Dark Hemyspheres: January 2013

So a new year heralds a new column - each month the plan is to delve into the murky waters of the extreme underground and see what little gems can be dragged up from the very depths of hell. There will be blood, there will be violence, and there very well may be some nodding off to bands you've never heard of (or will hear again), but who knows, you may just discover something a wee bit special…

Hogging top billing this month is undoubtedly the reincarnation of Voivod and their first post-Piggy record Target Earth [5]. A solid slab of proggy thrash metal, this is unlikely to elicit the praise and devotion of their dim and distant peak as it trundles along on the back of some fine musicianship, but little in the way of passion. Mike Patton’s experiment rock outfit Tomahawk are another act to re-emerge this month, but alas Oddfellows [4] fails to be neither particularly experimental nor rocky as it drifts by in a lackadaisical attempt to be odd simply for the sake of it. Also on the comeback trail are Finnish death metallers Convulse, whose two-track EP Inner Evil [6] is a tasty sampler of their upcoming full length, their first in nearly twenty years. It may only be twelve minutes long, but is crammed full of thunderous riffs that are as memorable as they are heavy.

At the other end of the spectrum two notable solo projects return this month with new releases. First up is Tim Grey's Ethernet guise and Opus 2 [7], a gorgeous meander through dreaming clouds of electronic ambience. Beautifully minimalistic, the joy of the album is in its unhurried and frankly soporific approach. The heavy folk of Boduf Songs on the upcoming Burnt Up On Re-Entry [6] likewise takes a relaxed outlook, wallowing in a somewhat dour but not unpleasant mix of murder ballad depression and metallic angst.

For a quick fix of more unbridled fury, French grindcore outfit Blockheads unleash their debut This World Is Dead [5]. This is no grand re-imagining of an admittedly narrow genre, but is certainly a valiant attempt at delivering a lot of pent-up rage, very fast. Alternatively, hot young thing Chelsea Wolfe has added to the legendary Latitudes Sessions with Prayer For The Unborn [5], a collection of Rudimentary Peni covers stripped back from the raw punk originals to more grandiose electric folk musings that will delight the hipsters and appal the diehards.

So what delights does the world of black metal have to offer us this month? Avantgarde Music have finally got their production problems sorted for a slew of unholy releases, the pick of which is easily Le Grand Oeuvre [7] by Situs Magus as it blasts its way through an hour of relentless old school evil. Meanwhile, Saille follow up their quietly promising debut with the decidedly disappointing Ritu [4], a plodding, cliché-ridden record that utterly fails to hold the attention.

But the highlight of this debut column is the mysterious Norfolk troupe Fen, as they deliver third album Dustwalker [8]. At the vanguard of a new millennial wave of home-grown black metal scene to be proud of, the absence of keyboards this time around lends the album a harsher, more primitive feel, but still one with that awe-inspiring sense of atmosphere and monumental space.

Voivod – Target Earth (21st, Century Media)
Tomahawk – Oddfellows (28th, Ipecac)
Convulse – Inner Evil (28th, Svart)
Ethernet – Opus 2 (7th, Kranky)
Boduf Songs – Burnt Up On Re-Entry (28th, Southern)
Blockheads – This World Is Dead (21st, Relapse)
Chelsea Wolfe – Prayer For The Unborn (28th, Latitudes)
Situs Magus – Le Grand Oeuvre (14th, Avantgarde Music)
Saille – Ritu (21st, code666)
Fen – Dustwalker (21st, code666)

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