Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reviews from The One True Dead Angel and He of the House

You can read these reviews and others here.

You can still pick up these three releases from our distro. All items in the distro are up to date. We are fresh out of the Endless Plains/Flat Horizon tape from Peasant Magik. If you'd like a copy then you should contact the label directly since we won't be acquiring more.

Both of these reviewers are also great musicians. We highly recommend Silas Ciarán's cd on Small Doses and RKF's (Korpershwache) new CD w/ To Blacken the Pages on Colony Records. It's probably one of RKF's best to date.


Locrian -- RAIN OF ASHES [Basses Frequences]

Thanks to the French label Basses Frequences, this two-track album -- originally released as a cassette on Fan Death Records -- is now available on cd (in a run of 400 copies). The first track is the title track, recorded live on WMUC in Chicago in July, 2009; the second track is the first one reversed. A lot of their more recent material has been heavily influenced by black metal, but this is more of a throwback to their earlier work, mixing shrill noise-drone with rumbling waves of dark ambient sound. The original track opens with noisy feedback and dissonant, high-pitched shrieks as a dark, revolving drone gradually fades up in the background; as time passes, shuddering bass action begins to take over the foreground as the drone and wailing being to recede into the background. Drones and moans begin to prevail, accompanied by twitching, skittering noise guitar vibrating in a black cloud of sonic fog. The mood is unsettling, and the sounds floating through the dark ambient haze are varied and constantly evolving; it sounds like the duo has harnessed the power of old analog synths along with the drone potential of fuzzed-out guitar and bass. The sound is rarely ever full-on; the intensity of the mix ebbs and flows, and around the ten-minute mark (the entire track is thirty minutes long), bell-like chimes appear, a motif that will come and go over the duration of the track. The steady but strategic application of dynamics, in fact, is where Locrian excel, and it's the major thing that sets them apart from most noise / drone bands -- they have an impeccable sense of when to flood the speakers and when to back off, as well as how to sprinkle new and interesting sounds through their compositions to keep them from growing stale without making them cluttered. My favorite parts of the track are the howling noises that show up in the last ten minutes, like a bad wind blowing through the throbbing fields of dissonance, and the muted, droning synth dominant through the final six minutes. The last few minutes of the track are a swirling tsunami of crunchy noises, dark rumbling, and wind-tunnel roar that finally fades out into nothingness as the track ends. The act of merely flipping the recording and running it backwards for the second track is nowhere near as self-indulgent as it might appear at first glance, for the reversed sound is just as unnerving (maybe more so) and, thanks to the peculiar physics of reversed audio, significantly different in terms of sonic architecture. In fact, the flipped track is some seriously scary-sounding shit. Once again the band turns out a work of distinction, and one you should track down as soon as possible (in the format of your choice).

Locrian / Harpoon -- split 7" [He Who Corrupts Inc.]

Chicago's finest noise duo (that would be the Locrian) return on a split release with another Chicago band, the grind thugs Harpoon. This split has been in the works for a while now, and comes with some interesting surprises -- the first appearance of a bassist for Harpoon, and a collaborator for Locrian (Andrew Sherer of Velnias). The Locrian track, "Ancestral Brutalism," opens with lo-fi hiss and ambient darkness before bursting into a full-on black metal riff that's augmented by bass-heavy ambient noise; by the time the drums (!) and pained vocals arrive, the atmosphere is a perfect return to the murky brutality of the infancy of black metal, with a sound that combines Burzum's eerie atmosphere with Sodom's hyperkinetic frenzy and smeared-into-paste guitars. This is no technical horrorshow, either -- just filthy monochromatic riffing that rises from a swamp of sonic murkiness and eventually descends back into the same. The Harpoon track, "To the Tall Trees," is far more modern-sounding, a bone-rattling epic of relentless grind driven by supercharged drumming and knitting-needle guitars that shifts down to a lower, even heavier, gear midway through the song. The abrupt and unexpected shift from blinding, speedy grindcore to a noisy form of doom keeps things interesting, and the band's forbidding guitar sound and primal drumming are the main things likely to keep you coming back for more. The packaging itself is most swank as well; a thick letter-pressed cover houses a full-color wraparound insert, the single itself is on green marble vinyl, and the package includes a coupon for a free digital download of bonus material (two songs by each band). Aside from being limited to 300 copies, it's worth noting that this is the label's final physical release.

and the one from He of the House

"Drenched Lands"
Small Doses
At War With False Noise

Written by Silas Ciarán

Drenched Lands showcases one of the first big movements, in my opinion, for Chicago-based black noisers, Locrian. Pressed professionally in an edition of one thousand copies (a rightfully HUMONGOUS set for such an independent and underground band) by familiars Small Doses and At War With False Noise, both extremely established and esteemed labels in the underground scene, the album truly encapsulates the diluted, blackfog air of its creation, both physically and aurally. The packaging is beautiful, simple, and very fitting.

Starting with a buzzing, a defined funeral procession of a guitar line trots in and falls in place. There is a slight tinkling off in the distance, natural sounds, complementing the seemingly lofi atmosphere. Droning lownotes come into the grim scene before us, almost as if a cracked and beaten cello strove to join in on the march. The guitar tempo is beginning to slack a bit, but that is what makes this a truly worthwhile listen. Raw power doesn't need a tempo. Electronic hightones floating in, the voices of angels watching from above - or below.

Then, everything cuts off, and a pulsing monotonous beat envelopes all. Nothing can be heard save for this throbbing, bleeding ulcer, discovered directly in the midst of what seemed to be an endless procession. We are wafting along, staring into the eyes of the damned, straddling the roads depicted in these photographs. Repetition in ethereal beings, this may be. The birthing of childghosts, sucking their first breaths from the plastique bags littering the ground. You almost want to believe that these sounds are coming from a guitar, but you cannot. This is the breeding ground of maggots and flies. The beat is fading now; not gone (it never will be, now), but certainly taking a subconscious backseat to the piercing waves of notes washing over the ground. Vocals are heard for the first time since the album's inception, a strangled plea for attention amongst the cacophony of sounds. These voices have fingers and nails, and they are well at work trying to claw their way through the barrier protecting you from (what? yourself?). Cymbal crashes follow through and are cut short, signaling the end of the spirit's tale.

What was once a wall of sound now seeps into what took us from the start; slow, unfiltered guitar strings, plucked with enough contempt and despair to carry the entire rest of the album without much deviation. But deviation there is. Mournful, pulsating keyboards drift overhead, almost instantly pulled back down and smashed full force into the earth's crust by a whole new set of voices, deteriorating any sense of life or being that it may have once held. The soft guitar strings, our Little Watchers, come back out to play.

Pure disorientation. Highpitched notes quickly flutter back and forth through both speakers, not far enough to the point of annoyance to cringe from them. Guitars once again lead these lost lambs into a faithful orkestra. Is someone trying to phone in? That familiar crackle appears... perhaps it makes sense, perhaps not. Deep, droning strings take over now, sending the children home and to bed. But they aren't listening, skipping along and frolicking as children will. A battle ensues, has its own tempo... both sides know it was lost far before it began.

For whom the bell tolls... it tolls endlessly. Oh, it has its cracks, certainly. But just as you are finished polishing the parts unscathed, you are thrown right back into the midst of this pitch black storm. Chugging guitars and nihilistic screams give this album a rude awakening, dragging it by the throat into its true nature, the purest form of black metal to exist. Forget your Darkthrone, because this Transylvanian hungers for something more... In the churning atmosphere, the single, beautiful guitar line that lead us so comfortably by the hand in the beginning returns with just that much more force and power, interspersed between hightone beeps and floating ambiance.

And thus, the journey ends. I could go on to attempt to explain the last track, a bonus for this CD though it was first released on vinyl by Diophantine Discs, but I won't. I can't. Simple as that.