I like the beats and I like the yelling: Galvanizer, Fulanno, Nigrum Pluviam

Galvanizer: Prying Sight of Imperception
Out 30th July on Me Saco Un Ojo / Everlasting Spew

Prima facie, the second album from the Finnish outfit known as Galvanizer is another shameless old school offering no different from the last ten to come out this week. So given the fact that I enjoyed ‘Prying Sight of Imperception’ far more than the usual old school crop, I was left wondering if this was purely an emotive response, or whether Galvanizer are actually doing something a little more behind the scenes which makes their latest offering worthy of greater attention.

For a proudly old school offering to stand out it must do one or more of the following. The riffs must be linked by an underlying character that can be traced throughout the album, and not just a montage of popular styles and techniques that amount to little more than “remember this” sensory overload. There must be an indication that the artist understands the original spirit and appeal of death metal through their music, rather than simply aping the guitar tone, production values, and aesthetic. And the final point – and perhaps the most contentious – is that artists must not throw out any needless meta humour. There must be no forth wall breaking, no whimsical nods to the audience or self-congratulatory lyrics that let us know it’s all just a big nostalgia love in (pizza thrash is particularly guilty of this).

Galvanizer tick all these boxes and more. The production is pleasing in its complete lack of talking points. It’s raw certainly, with a tinny snare sound, generic distortion, almost complete lack of reverb, and otherwise little to offer in the way of character. But these are all for the better in my book. The music itself may be unabashed early 90s death metal, but the presentation is left relatively sparse, leaving us with nothing but said music to make a clear assessment of this album’s merits.

One thing to note is the fact that Galvanizer retain the creepiness of classic death metal. Short ambient passages lead into many of these tracks, giving the background sentiment behind the frantic riffing some horror legitimacy. That being said, the riff style predominantly sticks toward the thrashier end, with plenty of d-beat passages and early Suffocation style hardcore thrashing. These are connected by brief passages of chromatic tremolo riffs and blast-beats, which are utilised as link phrases between the atonal bludgeoning centrepieces. There is a marked bounce to many of the punk riffs that bears comparison to Carcass’ ‘Symphonies of Sickness’, juxtaposing deadpan humour with melodramatic horror.

That being said, and one of the reasons why ‘Prying Sight of Imperception’ warrants closer inspection is the fact that Galvanizer make plenty of room for a pronounced sense of melody, which makes its presence known at frequent intervals throughout the album. These are contrasted with many of the dirt simple power chord riffs, and serve to knit the pieces together thematically. They are also just as likely to take the form of guitar leads that elevate the music with a sense of philosophical forethought beyond amoral violence. This is ultimately what makes this album stand above its old school packaging, and turns it into a solid death metal release with elements of the timeless. 

Fulanno: Hash Negro en las Misas Funebres
Out 25th June on Helter Skelter Productions

Released in the before times of 2016, the debut EP from these Argentinian doomsters sees a cassette re-issue on Helter Skelter in the blazing chaos of summer 2021. Fulanno brew up an interesting mix on ‘Hash Negro en las Misas Funebres’. Many stoner doom aficionados have long since accepted that the genre amounted to nothing more than a perpetual retelling of the same fuzzy Black Sabbath riff. But Fulanno, rather than seeking new pastures or quirky progressive takes on this format embrace the minimalism head on, to the benefit of all.

Much like the best in class that arose during the 2010s, they seek to strip the riffs and rhythms back even further, thus making space for the real star of the stoner show, atmosphere; or a more fitting word may be vibe. The riffs on this EP are almost comically basic, a fact we are further beaten over the head with given the sluggish tempos. The drums do little to quell this sparsity, sticking with basic stop/start patterns that tend to mirror the rhythmic flow of the guitars rather than guide them. Simple lead harmonies float above the dirge at regular intervals, fleshing out the textural range of this music.

But it’s in the welcome addition of clean guitars that we see the beginnings of intrigue within ‘Hash Negro en las Misas Funebres’. In the most minimal sense possible they flesh out proto melodies in a way similar to ambient music. This is the hint of the music, a half waking dreaming of colourful ideas yet to be realised. The empty drone of stoner doom proves to be the perfect setting to articulate this half music, bent on achieving an enveloping mood over any complex musical talking points.

The distant clean vocals perform a similar role to the guitar harmonies. Set far off in the mix, with much heavy-handed reverb, they both open out the size of the music whilst simultaneously providing additional harmonic outlets by which to layer up the most basic of ideas into mood music, compelling in its static minimalism.

By opening out the mix, and stripping away any hint of nuance or complexity, the Fulanno template is so intent on fulfilling the philosophy of “less is more” that it arguably comes full circle in offering a more imposing and monolithic sound than the muscular and cluttered mixes of other contemporary stoner doom offerings. The result is not entirely novel. There are plenty of familiar faces within ‘Hash Negro en las Misas Funebres’. The vocal style could be compared to Lori Steinberg of Acid King. The spacey interludes come across as Ufomammut on a particularly sleepy day. That, along with the more obvious calling cards of Electric Wizard or Sleep. But there is enough going on here – or rather not much at all, which somehow proves to be more gripping – to make this EP worth checking out even for the stoner doom sceptics among us.

Nigrum Pluviam: Eternal Fall into the Abyss
Out 30th July on Signal Rex

Nigrum Pluviam are a French black outfit, and members of the Garde Noire collective, a resurrection – if one was needed – of the original Les Legions Noire that came to define the 90s iteration of French black metal and continues to hold sway over our understanding of French black metal today. A fact all the more apparent on giving Nigrum Pluviam’s debut album ‘Eternal Fall into the Abyss’ a listen. But where the uncompromising rawness of Belkètre or Vlad Tepes presented a deeply unpleasant sheen of abrasive and primitive extreme metal of zero atmospheric payoff, Nigrum Pluviam follow the path of Mutiilation in using the obscure and muddied aesthetic of lo-fi production values to find new expressive outlets, mining the depths of human despair.

The central backbone of this music – i.e., the guitars and drums – are rendered with that feeling of being played underwater. Whilst not the most alienating sound possible, the definition to individual riffs or even separate elements of the drumkit when a blast-beat is occurring are muddied by the demo quality recording. But Nigrum Pluviam craft their riffs accordingly, built from fragile minor key chord progressions and the simplest of harmonies, there is enough character and intention behind them that we are able to discern the mood and conscious thought at play beneath the static. In this regard, simplicity and repetition are the name of the game, but this does not preclude sacrificing one’s character. If the nuances of individual riffs and chord progressions is obscured, then the meta narratives of mourning and untold dread are still very much apparent across these tracks.

But there are many facets to ‘Eternal Fall into the Abyss’ that betray its modern crucible. The vocals offer a dual punch of standard mid-range rasping that sits very close to the ear, integrated nicely into the raw mix. But beside this is placed a distant, echoey howl that I suppose is intended to sound vampiric. It certainly achieves the desired outcome of upping the melodrama and increasing the emotive reach of these pieces. We are also treated to many keyboard interludes which stick to a minimalist dungeon synth template, keeping to tones that sound part church organ part string section. The closing number ‘From the Earth to the Abyss Through Suffering’ rounds off the album with a pleasingly understated clean guitar segment reminiscent of mid 90s Forest.

These, along with many other decorative if subtle flourishes scatter the album and expand the scope of the otherwise respectably raw black metal. All are welcome features that indicate creative minds bent on using rawness and obscurity as a tool to access forms of expression blocked off by other forms of music. Where the initial impetus of raw black metal in Ildjarn and the original Les Legion Noire was uncompromising and singular in its intent, Nigrum Pluviam carry forward the gentler and arguably more expressive elements of this rawness via the lens of Mutiilation, demonstrating a desire to bend this notoriously alienating aesthetic to an ultimately more resonant endeavour.

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