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Noise Not Music #12: Mutoid Man, The Clearing Path And More

Monday, 27 July 2015 Written by Ben Bland

This month’s Noise Not Music is brought to you by huge, all-encompassing drones. They have emanated partly from some of the releases reviewed here (Dead Neanderthals, Locrian, Ommadon), but also from a rediscovery of the potential of Sunn O))) as working music. So, with ‘Dømkirke’ still ringing in my ears, here’s the July edition…enjoy!

The Clearing Path – ‘Watershed Between Earth and Firmament’ (Avantgarde)

Black metal is renowned for hosting a large number of solo projects under its increasingly diverse banner, but on listening to ‘Watershed Between Earth and Firmament’ you would never believe The Clearing Path to be one of them. Milan resident Gabriele Gramaglia deserves praise, then, not just for being responsible for this highly listenable debut LP but also for managing to do a more than passable impression of a highly talented group of musicians.

Don’t expect any of the, by now traditional, lo-fi solo black metal of Leviathan or Xasthur. In fact, don’t expect anything more old school, a la Burzum, either. This is very contemporary sounding, particularly thanks to a large dose of hardcore influences, performed with serious conviction and a strong attachment to conciseness (six tracks in half an hour). Gramaglia names Ihsahn as an influence, and one can see why given the dextrous nature of this release. One of the more exciting new black metal prospects you will hear this year.

Dead Neanderthals – ‘Endless Voids’ (Alone)

Dutch New Wave of Heavy Jazz duo Dead Neanderthals are noisy at the best of times, but when beefed up to an octet featuring Dirk Serries and Colin Webster, the volume is only going to go up. ‘Endless Voids’, which was recorded live at last year’s edition of the Tilburg-based Incubate Festival, is essentially an 80 minute drone excursion, albeit the sort of drone that shakes buildings to their very foundations rather than a more sedate form. This is exceptionally hefty stuff, demonstrating that Dead Neanderthals know more than one way to club ears into submission. ‘Endless Voids’ is both a wonderful artefact for those who were present at the original show and a fantastic record in its own right.

Kevin Hufnagel‘Kleines Biest’ (Handmade Birds)

Byla/Dysrhythmia/Gorguts guitarist Kevin Hufnagel has always been interested in experimentation as well as pure sonic extremity. This makes ‘Kleines Biest’, his latest solo endeavour, understandable…but only to an extent. This 11-track mini-monster is far from the metallic dexterity for which Hufnagel is best known. Instead of shredding we have here an album fundamentally based around the digital manipulation of sound, with Hufnagel’s guitar veering from the recognisable towards the corrosively harsh and the oddly soothing. It’s a rather exhausting listen in many senses, but an enormously worthwhile one, with Hufnagel demonstrating both the diversity of his instrument and of his own musical personality.

Khost – ‘Corrosive Shroud’ (Cold Spring)

Ever thought Godflesh sounded a bit tame? Me neither, but perhaps fellow west Midlanders Andy Swan (Iroha) and Damian Bennett have. ‘Corrosive Shroud’ is the second Khost album in two years – following last year’s ‘Copper Lock Hell’ – to take Godflesh’s industrial metal template and assign it a slightly more contemporary edge. The electronics are more central to Khost’s sound than they generally have been to Godflesh, providing a raft of contrasting textures, but it’s the distorted vocals and the haunting sampled chants that clash most violently with the brutality of Swan and Bennett’s guitars. It’s perhaps a little repetitive over the course of its nine tracks, but ultimately ‘Corrosive Shroud’ stands as a welcome new look at the possibilities of industrial metal.

Locrian – ‘Infinite Dissolution’ (Relapse)

If there’s one thing that must be said about Locrian it’s that they aren’t afraid of the slow build. ‘Infinite Dissolution’, the Chicago outfit’s second album on Relapse, certainly does not explode into life. The trio’s dedication to the drone is emphasised across the first four tracks presented here, only for their pent-up black metal malice to burst forth almost exactly halfway through the record, on the visceral An Index of Air. Like 2013’s ‘Return to Annihilation’, then, ‘Infinite Dissolution’ is largely a record of subtleties, with Locrian content to skulk in the shadows. Various spectres emerge during ‘Infinite Dissolution’, but few go straight for the kill, with the rest likely to haunt listeners for some time to come.

Mutoid Man – ‘Bleeder’ (Sargent House)

Mutoid Man are definitely a supergroup, in all senses of the word. Formed by Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky and Converge’s Ben Koller, the trio (completed by Nick Cageao) not only have serious pedigree but also a claim to having made the best heavy debut album of 2015 to date. ‘Bleeder’, which follows ‘Helium Head’, last year’s EP, is only 29 minutes long and nothing goes to waste here. Brodsky’s work in Cave In was always dominated by attempts to refine progressive ideas in a concise, almost post-progressive musical setting, and it’s this that really comes to the fore on ‘Bleeder’. Everything is played at a hundred miles an hour – with Koller’s drumming as ferocious as ever – but there are ideas to spare: riffs that are only given a brief piece of the limelight, thrash breakdowns that dissipate into massive choruses and huge nods to classic rock. It’s brash, bold and, more importantly, one of the most enjoyable things you'll have heard in years.

OHHMS – ‘Cold’ (Holy Roar)

Kent’s OHHMS are really starting to go places, both literally (in terms of the noticeably proggy feel of much of this latest effort) and figuratively (in terms of receiving – shock horror – radio play on BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show). ‘Cold’ is the band’s second album. Like its predecessor, ‘Bloom’, ‘Cold’ contains just two lengthy tracks, but OHHMS make the most of each one’s extended run time. This is, in part, testament to the band’s compositional abilities. In a contemporary sludge/stoner metal scene largely oversaturated with dull retreads of old ground, OHHMS stand out through their willingness to move towards the accessible. Yes, this is supremely heavy, but it’s also oddly catchy, largely because of some utterly brilliant riffs. Expect even bigger, and better, things from OHHMS in the near future.

Ommadon – ‘Empathy for the Wicked’ (Golden Mantra)

Scottish drone metal duo Ommadon exist in a musical universe a million miles away from most of their peers, eschewing studio tinkering in favour of reliance on colossal amps and unusual recording settings. Their first four albums were recorded in a forest, ‘Empathy for the Wicked’ on a Northumberland industrial estate. There’s nothing complicated about their approach: huge walls of punishing guitar and a pummelling percussive undercurrent. It’s this wholehearted commitment to a simplistic approach that makes Ommadon so successful in their aims. The result is 45 blistering minutes of high quality doom/drone metal, an album for Sunn O))) fans that wish Anderson and O’Malley would stop messing around with all that avant-garde stuff.

Vanum – ‘Realm of Sacrifice’ (Profound Lore)

As a meeting of minds between Kyle Morgan of Ash Borer and Michael Rekevics of Fell Voices, Vanum may as well be classed as Cascadian black metal royalty already. ‘Realm of Sacrifice’ isn’t quite as spectacular as the best of either Ash Borer or Fell Voices. In fact, on first listen it presents a rather puzzling picture, being neither as immediately engaging nor as distinct in approach as either of its creators’ two main outfits. That’s not to say it isn’t impressive, however. The four songs gathered here are each fairly monumental in their own right, with the closing title track – in particular – emphasising Morgan and Rekevics’s incisive talent for writing powerful, soaring extreme metal that, given repeated listens, is just as effective as anything else emerging from the broader American metal underground at present.



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