Tuesday, 4 May 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Ageless Oblivion, “Suspended Between Earth and Sky”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/04/2021
Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft

“Suspended Between Earth and Sky” CD//DD track listing:
1). In Media Res
2). From Ash and Sulphur
3). All Was Froze
4). Anvil Chorus
5). The Sun Surrenders It’s Crown
6). Cohesion
7). Eldmessa
The Review:
Album number three for these Hampshire death metallers, sees the band return after an extended absence from the UK scene. For reasons unknown to me, this album comes seven years after their sophomore record. Pleasingly, though, this is a strong album... and it has something a little different.
This is death metal, but as opener “In Media Res” makes clear, this is not your standard chug/blast/growl fare. Well, all those elements are present- certainly- but this is not in any way a cookie cutter (monster?) release. The riffing owes a good deal to atmospheric black metal in places- as does the guitar tone. The time changes, beats and drums are very much death metal- but with a very neat progressive and technical element that lends the band a sound all their own.
It is certainly technical, it's progressive and it's angular and jarring- but it all hangs together very well. It is smooth through its twists and turns and expertly played. When the band chooses outright speed (“All Was Froze”) it is ferocious and clinical. When they slow down it is unpredictable, well-crafted and even melancholic in terms of the sounds produced. Speaking of which, the production is very good, crystal clear and powerful as well. Gone are the days of a muddy mix ruining death releases.
The sheer scale of “Anvil Chorus” allows the band to spread their wings, the short run time of “The Sun Surrenders It's Crown” is not to allow an all-out blasting assault- quite the opposite, in fact. To reference another track here, the whole thing is remarkably cohesive for a record with this many different elements. Ageless Oblivion must be commended for such an ambitious record after such a long time away.
It is unusual enough for me to not really reference any one or few bands that this sounds like- because that would be reductive and inaccurate here. Yes, it is death metal, but there are elements of black, sludge and so on within. It is technical and progressive- as noted- but that technicality is not the focus of the album; just one of its facets.
Ageless Oblivion have made a great album; it is deathly, daring and different
“Suspended Between Earth and Sky” is available HERE 

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: Big|Brave, "Vital"

By: Josh McIntyre
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/04/2021
Label: Southern Lord Recordings

“Vital” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Abating the Incarnation of Matter
2). Half Breed
3). Wited, Still and All…
4). Of This Ilk
5). Vital
The Review:
Big|Brave creates music that consumes the listener. Their exploration of soundscapes (rather than notes) pulsing rhythms, and raw emotional vocals have captivated me since I first saw them opening for Sunn O))) back in 2016. The band is less than a decade old yet here we are with their fifth LP, “Vital”.
If we must give a genre description, I find Big|Brave to be more at home in the post-punk field than sludge metal, though they clearly cross paths in terms of the heavy drones. Their sound is somewhere between the pulsing aggression of early Swans and the creeping beauty of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This has been consistent from the start but the band continuously experiments with their foundation.

“Vita”l continues this trend and is another lively display of what makes Big|Brave who they are. Huge, pulsing sounds (they don’t play many ‘chords’ in the traditional sense) followed by lingering trails of reverb are the standard. The use of negative space is just as crucial. Each track builds, gradually and slowly, until they dissipate. Of this Ilk, the fourth song, becomes one of the most aggressive of the band’s career halfway through. It absolutely pulverizes and then fades away like someone who has finished their point. It’s fairly comparable to an expressionistic painting, one that uses abstractions to show the ambiguity of simple existence.

These feelings are crucial here. Robin Wattie, our primary vocalist, sings and yells while these soundscapes waver around. Her performances are powerful and her lyrics, which regard her feelings and experiences being an ‘Other’ in a society dominated by a complex web in which whiteness and maleness are seen as standards (hence everything else is ‘Other’), put significant weight on “Vital” as a piece of artistic expression. There is such a strong sense of existential exploration on this record that one feels an obligation to listen again and to read the lyrics again, this next time just a little closer.

Big|Brave don’t just put out records that sound cool, even though they certainly do. Each one feels like an extension of the people who made them. They remind us that music is temporal and takes up space. It isn’t just about the notes that we play but how we play them. Big|Brave can pound drums, punch their guitars, scream, and devour us in waves of feedback before taking it all away. We are as vulnerable to their will as they are to their own. We, as people, are also both temporal and spacious. We are capable of being both fragile and powerful. The songs in “Vital” wander about their existence just as people similarly do. They speak of vulnerabilities, marginalization, strength, and endurance. We learn when we listen to each other.
“Vital” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook