Songs I Liked This Week In List Form VOL 1
It’s not entirely clear what it is I’m doing here, but rarely does anything I do make sense. So, there’s that. And the thing I’m doing, or so it seems, is beginning to write weekly succinct recommendation posts, and I’m going to be writing them in English. Not that this is interesting in any way, but neither decision is an easy one to make and both are imperfect. I took great pride in the fact that most of my content was in Hebrew, mostly since as much as I would love to reach as wide an audience as possible, I was committed to writing to and sometimes about where I was from. It felt honest, if that makes sense.
However, after nearly 10 years of this weird experiment led me to believe that I was, as with anything, equally right about that decision than I was wrong. Right because it helped cement a place for this strange project in underground Israeli culture (or so I’d like to think), bringing in weird music and writing about it weirdly. Wrong because, at the end of the day, this blog, much like one of my favorite all time bands, is a kind of portal. A place where people can gain a glimpse of the outside, and where people from the outside can gain a glimpse of the inside.
All that nonsense means two things: that I’ll be putting more stress on English-language content, in addition to the already existing interviews and essays. And the second is that I will be putting more stress on exporting the amazing local underground scene outwards. I believe one major step in this second effort was the Bandcamp compilation this blog put our about a month ago, showcasing the very best of the Israeli heavy(ish) underground. As far as the first effort, this series is one step in that direction. This is the cover art, by the way. I love it. The illustration was done by Daniel Sasson (who also plays guitar for this wonderful black/thrash band), and the layout and design were done by house designer and magical angel Amit Ben-Haim.
Basically this means that every week or so I’ll be putting out a recommendation post, which I assume will be actually named a bit later and given proper design and all that, which will represent my attempt to narrow down the endless stream of incoming music each week to 15 recommendations. Recommendations, I should add, that represent my taste and my taste alone and that I feel represent the ongoing concern of this website to discuss and advance creative, cutting-edge, weird, and often heavy music. So, fuck me, and all that, let’s go. Oh, and follow "us" (it's just me, folks) on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and Bandcamp. Yup. All that. If you're interesting in supporting is doomed venture, also feel free to join our Patreon, where you can get the odd playlist, discounts on merch, our compilation album, as well as other cool stuff yet to come (podcast?).
1. Arkhaaik – *dʰg̑ʰm̥tós (Iron Bonehead). The Swiss collective “Helvetic Underground Committee” has been coming up on my radar quite a bit lately, with a wonderful album by Ungfell last year and a stunning release by Kvelgeyst earlier this year. So checking out the debut album by collective member Arkhaaik was a seeming no-brainer. And yet I wasn’t ready, not for the drama or the wonderfully warm (and thus eerily menacing) production, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t ready for songs so well-written, expressive, and just fantastic as these few tracks are. To me this felt like some of the riffy flair and drama of a band like Bolzer mixed with the atmospherics and, well, down-right evil of bands like Urfaust and even Dolch. Stunning black metal, if this is even black metal. Who the fuck knows what this is, but it’s magic.
2. GHEIST – Swarming Season. The new album by the U.K. metallic hardcore band Geist is best listened to when trying to destroy an object while crying. There's a distinct sense here of a world of pent-up frustration, a hallmark of all good hardcore, that seems at times to be directed entirely inwardly (hence the crying I guess). But regardless of what's being destroyed or who's doing the crying, these are beautifully crafted little vignettes of rage and some pretty kinetic riffing. I think there's a small part of me that wants to call this a screamo-metal album, but then another part of me wants to beat that first part up. So, take that as whatever you will. Artwork: André Trindade.
3. Rattenfänger – Geisslerlieder (Van/Dark Essence). Abyssal is by far one of my favorite death metal acts operating today. They (well, he) have the riffs, the atmosphere, and the bizzare feeling of being nearly assaulted down to a pseudoscience. The new song by the death-metal spawn of the Ukrainian masters of Drudkh/Windswept/Necrom/Precambrian family tree (probably a brunt one at that) has absolutely nothing to do with Abyssal. Only that their new song sounds as if someone stripped an Abyssal song of all atmosphere, stole Greg Cowell's reverb pedal and laid bare the extreme attack of the, well, fucking riffs. A different way to say this would be to say that this feels as menacing and weirdly mysterious as, say, an Abyssal track can be, only in a more serial-killer type of vibe. Just sheer brutal brilliance.
4. Vastum – Orficial Purge (20 Buck Spin). I mean I guess I should space these death metal nightmares out, for variety's sake, but, honestly, who needs variety when you have all these wonderful rotting fruit stinking up the ground. Vastum, ever since their stunning Hole Below, have been a favorite of mine and of any well-composed ill human. They have that unique gift of sounding, I guess, "old school" while, at the same time, feeling as if they ate the old school and left it for dead. So I was waiting for this new album for a while (the wonderful split with Spectral Voice, notwithstanding). And these two first singles have been "munch your head" freakin' heaven. Heavy, toughtful, gross, and uplifting. And on a side note: Leila Abdul-Rauf's voice all day, all day. Artwork: Laina Terpstra.
5. Pharaoh Overlord – 5 (Ektro Records). I mean, who doesn't like Circle? Even dolphins love Circle (link to study that proves that here). They just seem like the smartest, funniest, most talented dudes in the world. The kind that could, if they felt like it, humiliate any band in any genre if they felt like, I dunno, putting out a death metal album or whatever. And being the overachieving insufferably beautiful people that they are they just had to put out an album by their psych/krautrock/experimental alter ego and blow everyone's brain out. I did in fact use some fancy words to try to explain what the hell is going in in this album, but, yeah, those are kind of pointless. Just beautiful music for you to indulge in while being high on the kinds of drugs I have been terrified to take my entire life. Photo: Vilhelm Sjostrom.
6. BÖLZER – Lese Majesty (Lightning & Sons). So, this is a tricky one. And I'm going to make a kind of guess, before I continue: BÖLZER are going to go industrial. Maybe not in the near future, but it's happening. And the reason I say that is that there are few clues in the first single from their much-awaited new EP that tell me they've exhausted the organic-riffing sound they have pretty much perfected in the last few years. No one riffs like BÖLZER, no one, especially since their music has, again, that wonderfully loose and airy feeling even when it's crushing your entire family. But the production/mixing on this new one tells me they're going to change some of that up. Their EP's and debut fell-length were so well recorded that I hard it difficult to believe that some of the miscues I'm hearing here are unintentional: drum sound is a bit unpleasant, clean-singing voice sounds weirdly recorded, and the whistle is almost cringey. All of that isn't to say this isn't a great song, it is, and it provides so much of the majesty of their past releases that we have come to expect. But it just feels like they're fed up, the kind of fed up that would feed well into a more, I dunno, Einstürzende Neubauten-influenced death metal in the future. Which, I have to say, sounds pretty amazing.
7. Xoth – Interdimensional Invocations (Independent). For whatever reason writing about "space" in metal entails a certain riffing style, I have no idea why. Maybe people writing about space are kinda nerds and maybe these are the kind of riffs kinda nerds write, but a lot of my favorite "cosmic metal bands" share a weird aesthetic common strain – Artificial Brain, Vektor (yup, umm, ok), Void Omnia, Nocturnus, Blood Incantation, and so on. And Xoth falls squarely into that spacey slot with an added taste for late 90s Death (Symbolic to Sound of Perseverance, give or take) and an added 9,000 tons of nerdy joy. This is so much fun, all while being super un-fun too, in that "we're thinking very hard about other dimensions" type of way. Riffy, ever-moving (kinetic? again?), entertaining as all hell and just gloriously good. That was an alliteration. I apologize.
8. Vukari – Aevum (Vendetta Records). Vendetta Records have been good for some time, and have been good to the artists they release as well (the artists keep the rights to their own work, Vendetta just cooperates with those artists in releasing their work, that's it). But as great as they have been before, this year has just been out of this world. Releases by (the aforementioned) Kvelgeyst, FRIISK, Woe, SCÁTH NA DÉITHE, and others have made any Vendetta release an automatic listen, as far as I'm concerned, and their releasing of Vukari's second full-length is further proof to that claim. Vukari caught my, uh, eye earlier this year with a couple of stellar demos, just great, atmospheric and emotive USBM. And Aevum takes all that brilliance, adds a thick layer of good-ole-fashioned drama and melody, making it one of the better black metal releases all year. Beautiful. Artwork: Dawid Figielek.
9. NOIR IRIS DES SENS – NOIR IRIS DES SENS (Independent). This must be the year of the "fucked up French people making genre-bending insane music" because after the acoustic-death-metal-hip-hop-lounge-music that was the stunning album from Dronte earlier this year, comes this whacky little gem. To say the debut by NOIR IRIS DES SENS caught me off guard is to assume I had one, which I certainly did not. A wonderful slip-n-slide of proggy, black metal (?), atmospheric weirdness that not only grows with each listen it practically took over my brain like a parasite. Wonderfully amazing.
10. Rosetta – Terra Sola (Independent). My attachment to Rosetta is well known at this point, but given the new context perhaps some extrapolation is needed. Rosetta was one of those bands that put be back on the metal bandwagon, specifically 2010's masterful The Determinism of Morality, an album I would later interview them about in one of my earliest interviews. And I have loved everything they have ever put out, but I have a special weak spot for heavy Rosetta, the kind in which they sound like a band about to crush your with a riff while drum-rolling Explosions-in-the-Sky-like into heaven. And that Rosetta has been, it should be said, mostly absent in recent years. The opening and title track of their surprise new EP, however is that in spades, and the best the band has sounded since 2013's The Anaesthete. Beautiful.
FIVE MORE THINGS TO KNOW
ONE – Two(-ish) amazing Polish black metal albums came out recently: Non Opus Dei's wild and genius Głód, and the two, yup two, debut albums by new band Gruzja that are just scary good. It will chop your head right off.
TWO – The most important and best musical collective working out of Israel today, Shalosh Cult, just put out a great compilation album of all their bands that is more than worth checking out. Of note is the grindy interpretation KLUVIM put on their cover of the classic Mayhem track "Deathcrush."
THREE – Yes, I too saw the teaser for the new Blood Incantation album. And, yes the hype is quite sizable. And, yes I too am super excited about that release. Cannot wait.
FOUR – I love my kids more than anything.
FIVE – Two "Live at Roadburn" albums came out recently, both amazing. One of Hell's set in 2018 and one of Oranssi Pazuzu's 2016 show. I recently published an interview with the Finnish orange devils as part of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. You can read it here.
ONE LAST THING, PROMISE: There's another Helvetic Underground Committee release coming soon, and it's going to murder life.
See you next week!