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Album Review

Acherontas – ‘Psychic Death – The Shattering of Perceptions’ [Album Review]

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Labelling Acherontas as merely black metal is unfair to both black metal as a genre and Acherontas as a band; the vast spectrum of sounds that can be experienced within black metal makes it a wholly inaccurate system of classification, and Acherontas delve into far too many of these diverse sonic styles to be contained by such a generic and catch-all label. Not even the loose sub-genre identifiers that are so casually tossed around – atmospheric black metal, post-black, pagan black metal, folk, Scandinavian, raw and just about any other black metal imaginable – can do justice to the music produced by this Greek powerhouse.

At least, that’s how listening to their latest album, Psychic Death – The Shattering of Conceptions feels.

First of all, this as an extremely tiring record: exhausting, even. There is always so much happening, it is a semiotic nightmare to navigate when listening to the record. Even something as comparatively benign as the haunting (ab)use of meditative bells in the opening moments of “Paradigms of Nyx” is loaded with emotional symbolism, making the audio journey one fraught with unease. The segues from these evocative, ambient moments into untamed fury are sublime, transporting a listener from hypnotic rest to dervish-like frenzy and back again.

https://youtu.be/yRYjjr_U1-c

Secondly, the full spectrum of black metal, from the grandiose cinematics of dungeon synth through to the well-rounded bombast of orchestral black metal straight on to the full-blown aural assault of necro riffing can be found in most of Acherontas’s music, and Psychic Death – The Shattering of Conceptions is no exception. It always excites me when individual tracks on an album act as microcosms of the greater record as a whole, and songs like “The Offering of Hemlock” and “Kiss the Blood” (the measured, slower pace here is a textbook example of anticipation building done right), as well as the title track itself, all achieve this. Each is a fully-realized offering in its own right, yet each is also an integral cog in the greater wheel, building on and further developing the overall impression and themes of the album. Factor in a dynamic and haunting range of vocal styles to some of the finest examples of acoustic guitar in metal – not just black metal – and you have an absolute winner.

Admittedly, my judgment may be biased. Acherontas’ ‘Formulas of Reptilian Unification’ trilogy of records (2015’s Ma-IoN, its 2017 follow-up, Amarta अमर्त, and 2018’s Faustian Ethos) are among my most-played recent releases. Their ‘shamanic ritual-meets-unbridled slaughter’ approach to songwriting ticks most of my boxes, ranking them alongside acts like Cult of Fire, Nightbringer and Mephorash: deeply atmospheric music, seasoned with all the pomp and splendour of religious theatre, yet still fashioned around an uncompromising core of severe, harsh black metal.

https://youtu.be/EgzpbztzeDQ

Based on these impressions, it becomes glaringly obvious that Acherontas is not your run-of-the-mill black metal act, and Psychic Death – The Shattering of Conceptions is no ordinary record – but it is most definitely a well-named one. The album gathers what you already think you know about the genre, bundles it together and neatly discards the result before rewriting its own definition of how contemporary black metal should sound. The net consequence is a moving, spiritual experience as well as a deeply beautiful one. Take the ocean’s fury against a rocky shore as a visual metaphor here: breathtaking, dangerous, mesmerizing and uplifting all at once, but still a powerful reminder of how insignificant and small you are by comparison. And that could just as easily be a description of Acherontas and the gift they have given us in the form of Psychic Death – The Shattering of Conceptions.

Psychic Death – The Shattering of Conceptions Track Listing:

1. Paradigms of Nyx
2. Kiss the Blood
3. The Brazen Experimentalist
4. Psychic Death: The Shattering of Conceptions
5. Coiled Splendor
6. The Offering of Hemlock
7. Sermons of the Psyche
8. Μαγεια των καθρεφτων (Magick of Mirrors)

Run Time: 53:43
Release Date: June 26, 2020 (delayed)
Record Label: Agonia Records

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.

Album Review

Wabi Sabi – ‘The Love Insane’ [Album Review]

‘The Love Insane’ displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

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Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork
Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork

About seven months ago, Atlanta-based ensemble Wabi Sabi released their fourth album, The Love Insane, a record that not only flew under the radar but was also impacted by the pandemic, resulting in it being self-produced.

Pianist/vocalist Damien Cartier explains, “This is the first of our albums that I have produced myself. We have never done an album this way, but Covid mixed with having a spare bedroom home studio seemed like the perfect time to try.”

The genesis of Wabi Sabi occurred in 1999. Initially comprising piano, trombone, and drums, the band’s name was Damien Cartier And His My Newt Orchestra. Before long, the band added horns, bass, guitars, percussion, and singers. However, there was a problem: the band’s name, the spelling of which stymied people.

Then Damian saw an episode of King Of The Hill where Bobby discovered the concept of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that perceives beauty in imperfection and transience. Enter the band Wabi Sabi, whose unique sound amalgamates elements of soul, funk, reggae, and pop with tangs of jazz.

The Love Insane begins with “The Truth,” opening on a soft, low piano topped by tender vocals, mirroring pensive tones. The melody blends savors of rock and jazz, forming a dreamy, almost psychedelic flow of floating textures.

Highlights on the album include the title track, conjuring up the swaying soul surfaces of the ’60s, tinted with twangy, country-laced guitars. Cartier’s vocals are spot-on and convey touching, quixotic aromas.

New Life,” a personal favorite, evinces suggestions of Steely Dan because of its deliciously trippy-lite surfaces and grand brass accents that bray forth finessed tones. The funky “Not Yet, Sister,” with its hints of reggae, features bright horns, skiffing guitars, and a neighing organ.

The album finishes with “The Weirdo Blues,” a luscious fusion of bluesy jazz and orchestral flavors. There’s a delightful, sleazy sensation to the tune, imbuing the song with benevolent craziness.

The Love Insane displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

The Love Insane Track Listing:

1. The Truth
2. I Am OK
3. Manifest
4. The Love Insane
5. New Life
6. Not Yet, Sister
7. Sick Tuna
8. The Fall
9. Please Rescue Me
10. Spacetime
11. The Weirdo Blues

Run Time: 48:18
Release Date: July 28, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Spike Polite & Sewage – ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] [Album Review]

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Spike Polite & Sewage’s ‘Punk Not Dead’ projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

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Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork
Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork

Punk Not Dead, the latest EP from Spike Polite & Sewage, is an insolent, provocative social satire, a response to the clueless decline of Western civilization, à la Oswald Spengler. Unrestrained, the EP was produced by Ted Sabety.

Made up of Spike Polite, aka Reagan Youth and Cheetah Chrome, on vocals, Michelle Shocked (bass, vocals), Antony Romero (guitar), and Beast (drums), Punk Not Dead follows on the band’s 2021 EP, PANDEMONIUM.

Comprising three tracks, Punk Not Dead opens with “What Happened to the Punk Rock,” rolling out in buzzsaw guitars riding tight, raw percussion. A single voice segues into gang-like vocals, imbuing the lyrics with enflamed indignation. This is old-school, fulminating punk rock.

Twitter is a Death Machine” delivers a short, vicious commentary on the malicious ramifications of social media platforms, specifically Twitter, now known as X. Traveling on a fast, chunky rhythm, the harmonics slice the atmosphere with edgy guitars.

Snarling, grinding guitars give the intro to the title track chaotic textures as sneering vocals infuse the lyrics with ferocious energy highlighted by ringing percussion. The outro reveals the spoken word vocals of Spike and Michelle announcing that “punk is not dead.”

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Punk Not Dead projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Punk Not Dead Track Listing:

1. What Happened to the Punk Rock
2. Twitter is a Death Machine
3. Punk not Dead

Run Time: 3:24
Release Date: January 15, 2024
Record Label: Solid Bass Records

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Album Review

Night Wilds – ‘All That Should Have Been’ [Album Review]

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Night Wilds “Heartland” single artwork

Progressive alt-rock artist Night Wilds, the musical brainchild of Seth Micarelli, will drop his debut album, All That Should Have Been, on April 1. A darkly cathartic record, it’s an immersive concept album cloaking autobiography in fantastical fiction. (Check out our previous single review here.)

All That Should Have Been was tracked at Robert Lang Studios, London Bridge Studios, and Electrokitty Studios. The sessions boasted an audiophile’s dream of vintage gear and exceptional contributions from mastering and mixing engineer Tom Hall and longtime Heart drummer Ben Smith.

“For my whole life, I have been searching for that magic pill to make everything feel better,” shares Micarelli. “This album is about making sense of that void.”

Encompassing 17 tracks, All That Should Have Been begins with the dramatic “The Curtain,” a heated monologue delivered by the compere of a circus, rebuking the performers, focusing on a small child. His criticism travels over a creepy mosaic of sonic motifs, conjuring up a toxic milieu.

Entry points include “New Jerusalem,” opening on low-slung ethereal surfaces topped by Micarelli’s soft, poignant vocals. Slowly building and taking on elevating harmonics, the melody swells into a grandiose prog-rock performance, highlighted by radiant female harmonies, infusing the tune with gospel savors.

City Of Strangers,” a symphonic rock ballad, reveals the protagonist’s realization that he has created a self-constructed prison in his mind, a prison reflecting the events of his life in his youth. A melancholic piano and weeping strings mirror the passionate lyrics, imbuing the song with regret, yearning, and a moving appeal for human tenderness and forgiveness.

A personal favorite because of the exposure of intimate, inner feelings, “Long Way From Graceland” features an alluring folk-rock melody supporting Micarelli’s raw, sensitive vocals, drenched in musing timbres.

Just A Moment More” conjures up suggestions of Bruce Springsteen, unwrapping textures of folk-rock. Blending gleaming guitar accents, a gently sparkling piano, and a mid-tempo rhythmic flow, the tune evokes the pensive longing for more time in embracing the carefree sensation of life’s satisfying moments.

The album closes with “Where Do We Go From Here,” juxtaposing Micarelli’s haunting voice against the maniacal, cackling laugh and wild spoken words of the crazed compere from the first track. The drifting prog-rock ambiance of the melody, reminiscent of Pink Floyd, is at once delicate and elegantly haunting.

Tucked inside All That Should Have Been is an unforgettable story of working to emerge from darkness and addiction into light.

All That Should Have Been Track Listing:

1. The Curtain
2. The Show
3. Mother
4. Fear
5. New Jerusalem
6. Confusion
7. Control
8. Heartland
9. Where Do We Go From Here
10. City Of Strangers
11. A Long Way From Graceland
12. Joni
13. No Way Home
14. Tired
15. Just A Moment More
16. Lost Light
17. Where Do We Go From Here

Run Time: 60:32
Release Date: April 1, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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