The Visit – Through Darkness into Light (self-released, 09 October 2015)
The Night Watch – Boundaries (self-released, 15 July 2016)
Nathanaël Larochette – Earth and Sky (self-released, 29 July 2016)
Hey, folks — have you read this review of Canadian neofolk/baroque trio Musk Ox‘s 2014 album Woodfall? If you haven’t, I’d be kind of surprised — after all, in the two years since it was published, that review has become the most popular single item to ever appear on this website (as I alluded to when I named the album as an honorable mention for the Top 14 of 2014 list). In fact, it has had more visitors than the About or Contact pages, and far more than any other article I’ve ever written: twice as many as the second-most popular review ever, and almost three times as many as the most-visited article that I published in 2016.
As incredible as all that is, it’s absolutely true, and I figure it can be ascribed to one of two things: either I’m exceptionally good at writing about non-metal music performed with folk/classical instruments, or Musk Ox is just really, really popular. On the off chance that it would happen to be the first one, I’m going to take some time over the next few days to write about some more neo-folk/neo-classical groups whose orchestrations are decidedly non-metal. But in the event that the second thing also comes into play, I will be hedging my bets a bit today: what I’ll be sharing with you has been released by three different musical entities that each involve one or more of the three people who make up Musk Ox. And away we go …
Auriga – VII – Dimensions of Asymmetry (Avantgarde Music, 19 January 2016)
Astral Path – An Oath to the Void (Avantgarde Music, 15 April 2016)
On the way down the street to the bus stop — this is around 5:00 this morning — I realized something. I was hearing birds chirping and singing, and sometimes as I walked past houses, window air conditioners whirring and humming, but otherwise very little background noise whatsoever. It took a few minutes, but finally I came to the conclusion, all of the cicadas must have been sleeping. All those millions of big, ugly, flying things that have gradually emerged from their seventeen-year arboreal naps over the past few weeks to create a deafening cacaphony all over the surrounding area. Over the weekend, when I was stuck spending much of my days outdoors, cutting grass and pulling weeds and various other activities that put me right in the middle of the flight path for hundreds of the clumsy, red-eyed bugs, this nuisance seemed to have reach a terrible crescendo. Sounding like a cross between a gas motor, an alarm bell, and a UFO, the swarm of insects could easily provide a soundtrack for any horror or suspense movie.
Anyway, completely unrelated to anything, today we’re going to spend some time talking about atmospheric black metal. The two different albums I’d like to share with you were both released earlier this year by Avantgarde Music. These bands — one Lebanese, the other Canadian — take slightly different approaches to the genre, but they both generally have a sort of outer space vibe going on. Enjoy!
Sig:Ar:Tyr – Northen (Hammerheart Records, 15 April 2016)
Hey there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! I hope you’re having an okay start to your week. Typically I’d be talking about how Mondays are so terrible or whatever, but truthfully, I realize that things could be much worse. Around the middle of last week, I experienced a little bit of a minor medical emergency — hospital visit, a couple days away from work, that sort of thing. Everything around here got really disrupted and it kind of sucked, and I can honestly say I’m actually glad to be back to the normal daily routine, however awful and soul-crushing it may be.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the music! I’ve had to shuffle things around a bit since my schedule got so thrown off over the past several days, but we’ll do what we can to get back on track and get to sharing the albums and other news you people need to hear about. Today let’s take a look at a pair of releases from earlier this month, each by a one-member band (although each had some assistance on these recordings), and each having a Viking connection. It has been a month since the last time we talked about Viking metal — don’t forget that Amon Amarth are still in the middle of their North American tour, with a few weeks left — and it seemed like it might be fun to do it again. One of these albums actually includes a reference to the same source material as the Jomsviking album, and the other deals with ancient Viking settlements in North America …
Hello, Readers! Here we find ourselves on another Monday, and I’m sure you all are about as excited to be returning to work as I am. You may have noticed — or maybe you didn’t, I don’t know — that I hadn’t managed to write anything throughout most of last week. Such is the unfortunate result of being busy working extra hard, making sure everything is as caught up as possible, before missing an extra day of work due to the holiday weekend. The holiday in this case is America’s Independence Day, which took place this past Saturday but most businesses were also closed on Friday for its observation. However, while I may not have had time for writing during the week, I spent plenty of time listening to music. Always listening to music.
And I noted that during those days there was another holiday celebration taking place — Canada Day, the celebration of the anniversary of the official formation of Canada as a country (technically, as a Dominion under the British Monarchy), was last Wednesday. Therefore, it seemed fitting to spend the day perusing all of the Canadian music I currently have on my MP3 player. I noticed that this included a handful of recent (within the past month or four) independent releases from Canadian thrash bands. And then I decided to attempt a feat that (as far as I remember) has never before been accomplished on this website: a triple review! It’ll help that two of these three releases are actually three-song EPs, but still, this is an unprecedented level of ambition. So with that in mind, let’s get straight to it….
Earlier this week I wrote about the current Agalloch North American tour, which began last night. In that post, I made mention of the fact that when the tour hits Ottawa on the third of July, the band would be joined by an acoustic group called Musk Ox. Led by guitarist Nathanaël Larochette (who contributed some interlude music to the recently-released Agalloch album The Serpent & the Sphere), and also consisting of cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist Evan Runge, this instrumental trio has just released an album of their own, earlier this week.
The second full-length album under the Musk Ox name, Woodfall is the first to feature this particular line-up (the 2007 self-titled release was exclusively a solo project featuring Larochette on all instruments). This new album contains one continuous piece of music (over an hour in length), which was composed by Larochette and Weinroth-Browne. The larger piece is broken into five named sections; three of these (part 1 “Earthrise,” part 2 “Windswept,” and part 4 “Above the Clouds”) run around ten minutes long, while the other two (part 3 “Arcanum” and part 5 “Serenade the Constellations”) each exceed seventeen. On the whole, I find Woodfall fascinating for both its beauty and its simplicity, and I suspect many of you out there will feel the same way.
Fatality – Psychonaut (self-released, 28 June 2013)
Hey, guys and gals! Remember Fatality? I first introduced you to this cool Canadian thrash band last summer when they were holding a contest, but at the same time I wrote a few words about their 2011 T.F.E.S. EP. That three-song release is still available to download for free (I’ll toss the Bandcamp widget at the bottom of this post), and the title track (“Thrash Fuck Eat Sleep”) is still one of the catchiest pieces of thrash metal I’ve heard in ages.
Anyway, the guys have a brand new album out now — they released Psychonaut two months ago, and since then they’ve been jaunting all across the United States and Canada on what they’re calling the “Towards Disastour”. (It’s a play on words, because there’s a song on the new record called “Towards Disaster”. Funny, right? These guys are just full of hilarity — just check out vocalist Spencer Le Von‘s ongoing tour blog over at Dead Rhetoric, or his series of Backseat Podcasts, or the band’s blog which he occasionally updates “with fervent apathy”. Seriously, check that shit out.)
The Towards Disastour tour is coming to a close tonight — Wednesday 28 August 2013 — with a stop in Pittsburgh, PA. Readers who live nearby are highly encouraged to come on out to Howlers in Bloomfield tonight. The show will also feature local thrash/traditional heavy metal greats Vermithrax and the NWOBHM-flavored Lady Beast (see full details about the show here). If you need more convincing than that (or if you live somewhere far away and won’t be able to go see the band in person tonight), keep on reading and I’ll tell you a little more about the new album Psychonaut.