A delayed appearance for part V of The Round Up, for a huge number of reasons, chief among them being straightforward editorial incompetence. In addition to this, we’ve had some technical issues, there’s been some work and some children to look after, there’s been lots of amazing music to listen to when I should be writing about it, and there’s been lots of amazing music to make lists of when I should be writing about it. My (very) amateur journalistic life is a constant internal battle between misty-eyed romantic dreamer and data analyst. The former lets me attempt to paint pictures with words about music and the latter makes me write lists and devise complex points-based rating systems about music.
2019 continues to be quite the behemoth when it comes to new releases in the ever-expanding field of post rock and post metal. My Bandcamp wishlist is currently looking like I may need to re-direct the next 3 months’ mortgage payments in order to satisfy my additional requirements from this year. And it shows no sign of abating either, with later 2019 release dates confirmed for new albums from We Lost The Sea, Tides From Nebula, Ranges, Cult of Luna, and Codes in the Clouds, among many others. The entire scene is in the rudest health imaginable and it is hugely enjoyable to be part of it, to write about it, and, of course, to make lists of it.
Our extremely handsome and conscientious Round Up team have picked another 5 records from the last few months’ releases and selected some words to say about them. Up first is Bruce, who finds much to admire on the banks of the Mersey..
MAIRU – The Sacred Dissonance (Released 26/4/19 via Bandcamp)
Review written by : Bruce Cowie
I’m listening to this properly for the first time in the car – not ideal, I know, but good enough for first impressions – and I’m thinking that this is not quite what I expected. This sounds like sub-par Russian Circles, I think, and I was expecting something a bit heftier. Something a bit dirtier. Oh, well, let’s see how it goes.
Song two sounds the same. B-grade Russian Circles. OK, enough. I pull up at a service station and check. Turns out I’m accidentally listening to the new RC album, also for the first time. Doh. I fiddle with my tablet and find the right album. Aaaaah, that’s better!
So, MAIRU are from Liverpool (1), and The Sacred Dissonance is their first album (EP? It’s only got 4 songs, but it’s half an hour long…). They play dirty, sludgy instrumental post metal, with occasional ambient bits. Soundwise, there are nods towards Neurosis, as you might expect, and, indeed, a hint of Russian Circles. But there’s more to them than just that.
Bowel-churning bass features heavily (2), and there’s a certain unease about the record that’s hard to lay a finger on. It’s a bit unsettling. There’s an almost Celtic Frost-like warp and twist to it in places, just enough to shift MAIRU a wee bit sideways off the comfortable, well-travelled post metal path. It’s bleak, to be sure, but there are patches of light in the gloom.
If you only ever listen to one song off the record, listen to ‘Dawn Creature’. That’s MAIRU summed up. Crunching fuzzy riffs, abyssal bass rumblings, dissonance, subtlety, darkness/light. It is, as the kids say these days, a ‘banging tune’. A top- class effort from a brand new band. More of this please.
So. There you go. MAIRU, better than Russian Circles.
- The real Liverpool, in England. Not one of the fake ones in the colonies.
- Play opener ‘A Fire Within the Splendour’ at high volume and see what I mean.
Archivist – Triumvirate (Released 28/4/19 via Alerta Antifascita Records)
Review written by : Jody Dunstan
Usually, when sitting down to write a review I take a cursory glance through the band’s PR before invariably making up my own mind. With Archivist, I was confronted with what was a three-part short story full of dystopian nightmares, AI and a synthetic God. Not what I was expecting and it’s ambitious to say the least, but the writing is interesting and the concept intrigues me.
The band’s third record, Triumvirate, acts as the third part of this story. The album, as you might imagine, is dense, dark, anthemic in places and ethereal in others, blackgaze with an orchestral heart, shall we say. The opening track ‘Deus Ex Machina’ is powerful, the band carry a positive feel whereas the vocals have a wretched, forlorn feeling. ‘The Endurance’ sounds as the title suggests, ponderous blast beats play with a meandering guitar track. It’s musically dense and rather beautiful whilst managing to be raw. As we move into ‘The Proposition’, the mood changes, clean singing to open before giving way to powerful, guttural vocals, with the band keeping with the epic, dense backing. Ambitious as the project might be, the band is up to the job. They conjure thick, substantial soundscapes and some colour to what could be impenetrable blackness.
The album keeps making progress, ‘Iteration One – Messianic Synthetic’ has an industrial sense to the track but falls away to desolate minimalism with clean vocals. ‘‘Iteration Two – Internal Automaton’ starts quietly with clean guitar and some electronics before exploding into a wall of sound, guitars soar against a solid beat. As with the previous track the excitement can only last so long and the track dies away before taking us back to where we started. ‘‘Iteration Three – Anopheli’ (literal meaning, good for nothing, so say a google search) starts with a dirty bassline, the track is angry and full of venom. ‘Ancestor Descendant’ has a discordant and depressing feel. To finish, ‘Ouroboros’ (the snake eating its own tail or infinity, apparently) has a similar feel to the opening track but by this point I have run out of adjectives and need a lie down.
Triumvirate is a stunning piece of music, it really does take the listener on a journey. It is not an easy listen however, very dense and heavy, only letting up for short snippets. Many influences are heard across the album, the unrelenting heaviness of The Moth Gatherer, the wall of guitars of Deafheaven, the searing power of MØL and some good old fashioned teutonic black metal. Powerful and moving.
Novarupta – Disillusioned Fire (Released 29/4/19 via Suicide Records)
Review written by : Nik Prowse
Disillusioned Fire is the first output by the collaboration/collective/project that is Novarupta, whose founder is Alex Stjernfeldt. Alex is a multi-instrumentalist and former member of The Moth Gatherer, among others. With his former band in the ascendant, Alex has moved on, and gathered together a formidable range of vocalists to contribute to the six songs you’ll find here. At times uncompromisingly abrasive, at times huge in scope, and consistently thrilling, this record is like a post metal jukebox: there’s such a range of talent on display here that every song brings new highs.
The portentous thump of opener ‘Stones’ shows how the album means to go on, and Tomas Liljedahl’s roar carries over the heaviest bits. There’s a quiet/loud dynamic in this track that had me thinking of Somewhere Along the Highway-era Cult of Luna. This epic breadth continues with ‘Pyroclastic Flows’, which starts with a moody piano that builds gradually to monumental riffs and the tortured roar of Jörgen Sandström, who has bellowed for the likes of Entombed.
‘Tumskruvar’ (which appears to mean thumbscrews in Swedish), ahem, tightens the hold the album has on the listener and pushes the scope out to the horizon, interspersing doomy riffs with much lighter picking, and a sinister melody woven throughout the whole thing. Elsewhere we are treated to vocals by Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne, on my favourite track, ‘Mare Tranquillitatis’, which manages to meld dark shoegazey sections with Gothenberg style-riffing. The most melodic singer, Martin Wegeland of Domkraft, sings on the final track, ‘Ourang Medan’. Yes, sings. Martin’s plaintive, clean vocals finish off the album with a slow burn full of rumbling bass. I loved this song so much that I investigated Domkraft and found myself a whole new band to love (they’re reviewed elsewhere on this site).
Disillusioned Fire doesn’t have a dud track on it, and in all it’s a tight, epic and thrilling set of post metal tunes to nod along to. There’s true angst and feeling in these tracks, and the tension comes across with every song. I bought it after one listen. What more encouragement do you need?
Maven – Synesthesia (Released 1/5/19 via Bandcamp)
Review written by : Werner Roozen
Maven is a four-piece post rock band that originated from Metz, France. In December 2014 they released their first EP. This year on the first of May they released Synesthesia, a seven track album that’s a perfect fit between Explosions In The Sky, Caspian and a bit of This Will Destroy You.
The album is pleasant to listen to and the songs have their own sound whilst still forming a whole as an album.
What I truly like about this album is that it creates a form of happiness when you listen to it. It breaks open the sky and lets the sun in to your mind. It’s a lot of fun just drifting away on the build ups created by guitarists Alex and Stephane, the songs get body with the help of Marie on bass/piano and Guillaume keeps everyone in line and making sure the drums give an extra touch.
My favorite track was ‘Save Me From The Inside’ the simplicity of how it starts is something I could listen to for hours, it builds up nicely adding progression to the song. There’s just a positive vibe throughout the song that keeps me listening to it. Around the middle some heavier guitars kick in, giving a nice bite to the song.
It’s also worth mentioning that compared to their previous release their sound has noticeably matured and is more refined. But be sure to check their debut release Staring at Eastern Lights too!
The Chasing Monster – Errant (Released 10/5/19 via Antigony Records)
Review written by : Chris Sharp
The Chasing Monster play instrumental, cinematic, post rock. And let’s be honest, from that, you already know what they sound like to a degree. And they do. A load of soaring crescendos with bits in between. Give them a half-interested listen, and that might be all you take away from Errant. Give it your full attention, and you’ll find a wonderfully crafted album.
Sometimes, it’s simply a case of writing a good song in a familiar style, like opening track ‘Oceano’ – ten minutes of soaring optimism – or the urgent synth crescendo of ‘Beyond The Fireflies Realm’. ‘The Great Climb’ does this well, building up a couple of times to a cathartic guitar climax, that fittingly did evoke images of finally reaching a summit. Or album closer ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ that, again fittingly, evokes images of mono no aware with its tender melodies, before drawing the album to an emotive and powerful close.
Sometimes, it’s a case of writing good songs that, while not sounding out of place, also don’t neatly fit that standard you’ve pictured – For example the use of minimalist beats on ‘A Bridge Between’, or the fucking heavy, unsettling, post metal fuzz of ‘Shambhala’. Or ‘Beneath The Desert’ – probably the best song on the album. Minimalist beats giving in to soaring guitar. Groovy bass suddenly intertwining with heavy electronics. Surging guitar leads over relentless percussion for a powerful finale.
Can post rock be a bit of a stale genre? Yes, no doubt. But give Errant a couple of listens, and you’ll find a wonderful album. Now, just to wait for a Manchester date, I want to get a “bangover” to ‘Beneath The Desert’!
Palehorse/Palerider – Fire Gone Out/Haxan (Released 10/5/19 via Bandcamp)
Review written by : Rich Buley
Way back in 2017, Denver based three-piece Palehorse/Palerider did something that, in 5 years of writing for Echoes and Dust, I had not seen happen before, or since. They absolutely floored everybody. Their debut record, Burial Songs, was a monumental slab of doom-laden, psych-tinged shoegaze, that won our record of the year by a country mile and left us all really rather dumbfounded that here was a band from seemingly out of nowhere that just sounded so damned fully-formed and perfect sounding that it was quite difficult to believe. My thesaurus needed a thesaurus when I was writing that review.
Our unheralded titans of doomgaze returned in May with a two-track taster for a forthcoming debut album that is obviously hugely anticipated. And while Fire Gone Out/Haxan is dialled down a little bit in terms of scale and intensity, Palehorse/Palerider again demonstrate in both tracks why they are such an enticing proposition.
‘Fire Gone Out’, after a moody, skeletal intro, quickly moves into gear with that already familiar cavernous production style, percussion from the depths, reverb-heavy guitar and one of the gloomiest, lowest-slung basslines I’ve heard in quite some time. The pace is funereal, and Brandon Richier’s deep and languid vocal delivery maintains the dark atmosphere wonderfully. The magic of this band, though, and the thing that sets them apart, is that, at a moment’s notice, they can glide into Slowdive-style glistening, blissed-out euphoria, as they do here. “The well is dry, it is time to move on”, sings Richier, but I would be more than happy to wait awhile, soaking up the glorious yet temporary sun, amid those portending skies.
‘Haxan’ ups the pace a couple of notches, and has a chaotic, feedback-strewn guitar throughout its introduction, before breaking down and opening out again into a riff heavy, mid-tempo chugger of doom. No gaze? Wait. Suddenly everything stops, and a crystalline guitar line enters proceedings, one that the mighty Kitchens of Distinction would once have been proud of, and the whole thing melds and ends together in a soaring maelstrom of kaleidoscopic sound.
Not sure when the album is out at this stage, but believe you me, I am unlikely to have any froth left when it does eventually arrive. Just brilliant stuff!