Chuck Schuldiner Project

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Darkest Hour - Godless Prophets and Migrant Flora

At this point in time, it is fair and safe to count Darkest Hour amongst the few acts to have survived the Metalcore era from which their mainstream success took root. As the band enters its 22nd year with this ninth full length-record, one can already measure in the factors that have set them apart from their lesser peers, not the least of which is their audacity to expand and experiment on their heavy melodic death metal formula. The last few efforts by Darkest Hour saw a progressive shift in the bands’ sound, from the often overlooked The Human Romance leading up to their Self Titled album, which saw the band edging towards Alternative Metal territory with angsty, clean sung metal core hooks and a sharp, digital production (courtesy of Sumerian Records). While competent and admirable in its delivery, fans and critics alike were beginning to grow concerned about the bands’ sound falling into a generic register. With Godless Prophets and Migrant Flora, the Washington-based quintet seem to have picked up these concerns.

As the record jumpstarts into the thrashy opener that is “Knife in the Safe Room”, we quickly come to understand that the band aimed for a different approach for this record. Godless Prophets and Migrant Flora is a heavy record, and a pretty intense one at that, the bursts of rapid-fire drumming and string-skipping-based riffs of the opener serving as a decent representation of a good deal of the record. The band returns to their old-school roots on this record, setting their modern metalcore leanings aside, in favor of a rawer, Swedish Melodic Death Metal sound.The most notable difference on this record may very well be John Henry’s vocals, undoubtedly the most distinguishable feature of Darkest Hour’s sound. Ditching the clean vocals, Henry’s ferocious saturated vocals reach a new level of intensity, adding to the album’s overall merciless sound. Another highlight feature for this ninth record is the lead guitar work, which also makes a triumphant return on this record, with flamboyant solo licks that seem to stem straight from a Megadeth or Metallica record. Wilder and flashier than on the previous record, the guitarists go full-on Kirk Hammett on the Wah pedal, providing for exceptional solos on tracks like “Another Headless Ruler of the Used” and “The Last of the Monuments”. 

Beyond the brilliant return to roots, the album does however score lower than its predecessors in terms of pacing and diversity. The album pummels you with track after track of feral thrashing for a solid half of its runtime, leaving little in the areas of breathing space and dynamic range. This comes as a particularly regretful realisation as the last few records which the band seems to shy away from were particularly well paced and diverse. The album does end up providing some variation towards its second half with an instrumental interlude and epic, slower tracks like “In the Name of Us All” and “Enter Oblivion being stuck at the end of the album.

Overall, despite its flaws, Godless Prophets and Migrant Flora is a incredibly effective album, one that will undoubtedly reclaim Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation-era fans. While this ninth record may alienate newfound fans of the band, it does admittedly feel great to hear the band return to their roots at the height of their form. While some may call Godless Prophets and Migrant Flora a “return to form” for Darkest Hour, one must be weary of such accolades, as it undermines the brilliant consistency of the bands’ musical output. 

Robin Ono

Darkest Hour

Tod Huetet Uebel - N.A.D.A

It's been raining pretty hard in New York for a few days now so it seems fitting that I'm sitting here gearing up for a thirty minute slog through the grey by listenin to some burning black metal all the way from Portugal. Tod Huetet Uebel made quite a splash since their 2015 debut Malicia. This is the sort of black metal that can't help but to charm the listener. Sure it's pretty alienating for the uninitiated, but if you have a passion for the burning madness that dives into our hearts and minds you will start to find absolution.

Caverna Abismal records has made an impressive effort over the past few years to put together some of the most potent black metal releases and it feels like N.A.D.A are one of their strongest offerings to date. It's the kind of record that remains gloriously oppressive even when they tap out and give you arppegiated blasphemies. The vocals are shrieked, demented and at times a bit too over the top. That being said, when blast beats kick in the tormented vocals truly find their spot in the mix. As the bands songs evolve you start to see that despite the potential behind the music they haven't fully realized how they want to execute.

There is a sense of sublime melancholy communicated with N.A.D.A the moments that the songs fall into almost pure and demented noise are transcendent. The sheer pain found within is at times reminiscent of truly fucked up black metal bands like Silencer or perhaps even Absurd. In a world where black metal is often sterile and made overtly pretty Tod Huetet Ueble embrace the murk. Despite this they understand the true beauty of the genre, making this a rarefied and enlightening listen.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Ruins Of Beverast - Exuvia

For those in the know, The Ruins Of Beverast has been one of the worlds premier black metal bands for a while now. There unique brnad of hyper oppressive and relentlessy destructive black metal has been tempered with a certain intelligence, a modern day nihilism if you will. They fall very much into the same category as bands like Bastard Sapling and Dragged Into Sunlight, and yet their demonic psychedelic ramblings and intermittent monk chants are utterly mesmerizing, tearing faces apart from start to finish.

The thing is - The Ruins Of Beverast are extremely willing to bring in a broad variety of sounds and unholy conjurations. The compositions here are truly next level, the band brings in touches of Indian music as well as booming black metal. They are unafraid to bring in just about everything and it leads to a record that has a strangely consolidated sound. It's an album that you get lost in becase The Ruins Of Beverast are constantly opening up new soundscapes and sonic vistas in a way that few bands of their ilk could ever dare. The production on Exuvia is utterly massive and it reflects the devastating concepts at hand.

This is a band that invokes foreign powers and strange demons. They are tapped into a reality that many of us only dream of, something that is firmly established not just by the first song but even the potent cover art itself. Exuvia is a record that demands time, you can't just digest in one listen but rather you need to sit down and think about it. Pick apart its layers and try to find the kernels of truth that have come to define what it means. The Ruins Of Beverast have gone above and beyond here and we need to embrace that.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mortiis - The Great Corrupter

Mortiis has always been one of my favorite artists, he brings a lot of weird shit to the table and has astounded thousands of people over a career built on innovation and progress. His music is weird, over the top and strangely powerful, it's the sort of thing that you can't quite put into words a lot of the time because there is simply so much to unpack. Given his role as an innovator in the field it is kind of thrilling to listen to an album full of remixes of his last record The Great Deceiver, many of them from some of the coolest acts to come out in the last few years as well as legendary groups in the genre.

With remixes from everyone from Godflesh to Die Krupps it's easy to see why people have fallen in love with this record. It's an exploration on the music of one of the most exploratory artists of all time. Mortiis has never conformed to norms and his willingness to let others expand his sound is exciting to say the least. I love remix albums because it's a really great primer on a wide variety of artists but is simultaneously held together by the thread of the artist being remixed. It makes for an album that opens your eyes and allows you to explore sides of an artist you never even thought about before!

When it comes down to it this album is a lot of fun to listen too. Mortiis has always developed exciting new ideas and powerfully pushed concepts that most fans have a hard time wrapping their heads around. He comes at it though with a totally fresh and innovative attitude. He makes you curious to dive into the weird sonic landscapes he has created and these remixes open up vistas that can't be ignored. Mortiis is a magical man, and this collection of remixes uses one of the strongest pools of talent I have heard on a record of this sort in many a season.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Les Discrets - Prédateurs

For a lot of people Les Discrets are a pretty special band. They took what a lot of their predecessors and peers in bands like Alcest and Amesoeurs were doing and brought it to a bold new level. Their music has always been subdued and ethereal, devoted to otherworldly soundscapes and potent song structures, making their latest offering perhaps their best yet. There is a whole lot to sink your teeth into on Prédateurs and it makes for a truly engrossing listen from a band who care more about the intricacy of the music then shoving it down your throat.

What I think I love about Prédateurs is that while many other records in the genre try to overwhelm you with their beauty, Les Discrets have always peacefully gone for something much quieter and more elegant. Rather than dazzle with majestic soundworlds or powerful guitars you find yourself engaging in minimalist melodies, many of which feel sort of improvised. Yet when the subtle layering kicks in you realize that it is anything but. This isn't a record that was meant to dominate the forefront of your mind but rather one that acts as a sort of accent on your lifestyle, opening you eyes to strange sonic highways you never previously new existed.

I could rant about the power of Prédateurs all day, but given the nature of this blog I'm limited to a few words. What I will say is this - Les Discrets have gone above and beyond here. They have created something truly beautiful but also something that isn't trying to shove itself down your throat. Rather it lies back and lets you ease yourself into it. It's rare that you find music that isn't starving for attention these days, but Les Discrets are confident enough in their craft that they sit back and let you come to it - a much more active experience and one I kind of adore.

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