Mini-Reviews from Around the Toilet Bowl: 04-14-16

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You know the (small) drill! This week features reviews of Degtras, Nađra, A Blue Fire, Black Peaks, The Dread Crew of Oddwood, Protest the Hero, Is, Violet Cold, HortlakYuri Gagarin and Qrixkuor.

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DegtrasHominidaeResonancecoverDegtras – Hominidae Resonance EP
Wood and Stone Production | May 6th, 2016

The more contact I have with new things, the more I learn. Degtras is new to me, but any duo labeling themselves as “dark ritualistic ambient” piques my interest. Track 1, “Pulse,” slithers into your ears with softly whispered invocations. Track 2, “Ancient Forest,” ebbs with obtuse SunnO)))-like amp drones, reverbing bitrate-damaged hisses and cavernous atmosphere complete with watery field recordings. Track 3, “Earth,” allows a planetary magnetic ambience to take center stage while the invocations continue amidst windy analog howling and deep bass breathing. While the song names and mandala artwork suggest Degtras are interested in a more natural take on dark ambient, the sonic qualities are unmistakably synthetic, and Hominidae Resonance approaches something more like a soundtrack to an abandoned, flooded missile base than a pagan ritual on a fire-lit taiga. Admittedly not terribly memorable at first listen; another two tracks with a bit more variety in sound would have made this release ideal. Still, what’s here is perfect for a late-night working/reading/creeping-yourself-out session. — Cybrorg

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Qrixkuor – Three Devils Dance
Invictus Production | April 30th, 2016

In 2014, a young quartet of musicians with curious, occult leanings began a deep descent into the heart of the Earth beneath the cobbled streets of London, Their profane activities unearthed two demos of immense and impressive scope, but the four-piece have truly outdone themselves on their highly anticipated debut, digging far deeper than ever before to reveal a monumental three-track titan of unimaginable scope and might. Qrixkuor put the “cave” in cavernous death metal, diving headlong into the molten magma of subterranean production and style. Each of these three long tracks is a flowing river of flaming lava riffs that leaves everything tasting ashy and dead; although the rhythm section rarely breaks into anything more than a hellishly glacial pace, the constant pounding drums keep things shaking and quaking while the billowing, smog-like vocals choke the light. If you want a taste of what’s to come, listen to “The Divine Architect” at cvltnation. That sinister build-up prior to all hell breaking loose in a landslide of violent, Portal-eque riffs is only a hint of the triumphant murk diving of which this young band is capable. — W.

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Nađra Form EP
Vánagandr | April 13th, 2016

Not content with sticking to just one release this year, Iceland’s Nađra surprised a bunch of us here by dropping a 2-track EP on Tuesday. Such is the quality of the band (comprised of members from Misþyrming, Skáphe (review), Carpe Noctem, et al.) that I bought the album blind, or deaf, as it were. While I was fascinated by their debut EP, their February full-length (Spear’s review here) didn’t quite resonate as strongly as I anticipated it would for me, and Form might just end up having a similar effect. The band’s sound appears to be continuing to progress towards a less aggressive overall sound, focusing their intent on the sweeping melodic aspect of their style. The vocals in particular have taken a step toward embracing a cleaner sound, with the latter portion of the first track (“Forn”) having folk-like undertones. Overall, I can’t complain too much, as these tracks were name your price and will serve as a fine addition to their catalogue. Form remains a welcome surprise that will please fans of the band. (I’m just prejudiced against the majority of clean vocals). — Lacertilian.

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abluefireA Blue Fire – A Blue Fire
Long Gone Days Records |
April 12th, 2016

A Blue Fire is the musical collaboration between Luca Bluefire and Simone Raoul Lombardo, formerly of the Italian rock band Nahui. The duo’s debut four-song EP is a somber love letter that will strike a chord with fans of bands like Katatonia. Bluefire’s steady voice gives the songs an ethereal, dreamlike quality that perfectly complements the moving overtones of the music. While the EP doesn’t quite reach the emotional apex that their contemporaries do, this album is a quality introduction and a good addition to the pantheon of post-rock, post-goth, feelings metallers. You may not need to wipe up any tears while listening, but a few long sighs may be expected. RIYL: Katatonia, Alcest, Anathema. — 365

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Black Peaks Statues
Easy Life/Sony | April 8th, 2016

Remember last June when I wrote about this band called Black Peaks? After over a year of waiting, their debut album Statues is FINALLY out, and it’s nothing short of incredible. Take math rock, post-rock, prog, and a bit of metal and hardcore and throw it all in a blender; the result could potentially be horrible, but these four gentlemen have managed to make an album packed with as many memorable hooks as off-kilter riffs to create an album that I think most fans of heavy music will be able to appreciate. This is music that is aggressive when it needs to be and calm when appropriate, backed up by tremendous instrumental chops and an amazingly diverse vocal performance. Quick, someone build Black Peaks a Shrine. Stream Statues here. — MoshOff

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dreadcrewofoddwoodThe Dread Crew of Oddwood
Lawful Evil
Self-Released |
March 25th, 2016

Avast ye, metal lovers. Be cast into the briny deep if ye be too faint of heart and hurt of butt to listen to acoustic pirate metal. Okay, that’s enough of that. Hailing from San Diego, The Dread Crew of Oddwood blends  the uptempo sea shanties of Alestorm with an obvious sense of humor and self-awareness. Lawful Evil, which came to fruition after their Kickstarter raised over $17,000(!), is a fun bit of folk metal that will leave the scent of sea air and blood deep within your nostrils. The lack of amps and electric instruments only strengthens the band’s throwback sound, allowing all the instruments time to shine. Be prepared to dance like a total goof. Yar! RIYL:  Swashbuckle, Korpiklaani, Slaughter Of The Bluegrass. — 365

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Protest the Hero – Pacific Myth
Self-Released | October 2015 – March 2016

I was worried that the loss of not one but two founding members would slow Protest the Hero down, but my fears were all for naught. Continuing to go further down the crowfunding road, their latest batch of material was released one song a month over a six month period to subscribers of a new, yearly-paid service. Each of the songs was written and recorded in that month, and the result is standard PTH fare: really good. At just over half an hour in length, the Canadians pack almost every aspect of their sound into Pacific Myth: fast/hardcore beats, straightforward grooves, soaring vocal melodies, death growls, progressive/technical wizardry, violins… This is PTH’s most diverse collection of songs, and if they keep this up with decent frequency their service is more than worth the price. Sign up here. — MoshOff

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Is Glimpses of Sorrow EP
Independent | January 19th, 2016

I’m not going to beat around the bush, the new Is EP, Glimpses of Sorrow, is my favorite black metal release of 2016 so far and is likely to find itself somewhere in the top ten for my year end list.  If you take particular titillation in icy atmosphere, excellent tone, absolutely infectious riffs, and band pics with swords, this self-released, one man project out of Russia is just for you. Sole member Nokken’s shrieks pierce through the music with both grace and power, even going to a lower growl for a verse on the second track. This is thirty plus minutes of brilliantly executed, mid-paced melodic black metal with little to no filler, and tons of memorable moments. Recommended for anyone who likes things that are good. The year of the EP continues! — Jom Pootersan

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Violet Cold Magic Night
Independent | January 31st, 2016

I am not quite sure what to make of Violet Cold, the one-man experimental band out of Azerbaijan. A few of us toileteers quite enjoyed the album Desperate Dreams, which came out last April, as a refreshing and upbeat take on black metal. Just a few months later, he released an album on a completely different end of the black metal strata. This instrumental atmospheric-black-space-gaze album (a very logical sub-genre, if you think about it) is beautifully produced, mixing the blasting drums with calming atmospherics. It frequently flows between post rock and black metal and somehow never feels disjointed. What confuses me is not the differences between these two albums, but that he also released a harsh noise album in March. This man will leave no genre untouched.  FFO: Alcest, Sorrow Plagues, Mesarthim. — Joaquin Stick

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Hortlak Hortlak
Independent | January 26th, 2016

These boys are from Texas! This album popped up on my bandcamp feed from the infamous Celtic Frosty. The album art is what piqued my interest initially, and I gave it a listen. The tags were all over the place; death, thrash, power, black and grind. I didn’t know what to expect and was bludgeoned with a sledgehammer of old school death metal. Thick, mid-paced chugs and fast single-note riffs pummeled me again and again. It was unrelenting, and I enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the Texas, more than likely it’s the riffs, but whatever the cause Hortlak remains in the rotation when I need death metal chugs. — Boss the Ross

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Yuri Gagarin – At The Center Of All Infinity
Released Through 4 Different Labels?! | December 2nd, 2015

Instrumental wah-drenched psychedelic space-rock from Gothenberg, Sweden. Do you really need more of a description than that? Yuri Gagarin blow my mind every single time I listen to them, and I’ve been putting off reviewing their latest for wayyy too long, with the idea that I’d find time to give them the full length review that they totally deserve. Alas, with the amount of new stuff overflowing from my inbox daily, that prospect seems less and less likely. So if you like the idea of tripping all the balls from a mere contact high, this is your band. Even though I have not spent as much time with this latest release compared to their self-titled, it’s blatantly apparent that it is as good a place as any to lose your shit to the infinite cosmos. FFO: Earthless, Sun Mammuth, Eating Fun With Gus. — Lacertilian.

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