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.
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.
Venom Prison – Animus (Prosthetic Records, 14 October 2016 / deluxe edition 23 February 2018)
British death metal horde Venom Prison, who exploded into international consciousness with their Prosthetic-released debut album in late 2016, are currently touring North America with a whole bunch of other heavy hitters in the genre.
In fact, the month-long tour is a little more than halfway over, so we don’t want to waste any more time — here’s our write-up of Animus, and later you can see the full list of dates, plus a handful of European cities the band will be visiting in August with Dying Fetus!
Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Recordings, 02 September 2014)
Yob – Our Raw Heart (Relapse Records, 08 June 2018)
Oregonian doom trio Yob vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt has always had a distinctive voice. Whether it’s as a member of Lumbar or making a guest appearance with Red Fang or a whole plethora of others, there’s just no mistaking who is singing. Piercing and powerful, like Conan‘s Jon Davis, expressive and emotional like Argus/Molasses Barge‘s Butch Balich, and always just a bit grizzled and weathered like Wino or Lemmy.
But since the last time we heard from these guys (Clearing the Path to Ascend, which in a year filled with tough competition, still came out as our clear #1 album of 2014), some serious health complications cast some doubt as to whether we might ever hear that voice again. You can read all about that journey in this Rolling Stone interview, where the band’s sole remaining founding member (over twenty years ago!) describes his harrowing experiences while also discussing the creation of Our Raw Heart.
The album was “largely penned from what he worried would be his deathbed,” said the magazine, quoting Scheidt as saying, “there was no guarantee that I was going to live long enough to record the album.” Fortunately for himself, his family and friends, and also for everyone on planet earth who has ears, he did survive and he did record the album, which undoubtably will be contending for the same spot in this year’s list. In this post we’ll touch upon that record from four years ago, as well as the follow-up which hits stores TODAY. Furthermore, keep on scrolling to see a list of opportunities North American readers will have to experience Yob live: for one month (starting next Thursday, 14th June) with Bell Witch or again during September with Acid King and CHRCH.
I can still vividly remember the first time I heard Graveyard: it was “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” the opening song from their 2011 album Hisingen Blues. High-energy electric country-blues with great wailing vocals, that could have fit seamlessly on side A of Led Zeppelin III (an album which, front to back, was unquestionably and irrefutably the finest output of Zeppelin‘s repertoire — please feel free to comment below if you disagree and I’ll gladly tell you how wrong you are), the song instantly hooked me and still hasn’t let go to this day.
After buying that CD shortly afterwards, the rest of the songs (like the title track and Uncomfortably Numb) pushed the Swedish retro-rock troupe onto my list of my favorite 2011 releases. And the following year, the promise of a Graveyard material was so appealing that we had pre-ordered Lights Out as soon as it was released.
Now, that one (the band’s third overall) came out to somewhat mixed reviews, and although the basic style and quality of performance were very similar to what had come before, I have to admit that there really didn’t seem to be the same “wow” factor, standout tracks that would stick in your head for days or weeks after hearing them. While it wasn’t a bad album by any measure, it didn’t quite pull me in for repeated listens nearly as many times as its predecessor had done. And the next thing I knew, the band had split up or gone on indefinite hiatus or something — which I remember feeling disappointment after learning, because it seemed like they had so much unrealized potential.
As an aside, I never even realized until just recently when this new record was announced, that they had actually put out a fourth one prior to disbanding. Somehow that news had completely escaped my attention and I’ll want to be sure to go check that out soon — but first, their big comeback album will be out tomorrow, so let’s talk about Peace!