ALBUM REVIEW: Ensiferum – Thalassic – Metal Blade Records

Concentrating on a specific thematic concept for the first time, Thalassic (Metal Blade), the eighth full-length release by Finnish folk metallers Ensiferum, finds the band obsessing over – as the Greek translation suggests – the subject of things related to the sea.Continue reading

SPLIT RELEASE: Shrieking / Puddleglum Split

2020 has already been a busy year for San Diego electronic darkheart Shrieking. Debut album Let the Galaxy Burn (Self-Release) was released in January; a single, Truth About Demons (Self-Release) appeared at the beginning of May, and is closely followed by this Split (Self-Release) with St. Louis Dungeon Synth project Puddleglum. It’s a curious and enticing prospect, enhanced by both bands weighing in with a healthy representation of the material.Continue reading

Orthodox – Axis


Those who are already aware of the strange vagaries of Sevillan heavyweights Orthodox may not be surprised to hear that ‘Suyo es el rostro de la muerte…’, the opening track from fifth album Axis (Alone Records), is layered with husky, mellow horns and a squealing saxophone. Despite Marco Serrato’s hulking yet dextrous bass notes and the careering, joyously expressive rhythms of Borja Diaz, the impression given by this and the bookending horns and strings of closer ‘Y a ella le sera revelado’ is of a Progressive soundtrack to a 70s US cop show, harking back more to second album Amanecer en Puerta Oscura than the Doom fest of 2011’s Baal (both Alone Records).

Having parted with long-time guitarist Ricardo Jiménez last year, this is the first album from the band as a duo, the remaining members seemingly free to indulge their panoply of influences whilst retaining that low-end core. ‘Axis / Equinox’ flings around trumpets, flutes, a sawed violin and atonal piano in a freeform chaos before allowing Serrato to intone over a quelled cacophony, while the rhythmic bass of ‘¡lo, Sabacio, lo lo!’ is graced by delightfully soaring African percussion and choruses.

Single ‘Crown For A Mole’ and the brutal ‘Canìcula’ sees the resonant boom of the band’s more sinister material return to its fullest, albeit enlivened by those syncopated structures. The mournful opening to the fearful ‘Medea’, meanwhile, is laden with Spaghetti Western-style high notes and the odd piano flurry: the subsequent crashing lead effects and cymbals haunting the slow, quaking, pummelling rhythm for what is arguably the most stirring ten minutes in Orthodox’s history. Here Serrato’s unique, warbling bellow is chilling; the roared “There’s nothing there…” ripping the soul from the body while retaining its curious melody.

It is the rhythm department, however, which produces much of the magic of Axis: blending a crushing claustrophobia with those proud Jazz influences, it is often overlooked yet it is the lynchpin of the band’s sound. The portentous groove of ‘Portum Sirenes’, for example, is dictated by bass notes that plough through the solar plexus and warp agonisingly around the loins, whilst pounding drums create mighty patterns for the hypnotic, tuneful flurries to dance through.

The whole, a meld of all manner of naturally rhythmic styles with elements of bright light and a heavy, heady horror, is the dazzling result of perfect alchemy. This most ambitiously unifying project yet is also Orthodox’s greatest statement, and affirms its status as one of the most vital bands from any genre of music.





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Colombian Necktie – Twilight Upon Us


When you stick the word ‘core’ as a suffix to a particular genre tag, many over the age of thirty tend to roll our eyes and dismiss the forthcoming sound as generic, derivative pap. This sophomore effort from self-styled Los Angeles ‘sludgecore’ quintet Colombian Necktie does unfortunately commence in that fashion. Twilight Upon Us (Self-Released) starts with a slow, heavy crunch, soon ripped apart by a tinny, death style production and an irritating, unwavering high pitched scour from front man Scott Werren which resembles the unflinching pitch of Oli Sykes. The initial time changes tend to cheapen the sound initially also, especially for the low end fraternity led into the ‘sludge’ element of their description.

Bizarrely, the thing begins to actually grow on you. The filthy undercurrent accompanies a quickening of the pace in many of the tracks, introducing a hardcore element reminiscent of Raging Speedhorn or Cancer Bats in its sound and intensity, and lending a variation which sharpens the album’s somewhat formulaic edges. ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Ready to Burn’ see post-hardcore flecks paint the ripping savagery with pastel colours whilst drummer Ben Brinckerhoff, arguably the unsung star of this show, constantly introduces deft changes which paradoxically pummel the brain.

The vast majority of tracks here remain below the four minute mark, short sharp shocks which don’t outlast their welcome. Only closer ‘Kevin’s Song’, a track dedicated to a sadly departed friend and founder band member, bucks this trend, a brutally funky and ambient workout with elements of “post” guitars and Spaghetti Western-style centre, slowing to the coda with truly crushing yet emotive sound. In truth the low-end purists will find little to keep them hooked in here, but it’s a worthy set and one which will find those with open minds tapping their toes at the very least.


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