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Only Death Is Real

Music: Only Death Is Real #8

Finding new music to explore has become many people's escape since the world of 2020 changed for the worse. In times of struggle music has often become a guiding light and a saviour and in regards to Bandcamp itself, a place where people can effect change just by supporting artists, some of whom are in turn supporting human rights movements and those who are in need. Music is life-changing.

Stay safe, friends.

Starless Domain – URSA (Nebulae Artifacta)

Starless Domain may have only been actively releasing music for the last year but their output so far has been both prolific and strong in equal measure. URSA is billed as an EP and within this time Starless Domain explore new dimensions and in doing so give themselves a decidedly oppressive sound. Where previous vocals contained high-pitched, inhuman shrieks, URSA initially goes in the complete opposite direction and dredges deep, guttural bellows to the surface of the music. There’s a slightly more funereal death/doom essence to the voice in the beginning, but this soon melds with screams to create an increasingly terrifying atmosphere.

The black metal of Starless Domain is crafted with precision; each note is aligned to perfection, each vocal line is placed to build fantastic structures within the mind and the synthesisers project deep cosmic oscillations out into the ether. Starless Domain term themselves “deep field black metal” and this description conjures images of drifting star ships that pass by imploding galaxies, colourful nebulae that are collapsing on themselves and stars burning out their last light – the music only adds to this extraordinary mental picture and as URSA moves from its simple, celestial beginnings to coalesce into a strangely bittersweet end, all shimming guitars, anguished screams and melancholy, Starless Domain allow us a glimpse into our collective, doomed future.

The Ruins of Beverast / Almyrkvi - Split (Ván Records)

The Icelandic black metal scene is small (the two members of this band play in Sinmara and several other projects) yet supremely creative and in Almyrkvi that creativity shines through in the unusual industrial drumbeats of their two songs on this split. “Asomatous Grove” and “Managarmr” both revel in dark oppression with the aforementioned industrial slant giving a mechanical, cold feel to their music. Vocals are deep and guttural with Garðar S. Jónsson’s voice curling around the propulsive beats and sly synths that build the layers of “Asomatous Grove.” Choral style passages add texture to the heated atmosphere of the song while slower movements in the closing minutes create a sense of impending doom that continues into the deathly grace of “Managarmr.” The song builds its structures in pitch black monuments to old Gods before taking its time to fade out on ritualistic chimes.

The Ruins of Beverast released another split not so long ago, with Ireland’s Mourning Beloveth and there they presented a song that spoke of death and did so in layers of cycling sounds. Here, the German band give us two new songs – “The Grand Nebula Pulse” and “Hunters” – and again weave the songs with darkness, claustrophobia and foreboding. Vocals are strange and echoing in many places and the song moves with a surreptitious, insidious pace with elements morphing into each other and the beat getting increasingly more hypnotic as it progresses. The Ruins of Beverast have long made music that is unusually structured, and these two new tracks are no different. There is a sense of old ritual to the music of Alexander von Meilenwald and this project and “Hunters” showcases this in the slowly evolving guitar riffs that constantly loop back and start again, scorching the sound into the mind and bringing a level of mesmerisation to the fore that is hard to turn away from. Eventually, the song switches pace entirely and a curiously catchy riff falls into place - although those unique echoing vocals do not change – and it seems that The Ruins of Beverast have written a rock song that channels the sensual nature of bands such as The Devil’s Blood. It’s a neat trick and one that pays off – that bittersweet guitar sound is sublime.

They Leapt From Burning Windows - Demo 2020 (Lycaean Triune)

The Alaskan metal scene is small and if They Leapt From Burning Windows are anything to go by, most bands are surely influenced by the landscape of their home. The band deal in raw, yet melodic black metal and their newest release – imaginatively titled, Demo 2020 is laden with cold promise. Beginning on “Intro,” the band state their intent quite clearly and as the instrumental track moves from its simple guitars to footsteps in the snow, its apparent that the icy landscape is a big factor in the band’s inspiration.

“Ceo Dlúth” gives a little more insight into the sound of They Leapt From Burning Windows with high, rasped cries taking the lead and subtle, melodic keys pinning the song to the frozen ground before a complete turnaround sees the band step back and a lovely, clean baritone take the lead. It’s a huge contrast to the fast-paced black metal that the band are displaying on this demo release and a welcome respite from the intensity of what is surrounding it. That intensity continues in the devastating pulses of "Decay" before howling winds, crunching footsteps and discordant piano signal the end.

They Leapt From Burning Windows are certainly an interesting addition to the black metal world and if this demo is anything to go by, then they have much more to give. Of course, some demos are somewhat lacking in quality production so it will be interesting to see how the band develops and if some clarity in the instrumentation and vocal lines can boost them even further. For the amount of ideas they have in this short release, the Alaskans could benefit from some more “professional” recordings – those keyboards and clean vocals especially.

Twilight Fauna - Foundations (Independent/Self-Released)

A lot of modern black metal is rooted in the reality of those who make it. Some band’s use their platform to talk about their spiritual path, some speak of their actions to change the world, and some use their music to talk of their home, their land and the destruction that has happened there. One such band is Twilight Fauna (led by P. Ravenwood), who sing of their Appalachian home and its history and in doing so incorporate bluegrass into their own unique take on black metal, as well as giving the songs a tangible humanity.

Foundations begins on the simple, yet striking “Am I Born To Die,” which features a gorgeous vocal appearance from Kendal Fox, who instils a sense of expected sadness to the album straightaway. “Tavern Hill” takes those themes and melds them into new shapes with a more electric feel to the proceedings; guitars move from high tension progressions to a folky essence in natural and cohesive ways while the vocals echo from the treetops, just out of reach but emotive, all the same.

“Under the Falling Snow” features Kendal Fox once again, and it helps to allow a space for pause and reflection amongst the more aggressive elements of Twilight Fauna’s sound and in doing so there is much time to think about what we have done, as humans, to this world that we inhabit. Foundations get distinctly less heavy in terms of the music, as it moves towards the haunting closing of “West Virginia Mine Disaster,” yet the past weighs heavy in this beautifully rendered version of Jean Ritchie’s song. It’s a solemn end to an album that is full of history and loss. One day, nature will reclaim the earth.

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Words by Cheryl on June 18, 2020, 1:46 p.m.

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Only Death Is Real #8

Posted by Cheryl on June 18, 2020, 1:46 p.m.

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Series: Only Death Is Real

There’s so much music released, whether physically or digitally, that keeping up with what’s going on becomes almost like a full time job. With Only Death Is Real, the aim is to bring you something new.

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