Wrekmeister Harmonies – We Love to Look at the Carnage (2020)

Wrekmeister HarmoniesWe Love to Look at the Carnage (Thrill Jockey Records, 21 February 2020)

 

Hello there, readers. It’s been a little while since we’ve been in touch, I know. That sucks — and it makes very little logical sense. We’re coming up on the conclusion of a second full month of work-from-home quarantine, and with nearly two extra hours per day that formerly would have been spent driving to and from work (and with nowhere else to go, aside from the rare shopping trip for pandemic essentials such as bird food and wine) it seems like I should have plenty of time to spend listening to music and subsequently writing about it for all you fine folks out there. But as bizarre as it sounds, even when there’s nothing else to do, it sometimes feels like there’s less spare time than there used to be. Even though I can literally roll out of bed and throw on a random t-shirt en route to my desk chair a mere three feet away — well, to be honest, it’s probably more of a mental and emotional thing than an actual shortage of available time. Because things are so stressful now, and uncertain and confusing and scary and depressing.

However, a lack of engagement with hobbies or things that bring you enjoyment, due to a lack of motivation due to a general feeling of malaise, often has a tendency to continue spiraling further into deeper levels of depression. I know this very well from plenty of experience. And I am determined not to let this turn into another months-long mental health hiatus. So here is an album I’d like to share with you all today. I hope you enjoy it and I hope however dismal your day might be currently, that this may bring some amount of light into it. Please feel free to react in the comments section below or via any of the various Valley of Steel social media outlets linked either on the far right or the bottom of this page. Thanks, and stay safe out there!

 

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Insect Ark – The Vanishing (2020)

Insect ArkThe Vanishing (28 February 2020)

 

Hello again from the unofficial VOS WFH substation. Things are starting to settle down around here, at least to some small degree. At least, we’re all doing the best we can to adapt to this new reality of staying cooped indoors and never interacting with anyone except via a computer or other electronic device. To be honest, aside from no longer driving to and from work each day, that description isn’t all that far from how things have always been for me.

But anyway, disruptions to the day job modus operandi have really wrecked my publishing schedule, especially with large chunks of each day now spent on conference calls and in Skype meetings. But it’s time we get back into doing what we love best around here: talking about music we’ve enjoyed hearing lately and that you also may enjoy hearing.

First up is cinematic doom duo Insect Ark. Since the last time we checked in with them, founder/composer/bassist/slide-guitarist Dana Schechter (who has added collaborating with Swans to an already impressive resume that included work with Wrekmeister Harmonies, Gnaw, and others) has now been joined by new drummer Andy Patterson (who coincidentally had been looking for a new gig following the dissolution of his former band SubRosa right around the same time this group’s drummer had moved on).

And then more recently, Insect Ark‘s third album The Vanishing had just been released and the twosome had just headed out on a scheduled tour of Europe and the UK throughout the month of March, when the whole world suddenly went to hell (leaving the band with numerous cancelled dates and scrambling to find their way back to the USA). So, without any further ado…

 

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Wrekmeister Harmonies – The Alone Rush (2018)

Wrekmeister HarmoniesThe Alone Rush (Thrill Jockey Records, 13 April 2018)

As you may recall, Wrekmeister Harmonies hit our Top 15 of 2015 List with their enormously epic outing Night of Your Ascension, with its dozens of contributors and guest stars. Since that time, the eclectic collective has been distilled down to just the duo of founder JR Robinson and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Esther Shaw (the same pair who toured under the Wrekmeister name following that album, performing half of a set alone and the other half with Bell Witch as their backing band).

Also since that time, these two people have dealt with a variety of hardships and sorrows, culminating in a relocation from Chicago to Astoria, Oregon — and a lengthy period spent healing (mentally and emotionally) as well as composing, which Robinson referred to as a “cult like affair, just the two of us, thinking the similar thoughts and working them out with hours and hours of conversation, totally alone.”

The result was The Alone Rush, released last month, in which only Robinson and Shaw perform, along with drums by Thor Harris.

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Insect Ark – Marrow Hymns (2018)

Insect ArkMarrow Hymns (Profound Lore Records, 23 February 2018)

 

Bi-coastal DOOM duo Insect Ark is made up of film music composer and animator Dana Schechter (Angels of Light, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw) on bass and lap steel, and electronics expert Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Negative Queen) on drums as well as various synths and analog noise pedals she created herself. With this unique arrangement (featuring zero electric guitars, in the traditional sense), the instrumental assembly has brought forth their latest sonic creation (through a combination of long-distance collaboration and in-studio cooperation).

Although nearly two months have passed since the record’s Profound Lore release, last night (Sunday, 15 April) was the celebratory release show in Brooklyn. Next up, the pair will be hitting the Roadburn stage later this week followed by a month-long tour through Europe. You can find a listing of all those dates at the bottom of the page, but first, check out Marrow Hymns!

 

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Bell Witch – Four Phantoms (2015)

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Bell WitchFour Phantoms (Profound Lore Records, 28 April 2015)

 

For those who may have missed the news, I’m very sad to report that yesterday we learned of a monumental loss to the music world, in the passing of Adrian Guerra, co-founder of Seattle doom duo Bell Witch, co-writer of all of that band’s material to date, and former drummer/vocalist (up through summer 2015).

After that time, his position behind the kit had been replaced by Jesse Shreibman, including on the band’s most recent tour where they pulled double duty — playing a full set of their own in addition to serving as the backing band for Wrekmeister Harmonies. But from the band’s inception through its formative years, it was Guerra and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond from their groundbreaking 2011 demo (incidentally, one of the very first reviews ever published on this website, back in December of that year) up through and including last year’s Profound Lore full-length Four Phantoms.

In honor and in memory of the co-creator of some of the greatest and most moving music to have reached my ears over the past five years, today I’ve decided to present you with a discussion about that latest album, the last one to feature the original Bell Witch line-up. Rest in peace Adrian, and our thoughts and sympathy are with your friends and family, colleagues and former band members.

 

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Ghold – Of Ruin (2015), Pyr (2016)

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GholdOf Ruin (Ritual Productions, 16 March 2015)

 

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GholdPyr (Ritual Productions, 06 May 2016)

 

Hello out there — how is your Tuesday going? It’s almost time to go home and I’m totally ready for a nap. I feel pretty confident in saying I will probably be passed out on the bus ride home, if I even make it that far. And there’s another hockey game tonight, so if there’s going to be any hope of me staying awake to see that, maybe a late afternoon nap wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Before I go, though, it’s about time to share some more listening material with you fine people. Today that will consist of a pair of albums — one a little over a year old, the other released just four days ago — both by London stoner-sludge-grunge-noise band Ghold

 

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Lord Mantis – Death Mask (2014), NTW (2016)

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Lord MantisDeath Mask (Profound Lore Records, 29 April 2014)

 

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Lord MantisNTW (New Density Records, 29 April 2016)

 

In early 2015, the whole world was shocked and saddened to learn that Chicagoan misanthropic miscreants Indian were calling it quits. Maybe “the whole world” is a sight exaggeration, but for myself and everyone I know, it was difficult news — especially since it came just a year after the band had released what was unquestionably their best album to date.

But then that blow was softened a bit almost immediately after, when another huge announcement shook the metal world: that closely-related Chicago band Lord Mantis had parted ways with some of its members, leaving only founding drummer Bill Bumgardner and Andrew Markuszewski who had been the lead guitarist for nearly all of that band’s releases. Augmenting this newly depleted line-up would be most of the folks who had just left Indian — in addition to Bumgardner who had also been playing drums in that band for years, ex-Indian guitarist Will Lindsay (also a member of Anatomy of Habit) would be joining on bass, and former Indian guitarist/vocalist Dylan O’Toole (who has also appeared as part of the Wrekmeister Harmonies ensemble) would now be handling Lord Mantis vocal duties. And finally, rounding out the line-up by joining Markuszewski on guitar, Scott Shellhamer of yet another great Chicago band, American Heritage.

This shakeup didn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who’d been paying attention to the goings-on surrounding Mantis; even in the press release for their last album, 2014’s Death Mask, it mentioned rumblings of turbulence among the band’s members at that time. And the new additions seemed like a perfectly logical choice, as not only had these guys all known each other and been friends for years, but Lindsay and O’Toole had each made contributions to the band previously, including guest appearances on Death Mask.

But now, finally, the result of all of these moving pieces has come to fruition, as the first recording by the new Lord Mantis is being released tomorrow — exactly two years (to the day) after Death Mask, the band’s own New Density will unleash the EP NTW. In this article we’ll take a look at the new EP as well as the album that preceded it. And for those who would like to learn more about how all these changes have affected the band from the perspective of its members, don’t miss this interview where they’ve answered some questions provided by members of Slaves BC!

 

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