Perchta – their name influenced by a pagan goddess revered in the Austrian Alps – began their journey in 2017. With a heavy understanding and appreciation for Austrian folklore, they set out to blend it with the expansive and immersive sound of atmospheric black metal. Their debut, Ufång, was released on April 10th and saw them take on these influences and present their folklore to the world through “local vernacular before a backdrop of tremolo guitars and ritualistic folk passages.” As someone who has recently had a surge of folk-oriented metal sent to my ears, I was eager to check out what Perchta had to offer.
With the intro, Ufång immediately jumps into the folk vibe. As the crunch of leaves and a solemn, heartfelt guitar plucks away alongside what sounds like static, an ominous and curious atmosphere is born. It follows through nicely to “Erdn”; the patter of footsteps and sound of a siren fade before the track bursts to life. As gorgeous as the intro is, the first punch of Perchta’s sound in Ufång is on an entirely different level; rough, forced vocals penetrate the ears over crunching guitar passages in a tribal explosion of sound. Here, the production quality is immediately noticed; careful planning has been made so that every crunch, tone of voice, and syllable is heard in all its power to amplify the dispersion of folklore and emotion.
Throughout Ufång, there is a delicate blending of traditional, and rather emotional, folk instrumentals with fast-paced blast beats and fierce vocal rasps. Sometimes, it focuses on the former over the latter – “Långs” being one such track. Its hypnotic acoustic passages with enveloping vocals which fluctuate in velocity from whispers to eventual screams is a powerful interlude between the intensity of other instrumentals found on Ufång. It’s a strong tribute to traditional folk writing which gives the record even more depth. The next song, “Åtem,” brings us back to the ferocity of black metal at the forefront of Perchta’s sound, with the folk instrumentals taking a darker approach to pairing with the dancing bass and the vocals a more melodic and accompanying tone. “Gluat” follows a similarly striking sound and remains as one of the standout tracks on Ufång, alongside the 10-minute epic “Wåssa.”
The versatility of Perchta’s vocalist is perhaps the most enticing part of Ufång. From soft, personal whispers to dramatic chants, to full-on black metal screams and near-gutturals, this diversity in vocal approach allows Perchta to explore several different styles and directions and make every track unique. Typically, throughout an album, one would get ‘used’ to the band’s sound and begin to expect certain riffs, passages, or styles, yet with Perchta each song is inviting and notably different. “Summa” feels like a continuation of “Långs”; however, there is a lack of the hypnotic passages and a focus on the voice, which is now stronger, thus giving a kind of allegory for the record while remaining standalone. One also gets the impression that the power and versatility of the folklore’s delivery and tradition through musical means is more important than the metal side of instrumentals itself, which makes for a strong listening experience.
Of record’s negatives, they are very few and minor at that, especially as debut albums are considered. The main comment is that due to the ebb and flow of folk and metal – such as the gentle lull of “Långs” led immediately into the powerful “Åtem” – there is a strong and occasionally distracting flow of energy to some parts of the record. This alteration between folk and metal (while there are indeed tracks which fuse the genres in between) can make it difficult, in places, to sink into the atmosphere of one or the other. However, this being the main criticism one finds after listening to Ufång on multiple occasions is a clear mark of the record’s success.
Ufång is a striking and multi-faceted debut effort from Perchta. Their respect and clear admiration for traditional Austrian folklore and traditions presents us with an opportunity to learn more about a culture that is beginning to grow in the metal community. Their ability to blend these traditional elements with captivating black metal makes for an immersive and diverse listening experience; one which any black metal and folk fan should explore. Quite the journey indeed, and imaginably more so in a live format.
Ufång Track Listing:
11. Gluat (akustik)
12. Wåssa (akustik)
Run Time: 38:47
Release Date: April 10, 2020
Record Label: Prophecy Productions
Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]
While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.
Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”
The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.
With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.
Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.
“Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.
Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”
Exit Emotions Track Listing:
1. Where’s the Exit
W3. olves of California
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
12. One Last Time… Again
Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records
The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]
The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’
It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.
Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”
Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.
Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.
The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.
High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.
A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.
“Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.
Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.
Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent
Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]
Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.
Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.
Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.
The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”
Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’
Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.
Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.
“Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.
Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.
“Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.
Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.
Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:
1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)
Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent
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