I like the beats and I like the yelling: LUM, Beyond Man, Stench Collector

LUM: L’Feu e la Stria
Out 24th June on Nigredo Records

LUM are a brand new black metal project out of Turin. Their debut EP ‘L’Feu e la Stria’ offers a striking mix of atmospheric and raw black metal. It’s as if Ildjarn, instead of working with the melodic riffsmith that was Nidhogg, had instead taken up arms with the frigid barbarism of Veles. The resulting alchemy blends the unadulterated abrasion of nature’s wrath as seen from the perspective of a reflective and melancholy soul. Distant, mournful keyboards worthy of early Skepticism work alongside guitars that reach above their earthy punk roots, as if aspiring to match the simple yet resonant melodic lines that thread through these tracks like daggers to wistful hearts trapped in the unbearable tedium of modernity.

The guitar tone itself is immediate and intimate; operating somewhere between the half clean sound found on Graveland’s ‘Following the Voice of Blood’ and Ildjarn’s ‘Forest Poetry’. The fact that individual strings are audible opens up new avenues of expression for LUM. We see them veer from black metal’s punk roots into almost jaunty folk refrains built from accessible but highly effective chord progressions. The distinctive twang of the strings found within each strum adds extra layers of harmonic material that would be hidden from view on a fully distorted iteration of black metal guitar tones. And speaking of distortion, a heavy bass rumble is discernible beneath the fog, for example on the breakdown of ‘Canto alla Luna’, where the guitars settle on ringing chords, leaving the bass to carry the stop/start rhythm along with throbbing, driving notes.

That being said, this is still a lo-fi, raw black metal mix, and the guitars fit well into the alienating, abrasive aesthetic of the whole EP. Drums offer a solid underpinning of simple mid-paced blast-beats that serve as an impetus of momentum in the more exhilarating moments of this EP. The intrusive clatter of snare and cymbal serves as an effective contrast to the dreamy, obscured keyboard tones that colour the majority of these tracks with wintry tones and open spaces, tempering the dirty soil of distortion and harsh static with some welcome mysticism.

Vocals sit between these competing impulses. The high-end passionate screech is not unlike early Ungod, in that it serves the dual purpose of heightening the aggression and intensity of the music whilst opening out the size and emotional impact of its more ethereal qualities.

These tracks are constructed from the simplest of ideas, but each element is worked through every possible variation along the way. The guitars may offer a basic but oddly unpredictable (and therefore engaging) chord progression, with the distorted bass layering up the sound, granting it longevity. Excitable drums and passionate vocals then take up the mantle; all is extremity, flexing black metal’s capacity for utter misanthropy, as if it does not want to be listened at all. LUM trade on the virtues of trancelike repetition to build on this vibe, carving out music from fragments of ideas, suggestions, and colours as opposed to any intricate architecture. The result is no less immersive.

But this infrastructure inevitably gives way to the dreamlike keyboards, which fill out the sound as if in antithesis to the amoral harshness of the metal instrumentation. They provide a point of tranquillity, one that opens and closes the EP, bookending ‘L’Feu e la Stria’ with a sense of pathos, and at least granting the listener a final catharsis despite the Ildjarnesque raw minimalism that runs through LUM’s approach. A fascinating EP of equal parts raw and atmospheric black metal that shows an intimate knowledge of where this style’s appeal lies and exactly how to build elegantly simple but infinitely engaging compositions from these rawest of materials.

Beyond Man: Beyond Man
Out June 21st June on The Sinister Flame

For all the bluster and blast-beats of Beyond Man’s self-titled debut, it walks a few lines of subtlety without stopping for breath. Although it fits well into the warm, occult, suffocating brand of black metal that one rarely sees emanating from Norway, ‘Beyond Man’ has a few tricks up its sleave that warrant closer inspection. There are hints of that chasmic dissonance that has come to define the Icelandic sound in Svartidaudi and Carpe Noctem, elements of Teitanblood in the passionately barked vocalisations and vicious blast-beats, and a good dollop of blackened thrash to link up these more contemporary reference points. But then again, there are elements of traditional doom, rough ‘n’ ready Autopsy style death metal, and a small handful of riffs that nod to the Darkthrone tradition.

The production serves this schizophrenic approach well by uniting these disparate folkways under a rich and warm analogue aesthetic. The guitar tone would be at home on a traditional doom metal album, articulating these tritone based riffs with a pleasing shade of retro occultism, but sinking the mix into the dirty murk whenever the tempo picks up. Drums are equally unvarnished, with a Fenriz pleasing authenticity to their presentation that still retains enough sharpness to focus the music when the intensity and speed reaches its climax.

The vocals are the most overt nod to ritualistic black metal informed by a heavy dose of old school thrash. They offer a cavalcade of passionate wails, moans, shouts, and growls, sticking predominantly to the low-end, adorned with reverb and echo that makes them seem distant despite their prevalence in the mix. Beyond Man are also not above adorning the relatively straightforward mix with minimal keyboards – as on the intro to ‘Ave Usera’ – that, along with the disorientating vocal performance lends the feeling that these musicians are jamming in the woods at night, with disconcerting sounds and random ejaculations heard from unknown sources in every direction.

All the elements are balanced well however. Beyond Man present a strong character of their own, utilising different elements and traditions to further their brand of occult metal that is both creepy and aggressive in equal measure. It’s almost as if dissonance and tritones are techniques one can deploy in order to enhance a composition rather than a platform on which to build an entire aesthetic. Beyond Man are rightly confident that their character will shine through with class regardless of the tradition they are referencing to achieve this end.

And precisely what shines through, supervening on all these reference points, is understated dark metal that balances an immersive atmosphere with a distinctive riffcraft of its own, one that I’m sure will give this album a longevity well beyond the many one dimensional offerings within the field of occult, ritualistic black metal.    

Stench Collector: Effluviatorium Du Jour
Out 25th June on Redefining Darkness Records

Boasting one of the best band names to land on my desk in a long time, these Rhode Island death metallers had me at hello. But despite the almost comical aesthetic and eyebrow raising moniker, there is a gravity and drama to ‘Effluviatorium Du Jour’ that elevates it above mere gore novelty. As the band explained to Invisible Oranges of lead single ‘Gutworm’: “The driving concept behind STENCH COLLECTOR ’s lyrical theme is suburban decay and the plight of the working middle class twisted at the intersection of our nation’s failing capitalist economy.”

Whether such heady notions actually come through in the music or not will probably be coloured by an individual listener’s outlook. But one thing is at least certain, Stench Collector know how to craft a solid, swaggering EP of meaty death metal that is both malevolent and downright intimidating.

Production is a wet slap in the face. Thick, dripping guitar tones cover the mix in upsetting sonic matter, but retain enough solidity to articulate the chunky riffs, allowing for choppy staccato chords to cut across the slime and give the music form. Drums are equally heavy, but the pillow punching snare provides additional clarity and rhythmic navigation whilst the kick drum proves to be equally as cutting, with brief 16th trills acting as agents of chaos over the inertia of sludgy guitars. Vocals are just as happy spitting forth guttural growls as they are sustained throaty exclamations of revelry.

And revelry really is the word here. For death metal, ‘Effluviatorium Du Jour’ is kept relatively slow. But it maintains a constantly unfurling rhythmic swagger, one augmented by stop/start riffs connected by chromatic licks and celebratory accents. Drums bend around these undulating riff shapes with a performance informed more by ordered fills as opposed to a constant, driving beat. This lends the music a sense of joy despite the overt horrors packed within. This is not aggressive or existential death metal, it is instead perfectly at home in the violent amorality it surrounds itself with. Similar to Blood or Nuclear Assault it creates a surrealist world of abhorrent violence with a playful, almost matter-of-fact delivery that is compellingly upsetting.

In that sense Stench Collector have thus far achieved what they set out to do. At the core of the most mundane suburban existence are terrors that are so at home as to be almost tedious. Completely unaware of the revulsion they inspire, they inhabit a drab life of disconnect, so preoccupied with the bureaucracy of their craft to even acknowledge the horrors they invoke or the juxtapositions they create by virtue of their close proximity to commuter life.

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