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Editor’s Choice February 2015

draugr

February proved to be a crowded month in metal releases. Typically, the beginning part of the year yields few fruit, and offers me the opportunity to catch up on releases I missed last year. No such luck. 2015 continues to be the most exciting release cycle I’ve written through, and while my attention is focused on a few upcoming releases that won’t be slept on (Tribulation, Royal Thunder), that didn’t stop me from sifting through my inbox for a few gems. The following albums didn’t receive full articles on Invisible Oranges, but did maintain my rapt attention.

The members of Death Karma specialize in orthodox black metal in the sense that their music sounds dry, spacious and vaguely churchlike. In all other aspects, they’re some of the most unorthodox musicians in the genre. Drummer Tom Coroner and multi-instrumentalist Infernal Vlad also spend time in Cult of Fire, where their penchants for odd time and haunting melodies have already earned them wide critical acclaim. On The History of Death & Burial Rituals part 1, everything interesting about that project returns, albeit wrapped around a concept record outlining, surprise surprise, odd and esoteric burial rituals from around the world. The idea is quirky and historical enough that I’m surprised it hasn’t been undertaken before. While The History of Death & Burial Rituals begins a bit straightforward, things begin to twist on the second half, such as on “Czech Republic- ‘Umrlčí prkna.’” I don’t know enough about the scales that Death Karma employs to speak about them intelligently, suffice it to say that the band at times sounds vaguely ‘ethnic.’ or ‘oriental.’ Either way, these two musicians push black metal into uncharted territory in every project they contribute to.
-Discovered via Press Release.

There’s no shortage of femme-fatale doom metal these days, but Portland duo Muscle and Marrow at least inject some drama into the proceedings. My tastes in this microgenre skew toward the rock and blues influenced side of things (just wait for the new Royal Thunder album) but as far as the downbeat sludge side of things goes, Muscle and Marrow packs some punch. Vocalist Kira Clark has a killer tremolo. It’s the most interesting bit about their new song, “Ritual,” the first track on their upcoming LP, which recently got the video treatment at CVLT Nation.
-Discovered via CVLT Nation.

I’ve found myself drifting back into the chaotic, noise-inflected brand of sludge metal that dominated my listening habits pre-2009. Brampton, Ontario’s Sarin play the style particularly well, with a decent mix of big, nasty riffs as well as more atmospheric passages, such as the instrumental interlude “Apparitions Under Glass.” (note, Sarin really know how to title a song.) Burial Dream is their first full-length, but the band already sounds seasoned as composers, adept at shifting from genteel beauty to acidic stomping. It’s available at any price on the group’s Bandcamp, which specifically lists Isis as an influence, and while I definitely hear Aaron Turner’s influence on the group, songs like “As Well as the Body” remind me more of recent Old Man Gloom, though that may be because I just saw Old Man Gloom last week. Speaking of which.
-Discovered via email from the band itself.

Coliseum opened for Old Man Gloom and played what was the best set I’ve ever see them play (thanks in no small part to Ryan Patterson deciding to not lecture ad nauseam the crowd between songs as he’s done before). During that set they played this new song, “We are the Water,” which premiered via music video a week ago, and it is all about that bass tone. Coliseum’s long been a tone-chaser’s delight, able to weave gothy ambience and psychedelia into their core or Kyuss-inflected hardcore-and-roll, but “We are the Water” leans further toward post punk, anchored in a huge, pulsing liquid-metal bass chug. I dig it, but I also wonder why Coliseum is playing with hardcore bands, when they would sound perfectly comfortable next to a band like Iceage or Savages. I very much enjoyed their last album, sister Faith, and find myself increasingly excited by the prospect of its successor, Anxiety’s Kiss.
-Discovered via SPIN Magazine.

On a similar note JC Autobody isn’t exactly a metal artist. At least, he’s no more metal than Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. However, his upcoming album, Young Tobacco, packs riffs, fuzz, and low end in spades–perhaps that’s why Autobody sent me the promo, even though his resume is centered around his time in indie band Brazil. I found myself liking it, even though I “don’t cover music like this here,” hence its spot on my list. The song “War Machine,” especially, piles on the proto-metal worship. People who think it’s too reminiscent of Sabbath clearly haven’t listened to enough Vanilla Fudge and Cactus.
-Discovered via email from the band itself.

Confession: it was the gimmick, and not the music, which first tempted me toward Indiana one-man folk-black metal project Ecferus. Rather than talk about despair or the occult, vocalist/instrumentalist Alp has chosen to center his project around evolutionary biology, hence the album title: Prehistory. If, at its heart, black metal is music which combats religion, then Ecferus is already doing a better job than many of its contemporaries. I do not think there is any greater threat to Christianity, Judaism and Islam than secular humanism, and the thought of pairing it with this style of music made me instantly excited to hear Alp’s music. As far as one-man black metal goes, it’s pretty good, though it packs few curveballs. The folksy intro of “Mitochondrial Eve” pairs well with, for example the abrasive tremolo of “All Become Sand.” Currently, Prehistory is available at any price on Bandcamp, and a cassette is available via Fragile Branch.
-Discovered via Press Release.

In keeping with the theme of one-man bands, I present Dräugr, whose music I saw fit to spread as far over social media as I could. Despair the Withered Shadows, the debut solo album by Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Dustin Matthews, came to me via anonymous tip (which is I’m beginning to understand, my favorite way to receive a recommendation). His music is, reductively, another stab at synthesizing an alternative to Opeth, with a mix of clean and distorted guitar, shifting tempo, and emotive vocal lines. Matthews, however, sticks the landing and, crucially, does not lay the sentiment on too thick. Rather, he keeps the dread creeping. It’s the best take on the sound that I’ve heard since The Fall of Every Season. Matthews released this record with no push, simply to see what would happen, but it’s already being traded around the blogosphere. I’m excited to see where he takes the project.
-Discovered via anonymous tip.

My appetite for extremity was sidelined, however, by the Revenant King, a meaty and song-packed slice of traditional heavy metal by Visigoth. This Salt Lake City quintet embodies virtually every 80’s metal cliche one can imagine–for example, the lead single from their record is called “Dungeon Master,” and not only is it about exactly what you think it’s about. Singer Jake Rogers (also of the underrated Gallowbraid) drops references to Forgotten Realms and then urges listeners to “take a chance, roll the dice!” Nerd alert at maximum. Still, the song also sports everything to love about Visigoth: shredding solos, impassioned singing, occasional use of a killer clean guitar tone not too dissimilar from the one that made Metal Blade labelmates Bullet so catchy. Sadly, like Bullet, there’s no full album stream on the internet, so you’ll have to trawl YouTube or buy the record to hear the deeper cuts.
-Discovered via Dan Lawrence.

—Joseph Schafer

This post has been edited to reflect that Ecferus is from Indiana

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