Beats and yelling from: Kostnatění, Sporae Autem Yuggoth, KRE^U

Kostnatění: Úpal
Out 26th May on Willowtip Records

Kostnatění straddle the border between noise rock and technical-cum-dissonant black metal. This jarring stylistic clash serves as midwife to expressions of Turkish and North African folk traditions. Unlike our usual image of folk metal however, Kostnatění forego deploying an armoury of non-rock “traditional” instrumentation, articulating their vision entirely through a dense array of interweaving and highly abrasive distorted guitar lines, demonstrating the key signatures and rhythmic orientation of non-Western traditions as opposed to a study in timbre alone.

Where the previous EP ‘Oheň ho​ř​í tam, kde padl’ fixated on Turkish folk music, working through different iterations of an idea through powerfully incisive riffcraft and clean vocal chants, ‘Úpal’ takes things in a broader, more abstract direction. That being said – and setting aside any talk of the mores this album taps into – the immediate presentation is undeniably sparser, more understated, meditative.

The guitar tone is sharp, tinny, angular, embodying the clarity necessary to communicate multifaceted contrapuntal interplay taking place between each guitar line as they thread their away across the music. Shuffling, left-of-centre drums are kept relatively low in the mix, evincing an organic, modest sound. But the unpredictable distribution of beat emphasis across each bar integrates neatly into the phrasing of the guitar lines, creating an experience akin to watching a large, clockwork device, with each of its many cogs apparently working to an isolated cycle, disconnected from the mechanics surrounding it. But persistent study reveals emergent meta cycles, any disorder revealed as mere illusion once placed in its proper context within the whole.

Running in tandem with this process of scattering is a single minded rumination. Many of the riffs dwindle on the same note cluster with a persistence bordering on obsessive. This creates a claustrophobic discomfort. An experience as mentally taxing as it is intellectually intriguing. But this is offset by melodic themes (I hesitate to call them guitar leads) that develop at the macro level, posing as a moral compass that the listener is required to latch onto for the sake of survival.

Kostnatění purport to be preoccupied with heat and its effects on the human psyche. Beyond the obvious body of traditions from hotter climbs ‘Úpal’ draws upon, this conceptual intent is borne out more strikingly by a pervading sense of disorientation. Jagged dissonance, unexpected avenues of novel melodic development, jarring tempo changes, and rhythmic emphasis not often seen in Western “rockist” traditions, all go a long way in communicating the general sense of tension and disorder one feels when overheating. The warping effects it has on our ability to rationalise and process thoughts in a logical manner. All the ordered chronology of mentality essential in performing basic tasks and processing information are thrown into the air, only to land out of sequence, forcing us to build a new logic atop the old, mediated by a warped and overheated brain chemistry, the results are alien, “other”.

With ‘Úpal’, Kostnatění reassert their standing as one of the more unique voices within experimental extreme metal, bringing together a clear unified vision that is nevertheless replete with hidden pockets of exploration.

Sporae Autem Yuggoth: …However it Still Moves
Out 19th May on Personal Records

‘…However it Still Moves’ sees this Chilean outfit graduate into full length territory with a protracted, lengthy reassertion of true blue death/doom. Not so much a debut album as it is a state-of-the-union address to the subgenre, highlighting its strengths, diminishing its weaknesses. It attempts to find a way forward for a genre that is wont to collapse into monotony, whilst remaining loyal to its defining hallmarks.

Sporae Autem Yuggoth’s roots on their debut EP were of a more classic metal bent, displaying a degree of melodicism via the violent trappings of Celtic Frost and Autopsy. Here, they broaden the scope of their project. At one end they move into theatrical territory with a notably drab, gothic sheen. An aching melodrama that lends a dignified gravitas. At the other, there is a surrealist discord creeping through the cracks, the persistent threat of mental decay into insanity, lifted from the playbook of Anatomia, although here displaying more solidity and logic than their avant-gardist Japanese cousins.

The production is cinematic in scope, but decidedly glum, dragging the listener down dank sonic corridors. A cloying, overbearing gloom. The guitar tone retains a clarity allowing for melodic articulation alongside simple, droning tritone play. Mid-paced death metal riffing bulks out the timbral package with muscular density.

Drums are a little quiet in the mix, for the most part relegated to basic time keeping patterns, but elongated fills and well placed blast-beats beef up the stakes when it counts. Guttural vocals with just a hint of humanist despair at their core guide us through these labyrinthine battleships of weighty doom metal. Subtle keyboards along with extra guitar noise and effects serve to bolster the latent gothic aesthetic stretched across ‘…However it Still Moves’.     

Faster segments of more traditional death metal serve as link passages between the articulation of pronounced melodic hooks, bound together by clearly defined common themes. In this regard Sporae Autem Yuggoth attempt to take the long form approach, without being afraid to work in styles and quotations from music not usually seen in death/doom. Some of the tracks lack direction, and (I’ll keep banging my head against this wall) at over an hour long, the album could have perhaps used some more ruthless editing.

But these detriments do not prevent ‘…However it Still Moves’ from being a shining light of modern death/doom. Boasting far more content, character, and ingenuity than many comparable releases relying on atmosphere alone. Sporae Autem Yuggoth have established a clear character and orientation within this landscape, one that can boast both variety and singular intent, leveraging a wealth of musical techniques and traditions to further their vision of despondent romantic tragedy.

Out 9th May on Ispantu Productions

Black metal is many things to many people. But one of its most endearing strengths at present is its ability to serve as a vehicle for expressions of regional identities that are otherwise side-lined in contemporary musical narratives. At the risk of sounding churlish, I can honestly say I had not given the linguistic history of Sardinia much thought before today. But then albums like the idiosyncratic ‘KRE^U’ land on one’s desk demanding attention. Through an eccentric blend of folk driven, DIY black metal, spoken word poetry, and light symphonics, KRE^U craft a compelling album of historically minded music.

Unusually for black metal, the focus here is on the vocals. They veer from typical distorted crooning, to throat singing, spoken word passages, chants, and punky barks of aggression, all spoken through the language of ancient Sardinia. They narrate the listener through passages of stirring, energetic black metal pivoting between a raw, DIY aesthetic and rich, cinematic melodicism. They are supplemented by the subtle addition of keyboards and clean guitar tones, adding a sprinkling of colour and humanism to the harsh realities of the distorted tone.

Modest melodic licks pivot on repetition, functioning almost as military music. By revolving around the same refrains and rhythmic framing one gets the feeling they should be marching toward a purpose. The drums bolster this effect by pivoting on basic but imaginative fills, sticking mostly to a mid-paced marching tempo, only occasionally broken by blast-beats. Intermittent hints of marching band snare rolls hammer home the martial urgency beneath these pieces.

Being predominantly lyrical in nature, the majority of ‘KRE^U’ is not structured or paced out like a typical metal album. Whereas metal for the most part seeks to flesh out grand narratives, sonic equivalents to the epic poem, the novel, the feature film, here we are offered a series of short stories, fables, episodes from history, linked together by the common theme of Sardinian history. This works more like a compilation of short stories, morality tales, given colour and life thanks to the expressive nature of the metallic instrumentation. A curious and unique way to leverage black metal into a highly contextualised expression of regional history.

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