Well folks, here we are, starting another new year. 2016 was quite an eventful one, both on a personal level (Valley of Steel headquarters has relocated within the past few months! — which is why we’ve been so quiet for a little while; we’ve been hella busy between finding a place to move to, moving there, getting settled in, etc. — although for those who may be worried: we’re still in a valley in a former industrial area outside Pittsburgh, so the website title is still accurate, it just happens to be the valley of a different river than our former location), as well as on a sociocultural level (politics, both domestic and foreign, has really been a mess lately, hasn’t it??).
Of course, like every year, tons of great music got released in 2016 as well — and like every year, I’ve failed to write about everything I’ve wanted to share with you folks (or even half of it). We’ll be diving back into the reviewing and sharing of new (and some fairly not-so-new) music very soon. But today, I’d like to hit a few other items as we briefly glance over the year that was…
Green Elder / Pensive Ceremony – Split (self-released, 11 August 2016)
Twilight Fauna – Fire of the Spirit (Ravenwood Recordings / Fragile Branch Recordings, 19 August 2016)
Hello, and happy Friday! Today I’d like to call your attention to a pair of releases you may enjoy, that just came out last month. The second one is an album called Fire of the Spirit, Twilight Fauna‘s sixth full-length record over the past several years, in addition to numerous other discographical items. (As you may or may not be aware, Twilight Fauna is a solo black metal project with strong Appalachian folk roots, with everything written and performed by sole member Paul Ravenwood of Johnson City, Tennessee.) But before that, in light of it having been released a week earlier, we’ll talk about a 12″ split record that features Green Elder — also a Ravenwood solo gig, but this one entirely eschews the black metal aspects in favor of a more somber, pure Appalachian folk style. The flip side of this split consists of yet another single-member ensemble — one that’s even more elusive than the others we’re discussing today, in terms of sharing any personal information. It’s called Pensive Ceremony, and everything here is done by an individual known only as Pythagumus, apparently from somewhere near Tacoma, Washington.
Frosthelm – The Endless Winter (Black Work (Alkemy Brothers), 22 March 2015)
Hello out there, how are you all doing on this fine afternoon?
I know there hasn’t been so much activity around here lately, and I really wish it could be otherwise, but as seems to happen pretty frequently, other facets of life get pretty crazy sometimes.
But I did want to drop by and remind you folks about the Ghost Bath and Numenorean tour that’s currently spreading across the country like some vile plague. I’ve seen lots of excitement about this one — specifically about the show in Pittsburgh that’s coming up this Friday the 16th (which, if you hurry, there is still a little bit of time left to WIN a pair of tickets for!).
And also, I thought this might be an opportune moment to say a few words about the third band featured on that tour’s line-up: Frosthelm, who hail from the frozen northern tundra that is Bismarck, ND. These guys put out an album last year that’s every bit as bitter and frosty as that incredible artwork at the top of this page; I’ve got a feeling you’ll want to check this out …
He Whose Ox is Gored – Rumors (Bleeding Light Records, 28 October 2014)
He Whose Ox is Gored – The Camel, the Lion, the Child (Bleeding Light Records, 09 October 2015)
Hey, guess what: there’s a great band on tour that’s scheduled to play in Pittsburgh tonight (Wednesday, 7 September 2016) — Seattle’s psychedelic doom quartet He Whose Ox is Gored! This is happening at The Smiling Moose, 1306 East Carson Street, South Side. Doors open at 5:30 and the show starts at 6 — also performing will be Retox, Silent, and Netherlands.
Have you heard about this? Perhaps not, because I haven’t been able to find a Facebook event or any other sort of mention of the show, ouside of a mention on the calendar section of the venue’s website, and this being included in lists of tour dates shared by the bands themselves.
It’ll really be a shame if folks miss out on this just because they didn’t know it was taking place, so this seems like a great time to share the following review of a couple HWOIG releases — specifically their debut EP from 2014, and first full-length album from 2015. These are both pretty incredible and I’ve been meaning to write about them for the past year or two anyhow, so here goes! If you like what you hear, please be sure to spread the word, especially if you live in Pittsburgh or near any of the band’s other remaining dates! (Those will be listed down in the comments section.)
I am the Trireme – Gnosis: Never Follow the Light (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, 30 June 2015)
Hello out there — and a happy Saturday to you! Hopefully you’re all in the midst of celebrating a nice long weekend (at least for those of us in the U.S.) in classic unofficial-end-of-summer style, with plenty of food cooked over charcoal, and definitely plenty of bottles of fermented beverages. Not to mention lots of good music. Seems like a perfect time to get out there and catch a show, whether it’s at an outdoor festival or somebody’s basement, or whatever.
If you happen to live somewhere near Pittsburgh, might I suggest this one: locals United By Hate are playing at the Rock Room in the Polish Hill neighborhood, and kicking off a bit of a tour; that trip will take the band through Philadelphia on Tuesday night, where they’ll be performing with that city’s I am the Trireme, who are returning the favor by making the trip out here to play at tonight’s Pittsburgh show! Sorry if that sounded a bit confusing, but to make a long story short, if you live in western Pennsylvania you’ll get to see both bands tonight, while our cross-state neighbors will have that chance on Tuesday the 6th.
I just happened upon this information randomly on Facebook, and it reminded me that I had been meaning to write something about IATT‘s album Gnosis: Never Follow the Light ever since I first heard it when the City of Brotherly Love based label Horror Pain Gore Death released it last summer. Mostly based in blackened and death metal, the album impressed me with its range and variety, and I think you’ll agree if you check it out …
Thursday 15 September through Sunday 18 September 2016
at Camp Hidden Valley, 4722 Mellow Rd, White Hall MD 21161
Weekend pass (includes on-site tent camping) $130 in advance or $150 at gate; limited cabin bunks available for an additional charge; single-day tickets also available.
In exactly two weeks, the weekend-long sylvan music and camping party Shadow Woods Metal Fest will kick off for the second year. Described by its organizers as “some of the best music the underground music community has to offer, all while camping in beautiful surroundings. The festival features bands spanning the musical spectrum from folk to doom to black metal to experimental and are carefully curated for their uniqueness in the current musical landscape.”
Year of the Goat – The Key and the Gate (Napalm Records, 28 November 2014)
Year of the Goat – The Unspeakable (Napalm Records, 31 July 2015)
The year of the goat has ended: this past February, the year of the monkey was ushered in. But the previous twelve lunar months had been dominated by this horned beast — the third such year since the one in which I was born — and around this time period, Sweden’s Year of the Goat had been fairly active. Exactly twelve weeks before the commencement of the (Chinese) new year, their second EP The Key and the Gate saw the light of day via Napalm Records, who then went on to release Year of the Goat‘s second full-length album The Unspeakable once the year of the goat was actually in full-swing — in fact, right in the middle of the month of the goat.
And I’ll stop there, because that pretty much exhausts the extent of my research into Chinese astrology in preparation for writing about this band from Norrköping and their latest two releases — the latter and longer of which found its way onto my list of the best of 2015 …