Vesperith – Vesperith (Svart Records, 22 November 2019)
Well, here we are yet again: another year all wrapped up, another stressful holiday season all wrapped up, and all that’s left to do is to suffer the disheartening and depressing effects of the sun rising well after arriving at work and setting almost immediately after leaving for home.
Feels like an appropriate time to talk about some music that is also dark and chilling — as well as being based in (or at least, near) the land of the midnight sun: Finland’s Vesperith. Although not an actual word in English or Finnish (as far as I can tell), it would appear that this name (which is also the title used for this debut full-length album) bears a relation to the words for vespers, the evening star, or simply eveningtime itself.
Even more difficult to accurately put into words is a description of the music itself: distilled to its purest essence, this could be considered a single-member atmospheric black metal band (the only person credited on the album is Sariina Tani, identified as the primus motor), while often sounding far more atmospheric than metal.
The Night Watch – An Embarrassment of Riches (self-released, 15 November 2019)
Hey, everybody. It’s time to check in on instrumental quartet The Night Watch, whose members include violinist Evan Runge and guitarist Nathanael Larochette (both of whom are also part of the neo-folk trio Musk Ox, featured here), plus Matthew Cowan on bass and Daniel Mollema on drums/percussion.
As you may recall, we wrote about Boundaries, the thirty-plus-minute piece of music that was their second album (here), when it was released back in 2016.
Anyway, that same cast of characters is back (with the drummer sometimes hitting the ebonies and ivories as well, this time around) with a third full-length, just released last month: An Embarrassment of Riches. Still essentially an instrumental venture, although this one does occasionally feature some choral vocals — credited to all four instrumentalists plus a host of guests, this record is sequenced a little more traditionally than its predecessor, in that it’s broken into several individual tracks rather than a single album-length composition.
at White Oak Music Hall – 2915 N Main Street, Houston TX 77009
All Ages | $40 in advance, or $40 plus box office fees at door
The third annual Hell’s Heroes all-day festival had already been scheduled for next spring and was already slated to bring an outstanding lineup of performers both domestic and international to H-Town (see below for more details)… but this week some breaking news just came out, pronouncing the headliners for the show will be the Grammy-nominatedCandlemass!
This performance will mark the very first opportunity for U.S. fans to see Candlemass with the singer of their debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Johan Längquist, since his recent addition to the band as an official member.
Forest of Tygers – I Will Die of Violence (Acteon Records, 08 November 2019)
Here at Valley of Steel HQ, we’ve been big fans of the husband and wife duo Forest of Tygers ever since they released their first EP Bruises over five years ago. We’ve written about these Nashvillians each time we’ve heard something new of theirs, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the full-length record they’ve been talking about for a couple years — and (as of about a month ago) it’s finally here!
Guitarist/vocalist Jim and drummer Rachel Valosik have established themselves quite a reputation for creating superlatively black- and ugly-sounding conglomorations of hardcore/sludge/doom/metal, and newly-released I Will Die of Violence will only increase that…
Forgotten Bottom – Hostile Architecture (digital: self-released, 25 July 2019 / cassette: Black Horizons, coming soon)
Around here, we’ve had a bit of a history picking on the city of Philadelphia, and its residents, and especially its sports fans. But we’ve also spent plenty of time listening to and enjoying — and writing about — the variety of musical output from “The City that Bombed Itself.” And here is yet another example of that, in the form of a uniquely-orchestrated instrumental two-piece.
Forgotten Bottom, which has just recently come to my attention, includes one person we’ve mentioned multiple times on this website: swiftly becoming perhaps the most significant experimental-music violist since John Cale‘s stint with The Velvet Underground, the prolific Myles Donovan has also appeared with Disemballerina and A Stick and a Stone.
The line-up is then rounded out by Eric Bandel who plays a bit of guitar here, but mostly bouzouki. If I hadn’t already been excited to hear this project, that’s the part that fully sold me. A life-long fan of uncommon musical instruments of all ethnicities, I’ve especially enjoyed the bouzouki ever since Monty Python taught me what it was called.
(As a kid, I had this double-cassette set, which I listened to a zillion times — and “The Cheese Shop” was always one of my favorite sketches included here. While this was also performed on the Flying Circus tv show, the audio-only version included on Final Rip-Off clearly mentioned the instrument by name: check it out here, specifically from 0:40-0:50 and from 3:33-3:43.)
Lapsarian – Ruminant (self-released, 22 November 2019)
Last time we took a look at the latest release from a multiple-platinum artist whose discography dates back many decades. Naturally, today our focus turns to an album that just came out last week, from a band who just formed last year.
With just over 100 Facebook likes so far (does that still even count as a metric in 2019?), and without a huge marketing campaign backing them, it’s probably a safe bet that Washington, DC’s Lapsarian is a new name to most of you reading this. So go check out Ruminant, and then once the word gets out, you can brag to everyone else about how you’ve already been on that bandwagon way longer than they have …
Candlemass – The Door to Doom (Napalm Records, 22 February 2019)
Doom metal may have been invented when Tony Iommi hammered out those very first notes of Black Sabbath‘s 1970 debut, but the genre really started to take shape during the 1980s, and unquestionably one of the principal players behind that defining moment was Sweden’s Candlemass — particularly, their own debut record which officially coined the phrase “Epic Doom Metal.”
The U.S. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences may have a somewhat shaky track record when it comes to recognizing achievements by metal bands — or even properly distinguishing between metal and hard rock, or deciding whether there even should be such a distinction — but for the first time in their 35-year history, the innovation of Candlemass has been honored with a Grammy award nomination for “Best Metal Performance.”
Taken from their latest album The Door to Doom, the song that earned this recognition for the band is “Astorolus – The Great Octopus,” which fittingly features a guest appearance on lead guitar by none other than Mr. Iommi himself.