hordes of sequined, leathered can-can gurls; laser-lights, floor-to-ceiling digital screens; flashes of white, auditorium shaking explosions: these are easily arrived at impressions for a band inextricably bound to “Big Vegas Metal,” and all that this could or would encompass. King Diamond, late-period Megadeth and even Iron Maiden are here and there. But the whole program is airbrushed to such an extent that any possibility of authenticity is nil. Without a fucking doubt the most artificial music I’ve ever heard from any band of any genre. An accomplishment…
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


High on Fire - Death Is This Communion
[Relapse]

With the release of their new album, High on Fire appears poised to become the next, but not necessarily new standard of mainstream heavy metal; a sort of post-Pantera return to the pre-Opeth age. Whatever its faults, they are preferable to the many sagging, shabby and vigor-less stand-ins on store shelves today. Though as many voices scoffed at as did praise 2005’s Blessed Black Wings, that album and its successor represent a needed turn back toward a more accessible kind of metal that is unapologetic—and plainly—still has some balls. In this case nine of them.

It seems like an unlikely position for guitarist/songwriter Matt Pike, the former wizard behind the simmering, clam-baked jams of “Stoner Rock” behemoth Sleep, but over the last several years High on Fire has gradually cultivated, and here fully developed a faster and more aggressive style similar to later-period Slayer (“Fury Whip”) and pre-Derrick Green Sepultura (“Waste of Tiamat,” “Turk”) with the essential influences of Motorhead (“Rumors of War”) and St. Vitus still pumping below the music’s layers of bloodied thew and gristle.

Whereas the former groups eventually fell back on rote antipathy or attempts at pale authenticity by molding native culture around modern trends, High on Fire carefully blend fantasy in with realty, finding the needed balance to maintain their portrait of barbaric, Howardian landscapes (once more vividly articulated by artist Arik Roper) and allusions to Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos in ways relevant to the present—where truly nothing is too strange—without the preachiness that’s soured the best of more recognized acts from Metallica onward.

Where the album lacks subtlety it more than compensates with its tightly reigned in performances. And although Pike’s sense of melody and grizzled howls (here brought much further into the mix by producer John Endino) are the heart of Death is This Communion, it’s the titanic sound of drummer Des Kensel that give the monster its hundred legs to stand on. Varied by touches of mid-eastern music on the instrumental “Khanrad’s wall;” the almost literally acted out tribal concussions of Kensel’s “Headhunter” drum solo; the epic crush of “DII,” and a pair of non-sequitur space-rock jams inserted later on, the album is fairly strategic in the amount of ground it covers, at times majestically so. But it never strays from its center of power and force while spiraling inward toward that common terminus, with grace accomplished.
[Listen]
[Todd DePalma]


The Howling Wind - Pestilence & Peril
[Profound Lore Records]

Killusion continues his lyrical evisceration of the crown in his latest vehicle, The Howling Wind. Long gone is the apparitional ambience of Thralldom’s last record. Pestilence & Peril begins deep in the colon of woe; “nuance” and “subtlety” are quick casualties to such roiling rage and power. Once the shit subsides, Killusion and drummer Parasitus Rex are off to the races. A few mid-paced stomps are thrown in here and there; extended muscular thrash reigns supreme. There’s lots of namedropping one could do here, but that accomplishes nothing. Nor does it really say anything about the music other than the stubborn fact that it’s shamelessly derivative. To wit: it’s impossible for this stuff to be anything but derivative; it’s all in the way it’s presented. Darkthrone sure as fuck isn’t rocking like this anymore; admittedly, few are. The goal? –To outplay these fuckers. –To take influence and smash it under your boot-heels. Kill yr Idols sounds like a sweet plan, but only Killusion’s bands and few others seem to be able to pull it off. Everyone else should probably unplug and go home. Seriously. Highly recommended.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Jesu - Lifeline
[Hydrahead]

“I never seen you look like this without a reason / Another promise fallen through, another season passes by you / I never took the smile away from anybody's face / And that's a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child. / In a big country, dreams stay with you / Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside / Stay alive / I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered / But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered / I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert / But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime / So take that look out of here, it doesn't fit you Because it's happened doesn't mean you've been discarded / Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming / Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted / I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered / But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered.”
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Kaamos - Scales of Leviathan
[Nuclear Winter]

Last words are sometimes best kept brief and this posthumous release by the ex-band of Kaamos delivers what may be their finest work to date. This five-track MCD, recorded in last half of 2006 showcases the group’s hitherto solid but unsurprising brand of Death Metal with something of a stringy, wrangled feeling, as if shook by Leviathan’s jaws themselves; churning as the sea of blood and salt-water from which it’s titular legend emerges; craven, fiercest death from the black abyss, bathed in moonlight, breathing sulphur. Not a great beast, but a killer inside a sea of rotten prawns. Farewell…
[Listen]
[Todd DePalma]


KAT - 666
[Nuclear War Now Productions]

More madness via Youske: you know the drill by now; luxurious packaging (note: this is not the current cover art), colored vinyl, posters, stickers, patches, etc. all lovingly handled and unleashed upon the unwitting masses. Iron Curtain Thrash from way back when that pretty much eviscerates any sort of imposter that some-fucking-how passes for competent “throwback” Metal. “Morderca,” “Wyrocznia,” “Diabelski Dom Cz. I & II:” classic hooks, vocals, sound, ambience combines to form up one of the top Metal records of any era. We’re talking masterpiece. Highest recommendation.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Lietterschpich - I Cum Blood in the Think Tank
[Heart & Crossbone]

Not a Cannibal Corpse takeoff, as the title suggests, but something twice as scary. Take Swans plod and Khanate sloth, mix with Stalaggh mental patient howls, and cake with glitchy digital dirt. "Industrial," "noise," "doom," and "dub" are also associations that swim out of this unholy mess. It's harsh as hell, with scathing synth scrapes and huge, distorted sub bass writhing around like the Sandworms in Dune. Evidently, "Lietterschpich" is Hebrew for "liter of cum." For an agenda of utter filth, the mix is precise and calculated, utilizing the full frequency spectrum. Well-recorded drums lurch about like a man shot in the leg—who pours whisky on the wound, drinks the rest, and then stumbles around dancing to breakbeats. Almost-complete unpredictability makes this an addictive listen.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Lngtché - Music for an Untitled Film by T.Zarkkof
[Etude]

Don't confuse Lngtché with the similarly-named Belgian grindcore band—at this point, this project is much more evocative of the Chinese "death by a thousand cuts." The album is one long ambient track, but it's supremely uneasy listening: a wash of sound that turns out to be a minefield of razor blades. No idea who Zarkkof is (Google's suggestion: a figment of the imagination), but the film part is dead-on. This album perfectly captures the mechanical brooding of the house scenes in David Lynch's Lost Highway. 44 minutes of quiet feedback, dirty water, and distant warplanes conjure up a presence otherworldly, yet threateningly omnipresent. Seldon Hunt wraps the package in absolutely stunning triptych CGI art.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Magnacult - Synoré
[Rusty Cage]

Despite the classy six-panel digipak, the evocative artwork, and the good intentions ("We are a musical conduit for a great and strong universal being called Magna"), this debut talks loud and says nothing. Imagine the Meshuggah-isms of Textures or Gojira filtered through clumsy NWOAHM with a few too many breakdowns. This Dutch quintet crunches out tight, low-slung grooves, but songs feel like strings of riffs; the album feels like strings of such strings. Mellow melodies and vocal harmonies leaven the proceedings, but such surprises are scarce. The yelled vocals are harsh, with too much distortion. Over-compressed production makes this a wall of noise, and not in a good way.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Nargaroth - Semper Fidelis
[No Colours Records]

Recorded in 2001 and intended to see release that same year, Semper Fidelis was allegedly Kanwulf’s swan song, his big fuckoff to the scene that ostensibly never embraced him. The Teutonic Knight would forever have resisted the acceptance anyway, all while surpassing his contemporaries with grossly limited resources, but enough feral passion to imbue even his most mediocre releases with a sort on incantatory magic. Kanwulf’s Wagnerian obsessions with valor, battle and omnipotence are fully fleshed here, each song a treble heavy tribute to a time that never even existed—a time of blood-drenched glory, shimmering spoils. The guitars respond in kind with gooseflesh inducing “triumphalism;” the percussion—courtesy of Occulta Mors and L’hiver sound like an amped up Phil Rudd—robotically propulsive, manically linear. “Wherever I will bleed / My faith I always keep / My visions only lead / Me to my art, my own creed.” Bis vincit qui se vincit in victoria…
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Nidsang - The Mark of Death
[Drakkar Productions]

Ah, Sweden. This is what I expected Katharsis’ latest to sound like: less ambling, more cohesive—a tighter attack but with lapses into ominous sorts of ambience not unlike the wormhole sonics that soundtrack Lynch’s narrative fractals. A lot of this record just flat out rocks, sounding not unlike the brand of Black Metal typified by Nargaroth’s Semper Fidelis. Of course there’s no dynamic shift—ala Nagaroth—and that’s what makes for difficult listening. Sample like the most “authentic” shine: in small fucking doses.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Nominon - Terra Necrosis
[Deathgasm Records]

Swedish Death Metal! Amazingly professional musicianship! Killer fucking riffs! Stupid fucking album title…. Nominon’s back, and this one is better than all the others, just grinding, slashing and shredding away for 11 tracks. What’s even better is that you never read about these guys—or hardly anyone else on the Deathgasm roster for that matter—as all the big ol’ glossies continue to trade cupcakes with horrible generic bullshit bands. Meanwhile, the Swedes are back in the lab, cooking up “hooks,” and putting the whole program together in a mathematically competent way. They don’t need your ears to continue their campaign, but you’d be the batter man/woman if you acquiesced. Recommended.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Non Ethos - Syk Asfalt
[Afe]

Italian dark ambient/experimental label Afe has been prolific recently, with a series of releases in stunning A5 sleeves and limited pressings. Non Ethos' (aka Hærleif Langås, now active as Northaunt) Syk Asfalt is one such offering, straddling vaguely foreboding atmospherics and more pure sound design and field recordings. The whole exercise is rather minimalist. Natural/mechanical processes matter-of-factly fill the first 15 minutes. The effect is like standing in the doorway of a cottage with a thunderstorm outside and someone vacuuming inside. Not until midway through "Sleeping Streets" does low end enter to signal menace, human intervention. Otherwise, machines buzz quietly; water burbles steadily. "Snow" is the most dynamic composition, overlaying low drones with found voices, glassy textures, and windswept, mutated organs. Neither calming nor agitating, such patient abstraction leaves interpretation up to the listener.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Ovo - Miastenia
[Load Records]

With a primitive drum kit and a pawnshop guitar, Italian husband-and-wife team Ovo bash out metallic shapes without going for the nuclear blast. This is basement stuff, desperate, frenzied kicks erupting through cloudy, frantic strumming, petering out, tired, why don't we take it easy on the next song? Crusty pummeling rubs up brazenly against sweet K Records cooing. Despite the lo-fi vibe, the drums are incredibly well recorded. One can practically see the hairs on brushes gliding over the grimy, battered snare. Don't let the harmonica on "Rio Barbaira" fool you; "Miastenia" bulldozes it with Khanate-esque malice, as amps crackle, throats burn, and eyelids flutter. Painful, yet pleasurable.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Portal - Outre
[Profound Lore Records]

Attempting to chart the course of this mysterious act from their much heralded though hardly noticed debut album, Seepia up to the present becomes a maddening pursuit on par with the curious and ultimately doomed protagonists of the group's notorious muse. For Portal are an impass in themselves, who speak in portents and doggerel at once ridiculous and compulsive, forbidding their guise be penetrated beyond the mask.

The group's second album, "Outre" is the near-perfection of a style seemingly as abstract as it is biological—a monster formed of melted wax, moldy film stock and tar-painted fibers; a traveling exhibit of ectoplasmic riffs circling from the bottom up on "Abysmill"—where rhythm forms slowly and with such pervasive sonic glut that it seems to unspool inside space alien to real-time.

To the "Black Houses" guitars tuned to whine and wind with the force of a veritable maelstrom only to be viciously cut short by three-ton monolithic breaks, accented by wiry scrapes and chuffing snorts, not so much propelled as they are underlined by erratic drums that shake objects apart like an angry poltergeist. Together these eight tracks are a kind of prophetic post-millennial fulfillment of antecedent benchmark Morbid Angel, groaning out spores of dissonant, swollen chords that swirl and streak into inky, airborne omens.

Though Portal confounds this comparison with a distinct lack of hooks (or leads) throughout the album's condensed 36 minutes. Preferring instead to advance in ambient arrangements linked by foaming, static interludes. Likewise, to call it simply "Lovecraftian" ignores the ways Portal steps beyond, even perverts the master for their own purposes, distilling his creations into a pure sensation of horror. The stories written here are parallax, from Cthulu's vantage; beneath aquatic depths, murky and merciless. Scream and you will drown.
[Listen]
[Todd DePalma]


Rosetta - Wake/Lift
[Translation Loss]

Part of the problem, and part of the solution. The problem is that Rosetta are a NeurIsis clone, no getting around it. Vocals mixed way in back, detuned fuzz, organic rhythms—you'd think the only album these guys ever heard was Oceanic. That, and The Unforgettable Fire. The solution is that Rosetta expand on the formula ever so slightly with anthemic arena rock melodies (in contrast to Isis, who seem to be contracting in scope). The band over-relies on delay, running vocals and guitars through the effect like The Edge on a bender. However, such indulgence leads to unintended payoff—gorgeous smearing. Occasionally, heart-tugging melodies emerge from the murk. Rosetta are at their best when they're bright-eyed, head down, lost in their pedals, not when they're calculatingly rocking out with obligatory climaxes. Perhaps they need to pull a James and dive wholeheartedly into a metal Wah Wah.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]

Scale the Summit - Monument
[Self-Released]

It's sickening how good kids are getting on guitar. Houston quartet Scale the Summit play circles around most, though they thankfully rein in their chops on this set of instrumental prog metal. They love their Death and Canvas Solaris, but they also drop emo-esque chord progressions with anthemic melodies—imagine Between the Buried and Me jamming sans vocals. Jazzy bass lines and fills flow beneath precise harmonies, as snaky clean tones recall King Crimson. Though the instruments have good separation, the recording is a bit raw. As a result, the rhythm section feels lightweight; a more professional recording would glue drums and bass together better. Still, this is a fine full-length debut for a band that's already found its sound.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Seventh Star - The Undisputed Truth
[Facedown]

Lots of gang vocal yelling—if Lil Jon made Christian metallic hardcore punk, it might sound like this. Others actually do this bigger, like labelmates xDeathstarx, as well as Comeback Kid, who on their last record practically hired a college frat row for gang vocals. Still, the vocal thickening adds textural interest to by-the-book metallic hardcore, with midpaced riffs and breakdowns galore. The execution is tighter than last year's bikini, and the first-gear moments induce head-nodding. If you're wondering what Christians sound so pissed off about, it's fundamentalists ruining their religion: "They dropped the bomb to start this culture war / Separate themselves from the secular / Oh they love God but they hate you / The crusade is on." Dave Quiggle's fire-and-brimstone artwork is unintentionally cute, but his layout is refreshingly legible—hallelujah!
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost
[Prosthetic Records]

Whoa. Is this recorded at the correct speed? And what exactly is “permafrost?” Wait, and “Beyond the Permafrost” almost sounds just like Anthrax’s “Caught in a Mosh.” Don’t it? OK, maybe not… A whole lot of this record makes me wax nostalgic; it sounds like everything and nothing I used to listen to on WREK’s Wrekage in the mid-�80s. Bits of Exodus, Metallica, Overkill, Sodom, etc.—but the lyrics are delivered in that patented Death Metal screech-howl thing that alternates every shriek for every gruff huff. I know these guys mean well, and I do like a lot of the music but I’m having a hard time taking it seriously. If only these guys didn’t take themselves seriously…
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Sodom - The Final Sign of Evil
[Steamhammer]

Full disclosure: I put this one in the car hi-fi blindly. A pile of promos in the passenger seat, and this one got me from A to B and then some. When I came to a complete stop and removed the blindfold I regretted my enjoyment: this isn’t Sodom; it can’t be. Oh, it is. And it’s likely best that you come to terms with what-once-was and what-now-is before you’re able to objectively get into any sort of frame of mind to make “judgments.”

Frankly, as a “Sodom Record” this does not fucking cut it one bit. Frankly, as one of the legion of painfully mediocre promos that find their way to my mailbox, this cuts it down to the bone. “Blasphemer,” “Witching Metal,” “Sepulchral Voice,” etc. are strangely compressed, dunderheaded takes on Big M Metal, and they all achieve a sort of excellence—“duh, ironic,” intended or otherwise. Process comes into play here, however, with the wealth of this record coming from Sodom’s first EP, The Sign of Evil; yup, these are reworked, re-recorded, etc. a sort of benign plagiarism that only feels “right” insofar as the graying Sodom is able to do so much with tunes written in the dark recesses of 1984. “Blahhhs-PHE-Murrrr!”
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Souvenir's Young America - An Ocean without Water
[Crucial Blast]

Bill Frisell jams with Isis and tells Aaron Turner to shut his black metal mouth up. Across Tundras have already explored such metallic Americana; but while they have Neil Young and acoustic leanings, SYA go long with deep reverbs and ghostly clean tones. Sure, Ocean falls into the fashionable Sarlacc pit of atmospheric metal, a severely overbought commodity with weak fundamentals. But just when one is about to swear off all NeurIsis clones forever, SYA slides in heart-wrenching slide guitar like a new knife through the heart. Angelo Badalamenti would be jealous. Especially admirable are the moments when the rhythm section lays out, letting guitars reverb into infinity. RZA, when are you gonna loop the intro to "The Sheltering Sky"? This is soul music for rural kids with 80 gig iPods.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Throneum/Revelation of Doom - Total Regression!
[Pagan]

Polish brothers in porcupine-esque studded wristbands, Throneum and Revelation of Doom fork out four originals and a clutch of covers; hence, the title. The match of bands and choice of covers is spot-on. At 13 tracks and 37 minutes, this is one of the meatier splits in recent memory. Throneum's beefy, blackened death slots in nicely next to feral takes on Destruction, Impaled Nazarene, Unleashed, and Morgoth. Revelation of Doom are blessed/cursed with rawer production; their primitive, old-school death metal cuts like a rusty axe. Hellhammer, Terrorizer, Sodom, Pandemonium, and Blasphemy all fall to this blade in quick succession. The list of bands paid tribute is self-explanatory, really.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Total Fucking Destruction - Zen and the Art of Total Fucking Destruction
[Bones Brigade]

Now this is what grindcore should sound like—a truck running you over malevolently and repeatedly until your blood mixes with its dripping oil into tasty dipping sauce for your flesh-turned-sushi. If Rich Hoak's Brutal Truth was/is a finely tuned grind machine, his Total Fucking Destruction is BT's wild-eyed, hairy, hopped-up-on-meth cousin. Right, so this is pulverizing—yet the "Zen" is oddly fitting. Tucked away between helicopter blade blastbeats and technical riffs are surreal, rather wise lyrics. For example, the entirety of "Warfinger": "World War Four / Fought with sticks and stones / Warfinger / Pointed at you." After 18 minutes of pureeing your head, the album ends with four strange psych-folk numbers and a dash of free jazz. Somehow, such a head-spinning denouement is totally fucking appropriate.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Unearthly Trance - The Axis Is Shifting
[Banana Hammock]

New Yawk trio takes no truck with Ptolemaic astronomy, adds shit-yr-trou volume, mind-cutting poesy (courtesy of hierophant Aleister Crowley), likely ludicrous amounts of beer, liquor and weed and vomits forth a dome-rattling 10.” Two long tracks, “Branches of Anti-Gravity” and “Oceans Expand” extrapolate on obsessions major and minor, all while delivering rotting practice-space as sonic broken-assed stench in zero seconds. No bullshit here, folks. While others parade around in robes and stage blood, bruised panda sockets and pegleg pants, Unearthly Trance continues to do what it’s always gawdamn done, which is prejudicially disseminate full-tilt fuckin’ Metal. Even revisiting pieces of the past (“Branches…” appeared on UT’s Nuit demo) is nothin’ but runnin’ the voodoo down. Closing “Oceans Expand” with Crowley’s erotically drenched “At Sea” supplies the hagiographic man-gravy. You bring the meat (or eggplant). Recommended.
[Listen]
[Stewart Voegtlin]


Various Artists - Chicago Metal Hell
[Nuclear War Now! Productions]

As much as it's actually remembered as home to several notable and still existing metal acts, Chicago might as well be China. But all told, the early works of local legends Master, Death Strike, Macabre, Trouble and Cianide remain seminal, searing works of uncompromising force and attitude that at the time helped kick-start modern Death Metal. The last of these returns in fine form to kick off this four-track sampler, aimed at showcasing the new breed of Chi-town thrash. Beginning with a furious, if somewhat ironic cover of "Ordered to Kill" by Virginia's At War, Cianide re-states purpose within the din of Frost-like, motorized riffs, pit-bull snarls and guitar solos that shave across ridges of low-end groans.

Sloughed and cackling, Robert Campos' Terror Throne enters next with "Hail Decay," a brief and blacker tune treading between shades of hysteria easily mistaken for complete carelessness. Campos works heavy around the recording's limitations with keen sensibility (as in Darkthrone, Graveland) and a truly gross vocal performance, but ends things well before they reach the full-out mania of his recent full length [See: LHP 008]. Malas' "King of Theives" retrieves bass-heavy glut inside generic brute metal, while Hellrealm, helmed by scene veteran John Karnes (Scepter), gnaws on open chords and calls it anonymous; a negative feed of primitive, effects-based ciphers that do and say little inside of these last, numb seconds.
[Todd DePalma]


Wi77!N6 - Brotherhood of the Backwards Handshake
[Evolving Ear]

Ian Christe wrote Sound of the Beast, the preeminent history of metal, and Everybody Wants Some, the authoritative Van Halen biography. Who have guessed that his music would be so friggin' weird? Wi77!N6, his late '90s duo, spit out a few cassettes and this 2000 recording, previously unreleased until now. Warning: it's not metal. It's improvisational noise, though some moments are metallic, not in genre but in timbre. Christe and drummer Fritz Welch (of The Peeesseye) scrabble around on the floor, picking at this and that, eating it, and regurgitating as caustic scribbles and percussive muttering. It's not anarchy, as Welch's work is dynamic and sensitive. Feedback and ghostly samples swim left and right like a throbbing headache. At times, Christe drops oblique clean tones that suggest Southern field hands with malaria. Feverish, uncomfortable, and addictive.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Woe of Tyrants - Behold the Lion
[Tribunal]

Behold the Lion is a compendium of the hottest metal styles today: Swedish melodic death metal, retro thrash, Southern sludge, and hardcore punk, with a touch of true blue death metal. But these Ohio shredders' songwriting is as pedestrian as their chops are mighty. Riffs fire with precision, solos fly about dizzyingly, harmonies spiral 'round in perfect synchronicity, and drums blast as if paid by the stroke. But all this adds to naught, save for an air guitar competition soundtrack. What drives musicians to soil such instrumental proficiency with such utter conformity? At least the fine artwork doesn't color inside the lines; Jamie King turns in yet another clear, hard-hitting production.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]


Yakuza - Transmutations
[Prosthetic]

So Chicago's Yakuza has a saxophone. Until now, it's been somewhat of a gimmick, with the band alternating between two modes: faceless art-sludge, and psychedelic, sax-fueled jamming. The band has excelled much more at the latter than the former. On Transmutations, though, Yakuza have begun to reconcile their two sides into a more organic whole. Now there are some actual guitar riffs, and the saxophone feels like less of an appendage; dig those zany unison lines with the guitars in "Egocide." The songwriting is lithe and unpredictable, as apt to skid into skittering, rolling beats as echoing, spacey singing. "Congestive Art-Failure" mushrooms from delicate clean tones to a shuddering climax, while "The Blinding" is mammoth and mystical. Not an immediate listen, and all the richer for it.
[Listen]
[Cosmo Lee]

Left Hand Path Archive



By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-10-26
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