REVIEW: Midmourner - Adorned in Fear and Error EP

Midmourner is a Alabama band that decided sludge was the way to go, and I can get behind that. If I had to guess, the group has a bit of experience with the genre. The band is just too direct with it's subgenre focus for it to be coincidental. With other bands, you usually get a more doomy sound somewhere in the midst of their music, but not with Midmourner – at least not on their EP, Adorned in Fear and Error. This is, probably, the most definitive example of sludge metal you can get – for better or worse.

The best way to describe what Midmourner has done here is: a crap-load of bass. Holy hell, there is a astonishingly large amount of bass here. If I was to guess, I'd say the whole EP is based around the bottom line more then anything else – almost like a less blackened version of Bell Witch (I had to do some digging to see if Midmourner was an only bass band, but nope). I'm more used to a bassy guitar that has a crunch to it, a effective and common technique used so that the more sustained notes sound drawn out and gloomy – or, you know, sludgy. But, Midmourner has got it's own way of doing things - albeit providing a much more simple and direct sound. What's really great is that, if you were to listen to their live recordings, it all translates to actual performances really well. I wouldn't be hard-pressed to say that their music works somewhat better live then it does in a studio setting. Which, to me, is a great sign of a capable band.

Themes on Adorned in Fear and Error are along the lines of issues with religion and power, it isn't too original but I liked the effort the band takes to accentuate this with occasional audio clips. They really let me understand what was even going on in times where I didn't quite understand what the band was trying to do. A good deal of the atmosphere comes from the vocals, some of the shriekiest vocals I've heard in a good while, but they do convey a clear sense of fear and unease – which fits right in with the subgenre. It's actually surprising just how atmospheric this band can be sometimes, Midmourner really finds a way stand out on it's own two when it comes to this. I couldn't help but feel like what was being conveyed was a genuine viewpoint, rather then just there for shock or awe.

Problems are, more or less, to do with the realities of being a sludge band. Some tracks seem to meld into one another, becoming pretty much indistinguishable from the last. For the most part Adorned in Fear and Error really does sound like one big song, aside from a couple tracks that have a intro or intentional endings rather then droning on until another song begins. Bass being a huge focus here also somewhat stifles the experience at times. Sometimes songs are just too drone-like, they meander whilst the vocals squelch on for what feels like unbelievable lengths of time. Midmourner isn't terrible by any means, but I can't help but feel like their consistency somehow hinders the band a little (strange to say).

I can't say that Midmourner, or Adorned in Fear and Error is the end-all piece everyone is looking for when it comes to sludge. I wouldn't even see why it would need to be. But, this is a good EP for those looking for their sludge/drone fix. Do I think Midmourner has the ability to be something massive? Yeah, I personally do. But, I haven't a clue how they'd get there. It'll be interesting to see what comes in the future. Until then, I'd say if this band is playing in the area to check them out. Live performances seem to be a strong-point for the band. Oh, and did I mention this EP is on cassette?


Keep up with Midmourner on Facebook, or check out their label, Old Lion Records, here.

INTERVIEW: Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn, Vocalist of Ondt Blod

[K] What is it like being a hardcore band in Norway? Has there been any difficulties?

When we started out, hardcore was kind of a buzz in Norway, giving us a head start. There is also a good underground music scene in Norway, consisting of DIY-scenes and rock clubs interested in taking in new bands. However, the combination of vast distances and few inhabitants kind of excludes the possibility of living of the road if you´re not huge. We´ve been able to strike the balance between mainstream presence and radio play on one hand, and building up a fan base through heavy touring on the other.

[K] I'm not too familiar with oppression occurring overseas, as it is a strong part of Ondt Blod's message, can you shed some light on the situation?

I am of the Sami people, which is the indigenous people of Scandinavia. The surrounding states of Norway, Sweden and Russia did for hundreds of years all colonize the far north, all demanding taxes, killing of religious leaders and other classical colonial shit. At the turn of the 19th century, the Nation-states divided the north between each other, and started violent assimilation of minorities into the new constructed national identity. “wild and savage” Sami were forced to abandon their language and ways, to become proper Norwegians. The shame of being told over generations that you are sub-human is profound, and many of the elder generation still struggle with this shame.

Although the assimilation program was called off in the sixties, the Norwegian government is still trapped in colonial policies. Sami reindeer-herders are forced to slaughter off much of their flocks, as the government thinks the amounts of animals are higher than the ecosystems of the land can handle, while at the same time selling off the same lands to mines and wind-power industry. The suicide rate of Sami youth is more than a hundred times higher than that of young Norwegians.

We are of a new generation of pissed Sami artists, bringing indigenous issues to the popular culture.

[K] Is there a moment, or even an entire song, on 'Natur' you could say you are most proud of?

Nah, man. Its all good.

[K] Has language been a barrier for Ondt Blod, at all?

Not in a direct way. So far, we´ve only been touring Scandinavia, and Norwegians, Swedes and Danes to some extent all understand each other. The nerve and the energy of the music is also such an important part of punk and hardcore, meaning that if you bring raw force to the table, foreign listeners might get a kick of the music, even if they don’t understand the words (paired with the fact that no one without a lyric sheet hears my lyrics anyway when I scream).

Of course, being such a great band as we are, there should be left no doubt that we would have been multi billionaires had we decided to sing in English. So our decision to keep it real has indirectly cost us glamour, cars and millions of dollars.

[K] What would you say 'Natur' does to evolve the sound and style of Ondt Blod?

While our first record was more of a straight punk/hardcore record, Natur is a bit more experimental in several directions. We wanted to make the record without any self-imposed restrictions on genre and credibility, resulting in cheesy saxophones, chugging, ballsy metal riffs and beach’s boyesque harmonies, as well as incorporating the ancient Sami song tradition of joik on the album closer “Giron”.

We´ve also worked a lot on our melodies and choruses, making way for both “right in the feels”-emo moments, and beer soaked, punkrock anthems.

[K] What are your plans after 'Natur' is officially released?

We release Natur 9th of March by throwing a huge release party in Tromsø in Northern Norway, the city where we got the band together during our first years at the university there. After the release party, we´ll sober up; get in the van and head out for a full Norway tour through the spring, from the far north to the south. If we come out alive of the tour, we´ll do a festival run this summer, playing Norway and Germany.

[K] If Ondt Blod was an animal, what animal would that be?

We have previously compared ourselves to with the strength, work ethics and grace of a horse, the Bruce Springsteen of the animal kingdom. Beautiful, but might kick your teeth in.

[K] What/Who do you hate the most?
Rape-culture, global warming, late capitalism, overcooked pasta.

[K] Worst experience while playing live?

I love playing live. If it were not for touring, I would not bother playing music. Of course, sometimes both the pay and the crowd is close to non-existent, the gear shitty or my voice sore (or not present). But 9/10 times it is a blast. So I don’t think I have any particular horror-stories for sharing. 

[K] What would you say the band's biggest weakness is as a unit, and it's greatest strength?

I think that our biggest strength is our will and dedication to work and rehearse; making us one of Norways best live bands (honestly there are like two bands better than us at this time, not mentioning names). Our greatest weakness is probably our dynamic strength, making us better suited for lifting heavy gear and playing 40-minute sets than running the New York Marathon.

[K] When you aren't playing, what are you doing?

Two of us are in law school, one is a teacher, one does music full time and I am a policy advisor. We also play video games and drink.

[K] If you had to give up music – what would you do to be creative?

I am always writing stuff, verse and prose, professionally, academically, or for the band. So I guess I would dig deeper into writing.

[K] It would be short sighted to say every band that plays heavy only enjoys metal, what are some other bands and genres you enjoy?

On tour we usually blast sweet power pop tunes in the van. “Ripe 4 Luv” by Young Guv is a go-to record.

[K] Ideal live line-up?

Refused, The National, Run the Jewels, Mastodon and Slayer.

[K] What's the worst interview question you've ever been asked (Aside from these ones, haha)?

We were doing a facebook-live interview prior to a talk show appearance, when I got challenged to a rap-battle. The show host started to beat box straight away, setting the stage for my performance and possible demise of pure embarrassment. I backed out the last second, avoiding what might have become the most embarrassing moment on Norwegian television this century.

I'd like to say thank you to Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn for the interview and answering even the weirdest of my questions. Ondt Blod is set to release their new album 'Natur' on March 9th of this year via Fysisk Format, you can check out my review here to see what I thought of the album.

You can find out more about the band, and keep up with everything Ondt Blod on Facebook here.


REVIEW: Ancst - Ghosts of the Timeless Void

Way back, I had the chance to review Ancst's Compilation 'In Turmoil' and, though Direnotes was certainly in it's infancy then, I clearly remember Ancst having a vastly different sound. In fact, I believe I even compared it to black metal and blackgaze. Now, certainly there are some faint hints of that between the fine lines here, but maybe I just didn't know what I was talking about back then - because Ancst is clearly under the Hardcore umbrella. Hell, I wouldn't even go so far as to consider them blackened now.

It's not exactly for the worst, in my opinion. With Ghosts of the Timeless Void, the band has certainly become far more cohesive. Yes, it's Hardcore, but it isn't like a lot of the more spastic and schizophrenic stuff that resides within that subgenre. Instead, Ancst has a lot of melodic moments, a bit of black metal in the composition, but generally things are more digestible and understandable. It's far easier to sit down and listen to this album as a whole then even their earlier work. It does lend to more then a few typical moments -breakdowns, relentless yet never changing vocals, similar tones for almost all the tracks- but it ultimately makes for a far more enjoyable record.

For hardcore, Ghosts of the Timeless Void really feels laid back. Transitions are great, and the more melodic composition gives the whole album a flow I can appreciate. It's almost a beast unto it's own at times, ditching a lot of the repetition encountered with other records. Outside of the vocal work, I've noticed a bevy of black and death metal undertones. Tremolo picking is here and very welcome in this environment. Chuggy death metal goodness has definitely found itself somewhere in the basis of this record, rather then the typical shrieky and metallic hardcore soundscape. Not so surprisingly it reminds me of later BLEEDING THROUGH, as they were metalcore but had a lot of black and punk metal stylistics going on.

Of course, Ghosts of the Timeless Void makes some bold claims of a social political message – but I'm not too sure how well that works. It certainly sounds angry, the whole album has it's own flavor of bite, but I feel like it's themes are applicable to a general situation of political corruption rather then all the insanity that has been going on lately in the world. Perhaps this is due to the band being in Berlin and having problems of it's own, while I'm in North America expecting something dealing with certain Presidential figures as of late, but I feel like sometimes subjects such as this require a higher degree of extremity in the music to properly express such a message as political corruption and 'waking' people. Again, it doesn't really make the album bad. And, as someone who listens to some very extreme bands on the daily – it might be that I'm more used to a extreme presentation when it comes to content.

Ghosts of the Timeless Void isn't going to bash you over the head with it's beliefs, but maybe that is a good thing. Ancst has certainly come a long way since I last encountered their work, and a cleaner more direct sound feels far more the product of experience and learning over time. Its a good year for protest, and Ancst may just have the anthem people are looking to get behind.


Keep up with Ancst on their website, and or their label Lifeforce Records.

REVIEW: Arketh - 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

Experimentation is a word often thrown around within the extreme metal spectrum, usually when a particular subgenre decides to cross with another. You got black metal crossing with just about any genre these days, its almost common to the point that straight-forward black metal has become somewhat rarer. Though, I don't know if there has been more then a handful of times I've truly experienced something I'd call genuinely experimental or different - but Arketh's 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew... It's an album that is promised to have a lot in terms of experimentation, and it aims to take a risk far beyond most other groups and projects.

Australia is really starting to impress me, Arketh is probably the first real Australian Black Metal group I've ever heard and they've got me hooked from the first track. There is a certain bravery about the composition of this album, Arketh is lo-fi but achieves a good deal with a bit with the inclusion of keyboard, sax, and reverb thrown into the mix. Not the first black metal group to use saxophone, not by far, but probably one of the few to use it so consistently and so well. In fact, a good deal of the album includes it – aside from 'Trismegistus', the opening track, which genuinely feels like a ages-old undiscovered black metal demo from the late 80s. For a while I'd thought that maybe the entire album would lean on this for it's experimentation, but it doesn't. Somehow, things keep getting stranger.

To me, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew seems to get genuinely interesting with the track 'The Fool Who Persists In His Folly'. This track is so odd, so impressive, that I can't even place the words that I generally could when it comes to labelling a group like this. It begins with a bit of sax, yeah, but Arketh really lays in with some spastic guitar work, a really fun section of unsettling laughter, and, oddly, some slower male singing vocals. The album is almost prog-metal at this point, songs begin as one thing and end so completely different that the listener feels as if they've went on some horrifying journey. I'd say it was through the darkness or something to that effect, but I don't even know what I've been going through at this point. I don't know if I really want to know.

I do have some gripes with the album – which I guess is to be expected with something so experimental in nature. I did really enjoy the very traditional black metal vocals on this, the more experimental ones on 'Where Nameless Ghouls Weep' are wonderfully strange, but when the singing vocals come in, and the slower more gloomy bits of writing, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew begins to fall out of it's groove. I just cannot get behind that final track, it is so slow and so uninteresting in comparison to all that has came before. Why there had to be something like that on the album baffles me, because it leaves a painfully boring stain on what I'd say is one of the best black metal records in recent years.

Arketh leaves a lot for other groups to live up to this year, and will most certainly be a basis for me when it comes to every black metal group that comes my way and claims 'experimental'. 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew takes some noticeable risks and comes out on top with something strange, but compelling for fans of both black metal and obscure music. If either of those are you, or even if they aren't, I highly recommend adding this to your collection.


Check out Transcending Obscurity on Facebook and their website for all your Arketh needs and more extreme metal from across the globe.

REVIEW: Coffin Torture - Dismal Planet

A lot of bands make some hefty promises, but it isn't too often that they fully pull through. Coffin Torture is a duo that specializes in gritty grime-ridden sludge; sounds so bleak and filthy, you'll feel the need to take a bath afterwards. It's almost terrifying to think that their newest album, Dismal Planet, is actually the product of two people. Something far more then manufactured, like a passionate for disdain brought to life. It makes me wonder, what sane minds could create something this?

I almost find it surprising that this is Coffin Torture's first full-length, these guys are killing it in a way I'd expect only sludge/doom veterans could do. Instruments are so massively distorted, I can't tell what is bass or guitar, but I'm loving it nonetheless. True, it could be considered a wall of sound with how chaotic everything is at all times, but there is a certain direction everything takes that pulls it away from some noise album and right into the realm of sludge. Really, it's almost surprising how busy Dismal Planet can be. Usually, I'd expect a whole lot more sustain and slow as hell drum lines, and there is a whole lot of that, but I don't feel like Coffin Torture wants to be strictly defined as a sludge metal group. That, or they'd like to keep the doors open for experimentation and growth down the line.

For instance, songs like 'Bolted Down, Boiled to Grease', 'D.H.F.', and the album's title track are what you'd call standard sludge – albeit 'Bolted Down, Boiled to Grease' really toys with the formula by progressively getting lower and lower, until the song feels as if it's boiled down to nothing. Both have the low and slow, distorted to hell, sound; are basically a corruption of doom metal. But tracks like 'Gustave' are borderline black metal, just without an abundance of treble, and far faster then anything else you'll hear on the entire album. The track itself is a wonderful oddity within Dismal Planet, and if Coffin Torture feels the need to expand or do something more along the longs of what 'Gustave' is doing, I'd certainly be aboard.

The only real hints of this being a first full length is the general randomness of the tracks, not in the sound but in the themes and titles. I almost expected, with a title like Dismal Planet, a little more effort was going to be put into connecting the whole – but that really isn't even an issue, just something I personally expected after hearing so many albums over the years.

Even after several spins, Dismal Planet still surprises me. I almost can't believe this is a duo, and I am still surprised this is the groups first full-length. So little mistakes were made, consistency was kept, and some risks were actually taken to keep things from being too similar. With so little information on the minds behind this wonderful abomination, I can't really gather what their musical history is or if this is a fluke of talent. Either way, we got Dismal Planet out of it.


Keep up with Coffin Torture on Facebook here. Or, their label, Sludgelord Records here.

OV THE SHELF: Canata Sangui; Or, I Have A Really Long Album Title - Do I Sound Edgy Yet?!?

As with anybody who's taken the time to review music, my shelves are completely full (and my record crate, both) and then some. So I thought, I might as well begin to give some of the odd titles I own a good hard listen - as I've bought into many grab bags from many labels over the years, snagged any cassette or LP I could at a bargain price off Bandcamp, and raided label bargain sections. Some of this stuff isn't even opened after three or four years of ownership, I'm a physical media addict really... or a bargain addict - your choice. There is no doubt some of this stuff is the worst crap ever, or the general opinion is that it is. Some of it nobody has heard, as the bands existed for such a small amount of time as to only release a single 7" with all their money, in which they made their own sleeves out of construction paper and stamped them (yes, I own two 7" EP/Singles that fit that bill). I got some radio-only promos, some stuff I've won in contests. Oh, and a 7" that has a whole albums worth of micro-songs jammed onto it, including a cover! I got a lot of stuff and I'll have even more in the future. So, here is my jokingly titled new way to provide you, the reader, with some more useless information.

I got this particular title from a Season of Mist grab bag, you get 10 CD's for 20 bucks, and it isn't
What on earth is the man on the far right wearing?
that bad a deal for someone looking to be surprised. The junky presentation of this thing really stuck with me though - confusingly and poorly thought out album art, looks rushed to me, thoughtless font, no unique album logo, and that booklet is just terrible with a goofy kids font throughout. I mean, there really isn't a single thing here to draw a person in. You crack the digipack open and things get worse, the CD is a light blue nightmare of plain. No wonder someone stuck the 'Female Fronted All Bass driven!' sticker on there, otherwise I'm not too sure I'd have bothered.

The music, I got to say that it never really reaches the heights or level it could have. Things are far too tame, and far too grounded in the throw-away Gothic Rock trends that were present at the time of it's release (2009). The band's lyrical concepts are the band's complete focus here, which all sound like black metal chants sung in a symphonic-metal fashion. You are pretty much read massive sermons on truly bizarre occult ideals, which should be awesome, but it never pulls you in aside from a few choice moments. I'm not sure the singer has a unique enough presence to properly capture the imagination and interest of someone who is into this content - actually I know she doesn't/didn't. It isn't that she is a bad vocalist, but maybe not the right one for the job. I'm not going to be so nice as to say she did anything interesting here, as most of the songs are the same styled singing with no true highs or lows, just some middle ground standard female vocals. Nothing gets epic, nor operatic, nor intense. In fact, the only real attempt at variety is a utterly embarrassing groaning growly vocal inclusion, which is trying way too hard to be edgy. When not backing the main vocalist, it hilariously falls apart and sounds like a vastly discounted Septic Flesh vocalist.

This photo makes me smile, and this interview at MysticMetal
might give some insight as to the bands disastrous mentality.
Now, the biggest travesty of all - the all-bass on this album really just is yawn worthy. I've covered projects like VOD in the past, I'm well aware of the capabilities of a all-bass project. This band used it's bass to pull off mundane things - generic fill-in-the-note progression, two bass guitars doing same-old bass things, powerchords upon powerchords - I'm sure you get what I mean. It's typical by-the-numbers Gothic Rock, done in a different way to seem unique. But, I ask, what is the point if in the end your just going to make it sound the same as everything else? Especially when all the complicated moments are done via keyboard. More and more keyboard... more and more effects. It's plain, just like the stupid cover design.

I'm not too surprised this band only had a handful of demos and this album. Good news is some did move on, and I'm hoping they've been able to expand further then what they did with 'On Rituals and Correspondence in Constructed Realities.' To me, the best underground bands throw a lot of experimentation into their first album, because the underground is a place for that. But, to throw something so safe and straight forward as this out there? I'm not too sure that was a good idea. It is interesting to see the route Season of Mist took with its picking releases compared to now. It was a much different world for music in 2009, who's to say this didn't feel like a sure thing?

I feel like this was made for some misunderstood high school kid, sitting in the corner and drawing eyes on a notepad all lunch hour. They aren't too different, not really misunderstood, their life doesn't really even suck, but it's boring - this person wants to be unique, but extreme metal is just a bit much for them. So, lets go grab the safest possible thing for them - Canata Sangui, because no one else bought it and now its like $2 at the record store.

Oh, and six members for this!?!?


REVIEW: Whipstriker - Merciless Artillery


Really, I can't find a delicate way around this, nor do I see why I really should dwell on it as I write this – Whipstriker fancies Celtic Frost to the umpth degree, or at least have shared a decent amount of influences. Sure, you got a bit of Venom in there, etc – yeah, a lot of bands cite them as an influence, but wasn't the result of a more 'extreme' Venom ultimately Celtic Frost? I think so. I wouldn't go so far as to say the group are copycats, not even close. But hell if they aren't an iteration of that legendary band, intentional or not.

My god, even the vocals on this album sound ripped straight from the bowls of a Celtic Frost album. If I hadn't known more about this group, you could tell me Whipstriker's vocals were that of an early Tom Warrior and I'd believe you one-hundred-percent. Songs are, pretty much structured like something you'd hear off a early Celtic Frost album but, let me get off that. Everything else Whipstriker does seems to be very much their own. Lyrical themes don't always matter, metal is about so much more then lyrics, but Whipstriker really knows how to illustrate a hellish battlefield... well, pretty much hellish anything when it comes to the subject matter at hand. Besides that, you're getting a much better guitar tone here then even Celtic Frost. For all I can say about my love of Whipstriker's listed influces (Venom, Motorhead, Onslaught, etc), this group sounds so much better then any of them. They are one of those bands I can truly say, has surpreceeded their forefathers and would even please the more 'pure' fans of metal (the kind that was around when the big bands were little and followed them through the ages). So, no, I don't feel like all these comparisons hold the group back. Well, at the very least, they don't hold Whipstriker back when it comes to Merciless Artillery. Personally, I've heard nothing else prior but I may have to after hearing this.

And, what's this I see? They are Brazilion? Color me, not surprised. Brazil has some of the best metal and best metal fans this world has to offer. For some metal that I could only describe as blackened thrash speed... something (a wholly technical for those who care about a genre label). Well then check out Whipstriker, why not? I mean, you should at least be checking it out to see if it really does sound that close to Celtic Frost – feel free to prove me wrong.

REVIEW: Owl Maker - Paths of the Slain


Owl Maker rides a fine-line between the world of driving rock and doomy stoner-metal bands such as Red Fang, and Mastodon, the combination providing just enough energy to distinguish itself from the countless duplicates floating around these days. In fact, Owl Maker seems to find its home in more high-energy riffs and hooks then the sometimes proggy doom-like aspects of it's cousins. This band has a bevy of catchy chorus work to enjoy, which often feels styled after more traditional rock and heavy metal. I'd go so far as to say that verses serve merely to compliment the main attraction, or strengthen the idea of a particular chorus, and, though more complicated compositions do lie somewhere in the standardized writing – they just don't stand out so much. This all works well, and makes tracks like 'Witches', which breaks the album's formula with harsher vocals, more effective. Owl Maker could have just kept things straight forward and they would have been fine, but the band does take a moment here and there to diverge – which is a particularly nice touch.

Though I'm singing high praise for this group, it is not without it's sins. The band loves it's layered effects, almost no song is without them. It can sound really good at times, but far too many tracks have vocals with a washy chorus effect, and the guitar can have a distracting amount of flange. 'Freya's Chariot' has probably the most 80's level synth I've heard in years (or maybe it's something like a moog?), but it's not implemented very well. And, what happened with the end of 'Ride with Aileen'? That has to be the most jarring fade out I've ever heard, and who fades out with the first song of the album? Worse yet, a few tracks seem to just fall flat compared to some of the others, lacking the overall energy and creativity that made the rest so catchy, or memorable (like 'Witches'). You start to get the feeling, at times, that Paths of the Slain is dipping a little far into the tired-and-familiar formulas of similar bands.

Take it as you may, Paths of the Slain is pretty good. I can't help but feel, especially taking the album's few shortcomings into consideration, that these songs are heavily meant to be played live. No, there is nothing sub-par about them, but with a few abrupt stops, and numerous effects that have clearly been amplified throughout a more clean and direct recording process, it becomes pretty evident rather fast. I personally believe Owl Maker would benefit from a more raw sound, but that may just be my inner stoner-metal fan speaking out where it shouldn't. At this point, I'm going to say that Owl Maker has a bright future ahead and Paths of the Slain is a good jumping off point for quality and writing, but some unique strides need to be taken for the band to really stand apart from the numerous other bands within the stoner-metal/doom-metal spectrum.

Sorry! No bandcamp to embed this time! But feel free to check out Owl Maker on Facebook.