Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ramesses - Take the Curse

Take the Curse
Ritual Productions

There’s a tune on this, the second full-length album from Dorset, England’s Ramesses, which perfectly describes the band’s sound: Black Hash Mass. Take your average, Black Sabbath-inspired, Luciferian heavy metal, add a quart or so of your favorite hallucinogenic, and presto: Take the Curse. Hardly unexpected, of course, given that 2/3 of the trio rose from the funny-smelling ashes of the first lineup of Electric Wizard. Like Jus Osborn’s crew, guitarist Tim Bagshaw, drummer Mark Greening and bassist/mouthpiece Adam Richardson filter their love of the occult through a haze of freaky Eurotrash horror movies and cheap fright fiction, with sampled film quotes as emphasis. Unlike their former employer, these boys rarely rev up past a midtempo grind, layering riffs thicker than wooly mammoth skulls across drums that traverse the terrain like King Kong on a bender. Richardson occasionally croons like a wolf in love , but mostly digs deep into his own bowels for a landscape-devouring gurgle that makes even the silliest lyrics sound threatening. Iron Saw, Hand of Glory and Baptism of the Walking Dead sound exactly the way you’d guess they sound: like hellspawn tripping on Blue Sunshine and looking to party. As bonkers as the 60s/70s horror era that inspired it, the gripping, goofy Take the Curse is a hell of a good time.

- Michael Toland

Twilight - A Monument to Time End

A Monument to Time End
Southern Lord

Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way first. Twilight is a US black metal supergroup, spearheaded by Nachtmystium leader Blake Judd, Leviathan main dude Wrest and Krieg majordomo N. Imperial. While the first, self-titled album prominently featured Xasthur (AKA Malefic), he proved to be too antisocial even for fellow travelers, so A Monument to Time End replaces him with Stavros Giannopolous of the Atlas Moth, Sanford Parker of Minsk (who also produced, as he’s apt to do when any kind of experimental metal goes down in the Midwest) and Aaron Turner, leader of Isis (!). Robert Lowe of experimental rock act Lichens (not the Robert Lowe who sings for Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass) figures in there somewhere, too. Got all that?

Maybe it’s because the USBM scene is small and inbred, but Twilight truly equals more than the sum of its parts. The principals take their inspiration from the groundbreaking early black metal acts – if you’ve ever fantasized about a mix of Burzum, Emperor and Immortal, you might want to reach for the tissues after you hit play. Grand, majestic melodies get dragged through enough distortion to choke a dragon, haunted atmospheres get pummeled by drums like a rampaging Visigoth horde and the vocals (mostly from N. Imperial, the Bruce Dickinson of black metal) range from merely savage to purely horrific. Decaying Observer, Catastrophe Exhibition and Fall Behind Eternity are journeys unto themselves, ripping, clawing and biting their way through sophisticated musicianship and a sense of melody derived from less from cacophony than classic rock (however buried under a mountain of toxic sludge). Red Fields incorporates plenty of influences from music outside of the kind that wears spiked wristbands and denim jackets, giving it the accessibility of, say, Opeth. Negative Signal Omega simply abandons any pretense of control, flowing forth like molten lava laced with battery acid, leaving a trail of scorched earth in its wake. Taking the best of its component visions and shaping a whole new monster, A Monument to Time End is brutal and brilliant from stem to stern.

- Michael Toland
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