Hivelords – Tapered Limbs of a Human Star (Anthropic Records, 04 August 2015)
Tombs – All Empires Fall (Relapse Records, 01 April 2016)
Hey folks, how’s it going? In case you missed, it, back on Monday I wrote a thing about Tombs and Hivelords playing some shows together (plus in that post, you can enter to win tickets for the show in Pittsburgh this Saturday, May 14th!)
If that information wasn’t quite enough to get you excited, maybe you just haven’t heard these two bands before? Or maybe you don’t live near the northeastern U.S. where these shows are taking place. In either case, I’ve decided to spend a little more time talking about both bands — and about their most recent releases, for your listening pleasure …
First of all, there’s Philadelphia’s Hivelords, producers of a special kind of blackened insanity, whose 2013 album Cavern Apothecary was reviewed right here. As I pointed out the other day, the band has undergone a few line-up tweaks since that time, and late last summer they issued forth a particularly hellish nightmarescape entitled Tapered Limbs of a Human Star.
Consisting of four tracks that average about ten minutes each, the best way to describe this album would be a thick, dense, confused mass of sounds, including a strange blend of different styles of vocals. For instance, in opener “Soothsayer Worm” the vocals are deeply buried under all the complex and twisted layers of other stuff that’s happening, but they SEEM to be of a strong and soaring variety, for the most part (although from time to time the song does develop more of a blackened vibe, often with harsher vocals to match), while “Begotten Grimoire” employs more of a straightforward black metal vocal style (in conjunction with the fast and furious blastbeat drums).
That song and the one that precedes it, “Vessel,” both essentially have a blackened vibe to them, but each contains two or more layers of intertwined guitar parts weaving back and forth, sometimes seeming slow and aimless or even random, but ultimately it all appears to be part of an intricate master plan. The closing track “I Climbed the Highest Dakhma to Find It,” on the other hand — well, the whole album really seems to become more unhinged and far more unsettling as it goes along, and by this point it has really turned into a confusing mess, blending even more layers of vocals and guitars and everything, including the kitchen sink. Until the song just ends unexpectedly, without ever reaching any sort of real resolution. In a nutshell, this is the perfect album for anyone seeking the exact opposite of “easy listening.”
Released at the beginning of April, the new Tombs EP All Empires Fall features five tracks of experimentation and wild genre exploration. Like Hivelords, this band also has had some membership turnover, but in this case, over the past couple of years they’ve basically undergone a complete overhaul from the ground up. Perhaps one of the most striking additions — in terms of modifying the sound of the band — has been Batillus vocalist Fade Kainer on keyboards, as this seems to have really given a different coloration to the material found herein.
As far as that material goes, only “Obsidian” really feels like what you might call “trve” black metal, with the harsh whispered/rasped vocals and the whole nine yards. Elsewhere, various other influences try to creep in, and in some places completely threaten to completely overwhelm the style of the music. From the very beginning, the instrumental introductory track “The World is Made of Fire” starts with hints of ambient/drone/industrial/noise stuff, then adding in kind of a industrial-flavored-groove riff.
Darkwave/trance/ambient vibes make their presence felt throughout the other three tracks. “Deceiver” also incorporates pseudo-industrial-metal riffage, and is the only other place where harsh vocals really dominate, as both the avant-garde/psychedelic “Last Days of Sunlight” and final track “V” feature a surprising amount of gothic-style vocals (think Andrew Eldritch). Whether this EP is a tangential excursion for a band who has chosen to dabble in various different styles, or perhaps it represents a conscious shift in direction — either way, this is some pretty interesting stuff worth checking out.
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