Collapse under the Empire – The End of Something
Loma Prieta – Continuum / Fate 7”
Grant the Sun – Sylvain
Von Mises – Von Mises
Tragedy in Hope – Smile at Death
Home Brewed Universe – The Time Thief
Collapse under the Empire – The End of Something
drone / ambient
German electronic post-rock pioneers Collapse under the Empire have a brilliant 4-LP retrospective on Moment of Collapse Records. The compilation is the regular kind of anthology with some b-sides (for example the brilliant “Spark”), remixes (“Sacrifice”) and new tracks. Those are the new single “Beyond Us” opening the first LP with a brilliant combination of a harsh riff with electronica sounding like an instrumental remix to an undiscovered punkish Depeche Mode track. “Everything Disappears” is like a Latin-style percussion underneath a beautiful and uplifting piano motif with a spiraling guitar line in the background; the third new track is “Anomaly” sees a stomping beat and a spherical ambient space. Of course, some hardcore fans will already know basically all the tracks but the packaging and the beauty of those four vinyls are definitely a reason to purchase this one – especially newcomers to the band might be interested in this one as it is a perfect “entrance” into the realm of this defining post-rock band!
Loma Prieta – Continuum / Fate 7”
punk / hardcore / screamo
Loma Prieta are back! After a break of more than four years, the quartet from XYZ is back and kicking. Their first 7” after their hiatus is published via Deathwish Inc. and features the two tracks “Continuum” and “Fate”. The first one starts like a sped-up version of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever fallen in Love” before it turns into a Loma Prieta-style post-punk version of Screamo. “Fate” might be even a bit more impressive as it sounds like a mix of Fugazi and the Pixies. As usual, the lyrics are what makes this band great, as they oscillate nicely between clearliness and abstraction, compare the line "Drugs and God the same distractions / Lay on the dirty floor and stare at the ceiling, like it was a planetarium dome" – the last portion trying to explain where the universe comes from while the first one seems to purvey the idea that drugs (to loosen you up from questioning to much) and God (to overlay your sensibleness with believe) give us two different experiences of the universe above us; what a brilliant concoction. Once again, Loma Prieta are back!
Grant the Sun – Sylvain
Sometimes the meal cooked with simple but high-level quality ingredients is much better than one with a lot of different ones. Try a classical Carbonara, without cream or anything the like. With Grant the Sun’s new EP it is similar. One might argue that due to the people involved already have quite a standing in the musical community, especially Frederik from Meshuggah who is featured here on the bass, but there is more to this 18-minute, four-song EP; the songs are spreading a certain heaviness with the guitars even reminding one of some djent-ish style kick-riffing and the bass supporting it. The songs are somewhere between math-rock and prog-core with lots of heavy riffs and some very interesting vocal samples interspersed to give the release an even better flavor. One can chew on those songs really long because there are a lot of small details to discover, for example the brilliant tempi changes. However, one can also digest this album in a laid back manner as everything flows exquisitely together forming one huge, ass-kicking harmony of intelligent prog-core.
Von Mises – Von Mises
Cologne-based threepiece Von Mises self-released their first EP at the end of November and it shows an interesting sign of life for a local newcomer. They might have listened to a lot of Russian Circles and Pelican because there are definitely traces of it in their sound-verse, especially the use of a heavy kicking bass combined with a knack for simple but effective breaks to let the song take in some fresh air before it sets in again. The band might make use of their synth a bit more to include some of these refreshing little ditties that makes, for example, “Universe” such a unique track or the structures and layers of “Dxdt” more complex than one would expect from a young band. The guys from the Rhine should pursue this combination more strongly and they are bound to gain a larger audience. Not just for die-hard fans of post-rock, also for those who are searching for a fresh tune to kickstart their day.
Tragedy in Hope – Smile at Death
Judging a book by its cover can bring wonderful experiences like buying a record you never would just because the cover is so shining that you are immediately drawn to it. Or the name of a band that simply wants you to like it (Yes, I look at you We Butter the Bread with Butter!). Certain song titles are just so good that you love the track without listening to it (see Death by Stereo’s “No Cuts No Buts No Coconuts”). With Tragedy in Hope it was the same with me, I loved the name of the band – so nihilistic – and I thought the title of the EP was pretty proud. When listening to this new outfit from Russia’s thriving black metal scene, but admittedly I was wrong. The songs are not the problem for they are solid black metal structures and moods, after the intro I liked it a lot. And then the vocals set in and, well, the vocals are the flaw in the construct. With a different vocalist or a change of style, maybe even a different approach, for example going instrumental, this might become a relevant act. This way it isn’t, at least not for me, and that means nothing.
Home Brewed Universe – The Time Thief
post rock / progressive rock
Writing a review for a fellow is not the easiest thing – what shall one say? What can one say? How objectively do I judge the record? Well, in the case with Home Brewed Universe’s new record it is quite easy. My only criticism would be the drum sound as it’s not as emotional as before but very clean and crisp. All the other bits about this record are really interesting. The mastermind behind HBH has tried to capture a soundtrack to a fictitious story of the Time Thief who is able to prolong his own life by stealing time from other people and who even is able to travel through time but who is forgotten by all he knew. The music to the interesting story is very focused on the riff and thus it is very different from Arka’s previous outputs, when he focused on layering bit over bit. Now the audience is faced with a lot of strong, prog-metal-like riffs that dominate the sound and drive the songs through all different kinds of stages. This review for a friend’s work was easy as the release itself is very easily accessible and still interesting enough to keep the audience listening.
post hardcore / noise / sludge
The beautiful and so-called romantic country of France has given us a lot of surprising musical acts in the past several years. There seems to be a massive underground scene that is both loyal to their influences and innovative. As a result, heaps of bands appear and disappear, all with this odd atmosphere. In today's post-metal scene, this country has been throwing band after band into our mailbox. Not all of them are amazing, but once in a while something really interesting jumps up, something that takes the listener by the throat and brutally slashes them into tiny pieces. Or at least, that's what I expect this post hardcore monster to do a few times a week.
Let me start with a little confession: I'm not very wild about this album. However, I do know that a lot of readers here at Merchants Of Air will be, and for them, this is an absolute must-have. This quintet delivers massively intense post hardcore, laced with noise, post rock and sludge doom. The music is mainly slow, harsh and relentless and the vocals are usually fierce, except for the occasional clean ones. Personally, I'm not a fan of hardcore vocals, even though on this album they are truly gut piercing, but if you are into that kind of stuff, you will absolutely adore 'Espérer Sombrer'.
From the very beginning, Vesperine showcases a violent and unforgiving sound, one which fans of everything between Neurosis and Amenra will undoubtedly appreciate. Opener 'Clair-Obscur' is murderous, and it only lasts for a bit over a minute. After that, six more vicious tunes will put you on the brink of insanity, crawling over the floor in fetal position while wave after wave of sonic despair mercilessly rolls over your shivering corpse. 'Mille Couleurs' contains some awesome riffs, which probably makes this my favorite track. In fact, be careful with this one, it might damage your speakers.
Espérer Sombrer contains some cruel and tormenting tracks. In a way, it continues the path of the aforementioned bands, along with acts like Cult Of Luna, but perhaps Vesperine attempts to drag the violent nature of their music a bit further. There is very little time to breathe. Even the post-rockish passages are heavy and burdensome. The lengthy closer 'Celui Que L'Ombre Pénètre' is a perfect example of that little push forward into brutality and darkness. So no, this is nothing for me but it is definitely an album to be cherished by the seasoned post hardcore fan. If that's you, do not doubt, buy this slab of noise now!!!
post rock / post hardcore
Sense by Erosion is an album by Italian post rock group Winter Dust, released on November 9. Almost fifty minutes long, the record has eight tracks: Quiet January, Duration of Gloom, All My Friends Are Leaving Town, Furnace, Composition of Gloom, Disharmony, Cruel June and Stay. A very beautiful and striking album, interestingly conceived by a band engaged in an incredible and intelligent mixture of post rock and hardcore, despite some limitations. With a generally soft, sometimes romantic, flavored and melodramatic sound – that is occasionally assisted by more tempestuous harmonies –, Winter Dust definitely can be categorized as a competent and proficient band, that has developed a very personal, concentrated style, that knows how to extract the best elements of two distinct musical genres, and perfectly merge them altogether, despite the fact that, most of the time, they stay exclusively on the zone of conventional post rock.
With quite distinct colorful tonalities, that definitely work as a delusional corporeal frame to dispersive and exponentially effusive melodies, Sense by Erosion reveals itself to be a gracious album, with an audacious and sensible degree of creativity, despite the fact that sometimes they fall in more ordinary and predictable musical territory. Nevertheless, they definitely know how to create and to execute marvelous music, that sounds proverbially graceful and poetic in very specific passages.
With some delightful melodies completely immersed in poetic cadences that ostensibly fall over their inherent creative sensibilities, the overall musicality of the band is very vivid, despite the fact that displays a modest structural simplicity. On its basic interludes, the music is virtually a conscious expansion of sensitive atmospheric harmonies, deeply indebted to an ascendant virtuous cosmogony of expressive, but delicate vitality.
While the group is very methodic and ostensibly conscious about their vivacious and unapologetic artistic proposal, sometimes they occasionally get lost in repetitive or similar sonorous sequences, although this doesn’t compromise their qualities nor their formidable level of competence. They only need to be more pungent in their audacity, that becomes too horizontal, as they seem to accommodate themselves in a tender and serene, but stagnant comfort zone. Nevertheless, Sense by Erosion is a good album, with excellent guitar lines, beautiful solos, amazing harmonies and surprising melodic vicissitudes. Definitely, deserves to be appreciated.
Another band steps in the footsteps of Belgian underground pride Amenra, that's pretty much the most reliable short description for this debut album by Ghent based noisemakers Hæster. However, it doesn't fully cover the load as Hæster is a rampaging force of their own and not just a copycat.
The members of Hæster have already earned their stripes in bands like Aborted, Nemea, Dedicted, Customs, Death Before Disco and Horses on Fire, plus they have invited some nice guests too: Brennt Vanneste (Steak Number Eight), Stefanie Mannaerts (Brutus) and Sven De Caluwé (Aborted).
No time for intros, Hæster is here to destroy, demolish and pulverize. Opener 'Ironmongers' does that immediately, with brutal riffs, shattering drums and hellish screams. There is also little time for calm, soothing passages as the whole thing seems to go on with an unseen intensity. Halfway through 'Ghost In Us' I need a little break, a time-out from all this nerve-wrenching aggression. By now I'm sure that this is one of the most brutal releases on the otherwise so nice and friendly Dunk! label. The Zottegem-crew has released a murderer.
I think it's around this time that I have decided that it's just not my cup of tea. But that is not Hæster's fault. I'm just not that much of a fan of these fierce hardcore inspired vocals. On the other hand, fans of post metal and sludge doom will absolutely eat this up, I'm 100% convinced of that. All the elements for decent post metal are present, and they all come in the same convincing level of quality as other Belgian bands like the aforementioned Amenra, or Oathbreaker, or Steak Number Eight, or Hemelbestormer, or All We Expected.
Plus, here and there, Hæster does provide the listener with a little breathing space, like the beautiful instrumental passages in 'So That We Could Live' and 'Graves'. That I can fully appreciate. The disturbing vocal samples also add a lot to the dark and ominous atmosphere of the whole thing. If you want a record that beats you down in a slow and tormenting manner, this surely is your thing. Even though I'm not a fan, Hæster delivered a stunner, one that will undoubtedly set them on their way to Belgian post-metal stardom and hopefully far beyond.
Dizorder - Moon Phases
alternative / metal / metalcore
Greyhawk - Ride Out
heavy metal / power metal
Gramma Vedetta - Proof of Concept
hard rock / stoner rock / alternative rock / grunge
Godless - Swarm
thrash / death metal
O n s e t - Unstructured Dissemination
Ssanahtes - Ssanahtes
doom / sludge / post hardcore
Frenzy Frenzy - Just Another
Charles In The Kitchen & Them Stones - Stones In The Kitchen
pop rock / alternative rock
alternative / noise rock
Don't you just love it when a band forgets all about trends, genres or popularity and just goes wild on their instruments? That's the magic of music: people with a wide variety of influences and favorites coming together in a rehearsal room and bark out something completely unexpected. At least, that's the feeling I get when I listen to 'Driven'. In the past the members of this Swiss trio might have been active in the worlds of shoegaze, punk, noise, grunge or hardcore but now they're Asbest, a raging steamroller that sounds like Melvins had babies with Bikini Kill. Ugly, abrasive and noisy babies that refuse to fit in anywhere.
I think it's safe to categorize Asbest in the noise rock scene, although they do borrow elements from a wide variety of genres. The Melvins immediately came up during opener 'Driven' but with pissed of female vocals. Something sure is wrong in the world of Asbest, something poisonous and deadly. 'Deceit' follows a similar path, that of creeping sludge doom, mixed with something Sonic Youth will definitely appreciate.
But then there is 'Means Of Reproduction', a sick and twisted tune that feels like slowly being eaten by an ant colony. I'm scared of this. Vocalist Robyn is yelling at me, "be productive', while I'm trying to be positive about the whole thing. Being creepy is not only for the dark ambient producers among us, that's for sure. Now, don't get me wrong, this is one powerful piece of music, loaded with anger and frustration. It's just that it might haunt your dreams for years to come.
Speaking about dark ambient, 'I Need A Spacesuit To Leave My Home' brings exactly that, at least for a short while in the opening. In a way, this track is exactly what you need after the aggressive bullying of 'Means Of Reproduction'. Here, elements from post rock appear, providing the listener with a little breather. You'll need that, for the rest of the album will continue to slowly pummel you into a bleeding pulp.
My personal favorite here is 'Pillar', oddly the tune that completely dives into the muddy soils of sludge doom and post hardcore. 'They Kill', the single you can already enjoy on their bandcamp page, might be a nice introduction to Asbest but it's not their best tune. If you like this one, the others will completely overwhelm you and if you don't like this one, the others will drill holes in your skull.
Oh well, it's pretty obvious that Driven' is not an easy digestible album. It is however a great example of non-genre bounded experimentation. The album is loaded with power, aggression and anger. It contains influences from everything between the Riot Grrrl scene to the post hardcore world, like PJ Harvey on meth, or something like that. Anyway, if you like sonic knives through your eardrums, this is definitely your thing.
psychedelic rock / post hardcore / grunge
I'll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I like to start writing a review before I actually listen to the album. Just for fun. In those cases, I write some nonsense about the weather, about how almost every car on the handicapped parking space is a BMW or about my lazy cat. I can also write that first paragraph about the band name or about the cover art, or simply about my own history with that particular band. In this particular case, that history is rather long and vague. I think I first heard the name Maudlin back in 2006 or 2007. After that, I regularly saw them featured on a festival flyer. Yet, I can't say I have ever been a fan.
Why not? Well, I have absolutely no idea. My best guess is the fact that I have never been a (post) hardcore fan. That, and I have been away from the heavy music scene for about ten years before I started this website. In the days Maudlin stepped on festival stages far and wide, I was engaged in the dark ambient and noise scene. Until today, I didn't know any song by these guys. Now, that is all changing and after giving this album a first spin I'm stuck between a feeling of regret and one of pleasant surprise.
Maudlin is a Belgian band, formed in 2005. In those thirteen years, they released only three albums, this one being the second full length on Consouling Sounds. This one comes five years after 'A Sign Of Time' and much like its predecessors it is a concept album. This time, the focus is on the sea. The band hails from Ostend, a city at the Belgian coast so the band members are very familiar with the North Sea.
The music on this album is quite different from what I expected. After all, I expected post hardcore but I was treated to something psychedelic and immersive. 'Endless Expanse' is a perfect opener for this album, something between Tool, Soundgarden and Isis. To me, that was surprising, especially when the vocals came in. Most of them seem to be clean, well performed efforts instead of brutal screams. To me, that is a massive plus.
Then it hit me. Of course, Maudlin has matured, something you can easily hear in the brilliant 'Erase'. Along with the opener, this one is probably my favorite. In fact, all of these tracks are strong, potent pieces of raw psychedelic rock music. Over the past thirteen years or so, the members have gotten extremely well attuned to one another, became better musicians, experienced the ups and downs of the underground music industry.
Blending psychedelic rock with doom metal and grunge is an absolute win-win situation and Maudlin simply nailed it. Other bands that come to mind include Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Om, Porcupine Tree, Alice In Chains and Black Sabbath. I don't think those are bad names to be compared with. Yet, probably more important than that, Maudlin managed to create their own niche within a vast and massively influenced music scene, so it seems.
So yeah, from a bit hesitant to glorifying. I guess that I either underestimated these guys in the past or they have just created their own magnum opus. Fact is, this is going right into my day-to-day playlist in which all of the aforementioned bands are already present. I'm sure I will enjoy tracks like 'The Stowaway' or 'Above The Vast Clouds' quite a few times from now on. I can only recommend this album, which is actually yet another statement about how much talent our country harbors.
Grantezuma - Grantezuma
Ferla - 13122017
drone / experimental
Maff - Melañiña
alternative rock / shoegaze
Sophia Marshall - Lin-dah
folk rock / americana
We Are Cursed - We Are Cursed
metal / post hardcore
Taller Than The Trees - Hubris
Black Neon District - Standing Waves
Ficture - Filled Spaces
downtempo / electronic
Depths Of Kronos - From The Void
Affasia - Adrift in Remorse
doom metal / dark metal / death metal
Revenger - The New Mythology Vol. 1
thrash / death metal
Hemka - 707 Collision
screamo / hardcore / metal
It is always hard to review an album I'm not quite fond of. Yeah, I know, This is a harsh opening for this article but it is the truth. I am not very fond of this album. I am not a fan of hardcore or screamo but I do recognize a well executed album when I hear one and this thing is damn well executed.
Time for energy is a "brutal rock" band from Nantes, France. They formed in 2008, which might explain the coherent and well attuned sound of 'Gang Of Losers'. Their music is a blast of noisy and intrusive rock and metal with harsh and intense screaming vocals. Yet, it comes with a decent dose of variation.
Time For Energy takes hardcore, post hardcore and screamo as a foundation for their varied and quite infectious sound. Yet, unlike most bands I hear in this genre, this is not another faceless copy of Oceans Ate Alaska, Thrice or any of the popular bands in the genre. No, this is a band of friends who know damn well what they want and how to conceive it. You can feel the chemistry coming from songs like 'Black Eye Blues', 'Prick' or 'Bring Out The Flags'.
Besides, 'Trucks' is a pretty neat piece of music. It's intense, melodic and just a bit out of the ordinary. I like that. Like I already mentioned, the whole thing is perfectly executed and in modern day standards, I truly believe that 'Gang Of Losers' is an absolute must-have for fans of the genre. As far as I'm concerned, Time For Energy might as well climb the bigger stages on metal festivals. I'm sure that they can set the whole thing ablaze.
metal / post hardcore
Yesterday, the postman did indeed ring twice. The first time he rang I was taking a shower. I quickly ran downstairs, wearing nothing but a dressing gown, to accept a vinyl record. Half an hour later the ball rang again and again it was the heavily bearded postman with a package. This one was heavy and for a moment I panicked. In the early days of this website I had received a heavy package, loaded with CDs. Seventy to be exact. For a moment I feared that this was another massive amount of albums, something we just could not handle at the moment. But when I opened the package, I was in for a big surprise. It was this album, plus four cans of Czech beer.
I still had no idea what music these guys made but I liked them immediately. I mean, The Czech make damn good beer, and pretty good music too. So, after finishing two of the beers, it was time to dig into the music. I rammed the disc into my computer who in its turn set the speaker ablaze with heavy but melodic post hardcore influenced metal. 'Nobody Else' started to play, driving on thick riffs, an electronic backbone and megatons of energy.
Although the term "post-hardcore" is coined, I mostly associate Exit Empire with something between Linkin Park and Evergrey. The music has the electronics of the first and the intense but melodic metal sound of the second. Most of the songs are mid tempo slabs of metal with an epic and modern-day sound that seems to be larger than life, or at least would fit perfectly well in arenas and massive venues. In fact, this is today's variant of arena-rock.
'Shut Up' is my favorite track, it''s fast, brutal, punkish and seemingly inspired by bands like Slipknot. Yet, songs like 'Ignore Me' and 'Who Can Blame Us' are just as intense and immersive. The opening riff in the latter will make every head in the audience bang. I'm quite sure of that. Besides, the whole thing is executed to perfection. There is literally no difference in quality between Exit Empire and some of your favorite modern day metal bands.
So in all, if today's metal scene is something you like to dig into, Exit Empire definitely earns a spot in your collection. Hell, I'm not even a fan of this genre but these guys are good. They're talented, they have a flair for doing things a bit different and they can easily smash your skull with this pounding sound. In my humble opinion, this is a band with a bright future, one that deserves to make it to the big leagues.